Our Faculty

Meet the Williamsburg Staff

Our Mentors are dynamic, engaging, and inspiring. Each one has taken their own
educational journey seriously and now strives to help others on their way.

Faculty

  • Olivia Rhondeau Manjarrez

    Mentor
    Olivia Rhondeau Manjarrez
    Mentor

    After a childhood filled with french TV shows and french summer camps, I came back to the language that I had forgotten during my freshman year at Brigham Young University. I decided to take french again on a whim and fell back in love. I majored in French Studies, discovered the wonder of France during a study abroad to Paris, and then got to know the culture, people, language (and food!) more intimately while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Paris for a year and a half. Upon graduation from BYU, I interned with a refugee resettlement agency where the marriage of my interests came together; combining language and cultural translation with social services and mental health awareness has become my passion. I will be starting my Masters of Social Work program next fall at Columbia University, where I plan to become a clinical social worker working with refugees and immigrants with mental health challenges.

    My husband and I met in a french class at BYU and traded the mountains of Utah for the green hills (and even colder winters!) of Ithaca, New York. We are expecting our first child later this Fall. I love hiking in beautiful places, good food, being home, painting, and traveling.

    I love how language opens doors otherwise closed, enriches your understanding of the world, and connects you to experiences and people. I am happy to be a part of the Williamsburg Academy team and look forward to helping students create opportunities through their language acquisition.

  • Ben Brown

    Mentor
    Ben Brown
    Mentor

    I started reading about the same time I started talking, and I’ve loved doing both ever since. I have this insatiable hunger to know everything and so I read all sorts of topics––history, philosophy, psychology literature, business, leadership, science, current events, etc. I can’t stop at just learning things though; as soon as I’ve learned something new it wants to come roaring out of my mouth to the first person I see, regardless of how interested they are. So, mentoring was a natural fit for me: it gave me a venue to teach and a reason to learn. I studied liberal arts in college and received a BA from George Wythe University in 2010.


    I grew up in a large family on a small ranch in Wyoming, where the weather was cold and windy and the sunsets were beautiful. I got bored with my homeschool curriculum when I was 17 and started attending the local college, where I discovered debate. I went on to win the Silver Award at the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament in 2007, and debate is one of my favorite subjects to teach. During college, I spent a summer in Uganda, Africa, teaching teacher development courses to primary and secondary school teachers. I ran from monkeys and warthogs, white water rafted the Nile, and wooed a fellow traveler, Ellie. We later married, and now have three kids––Charly, Malcolm, and Murphy––and live in Saint George, Utah. Besides reading, I also enjoy rock climbing, yoga, and Saturday morning hikes with my family, and I have a huge man-crush on Abraham Lincoln. Before I die I would like to rock climb the Great Wall of China, do yoga in a Hindu temple in India, and backpack all over Iceland.

  • Adam Hailstone

    Mentor
    Adam Hailstone
    Mentor

    When I was 14 years old, I went through a dramatic change in my life. I realized it was up to me to get an education—no one else was going to do it for me. I say “dramatic” because I went from a student who was dragging his feet and learning practically nothing to a student who was enthusiastic about learning, life, and having an impact. Since then I have sought to help others push through educational, personal, and cultural barriers to obtain greater learning. During college, I was able to take that desire to audiences around the United States and Canada. With my professors, and eventually on my own, I spoke to groups about education, politics, worldviews and the direction of our society. It was a fulfilling time in my life.

    I live in Cedar City, Utah, where I graduated from George Wythe University with a BA in Liberal Arts. After college, I started two small businesses. I had big plans, and it was a great learning experience, but something was missing. I longed for the opportunity to once again help people obtain a greater education. Then, a few years ago, I sold one business and closed the other to join the faculty of Williamsburg Academy full time. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I love what I do! I get to help students look at the world, its people, cultures, problems, and beauty, and show them how to navigate it and the opportunities they have to change it. My goal as a mentor is to help students look inward and see themselves as they really are and then decide to become what they see.

  • Liz Kirk

    Leadership Coach
    Liz Kirk
    Leadership Coach

    Several years ago, I met with a fascinating woman to talk about my personal mission in life. She and her husband are engaged social connectors – friends with several US Presidents, on the Academy Awards committee, active on Capitol Hill. As we sat down in my office in Washington, DC, she helped me open up to the many possibilities for my future. I thought about what I wanted to do next. The answer was so clear to me in that moment and always had been – education reform. Almost in tears, I decided right there that whatever it took, I would find a meaningful role in education. Something totally different than I had experienced in my early years teaching in the public and charter school systems. If there were none, I’d scratch something out for myself.

    Within a couple of weeks, I was sitting down with Nels Jensen, James Ure, and Erin Mwanje to discuss co-founding the new Williamsburg middle school program. Creating the school was among the most difficult and rewarding projects of my life. My ideals from childhood came alive in the WL middle school program. I love working with students and writing curriculum. I love education, and am constantly working on my own! I studied English Literature in my undergraduate program and earned a master’s degree in education a few years later. I grew up in Texas and have lived in New York City, Washington DC, and most recently in San Diego. My husband and I love to travel. Last year we visited the homes of Mother Teresa and Gandhi, two of my heroes. These experiences have helped prepare me for rich discussions with my exceptional WL students in the classroom!

  • Joanna Ritter

    Mentor
    Joanna Ritter
    Mentor
    “Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.” This wisdom from Dr. Seuss is what I strive for each day. I read a ton of Seuss with my 4 yr old, so I feel like it is always in my head.
    I live in Prescott, a two hour drive away from one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. I’ve hiked, camped, explored, sweated enough to fill a dozen buckets, cried, laughed, and marveled up and down various trails of the amazing Grand Canyon. I’ve spent most of my life living in various parts of Arizona, but I also lived on the East Coast (Annapolis, MD) for a brief stint in my 20s where I discovered that I am truly a West Coast girl. Wide open spaces are my jam.
    I graduated with a BA in English from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ. I stayed in Flag for nearly a decade because I prefer pine trees, mountains, snow, and cooler temperatures. When I’m not clickety-clacking at my computer or cleaning our abode, you can find me hiking the beautiful mountains that surround our town and climbing rocks (the Granite Dells!) with my family. Some other things that make my heart sing: laughing, hearing the sweet laughter of my son, learning, playing piano, picking flowers and creating natural bouquets, gardening, home-improving, breathing in the the sunset while lounging on our back porch, reading (favorite authors: Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, John Steinbeck, John Irving, Daphne de Maurier) churching, singing church hymns and Disney songs with my son, creating (anything!), camping, cross country skiing, snowboarding, trying new recipes, playing Cribbage, and reveling in our marvelous monsoon season where our high desert landscape turns into a magical, emerald city.
    I’ve been with Williamsburg for three years now – I enjoy it more with each passing year. I love everything about our Williamsburg community but mostly it’s our amazing Burgers! What a joy and privilege it is to be a part of their learning journey.
  • Heather Speth

    Leadership Coach
    Heather Speth
    Leadership Coach

    I grew up with five siblings on a small cattle ranch in central Utah. I don’t know if it felt like it then, but I see now that it was a pretty ideal way to grow up. I come from a long line of ranchers, so a love for the land and the Southwest has settled deep into my bones. At age 17 I had a life-changing wilderness experience, which drove me to get a bachelor’s degree in Recreation Management and Youth Leadership. This has granted countless nights with a tent overhead and late night campfire conversations (where all of my real learning has taken place).

