Middle School Math
Elayne was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Before teaching, she was a Chef for 10 years. Elayne received her B.A. from the College of Santa Fe. She has been teaching at Monte since 2008. Elayne teaches 7th and 8th grade Math. Her priority is to help students become less fearful of Math and build their confidence, while teaching them to take ownership in the classroom. She loves doing triathlons and watching her two girls excel in their own sport.
Graciela 'Chela' Butler
Graciela “Chela” Butler hails from San Gabriel, California. She graduated from San Gabriel High School in 1978 before attending the College of Santa Fe, where she earned a volleyball scholarship and was the Knights starting setter for four seasons. She earned her BS degree in Psychology in 1982 and her teaching endorsement from CSF in 1985. Chela began her teaching career in the Santa Fe Public Schools in 1985 at DeVargas Middle School and also began a 30-year volleyball coaching career. In 1987 she became the head volleyball coach at Santa Fe High School. In 1991 she took over the head coaching duties at St. Michael’s High School, where she led the Lady Horsemen to numerous district titles and a state championship in 2002. In 2013 she joined the faculty at Monte Del Sol Charter School, where she has served in a variety of academic roles. She has also guided the Dragons varsity volleyball program for the past 4 seasons. Overall she has earned 350 varsity volleyball coaching wins over a 28 year career.
Alfredo is a Santa Fe native. He received his B.A in Contemporary Music from Santa Fe University of Art and Design. His areas of proficiency are drums/percussion, guitar, and digital music. In addition to this he received training and certification for theology, ecclesiology as well as children, youth and family ministry through University of the Nations. His ministry experience extends over various parts of Latin America, the US, and China. Along with investing in the music education of Santa Fe, he is also a Pastoring-teacher for a local faith community in which he oversees an internship program for young adults and designs contexts for spiritual formation.
Middle School Counselor
Tonia Caselman joined Monte del Sol's counseling team this year. She earned her Masters in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma and her PhD in Human Development from Oklahoma State University. She is licensed as a clinical social worker and has worked with children and youth in schools, group homes, therapeutic foster care, inpatient psychiatric care and private practice settings. Tonia also taught social work at the University of Oklahoma for 15 years and has published numerous articles, books and therapeutic games. She enjoys hiking, gardening, entertaining and travel.
Culinary Arts, Garden Integration, Chef
Originally from El Paso, Texas, Michelle moved to Santa Fe in 2003 and co-owns Coriander Catering. She has cooked for former presidents and vice presidents, including George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Vicente Fox of Mexico. While other schools are trying to encourage students to choose vegetables over processed junk food, Michelle and her wife and co-chef Leslie Chavez provide Monte students with good, healthy breakfast and lunch made from the freshest raw ingredients every day.
Chavez’ first love is history. She came to food through history, especially the history of the Southwest. When she was a child in Gallup, New Mexico, her dad would load the family in the car and go bouncing down the red dirt roads exploring ancient places like Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Canyon de Shelly. They would go artifact hunting and almost always found arrowheads or pottery shards out in the desert. When she’s not spending her time being a stepmom and conducting classes at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, Michelle also gardens and mentors young chefs.
Biology, Computer Science, Intro to Sustainability
Rhonda Crespo was raised in Kentucky but has lived in Santa Fe over half of her life. Upon hearing that there were teacher shortages in our community, she quit her job in banking and became a teacher. Rhonda earned her Bachelors degree from NMHU and Masters degree from NM Tech, with an emphasis in Environmental Geology. She has taught for seventeen years, and she teaches our biology, AP biology, computer science, forensic science, and sustainability courses. She has actively sponsored winning students in INTEL's Science Fair, Supercomputing Challenge, and HOSA, and she was a Golden Apple Nominee in 2011.She has five children and enjoys spending time with her family and her dogs
Christopher de Jesus
Special Services and School Safety Coordinator
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it’s stupid.” --Albert Einstein.
