Our Exceptional Staff

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Contact Gary Livick


M. A. Educational Leadership and Administration, Brandman University

B.A. Liberal Studies; Science, California State University

Licensed Colorado Principal

Gary Livick

Dean of Students

Gary has been teaching or leading schools for 18 years. He moved to the Four Corners Region 13 years ago. He loves to raft, hike, ski, camp and mountain bike. Gary is a strong advocate for project-based learning and has seen amazing results when students and teachers are passionate about their work and held to high standards. Most recently Gary served as the Dolores Elementary School principal. Before that, he helped start the 21st Century pilot program at Cortez Middle School, an amazing one-to-one laptop program where he taught science, math, technology and critical thinking in a project-based setting. He has also been a science fair coordinator and mentor for many years. Before coming to the Southwest, Gary taught high school math and reading at Woodlake Union High School in California. He has also taught math to at-risk boys for the Right of Passage Charter School located near Angels Camp, California. Gary grew up in the Central Valley of California where he was often seen helping his father in the orange groves or fixing diesel trucks in his father’s diesel repair business. As an educator, Gary is passionate about preparing students for the information age and showing how to use authority, logic and evidence to analyze and evaluate the massive amounts of information directed at students and teachers every day. Gary enjoys traveling with his wife, 11-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son.

Brooke Lamb Teacher

Contact Brooke Lamb


M.A. Education, University of Nevada

​B.A.  Political Science University of Nevada, Las Vegas​

Brooke Lamb

5th Grade Math/Humanities Teacher

Brooke grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada and spent her childhood riding horses and snowboarding. ​She discovered her love of teaching after she joined AmeriCorps and worked as a tutor for at-risk students. Brooke returned to college to earn her Master’s degree in Education and has taught in various elementary grades for the last sixteen years. She especially loves teaching reading and working with students in upper elementary grades. In her free time Brooke enjoys reading, traveling, doing yoga, and spending time outdoors. She is looking forward to putting roots down in Durango ​and being a part of the Mountain Middle School community.


Contact Kimi Hanson


MA – Teacher Leadership Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO

Kimi Hanson

4th Grade Math/Humanities Teacher

Kimi Hanson came to Durango in 1997 by chance when she participated in an exchange program at Fort Lewis College for one year while pursuing her degree in Anthropology.  As that year drew to a close, she realized that Durango had captured her heart. She transferred to the Fort the following year and received her BA in History with a minor in Anthropology.  The rich cultural history of the area had its hold on her and she wanted to figure out how to stay forever, thus leading her to pursue her teaching certification in Elementary Education. Since 2005, she has taught first, second, and third grades between her time at Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary, Park Elementary, and most recently Needham Elementary, where she worked for 8 years.  Kimi and her husband Luke love enjoying the outdoors with their daughter and son. Together they ski, bike, camp, kayak, paddle board, and go rafting. In 2015, Kimi received her MA in Teacher Leadership and is thrilled for this opportunity to become Mountain Middle School’s 4th/5th teacher leader.  She is looking forward to her new chapter with the Mountain Middle School family.

Josh Smiles Bio Image

Contact Josh Smiles


BS – Journalism – Ohio University

MAT – Teaching – Lewis and Clark College

Josh Smiles

6th Grade Humanities Teacher

Josh is new to Durango but comes to Mountain Middle School with a variety of educational and life experiences. He has taught in Brazil, Vietnam, Peru, Taiwan and Australia.  He has five years of experience teaching Expeditionary Learning, both in Denver and Castle Rock. Josh’s passions include biking, snowboarding, skiing, music, travel and photography.  He is joined in Durango by his wife, Larissa, who is a nurse and his new baby girl, Autumn Bree. He is excited to join the “pack” at Mountain Middle School and to be teaching his favorite grade, sixth.


Contact Adam Seery


BS – Middle Grades Education, College of Charleston

Adam Seery

4th/5th Grade Math/Science Teacher

Adam grew up just north of Baltimore.  He attended College of Charleston, earning a degree in Middle Grades Education.  During his time in Charleston, he rediscovered his love for the outdoors through climbing and paddleboarding.

