About Us » Our Faculty and Staff

Our Faculty and Staff

A native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Ms. Alba began studying Flamenco at the University of New Mexico with Master Artist and Teacher, Eva Encinias, and is currently a soloist with the professional group, Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company under the direction of Joaquin Encinias. In 2011, Ms. Alba’s dance career was recognized and awarded by the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, an organization that is dedicated to identifying and assisting emerging talent in theater, dance, and film. In addition to her dance career, Ms. Alba holds a MA Degree in Secondary Education with a focus in Modern and Classical Languages and Performing Arts and currently teaches Spanish and Dance at Tierra Adentro: The New Mexico School of Academics, Arts, and Artesanía. 

Rusita Ávila is the Bilingual School Social Worker/mental health clinician at TANM since 2015. She is a multi-generational New Mexican.    She attended Albuquerque High School and received her Bachelors in Applied Mathematics/Biology at Brown University in Providence, RI.  She received her Masters in Social Work at NMHU in 1999. Her expertise is in psych, crisis intervention, domestic violence, trauma, grief and loss, and working with youth in multiple capacities including developing youth leadership. She is the previous Clinical Director of the Domestic Violence Resource Center and previous Clinical Supervisor of All Faiths Protective Services Department--Advocates and Case Management.

Donnie Benavidez began playing music at the age of 13, initially learning to play New Mexican and rock musical styles from his family, and exploring other musical forms in high school, including choir. His Classical guitar studies began under the tutelage of Steven Wachter at the University of Northern Colorado and finished under June King, Violinist, at the University Southern Colorado. Donnie graduated with a Bachelors of Performance, emphasis guitar and later completed his Education credentials from the University of New Mexico.  Donnie continues to explore and study various musical styles, notably studying flamenco for two decades with instructors Eric Patterson, Pedro Cuadra, Juan Aggarado Gómez, and, most recently, Juani De La Isla. Donnie has performed flamenco and other musical genres throughout New Mexico. 

Melia Borrego teaches middle school humanities at Tierra Adentro.  She has called Tierra Adentro her home for the last 8 years. She is a graduate from New Mexico State University with a Bachelor of Science in Education. She is a certified Level II K-8 teacher with 12 years teaching experience. She has always enjoyed helping others of all ages learn and grow. Her professional background consists of working with pre-school, elementary and middle school aged children as well as mentoring young college aged students. Her passion is teaching students how to build positive relationships with themselves, in order to be better people in the future.

Janine Burford has taught the past 19 years in public, private and state charter schools around Albuquerque. She is an enthusiastic, organized teacher with superb leadership and communication skills. Ms. Burford easily cultivate trusting and productive relationships with students, parents, co-teachers and administration. She is committed to creating a morally-centered classroom atmosphere that is stimulating, encouraging, and supportive for all students.

Yvette Chavez is TANM's Health Assistant and Front Office Manager. She has worked at TANM since 2013. Ms. Yvette works tirelessly to ensure that our school's day to day functions are a success!
Candice Cordova is the Middle School Visual Arts teacher at TANM. She is currently a Level 2 teacher and plans on getting her National Board Certification. Her classes focus heavily on technique with different mediums. This allows her student body exposure to different styles, techniques and allows them to obtain a multimodal approach to art. Along with this, her specialty is in sculpture through ceramic technique and design. She holds a Bachelors in Education from UNM with a minor in ESOL. During her student teaching at UNM, the cohort she worked under emphasized arts integration through language and cultural diversity. She serves as the Visual Arts Department Head and helps organize arts events for TANM.
Deanna Encinias grew up in Albuquerque and received her early dance training from Karen Alwin and Lynn Cox (Atlanta Ballet).  Later she studied with Suzanne Johnston, Luis Fuente (Joffrey Ballet), Mel Tomlinson (NYCB), Alonzo King (Lines), and Melissa Hayden (NYCB). She studied flamenco at UNM with Eva Encinias, and continued her studies of flamenco, Jota, and Escuela Bolera in Madrid. At age 16, Deanna started teaching ballet at various studios in Albuquerque, as well as Walnut Hill School in Boston. She has also taught flamenco and Escuela Bolera at the UNM. She has performed ballet and flamenco around the country, and after retiring from the stage, Deanna enjoys her career teaching 9th grade Health and Dance classes at Tierra Adentro of New Mexico charter school, where she is head of the Dance Department. She also teaches ballet, flamenco, Jota, and Escuela Bolera at the Conservatory of Flamenco Arts. Currently Deanna has her license as a personal trainer with certificates in Nutrition, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Group Fitness Classes, and Youth Exercise. 

