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Opening Minds through the Arts

Opening Minds through the Arts | 2025 E. Winsett, Tucson, AZ 85719 | (520) 225-4900

Design Team
  • Dr. Joan AshcraftDr. Joan Ashcraft

    Director of Fine and Performing Arts for the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). She has collaboratively designed arts education programs including the Governor’s Award-winning Tucson Arts Connections and Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA). Dr. Ashcraft has built partnerships with arts organizations to design and implement sequential arts instruction for teachers and students through the Fine Arts Summer Institute, IDea: Instructional Design for the Arts, the Teaching Artists Summer Institute, the traveling ARTSmobiles, the Fine Arts Youth Academy, and multiple internships for teachers and University students.

    Dr. Ashcraft co-designed OMA, recognized nationally for its significant arts education research and student achievement data. OMA was awarded the Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination, the Professional Development in Arts Education, and 21st Century Community Learning Centers Federal Grants. Success of OMA research has produced national recognition for Tucson: Arts for Learning sponsored by National Young Audiences, Harvard Project Zero Qualities of Quality: Excellence in Arts Education and How to Achieve It, Dr. Milton Chen’s book Education Nation, and Arts Education Partnership’s publications entitled Third Space and Learning Partnerships. Under her leadership, TUSD Fine Arts received significant funds to pilot the Smart Music program. Dr. Ashcraft has toured as a presenter for the US Department of Education’s Teacher-to-Teacher Initiative.

  • Dr. Pamela Brown ClarridgeDr. Pamela Brown Clarridge

    Dr. Pamela Clarridge has been involved in public education for over 30 years. She received her BA from Northern Arizona University in Psychology and Special Education and holds two Master's degrees from the University of Arizona in Educational Research and Measurement, and Educational Administration. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in Educational Psychology. She has been a program evaluator for local, state, and federal educational programs and has taught at the elementary level in both rural and suburban schools in Arizona. Most recently, she has been an elementary principal for 15 years, including 9 years as principal of two Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) schools. She is committed to using her knowledge and experiences to bring arts integration to more and more students.

  • Jaquetta AlexanderJaquetta Alexander

    Ms. Alexander received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. She taught kindergarten through fourth grades in three different elementary schools in Tucson Unified School District before becoming an Integration Specialist, Curriculum Specialist, Teacher/Coach, and ultimately the proud principal of Peter Howell Elementary School. Jaquetta spent several years working with Dr. Kathy Short, University of Arizona Professor in the program of Language, Reading and Culture and director of Worlds of Words, and colleagues at Van Horne Elementary School on an International Literature Project, which focused on building intercultural understanding through inquiry, and literature. Her work is published on As a classroom teacher, Jaquetta strived to integrate the arts across the curriculum, and now as a principal, she strongly supports the arts and teachers’ efforts to make the arts accessible to all students.

  • Deanna CamposDeanna Campos

    Deanna is a native Tucsonan.  She grew up on the South Side of Tucson, and went to Sunnyside Schools.  She attended the University of Arizona and is an Arizona Wildcat.  There she received her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and her Master’s degree in Multicultural Education. She also received her principal certification through Northern University of Arizona. She started working in Amphitheatre school district in an elementary school.  Later, she started teaching at Townsend Middle school where she met Ochor Odol.  He was a student at Townsend and she started tutoring him.  She started to notice that he was having difficulty at home.  It was then that she knew she would be taking care of him and his brother, Obang, for the rest of their lives.  After a long stretch of teaching both elementary and middle school, she became assistant principal at Mary Belle McCorkle Academy of Excellence.  In 2016 she became the principal at John B. Wright in the Tucson Unified School District.  As the principal at Wright Elementary, she has implemented the PBIS with fidelity and has created a safe and kind campus by using “Trust Cards”.  This has proven to give students the ability to take pride in their education and in their school.  Since Deanna has been principal, Wright has become an OMA Gold school.  She is a professional musician and an accomplished pianist and supports the OMA program throughout her career and beyond.

