Higher Ground Learning Our Tutors

Higher Ground Learning is a team of local educators, graduate students, musicians, artists, athletes, and active community members. Our staff members' qualifications include university degrees and years of experience in diverse fields: special education, engineering, nursing, music, finance, public health, journalism, fine art, psychology, history, math, and chemistry. We share a passion for teaching, working with youth, and creative education.

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Eric Brown

Executive Director

Eric Brown graduated from Princeton University with a BA in Anthropology. He claims he arrived in Utah by car (although legend has it he arrived by bear) and currently enjoys snowboarding, backpacking and volleyball. Eric has spent time teaching youth in wilderness therapy and experiential learning environments. Eric believes that making the interaction between student and tutor lively and interesting is paramount to a successful learning experience; Eric adds that “results will come naturally if the student enjoys the process.”

Eric specializes in ACT/SAT Test Prep, Calculus, Physics, and GRE/GMAT.

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Jason Topa

Managing Director

As a wee lad, Jason watched "The Blizzard of Aahhh's" and vowed to move West and ride Snowbird's tram at least once. En route, Jason earned a BA in Philosophy from Brown University. He gleaned a lot of inspiration from some amazing professors who were skilled communicators that fostered real relationships with students. He believes that establishing a relationship with trust and respect is key to any student-tutor learning process. When not tutoring, Jason enjoys playing guitar, backpacking, skiing, and mountain biking.

Jason specializes in working with independent study students on college essays, ACT/SAT Test Prep, Algebra, Trig, Calculus, Reading, and Writing. He also finds himself traveling to teach internationally several times per year.

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Jonnie Boyd-Field

Office Manager

Jonnie is a lover of coffee, people and the outdoors. After working in coffee shops and studying coffee culture for her Anthropology degree, she has decided to bring her inquisitive spirit to HGL. She is a big fan of education, enjoys being around people big and small and is excited to take on the task of keeping HGL organized. Jonnie graduated with her Anthropology degree from UVU and dreams of one day becoming an Anthropology professor.

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Colton Wright

International Coordinator

Colton grew up in Idaho but was waylaid in Massachusetts at Tufts University, where he graduated with a degree in International Relations. During past winters he spent time tutoring at HGL and snowboarding the gnar at Snowbird, while in the summer in fought wildfires across the American West with the Bonnieville Hotshots. Colton now works year-round with Higher Ground to coordinate the logistics of international classes, teach, and tutor. When he's not busy unleashing deft programmatic skills he is snowboarding or building fine creations in his woodshop.

Colton specializes in ACT/SAT Test Prep, all levels of Math, and Writing.

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Billy Thomas

International Test Prep

Billy is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Utah, with degrees in Business, Psychology, and Philosophy. When he’s not talking someone’s ear off about SAT prep, Billy enjoys traveling, snowboarding, and trying to recreate delicious restaurant meals at home. Though he can't sing and dance (but secretly wishes he could), Billy believes that an entertained class will learn better and so focuses on engaging students in a relatable way. Billy’s next projects include coding, yoga, and karate.

Billy specializes in ACT/SAT Test Prep.


Erin Acker

Erin came to Utah from the Pacific Northwest where she studied Environmental Science and Economics at Western Washington University. After she earned her BS she went on to Evergreen State College to study teaching. She is adept at communicating the intricacies of a wide range of subjects and is always looking for ways to challenge her students to achieve more than they thought possible. When she isn't teaching she is most likely playing outside - climbing or hiking (she completed over 1,400 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014)!

Erin specializes in all levels of Math, Science, and ACT/SAT Test Prep.

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Andie Arnold

Originally from Utah, Andie grew up in both Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. She holds a BS in Biology and a Masters in Education from the University of Utah. Andie believes that learning should be fun and wants her students to enjoy the work that they do. When she isn't busy obsessing over candles, one can find her enjoying the outdoors by camping, hiking, and mountain biking.

Andie specializes in Chemistry, Biology, Math, and Test Prep.

