Athlos Academy of Utah

Our Team

Assistant Director: Jarom Airhart
 
Jarom Airhart received his bachelor’s degree in finance from Westminster College in 2005 and his master’s in teaching from the University of Utah in 2006. Between 2006-2016, Airhart taught in Salt Lake City and Park City, UT, mainly working with students in grades four through six.
  
"Professor Dumbledore, even though he is a fictional character, is one of my hero's,” Airhart said. “Dumbledore said, ‘It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.’ This is my philosophy on life — prepare for whatever life might have in store for you. Learn to work hard, to have passion, to build lasting friendships, to think critically, and to problem solve in order to make our dreams reality.
 
Airhart describes himself as an “includer,” because his strength is creating and fostering relationships within the community. "This means the rapport I have with my students is extremely important to me,” Airhart said. “It also means that the relationships I form within the members of the staff are critical to the success of our school. I will work hard to keep students, staff, and community members informed, invested, and included.”
 
During his time teaching, Airhart completed his administrative certificate requirements from Southern Utah University, as well as additional training for endorsements and credits. Airhart also has extensive experience with fundraising, science fairs, soccer tournaments, and family night events; all of these being activities that support student growth and community involvement.

 

Getting to Know Jarom Airhart: Fun Facts
Q: What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I played goalie on my high school soccer team and still play on my indoor team.
  • I enjoy going to shows, concerts, and even the ballet!
  • I have been married 13 years and have 11 children.
 
Q: What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. I love to play in the backyard with my kids. We play baseball, soccer, tennis, or swim. We also like to ride bikes, camp, and ski.

Q: What was your favorite childhood book?
A. As a kid my favorite book was, and still is, “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George. I loved reading about all the adventures, and I even make animal traps, shelters, and fishing hooks by looking at the illustrations in the book. More currently I have read this book to my students and to my kids.


Office Staff

 
Dovetta Flowers
Office Manager
 
 
Courtney Haacke
Office Assistant
 
Katie Noble
Office Staff
 
Daniele Shurtleff
Office Staff

School Counselor: Jessica Keeling

Keeling earned her bachelor’s degree in consumer and human development from Utah State University in 2012 and her master’s degree in K-12 school counseling in 2016. For seven years Keeling worked for Utah State University in outreach education with elementary, middle, and high school students developing and implementing after school clubs, enrichment activities, and homework intervention.

“Working with at-risk students gave me the opportunity to do a lot of crisis intervention as well as individual planning and guidance activities such as Red Ribbon Week, Healthy Relationships Week, and Mental Health Awareness,” Keeling said.
 

Keeling likes Athlos Academy of Utah due to the flexibility and commitment to students that charter schools have. She appreciates having the ability to be creative with programs and helping students one-on-one, which is conducive to the charter school environment and structure.

“My hope for the counseling department at Athlos is to foster a safe learning environment along with enrichment in areas of mental health, socially and emotionally, as well as academically,” Keeling said. 

Keeling strives to: help students learn a sense of self-worth and efficacy, operate academic interventions and programs while collecting and implementing data, and create fun, enriching activities that get students thinking about their futures with career and college readiness.

Focus/Self-Control

“Goal setting is an important trait that goes hand-in-hand with being focused and using self-control,” Keeling said. “To achieve anything we must set goals. Learning to focus our mind and bodies can help us to accomplish something great! Self-awareness is needed to set mindful, purposeful goals, and self-control is needed to get the ball rolling, so to speak!”

Integrity

“Striving to do the right thing is one of the most important things a person can do in life,” Keeling said. “Positive things stem from having integrity — trust, friendship, a sense of self-efficacy, for instance. In a constantly-changing world, one of the few things we can always take with us is our integrity.”

Getting to Know Jessica Keeling: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I can solve the Rubik’s Cube in about 5 minutes.
  • I have 10 nieces and nephews.
  • I love to travel.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. I really love to be outside in the sun. Talking walks, looking at nature, and hiking.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. I have always loved reading, as a child, and that love has followed me into adulthood. I have many favorite childhood books including: The BFG, Boxcar Children series, Rainbow Fish, and The Giving Tree. I love these books because of the themes they represent. In each of these books there is a heroine who learns to give selflessly and becomes genuine.
 

Instructional Coach: Bobbie Evans

Bobbie Evans earned her associate’s degree in early childhood education from Salt Lake Community College in 1996. Beginning in high school, Evans taught preschool for 15 years before deciding to go back to school for a degree in elementary education. She graduated from the University of Utah in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree. For the past ten years, Evans has taught first grade.

“I believe a society is only as strong as its contributing members and education is not just about academic knowledge,” she said.
 
Evans strongly believes that well rounded education must include character traits and life skills to ensure students are ready to become productive members of a global society.
 
 
 
Curiosity

“I receive great delight from knowing that I grow as an individual when I learn something new and I will share that enjoyment with everyone at Athlos Academy so that they can also have a love of learning. ‘If you can dream it you can do it.’ -Walt Disney."
 
Getting to Know Bobbie Evans: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I love Anaheim Angels baseball and Utes football.
  • Walt Disney is my role model and I LOVE everything Disney; especially Mickey & Minnie.
  • I have been married for 22 years and have three girls 21, 15, 10; also our youngest daughter is adopted.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Yoga
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman

Q. What’s one of your favorite quotes?
A. "It is vital when educating our children's brains that we don't neglect to educate their hearts." - Dalai Lama
 
 

Instructional Coach: Andrea Harris

Andrea Harris earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in psychology from Westminster College in 2009. Harris has taught fourth and fifth grade in Salt Lake City for six years. Prior to gaining her teaching license, Harris spent several years as a paraprofessional with positions in special education, English as a second language, and after school programs.
 
During the 2016-2017 school year, Harris taught fifth grade and was awarded by Herriman City with an Outstanding Teacher award.

“I believe that children learn best when actively engaged in all aspects of learning; learning about themselves and the world around them," Harris said. “Critical thinking and problem-solving skills will make not only successful students but leaders in the future.”

 
Integrity and Curiosity

“Integrity is something that I value in my personal life and I try to instill in my students,” she said. “I identify with curiosity, because it’s one of the reasons I went into teaching. I love finding wonder and passion in the experience of learning with my students.”
 
Getting to Know Andrea Harris: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things most people don’t know about you?
  • I played the clarinet in junior high and high school.
  • I was a member of Up with Kids and enjoyed acting and performing.
  • I was a member of my high school debate team and went to tournaments in Berkeley and nationals in Oklahoma.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Swimming and aqua-zumba
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell.
 
