Jeneille Branen : Executive Director

Jeneille Branen

Executive Director

Ed.S. Educational Leadership, University of Idaho

M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction, University of Idaho
B.A. Elementary Education, University of Montana
PPCS Founding Teacher

I began my career shortly after receiving my bachelor’s degree and I have been involved in several aspects of education over the past 16 years. I started my career teaching kindergarten and then third grade in public schools in Arizona. After my husband, Josh finished his master’s degree, we moved from Arizona to Illinois. I taught kindergarten and coached high school cheer leading in a small rural school. The following year, Josh wanted to pursue his PH.D, so we moved to Moscow. I worked full time on my master’s degree as a graduate assistant. The culmination of my degree in 2005 was the implementation of a community literacy education / wellness event. The project included design and presentation of literacy activities for kindergarten readiness. Aspects of the project continue to be in place in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. The project was funded by a community grant and donations. I also had the opportunity to help influence future teachers by acting as the affiliate faculty for the University of Idaho. I taught several courses that range from curriculum development to literacy assessment. In 2007, I used my expertise in kindergarten readiness and the transition to elementary school by helping a number of pre-school age children and their parents obtain the skills and knowledge to make a successful entry into the elementary classroom. I was in the role of a parent educator and preschool facilitator for Spokane Community College. I also co-developed the Good-Natured Pre-school. The camp exposed children to the natural, local environment at Virgil Philip’s Farm in Moscow while providing inquiry-based skills to understand the world around them. I am so honored to be one of the founding teachers at Palouse Prairie. I am passionate about the school and want to make a difference. My heart and soul belong to this school and I will continue to push myself as a learner in my role as Executive Director by providing and supporting students to receive a rigorous, joyful learning experience through the EL Education model. I am lucky enough to have a family that supports my passion. I am married to Josh Branen and I have two children beautiful girls that have been lucky enough to attend Palouse Prairie: Julia and Addison.


Debbie Berkana : Business Manager

Debbie Berkana

Business Manager

M.L.S. Emporia State University
M.S. Accounting, Dana College
PPCS Startup Coordinator

I have a background in accounting and information services and have had the privilege to work in a variety of places including as an accountant in a CPA firm and a large corporation, and as an information specialist with the Colorado State Department of Education and the WSU Libraries. When the school’s founding board was looking for assistance in the spring of 2009, I was thrilled to join the crew. While I may answer the phone, my main focus is supporting the amazing Palouse Prairie staff through sound financial reporting and management, so they can do their great work with our students. I have a passion for supporting education and personal growth both at the school and in the community. You might find me teaching compassionate communication parenting classes or empowering people through life coaching support when I’m not at the office. I am the proud parent of two boys, one in college and one whom is a PPCS graduate, now at the high school. I am grateful for the qualities of character that were nurtured in my son while at PPCS, along with the academic rigor.


Trish Gardner : Administrative Assistant

Trish Gardner

Administrative Assistant

M.S., B.S. Biological Systems Engineering, University of Idaho
B.A. Theatre, University of Utah

I was raised in southern Idaho and spent my youth and young adulthood in the performing arts. I performed in musical theatre productions and with modern dance companies in Salt Lake City, Tucson, Chicago and New York. After returning to Idaho I pursued another passion and eventually received degrees from the University of Idaho in Biological Systems Engineering. Moscow, marriage and parenthood have changed my goals, but not my dreams. I find myself doing meaningful work supporting adults I respect and admire, and kids I cherish, in an environment of fun, challenge, and compassion. Who could ask for more?


Rhonda Brooks : Special Education | 504 Coordinator

Rhonda Brooks

Special Education | 504 Coordinator

I grew up in Spokane, Washington. My father was an elementary school principal. My brother is a teacher and coach at a high school in Spokane too. But, I had no interest in teaching when I started college.  I originally pursued a Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine Degree at WSU.  One day, during a time of volunteering at an elementary school in Pullman in 1976 I met an autistic boy. He changed my life and career direction forever. I changed majors and went into Special Education. I left WSU and returned to Eastern Washington University to complete my BA/ED degree. I graduated with honors with majors in Special Education and Reading and minors in Psychology, Biology and Math. I have now taught Special Education for 25 years.  In the years that I took a break from teaching, I worked extensively with adults, college age students and children with special needs as their case manager and service coordinator. I came to Palouse Prairie in 2011.  It has been great to be a part of the Palouse Prairie teaching staff over the years as the K-8 Special Education Teacher and Special Education Coordinator.  Additionally, I am the Section 504 Coordinator for the District. When I am not at work, my time is spent with my other ‘family members’.  These include; Andy, my Miniature Bull Terrier,  Ephraim and Joey; my two African Grey Parrots, Angel my Paso Fino and Carys my Section C Welsh Pony.


