Chris Bennett is a Colorado native and culinary veteran with 20+ years of experience in the industry. At 18, Chris attended New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, where he earned his AOS degree in Culinary Arts. For most of his early career, Chris specialized in upscale French cuisine, Mediterranean, and “New Style American Cuisine”, honing his skills and building his repertoire in some of the best restaurants in Las Vegas, as well as Denver. From Joachim Splichal’s Pinot Brasserie in the Venetian, and Daniel Boulud’s DB Brasserie in the Wynn, to Denver’s Rioja, Bistro Vendome, and Elway’s to name a few, Chris gained a solid foundation. In 2014, Chris became the only chef to be selected for Sister Cities International’s international Chef exchange program which took him to Brest, Bretagne France to stage within a couple restaurants/resorts as well as shadow instructors and present to Students at the Fenelon School of Culinary Arts. Upon his return, Chris set his sights on learning Asian cuisines and earned his way from part time line cook to Executive chef of Uncle Joe’s Hong Kong Bistro within a year. Not only earning new skills but also earning the restaurant a feature on the Travel Channel’s hit show “Food Paradise”. After 3 years as Executive chef there, he expanded to Japanese, becoming executive Sous chef at Ototo Den (of the Sushi Den family of restaurants) training in the intricacies of Japanese cuisine before turning his sights on global street food, helping open Street Feud in 2019. In 2021, Chris saw an opportunity arise to join the kitchen team at Eagle Rock, and made it his mission to become part of the team, where he has been able to use his years of experience in multiple cuisines to help not only provide ERS students and staff with balanced meals but also give expose them to flavors and cuisines they may not have tried before.
Brad is part of our Operations or “Rockin Ops” Team. He has a degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication from the University of Cincinnati. Brad moved out west after college and began his first career as a corporate trainer and software tester.
After meeting the love of his life, he left the Front Range of Colorado to support his wife’s career as an ecologist in places like Silverton Colorado, Stanley Idaho, and Sequoia National Park. During this time he started a software training company and worked as a large format printer reproducing artwork.
When he and his wife welcomed their second child, Brad left the computer world to become a stay-at-home parent. Five years later, when his kids started school, he became a tour guide in Sequoia National Park. This led him to the realization that he preferred a career that involved more human interaction, so when he moved back to Colorado he became a substitute teacher, which eventually led him to Eagle Rock. Now he spends his days supporting the staff and students on campus and absorbing their positive energy.
When he’s not at work, you’re likely to find him in the mountains, enjoying a bike ride or rock climbing with his family.
Cory Brodnax is the Professional Development Associate, which is involved in internal and external professional development, the Student Ambassador Program, and the Presentations of Learning. He has been an educator for over thirteen years and has worked with students from kindergarten through college and even into adulthood. Cory started his journey in education as a substitute teacher in Indiana and then eventually to a full time teaching position. His passion for social equality always at the forefront of his work, he moved to Oakland, California to help the communities there organize themselves around their goals for social and economic justice. Afterwards he moved to New York City to work for the Harlem Children’s Zone where he would be heavily involved in different types of programs. At different points he was the coordinator for one of the afterschool programs, a coordinator and eventual assistant director in the college office, and then finally the college coordinator for the Promise Academy High Schools. He also wrote a book in 2015 titled “The $10 Book of Priceless Wisdom.” Cory earned his undergraduate degree in history from the University of Florida and his master’s degree in Africana Studies from Indiana University.
Nico is an Outdoor Education Fellow from San Diego, CA. Growing up, Nico loved being active by playing sports, especially soccer. While studying philosophy at UC Santa Cruz, Nico enrolled in a semester-long backpacking course for college credit. He and his fellow participants backpacked through different ecosystems of California, and had class sitting in the woods. Having never been backpacking or camping before, Nico fell in love with being immersed in the outdoors, as well as this unconventional way of learning. The small-group-setting encouraged everyone to let their barriers down and be more vulnerable and authentic. Being on the trail and away from distractions and comforts created opportunities to look within and connect with nature. This experience ignited Nico's passion for outdoor education and adventure. He hopes to help others have a transformative experience like he did and challenge themselves to seek out uncomfortability in order to grow.
Nico's background includes experience as a youth athletics coach, one-to-one student aid, and group counselor at an outdoor adventure camp.
Nico loves mint chip ice cream and can eat several pints in one sitting if given free rein.
Jordan Cerna is one-third of Eagle Rock’s Outdoor Education Department, where we are charged with organizing and facilitating outdoor experiences for students and staff. For the better part of the last decade, Jordan has fostered a career and passion in experiential and outdoor education. This “spark” for outdoor expeditions began in 2012 when he was on a river trip abroad. He realized that people are at the heart of a successful expedition. When people are willing to work together, ask for help, navigate interpersonal conflict, and take ownership of their own learning, beautiful things can happen. Since then, Jordan has consistently sought out the natural world as a sanctuary and classroom. Through working with Eagle Rock School and the National Outdoor Leadership School, Jordan has spent over 150 weeks in the field co-leading outdoor expeditions. In 2023, he now seeks out a more balanced life where he plans to foster relationships in Estes Park, return to finding joy in personal trips, and nest in his home off-campus.