 

Athletic Performance Coach: Kristin McNeil-Jones

Kristin McNeil-Jones earned her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with a minor in psychology from Washington State University and her master’s degree in physical education from the University of Idaho. While completing her master’s program, McNeil-Jones worked with diverse groups of students in the physical education setting and taught university activity courses, including weight training, conditioning and softball.  

Since graduation, McNeil-Jones has worked as a vocational coach teaching job skills to Montana high school students with special needs. Additionally, McNeil-Jones has spent several years working for the YMCA of San Diego County as a supervisor for before and after school programs, as well as a summer camp coordinator. 

“I believe in the education of the whole person — academically, physically, and socially,” McNeil-Jones said.

As an athletic performance coach, McNeil-Jones’ strives to establish a quality physical activity program and to encourage families to participate in activities together.

Grit

“To me, having true grit encompasses the other values into one,” she said. “It's having persistence to keep going, self-discipline, creativity, and optimism to overcome any blocked goal.”

Getting to Know Kristin McNeil-Jones: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know? 
  • I can glance at license plates and know what state it's from. 
  • I love salads. 
  • I was on a women’s crew team in college. 
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?

A. I love getting outdoors and going hiking. The more rugged the trail, the more I love it. I love reaching the end of the trail at the top of the hill and feeling such accomplishment. I also grew up with and love lifting weights. 


Q. What was your favorite childhood book?

A. My favorite book series as a child was the Bernstein Bears. 

 

 

 

Athletic Performance Coach: Justin Maxwell

Justin Maxwell earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of Utah in 2014. He has worked at Whitesides Elementary School for the past two years. During that time, he earned his master’s degree in sports pedagogy from the University of Utah.
 
Maxwell has a variety of coaching experience, including football, wrestling, and weight training.
 
"I chose to work with Athlos Academy of Utah because most schools see physical education as a glorified recess and don’t expect much from their physical education teachers,” Maxwell said. “This is not the case with Athlos. Their dedication to the entire body — both body and mind — is something that I have seen nowhere else."
 
Maxwell strives to include helping every student identify and practice at least one physical activity that they enjoy and learning every student’s name. "I want to begin to connect the physical activity performed at school to home,” he said. “In other words, help the families of the students be more active and healthy.”
 
Courage
It takes courage to do so many things in life,” he said. “I have seen the most growth, had the most fun, and been the happiest when I have had to demonstrate courage in some way.”
 
Getting to Know Justin Maxwell: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things most people don’t know about you?
  • I somehow contracted and was cured of tuberculosis.
  • I worked at UPS during the night to support myself and family through both of my degrees.
  • I love ice cream; I conquered a large ice cream challenge.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. My favorite physical activity is hiking to things, such as tops of mountains, lakes, great vistas, or slot canyons.
 
Q: What was your favorite childhood book?
A. Harry Potter
 
 

Athletic Performance Coach: Nick Grundhauser

Nick Grundhauser attended the University of Utah where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise and sports science.

 

During his first year at Athlos Academy of Utah, Grundhauser’s goals include building strong personal relationships with his students so he can assist them in reaching their maximum potential.

 

As an educator, Grundhauser says his best quality is his excitement to teach. “I get very excited about teaching, and I think my students pick up on that, which gets them excited,” he said.

 

Grit

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, grit resonates most with Grundhauser. “I believe that grit is essential for a person to overcome failures that they might experience in their life,” he said.

 

Getting to Know Nick Grundhauser: Fun Facts

 

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I was a nationally ranked racquetball player in high school.
  • I had the privilege to coach snowboarding in the Special Olympics World games in Nagano, Japan.
  • I have summited every major peak on the Wasatch front.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. I am an avid runner; I specifically love trail running.

 

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. “The Hobbit.”

 

 

 

Kindergarten

 

Barbara Merrell

Barbara Merrell earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Brigham Young University and a dual master’s degree in library science and school librarianship from University of North Texas.

“I chose Athlos because I know the curriculum they had chosen for our students and am impressed with the educational results the math and reading programs can produce,” Merrell said. “They are some of the best.”
Merrell strives to assure the kindergarten students love coming to school and building on their natural curiosity about the world around them. She also focuses on helping the library grow through grants and book donations and bring in guest authors and illustrators for assemblies.

 
Performance Character

“Helping students understand their emotions and being able to express those emotions in an appropriate way helps get them ready to learn academically,” she said.

Getting to Know Barbara Merrell: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • In college I had a total malfunction on a static line while skydiving. That means my parachute didn’t automatically open and I was free falling. We were well trained and I remembered the protocol for opening my reserve chute. I was only jumping from 3,000 feet so I fell quickly and landed hard on my bottom and broke my coccyx. I had to stand up for the last two weeks of college classes.
  • My sister and I have raised Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches for our students to enjoy at school. We call them “Hollywood Cockroaches” because they are the huge ones you always see in movies. I don’t have any right now in case you are worried.
  • My husband and his dad were hog farmers in southern New Mexico and my older kids were raised on the hog farm.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. In college I discovered racquetball and loved it! Today I enjoy swimming the most. I spent lots of vacations as a child in the ocean and love, love, love swimming in the ocean.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. As a small child my favorite book was “Madeline.” I love the repeating phrase “12 little girls in two straight lines.” I think I liked it because I only had sisters. 

My fifth grade teacher read our class “Little House in the Big Woods” and we all wrote to Laura Ingalls Wilder. I got my mom to buy me the whole set and spent the summer devouring her life stories. I think that was my first introduction to learning about history and sparked my love of genealogy. Today my favorite books are historical fiction.
 
 

Cindy Petersen

Cindy Petersen earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science and is working toward her master’s degree. Petersen has been teaching for the past six years, ran an at-home daycare for three years, and was a security clearance investigator with the government for one year.

“I’m impressed with the emphasis on preparing students for their future by helping them become well-rounded individuals who are ready to compete in today's society,” she said.

Peterson strives to help students discover their love for learning through discovery and creativity, and building a partnership with parents through open communication.

 
Focus/Self Control

“Growing up I was one of those kids who had a difficult time focusing at school. As an adult I am still easily distracted and deal with the daily challenge of staying focused on the task at hand,” she said. “This is one of the characteristics that helps me relate well to my students. They perform, create, and learn more when they're doing and engaged in their learning, instead of sitting and being talked at all day. As am I.” 

Getting to Know Cindy Petersen: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things most people don’t know about you?
  • I'm deathly afraid of heights.
  • I love to garden.
  • I want to learn to speak French.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. I love most team sports. In high school I played soccer, softball and ran track. I also played one year of soccer in college. I enjoy being physically active.
 