    I later completed a master’s degree in Education and then spent time living in Washington DC and New York City. Eventually, I made my way back west and currently live in St George, Utah. I’m completely taken by the red rocks and mild winters!

    I’m recently married and have three wonderful step children. I love the adventure of having an instant family! I also love mountain lakes, early mornings, kindness, reading, road trips, yoga, and teaching middle schoolers!

  • Valerie Owens

    Leadership Coach
    Valerie Owens
    Leadership Coach

    As a homeschooling mom of 4 awesome kids from age 14 to 22, I’ve had many years of teaching and loving it! As it happens, I also love learning; so studying the hows and whys of education in college was perfect. We decided to teach at home and as the kids were young, we loved our own eclectic mix of curriculum, community classes, 4-H, and lots of imaginative play. Discovering a new online school in 2009, when my oldest was 14, started us on a new journey and each of our children is attending or has graduated from Williamsburg.

    We all love to sing and act, so belting Broadway show tunes is pretty common around our home, as is making silly videos and telling bad puns. We live in Alaska, surrounded by mountains, forests, rivers, and yes…, lots of snow. We fish, hunt, garden, raise animals, camp, and go 4-wheeling in the summers. Though my family loves outdoor winter activities, I like to spend the cold, dark winters curled up inside with a good book and hot chocolate!

    We’ve recently been able to do some traveling. Starting in Morocco with other Williamsburg parents, we bartered in the markets, rode camels into the desert and slept in tents on the sand. What a life changing experience for us to see that land and people in a whole new light. Later in the year, 6 weeks in Guatemala gave us an amazing chance to do service for the local people, make wonderful friends and really learn about their culture with our kids. There’s a lot more traveling on our bucket list!

     

  • Jenelle Young

    Leadership Coach
    Jenelle Young
    Leadership Coach

    After graduating from high school in Washington, I attended Utah Valley University (UVU) where I earned my Associate of Arts Degree and gained two new loves:

    1) My best friend and husband, Andy Young
    2) Ballroom Dance

    Since I was new to any type of dancing, I continued attending UVU to take ballroom dance classes and simultaneously studied at the University of Utah. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise and Sport Science with an emphasis in Teaching Physical Education and a Minor in Health Education in 2003. Our dance experience afforded me the opportunity to travel to Europe 3 times and Australia and New Zealand 2 times to travel and perform.

    After teaching and working in after-school programs and coaching volleyball for a couple of years, I was offered a graduate assistantship at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I took that opportunity and two years later left Las Vegas with our new baby girl, Allana, a Master of Education Degree and one more baby on her way.

    For the next 10 years after finishing my Masters program, I embraced the job of full-time mom (4 kids) and dabbled in coaching on the side. I love to coach and interact with youth and feel very grateful to work with such amazing youth at Williamsburg!

     

  • Gordon Jones

    Mentor
    Gordon Jones
    Mentor

    I’m likely to be the oldest person ever on this page, and I hope that will be a good thing. I was born in Salt Lake City but left immediately after high school for college at Columbia, Stanford, and George Washington Universities. My wife and seven children spent more than 30 years in the Washington suburbs where I explored the nexus between politics and public policy in our nation’s capital. I returned to Utah and teaching 17 years ago and am engaged in integrating the study of history and government with the appropriate literature. My non-academic interests tend to center on community theater as performer, director, and producer, and as an attendee of about 100 performances a year. When not teaching, I will be found reading or working a “variety cryptic” word puzzle.

     

  • Jason Poarch

    Mentor
    Jason Poarch
    Mentor

    Hi, everyone. My name is Jason Poarch. I love learning and teaching, and I plan to learn and teach for the rest of my life. It’s an honor to be a part of Williamsburg Learning.

    I grew up in Indonesia, and I know about 5 languages. I’ve had about any kind of pet you could imagine (but no elephant!). I’ve gone to school (high school, college, graduate school) all over the US. I’ve also taught for a couple different colleges. Now, I’m studying for my Ph.D. in Politics at the University of Dallas.

    I’ve served in the Army National Guard. I’ve gone cliff-jumping in Missouri, hiked Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, surfed in Indonesia, and ran cross country in Tennessee. My favorite sport is volleyball. Oh, and I’ve been bitten by a copperhead in North Carolina.

    My wife, my daughter, and I live in Dallas, TX. It’s very hot here. We will probably not live here for long.

     

  • Colleen Tucker

    Leadership Coach & Human Resources Rep
    Colleen Tucker
    Leadership Coach & Human Resources Rep

    The cornfields of Indiana were my birthing grounds, and therefore I am a Midwestern at heart. I wasn’t actually born in a cornfield, in case you’re curious. But for 18 years, I lived in Indiana and soaked it all up: the humidity, lightening bugs, luscious sunsets, biscuits and gravy, small towns. After 12 years in St. George, Utah, I moved back to the Midwest (Nebraska) and am again reunited with my roots.

    I am passionate about people and helping them find their way. Not to mention I also love hiking, yoga-ing, joking, helping, listening, singing, observing, harmonizing, guitaring, learning, creating, walking, teaching, journaling, improving, laughing, playing, thinking, reading, and hugging.

    Many days I go on walks. I smell the outdoors. I lie in the grass and look up. I hang out with my family and laugh, sing, and process life. I make birthday cards for people out of random scraps and doo dads I’ve been collecting. I am very deep, analytical, and contemplative. The humor is constant; my sister says I wear it like underpants. (Should I put that on a t-shirt?) But I’m also rather sensitive and serious. All at the same time! I also have many weaknesses which make me a very exciting person.

  • Karlie Hardman

    Mentor
    Karlie Hardman
    Mentor

    I have an AAS degree in Art and Visual Communication with Concentration in Computer Graphics from Utah Valley State College and a BS in Secondary Art Education from Utah Valley University.

    I’m a great designer, and I enjoy teaching others. I have a passion for the fine arts, and I’m looking forward to being a mentor for Williamsburg Learning. I spend my time with my two girls and share all my artistic talents with them. I live in sunny St. George, Utah near the gorgeous red rocks, where I enjoy swimming, hiking, and camping with my family.

  • Kimberly Reeder

    Leadership Coach
    Kimberly Reeder
    Leadership Coach

    I am an Idaho girl through and through. I was born and raised in Preston, Idaho. After high school, I moved to Pocatello, Idaho for college where I met my amazing husband, Randy. We both graduated from Idaho State University in 2000, me with a degree in Dental Hygiene and him with an Electrical Engineering Degree. We then moved to Moscow, Idaho where Randy pursued a masters degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Idaho and I went to work to support our family. It turned out that dental hygiene was not the ideal career for me – I love to discuss great ideas with people and the conversations are very one-sided when you have your hands in the other person’s mouth. As soon as Randy graduated, I retired to stay home with our toddler and brand new baby and I’ve never looked back.

    We moved to the Boise, Idaho area and we have since added three more children to our family. I have been blessed to be able to pursue a leadership education alongside our kids for these last 15 years. Reading and studying the classics together has changed our family forever. Now the kids are growing up and we are starting to really reap the fruits of an education to match our missions. It is so much fun!

    We have been a Williamsburg family since 2011 when my oldest son started by taking Mr. Rees’ Computer Programming class over the summer. We fell in love with the education and culture of Williamsburg, and I am thrilled to be joining the faculty as a Leadership Coach.

  • Alexandra Howell

    Mentor
    Alexandra Howell
    Mentor

    I’m a country mouse who grew up in rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I moved to Michigan and attended Hillsdale College, located in a small town where the motto was (until recent controversial changes were made) “It’s the people.” And although numerous personality tests have me pegged as a “task-oriented” sort of lady, I do believe that human relationships ought to be valued over any to-do lists.

