High School Mentors

Katie PicKatie Perry

2021-2022 Mentor: Principles of Leadership (all live and self-paced), Human Geography (self-paced)

2022-2023 Mentor: Earth Science (all live and self-paced)

Katie Perry earned a B.S. degree in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from Brigham Young University in 2004. After graduating from BYU, she worked as a GIS Specialist for five years, first for a county government in Maryland and then for an environmental engineering firm in Utah and Massachusetts. Katie’s GIS work involved analyzing and processing geographic data and producing maps for a variety of reports and public and private projects.

Katie and her husband have six children, and they currently live in the Syracuse, New York area. For four years, Katie served on the board of a local homeschool cooperative with approximately 150 students, and during that time Katie taught a variety of courses at the co-op, including Math Art, Forensic Science, and more. Katie also teaches English as a second language online, and this year will be her eighth year homeschooling her own children.

Katie loves traveling, especially if the destination involves camping or hiking. She has a passion for cooking and gardening, and enjoys working on family history.

Laura HicksonLaura Hickson

2021-2022 Mentor: Family Science (all live and self-paced)

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!

Victoria Rutherford

2021-2022 Mentor: High School World Literature (LC 5), English: Writing Adventures (LC 5)

2022-2023 Mentor: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (LC 7), English: Writing Essentials (LC 7)

Victoria Rutherford has a master’s degree in comparative literature from the University of Utah where she specialized in German Romanticism, and a master’s degree in the Classical Tradition from the University of Reading, UK where she focused on Greek tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and the uses and abuses of classical tropes in general Western literature.  She has been teaching reading, writing, and literature courses in various academic settings for over 15 years, and she currently teaches at Lane Community College in addition to Ensign Peak Academy.  Her favorite writer (at the moment) is John Steinbeck. 

Victoria loves to hike and to commune in nature. She also enjoys choral music and performs with a local community choir. A lover of humanity as well as the humanities, Victoria has worked closely with children in foster care and has done extensive training in trauma-informed education practices and the cognitive and developmental effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on the learning process. Victoria resides in Eugene, Oregon with her jovial husband and two mischievous sons. 

Jennifer Shaw

2021-2022 Mentor: Chemistry (all live and self-paced), Financial Literacy (all live and self-paced)

2022-2023 Mentor: Chemistry (all live and self-paced)

Jennifer Shaw is a passionate person who loves people and experiencing life!

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and has had various amazing jobs from air quality monitoring (at an air force base where they exploded bombs and tested rocket engines), to making semiconductors and running multi-million dollar projects.

Jennifer “retired” from engineering and started her favorite job, which is being a mom!  Her passion and devotion are to her family and to the other kids in her life, whether they are known through 4-H clubs, Boy Scouts, Heroic Youth, mentoring, teaching, or educational travel.

In addition to homeschooling her own kids, Jennifer has taught math, science, chemistry, ballroom dance and sign language in various homeschool co-ops, Benjamin Franklin Academy, Liberty Hills, Paradigm Charter School, Overture Learning and now Ensign Peak Academy.  Jennifer loves to inspire scholars as they explore this awesome universe together.  She has discovered first hand that it is much more rewarding to watch a person’s face, heart and mind light up when they discover something new than it is to complete million dollar projects.

Jennifer likes all sorts of experiences and adventure.  Her favorite hobbies include: scuba diving, riding 4-wheelers, hiking, camping, traveling, cruising, audiobooks, creating things and being with people–especially her husband of 27 years, her three amazing kids, her new son-in-law and her extended family.

Laura WaiteLaura Waite

K-12 Language Arts Specialist

2021-2022 Mentor: High School World Literature (LC 1, 2, 4 and self-paced), English: Writing Adventures (LC 1, 2, 4 and self-paced), Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (self-paced), American Literature (self-paced), British Literature (self-paced), English: Writing Essentials (self-paced), English: Writing Dynamics (self-paced), English: Writing Skills (self-paced)

2022-2023 Mentor: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (LC 1, 2, 4 and Self-Paced), English: Writing Essentials (LC 1, 2, 4 and Self-Paced), High School World Literature (Self-Paced), English: Writing Adventures (Self-Paced), American Literature (Self-Paced), British Literature (Self-Paced), English: Writing Dynamics (Self-Paced), English: Writing Skills (Self-Paced)

Laura Waite grew up in California, earned an Associate Degree from Ricks College (Brigham Young University-Idaho), married a very handsome and talented man, and raised six children (all girls except five!) After 20 years, she went back to college at Grand Canyon University online and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education. She has also earned endorsements in business and marketing and gifted and talented education.

