Faculty and Staff Biographies

We all have a story.

We are educated. We are curious. We are passionate about our students.

We share adventures, favorite hobbies, and life’s lessons in our classrooms and conversations. We have guided river trips, backpacked through the Philippines, driven an AirStream across the Rockies, and wintered over in Antarctica. We have traveled by train throughout Pakistan, ran elinarathons, and sharpened negotiation skills on the Chicago Stock Exchange.

We are all different. But no matter our differences, we have one thing in common: making every moment a teachable moment.

Special note: Please be patient with us as we build our faculty and staff biographies page!

Administrative Staff

Bob Carignan: Head of School Bob Carignan has enjoyed a successful and diverse career. He graduated from Brown University with a degree in English and Economics, and pursued a career in the financial world with Cargill. For 15 years, Bob traded financial derivatives for various firms on the Chicago exchange. After moving to Boise, Bob decided to follow his lifelong passion and pursue a career in education. He joined Riverstone in 2002 as and English, History, and Economics teacher. He played a key role in the development of the School’s English curriculum, and gaining authorization with the International Baccalaureate Organization. Additionally, Bob was instrumental in developing Riverstone’s highly acclaimed college counseling program. Bob has a unique ability to understand and mentor Riverstone’s students. Bob has also participated in the National Association of Independent School’s (NAIS) Aspiring Heads Program and was awarded a fellowship to attend the Head of School Program at the Klingenstein Teachers College at Columbia University. He holds a Masters Degree in Education from Boise State University.
Kathleen Gilton: Director of Marketing, Communications, and Human ResourcesInfo to be added shortly.
James Hamilton-Vail: Elementary School DirectorInfo to be added shortly.
Andy Johnson: Middle and High School Director Andy Johnson has been at Riverstone International School since 2007. He taught Middle School English and Humanities as well as Diploma Programme Business before transitioning to administration. He currently serves as the Director of the Middle and High Schools. Andy has a Master’s in International Studies from the University of Washington.  His undergraduate degree is in German from Central Missouri State University.  He is also a graduate of the United States Army’s Command and General Staff College. Before teaching, Andy served as an enlisted, non-commissioned and commissioned officer in the United States Army from 1983-2007.  He is a veteran of the Iraq war and holds the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal with Valor device, the Combat Action Badge, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Meritorious Service Medal.  He is also a graduate of the Army’s Ranger School.
Rachel Pusch: Director of Enrollment Management and Admissions Rachel Pusch was born in California and grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia and Karachi, Pakistan. Living in Asia piqued her interest in languages, and she went on to study Asian Studies and Mandarin Chinese at Pomona College, from which she earned her bachelors degree. In addition to teaching English in Taiwan, Rachel’s work experience includes a background in international business and trade, as well as directing the international student admissions for the College of Idaho. Rachel joined Riverstone in 2003 and currently serves as the Director of Enrollment Management and Admissions. Rachel’s interests include travel and gardening, and she has an affinity for masks and stylish shoes.
Kevin Berner: Student Activities and Service CoordinatorKevin Berner was born and raised in Meridian, Idaho. Not quite keen on leaving the state, he pursued and received his BA in International Studies from the University of Idaho, where he also met his wife. Kevin had the opportunity to study abroad in Morocco as well as teach English and Science in Thailand after graduating. After having travelled a fair bit, they decided that Idaho was indeed a one-of-a-kind place and moved back to Boise. Kevin worked for the Downtown YMCA for five years, coordinating a variety of youth and teen programs before finally finding his way to Riverstone in 2016. When not working, Kevin enjoys reading science fiction novels, hiking, snowboarding, riding his motorcycle, and playing with his dog, Aldo.
Tanith Brown: Middle and High School Administrative Assistant Tanith grew up in North Idaho and loves the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She started her college career as an Elementary Education major before changing majors to Art Education and receiving her B.F.A. at Boise State University.  Since completing her student teaching here at Riverstone with art instructors Christine Corbin and Jay Nelson, Tanith has been involved on campus as both a substitute and summer program instructor. She has worked extensively with children and adults with autism and participates in various art- and special needs-based activities throughout the area. Tanith enjoys art making, reading, spending time on the water, and relaxing with her husband, Tom, and their two cats. She is very excited to be an official member of the Riverstone community and is looking forward to the coming school year.
Melinda Quick: Marketing AssistantBorn and raised Idaho spud, Melinda is an International Baccalaureate Diploma graduate from Riverstone International School’s Class of 2009 and a Bachelor’s Degree of Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College Class of 2012. After graduating, she spent a year and a half in New York working with the Penguin Speakers Bureau at Penguin Random House. With travel being such an important part of her life, she worked as a filmmaker/photographer in Italy, England, Germany and South Africa. Moving back home to Boise in 2015, she works as the Marketing and Communications Assistant at Riverstone and also moonlights as Executive Director of the Boise Film Festival. To sum it all up: film addict who loves hiking, cheese, making (and completing) to-do lists, and Idahome.
Zac Wheeler: MYP PE Teacher and Athletic Director Zac moved to Boise after being born and raised in California. He went to Boise State where he got a degree in Kinesiology and a credential to teach P.E. During his time at Boise State, he coached basketball here at Riverstone and with other groups and high schools in the community. After receiving his degree from Boise State, he moved to Pittsburgh, where he completed his Master’s degree in Health and Fitness and was a physical education instructor at the University of Pittsburgh. Zac loves to be active, play sports, and coach basketball! Zac has extensive experience in high school and college athletics and is looking forward to continuing the expanding tradition and rise of Riverstone Athletics. He can’t wait to take his PE classes on field trips out into the community and explore new and exciting activities. Zac is thrilled to be back in Boise at Riverstone and utilize his travels around the country to teach students from all around the world!
Derek Wright: Outdoor Program Coordinator Derek was raised in a military family living in Germany, Turkey, and all over the US, eventually landing in Arizona. Through his early exposure to the outdoors and participation in Scouting, he pursued a degree in Outdoor Leadership and Education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. His experience with NAU’s Outdoor Program cultivated a passion for outdoor education and leading others.  Upon graduating, he had the opportunity to serve military service members and their families through teaching skiing in Garmisch, Germany, and directing the Outdoor Adventure Program at Fort Tuthill, Arizona. Returning to education, he coordinated outdoor programs at a variety of higher education institutions such as NAU, Cal Poly State University, and Boise State University. He is thrilled to be living in Boise with his wife; you can often find them skiing, biking, camping, climbing, or traveling. Derek is excited to be a part of the Riverstone community and share his excitement for outdoor education with all the students, teachers, and parents.

