The Idaho New School Fellowship aims to transform education for Idaho’s neediest students by empowering educational leaders who are passionate about improving the prospects of children. We seek to recruit top education talent into the ranks of Idaho’s public school leadership.
The New School Fellowship has supported six outstanding educators since 2016 to design, build, and launch high-performing public charter schools in the Idaho communities of Garden City, Caldwell and Fruitland.
Elevate Academy North
Marita Diffenbaugh has twenty years of service in Idaho’s education system, from the classroom, school district, and university to the State Department of Education. With fourteen years dedicated to students in the classroom and six years of district and state-level administrator experience, she believes her greatest contributions involve building relationships with others and helping them connect their talents, knowledge, and skills with community needs.
As a teacher, administrator, and leadership support for educators in Idaho, Marita gained expertise and experience as a student-focused, purpose driven servant leader. She has supported school and district leadership in the strategic development of mastery-based education and instructional technology implementation. As a connected educator, she has provided teachers with professional development for student engagement and positive digital citizenship practices through local, state, national, and international presentations.
Marita’s education – a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education (K-8), Master of Arts with a Technology emphasis, and Education Specialist (Ed.S) in Executive Educational Leadership – provide a foundation for her work in K-12 instructional leadership, augmented by her teaching and administrator/superintendent certifications. Being a co-Founder of #EdCampIdaho, facilitator/participant of the Idaho Mastery Education Network, #IDedchat, Discovery Education Network, and iCivics keeps Marita engaged in professional learning as part of a growing and dynamic network of educators.
She is honored and excited to support the expansion of Elevate Academy, a public charter school working to create a pipeline of highly-skilled, employable workers that meet the needs of Idaho industry and business, while empowering students to be leaders in their own lives. As a leadership partner, with Elevate Academy’s co-founders Monica White and Matt Strong, Marita will plan, develop, and launch a 6-12th grade Career Technical school.
This will be a school of choice for students who qualify as at-risk, with CTE offerings that reflect workforce needs and opportunities in North Idaho. Marita is dedicated to using her strengths and experiences to ensure respect and opportunity for all students. She is passionate about connecting learning to community resources and needs, and restoring hope to support learners of all ages to develop their full potential.
Clinton Condra, Ph.D.
Treasure Valley Classical Academy
Clint Condra was introduced to Idaho in January 2018, when he arrived in Coeur d’Alene to teach American government at North Idaho College. He comes to Payette County to help found Treasure Valley Classical Academy, the state’s first classical charter school and an affiliate of Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative (BCSI). The experience he will gain as a New School Fellow at TVCA will prepare him to lead the founding of a second BCSI school elsewhere in Idaho in the near future.
Dr. Condra’s enthusiasm for classical education began at St. John’s College, a school renowned for its great-books curriculum. There he wrote a thesis on the thought of Edmund Burke and earned a master’s degree in liberal arts in 2010. He then taught American and modern European literature and history at a classical charter school in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2014 he moved to Waco, Texas, to begin work on a Ph.D. in political science at Baylor University. His course work at Baylor included classes on ancient and modern political philosophy, international relations, American literature, and the American Founding. He defended his dissertation on the thought of Jonathan Swift in February 2019 and graduated this past May.
Island Park Charter School
Connie Day became an educator 14 years ago when her daughter was in kindergarten. She followed a non-traditional path into education, and often found herself questioning the effectiveness of traditional educational models. As a teacher in a high-performing charter school in southeast Idaho, she was encouraged to use innovative approaches to help her students succeed. She also had the opportunity to take on several leadership positions in the school, including being the curriculum coordinator, a mentor teacher, and the director of an academic coaching program designed to meet individual student needs.
