top of page

Faculty & Staff Directory 

Thomas Cleary



Thomas Cleary has 19 years of teaching experience in Elementary, Middle School, and High School.  He taught for nine years at CCS, and nine years in American curriculum schools in India and Mali, W. Africa. He is credentialed and experienced in elementary general education, secondary math, and secondary science. He is also certified as a Master Environmental Educator through the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education. Prior to becoming a formal educator he spent 15 years as an outdoor instructor and wilderness course director.  

His commitment to Crestone and experiential education brought him back to CCS with the desire to build upon its mission and core values: stimulating experiential and academic programming that includes nurturing the whole student and their relationships and responsibilities to self, community, and environment. His goal as a school leader is to create a supportive atmosphere where students and staff feel safe to explore, grow, and learn.

Thomas is an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys rock climbing, river rafting, skiing, bicycling, and soaking in hot springs with his wife and two young adult children.

April Thomas


Building Systems Manager

April has been at CCS since 2018 as custodian and now facilities manager. She cares for the kids at least as much as the building and helps out no matter what is asked.


School Social Worker and Social Emotional

Ken COmes to CCS from the front range, joining established family in the community. Ken received his Masters in Social Work over 20 years ago, but became a School Social Worker recently for the love of kids and a passion for helping keep them ready for learning!

Melissa Sladin


School Psychologist

Melissa Sladin is the new School Psychologist at CCS. She received her BA in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Naropa University, with a concentration in Mindfulness Based and Transpersonal Counseling, and she is finishing her Educational Specialist Degree in School Psychology this December from Emporia State University. She is driven to support students with diverse needs in a way that is non-judgemental, creatively approached, and honors every individual as the unique gift to the world that they are. She has experience with individuals from all walks of life, from kids on the autism spectrum, to youth with disabilities, to resettling refugees and those recovering from addiction. She is ecstatic to reenter the Crestone community in this role (after a 10ish year stint here several years ago) and looks forward to connecting, in service. Please don't hesitate to reach out!

Lynn Nehez

Lynn Nehez.jpg

Office and Business Manager

Lynn Nehez is our new office and business manager. She comes to us from Georgia where she spent years working in and directing a Montessori school including securing its non-profit status. She and her husband have dreamt of moving to Colorado and are looking forward to settling on a plot of land out in the valley. Lynn is passionate about education and is excited to support the growth and development of programming at CCS. Her experience with finance, staffing, and running a school is a perfect fit and she is a strong addition to the CCS team.

Orca Ross


Restorative Practices Coordinator


During her time at CCS Orca has worked as an AmeriCorps service member, a classroom aide, and the K-8 PE Teacher. In addition to committing her time to better the CCS community, she has also dedicated her life to the youth, holistic healing art, and healthy relationship building. Orca writes “I believe that if we want to change the world, we must change the way we relate to each other, starting with our young ones. We must speak from an honest heart, ready to give and receive love, listen to each other and be responsible for one another”. What she says is in short how Restorative Justice achieves its goal, described on the Colorado Restorative Justice website as “making a concerted effort to support the development of Restorative Practices in Schools that train, implement and practice with fidelity and consistency over the long term”. As Restorative Practices Coordinator, Orca will work with students, teachers, parents, and the community to embody the message and practices of restorative justice in the school.

Umesh Dhakal


IT Manager

Bio coming soon!

Jane Elliott


Early Elementary

Jane Elliott has been passionate about learning and teaching her whole life, and has always been interested in alternative approaches to education that include travel, project-based learning, community service, and creativity. She has extensive experience teaching children in the elementary grades, with unique expertise in reading, writing, and math instruction. She’s also trained and certified as a school counselor.


This is how she sums up her teaching philosophy: “The most important gifts we can give a child are the abilities to explore, self-reflect, evaluate, and ask questions and seek answers. As educators, it is our job to lead children toward this.”

Cary Yang

20210922_105322 (2).jpg

Hi, I am Ms. Cary.  I am from Minneapolis, Minnesota and I am excited to be here in Crestone, Colorado.  I have been in education for 17 years working in primary education as a classroom teacher, literacy coach, writing teacher, also as a reading and math interventionist.  I like pie, birds, and the color blue.  The river birch is my favorite tree and floating in northern Minnesota lakes sounds like a wonderful day.

