Meet Our World Class Faculty

Desert Academy is proud of its faculty, staff, and leadership. Our teachers have a passion for teaching, expertise in their subjects, enthusiasm to work with young adults, strong work ethic,  eagerness to collaborate, and fidelity to the International Baccalaureate. The staff and leadership work diligently to support teachers and students in meeting their fullest potential.

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Bob Alei, MS, MA

Math, Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) Coordinator, and Math Department Chair

Bob grew up in Los Alamos and received his BA from UC San Diego and MS from Stanford University in electrical engineering.  In 2000, after working as a software engineer in medical imaging and environmental data management, he decided to pursue teaching math.  He began with pre-algebra and algebra in a public middle school in rural California.  Since then, he has taught courses from Algebra through Calculus at both private and public schools.  He has a passion for helping students discover the beauty and elegance of mathematics as one of many lenses into our world.  He is excited to be working with the IB math program at Desert Academy.

Email: balei@desertacademy.org

 

 

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Cayley Bell, BA

Film and Animation

Cayley grew up in Santa Fe, and has more than ten years of experience working in the film industry. A few of his locally produced credits include: Legion, Terminator: Salvation, Paul, We’re the Millers, and True Grit. With his diverse production experience ranging from stunts and visual effects to assistant directing and editing, he looks forward to introducing students to the many creative and collaborative aspects of filmmaking. Cayley is thrilled to join the ambitious team at Desert Academy, and to help make the local film communities and resources more accessible to local film students.

Email: cbell@desertacademy.org

 

 

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John Bova, Ph.D.

Philosophy and Theory of Knowledge

John Bova holds a B.S. in Philosophy and Mathematics from Towson University, an M.A. in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College, Santa Fe, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Villanova University. Since the mid-2000s, his work has focused on problems of self-reference, reflection, and reflexivity as they arise at the junction of mathematical logic and ethics. Recently, John has taught undergraduate courses in Logic, Philosophy of Mind, and Ancient Greek Philosophy. Since 2012 he has been an Affiliated Researcher in the Philosophy Department at the University of New Mexico. In his spare time, he enjoys studying music, linguistics, classical Italian fencing, and go. He is looking forward to practicing philosophy with Desert Academy students.

Email: jbova@desertacademy.org

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Makaila Christensen, MA

9th and 7th Grades English

Born and raised in Santa Fe, Makaila Daeschel Christensen received a B.A. in Classics and European Studies and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of New Mexico. She later moved to North Carolina and completed an M.A. in Classical Languages and Literature at Duke University. Having always been drawn to teaching, Makaila has taught grammar, language, history, and literature to undergraduates and is excited to bring her passion for language and literature to the students at Desert Academy. When she’s not spending her time reading and translating, she enjoys hiking, baking sourdough bread, and talking about her dogs with anyone who will listen.

Email: mchristensen@desertacademy.org

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Florence Duncan, BA

French, Department Chair

Florence is from France and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland. She has taught both French and English to children and adults – in France, England, Scotland and Australia. In addition to these countries, she has also lived in Southeast Asia – Vietnam and Thailand – giving her a multicultural background and good knowledge about the diverse ways in which children learn. She joined Desert Academy in 2017.

Email: fduncan@desertacademy.org

 

 

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Steff Eiter

Computer Science, Technology Assistance

Steff Eiter is a recent transplant to northern New Mexico via the SF Bay area and Oregon coast. He earned his B.A. degree in Political Science from Skidmore College in New York, with time abroad studying at the London School of Economics. He has enjoyed a career in creative design, communications/marketing and problem solving in various professional and entrepreneurial sectors. The majority of his time has been spent in the tech hub of San
Francisco, where he led online development for a variety of design and start-up companies. While engaging with people and developing creative solutions are his primary interest, secondary passions include fixing vintage VW’s, restoring old buildings and tinkering with gadgets. He is looking forward to teaching students at Desert Academy to understand how to think like a computer does.

Email: seiter@desertacademy.org

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Nadia Garcia, MA

Spanish

Nadia was born and raised in Albuquerque. She holds a dual Bachelors in Psychology and Spanish, and a Masters in Spanish with a concentration in Hispanic Literature from the University of New Mexico.  She taught Spanish for two years at UNM. Her passion lies in literature, with a special love for Golden Age and Latin American literature. When she was an instructor at UNM she discovered that she wanted to dedicate her life to sharing her knowledge of language and culture to others.