As an active “part-timer” in the Island Park community, Connie became aware of the need for a local elementary school. The children in this remote rural area can travel for up to four hours each day to attend school. This is especially difficult for young children. Connie began talking with parents and community leaders about opening a charter school. The idea was met with skepticism. Parents had been trying for over 20 years to start a local school. After several meetings with community members, and with the support of the local district superintendent, the school district voted to authorize a K-3 charter school in Island Park. The school will offer a comprehensive content rich curriculum in a multi-grade classroom, using a mastery education approach.
Connie looks forward to working with Bluum to develop a school that not only meets the needs of students of Island Park, but also serves as a model for other schools and educators.
Gem Prep: Meridian
Kellie Dean is a first-generation college student who is intimately familiar with the importance a solid academic foundation has on post-secondary success. Kellie is a graduate of Boise State University where her degree in Elementary Education brought her a 30-year career in education to fruition. Kellie’s journey in education began as a 5th-grade teacher with the West Ada School District. In 2001, Kellie took on the role of Educational Director at the Warhawk Air Museum, where she designed and implemented educational programs focused on historical perspectives and STEM education for students in Kindergarten through 12th-grade.
Kellie’s dedication to excellence earned her a new position in 2007 as the Director of Curriculum and Training with a STEM-focus education company. In this new role, Kellie had the opportunity to collaboratively influence teaching practices by aligning best practices with instructional delivery routines throughout the United States and across the globe.
Drawn back into public education in 2014, Kellie took on yet another new challenge as an Instructional Coach, Gifted and Talented Coordinator, and Interim Principal for the Emmett School District. In 2019, Kellie scooped up an opportunity that would bring all of her educational expertise to culmination and joined Gem Innovation Schools because of their college prep focus. Kellie now serves as the Assistant Principal of Gem Prep: Meridian, the fourth school in the Gem Innovation School network.
Kellie works closely with the school’s head principal, Nanette Lehman, as they lead the K-8 school, ensuring each scholar is prepared for success in college and beyond. Kellie is thrilled to have been selected as an Idaho School Leadership Fellow and work alongside those who serve Idaho students in innovative ways with passion, commitment, and integrity.
Jenny Schon, Ph.D.
McCall Community School
Jenny grew up in Western Washington where she fell in love with the mountains and all things outdoors. She completed her undergraduate degree at Western Washington University in Environmental Science. She spent several years conducting field research for the National Park Service, earning a Master’s in Education, and several more teaching science in Montana’s Flathead Valley. She also served as a Program Coordinator for an outdoor science school in McCall. These experiences all came together in a doctoral program, where Jenny focused on Science Identity and assessment in students.
Jenny returned to the classroom at Meadows Valley, where she came to understand how students benefit from learning in variety of environments, and that not all students progress at the same pace. Her experience working with the Idaho Mastery Education Network, her time in the field, and her time working at outdoor science school helped shape her vision of -the school she hopes to create, and how it could benefit a diverse group of students.
Providing a school of choice that reflects the values and shared love of the outdoors is a natural progression for the small but mighty town of McCall. Jenny looks forward to reimagining education through the creation of the McCall Community School, a place-based, mastery-based school of choice, with the support of Bluum’s Idaho New School Fellowship.
McCall Community School
Patrick Berg grew up in North Dakota and followed a non-traditional path into education. He earned his BS in Recreation Administration from the University of North Dakota. With his endorsements in special education and physical education, he attended University of Phoenix to earn his M. Ed. He then went on to earn his Ed.Specialist in Administration from NNU.
In 2001, Pat and his wife, moved to Idaho. He spent 14 years at the Nampa School District teaching Special Education, Physical Education, and serving as Athletic Director, Dean of Students and Assistant Principal. He then went on to serve as K-12 Principal in Meadows Valley.
Pat’s passion for education has grown over the years, and his experience in Special Education has taught him the power of student-focused instruction and an individualized approach to learning. He enjoys the challenge of helping students fill their unique needs, meet their goals and create a vision for their future.
With the help of Bluum’s Idaho New School Fellowship, Pat looks forward to providing a option for students in their education and building on their individual strengths to ensure their success in the 21st century.
