RISE educates students to become successful learners, friends and citizens by building genuine and strong relationships with each student while empowering them to be their best self.
RISE Learning Academy was founded for students with special needs in grades k-12 who desire a school they can call home. Today many students with special needs struggle in the public education system because they feel overwhelmed or misunderstood. In an environment where everyone must conform to one style of learning, it can sometimes be hard to succeed. RISE strives to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment where students feel empowered to be themselves. Using an innovative approach that includes on-line curriculum, small groups, direct instruction and "real-life" activities students have the opportunity to learn in a "home-school" environment. RISE offers students with special needs the grace and understanding they deserve as they learn new concepts and determine how to function in the real world.
James has been involved in education for eighteen years. In this time, he has worked with students of all ages and in a variety of academic roles. Most of his teaching years were focused on intermediate elementary students in 5th and 6th grade for both Gilbert and Mesa Public Schools. During these years he pushed students to succeed in their academics and in character development. James has also worked as a gifted teacher, as an Individualized Behavior Intervention Program (IBIP) Specialist, an assistant principal and has a been the director of several private schools in the East Valley. In 2010, James won the Special Education Teacher of the Year Award from Gilbert Public Schools. Through these experiences James has learned a lot about himself, the most important being that he loves helping students succeed.
Academically, James received his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Arizona Christian University in 2002 with an emphasis in Psychology. He later attended the University of Phoenix and began working towards his master’s degree in School Leadership. In 2018, James received his MBA from U of P where he graduated with honors.
James and his beautiful wife, Kim, have been married for twelve years. Their five children, who range from ages 4 to 12, keep them very busy after school and on weekends while James coaches baseball and basketball and cheers for his volleyball, dancing, and soccer stars! In his spare-time James enjoys watching movies with Kim, hanging out by the pool and playing softball and basketball in city leagues with his buddies. His dream has always been to own his own business and make the lives of those he serves better.
Heather has been involved in education, more specifically in Special Education for over thirteen years. During this time, she has worked with many different disabilities with Autism as one of the primary disabilities. She has had experience working in Chandler Unified as well as with charter and private schools. Heather has had several roles as a lead and director within special education. She has a thorough understanding of the special education process along with the expectations within special education.
Academically, Heather received her bachelor's degree in Business Management with a minor in mathematics from the University of California, Riverside. She later attended Rio Salado for her teaching certification and then went on to receive her Masters in Special Education from Plymouth State University.
Heather and her husband, Rob, have been married eighteen years. They have four children between the ages of 6 and 14 that keep the both of them very busy. In Heather's free time, she enjoys traveling with her family, watching her oldest play golf, trying new restaurants with her husband, baking with her younger kids and just enjoying life in general.
Cara is a special education teacher and has been in the educational field professionally for four years. She was initially inspired in her career by her younger brother who has special needs. She grew up helping to take care of her brother, serving in his classrooms, and she fell in love with special education.
Academically, Cara received her bachelor's degree with honors from Arizona State University and is dual certified in Early Childhood Education and Special Education. During her time there she participated in ASU's iTeachAZ and the Mary Lou Fulton AmeriCorps programs. Through her studies, Cara benefited from learning advanced teaching methods, engaged with local communities and implemented service-learning projects in the classroom. She has over 10 years of experience working with children with special needs, employed as a respite and habilitation provider and serving in her local church. Before coming to RISE, Cara worked as both a special education teacher and as the developmental center director at a clinic. During this time she oversaw the preschool and DTT/DTS programs. Cara hopes to continue to grow in her career and strives to provide a positive and supportive learning environment for her students to achieve their goals.
Cara married her high school sweetheart, together for 11 years and they recently celebrated their two year wedding anniversary. In her spare time, Cara enjoys relaxing with her husband and their dog, Thor. Hiking, reading, hanging out by the pool, and taking day trips are some of the things that refuel her energy.
High School Coordinator
Ms. Camille is an Arizona native with a passion for promoting creativity and learning in all aspects of life. One of her passions can be found in playing an active role within the community where she has given thousands of hours towards volunteering in various schools, community centers and assisted living centers. When she is not out in the community, she can be found enjoying the outdoors and all the beauty that nature has to offer.
Before coming to RISE, Camille had gained five years of experience working alongside therapists and parents to develop life skills and educational strategies for children with special needs. She has also had the opportunity to serve as a coordinator for a non-profit organization called Circle of Life where she guided the effort to help each child receive the individualized care and education that they need to flourish in school and life. She is currently studying at Brigham Young University to receive a joint degree in Business and Education and is planning to continue to bring this knowledge into the educational world later on down the road.
Life Skills Coordinator
Samantha is from a rural town in Arizona. Early on, she learned the importance of building strong and healthy relationships through open communication with those around her. From a young age, her parents taught and encouraged her to work at setting goals that were challenging and attainable. In 2017, she set her mind on the goal of higher education and making a positive difference in helping and supporting those in need.
Academically, Samantha earned her bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in Sociology and Family and Human Development. During the Fall of 2017, Samantha was a selected participant in a solution focused course where she had hands on experience working with a team to create a plan for youths exiting juvenile homes. The focus was to assist them in learning real life skills to further their ability to acclimate in society. In addition to this, her experience in the Arizona Twin Project for the ASU psychology department, helped her gain an understanding of leadership and the development for innovative plans that enhance the well-being of children, youth and families.
In the Fall of 2018, Samantha was accepted into Capella’s Master of Science program specializing in marriage and family therapy. With a year and a half left of schooling, Samantha will graduate in the Fall of 2021 and work to obtain her licensing hours to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Working with families and children with behavioral and cognitive challenges is her ideal goal. She hopes to adopt a therapeutic style that focuses on interconnection within relationships and work collaboratively with couples and families to help improve their lives.
With four years experience working with children in the classroom setting, Samantha has gained invaluable skills. In 2019, she worked as a social skills teacher for a school specifically designed for children with autism. With this experience, she is now the Social Skills Coordinator for RISE Learning Academy where she continues to apply her knowledge and experience in the workforce.
In her free time, Samantha enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and fishing. She especially looks forward to spending her winter breaks in Montana with family, where you can find her on the lake ice fishing or snowboarding on the mountain. A few of Samantha’s favorite self care activities are spending time with a good book and creating in the kitchen.
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