Faculty & Staff Directory
Director of Library Services. Jan received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a master’s degree in library science from Rutgers University. She served as head of the Lawrence Branch, Mercer County Library System, prior to joining the Prep faculty in 1979.
“It is a unique place that expects the very best from its students and teachers, and at the same time, provides a community that serves as an envelope of care—Prep is just that place. In so many ways, we are encouraging our students to be serious risk-takers while knowing that the outcome may or may not be as exactly planned. I am also so grateful that as a community of learners, we have chosen to express our commitment to the quest of knowledge with an awe-inspiring school library — certainly one of the best in the city for providing guidance and resources.” -Jan Adesso
School Counselor. Mikahla also teaches health and co-facilitates the peer mentor program. She received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Colorado College and her master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in youth at risk from The College of Santa Fe. She is a licensed mental health counselor. Previously she worked in school and clinical settings doing crisis intervention and family therapy.
11th/12th Grade Dean of Students, U.S. History. Mark holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin and earned a master’s degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College. Prior to becoming a teacher, Mark spent nine years working in commercial kitchens. Outside of school, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, Keira, and daughters Ruby and Cora.
“The large junior class this year has provided me with the opportunity to collaborate with Russell Spinney and Sam Ritter in teaching U.S. History. We are both challenging and supporting each other to create a rigorous and dynamic curriculum. This is my twelfth year in the classroom, and I’ve never been so excited to teach U.S. History.” -Mark Bixby
Development Associate. Karen holds a bachelor’s degree in Japanese language and literature and a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her professional background is in education, art, and accounting. Her hobbies are her young son and her collie, and in her spare time she works on her Spanish.
Assistant Athletic Director, Middle School Athletics Director, Varsity Swim Coach and Assistant Cross Country Coach. Dave received his Bachelor of Art degree in History from James Madison University. Currently, he is working on his Masters of Science Degree in Sports Management. His professional background is in coaching. Dave has coached for 30 years at the club, high school and college level in multiple sports. He spend his time away from school working with the disabled in the water teaching swimming, therapy and water safety. Dave enjoys his free time biking and spending time with his wife, son, daughter and three dog!
“I believe a teacher helps students to understand how they learn; what works, and what doesn’t. The most important aspect of this process is to work with students within a structure that each student builds; they are self-reliant, and can direct themselves to achieve.”
Science. Melissa Carl is a self-styled polymath who has taught widely across the traditional liberal arts curriculum. A graduate of New Zealand’s University of Otago and New Mexico’s own St. John’s College, Melissa has taught physics, philosophy, chemistry, and religious history. Before joining the Santa Fe Prep faculty in 2012, Melissa was Senior Lecturer at the American University in Iraq where she taught college-level science classes and conducted research into the consequences of extractive industry activity in the region.
“I scoured the world for a place like Prep: a community where teachers are treated as professionals and students as responsible human beings. I was charmed to find this school, which refuses to allow the development of intellect to supplant kindness and humility, in such a lovely environment. It is truly a joy to be a member of this community.” -Melissa Carl
Art Department Chair, 3D Studio, Experimental and New Media, Art in the Social Sphere A Native New Mexican, Castillo attended Yale University for two years after high school and then dropped out to work in an electronics factory where she began to forge her early career in contemporary sculpture. She holds a BS from UNM, an MAE with Distinction Honors for her focus on working with diverse populations from the College of Santa Fe and an MFA in 3D studio and Contemporary Theory from the University of New Mexico. Her art follows the examples of other contemporary artists in undermining the concept of the artist’s obligation to maintain a single cohesive style. Castillo is an acclaimed contemporary artist who has produced a range of work from avant garde anonymous interventions to large scale public work. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally and has been awarded numerous significant public art commissions including the metal artwork for the New Mexico History Museum in downtown Santa Fe and a large scale public sculpture in Korea for UNESCO. Castillo shows her work regionally at the William Siegal Gallery in Santa Fe. She and her husband Terry Mulert live in the small village of Córdova. Their son Francis graduated from Santa Fe Prep in 2016.
Head of Middle School, MS Algebra I. A graduate of Prep, Chris has a B.S. in Psychology from the University of New Mexico and an MAT from Johns Hopkins University. He has previously taught Life Science, Biology, and Global Studies at Prep, served as Interim Head of Upper School and Assistant Head of School in 2012, and coached both varsity and middle school basketball and volleyball teams. He loves spending time outdoors with his wife.
