Meet Our Staff and Teachers

Isaiah Kong

Data Strategist

Jennifer Herrera

Superintendent, Reading Specialist & Title I

From Midwestern Farm Girl to World- Traveling School Superintendent
If your first impression of Dr. Jennifer Herrera is what you read on her resume, you will be very surprised when you actually meet her in person. On paper, she is a highly educated, fiercely driven, world-traveled, savvy business person. When you meet her in person, however, you’ll discover she is a warm, down-home, farm-raised, joy-filled, kid-loving woman. All of the degrees and drive were just a way for her to do what she loves most–to educate children in the richest, most growth inspiring atmosphere imaginable.

Trailblazer at a Young Age
Jennifer Ellen Smith was born in Oxford, Ohio. She grew up in nearby Brookville, Indiana, where her dad farmed and worked in business and her mom was a teacher. Jennifer was the only girl in her family and her two older brothers soon discovered that the best use for a sister is to make her go first. First to test if the rope swing over the creek worked, first to jump off the hayloft, first to see if the bull in the pasture could be outrun. So being a trailblazer was something Jennifer learned early on and has embraced all her life.

Down on the Farm
Jennifer loved growing up on a farm. She loved the animals, the open air and the adventures around every corner. But growing up on a farm also involves a lot of chores, which instilled Jennifer with an incredible work ethic. Jennifer was also an avid student and was fascinated by other cultures and lands. Discovering she was prolific at learning other languages fueled this passion. Combined with her deep Christian faith and desire to be a missionary, world travel seemed inevitable. As much as she loved life on the farm, deep down she knew someday she would be leaving to pursue her own dreams.

Pursuing Her Passions
But first things first. Jennifer pursued her education with enthusiasm. She loved school and was active in and out of the classroom. She participated in many different sports and started to exhibit her leadership skills when she was elected student council president in high school. When Jennifer was just 14 years old she traveled to Mexico City on a trip organized by her high school Spanish teacher. It was on that trip that Jennifer’s confidence and proficiency in speaking Spanish really took hold. So when Jennifer continued on to Ball State University, she chose to study Elementary Education with a bilingual endorsement. When it came time to do her student teaching, Jennifer jumped at the opportunity to teach in the small border town of Nogales, AZ.

Citizen of the World
Jennifer describes herself as a citizen of the world, meaning she feels she could live anywhere. But in southern Arizona, Jennifer discovered two things. She often had the opportunity to speak Spanish, which she loved, and she saw many people living in poverty, which deeply touched her heart. Her childhood dream of doing missionary work was renewed. It was during this time while at church that Jennifer also met her husband, Wences Herrera. They were married in 1989.

Never Stop Learning
The Herreras eventually moved to Tucson where Jennifer continued teaching and working at church. She also continued on with her own education. She received her Master’s Degree in Multicultural Bilingual Education at The University of Arizona. She went on to earn her doctorate degree. But being as other-focused as Jennifer is, she soon had to pursue a way to use her gifts and education to help others.

Tucson International Academy is Born
Combining her love of education, linguistics, ministry, and multicultural studies, Jennifer opened the doors to Tucson International Academy in 2002. The first campus was located on Broadway and has now expanded to include 3 more campuses. And it truly is a family affair. Jennifer is the school superintendent, Jennifer’s husband Wences is a co-founder of the school and also teaches Spanish. Their daughter attended TIA her whole life. TIA is the amazing school that it is today because of the passion, hard work, vision and other-focused heart of its beloved founder and school superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Herrera.

Valerie Enriquez

Assistant Superintendent

How Principal Valerie Enriquez Broke the Trend

Have you ever wondered how your family dynamics affect your future? It used to be that financial status or even ethnicity were large contributors to what future opportunities a person could have. Now, according to a New York Times article, marriage is one of the greatest factors. The article reveals that when it comes to children born and raised in single-parent families, “a large body of research shows that they are more likely than similar children with married parents to experience childhood poverty, act up in class, become teenage parents and drop out of school.” Fortunately for all of our kids at TIA’s campuses, Principal Valerie Enriquez is a tremendous example of someone who has broken that trend. She shows her students that they are the ones who can determine their own destiny and not become a statistic.

