INDEPENDENT EDUCATION PROGRAM TEAM
Sam has been teaching speech and debate in the homeschool community for fifteen years. He is the founder and director of the Wasatch Independent Debate League, which has been introducing homeschooled students to academic debate for the past thirteen years. He has also seen significant success as a mock trial coach including coaching three top ten teams at the National Mock Trial Tournament.
Samuel Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Weber State University with a B.S. and teaching certificate in Communication Teaching and a minor in History Teaching.
Jantzen Russell has years of teaching experience in charter schools, summer camps, and church assignments. In total, he's mentored and taught over a thousand kids. Jantzen is also the owner of the marketing company Revox Marketing.
As a WIDL alumnus, he's passionate about good communication and epic speeches. As a student, his favorite event was Oratory in which he was a regular top five finisher. Jantzen was also a key team member of the first homeschool mock trial team to make it to the state championship in Utah.
Jantzen is a father of two and married to the most beautiful woman in the world. He enjoys running, reading, and making dad jokes.
NaLyn Nelson is new to the Wasatch Independent Debate League and excited for this new adventure! She homeschooled her four children, now ages 19-25. she loves teaching and has taught various youth classes for 10 years.
She loves learning, reading, football, gardening, being a grandma, and spending time with her family.
Megan Lee has degrees in Communication and Law and Constitutional Studies and was a director over a learning center where she helped train teachers and tutor youth for several years.
Debating, was by far, one of the best things that she pursued during her education. Her main events were Lincoln Douglas, Impromptu and Mock Trial, where she placed in the top five at almost every tournament she competed. She is passionate about what debate can do for students' confidence, critical thinking, listening and ability to communicate strong opinions in non-contentious ways.
Megan is a homeschool mama of four wonderful littles, a board member for ANWA, a closet fiction writer and a major foodie. She and her family love camping, trail running and experimenting to find the perfect cookie recipe.
Joseph is a student of Philosophy at Brigham Young University, currently preparing for law school. Before that, he was a homeschooler who competed in Speech and Debate with the WIDL for eight years. He loved participating in the league and could hardly get enough of it. He assisted as a TA for numerous classes and competed in Mock Trials on teams that finished as Utah state finalists several times.
Following graduation, Joseph has continued to work in education, working as an elementary instructor at a charter school in Pleasant Grove, UT, and as an online instructor for an international tutoring organization, teaching students from India, China, Greece, and all over the United States. He has also continued to be involved with the WIDL, assisting with Mock Trial Camp and organizing an alumni tournament while serving on the Executive Board.
Mary is a proud homeschool grad with a passion for quality education and mentorship. In high school, she was a successful competitor in the WIDL and participated in an independent, student-run debate and moot court club. Prior to her work with the IEP, she has taught American history and civics for homeschooled teenagers. She has also been a music teacher for the past eight years, giving piano and voice lessons from her home.
Mary currently studies accounting and pre-med at Utah Valley University. She enjoys staying involved in church and community volunteer work and spending time with her family and friends.
Amy Jones has been teaching children and teens for more than a decade. From running a preschool to teaching high school speech and economics courses to fulfilling numerous church assignments she loves teaching youth and helping them achieve their potential.
Amy has a B.S. in Behavioral Science and Health and is always trying to learn more about how people work. She is a homeschool mom of six and thrives in the constructive chaos.
Amy and her awesome husband of 18 years have enjoyed criss-crossing the United States, living in Washington state for 10 years and South Carolina for 5. They recently moved to South Weber and are excited to experience all Utah has to offer. Amy loves being outside, organizing, reading, baking, ‘adventuring’ and eating great food.
MATH AND SCIENCE DIRECTOR
Gesse has been teaching mathematics, chemistry, physics, and Portuguese courses professionally for over 6 years.
His teaching methodology allows students, no matter where they are on their education path, a clear way to help them not only get caught up, but have every skill and ability to master the math and science portions of the ACT/SAT.
