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 had had an organization like Williamsburg on our team, I would have been better prepared! Now I have three children of my own whom 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 stories to my three children.
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, traveling, 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 summa 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 one child, a new baby, but plan on someday having enough kids to warrant a large kitchen table. We currently live in Buena Vista, Virginia.
David Rees | Mentor
I have been tutoring math and science for over six years and have been a student of science my entire life. I love explosions, unpredictable chemical reactions, figuring out why stuff does what it does, and eating hot slices of Hawaiian-style pizza. My greatest award in science was being voted “most likely to be a mad scientist” by my classmates at Carbon High. I’m close to finishing a BS degree from Southern Utah University in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, with an emphasis in classical scientific thought. My wife, children and I live in Cedar City, Utah. My background in computer technology helps me find fun and unique ways to make math and science come alive in Williamsburg’s online courses.
Jackie de Laveaga | Mentor
Words, words, words. They follow me everywhere . . . and I love it. When I was eleven, my family moved into a home just four blocks from the public library. We could have lived in a refrigerator box, and I would not have cared because I spent all of my waking hours at the library. Not much has changed, but I don’t live in a refrigerator box now, either. Instead, I stockpile books around the house. I’ve had the privilege to carve a life path that has kept me buried in books, kids, and education. I earned a BA from Prescott College with multiple areas of emphasis: English, Writing for Publication, and Secondary Education. Soon after, I began teaching college writing courses, while simultaneously editing and publishing a magazine. Over the years, I have mentored thousands of students (from primary school to college) in writing, literature, and drama. I prefer to teach a formulaic style of writing first, because it takes the mystery out of creating articulate written communication. While students master the science of writing, I begin to invite them into the art of writing as well. Working with Williamsburg students has been a delight. They are positive, excited to learn, driven, and self-reliant—every mentor’s dream. To my fellow bookies—some of my favorite authors are Roald Dahl, Alan Paton, Charles Dickens, Peter Kreeft, C.S. Lewis, and Alexis de Tocqueville.
My husband and I have always shared a passion for exciting, engaging, eccentric education, and this drove us to home-educate our own five children. We live in Prescott, Arizona. We have been mostly eclectic in our choices, which makes for a fabulous (yet chaotic) educational journey. My children have benefitted from Williamsburg’s courses as part of their homeschool curriculum. With our oldest nearly out of college, and our youngest turning three soon, I can assuredly say that immersing myself in fabulous education is a calling I love to perpetuate. Some favorite pastimes: hiking, sitting around campfires, book clubs, live theater, going to the beach, traveling, and two-hour family dinners with lots of loud talking and laughing.
Will Miller | Mentor
Fitness and education are two of my passions in life. I am very fortunate to be able to live out these passions in a variety of ways. In addition to mentoring at Williamsburg Academy, I teach at a middle school where I mentor in healthful living and coach many of my amazing students in volleyball and track. I hold a BA in Physical Education from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and an MA in Instructional Technology from North Carolina State University. I enjoy sharing my expertise in Physical Education and Instructional Technology to mentor students and enable them to make healthy living a lifestyle. I strongly believe that students need to experience a healthy lifestyle rather than merely reading about it–that’s why I do what I do.
I live in Raleigh, North Carolina with my wife, Emily, and our beloved dog, Sadie. Emily and I enjoy living in NC, close to both of our families, and our favorite vacation is relaxing on a beach, anywhere. When I am not teaching/mentoring or hanging out with my wife, you will find me training. Running is my primary athletic pursuit, but I am developing a growing interest in triathlons. My favorite races to compete in are the half marathon and the full marathon. I also enjoy playing guitar, serving at my church, water sports, volleyball, and hanging out with Emily.
Glen Stilson | Mentor
Being inside makes me crazy, so I spend every possible minute outside. I grew up in areas where things like fences and boundaries just didn’t exist, so my spirit is a bit rowdy. Hiking, hunting, fishing, backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking – as long as it’s outside, I enjoy doing it! I live in Arizona, where the outdoor environments range from low cacti-filled desert to high altitude snow capped mountains, which makes this one of the best states to live in. I have a wonderful family who also loves the outdoors, and they are a wild bunch. My kids help to keep me young and excited about life, and my wife is my compass – she keeps me pointed in the right direction, in every aspect of life. My family is the source of my energy and the joy I have in life.
If you’ve been to Elevation, you probably know me as “Sarge.” I’m the founder and head instructor of Independence Training and Chief Skull Crusher at Elevation Outdoors. At Independence Training, we supply instruction in firearms, emergency medical, and survival to military and law-enforcement personnel, as well as to everyday citizens. I started this business a few years ago, after discharge from the US Army. Our company ethos is Confidence, Self-Reliance, and American Spirit––and we follow these ethics in everything we do. Through this experience, I have gleaned a repertoire of amazing, true survival stories, helpful tricks for remembering how to respond in emergencies, and practical suggestions that cut out the academic garble and get right to the crux of emergency response.
I also founded an outdoor mastery program for youth because I love spending time with students, helping them increase their love of the outdoors and increase their confidence to powerfully respond to all of life’s challenges.
Corey Strange | Mentor
Allison Merrell | Mentor
I grew up in a 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 | Mentor
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.
Abby Alley |Mentor
My name is Abby Alley and I am from Ogden, Utah. I love to travel, see movies, explore and play with friends and family!
I attended Brigham Young University and graduated with a BA in History with a secondary education certification. I studied abroad in London, England where I met my husband, Addison Alley. I spent two years teaching World and Utah History to 6th and 7th graders in an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. While there, I participated in the accreditation process as well as the creation of curriculum for the World and Utah History programs. In late 2012 my husband and I welcomed our first child, Alice, into the family. We moved to Washington D.C. in the summer of 2013 so Addison could attend medical school at George Washington University. We currently live in Arlington, Virginia. I am super excited to be a part of the Williamsburg team!
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.