+Impact School is a fully accredited, independent high school at Lake Tahoe, CA designed to give students the tools they need to flourish in college and beyond.


Lizzie Aldrich

Science 9-12

impact teachers headshot lizzie aldrichOriginally from Georgia, Lizzie’s passion for environmental science has taken her on a journey that has allowed her to live in five different states and Ecuador. She attended Middlebury College where she pursued her passion for environmental studies and Latin American studies. While in college, she did a comparative ecology study in Ecuador. After college, she taught science and Spanish at The Vail Mountain School in Colorado for four years and then completed her M.S. and Ph.D. in environmental studies as a National Science Foundation Fellow at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Her dissertation research involved investigation of renewable energy projects in twelve Latin American countries, and she published her research as a book for carbon offset project developers. After finishing her Ph.D., Lizzie delved deeply into the field of greenhouse gas mitigation policy as she worked in the field of carbon offset origination, taught summer courses on renewable energy in Iceland, taught as an Assistant Professor at Boise State University and published many articles on renewable energy markets, carbon capture and sequestration, and barriers to the use of offsets in carbon markets. For the last four years, Lizzie was the Chair of the Sustainability Studies Department at The White Mountain School in New Hampshire where she coached whitewater kayaking and taught high school students biology, AP Environmental Science, and Climate and Energy.

Lizzie loves the energy of students and is thrilled to share her passion for science and place-based learning. In her spare time, Lizzie travels far and wide, whitewater kayaks, telemark skis, skate skis, mountain and road bikes, and explores with her children.

Laird Blackwell

English 9-12

impact teachers headshot laird blackwellLaird received his PhD in Education and Psychology from Stanford University in 1974. After moving to Tahoe a few years later, he taught at Olympic Valley School (now Squaw Valley Academy) for a couple years before becoming a Professor at Sierra Nevada College. After 31 years there teaching various courses in psychology, literature, writing, and mythology, he retired in spring, 2012. He was honored by students as “Professor of the Year” on numerous occasions over the years.

He is an avid hiker and photographer with a special love of wildflowers–he has written (and done the photography for) several wildflower field guides. His latest–Wildflowers of California: A Month-by-Month Guide–was released in May, 2012 by University of California Press.

He lives with his wife Melinda and their menagerie of horses, alpacas, llama, miniature donkey, ducks, chickens, cats, dogs, and parrot in Washoe Valley, where Melinda leads equine therapy and educational programs for at-risk kids.

Laird has an exceptional collection of old books (yes, those hold-in-your-hand artifacts of years gone by!) specializing in 19th century mystery, detection, and fantasy. Although he is looking forward to retirement reading, as his former students suspected, he seems unable to completely retire–he’s excited about sharing some of his passions and experience one morning a week with the students at +Impact School.

Anne Burnett

Academic Dean, Chemistry Teacher, Crew Leader 12

impact teachers headshot anne burnetteAnne completed a Bachelor’s degree in Geology and Environmental Studies from Oberlin College and a Master’s degree in Journalism with emphases in science and environmental writing from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a licensed secondary science teacher and proud 2009 recipient of the Earth Sciences Teacher of the Year Award from the National Geologic Survey. She has worked as an instructor and course director for 13 years with Outward Bound, a curriculum developer and program director for education organizations around the world, an upper school science teacher and crew leader at the Rocky Mountain School for Expeditionary Learning (RMSEL), and an education director and teacher trainer in field science organizations throughout the Bay Area.


Ari Gino

Math 9-12, Crew Leader 9/10

ari-gino-profileAri grew up in Southern California spending long hours on the beach doing her math homework. She then moved to Colorado where she studied Environmental Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In Colorado she learned to love the mountains, and spent many a weekend exploring Colorado’s giants. After graduating, Ari began teaching math and science. She has taught at the Watershed School in Boulder, Colorado, High Mountain Institute in Leadville, Colorado, and most recently at Alzar School, in Cascade, Idaho. Ari has led expeditions in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Chile. She is passionate about teaching math, and guiding students through the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills. She is very excited to explore math, physics, and the Sierra’s with her students at +Impact!