  • Hillary DouglasHillary Douglas

    Ms. Douglas joined the OMA team as an Art Integration Specialist for Visual Art in January of 2016. Art was always Hillary's favorite subject in school. She benefited from the encouragement of several inspirational art teachers, which motivated her to become an art teacher herself. Originally from New Hampshire, Hillary earned her BFA in Community Art Education from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 2006. After traveling to China in 2007, to teach art at the high school level, she moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico in 2008, where she taught middle school art for five years. Though many in her school community thought of her class as the “fun class,” she found incredible value in reinforcing academic learning and testing strategies through art. In 2013, Hillary moved once again to Tucson, to study art education at the graduate level at the University of Arizona. As a graduate instructor, she taught aspiring undergraduate level art teachers how to be successful in their first years of teaching. Internships at the University of Arizona Museum of Art and Fallingwater, the historic house museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, furthered her understanding of how museums help people understand and make connections to art. Hillary is passionate about art and sharing her expertise and experiences with the TUSD community.

  • Wendy JoyWendy Joy

    Wendy Joy has a Master of Fine Arts (1998) in Theatre Arts with a dance concentration from the University of Arizona and a Bachelor of Arts (1986) in dance from Douglass College at Rutgers University. In addition to working for the Tucson Unified School District as an Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) Design Team Teaching Artist she is the director/developer of PROJECT:connect, an innovative program that fuses a dance education certification tract with the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Arizona. She is also a founding member of Zuzi!, a Tucson-based modern dance company she worked with for 10 seasons.

    Wendy has extensive training in both classical ballet and modern dance, and has studied with and performed for such artists as Liz Lerman, David Rousseve, Alexei Yudenich, Don Redlich, Claudia Gitelman, and Melanie Stewart. Prior to coming to Tucson, Wendy was known throughout the southern New Jersey and Philadelphia areas for her teaching and choreography and was the owner and artistic director of dance images by wendy joy in Ventnor, NJ.

  • Thom LewisThom Lewis

    Movement experience includes walking on fire, rappelling down buildings, riding an elephant, and street performing in France - he has also danced in more traditional French venues, and in Asia, Australia, and Las Vegas. He received an M.F.A. in theater arts and choreography from the University of Arizona in 1997. A recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, his work has been performed internationally by former Pilobolus dancers Dalton-Hartel Dance.

    The arts and news journal, The Tucson Weekly described his compositions as “delicious choreography . . . witty, musical, and inventive.” He has taught for OMA since 2004 and is currently the design team co-director.

  • Carol LeesonCarol Leeson

    Carol was born in Southern California, and then moved to Eugene, Oregon to raise her family.  During this time, she started attending the local community college and then later transferred to the University of Oregon.  There she received her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and her Master’s degree in Teaching and Learning.  She moved to Tucson in 2007, to start her teaching career at Tucson Unified School District.  She then received her second Master's degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Arizona. She taught fourth and fifth grades at Maldonado elementary school and then became an Instructional Coach and Curriculum Specialist.   Through the years, Carol coordinated 21st CCLC programs at Maldonado, Lawrence, Johnson and Cavett Elementary schools. She used this experience to work with Arizona Department of Education to read and score new grant applications, for the afterschool program.  Through this journey, she became an Assistant Principal at Miller Elementary and is now the proud Principal at Cavett Elementary. Music continues to be an integral part of Carol’s life. As principal, her mission is to support all students in obtaining the experience of OMA’s integrated arts program.

  • Chiara LovioChiara Lovio

    Ms. Lovio received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Education from the University of Arizona, and is a certified K-12 Drama/Theatre teacher. She also received her Master of Fine Arts in Theatre for Youth at Arizona State University. Her educational training has been specifically with K-12, but she has taught all ages ranging from preschool to university students. Her Theatre experiences include working with Seattle Children's Theatre, Metro Children's Theatre in St. Louis, and Cornerstone Theatre Company in Los Angeles. Local teaching experiences have been with Live Theatre Workshop, Fine Arts Youth Academy, and Catalina Foothills Summer Program.
    She was born and raised in Tucson and is proud to have grown up attending TUSD schools. As an Arts Integration Specialist, with the Opening Minds Through the Arts program, she feels very fortunate to be able to teach Theatre and to learn about the other three art forms as well, Music, Visual Art, and Dance.

