Staff

The IDEA School employs life-long learners who are committed to our philosophy, engaged in the practice of inquiry, and bring a special combination of experience, skills, talents, and passion to the table for the benefit of our students and their families. If you feel that you would be a great fit for our school, or wish to volunteer, let us know

COLLABORATOR STAFF

Belen Sisk, Early Childhood Collaborator

Belen Sisk is a Native Tucsonan who, along with her family, has inhabited this beautiful desert for more than 5 generations. Of Yaqui descent, Belen is very proud of her roots and continues to educate herself through tribal gatherings, books, and community events.

Belen has been teaching Early Childhood Education for the last 16 years. She received her AAS through Pima Community College in 2007. During her time teaching, she has worked in and collaborated with some of the best schools Tucson has to offer. She attends professional development conferences and workshops yearly, maintains amazing teacher friendships, and (as her husband would say) is an absolute kid magnet! To say her joy of learning through a child’s world is palpable is an understatement.

Belen began her love of teaching through play, outdoor learning, and the Reggio Emilia philosophy at Second Street Children’s School during her first internship under the tutelage of Julia Butler (2003). She returned years later as a seasoned teacher and as a Mama (2011-16). There, she learned to use her background in education and her personal experiences as a mother to create a comforting, secure, and loving classroom alongside her co-teachers and administrators.  “I am so thrilled for this new adventure and hope to gain more insights into my teaching as well as offer all that I have to your children’s education experience!”

Belen has been married 10 years and has an awesome daughter, Olivia Luna.

Daniel Dominguez, Early Childhood Collaborator

Bio coming soon!

Caitlin Rathbun, Lower Elementary Collaborator

Caitlin was born in Tucson and spent most of her childhood growing up in Yuma, AZ. She has called Tucson home since moving back to attend the University of Arizona in 2010, where she studied Elementary Education. After graduating from UA, Cailtin put down roots at a local public school, where her love for teaching grew over the past seven years. In addition to teaching 1st and 2nd grade, she also participated in after-school tutoring programs as well as leading a mindfulness and yoga class for children ages 5 to 10.

In her free time, Caitlin volunteers with a women’s rock climbing non-profit whose goal is to provide an inclusive and safe space for women within the climbing community. She can also be found biking in the beautiful mountains that surround Tucson and traveling with her partner Carlos and their two pups- Bowie and Atlas.

Caitlin is thrilled to have the opportunity to join the IDEA community and to engage in meaningful learning experiences with your children!

Zack Armstrong, Upper Elementary Collaborator

Zack Armstrong loves to learn and has dedicated his life to the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge.  An Arizona native, he has lived and traveled worldwide, but the Sonoran Desert always calls him back.

Born and raised in Phoenix, he then got wise and attended the University of Arizona where he received a BA in Creative Writing and English Literature in 2001. For the last 9 years, he has taught English, mostly to 5th graders. He also taught history and English to grades 8-10.

After college, he moved to Chicago to study improv comedy at the Second City, IO, and Annoyance theaters. For the last 8 years, he has been an instructor and performer at the Tucson Improv Movement and spent 3 years as director of the comedy school.

He ran away to join the circus in the Pacific Northwest in 2005 and has more than 15 years experience teaching and performing juggling, clowning, and other circus arts at camps, libraries, and festivals with Cirque Roots, the WonderFools, and more.

Zack learned Spanish and Portuguese while juggling his way through South America and was lucky enough to perform in the Spanish-speaking improv troupe, ¿Como se Dice?, from 2017-2020.

When not facilitating education, he can be found hiking on trails, biking on streets, reading, writing, publishing, editing videos, trying to be funny, or any combination therein.

“I’m ecstatic to work at the IDEA School! I can’t wait to learn, share, and collaborate with so many wonderful humans.”

Dalziel Dominguez, Middle School Collaborator

Dalziel is a Southwest native originally from Yuma, Arizona. He came to Tucson in 2006 and was captivated by the rich Sonoran Desert that thrives in this region. He attended the University of Arizona where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in chemistry.

Before joining IDEA School, Dalziel worked as a tutor both in private and public school settings, working with a broad age range of students who were struggling, and facilitating learning mostly around mathematics. At IDEA, Dalziel has developed his skills and expertise as the Upper Elementary co-collaborator, focusing on math, inquiry, and social-emotional learning, as well as movement and music.

Prior to becoming a classroom teacher, Dalziel worked with local and naturalized plants of the Southwest. In 2010 he completed the Sonoran Herbalist Apprenticeship program which centered on learning how to work with local plants as medicine and food. He also worked as a gardener at the Tucson Botanical Gardens for a couple of years and lived on a local CSA farm learning organic and sustainable farming practices.

Dalziel loves movement and martial arts. Growing up amongst siblings and older cousins was a never-ending wrestling match, and in his later teens, he got some guidance from his first martial arts teacher, with whom he studied Karate. Upon coming to Tucson he quickly found his place within the local Capoeira scene and a local Wing Chun Kung Fu school.  Dalziel is also no stranger to expressing himself through dance and song. He enjoys spending time singing, playing guitar, dancing, and practicing Capoeira.

Faffs Riederer, Upper Elementary Collaborator

Faffs Riederer (he/him/they/them) grew up attending child-centered, progressive elementary schools in Denver, Colorado. Faffs has a Bachelor’s in Ethnic Studies from UC San Diego and a Master’s in Transportation Engineering CU Denver. They have been a lifelong activist working on climate change, policing and criminal justice reform, demilitarization, union organizing, sex-workers’ rights, and transportation and urban planning.