    I studied Latin, Greek, and English at Hillsdale, but I learned that education is truly aimed at forming whole human persons, who love to learn and learn to love. My personal motto is simple: Serviam. I will serve. I love loving and serving whoever comes into my path. Right now my path looks like being a humble graduate student who lives with her best friend, Catherine and her best cat, Ramen, while working for WL and thus aiming to serve students and colleagues alike by teaching and sharing in the joys of learning.

    My low-stakes interests include hiking/backpacking, kayaking, roller-coasters, seeing beautiful architecture, eating a really good breakfast every day, and being a long-time fan of Nancy Drew.

  • Kerry Kenny

    Leadership Coach
    Kerry Kenny
    Leadership Coach

    I come from a very musical, Irish-American family and have been raised around the Irish Pub my Great-Grandmother from Ireland began 80 years ago in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Music has always been my passion. When I was a child, my Aunt, a professional pianist, assembled my brother, sister, cousin, and me together to form an Irish troupe. We performed Irish songs and dances in the pub and around Scranton, Pa. I recall the most rewarding performances being those we performed at homes for the elderly.

    During my college years at the University of Scranton, I not only pursued my degree but also became a songwriter and spearheaded my own musical projects. During my junior year, I resolved to study overseas (no matter the challenge it presented for me financially at that time). I worked 2 jobs during the day and played out a few times per week in Scranton to save money for a year in Limerick, Ireland. Once in Limerick, I carried my guitar from pub to pub until I was hired to perform. I responded to the question, “Do you not know ‘American Pie?’” – more times than I ever imagined I would. Quickly, I came to learn of the pervasiveness of American culture – something I had never appreciated from the inside.

    The year overseas – albeit challenging for someone who had barely left Northeastern, Pa – was life-changing in an immensely positive way. To this day, I maintain strong friendships with the amazing friends (and family) I met in Ireland. More importantly, I developed a taste for travel that has never left me. I’ve taken a bus across Europe and visited Spain, Poland, and the Czech Republic. I’ve also visited Guatemala. Upon my return to the US and after working for Fairfax County Public schools in Virginia, I embarked on a year of teaching English in Chinju, South Korea. From there, I spent 4 months in Thailand and developed an unabashed love of Thai cuisine.

    After returning to the US, I attended New York University to study Music Technology at a graduate level and worked at JP Morgan. For my second year of graduate school, I embarked on another year abroad at the Academy of Music in Krakow, Poland. While studying in Poland, I learned the language, met my husband, and stayed on for another year to work as a full-time proofreader (Polish to English) for a corporate translation service.

    In 2012, I moved back to Poland as my husband had been recruited to work there on a 3-year contract. As a result, both of my sons speak fluent Polish. I homeschool the boys, and each one plays more than one musical instrument (either proficiently or nearly), and both sing well. In my spare time, I write and teach music privately, as well as run family music classes for very young children. We stay very physically active and love the outdoors. We continue to take on additional languages as we consider ourselves citizens of the world. I approach learning as a genuine pleasure and work to instill that in my boys. I look forward to the new adventure that awaits with Williamsburg!

  • Taylor Kemmeter

    Mentor & Leadership Coach
    Taylor Kemmeter
    Mentor & Leadership Coach

    “A man is known by the books he reads…” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    When I was nine, my family’s doctor handed me a prescription to read Richard Adams’s Watership Down. This was my “first real book” with long chapters and with characters that made me laugh and cry; it was the one that started my love of reading. I have read it cover to cover who knows how many times – I stopped counting at fifteen.

    When I was ten, my dad handed me Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. And then, when I was sixteen, he handed me Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. At the time, I did not understand why I should read books about managing money and people. Now that I am a bit older, I recognize their significance and have reread these books as well as others on the subjects of money and people. Thanks, Dad.

    Then I went to Hillsdale College and majored in English. For the first time in my life, I was exposed to “classical education” – to Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Melville, Woolf, and O’Connor. Now that I have graduated from college, more literature has impacted me than I can list here.

    It makes sense that I am an English educator. I believe everyone should be exposed to the “Great Conversation.” We should listen to the wise writers of the past and add to the voices of the present, responding to and challenging the thoughts of both old and new.

    I currently live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In my free time, I enjoy swing dancing, making lattes, creating posters, playing the cello, and, of course, reading.

  • Tanner Bowman

    Mentor
    Tanner Bowman
    Mentor
    I’m really excited about working as a mentor. I’m passionate about education, and I believe (and hope) that the future of education lies in providing parents with as many options as possible from which to choose for their students. Williamsburg Academy is at the forefront of this movement, and I’m beyond excited to work with everyone here.
    I grew up in Spanish Fork, Utah, and graduated from a local charter school. I went on to get my teaching license from BYU in Technology and Engineering Education, emphasizing in Computer Science teaching. I approach education from a problem-solving and project-based point of view, as this is how I best learn.
    I spent some time in South Africa, and I learned Zulu (the clicking language)! Ask me to click for you sometime. 🙂
    I’m so excited to work with all of you!
  • Karen Tyler

    Mentor
    Karen Tyler
    Mentor
    Hi! I’m Mrs. Tyler. I grew up in Logan, Utah and I currently live in Alaska. When I have time, I love to be outdoors hiking, running, four wheeling, or just sitting, soaking up the sun rays. I have a passion for learning anything, but science is my favorite because I can learn about it while I am outdoors doing what I love. I think it is amazing that you can learn from any situation if you take time to stop and think about it.
    I went to Utah State (Go Aggies!) where I majored in Biology Education. College was a blast and, I’ll be honest, sometimes I miss my classes and how I was able to go every day and learn something new from my professors. I even miss the homework some days, is that crazy?
    Some of my favorite things that do not occur outdoors include Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream, Netflix, naps, hanging out with my family, and cinnamon toast.
    I enjoy being spontaneous and doing whatever I feel like. Sometimes I can be perceived as a little weird but I think that is half the fun. I try not to care what people think and just be who I am, I think that is all anyone can do.
    I am thrilled to be a mentor this year. Let’s go have a blast and study some Science!
  • Heather Benson

    Mentor & Leadership Coach
    Heather Benson
    Mentor & Leadership Coach
    • Wife, Mother of Four, Grandmother
    • Trailblazer, Explorer, Adventurer
    • Educator, Mentor, Health & Fitness Enthusiast
    • Brigham Young University Graduate International Relations

    As a trailblazer, I have a passion for adventure, education, leadership, and lifting others.  I love creating, exploring and sharing discoveries.  That is why working with Williamsburg Learning is deeply fulfilling.

    The most amazing adventure of my life began in 1995 when my family and I moved to Hong Kong where my husband began his career in law.  Fresh out of law school with three little children, we chose to educate our children at home. From that point forward, I endeavored to create an education rich in the classics, the outdoors and travel experiences that would encourage unique talents, strengths, and leadership abilities, and allow our family maximum freedom to pursue enriching learning opportunities.

    My fondest memories are extended trips across the United States and to places like Scotland, Thailand, Macau, Continental Europe, New Zealand, and Tasmania where we felt transported to the geographies and histories we had studied as a family.

    I firmly believe that every person possesses greatness within them, unique gifts and talents, and the ability to change the world in ways small and great. Life is filled with trails to blaze, worlds to explore, and adventures to be experienced.

