Meet Our Team
Founder and Co-Director- Kyle Gamba
Co-Director - Lisa Garcia Simms
Teacher- Andrea Nieto
Teacher- Rachel Balkcom
Teacher - Ryan Pleune
Ryan es bilingue y tiene familia postiza en Ambato, Ecuador. Preferiría ser multilingüe y está aprendiendo otros idiomas como irlandés de sus ancestros y otros idiomas indígenas de esta tierra que llamamos el short grass prairie en inglés.
Dr. Kyle Gamba has been an educator and principal for several years both locally and internationally. He feels very passionate about prioritizing relationship building and character development in the lives of children. He believes strongly that academic achievement can be the result of kids feeling cared about and having a strong sense of belonging. He is an avid traveler, adventurer, and fun-seeker. Kyle, his wife, and his three children have lived abroad in Mexico and Colombia. He looks forward to meeting you! To learn more about Kyle and his vision for La Luz, read this article from Education Reimagined or listen to this podcast episode.
Lisa Garcia Simms has been an educator for over 20 years, including being a co-designer and principal for Denver Public School's first competency-based high school, DSISD. She is passionate about the arts, social justice, and changing the landscape of public education to be more student centered and equitable. She also cares very deeply about environmental stewardship, and getting kids in nature as much as possible. She is a proud auntie of two amazing nephews, a musician, artist, and an avid gardener. To learn more about Lisa please go to lgsconsulting.org or listen to this podcast episode.
Andrea Nieto has been a teacher for 8 years in Colorado, having taught English, Math, and Science to middle school students. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English, and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in social justice education and educational technology. Andrea is passionate about project/problem based learning and engaging student learning in the community. In 2019, she was invited to be a speaker at the Colorado Language Arts Society’s annual Fall conference on the topic of “Leveraging Your Community to Build Authentic Learning Experiences in the Classroom”. During this talk she was able to share about the many guest speakers, field trips, and project-based learning opportunities that she has provided to my students over the years. It is her belief that every student can be successful if given opportunities to engage in real world learning experiences.
With over two decades’ experience as an educator, school co-founder and director, curriculum and fieldwork designer, and teacher coach, Rachel teaches for social justice and the equitable regeneration of people and planet. Most recently, Rachel facilitated the group creation of the high school at Denver Montessori Jr./Sr. High School and served as High School Director through the graduation of the first class before transitioning into other leadership and guide roles at the school. Outside of working with teens to create new education systems for a new world, she gardens, writes, and dances. Rachel lives with her husband, five awesome housemates, two dogs, two cats, two flocks of chickens, 12 tilapia, and lots of veggies and sunflowers at their co-op in Erie, Colorado.
Ryan has taught and facilitated ecological literacy for over 22 years both inside and outside the formal classroom with ages 3 through 18. He advocates for student achievement to be measured equally through mastery of academic skills and content, high-quality work, and character. He honors the natural and inherent beauty of human migration while still being accountable to repair settler colonial oppression and border imperialism. He resides on stolen native land, Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and Hinono’eino (Arapaho) unceded territory and works towards reconciliation through Land Back initiatives. He has a Masters Degree in Ecological Teaching and Learning and a Secondary Science Teaching License in Colorado and Utah. For the last several years while working as an Ecological Literacy Specialist in Denver Public Schools and in Salt Lake City Public Schools, he has been a researcher and practitioner of Land Based and Nature Based Pedagogy and/or Forest Schools and also created modified Forest School programming for public schools. You can read more here https://feileacanforestschool.weebly.com/