Staff resumes are available in our office.
Julie Jongsma – Director
Ms. Julie is an Arizona native who grew up right here in Prescott. She earned her Bachelors in Social Work from Northern Arizona University and went on to receive her Masters in Business Administration. She served as the La Tierra Governing Board President for several years prior to accepting the position as La Tierra’s Operations Officer. In the Summer of 2019 she transitioned into the position of Operations Director. In 2022 she was honored to begin serving the community as the LTCS Director. Julie has a deep commitment to and love of the La Tierra mission and the entire La Tierra community. She loves facilitating exploration, fostering the courage to ask why, and inspiring a sense of wonder in the students of LTCS. Outside of school she can usually be found spending time with her 2 beautiful children who attended La Tierra for 8 years. She is continually amazed at all the beauty in nature to be found in the Southwest and is always on the lookout for her next adventure. Some of her outdoor favorites include hiking, biking, backpacking, bikepacking and camping. Stop by and say hi anytime!
Heather Sheetz – School Secretary/Administrative Assistant
Heather grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and moved to Prescott in 2003. Her first two years in town Heather worked in various child care settings and as a family nanny. After leaving child care, she entered the downtown restaurant scene for several years before meeting her husband, Will, and having 2 children- both La Tierra lifers! Heather joined the Bill’s Pizza family in 2012, eventually managing the front while taking community college courses in accounting on the side. In 2017, Heather joined the La Tierra Family! You will find her in the front office taking phone calls, juggling files, offering hugs and bandaids to our students, and helping parents and families find what they need! Outside of the La Tierra office, Heather loves spending time with her husband and children- you’ll find them out in nature near water, taking road trips, cooking
Dawn Klaiber – Academic Program Coordinator
Dawn joined the La Tierra Community School Family in 2013 as a classroom teacher. She is enjoying her role supporting the school as Academic Program Coordinator and looks forward to continuing during the 2023-2024 school year. Dawn 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. As a lifelong learner and with a desire to improve her teaching practice, Dawn worked to earn her National Board Teaching Certification in 2020. She believes in an active, engaging, and rigorous pedagogy, setting high and attainable expectations for each student and is excited to work with students and teachers school wide. In her free time you can find her spending quality time with friends and family,
traveling, dancing, and playing outside.
Tricia Arnts – Kindergarten Co-Teacher
Tricia is thrilled to be part of the LTCS family. She loves to travel and perform with the Prescott Chorale, hike, sing, and spend time with her macaw. Tricia began her teaching career in Kindergarten where she taught for three years. She then taught Pre-K for four years. She has great respect and admiration for the learning process of young children and is inspired by watching her students grow and achieve small goals along the way. Tricia is entering her third year as the La Tierra kindergarten teacher. She is passionate about La Tierra’s mission and is excited to be part of our expeditionary learning inspired community.
Kat Hallowell – Kindergarten Co-Teacher
Miss Kat is excited to continue her journey with the La Tierra community. This is her second year working full time for the school but before that she helped out in a number of classrooms when she was a college student. In 2021, Kat graduated from Prescott College with a B.A. in Environmental Education. She is now pursuing a Masters of Education from Prescott College. Her passions lie in connecting children to nature. This process fosters loving and empathic relationships that provide the skills to make informed and responsible decisions for a more sustainable future. She finds joy in guiding children through the wonders that our earth has to offer, from simple discoveries in our backyards to recognizing broader global phenomena. When she isn’t in the classroom you can find her reading a good book, cooking, hiking, practicing yoga, and cuddling her cat Monkey.
Mary Layman – 1st Grade Teacher
Miss Mary grew up in Arizona, starting life in Prescott and then living in Tucson from 5th grade through high school. She is the mother of three young men and grandmother of two. She earned her teaching certificate with an environmental science minor from NAU. She has 26 years’ experience engaging learners of all ages, first as an environmental educator and director of Willow Bend in Flagstaff, and later as lead teacher in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings, grades K-5. She has taught at La Tierra for a total of 7 years. She is fascinated by how brains grow, and especially loves learning with young children. Mary approaches life with curiosity, a growth mindset, and a playful spirit, hiking and exploring the world in her free time.
David McNelly – 2nd Grade Teacher
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 is the founding classroom teacher of La Tierra Community School and brings over 17 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. He loves teaching positive ways to be in the world and inspiring resilience and curiosity about being alive in this complex world.. David brings his love of reading, music and the outdoors to share with his students. The rest of his time is spent managing the Walnut Creek Center for Education and Research and being with his family of dogs, cats, chickens, best friend wife, six children (two still living at home), playing guitar, carving wood, forging and gardening.
Grace Kinney – 3rd Grade Teacher
Ms. Grace is passionate about engaging students in experiential learning, offering students ownership and choice whenever possible, and seeing students as whole people with their own needs and experiences before all else. She is excited to join the La Tierra staff for the 23-24 school year after experiencing the warm community atmosphere through a parent lens! Ms. Grace graduated from Saint Leo University with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education in 2013. She has worked in various educational settings and models, including private schools, public and charter schools, Montessori schools, learning cooperatives, virtual schools, and microschools. Most recently, Ms. Grace was an Academic Coordinator for K-8 microschool students. She is excited to return to the classroom, especially with the opportunity to engage in expeditionary learning! After living in Florida for many years, Ms. Grace and her family moved to Arizona in 2019 and the Prescott area in 2021. Ms. Grace enjoys spending time with her two daughters, traveling, reading, writing, hiking, and enjoying live music.