Elementary School Staff

 Rebecca Barnhardt: Gr 5 Teacher Rebecca was born and raised in Colorado and has just recently moved to Idaho. She enjoys reading, watching documentaries, visiting museums, hiking, camping, and trying new restaurants. Rebecca’s childhood dream has always been to become a teacher. She finally achieved that dream in 2008 and has never looked back. She has taught 1st-6th grade with 5th being her favorite. After working in a variety of schools, she has discovered that the International Baccalaureate programmes are the best fit for her teaching philosophy. 
Beth Benton: Music TeacherBeth was born and raised in the beautiful northwestern corner of Montana, right outside of Glacier National Park. She developed a love for music at a young age, eventually pursuing a degree in Music Education from Northwest University in Kirkland, WA. After returning to Montana, Beth taught High School choir for three years.
Amber Espinoza: Gr 1 TeacherAmber Espinoza graduated from the University of Idaho, with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism (emphasis in English), and from the University of Phoenix with her Master of Arts in Education. Amber has taught in private, charter and public schools within the State of Idaho.
Janice Flynn: Preschool TeacherJanice Flynn graduated from the Pacific Union College, California with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and from the University of Colorado with her Master of Arts in Educational Psychology. Janice has taught in California and Colorado in both schools and Preschool settings.
Kelli Keith: Gr 2 TeacherKelli was born in Boulder City, Nevada and moved to Nezperce, ID when she was 12. While living there and completing high school, she discovered a love for teaching and young children. Kelli attended Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston, ID and graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education with a Reading Endorsement K-12. She started her teaching career in a small town and after a few years, she moved back to Nezperce to teach at a school on the Nezperce Indian Reservation, Lapwai. For eight years, she worked at Grangeville Elementary teaching Kindergarten through Gr 3. 
Stacey McCormick: Librarian Stacey was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. After completing her Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and Masters in Educational Leadership at the University of Georgia, Stacey returned to The Sunshine State. During the next 16 years, Stacey was an elementary classroom teacher specializing in English Language Arts. 
Emily Nadel: Preschool TeacherEmily moved to Boise from Boston, MA. She planned to stay the summer with a friend, and then decided it was too soon to leave Boise and her new friends. She has experience in museum and visual arts education, leading summer camps and designing school tours at the Colby College Museum of Art, running programming for students on the Autism Spectrum at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and developing tours and studio activities at the Boise Art Museum. She has experience in a variety of school settings, from urban charter to mountain town Montessori. Most recently, she is coming from a year at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she studied with the Arts in Education cohort. Here, she became curious about Reggio Emilia practice and philosophy, Constructionism, and object-based learning. Outside of the classroom, Emily is a trail-runner, printmaker, and potter. 
Michelle Ricks: Gr 3 TeacherMichelle, an Idaho native, never imagined that she would end up on a seven year adventure in Asia. Just as her youngest of two was about to enter kindergarten, Michelle and her family moved to Taipei, Taiwan. She considers herself lucky to have landed her first teaching job at Taipei American School, teaching grade three. Nearly four years later, she started her second job in Tokyo teaching the Primary Years Program to grade five students at Aoba-Japan International School. Before returning to the states in August of 2016, Michelle and her family lived in Xi’an, China where Michelle was the learning support teacher as well as a grade five teacher at Xi’an International School. Once Michelle was back in the states, instead of jumping into the classroom, she decided to spend a year finishing her coursework for her masters degree in literacy education at Boise State University. While her masters work has been meaningful, she has been itching to get back into the classroom and can’t wait to meet her third grade students!

