High School Mentors

Jeff JensenJeff Jensen

2020-2021 Live Program Mentor: American History, Senior Capstone Project (Cohort A)

Self-Paced Program Mentor: Modern World History, Ancient World History

Co-Developer: Modern World History, Ancient World History, American History

Mr. Jensen is a beloved mentor for youth and has taught online history, geography, government and economics course for over 6 years. He is a popular speaker and has logged over 3000 public speaking hours, most in classroom settings across the state as a guest lecturer on the Titanic and U.S. history. He was recognized by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as a noteworthy Reagan historian and invited to address them in September 2018. He is currently working towards publication of his first book, a history book called “The President’s Pages.” He has published articles in peer reviewed history and academic journals on the RMS Titanic and serves as assistant editor and historical consultant on 3 BYU publications in the “Saints at War” program.  He enjoyed serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint in Korea and Hong Kong, and as a service volunteer in two orphanages in Thailand. He stays politically active and has taken leadership roles in local politics.

Laura HicksonLaura Hickson

2020-2021 Live Program Mentor: Career and College Prep, Life Skills (Cohort A)

Self-Paced Mentor: Family Science

Laura Hickson graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Development in 2000.  After graduation, she worked for an agricultural consulting firm and had the opportunity to travel around the United States conducting research.  She also has experience in management, sales, marketing, entrepreneurship, and teaching several forms of dance. Her opportunity to teach Gospel Doctrine for almost 10 years has allowed her to feast upon the words of Christ, deepen her testimony of the gospel, and become comfortable leading group discussions.  

So far, Laura’s most exciting adventure in life has been her role as an eternal companion to her husband and mother to their 5 children.  She began homeschooling in 2008 when her oldest daughter was ready for kindergarten. Since then, she has attempted to implement personalized education plans for each of her five children based on learning style, ability and interest.  Trying to maintain a simple, yet effective method of integrating gospel instruction, character development, etiquette, work ethic, music skills, physical education/ nutrition, foreign language study, homesteading skills, language arts, math, history, financial literacy, and nature study while having clean clothes to wear and something relatively healthy to eat has proven to be her greatest joy!  

Laura and her family live on a small farm in Texas with their children, lots of Golden Retrievers, a Great Pyrenees, some goats, chickens, a miniature horse, honey bees and a garden.  She loves sunshine, digging in the dirt, and hearing her children laugh. Her dream day is one spent kayaking in a little pond surrounded by towering pine trees on the land where four generations of her family have been raised.  She is thrilled to have a chance to share her passion for family life with the students of Ensign Peak Academy!

Elizabeth Smailes

Elizabeth Smailes

High School Honors Seminar Mentor (Cohorts A and B)

Dr. Elizabeth Smailes is a mentor for serious readers. She believes that edification and education can, in the right setting, support and build on one another. As a seminary teacher for over 15 years she has a broad gospel base. She believes that when this gospel base is used to judge all other literature, the result is electrifying. Dr. Smailes is a graduate and former mentor from George Wythe University. This educational background enables her understand how students can see themselves and the world through the lens of great leaders and thinkers of the past and present. She studied Logotherapy and received a certificate of completion from the School of Logotherapy, located in Dallas, Texas. Logotherapy was developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frank. It is founded upon the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one’s life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans. She believes that we are here to inspire one another and receives her most tender inspiration from her grandchildren, as she sees hope and joy in their eyes.

Molly1Molly Christensen

2020-2021 Live Program Mentor: Physics (Cohort A)

Self-Paced Program Mentor: Chemistry, Earth Science

Molly Christensen graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Statistics. Since then, she has found great passion in being a mother and mentor to her 7 children. She will start her 21st year of homeschooling this year. She has four kids still homechooling, one on a mission and two graduated from BYU.

She has founded several highly-successful homeschool co-ops, written mounds of curriculum and taught many, many classes to youth and adults, including Latin, science, math, leadership and lots more.

Despite swearing that she’d never speak in public again after taking a public speech class in 9th grade, Heavenly Father had different plans, and she has become a popular speaker and teacher. In her “spare” time, she loves learning and reading, snow skiing and hiking with her family.

Molly also stays busy running her own business, Building Heroes Academy, where she helps homeschool moms find the balance of running a home and homeschooling while raising their kids to be heroes. She believes that all people were born good and have a greatness to develop. She is passionate about sharing her love of learning and encouraging others on their journeys to greatness.

Kimberly Pearson

Math Specialist

2020-2021 Live Program Mentor: Algebra 2 (Cohort A)

Self-Paced Program Mentor: Algebra 2

Kimberly Pearson was born in Houston, Texas and currently resides in the outskirts of Waco, Texas with her husband, three children, and many farm animals. She earned her bachelor degree in elementary education with a mathematics minor from Sam Houston University and earned her MBA from the University of Utah. Kimberly served the majority of her mission on Temple Square with a few months in the Blackfoot, Idaho area.