 
 

Kiernon Bowen Kiernon Bowen

 

Kiernon Bowen recently graduated with a degree in sports management and community recreation. For several years, she has worked with children as a youth recreation coach, day camp leader, and as a long-term substitute in fourth grade.

“For me, kindergarten is so important, because it is the first taste of education, and it can make or break the experience and relationship that students have with school and learning for the rest of their lives,” she said.

Bowen is passionate about children and loves community. It shows in the relationships she develops with her students, parents, and peers.

Grit

“Grit is the Performance Character trait that speaks to me the most. I believe hard work and perseverance are extremely important qualities for children and adults to have in order to be successful now and later in life,” said Ms. Bowen.

Getting to Know Kiernon: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things most people don’t know about you?
  • I have a strong love for children's books. I have boxes and boxes of them, and I am always excited to get more.
  • I love to bake, play Lego video games, read, and fish in my spare time.
  • I have been to Disneyland about 10 times. I'm planning a trip for the fall to take my husband for the first time and celebrate my sister’s graduation. I can't wait!
 
 

Betsy Lyons


Betsy Lyons earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the Ohio State University in Athens, Ohio, and later earned her master’s degree in early childhood education from the University of North Dakota. Ms. Lyons has been in the teaching profession for more than 20 years, primarily in pre-kindergarten through third grade. In addition to teaching in the primary grades, she’s worked as a media specialist sharing her passion of reading, technology, and learning with students and classroom teachers.

 

“Kindergarten is the foundation of each student’s educational journey,” she said, “It’s what prepares students and develops an eagerness to learn about the world around them. Kindergarten helps development in social/emotional, physical, oral language, and cognitive skills.”

 

Lyons feels her greatest quality as a teacher is her classroom management style that embraces all students, encourages mutual respect and safety of others, promotes creativity without fear of failure, and emboldens consistency and enthusiasm in daily routines that can be changed with impromptu questions of curiosity leading to exploration and hands on learning.

 

“Creating an environment rich with hands-on opportunities, discovery, problem solving, cooperative learning, technology, and incorporating a creative core curriculum will develop self-esteem in our young students, which will guide them, spark their curiosity, and develop their love of learning,” Lyons said.

 

Curiosity

 

“Although each of the Athlos Performance Character traits are all traits that I try to model and instill within my students; the one that resonates the most with me is curiosity,” she said.

 

“Peaking student’s curiosity in learning keeps students engaged, excited, and always eager to discover and achieve a deeper understanding of their environment. Having students explore, create, and experiment with real objects not only makes them curious, but helps them learn problem solving skills that will carry them throughout life as well as continue their love of learning.

 

Getting to Know Betsy Lyons: Fun Facts

 

Q. What are three things most people don’t know about you?
  • Our family has moved seven times, including Illinois, North Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, Utah, and Texas three different times
  • I love going on cruises to explore places and cultures around the world.
  • I have a motorcycle license and love going around Utah with my husband exploring and seeing all of the beautiful sites.

First Grade

 

Valerie Loredo

Valerie Loredo joined Athlos Academy of Utah fall 2017 as a first-grade teacher. Loredo received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Utah Valley University in Orem and has been teaching first grade for six years.

When it comes to her teaching approach, Loredo says her best quality is consistency. “I think it is so important to develop a classroom routine and schedule, stick to it, and be consistent with behavior,” she said. “If students know what to expect every day and how they are expected to act and perform, then there is not a lot of room for chaos. It helps students to develop confidence and feel safe and secure in the classroom.”

“I feel like in society today there is too much focus on being the best and not enough focus on how to be a respectful and contributing member of a community,” Loredo said. “The Performance Character traits teach students to develop skills that will serve them well as they progress in their education and relationships with others.”
 
Optimism

“Life definitely has its ups and its downs, and I have found that if I focus on being optimistic, then that roller coaster doesn't have as much of an effect on my life,” Loredo said. “Being optimistic brings more joy to my everyday life and to my career as a teacher. I don't let the tough stuff get me down, rather I choose to do my best and know that it will all work out!”

Fun Facts: Getting to Know Valerie Loredo

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I received a minor in deaf studies from UVU, and I know sign language. I am not fluent by any means, but I have been able to use sign language at various points in my career to communicate with parents or students.
  • I recently started teaching English to students in China online. It has been a blast and my love for teaching has grown even more.
  • I have never traveled outside of the country, but I am planning to change that soon!
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. My favorite type of physical activity is dancing. I am not a great dancer by any means, but my husband is from Mexico, and we like to go Latin dancing from time to time. I have always loved trying different types of dance. I also took several hip-hop dance classes while attending UVU.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book growing up?
A. My favorite childhood books are “Chester's Way” and “Chrysanthemum.” I love all of Kevin Henkes' books with the cute illustration and humorous stories. 
 
 
 

Jo Whittaker

Jo Whittaker earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. Whittaker worked for six years as a one-on-one paraprofessional for a student with cerebral palsy, taught visual arts with the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program for preschool through sixth-grades, and has taught third grade. She has volunteered as an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician for 25 years and is involved with the local Search and Rescue in many different areas.

As an educator, Whittaker prides herself in her ability to understand that every student learns in a different way and at a different speed. “It is my duty to discover these things and to work with the students in the manner that they need,” she said.
 

Courage

“It takes great courage to have integrity, humility, and optimism, she said. “In the world today, we are being filled with so much dishonesty and negativity that it takes courage to stand up against all of that.”

Getting to Know Jo Whittaker: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?

  • I am very afraid of water and heights, yet I am working to conquer those fears by training in rappelling and ice water rescues.
  • I love to learn about everything. I am the person who wants to take things apart and learn how they are essential to the project.
  • Other than my home, my most favorite place in the world is Washington, D.C. Every time I visit there, I feel like I have gone home. The history and atmosphere is amazing to me. I love everything about that beautiful and educational city.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. I love to walk. My husband and I walk eight miles at least five days a week. During our walks, we often get stopped to visit with community members, which makes it even more enjoyable. Our favorite time to walk is early morning. It is so peaceful to listen to the world wake up.
 

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. I was named after the main character, Jo March. I read this wonderful literary piece for the first time when I was in the fourth grade. I read it at least every other year. Now, I love anything Harry Potter. My secret dream is to teach at Hogwarts!