Upper School Spanish Sheena earned her BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University of Florida and spent a semester abroad in Granada, Spain. Sheena’s passion for travel and culture continued after university, when she spent a year traversing ruins and volunteering in Central and South America, led two trips to Costa Rica with high school students from her previous school in Florida, and worked as an Academic Dean for Oxbridge in Barcelona, Spain. Sheena maintains an active lifestyle and enjoys hiking, yoga, and snowboarding.
Latin. Marissa graduated with a Bachelor and Master of Arts in Spanish from the University of Colorado with an emphasis on language acquisition, cultural studies, and educational methods and theories. She has worked in both private and public schools in California and Colorado. Marissa is passionate about traveling and has studied abroad in the Dominican Republic, Spain, Italy, and Costa Rica. She has also led several student international trips. Apart from teaching, Marissa enjoys Salsa dancing, yoga, and spending time with her family. As she enters into her 12th year of teaching, she is excited to be part of the Prep and Santa Fe community.
Breakthrough Santa Fe Student Support Coordinator. Allie Cooper graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in global development studies and Spanish. She taught at Breakthrough Santa Fe as an intern in 2010 and 2012, and she is happy to be back at Prep overseeing a new tutoring program for Breakthrough students.
Performing Arts Department Chair, Acting. Brad holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Boston College and a master’s degree in education from City College of New York. He also graduated from The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre, a two-year acting conservatory in New York City. Brad has also worked as a college counselor at Northeastern University, an actor in New York, and has been teaching since 2000.
“The best thing about teaching at Prep is the enthusiasm of our students. Classes are filled with students open and willing to participate in activities, and who respect each other’s work.” -Brad Fairbanks
Associate Director of Technology, Computer Science, Fencing, Speech and Debate. A native New Mexican born in Placitas, Ambrose graduated from Prep in 1993, and earned a BFA in graphic design from Colorado State University. He has worked professionally in the industry for over 15 years as a production artist, designer, art director, web developer, video editor, web standards guru, and copy writer, and he is a stickler for clean, semantic code. In addition to art, design, and code, Ambrose is an accomplished stage actor and working stunt performer.
Director of Studies. Kendel provides guidance and oversees the curriculum in both the upper and middle schools. Kendel has a bachelor’s degree in comparative religion and anthropology from Dartmouth College, and an MTS in comparative religion from Harvard Divinity School. She holds secondary level social studies certification through the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In 2001 – 2002, she was awarded a Klingenstein Fellowship at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
“Prep students are without a doubt tremendously well-prepared. But what really astounds me is their ability to make things happen! Of course, our students believe in themselves, but what sets Prep students apart is truly knowing they can have an impact and doing so with absolute determination.” -Kendel Fesenmyer
9th/10th Grade Dean of Students, English, M.A. Healy Chair for Teaching Excellence. Liz received a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity College in Hartford, CT and her master’s degree from the Bread Loaf School of English. Before coming to Prep, she taught at schools in Boston and San Francisco. She is a native of Western Massachusetts.
“During a recent student-led Honors English discussions, I listened to 18 juniors/seniors who I hadn’t taught since 9th grade. Their depth of analysis and quality of articulation deeply impressed me. It was a great testimony to the teaching going on at Prep.” -Liz Friary
Assistant to the Head of School. A California native, Melissa has a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from California State University Fullerton. Her professional background is in art and education, and she has worked for public and independent schools in California and New Mexico. Outside of work she enjoys exploring photography, travel and the fine art of cooking.
Registrar. Darlene received her bachelor’s degree in nursing science from Texas Christian University. She practiced nursing in multiple fields, including neonatal intensive care and medical surgical nursing education. She is co-owner of a home design-build company. Her passions include design, reading and gardening. Darlene’s son, Nash, graduated from Prep in 2006.
Alumni Director, Senior Development Associate. Andrea grew up in Rowe, New Mexico and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from New Mexico Highlands University. Prior to joining Prep, Andrea managed the front office at Glorieta Conference Center.
Operations Manager, Facilities and Maintenance Supervisor. Mel has been at Prep since 1997. Previously he spent seven years at the Pecos River Learning Center as maintenance supervisor. He has been a member of the Carpenters Union since 1997, and enjoys wood working and working on old cars in his spare time.
