The Skybridge Team
Ariel Dochstader Miller
Founder & Director
Ariel grew up in an entrepreneurial family. She was fortunate at a young age to travel with her father on many of his business trips. Insatiably curious, and with a deep love of business, Ariel used to sneak down to the bars to question his CEO peers as to how they obtained their business success.
To fulfill her lifelong dream of working for the Walt Disney Company, she flew to Orlando during spring break of her freshman year and knocked on the doors of the Walt Disney World education department, where they were creating an innovative school to serve the needs of the Celebration community (modeled after Walt Disney’s original vision of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow or EPCOT). When they granted her a meeting, the executives informed her their funding was being cut and suggested she apply for the college internship program “Management, Disney Style.”
Ariel worked in Disney management for 3 years before starting Biorhythms Publishing with her husband Lucas Miller, developing education programs and several award winning products. Lucas has performed for approximately 2,000,000 children and been named an American Masterpiece Artist (he is also part of the Skybridge Academy staff).
When her son became school aged, Ariel joined the board of the innovative private school he was attending, served as their Communications and Development Director, increased admissions 69%, and created a mission based fundraising program. The fundraising budget went from $2000 per year to over $125,000 in pledges.
After homeschooling for 3 years so her family could be together while she cared for her terminally ill mother, Ariel's family decided they were ready for a new beginning. Ariel and her children imagined the most vital learning environment they could dream of and Skybridge was born.
Ariel has joyously been leading and tweaking the Skybridge program for the past four years. She is Skybridge's most avid student.
Director of Operations
Lucas Miller has been sharing his love of science and wildlife as the “singing zoologist” since graduating with a BA in zoology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1991. With three books, a DVD, and around forty science songs to his credit, Lucas’s unique blend of education and entertainment has touched the lives of millions of young members of the species Homo sapiens. His CDs and DVD have all won Parents’ Choice awards and Lucas was even declared an “American Masterpiece artist” by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2008.
Lucas is very much looking forward to delving more deeply into the world of science with Skybridge students. With a blend of media and hands-on activities and experiments, he plans to familiarize our students with the scientific method and humanity’s most important discoveries about life, our home planet, and the small- and large-scale structure of the universe. Lucas’s main goal is get students excited about what we know as well as how we discovered it.
Assistant Director & Social Studies
As a young adult unsure what to do with his life, Tyler worked at a hardware store, two bowling alleys, a puzzle factory, three summer camps, a library, and a farm, hoping to find a career that would fit him best. At the age of 20, he realized that his passions for helping people and history made him a perfect fit to become a social studies teacher. In December of 2012, he received a teaching degree from his home state of Wisconsin. After graduating he spent a few months traveling Europe and eventually he was offered a position with AmeriCorps and moved to Austin, ditching the harsh Wisconsin winter forever.
Tyler is a firm believer that in the classroom respect does not need to be earned, it is assumed. His classes are designed in a way that empowers the student to learn about themselves and the world around them, using social studies as the vehicle. Lessons are not taught by simply reading rote facts and dates to students but by allowing them to become active participants in the learning processes. Students will research, read, write, and discuss issues in order to develop their own opinions. The classroom acts as a collaborative environment, using the strengths of both the teacher and the student to make learning feel refreshing and fun. The goal of our class is to create students who are independent thinkers and can be their own advocate, both in and outside the classroom.
When Tyler isn’t reading, writing, or talking about history he spends his time playing soccer, listening to Steely Dan, hiking, reading science fiction, watching the NFL, watching movies and day dreaming about traveling. His own academic interests lay in studying American Foreign Policy, current events, the Vietnam War, and the Iraqi War.
Director of Math Education
Being raised in a military family, Adam grew up in various towns along the East Coast. After graduating from high school in Montville, Connecticut, Adam relocated to Tucson, Arizona to pursue a degree in Mathematics at the University of Arizona. While completing his B.S. he became actively involved with Camp Wildcat, a student-run, non-profit organization taking underprivileged youth from the Tucson area on weekend long camping trips in hopes of providing them with positive opportunities to attain personal success.
After receiving his degree, Adam accepted a position with the Tohono O’odham Nation teaching mathematics on the reservation in Topawa, Arizona. During his time working with these students, he seized the chance to coach both the middle school football and baseball teams, bringing the baseball team to an undefeated 2016 regular season. These opportunities allowed Adam to form personal connections with the students and community members of the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Despite his positive experience teaching in Topawa, Adam decided to move to Texas in order to be closer to family. After visiting the area and discovering that Skybridge would serve as a unique outlet for his passion in mathematics, he quickly decided that Austin was the right place for him.