Mark Henasey

Music 9-12

impact teacher headshot mark henasayMark graduated with a Music Education degree from University of Massachusetts Amherst. He enjoys performing music and teaching students of all ages. His teaching methods are diverse and oriented towards each student’s specific musical personality. He spent nine years as a Faculty Instructor for the Summer Institute for the Gifted teaching music courses at Princeton University, UCLA, Drew University and Bryn Mawr College. He also worked as a high school music director for a private boarding school for seven years. His original compositions have been featured on University of Princeton radio (WPRB 103.3) and his projects have opened for many international touring acts including Ween, The Wailers, Bernie Worrell (P-Funk and Talking Heads) and Vernon Reed (Living Color).


Mara Jenkins

History 9-12, Crew Leader 11/12

mara-jenkins-bio-imageMara Jenkins was born and raised in Oregon. Whether it was skiing Mt. Hood, traveling the world with her family, hiking the Pacific Northwest or camping up and down the West coast, Mara spent her childhood taking advantage of the beautiful world around her. Mara attended the University of Oregon to earn a Bachelor of Arts in History. After graduating, she moved to Tahoe where her husband grew up and enrolled at Sierra Nevada College to continue her education. Mara earned her teaching credential in secondary social studies as well as a Master of Art in Teaching from Sierra Nevada College. Her master’s thesis focused on using primary and secondary sources to teach about social injustices throughout history. Mara is passionate about connecting history to current events and sharing the passion for learning that she enjoys with her students. Mara has worked in a variety of settings including at a middle school in Eugene, Oregon for at-risk students, teaching a Women’s and Gender Studies introductory course at the University of Oregon, interning at Incline High School, and volunteering for the nationally ranked We The People program at Incline High School.

Nate Martz

Director of STEAM, Crew Leader 9/10

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.29.15 PMA life-long love of learning has turned into a meaningful career as a math and science educator. Growing up in a small Connecticut town, Nate learned to appreciate the value of a good book and a curious mind. He initially studied aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, working alongside future astronauts in a rigorous program of physics and higher level mathematics. After two years he decided to combine this love of engineering with his musical interests, leading him to change paths and earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Production and Engineering from Berklee College of Music. He spent several years working at colleges in the Boston area, teaching and training undergraduate students to produce stage events in technical theatre, dance, and concert music. It was during these experiences that Nate discovered his true passion for working with young people and helping them to implement practical applications of mathematics and scientific inquiry.

Nate further developed this work by becoming a high school teacher in New York City, where he taught math and science at an Expeditionary Learning school in the South Bronx. During this time he earned his Master’s Degree in Education from St. John’s University. He also coached the cross country and track and field teams, sharing his love for the science and art of distance running.

When he’s not the classroom, Nate spends his time training for marathons and triathlons. He has also been known to find mathematical patterns in his musings on the drums and guitar. He’s looking forward to working alongside +Impact students and staff to bring his passion and experiences to Tahoe.

Michelle Moran

Spanish 9-12

michelleA graduate of UC Davis (BA) with a Major in International Relations and Minors in Spanish and Anthropology and a MA in Cultural Anthropology from the Universidad de las Américas, Puebla, Mexico, Michelle has been a bilingual teacher for over 25 years. Michelle has studied, worked and lived all of her adult life in or around the Spanish language. Michelle’s teaching background includes pre K through college formal classroom instruction though she has also directed her own private language school “Learn Spanish Now!” while teaching students of all ages throughout the greater Northern California, Nevada County and the Tahoe regions for the past 17 years after she returned to Northern California, from Mexico in 1996 to marry her true love and start a family. Michelle’s passion for all things Spanish and the art of teaching allows her to constantly implement her dream of connecting people in the world while helping them realize their goals, strengths and passions through learning and language every day. She currently also lives her family dream in Tahoe with her husband Mark and their three boys, Clay, Jason and Carter.

