diane comolli murphy - Founder

Diane works with young people by accepting them exactly where they are and offering support and ideas to help them grow. When Diane met North Star & Liberated Learners, it was all she had been dreaming school could be. She believes self-directed education is the most authentic & innovative way for teens to learn. BigFish is her leap of faith and leap out of the system where she'd been teaching for many years.

Diane holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology from The University of Maryland and a Masters Degree in Literacy & Learning from Walden University. Primarily a Maine Public School English Teacher, Diane ran after school theater programs, taught English & literature at  York County Community College and worked with young writers at the UNH Summer Writer's Academy. 


Emily Jones Samuel - Core Staff

Emily experienced the power of a democratic model of education while a student at Souhegan High School in Amherst, NH, and became hooked on the idea of what school and learning could be.  She earned a B.Sc. in Geology from Beloit College and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Plymouth State University. 

She taught middle and high school science and math for several years and helped design and run a self-paced learning program within Denver Public Schools before moving into the tech industry.  Emily spent the last five years working as a Product Manager for digital curricula. She left this role to homeschool her daughter and is currently working on developing her own digital tools to assist self-directed learners. Emily is a firm believer in the power of play and hopes to inspire BigFish Members to explore mathematical and scientific ideas with a childlike sense of curiosity and adventure.


James Davis - Core Staff

James Davis earned his teaching certificate in college in the early 2000s, but underwent a paradigm shift in 2010 that led him  in the direction of self-directed education. Since then he has been involved in multiple self-directed learning communities creating small self-directed ecosystems to help kids be free and learn to use that freedom wisely. 


Beth Tykodi - Core Staff

Beth graduated from Cornell University with a BS in Economics and Government and a specialization in International Relations. She has a certificate in computer programming from the New Hampshire Community Technical College System and a certificate in genealogy from Boston University.

Beth has a passion for inspiring people to learn and problem solve.  Her love of genealogy, history, and computer programming all link to her early interest in mysteries and logic problems.  She has taught computer programming in the New Hampshire Community Technical College System, numerous genealogy classes for historical societies and community learning programs, and many history and political science classes in the homeschool community.

Beth has homeschooled her two children for several years and considers herself a lifelong learner.


Patrick Murphy - Core Staff

He spent six years as a caretaker for elderly relatives, a few years in construction along the way, all the while trying to practice yoga and meditation as much as possible.

Patrick’s approach to learning is the same as his approach to life: Be honest. Living with narcolepsy has been a challenge. Patrick finds himself philosophically at odds with modern consumerism and some of the more superficial aspects of popular culture. He loves nature and the study of different cultures, religions, and philosophies, and considers himself as much a student as a teacher.  


Mike Lang - Core Staff

Michael Lang completed a B. S. in Outdoor Education at the University of New Hampshire. Due to his own experience of living with vision impairment, he chose to complete a concentration in Adaptive Programming.

 He spent nearly a decade working as a ropes course facilitator and wilderness guide. In 2011, Michael began using music and stories, both oral and written, as a medium for educating and entertaining audiences of all ages. Michael facilitates weekly community meetings and teaches a variety of classes through imagination and creative expression.


Mikayla smith

Mikayla is a recent Marshwood High School graduate and is happy to be spending her gap year interning with BigFish. Her interests revolve around working with youth and she aspires to work in the counseling field.