After graduating, Adam spent time as a canoe and rock climbing guide in the Boundary Waters Minnesota.  He has lived in Jackson Wyoming for the last 5 years teaching field education at Teton Science Schools and managing programs at Teton Literacy Center.  When he’s not teaching you can find him mountain biking, running, snowboarding or climbing.
Jen Lokey - Teacher

Contact Jen Lokey


MAT – Secondary Science University of Puget Sound
BS – Biology University of Puget Sound

Jen Lokey

Instructional Guide

Jen is a happy transplant to Colorado. She spent most of her life as a resident of the Pacific Northwest. She taught biology for five years at the Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma, WA in addition to running its climbing club and experiential learning program. Jen’s last eight years in Durango have involved raising her two little boys from scratch and creating and teaching education programs at the Powerhouse Science Center. She loves skiing, running, and climbing as much as humanly possible. Her favorite places on the planet are the Great Barrier Reef, Joshua Tree, and Denali National Parks. Jen’s other passions include but are not limited to wearing costumes for no good reason, using


Contact Josh Fix


Doctor of Education Curriculum and Leadership in progress,Columbus State University

M.A. Mathematics, Albany State University

B.A. Mathematics, Secondary Teaching, Fort Lewis College

Josh Fix

7th Grade Math/Science Teacher

Josh grew up in cornfields of Iowa before following his love for the mountains to Boulder then landing in Durango at FLC, where he earned his Bachelors in Mathematics and Secondary Education back in 2000.  For the past 18-years, he has called Georgia home. His job titles over the past 18-years include 7th & 8th-grade Math and Science Teacher, High School Math Teacher, Instructional Technology Specialist, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Adjunct Professor of Mathematics. While in Georgia he earned his Master of Mathematics Education and involved himself in the community through the development of a youth mountain bike team, promotion of trail running, mountain biking and multi-sport events, and leadership roles in trail advocacy and trail maintenance. As Josh and his son, Lane, make their way back to Durango, he is excited to bring his passion of building positive relationships with students and co-workers along with his experience serving in various instructional and leadership capacities, with the Multi-Tiered System of Support, instructional technology, his wide range of teaching experiences, and past athletic endeavors as a mountain biker, ultrarunner and outdoorsman, to the team at Middle Mountain School.

Alec Johnson - Teacher

Contact Alec Johnson


Prescott College
Fort Lewis College

Alec Johnson

7th Grade Humanities Teacher

Alec was born in Germany and moved around with his family before spending much of his childhood in Middletown, PA. He attended Prescott College for an Outdoor Leadership degree. After graduation he worked for Kling Mountain Guides leading trips across Colorado and Utah. He was inspired to delve into formal education after using the outdoors as his classroom. Alec enjoys playing the guitar, all manner of outdoor adventures, and reading leather bound books. He dislikes idleness, and hates pickles.


Contact Liz Cartwright


BA: Secondary Education & United States History, Fort Lewis College
MA: United States History, Adams State University

Liz Cartwright

8th GradeTeacher Leader

Liz Cartwright grew up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   She attended Illinois State University for a year and then enrolled in an exchange program with Fort Lewis College.   Liz graduated from Fort Lewis College and began her teaching career.   She taught Social Studies at Bayfield Middle School for ten years and also served as a teacher leader for seven years in Bayfield.   Liz likes staying up to date on current events and teaching the relevance of history.   She lives in Hesperus with her husband, two dogs, chickens, and ducks.   When she’s not in the classroom, she is outside exploring.  Her passions are mountain biking, hiking, skiing, and doing yoga.  She is excited to be joining Mountain Middle School’s team!

BA – Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado Boulder
MA – Education, Fort Lewis College

Contact Emma Boone

Emma Boone

8th Grade Math/Science Teacher

Emma was born and raised in the city of Philadelphia. She fell in love with science at an early age, with some of her first memories consisting of marveling at dinosaur fossils in her local science museum and launching rockets with her older brother. Along with these endeavors, Emma has always loved to be active and spend time outside. She started rock climbing in high school and it was this passion that originally brought her to Colorado for college, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado Boulder. While in college, Emma also became a certified yoga instructor.

