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


Dr. Lenka Studnicka 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 with academic research in Early Childhood Education as Sustainable Peacemaking: Supporting Interdisciplinary Learning to Bridge Theory and Practice. Her peer reviewed articles on sense of place and place-based pedagogy are published internationally. Lenka is passionate about education and how the role of nature and art in the young child’s development, peace and living values education, and integrative curriculum contribute to the development of a model of education that takes into consideration the whole child.

Among her many interests, Lenka loves her family, animals, reading, gardening, global and sustainability issues, and creating beauty in her environment.

Beth Cottle – Operations Officer


Beth 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



Heather Sheetz – School Secretary



Heather is a Texas native who loves her home state! Born and raised in San Antonio, she moved to Prescott in 2003, starting out in AZ working in child care and as a family nanny. She has spent the last 5 years in restaurant management at a local spot downtown before joining the La Tierra staff. She has two amazing children in their 3rd year with La Tierra, and an awesome husband with a local handyman business. She is (slowly) working towards an accounting degree at Yavapai College and enjoys lots of family time, anything food and food health related, and seeing the La Tierra kids every day! She is happy to be a part of the La Tierra family!


Mary Layman – Kindergarten Teacher


Mary has been an educator for 20 years, spending the first 12 years of her teaching career as a traveling environmental educator. She was the Director of the non-profit Willow Bend Environmental Education Center in Flagstaff, Arizona for two years. She gave science and social studies presentations in K-12 and adult classrooms throughout Coconino County, and designed and facilitated field experiences around the southwest for learners of all ages. After moving to Prescott she taught in a public school setting as well as in multi-age classrooms at two Expeditionary Learning Schools. She is fascinated by people and loves learning and growing with them. 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, the grandmother of two, and enjoys hiking, exploring, reading, and learning more about our amazing world.


Denise Bennett – Kindergarten Aide


Denise joined the teaching crew at La Tierra Community School in 2013, after moving from Colorado to Arizona. Her experience working with children began in 1997 while caring for infants and teaching three-year-olds to ski! In 2005 she began studying Early Childhood Education at Colorado Mountain College and took a position at Summit High School, running the infant room in their Infant/Toddler Center. After receiving her Associate of Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education, Denise taught preschool in an International Baccalaureate Elementary School Program. She pairs the knowledge she gains from classes and trainings with the invaluable lessons she learns from children and their families in the classroom. She considers herself lucky to be a part of La Tierra Community School and loves working in such an enlightened educational environment.


Dawn Klaiber – 1st Grade Teacher


Dawn 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 loves 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


Mr. Dave is a native Arizonan who grew up in Tucson and graduated with a BA in elementary education. He brings over 10 years of experiential teaching in the primary grades. David believes in understanding children as individuals with their own strengths and interests. He enjoys teaching children to appreciate themselves and the world around them and how to walk in it in a positive way. 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.


Elise Anderson – 3rd Grade Teacher


Elise is thrilled to be teaching the 3rd Grade at La Tierra Community School this year. With a bachelor’s degree from Prescott College in Adventure Education and Human Development, she comes to the classroom with 10 years of experience teaching at outdoor education programs. As a Program Director with Sail Caribbean, she has taught and led sailing and marine biology programs for children and teens throughout the Caribbean. She also spent time in Moab, Utah and Southern Illinois leading backpacking trips and teaching rock climbing. Upon returning to Prescott, she began to pursue an Arizona Teaching Certificate to continue teaching and working with children at home in Arizona. Elise’s passion for the outdoors as a fantastic learning environment will bring zest and life to the 3rd Grade classroom. When she’s not at school, Elise loves spending time with her baby daughter, Raven Lily, hiking with her husband, Louis, playing music, and traveling to beautiful, far-away places.


Barbara Braswell – 4th Grade Teacher


Barbara 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.


