Our commitment to service learning and mentoring translates into student-to-student mentoring programs, which help our students not only progress academically, socially, and emotionally – but also give our students access to a special self-confidence that comes from helping their peers .
Because we keep Realms at a smaller student-to-teacher ratio, all of our students and teachers build strong personal relationships. All of our teachers take an active interest in the progress of each student. Depending on the needs of the students, several teachers will take on any number of roles with each Realms student.
Our students and teachers work together to address common concerns, establishing a common set of values and goals. They travel together, experiencing and overcoming hardships.
Realms’ commitment to ensuring our students and teachers connect with one another often and under varied circumstances creates an environment unlike any you will find at other schools in Utah.
Peter Westman — Head of School, Math Lead
Peter grew up skiing through the cornfields of Minnesota, canoeing, climbing, and going to Audubon summer camps. He’s even an Eagle Scout! After graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, he began working with the Minnesota Department of Energy on renewable energy sources. He left this idyllic setting to move to Seattle for a job with a medical startup company, but like so many others at the time, the company went under. His path to education began with a program to place professionals in schools as substitute teachers, and he actually enjoyed teaching math and science to high schoolers. He attended classes at the University of Washington and became certified to teach, ultimately spending eight years teaching in the Seattle area.
During his time there, Peter’s philosophy was strongly influenced by working in small schools. “Smaller schools create more accountability for everyone—no one can let the ball drop. I knew EVERY student in the school by name.” The fact that Realms remains committed to small class sizes, plus the appeal of Utah’s gorgeous natural assets brought Peter to Utah. He believes schools need to look beyond traditional educational methods, and Realms does just that, giving students autonomy, getting them out of the classroom, and tying grades to competency.
Surprising fact about Peter: He is on a patent for a medical device to treat pulmonary disease.
Ashley Alldredge — Dean Of Students, Social Studies Lead
Ashley earned his B.A. in history from the University of Utah and his teaching certification from Utah State. He spent many years working at the Marriott Library in the Special Collections Department. In 2005, he started teaching social sciences at Realms of Inquiry and leading student service projects and immersion learning experiences in Chile, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Ashley has also been an experiential educator and learning specialist for students at a therapeutic boarding school. Ashley believes in the value of making connections across a broad range of subjects and bringing learning theory into the classroom to make curriculum relevant and meaningful.
He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and two young sons. They enjoy being on rivers, rock climbing, and playing in Utah’s red rock canyons.
Fun Fact about Ashley: He is a professional river guide on the Colorado River and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Sarah Moselle Brown — Academic Program Director, Science Lead
Sarah grew up in Salt Lake City and graduated from Realms in 1997 (with Andrew Jones). In the many years since then, Sarah has travelled all over the world, amassed her own library of books, rescued a small army of animals, and is mother to one very spoiled little boy named Simon. Someone recently asked Sarah what she would put on a business card (if she ever had one) and after careful thought she decided the most apt thing she could say would be ‘making messes since 1980’. Sarah maintains an avid outdoor lifestyle as well as active travel calendar but is most fond of snowboarding and cycling.
After high school, Sarah pursued an education in environmental science which led her to an interest in food, where it comes from, and how human beings treat the food they eat. Mixed with her love of animals, this inquiry eventually led Sarah to graduate work in large animal science and medicine where she did research on ruminants and what they eat. Sarah has also done research with mice on the Sin Nombre Hantavirus, herbivorous lizards, and wood rats. When Sarah became a mom, she decided to leave the life of a researcher behind and started teaching and it turns out teaching is her favorite job ever. Sarah is currently finishing a Master of Arts in Teaching Science.
Surprising fact about Sarah: In 1997 when she graduated, there was another student named Sarah Brown at Realms. Since that time she uses her middle name in everything to avoid confusion.
Mike Kaserman — Outdoor And International Program Director, Language Arts Lead
Mike’s teaching career began with two years of freshman comp at the University of Idaho while he earned his Master’s, tweaking his degree to be suited for technical writing. The tech writing got tabled, though, as he discovered a love of the outdoors, spending summers in the Tetons learning to climb and winters in Park City learning to ski. The teaching bug was still there, though; he became a Deer Valley ski instructor for a number of years, and is still an active rock guide for Utah Mountain Adventures.
After moving to Salt Lake many years ago, he became an English and Math teacher at Realms of Inquiry, which shaped his philosophy that effective teaching is holistic and individualistic, and showed him that the same lessons and joy he gleaned from his outdoor pursuits could be shared with students. After a wonderful eight years at Realms, he was a full time guide for a year, a teacher at a large public school for a year, then a teacher at a charter school for five years.
He feels like he is returning to Realms as an even more effective and well rounded teacher; it also feels like returning home.
Interesting fact about Mike: He lived for three years with an aboriginal tribe, the Warlpiri, in the Austrailian Outback.
Karri Van Tongeren, Administration
Karri came to Realms as a parent in 2009, and joined the staff in 2013. She loves the Realms approach to education and feels so lucky to be able to work here! Before coming to Realms, Karri worked at Grace Lutheran School in Sandy and Covina Unified School District in California. In addition to her Realms’ responsibilities, Karri works part time for our partner school, AISU. She is a Utah native and enjoys spending time in our beautiful canyons. She lived in Southern California for 5 years, and heads back to the coast whenever she can. Karri is an avid reader, devouring more than 30 books per year.
Surprising fact about Karri: Karri is a small business owner.