After graduating, Emma moved to the Red River Gorge, Kentucky where she taught yoga at a natural health center and rock climbed as much as possible. Her time spent as a yoga instructor inspired Emma’s interest in education and desire to become a classroom teacher. Following this inspiration, she moved back to Colorado in order to pursue her Master’s of Education at Fort Lewis College. When not geeking out on science, math and education, you will most likely find Emma climbing rocks, practicing yoga, working on her aerial acrobatic skills, reading, or creating neat crafts.

Rob Rich - Teacher

Contact Rob Rich


MA – Education Technology, Lesley University
BA – Political Science, Ft. Lewis College

Rob Rich

6th Grade Teacher Leader

Rob grew up in Littleton, Colorado enjoying the wonderful opportunities the state has to offer. He climbed his first “Fourteener” at age 7. He moved to Durango in 1984 and attended Fort Lewis College. After graduating he held jobs that gravitated toward teaching young people. Realizing his desire to teach led him to become a trained teacher. He comes to MMS with 15 years of teaching experience at Sunnyside Elementary in Durango. Spending time outdoors hiking, rafting the Grand Canyon, mountain biking, and skiing are a few of life’s other pleasures for Rob.

Anna Layden - Teacher

Contact Anna Layden


M.A. Education, Walden University

BA- English, Colorado State University
Teaching License in Elementary K-6
Teaching License in Secondary English
Montessori 6-9 Teaching License

Anna Layden


Anna grew up in Middlebury, Vermont and has lived in Durango for the past 11 years. Anna attended CSU in Fort Collins and majored in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Anna then attended the FLC teaching licensure program and studied Secondary English Education. She most recently taught at Durango Montessori School for nine years and looks forward to bringing her passion for hands-on, project based learning to a new setting. Anna lives with her husband and enjoys spending time on Durango’s trails with her running shoes or a bike, doing pottery, traveling, and learning through teaching.


Contact Lauren Moran


Ph. D. History, Georgia State University

M.A. History, University of South Carolina

B.A. History and Political Science, Furman University

Lauren Moran

8th Grade Humanities Teacher

Lauren grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and most recently lived in Athens, Georgia where she taught high school History and English at Athens Academy. She is passionate about reading and writing and is excited to help Mountain Middle School students develop their skills and interests in those areas. Lauren earned her BA degree from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina where she played NCAA Division I basketball. She also has MA and PhD degrees in History from University of South Carolina and Georgia State University, respectively. Lauren has hiked the entire Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails. During her hikes of the PCT and CDT, she fell in love with the mountain-west, and is thrilled to be living in Durango now where she can hike and trail-run right outside her door.

Mike Madden - Teacher

Contact Mike Madden


MA – Counseling, Adams State College
BA – Psychology, Ft. Lewis College
Nationally Certified Counselor

Mike Madden

School Counselor

Mike Madden grew up in Denver Colorado and moved to Durango to attend FLC in 1991. He received his B. A. in Psychology from Fort Lewis College, and a Masters Degree in Counseling from Adams State College. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has been working in the field with young people for 20 years . He enjoys, making guitar string jewelry, skiing, whitewater kayaking, singing, playing the guitar and working with young people.


Also add: Licensed Professional Counselor


Contact Sammantha Rowland


M.E.M. Masters of Environmental Management, Western Colorado State University

B.A. Environmental Science, University of Maine

Samm Rowland

6th Grade Math/Science Teacher

Samm (yes, with two m’s) earned her Bachelors of Environmental Science from University of Maine Farmington. She worked as a wildland firefighting and trail crew intern with the US Forest Service in the Manti La Sal district in Moab, Utah. She fell in love with the Southwest and returned to Moab after college to work for the Forest Service as a Botanist and Range Tech for the next two summers, spending her winters skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado. Samm was of the first cohort of Western Colorado University’s Master in Environmental Management program, focusing on restoration ecology and entomology. She earned her Masters in Integrated Land Management while conducting research on Gunnison Sage Grouse habitat for the BLM and working for Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.After grad school she worked in Nevada as an Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring Coordinator and Data Specialist with the Great Basin Institute, focusing on documenting Botany, Soils and Rangeland Health on BLM land. She earned her alternate license through the Boettcher Teacher Residency Program while teaching Math & Wildland Firefighting and Land Management at Pagosa Springs High School. Samm recharges after working hard by skiing (up or down or across), biking, climbing, backpacking or fly fishing,  preferably with her dog Pan at her heels. She also travels as much as possible, preferably to places with great food and a unique ecology.


