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Hello educators! We are so happy to have you join us! Please meet the team :)


Karen A.L. Guerrero, PhD, EdD
Principle Investigator

Karen Guerrero is an educator with 20 years of K-12 classroom experience, 16 years of teaching future educators at local colleges and universities, and 20 years of conducting teacher professional development. She has worked with a variety of students from inner-city children to urban adults.  Her research focus is teaching STEM content to diverse learners. She is a National Geographic explorer with research on STEMSS teaching and learning and continually looks for opportunities to collaborate globally.


Dianne McKee, MEd
Project Director

Dianne McKee is an alumnus of ASU and brings over 20 years experience teaching in both formal and non-formal settings, directing federal and regional grants, developing courses and curricula, and designing and delivering both in-person and online professional development for K-12 teachers. She is a Teacher Consultant for the Arizona Geographic Alliance, and a Teacher Trainer for Engineering is Elementary, Makey Makey and Population Education. She has also authored numerous science, environmental, and geographic student publications, as well as developed a number of environmental programs, courses, and training guides for government agencies and non-profit organizations.


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Diane Ripley, MAT

Project Manager

Diane Ripley graduated from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and then found her first job in the state she calls home, Louisiana. She taught informal science for 20 years with a brief 12 year break to follow her dream of being a pastry chef. Diane enjoys creating STEM curriculum for K-12 teachers as well as teacher professional development on a wide range of science topics.  Diane is also a teacher trainer for GLOBE and Makey Makey. 


Jenna Belknap

Student Assistant

​Jenna is a United States Air Force veteran, now pursuing a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University. Upon graduation Jenna plans to become a middle school social studies teacher. Further down the road she plans to earn a master’s degree in special education. Her goal is to be a great educator and make a difference in the lives of students.


Kelsey Meador

Student Assistant 

Kelsey is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education at Arizona State University.  She is also earning a certificate in Environmental Education. Kelsey is planning on becoming an early elementary teacher upon graduation next year.


Stephanie Nunez

Student Assistant

Stephanie is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Astrophysics at Arizona State University. She's also earning 2 minors: Spanish and Biology. After graduation, she wants to continue her studies culminating in her Ph.D., and then hopefully work for NASA studying supernovas.

Tawn Hauptli, EdD
Residential Faculty & Department Chair | Education Studies

Mentor / Guest Faculty

Dr. Hauptli has been an educator in various grade levels and capacities for the past 31 years. She began her career as a preschool teacher, taught high school for 10 years and has been teaching community college preservice teacher education coursework at Mesa Community College since 2001. At MCC, she currently serves as the Chair of the Education Studies department. She is a product of and passionate advocate for public education and fervently believes in its promise to improve the lives of the children it serves. In her view,  the purpose of education is to empower students by providing them with rigorous and engaging experiences that teach them how to think, not what to think. For future teachers, she offers this advice: “Teaching is not a job, it is a lifestyle. Remember that you are a role model and that the students and parents in your community look up to you. You are the magic in the classroom; it is your compassion, intelligence, and skill that allow the students you teach to reach their full potential. Don’t ever forget what a difference you make.”


Dr. Margarita Jimenez-Silva

External Evaluator

Dr. Margarita Jimenez-Silva is Associate Professor and Chair of Teacher Education at the University of California, Davis, and co-founder of Sisterhood for Equity Consulting. Prior to entering higher education, Professor Jimenez-Silva worked with newcomer students as a middle-school math and science. Her research focuses on preparing and supporting teachers to work with culturally and linguistically diverse learners. She has coordinated curriculum and programs addressing the needs of emergent bilinguals in the U.S. and internationally. Dr. Jimenez-Silva has evaluated numerous federally-funded projects. Her most recent work focuses on developing pipelines of future bilingual teachers in ways that honor and build on their cultural and linguistic capital. Her research has been published by journals such as Harvard Educational Review, Multicultural Perspectives, and the Journal of Research on Childhood Education.

Ashley Alarcon
Pensar Academy


My name is Ashley Alarcon and I currently teach at Pensar Academy; a public, Project Based Learning school serving students in grades 4th -8th grade located in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. Previously, I taught 6th grade and this will be my fourth year teaching 4th grade. I am an enrolled member of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe: we are the southernmost branch of Souther Paiute.  I’m from a small town alongside the Colorado River called Parker, Arizona. I moved to the valley over a decade ago to attend Arizona State University, and then Grand Canyon University. I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Grand Canyon University. I am an active member of my school community and continue to seek opportunities to perfect my teaching craft and support my diverse learners. I am also a proud member of the Arizona Geographic Alliance. I was a part of the 2020 STEMSS Cohort and then became a Teacher Lead in the Summer of 2021. I am extremely passionate about multicultural education and representation in the classroom!