English Department Chair. Leslie started her higher education at the conventional age, majoring in English with concentrations in French and German literature at Wellesley College. She then received an MA from St. John’s College in Santa Fe. In what might most easily be described as a mid-life crisis, she returned to St. John’s at the age of 40 to receive an undergraduate degree in the Great Books program as well, before earning her master’s in English literature at CU Boulder. At Colorado, Leslie co-taught courses in Early American Literature, American Literature and Shakespeare. She is delighted to be back in the Prep community where her two children Griffin (’08) and Hillary (’10) matriculated. Outside of class, you might find her skiing in Taos, hiking with her dog Dexter, or cheering on the Blue Griffins at any sporting event.
Science, Summer Camp Director. Jim holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from the United States Military Academy, and a master’s degree in astronomy from the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Outside the education field, Jim has served as an army officer and production supervisor for General Motors. When not teaching, Jim enjoys being a private pilot, paragliding, paramotoring, and playing the guitar. His two sons graduated with Prep’s class of 2010 and 2013.
Music, Chorus, Jazz Band, Chamber Music, Music Theory. Chris earned his bachelor’s degree in jazz piano from the University of Miami. Chris has worked as a professional pianist/keyboard player for many jazz, pop, and rock bands, and he performs regularly in Sante Fe with his trio.
Maintenance Department. Mauricio grew up in a large family on a farm in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He has three children.
English, Anthropology. Kristin received her Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University and her Master of Arts degree in cultural anthropology from California State University. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in language, literacy and sociocultural studies. Kristin is a native Santa Fean who enjoys raising her son and daughter here.
Spanish, PE. Bonar received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and International Affairs from the University of Puget Sound, a master’s degree in Latin American Studies with concentrations in History and Literature from the University of New Mexico, and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Montana State University’s College of Education. Bonar is a 2003 graduate of Prep and taught both in Montana and Santa Fe before returning to Prep.
Head of School. Jim also teaches a senior English elective and serves as assistant coach of the boys varsity soccer team. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Williams College, and a master’s in English literature from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. Jim has taught at independent schools in Connecticut and Vermont. He and his wife Story have three daughters, two of whom graduated from Prep.
“Prep challenges all of us to bring our best selves to school each day. I hope the practice of aspiring and achieving here at Prep carries our students forward as they move into college and the wider world.” -Jim Leonard
Director of College Counseling. Story holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Williams College and a Master of Arts degree from Dartmouth. Her 20-year teaching career has taken her from the Pomfret School in Connecticut, where she taught history and coordinated all counseling, to the Mountain School in Vermont, where she served as director of admissions and head of advising and counseling. She has taught history at Prep and currently coaches the girls lacrosse team. Story enjoys all sports and has dedicated herself to establishing and building the sport of lacrosse in New Mexico. She has three daughters, two of whom graduated from Prep.
American Sign Language (ASL). Jamie graduated from Stony Brook University in NY with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. During her time at college, Jaimie began her studies in ASL and Deaf culture. She continued her studies at New York Society for the Deaf and subsequently taught at the Lexington School for the Deaf. After moving to Santa Fe in 1993, she completed her special education certificate and master’s coursework in special education. In 1995 Jaimie started the ASL program at Desert Academy, where she taught both ASL and middle school social studies. Jaimie has two daughters currently in Santa Fe Prep’s class of ‘17.
Associate Director of Admissions, Director of Marketing. Mary received her Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from Denison University. Her professional background is in art and business administration. Prior to joining Prep, she owned and operated Sangre de Cristo Mountain Works with her husband Kent. In her spare time, she loves to run, bike, ski and share time with her family.
School Archivist. Steve received a BA from Lafayette College, and an MA and PhD from the University of New Mexico. Steve has held a variety of administrative and teaching positions at Prep since 1974. He has taught Spanish and has served as Spanish Department Chair, Assistant Head of School, Director of Admissions, and Head of School (1988-99). Steve retired from teaching in 2012 and is now the school’s archivist.
Rob has taught many courses during his tenure at Prep including AP Physics, AP Environmental Science, Chemistry, and Calculus. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and a master’s degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College. Rob currently teaches Robotics, Astronomy, and Environmental Science Honors in the upper school.