Barbara Braswell – 4th Grade Teacher
Ms. Barbara has been an educator and worked with children for most of her adult life. She is committed to engaging the whole child in meaningful learning and feels fortunate to work in a school that shares that commitment. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and this will be her ninth year teaching at La Tierra Community School. Her passion for social justice is woven throughout her life. Her fourth-grade class motto is “Treat people the way you want to be treated”. Barbara lives close to school with her husband, Charles. She has four grown children, one stepdaughter, and four amazing grandbabies. She enjoys traveling, music, hiking, and reading
Teri Lynn Stout – 6th Grade Teacher
Teri Lynn was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. She moved to Prescott in 2017 looking for fresh air, hiking trails, and easy access to the great outdoors. Along with elementary and secondary education, her studies include science, Spanish, middle eastern dance, yoga, and she is a licensed aesthetician. Elementary Education is the degree she finally decided to put a frame around. This will be her fifth year teaching at La Tierra Community School and her third year teaching sixth grade. Teri Lynn loves inspiring students to move through the world with kindness and confidence, and she encourages creativity, independence, and the use of wild imagination along the way. She is a lifelong learner and is passionate about education. Outside of La Tierra, Teri Lynn can be found adventuring with her two kids, writing while her tea gets cold, conducting delicious science experiments in her kitchen, or completely lost in a book.
Samantha Westphal – 7/8th Grade Teacher
Miss Sam is thrilled to be back at La Tierra for her second year of teaching. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and traveled around quite a bit before finding a home in Prescott. She graduated from Prescott College earning a degree in Education with an emphasis in Environmental Education. Miss Sam has helped create curriculum for The Arizona Trail Association and The Community Nature Center here in Prescott. She is always looking for opportunities to bridge the gap between education and the outdoors. She is looking forward to deepening curiosities and empowering learning experiences. In her free time she loves to get outside, hike, swim, and road trip with her boyfriend and pup.
Thurman O’Herlihy – STEM Teacher/Math Interventionist
Mr. Thurman grew up in small-town Wisconsin but has been living in Arizona for the past five years. He is a recent graduate of Prescott College with a competency in Cultural/Regional Studies and a breadth in Adventure Education. Thurman worked at La Tierra in the past as a student when he was Mr. Dave’s assistant for the 3rd Grade. Last year he and Ms. Kat worked as English teachers abroad in South Korea. This experience gave Thurman a great deal of teaching time with students of all ages. He is very excited to be a part of the La Tierra community. His main goals are to foster wonder and excitement about the natural world as well as help his students hone their investigative skills. He believes all children have the capacity to harness their curiosity to succeed throughout their educational journey. In his free time, Thurman likes to hike, bike, boat, and learn about new things
Isabelle Martin – Art Teacher
Ms. Isabelle was born in Laramie, Wyoming but moved to Arizona early on. She discovered her love for art at a young age, always focusing on her passion of drawing and painting people. She attended college at Northern Arizona University for Art Education with the intention to spread her love of art across the world. Now, she embarks on her first year of teaching at La Tierra. She is looking forward to creating lessons that help students in their journeys of self-discovery. She loves to watercolor paint, swim, hang out with family and friends, play video games, and spend time with her cat.
Cyndi Reynolds – Special Education Coordinator and Teacher
Cyndi Reynolds is embarking upon her 11th year as both the Special Education Director and Special Education Teacher of La Tierra Community School. Ms. Reynolds earned her B.A. in English, Special Education Teaching Credential, and M.A. in Applied Psychology from California schools where she was born and raised. She has been a special educator in various public school settings for 18 years, with 10 additional years working with adults and children with unique abilities in pre-vocational and social/play settings. With this diverse background, Cyndi brings a unique outlook and instructional style to the students at La Tierra Community School. She is passionate about fostering a sense of confidence and competency in unique learners, while teaching these students the importance of knowing their resources and accommodations. When she is not teaching, Cyndi can be found on local hikes and walking trails with her dog, reading a good book, or spending time with friends.
Martin Weeks – PE Teacher
Mr. Marty has 30 years of experience working with people with unique abilities. He has been a part of the La Tierra community for the past 5 years, you might have seen him volunteering at various activities prior to becoming an employee last year. He is passionate about working with people and making sure they are safe and their voices are heard and respected. In his free time, you can find Mr. Marty doing anything outdoors with his wife, Ms. Tasha, two children and their two dogs!
Cora Fry – Title 1 Instructional Aide
Cora Fry is the Title I instructor for the 2022-2023 school year. She became a member of the LTCS community last year as a Specials Teacher and is excited for her next journey in education. Cora is originally from New Jersey, where she spent time volunteering at Bankbridge, a school for students with special needs. Before joining the La Tierra family, Cora worked as in-home support for children with special needs, then as a one-to-one specialist at Northpoint. She also has
experience in fields including the service industry, veterinary work, and the medical field. When she is not working Cora can be found on a variety of outdoor adventures with her toddler son and puppy. She loves learning or mastering a new skill like making jams, pickling, and crocheting
Cristal Barko – School Social Worker
Ms. Cristal is a northwest Ohio native who moved to Arizona in 2015. She graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2005 and started her first job in children’s mental health shortly thereafter. She then graduated from University of Toledo in 2008 with a Masters in Social Work. Since then she has continued her work in children’s mental health and has worked in residential, in-patient hospitalization, partial hospitalization and outpatient mental health settings. Cristal started working in the schools in 2017 under the auspices of the Yavapai County Education Service Agency and has enjoyed every minute of it! In her free time Cristal loves to spend time with her husband and two children hiking, crafting, watching movies and reading books. She especially loves the Arizona weather and exploring the beautiful landscapes of the state.