Daya Scheide


Daya has worked at the charter school off and on for many years as Middle school teacher, music lead, theater inspiration and now the 4/5 classroom Lead. He bring passion, personality, and creativity to every hour he spends with his students

Denise Vargas

20210922_081519 (2).jpg

Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies

Denise Vargas comes to us from Pueblo, CO, as the middle school ELA/SS instructor. She earned a master's degree in applied natural science and a bachelor’s in biology. She began her teaching career as a  Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho, Southern Africa (1987-1991). Her eclectic teaching philosophies range from Paideia which implements socratic seminars to Montessori that allows her to guide the child following their curiosity and natural development. She is thankful for her ability to teach a variety of subjects to a diverse population of students which includes elementary, MS, HS, and the General Educational Development test to adults.  Her passion for the natural world allowed her to be an outdoor educator at the Nature and Wildlife Discovery Center in Pueblo/Beulah areas and the love of children granted her the opportunity to create fun programs at the Pueblo Library. Most of all, Denise is connected to Crestone through her spiritual practice and has traveled here since 2002 and considers Crestone as her second home.    

Lee Eversole


Middle School and High School Science


Lee, is our secondary science teacher! Lee comes to us from Leadville with extensive teaching experience both in science and math. In addition, he is a geologist. 

Lee lived and taught on Native reservations where he learned restorative practices first hand, long before schools introduced restorative practices into their discipline approach. Lee has a gift for teaching and was recommended to us by one of his students and former LINK-student. 

Lee loves to write, to Practice Martial Arts, he loves his pets, and of course loves his mother and two sons, who are going to move to Crestone with him.

Sam Goering


High School Language Arts and Social Studies

Sam Goering, HS English Language Arts and Social Studies, comes with four years of experience teaching in Longmont where he used traditional methods but also experiential and integrated approaches. His recent work in environmental education and project-based learning at Wild Bear Nature Center furthers his fit with CCS.

Sam: “I am ecstatic to move to Crestone and work at CCS. I bring a passion for the humanities, the outdoors, and adventurous learning. I am excited to connect with our young adults and utilize democratic, student-centered learning. I put student choice at the center of my teaching practices, I design fun projects that incorporate authentic skills as I plan personalized, blended, and hybrid units. I am also fascinated by game-based and simulation-based learning--I love team-building activities and Dungeons & Dragons. I look forward to hiking and exploring the Sangre de Cristos and skiing Monarch! Last, you might recognize me as the alto saxophone player in The Alcapones.

Robin Chestnut


Middle and High School Mathematics

Robin comes to us with a doctoral in mathematics, years of teaching in undergraduate settings, experience in gaming and tutoring with students of all ages and now leading the G6-12 math program. He connects with students over math worksheets and in the band room from behind the drums with enthusiasm!

Jessica Webber


MS/HS Math remediation and support

Hello to family, staff, and students! My name is Layla and I'm currently the Mathematics Aid for grades six through twelve. I'm a lover of cats and coffee, and I thoroughly enjoy taking long drives and rainy weather. Before working here, I never would have guessed I'd want to be a teacher, but this job has brought such fulfillment and joy to my life. Working at CCS has been such an honor, as the kids are wonderful and the staff is a guiding hand, helping me through this experience. Mathematics has always been something that I understand and love, and helping the kids to understand and possibly enjoy it makes me extremely happy. I look forward to continuing working with them and working at CCS!

Jennie Orgaard


Office Admin assistant

Jennie Joined CCS in 2021 and has come back again to support the running of the office, partiularly financials. She plays a vital role providing stability with the office staffing changes during the summer and fall of 2022. Jennie loves to travel, spend time with her husband, and learn new things.  

Nina Gonzalez

Jordan Headshot.JPG

Theater and event production, Student government and mentorship coordination

Nina has been with ccs since 2022 arranging performances and recently expanding her role into HS student government and mentorships where she is developing new learning opportunities for all!

Kristy Knight

20211201_123355 (1).jpg

Kristy is a certified art teacher who has been with the school since at least 2014. See the displays she makes with kid art on the walls adorning CCS! She also has lead a variety of mentorships.

Patrick Campo

Isa Hill.jpg

Physical Education Teacher

Patrico leads our PE program K-8 with joy and enthusiasm fostering healthy competition and inspiring teamwork. He is also a father of 3 students.

Aaron Gottfried


Guidance Coordinator and Restorative Practices leader

Aaron comes to CCS with a wilderness therapy and restorative practices background. A no-nonsense communicator who is learning the student information system, credits, scheduling, post-high-school pathways and more, all with a heart for helping students succeed.

Cara LeMasters


Front Office Administrator

Cara has worked at the Crestone Charter School since 2022 because she wants to support our students in every way she can. With her incredible energy and enthusiasm, she gets joy and fulfillment from greeting all who enter the school and meeting their needs with a smile.


Sammy Prien

Sammy Prien.JPG


Sammy Prien is CCS’s second custodian. At the risk of over-stating, he is passionate about cleaning. He co-founded a cleaning service in Denver where he worked both on the floor and behind the desk, successfully building a thriving business which he later sold to his business partner. Moving to Crestone has brought his skills to CCS and he has settled into one building, working with April, and getting to know the children and teachers.


bottom of page