Upper School Science. Jeff has been teaching high school science and math for 8 years. He received his Bachelors in Chemistry from the University of Montana in Missoula, and a PhD in Chemistry from CU Boulder. Before becoming a teacher, Jeff did research and worked in several science and technology fields, including basic biochemical research on cancer pathways, database design for storage of genetic information, agent-based modeling of large industry supply chains, and quantitative finance. Jeff also received a Masters in Education specializing in teaching remedial math to middle school at-risk students from the College of Santa Fe, and has state educator licenses for teaching secondary Science and Math in New Mexico and Colorado.
Assistant Head of School, Head of Upper School. Suzie received a BA in mathematics and music from Drew University, and an MA and EdM from Columbia University. Before Prep, Suzie worked at schools in Washington, DC and New York. If she is not on campus, she is probably singing, trying new recipes, hiking, or solving a puzzle.
“The Prep community is built on thoughtfulness and trust: we assume the best in each other; we take the time to see and to know each other deeply; we listen with care and respect; we appreciate what each person brings to our community.” -Suzie Matthews
Associate Director of the Library, Instructional Technology. Catherine has bachelor’s degree in geography from San Francisco State University and an MLS from Indiana University. Prior to coming to Prep, Catherine integrated library and technology services at schools in St. Louis and Washington, DC. She has also worked in software development and at independent bookstores from coast to coast. In her free time, Catherine enjoys reading, tennis, and being outside.
Front Office Manager. Anna is a Native of Nambé Pueblo. She was trained in Food & Beverage and Restaurant Management, and is also certified in Culinary Arts. She was a professional chef for several years and Assistant Manager of a 5-star restaurant in Princeville, Kauai. Prior to joining the front office at Prep in 2007, she served as the Executive Assistant to the Governor of Nambé Pueblo. Anna has a work history of office management, and has held several executive assistant positions. She loves to spend time making jewelry, beading, cardmaking and cake decorating. Her son is a graduate from Prep’s class of 2012.
Maintenance Department. John is a native Santa Fean whose family owns Cordelia’s Restaurant. An avid bowler, he is also a devoted dad to two daughters and a son.
Breakthrough Program Coordinator. Tom graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Religious Studies. He taught at Breakthrough Santa Fe during the summers of 2012 and 2014 and has come back to help coordinate the Davis New Mexico Scholarship. Tom enjoys traveling, cooking, and running.
Director of Admissions. Michael graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in education and social science and earned his master’s degree from St. John’s College. He helped launch Breakthrough Santa Fe on the Prep campus and served as the program’s founding director for eight years. Prior to Prep, Michael spent 10 years teaching in northern New Mexico. He is committed to serving the broader Santa Fe community, having served on Santa Fe’s Children and Youth Commission for several years and currently is a board member for Communities In Schools.
History, Global Studies. Dan received his bachelor’s degree with a double major in communications and theatre arts from Metropolitan State College in Denver. Prior to becoming a teacher, Dan was a theatrical lighting designer and worked at the Santa Fe Opera and the Denver Center Theatre Company. He has traveled extensively throughout the world.
“Some of the best things about teaching at Prep are the creative, compassionate colleagues, working in a beautiful environment, and teaching students who are engaged, creative and fun.” -Dan Murray
7th Grade New Mexico History, Service & Environmental Learning Assistant. Lisa graduated from The Colorado College with a degree in Southwest Studies, earned her NM K-12 teaching certification at the University of New Mexico, and has completed many graduate level courses in a variety of Southwestern topics. A native Santa Fean from a family of educators, Lisa has taught and tutored in public and private schools locally. Lisa has worked in the museum world as well: as a field researcher in northern New Mexico with the School for Advanced Research; as an educator at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture; and in the development of educational programs for the New Mexico History Museum. Lisa enjoys spending time with her family, especially exploring the outdoors.
Math, Director of EE Ford Summer Teachers’ Colloquium. Drew earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of New Hampshire, and his master’s degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College. He is also a CPA. Prior to joining Prep, he taught at the Academy for Technology and the Classics and at Waynflete School in Portland, Maine. When not in the classroom, Drew enjoys gardening, hiking, cooking and time with his wife.
“Prep is a positive community of passionate learners where all are given the tools they need to succeed and the space to do so.” -Drew Nucci
Middle School Art, Upper School Art, Publications. Alex received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma and his Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an active artist and shows his work regularly in galleries, museums, and other venues throughout the U.S., Europe, and China. He has taught college courses since 2009, including in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and Santa Fe Community College.
