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STARBASE Idaho employees and instructors

Meet the DoD STARBASE Idaho employees and instructors!

Courtney TaylorCourtney Taylor – Director for DoD STARBASE Idaho

Education is not just my job, it is my passion, and a part of who I am. I have worked in elementary education for almost 20 years, most of which was spent teaching 4th and 5th grade. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Bilingual Elementary Education/ESL K-12 and two Master’s degrees, one in Bilingual Elementary Education and the other in Educational Leadership.

When I am not at work I enjoy spending time with my family, running, and nerding out to all things sci-fi and fantasy.

I joined the DoD STARBASE Idaho team in June of 2018 as an instructor. Now, as the Director, I am excited to advance the DoD STARBASE Program and mission in inspiring young learners in STEM. My favorite thing about working for STARBASE is being part of a team that inspires students to continually seek knowledge and adjust perspective, persevere in the face of adversity, and create and achieve goals both large and small.

 “Be the change you wish to see in the world”-Mahatma Ghandi

Jo Rodriguez – Deputy Director/Instructor for DoD STARBASE Idaho

Becoming a teacher has been one of my best decisions. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Laboratory Science in 2009, after which I started to volunteer at a school and fell in love with teaching.  From there, I received my teaching certificate through ABCteach and a Master’s of Science in Mathematics K-8 in 2018.  Before coming to STARBASE, I taught 3rd and 5th grades.

Outside of the classroom my favorite hobbies include being with my family, spoiling my dog, fishing, reading, and playing video games.   I love trying out new things and I am always ready for a fun adventure!

I joined the DoD STARBASE Idaho team in September of 2021. I am excited help students become more confident in their learning and increase their interest in STEM! Working at STARBASE has given me the opportunity to share my passion with a plethora of students. My goal is to encourage students to love learning and exploring through “hands-on and minds-on” activities.

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family” -Kofi Annan

Brenda Bowles – Office Manager for DoD STARBASE Idaho

A life-long Idaho resident, I earned Bachelor’s degrees in Finance and Marketing from the University of Idaho in 2009 and 2010. I volunteered with the Lewis & Clark Early Childhood Program while putting myself through school. During my time volunteering, I was asked to come on board part-time as a classroom assistant and had the opportunity to see kids learn and grow as people. I attended Head Start myself and attribute many of the things I learned there to my success now. My passion for reading, writing, and my pursuit of continuous learning have brought many opportunities into my life.

Outside of the office and classroom I love to read a good book, usually sci-fi or fantasy, camp when the weather allows, and bake any time.

I joined the DoD STARBASE Idaho team as the Office Manager in late June of 2022. I am eager to have the opportunity to work with kids again and continue giving back to the community. Although 5th graders are a change from the littles in Head Start I worked with I love seeing how our students learn and come up with new ways to solve problems. I can see the creative juices flowing every day in our classrooms and it makes me wish STARBASE was a program when I was in 5th grade. My favorite thing about where I work now is that all of the members on the team are so willing to help not just the kids, but each other too. I am excited to continue learning alongside the students and see what the future holds for our program.

“Failure is always an option.” – Adam Savage

Cindy Morris – Instructor for DoD STARBASE Idaho

I love being able to impact lives every day as a teacher. I have been teaching third and fourth graders for 6 years. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, an endorsement in Literacy, and  a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a Graduate Teaching Certificate in Mathematics.

My favorite activities outside of the classroom involve being a “Nana”, a “Dog Mom” to two Silver Labs, mountain biking, hiking, and writing.

I joined DoD STARBASE Idaho team in March of 2022. I am so excited to model and instill a love for STEM with my students. I look forward to working with a team who is as committed as I am to preparing students to succeed. Watching students grow as they learn to take risks and demonstrate resilience and view the world through a lens of curiosity is the greatest reward as a STEM instructor here at STARBASE.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Myk’l Schmidt – Instructor for DoD STARBASE Idaho

I have been in the US Army Reserve for 14 years, 10 of which were spent as a Combat Medic and 4 as a Combat Engineer. It was during my time as a Drill Sergeant that I discovered my passion for teaching. The hands-on training and instruction I gave to new Soldiers and seeing the epiphany of understanding in them showed me my true calling. Following this new passion, I attended Boise State University and graduated with a degree in History and Political Science in Secondary Education with a Certificate in Spanish.
In my time outside the classroom, I like to spend as much time as I can with my 3 kids and wife. I enjoy reading, video games, home improvement projects, and exploring the wilderness of Idaho.
I joined the DoD STARBASE Idaho team in August of 2022 as an instructor. My favorite thing about being a part of the STARBASE team is guiding students through their curiosity and seeing them connect new knowledge to past experiences. The fulfillment that comes from seeing students’ curiosities and passions awaken is what makes this place so unique.

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” – Mark Van Doren

Kimberly Avella – Instruction Assistant for DoD STARBASE Idaho

I hold a degree in Early Childhood Education, and I had the honor of working with Pre K students for 20+ years. Everything is new and exciting to younger students and it was a joy to watch them grow and develop. I loved being a part of that discovery process.

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my kids and catching up with family that we don’t get to see often enough. I also cannot wait until I/we can get back to Disneyland, rodeos, and the fairs!

August 2018 brought on an exciting opportunity and adventure to my teaching world, as I made the transition from working with littles hands-on learning and teaching, to elementary 5th grade hands-on, minds-on learning and teaching. The view from the classroom is a spectacular sight to witness with the DoD STARBASE program- especially when kids learn that Math and Science aren’t that scary.

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” – Thomas Berger

Amy Cook – Instruction Assistant for DoD STARBASE Idaho

I have worked with elementary school students for over 10 years, mostly as a special education paraeducator. I have about one year of experience working in daycare as well.

In my spare time I love to find fun and exciting things to do with my husband and 3 kids such as exploring the Shoshone Ice Caves. I really enjoy reading, the great outdoors and cooking.

I have been with DoD STARBASE Idaho since August of 2018. It was a neat experience being involved in the Grand Opening and watching the program grow as we added on STARBASE 2.0 and a 3rd classroom! My favorite thing about DoD STARBASE Idaho is the opportunity students have for hands on experimentation.

“A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers.” – Helen Keller

Ramiro Castro – Instruction Assistant for DoD STARBASE Idaho

I retired from the Idaho Army National Guard in 2021 and have a background in electronics, computers, and management. One of my best traits is my resiliency, for example, when I encounter a technical problem I keep at it until I find a fix. I also tutor at College of Western Idaho. Before coming to DoD STARBASE, I worked with Ameri-Corps, Boys and Girls Club of Garden City, and volunteered at Head-Start. I really enjoyed my experiences working with these and other institutions of learning.

Beyond my formal education (Master in Educational Technology), I read, listen, and engage in growth opportunities. As a young person I attended afterschool programs, summer camps, and serviced my community, which served as the inspiration for my current work. Now as a seasoned professional, I look forward to mentoring STEM youth teams in our STARBASE 2.0 program.

I joined DoD STARBASE Idaho in November 2021. I enjoy providing opportunities for students to realize a connection to all things STEM. Our programs provide an environment for connections to be made between the activity and the real world. Students build upon knowledge gained on day one and revisit and add to areas of group work and individual technology skills. My job is to help facilitate these interactions and aid in successful instruction. I am also fluent in Spanish, which helps me to reach more students in the classroom.

“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.” -Anatole France

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