She has many experiences with teaching from elementary to adults, and particularly enjoys teaching the middle school and high school age students. For the last 15 years she has focused her time on raising and teaching her three children and being the executive of her home. She has a great love for learning and sharing knowledge with those around her and is excited to do this through the live learning which she loves and values as a great resource for teaching real truth of the world around us.

Kimberly has a great passion for organizing and planning. She has planned and managed many events from corporate conferences to community and charitable function, from church camps to family reunions. She enjoys challenges and has a talent for seeing the big picture as well as the detailed steps to achieve the end results. Kimberly also enjoys reading, boating, playing the piano, and serving those around her.

Rachel SniderRachel Snider

Self-Paced Program Mentor: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, English: Writing Essentials

Rachel Snider has had her nose in a book ever since kindergarten. This habit led to her eventual graduation in 2001 from Brigham Young University with a degree in English Literature. She homeschools her 5 children and has taught various classes for Kaplan. She has also mentored classes at Front Range Liberty Commonwealth in Broomfield, Colorado, and acts as a writing mentor and coach whenever she gets the opportunity. She always has quite a tower of books on her nightstand which she loves to read and discuss.

Diann Jeppson Portrait 2017Diann Jeppson

Self-Paced Program Mentor: Health, Financial Literacy

Developer: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, English: Writing Essentials

Co-Developer: Modern World History, American Literature, English: Writing Dynamics, Ancient World History, Family Science, Entrepreneurship, Earth Science

Diann Jeppson is devoted to creating fulfilling learning experiences for students. Diann’s experience includes 18 years as producer of Simulations Week and 23 years as producer of the Liberty Girls program (history-based experiential learning for children) and 5 years experience teaching and directing American Youth Leadership Institute, a youth civics education organization.

Diann has fulfilled numerous speaking engagements at home education conferences and seminars in the US and Canada. She has chaired four non-profit educational organizations and has 10+ years experience as a parliamentary procedure consultant and trainer. Diann enjoyed performing for 8 years in a family bluegrass ensemble called “The Wildflowers” (guitar and vocals).

She and her husband Adam live on a 2.5 acre homestead in Mount Pleasant, a small Central-Utah town in a secluded high-mountain desert valley. Adam is the town gunsmith. Adam and Diann have four delightful daughters, three handsome sons-in-law and seven terrific little grandchildren.

Samara StarchmanSamara Starchman

Developer: Financial Literacy

Samara earned her Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in 1994.  Since then, she has had many adventures in education and business.  From managing car dealerships to teaching High School Algebra to managing commercial high rises, she lives by the motto “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.”  [Helen Keller]  Currently, she is homeschooling her children, teaching English to children in China online, and taking on creative projects in graphic design and video editing.  She lives in Avondale, Arizona with her sweetheart Ray and her two favorite children.  If you ask her why they are her favorite children in the whole wide world, she’ll tell you it is because she made them.

Leah_JeppsonLeah Ellis

Developer and Self-Paced Program Mentor: High School Music Appreciation Course

Leah Ellis was born and raised in West Valley City, Utah. She currently resides in Kaysville, Ut where she runs Ellis Music Studio. She graduated from BYU Idaho, with a BA in music, string emphasis, and a minor in Marriage and Family Studies. Leah enjoyed 19 years of private violin lessons, including 8 years under the instruction of Emily Day-Shumway, former member of the Utah Symphony and Concert Mistress of the Utah Chamber Orchestra. Leah performed in the Utah Youth Philharmonic for 6 years, and in the BYU-Idaho Symphony Orchestra and ensembles for 4 years, along with multiple community orchestral and choral events. Leah also performed with her family bluegrass band “The Wildflowers” as a fiddler and vocalist for 8 years. While violin is Leah’s main instrument, she also enjoys playing the piano, viola, cello, guitar, and singing in home activities and numerous events. Leah has 2 years’ experience as a private tutor in elementary level reading, literature, art and music theory, and has 10+ years’ experience teaching private violin lessons to students of all ages. She has taught two previous online Music Appreciation courses. Leah served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission, Portuguese speaking. Along with music, Leah also enjoys drawing, painting with watercolors, reading, and being with her friends, family and husband Spencer Ellis.

Kaleb AlbeeKaleb Albee

Developer and Self-Paced Program Mentor: Computer Technology

Kaleb graduated from Eastern Washington State University with a Master of Science in Computer Science and two minors in Math and Physics. During his studies, he concentrated on AI, hacking, and Databases.  His main professional career has focused on computers, but his first love had been physics and math.  He loves to look at new technologies, read about what is going on in the world, loves to play RPG video games, action games, reading to his kids, and hang with the family.  He lives in Farr West, UT with his wife Sheri, children, and a bunch of dogs and cats.