Ms. Enriquez’s Childhood

Ms. Enriquez was fortunate to have a gem of a mother who, although a single mom, challenged her to break the family pattern and plan her own future. “I cooked, I cleaned, I got my sister ready for school and even though my mom worked two jobs she always tried to keep me on the right track to pursue my dreams,” Ms. Enriquez.

According to Child Trends, a nonprofit research center that studies children at all stages of development, 41 percent of births in the U.S. occur outside of marriage, yet only 10 percent of these births occur among people who have a college education. While 60 percent of unwed births come from persons without a college education. What that means, according to the data, is Principal Enriquez was more likely not to go to college. She was also six times more likely to become a single parent herself and repeat the trend with her own kids because she was being raised in a single-parent home!

You Determine Your Destiny

Even though all that sounds like a vicious cycle, Valerie, who had all of these challenges against her and still broke the cycle. How? She believed that you determine your destiny. As a result, she became the only person in her family to go to college. If there was a goal, she aimed for it and hit it with pinpoint accuracy. She wanted to be a teacher, which she had accomplished at only 21 years of age. In fact, on her 21st birthday, she didn’t go out and celebrate the typical right of passage into adulthood (party and get wasted) but stayed home and graded papers!

Ms. Enriquez did have a lot of inspiration. Everyone in her family was involved in education. Her mom was an administrator. Her aunts and even her grandmother were lunch ladies. This inspiration was not enough though. Ms. Enriquez needed to have a passion to change her destiny. She always tells her students, “Don’t let anything get in the way of your dreams.” Nothing got in the way of her goals, for after she reached her goal to be a teacher, she aimed for being a principal. Under the guidance of Principal Montemayor, she opened the Midvale campus as their first principal.

“Li’l but Feisty”

There’s a reason that Ms. Enriquez’s nickname is “Li’l but Feisty.” She fights for her goals and so far she has hit every one of them. Now, her goal is to have her K-12 students excel, pass the AIMS test, and eventually go to college. When her students say, “We can’t pass the AIMS,” her reply will be, “Yes you can; you ARE going to pass the AIMS.”

Brian Leyva

Corporate Finance Officer

Brian Leyva is a finance professional with over 10 years of experience in the financial sector. He
currently serves as the Corporate Finance Officer for Tucson International Academy. With a
unique blend of technical and financial skills, Brian has become an expert in both disciplines.

Brian holds an Associate of Arts degree in Information Technology from the University of
Phoenix, which has given him a strong foundation in computer systems and technology. He also
holds a Certificate in Information Assurance and Security from the same institution.

In addition to his technical background, Brian is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree
in Business with a financial planning certificate from the University of Phoenix. This program has
provided him with an in-depth understanding of financial management, investment strategies,
and financial planning techniques.

Brian's expertise in technology is complemented by his financial background. He has worked as
a financial manager in lending, where he developed expertise in loan origination, underwriting,
and credit analysis. He also worked as a fraud analyst at Wells Fargo, where he was
responsible for detecting and preventing fraudulent activities.

With his 10+ years of experience and unique combination of financial and technical skills, Brian
is well-suited to work in roles that require a strong understanding of both disciplines. He is a
dedicated and driven individual who is passionate about using his expertise to help individuals
and organizations achieve their financial goals.

