The Skybridge Team
Ariel Dochstader Miller
Ariel grew up in an entrepreneurial family. She was fortunate at a young age to travel with her father on many of his business trips. Insatiably curious, and with a deep love of business, Ariel used to sneak down to the bars to question his CEO peers as to how they obtained their business success.
To fulfill her lifelong dream of working for the Walt Disney Company, she flew to Orlando during spring break of her freshman year and knocked on the doors of the Walt Disney World education department, where they were creating an innovative school to serve the needs of the Celebration community (modeled after Walt Disney’s original vision of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow or EPCOT). When they granted her a meeting, the executives informed her their funding was being cut and suggested she apply for the college internship program “Management, Disney Style.”
Ariel worked in Disney management for 3 years before starting Biorhythms Publishing with her husband Lucas Miller, developing education programs and several award winning products. Lucas has performed for approximately 2,000,000 children and been named an American Masterpiece Artist (he is also part of the Skybridge Academy staff).
When her son became school aged, Ariel joined the board of the innovative private school he was attending, served as their Communications and Development Director, increased admissions 69%, and created a mission based fundraising program. The fundraising budget went from $2000 per year to over $125,000 in pledges.
After homeschooling for 3 years so her family could be together while she cared for her terminally ill mother, Ariel's family decided they were ready for a new beginning. Ariel and her children imagined the most vital learning environment they could dream of and Skybridge was born.
Ariel has joyously been leading and tweaking the Skybridge program for the past four years. She is Skybridge's most avid student.
Mimi is a third generation educator. Her grandmother started as a teacher and retired as a middle school counselor. Her father was an accomplished cardiac radiologist running the residency program at Parkland Hospital. Her mother was an elementary education teacher. Her parents instilled a tremendous work ethic in her, and she began working at 16; daycares, restaurants, and music stores. At 18 she went to Texas Tech, and earned a degree in psychology.
After working at a juvenile detention facility she moved ‘up’ to adult probation. This quickly showed Mimi that she did not want to work in the world of ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’. She decided to move to see something other than Texas, and had friends in Virginia. She fell into a job at a small internet service provider, and within 8 months was managing the company, developing policy and procedure, and training for new employees. She loved knowing she was a part of connecting people all over the world. Ultimately, she landed what would be a dream job for some, working at Sprint in Northern Virginia; land of telecomm. After working in a network operations center, she helped develop the training and onboarding for new employees, and ultimately manage multi-million dollar customer accounts like America Online. While the thought of connecting people all over the world was great; the reality of walking into a cubicle everyday was grey. She needed to be around people as compared to technology.
Mimi walked away from 6 figures and began the road to doing what she had dreamed of since she was 5 years old; teach school. She graduated summa cum laude with a Masters in Education from Old Dominion University in Virginia while working at a Montessori school. She began teaching elementary school and adored her students and watching all the ‘light bulb’ moments.
She moved back to Texas, but Austin now, and decided after working full time while pursuing her masters in 1.5 years it was time to take a break. She took a two month trip to India; one month of yoga teacher training and one month of traveling. After the initial shock of flying to India by herself and seeing hundreds, if not thousands of people sleeping in the streets; she fell in love with the land. At the end of two months she knew she had to stay for longer. She came back, rented her house, and stayed in India for four years. During that time she studied Hinduism, Tablas, Ayurveda, yoga, traveled, and worked as a healer.
It was a large adjustment coming back to The States, no more bargaining at the store over prices, no more majestic mountains, no more collective conscious that there is something larger than us. She took her time integrating back in and taught yoga and worked as a healer.
At the end of 2014 Mimi and her husband moved to Wimberley, and she began her teaching career again. Working at middle and high school levels; she loves her students and is fueled by watching students grow academically and personally all the while sharing in laughter.
In her off time Mimi loves music, yoga, reading, snuggling with her dogs and cat, hiking with friends, gardening, and good full belly laughs; especially when that laughter harmonizes.
Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mathematics
Being raised in a military family, Adam grew up in various towns along the East Coast. After graduating from high school in Montville, Connecticut, Adam relocated to Tucson, Arizona to pursue a degree in Mathematics at the University of Arizona. While completing his B.S. he became actively involved with Camp Wildcat, a student-run, non-profit organization taking underprivileged youth from the Tucson area on weekend long camping trips in hopes of providing them with positive opportunities to attain personal success.
