Justin Brune Junior High Science Teacher and Director of Curriculum and Technology
Shauna Bunnell Performing Arts and Mindfulness Teacher
Mallory Clark Junior High Spanish, Math, and PE Teacher
Claire Deters 3-4 Teacher
Baby DuBay 3-4 Teacher
Melody Maxey 1-2 Teacher
Brandy Gatfield-Brune Kindergarten Teacher
Taira Guerrero Early Learner Teacher and Co-Director
Tara Kennedy Visual Arts Teacher, 9th Grade Co-Advisor, and Program Administrator
Kevin Kramer 5-6 Teacher, 8th Grade Math Teacher, and 9th Grade Biology Teacher
Maria Lucas Learning Specialist and Literacy Coordinator
Lori Mason Jr. High English and History Teacher
Jill Nielsen K-6 Spanish Teacher
Miranda Podolsky Kindergarten Teacher
Samantha Powers Early Learner Teacher
Robbie Prokop 5-6 Teacher
Matt Schanbacher Early Learner Teacher
Kate Shaine Enrichment and 9th Grade Mentorship Coordinator
Lisa Simpson K-9 Music Teacher
Erin Sours 1-2 Teacher
Jennifer Trudell Early Learner Teacher and Co-Director
Xiangmiao Yuan Jr. High Math Teacher (IM1 and IM2)
Meet Our Faculty
Justin Brune: Justin is a farm boy, born and raised in Hazelton, Idaho. His early days were spent exploring his natural environment while learning hard work and dedication while working on the family farm. After being inspired to pursue teaching while working as a role model/tutor for elementary school students, Justin headed to Idaho State University in Pocatello. Graduating from ISU with a degree in elementary education, Justin moved to the town of Hemet in Southern California and got a job teaching 3rd grade at Whittier Elementary School (about 1200 K-6 students). Justin moved back to Boise and taught at Good Shepherd School for 10 years before joining Foothills in 2007 after working with Jeff Wilhelm and the National Writing Project. At Foothills, Justin has been a school leader, serving on many committees, including the strategic planning committee. Currently, Justin is the head of the Technology Committee. When Justin isn't teaching, you might find him at the skate park. Justin has been a skateboarder for 20 years and often skates to work. Justin and his wife, Brandy, have two children and one of them currently attends Foothills.
Shauna Bunnell: Shauna has a BA in Theater Education from BYU in Provo, Utah. She taught Drama and English at Crossroads Middle School in Meridian, Idaho. After taking a break to start a family and travel the world with her husband, Rob, for his job at Micron, she is ecstatic to be back in the classroom again. Shauna is also a professional Improv performer here in Boise. She’s performed with Comedy Sportz, Recycled Minds, Chicks ‘N Giggles, Hilarity for Charity fundraisers, and Idaho Laugh Fest. She is the parent of Foothills students Jackson and Charlotte Bunnell. She is thrilled to be working with this stellar team of educators here at Foothills.
Mallory Clark: Mallory joined the Foothills teaching team in 1996 as a full-time Junior High teacher. Since then, she has worn numerous hats at Foothills, including as a teacher of Spanish, math, PE, literacy, science, and social studies in grades 1-9. Mallory’s background in Spanish began as a teenager when she spent a month in Honduras working with animals as a vet technician. During her college years, she studied abroad in both Spain and Central America. During these experiences, Mallory decided to pursue a career in teaching and in teaching Spanish. She attended Stanford University’s STEP teacher program where she received her Master’s in education and a certification in Secondary Spanish and Social Studies. Mallory has also had the opportunity to live in Barcelona for two years, which solidified her fluency and love of Spanish. She is excited to be getting back into the Spanish classroom and hopes to encourage our Foothills Jr. High students to embrace Spanish. Mallory studied Sociology and Anthropology at Lewis and Clark College and received an M.ED at Stanford and an M.S. in Exercise and Sports Science from BSU. When not teaching, Mallory can be found partaking in many winter and summer sports with her husband and two girls.