Jeannette Cannon

EL, & Homeless Liaison, Reading Specialist & Title I

As TIA’s Programs Coordinator, my roles include Reading Specialist, ESL Teacher, McKinney-Vento Liaison, and Youth On Their Own (YOTO) Liaison. I’m from a military family, grew up in Arizona, and lived overseas in Guam for nine years. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University, and my master’s degree in bilingual/multicultural education from the University of Arizona. I also have my TEFL and TESOL certifications (Teaching English as a Foreign Language/ Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

I became a teacher because I’ve always loved school, lifelong learning, and working with students to increase their confidence, skills, and love of reading. Nothing warms my heart more than when a student makes a breakthrough and their face lights up with a big smile! My passions include reading, teaching, traveling, playing my saxophone and clarinet, teaching English online to my Chinese students with VIPKID, and Toastmasters. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis

Rebecca Hazelwood

Corporate Admin Assistant

Rebecca Hazlewood is a hard-working Corporate Administrator with a diverse professional background.
With experience in finance, high-end hospitality, customer service, and office management, Rebecca
brings a unique skill set to her work. She obtained a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in
Policy from the University of Arizona.

In addition to her professional pursuits, Rebecca has many interests outside of work. She enjoys
spending time with her chickens, cat, and tending to her garden. She is also an adventurous spirit and
can often be found exploring the great outdoors on her dirt bike or Jeep.

She is dedicated to providing exceptional service to her clients and is always looking for new ways to
improve her skills and expertise.

With her strong work ethic and diverse set of skills, Rebecca is a true asset to any team she works with.

Arlene Canez

Chief Registrar

Wences Herrera

Internal Controls Officer & Spanish Language Department Head

Brian Beebe (Coach Beebe)

College and Career Readiness Coach

Brian Beebe served as a Police Officer for 12 years before becoming a business owner and Real Estate Executive on the west coast. In 2008, Brian and his late wife Stacey immersed themselves in the world of Educational Consulting and founded a college planning firm, Your Guidance Office. This company works with high school students and their families as they navigate the road to college.

Brian is currently a Board Member of Junior Achievement of Arizona and a volunteer teacher. He has taught Personal Finance, Career, and College Readiness courses in many High Schools in Pima County using the J.A. curriculum. Brian is also a public speaker who has made both radio and television appearances discussing these topics.

Prior to Stacey’s passing in 2017, they actively participated in a variety of community service organizations. Brian still is active in supporting his community, as well as organizations that benefit; Children and Youth, People with Disabilities, Military, Law Enforcement, and Christian Ministries.

Brian Beebe continues to oversee the operations of Your Guidance Office. Your Guidance Office has worked with hundreds of students across the US helping them with preparing for and gaining admissions to the right fit college while saving on the costs of higher education. His students have received millions in free funding offers and have been accepted to all levels of universities.

He joined the Tucson International Academy family as a district staff member in 2021 to develop and implement programs that prepare students for college and career as well as navigating the admissions process. He has additional responsibilities in community and school systems management. Here is the link to your own special student portal.

Andres (Andy) Burrola

Operations Manager

Using my positive attitude, personal and professional experiences, and my willingness to work, my life mission is to continue to grow professionally and continue to develop a consistent approach with a humble confidence. I am impacting the lives of both students and their families while focusing on my future goals.

I am highly experienced in my profession. I am determined to look for ways to find solutions and make things happen. I enjoy learning, attending cultural events, and meeting new people to stay refreshed and enthusiastic about my educational career.

I experience success in my mission when I have a collaborative, stable work environment, and when I can spend quality time with my family outside of school. One of my biggest priorities is making Tucson International Academy a valuable school setting for all families.

Tracy Laos

Instructional Coach

I grew up in Omaha, NE and moved to Arizona after high school to attend and graduate from ASU with a BFA. I am married and have 4 children, 3 sons and a daughter. We enjoy getting away from the Arizona heat by visiting the beach and camping in the mountains. I became an educator because I enjoy watching and assisting students gain knowledge and confidence in their abilities. I believe everyone has gifts and talents and it’s a privilege to be able to witness the students realize this themselves. Quote “Educators should walk the walk and never stop learning themselves!”

Francisco Tamayo

Lead Maintenance/Groundskeeper