After receiving his degree, Adam accepted a position with the Tohono O’odham Nation teaching mathematics on the reservation in Topawa, Arizona. During his time working with these students, he seized the chance to coach both the middle school football and baseball teams, bringing the baseball team to an undefeated 2016 regular season. These opportunities allowed Adam to form personal connections with the students and community members of the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Despite his positive experience teaching in Topawa, Adam decided to move to Texas in order to be closer to family. After visiting the area and discovering that Skybridge would serve as a unique outlet for his passion in mathematics, he quickly decided that Austin was the right place for him.
Director of Social Studies
Kelsey Lee grew up in Paris Texas. At a young age she took a liking to fishing brim and bass on the weekends with her dad and brother, and playing soccer and baseball during the week. From 3rd to 5th grade she was fortunate to attend Socrates class for the gifted and talented. It was there that she became interested in her unique learning style, and accepting that it was okay to think critically. This formative foundation carried her through her academic career, and fuels her desire for lifelong learning.
Kelsey moved to Central Texas in January 2013 to finish her undergraduate courses for her Bachelor's in science in anthropology and geography. Her emphasis during and after undergraduate work were cultural studies, engaged ecology, and sustainable development indexes and eco-communities. Kelsey has a curiosity for history, economics, politics, and law.
Any free time Kelsey gets is spent at Spring Lake, the San Marcos River, or the green belts in the region. Her personal philosophy is to “be the flow”. This mantra helps her to be a compassionate, energetic, and open-hearted human Earthling. Her teaching philosophy is to encourage students to believe in themselves and find that learning is a matter of experiences and making connections. Her goal is to help foster healthy relationships for students with themselves, with others, and with their natural environment.
Kelsey is currently working on her Masters of Science in Sustainability Studies. Her course work focuses on environmental ethics, law, and policy analysis and development with a contextual layer of sustainable indices for community and urban development. She will graduate in the summer of 2019.
Director of Literature & Humanities
LouRae grew up in Arkansas where she developed a love of nature, storytelling, and bluegrass music! She moved to Colorado for college and just stayed! It was in Colorado that LouRae discovered her love of teaching literature and writing, and started her career as a teacher. It wasn’t long before she found progressive, alternative education, and she never looked back.
The self-reflective and intellectually curious environment of the alternative education environment made it possible for LouRae to thrive as an educator and learner. She continued her education in the arts, literary studies, and writing, and completed masters degrees with Lesley College and Fort Hays State University.
From her experience as a student, mom, and teacher, LouRae has learned to value simple and flexible approaches when working with complex ideas. Providing the space for students to connect with knowledge in a way that is emotionally and intellectually relevant to their own experiences opens the door to a life of curiosity, connections, and possibility.
LouRae and her husband raised their daughter in the mountains of Colorado. They love the close mountain community of the Roaring Fork Valley and spent many days with friends on the ski mountains, hiking in the backcountry, and biking through the countryside. A few years ago, LouRae and Michael had an opportunity to move to Austin and decided it was the perfect time to embark on a new adventure. They have made a new home in this community, and although sometimes miss the snow, they don’t miss shoveling it from the driveway!
When not in school, LouRae practices yoga, plays with her Golden Retriever, reads in her hammock by the river, and practices being a visual-journal artist.
Director of Technology
Alex is a born-and-raised Austinite who has spent his life surrounded by technology. As a child, he stumbled into coding as a hobby when he discovered a QBASIC editor on his family’s computer, and computer programmer quickly became a fixture of his life. In elementary school he created simple games in the ZZT game engine, copied them onto 3.5” discs and sold them to his classmates. Throughout his adolescence Alex spent much of his time experimenting with computers, studying video games, or writing code, serving as the webmaster for McNeil High School’s Anime Club. Driven by a natural curiosity and a desire to constantly be improving and learning, Alex continued to learn new languages and concepts and develop his skills.
After completing high school, Alex found employment at the Austin branch of the prominent game studio Blizzard Entertainment, serving as a Game Master for the hit online game World of Warcraft. Over the course of his six years at the company, he learned a great deal about the game development process and how different teams collaborate with one-another to make such a complex and expansive game possible, and the experiences he had motivated him to pursue an education in game development. Alex attended Austin Community College and graduated with an Associates Degree of Applied Science with a specialization in Game Design. Along the way he evolved his understanding of coding, building a strong knowledge of object-oriented programming principles and working with a variety of powerful game development technologies. Since graduation, he has remained active in the local game design community, participating in local game jams put on by organizations such as Juegos Rancheros.