Claire Deters: Claire is a Boise native who, after 10 years of rambling about the country, has finally come back to her roots. Claire completed a degree in Environmental Studies from the College of Idaho, as well as a Master's of Science in Natural Resources from the University of Idaho. She has worked with animals at a nature center in New York, taught Natural Resources in Vermont, was a coastal environmental educator for the Audubon Society in Connecticut, and worked as a field instructor at the McCall Outdoor Science School. Claire also worked as a classroom teacher at a Project-based school in the Portland area for 2 years. Most recently, Claire worked with organizations focused on expanding access to high-quality STEM resources for underserved populations throughout Idaho. In her spare time, Claire likes to identify and learn about plants and animals, read novels, roller skate, ski, and generally be outside. She could not be more thrilled to be a part of the Foothills Community!
Baby DuBay: Baby DuBay joined Foothills this year as a co-lead teacher in the 3-4s dyad. Baby previously taught 4th grade for two years at Gowan Science Academy in Yuma, AZ. However, for the past two years, she has been teaching art to Kindergarten through fifth grade students during the regular school year, as well as 3rd and 4th grade during the summer at Palmcroft Elementary, also in Yuma. As part of a co-teaching environment at Gowan, Baby developed lessons differentiated for individual student needs and integrated science, technology, engineering, and math. Baby holds a BA in Education and a social-emotional learning endorsement from Northern Arizona University, where she received the La Cosecha Scholarship & Fern Drysdale Memorial Endowment and graduated summa cum laude. Baby also holds an AA degree in Elementary Education from Arizona Western College.
Melody Maxey: Melody, a former Early Learner Teacher, returned to Foothills as a 1st and 2nd Grade Teacher in 2015. Melody worked at Foothills for six years before leaving to travel internationally and then moving to Montana for graduate school. Melody has a degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Early Childhood Education from BSU and a Master's degree in Health and Human Development from Montana State University.
Brandy Gatfield-Brune: Brandy is a former stay-at-home mom who found her way back into the classroom with the help of former Foothills teacher, Michelle Forrester. Brandy went to Idaho State University, but transferred and graduated from Boise State University with a degree in Elementary Education. After teaching for 5 years, she took time off to have a family and be home with her 2 kids, Luca and Jax. Brandy is currently teaching Kindergarten and her husband Justin teaches Jr. High here.
Taira Guerrero: Taira is a teacher in the Early Learners program and joined the Foothills community in 2017. Prior to coming to Foothills, she worked as a classroom teacher in both preschool and primary age programs at The Children's School of Boise. Her undergraduate work is in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education from Boise State University and she is currently pursuing a master's in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education as part of the Emerging Leaders program. Taira is also bilingual in Spanish after working in Baja California, Mexico, and spends time in the classroom sharing language and cultural studies with the Early Learners. Outside of school, she dedicates her time to journaling, sewing, exploring creative arts experiences, traveling with friends and family, and being a dog mama to her Chihuahua, Paloma.
Tara Kennedy: Tara joined Foothills in 2006 to teach art to students in kindergarten through 9th grade. Prior to joining Foothills, Tara was an art educator at the Boise Art Museum, where she taught public programs to all age groups, summer and spring break classes for elementary students, and adult classes. She also worked as an instructor for BAM's Artreach program, bringing art to classrooms outside of Ada County. From 2002-2004, Tara taught ceramics and sculpture in Bellevue, Washington. She is currently serving as the Vice President of the Idaho Art Education Association. Tara grew up in Idaho and graduated from high school in Cascade, Idaho. She enjoys painting and creating all types of art, camping, being in the outdoors, swimming, reading, history, listening to music, science fiction movies, and ice hockey.
Kevin Kramer: Kevin is in his 17th year as a teacher at Foothills and continues to bring both planning and teaching leadership to the Foothills School team thanks to his broad preparation and experience in science, math, and technology. He developed hands-on science and engineering curriculum for students at PCS Edventures, and taught natural and physical sciences and technology to students ages 5-16. At the Mountain Cove High School, Kevin developed and taught Introduction to Technology, which included hands-on physics and computer technology applications, to students ages 15-20. He has also worked as a research technician for the Department of Fish and Game and a lab assistant at the Puget Sound Institute of Pathology. Kevin grew up in Boise and has two sons and a daughter. He enjoys coaching soccer, running, skiing, cooking, and gardening.