 

First Grade: Jacinta Red Thunder

 

First Grade: Jessica Dilley

First Grade: Sharie Blackburn
 

Second Grade

 

Stephanie Burton

Stephanie Burton spent 10 years as professional meeting planner with various companies in and around Los Angeles prior to becoming a teacher. While staying at home with her children, Burton began volunteering and substitute teaching in their classrooms, sparking her passion for teaching. Burton then went on to earn her master’s degree in education and her teaching license. Since that time she has taught in grades four and five.
 
“Not only is a prepared mind necessary for academic success, but a healthy body must be able to support that mind,” Burton said. “Strong character is necessary for a successful life and should be taught at every possible opportunity.”
 
Strives to help build a solid second grade team, creating a welcoming and intellectually stimulating classroom, and seeing academic growth over the year for all of her students.
 
 
Curiosity
 
“I believe that academic achievements most often come from wondering ‘what if?’ or ‘how can I?’” she said. “I hope to foster a climate of curiosity in my classroom by developing a classroom culture that embraces mistakes as part of learning.”
 
Getting to Know Stephanie Burton: Fun Facts
 
 Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I am an award winning volleyball player (OK so it was ‘most improved’ in ninth grade, but I did get a trophy!) 
  • I gave birth to children in 2 different centuries.
  • I was born without wisdom teeth.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Hiking and jumping around in celebration after I get a Jeopardy question right that none of the other contestants did.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder and, for that matter, all of the “Little House on the Prairie” books. Her descriptions are so vivid and rich. In fact, I still read them like comfort food. They are my chicken noodle soup for my soul.
 
 
 

Lynette Gittins

Lynette Gittins earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Brigham Young University - Idaho. For the past year she has taught the first grade in Vernal, Utah.

Gittins enjoys working at Athlos Academy of Utah because of how well her own goals aligned with those of the school. “Educating the mind, body, and spirit corresponds perfectly with my own philosophy of education,” Gittins said. “I believe that educating the whole child allows the child be a well-balanced, joyful, and successful citizen in today’s society.”
 
Optimism

“Believing in good things to come has helped me to be successful in life. My life-long motto’s are ‘everything is as it should be’ and ‘embrace the challenging,’” Gittins said. “I believe that hard work today will pay off tomorrow. When students believe that what they are doing today will help them in the future, they are less likely to get discouraged and are more likely to succeed.”
 
Getting to Know Lynette Gittins: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I performed in France and Spain with an international dance and clogging team.
  • I clean, organize, and plan more efficiently when I am listening to classical music.
  • In my lifetime I have lived in Germany, Oklahoma, Utah, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Dance, Zumba, Clogging, Power Tap and …. Did I mention dance? I also really love to hike!

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. “Amelia Bedelia.” 
 

Jami Berry

Jami Berry graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Utah State University in 2015 and a master's degree in elementary education from Western Governors University in 2017. Prior to working at Athlos, Berry worked in daycare, volunteered in her daughter's classes, and spent a year teaching in Canyons School District.

 

“I love to make learning fun! I want my students to be excited to come to school. I believe students learn more when they want to come to class and when they enjoy being at school,” she said.

 

Energy/Zest

“The Athlos Performance Character trait that resonates most with me is energy/zest,” she said. “I believe that life is meant to be enjoyable and exciting, and I look for ways to bring that energy into the classroom to make learning fun.”

 

Getting to Know Jami Berry: Fun Facts

 

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?

  • I enjoy cake decorating.
  • I play the piano.
  • I once auditioned for The Julliard School's drama program.
 
 
Second Grade: Nicole Fitting
 
Second Grade: Andrew Love
 
 

 Third Grade

 

Jason Gilbert

Jason Gilbert spent 10 years working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation before deciding to go back to school to finish his degree. He earned his associate’s degree in business management from Salt Lake Community College in 2000 and his bachelor’s degree in general business with a minor in elementary education from Utah Valley University in 2003. Gilbert is currently working on his master’s degree in education.

“I would have really thrived in a school like Athlos Academy when I was growing up,” he said. “The three pillar model of education inspires me to make myself better so that I can better teach those skills to my students.”

“I want to show that everyone is a student, even myself as a teacher,” Gilbert said. “I will collaborate with the students, faculty, and the community to make Athlos a school that will make contributions to the community.”
 
His favorite quotes are:
“You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence.” - Author debatable
“Success comes from taking the initiative and following up ... persisting ... eloquently expressing the depth of your love. What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?” - Tony Robbins

Getting to Know Jason Gilbert: Fun Facts
  • I am a Scoutmaster and love the outdoors.
  • I have over 1,200 dives in six countries as a dive supervisor and rescue diver.
  • I have been married for seven years and have one daughter.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Anything that involves water and biking. 
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book? 
A. “Holes” by Louis Sachar. I love books where the main character grows and matures throughout the story. He even risks his own life to save a friend he barely knows.

 

Charlotte Ferrara

Charlotte Ferrara earned her bachelor's degree in early childhood education, has completed her master's equivalent, and is soon to graduate with a master or arts in education with specializations in early childhood education and special education.

Ferrara chose to work at Athlos Academy of Utah because of the strong community and team environment. "Athlos Academy is a great school where everyone is welcoming and works as a team,” she said. “I could not be in a better school.”
 
Grit
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, grit resonates most with Ferrara. “I believe the trait that suits me the most is grit,” Ferrara said. “I traveled 32 hours to become a member of team Athlos and hit the ground running upon arrival.”

Getting to know Charlotte Ferrara: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I love piano music and can play a little by ear.
  • I could never be happy any place other than the classroom.
  • I am very passionate when it comes to children; I genuinely love them all.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. My favorite physical activity is swimming.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. My favorite book is "The Three Billy Goats Gruff." My mother read it to me as a child.
 
 


Kim Bigler

Kim Bigler joined Athlos Academy of Utah in the fall of 2017 as an upper elementary teacher. Mr. Bigler graduated from the University of Utah in 1986 with a degree in elementary education. For the past 31 years, Mr. Bigler has taught third through sixth grade at Western Hills and Carl Sandburg.
 
As an educator, Mr. Bigler’s goal has always been to help students become the best they can be. “My drive to see students learn and improve is probably my best quality,” he said. “My ability to teach math and prepare students for important tests are skills that I've developed over many years as a teacher.”
 
Courage
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, many traits resonate with Mr. Bigler. “The one that I think is most important is courage,” he said. “It implies being willing to take risks and being willing to do what's right regardless of the consequences.”
 
Getting to Know Kim Bigler: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you that most people don’t know?
A. I enjoy drawing, pottery, and golfing.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Golf is probably my favorite type of physical activity, but I love to play basketball, football, and volleyball, and go fishing as well.
 
