Our Faculty

Virgil Beck, Math and Science:

BAE Natural Science, Eastern Washington University. Since moving back to Seattle in 2004, Virgil briefly served as a middle school substitute in the Seattle Public Schools and now revels in teaching K-5 science at Tilden School. Having grown up in both Seattle and North Idaho, his heart lies somewhere in-between–maybe at Vantage. Virgil was an avid cyclist until his first daughter, Violet was born, and he is now an avid bicycle collector. In 1995 Virgil completed Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue School, as well as a successful ascent of Mt. Baker. He also hopes that his experience as a photographer, bike mechanic, flight attendant, sailboat crew member, and thespian will help him delight the 7th graders at Explorer West.

Leslie Boba, Latin and English:

BA Latin and BA English, University of Washington; MA English, University of Virginia, and Master of Librarianship, University of Washington. Born in Germany to an American mother and Eastern European father, she early on developed an affinity for language study and comparative grammar. Her study of Latin led to an interest in Rare Book Librarianship, and she worked in the Special Collections units of a number of libraries including the research branch of The New York Public Library in Manhattan. Raised in Seattle, she attended Hidden Valley Camp in the Cascade foothills, and during college years participated in summer abroad programs in England and in Poland. Most of her adult life has been spent in the Pacific Northwest, an exception being three years as Library Director in the village of Moravia, in upstate New York. Her interests include classical music (piano and voice), garden design, interior decorating, historic houses, archaeology of the Near East, the growth and structure of the English language, and cats.

Aurora de la Cruz, Music:

BA Music (minor in Computer and Information Science) and MA Music Education, University of Oregon. Aurora joined Explorer West in its third year to initiate and develop the music program. Over the years, she has led our many music ensembles, both instrumental and vocal, and the world music curriculum, for which she wrote a middle-school workbook. Aurora also earned the “Outstanding Performance in Music History” award from the University of Oregon School of Music. In addition to music classes, Aurora assists with our school musicals. In her spare time, Aurora enjoys sailing, sea kayaking, hiking, cooking, traveling, sports, and, of course, music. She currently sings with the Seattle Symphony Chorale.

Sherman “Doc” English, English and Dean of Students:

BA English, University of Wisconsin-Madison; MDiv, Union Theological Seminary; MLitt, Drew University; EdD, Seton Hall University.  Doc has taught English to grades 6-12 at various independent and public schools in New Jersey, though he has focused exclusively on middle school since the start of the millennium, and has held different administrative positions since 1990.  He and his wife moved to Seattle to be closer to their children and grandchildren.  In his spare time he loves to cook, hike, and sail, attend the theatre and various music venues, and sing, act and compose music.

Jon Howland, Mathematics:

BA International Relations/Gender Studies, University of Puget Sound and MS Education, City College of New York. Jon taught middle school math for four years in the Bronx before returning home to Seattle in 2011. Most recently, Jon taught math with Rainier Scholars and STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) with the Technology Access Foundation. Jon loves the energy middle school students bring to the classroom and is dedicated to helping them academically and socially as they grow into their new role as young adults. Jon helps students unlock new concepts and supports them on their path to an “a-ha! moment.” He believes mathematical fluency is critical both for the real world applications of mathematics and for the unique way mathematical thinking can train students to engage in systematic and creative problem solving. Explorer West’s commitment to integrating sustainability into the curriculum resonates deeply with Jon, who spent a year volunteering at Sightline Institute on their Making Sustainability Legal project – feel free to ask Jon about clotheslines!

David Orace Kelly, Drama:

MFA Arts Leadership, Seattle University and BFA Performance (acting, dance and voice), Naropa University. David has been teaching drama and performance since 2004. Since joining Explorer West in 2007, he has directed the productions, “Alice in Wonderland”, “Our Town”, and “My Fair Lady”. In 2010, he presented at the Washington State Arts Alliance Cultural Congress on “The Ethics of Art”, and has worked with several Seattle-area theatre companies such as: Intiman Theatre, Balagan Theatre, Washington Ensemble Theatre, Youth Theatre Northwest, and Stone Soup Theatre. Prior to teaching at Explorer West, David worked as a professional juggler and directed over 30 youth productions including: “Grease”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and “Stuart Little”.

Kristin Moore, Science:

BA, Ripon College and MEd, University of Washington. Kristin joined the Explorer West faculty in 1997. Claiming an inability to sit still for very long, Kristin sympathizes with her often-squiggly students. Consequently, her science classes teem with hands-on projects, and she emphasizes learning in the great outdoors during our overnight trips. Kristin brings a wealth of wilderness, community service, administrative, and middle school teaching experience to Explorer West. During the summers, she is the Sr. Camp Program Director at Camp Treetops, a 7-week camp on a working farm committed to simple and sustainable living. An avid backpacker and environmentalist, Kristin contributes a great deal of experience to our outdoor education program. She is currently certified as a Lifeguard and Wilderness First Responder.

Tim Owens, History:

BA Politics and Government, The University of Puget Sound and MA in Teaching, Seattle University.  Tim joined Explorer West after teaching eight years at Madison Middle School in West Seattle. He was first hit with the teaching bug while teaching at a high school in rural, northern Japan where he was an assistant language teacher for two years.  Tim has a vast appreciation and understanding of the world through study and travel.  In addition to living in Japan, Tim lived and studied in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.  Tim and his wife, Shelby, live in West Seattle and enjoy hiking, backpacking and international travel in their spare time.

Sarah Robertson Palmer, Art:

BA Art History, University of California at Santa Barbara; additional studies at The California College of Arts and Crafts and The Pratt Fine Arts Center. Sarah has developed, taught and administered art programs for over 25 years at numerous arts and educational organizations. Sarah enjoys painting, printmaking, ceramics, metalsmithing, collage, mixed media and jewelry. She has created, exhibited and sold her art in a variety of venues, and is co-author of a cultural arts activity book, Festivals of Light. Her artwork is featured in the book, Wild With A Glue Gun. World travels inspire her to create a multi-media fine arts and crafts curriculum for her students that includes art history, cultural awareness, and the celebration of the imagination.

Maripat Webber, Latin:

BA Latin/English, Dominican College and MA Classics, University of Hawaii, Graduate work in Classics and English, University of Washington. She grew up in the Bay Area, and came to Seattle in 1976 for graduate school. She subsequently worked in a variety of roles for various non-profit organizations in Seattle and tutoring in her off hours before gravitating to technical writing. She was Production Editor for Linux Journal, and has held editing and writing positions at a number of software companies. She joined the EW faculty in 2004. Since 2006, she has co-led the annual 8th grade trip to Rome. Her interests include books, gardening, books, ancient cultures, Medieval and Renaissance Literature, books, Hawaiiana, and aboriginal canines, especially Basenjis, of which she has several. She and her dogs enjoy long walks, lure coursing and curling up after all that activity with a good book, usually about the history and archaeology of Rome.

Terra Yara; Physical Education, Health and Athletic Director:

BEd Physical Education with a Minor in Athletic Training, University of Hawaii. Born and raised in Hawaii, Terra taught Health/Lifeskills for over 5 years in Hawaii and middle school PE for 13 years in Seattle.  She taught the PACE (Prepared Attitude Coorperation Effort) concept to former Physical Education faculty at Explorer West, so she knows the current system well. She has coached high school volleyball and tennis for 18 years and has earned the Coach of the Year award on several occasions. Terra loves to play tennis and volleyball whenever she can and competes in USTA team tennis competitions on a regular basis.  In her spare time, she invests in real estate, is learning computer programming and loves to travel to new places she’s never been to.