Jessica Dahlin : CREW Counselor / Behavioral Specialist

Jessica Dahlin

CREW Counselor / Behavioral Specialist

M.S. Curriculum and Instruction, University of Idaho
B.A. of Education, University of Idaho
PPCS Founding Teacher

My name is Jessie Dahlin. I am a Moscow native, born and raised. I have two children, Tatum 18 and Taylor 15, both students at Moscow High School. Go Bears! I love Moscow because it is the perfect little big town. It’s nestled between bigger cities and the middle of nowhere. One day I can have a nice dinner downtown or go shopping and see a show in Spokane, and the next be out in the mountains sitting around the campfire or rafting on the river. For a slightly citified country girl like myself, it’s paradise.

Since I was little I have been a Vandal at heart so it only makes since that I attended the University of Idaho. I earned my bachelors of science degree in Elementary Education in 2005. Recently I returned to attain my Master’s degree from the U of I in Curriculum and Instruction. The research I conducted, as part of this program was focused on the impact a compassionate environment and interactions have on learning. Palouse Prairie is the perfect backdrop for this research because of its culture that fosters acts of kindness and service, the very foundation of compassion.

I have been a teacher and a parent with Palouse Prairie since it opened its doors in 2009. I have taught 1st through 4th grade. Recently I moved into our new CREW counselor/ Behavior Specialist position. I am excited to be working with students K-8, helping them learn the social, emotional and behavioral skills necessary for success. I love spending my days helping students solve problems and overcome challenges. It is so exciting to see students discover something about themselves they didn’t think possible and know within themselves, “yes, I can do that and I can do it well!”


Katie Sorenson : Kindergarten Teacher

Katie Sorenson

Kindergarten Teacher

B.S. Biology, Boise State University

I was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. I moved to Boise to attend Boise State and earned a B.S. in Biology while having a wonderful time volunteering in their raptor program. My start in education was in a Montessori school where I quickly found my place in life. I was lucky enough to bridge my love of science and teaching by bringing a bird education program into my school. The program is still in place today. I moved to the Palouse in 2014 and started teaching at Palouse Prairie the year after. Outside of school you will see me with my eyes towards the sky looking for birds. I love teaching kindergarten and helping children discover what they are truly capable of and supporting them through their school journey.


Alissa Klemencic : 1st Grade Teacher

Alissa Klemencic

1st Grade Teacher

B.A. English, Gonzaga University

My name is Alissa Klemencic and I am originally from Bishop, California. Growing up in the Eastern Sierra I was spoiled with endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. After graduating from Gonzaga University (Go Zags!) I spent a few years teaching outdoor education. I spent many summers at a camp near Lake Tahoe facilitating a challenge course and sharing my love of rock climbing with campers. I lived in North Carolina where I taught environmental education and discovered how much I love bugs. Taught coastal and forest ecology on the central coast of California where I made friends with raptors and learned the art of falconry. With these experiences in experiential and outdoor education it became clear that Expeditionary Learning was the model of education that I was most passionate about and where I knew I needed to be as an educator. This brought me to Moscow and Palouse Prairie. I am grateful to have been welcomed into this wonderful school community. I love seeing the ownership that our students take over their own learning and getting to facilitate meaningful learning opportunities for them. Watching the students grow as they face challenges throughout the year and the excitement they have to share their learning with the world around them continues to drive my teaching and excitement for what primary students are truly capable of.


