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BOD Profiles


General Board email address: board@animashighschool.com

Jeff King

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Board President

Jeff comes to AHS with experiences as varied as R&D chemistry and construction.  With a BS in Chemical Oceanography from Florida Institute of Technology, an MBA from the University of San Diego and experience at major pharmaceuticals companies, he met his match as a stay at home parent and really went out on a limb by homeschooling his two sons for a year.  Since 2013 he has been focused on construction and remodeling projects for Axis Health System in Southwest Colorado.

The core value of not just what you learn but how you learn it is what makes Animas High so attractive to many parents which is what the King family weighed heavily when evaluating high school options.  Key pieces of the Animas philosophy around advocating for yourself and working on teams that allow for divergent thinking with the need to converge for a finished result will serve Animas High School students beyond the educational environment.

Mary Polino

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Marketing and Communication Committee Chair

Mary has been a nationally certified Montessori teacher for over 20 years. She, along with a few Durango families, founded Durango Montessori Elementary School in 2005. Mary currently functions as the Director of Curriculum and Staff Development at DMS. She is accustomed to the demands of a growing school, is familiar with day-to-day staff and school needs, and understands the importance of the mission and duties set forth by a Board of Directors.  She is happy to now be involved with Animas in a way that will use her knowledge and specific talents. She is excited to be a part of the growth and maturity that will be written as the next few chapters of Animas High School’s story.

When Mary isn’t working, she is usually traipsing all over state and country supporting her daughter, son and husband in their mountain bike racing aspirations. When she is not cooking an extremely healthy, vitamin, mineral, protein-packed, carb-loaded, and perfectly balanced meal for her athletes, she is biking, hiking, running and talking in a funny voice to Lefty, the family Chihuahua.

Colleen Dunning

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Secretary and School Excellence Committee Chair

Colleen Dunning was a founding teacher at Animas High School beginning in 2009 and helping to get the school off the ground. Her work at Animas began with freshman physics and math, she then moved on to sophomore Biology. Colleen quickly took on leadership roles; serving on the Building Leadership Team, Credit Remediation & Promotion Committee, and liaison to the Board of Directors. In 2015, Colleen made the decision to leave Animas High School to pursue other interests, but she remains involved by serving on the Board of Directors. Colleen hopes to provide an educator’s voice on the board. Her six years as an Animas High School teacher and community member means Colleen has a wealth of institutional knowledge and an intricate understanding of the organization.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” -Aristotle

Thomas Morrisey

Thomas Morrisey

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Vice President and Governance Committee Chair

Thomas is Vice President of the Board for Animas High School. Previously he served as President for 2.5 years. Thomas is currently employed as a Business Process Consultant at the Coca-Cola Company. He has worked for over 25 years in the computer industry, including 13 years at Microsoft in their corporate headquarters in Redmond, WA. Thomas earned a Masters of Science in Statistical quality Control from Easter Michigan University, and a Bachelor of Science in Education from Wayne State University. Thomas and his wife, Allison, have lived in Durango full time since 2007.

“A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions.”–Anonymous

Jesse Hutt

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Board Member

Jesse Hutt is a pediatric oncologist and founding parent at Animas High School. The vision to create Animas High School developed during her years working as a general pediatrician in Durango. At that time, she saw many teenagers who were apathetic or dissatisfied with the traditional school model. Along with other founders she drafted a charter to start a school that modeled High Tech High in San Diego– a school that used Project Based Learning to engage students to become passionate lifelong learners while preparing them for college and post secondary success.

One of her greatest joys has been to watch both of her children attend Animas High School and engage in their education. While they are very different learners, they were both able to discover their passions and become strong advocates for their education. Elliott recently completed a B.S. in Physics Engineering at the University of Colorado, and Avra will be completing a degree in Computer Science at the University of Colorado.

Jesse has a B.A. in Biology from Brown University, and M.D. degree from the University of Florida, and completed residency training at the University of Utah and Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. She specializes in caring for children with cancer and blood related diseases at Southwest Oncology.

Jesse brings the founder voice and parent voice to the board of directors, and believes that we all can reach the common goal of providing the best education possible for our children. Jesse can be seen just about anywhere with her Diabetic Alert Dog, Cody who also serves as a Therapy Dog for her patients.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela

Martina Panszeesse

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Board Member

Martina was a member of the second graduating class of AHS in 2014. Post-high school she headed to the Pacific Northwest to attend Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA where she earned her degree in Film and Media studies and spent her senior year as Editor-In-Chief of the weekly student newspaper. Martina is currently working at the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments and freelance writing. She is excited to be back in Durango and to continue her involvement with Animas as an alumni. In her free time Martina reads science fiction, describes herself in the third person, and scrambles up mountains with her family’s four dogs.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ― Alvin Toffler

Acasha Mick

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Board Member, Marketing and Communication Committee Chair and Fundraising Committee Member

Bio Coming Soon…

Jennifer Thurston

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Board Member, Treasurer and Fundraising Committee Chair

My direct connection to Animas High School is because my son Duke Millett was in the first class that graduated in 2013. While the “strip-mall” school was short on space it was large on developing a student’s strengths and passions.  Duke took his encouraging educational experience from Animas on to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Aeronautical Engineering and graduated with Cum Laude honors in 2017. All of his educational experiences have led him to be quickly and gainfully employed by General Atomics in their unmanned aircraft division in CA.

My indirect connection to AHS is a lifelong addiction to being an educator. As director/owner of Weaselskin Institute, I utilize my degrees of a BS in Agronomy, BA in Sociology and MS in International Technology Analysis and Management, to construct unique educational experiences in archaeology, agriculture, equine experiential education, conservation studies, ecology, athletic and healthy lifestyle education.  My 3 stage approach to teaching at Weaselskin fits well with the project based thinking of AHS.   The first stage is to provide the educational means and ability to obtain and understand subject information. The second stage is to produce knowledge of a process, place, or thing through experience. The third stage is whereby knowledge and education coalesce into wisdom through the application of real life hands on opportunities of the subject and processes.

My most important commitment to AHS comes from an understanding that everyone learns in different ways. My other son was class of 2016 at Durango High School where he exceled in sports, academics, and social life. Seamus’s high school experience was far different than Dukes but he was equally prepared for the next phase in his life at Colorado School of Mines and his quest for the 2020 Olympics in Modern Pentathlon.  My sons are positive proof to the notion that the youth of our area will thrive when they have a public accessible choice in how and where they are educated. It is a great honor to be part of the AHS board that succeeds in making the ways and means of learning that are unique to AHS a permanent fixture in the community.

“Knowledge, love and money have no value unless they are shared.”