Middle and High School Staff

Gretchen Arguedas: Theory of Knowledge and English Teacher, College CounselorGretchen was born and raised in Boise.  After attending college in Arkansas, studying abroad in Florence, Italy and living in Tennessee, she moved back to Boise in 2004 and worked in marketing.  Gretchen began her career at Riverstone in 2006 and has taught courses ranging from middle school geography to senior English.  Currently, she teaches I.B. Theory of Knowledge.  In 2011, Gretchen stepped into her current role in college counseling.  Gretchen holds a B.A. in English language and literature and minor in Spanish from Harding University and is currently finishing up a M.A. in literature at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English.  Recently, Gretchen’s graduate work offered her the opportunity to study British theater at Oxford University.  When Gretchen’s not editing college essays, she enjoys practicing and teaching yoga, cooking, exploring the Idaho outdoors with her husband and dog, traveling and reading.  
Joe Beard: Humanities TeacherJoe Beard taught for several years at a Department of Defense school on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Certified to teach both English and History, Joe he taught both AP American History and an integrated English-World History course for Grs 9-10 in Turkey. He was also deeply involved in Model United Nations and has led student trips to Prague and Dublin. Earlier in his teaching career, he taught reading and social studies to Grs 7-8 in Nebraska.
Jennifer Bistritz: Humanities Teacher Jennifer hails from Cleveland, OH, where she taught Humanities at a Cristo Rey college-preparatory high school for the last several years. She earned her M.Ed from Cleveland State University in Curriculum and Instruction. Prior to teaching stateside, Jennifer served as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, West Africa. In addition to academics, she has also been teaching yoga for the past eight years.
Damon Brown: Music TeacherDamon Brown has taught students at every level from preschool to university. He was born in Boise but attended secondary school in San Diego, graduating from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Music and Social Sciences and a minor in English Literature. He taught at a large public high school, an inner-city charter school, and a refugee camp school in Ethiopia before returning to Boise. While doing graduate studies at Boise State University, Damon contributed to several projects for the Idaho Arts Commission and Boise Philharmonic. He returned to being a full-time educator as the Elementary Music Teacher at Riverstone in 2006 and now teaches music at the Diploma Programme level while serving as the Middle Years Programme Coordinator. In addition to teaching, Damon enjoys working on classic cars, bicycles, and his family’s 110-year-old house on the Boise Bench.  He can be found cycling with his wife and kids, going on family snowshoe trips in the Idaho backcountry, and drinking lots of coffee.
Samantha Cole: Chemistry and Biology TeacherSamantha Cole joined Riverstone International School in the fall of 2012 and enjoys working alongside her husband who is also a teacher for RIS. She loves teaching chemistry and biology and is even more passionate about advising Veggie Club and leading outdoor education trips with her students. She has had the opportunity to teach in other private international schools in Dubai and in Ecuador. Samantha has a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science (Go Hokies!) and a Master’s of Arts in Secondary Education. When not participating in school community activities, Samantha enjoys swimming, rock climbing, kayaking, snowboarding, gardening, and traveling with her husband.
Roy Ledesma: Mathematics TeacherRoy Ledesma is a retired naval officer who has previously taught at the United States Naval Academy, a private school in Maryland, and for several years at Northstar Charter School. Roy has also been deeply involved in the Wyakin Warrior Foundation and is also the Naval Academy recruiter for Idaho.
Jon Moreno-Ramirez: Physics and Mathematics Teacher Jon was born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico. His family moved to Southern California first, and eventually made it to Boise Idaho. He studied math and physics at College of Idaho and immediately went into teaching after college. His first teaching assignment was in Caldwell, after which he and his family moved to Venezuela to teach at an American international school for three years. Their move to Venezuela gave his family the opportunity to grow their passion for traveling abroad and getting to know different cultures. Now that he is back in Boise, Jon has been able to pursue his other passions, which include playing music, riding bikes, and making beer. He is also focusing on the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team at Riverstone, the Otterbots, and his research in the Physics Department at Boise State.
Josh Udesen: History and World Religions TeacherJosh Udesen has taught for over twenty years as a middle and high school humanities, history, art, geography and world religions teacher. Born in Duluth, Minnesota he headed west after high school and earned a B.A. in History from the University of Puget Sound and a Masters in Education at the University of Alaska Anchorage.  Since then he has taught in Anchorage, Alaska, Bend, Oregon and Tashkent, Uzbekistan, eventually landing at Riverstone in 2006. His inability to sit still when he is not teaching cultivated his love of the outdoors, his need for adventures and helped develop his passion as an artist. During the summers he was a fly fishing guide for nearly a decade in Alaska and Oregon, the founder and guide for an organization leading students on treks in the Himalayas of Nepal and eventually created the opportunity to build a career as a semi-full time artists while still managing to teach three classes at Riverstone. When he is not painting, drawing, teaching or fishing he is likely with his family floating a river, skiing some powder or chasing both of them on their bikes. 
Jami Whitmer: Spanish TeacherJami Whitmer has grown to enjoy spending time in the snow despite seeing it for the first time as an adult. Raised in San Diego, Jami moved here 20 years ago and can’t imagine leaving Idaho for very long. Not long after receiving degrees in Marketing, International Business, and Spanish from Boise State, Jami decided to enter the world of teaching. She taught as an adjunct professor at Boise State University for nine years, while also teaching at Riverstone and pursuing a M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction.  She now teaches Spanish in the Diploma Programme and serves as the Diploma Programme Coordinator. When not at school, Jami enjoys cooking, traveling, backpacking, snowboarding poorly, and binge watching shows.