Overcoming great odds academically and socially, Christopher “DJ” De Jesus’s path to Monte has been an adventure. Growing up in a single parent home, struggling with learning disabilities throughout his secondary education, DJ felt like that fish who was told to climb a tree. With support from his family and pure determination, he has gone on to earn multiple degrees, most recently a Masters Degree in Education at Goddard College in Vermont. His Master's thesis examined the past and present American educational system, his personal experiences, and explored historic and current trends that led to the current state of our education system.
DJ has studied and traveled in Cuba, Mexico, Spain, and Puerto Rico. He seeks to empower students to set academic and personal goals and guide them to embrace education as a way to attain their academic and life goals.
Middle School Science, High School Trades Math
Bio coming soon!
Lorraine Edge Castillo
High School Math, Middle School Arts
Bio coming soon!
David Esquibel was born in Costa Rica and raised in New Mexico. He studied at U.N.M and received a Bachelors degree in Sociology (with a minor in Spanish) and then a Master's in counseling. David shares four children (with Cara): Diego (22), Ana (20), Lucia (12, going on 17), and Joaquin (10). His dreams include playing in a band, playing hoops with Lebron, AND nurturing community at MDS.
Born and raised in Santa Fe, Ben went to St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX to earn BA in English with minor in Studio Art. He returned to Santa Fe where he attended St. John’s College Graduate Institute to earn the MA in Liberal Education, and then attained NM Secondary teaching license with TOEFL endorsement. Ben taught ESL and general math and algebra at Santa Fe Community College, and taught English in Durango, Mexico and in Galicia and the Canary Islands in Spain.
Ben been exploring vegetarian cooking for nearly 30 years and has been practicing yoga for about 25 years. He speaks Spanish and Italian, loves travel and meeting people from different cultures. Ben is fascinated by landscape design, gardening and wine. (Level One Sommelier)
Judy grew up in the Bronx in New York City and is a first generation American, with parents from Poland (now Ukraine) and the former Yugoslavia. She has a BFA from the Boston Museum School/Tufts University. Straight out of art school she was invited to join the staff of Subway News, an underground punk tabloid, and captured the flavor of that era through her photography. In 1985 she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where she was the first recipient of the Willard Van Dyke award for her fine art photography.
She has an extensive background in communications, marketing, development, book design, publishing and eco-tourism. In addition to her work at Monte, she works as a thinking partner and creativity consultant, and is passionate about blazing a trail for social change and leading from the heart. Her recent projects have involved organizations working on issues as diverse as open space and land stewardship; border/refugee injustice; and educational and economic infrastructure for a Maasai community in Kenya. She loves working with students at Monte to discover their passion and be supported by mentors in our community.
Dr. Robert Jessen
Head Learner, Spanish Language Arts
Robert took the helm of Monte del Sol as Head Learner / Principal in 2015 after joining the Monte del Sol Faculty in 2009 to teach Spanish following ten years teaching Latin American politics and serving as chair of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Santa Fe. Robert earned his Ph.D from Northwestern University studying relations between Tarahumara Indians in Mexico and their Mestizo neighbors. Robert has a mother from Spain on one side and a grandfather from Denmark on the other, and a wife from Chihuahua. His son graduated from Monte in 2018. He also teaches 12th grade Economics.
11th grade U.S. and AP U.S. History
Esther Kovari joined the Monte faculty in 2011. She grew up in London, England, which accounts for her slightly odd accent. She was educated at Cambridge University, where she earned a BA in Anthropology, and at the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned a Master’s degree in Agricultural and Resource Economics. Her first career was in agricultural development, and she co-founded the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association in the 1990s. Esther is the coach for Monte’s Model United Nations club.