Gesse has BS in Chemical Engineering (BYU), a BS in Chemistry (UofU), and a BS in Physics (UofU)
Rachelle Scott is a season-ticket-holding Sun Devil grad. She met her husband at an Arizona State University basketball game and they now have six little devils!
She is a business owner, director of a law firm, and a homeschooling mama. She values learning and has broadened her education by becoming a cosmetologist, a triathlete, and even a ham radio operator. She enjoys continuing to learn by attending BYU Education Week annually, traveling with her family, and trying to figure out how to get things to grow in Arizona.
She loves teaching and has spent years directing youth camps and women’s retreats, coaching sports, mentoring speech competitions, and serving in her local communities and church. She’s thrilled to be taking on the challenge of expanding the debate program in Arizona!
A Utah State graduate with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Jamie Whittier has worked with many businesses in her career managing public relations campaigns, writing marketing, email and social media campaigns, and organizing events and conventions.
But her favorite career is her job as a stay-at-home homeschool mom of four, wife to Shane, and lifelong learner.
Aside from teaching speech and debate classes, she co-directs Heber Valley Children’s Choir and loves gardening, reading, chocolate, and Garth Brooks concerts.
Chuck Higgins is passionate about teaching the U.S. Constitution, which he took an oath to support and defend as an officer in the U.S. military. He has traveled the world as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and as a pilot for United Airlines. These experiences have sparked a deep interest in principles of leadership and government, which he has studied and taught to both youth and adults.
Chuck graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in Applied Mathematics. He and his wife have homeschooled their 5 children for almost 20 years. Though he can’t carry a tune and has 2 left feet, he enjoys supporting his children’s involvement in the performing arts. When his children are not on the stage, he enjoys playing sports, hiking, camping, backpacking, and traveling with them.
Janet Hodnett has a Mechanical Engineering degree from BYU and a System Engineering Degree. She worked for the Boeing Company. Now she homeschools her 5 children and loves learning from all the varied experiences it offers. Some organizations she's been involved in are the Long Beach Women of Faith, the Society of Women Engineers, Utah Astronomy Club, and many homeschool groups. Some meaningful opportunities have been church teaching and leadership positions, leading a political campaign, making yarn wigs for kids with cancer, helping run a carnival for kids in a women's shelter and gathering supplies for the homeless. Janet loves spending time with her family, finding new trails with her husband, listening to all kinds of people, reading thought provoking books, learning everything she can, painting, and watching the sunset.
Alyssa Is passionate about, well, everything she does, but especially Speech and Debate. She attended the very first WIDL tournament, years ago before it was even the WIDL, and was hooked for life. From captaining Mock trial teams to coaching them, from teaching summer camps to regular classes, from directing plays to acting in them, her wide variety of experience teaching, performing, and leading give her the expertise and first hand knowledge to help her students excel in their goals.
Alyssa also enjoys art and is currently completing a degree in Graphic Design, mothering 2 children, and milking life for all it’s worth!
Amber Johnson graduated from Utah Valley University in 2018 with a degree in communications. Since then, Amber has taught elementary education at the Family Lyceum, a private school; served as program head and board member for Heroic Youth, a non-profit organization; and headed the 2017 leadership course for AISU’s Chinese Foreign Exchange Program. Amber also worked for six years as a public librarian and is currently homeschooling her own children. Amber taught for the Wasatch Independent Debate League in 2020-21, and is thrilled with the opportunity to return in an administrative capacity.
Charlotte McKenzie is a homeschooling mom - now for over 20 years. She has organized, taught and coached many classes over those years including Mock Trial, Shakespeare and lots of Knights of Freedom and Liberty Girls. So far, 4 out of her 5 children have participated in speech and debate and all of them have loved and benefited from it.
Charlotte graduated from BYU in Human Development and has started several businesses. She loves to organize, get things done, plan a great trip or experience, and take on big projects. She is married to Jon and mom to James, Madeleine, Nathaniel, Caleb and Emma.