Faffs has worked in various roles in elementary ed including teacher, math and literacy tutor, urban cycling instructor, and digital storytelling coach.

Faffs enjoys making music, short films, animation, comic books, and role-playing games and loves playing basketball, biking, building, and sewing

Faffs’ kids Violet and Sula attended the IDEA School when they were younger and are now in middle school and high school here in Tucson.

Sara Johnson, Exceptional Education Specialist and Librarian (Volunteer)

Sara is Jaime’s mom and has been a staunch supporter of the IDEA School since it was only an idea! After retiring from TUSD as an Exceptional Education Specialist with decades of experience in the classroom, Sara has devoted her volunteer time and energy toward helping the IDEA School mature and grow over the years. Sara provides professional development support around serving the needs of students with special needs, is our school librarian, and all-around #1 Volunteer. We are so fortunate to benefit from Sara’s passion and expertise. Thank you, Sara!

CO-DIRECTORS and ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF

Jaime Johnson, Co-Director

Jaime is a co-founder of IDEA School and serves as the Director of Curriculum and Student Services, in charge of the pedagogical vision and its implementation.  She began her career teaching first grade and kindergarten in Tucson Unified School District where she met the challenges of overflowing classrooms, narrow state standards, and report cards. At TUSD she had an epiphany: To realize their full potential, children must be intrinsically motivated; but to preserve intrinsic motivation, education must be child-led and play-based.  Informed and inspired, Jaime moved on to a private preschool, Second Street Children’s School, teaching two-, three-, and four-year-olds.  This work, coinciding with the powerful experience of becoming a mother, gave her new insights into how children learn through active, purposeful play.

In 2011, Jaime co-founded Downtown Community School as a child-led, play-based preschool in Barrio Viejo. Her vision there was to support students in their discovery as they grow through the years. It is at Downtown Community School that the seeds of the IDEA School were planted.

Jaime’s role at IDEA School has evolved as we’ve grown, but her heart has always remained in the classroom. Today, Jaime supports her fellow collaborators with planning and assessment, works one-on-one with students who need extra support, and leads daily classes in literature, language arts, and history, with an eye toward helping students build their empathy as well as their literacy and critical thinking skills. Jaime’s calling is to engage students deeply and productively within a safe environment in which they can take healthy risks and be themselves.

In addition to her administrative role, Jaime also teaches in the Upper Elementary and Middle School classrooms.

Jaime’s daughter, Tula, attended the IDEA School and is now in High School.

 

Laura Wilson Etter, Co-Director

Laura Wilson Etter is a working artist, journalist, general mess maker, and lover of laughter.
Laura’s educational philosophy stems from her family life. As the daughter of a Reggio Emilia-inspired teacher, she grew up with constant opportunities for open-ended, project-based exploration. She was fortunate to receive an amazing education in the public schools in Tucson, at a time before standardized testing dictated learning opportunities. At IDEA School, Laura teaches our Lower Elementary classroom, providing enriching learning experiences for her students across the curriculum including Language Arts, math, inquiry, and art, as well as social-emotional learning and development.
After becoming a mother to her two boys, Sidney and Henson, Laura became acutely aware of how every child deserves an educational structure that firmly supports their individual needs and interests. Having a child with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder has made her an advocate for the differences we all possess and has also greatly enhanced the way she communicates with all children.
Professionally, Laura’s path has taken her through a wide variety of areas, including non-profit fundraising, business management, event planning and coordination, mentorship, and education; however, her heart has always been with working with children. She has hosted a variety of art-based workshops around the concepts of kindness, empathy, and community, and spends her summers working in the Art Lab at Playformance. Before joining IDEA School full-time for the 2018-19 school year, she taught art workshops at IDEA and was also the artist-in-residence at Miles ELC, a public school in Tucson.
Laura loves hiking, painting, making, creating, reading, designing, watching movies, and learning, but her favorite thing to do is spend time with her boys, her husband, and their 100-pound dog named Turtle.
In addition to her administrative role, Laura also teaches in the Lower Elementary classroom.

Jayme Berge, Admin and Accounts Manager

Jayme joined the IDEA School in 2017 as our office manager and school administrator, in charge of various aspects of the day-to-day operations of the school. Upon moving to the Los Angeles area with her family in early 2018, she agreed to stay on as a contractor to be the IDEA School’s bookkeeper and accounts manager, ensuring a smooth transition in core administrative processes as we continued to grow. Jayme also works for her daughter’s preschool in L.A. as their bookkeeper and accounts manager, and is thrilled to contribute her experience and expertise to the development of both progressive schools. Before moving to Arizona, Jayme helped run a small progressive school in New York City.

 

David Higuera, Co-Founder & Board Treasurer

David is a co-founder of IDEA School and serves as the Director of Finance and Development. David began his career in youth development, public education reform, and teaching spent some time in communications, politics, and government, and has come full circle back to education. As a former public school teacher in San Francisco, David appreciates all the potential that public schools hold but also saw firsthand how the rigid, top-down framework in which public school teachers and principals must operate was failing too many students.

David is dedicated to making children’s lives better, believes fiercely in the potential that IDEA School represents, and always is looking for ways we can learn from the experiences of others as well as our own triumphs and failures as we grow the school.  David is married to Jesse Evans-Schroeder, a local immigration attorney, and they are the proud parents of Elliot and Samuel.