Most of Jane's educational career was in Australia. After graduating from the University of Iowa in Special Education, Education and Psychology, Jane went to Sydney, Australia as a special education teacher. She returned to Iowa for a Master’s degree, and then returned to Western Australia where she began a career working with behavior and emotionally challenged students. She became a lecturer in Educational Psychology, and later a Principal in remote Aboriginal communities. She worked as a lecturer at the Fremantle campus of University of Notre Dame in Aboriginal Education and Special Education, and was a consultant for developing the National Curriculum for Australia. She came to Santa Fe 2003 and was a Program Support Specialist before going back to Australia where she worked in the Flying Squad to troubleshoot in remote Aboriginal schools. She returned to Santa Fe six years ago as a Work Study Coordinator in Santa Fe Public Schools, and joined the Monte del Sol team in 2017.
Middle School History
Wendy Leighton is a founding faculty member of Monte del Sol Charter School and served on the Governing Board for one year as a faculty representative. She has been teaching for 28 years. She earned her B.A. from Skidmore College with honors in anthropology and wrote her senior thesis on the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute. Ms. Leighton holds an M.A. from Temple University in anthropology and film. As part of her graduate school studies, she attended the Anthropology Film Center in Santa Fe where she wrote, directed and produced a short documentary The Cleaning of the Acequia Madre. Her 2004 film documents the struggles of the nomadic San people to legally regain their ancestral lands in Botswana. Botswana Bushmen was filmed by Monte del Sol students who interviewed two bushmen who traveled to America to raise awareness about the genocide they face in sub-Saharan Africa. Ms. Leighton currently teaches 7th grade Native American Studies and 8th grade U.S. History. She served for many years as a faculty co-sponsor of our Gay-Straight-Alliance (GSA) student club and continues to serve as a leader for diversity awareness and anti-oppression work at the school.
Alfredo Celedón Luján
Language Arts, Dean of Students
Alfredo Celedón Luján is in his 45th year of teaching. In 2018, he was elected Vice President of the National Council of Teachers of English. He has been a teacher and coach for the Pojoaque Valley Schools and Native American Prep School. He has also coached volleyball and basketball at Santa Fe Prep School. He has been a teacher of English, basketball coach, volleyball coach, and Athletic Coordinator at Monte del Sol. Alfredo is a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, a Golden Apple Fellow, and in 2017 has been named the recipient of the Leadership Award for the Advancement of People of Color by the National Council of Teachers of English. He has been a writer-in-residence for the Anchorage and Mat-Su School Districts in Alaska and at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts at Martha’s Vineyard. He is a graduate of New Mexico State University with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and English, the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College (MA English), and is currently working on a Master of Letters Degree. He enjoys hiking, writing, and camp fires. He is proud father of Amanda (teaches at UNM), Mabel (attends Goucher College), and Peter (student at Monte del Sol), and he is colleague Amy Schroth’s partner in life. In this, his 18th year at MdS, he is the Dean of Students.
High School Science
Ty McCormick teaches 9th grade Physics as well as AP Environmental Science. She joined Monte del Sol in 2017. Ty grew up in Michigan and attended Michigan State University on a scholarship for the women's crew team. After graduating in 2003 with a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture, she hiked the Appalachian Trail in its entirety, then went on to pursue a Masters of Arts in Agricultural Education and Extension from New Mexico State University. While at NMSU she also worked as a Graduate Assistant for the State 4-H office. Prior to this position, Ty taught Science and Horticulture at Santa Fe High School for 9.5 years.
An avid outdoors woman, Ty enjoys spending time in the Pecos and Santa Fe forests with her friends, husband and daughter.
Nancy Sue Michels
Nancy Sue Michels was born in New York and moved to Santa Fe in 1991. She is a founding faculty member at Monte del Sol. She has been teaching in Santa Fe since 1994. Nancy Sue earned her BFA from Alfred University, focusing on printmaking, drawing, painting and photography. Her artwork is mainly figurative. She has her Master’s degree from University of Santa Monica in Spiritual Psychology and Counseling. In 2008, Nancy Sue received the “Teachers who Inspire Award.” She loves to inspire the students to find their own artistic voices. She is also the coordinator of all graduation activities at Monte, from creating senior tiles to coordinating senior dinner to facilitating student graduation speakers and the graduation ceremony. She has served as a Faculty Board Rep. She loves traveling and has traveled with students to Bali, Oaxaca, and India.