Director of Literature & Humanities
Ben Kopel was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After graduating from LSU with a Bachelor’s in English Literature, Ben was selected to be a part of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop MFA Program in Iowa City. It was during this time that he discovered the joy that comes with teaching creative writing to young people. After completing his program at Iowa, Ben was selected for a fellowship at the UMASS Amherst Program for Poets and Writers that allowed him to continue reading, teaching, and writing his first collection of poems, Victory, which was released by H_NGM_N Books in the Spring of 2012. Upon its release, The Huffinton Post said this about the book: “Kopel's Victory is another defining moment in the lifespan of American poetry…Kopel is a leading figure in the coming-up generation of poets who believe in a poetry that is fun, performative…and vigorously alive.”
After completing the UMASS Amherst program, Ben returned to Louisiana to teach English Literature and Creative Writing and, after a short furlough in New York, is happy to have made a home here in Austin and found a calling at Skybridge. His views on teaching are perhaps best expressed in this exchange Ben had with BOMB Magazine when asked “What’s [teaching creative writing and literature] teaching you about writing? What do you tell them is important?”:
Teaching young people is as exciting and inspiring as any book of poems I’ve ever read. I try to tell them that poems are never trying to be mysterious, they just are mysterious, and mystery is always something worth paying attention to. I want them to not worry about reading the poem that isn’t there and focus on the one that is right there in front of them, saying “Hi! How are you?” The poems I love and show them every week aren’t interested in making you feel more lost than you already are. I want them to take comfort in the fact that poems, through their tones and music and assorted accessories, are trying to tell you how to read them. They want you to read them, kid, because they have something to tell you, and if you listen to them the way you want and need the world to listen to you—because you are so full of everything to say about the ecstatic mishmash of a teenage miracle you and your friends and family are—if you listen to them generously and with mind and spine spread open to receive the good and bad news of the world, then yeah, maybe we can make the days something worth saving.
Director of Technology
Jerome was born in Newport, RI in 1988, the 2nd child and 1st son of a Navy Chaplain. Being the child of a Naval officer, Jerome moved frequently in his life. From age 2 to 11 he lived in Virginia Beach, VA. His father being a technophile, Jerome was introduced to computers, video games, and the internet at a young age, giving him an early advantage to interface with media.
From age 11 to 14 he lived on Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan. During this time he began creating animated narratives using PowerPoint clip art and recorded audio. He also continued his passionate gaming, interested in the interactive narrative arcs that traditional media couldn't provide. At 14 he moved to Pensacola, FL where he began experimenting with cameras and video editing software. During his Senior year of High School, he was the creative director and producer of his high school CCTV news station, introducing regular short narratives and commercials along with the daily announcements.
Jerome continued to nurture his creative video talents during his undergraduate years at the University of Florida, where he received a Bachelors of Science in Telecommunications Production in 2011. While there, he wrote and directed several short narratives and a webseries.
In 2011 he redirected his efforts towards interactive design, pursuing a Masters of Arts Degree in New Media Studio at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. Here he studied the process of game design, eventually creating the pseudoholographic interactive art installation, “The HiFi God.”
Following graduation, Jerome moved to Austin to seek out fellow creative collaborators, and to continue developing interactive pseudoholographic displays for art installations and stage design. He understands that great technology and interactivity emerges from collaborative efforts, and today's great content creating technology is easier than ever to access. So he is excited to see what the students build collaboratively and individually with new media tools in their hands.
Communications Director & Director of Theater Arts
Brian Oglesby is used to doing theatre in a 120-year-old, dirt-floored barn. For twelve years, he has helped run Barnyard Theatre, a company he co-founded in northern California that develops and produces new plays in this historic barn in the middle of the countryside. Every summer, the company takes the goats and horses that usually occupy the stalls to an outdoor pen, and loads in audience chairs and lighting equipment and elaborate sets. In addition to company management, Brian primarily focused on new play development, bringing in original works and working with the playwrights to grow their plays. In this spirit, he created the company’s Nights of New Plays Festival to showcase and develop new plays, work with playwrights and other theatre artists, and to engage audiences in the art and build community. Barnyard affirmed and developed his beliefs in learning-by-doing. He believes people should make the things that they want to see in this world.
He is both a playwright and a teacher. He moved to Austin for his MFA in Playwriting at the University of Texas. At UT, he created The Bridge Festival, which had graduate students mentor undergraduates in the writing of ten-minute plays. He also has an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside, with an emphasis in Fiction. There he taught both creative writing and beginning acting classes.
He writes plays for and with teens, as well as plays for adults. His “All-Audience” adaptation of The Jungle Book was produced in Sacramento a year ago, and is being published by Stage Rights. He recently won the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Latino Playwright Award. At UC-Riverside, he curated The Coming Out Monologues for three years. His fiction has been published in the literary journals Indiana Review, ZYZZYVA, New California Writing, among others. His full-length play Halfway, Nebraska was developed as part of Playwrights Week at The Lark Play Development Center in New York, and then went on to win the award for Outstanding Playwriting from the New York Fringe Festival. His play for young audiences, Third Street, was read at the Cohen New Works Festival and at the 2013 UIL Conference.
