LEARN Inc. began five years ago with a few goals in mind: help change the paradigm of education; offer students the opportunity to be the drivers of their learning; honor the neurodiverse experiences of students by cultivating compassionate environments that genuinely honor student willingness and ability. In 2012, starting with three students, about 200 square ft., and a vision grounded in experience and research, the pilot program began. Six years later, LEARN Inc., a now established 501(c)3 non-profit, occupies a 4,000 square ft. facility and serves fifteen students spanning ages 7-19.
For LEARN Inc., contributing to the landscape of changing education grew out of need. Many of the students that seek out our learning opportunities have experienced unmet needs in traditional educational models. The need for autonomy and choice, the need to be heard and to be seen, and the need for compassion and community have all been pertinent. The founders of LEARN Inc., in building this learning community, wanted to contribute to an environment where all students could be supported in cultivating thriving learning experiences for themselves.
This is how LEARN Inc. came to provide an individualized whole-person approach to education steeped in community-immersion, ecological literacy, and conscious communication. In our learning community, students interact in multi-age environments, and they are active participants in the development of their educational pursuits.
Zach Morris M.Ed – Founder & Board Chair
Zach Morris is a leader in education. Serving as executive director and development of curriculum and instruction since LEARN Inc.’s inception, he is committed to the cultivation of student-driven learning communities built on compassion. Zach holds a Montana State educators license, he is HANDLE level 1&2 certified, and he is an active pursuant of Non-Violent Communication practices. His current research targets neurodiversity and whole-person learning. In Zach’s continued pursuits he hopes to inspire more individuals and communities to cultivate educational frameworks that contribute to life-enriching experience. (photo by Tommy Martino)
Carley Ellingson B.A. – Founder & Board Secretary
Carley’s studies in Exercise Science, Psychology & Communications have led her down a path of investigating whole-person wellness and developing programs and practices to inspire worldview transformation and behavior change. Combining social, cognitive, neurological, and behavioral evidence with wisdom from the world’s cultural traditions, she works within a set of skills that students can apply to existing strategies to boost their effectiveness in self-advocacy. With her attention to patterns and details within diverse systems, Carley helps bring a mindfulness-based approach to organizational structures. Carley is HANDLE level 1&2 certified, as well as personal trainer and group exercise certified. She is a Reiki master who also holds a therapeutic massage license, and she actively pursues Non-Violent Communication practices via the Center for Non-Violent Communication.
Julie Merritt – Board Treasurer
Julie is a mom, a water rights specialist at WGM Group, an advocate for education, and currently serves on the Missoula City Council representing Ward 6. Her experiences have taken her from rancher’s fields to the courthouse and from special education classrooms to the Montana Legislature. One thing all of her ‘jobs’ have in common is the continual search for options to resolve conflicts and a desire to learn from the people that she has met. She is delighted to have joined the board of Learn Inc. because she believes this school provides a much-needed set of options for many students and their families.
Kyle Swanson – Technology Support & Board Member
Kyle is a technologist, veteran, and eternal student at the University of Montana. Having been involved with LEARN Inc. for the past five years, he continues to contribute a platform for students to develop unique projects and cultivate diverse skill sets. Kyle offers a chance to learn by doing, using students’ curiosity to foster new tech pursuits and developments. An avid futurist, Kyle shares his technological optimism with everyone.
Thomas Williams – Education Coordinator & Board Member
Thomas brings to LEARN Inc. over twenty years of experience in the field of education. Having served various roles as a classroom teacher, administrator, and support staff, he brings an integral understanding of how to create structures that support students in their needs and interests. Through modeling, relationship building, and organizational development, Thomas encourages students to pursue their inquiry and grow their critical, scientific understandings of the world.