Alex loves to teach - in addition to serving as an on-campus tutor at ACC after graduation, he has also taught game design summer camps for students from ages 9 to 17. He lives for the “Aha!” moment, when a student wraps their head around a complex idea and in an instant changes their way of seeing things completely. He is also a lifelong student, constantly reading and experimenting in the pursuit of knowledge. He brings to Skybridge an excitement about technology and programming that he intends to pass onto the next generation of programmers and game developers.
Communications Director & Director of Theater Arts
Brian Oglesby is used to doing theatre in a 120-year-old, dirt-floored barn. For twelve years, he has helped run Barnyard Theatre, a company he co-founded in northern California that develops and produces new plays in this historic barn in the middle of the countryside. Every summer, the company takes the goats and horses that usually occupy the stalls to an outdoor pen, and loads in audience chairs and lighting equipment and elaborate sets. In addition to company management, Brian primarily focused on new play development, bringing in original works and working with the playwrights to grow their plays. In this spirit, he created the company’s Nights of New Plays Festival to showcase and develop new plays, work with playwrights and other theatre artists, and to engage audiences in the art and build community. Barnyard affirmed and developed his beliefs in learning-by-doing. He believes people should make the things that they want to see in this world.
He is both a playwright and a teacher. He moved to Austin for his MFA in Playwriting at the University of Texas. At UT, he created The Bridge Festival, which had graduate students mentor undergraduates in the writing of ten-minute plays. He also has an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside, with an emphasis in Fiction. There he taught both creative writing and beginning acting classes.
He writes plays for and with teens, as well as plays for adults. His “All-Audience” adaptation of The Jungle Book was produced in Sacramento a year ago, and is being published by Stage Rights. He recently won the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Latino Playwright Award. At UC-Riverside, he curated The Coming Out Monologues for three years. His fiction has been published in the literary journals Indiana Review, ZYZZYVA, New California Writing, among others. His full-length play Halfway, Nebraska was developed as part of Playwrights Week at The Lark Play Development Center in New York, and then went on to win the award for Outstanding Playwriting from the New York Fringe Festival. His play for young audiences, Third Street, was read at the Cohen New Works Festival and at the 2013 UIL Conference.
He loves Austin. It reminds him of his hometown, but bigger and with more tattoos.
Director of Arts & Technology
Jonathan “J” Muzacz was born and raised in Houston, Texas but got out of there as quick as he could. Moving to Austin and graduating in just three years with a degree in Sociology from the University of Texas, J took his leftover student loans and went backpacking around Europe.
For the last decade, J has been peeking in pyramids, teaching English in Korea and Japan, working odd jobs in Australia and New Zealand, everything from hospitality and help exchanges to migrant farm work; making ends while making art and mural painting around the world. Through these rich and deep cultural experiences, J has developed a keen eye for community and cultural relativity in his public works as an artist.
While teaching English in Kyoto in 2011, J documented Japan with ball pen sketches, one for every day of the year. That developed into an impressive, fully-bilingual, 432-page tome, Japan 365: A Drawing-A-Day Project. First-run sales were used as a fundraiser for relief efforts after the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the northeastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.
After two years teaching elementary and junior high English, J with his then girlfriend Yuki Takata (now happily married) journeyed 3500km the length of Japan by bicycle, camping along the way and eating a vegetarian diet in order to raise environmental awareness for clean transportation and a more sustainable lifestyle.
Ending up on tiny Ishigaki Island at the very southern tip of the Okinawan archipelago, J found work as a field hand harvesting sugarcane the traditional way. There he learned the local culture and went on to write and illustrate his second book, Life Is Sweet: The Story of a Sugarcane Field, a 60-page, full-color, bilingual (English & Japanese) children’s story which teaches about sugarcane, appreciation of nature and the value of a hard day’s work.
Coming back to Austin in 2016, J plugged back in with old friend Randy Jewart at Resolution Gardens for a stint designing and implementing edible landscapes around Austin while pursuing freelance art commissions and large-scale mural work. Most notably having been granted the honor of (finally) painting the front façade of the long-standing Austin arts institution, the Dougherty Arts Center on Barton Springs Road.