Email: ngarcia@desertacademy.org

 

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Carl Haarstad, Ph.D.

DP Biology, and DP Chemistry, MYP Chemistry

As a child in a small agricultural community in rural Minnesota, Carl enjoyed a diet of fresh bread and pastries baked in his parent’s bakery. Under the influence of an outstanding high school science teacher and an older sibling, his curiosity expanded to include a love of science and eventually a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Minnesota. Afterward, he continued working in the field of Molecular Immunology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

Drawn by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, he and his wife relocated to Port Angeles, Washington where they established a small International Hostel accommodating visitors to Olympic National Park. While living on the Olympic Peninsula, he continued professional work through contracts on projects related to Environmental Toxicology and Endocrine Disruptors at The Marine Sciences Laboratory, a division of The Pacific Northwest National Laboratories located on Sequim Bay.

In 2012, he followed a desire to become certified as a secondary teacher to permit him to share his passion for science with high school students. For the past seven years he has been teaching courses in Advanced Chemistry, Precalculus, and an Integrated MYP science curriculum for Grade 9 and 10 students. He is thrilled at the opportunity to join the faculty of Desert Academy and contribute to the science education of its students.

Email: chaarstad@desertacademy.org

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Paul Hedrick, MA

English, Department Chair

Paul hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He received his BA in English from the University of New Mexico and his MA from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Paul is certified as an IB English Instructor. He began teaching in 1997 and joined the Desert Academy faculty in 2007. Despite his interests in science fiction and fantasy, comic books, gaming, Star Trek, film, and English literature, Paul likes to think he’s not the world’s biggest geek.

Email: phedrick@desertacademy.org

 

 

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Sarah Meghan Lee, MA

Photography

Sarah Meghan Lee worked as a photojournalist for 15 years, first based in central Africa then Latin America, covering social, environmental and human rights issues. Her work was published in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and the Guardian (London). Sarah, a New Mexico native, became interested in photography while completing her degree in Eastern European modern history at Stanford University, including studies in Kraków, Poland, and Berlin, Germany.

While working as a photojournalist, Sarah taught one-week workshops at the Santa Fe Photography Workshops for 14 years.  Sarah has also taught at University of California San Diego Extension, San Diego State University and Francis Parker School. Sarah is the principal instructor of an international workshop series that has traveled to developing countries such as Bhutan, Nicaragua, Kyrgyzstan, and India teaching high school students the fundamentals of photography and visual story-telling. See Sarah's amazing photography at www.sarahmeghanlee.com  Learn more about the workshops here at fredricrobertsworkshops.org/

Sarah earned an MA in Media Studies from San Diego State University in 2013 and recently moved back to New Mexico with her husband and two children.  Sarah is very excited to join the art team at Desert Academy and bring photography to life with hands-on projects and the alchemy of the darkroom.

Email: slee@desertacademy.org

 

 

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Lisa Lincoln, MA

Musical Theater, Music, & Performing Arts, Speech and Debate, Arts Department Chair

Lisa is passionate about helping students reach their potential and helping them find the lifelong joy in music, public speaking and performing. She received her B.A. in Communications with minors in Political Science and Drama from the University of California, San Diego and studied voice in the Los Angeles area for more than 20 years with opera and musical theatre professionals. She has performed in at least 50 musicals, and directed and vocal-directed more.

Since Lisa began teaching at Desert Academy in 2012, she has started the award winning Speech and Debate Team, brought students to nationals every year, served as President of the New Mexico Speech and Debate Association and has just become a Diamond speech and debate coach, a high national honor in the speech and debate world. She also started the award winning Vocal Performance Class, “Crescendo” that has qualified to go to the state championship for the past two years. She has helped students qualify for All State Music positions – a statewide honor for students, and has taken many students to perform in District Wide Honor Choirs. As the Artistic Director and Founder of Eldorado Children’s Theatre and Teen Players, founded in 1999, Lisa has extensive experience igniting a passion for performing in children and teens.