Cal Seabaugh – 5th/6th Grade Teacher


Cal Seabaugh is excited to join the La Tierra family for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year as the 5th and 6th grade teacher.  After growing up in Michigan for most of his life, he moved to Prescott in 2008 and immediately fell in love with the local desert environment.  He graduated from Prescott College in the spring of 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Education.  This will be Cal’s 3rd year of teaching after spending 2 years at Skyview School from 2014-2016.  He has extensive experience in the outdoors, having completed thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail in 2005 and the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007.  He has also led several trips with students of all ages into various wilderness areas around the southwest.  Working with several of the local camps in town as a ropes course facilitator, he has developed a passion for community building and group process.  Cal feels drawn towards middle school students, as they grapple with self-identity and more responsibility, during such a transitional time in their lives as blossoming young adults.  When Cal is not in school with his students, he enjoys getting out into the remote places around Arizona, slacklining, and riding his mountain bike.  Cal is really looking forward to joining the La Tierra community and helping to create a classroom of empowered students that will move forward, helping the world to be a better place.   


Gelisa Senteno – 5th/6th Grade Teacher’s Assistant


Gelisa (Miss Gelly) is excited to be a part of the La Tierra family this year as the 5th and 6th grade Teaching Assistant! After growing up in Southern California she moved to Prescott in 2014 to pursue her education. She graduated from Prescott College this past May with a bachelor of Arts in Literature and Creative writing as well as Ethnic Studies. She spent her senior semester working as a tutor for the La Tierra third grade class and immediately fell in love with teaching. She has since enrolled in the Prescott College Masters of Arts Program and is working to achieve her degree in Place Based Education. As a Southwest native, she has a strong passion for the cultural and natural history of our desert home. She hopes to integrate this precious knowledge into the classroom. She enjoys hiking, painting, reading, and playing her ukulele. Miss Gelly is very excited to be rejoining the La Tierra community; welcoming back familiar faces and meeting some new ones!


Cyndi Reynolds – Special Education Coordinator and Teacher


Cyndi Reynolds is enthusiastically returning for her 5th year to serve La Tierra Community School as the Special Education Coordinator and Teacher. After taking a year to gain further experience in the field, she recognized that the passion and joy she felt working with the staff, families, and students of La Tierra Community School, is irreplaceable. Ms. Reynolds is a native of California, who obtained her B.A. in English, Special Education Teaching Credential, and M.A. in Applied Psychology from schools on the west coast. She has been a special educator for over 15 years, including 7 years at schools that practice Expeditionary Learning pedagogy. With a background serving students of all disability areas in cognitive, developmental, social and behavioral domains, she is excited to use her unique expertise to serve the individual needs of the student population at La Tierra Community School. When she is not teaching, she can be found hiking with her dog, reading a good book, or spending time with friends.


Trinidad Pecho – Spanish Teacher


Dear parents,  ¡Hola – Hello! Welcome to La Tierra Community School. My name is Trinidad Pecho and this is my 2nd year teaching here.  I have worked in education for many years and hold Spanish teacher certification  as well as a degree in Technical Computer Systems from my home country of Peru.  This past May, I also graduated with honors from Yavapai College with Advanced Certification in Early Childhood Education.  I am continuing my education in Elementary Education and Specialist Teacher in a Second Language.  I am extremely passionate about teaching the Spanish language and culture and cannot wait to inspire my students to develop a love for the life-long learning of Spanish and other foreign languages. When I’m not teaching, I enjoy spending time with my husband, Joel, and my two children, Selene and Dayana.  I am delighted to have your children in my class and I am looking forward to a successful year.  I am always available for questions. Thank you for your support! Mrs. Trini


Ashley Darling – Art Teacher


Ashley Darling is delighted to join the La Tierra family for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year as the art teacher. She believes that art is wonderful and fun while helping to enhance student’s self expression, creativity and problem solving ability. She brings with her 10+ years of experience as an artist and private teacher in several mediums as well as runs a successful design business. This May she will complete her studies at Yavapai College with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Graphic Design as well as a Photography Certificate. Ashley has a loving husband and three children that inspire her daily. She is passionate about family, art, the outdoors, doing something good for others, coffee and – of course – kittens.

Rhette Buller – Title One Grant Writer


Rhette BullerRhette 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.