Contact Kari Pepper


M.A. Linguistically Diverse Education, Adams State University

B.A. Education, University of Oregon

Kari Pepper

Visual Arts Teacher

Kari Pepper is originally from Oregon and earned an Art Education degree from the University of Oregon.  For five years she taught grades 4-6 at a small alternative school on the Oregon coast where even her love for surfing couldn’t keep her from seeking a drier climate.  In 1999 she moved to Aspen and met her husband Perry and shortly after they moved to Durango where Kari has been teaching art between Bayfield Middle School and Durango High School for the last 19 years. When Kari is not recreating in the mountains or on the river she is most likely traveling. She is excited to bring her experience teaching art through a Choice Based approach and to collaborate with new students and staff. Kari is passionate about inspiring young artists to find their creative voice through envisioning, problem solving and connecting to the world around them.  

Tell me I forget

Show me I remember

Involve me and I understand.  Chinese Proverb

Eric Hillstrom - Teacher

Contact Eric Hillstrom


MA – Education Technology/Curriculum Design, Michigan State University
BA – Social Sciences/Secondary Education, Minnesota State University

Eric Hillstrom

Digital Media and Fabrication Teacher

Eric grew up in extreme Southern Canada, 14 kilometers north of St. Paul, Minnesota. He has 26 years of teaching experience ranging from at-risk youth, adult education, and teaching internationally. These teaching experiences have taken Eric from islands in the Pacific Ocean to Oregon, and SE Asia before arriving in Durango. Prior to MMS, Eric taught technology and multimedia courses at Durango High School. Eric comes to MMS with a focus on computer coding, 3-D printing, video/film, visual literacy, digital citizenship. His interests lie in the outdoors hunting and fishing, travel, competitive shooting sports, and spending time at home on the river.

Sarah Tescher - Teacher

Contact Sarah Tescher

Sarah Tescher

Mountain Options (Homeschool Program) Teacher

Sarah has lived in Durango for over 17 years raising her two sons, Jack and
Dylan, and working in schools as well as the non-for-profit world. She is a parent of a 8th grader as well as a parent of a student who graduated from MMS. She owns and runs Durango Academic Coaching LLC as well as being the founder of Durango Devo. She has been an educator for over 20 years having first started teaching at Berkeley High in 1997 in World History. She has a California and Colorado Secondary Teaching Credential as well as an endorsement in ESL and a certificate in Non-Profit-Management. he has taught at Miller Middle School, Animas High (X-Block), Durango Montessori, 9R Shared School, Columbine Christian as well as after-school and summer Spanish camps. She has coached and worked with kids for over 25 years. ​When not with students or her own kids, she can be found on her bike or skis in the mountains!


Contact Amy Hackmeier


MA – Licensed Clinical Social Worker
BA – Human Development and Family Life, University of Kansas

Amy Hackmeier

Behavioral Health Specialist

Amy is from Texas, but spent her most precious childhood moments in Durango attending Colvig Silver Camps until becoming a die hard local in 1999.  After graduating from college, she came straight to Durango and has never left.  Amy received her Master of Social Work in 2006, but has been a social worker at heart since she was able to talk.  Amy has worked in the non-profit world throughout her career as Therapist, Family Coordinator, Teacher, Child and Family Investigator, Parenting Coach, and Social Worker.  Amy’s professional passions include supporting people to reach their full potential while embracing a holistic, family dynamics approach to growth.  Personally, Amy’s passionate about her friends and family (including pups), trail running, fly fishing, music, and doing her best to help people find their light.