Brian Dille

Content Expert / Guest Faculty

Brian Dille grew up in Southeastern Idaho where he tired of the constant snow and wind.  After attending college at Brigham Young University in Utah, he attended graduate school at Arizona State University. There he received a Ph.D. in Political Science, emphasizing the political psychology of foreign policy decision making. He has taught political science at Mesa Community College since 1999. In addition to teaching courses in world politics and American government, he directs the Model United Nations program and hosts a high school MUN conference every February. He published a textbook for Model UN, Engaging the United Nations, designed to be used by high school and community college students.


Dr. Dille developed the Social Science portion of the ASU Fulton School of Education Teaching Foundations project (TFP). He co-directs the Arizona Civic Education Project with Katherine Douglas, which offers free teaching materials to Arizona educators. These resource are found at He also published Arizona Voices, a digital textbook designed to supplement U.S. history and government high school courses with Arizona-specific content that meets the state Social Science Standards released in October 2018.

Niccole Villa Cerveny
Content Expert / Guest Faculty


Niccole Villa Cerveny is a professor of Geography and Sustainability at Mesa Community College (MCC) in Arizona. Her interests in GeoCivics center around the importance of GeoHeritage and methods for understanding how "Place" is integral to our deeper understanding of our shared human heritage. Teaching at MCC for over 20 years, her research interests are in Physical Geography, Rock Decay and Landform Evolution, Heritage Management, GeoHeritage, and Geoscience Education - including undergraduate research. She is also a member of the US National Committee on Geosciences.


Melissa Mercado

Cesar E.Chavez Leadership Academy


Yá'át'ééh! My name is Melissa Mercado and I am an Indigenous matriarch from the Diné (Navajo) Nation. I am a proud Arizona State University alumni, graduating with a degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Bilingual Education. Currently, I am at the end of my third year teaching at Cesar E.Chavez Leadership Academy in South Phoenix, Arizona, where I teach science to fifth and sixth graders. In the last seven years, I have had the opportunity to participate in various organizations that allowed me to present my experiences and knowledge at numerous local and national conferences, giving a voice to indigenous voices. As an indigenous person, I am constantly working to decolonize my way of life and advocate and create opportunities for indigenous youth to reclaim and sustain language and culture. For this reason, during the summer I host a day camp to provide space and learning for Diné kids to connect to their culture, language, and other kids. I find joy in dancing salsa, bachata, cha cha cha, and merengue, spending time with my siblings and family, learning Spanish and human anatomy and physiology, crafting, and sewing.

Matthew Yatsayte



Originally from south of Gallup, New Mexico born August 15th, 1996. A rural community known as Chichiltah in the high desert. a member of the Pueblo of Zuni and Navajo Nation. Growing up around a rural area and small town kindled a love for small businesses and the relationship they had to the community. In 2015 I moved to Phoenix, AZ making that transition from rural living to city life. Always looking to meet new people, find new places and try what I can to support locally. I enjoy being outside especially in the rural areas out of the city, going on hikes to see new places. But while in town I enjoy cooking and trying new food places, weaving, and various other crafts utilizing desert plants.

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Sam Stevens



Sam Stevens grew up on the Navajo Nation in the community of Crystal, which is located in the Chuska Mountains in northwestern NM. He is one of seven children of Sam and Mary Stevens, all of whom have attended and graduated from university. Sam attended Mesa Community College in 1999, then transferred to Arizona State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology in 2004. Returning home after graduation, he spent several years teaching middle school physical education and life skills classes at Navajo Middle School and coaching basketball at Navajo Pine High School, where the Warriors reached the semi-finals of the 2005-06 New Mexico state basketball tournament. In the two years he coached there, they finished with a combined 49-9 record and several of those players went on to play college basketball.

Sam then attended graduate school at the University of California-Berkeley, where he received a master’s degree in Education in 2007. There he studied how students’ development and identity are impacted by relevant academic support, positive leadership, and engagement of critical social issues in higher education. His particular emphasis was studying cultural beliefs and ritual in sport and their impact on performance, persistence, graduation rates, and the development and evolution of students’ identities in academia.

After six years as an academic advisor at the College of Letters and Sciences & Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, he became a program advisor at Mesa Community College’s American Indian Institute in 2013. He works with the largest number of Native American students in the Maricopa Community College District, promoting academic performance, recruitment, outreach, maintenance and engagement of cultural identity in their higher educational journeys. He has also continued as an assistant women’s basketball coach at MCC where the Thunderbirds have been to the NJCAA Division 2 National Tournament 10 of the 18 years he has coached there. They have finished in the top 10 multiple times and even won the 2014 NJCAA Division 2 National Championship.

He is a supporter of greater equitable and inclusive visibility of Native students and people of color in colleges and universities, promoting real and truthful cultural history, perspectives, and awareness in an evolving social landscape to positively engage students and educators within academia.

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