Born into one of the few flamenco families in America, Encinias learned flamenco as a way of life from his grandmother Clarita and mother Eva Encinias. He began his first lessons in flamenco from his grandmother, Clarita, and began performing at age five. Encinias has had the tremendous opportunity to work closely with world-renowned artists including Antonio Canales, Eva La Yerbabuena, Los Farrucos, Manolete, Carmen La Talegona, and Mercedes Amaya. In 1999, The Conservatory of Flamenco Arts opened under the direction of Encinias, his mother Eva, and sister Marisol. As Artistic Director of Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company, Encinias’ vision for Yjastros is to preserve the beauty of traditional flamenco while imbuing it with a unique American aesthetic and energy.

In the fall of 2010, Joaquin was instrumental in the founding and development of Tierra Adentro: The New Mexico School of Academics; Art and Artesanía. Joaquin developed TANM’s dance and music curriculum and helped to initiate a positive artistic collaboration among TANM and high schools that take part in Atlanta’s Music in the Park Festival. He now heads the Artesanía (artisanship) program, which teaches students culturally relevant New Mexican artisanship projects alongside skills such as woodworking, metalworking, and instrument building.

Mario Febres was introduced to the art of flamenco guitar in 2000. In 2001, he moved to New Mexico to study music at the College of Santa Fe earning a Bachelor of the Arts degree. During his junior year of college, Mario traveled to Spain for a year of intense study.  In the fall of 2006, he became a part of Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company.  Mario began teaching at TANM in 2010 and today, is the head of the Music Department.  He continues to work with the Yjastros Company where he can be an example to his students as a professional musician in the community as well as a full time educator.

Ms. Garrett was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. Her first degree was in Applied Arts, and after moving to Albuquerque in 1994 she was a graphic designer with a small local advertising agency. She received her Elementary Education degree from the University of New Mexico and continued with a Masters of Science in Education from Walden University. As a level III teacher her endorsements include language arts, social studies and TESOL. Ms. Patty Garrett has been an educator for 16 years, teaching students from preschool through 6th grade in the public school system. She currently teacher middle school Humanities at Tierra Adentro.

For over 8 years, Edward has been a noteworthy leader in the business management space. He is a small business advocate and assisted in a wide variety of project management for companies in fields such as solar, roofing, retail and real estate. He is a fan of dark coffee, and also enjoys candles.
Rod Hansen has been an educator for 36 years, including teaching, coaching girls basketball and soccer, high school Activities Director and Assistant Principal, Mental Health Advocate for the New Mexico Department of Health, and 22 years as a School Counselor. The career in education that has been the 'best fit' for Rod's personality type and interests is College/Career Counselor, and he is very grateful for the opportunity to be in that position at TANM!

Sarah Hartshorn has been teaching Humanities at Tierra Adentro since 2010.  As one of the founders of Tierra Adentro Charter School, she believes strongly in the vision of arts and academics working together to create a powerful educational experience.  Mrs. Hartshorn graduated from the University of New Mexico with Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Master of Arts in Dance History and Criticism.  She spent many years in New Mexico dancing with Yjastros, The American Flamenco Repertory Company and parallels her dedication to the arts with her dedication for academic learning.  Mrs. Hartshorn has endorsements in Language Arts, Social Studies and the Performing Arts.

Giovanna Hinojosa is a Spanish and Flamenco Dance teacher at Tierra Adentro of NM.  Giovanna received her Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico and completed her Teacher Certification at CNM.  Giovanna was born in Laredo, TX and raised between Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, and is fluent in both English and Spanish. Before teaching at Tierra Adentro, Giovanna worked in Accounting for over 8 years as an Assistant Business Manager and Bookkeeper. After receiving her Bachelor's Degree, she became part of the Yjastros: The American flamenco repertory company. She continues to perform in the theatre with the company and in other venues. In addition, Giovanna has been a teacher at the National Institute of Flamenco for 12 years and continues to teach there today. Giovanna’s hard work and desire to excel got her to where she is today, and it is her warmth and passion that make her such a valuable resource as a teacher, to the Yjastros company, and to all those around her.