Q. What was your favorite book growing up?
A. My favorite childhood book was "Where the Red Fern Grows.”
 
 

Emily Doll

Emily Doll earned her master of arts in elementary education from Liberty University in 2013, and recently graduated with a master’s degree as a reading specialist. Doll has taught third and fourth grade and substitute taught pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Before becoming a licensed educator, Doll worked for two years as a special education paraprofessional.
“As an educator, I believe in supporting my students in realizing their fullest potential and working toward reaching ambitious goals,” she said. “I hold my students accountable for their learning experiences and work alongside students and parents as an educational team. I love sharing my love of learning with students.”

 

Grit

 

“Grit is the Athlos Performance Character trait that most resonates with me,” she said. “Despite life’s challenges, I always rise above and persist. I take great pride in always persevering through difficulties and encourage my students to live by the same standard. I try to inspire my students to show grit too by problem solving and working hard. Grit is a character trait my students and I work hard to develop within our classroom culture.”

 

Getting to Know Emily Doll: Fun Facts

 

Q. What are three things about you that most people don’t know?

  • One thing most people do not know about me is that I lived in Germany for almost five years. I love traveling and enjoyed the opportunity to live and teach overseas. During my time there, I visited more than 20 different countries.
  • I have a wonderful husband, a sweet daughter who is a year-and-a-half old, and a cat. My family and I enjoy reading books together or spending time outside hiking and skiing.
  • I have been skydiving twice. It was an exhilarating experience, and I loved it!
 

Third Grade: Susan Ellermeier

 

Fourth Grade

 

Isaac Ramos

Isaac Ramos attended New Mexico State University and studied animation and visual effects before earning his degree in youth and family ministry from Lubbock Christian University in Lubbock, Texas. Ramos has worked as a paraprofessional with special education students, graphic designer, carpenter, and many other jobs.
 
Ramos strives to include helping students become excited to return to school for the next year.
 
“I want to give kids a passion for discovering who they are and enjoying the process every step of the way,” he said.
 
 
Creativity
 
“I have always embraced and pursued the creative nature I was born with,” he said. “It began with Legos, led to animation and carpentry, and now I use my creative solving in every area of my life.”
 
Getting to Know Isaac Ramos: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I was a two-time State Champion Pole Vaulter in New Mexico
  • I've lived in New Zealand
  • I am involved in a number of creative activities at any given time including (but not limited to) film and video, animation, graphic design, and musing
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. I love soccer and lifting weights. I know that's two, but I can't really choose either one of those over the other. If I had to choose one for all time, though, it would be pole vaulting.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. I loved Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" growing up. It was actually the first book I learned how to read.

 

Maree Smith

Maree Smith earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Utah Valley University. Since graduation she has been working as a long-term substitute for first and fourth grade classes. 
 
Smith focuses on developing a tight-knit team of adults and students and establishing a safe and secure learning environment for the students each and every day. She appreciates how the school prepares students for a competitive future through Prepared Mind, Healthy Body, and Performance Character.
 
Grit
 
“Each student needs to be prepared for the competitive future ahead,” she said. “They need to be able to rise up, meet the daily challenges, and be able to persevere in spite of failure. Sometimes things don’t go our way and I strive to help my students be able to handle each hurdle as it comes.”
 
Getting to Know Maree Smith: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I refereed soccer for nine years.
  • I was born in Rochester, Michigan.
  • I love to cook and bake.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. My favorite physical activity is soccer. It’s great exercise and fun at the same time. I usually play defense or midfielder. Growing up I played soccer competitively for eight years, starting when I was 6-years-old.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. My favorite childhood book was “The Chronicles of Narnia.” I loved to be able to explore the different lands that the book takes you to and to meet the wonderful characters that the story introduces.
 

Fourth Grade: Nina Red Thunder

 

Fourth Grade: Crystal Robinson

 

Fifth Grade

Jenna Nicholls

Jenna Nicholls earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in teachers of English to speakers of other languages from Brigham Young University. Nicholls has one year of experience teaching the fourth grade and several years of classroom aid experience in grades one, four, and preschool.

 

Nicholls like to work at Athlos because she believes in the three pillar approach to education. “I believe that a child needs to be active, not just sitting in a desk reading a book,” she said. “Education is about learning through experience and experience is what students will get in my classroom.”

 

Nicholls strives to have every child in her classroom succeed and come away from the year feeling that they are ready for sixth grade. “I also want all of the students to find their passion in school as well as their passion in life,” she said.

 

 

Grit
“I always believe that if you put your mind to something you can succeed at it,” Nicholls said. “I have always tried to teach my students that if you try you will succeed. As one of my favorite characters says, ‘Do or do not; there is no try.’"

 

Creativity
“I believe that every student is able to be creative in their own way,” Nicholls said. “This is something that travels into my classroom as I let the students express their creativity in many ways. We use music, dance, art, writing, and films. I believe students should be able to express themselves the way that they know how.”

 

Energy
“Children have energy and I believe, as a teacher, I need to harness this and have the students move during lessons,” Nicholls said. “They do this through games, and even just by taking brain breaks.”
 
Getting to Know Jenna Nicholls: Fun Facts

 

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I was a rugby player for the BYU Women's Rugby Team.
  • I have a slight obsession with the Carolina Panthers.
  • I have a one-and-a-half-year-old husky.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. I love all physical activity. I love running, weightlifting, and of course rugby!

 

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. My favorite childhood book would be “Harry Potter.”
 
 
 

Savanna Dohmen

Savanna Dohmen earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from North Central University in December 2015. She worked as a long-term substitute in the same fourth grade class where she student taught, giving her the opportunity to be with the class from the first day of school all the way through the spring. Dohmen has clinical and/or volunteer classroom experience with every age from preschool through fifth grade.

“Matching my love of learning with physical activity has expanded my horizons in ways I did not know were possible,” she said. “Students are often either invested in their academics or their sports. The two are not usually connected and students choose to spend more time on only one, leaving the other lacking. Being a part of a school that supports both important pieces of young people's lives, along with teaching the importance of character, excites me!”


Initiative

She attributes where she currently is in her life to taking initiative for her own growth and career path. “Even though I was characterized as ‘shy’ growing up, I have learned that I can grow so much more and help so many more people if I take initiative for who I am and my future, “she said. “I have also noticed that students are more successful when they, even at a young age, ask with confidence for what they want and need and are willing to reach out and help others.”