Anser Public Charter School
Heather serves as the Organization Director of Anser Public Charter School. Working collaboratively with the Education Director Michelle Dunstan she leads the school and ensures that the mission of Anser Charter school is realized. They work alongside Anser’s faculty, board and families to foster innovation and excellence in a collaborative education environment where children are empowered to feel a sense of connection with their community and the world.
She is a University of Kansas graduate with a degree in Developmental Psychology. Her work in education began at thewhere she worked directly with children with ASD, supported their families and worked within the school setting in the Kansas City area to develop new supports for her clients. It was during her time supporting ECAP students in the public school setting that Heather developed her beliefs that every child can succeed if given the proper tools and environment, that success looks different for each child and that the social and emotional development of students are of equal importance to their academic development when measuring success. Heather worked at as a manager of a career development center for adults with disabilities in Kansas and on special projects at the Center , before moving into her current role at Anser in 2010.
Heather’s understanding of the business side of charter schools, coupled with her work on many strategic planning change initiatives at Anser, gives her collaborative and project management skills but also the understanding of how change happens in a school and the role school leaders can play in inspiring, encouraging, supporting and implementing it. She is excited for the opportunity to become an Idaho School Leadership Fellow, where she can develop new areas of expertise, learn from the best of what others have to offer and create new partnerships for Anser. Bluum’s Idaho School Leadership Fellowship will allow her to focus her time and energy on imagining what Anser Charter School looks like beyond its first 20 years and to continue to serve as a part of the Anser Crew as they develop innovative new approaches to learning and to serving more families in Idaho.
MOSAICS Public School
Anthony Haskett is a lifelong Idahoan who has spent the past 10 years working in education. In that time, he spent 7 years working as an elementary teacher serving students in southwest Idaho. He then became an administrator at Idaho Arts Charter School. Anthony has always valued lifelong learning, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, and an Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership from Northwest Nazarene University. He has also been awarded fellowships from the Boise State Writing Project and 4.0 Schools’ Essentials Program. Through these fellowships, he learned the importance of using inquiry-based instruction to increase both student engagement and retention of content as well as designing schools to include those who are on the margins of society.
In the past few years, Anthony has seen the visible impact arts education can have on students’ abilities to express themselves and think critically as it is integrated into their everyday experiences at school. He plans to use his experiences and knowledge to open a STEAM charter school, focused on developing 21st century skills based in collaboration, design thinking, and arts integration.
Treasure Valley Classical Academy
A proven and effective school leader, Steve Lambert comes to Idaho to help found and lead Treasure Valley Classical Academy (TVCA), a new school in Payette County. TVCA will be established as part of the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative (BCSI). Previously, Steve was the assistant principal and principal of Atlanta Classical Academy, a BCSI charter school with 630 students and a 67-member faculty and staff. The school maintained an active 1,200 student wait list. While serving as principal, the school successfully underwent AdvancED/SACS accreditation as an independent K-12 charter school.
Mr. Lambert retired at the rank of colonel from the U.S. Air Force in May 2014 after a decorated 24-year career. Previously, he served as the Director of the U.S. Air Force Commanders’ Professional Development School, where he was responsible for preparing over 1,400 senior officers annually for command with an executive-level curriculum spanning a broad range of topics and integrating mentorship from the most senior cadre of Air Force general officers. Before that, he served as the Vice Commander of the 86th Airlift Wing headquartered at Ramstein, Germany, where he helped lead an organization comprised of over 10,000 Air Force personnel dispersed across three air bases in Germany, Spain, and Belgium.
Other highlights in his career include numerous operational leadership and flying assignments, an assistant professorship with the Department of Military Strategic Studies at the Air Force Academy, flying special air missions in support of the President and his staff as well as members of Congress during the George W. Bush administration, and serving in a variety of national security policy positions at the Pentagon and in Washington D.C.