Maria Lucas: Maria has built a reputation as an outstanding teacher with strengths in literacy, learning interventions, and brain science, and she is known to a number of members of the Foothills community as a skilled tutor. Maria brings a wealth of varied experience to Foothills. Most recently, Maria worked as a special education teacher in the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. Prior to that, Maria spent four years as a lead education specialist at the Lee Pesky Learning Center. Maria has taught or developed curricula at a number of educational institutions including Tanglin Trust School (Singapore), World Connection (Argentina), The Language Studio (Malaysia), and Barak Obama Green Charter School (New Jersey). Maria holds an MA in Special Education from BSU, where she completed a mentorship at the Lee Pesky Learning Center, as well as a BA in psychology from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Additionally, Maria completed undergraduate coursework at Universidad Austral, Buenos Aires as well as graduate coursework at Universiti Putra Malaysia.
Lori Mason: Lori Mason will join Foothills this year as our 7th-9th grade English and history teacher. For the past five years, Lori has taught 7th and 8th grade English at Heritage and Lake Hazel Middle Schools where her classes have ranged from general education to honors to gifted & talented. Lori was named Teacher of the Year at Heritage Middle School for 2020-2021. She holds a BA in English from BSU and has pursued continuing education at the Boise State Writing Project Summer Inquiry Institute. In addition to school teaching, Lori has been a ski instructor through the Recreation Unlimited adaptive ski program. We look forward to welcoming Lori in August.
Jill Nielsen: Jill Nielsen has recently begun teaching Elementary Spanish to our K-6 graders. Jill views teaching Spanish to her students not just as imparting the fundamentals of the language but also as a door to pique interest in other countries and ways of life. While attending The University of Idaho, she earned a BS in Environmental Science and Policy with additional emphasis in Spanish, Math, and Marketing. Jill's junior year was spent studying International Business and Marketing in Australia and trekking the Himalayas in Nepal. After graduating, she taught English as a second language in Ayutthaya, Thailand. The years that followed included: traveling, living in Jackson Hole with her husband, owning a small custom artwork business, becoming Certified as a Yoga Instructor and Breathwork Guide, volunteering at the YMCA as a girls' Volleyball Coach, and para-teaching at an International Baccalaureate School. Certified by the State of Idaho to teach K-8 Elementary Education and K-12 Special Education, Jill brings a genuine desire to connect with her students and share her enthusiasm for learning. As a 4th generation Idahoan, you can usually find Jill outside with her husband, kids, and dogs soaking up all the things this beautiful state has to offer.
Miranda Podolsky: Miranda is a Kindergarten teacher and joined the Foothills Community in 2018. She taught in the Kuna School District for 10 years as a 1st-grade teacher. Miranda started working towards her Master’s Degree at Boise State University in Curriculum, Instruction and Foundational Skills in 2016, setting her on the path that would lead her to Foothills School. Her continued education inspired her to begin implementing a more progressive style of teaching in her public school classroom at the same time that she and her husband were researching schools for their son Rowan. When an opportunity to transition into a private school that embraced this progressive approach arose, she jumped on it with enthusiasm. To her, Foothills represents the ideal balance between structured learning and play with a strong focus on the social and emotional development of her students. In her free time, Miranda enjoys spending time in the yard gardening, skiing, birding, hiking, and taking road trips with her family.
Samantha Powers: Sam Powers will join the Early Learner class this year as a Lead Teacher. For the past five years, Sam has been a lead teacher at the Boise State University Children’s Center. During her time at BSU, Sam designed an inquiry-based curriculum and facilitated opportunities for children to explore their interests in an environment that fosters curiosity, problem-solving, social-emotional development, and creativity. Sam was part of a four-year partnership with the Idaho STEM Action Center and has presented for the Idaho AEYC Professional Development on early childhood inquiry-based STEM practices. Sam holds a BA in Multidisciplinary Studies and an MA in Early and Special Education, both from Boise State University.
Robbie Prokop: Robbie has been teaching at Foothills for 18 years and has primarily taught in the 5th & 6th-grade class. With a degree in wildlife ecology/biology, he has a strong science background, including a concentration in raptor biology and loves to collaborate with his team members in creating authentic, field-based, hands-on science studies at Foothills. In addition to his classroom teaching responsibilities, Robbie also serves as the school's math lead and teaches P.E. to the upper school. Robbie's two children both graduated from Foothills and his family has been a cornerstone of the community for almost two decades. In his spare time, Robbie takes any opportunity to adventure in the great wide out-there with his wife, Mary Jo, and their two, almost-grown, kids - Addie and Blaise. He loves the world's game and coaches for a local affiliate of the Portland Timbers, enjoys fishing, reading; pretends to garden and be handy; and rides his bike (usually in shorts) to school most days, rain or shine!