Email: Llincoln@desertacademy.org

 

 

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Rachel Mabe, MFA, MA

Science 8, Humanities 8, Humanities 6

As a journalist and nonfiction writer, Rachel believes in story more than anything. It’s how we understand ourselves, each other, the world around us, and our place in it. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Oprah Magazine, The Paris Review, among other publications (you can find her work on her website: rachelmabe.com).

Originally from Miami, she moved to New Mexico from Pittsburgh where she completed a graduate degree in nonfiction & journalism. She also has degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Bryn Mawr College. Rachel has been teaching for the past nine years —everything from creative writing to composition to mathematics. She’s excited to join the Desert Academy team and teach such passionate and curious students. In addition to reading and writing, she loves rock climbing, running, New Mexico, and her silly little dog: Henry (David Thoreau).

Email: rmabe@desertacademy.org

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Gabriella Masoni, MA

International Student Coordinator, French and Humanities, and Humanities Department Chair 

Gabriella has lived between Washington, D.C., Paris and Rome. Educated in international schools, including l’Ėcole Active Bilingue, an IB school in Paris, Gabriella then earned her BA in Art History at the American University of Paris with a minor in Art from Parsons Paris School of Art and Design.

While living in Rome before moving to Santa Fe in 2009, Gabriella pursued her teaching career at Oxford Institutes as a certified ESL instructor; she also specialized in FFL and IFL, and taught at Rome International School, an IB K-12 school where she headed the Art Department, chaired the Cultural Education Committee and taught modern languages, humanities, art and art history. In 2003, she earned an MA in Humanities from California State University.

Gabriella is an avid linguist, traveler and painter who loves outdoor sports and a good book. She has a wonderful husband who is an award winning Italian film director, and two lovely daughters who constantly remind her that life is all about living. Gabriella is a certified IB instructor.

Email: gmasoni@desertacademy.org

 

 

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Joel Nakamura, BFA

Middle School Art and Aikido

Joel Nakamura is an image maker, producing art for commercial clients and galleries. He has won hundreds of awards of excellence for his work in editorial, advertising, and corporate illustration. Clients and projects include the 2002 Winter Olympics opening and closing program illustrations, Nike, Rolling Stone, Time Magazine, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and Merck Pharmaceutical, in which Nakamura’s illustrations for Maxalt made it the number one recognized medical branding in the world. He is the author and illustrator of the award-winning children’s books Go West! and I Dreamed I Was a Dog. See his amazing work at www.joelnakamura.com

In Santa Fe, Nakamura is known for art he created for Harry’s Roadhouse, Santa Fe Film Festival posters, Japan Festival posters, Century Bank, and exhibitions at Hahn Ross and Pop Galleries. Nakamura has a long history in arts education, including teaching at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe University of Art & Design, Partners in Education Artworks Program for SFPS, the Art Smart program and the O’Keeffe Boys’ Summer Art Camps. Joel is excited to join Desert and hopes to bring his second passion, Aikido, to the school, too.

Email: jnakamura@desertacademy.org

 

 

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Mike Park, MA

MYP 6

Mike was born in Boston and studied mathematics in Maryland. He then spent 8 years in Israel teaching English and mathematics in the Galilee where he became a middle school principal. Upon returning to the US, Mike earned a degree in computer science and taught math and computer science at Purdue. Mike also worked as a research computer programmer but quickly missed teaching so much that he returned to education at the Canterbury School in Fort Wayne. There, he taught and was director of computer services, creating a networked software system to support the administration and business offices. For the last 20 years, Mike taught at the Seattle Academy for Arts and Sciences. After enjoying 50 years of teaching and 47 years of marriage, Mike, his wife, and cat Smokey moved to Santa Fe in June of 2019.

Email: mpark@desertacademy.org

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Erika Penczer, MA

Science and Math

Erika earned her bachelor's degree in biology with a concentration in environmental science at Colby College and her master's degree in educational leadership at Columbia University Teacher's College. With more than 20 years of experience in education, Erika taught and served in leadership positions at Kents Hill School, Santa Fe Prep, and Gould Academy. When not in the classroom, Erika enjoys hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding, traveling, and spending time with family & friends.