Bio coming soon!
Zoë Ana Nelsen
Assistant Head Learner, Testing Coordinator
Raised in Santa Fe, NM and having spent the majority of her life in the American Southwest, Zoë has a strong connection to the region. In 2000 she received a B.A. in Sociology from Fort Lewis College, an M.A. in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies from The University of New Mexico in 2006, and is a Ph.D. student at Prescott College, in Sustainability Education and Leadership. She holds a New Mexico Level II Secondary Teacher’s License with endorsements in Social Studies, Physical Education and TESOL. Her research explores how restorative leadership practices and regenerative design principles might inform strategies for positive leadership growth within complex adaptive systems, such as schools. She serves on the Global Advisory Network for the Restorative Leadership Institute. Zoë enjoys walking her dogs, preparing fresh foods, gardening, telemark skiing, bike riding, swimming, and ceramics.
Sarah O'Kane Smith
Middle and High School History
Bio coming soon!
High School Math, Japanese
Shari (Sensei) teaches Japanese and Math. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she holds an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies with a minor in Engineering from the University of California. She lived, studied and worked in Japan for nine years. Most of that time was spent as a securities analyst on the Tokyo stock exchange, although she also worked as a translator and in the art market. She moved to Santa Fe to get a Master's Degree from St. John's College, and has been teaching, translating and interpreting Japanese for more than 25 years in New Mexico: at UNM, LANL, Sandia, SFCC and for the past 17 years, MdS. Shari is a Level 3 teacher with experience in everything from Pre-Algebra through Calculus (with the exception of Geometry!), along with Financial Literacy. She is proud that Monte del Sol has had a thriving Japanese program - including the first in the state to have AP Japanese - which has included six trips to Japan taking 10-20 students each time. Monte del Sol has nearly single-handedly maintained the Sister City relationship between Santa Fe and Tsuyama, Japan; our students even hosted 10 students from Tsuyama this past summer. Someday Sensei hopes to get her PhD in Linguistics.
Giselle Piburn was born and raised in Hollywood, California to Argentine parents that immigrated to the US. She is the director of the Mentorship program at Monte - an innovative education program in New Mexico - which has completed over 2800 mentorships over its 17-year history. She is a graduate of UCLA and spent a year at the Art Academy in Venice, Italy. She enjoys speaking Spanish and Italian. She started teaching in 2001 and ran an experiential learning program at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in collaboration with UNM for 12 years. Inspired by her students and the generosity of mentors in Santa Fe, Giselle is excited to come to work every day.
High School English, Health
John joined the Monte del Sol faculty in 2006 after leaving a career in Silicon Valley. He was also a professional, touring musician for a number of years has performed throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. He received his B.A. in English Literature from San Francisco State University and his M.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College right here in Santa Fe. He has served (twice!) as Faculty Representative for Monte del Sol’s Governing Board and has mentored several students. He is proud to have spent a summer in Oaxaca studying Spanish with the L.I.S.T.O. program and is currently finishing his TESOL certification. Currently, John teaches 8th, 11th, and 12th grade English, as well as Health. When he’s not teaching, he enjoys the outdoors, cooking, tennis, and napping.