Cassie Schierman : 2nd Grade Teacher

Cassie Schierman

2nd Grade Teacher

M.A. Education, Oregon State University
B.S.Ed. Sport Science & Health Education, University of Idaho

Greetings! I am Moscow born and raised. I graduated from the University of Idaho in 2006 with degrees in Sport Science and Community Health. After graduating I moved to the woods of New Hampshire where I fell more in love with the outdoors and teaching children science through experiential learning. I came back to the West Coast and attended Oregon State University to get my M.A. Teaching. I enthusiastically returned to Moscow ready to jump into schools and incorporate my background in experiential education. I began working at Palouse Prairie in the Fall of 2013, and have loved the opportunity to work with second graders who are enthusiastic about learning and more compassionate than people twice their age (or older!). I enjoy challenging my students and giving them real-world opportunities to share their learning with the world. I am excited to continue working with Palouse Prairie and learning from our community of wonderful staff, students, and families.


David Schneider : 3rd Grade Teacher

David Schneider

3rd Grade Teacher

 

After graduating from W.S.U with a Sports Management degree, I started working at a Rec Center in Seattle.  After a few minutes in the after school program, it became clear that education would be my career.

I started at Edmonds Cyberschool in Edmonds, WA as a technology teacher.  Cyberschool (which has undergone more than a few name changes) was a public school program designed to support parents who homeschool their children.  After 5 years there, I went to a public university in Seattle that shall remain nameless to obtain my teaching certificate and Master’s Degree.  I worked in a traditional public school as a 3rd/4th/6th grade teacher in Kenmore, WA. for 11 years.  Some of the roles I undertook include organizing the district Math Olympiad, track coach, Summer Reading Program Director, WEA member of the Achievement and Accountability Workgroup for OSPI,and local union Vice-President.

I’ve been fortunate to experience innovative school cultures, strong school community tied to the greater local community.  These experiences, and learning from my students the great importance on developing character and successful habits, drew me to the vision of Palouse Prairie School and EL Education.

And shared W.S.U. roots with my wife Mary drew us back to Pullman when we decided to move from the Seattle area in search of a vibrant, welcoming place to live with less population density after taking a year off to travel and remodel our home.

As an educator, I want to make sure that students know themselves as learners, develop their interpersonal skills, take risks, problem solve creatively, think critically, and are valued for their abilities and contributions to our community.


Renee Hill : 4th Grade Teacher

Renee Hill

4th Grade Teacher

Ph.D. Environmental Science, University of Idaho
M.S. Nutrition, Cornell University
B.S. Nutrition Science, University of California

I initially became involved with PPCS in 2008 as a volunteer for the board in the process of starting the school. I helped recruit the first Palouse Prairie students by calling families in the Moscow area to tell them about the Expeditionary Learning (EL) model and the new school that was soon to open. Since then I have been involved in the PPCS community in many ways. Since 2014 I have volunteered for the climbing club to help teach middle school students how to face challenges with grit and self-compassion. In teaching Art and Diversity in the middle school in 2016 I was continually impressed with how students approach difficult issues with curiosity and compassion. Over the years I have also supported students in presenting high quality expedition final products throughout the local community. In all my work in public health, nutrition, natural resource management, and the nonprofit sector in Latin America and the U.S., I have continually sought opportunities to be involved in education. I have fifteen years of experience teaching, advising and mentoring students. My K-12 experience includes co-teaching tenth grade Accelerated Biology at Moscow High School for the 2013-2014 school year, developing and teaching a Qualitative Research and Art course for the Northwest Nations Upward Bound summer program at the University of Idaho (UI) in 2009, leading an after school English as a Second Language program for K-5 students in 2001-2002, and developing a 5th grade curriculum for the University of Idaho REACCH project to teach the influences of changing climate on agricultural practices throughout the Inland Northwest. I have also developed and taught several undergraduate and graduate courses at Universities in the U.S. and Chile. When I’m not teaching, I spend my time backpacking, climbing, running, mountain biking, cooking, laughing with friends, and appreciating the beautiful world. As the fourth grade teacher at Palouse Prairie Charter School I aim to help students enjoy learning content by engaging in processes that help them more deeply understand themselves, each other and the world we live in. I am excited to join my students in their lifelong journey of self-discovery!