Email: epenczer@desertacademy.org



 

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Andrea Rose, MS Art Education, BS Fine Arts

DP Visual Arts, High School Art

Andrea joined Desert last March to support our DP Art students. Andrea grew up in Bellport, NY and received her BS in Fine Arts from Hofstra University and her MS in Art Education from Hunter College, CUNY. After living in NYC she moved to Minneapolis, MN where she taught in the Minneapolis Public Schools for 22 years as an art teacher K-12. For the last 9 years in Minneapolis she taught IB DP and MYP art classes at Patrick Henry High School. Andrea then moved to Santa Fe with her partner, Christian, in the fall of 2018. Andrea is a painter and a printmaker and currently takes classes at UNM in their highly respected Printmaking department. As well as working on her own art, she is an avid knitter, designing and hand-knitting unique items for herself and others. She loves being in nature and gardening. Andrea greatly appreciates sharing her love of art and craft with students and has a depth of knowledge of the IB program. Andrea is thrilled to be a part of the Desert Academy community.

Email: arose@desertacademy.org

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Darko Sabo, MA

Math

Born and raised in Southeast Europe (Sarajevo, B&H), Darko Sabo came to the United States and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in International Business from St. Louis University. Upon graduation, he was hired in the finance world in France. Like his wife, Tatjana, a year later he made the choice to change his career path toward his real passion – teaching. Shortly thereafter, he earned his Masters Degree in Education from University of Missouri, St. Louis, as well as his Teacher Certification in Math. He received the ETS Recognition of Excellence for his outstanding performance on a PRAXIS II (Math teacher competence) test. During his years of international teaching, Darko developed a great interest in traveling and learning about different cultures while working in highly respected IB schools in Germany, China and Singapore. He likes working with students, and he will continue to strive to be a positive influence in their lives.

Email: dsabo@desertacademy.org

 

 

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Tatjana Sabo, MA

High School History

Tatjana moved from Europe to the United States and graduated from the Lindenwold University (St. Louis, Missouri), with a Masters degree in Education. Teaching was not her original career intention. Her undergraduate degree was in corporate Law. To pursue her true passion, teaching, Tatjana turned from Law to Education, obtaining a Social Studies/Humanities Teaching Certificate. She began her teaching career as a History teacher in St. Louis, moving on to become an IB History teacher in international schools in Germany, China and finally Singapore. Tatjana’s passions outside of the classroom include photography, reading, gardening and cooking. She is a true believer in life-long learning, and she is always looking to challenge herself. Tatjana feels very fortunate to have the opportunity to live and work in Santa Fe and share this great adventure with her husband and son, who are also joining the Desert Academy community.

Email: tsabo@desertacademy.org

 

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Cameron Sperry, MA

Middle School English

Cameron Sperry loves to learn and explore new things, whether it be through a suspenseful novel or traveling around the world. She is originally from Colorado and received her BA in English Literature from the University of Oregon and her MA in Secondary English Education from New York University. Cameron has been teaching for over 6 years in Abu Dhabi, New York City, and Maryland. In New York, she was trained in the world-famous Lincoln Center Theater Middle School Shakespeare Program and taught in the After-School Academic Intervention Services. She has taken part in Maryland county’s cadre of highly qualified teachers that write the English Language Arts curriculum for grades 7-12. Cameron is moving to Santa Fe with her husband and is very excited to embark on her journey as a teacher at Desert Academy.

Email: csperry@desertacademy.org

 

 

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John Stuparitz, BA

9th Grade Physics and Math

John Stuparitz is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he graduated from University of Pittsburgh with BAs in Physics and Astronomy and History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), but found Santa Fe via St John's College. His first experience teaching math was as a TA for a trigonometry class at age 19 and he has remained in education ever since, working for numerous non-profit educational programs, including most recently The Georgia O'keeffe Museum's Art and Leadership Program.

John also spent 3 years living and working in Southeast Asia, teaching ESL and working for international schools. He has a 120 hour yoga teaching certificate and loves attending classes at Santa Fe Community Yoga. He plays sports and music for fun and enjoys making new friends from all over the world.

Email: jstuparitz@desertacademy.org

Meet Our Distinguished Leadership Team

 
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Yann Lussiez, Ed.D.