Laura lives in Fredonia, Arizona where she is adjusting to an empty nest. She loves being a new grandma and watching her children as they continue to grow and learn. She loves walking on the beach, hiking to waterfalls, and paddling her kayak. Her favorite activities include writing, traveling, reading, watching movies, and playing games with her family. She also loves to learn and teach and is excited to do it every day!

bio photoHeidi Anderson

2021-2022 Mentor: High School World Literature (LC 3, 6), English: Writing Adventures (LC 3, 6)

2022-2023 Mentor: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (LC 3, 5, 6), English: Writing Essentials (LC 3, 5, 6)

Heidi Anderson attended Brigham Young University-Idaho where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English Education. She did her student teaching in Gilbert, Arizona and then taught reading and writing in the public school system in Arizona for four years. After that she focused on teaching private piano lessons out of her home, and has been doing that for the past 11 years.

Heidi has lived in many different places, but currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and three children. They love the climate and seasons in Raleigh as well as escaping to the beach when they want some relaxation.

Some of Heidi’s favorite things are reading, sewing, and playing piano. She also enjoys traveling and has done so extensively. She can’t wait to add more places to her list of where she’s been.

Elizabeth Smailes

Elizabeth Smailes

2021-2022 Mentor: High School Honors Seminar, Senior Capstone Project

2022-2023 Mentor: High School Honors Seminar, Senior Capstone Project

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.

Kimberly Bingham

2021-2022 Mentor: Computer Technology (all live and self-paced)

2022-2023 Mentor: Human Geography (all live and self-paced)

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!

Carolyn Marriott

2022-2023 Mentor: Family Science (live and self-paced)

Carolyn Marriott’s life revolves around church and family. Her parents and five older siblings modeled faith and love during her early years. When their noses weren’t buried in books, she and her family visited national parks, attended church, celebrated holidays with their extended family, and lived and traveled in Latin America and Europe.

Carolyn combined her passion for family with her love of learning when she began homeschooling her children in the early 1990s. She loved having her kids around all day as they learned together. Besides homeschooling, she has decades of experience teaching youth in church and academic settings. Recognizing the value of friends and mentors, she and her children participated in homeschool groups in Washington and Utah. She currently thrives on learning with the students at Ensign Peak Academy.

Today, Carolyn lives with her husband and mother in Wallsburg, Utah. She loves gardening, reading and discussing classics, sewing aprons, writing her personal history, going on long walks, organizing closets, and hosting “poetry teatime” for her grandchildren.

Aaron Andrews

2021-2022 Mentor: Biology (all live and self-paced)

2022-2023 Mentor: Biology (all live and self-paced)

Aaron Andrews was born and raised in Shelley, Idaho. After serving in the Iowa Des Moines Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he attended Southern Virginia University. There, he went to many Remote Area Medical clinics to volunteer in providing healthcare to rural communities, studied bacteriophage virus proteins, and received the school’s Distinguished Leader-Servant Award. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry in 2019 and has since worked and volunteered in laboratories, doctors’ offices, and as a paraprofessional for a middle school in Virginia.

Aaron enjoys learning about neat scientific breakthroughs and reading a good fantasy novel. He currently lives in Alpine, California with his wife, Emma.

Nellie Johnston

2021-2022 Mentor: Health (all live and self-paced)

2022-2023 Mentor: Health (all live and self-paced)

Nellie Johnston has a strong foundation in health sciences. She graduated with both her BS and MS in Athletic Training from Brigham Young University. Her degrees helped her develop a strong testimony of the creation and the sacredness of the human body.  Upon graduation, she taught health and PE at a private middle school for several years before she had her oldest child. About five years ago, she started Little Sprouts Cooking, now Growing Thyme Cooking. She has spent the last five years teaching over two thousand kids how to cook and how the nutrients in our food affect our bodies. She is a certified Kids Nutrition Specialist and is passionate about educating families about the benefits of healthy eating and the importance of taking care of our bodies.

Nellie lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband and four kids. When she isn’t in the kitchen with her students, she is outside in nature. She loves gardening, hiking and camping with her family.