  • Heidi Mitchell

    Mentor
    Heidi Mitchell
    Mentor

    I LOVE adventure!!! From studying abroad in Israel and Mexico, living in the Russian language house at BYU, and teaching and exploring in Hong Kong….To marrying my incredible husband, becoming an instant mother to three amazing stepchildren, and dedicating myself to creating a family.  (Several years later, I had two of my own absolutely wonderful children!)

    I always knew I wanted to go to college and chose Brigham Young University where I not only graduated in history but also devoured the whole educational experience. While driving for several hours to our family gathering during my first Thanksgiving break from college, I couldn’t stop telling my parents about everything I was learning in every class I was taking! I love learning, and I love sharing that knowledge and enthusiasm with others.

    Through homeschooling my children for eight years, I realized I also love being an advocate for students who want to explore and develop their interests, talents, and unique educational pursuits, which is why I am so excited about mentoring Williamsburg students and sharing this enthusiasm with them (and their families)!

    I believe that all aspects of our lives are potential adventures fraught with challenges, growth, and ultimately joy as our horizons are elevated, our character is strengthened, and our association with others cultivated.  Did I mention, I LOVE adventure?!

  • Elizabeth Sutton

    Mentor
    Elizabeth Sutton
    Mentor

    There is nothing I love so well as the moment of epiphany that marks when real learning occurs. I love everything about the learning process, but mostly I love the way that my students breathe life into what we’re studying. I find that as I teach, I’m always learning, and I find that cycle deliciously exhilarating. I graduated from BYU with a degree in English Teaching and Japanese; I also pursued a Master’s Degree in Literacy at Utah State University. I’ve spent most of my adult life teaching: Japanese and English Language Arts to high-schoolers, reading skills to elementary schoolers, and a course I like to call “How to be a Person” taught exclusively to my two children.

    I currently reside in Western New York where the weather colors everything we do. Here, summer is verdant and I like to camp and hike and fill up on sunshine; winters are long and gray– it feels a little like Narnia. Then, suddenly, a tulip leaf peeks out of the snow, and hope renews: this is spring. Of course, nothing beats autumn. In the shade of gold and red trees, we harvest apples, concord grapes, and giant peaches so full of juice that when you take a bite it dribbles down your chin. I like traveling, being with my family, and when all else fails, a soft chair, a giant bowl of popcorn, and a really good book.

  • Cara Dansie

    Mentor
    Cara Dansie
    Mentor

    I was first introduced to foreign languages when I was just a young girl and took a mini-course in German. It fascinated me and my journey began. I created my own alphabet with my sisters and wrote notes in that language/code for years.  When I hit high school and had foreign language options, I took more German whenever possible and when German wasn’t available, I took Spanish. When I started my college years, I added Russian to the mix.  After three years at Utah State University, I had my bachelor’s degree along with a secondary education teaching certificate. After graduation, I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Even though I was called to the Russia Samara Mission, I started out in San Diego, California speaking Spanish. I then went on to live for over a year in Russia splitting my time there between Samara, Rostov, and Volgograd. After my mission, I had a short career in a traditional brick and mortar high school where I taught all three languages at Carbon High School. During that time, I went with two other teachers and we took a group of our students to Germany for an exchange program.  I lived in Hamburg for a month that summer and loved my time there.  I “retired” from teaching for a while after I married and then became pregnant with my first child. I couldn’t seem to stay away from languages or education and ended up teaching English as a Second Language for the College of Eastern Utah (now USU-Eastern). Later that year, I was an assistant and lesson developer for my husband who taught Japanese at the same college. After getting all of our ten kids added to our family, five the biological way and five through adoption, I re-entered the teaching field – this time in the virtual world. Since then, I have taught for Utah Online, Utah Virtual Academy, Kids On Line Academy, and Williamsburg Academy. I have been a teacher at home as well as I have taught my own children using online resources and schools along with traditional homeschool and local co-ops. I have also been involved in other aspects of education such as curriculum development, assessment creation, website development and management, registration, recruitment and more. I have a passion for children, families, education, cultures, and languages.

  • Greg Larson

    Mentor
    Greg Larson
    Mentor

    It was as a young teenager that I had an experience that produced an epiphany about the direction for my future professional life. In our social studies class, we had an assignment to write a story about pioneers. I had always felt that my teacher was indifferent to me and favored many of the other students. So I determined to prove to him that I was a good student and a good person. With that story, I tried something I had never done before. I determined to write a story the way that my favorite authors wrote their stories and captivated their readers. The story I selected was based largely on my great-grandfather, who, at 12 became the man of the family when his father died. The story had dialogue and descriptions like I had never written before, and though the work was hard, the result gave me a lot of satisfaction. I knew it was very good.

    As usual, the teacher read to the class some of the best student work. I sat on the edge of my chair, waiting—but my story was not read. When he handed back the stories, my heart sank when I saw a big, red F on the top. I took my story up to his desk and asked him, “Why?”

    “You know why!” he said.
    “No, I don’t.”
    “Because you copied it from a magazine.”

    I assured him I hadn’t copied it. That experience proved to be a gift. I knew I had an ability to write and I set my sails for that direction. During two years in the South Pacific, I decided to apply to a school of journalism, since writers like Ernest Hemmingway started as journalists. I applied to Northwestern University because Medill School of Journalism was the top rated school, but also because I wanted to experience life in a big, urban area like Chicago. Additionally, I wanted to play Big Ten football.

    At NU, I met Maya. We married, then raised our four children in the Chicago area. Supporting my family by better-paying work, writing became more of a passionate avocation. Nevertheless, I’ve had four books published and numerous short stories and articles. I’ve also done a lot of teaching at a college level and developed workshops for corporations. I’m excited to be mentoring at WA, and hope that I can help many of you, in a positive way, discover some of your great potential, and maybe even your direction in life!

  • Andrew Young

    Mentor
    Andrew Young
    Mentor

    Learning is simply an accumulation of your experiences. Here are the Top 10 experiences that have shaped my life learning to this point.

    1. My Mom taught that kindness, patience, and listening go a long way.
    2. My Dad taught that you can do anything you set your mind to and remember not take yourself too seriously.
    3. I am married and have 4 kids. Their learning and life experiences are my number 1 priority and the main source of my education.
    4. I learned how to read music, play the piano and sing at a young age and have had multiple opportunities to use these skills. I am currently learning how to play the organ and the ukulele.
    5. I have performed and competed with UVU Ballroom in at least 8 countries. I’ve also directed high school ballroom teams for 8 years.
    6. Obtaining a B.S. in Biology and an M.S. in Education has taught me that there is a lot to learn from the world and its people.
    7. I like to design and build things. I designed our current home and did much of the work. The coolest thing I’ve added is a rock climbing wall.
    8. I spent many summers on a farm and ranch where I learned to love working long hours and how to build and figure things out.
    9. Even though I have been a high school teacher for over 11 years – my education will never stop!
    10. I love to be outside!!! Biking, hiking, climbing, paddling, volleyballing, playing, exploring……
    Bonus: Being hired by Williamsburg Academy. I’m looking forward to this new learning adventure.
  • Brad Morgan

    Leadership Coach
    Brad Morgan
    Leadership Coach

    I’ve been attending Chaffey College here in Southern California for four and a half years and have loved every class I’ve attended.  I am a renaissance man–I never liked being told I can only do one thing when my dreams didn’t fit that.  I am a painter and a musician, actively selling art and performing on weekends.  I study literature, so one day I’ll be teaching that, while I’ve always loved math and physical sciences, such as trigonometry and astronomy.  My education has allowed me to study all the things I’ve ever wanted.  I am an avid cinephile, watching a new movie every day.  I’ve always been interested in movie production, and screenwriting, that and my paired tenacity to do any and all things have made me a movie sponge.  I’ve grown up in Southern California, attended school here in Southern California, however, big moves are on their way, and I simply cannot wait for the change of weather that Oregon has in store for me and my fiance Megan.