Akeem Cheek is the Information Technology And Facilities Maintenance Associate. The position is a hybrid between maintaining the physical campus and its digital infrastructure. He has been working in schools and community organizations for many years. He has worked as a school bus driver and in after-school programming. He honed his IT skills by being a natural tinkerer and working in a small family business. He worked for two community-based organizations supporting black farmers in North Carolina before coming to Eagle Rock. He has a BA in History from North Carolina Central University and has completed coursework in clinical psychology.
Lukas is the Human Perfomance Center/Outdoor Education Fellow from upstate New York. He grew up going to an alternative experiential Waldorf school that emphasized education in the outdoors. After graduating with a BFA in Film from SUNY Purchase where he also pitched on the baseball team, Lukas worked as a physical education teacher in Guangzhou, China for a year. The pandemic brought him back to the U.S. where he delved into his love of the outdoors and hiked both the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail. Lukas has also worked as an early childhood teacher and paraprofessional at the Otto Specht School in New York and has worked at and led numerous youth nature camps. Lukas is often found either playing hacky-sack or looking for his hacky-sack because he misplaced it. He holds a special place in his heart for eating fish and looks forward to Friday night fish dinner at Eagle Rock!
Dan Condon is an education activist who worked as an Eagle Rock intern back in 1995, only to return in 2002 as the founding director of Public Allies in Colorado (holding the same position Michelle Obama held in Chicago). He was selected as one of 20 young visionaries of 1996 by Who Cares magazine and was named to Boulder County Business Report’s Forty Under 40 class of 2010. In addition, he received the inaugural Coalition of Essential Schools ”Commitment to Equity” award and the 2010 Governor’s Commission on Community Service “Still Getting Things Done” award. He serves as a leader with Opportunity Nation and is a Critical Friends group coach through the School Reform Initiative. Dan is a contributor to the Huffington Post, and his writings have been published in the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ NewsLeader newspaper; Snapshots: The Specialist Schools Trust Journal of Innovation in Education; and Horace: Innovation in Education & Edutopia. He has authored several chapters, including A Schoolwide Model for Student Voice in Curriculum Development and Teacher Preparation and in the NSSE Yearbook titled, Engaging Youth in Schools: Empirically-Based Models to Guide Future Innovations. His hero is his first grader Huxton.
Shae (Lashae) is from the south-South Side Saint Petersburg, Florida. Shae comes from a lineage of women who work to resist systems of oppression in their everyday lives (Marcia, Carolyn, Mildred, Marie, Daisy, et cetera). Shae is passionate about the lived experience of others and what we can learn from those experiences to move us toward freedom. Shae is a movement worker. She has been an organizer in South unincorporated Apopka, a popular education consultant, and facilitator with social justice groups across the country. Shae lives for a world where all can show up as their authentic self. To see this in her lifetime, Shae works to show up as her full self and create space for others to do the same. It's hard work in a world that has (figuratively) asked us to collectively wear mask, and not engage in truth telling as bell hooks would say. Shae believes that it is her intergenerational duty to support a more just world for us all, and believes that education is a means to use our radical imagination to create a future rooted in liberation.
Shae’s formal education includes a BS in Political Science & International Affairs
Master of Public Administration & Nonprofit Management
EdS in Educational Leadership (coming May 2024)
Shae has spent time working in Ghana with the department of Social Welfare, taught in Belen de Umbria, Colombia, and worked as a history teacher. Shae has also served as the Dean of Restorative Justice, and a school leader at a Montessori High School in Ocoee, FL.
She is excited about collective creation with the Eagle Rock community, and welcoming into her life the undeniable beauty of Colorado.
Nia Dawson is our Student Services Program Manager. She is a member of the student support team and works closely with students and staff to develop sustainable opportunities for partnership. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nia began her career in youth services working with the YMCA. She left the sunshine of the west to attend Syracuse University in New York where she completed her bachelors degree in social work (BSW). Her interest in out of school time programming led her to focus on after school services where she spent the next 20 years developing and managing programs for organizations on both coasts like the Urban League, the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, ACORN NY and most recently Harlem Children’s Zone. She is dedicated to developing youth as leaders and supporting adults in true collaboration with young people.
Mike Dunn is a progressive education activist and leader. He has been working with youth in outdoor, independent, and charter schools for more than 15 years as a teacher, counselor, and program director. Mike started his work in Detroit as a Big Picture advisor and joined the Eagle Rock community in 2008-09 as a Service-Learning teaching fellow with Public Allies. After the fellowship, he moved to Philadelphia to help open a re-engagement Big Picture high school called el Centro de Estudiantes. He then transitioned to AIM Academy in Conshohocken, PA to work with students who have language-based learning differences. At AIM, Mike was a History teacher, varsity soccer coach, leadership cohort facilitator, and Director of College Counseling. He served on the Pennsylvania Association of College Admissions Counseling’s Executive Committee as the chair of its Inclusion, Access, and Success committee and as a college advisor for the Franklin Institute’s STEM Scholars program, both in service of helping historically underrepresented groups of students access postsecondary learning opportunities. In 2021, Mike completed his Doctorate of Education from Northeastern University and teaches an education entrepreneurship course at his alma mater to graduate students. Mike loves spending time with his partner and their amazing dog Kelly, often with coffee.