Matt Schanbacher: Matt began as a full-time teacher in the Foothills' Early Learner classroom in 2018. Prior to being a teacher, Matt was a professional dancer, which gives him a unique and diverse skill set in the EL classroom. He trained for four years in the Joffrey Ballet School’s pre-professional program, in addition to a year of training with Ballet Hispanico. Matt spent three years with Momix Dance Company as a performing artist and prop technician. Matt has over five years of experience as a teacher in a variety of settings, including Foothills, the Joffrey Ballet School, Frost Valley YMCA, and Balance Dance Company. Matt has also assisted teaching in the engineering department at the County College of Morris from which he earned an AS degree in biology. Matt brings his love of the arts to the classroom with his music. He is mainly self-taught on the guitar and leads many morning meetings with songs that he hopes to pique the interest of the children and inspire them to have a variety of music in their own lives. Matt’s enthusiasm for science makes his group science section a fun, hands-on learning portion of each day in the ELs. Matt also enjoys sharing dance with the children through his after-school enrichment program held for a number of weeks in the spring.
Kate Shaine: Kate Shaine has been at Foothills since 2015 when her daughter began the Early Learner program. She currently coordinates the After-School Enrichment Program, the Ninth Grade Mentorship Program, and is a substitute teacher for all grades. Prior to coming to Foothills, Kate was a high school teacher and an administrator for collegiate athletics and physical education. She has a bachelor's in Biopsychology from Drew University in Madison, NJ, and a Master's Degree in Athletic Administration from Idaho State University. Her daughter and son have both attended Foothills since they were Early Learners.
Lisa Simpson: Lisa is known to many in her capacity as a professional musician and organizer of Treefort Music Fest. Lisa’s band, Blood Lemon, recently returned from touring. She is excited to share her knowledge of music and reintroduce a music curriculum that was used successfully a few years ago. Lisa has additional experience teaching music in a childcare setting as well as experience in developmental disability services. Lisa holds an MA in music history from the University of Idaho, where she was a member of the National Music Honor Society, and she also holds a BA in music performance from Northern Vermont University.
Erin Sours: Erin is a Boise native with experience as a Kindergarten-2nd Grade literacy paraprofessional and recently completed her student teaching in First Grade in the Teton County School District in Jackson, Wyoming. Prior to pursuing a career in education, Erin spent 10 years as a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Specialist, working in land planning and environmental consulting in conjunction with engineers, land planners, architects, biologists, and other natural resource professionals. Erin holds a Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus in Elementary Education from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, UT, and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography with a Minor in Geographic Information Systems from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. In addition, Erin has served as a board member for the Teton Valley Ski Education Foundation and coached lacrosse for the Teton Valley Youth Lacrosse Association.
Jennifer Trudell: Jennifer is a teacher in the Early Learner preschool class and has a degree in elementary education from Boise State University. She began working with children and educators while still in high school through a cadet teaching experience funded by the Carnegie Foundation. She studied both art and literature while attending Western Oregon State College and moved back to Boise to complete her undergraduate degree. She began teaching at Foothills School in 1996. After being introduced to the Reggio Emilia approach, she attended The Hundred Languages of Children Exhibit and workshop in Fresno, California. Jennifer has presented at the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools Fall Conference, Treasure Valley Association for the Education of Young Children Conference, The National Council of Teachers of English Spring Regional Conference and has participated in the National Teachers Choice Book Awards. Jennifer's interests include reading, sewing, film history, collecting, baking, and spending time with her two children.
Xiangmiao joins Foothills this fall as a long-term substitute teacher in Jr. High Math, teaching IM1 (Integrated Math 1) and IM2. Miao has been a semiconductor design engineer at Micron Technology where she worked as a mentor for new design engineers. Prior to Micron, Miao was a teaching assistant at Northern Arizona University for two years and was highly rated by her students in that role. She is eager to apply her background in engineering to develop projects that demonstrate real-world applications and spark students’ interest in math. Xiangmiao holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from Northern Arizona University. Outside of her professional pursuits, Miao is a painter and pianist and teaches both of these arts.