Algebra I and II, Precalculus, Statistics. Aiyana received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in education from the College of Santa Fe, and also has a secondary certification in mathematics. Aiyana has taught at Santa Fe Prep for 9 years. In addition, she has taught at the Rio Grande School. The Institute of American Indian Arts, Ortiz Middle School, and Santa Fe HIgh.
Russell Spinney, PhDrspinney@sfprep.org
World History. Russell Russell is a world and US history instructor and the new head of the history department at Santa Fe Prep. Russell graduated from Colgate University with a bachelor’s degree in history, German and Japanese studies. He earned his master’s degree from Middlebury College in German studies and his PhD in modern German history from Pennsylvania State University with additional academic work at the Humboldt University in Berlin and several years of archival work in central German communities on the history of emotions in the Weimar Republic and rise of Nazism. Russell taught history and English at the Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, lectured at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and worked with at-risk youth in the Baltimore public school and juvenile justice system through Community Law In Action to help them advocate for themselves and start a school community garden in the Harlem Park neighborhood of West Baltimore. At Prep, Russell has been the faculty advisor for the Model UN, writing, and a capella clubs, and he facilitates the Convergence TAP, which brings together students from all over Santa Fe to help create more opportunities for youth in the city, including their journalism mentorship with Rob Wilder and the Oasis Festival which features young artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs. When he is not teaching, Russell loves gardening, cooking, yoga, singing, hiking, camping and soccer.
On Sabbatical. Coco graduated from Carleton College with a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a focus on classical and medieval literature and history. She received her master’s degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College in Santa Fe. Coco previously taught literature, history and philosophy at a charter high school in Idaho. Her first job out of college was as a cowgirl running cattle in Montana.
Mathematics, Chess Coach. After earning his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Brandeis University, Joey embarked on a career as a professional artist and glassblower. He studied glass art at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Pilchuck Glass School, before following his future wife out to New Mexico in 2003. After building and operating a glass shop and gallery in Pojoaque, Joey returned to his first love of philosophy and academia, teaching math and chess at Pojoaque Valley Middle School. Joey is an amateur scientist, proud nerd, voracious reader, gardening enthusiast, and chess fanatic who enjoys backpacking and skiing the mountains of New Mexico.
Biology. Marc is a native of Connecticut and began his career as an educator/mentor while working as an aid in the Philadelphia public schools while completing his undergraduate studies. Marc went on to learn and teach at a wilderness skills program in Connecticut before turning to Environmental Outdoor Education for Nature’s Classroom at various locations in New England. After completing a master’s degree in environmental ecology and working with endangered species of amphibians, Marc worked at independent schools in Connecticut and Virginia, where he taught science, coached lacrosse, and started wilderness mentoring programs. When he is not connecting to students, Marc enjoys working on wilderness skills, fermenting anything, and wandering to new places.
Co-Director, Breakthrough Santa Fe, History. Sam graduated from Carleton College with a degree in history and religion before moving to Santa Fe, where he worked for the organization Citizen Schools at De Vargas Middle School while receiving his Master’s Degree in Education from Lesley University. Sam is excited to return to Prep after serving as a Breakthrough Santa Fe summer teaching intern in 2007 and 2009. Outside of school, Sam likes to play music and enjoy the great outdoors.
Learning Specialist, Director of Multicultural Life. Claire earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in learning disabilities from the University of New Mexico. Claire has participated in extensive training in neurodevelopment and learning differences and completed an internship at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She has worked as a trainer in teacher education programs in Central and South America, and is a former national faculty member of Schools Attuned. A lifetime resident of New Mexico, Claire has worked in public, pueblo, and private school settings as a teacher and as an administrator. Claire is the mother of Sofia Bomse ’18.
P.E. Department Chair, School Health Coordinator. Rennae has a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education and has taught PE at Prep since the fall of 1990. Over the course of her career at Prep, Rennae has been a soccer and dance coach, and has seen teams through 3 State Soccer Championships and 2 State Dance Championships. Rennae is a certified official for the NMOA in the sports of spirit, swimming, and track and field, and spends many weekends officiating high school athletics. Rennae is also a long-time member of the Ilfeld Volunteer Fire Department.