Beth Ellis is Eagle Rock’s Director of Students. Beth began her Eagle Rock career in 2004 with a Public Allies fellowship in the Learning Resource Center. After her fellowship year, Beth became the LRC Instructional Specialist, as well as an Aspen Houseparent. Beth moved to the student services team two years ago, where she now serves as the Associate Director of Students. In this role, Beth and her team support the visioning, development, and delivery of the residential life curriculum, which includes advisory, KP, evening activities, house life, and everything in between. Before ERS, Beth was a successful graphic designer at Catt Lyon Design in Cincinnati, Ohio. She also served a term at Public Allies Cincinnati as a community organizer at ECO: Environmental Community Organization. Beth earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning. She lives on campus and with her partner, Janet, and her right hand dog, Lucy.
Eric Ian Farmer
Born in Pennsylvania to Barbara and Edgar, Sr., Eric has always loved creating music whether on the tiny drum set his parents gave him as a preschooler, in choirs and vocal groups, or on stage at Musikfest (Bethlehem, PA). Studying for his Ph.D. in educational leadership at Penn State University is when Eric's love for music birthed a professional career as a singer/songwriter. (Yep, he finished the doctorate, too.) He has opened for Rusted Root and Bettye LaVette, and his performance schedule has included dates in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Illinois, and North Carolina. Eric collaborates with a network of musicians, visual artists, dancers, and poets. He also leads workshops at the annual Folk College (Huntingdon, PA), has produced concerts, and has released original music online. In addition to life as a musician, Eric is an educator, which is what originally brought him to Eagle Rock. His career has mostly included teaching high school English but began in outreach in the late '90s in North Carolina. While an undergraduate sociology major at the University of North Carolina, Eric and his college buddy gave presentations on an educational video package they co-produced to classrooms across North Carolina and beyond -- even The Kennedy Center! -- about a group of Zimbabwean teenagers. One of those presentations was at the National High School Association conference in Nashville to a small group of educators -- including two then-Eagle Rock School administrators. That is when Eric's odyssey with Eagle Rock began: from intern to Literature and Literacy Instructional Specialist to Explore Week/Wellness Week instructor to now being the Music IS. His primary focus areas with our students are songwriting and live performance. Eric lives with his sister, Rebecca, and niece, Logan.
Sara Gagnon works with Eagle Rock’s Human Performance and Health and Wellness teams as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. She helps students uncover and explore their strength and joy through movement and weightlifting, and improve their relationship with food through habit-based coaching. Originally a meathead gym rat from New York, she moved to Colorado in 2021 and fell in love with trail running, skiing, mountain biking and exploring the edges of her comfort zone in the mountains. She lives with her partner Mark and their dog Jerry in Piñon house, and loves to laugh and lift with Piñon students.
Bibi Gnagno is our Dean of Restorative Practices. She is responsible for the design and implementation of the Restorative Practices Program here at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development. Bibi is a champion for education and social justice having previously worked on equity at the intersections of race, gender, social economic class, and sexual orientation at Duke University. An expert in the field, she has created experiential programming and training that focused on community engagement, civic involvement, women’s empowerment, men’s engagement, and activism. Ms. Gnagno’s prior experience includes work in the legal field in Atlanta, Georgia, Paris, France, and Abidjan, Ivory Coast specifically centering issues pertaining to social justice. Her focus has included looking at how policy affects the society we live in, depending on our identities. Bibi Gnagno holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and French from Smith College. Her Master’s Degree was earned in French Language and Civilization from the Paris campus of New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Science and her Juris Doctor from North Carolina Central University School of Law. Ms. Gnagno received a Fulbright-Clinton Fellowship in Public Policy where she worked in the field and conducted research for the Ministry of Justice in Côte d’Ivoire, on gender-based violence in relation to women’s access to justice. Ms. Gnagno is deeply fascinated by how the concept of restorative practices can transform education and the world at large. She is also a trained mindfulness teacher who has led training and workshop facilitation at the higher education and corporate level. Bibi is also a filmmaker who loves a good green juice, West African dance class, spending time with friends/family, and traveling.
Tara Jewell is our Literature and Literacy Instructional Specialist. Tara is a graduate of Eagle Rock School and has been working in education, on and off, for over 20 years. Tara has worked as a camp counselor, a school secretary, a special education crisis intervention specialist, a middle school humanities teacher, a health teacher, a youth advisor, an admissions associate, a high school placement counselor, and as a school director. Tara earned her undergraduate degree in English, Literature and Criticism, and her Master’s degree in Teaching both from the University of Massachusetts. She lives on campus with her partner, Megan, and their teenage daughter, Keeilah.