Meet Our Staff and Teachers

Jennifer Herrera

Reading Specialist/Superintendent & 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.

Wences Herrera

Internal Controls Officer

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.

Arlene Canez

Chief Registrar

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.

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.

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.

Leah Averitt

Data Strategist

Miss Averitt went to Tufts University and majored in Chinese Language and
Literature. After graduation, she took her first job at the Naval War College where
she studied China and translated Chinese. After working for the Naval War College,
she began a career teaching English as a Second Language to Chinese, Spanish,
Mongolian, and Portuguese speakers. After eight years teaching ESL, Miss Averitt
came to Tucson International Academy as the 2nd/3rd grades teacher at West. She
is trained in Structured English Immersion and Teaching English as a Second
Language. After two years as a teacher at TIA, she moved into the corporate office
as the Data Strategist for TIA.

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

Francisco Tamayo

Lead Maintenance/Groundskeeper