Founders and school leadership
(Looking for an email directory? Go to the Contact Page.)
James Ure | Co-Founder
When I was thirteen, I began home schooling. I raised animals, built stuff, destroyed stuff, and explored the desert on my dirt bike. I also read and wrote quite a bit. I worked hard, but didn’t have a good system for measuring my progress. I missed studying with friends and yearned to work on fun projects with others my age. Since that time, I have helped create Williamsburg Academy and Elevation Outdoors. Williamsburg and Elevation nurture the kind of learning my parents and I yearned for when I was thirteen. I have gone on to graduate from BYU in English and to study constitutional law at South Texas College of Law. If my parents and I would have had an organization like Williamsburg on our team, I would have been better prepared! Now I have three children of my own who my wife and I hope can benefit from these exciting resources. Williamsburg and Elevation fill up my life with meaning because I love learning, teaching, and exploring. My hobbies include rock climbing, running and taking pictures. I also love watching movies with my sweetheart, Angela, and telling my three children stories.
N Peter Jensen | Co-Founder
I grew up studying the Liberal Arts, and later earned an MBA at Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas. After business school I wanted to combine my passion for Socratic learning, educational entrepreneurship, and the outdoors. This led to my work as co-founder of Williamsburg Academy Online High School, and Elevation Outdoors. My own education during the intermediate years lacked a positive learning community, with interesting projects and excellent mentors. Williamsburg Intermediate provides students with the kind of education that I desperately needed at that age. My goal is always to provide the best possible education for my children, and yours. My other interests include cycling, backpacking, climbing, reading, and building Lego creations with my boys.
Erin Reynolds Mwanje | Co-Founder & Director
I was raised in the Rockies. Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around spending time in the desert biking, building sage-brush forts, and digging hide-outs. I dreamed of being part of a school where projects like these were tied to real-life skills entailing academic rigor, where friends and I could talk about what we’d learned, challenge ourselves, and grow together. Years later, when my experiences teaching in a traditional classroom left that long-ago dream hollow, I entered Harvard’s Graduate School of Education in pursuit of a second master’s degree. There I studied project-based learning, neuroscience and education. I returned again and again to the question, “What about online ed?” My work at Williamsburg Intermediate is a fruit of my youthful dreams and many years teaching and asking, “How can I make education more effective, more rigorous, and more fun for more kids?” I hope you’ll join me in this adventure! When not teaching, I love spending time with my amazing husband Dan hiking, camping, travelling, reading, cooking or listening to music.
Liz Kirk | Co-Founder & Assistant Director
When I was in middle school, I longed for my summer break all year. Summertime meant exciting projects, true friends, great books and real choices. Williamsburg Intermediate is a place where the summertime ideals from my childhood are alive all year round! In the years since those summer days, I have been working to help students receive a quality education. I studied English Literature in my undergraduate program, and earned a master’s degree in Education a few years later. I also taught at a charter school, mentored adults in the classics and ran a colloquium group for over 5 years. In my last job I helped run a corporate/government educational program where I helped 600+ staff members expand their business education. Working in Washington DC gave me the chance to watch political issues from my agency land in the newspaper, on television and on the floor of Congress. In the last 10 years I’ve also enjoyed learning through travel. I’ve explored China’s political history and Italy’s magnificent artistic history while in those countries. These experiences have helped prepare me for the rich discussions we’ll be having in the classroom, as well as the exciting journey we’ll be taking together this year! I’m so excited to be working with the exceptional students at Williamsburg Intermediate!
Heather Simkins | Mentor
I grew up on a farm in small town Utah and loved spending all day playing outside with my sisters and brothers. We knew how to play hard and learned how to work hard too. My school classes were small and comfortable, but my education lacked the same kind of hands-on stimulation that I gained from being outdoors and learning about the natural world through experience. Williamsburg Intermediate would have been the perfect answer to the curiosity I felt at this age! I later ended up spending several summers as a hiking and camping guide at a boy scout ranch–one of the most formative experiences of my life. I loved teaching youth in this setting and developed an even deeper love and appreciation for the natural world! I went on to graduate with a degree from Brigham Young University in Recreation Management and Youth leadership and then several years later with a masters degree in Education. I was drawn to Williamsburg because of its project-based curriculum and inspiring classroom settings–it’s unlike anything I’ve experienced. When not in the classroom, I can probably be found in my garden! I’m really excited about sustainability and was recently certified in Permaculture Design. I love natural health, good food, good music, and hiking in the desert with my nieces and nephews.
Sydney Maucotel | Mentor
Lucas Reynolds| Mentor
Besides teaching, I have many other passions. I love running with my wife, backpacking, and playing with little kids. I also get a lot of satisfaction from taking apart machines and seeing if I can fix them. Oh yeah, and I also really enjoy making homemade Argentine food, where I lived for two years. I believe in living life to its fullest and in finding someone to help every day. In 2013 I graduated suma cum laude with a BA from Southern Virginia University in Politics and a minor in Spanish. My wife and best friend, Catherine, and I currently have no children, but plan on someday having enough kids to warrant a large kitchen table. We currently live in Buena Vista, Virginia.
