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.
DIRECTOR OF ENGLISH
ToriAnn has been teaching English and writing in the homeschool community for almost 10 years, and she’s been involved with editing, curriculum development, and publishing for over 30 years. Her goal with all English classes is to create an engaging and stimulating environment that invites students to think deeply, communicate well, and appreciate the beauty of the English language. She homeschooled her four children from birth to graduation, with the youngest to graduate in 2025. She’s also mentored thousands of new and struggling homeschool families through online and live presentations. When she’s not curled up with her latest book, she loves watching British mysteries, helping entrepreneurs run their online businesses, or learning to play the mandolin.
ToriAnn graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Classical Studies (Latin Emphasis), with a minor in History and a “minor” in Editing & Publishing (the minor didn’t exist yet, but the classes did).
CONSTITUTION STUDIES DIRECTOR
Joseph is a student of philosophy, and is especially concerned with the intersection between cognitive science and artificial intelligence, the study of consciousness, and epistemology. Along with teaching speech and debate and directing the constitution studies program, Joseph has eight years of experience competing in the IEP. He assisted as a TA for numerous classes and competed as a state finalist in a number of mock trials.
Joseph has worked in education for several years, 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. Joseph is currently completing a philosophy program at Utah Valley University, and is preparing for further studies in consciousness research.
McKay Earl is a God-loving, family-loving, homeschool dad of 7 and enjoys every minute of the fun ride. A product of homeschool himself he gained a strong foundation that led to a love for a classically-based, leadership-focused education.
An entrepreneur at heart, he has started multiple businesses and works now as a marketing consultant where he has helped hundreds of small business owners grow their companies.
McKay also loves cycling, camping and the great outdoors - and especially when he can do all three at the same time! He and his beautiful bride of 21 years live in Gilbert Arizona.
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.
MARISA MURDOCK SHARPE
Marisa Murdock Sharpe has over 30 years of teaching experience including public school, university adjunct faculty, homeschool co-op and private classes, private tutoring, piano, and owning a preschool. Her favorite subject to teach is Language Arts and she is happy to be teaching for IEP. She enjoyed homeschooling her two children and helping them find education solutions that worked for their needs/desires. She enjoys poetry and loves traveling to see new places, meet new people, and learn more about history.
Marisa has a B.S. in Elementary Education/Early Childhood Education and an M.Ed. in Elementary Education from USU.
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.
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.
Desiree Preston loves to explore big ideas with young people and has been teaching homeschool English classes for more than a decade, specializing in literary analysis. She draws on her degrees from BYU in English and Philosophy to ask hard questions. She also has a minor in Logic, so she expects to engage in well-reasoned discussion. She is always learning from her students, her peers, and the world at large.
Desiree has homeschooled her seven children for over 20 years and thereby gained a measured perspective about homeschooling junior high and high school. Her homeschool philosophy has evolved over that time without compromising academic rigor or passion for learning and fun. She has been blessed to see her eldest children accepted to the university of their choice and develop into incredible young adults.
Desiree reads books whenever she can sit still, but has been known to devour audio literature while skiing, driving carpools, hiking, doing dishes, road tripping, and hammocking. She has a reputation for terrible puns, losing her car keys, and finding common ground with everyone she meets.
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.
Simeon Cox is a freshman at Mount Liberty College, studying the Liberal Arts. He is currently working at a software company as a content developer. He has participated in, and chaired for student governments, constitutional convention simulations, and mock trials for 6 years.
Simeon loves music even more than debating, and teaches piano lessons from his home. He sang with a world-class Utah choir, and toured Germany and The Netherlands with them in 2017.
Homeschooled full-time or part-time his whole life, he reads everything he can get his hands on. He loves philosophy, writing, singing, teaching, piano, and of course, public speaking.
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.
Faith grew up in the woods of Oregon and has always been fascinated by and loved learning about the world around her and the people in it. She loves stories in any form (from pages to stages to screens to humans), loves to see and experience new things, and still loves to be out in the wild.