Ashley Kruger earned her Master's Degree in teaching with a major in Special Education K-12 and Elementary Education K-8 with an emphasis in Severe Disabilities and Specialization in Autism. As a Level III teacher, she has worked in the Albuquerque Public and Charter Schools for the last 20+ years. She has had the pleasure of working with a range of students in various elementary, middle, high school and college level classrooms. Her teaching philosophy is to care for her students by forming relationships with them, so they will be willing to learn and to believe in themselves.  All students are individuals, and learn in their own unique way.  She learns from her students as much as they learn from her. 
Rebekah Leyva is a native New Mexican with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education from the University of New Mexico. She graduated Magna Cum Laude. Before beginning her professional teaching career, Ms. Leyva gained valuable experience working as a tutor and instructor in various disciplines. Ms. Leyva is now a veteran teacher, having worked in the field for the last 14 years. She has worked with students ages preschool to adult and has specialized in teaching Math, Science, Dance and English. She holds teaching endorsements in TESOL and Performing Arts and is highly qualified to teach Math and Science. Ms. Leyva is Nationally Board Certified and has been recognized by the New Mexico Public Education Department as an Highly Effective Teacher for the last 4 consecutive school years. Ms. Leyva danced flamenco professionally for 13 years with the world-renowned company, Yjastros. She continues to study flamenco dance with world class artists in her free time. Ms. Leyva is bilingual, Spanish being her second language. She is passionate about learning and is currently studying French, pottery, and guitar.

Ms. Gen has been with TANM for 9 years. She received a Master’s Degree in Special Education from NM Highlands University and obtained her Administrative License 2019. Serving as the Principal of Tierra Adentro, her goal is to work closely with the staff to ensure that the academics and the arts are prevalent throughout the school. She is also a Crisis Prevention Institute Certified Instructor, and as the Crisis Team Lead, she provides yearly training in de-escalation and social emotional support for the safety of staff and students.

David Marquez is a Special Education teacher at Tierra Adentro of New Mexico. Mr. Marquez comes to TANM with 20 years of experience in education. He began his teaching career in 1999 after graduating from Prescott College with a bachelor's degree in Special Education. He taught in Magdalena, New Mexico for 10 years, where he coached football, basketball, and track, and served as the technology coordinator. In 2010, Mr. Marquez moved back to his home town of Belen, where he taught at Belen High School for 5 years and was the Varsity Women's Basketball coach. In 2015, Mr Marquez was hired by TANM as a temporary Special Education teacher to fill a teaching position; however, after a short stay at TANM he was offered an Assistant Principal position at Socorro High School. Mr. Marquez completed his Masters Degree in Educational Administration in 2017.  He served as an Assistant Principal at Socorro High School for 3 years, and a Principal at Socorro Middle School for 1 1/2 years, before moving back to Albuquerque and returning to TANM in the 2019-2020 school year. 
Mrs. Azizah Michalski graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2010 with a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education, becoming highly qualified to teach mathematics and social studies. In 2014, she earned a Master's Degree in Elementary Education and got endorsed in TESOL shortly after graduating. Mrs. Michalski earned a National Board Certification in Early Adolescence Mathematics and became a Level III teacher in 2016. Mrs. Michalski is proud to say that she has been teaching middle school math at Tierra Adentro of New Mexico since Fall 2011! She enjoys reading, cycling, and spending time with family in her free time.
Ms. Elena Osuna was born in Dixon, New Mexico. She grew up in the Albuquerque area and received her Master's in Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Flamenco from the University of New Mexico. Ms. Osuna is a Level III K-12 certified teacher and is endorsed in Bilingual Education, Performing Arts, and is National Board Certified in Modern and Classical Languages. She is a soloist in Yjastros: The American Flamenco Reparatory Company, and teaches at The National Conservatory of Flamenco Arts. This will be her 12th year at Tierra Adentro Charter of New Mexico.
Sandra Padilla is an Educational Assistant. She works in Special Education, and has been an EA at TANM since 2013. 
Ms. Geri Quintana is the Tierra Adentro Registrar and STARS Coordinator. She is responsible for overseeing registration, enrollment, and student data systems. 
Receiving both her Bachelor of Fine Arts, and her Master's in Secondary Education from the University of New Mexico, Veronica began her career in public education in 1998. As a K-12 certified teacher, she taught 6th grade with Santa Fe Public Schools for one year, 6th and 7th grade English and Social Studies with Albuquerque Public Schools for two years, and 6th grade English and Flamenco Dance to all grades at The Public Academy for Performing Arts (PAPA) for 9 years. At PAPA, she Co-Chaired the English and Dance Departments. There, she also founded their Flamenco Arts program, utilizing the National Institute of Flamenco’s (NIF) curricular methodology, titled “The Trilateral Approach.”  In addition to her career in education, Ms. Torres was a member of Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company, beginning as a company member in 1999 and ending her career in 2014 as a soloist member. In 2009, she was instrumental as co-founder of Tierra Adentro of New Mexico Charter School. During that time, she attended New Mexico Highlands University where she obtained her School Administration Certification. Ms. Torres currently serves as Executive Director and Title IX and Title I Coordinator of Tierra Adentro of New Mexico.