Head of School

Yann is a dual national, born in France and raised in Colorado. He has over 20 years of experience in education, beginning his career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Central African Republic (1992-’96) where worked as a health extension agent, ecotourism program manager with WWF, and forest elephant researcher in the Dzanga-Sangha National Park. He later taught elementary, middle and high school levels in Santa Fe, Venezuela, and Los Alamos. He was principal of El Dorado Community School, MEF International School, Istanbul (an IB World School) and Rio Gallinas Charter School. He joined Desert Academy in 2016 after two years as a Program Evaluator focused on education for the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee.

Yann earned his dual bachelor degrees from Webster University, St. Louis, and his M.A. in secondary education and his doctorate in educational leadership from University of New Mexico. He has conducted research, made conference presentations, and consulted on empathy, emotional intelligence, transformational leadership, teacher efficacy, and creating caring school communities.

Yann has a Desert Academy graduate who is currently attending Whitman College and a sophomore. Yann's wife, Jennifer, is a longtime elementary educator, currently working at Te Tsu Geh Oweenge Day School. Yann is an avid cyclist, swimmer, and photographer, and enjoys performing one of his many characters or just being plain silly with the students. ,

Email: headofschool@desertacademy.org

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Lucy Barna, BA

Director of Admissions

Lucy joined Desert Academy in early 2019 bringing a background in administrative organization, program management, and working with the public in various sectors.  While attending undergraduate school in Charleston, SC, Lucy discovered a passion for learning about different cultures and belief systems, earning her degree in Religious Studies and Communication from the College of Charleston. Post-graduate years found her traveling across the US with programs such as AmeriCorps and beginning her M.A. in Socially Engaged Buddhism at Naropa University in Boulder, CO, further developing her love of learning and passion for effecting change within social systems.  

Lucy’s gypsy spirit (coupled with raising twin boys, class of 2025 at Desert Academy) keeps her forever vibrant and ready for the next adventure - whether it’s paddle boarding, touring with her band, or traveling abroad with her children and partner.

Email: admissions@desertacademy.org

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Shona Casey, BA

Director of Operations

Shona is a native of New Mexico, growing up in the Los Alamos, Pojaque and Santa Fe areas. Prior to joining the Leadership Team at Desert Academy, she joined the community as a parent, became involved with the Parents Association and then the Board of Trustees.  Her love of the school started with the International Baccalaureate Program but grew tremendously through all her experience working closely with the school’s leadership, and most importantly through witnessing her two boys flourish.  As she has recently sold her business of ten years, it seemed natural to move into working directly for the school.  Her educational focus was Intercultural Communications at the University of New Mexico and the American College of London.  She has an extensive background in customer service and sales, marketing and client outreach, finance and budgeting, fundraising and event planning, team building, human resources, training and overall business operations. 

Throughout her career, she has made it a priority to support the community as much as possible, working with several non-profits and educational organizations in Santa Fe.  Shona was a founding member and finance chair of the Ransom Reynolds Memorial Foundation.  She loves being in the mountains surrounded by trees - always excited for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, paddle boarding and more.  She also has a love of dance, theatre, art and music.  Her sons Kale and Rylan are in the classes of 2022 and 2024 respectively

Email: operations@desertacademy.org

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Fran Cole, BA

Front Desk Coordinator

Fran is the front desk go-to person at Desert. Students call her by her first name confidently knowing she will help them with most anything. She is the editor of the Desert Times, the school’s weekly newsletter, that comes out every Friday.

Fran has lived in Santa Fe since 1985. She has a BA from George Washington University with 25+ years of experience working and fundraising in the non-profit community, tackling many different causes from deforestation in Central America to AIDS in New Mexico. She has lobbied on the local level for energy tax credits and water conservation and on the national level for wilderness designation in the Rocky Mountain West. Before working at Desert Academy, she was the Public Affairs Director at Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

Fran has a lot of energy, a strong work ethic and a desire for right livelihood. She is proud of her Topbar Beekeeping certification and devotes much of her free time gardening, hiking, skiing, paddle boarding and taking long walks in her beautiful valley along the Rio en Medio.