Charlotte Semmes

Art 9-12

unnamedCharlotte was born and raised in Maryland, outside of Washington D.C. She studied Fine Arts and Anthropology at Skidmore College in upstate New York. Directly following her graduation in 2004, she took a cross-country road trip with her best friend, eventually landing in San Francisco. There she pursued her longtime passion of working in textile and apparel industries while intermittently traveling and volunteering with youth in the visual arts. In 2011, Charlotte received a teaching fellowship in a newly evolved Design research program at UC Davis where she completed her MFA in Textiles. Realizing the joy she found working one-on-one with students, she acquired her California teaching credential in Art. She trained at a Waldorf-inspired high school in Sacramento and taught for one year in the Central Valley before joining her husband in Truckee.


Ryan Aldrich

Upper School Director

ryan-profileOver the past 15 years, Ryan has served in numerous administrative leadership positions at three different independent schools. At these schools, Ryan has worn many hats, which include serving as a teacher, college counselor, admissions officer, student judicial officer, residential life administrator, advisor, and coach. Born in Vermont, Ryan stayed in New England to attend Colby College where he majored in psychology and was an honorable mention All-American in football. After graduating, Ryan worked at The Kent School for several years before heading to the University of Denver to complete his masters degree in education. Falling in love with the West, Ryan stayed in Colorado and worked at Vail Mountain School, a K-12 independent day school. Most recently, Ryan worked at The White Mountain School, New Hampshire, directing their college counseling program and contributing to their leadership team. Drawing on his roles in admissions and counseling, Ryan is excited to contribute this important understanding of the external lens to the development of TEA’s programming. Ryan is excited about applying the experience he has had at multiple independent schools to developing the upper school at TEA. Throughout his educational career, a consistent theme has been Ryan’s passion for leading students on experiential learning trips. These have ranged from building schools in Nepal to avalanche education on backcountry hut trips. Ryan’s sense of adventure has led him to travel to 38 different countries.

Ryan’s wife Lizzie is also joining TEA as an upper school science teacher. They have two children, Avery (4) and Colden (2) and a golden retriever, Khumbu (4). Ryan is an avid telemark skier, mountain biker, and mountaineer — he is excited about the opportunity now that he lives in California to finish all of the 14,000 foot mountains in the continental United States.

Mark Kushner

Head of School

impact board headshot mark kushnerA San Francisco native, Kushner received a B.A. from Wesleyan University and completed graduate work in literature, law and educational administration at Oxford University, University of San Francisco (J.D.), and Harvard University (Ed.M.), and he is a graduate of Outward Bound. Kushner has taught a course on school innovation at Stanford University since 2006, and has served on numerous boards, including, San Francisco University High School, Town School for Boys, Leadership Public Schools and Flex Schools, among others.

Kushner’s distinguished background includes teaching at Stanford University, opening California’s first charter high school in 1995, opening one of the first school management organizations in 2001, and opening California’s first fully technology-blended middle and high school in 2008. Since 2008, Kushner has been deeply involved with leading the movement toward personalization, designed to meet students where they are and enable them to accelerate where appropriate.

Taylor Simmers


Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.29.57 PMTaylor is co-founder of Tahoe Expedition Academy and +Impact School. Since 1995, Taylor has worked with students in K through 12th grade in a variety of locations and types of schools across the country. He has taught, coached, designed curriculum, led outdoor education programs and served as a school administrator. Since 2004, Taylor has lived and taught in Lake Tahoe and developed an appreciation for and an understanding of the developmental needs of students in their formative years. Taylor has a B.A. in English from Princeton and a Masters in Education from Brown University. As an educator, Taylor believes authentic products, meaningful academics, and outdoor experiences create long lasting knowledge and important skills for children. To help start a school that combines these educational components has been a dream come true. For the past ten years, Taylor has guided adventure-based trips for students throughout the American West, where he currently enjoys backcountry skiing, mountain biking and climbing on his own time. Taylor lives in Incline Village, Nevada with his wife and son, Sully.