Learn a Little About Staff

Eric Barajas

What is your philosophy on working with students at The Open School?

I believe all children have the capacity to learn organically regardless of any cognitive, social, or physical differences. I believe all children have the drive to learn, grow, and feel competent in their everyday lives and that trauma (both physical and mental) creates obstacles that make children become aversive to learning and work. That is why I put a huge emphasis on a growth mindset. I believe all children deserve the trust to work on becoming independent human beings by allowing them to make their own decisions with the support of older children and adults who actively listen, offer guidance, and practice modeling. I believe in giving children the space to choose their own path. I believe that only learning undertaken voluntarily holds any value. I value critical thinking and open discussions about all developmentally appropriate topics.

Some of my professional interests are:

Mexican food catering/delivery (currently working with my brother on establishing a Mexican food kitchen in Saipan), academic tutoring, video-editing/content creation (spiritual/symbolic commentary/visuals on current times)

I’m an expert (or close to it) at:

I have a BA in psychology from UCLA and a Special Education teaching credential from Loyola Marymount University; I am well-versed in libertarian/ancap political ideology as well as some revisionist history/science; I have strong skills in psychological analysis and emotional support; I have a lot of soccer knowledge (history and playing). 

I’m personally currently reading/studying/fascinated with:

Orthodox Christianity (The Religion of the Apostles by Fr. Stephen De Young); I’m currently a catechumen, so I am participating in catechism with the goal of eventually being baptized and chrismated into The Church. I’ve been studying historical cycles, human patterns, and the fractal nature of the universe as well as the spiritual implications of the current times – how all disease is a manifestation of spiritual corruption; DIS (apart/deprived of) EASE (state of comfort)

My strong suits are:

Patience, compassion, curiosity, listening, easy-going

My shortcomings (or things I personally struggle with) are:

Not wanting to offend others or find myself in confrontational situations or strong disagreements (especially in this political and cultural climate), being passive/not often volunteering for tasks/projects

I am passionate about:

Orthodox Christianity, liberty, physical and spiritual health, self-directed learning, mentorship, growth mindset, homesteading, family, comedy, soccer

Fun fact about me:

I moved with my brother to Saipan of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean in December 2020. I hadn’t ever heard of that island until April 2020. My only connection before coming here was an internet acquaintance who I learned about in April 2020.

 

Cassi Clausen

What is your philosophy on working with students at The Open School?

When I am working with kids, my goal is to get to know who they are and what they are interested in. I do not place any more value on particular pursuits over others, and approach them from a place of curiosity instead of judgment. I do my best not to jump to conclusions or assume I understand. When it comes to personal opinions or ideologies, it is my intention that the students don’t actually know what I believe, but rather are given the space to work out what they believe.

Some of my professional interests are:

Self-directed education, entrepreneurship, leadership. I have two masters degrees, one in education with a focus on Secondary Education and Curriculum & Instruction (ironic, right?) and one in Performance and Culture from the University of London, Goldsmiths College. My bachelors was from Westmont College in Santa Barbara (a favorite city of mine) and was a dual degree in Theatre Arts and Communication Studies with a minor in English. 

I’m an expert (or close to it) at:

I have a degree in theatre and am particularly versed in stage management and directing, with some dabbling in theatre history. I have read or seen nearly every Shakespeare play, though that was years ago. I used to teach Literature of Western Civilization, American Literature, and Spanish 1 and have a general sense of most classic novels (which means that I know a fair amount of old, white, male authors). I’ve been a freelance editor in the past and, along with my work as an English teacher, am able to help others get better at writing. I am pretty good with personal finance and baking. 

I’m personally currently reading/studying/fascinated with:

I love traveling and wish I could do it so much more than I do. I will always be up for going on a trip. I am really interested in sustainability and learning a lot about personal empowerment, especially for kids in the process of transitioning from children to teens. I find British culture fascinating and have lived in the UK twice (once as a semester abroad, and once while getting my masters in Performance and Culture). I also love listening to podcasts and if you talk to me for any length of time, I will probably recommend a podcast to you. 

My strongsuits are:

Goal setting, research, and detail-oriented work. 

My shortcomings (or things I personally struggle with) are:

I want to be more hands on with the students, but my role has been taking me more in a leadership direction in the school and I end up being really booked. I know there are kids who wish I would spend more time just hanging out with them, and in a perfect world, I would do that. I sometimes come off as a harried, stressed out adult, and I am working on being more present and grounded regardless of the amount of work I need to do.

My knowledge base has historically been rooted in the dominant culture and I notice more and more areas I have missed out on. I’m trying to seek out history, art and culture from less dominant sources. 

 I also enjoy trashy TV and spend a little too much time watching reality shows and sitcoms.

I am passionate about:

This school, hands down. I also advocate for self-directed education, speaking and writing on the topic when I can. I am passionate about my family, especially my kids. I love spending one on one time with them regularly. I’m passionate about finding ways to lessen my impact on the earth, but I do not make that my entire identity and there are times that I do things that seem counter to that (like traveling or taking my kids to a water park). I am passionate about being a woman and want to support other women, my daughter in particular, on their road to empowerment and voice. I also love my husband very much and nurture my boys as they grow into empowered and loving men. 

Fun fact about me:

I am an identical twin! She lives in Fort Worth, Texas and we were able to take a wonderful trip to Germany together for our 40th birthdays right before the world shut down. Munich at Christmastime is a MUST DO. Highly recommend.

 

Aaron Browder

What is your philosophy on working with students at The Open School?

I always let students lead the way. I ask open questions, and avoid judging their choices. My first goal is to build trust and to be an ally and a friend, and I hope that this will help them to be honest with me.