  • Christina Reed

    Mentor
    Christina Reed
    Mentor

    I enjoy teaching Spanish. I enjoy teaching online.

    I began speaking Spanish as a child. My dad was a missionary to Mexico for about four years. Getting a
    bachelor’s degree in Spanish seemed like a logical step. Later, I studied Russian in an intensive year-long course at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

    I have been involved with the homeschooling community since 2000. At that time I decided to homeschool my three children. We homeschooled for ten years. After that, one transitioned to college and the other two decided to transition into the local public school system. Now one is in university pursuing a degree in nursing, one is pursuing other goals—all of that homeschooling made her realize that she could be an independent thinker—and one is attending our local community college.

    From 2006 to 2012 I taught exclusively online. I enjoy the flexibility that this model of education allows for both students and staff. Many of my students have chosen distance learning as a model of education because they have interests that require a time commitment that conflicts with calendars and schedules of traditional schools. Others like the autonomy that distance learning supports. There are so many good reasons to make nontraditional choices in education.

    In 2012 I began teaching at a local community college. Now I am teaching in corporate America, and am enjoying the different challenges that arise. I look forward to working with each of you this year.

  • Becky Pollyea

    Mentor
    Becky Pollyea
    Mentor

    Since my elementary school days of being pulled out each week for what we called “shy class,” a program to help kids find their voice through creativity, collaboration, and performance, I have been a believer in the power of the arts in education.  I love watching students take risks and discover interests and talents they never knew they had. I am amazed as they develop more confidence academically, personally, and socially because of their participation. I hold a BFA in Music Dance Theater and a BA in Theater Arts Education from BYU. I taught and directed theater and music in Utah and Colorado. Some of my favorite outdoor activities are hiking, biking, rafting, and backpacking with my family. I currently live in New Glarus, a quaint little one stoplight town in southern Wisconsin, with my husband Scott and four awesome kids.

  • Jenelle Howard

    Mentor & Leadership Coach
    Jenelle Howard
    Mentor & Leadership Coach
    I absolutely love being a part of the lives of our students with the Williamsburg team!
    I grew up amidst pine trees in the mountains of southeast New Mexico. I have always loved sports and as a youth, I was a competitive gymnast and played baseball, softball, volleyball, ran track and did whatever else I could manage. My first life aspiration as a 7-year-old was to be an Olympic gymnast. After graduating from high school I traveled to Australia on the NM all-star softball team and my love of travel took flight! I have since lived for a summer in Ireland and helped lead a student tour through Spain.
    I attended Eastern Arizona College on a softball scholarship and embarked on my pursuit of a life-long liberal arts education by supplementing my college classes with classical readings in my favorite corner of the library. Later, my husband and I were married while attending BYU where I studied humanities. I am deeply passionate about my field and I love that it brings together the most inspiring works of human nature and history. While completing my bachelor’s degree, my three children, Andy, Lauren, and Emily, were born making our house quite an exciting place. I still love playing sports and play on flag football, dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, and softball teams and enjoy hiking and going on outings with my family in our beautiful transplanted home of Washington state.
    Mentoring and being a part of students’ growth at Williamsburg continues to be one of the most fulfilling and joyous elements of my life!
  • Cebre Jacob

    Mentor
    Cebre Jacob
    Mentor

    I grew up in Northern California as the oldest of six children. We lived in the Redwood Forest and right next to the beach! It was absolutely in every way a fairytale. I spent most of my childhood soaking up the outdoors; I loved laying in the grass, swinging in my hammock, reading books, and talking with friends. I always knew I wanted to teach. My siblings and I would rearrange the dining room chairs in rows to make a school bus (to get to school) and then a classroom. We would even use small tables to create desks! After I graduated high school I enrolled at Brigham Young University, with NO idea which

    After I graduated high school I enrolled at Brigham Young University, with NO idea which subject to focus on. While at BYU, I signed up for more and more mathematics classes. As I continued, I grew to love my math classes, and the connections I could make between them. I loved being able to see how differently each student learned, and I loved applying different methods to the same concept. I have a very fundamental belief that each student can make those same connections, and that the connections are individual and unique. I believe that with balanced effort between student and mentor, both students and mentors can succeed. What do I consider my success? Helping a student connect and understand a new mathematical concept! I have a very fundamental belief that each student can make those same connections, and that the connections are individual and unique. I believe that with balanced effort between student and mentor, both students and mentors can succeed. What do I consider my success? Helping a student connect and understand a new mathematical concept! I graduated in Math Education from Brigham Young University in

    What do I consider my success? Helping a student connect and understand a new mathematical concept! I graduated in Math Education from Brigham Young University in 2012 and taught for a few years in Utah. Now I’m a mom of two cuties and am living in Las Vegas, Nevada.

  • Mary Martinez

    Mentor
    Mary Martinez
    Mentor

    Trying new things (even if they sometimes blow up) is one of the things I enjoy the most about teaching chemistry. I love helping students see that chemistry can be fun, interesting, and meaningful in their everyday lives. From the chemicals used on the potato farm where I grew up to the chocolate chip cookies in my oven, chemistry is all around us. After earning my M.S. in chemistry from the University of Utah, I worked in a biochemistry lab for a few years before finally becoming a teacher. I taught chemistry in a large public high school for 3 years and a smaller charter high school for 5 years before moving to southeastern Idaho with my husband and three little girls. I enjoy the outdoors, being with my family, cooking, and reading. Some of my favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, J. Budziszewski, Jasper Fforde, and Patrick F. McManus.

  • Kimberly McGuire

    Leadership Coach
    Kimberly McGuire
    Leadership Coach

    Current favorites of my life include dancing, sipping hot chocolate from 7/11, late night talks with best friends, reading soul-impacting books, writing letters, laughing so hard I can’t breathe, and gazing at the stars. When I’m not doing any of those things, you can find me at my desk studying. Or sleeping.

    I am a student at BYU Provo, majoring in accounting with a minor in ballroom dance. Before that, I attended Williamsburg Academy where I learned important life lessons, gained a leadership education and developed lasting friendships with mentors and other students. I graduated magna cum laud, leaving the legacy of the llama in my wake. To this day, I’m still not sure why the llama ever became popular, but I’m guessing it’s because I may have “accidentally” leaked a video of the mentors doing the infamous llama dance on social media.

    BYU is only two hours away from my home in northern Utah. It’s a tiny farming community that doesn’t even have its own post office. I love coming home to visit my family whenever I get the opportunity. We know all the Disney songs, have the funniest inside jokes, and throw the best movie nights. I am the oldest of five. We’re all adopted, were homeschooled through elementary/middle school, and then attended or are currently attending Williamsburg Academy.

  • Jaylee Willis

    Mentor
    Jaylee Willis
    Mentor

    I am a lover of learning, dance, mathematics, and truth. I found my passion for mathematics in college when I realized that it is an art form and a modality for creation. I love puzzles, ideas, and anything else that challenges my mind. I love working with youth and creating environments where people can change their perceptions of themselves and the world around them to perceptions that bring more joy and happiness into their lives.