Bridget Berg : 5th Grade Teacher

Bridget Berg

5th Grade Teacher

B.S. Botany, Humboldt State University
Minor: Scientific Diving​

I was born and raised in Seattle, WA, which is probably why I have always had an affinity for water. I graduated from Humboldt State University in Northern California with a B.S in botany and a minor in scientific diving. While finishing my undergraduate degree, I traveled to Australia for a summer and did a lot of scuba diving on both the Ningaloo Reef and The Great Barrier Reef. Seeing the bleaching events taking place there solidified a deep desire to help the situation. At this time though, I was still searching for how to do that in a way that felt natural to me. As much as I love science, I was also learning that I did not feel at home in a lab. After graduating from HSU, my partner and I traveled around the states and worked on small-scale organic farms in Colorado, Texas, and Minnesota - an experience that was meaningful, educational, and helped us imagine what we would like our lives to look like. Among many eclectic jobs I have held, I have also worked as a forestry research assistant, climbing and collecting data in redwood trees up to 300 feet high!

Working as a teacher at Palouse Prairie has allowed me to bridge my love of science, the environment, reading, and working with kids. I love teaching the 6th Mass Extinction expedition because even though learning about the compromised state of our earth can be extremely hard, it also opens kid's eyes to ways people are helping, and inspires them to be a part of the solution too. I truly think the way to a more inclusive, kind, and just world is by teaching kids to care and take a leadership role in it.

When I'm not teaching, I love are running, making watercolor paintings of animals, reading, and spending time with my favorite person and partner, Eric.


Greg Pierce : Middle School Social Studies

Greg Pierce

Middle School Social Studies

B.A. Marine Biology, Sonoma State University
M.A. Teaching, Eastern Oregon University

​I am so excited to be apart of the Middle School team at PPCS! I have been teaching at PPCS for 5 years now and can honestly say I’ve never taught the same year twice. I started out as the K-8 PE teacher, then switched to teaching 6th grade, and am now part of the 6-8 Middle School team. Outside of teaching, the way that I experience the world, and center myself, is through rock climbing. My partner and I have traveled all over the western states on climbing trips and have climbed everything from desert towers in the Southwest to technical peaks just shy of 14,000ft in the high Sierras. Two years ago I began to share my love of the vertical world with a few middle school students at Palouse Prairie and this eventually evolved into the Palouse Prairie Climbing Club. As climbing club and its members progressed we saw a real need to expand those opportunities and so I created the Outdoor Leadership course series for our middle school. I am so excited to continue fostering a love for adventure, the outdoors, and the journey of self. I believe there are many ways of helping a middle school student discover these things, and I am thankful every day that I get to do it in a way that I am so passionate about!


Andrika Kuhle : Middle School Science

Andrika Kuhle

Middle School Science

M.S. Science, University of New Mexico
B.S. Science, Oregon State University

I grew up in Spokane, WA with a boisterous family of five kids. After high school and living abroad in Germany I ventured to Oregon State University for my geology undergraduate. Then I attended the University of New Mexico for my MS in geology. From there I lived in Alaska, Montana, and Hawaii before settling in Moscow. I have lots of years of professional experience working as a field geologist, water and environmental specialist, university instructor, and working with children. I am a parent of two boys who attend Palouse Prairie, and I have been affiliated with Palouse Prairie School since it’s founding. I am proud of my rich content background and am intrigued by the many different ways people learn. I love understanding the world and people around me. I also enjoy anything outdoors, especially backpacking, skiing, and running. My favorite description of education is Howard Gardner’s vision of education for all human beings: “a world citizenry that is highly literate, disciplined, capable of thinking critically and creatively, knowledgeable about a range of cultures, able to participate actively in discussions about new discoveries and choices, willing to take risks for what it believes in.” I think Expeditionary Learning excels at supporting this vision of education, and I am excited to be part of the talented and committed PPCS Crew.


Rebekka Boysen-Taylor : Middle School Humanities

Rebekka Boysen-Taylor

Middle School Humanities

B.S. Geography, Portland State University, 2002
K-8 Teaching Credential, Cal State Los Angeles TEACH, 2004