  • Jeff RequadtJeff Requadt

    Mr. Requadt spent the majority of his childhood living in Tucson, France and Côte d'Ivoire (West Africa). He began taking piano lessons at the age of five and continued to study piano throughout high school and into college, receiving “First Mention” in an area-wide West African piano competition in 1998. Jeff has been teaching and performing piano publically as a soloist and accompanist since 1993 (often for churches and weddings), and has been teaching piano for almost as long. Jeff has also performed with choral groups in high school and college. One special highlight was performing in a mass choir under the baton of John Rutter at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 2004. In 2005, Jeff graduated from Southwestern College with a degree in Elementary Education and taught third grade at Dietz K-8 School from 2006 to 2014. He enjoys using musical concepts and skills both to expand his students' minds as well as to teach concepts in other disciplines such as reading, writing, science, and math. Jeff is excited to begin the 2015-2016 school year as an Arts Integration Specialist in the OMA Exploratory Residency program.

  • Mackenzie RomriellMackenzie Romriell

    Ms. Romriell has worked with the OMA program for six years. During that time she has been both an Opera Teaching Artist and an Arts Integration Specialist. Originally from Idaho, she is married and has four children. Mackenzie came to Tucson to pursue her graduate degrees, and, as a graduate assistant, taught voice lessons and general music at the University of Arizona; she also co-directed UA opera scenes. Mackenzie maintains a busy performance schedule as well as being a member of the Arizona Opera Chorus, teaching private voice lessons, and volunteering as the choir director for her church. She has been a featured soloist for the Tucson Messiah sing-in as well as the Desert Song Festival of Tucson. She has enjoyed the opportunities she has been afforded to work in numerous operas. Some of her favorite roles include Baba from Menotti's The Medium, Sesto from Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, La Principessa from Puccini's Suor Angelica, and Dorabella from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Mackenzie also enjoys musical theater and loved playing Mrs. Potts in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
    In her free time, Mackenzie enjoys spending time with her family and friends, writing children's stories, composing songs both individually and with her daughter, and improving her skills as a choir director.

  • Vanessa SalazVanessa Salaz

    Ms. Salaz is very happy to have recently returned to her hometown of Tucson, AZ after over a decade of living and studying in New York and performing opera around the world. Ms. Salaz was the national first place winner of the prestigious NATS Artist Award (NATSAA) leading to her Carnegie Hall debut in Stern Auditorium in 2001 and many subsequent guest recital appearances throughout the country. She was the soprano soloist with the Tucson Boys Chorus in the Christmas Concert special, “Christmas at the Mission” which was nationally broadcast on PBS. Ms. Salaz holds a Master of Music degree and Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Arizona where she studied with Professor Charles Roe and a Professional Studies Certificate from Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Patricia McCaffrey and Warren Jones.

  • Stanton UsherStanton Usher

    Mr. Usher taught 18 years in the public schools of metro Atlanta, Georgia. He held positions as Director of Choral Activities, taught AP Music Theory and Theatre Arts, served as Fine Arts Department Chairperson, named 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year, and was always a member of his schools leadership team. Stanton earned the Bachelor of Science Degree in Music Education, Master of Music Education Degree, and Doctor of Music Degree in Church Music from Paine College, Georgia State University, and Covington Theological Seminary. He is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Arizona. Stanton is an active conductor/clinician and has conducted the Henry All-County Elementary Honor Chorus, Richmond All-County Honor Choir, The Sixth Episcopal District Choir and is in high demand to provide choral workshops and seminars for many churches and community choirs.

Other Staff