Mr. Lambert earned his undergraduate degree in political science from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1990. He is a distinguished graduate from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, where he was awarded an MA in National Security Affairs in 1995. In 2004, he was selected for a research fellowship at the Center for Strategic Intelligence Research (Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington D.C.) and in 2008 he was chosen to be a National Defense Fellow at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy (Tufts University, Boston).
With his extensive leadership experience and a deep passion for serving students, Mr. Lambert brings a classical school model and culture to offer the families of Payette County a tuition-free education opportunity of a lifetime.
Co-Founder, Elevate Academy
Monica White has been in the education profession for 15 years. During this time, she has served as a teacher, coach, principal and assistant superintendent. She believes that there is genius in all of us and that the best way to create success is to ensure that people have the tools to work and live with passion and purpose. Monica is an inspired and passionate educator who is committed to being an advocate for teachers, and even more importantly, students. She’s a problem-solver who will work tirelessly with her team to find opportunities and resources to help all students become successful.
Monica believes in empowering people, and she works intentionally to empower her staff so that they can deliver the best education to students. When offering professional development opportunities, Monica spends equal time building the staff up personally, improving their professional efficacy, and having fun and coming together as a team.
Monica is Co-Founder of Elevate Academy, a proposed public charter school intends to train and create a pipeline of highly-skilled, employable workers that meet the needs of Idaho industry and business, while empowering students to be leaders in their own lives.
Co-Founder, Elevate Academy
Matt Strong has been an educator since 1995. His tenure includes time at Weiser Middle School, Skyview High School and Caldwell High School before becoming the assistant principal at Canyon Springs High School. Matt has been deeply involved in athletics; coaching football at every level, including his current position as an assistant football coach at the College of Idaho. He was formerly a District 3 basketball referee. Matt is very community minded and serves with Caldwell Proud, a community improvement organization, and Go Purple, a College/Community collaboration initiative. As an assistant principal, Matt has been an instrumental part in transforming Canyon Springs High School from a school in need of restructuring to a school that has become a model throughout the state of Idaho.
Matt is a master at working with and reaching at-risk students. He has a gift for making them believe in their potential, and providing them the opportunity and resources necessary to reach it. Matt’s strengths lie in community relations and recruitment, classroom management and school culture.
Matt is Co-Founder of Elevate Academy, a proposed public charter school intends to train and create a pipeline of highly-skilled, employable workers that meet the needs of Idaho industry and business, while empowering students to be leaders in their own lives.
Co-Founder, Future Public School
Amanda Cox is a first generation college graduate and native of the Northwest. In 2007, she began her career in education as a Teach For America corps member. She spent four years teaching in rural North Carolina. Amanda is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and currently serves on the national advisory council for the Native Alliance Initiative. Amanda served as a Director of Teacher Leadership Development for TFA South Carolina. Amanda graduated from Whitworth College with a B.A. in Sociology, with an emphasis in Social and Cultural Analysis, as well as an Ed. M in Prevention Science and Practice from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Amanda is Co-Founder of Future Public School, a public charter school in Garden City with a future-focused view of learning and a deep commitment to community, equity, and diversity.
Co-Founder, Future Public School
Brad Petersen taught and designed curriculum for KIPP Houston Public Schools from 2013-16. Brad graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2012, speaks fluent Spanish, and started teaching as a Teach For America corps member in 2013. He founded and ran an after-school computer science club in partnership with Google, and also co-founded and led a technology startup focused on empowering student voice. Brad recently competed for, and won, a highly competitive new school development grant from 4.0 Schools. This ‘Tiny Fellowship’ will support the planning and launch of an after-school computer science program in a Treasure Valley community. Brad is committed to starting a high-performing elementary school in an underserved region of the Boise area. His school will have a STEM focus and prepare students for the finest secondary schools, universities and careers by offering a personalized, technology-enthused curriculum for each student.
Brad is Co-Founder of Future Public School, a public charter school in Garden City with a future-focused view of learning and a deep commitment to community, equity, and diversity.