J is currently teaching Urban Painting through the City of Austin’s Totally Cool Totally Art teen program and developing his iconic stained-glass painting technique in both large-scale murals and smaller gallery and commission works. You can see his work online at www.jmuzacz.com or on Instagram @jmuzacz. He is super-excited to be teaching for such an amazing institution in Skybridge and hopes to encourage international curiosity and tolerance through art for our increasingly global future.
Kate van den Bosch
Kate spent her early years being home schooled in the Solomon Islands before returning to the United Kingdom for High School and University. Having Graduated from the University of Exeter with her BSc in Geography and Earth Science she was a not-very-happy banker in London for a year before following her heart to teacher training. She spent several years working in London schools during which time she met and married her Texan husband, with whom she moved to Austin in January 2014
Her early exposure to dramatic natural environments in the Pacific ignited a need to understand the natural world. She believes that thought science we make sense of the world around us and feel more connected to it. She is a passionate advocate for open honest, communication in the classroom, from this is born mutual respect and so a safe and effective learning environment for everyone. She derives huge satisfaction from creating workshops and lessons that engage, challenge and motivate.
Kate fell in love with Austin rather more quickly than she thought she would, and when she isn’t knee deep in Scientific lesson plotting she can usually be found running or hiking one of the Austin’s trails with her terribly behaved dog in tow, cruising food trucks in a never ending search for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich or trying to persuade her husband to ‘vacation’ in wild and dangerous parts of the world.
Her real academic passion lies with Volcanoes which has led her to some peculiar places, and makes her unbearable to watch disaster movies with.
Dan was born in Dublin and raised in Cork, Ireland. He enjoyed math and science as a student, so he studied physics, chemistry and math in University College Cork and received a BSc in chemistry. He also fenced for the University fencing team. After his degree, he earned a MSc in analytical chemistry and went to work in a pharmaceutical company near Cork.
After a year working, he decided that this type of occupation wasn’t for him and chose to try his hand at teaching. He loved it and, after a year of substitute teaching, got a Higher Diploma in education. He spent another year as a substitute teacher in Ireland and then went to Guildford, UK for a change and a full-term teaching job.
After Guildford, he moved to Chelmsford and then Romford in the East End of London, teaching more physics and reawakening his love of space science in the process. During this time, he married and decided to tutor instead of teaching full time. Dan then moved to Cambridge and went tutoring in this area.
After a year in Cambridge, he and his wife moved to Austin for his wife’s job and absolutely loves it! He discovered proper barbeque and tex-mex. He also enjoys the much better weather that Austin has but tends to melt a little in the Texas summer. In his down time, Dan can be found watching the Texas Longhorns, the Dallas Cowboys or the Houston Texans. He might be found watching the Texas Stars playing ice hockey or watching Manchester United winning. He also enjoys cooking, reading science fiction or fantasy and watching some movies. He still fences in Austin and occasionally wins some bouts.
Director of Science Education
Dave was born in Bremerton, Washington and split the majority of his younger years between Virginia and Connecticut. After graduating from high school in the Northeast he quickly sough warmer weather in Tucson, Arizona where he studied chemistry at the University of Arizona. During his undergraduate career, he concentrated his research in organic synthesis of biochemical compounds before graduating with a Bachelor of Science. After graduation, he returned to his stomping grounds in Connecticut to continue his studies at the University of Hartford with courses in neurochemistry while substitute teaching in local public schools. After accepting a long-term substitute position in Biology, Forensic Science, and Chemistry he discovered a passion for education inspired by students with a desire to better prepare themselves for a life in industrial research.
After one-too-many winters, he recalled his inclination for longer summers and distaste for snow removal, when he decided Austin, Texas was the next stop on his journey. Upon relocation, he began working as a Rehabilitation Technician in a long-term acute care center focused on brain injuries and wound care until joining the science department at Skybridge Academy.
When not in the classroom, Dave can be found reading up on current research in identifying a center of consciousness in the brain, skiing with his family, or getting lost in the latest alternative rock on vinyl. Over the past decade, he has also developed an international travel itch where a few of his favorites include; Costa Rica, Prague, Scotland, and (most recently) Thailand.