Jeff Jensen

2021-2022 Mentor: US Government and Citizenship (LC 1, 3, 6 and self-paced), Korean, Senior Capstone Project, Modern World History (self-paced) Ancient World History (self-paced), American History (self-paced)

2022-2023 Mentor: Modern World History (LC 1, 2, 3 and 6), Korean 1 (live and self-paced)

Mr. Jensen’s enthusiasm for the Gospel and teaching will knock your socks off! He has been described as “ultra cheery in an almost unhuman way” by many of his former students. Mr. J sees the light of Christ in all and tries his best to teach to that divine potential and to help all feel the spirit which draws out that spark of amazing awesomeness we all possess.  He is a beloved mentor for youth and has taught history, geography, and government and economics courses for ten years.  He has been with Ensign Peak Academy since it was first established. He was recognized by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as a noteworthy Reagan historian and invited to address them in September 2018. He has published articles in peer reviewed history and academic journals on the RMS Titanic and served as an assistant editor and historical consultant on three BYU publications in the “Saints at War” program. He graduated from BYU with a BA in History and a BS in Child & Human Development. He hopes to one day launch his dream project, “Highways of Heroes,” honoring our nation’s veterans. He enjoyed serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Korea and has spent time as a service volunteer at two orphanages in Thailand.

For 20 years, he has been active in the Sunday School organization, serving as a teacher multiple times and as Sunday School president on both the Ward and Stake level on multiple occasions. Currently he works with YSA and special needs youth as a High Councilor in Saratoga Springs. Harmonizing his faith with his teaching talents is one of his greatest joys, and one he feels blessed to share with your children. He is currently working to help youth in financial need receive scholarships for educational travel to the Holy Land and other spiritually significant sites with the Gather-NOW program.

Jeff’s greatest passion is for his faith and family. He and his wife have welcomed three enthusiastic and passionate boys into their family who always keep them entertained and on their toes. Hiking by day and stargazing by night, being outdoors surrounded by nature is Jeff’s happy place. He also loves relaxing to movie scores, occasionally escaping to Middle-earth, chatting with complete strangers, and finding beauty and meaning in cultures across the world.

Ryan Ferree

2021-2022 Mentor: Earth Science (all live and self-paced)

2022-2023 Mentor: Physics (all live and self-paced), Financial Literacy (all live and self-paced)

Ryan Ferree was born in Galveston, Texas grew up in Havana, Illinois, and currently resides in the outskirts of Lexington, Virginia with his wife, six daughters, and many farm animals. He served in the U.S. Air Force, living in places like Minot, ND and Guam, and has a Masters in Math Education from Nova Southeastern University. Ryan served his mission in the Utah Salt Lake City South mission.

He has many experiences ranging from engineering in the Air Force to finances as an accountant and, of course, teaching. Not only has he homeschooled his own children but has taught both in the physical classroom and in online environments. In teaching, he strives to help students match their passions with what they are learning in the class.

Speaking of passions, Ryan loves working with his small, but growing homestead. From taking care of his many chickens and honey bees to growing vegetables in his garden, he enjoys it all. Ryan also enjoys reading, studying history, spending time with his family, and playing disc golf.

Marie at Heirloom Gallery smMarie Withers

2021-2022 Mentor: Studio Art (live and self-paced), High School Art Appreciation (live and self-paced), Yearbook

2022-2023 Mentor: Studio Art (all live and self-paced), High School Art Appreciation (all live and self-paced), Yearbook

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.

Benjamin Muhlestein

2021-2022 US Government and Citizenship (LC 4, 5)

2022-2023 Modern World History (LC 4, 5, 7 and self-paced), Principles of Leadership (all live and self-paced)

Benjamin S. Muhlestein resides in Overton, Nevada and is a husband and father of a beautiful wife and six wonderful children. He served a Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. He received his Bachelor’s of Paralegal Studies from Utah Valley University in 2002, and earned his Master’s Degree in Classical Liberal Arts from George Wythe University in 2016. He has mentored youth and adults nationally and internationally for many years. He taught Seminary for an entire school year as a student teacher.  He is the Founder of Illuminating the Light Within, Restoringthefounders.com, The Quintilian School of Oratory, and The George Washington Character Curricula. Benjamin has a deep passion for learning and teaching principles of liberty and freedom, and has great faith in the rising generation of youth to rise to the full potential of who God needs them to become.

Megan Anderson

2021-2022 Mentor: Running

2022-2023 Mentor: Running

Mother, Wife, Nutrition Coach, Ultrarunner, Triathlete, & CrossFitter

Growing up I was an avid basketball player. I dabbled in other sports, nothing too serious.

10 years ago I started running and haven’t stopped since.  I have run everything from a 5k to a 100 mile ultramarathon (yes all on my own 2 feet and yes without stopping). In the last few years I became a Nutrition Coach, began CrossFit and completed my first 70.3 Ironman.  Fitness has given me not only physical health but mental health and strength as well.