Residential Staff

Nick Copeland: Residential Coordinator Nick Copeland grew up in Spokane, Washington and fell in love with the mountains at a young age. A study abroad experience in Argentina during high school sparked his interest in other cultures. He went on to learn more about various cultures as a religious studies major at Lewis and Clark College. After graduating from Lewis and Clark, Nick decided to pursue his interest in the outdoors and led wilderness trips at Camp Nebagamon for Boys in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. His experiences in Northern Wisconsin fostered a new passion – working with kids. Over the last few years, Nick has spent time living in Wisconsin and California leading and teaching students in outdoor and wilderness settings. After a short time living in California, Nick became extremely interested in the desert landscape and traded in his skis for a rope and harness. Nick loves spending his free time climbing with his brother Daniel or going on a wilderness trip with his parents. Nick is looking forward to joining Riverstone International School because of the great opportunity it offers to work with and support students from a variety of backgrounds.
Laura Geier: Residential Coordinator Laura grew up in Northern Utah and loves living in the Intermountain West. She pursued her passion for music leading her to Rice University for her undergraduate studies. Then pursued further studies receiving a Master’s degrees in Music from both Ohio University and California Institute of the Arts. After graduate studies, Laura lived abroad one year in Plovdiv, Bulgaria under a Fulbright Grant studying Balkan and Romani music. Laura enjoys being outdoors, hiking, camping, traveling and spending time with her husband Gerardo, who is also Riverstone’s Middle School Music teacher, and three year old son, Gabriel. She was drawn to her new position because it is an extraordinary opportunity to connect with students from around the world and be a part of an international community.