Special Education Teacher and 9th and 10th Grade Case Manager
Daniel Rock has been involved with education, in various forms, for over ten years. He graduated from Unity College in Maine in 2001, with a Bachelor's degree in Parks and Recreation Management, worked as a Backcountry Ranger at White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, a Trail Builder for the National Parks Service in Colorado and Maine, and for city and state parks in Oregon. The seasonal park jobs led to a career transition. He began teaching adaptive winter sports for the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Colorado, and spent six seasons with this organization, as a Special Olympics Coach, one-on-one Instructor and Coordinator for a weekly Saturday program. This experience sparked his passion for working with people with exceptionalities. He moved to New Mexico in 2013, where he spent a year teaching life and work skills to adjudicated youth at Youth Shelters and Family Services. He received his teaching certificates in Science and Special Education, from Santa Fe Community College and taught Science and Special Education for three years with Santa Fe Public Schools before coming to Monte del Sol in 2017.
Bio coming soon!
Will Rushing joined the faculty in 2016 and has taught numerous subjects in the humanities department over the years. He currently teaches AP World History, U.S. Government, Economics, and Contemporary Mythology. He received a Bachelor’s degree in History from Long Beach State University and a Master’s degree in Early Adolescent Education from Bank Street College of Education. He worked briefly in the advertising industry in the 1990s before realizing that he had a calling in education. He was a middle school English and History teacher in New York City for ten years prior to moving to Santa Fe in 2012. He lives with his wife, daughter and dog near Santa Fe. When not working, he enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, nerding out on Star Wars and watching Tottenham Hotspur attempt to play football.
Spanish, Bilingual Education
Sonia Sánchez Cuesta is a native from Alicante, Spain. From a very young age, she was passionate about traveling the world and learning languages. Sonia holds a Master of Arts in Translation Studies (Spanish/English/German) from the University of Granada, Spain, and earned a Mastera in Bilingual Education from Eastern New Mexico University in 2017. Sonia is currently adjunct faculty at Santa Fe Community College, where she teaches advanced credit classes, which include Latino Contemporary Film, Latin-American Feminist Expression and Introduction to Hispanic Literature. Sonia is a National Board Certified Teacher in World Languages Other than English (Spanish), and has taught AP courses since 2005. Her passions are bilingual education, the outdoors, running free and travelling the world with her two children.
Humanities Department Chair, High School Language Arts
Amy Schroth is a career educator, now in her 34th year of teaching. She joined Monte del Sol in 2001, its second year of existence, and is currently teaching 9th, 12th, and AP English. Amy earned her BA at Dartmouth College and has two Master’s degrees-- an M.Ed. from Harvard Graduate School of Education and an MA in English from Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. Before arriving at Monte del Sol, Amy was English Department Chair at the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia; and Dean of Students and English teacher at the Dawson School in Boulder, Colorado. At Monte del Sol, Amy has served as Faculty Representative to the Board, member of the Strategic Planning core committee, and Humanities Department Chair. She is the National Honor Society faculty sponsor, and some years has produced and edited the school literary magazine, Winds of the Mind. Amy is a Maine native, and she spends as much of her summers there as she can--swimming, sailing, and eating lobster and blueberries! She is the proud mom of a Monte del Sol graduate.
Middle School Language Arts and High School World History
Dayni is a writer and multimedia artist. She teaches 8th grade English, 10th grade World History and a middle school elective. Dayni received a BA in Political Science from The College of Santa Fe, an MFA in writing from The Vermont College of Fine Arts, and an MA in Political Theory from University College, Dublin. Dayni is a long time Santa Fe resident who has recently returned from living in Germany and Ireland for several years.
Michael Webb was born in Racine, Wisconsin and moved to Santa Fe in 1990 to attend the College of Santa Fe. Upon graduating with degrees in both Photography and Art History, Michael decided to stay in the region to build his art career. He exhibited his own art, worked as a studio assistant, and was a fine art framer.
After years of working in the arts, Michael was recruited by Monte del Sol and given an opportunity to teach photography. After joining the ranks of Monte del Sol in 2000, he went on to build a comprehensive and experiential photographic arts program. He has served as the Arts Coordinator and faculty representative to both the governing and foundation boards. Michael continues to wear many hats at Monte del Sol and is an integral part of the school as it moves forward through the twenty first century.