Marie at Heirloom Gallery smMarie Withers

Developer: Studio Art; High School Art Appreciation

Marie Withers is an artist and instructor. Her Education includes a Master of Arts (MA, 2019) in Art Education at Brigham Young University (BYU), a BFA Degree in Art Education from Utah State University (USU, 1988), and a BS Degree in Home Economics Education from the University of Idaho (UI, 1982). She teaches painting and drawing; and is also fluent in graphic design and photography.  From 1997 to 2017, she was a graphic designer and eventually a multi-media designer at BYU. Currently, she makes and sells fine art (mostly oil paintings) and prints, in galleries, shows and online. Her work is primarily with the landscape, but she has also created figure and portrait work. She taught high school art and home economics at South Fremont High School in Idaho for two years, prior to becoming a graphic designer.  During three different summers, she taught drawing and painting at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan. In 1996 she had the opportunity of being an artist-in-residence for Fox Hollow Elementary School in Idaho Falls. Born in upstate New York, she spent most of her formative years in Moscow, Idaho, eventually making her way to Southeast Idaho and Utah. She now resides in Rexburg, Idaho.

Having had the opportunity of teaching early-morning Seminary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints one year,  she appreciates how art and Gospel beliefs are so intertwined. Some of her artwork depicts events in Church history. She is passionate about both art and teaching and finds great pleasure in helping students discover things about our world through art.

Elise StolleElise Stolle

Co-Developer: Family Science

Elise graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies and a Master of Science degree in Family Studies from Texas Woman’s University. She has worked with non-profit organizations teaching parent education classes and leading groups for young mothers. She has also worked with LDS Family Services to enhance some of the resources they provide for families.

She has worked with youth in many capacities over the years including teaching seminary, young women’s and organizing community service projects. She has helped to manage and oversee concerts and tours for hundreds of youth, with Millennial Choirs and Orchestras. In addition, she has taught and developed classes for middle and high school students at her local homeschool group, for many years.

Elise lives in Texas with her amazing husband and is the mother of six incredible children, three boys, and three girls. She has been homeschooling for five years and has three children still at home. She enjoys family history, a good book, reading to her kids, and doing adventurous things with her family! She loves to travel and explore the world, so is always planning her next trip.

Joseph Ramirez

Co-Developer: American Literature, English: Writing Dynamics, Ancient World History, American Literature, English: Writing Skills, British Literature, American History

Joseph Ramirez was born in the right century, because this century has access to all of the other centuries. A self-taught historian, a driven novelist, and enthusiastic teacher, Joseph is excited to serve as a mentor for Ensign Peak Academy.

Joseph served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Atlanta, GA. For a small-town Idaho boy, used to potato fields, mountains and rural roads, metropolitan Georgia was about as foreign as it gets. He quickly connected with the South, and the many cultures from all over the world, and he still gets caught saying, “yes, Ma’am,” “yes, sir,” and “y’all.”

Joseph worked at a charter school for three years before teaching history, English and literature for Ensign Peak Academy’s 2019-2020 school year. When he’s not teaching, you’ll often find him at the local library, researching and writing his next book. In his off time, he enjoys vintage swing dancing, learning historical skills, shooting firearms, playing his guitar and making things with his hands.

Joseph and his wife Charis reside in Springville, Utah. He enjoys shelves full of books, art and a workbench with creative projects in various stages of completion, and his faithful guitar, Petunia.

Jill Simonson

Developer: Career and College Prep

Co-Developer: Life Skills

Mrs. Simonson has been teaching junior high, high school and college for many years. She has always been passionate about distance education and how accessible it makes education to all people, no matter where they are or what their circumstance. This passion led her to pursue a Distance Education emphasis when earning her MEd from Utah State University.

She has a rather large family, which includes seven children, three bonus children, two dogs, and a fish. The children are spread out from Montana to Utah to Maryland, with three still living at home.

In addition to her position at Ensign Peak Academy Mrs. Simonson also teaches for an online charter school, BYU Idaho, and homeschools two of her children. At church, she enjoys a calling as one of the Activity Days leaders. Mrs. Simonson has a firm testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She loves that together, she has the opportunity to teach and learn in a Christ-centered environment. She is looking forward to a wonderful year mentoring Entrepreneurship!

Kimberly Bingham

Developer: Human Geography

Kimberly Bingham is an online educator and homeschooling mother of four.  She currently teaches English as a Second Language through an online platform, and has worked as an international relations consultant.  Prior to educating her children at home, Kimberly served as a Logistics Officer in the United States Marine Corps, successfully completing deployment missions to Afghanistan and Iraq.  She received commendation for providing seamless logistics support to 5 forward-deployed operating bases simultaneously in support of global operations.  She enjoys volunteering with the Red Cross, and Kimberly is the Illinois State Ambassador for Home School Legal Defense Association Compassion, which allows her to serve homeschooling families in need.  Kimberly believes deeply in integrity, diligence, and service to others.   She is a life-long learner with a passion for foreign languages, music, and Brazilian martial arts.  Kimberly is excited to be part of the Ensign Peak Academy team!