    As a child, I was “everything schooled”. Home-school, no-school, co-op school, private school, charter school, public school, you name it…I probably did it 🙂 After graduating high school at 16, I changed my major three times (Accounting > Elementary Education > Physics > Mathematics Education) before confirming that the beauty and art of mathematics are what I really want to share with the world. I graduated in May 2014 with my Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics Education with a minor in Physics Teaching and then spent a year teaching at a charter school in Arizona.I grew up in Paradise, a tiny country town in northern Utah, as the oldest of 11 children. I rarely live in the same place for more than a year, but my home base is in Utah.

  • Ashlee Cowles

    Mentor
    Ashlee Cowles
    Mentor

    I am a writer and a wanderer. Thankfully, J.R.R. Tolkien, one of my favorite authors, assures me that “not all who wander are lost.” If I had to sum up my eclectic interests and experiences in one word, it would be journeys. The books I enjoying reading, the stories I love to write, and the activities I long to pursue in my free time all involve an imaginative transport from one place or time to another. Education is also a journey, and one of the most exciting adventures there is!

    My nomadic ways began in childhood, thanks to my father’s service in the United States military and my upbringing as an Army “brat” (a term of endearment, I promise). By the time I turned 18, my family had moved eight times, which enabled me to experience life in almost every region of the mainland U.S., as well as overseas in Hawaii and Germany. Spending my high school years in Europe—and attending prom in a Renaissance castle!—ignited my love of history, literature, and the big ideas that have shaped the Western world, but moving so frequently also involved many tears and challenges…oh, how I wish a portable school like Williamsburg had existed when I was a teen!

    The wandering did not stop in college and graduate school. After studying History and Religion in sunny San Diego, I switched coasts and pursued a master’s degree in Theology at Duke University in North Carolina, during which time I also had opportunities to study abroad in Spain, Uganda, Rwanda, and Northern Ireland. Most recently, my husband and I spent a year living in Scotland, where I studied medieval history, literature, and education at the medieval University of St. Andrews. I’ve also spent time working on a novel at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in Michigan, where I learned a lot about the “moral imagination” and the value of a liberal arts education—an experience that ultimately inspired me to become a teacher and mentor.

    Writing fiction and blogging are my main hobbies, and you can often find me working on a Young Adult, Historical, or Fantasy novel while sipping on a big cup of tea or coffee. To become a good writer you must be a voracious reader, and some of my favorite authors/BFFs include C.S. Lewis, Elizabeth Goudge, Charles Dickens, Daphne Du Maurier, Ray Bradbury, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. My husband and I live in Colorado (where we’re attempting to finally settle down!) and enjoy hiking, biking, disc golf, movie nights, and road trips.

  • Rob Noorda

    Mentor
    Rob Noorda
    Mentor

    I’m a committed jack-of-all-trades with a wide variety of interests, from astronomy to beekeeping to bookbinding. I run a few websites and own a small publishing company with my wife. I speak Chinese and really bad Spanish. I travel a lot, but mostly in search of Mexican food.

    I grew up in Las Vegas but now live in Portland, Oregon. The weather could not be more different, but it reminds me of my time spent living in Scotland, where I lived when I began working at Williamsburg. I studied Chinese and Business Management at Brigham Young University, including lots of travel around Asia working with and learning from international businesses there.

    My one weakness is my hardcore red-green colorblindness, so I can easily be bested in a game of Uno.

  • Laura Baker

    Leadership Coach
    Laura Baker
    Leadership Coach

    I found Williamsburg Learning as a high school student. It truly changed my life and helped me become the person that I wanted to be. Ever since then I have wanted to find ways to “pay it forward.” As a Leadership Coach, I have the privilege of watching students transform and grow.

    I am studying Advertising at BYU with an emphasis in design. I love to try and learn about new things, most recently Polynesian dancing, international travel, and Model United Nations. Every time I leave my comfort zone to experience something new I deepen my understanding of the world.

    My top 5 favorite movies (in no particular order) are Nacho Libre, Mulan, Here Comes the Boom, Amazing Grace, and Princess Diaries II. My top 5 favorite books are The Count of Monte Cristo, Joan of Arc, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Love Does, and Wonder.

  • Abby Alley

    Mentor
    Abby Alley
    Mentor

    My name is Abby Alley and I am from Ogden, Utah. I love to travel, see movies, explore and play with friends and family!

    I attended Brigham Young University and graduated with a BA in History with a secondary education certification. I studied abroad in London, England where I met my husband, Addison Alley. I spent two years teaching World and Utah History to 6th and 7th graders in an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. While there, I participated in the accreditation process as well as the creation of curriculum for the World and Utah History programs. In late 2012 my husband and I welcomed our first child, Alice, into the family. We moved to Washington D.C. in the summer of 2013 so Addison could attend medical school at George Washington University. We currently live in Arlington, Virginia. I am super excited to be a part of the Williamsburg team!

  • Stan Szczesny

    Mentor
    Stan Szczesny
    Mentor

    I have twin loves: classical literature and the guitar. I’ve been playing guitar for 21 years and teaching professionally for 10. I studied jazz at Cornish College of the Arts, music at Southern Utah University, and private guitar with Howard Schaunzer and Barry Brooksby. I have extensive experience as a performer and have recorded two albums. I am a student-listener of guitar history and consider guitar to be a spiritual practice by which one may commune with The Beautiful. Such communion includes everything from soft and lyrical acoustic melodies to melting cherub faces with electric madness. My passion for classical literature led me to pursue an MA in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College. I love watching people’s souls expand when studying Lao Tzu, Voltaire, and other great thinkers. I have been teaching classical literature online for several years.

    I married Lindsay Fife in 2003 and, along with our five little ones, we are living a wild adventure––currently residing near Dallas, Texas.

  • Dave Rees

    Mentor
    Dave Rees
    Mentor

    I have been tutoring math and science for over six years and have been a student of science my entire life. I love explosions, unpredictable chemical reactions, figuring out why stuff does what it does, and eating hot slices of Hawaiian-style pizza. My greatest award in science was being voted “most likely to be a mad scientist” by my classmates at Carbon High. I’m close to finishing a BS degree from Southern Utah University in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, with an emphasis in classical scientific thought. My background in computer technology helps me find fun and unique ways to make math and science come alive in Williamsburg’s online courses.

    My wife, children and I live in Cedar City, Utah.

  • Will Miller

    Mentor
    Will Miller
    Mentor

    Fitness and education are two of my passions in life. I am very fortunate to be able to live out these passions in a variety of ways. I hold a BA in Physical Education from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and an MA in Instructional Technology from North Carolina State University. I enjoy sharing my expertise in Physical Education and Instructional Technology to mentor students and enable them to make healthy living a lifestyle. I strongly believe that students need to experience a healthy lifestyle rather than merely reading about it–that’s why I do what I do.
    I live in Wendell, North Carolina with my wife, Emily, our daughter, Lorelei,  and our beloved dog, Hawkins. My family and I enjoy living in NC where we are close to both of our families, the beach, and the mountains! When I am not mentoring or spending quality time with my family, you will find me running or riding my bike! My favorite races to compete in are the half-marathon and the full marathon. I also enjoy most any other sport, playing guitar, and volunteering in and around my community.

  • Sydney Maucotel

    Mentor
    Sydney Maucotel
    Mentor

    As a young girl, I could always be found with a book. Reading Harry Potter late into the night was my favorite pastime. But soon I discovered books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. These books made my gut ache for characters, my mind ask questions that couldn’t be answered by reading the last page, and my eyes see perspectives foreign to my own experience. Whatever this “literature” stuff was, I needed to read it!