Director of Service and Environmental Learning. Eric has more than 25 years experience working with children in academic and outdoor education programs. He has taught at Rowland Hall St. Marks School in Utah and Proctor Academy in New Hampshire. He has also led Outward Bound programs in the US and Australia. He received his Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences from Cornell University and his master’s degree in humanities from St. John’s College.
Spanish. Jessica Ryan has been teaching high school Spanish for over ten years. She earned her B.A. at Plymouth State University, where she double majored in Spanish and secondary teacher certification and earned a minor in French. She earned her M.A. in Spanish linguistics at Middlebury College. In addition to working with her students, Jessica is very involved in animal rescue. She has completed extensive research in feline ethology and has begun an online course in canine behavior and psychology. In her free time, Jessica travels, studies Mandarin and Italian, dances Argentine tango, is active in yoga, and is working through an online course to become certified in TESOL/TEFL.
Director of Finance. Bruce holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from American University in Washington, DC, and an MBA from the University of Connecticut. He has been in accounting and finance for over twenty years with a wide range of companies.
Middle School P.E., Health, Head Track and Field Coach, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Assistant Cross Country Coach, Assistant Swim Coach. Tove has been a coach and personal trainer in the private sector for twenty years. She has also been a member of eight US triathlon/duathlon teams and is a 3-time All American in these disciplines. She joined the coaching staff of SFP in 1998 and has a BA in physical education.
English. A Native of central Texas, Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Foreign Service from Baylor University and a Master of Arts degree in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. She worked in the field of international security before transitioning to fiction-writing. She has taught literature and fiction at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) since 2006. Her novel, Out There, won the 2015 Indiefab Editor’s Choice Award for Fiction. Sarah is happily married and the mother of four wonderful children: Caroline, Helen, Liza and Jack. When she is not writing or reading or playing legos, you may find her in her garden.
English, Griffin Chair For Inspirational Teaching. A member of the English faculty at Prep, Alan pursued undergraduate studies at North Carolina State University, taught composition at the University of Colorado at Boulder and at Santa Fe Community College as a developmental writing tutor. He earned his master’s degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College while writing food, business, environmental, and biographical articles as a free-lance journalist for The New Mexican, other local publications, and national venues. In his free time, he enjoys attempting to play Baroque recorder sonatas.
“When I continually look down to avoid the stones on the road, I miss the sunset.” -Br. Alan Taylor
Photography. Born in 1957 in Embudo, New Mexico, Don grew up in Los Alamos and Chimayó, New Mexico. He earned a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz and went on to manage an ecological reserve in Big Sur, California, where he and fellow Santa Cruz graduate Paul Henson co-authored The Natural History of Big Sur, published by the University of California Press, with photos by Don.
Don returned to New Mexico in 1988 to complete an M.A. in Geography at the University of New Mexico, then wrote Sabino’s Map: Life in Chimayó’s Old Plaza, published in 1995 by the Museum of New Mexico Press. He has since written and provided photographs for several more books, including, most recently (with Kate Ware and Daniel Kosharek), Órale: Custom Made in New Mexico, Museum of New Mexico Press, 2016; and Chasing Dichos through Chimayó (2014). Other books by Usner include Valles Caldera: A Vision for New Mexico’s National Preserve (1996) (winner of a Southwest Book Award in 1996); New Mexico Route 66 On Tour: Legendary Architecture from Glenrio to Gallup (2001); and Benigna’s Chimayó: Cuentos from the Old Plaza (2001). Don also contributed a chapter and photographs to The Plazas of New Mexico. San Antonio: Trinity University Press (2011) (winner of Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association).
Don has also published many articles in magazines and other serial publications, including “Machine Dreams: A Low, Slow Journey from Pachuco to Priceless” (El Palacio, Summer 2016); “Lowriders Riding High” (New Mexico magazine, July 2016); “Dropping Out and Tuning In” (New Mexico magazine, November 2015); “On the Mary and Joseph Trail” (New Mexico magazine, December 2014); “The Long and Winding Ditch,” in Bienvenidos, 2014; “Finding the Right Words,” in New Mexico magazine, January 2014; “Chimayó,” (a photo essay in the photography journal Lenswork); “Postcard from New Mexico,” in Photo Booth (an online blog of the New Yorker, July 16, 2012); “Lowriders Cruising El Norte,” Bienvenidos, Summer 2012; and “Don Victor Ortega: A Chimayó Patrón Goes to the Constitutional Convention,” in El Palacio, Spring 2012.