Email: reception@desertacademy.org

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Barbara Doddek, BA

Development & Events Coordinator

Barbara was born and raised in Decatur, Illinois and attended Illinois State University where she received a B.A. in Interior Design. She has worked as a design sales associate for Marazzi Tile, and for Dillards and Macy’s in various positions that include Visual Merchandise Manager, Dallas; Visual Design Trainer, San Francisco Union Square Macy’s, and Visual Merchandise Manager Macy’s Houston Galleria. In addition to Dallas, San Francisco and Houston; she lived for 4 years in Perth, Australia before moving with her family to Santa Fe. She enjoys interior decorating, gardening and raising her two daughters. Both of Barbara’s daughters have attended IB schools for most of their careers, her oldest just completing her IB diploma from Desert Academy. Throughout her daughter’s time at Desert Academy, Barbara has been active in the Parent Association and one of the leading members of our annual Auction Committee, employing both her unique networking ability and her extraordinary design talent in service to the School. She met and married her husband Michael, in San Francisco, and he currently works as a physicist at Sandia National Labs.

Email: bdoddek@desertacademy.org

 

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Jennifer Dryfoos, MA

College Counseling (part-time)

Jennifer has been a college counselor for 22 years at Desert Academy, Santa Fe Prep, Monte del Sol Charter School, Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School, and Portledge School -- after almost a decade as a college administrator (at Oberlin, Princeton, and Wheaton). Jennifer is passionate about college (some say obsessed), and loves the whole college process. Jennifer has a masters degree from Harvard and a bachelors from Smith College.

Email: counselor@desertacademy.org

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Yoshi Gruber

Business Office Manager

Yoshi is from Rockford, IL and moved to New Mexico in 2010. She has three children and a husband that keeps her busy. Yoshi enjoys traveling and exploring the many historical sites found in the Land of Enchantment. It was on one of these trips that she and her family discovered The City Different. It wasn’t long afterward that she accepted a position with St. John’s College and officially made the move to Santa Fe which she still proudly calls home.

Most recently Yoshi shared her strong background in customer service, administrative organization, project coordination and event planning with the Rio Grande School. Her experiences at St. John’s and Rio Grande helped her to narrow her professional focus on what she truly enjoys – supporting a strong and positive educational environment while delighting in daily interaction with students.

Email: business@desertacademy.org

 

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Annette Kaare-Rasmussen,BA

IB Program Coordinator

Annette Kaare-Rasmussen was born and raised in Denmark. She received her B.A. in Elementary- and Secondary school education from one of Denmark’s leading institutions (Blaagaard Statsseminarium) and was awarded a level III teaching license.

She worked as a math teacher in different capacities in Denmark before moving to United States. Now she also holds a New Mexico teacher’s license and is delighted to be back in the classroom pursuing her passion! To teach at Desert Academy is a dream come true, since the IB philosophy and practice are very close to the educational system she grew up with and helped promote in Denmark.

When not at school, you will find Annette driving her three boys to their many activities, studying creative ways of teaching division of fractions and other exciting subjects, or planning yet another camping trip to a National Park with her family.

Email: akaaras@desertacademy.org

 

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Chris von Lersner

Learning Support Specialist (part-time)

Chris holds a BA in Education from the College of William & Mary, and credentials in Montessori elementary and adolescent pedagogy. A first generation American, Chris was raised in NJ by German-born parents who met in Brazil, married in Argentina, and came to the US on a freight ship. Multiculturalism is as inherent to Chris’s worldview as is her conviction that humans have the innate capacity to shape and direct their own, unique educational journeys. Her skepticism of standardized curricula and innovation-stifling bureaucracies have driven a lifelong pursuit of alternative educational possibilities. An independent pedagogical consultant in Santa Fe since 2016, Chris has served as the founding Executive Director of a Montessori teacher training center and community-embedded adolescent program in Denver, and as pedagogical principal of a Pre-K – 12th grade Colorado charter school. She consults with schools on four continents, has taught English in Japan, and has traveled widely. Chris has a Chinese daughter and an African American son, 22 and 18. She and her partner Kristy live a stone’s throw from Desert Academy, whose inspiring learning community she’s enthusiastic to serve.