Fun Facts: Getting to Know Savanna Dohmen
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I am moving to Utah from Minnesota. This move is fueled by my husband's and mine love of everything outdoors!
  • The first airplane trip I ever took was to Moldova in Europe. Now I've been bit by the travel bug and go new places whenever I can!
  • I am a lifelong learner that loves to try new things. Currently, I am learning how to keep plants alive — one step at a time.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Hiking and rock climbing. I also really enjoy yoga!

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. Lemony Snicket's “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Reading this series is the first time I ever remember being frustrated with the plot of a book. I learned to have a conversation with the author and define my own needs as a reader.


Tracy Floyd

Tracy Floyd has taught a number of subjects over the years in a variety of settings. Most recently, Floyd worked in the STEM field at Nelson Laboratories, where she was a part of the development of new medical innovations and devices.

Floyd enjoys working at Athlos Academy of Utah, because she was drawn to the three pillars of Prepared Mind, Healthy Body, and Performance Character and how these pillars interact and build upon one another.

“I have seen too many youth fall into lives of poor choices,” Floyd said. “If a student has a solid foundation in these three areas they will excel in life. I wanted to teach at a school that prepares students for a bright and successful future and I believe Athlos is that school.”

Floyd focuses on providing her students with a broad base of knowledge and the desire to learn and explore a topic past an online search. She hopes to instill in her students the desire to become lifelong learners.

Grit

“Most of the success in life comes from grit — not quitting, pushing through the obstacles, a steely determination to see it through as long as it takes,” she said. “Victory comes when you grit your teeth and keep going just a little longer than everyone else. Grit also has the knowledge that the storm will end, the bad doesn't last infinitely.”

Getting to Know Tracy Floyd: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I once worked for a private investigator.
  • I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan.
  • I was nicknamed "Tigger" in college because I was always happily bouncing everywhere.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Back in the day, playing football with my brother and his friends. (Yep, tackle.) Now, walking my dog and enjoying the natural world.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
 
 

Fifth Grade: Amanda Alreck

 

 

Sixth Grade

Social Studies: Janice Aguirre

Janice Aguirre earned her bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in philosophy from the University of Utah and her master’s degree in teaching at Western Governors University. Aguirre spent two years as an English as a Second Language assistant at an elementary school in the Park City School District and completed her student teaching at Park City High School. Aguirre was also an assistant swim coach for Park City High School and taught as a long-term substitute for U.S. History at American International School of Utah.

“I feel that schools now focus on just teaching the curriculum, but education is so much more than that. We as educators need to teach the whole child not only academically but emotionally and socially as well,” Aguirre said. “I love that Athlos has a philosophy of teaching the whole child and that is something I am behind 100 percent.”

 
Optimism

“I truly believe having a positive attitude will take you far,” she said. “A positive attitude helps you cope with changes and makes you happier and more successful because it brings upon the motivation and energy to do things and accomplish goals.” 

Getting to Know Janice Aguirre: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I speak Spanish.
  • I love to hike.
  • I love to cook; if I wasn’t a teacher I’d probably be a chef. 
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Swimming and running.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. “The Giving Tree.” As teachers, true selflessness is a trait that all of us share.
 
 
 
 

Math: Euna Pineda

Euna Pineda received her bachelor’s degree in business management from Brigham Young University. Later in her life, as Pineda was raising her own family, she received a K-6 teaching license and sixth through eighth grade math endorsement through George Mason University’s master program in Virginia. 

“I student taught at an international school in Seoul, Korea and also substitute taught at a British school, which exposed me to unique teaching styles of teachers from many different parts of the world,” Pineda said.

For the past four years, Pineda taught seventh and eighth grade math and the second grade. “I enjoy working at Athlos Academy of Utah because I love the challenge of creating something new, especially when the challenge will bring about a great school that teaches wonderful values that raise great children,” Pineda said.

Optimism

“Churchill said in his famous quote that ‘a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’ I am an optimist through and through,” Pineda said.

Getting to know Pineda: Fun facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?

  • I have travelled a lot in my life. I have been to more than 40 different countries. The most beautiful places I’ve been to are Norway and Switzerland. I can’t pick one. 
  • I love playing piano while my kids sing songs from Broadway shows or movies. 
  • I am a crybaby in secret. I cry when I feel awe at the sight of beautiful nature. I cry when I read an elegantly stated quote of wisdom. I am touched at the beauty of each life.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. I love to do everything and anything. I am not good at any of them yet, but I will love to try more while working at Athlos. However, if I were to choose one, I love biking the most. 
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. When I was little, I had a whole set of Hans Christian Andersen books that I loved reading and looking through. My favorite story was “The Little Mermaid.” I remember clearly all the beautiful illustrations in the story especially when the little mermaid dissolved into tiny bubbles in the ocean at the end. It was such a sad ending, but what I remember distinctly still is the absence of any regret on the mermaid’s part. Even though I was little, I admired her love, determination and courage.
 

Seventh Grade

Social Studies: Chris Conver

Chris Conver earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and will earn his master’s degree in curriculum and instruction this spring. Conver has worked as a paraprofessional educator for grades K-6 for two years, with the last half of his second year also working as a behavioral health assistant. Conver has also worked in a high school setting as a paraprofessional educator for severe/profound special education, during which time he worked as an interpreter for a student with hearing impairment.

Conver enjoys working with Athlos Academy of Utah because of the alignment between his own beliefs in education and the Athlos model. “I believe that education should focus on teaching academics, healthy living, and how to be a good person,” he said.

Grit

“I never give up, no matter how hard a situation is and I am always willing to take on failures and continue to push forward,” he said.

Getting to Know Chris Conver: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things most people don’t know about you?

  • I am an open book and do not mind sharing information about myself or my life.
  • One thing many people don't know is that I have had three major disabilities throughout my life. I am fully deaf, I was blind two different times, and I was in a wheelchair for a few months. Some people don't know that I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in elementary school.
  • Many people don't know that I love playing with yo-yo's.
 

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. My favorite type of physical activity is weightlifting.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book? 
A. My favorite childhood book is “Harry Potter.”

 
 

Math: Jurate Martin

Jurate Martin graduated from George Washington University in Washington, DC with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1992 and is currently working toward her master's degree at Drexel University in secondary education with an emphasis in mathematics.
 
From 1991 to 1993, Martin taught second grade in the Washington, DC area public schools. For three years, Martin taught kindergarten, first grade, and high school in New Jersey, and taught fourth grade at Aristotle Academy, a charter school in American Fork, Utah.
 
Courage
“I believe it takes courage to achieve the impossible and to stretch your limits in a healthy way by stepping outside your comfort zone to aid and encourage others, as well,” Martin said. “Courage for students is needed in healthy doses for academics and physical exercise. All of us have strengths and weaknesses, but courage can help overcome even in our hardest trials.”
 