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Kaile Cota

Kaile grew up on the beautiful lakes of northwest lower Michigan and graduated with a degree in biological sciences from Michigan Technological University. Since graduation, she has followed the snow, living in Oregon, Colorado, and Utah; her love for biology is second only to her love for skiing. She spends her time chasing that perfect ski turn, tutoring math and science, hiking, listening to podcasts, and reading. Kaile has a passion for learning and hopes to spark the same in her students. Her most recent educational explorations have included research on the life of Cleopatra and desperately trying to comprehend (and fix) the inner workings of the cooling system in her car. Kaile loves tutoring and is excited every day she gets to work with students.

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Gwendolyn DeSilva

International Test Prep

Gwendolyn may have been raised in a small community along the Missouri River, but her desire to travel the world was ignited at the age of seven. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Public Relations, she set off for a three month back-packing tour of Europe, before settling in England. Based in London, she became the Vice President of Marketing Communications at one of the world’s top investment banks. However, after 14 years in the corporate world, Gwendolyn decided on a career change to teach English as a Second Language, before landing with Higher Ground Learning where she focuses on the SAT and ACT. When she is not teaching her international students - whom she calls her ‘kids’ - she can be found scouring her current home city for the best craft coffee.

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Toby Frazer

Toby was born in Dallas but quickly made his way to Utah at a young age. Possessing a voracious curiosity, he has interests that range from playing guitar to coding and from chess to skiing. He attends the University of Utah and will graduate in December with a BS in Biomedical Physics. From there he plans on pursuing a Master/PhD of Physics or Astronomy. His other hobbies include gaming and trying (in vain) to read every article on Wikipedia.

Toby specializes in all levels of math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Test Prep

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Kamala Ganesh

A native of Salt Lake City, Kamala earned a BS in Biology from the University of Virginia. She arrived at Higher Ground with a diverse tutoring background that includes students of all ages and ranges across many subjects from Russian literature to Biology. She believes that forming a strong bond of trust with a student is of the utmost importance during tutoring and teaching. When she isn't reading or writing she prefers to be outdoors: running, hiking, and enjoying the wilderness of Utah.

Kamala specializes in Test Prep, Biology, Chemistry, and all forms of Writing.

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Lin-hsiu Huang

Lin was born and raised in Kaoshiung, Taiwan and graduated from Morehead State University in 2018 with a BFA in Art and Design and a minor in Mathematics. She is a multidisciplinary designer & intersectional activist and served as the student commencement speaker at MSU's 2018 ceremony. Additionally, while at MSU, she presented her advocacy research and productions in over a dozen conferences (Poster on the Hill, the Appalachian Studies Conference, the Southern Honors Council Regional Conference) and was the head of the tutoring center for 2 years. Outside of working with HGL, Lin is the Program Coordinator at Clever Octopus and an AmeriCorps VISTA member. She is fond of carefully-designed typographic posters, cozy coffee or boba shops, national parks, and art galleries.

Lin specializes in math and test prep instruction.

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Heidi Jorgensen

Heidi graduated from SUU with her Bachelors in Math Education and is currently studying nutrition through Eastern Michigan University. Born and raised here in Utah, Heidi has also lived in New York, Ohio, Georgia, and Spain. She's a big fan of the outdoors so when she isn't busy teaching or studying she can be found in the mountains either running, hiking, or camping.

Heidi specializes in Math at all levels as well as ACT/SAT Test Prep.

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Marina Kalliga

International Test Prep

Marina graduated from Stanford University with a BA in International Relations and celebrated by driving across the continental USA to Brooklyn, NY, where she is currently based. She grew up in a small seaside town near Athens, Greece, and considers the Mediterranean Sea her home and happy place. While at Stanford, she returned to Europe for two study abroad programs in Madrid and Oxford, and a summer internship in Sarajevo. Marina loves working with high school students, and believes in always treating her students with empathy, kindness, and respect. In addition to swimming, she’s happiest when spending entire days reading books on the beach, traveling, going on long walks in the countryside, and trying new food.

Marina specializes in ACT/SAT Test Prep.

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Mitchell Lee

Mitchell was born and raised in Utah and belongs to a family of five where he was the middle child — sandwiched between two math majors. He will graduate in December 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing.

Before landing at Higher Ground, Mitchell worked as a teaching assistant for lower division math courses at the University of Utah as well as a mentor at a Title 1 school. He hopes to one day obtain his Master of Fine Arts so he can teach Painting and Drawing as a university professor.