I was born and raised in Spokane, WA and grew up in a family of teachers. After earning a B.S. in Geography from Portland State University I was accepted into Teach for America. I taught fifth grade in an incredibly under resourced school in the South Bronx, NY for a summer and was assigned to T.S. King Middle School in inner city Los Angeles. At King I taught 6th grade Reading, Language Arts and Ancient History. While living in LA I married Erik Taylor and together we moved to the Inland Northwest to start a family. Erik became a firefighter with the city of Pullman in 2005. I dedicated my time and energy to my family as a stay at home mama for 7 years while my children were very young. During that time I began volunteering at the Moscow Food Co-op, creating and coordinating Co-op Kids which I still facilitate weekly. This community outreach program provides preschoolers and their families with activities that are healthy, fun and earth friendly.
I began my EL Education journey as a parent, volunteer and substitute teacher during our school's first year. My daughter was part of the founding Kindergarten class. When a teaching position opened up a year later I was eager to join the teacher CREW with a focus on supporting our developing readers. This will be my 7th year at Palouse Prairie and my third year as our middle school humanities teacher. We have an incredible middle school team at PPCS and my passion is exploring connections between people and place with my students. We are able to do this through in depth studies of literature, art and theater.


Erin Corwine : Middle School Math

Erin Corwine

Middle School Math

M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction, University of Washington
B.S. Health Management & Policy, University of New Hampshire

Hello Palouse Prairie Families! My path into education has been winding, and it’s been a wonderful adventure. I spent my undergrad years in New Hampshire studying public health and epidemiology. I moved to Seattle after graduation and worked in public health research at the University of Washington. My research was conducted mostly in Seattle area elementary schools, and my time in classrooms led me to rethink my public health career. I earned my Masters of Education from the University of Washington and have been an educator in many capacities since then. I love the world of teaching math because it has helped me completely rearrange my own thinking on what it means to be a creative thinker and problem solver. Outside of my teaching life, I love to cook and preserve food and go backpacking, and I’m learning just how to cast a fly rod in our local waters. I am so happy to be back at Palouse Prairie and on the middle school team. This is my second go here- I started as an Americorps volunteer and taught Middle School Math, Title One Math and Kindergarten.


Daniel Schaaf : Heath, Wellness, and Adventure

Daniel Schaaf

Heath, Wellness, and Adventure

M.S. Natural Resources, University of Idaho
B.S. Biology, Edgewood College​

I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA and moved to southern Wisconsin for my first year of high school. I attended Edgewood College in Madison, WI where I studied Biology and Environmental Science. After my undergraduate, I spent a few years working seasonally as a biological field technician, and another few years as a renewable energy technician, installing solar arrays, wind turbines, and meteorological towers. I decided to redirect my life towards education and leadership having had many positive experiences as a camp counselor, swimming instructor, and college teaching assistant. In the winter of 2009, I packed up and headed to South Korea for a year of teaching English and Science to elementary aged students. It was an experience that has shaped my life so far! Upon returning to the U.S, I began a graduate program at the University of Idaho in Environmental Education and Natural Resources. I am very proud to be teaching at a school of EL Education and to be a part of such a positive learning community!


Andy Martin : Physical Education Teacher

Andy Martin

Physical Education Teacher

B.S. Justice Studies, University of Idaho
B.S. Psychology, University of Idaho
M.Ed. Physical Education, University of Idaho

Born and raised on a reservation in rural North Idaho, I grew up appreciating the Inland Northwest’s beautiful landscapes and nature.  Although I was active as a young boy, I struggled with childhood obesity until middle school when I was first introduced to sports and nutrition.  It completely changed my life as I became more fit, energized, and self-confident. As I grew older, I took every opportunity to show others how life-changing fitness and healthy living can be.  I coached and volunteered for community fitness events in high school and in college then eventually decided to become a professional fitness instructor. I loved being a fitness instructor and trainer, however personal training can be very expensive and therefore exclusive.  One day after a tearful financial discussion with a client, I decided that I would rather work for the public good and not discriminate based on income. Shortly after that experience, I enrolled in graduate school to become a public school teacher. I continued work as a fitness instructor, coached elementary sports, and led various fitness clubs at the University of Idaho while attending grad school.  Immediately after graduation, I found a job in one of Oregon’s top-performing school districts, but after forest fires devastated my former community on the Nez Perce reservation, I felt compelled to move closer to my friends and family back in Idaho. After completing two very successful years helping the Kamiah School District and the greater community recover, I felt the need to self-actualize and return to Moscow, which I now consider my home.  I am extremely grateful to be a part of the Palouse Prairie Charter School team and to serve the wonderful people of Moscow.