    I followed that desire by studying English Teaching in my undergraduate at Brigham Young University, and British Literature in Scotland and England. I celebrate literature because I believe in the power of human expression. The study of English is the study of humanity, of connecting with others and improving our quality of life. This is the passion that fuels my desire to learn and in turn, mentor.

    Mentoring at Williamsburg brings me personal meaning. I love sharing my own passion for knowledge, and in return, watching young learners increase their understanding of self. I currently live in McKinney, TX with my husband Jordan. When not mentoring, I’m in the kitchen working towards Culinary Arts and Professional Baking certification.

  • Greg Denning

    Mentor
    Greg Denning
    Mentor

    I love to teach like a singer loves to sing, like a bird loves to fly!  And I really love associating with youth and young adults.  I grew up in a broken home and was out on my own at an early age.  Those were tough years and I learned many valuable lessons about life and success.  At 16 I started voraciously studying the principles and practices of successful, happy lives.  That was 20 years ago and I’m still studying today because I love to learn, and then share what I’ve learned with others.  After high school, I went to Peru for a couple years.  That’s where my love for teaching and philanthropy began.

    I returned to the States to graduate from the University of Utah and began my career as a teacher.  A few years later, after my wonderful wife Rachel and I had four kiddos, we decided that we wanted to move to developing countries to help serve and make a difference in the world.  Since that time we have lived, traveled, taught and served in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, India, Alaska, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica again, where we currently live with our six children.  We have a very exciting and adventurous life!  We love spending time with our children serving in humanitarian efforts, playing at the beach, surfing, hiking and exploring.

    My personal passions are reading, running, jumping off waterfalls, mountain biking and trying to become the very best person I can be.

  • Jackie de Laveaga

    Mentor
    Jackie de Laveaga
    Mentor

    Words, words, words. They follow me everywhere . . . and I love it. When I was eleven, my family moved into a home just four blocks from the public library. We could have lived in a refrigerator box, and I would not have cared because I spent all of my waking hours at the library. Not much has changed, but I don’t live in a refrigerator box now, either. Instead, I stockpile books around the house. I’ve had the privilege to carve a life path that has kept me buried in books, kids, and education. I earned a BA from Prescott College with multiple areas of emphasis: English, Writing for Publication, and Secondary Education, and a Master of Education Degree with a concentration in language acquisition from Regent University. Soon after, I began teaching college writing courses, while simultaneously editing and publishing a magazine. Over the years, I have mentored thousands of students (from primary school to college) in writing, literature, and drama. I prefer to teach a formulaic style of writing first because it takes the mystery out of creating articulate written communication. While students master the science of writing, I begin to invite them into the art of writing as well. Working with Williamsburg students has been a delight. They are positive, excited to learn, driven, and self-reliant—every mentor’s dream. To my fellow bookies—some of my favorite authors are Roald Dahl, Alan Paton, Charles Dickens, Peter Kreeft, C.S. Lewis, and Alexis de Tocqueville.

    My husband and I have always shared a passion for exciting, engaging, eccentric education, and this drove us to home-educate our own five children. We live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We have been mostly eclectic in our choices, which makes for a fabulous (yet chaotic) educational journey. My children have benefitted from Williamsburg’s courses as part of their homeschool curriculum. With our two oldest out of college and our youngest turning seven soon, I can assuredly say that immersing myself in fabulous education is a calling I love to perpetuate. Some favorite pastimes: hiking, sitting around campfires, book clubs, live theater, going to the beach, traveling, and two-hour family dinners with lots of loud talking and laughing.

  • Tasha Allred

    Mentor, Assistant Director of Academics for WL
    Tasha Allred
    Mentor, Assistant Director of Academics for WL

    When I started my first teaching job, a student from the school newspaper interviewed me. She asked me, “What is one word that you’d use to describe yourself?” I thought for a second, and the only word that came to my head was, “eclectic.” I’m pretty sure she didn’t know what that meant since she spelled it incorrectly, but I really think it’s the only word that sums me up. I like to do a lot of everything. I love learning about everything our world has to offer. Unfortunately, we are not given an infinite amount of time on this earth to do everything, so I have to (try to) focus on a few things. I love music. I play piano, violin, harp, and percussion, and wouldn’t give up those abilities for anything. I also love watching and making movies. I started making my own movies before the days of computer editing, and that was tough, but it’s always exciting to learn something new! I also really enjoy photography and take pictures of nearly every flower I walk past.

    I graduated with a BS in International Business Management and Secondary Education from BYU-Hawaii and taught business, entrepreneurship, and film at a public school for a few years. It was there that I developed my love for project-based assessment and learning. I am currently pursuing my Master’s in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent Development from The University of Connecticut, and I live near Chicago.

Administrative Staff

  • Shelly Jenkins

    Customer Service Team Leader
    Shelly Jenkins
    Customer Service Team Leader

    Growing up I always surrounded myself with good books. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom reading to me from Dr. Seuss and The Berenstain Bears. As a teen, it was not uncommon for me to read two or three books a day! While I don’t have time to do that any longer, I do still love to curl up with a book and see what adventures I get to go on through its pages. How lucky I am to have found an opportunity to work here at Williamsburg where I get to work with amazing people, get exposed to some great books, and interact with incredible youth and their parents!

    I currently reside in Northern Utah where I enjoy looking at the beautiful mountains each day. My husband and I are super busy raising and homeschooling nine super awesome kids.  There is never a dull moment in our home! In between it all, I also love running through summer rainstorms, sitting around a campfire with family and/or friends, meditating by a river, laughing with my family, and enjoying late night chats with my kids.

  • Liz Kirk

    WL Director of Academics, WA Executive Director & MS Program Co-Founder
    Liz Kirk
    WL Director of Academics, WA Executive Director & MS Program Co-Founder

    Several years ago, I met with a fascinating woman to talk about my personal mission in life. She and her husband are engaged social connectors – friends with several US Presidents, on the Academy Awards committee, active on Capitol Hill. As we sat down in my office in Washington, DC, she helped me open up to the many possibilities for my future. I thought about what I wanted to do next. The answer was so clear to me in that moment and always had been – education reform. Almost in tears, I decided right there that whatever it took, I would find a meaningful role in education. Something totally different than I had experienced in my early years teaching in the public and charter school systems. If there were none, I’d scratch something out for myself.

    Within a couple of weeks, I was sitting down with Nels Jensen, James Ure, and Erin Mwanje to discuss co-founding the new Williamsburg middle school program. Creating the school was among the most difficult and rewarding projects of my life. My ideals from childhood came alive in the WL middle school program. I love working with students and writing curriculum. I love education, and am constantly working on my own! I studied English Literature in my undergraduate program and earned a master’s degree in education a few years later. I grew up in Texas and have lived in New York City, Washington DC, and most recently in San Diego. My husband and I love to travel. Last year we visited the homes of Mother Teresa and Gandhi, two of my heroes. These experiences have helped prepare me for rich discussions with my exceptional WL students in the classroom!

  • James Ure

    Co-founder
    James Ure
    Co-founder

    My educational adventure began when I withdrew from public school in junior high to educate at home. In high school, I studied at home and managed my small business for half of the day and attended the local high school for the other half, where I wrestled and ran cross country and track. I began taking college classes when I was 15 and quit high school my senior year to attend college full time. When I was 19, I went on a pilgrimage to the Islands of Hawaii, where I learned how to relate to people from all over the world and gained an appreciation for diversity and a love for different cultures.  