Getting to Know Jurate Martin: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are 3 things most people don't know about you?
  • After 12 years of marriage, six children, and about to turn 40, I ran a half marathon (13 miles) in Georgia on Thanksgiving Day 2009.
  • My faith and family define who I am (born and raised in New Jersey) and give me hope.
  • I’m creative and passionate about scrapbooking, cooking, baking, and reading (get lost in bookstores and the library often.)
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. My favorite physical activities are swimming, rollerblading with my children, and walking/running with my husband, Stephen.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. My favorite book was the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It began my lifelong love of books and romance.
  
 

 

Middle School English/Language Arts: Steven Merrell

Steven Merrell will join the team in the 2017-2018 school year as a middle school English/language arts teacher. Merrell earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy the University of San Diego, his master’s degree in English literature from Macquarie University, and his master of education from the University of Utah. Merrell has taught grades ranging from fifth to twelfth. He has also been a site principal, a program director, and a community liaison.

As an educator, Merrell says his best qualities are patience and compassion. “Patience and compassion allow me to connect with students in an authentic way,” he said. “I love to model how everyone can connect with others.”

Merrell first became interested in Athlos Academy of Utah when the school’s charter was submitted.

“The school's model and focus on the three pillars really drew me in,” he said. “Every student should be in tune with their physical capabilities as they grow. Students also need to learn activities that help ensure an active lifestyle. Lastly, I believe students in the 21st century must develop Performance Character traits to display a deep connection with their own humanity and own personal growth.”

Social Intelligence
“If a student develops the ability to navigate their social relationships they will be excellent communicators, team players, and lifelong learners,” he said.

Getting to Know Steven Merrell: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I love movies: favorites being “Inception” and “The Matrix.”
  • I live for Ohio State Football (long live the GOAT, Urban Meyer!).
  • I have about 300 albums on vinyl, it makes listening to music so much better!
 
Q. What is your favorite physical activity?
A. My favorite physical activity is playing lacrosse. I played at the University of San Diego and for various teams since my college days. Nothing beats the combination of speed, coordination, and strategy that exists in lacrosse. As an "adult," I love to snowboard and hike as well.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. My favorite childhood book was “Where the Wild Things Are.” My daughter and I can perform the book by memory.

 

Career Technical Education (CTE): Dr. John McGroarty

Dr. McGroarty, or “Dr. M,” currently holds a bachelor’s degree in human development from the University of Utah, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix, and has recently completed his Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership from Walden University.

Prior to working at Athlos, Dr. McGroarty was teaching music education and is pursuing his endorsement in CTE-Business 6 - 8 and Business Core, which he will complete this summer. Dr. McGroarty has been involved in the CTE area for about 10 years outside of education where he worked for Northrop Grumman as a business analyst and buy-part planner.

Creativity
“Coming from a background in performing arts, this was an obvious choice,” said Dr. McGroarty. “I believe that we all have a creative side that can enhance our lives in many ways. Working with students to develop their creativity through innovation is a key ingredient in my lesson planning.”
 
Curiosity
“Without curiosity, we cannot learn about the world around us and take those risks that shape us to who we are and what we will become.”
 

Getting to Know John McGroarty: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I am a triplet.
  • I was a performing member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
  • I am ambidextrous, so I can use both hands for many things.

Q. What do you love most about CTE?
A. I love the diversity of CTE. This exploratory subject allows my students to discover many different areas of potential careers and interests without the high pressure of work or school. Additionally, CTE offers my students the chance to become their future and see what lies in store for them if they are dedicated and willing to work hard for their goals and dreams.

Q: What is your best quality as a teacher, and how does this impact students?
A. My best quality as a teacher is that I make learning fun through project based activities. This type of learning allows my students to make connections with real-world experiences through which their experiences can generate more insight, creativity, and curiosity about the world around them.

Art and Music

Music Teacher: Marie Buhler

Marie Buhler has joined the Athlos Academy of Utah team as the school’s new music teacher. Buhler graduated from Riverton High School in Herriman where she was a member of the choir and played French horn in the band, marching band, and pit orchestra. Buhler then attended Snow College on a music scholarship where she participated in every ensemble she could fit into her schedule including choir, band, orchestra, private lessons, small ensembles, and musicals.

Buhler received her associates from Snow College and her bachelor’s in music education from Utah Valley University. She was a member of the UVU chamber choir for four years and the assistant director for one of those years. Buhler has also taken private conducting and voice lessons

While earning her degree, Buhler worked with the Orem Children's choir and student taught at Pleasant Grove High School. She also was a substitute teacher for the Jordan School District for more than five years. Buhler currently sings with a semi-professional Utah County based choir called Cantorum.

As an educator, Buhler says her best quality is her passion for the arts. “Teachers who love their craft, and have a well-organized system, inevitably help others enjoy that craft as well,” she said.

Buhler was drawn to the Athlos model because of the focus on movement and growth. “A stagnant life almost immediately pulls us in the opposite direction — like stopping while trying to walk the wrong way on an escalator — but keeping our bodies and minds always engaged leads to progression and change. It helps us be better people,” she said.
 
Courage and Grit
“The courage to rise up, take risks and try new things is critical in life and certainly in the arts,” she said. “Where would our ballerinas be if they gave up after a failed recital? Or actors who just couldn't get into a big show or movie? It takes real courage to continue after failure.”

Getting to Know Marie Buhler: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I was a Civil War reenactor in a civil war band for nearly 10 years (yes, I have pictures)
  • I have an annual pass to Universal Studios Orlando
  • I eat 90 percent vegetarian and do my best to eat whole foods...but every once in a while, I love to eat really good chocolate!
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Hiking and biking! I love biking around Oquirrh Lake in Daybreak and camping, backpacking, and hiking in the mountains.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. “Harry Potter!” I grew up with my mom reading the books to us every night before bed and we quickly fell in love with the characters, the fantasy, and the beautiful world Rowling created.
 

Special Education

Special Education Director: Karen Trujillo

Karen Trujillo has taught for the past 30 years in elementary school, junior high, and high school in Ohio, California, New Mexico, and Utah. Trujillo earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education with a minor in Spanish and her master’s degree in special education. She also has a National Board Certification as an exceptional needs specialist and speaks fluent Spanish.

Trujillo works with Athlos because she believes in the Athlos mission and the three pillar approach to education.“I believe that education is not just about academics. One of the most important activities you can engage in is developing your character,” she said. “I am committed to helping Athlos students become well-prepared, successful adults.”
 
