Faculty & Staff Directory
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.
IT and Building Systems Manager
Michael Pacheco was hired to be the school’s first onsite IT and Building Systems Manager. Michael has a background in Organizational Management and Computer Information Systems from DeVry University. Michael's career has taken him to both the environmental and public health sectors, where he used his knowledge of technology and business to design highly successful and innovative systems that reduced overhead cost and increased productivity. Michael has a passion for learning and believes education and technology are the cornerstones of our civilization. Michael also participates on the school's Mentorship Program, teaching programing and electronics classes.
The AmeriCorps program drew me to Crestone a year ago, now I’ve officially joined the Crestone Charter School team as the school counselor! I am overjoyed to become a bigger part of the school and the community.
My professional background has had a focus on school social work, primarily with students who have severe emotional and behavioral disabilities. Additionally, I’ve had roles in addiction recovery, child welfare, career readiness and planning, research and data collection and served on several board of directors.
Wanting to switch things up from my Denver city-life, I joined Alpine Achievers Initiative as an AmeriCorps member in Crestone. As the end of my dedicated time came into focus, leaving the collective amazing experience and community didn’t seem like a viable option. Serendipitously, I had the immense fortune to be considered for the school counselor position.
My school counseling philosophy lies in strength-based, solution-focused theory. This means finding tangible solutions to issues or struggles our students and families may be facing. I believe school can be a place for students to be transformed into connected, balanced individuals and guide students to become the best version of themselves.
A Colorado native, I love playing in the outdoors – hiking, camping, backpacking, kayaking, snowboarding, you name it! My best adventure buddy is my gorgeous husky-mix pup, Willie (namesake: Willie Nelson).
Cristina Cabeza-Kinney spent her childhood in South Florida and received her Bachelor of Science in Communication and Business from Florida State University in 2000. Since then, she has worked as a community organizer, group facilitator, restorative justice practitioner and as director of two non-profit organizations. For the past several years, as business manager, she has helped build her family's local thriving business at Blue Earth Design. Cristina has been a CCS parent since 2009 and a Crestone resident since 2004, discovering what it means to be well while raising her family and loving the land. Her passions lie in all kinds of reconciliations . . . financial and otherwise! Cultivating a culture of belonging wherever she works and plays grounds her and gives her life meaning. She loves organizing, learning, creating, singing, dancing and sauntering in the woods.
As Office Manager at CCS, she thrives in the diverse and dynamic work environment with the central service being to the leaders of tomorrow. She values building relationships and the trust necessary to grow together . . . students, parents, staff and community. Cristina looks forward to continuing to help build the CCS culture of belonging, where everyone enters and feels seen, heard, received, supported and loved.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Middle School and High School Science
Welcome, Lee, our new 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.
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.
Middle and High School Mathematics
Hi, I am Fabrício Raimundo Fernandes. I have been teaching Math since 2011 for middle school, high school and some personal classes to college's students. Before I started to teach math I worked as an Electronic Technician. I studied to be a technician during high school. I worked full time when I was18 years old and started to study Math because I have loved math since early elementary school. In 2011 I had my first opportunity to teach, and the experience changed my life forever. I love teaching math, being with the children and teenagers, and passing on my love for math. I decided to be the best teacher that I could be, so I earned a Masters Degree in Math. I also studied to teach in English.
Teaching in Crestone is a dream come true. My goals are to improve myself as a Math teacher and to improve myself as a person. It is a big challenge for me, maybe the biggest in my life, but I love challenges.
All School Art
My name is Ms. Kristy and I am honored to be a part of the teaching community at CCS. This year will be my 9th year of teaching Art at the charter school. My family and I have been part of the Crestone community for the past 10 years. I have 3 children who attend the charter school and have been teaching Art to children for the past 15 years. I believe that the importance of encouraging and developing Creativity cannot be overemphasized. My main goal in teaching Art is to help develop individuals who are creative thinkers. With the condition of the world today our children will be called upon to revise, change, and remake our world into to a new pattern of existence. It is imperative that the development of creativity is one of the most important considerations of our educational system. My role as the Crestone Charter School Art Teacher is to encourage children to progress beyond their present capacities and to come closer to a genuinely creative spirit.
Ned has been an educator for 5 years in both Chicago, IL and Yakima, WA. He studied Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University and developed a framework for how the whole child learns and grows from birth through young adulthood. Ned grew up skiing and hiking the Rocky Mountains north of Crestone in and around Fairplay, CO. He sees himself as a lifelong learner, always eager to learn more about the natural world, the stars, psychology, culture, truth, and much more. Ned is the PE teacher and an Academic Coach within CCS. He now lives in Crestone with his wife, and spends his free time reading, hiking, cycling and building a garden from scratch.
Welcome, April, our new Custodian, and Van Driver! April was born and raised in Crestone, and therefore, knows more about the history of Crestone than most people.
April is excited to work at the Crestone Charter School because she wants to support our students in any way she can. With her incredible energy and enthusiasm, she has already prepared and painted Rainbow Cave and reorganized our storage, there is more to come.
April gets joy and fulfillment from maintaining a place in order and cleanliness. What a gift that April has joined our team.