Our Team

Thank You

A Thank You  to all of the people who make our school AMAZING!

Teacher resumes are available in our office.


Lenka Studnicka, Ph.D. – Director


lenkaLenka Studnicka became the Director of La Tierra Community School in the summer of 2016.  She has been in education field in different roles and internationally for the past 30 years. Her educational background and credentials reflect a continuous life commitment to the field of education, sustainability, and peace. She holds a BA and MA in education with a focus on Early Childhood and Instructional Methodologies and Curriculum Planning. Lenka is also a Waldorf and Montessori certified educator who understands a variety of alternative approaches. She graduated with a PhD in Sustainability Education on May 7, 2017. Lenka’s academic research is in Early Childhood Education as Sustainable Peacemaking: Supporting Interdisciplinary Learning to Bridge Theory and Practice. Lenka’s peer reviewed articles on sense of place and place-based pedagogy are published internationally.  Lenka is passionate about her research and how the role of nature and art in the young child’s development, peace and living values education, with integrative curriculum contributes to the development of a model of education that takes into consideration the environment, aesthetics and a wholesome approach to life.

Beside completing her doctorate dissertation, leading a school and mentoring/teaching for Prescott College, Lenka is involved in social justice and sustainability issues, loves to read, study, garden, and create beauty in her environment.

Her goal is to start publishing on peace, place and nature-based learning and how those contribute to the healthy emotional and social intelligence of young children, once she graduates.




Beth Cottle – Operations Director


beth-cottleBeth Cottle brings a wealth of experience to La Tierra Community School, including management and business ownership. Beth grew up in Prescott and is passionate about our community. She spent years volunteering as a Girl Scout leader and her passion for working with children continues through her after school STEM program, STEAMPunks. Beth is married to her best friend, David Cottle and has two children, Sierra and Shayla.Save



Mary Layman – Kindergarten Teacher


Mary LaymanMary spent the first 12 years of her teaching career as a traveling environmental educator and then Director of Willow Bend Environmental Education Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. She did science and social studies presentations in kindergarten through adult classrooms throughout Coconino County, and designed and faclitated field experiences around the southwest for learners of all ages. After re-locating to Prescott she taught in a public school setting as well as in multi-age classrooms at two Expeditionary Learning Schools. She believes people of all ages learn best through play, and designs learning experiences that spark imagination, encourage creativity, and foster safe exploration. She is the mother of three young men and enjoys hiking, exploring, reading, and learning more about the world we live in.


Denise Bennett – Kindergarten Aide


Denise BennettDenise joined the teaching crew at La Tierra Community School in 2013. Her experience in early childhood education began in 1997 with caring for infants and teaching skiing to young children. Later, she taught preschool in an International Baccalaureate Elementary School Program for Summit School District. She has an Associate of Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Colorado Mountain College and loves pairing the knowledge she gains from college classes and trainings with the invaluable lessons she learns from children and their families. She considers herself lucky to have found such a wonderful working/learning environment in La Tierra Community School and loves her beautiful new life in Skull Valley, AZ.


Dawn Klaiber – 1st Grade Teacher


Dawn KlaiberDawn is beginning her fifth year at La Tierra Community School, and is excited to be continuing her teaching career at the school. She spent her early years living on the east coast and in middle school moved to Nebraska with her family. She received an elementary education degree at Minnesota State University in 2010 and went on to study Experiential Education there for her graduate degree which was earned in 2012. Dawn began her teaching career at a small school in Minnesota. She love experiencing the excitement of learning, discovery, and adventure with her students. She believes in an active, engaging, and rigorous pedagogy, setting high but attainable expectations for each first grader. In her free time you can find her refinishing furniture, reading, spending quality time with friends and family, traveling and being outside.


David McNelly – 2nd Grade Teacher


Dave McNellyMr. Dave is a native Arizonan who spent most of his childhood in Tucson. He graduated from Prescott College in 2006 with a BA in Elementary Education and has five years of EL teaching experience. He enjoys teaching children to appreciate themselves and the world around them. David brings his love of reading, music and the outdoors into his classroom.  His free time is spent playing guitar, carving wood, forging and gardening.


Sarah Johnson – 3rd Grade Teacher


Sarah JohnsonSarah is honored to join the La Tierra Community School for the 2015-­2016 school year as the Third Grade Teacher. She grew up on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, MN with her parents and younger brother. She spent a lot of time cross country skiing and adventuring outside. She was a camp counselor for three years at a YMCA Wilderness Adventure Camp, where she lead teenage girls on backcountry canoe trips. She graduated from The University of Wyoming in May 2014 with a degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Environment and Natural Resources. After college Sarah spent a year living on a cattle ranch in Colorado and working at an Expeditionary Learning School as their Teaching Intern, After­ School Coordinator, and Cross Country Ski Coach. She believes that Expeditionary Learning provides students with the tools necessary to be a successful learning community member. When she is not teaching, Sarah can be found exploring outside: running in the mountains with her dog, Ivy,  and looking for snow to ski on in the winter time with her boyfriend, Wil. Sarah is looking forward to experiencing the wonders of living in the desert and working with terrific third graders!