She graduated from BYU with a BA in German and then attended Eastern Oregon University to obtain a Masters in Teacher Education and her teaching certificate. She now has over 13 years’ experience in grades 9-12 with endorsements in social studies, English, and German, and has taught a range of subjects including creative writing, geography, law,
current events, English, German, US and world history, and government. She has also worked as an instructor and a curriculum designer for BYU Independent Study and a teacher for BYU Online High School.
A stickler for practical application, Laura Black loves to teach real life skills that lead to effective adulting. 30 years of teaching have helped her hone in on what’s important and what’s just fluff. She values the ability to understand and be understood and feels that writing, along with speaking and discussing, is a huge part of that ability. Teaching kids to write helps them learn about who they are, what they think, and helps them process the world around them. Plus, once you get the hang of it, it’s lots of fun!
A graduate of BYU with a Bachelor of Arts in music, Laura loves making music with her family, puttering around in the garden, sitting with a sunbeam shining on her face, experiencing the magic of watching things grow, organizing and simplifying, and eating colorful salads and double fudge brownie ice cream.
Seth Harrison is a WIDL alumnus and having grown up in the homeschool community in Utah Valley is a product and proponent of alternative education. He is currently a senior studying Psychology at BYU and plans on attending law school upon graduation. He is especially interested in the intersectionality between philosophy and psychology and how these two fields can change and shape peoples' lives. As a psychology major, Seth is passionate about how these fields can increase the level of quality education and mental health in students. He is also a competitive ballroom dancer and is on the BYU ballroom team. Upon returning home from an LDS mission in Tokyo in 2019, he has been involved in education as an elementary instructor, curriculum developer, MTC teacher, and ballroom teacher.
Russ Whatcott is a dad of seven, married for just over 25 years to his very best friend. Russ has been in Engineering for over 20 years with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Manufacturing. He has been in problem solving and product development throughout much of that creating new technologies, new systems and new products. Teaching robotics offers Russ an opportunity to share some of the emerging tools from a hands-on-approach to the upcoming generation of technology leaders.
Devin is a freshly graduated alumni of the IEProgram and is ecstatic to start giving back. Devin has participated in 7 years of IEProgram classes and has been a member of FIRST Robotics Competition team for 4 years. On that team, he was the team captain for the last two with his team qualifying for worlds his first year as captain and making it into the regional playoffs his next year.
He enjoys spending time with his friends and family as well as working on engineering and construction projects at his house as well as arranging those sorts of projects as group activities with his friends. He also tries to find time to hike in the mountains, serve in his community, and build meaningful relationships with those he interacts with
Shannon is a mother of 6 and lives on a small farm. Her family has chickens, goats, cats, a dog, and sometimes pigs or a cow. Shannon also loves beekeeping. She has a large garden and therefore also has to love canning! When she isn't pulling weeds or sweating in the kitchen, Shannon can be found reading a good book or spending time out in nature. Her family loves camping, hiking, kayaking/paddle boarding, and traveling. A favorite tradition that her family loves to do is hike Waterfall Canyon every Christmas Eve! One of her favorite trips was her 20 year wedding anniversary trip to Peru with her husband. They spent several days in the Amazon and did a 4 day hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Shannon spent several years teaching in the public school system primarily as an elementary school teacher. She left after the 2021-2022 school year and began homeschooling some of her children. Shannon graduated from Brigham Young University with her teaching degree.
DIRECTOR OF TOURNAMENTS
A successful homeschool and college graduate,Jared Johnson is committed to providing high-quality courses for students pursuing alternative educations. His own education was rich and diverse, including high school college courses, AP classes, Mock Trial, Model UN, and the Wasatch Independent Debate League. These experiences prepared him for early college at Utah Valley University, a mission in Kentucky for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Brigham Young University.
Jared taught Speech and Debate for four years before transitioning to an IT career. He also coaches junior high and high school mock trial teams, and serves on the Communications and IT committee of the National High School Mock Trial board. He lives in American Fork, Utah, with his wife and two kids.
Kristy Bitter has been homeschooling her 6 children for 13 years. She has taught many different classes from Shakespeare to Art to History to support her children in various homeschooling groups.
Kristy graduated from BYU with a degree in Elementary Education. In her free time she loves to read, quilt, put together a puzzle or have a great discussion with her husband and children.
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
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.
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.