Natalie Barstatis - Teacher

Contact Natalie Barstatis


BS- Business Management, Northern Arizona University ​

Natalie Barstatis

Business Manager

Before moving to Durango from Arizona, Natalie managed multiple law firms, including a Family Law practice and an Estate Planning Practice. Natalie and her husband, who were high school sweethearts, and moved with their son to Durango in 2007, where their family quickly grew to include a daughter. While raising her children, Natalie performed book keeping services throughout Durango and led the Needham Elementary PTO from 2011-2013. She enjoys gardening, running, hiking, camping, and spending time with her family.

Cherish Bio Photo

Contact Cherish Trammell

Cherish Trammell

Site Manager

Cherish grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She spent time in Olympia, WA and Aurora, CO before settling into Durango where she met her husband, Nate.  Cherish has a passion for children that blossomed at age 9 when she started volunteering at a childcare center for homeless children. This experience propelled her passion for helping others and working with children. Prior to Mountain Middle School, Cherish worked at Riverview Elementary School as an Administrative Assistant for 10 years.  She loved her involvement with students, parents and staff and is excited to continue this work at Mountain Middle School.

Cherish has a 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.  She enjoys spending time with her family (which includes 2 dogs), hiking, running, DIY projects, and enjoys her summers on the Les Cheneaux Islands of Michigan.

Melissa Nurse

Contact Melissa

Melissa Paxton

Nurse, Student Wellness Center

Melissa grew up in the Northeast and spent much her childhood visiting the island of Jamaica. She then moved to Oregon, Montana and California and spent over 10 years leading conservation-focused, educational adventures for middle school, high school and college students across Latin America.

In 2005, Melissa moved to Durango, had her son Liam in 2008 and in 2013, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse. In addition to her role as the Mountain Middle School Nurse, she works with Pediatric Partners of the Southwest and Mercy Regional Medical Center. Melissa is currently pursuing a BSN, combined with a degree in public health.

When not working or studying, you can find Melissa spending time with her son and their awesome crew of Durango friends mountain biking, rafting, backpacking, camping at music festivals, skiing and hiking.

Amee Austin

Contact Amee Austin

MA- Instruction, Saint Mary’s University
BS- Psychology and Sociology, Viterbo University
Teaching Licenses- Elementary and Special Education

Amee Austin


Amee is a native of the midwest, transplanting to Durango in 2013. She grew-up in Rochester, MN, where education was a priority and the largest employers, Mayo Hospital and IBM, had a tremendous influence on schools and the success of students. She has earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Sociology from Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI and a Master of Arts in Instruction from Saint Mary’s University in Winona, MN. She worked in medical/treatment and the public sectors of education for 16 years before moving to Durango. Amee’s formal education and work experiences that she brings to MMS is from a brain-centered approach to education. She strongly believes (and knows), that all student are unique in their learning, and she embraces the challenge to bring out the best in everyone of them. I

In her free time, Amee enjoys spending it with her husband and two daughters playing board games, cooking, watching the Packers, biking, skiing, or having adventures in the their RV.


Contact Nancy Wickham

BS- Gender and Women ‘s Studies w/ focus in U.S. History, Fort Lewis College
MA- Education, Fort Lewis College

Teaching License – Secondary Social Studies

Nancy Wickham

 7th GradeTeacher Leader

Originally from La Junta, Colorado, Nancy grew up moving around- a lot. Her family finally landed in Vermont, where she spent the majority of her teenage years in the region known as the “Northeast Kingdom.” Despite the beauty of New England, she always knew she’d one day return to Colorado. After attending junior college in Southern Maryland, earning an Associate’s Degree in Humanities, Nancy headed west, making her way to Albuquerque where she taught preschool. Following a weekend visit to Durango in 2008, she knew she had found “home,” the perfect place to raise her son, Adrian, and so decided to move three months later. Nancy attended Fort Lewis College, earning a degree in Gender and Women’s Studies with a focus in U.S. History. She is currently working towards earning her Master’s Degree in Education and holds a Secondary Social Studies licensure. She LOVES history and is always excited to witness students making connections to the past. Like her colleagues, Nancy enjoys being outdoors and exploring the wilderness whenever possible. Her favorite thing to do is snowboard, and she loves getting to share her passion for the sport as an instructor and coach. Although she’d love to snowboard year round, she’s recently discovered a new obsession: mountain biking. She also enjoys reading, gardening, yoga, and hiking.