Barbara Braswell – 4th Grade Teacher


Barbara BraswellBarbara is thrilled to be starting her third year teaching at La Tierra Community School!  She has been an educator and worked with children for most of her adult life and is committed to engaging the whole child in meaningful learning.  She considers herself fortunate to work on a school that shares that commitment.  She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Elementary Education and is currently working on her Title 1 reading certification.  Barbara has four children and two grandchildren that are at the center of her life.  She enjoys traveling, music, playing tennis, hiking and reading.


Sunshine Wiesner  – 5th/6th Grade Teacher


Sunshine WiesnerSunshine is thrilled to rejoin the La Tierra family for the new school year as the 5th/6th grade teacher. Sunshine was homeschooled in Prescott and attended college at Northern Arizona University, where she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. After student teaching in Germany with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools, Sunshine moved to Thailand to earn a Cambridge University English teaching certificate and teach English to Thai children and adults. Continuing her career teaching abroad, Sunshine spent a year in Guatemala teaching 6th and 8th grade at an American international school. In Guatemala Sunshine also gained valuable experience volunteering at a local orphanage and community outreach center on weekends. After returning to Prescott, Sunshine spent some time substitute teaching, tutoring, and working in special education before coming to La Tierra. She is overjoyed to begin her second school year teaching and learning at LTCS. When not traveling the world or teaching, Sunshine loves to spend time with her family and explore the beautiful outdoors of Arizona.        


Anna Barnum – Art Teacher


Anna BarnumIn 2013, she began her tenure at La Tierra as the Interim director during the fall semester. Since then, Anna has been the assistant director as well as the Director at La Tierra and now delighted to be the part-time art teacher. With twelve years of teaching experience, as well as two consecutive years in the administrative field, Anna is excited to bring her passion for education and enthusiasm for Expeditionary Learning to the La Tierra learning community




Cathy Nowlin – Special Education Director


cathy-nowlinCathy is excited to join the phenomenal team at La Tierra for the 2016/2017 school year. As the Special Education Facilitator and Teacher, Cathy brings an extensive background in teaching K-8 grade curriculum, social skills and behavior management. She has knowledge of laws and regulations regarding public and private educational reporting, and experience in non-violent communication facilitation, expressive dance and movement therapy, experiential education instruction, and curriculum development, training, and publication. Cathy is a veteran teacher of special education in mainstreamed, full inclusion and resource classrooms, with a working knowledge of modifying and adapting lessons to assist learning. A big believer in group work and pair work which can boost comprehension as well as social skills, she also finds it is a great benefit to the individual student when lessons are delivered one-on-one, so they can be adapted to a range of learners. She supports lessons which include all modalities whenever possible, so visual, auditory, kinesthetic learning options are utilized. Cathy received her M.A. in Special Education from Northern Arizona University and her B.A. in Elementary Education from Prescott College. She is certified as a Highly Qualified Teacher in elementary and special education.



Irma Castillo-Bonnett – Spanish Teaching Aide


Mima Castillo-BonnettIrma Bonnett was born in Mexico in the state of Coahuila and has a Bachelors degree in dentistry.  Through her connection and love for La Tierra Community School she recently began pursing a degree in education.  As a native Spanish speaker, her passion, dedication and love of young people brought her to La Tierra Community School as our Spanish language teacher.  She invites her diverse cultural up bringing into the rich context of her language classes.  Mima will be working with students from K-6 as they become more conversant in Spanish as well as knowledgeable about music, folkloric dances and culture of Spanish speaking countries.

Rhette Buller – Office Secretary 


Rhette BullerRhette is so excited to be the newest member of the La Tierra Community, joining the family as the 5th-8th grade Math and Science teacher. Rhette comes to La Tierra with 8 years of teaching experience with elementary and middle school children. As a native of Prescott,  Rhette graduated from Prescott High School and soon after left the warm embrace of the Arizona desert  for Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. There she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2001 and immediately moved to Bangkok, Thailand to teach English to Thai children for one year. After returning home from Thailand, Rhette moved to San Francisco and spent 2 years teaching in a Preschool and in an elementary school aftercare program.  Her experiences in Thailand and San Francisco inspired Rhette to move back to Prescott to get her teaching certificate at Prescott College. In 2006 Rhette was hired at Washington School as a 5th grade teacher in a self contained classroom. After 3 years at Washington, Rhette took a position as a Math and Science teacher at Prescott Mile High Middle School and was there for 4 years before joining the La Tierra family. When Rhette is not teaching and learning at La Tierra Community School, she can be found traveling the world with her husband, camping all over Arizona, rock climbing in the Dells or running with her dog Taco!


Grandma Susan

Grandma SusannneSusan has volunteered hundreds of hours making the school beautiful with her gardening expertise.