Shelley Nash | Mentor
I was raised in the West and loved being surrounded by big tall mountains! I also loved school! I started Elementary school in a six room schoolhouse that had been built in the late 1800′s! It was the coolest place to go to school, and we weren’t happy when our loving parents got a new, modern school built for us! I did well in school and loved it. During the summers my favorite place to be was the air-conditioned library. I absolutely love to read! When I was 17, I met a homeschooling family and was impressed by their children. From that point on, I devoured information on homeschooling and knew that’s what I wanted to do someday. While attending Utah State University (go Aggies!) I met my husband and we now have 6 children that we are homeschooling. I graduated from USU with my degree in Family & Consumer Sciences and spent time working in Consumer Protection, and teaching courses at the University. That’s when I found out how much I LOVE to teach and to create inspiring curriculum. I have an entrepreneurial streak and always have new ideas bubbling up inside me. I wish I’d had the challenges and opportunities of a place like Williamsburg Intermediate when I was my daughter’s age! I feel privileged to be part of Williamsburg and the lives of my students. I am passionate about Education and raising up leaders for our future! When I find spare moments in my day, I will sleep if it is possible and if not, then I love to play piano, cross-stitch, crochet, bake, read, or be outside with my kids.
Megan Reynolds | Leadership Coach
I have always had a great passion for learning and exploring! I grew up in a large family where education was always prioritized and an amazing mother who homeschooled all of her seven children. As the youngest in my family, I loved interacting with my older siblings and was inspired in academic accomplishment through their actions and examples. Throughout my schooling years I came to see the difference that excellent mentors can make in education. I have always been a hands-on learner and loved spending time developing my talents in the arts, and, thanks to homeschooling, was able to really dive into those topics. Because of the mentors and examples placed around me, along with the ability I had to take charge of my own education, I was able to finish my High School education at the age of 16 and had incredible work and schooling opportunities because of that. I am currently studying for an undergraduate degree in Business and Art at Southern Virginia University and am loving every minute. I am honored to be a part of the incredible team at Williamsburg Intermediate, and I love that they all help youth take charge of their own education and develop a deep level of understanding and a love of learning. When not studying or teaching, I spend my time in the mountains, painting, reading, dancing, and playing piano.
Allison Merrell | Leadership Coach
I grew up in house full of the love of learning. My mom kept the encyclopedias, dictionary, and world globe next to the dinner table so whenever a question arose we were prepared. My favorite activity was spinning the globe, putting my finger down, and looking up the country that it landed on. Later in life, I lived in some of those countries like Japan, Israel, and Jordan. I earned a degree in Middle East Studies/Arabic and have studied Japanese in professional institutions, but my favorite way of learning about the world is being in it, seeing it, and getting to know the people in it. I’m also passionate about cooking, reading, cycling, and my newly started family. I love working with the students at Williamsburg Intermediate and learning with them along the way in their educational journey.
Peter A. Jensen| Leadership Coach
I grew up in rural farm country in Riverside Utah. I come from a family of nine brothers and one sister. After school I spent two years in London, England. I then attended Utah State University, ultimately receiving my degree in Political Science. While at school I met and married my wife Tammy. After graduation, I received my commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force and proceeded to spend six years on active duty. While serving I have had the opportunity to deploy three times, twice to Iraq and once to the former Yugoslavia. After leaving active duty, I ran a private school in Northern Utah for two years. I currently live in St. George, Utah and have three girls aged eleven, eight and six. I still do reserve work for the military, spend lots of time reading and studying, but mostly love being with my family.
Catherine Reynolds| Leadership Coach
I started my education in the public school system but only made it through kindergarten before my parents decided they wanted to try something else. I was home-schooled for most of my elementary education but also tried a charter school. Eventually, my parents found a school that they finally felt met their children’s needs completely and their expectations for their children’s education at a small private school in American Fork, Utah. We ended up moving just to be closer to the school. Having this heritage of focus on education, I’ve always felt a solid education, that meets each child’s specific needs, plays a vital role for all of us as we mature through our daily lives. I attended a small liberal arts college, Southern Virginia University, for my entire undergraduate education and loved every minute of it! I fell in love with the English language, deep philosophical thought and the beautiful state of Virginia while in attendance there. Another thing I found and fell in love with while in Virginia was my wonderful husband! He is all I ever dreamed of and more and we are enjoying living in Virginia still today. We love to spend time in the outdoors together, read and discuss good literature and travel. I probably love traveling more than he does but we love doing it together. We are expecting our first child in March this year and are absolutely ecstatic that we will soon be parents. Working for Williamsburg has been very fulfilling for both of us. It is a great privilege to take part in such a fundamental part of children’s lives and work with such amazing parents.
E. Jason Bowen| Leadership Coach
I am studying music performance at Southern Virginia University with dreams to become an opera singer and choral music conductor at the collegiate level. I have spent many years working with young people, and enjoy the insights and wisdom that they have to offer, as well as helping them grow to know who they are and what they have to contribute. I currently live in Buena Vista, VA with my wife.