When Mitchell is not tutoring or in class, he can be found working on a painting in his studio, trying to add velocity to his serve on the tennis court, or playing with his dog in the mountains.

Mitchell specializes in ACT/SAT prep and all levels of math.


Kasey Mann

International Test Prep

Kasey grew up in Lancaster, PA and studied Economics and Psychology at Yale. Post graduation she worked for Credit Suisse in New York, but one of her many passions is teaching. Kasey pursued research in social psychology and has long been fascinated with how people learn and make decisions. She believes learning should be fun, engaging, and undertaken with a holistic perspective. When she isn’t working or reading, Kasey loves to travel, explore, run, hike (activity is a theme, she was on the Yale swim team), and eat interesting foods (still working on the cooking part)! She’s happiest when she’s trying new things and meeting new people.

Kasey specializes in ACT/SAT Test Prep.

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Annick McIntosh

International and Online Test prep

Annick brings many years of test prep experience to her work with students: Prior to thousands of hours teaching and creating content for study guides, Annick earned a BS in Molecular Biology from Haverford and embarked on graduate studies at Yale University. Now calling Maine her home, Annick's specialty is ACT/SAT test prep, both traveling to teach classes and remotely working with students. She approaches each individual with a flexible and adaptable plan custom tailored to their goals. In her free time Annick enjoys rock climbing, trail running, reading, scuba diving, traveling (of course), and laying the groundwork for her own hard cider brewery to stave off the wintry chill of the New England cold.

Annick specializes in ACT/SAT test prep, GRE, and general math tutoring.


Melanie O'Toole

International Test Prep

Having grown up in Connecticut dreaming of adventure, Melanie studied Anthropology and Business at Tulane University, then struck out overseas - obtaining a Masters in Globalization, Development, and Transition from the University of Westminster. She loves experiencing different cultures and has learned a lot from her travels to more than 60 countries. Beyond test prep, she has a broad range of teaching experience that ranges from conducting training seminars on social-impact consulting in Brazil to preparing students for ESL exams in China. She believes that learning should not only be fun and engaging, but relevant to the students' particular needs and cultural context. When not planning her next escapade, Melanie enjoys hiking, scuba diving, lounging around on the beach, and purchasing fancy shampoos.

Melanie specializes in ACT/SAT Test Prep.

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Rachel Silva

International Test Prep

Rachel was born in Brazil and grew up in Dallas, Texas. She attended Texas A&M University and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Ecological Restoration and Forestry. Rachel believes that anybody can learn anything as long as they have the right teacher, and she strives to be that teacher for her students. When she isn't teaching, Rachel enjoys baking cakes, practicing yoga, and trying to approach the family of turkeys that visits her lawn every day.

Rachel specializes in ACT/SAT Test Prep.


Jesse Snow

Jesse was born in Texas but has lived all over the world, graduating from high school in Moscow and traveling extensively with his family. He holds a BS in Applied Physics from the University of Utah, and is working on a masters degree in Nuclear Engineering. With a strong grasp of Physics and Mathematics, Jesse focuses on keeping his lessons entertaining and effective. His hobbies include music, video games, arguing with his cat, and long walks on the beach.

Jesses specializes in Physics, Math, and ACT/SAT Test Prep.


Michael Young

Michael came to Higher Ground from the far flung corners of Orem. He stopped along the way at the University of Utah, earning a BS in Biomedical Engineering and Minors in English Literature and Chemistry. He emphasizes the recognition of the inherent value and beauty in every subject that he teaches, drawing inspiration from science communicators such as Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman. He's a traveler (Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, and more!), a reader (everything, really, EVERYTHING), and a thinker - currently contemplating whether Free Will is merely an illusion (Sartre would take issue). Michael brings his dynamic interests and experiences to all of his students at Higher Ground; just don't get him going on about time travel or you may never get him to stop.

Higher Ground Learning Application [MS Word]

Download the application above, fill it out, and e-mail it to us along with a resume and cover letter. Even if we're not hiring, we'll keep your resume on file and call you when a spot opens up. Thanks, and good luck!