Dave McNelly: Founder, Teacher, and Friend of La Tierra Community School  

man standing against a atreeThird grade teacher Dave McNelly, also known as Mr. Dave, is a native Arizonan who grew up in Tucson. He is a certified teacher who graduated from Prescott College with a BA in elementary education in 2006. He brings over 14 years of experiential teaching in the primary grades. David brings his love of reading, music, and the outdoors into his classroom. His free time is spent being with his family of dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, best friend wife, six children (two still living at home), playing guitar, carving wood, forging, and gardening.

Why did you join LTCS initially?

About twelve years ago, I began to wonder what kind of environment I could help create that would serve the whole child, meet the child where they are in their development, and encourage a life-long love of learning. With a few other industrious and like-minded people, we developed a charter and a plan for a K-8 Expeditionary Learning school for Prescott. I was part of the entire process from concept to the physical reality of the school. I was La Tierra Community School’s first teacher and have worked here since day one (10 years ago!).

What roles have you filled during your years at LTCS?

We all have many roles at school. I have been a classroom teacher for grades 1st -5th. I have had an ongoing role with school leadership and development teams, and I have been the janitor, the landscaper, and overall fix-it person!

What do you love about teaching an Expeditionary Learning-inspired curriculum or class?

I love the authenticity of EL-inspired education. While many components are more hands-on than a traditional school approach, it’s the character-building and life-long learning skills that are embedded in how we teach that I enjoy the most about our school. Expeditionary Learning also frames learning as challenging and adventurous, which I believe it is.

raised garden bedWhat inspires you to be an educator?

I love to watch the wonder and growing understanding of my students. I really enjoy taking big ideas and breaking them into understandable pieces. I am deeply drawn to the human spirit and its tenacity and capacity for growth. I want the world to be better tomorrow than it is today. I believe teaching young people to love themselves and the world around them is a way to improve our future. My goal is to inspire my students to find what is important to them and I hope to share with them the tools they need to become scholar-citizens; educated, active participants in their communities and the world. I love learning, and teaching others is learning every time.

What makes LaTierra Community School such a special school?

My fellow colleagues and our learning community. Together, we create a genuine space that encourages and allows individuals to grow and learn. I believe our entire staff is here to serve our students and families, and to help promote the learning and healthy growth of children.

singing around a campfire

About La Tierra Community School 

At La Tierra Community School, teachers, parents, staff, and students work together to create a school culture of collaboration, respect, and high expectations. Through our expeditionary learning-inspired approach, trust, respect, responsibility, and joy in learning permeate our community and our students know they can impact their world. Enrolling K-7 in Prescott, today!