Don teaches photography at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and Santa Fe Preparatory School, and has taught photography at the College of Santa Fe and cultural geography the Santa Fe Community College. He continues to cultivate his lifelong interest in cultural and natural history as he works as a writer and photographer in Santa Fe.
Don was named a New Mexico Luminaria by the New Mexico Community Foundation in 2013, an award given to New Mexicans who “ motivate, inspire and support the dreams of others, promote diversity and equity, and build community strength through their leadership and vision.”
“There’s a saying that ‘You teach best what you need to learn the most,’ and that certainly applies to me and my photography teaching. The corollary applies as well: ‘And you are your own worst student.’ I find that teaching at Prep sharpens my skills and students inspire me with their creative abilities and insights.” -Don Usner
Director of Technology. John spent six years enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. After leaving the Marines he moved to Santa Fe where he spent 15 years at a local genetics research facility, the National Center for Genome Resources. From 1998 to 2013, he moved from the position of Network Administrator to Deputy Director of IT. During that same period he also attended Santa Fe Community College and the College of Santa Fe. John spends his free time with his wife and two children camping, geocaching, and motorcycling. John is also an Amateur Radio Operator.
Business Office Manager. Christella is originally from Velarde, New Mexico. She has 15+ years accounting experience, primarily from working at large-scale construction companies in the Santa Fe and Los Alamos areas. She has two daughters.
Pre-Calculus Honors, AB Calculus, Advanced Math Topics. Ashley received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Teaching from Rice University. Before joining Prep, she taught at St. John’s School in Houston, TX, as well as for the School Year Abroad program in Viterbo, Italy.
Language Department Chair, Spanish. Anna has an undergraduate degree from Brown University in comparative literature and a graduate degree from St. John’s College. She spent two semesters as a student at Prep when her family was on sabbatical here in Santa Fe. Anna also studied for a year abroad in Barcelona.
English. Rob is the author of a novel, NICKEL (Leaf Storm Press), and two critically acclaimed essay collections, Tales From The Teachers’ Lounge and Daddy Needs A Drink, both published by Delacorte Press.
A teacher for twenty-five years, Wilder has earned numerous awards and fellowships, including the inaugural Innovations in Reading Prize by the National Book Foundation. He has published essays in Newsweek, Details, Salon, Parenting, Creative Nonfiction, plus numerous anthologies and has been a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition.
“Change happens in the classroom.” -Rob Wilder
Co-Director, Breakthrough Santa Fe, Spanish. Talia received a Bachelor of Science in Spanish from Georgetown University and holds a Masters in Education with a bilingual certificate from Loyola Marymount University. She first worked with Breakthrough at Kent Denver School, and co-founded and continues to be involved with a preschool in La Paz, Bolivia.
U.S. History, Middle Eastern Studies, Kathryn Wasserman Davis Chair for U.S. History. Nick graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and North American affairs from Colorado College. He received licensor training at the College of Santa Fe and taught in the Santa Fe Public Schools before coming to Prep.
Mandarin Teacher. Born and raised in Santa Fe, Julianne began her Mandarin study in 1992 at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. She later transferred to Shanghai Foreign Language University to study Mandarin and Chinese history. In Shanghai, she worked as a translator and cultural liaison for several transnational businesses, but found her true passion in language teaching and cultural exchange when invited to help establish an English-Chinese bilingual program at Peigen School Kindergarten, in Dalian, China. Julianne has taught Mandarin to students in Santa Fe since 2001 while raising her two beloved boys.
Associate Director of College Counseling, U.S. History. Matt is from the notable, no-stoplight town of Altamont, Kansas, and earned his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. During college, he studied abroad in Switzerland, Russia and Germany, interned at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, coordinated a scholarship competition and helped run the Stanford Powwow. Following graduation, Matt worked as a college admission counselor at Stanford and Caltech, often supplementing his experience by collaborating with College Horizons, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Questbridge, and other programs supporting college access and retention for students from low-income, first-generation and minority backgrounds. Matt is excited to be immersed in such an impressive and cohesive community, and will teach U.S. History and coach baseball in addition to teaming with Story Leonard in College Counseling.