    In college, I majored in English. After graduating I decided to explore my interest in government and law by going to law school at South Texas College of Law. Even though I felt really out of my league my first semester of law school, I loved my law school experience and ended up graduating in the top 5% of my class. In law school, I studied all I could about constitutional law, became President of the Federalist Society––which won student organization of the year––and hosted speeches and debates with lawyers and judges from around the country, served on the law review, published my first article on the Constitution (the Wikipedia article on the 17th Amendment quotes me!), and won the Dean’s Award for most likely to become an outstanding attorney. My dean didn’t know at the time that I had decided not to practice law because my real passion was education, and my dream was to join other education innovators to build a program that would provide the depth, mentoring, adventure, and sense of belonging for students like me who had chosen an alternative educational path. Educating at home helped me explore my curiosity and develop a strong sense of focus, which helped me succeed in college and law school.

    After law school, I returned to the magical Mojave desert in Southern Utah to join my lifelong friend, Nels Jensen, in co-founding Williamsburg Academy, Williamsburg Educational Services, and Elevation Outdoors, and leading the team that developed The Williamsburg Curriculum. Our vision is to graduate tens of thousands of purpose-driven alumni who think wisely, live adventurously, and serve selflessly. Our team of incredibly talented mentors and educators share our alternative educational views and are extraordinarily gifted at creating challenging and inspiring experiences for youth. Working with this team of colleagues is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of my life’s path. I love teaching and feel honored that in 2012, I was selected as one of the top five online teachers in America. In 2014, I was also honored with the Platinum Award in Online Teaching from the United States Distance Learning Association.

    I also love backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, yoga, rock climbing, and running (in 2017 I competed in the Boston Marathon). I enjoy traveling, having outdoor adventures, playing Legos, reading books, building forts, and eating sushi with my wife Angela and our four curious, loving, and hilarious children.

     

  • Lucas Reynolds

    Assistant Executive Director & Mentor
    Lucas Reynolds
    Assistant Executive Director & Mentor

    When I was a boy I dreamed of growing up and being a college football star–6’3″, 230 pounds of solid muscle. I was sure I would win the Heisman Trophy and go down in history. Then my dream changed. At age 14 I was given a choice: I could either join the high school football team or become a TA at a local private school. After a few weeks of swinging back and forth, I finally made a decision: I wanted to teach. I didn’t realize at the time how much that would shape my life. I never made it to six-feet tall or even 150 pounds, but I have enjoyed teaching youth with four different organizations in a variety of subjects: from Shakespeare to Economics. Since that day I guess I have never looked back.

    Besides teaching, I have many other passions. I love running with my wife, backpacking, and playing with little kids. I also get a lot of satisfaction from taking apart machines and seeing if I can fix them. Oh yeah, and I also really enjoy making homemade Argentine food, where I lived for two years. I believe in living life to its fullest and in finding someone to help every day. In 2013 I graduated summa cum laude with a BA from Southern Virginia University in Politics and a minor in Spanish. My wife and best friend, Catherine, and I currently have no children but plan on someday having enough kids to warrant a large kitchen table. We currently live in Buena Vista, Virginia.

  • Nels Peter Jensen

    Co-Founder & CEO
    Nels Peter Jensen
    Co-Founder & CEO

    My favorite people are my family, friends, and students. My favorite things are mountains, bicycles, and books. I love to do any activity that combines my favorite people and favorite things. I also love working with my team at Williamsburg to create high quality and flexible online learning options––options that weren’t available during my youth. Growing up I participated in both homeschool and public school. I am grateful to my parents for introducing me to some of the world’s great literature. Tom Sawyer and David Copperfield are two books that have significantly impacted my life. Although I had many excellent learning opportunities at home and in school, I longed for more interaction with like-minded peers and adults that had expertise in areas my parents didn’t and were passionate about life and learning. I find satisfaction and meaning in helping to provide a positive and challenging learning environment for our students.

    I studied liberal arts in college and went on to earn an MBA from the Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas. After Acton, I wanted to combine my passion for Socratic learning, educational entrepreneurship, and the outdoors. This led to my work as co-founder of Williamsburg Academy and Elevation Outdoors. I live in Saint George, Utah, with my wife and five children.

  • Adam Hailstone

    CMO & Director of Leadership
    Adam Hailstone
    CMO & Director of Leadership

    When I was 14 years old, I went through a dramatic change in my life. I realized it was up to me to get an education—no one else was going to do it for me. I say “dramatic” because I went from a student who was dragging his feet and learning practically nothing to a student who was enthusiastic about learning, life, and having an impact. Since then I have sought to help others push through educational, personal, and cultural barriers to obtain greater learning. During college, I was able to take that desire to audiences around the United States and Canada. With my professors, and eventually on my own, I spoke to groups about education, politics, worldviews and the direction of our society. It was a fulfilling time in my life.

    I live in Cedar City, Utah, where I graduated from George Wythe University with a BA in Liberal Arts. After college, I started two small businesses. I had big plans, and it was a great learning experience, but something was missing. I longed for the opportunity to once again help people obtain a greater education. Then, a few years ago, I sold one business and closed the other to join the faculty of Williamsburg Academy full time. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I love what I do! I get to help students look at the world, its people, cultures, problems, and beauty, and show them how to navigate it and the opportunities they have to change it. My goal as a mentor is to help students look inward and see themselves as they really are and then decide to become what they see.

  • Ben Brown

    Curriculum Director & Mentor
    Ben Brown
    Curriculum Director & Mentor

    I started reading about the same time I started talking, and I’ve loved doing both ever since. I have this insatiable hunger to know everything and so I read all sorts of topics––history, philosophy, psychology literature, business, leadership, science, current events, etc. I can’t stop at just learning things though; as soon as I’ve learned something new it wants to come roaring out of my mouth to the first person I see, regardless of how interested they are. So, mentoring was a natural fit for me: it gave me a venue to teach and a reason to learn. I studied liberal arts in college and received a BA from George Wythe University in 2010.


    I grew up in a large family on a small ranch in Wyoming, where the weather was cold and windy and the sunsets were beautiful. I got bored with my homeschool curriculum when I was 17 and started attending the local college, where I discovered debate. I went on to win the Silver Award at the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament in 2007, and debate is one of my favorite subjects to teach. During college, I spent a summer in Uganda, Africa, teaching teacher development courses to primary and secondary school teachers. I ran from monkeys and warthogs, white water rafted the Nile, and wooed a fellow traveler, Ellie. We later married, and now have three kids––Charly, Malcolm, and Murphy––and live in Saint George, Utah. Besides reading, I also enjoy rock climbing, yoga, and Saturday morning hikes with my family, and I have a huge man-crush on Abraham Lincoln. Before I die I would like to rock climb the Great Wall of China, do yoga in a Hindu temple in India, and backpack all over Iceland.

     

  • Gary Arnell

    Chief Technology Officer
    Gary Arnell
    Chief Technology Officer

    I grew up in southern California where I gained a love for the outdoors (especially the beach and Santa Monica mountains) early in life. I completed my undergraduate studies at Utah State University, where I studied business and computer science.  After graduating I returned to southern California where I worked as a software engineer and project manager. For the last thirteen years, I’ve combined my passion for technology and education, working at schools in California and Utah.

    I oversee all technology concerns for Williamsburg, including the in-house development of our Student Information Services website. I am married to the former Liesl Chambers. We reside with our six children in Cedar City, UT. I love young people and the outdoors–– I’m a volunteer in a local BSA troop and encourage the boys to spend as much time as possible in the beautiful red rock of southern Utah.  I enjoy spending time with my family, especially if it involves canyoneering, hiking, backpacking, reading, and dancing.