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 (with a heavy side emphasis on music and art). 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 writing music, backpacking, skiing, and sometimes pining to set up his welding rig.

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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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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Kelsie Rank

Office Manager

Kelsie has moved around the past few years and has been able to see some amazing places, including living near the pacific coast (twice!) and the base of the Sawtooth mountains. These moves created a love of exploration, and now yearly excursions take place: by plane, train, or automobile! Kelsie graduated from Westminster with a BA in Economics and a Minor in Film Studies, and she hopes to one day run a nonprofit. When Kelsie is not working, she enjoys hanging out with her dog Archie and exploring the local Utah mountains.

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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.

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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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Melissa Ilardo

Melissa has been tutoring more than half her life and loves working with students of all ages and interests. Born in New York and raised in North Carolina, she has lived in many cities on 3 continents. Melissa has a profound love of learning that led her to spend a (very) long time in school, pursuing a BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, MS in Theoretical Evolution from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, and PhD in Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Copenhagen. During her PhD, her research took her to the remote islands of Indonesia where she swam with Sea Gypsies and discovered a new evolutionary adaptation, which she got to discuss with Ira Flatow on NPR's Science Friday. Melissa believes the best way for students to achieve success is to first believe in their own potential, and then to see the magic waiting to be unveiled through a solid understanding of science and math. When she isn't learning or teaching, you'll find her on her road or mountain bike enjoying the outdoors.

Melissa specializes in ACT/SAT and GRE Test Prep, Math, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Spanish, Italian, ESL, and Statistics.

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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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Kevin Marren

Kevin recently moved to Utah after growing up in the Bay Area. He graduated from Duke University with Bachelor's Degrees in Statistical Sciences and Economics. In high school, Kevin co-founded and taught at Engineering Change, an interactive math and science camp geared towards low-income middle school students. In addition to math and science, Kevin has extensively studied Spanish, including spending a semester abroad in Madrid in college and completing service projects in Mexico and South America with a focus on language immersion. As a skiing fanatic, Kevin is excited to explore the wonderful outdoors of Utah. He also enjoys performing and enjoying music, playing the piano, drums, and guitar.

Kevin specializes in Statistics, Spanish, all levels of math, and 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.


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.

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Leah Sullo

Online Tutoring

Born and raised in the inner city of New York, Leah’s entire perspective of life changed when she started doing yoga and traveling the world. Once believing that the concrete jungle was the greatest place on Earth, she spent four years working as a Wall Street banker upon graduating from Columbia University with a degree in Financial Economics and Math. Leah kept her soul and sanity during those years by volunteering as a tutor, mentor, and motivational speaker. Discovering her passion for empowering youth, she quit her corporate job to pursue a path towards teaching, and ended up in the Costa Rican rainforest teaching English to local kids. Leah returned to NYC and became a high school math teacher, but recently left to stay home with her 8-month old baby boy and become an online tutor (thank you Higher Ground!). When she is not teaching her son or her students, Leah can be found working on her recently launched website called School Of Life (www.sol.community), where she plans to offer conscious content and curriculum on how to live a happy, meaningful, and fulfilled life - curriculum that she hopes will someday be offered in all schools.

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Heather Witzel Lakin

After graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine with a degree in Physics, and realizing she should have studied philosophy, Heather decided to apply her degree to gravity sports. For the last few years she has spent winters in Salt Lake City working as a ski patroller and summers in Maine leading wilderness whitewater canoe trips for high schoolers and instructing a science camp for elementary schoolers. She now tutors math, science and the ACT/SAT when not in search of the best skiing in the Wasatch, paddling whitewater, or driving across the country. Heather believes learning should be fun, even if sometimes school isn’t, and strives to help her students figure out ways to learn that work for, and interest, them.

Heather specializes in all levels of math, Physics, and test prep.

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!