Some of my professional interests are:

Computer programming, writing, philosophy of education

I’m an expert (or close to it) at:

Software development (including game development), writing and editing, physics, math

I’m personally currently reading/studying/fascinated with:

Evolution, dinosaurs, ancient history

My strong suits are:

I like to play, and I like video games, so I have an easy time making friends with kids. (I’m a “cool” adult.) So kids are more likely to listen to me when I say “Don’t do that!” I’m also good at coming up with creative solutions to problems.

My shortcomings (or things I personally struggle with) are:

I often don’t know what to say or do to help someone who is struggling emotionally.

I am passionate about:

Piano, strategy games, and of course The Open School!

Fun fact about me:

I’ve written a children’s fantasy novel which can be found in the school’s library.

 

Amber Tobias-Harris

What is your philosophy on working with students at The Open School?

To me, children are just little people that need a bit of direction. So when I’m working with kids and teens, I always ask them if they want advice or help, just like if I was working with an adult. I am always amazed at their ingenuity, and it’s a humbling experience because it reminds me that there’s always another way to do something. These kids are fantastic, and I love everything about being a self-directed staff member. Even when it’s hard and problems arise.

I love being a part of a community where everyone is growing together. I absolutely know that I don’t know everything. And I am so willing to learn from others around me. This community tries its best to work as a sounding board for new ideas, fun things to learn, and ways of living together. And every day, I walk into the school knowing that today will be nothing like yesterday and tomorrow holds new experiences.

Some of my professional interests are:

I have a BS in Theatre and AS in Children’s Theatre. I’ve Studied Public Health but left that course when I realized that even if you have a degree in infectious disease, everyone else knows better. I’ve also been certified in Sex Education.

I am an entrepreneur, a public speaker, and a long-time performer.

I’m an expert (or close to it) at:

I am a creative. I love art in all of its forms, and my specialties are theater, dance, and singing. I am good with photography, I love poetry, and I create digitally. I am good at sewing and ok with makeup. And anything theater is my jam!!

I’ve figured out how to make the entrepreneurial effort for creatives profitable. And I love helping the kids find a way to own their businesses and make money through their creative endeavors.

I am a life and sexuality coach, and I love helping people figure out who they are and rid themselves of shame when it comes to who they are and what they want. I also speak and write on the subject.

I’m personally currently reading/studying/fascinated with:

Right now, I’m studying Satanism, and I love learning about other religions. I like reading empowerment books and books on the law of attraction. Well, that’s not entirely true, I love listening to audiobooks on different topics. And I love listening to podcasts, mostly story podcasts. Like murder mysteries and fantasy.

I also love to travel. I do a lot of traveling with my family.

My strong suits are:

Hearing people. Offering solutions. Not taking over. I am, by trade, an empowerment coach, and I’ve been told I made people feel so great about themselves and their ideas. I think anything is possible, and no idea isn’t at least worth trying.

My shortcomings (or things I personally struggle with) are:

Mental health and neurodivergence.

I am passionate about:

Human rights. I am an activist and passionate about everyone being able to live as they please, peacefully. I have worked for many nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping and empowering women, children, and LGBT+. And I love, Love, LOVE to perform.

Fun fact about me:

I used to drag, and I was the first-ever Bio Queen to perform, in Utah County, with my drag troupe, the Divine Sister Misters.

Angela Young

What is your philosophy on working with students at The Open School?

I believe children are wired to learn from life. As an adult, it is not my role to control what and how they learn, it is my role to provide a relatively safe environment for children to express their emotions, follow their interests, and encounter natural challenges that motivate them to gain life skills relevant to their path. It is also my job to continuously check in with myself: my emotional state, biases, and beliefs so I can show up for children in a clear and balanced way. While it is not my responsibility to dictate the path of another, it is my job to respect myself within relationships. This means demonstrating healthy personal boundaries, which often are the fruitful ground for children to learn empathy, the ability to see from another’s perspective, and gain the know-how to guide their behavior in ways that affect others positively.

Some of my professional interests are:

Conscious Parenting Guide, Course Creator and Facilitator, Writer, Mindfulness Practitioner, Spiritual Awakening Guide, Self-Directed Lifestyle

I’m an expert (or close to it) at:

I have 15 years experience in the presence-awareness spiritual community and apply this knowledge especially to parenting. I have taken courses from Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Charles Eisenenstein, A Course in Miracles, and Dr. Shefali, along with attending various retreats and workshops. My area of interest is specifically on exploring beliefs and how they color our personal reality, and incorporate mindfulness techniques to become aware and process our emotions. While I am not working at The Open School, I assist parents to deepen their understanding of themselves and their relationship to children.

I’m personally currently reading/studying/fascinated with:

I am exploring a practice called Inquiry coined by Byron Katie inside a group where the inquirer takes themselves through a series of questions to find the root causes of emotional pain. Also, I study multiple times a week with a mentor in spiritual awakening, and am about to take a course for facilitating group healing.

My strong suits are:

Taking what seems to be a negative circumstance and finding the silver lining, trusting life, and using life circumstances to discover more about who I am. I prefer to understand others rather than judge them, and I have lots of practice processing my emotions and perspectives.

My shortcomings (or things I personally struggle with) are:

When I believe others won’t understand me, I have a tendency to hide what I think and feel. This is a self-preservation strategy, but is also an attempt to make the other person feel comfortable, and boils down to a fear of being unaccepted. Presently, I appreciate when this tendency appears because these encounters offer me an opportunity to practice self-acceptance. I enjoy discovering how to hold space for the diversity of others while not abandoning myself in the process.

I am passionate about:

Paranormal experiences, cooking dinner for my family, playing role-play games, creating my own deck of oracle cards, and really getting to know another’s experience.

Fun fact about me:

I am open to the idea of life being one big virtual reality simulation.