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Matthew Montoya

Front Desk Staff

Matthew Montoya is a native Santa Fean. Graduate of both Santa Fe High School and the Santa Fe Community College (Associates in Arts, Film) as well as appearing in many local theatre productions, including works at the Santa Fe Playhouse and Teatro Paraguas. He is honored to be at Desert Academy, following his dream of working in education, giving back to both the community of his hometown but also the young students who will help shape it and the world over in years to come.

Email: mmontoya@desertacademy.org

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Bill Shandor, MS

Athletic Director, Physical Health Education

Bill Shandor was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He played water polo and swam at Pepperdine University while earning a B.A. in Political Science. Additionally, he has an M.S. in Sports Administration from St. Thomas University. Before joining us at Desert Academy he taught History and coached high school sports for more than twenty years in Florida, California, and Arizona. Bill has also lived abroad for several years teaching ESL and coaching aquatics in Morocco. He enjoys the outdoors and is an avid swimmer, cyclist, and hiker. Bill has a wife and three children and is looking forward to helping the student-athletes fulfill their potential here at Desert Academy.

Email: athletics@desertacademy.org

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Christine Siegrist, MA

Counselor and Student Advocate, FOCUS Coordinator

Originally from south of New Orleans, Christine Siegrist has resided in New Mexico since 2003, working in the counseling and mediation fields. Her experience includes concentration with at-risk youth, assessment of the best interests of children within the context of divorce and separation, and mentorship of local teens. Christine holds a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and an M.A. from Southwestern College in Santa Fe. She is an independently licensed mental health counselor. Christine is a dedicated student of circus arts and enjoys hiking in the mountains with her boxer dogs, riding a bright blue electric bicycle, and assisting with local non-profits and action groups. She is thrilled to be a part of the Desert Academy community.

Email: csiegrist@desertacademy.org

 

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Chris Zappe, BFA

Director of Technology, Personal Project Coordinator, Design Department Chair

Chris received his BFA in Art and Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has been happily engaged with the technology infrastructure and students of Desert Academy since 2006. His teaching roles at Desert Academy have included everything from digital imaging, comics, animation and visual effects to programming, mathematics and micro controllers. While Chris enjoys working within the ever-changing realm of digital technology, he maintains a healthy skepticism toward the frantic pace of tech culture and enjoys the many outdoor activities Santa Fe has to offer, previously lending his talents to the St. John’s College Search & Rescue team.

See Chris' award-winning animation work at www.vimeo.com/zappe 

Email:  czappe@desertacademy.org

 

Meet Our Staff

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Aguie Muñoz

Facilities Manager

Aguie is everybody’s go to guy at Desert. We’d be lost with out him. He has been Desert’s Facilities Manager since 2010. Aguie manages the maintenance and custodial team and organizes daily transportation for field trips and athletic games. He is responsible for all building related activities, repairs, installations, equipment, utilities, supplies, grounds keeping, security, safety, engineering and much more. Aguie was born in Mexico and has been in Santa Fe since 2010. He and his wife, Maria, have three children, Fabi, Aguie and Falina. He is on the Board at Cesar Chavez Elementary School and volunteers his awesome skills for all of their special events. Aguie is an outdoorsman. In his free time he enjoys camping, hunting, fishing and boating. In the summer months, he and his family love to take their boat out for a day of swimming and water skiing.

 

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Ismael Valdez

Maintenance Staff

Ismael has been a valued member of the Desert Academy maintenance crew since 2012. Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, he has lived in Santa Fe for close to 40 years. He has two grown children. Ismael lives with his wife, Maria, on a small farm, off St. Michael’s Drive. When they moved to Santa Fe, their farm was way out in the country. Today his farm is surrounded by homes, apartments and fast food restaurants. Keeping with tradition, however, they still keep goats and chickens and tend to a large vegetable garden. Ismael and Maria make cheese and cream with their goats milk and collect a constant supply of fresh eggs from their 15 chickens. On the weekends, if he is not in the garden or mending the animal pens, he is fishing at Abiqui Lake. He has two dogs. They are El Ranchero and Delilah.

Ismael’s efforts on the maintenance team and driving students to and fro, are key to keeping Desert running smoothly. If you’d like to practice your Spanish skills or help Ismael with his English, look for him in the atrium, where he is always working, cleaning, tinkering or repairing something.