He loves Austin. It reminds him of his hometown, but bigger and with more tattoos.
Director of Arts & Technology
Jonathan “J” Muzacz was born and raised in Houston, Texas but got out of there as quick as he could. Moving to Austin and graduating in just three years with a degree in Sociology from the University of Texas, J took his leftover student loans and went backpacking around Europe.
For the last decade, J has been peeking in pyramids, teaching English in Korea and Japan, working odd jobs in Australia and New Zealand, everything from hospitality and help exchanges to migrant farm work; making ends while making art and mural painting around the world. Through these rich and deep cultural experiences, J has developed a keen eye for community and cultural relativity in his public works as an artist.
While teaching English in Kyoto in 2011, J documented Japan with ball pen sketches, one for every day of the year. That developed into an impressive, fully-bilingual, 432-page tome, Japan 365: A Drawing-A-Day Project. First-run sales were used as a fundraiser for relief efforts after the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the northeastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.
After two years teaching elementary and junior high English, J with his then girlfriend Yuki Takata (now happily married) journeyed 3500km the length of Japan by bicycle, camping along the way and eating a vegetarian diet in order to raise environmental awareness for clean transportation and a more sustainable lifestyle.
Ending up on tiny Ishigaki Island at the very southern tip of the Okinawan archipelago, J found work as a field hand harvesting sugarcane the traditional way. There he learned the local culture and went on to write and illustrate his second book, Life Is Sweet: The Story of a Sugarcane Field, a 60-page, full-color, bilingual (English & Japanese) children’s story which teaches about sugarcane, appreciation of nature and the value of a hard day’s work.
Coming back to Austin in 2016, J plugged back in with old friend Randy Jewart at Resolution Gardens for a stint designing and implementing edible landscapes around Austin while pursuing freelance art commissions and large-scale mural work. Most notably having been granted the honor of (finally) painting the front façade of the long-standing Austin arts institution, the Dougherty Arts Center on Barton Springs Road.
J is currently teaching Urban Painting through the City of Austin’s Totally Cool Totally Art teen program and developing his iconic stained-glass painting technique in both large-scale murals and smaller gallery and commission works. You can see his work online at www.jmuzacz.com or on Instagram @jmuzacz. He is super-excited to be teaching for such an amazing institution in Skybridge and hopes to encourage international curiosity and tolerance through art for our increasingly global future.
Kate van den Bosch
Director of Science Education
Kate spent her early years being home schooled in the Solomon Islands before returning to the United Kingdom for High School and University. Having Graduated from the University of Exeter with her BSc in Geography and Earth Science she was a not-very-happy banker in London for a year before following her heart to teacher training. She spent several years working in London schools during which time she met and married her Texan husband, with whom she moved to Austin in January 2014
Her early exposure to dramatic natural environments in the Pacific ignited a need to understand the natural world. She believes that thought science we make sense of the world around us and feel more connected to it. She is a passionate advocate for open honest, communication in the classroom, from this is born mutual respect and so a safe and effective learning environment for everyone. She derives huge satisfaction from creating workshops and lessons that engage, challenge and motivate.
Kate fell in love with Austin rather more quickly than she thought she would, and when she isn’t knee deep in Scientific lesson plotting she can usually be found running or hiking one of the Austin’s trails with her terribly behaved dog in tow, cruising food trucks in a never ending search for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich or trying to persuade her husband to ‘vacation’ in wild and dangerous parts of the world.
Her real academic passion lies with Volcanoes which has led her to some peculiar places, and makes her unbearable to watch disaster movies with.
Dan was born in Dublin and raised in Cork, Ireland. He enjoyed math and science as a student, so he studied physics, chemistry and math in University College Cork and received a BSc in chemistry. He also fenced for the University fencing team. After his degree, he earned a MSc in analytical chemistry and went to work in a pharmaceutical company near Cork.
After a year working, he decided that this type of occupation wasn’t for him and chose to try his hand at teaching. He loved it and, after a year of substitute teaching, got a Higher Diploma in education. He spent another year as a substitute teacher in Ireland and then went to Guildford, UK for a change and a full-term teaching job.
After Guildford, he moved to Chelmsford and then Romford in the East End of London, teaching more physics and reawakening his love of space science in the process. During this time, he married and decided to tutor instead of teaching full time. Dan then moved to Cambridge and went tutoring in this area.
After a year in Cambridge, he and his wife moved to Austin for his wife’s job and absolutely loves it! He discovered proper barbeque and tex-mex. He also enjoys the much better weather that Austin has but tends to melt a little in the Texas summer. In his down time, Dan can be found watching the Texas Longhorns, the Dallas Cowboys or the Houston Texans. He might be found watching the Texas Stars playing ice hockey or watching Manchester United winning. He also enjoys cooking, reading science fiction or fantasy and watching some movies. He still fences in Austin and occasionally wins some bouts.