Integrity
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, integrity resonates most with Trujillo. Integrity“Integrity is the foundation of character,” she said. “Having integrity will enhance every part of your life.”

 

Getting to Know Karen Trujillo: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things most people don't know about you?
  • I collect refrigerator magnets and have more than 5,000. I would like to hold the world record for most refrigerator magnets.
  • I have traveled to 46 of the 50 states.
  • I play violin and my dream is to play with Josh Groban.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Tai-Chi.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. My favorite childhood books were biographies. Some of my heroes were Susan B. Anthony, Jane Adams, and Elizabeth Blackwell. They were all strong women who accomplished so much and helped so many other people. 
 
 
 

Special Education Teacher: Peggy Biesinger

Peggy Biesinger worked for more than 10 years as a child care provider in Utah before moving to Nevada to be closer to family. She then worked as an instructional aide with special-needs children for seven years. In 2007, Biesinger earned her bachelor’s degree in speech/language pathology from the University of Nevada-Reno and, in 2014, earned her master’s degree in early childhood special education. For the past two years, Biesinger has worked in the small communities of Round Mountain and Tonopah, Nevada with students who have speech delays, small and large motor delays, cognitive delays, emotional delays, and visual impairments.“I learned so much more from my students than they did from me,” she said.

Biesinger chose to work with Athlos Academy of Utah because she appreciates how the school’s model embraces the whole child.“The cognitive, the physical, and the social/emotional aspects that all teachers working in early childhood are trained to nourish,” she said. “I love that Athlos does not stop this practice after second grade, but allows each child to grow as a whole throughout their school career.” During her first year with Athlos Academy of Utah, Beisinger’s goals include helping Athlos build a solid, cooperative community.“Working together makes the rest of the job progress faster and easier,” she said.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, optimism resonates most with Biesinger.“Students who believe in themselves and in their goals will build a foundation built on looking up, not down,” she said. “When looking up we see the beauty of the world and its people, you see and can plan for the obstacles in our lives. When looking down all we can see are the pitfalls and boulders in the way.”

Getting to Know Peggy Biesinger: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?

  • I was terrified of small children when I was in high school (little did I know what I was missing).
  • I went white water rafting on the Colorado River with my mother and children.
  • I love science fiction and westerns.
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. Walking, it’s the right pace for thinking and seeing the sights.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. “The Trolley Car Family.” It’s no longer in print, and I suspect the “Box Car Children”
were based on it. It was the first book I read cover to cover that wasn’t a picture book.
 
Q.What is your favorite quote?
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become Your Words.
Keep your words positive because your words become Your Behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes Your Habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become Your Values.
Keep your values positive because your values become Your Destiny.”
-Mahatma Gandhi
 
  

Speech Language Pathologist: Kristi Shulsen

 

Special Education Paraprofessionals


Molly Wells

Molly Wells has a certification in child development and has worked as a teacher’s assistant in classrooms ranging from pre-k through grade six for the past seven years. She has experience working with children with developmental delays, epilepsy, special education needs, and IEPs.

As an educator, Wells prides herself in her ability to see things outside the box and listen to every idea.
“No idea is ever a bad idea; it can stem and grow into something big,” she said. “I feel like that can impact students by showing them that, with teamwork and listening to others, things can become reality.”
 
Curiosity

“Each child learns differently and I want my students to find a subject that ignites a passion to seek more information, whether it's the adventures of history or unleashing the creative juices into visual form by paint, crayons, or pencil in
art,” she said.

Getting to Know Molly Wells: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I was raised by a single father starting when I was nine after my mom passed away unexpectedly; I was a total tomboy growing up.
  • I enjoy the outdoors and love camping, hiking, fishing, four-wheeling, and hunting.
  • I don't know how to cook. I sadly tend to overcook things and have been known to burn cookies and garlic bread. Luckily, I married a wonderful cook.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. My favorite physical activity is running. I have been running since I was 10 years old. I have run multiple distances up to a half marathon. I also do yoga and strength training.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. My favorite book as a kid was "Little House in the Big Woods.” I loved how much simpler times were and when I read it, I can remember imagining how they cooked and hunted for food. I was and still am a bookworm and spent many summers with my nose in a book.


SPED Paraprofessional: Sherry Smith

 

 

SPED Paraprofessional: Natalie Jenson

 
 
 

Special Education Paraprofessionals

 

Special Education Teacher: Kevin Gittins

Kevin Gittins earned his bachelor’s degree in early childhood education/early childhood special education from Brigham Young University Idaho. 

Gittins has experience working with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers as well as teaching special education in preschool and elementary school. Gittins also studied applied behavior analysis and completed a certificate in first aid/CPR for the Red Cross. 

Gittins chose to work at Athlos Academy of Utah because he believes in educating the whole child and found Athlos was a perfect fit with his own teaching philosophy. 

“I came to Athlos Academy looking for a way to make a difference, no matter how small or big, in the life of children,” he said. “I’m impressed with the way the Athlos model focuses on educating children in character. I was taught similar character traits in elementary school and this has molded me into who I am today as a teacher and member of my community, family, etc.”

During his first year at Athlos Academy of Utah Gittins’ goals include helping children grow and develop in many ways. 

“My priority is to create a safe classroom family where children feel safe to learn and have fun,” he said. “I also wish to build a classroom environment where children feel free to express their ideas, gain valuable social skills, and become lifelong learners.”

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, grit resonates most with Gittins.

Grit

“I have worked with children with disabilities for my first two years of teaching. Despite the challenges these and all children face, they have the grit and determination in them necessary to overcome these challenges over time,” Gittins said. “For me, grit is best summarized in the following quote by Temple Grandin, ‘my advice is: You always have to keep persevering.’" 

Getting to Know Kevin Gittins: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
  • I love to travel! I have been to 38 of the 50 states, Canada, and Mexico.
  • I am fluent in the Spanish language.
  • I once tasted alligator meat at a local grocery store in my hometown.
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
A. My favorite type of physical activity is anything done with my wife. We both really enjoy going to Zumba together. It merges our love of dance and working out into one. I also love playing soccer with my friends.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
A. My favorite childhood book was “The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear” by Don and Audrey Wood.
 

Kitchen Staff and Support Staff

Kitchen Manager: Lori Phillips

 

Kitchen Clerk: Pam Ledesma

 

 

Cook: Maxine Brklacich

 

Kitchen Prep: Brittany Seale

 

Cafeteria Supervisor: Elizabeth Hood

 

Recess Aide: Ali Holder

 

School Custodian: Julian McNeil-Jones