Developed & Run by Educators

Middle Tree was developed to support students throughout their academic journeys. Get to know the educators behind our programs!

Faculty & Staff

Joseph G. Atman, S.T.D.

Executive Director

Joseph Atman received his B.A. and M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in writing and philosophy from Hofstra University. After accepting an offer from Claremont Graduate University’s School of Religion as a PhD Fellow in the Philosophy of Religion and Theology program, he later obtained his Doctorate Degree in Sacred Theology from Saint Mary's Seminary. To learn more, visit him at

Eric Otremba, Ph.D

Programs Director

Eric earned a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Minnesota in 2012, and has taught History, Religion, and American Studies courses at several colleges including Macalester College in Minnesota and Pitzer College in Claremont. Prior to his graduate work in history, Eric taught World History, English, and ESL at a high school in Belize, Central America.

Patricia Deehring, M.A.

Deputy Director, CFO

After graduating with a Bachelor's degree from UCLA, Deputy Director and CFO, Patricia Deehring took a Master's degree in cultural anthropology from Cal State Fullerton. A former high school English teacher who specialized in at-risk student populations, she spent the past 15 years managing operations and logistics for both new and established banking institutions and small businesses before bringing best practices to Middle Tree that will help poise the company for systematic and stable growth.

Dane Sawyer, Ph.D.

College Counseling

Dane Sawyer received his doctorate from Claremont Graduate University in 2012, with his dissertation entitled Nothingness and Differance: Sartre and Derrida on Freedom and Responsibility. His research focuses on the interconnections between deconstruction and existentialism, highlighting existentialism’s continued importance in a contemporary philosophical context. Currently Senior Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of LaVerne (U.S.A.) and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Pitzer College (U.S.A.), Dane teaches courses in continental philosophy, philosophy of religion and eastern religions.

Jason Tavarez, J.D.

College Counseling

Originally from Texas, Jason graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with his B.A. in History and a minor in Biology. While attending the University of La Verne College of Law, he was a Graduate Assistant and Assistant Coach for the Track and Field and Cross Country teams and helped several athletes set various conference and national marks while on their way to National Championship, Conference, and Academic honors. After graduating from the College of Law, he began his academic prep journey, now has over five years of college counseling, test-prep, and tutoring experiencing (History, Writing, Grammar, Reading Comprehension, etc.) and really enjoys working with students of all ages and skill levels. As one of the co-directors of Middle Tree's College Counseling Program, Jason really enjoys the process of guiding students to introspective self-realization and watching them get accepted to their dream colleges. When he is not at Middle Tree, you can find him working as the Contracts Coordinator for the Azusa Pacific University School of Nursing or hanging out with his wife, Volney, and two dogs, Scout and Cooper.

Frank Torres

District Director -- PUSD

Francisco “Frank” Torres has been working at Middle Tree since October of 2015. Frank attended Arizona State University, where he earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Justice Studies with minors in both Political Science and Urban Planning. During high school, Frank was selected to the Boys’ State program as a representative of American Legion Post 299 and Don Lugo High School. Also, he was the chairperson for the Chino Community Service Commission’s Teen Advisory Committee from 2007-2009.  When he is not at Middle Tree, Frank enjoys spending time with family and attending Dodgers’ games.

Evelyn Perez

General Manager

Evelyn Perez graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a minor in Women’s Studies. During her time at CSUN, she interned as a Peer Mentor for incoming freshmen where she guided them through the class enrollment process and graduation requirements, among other things. She was also Co-Instructor of PROJECT D.A.T.E. (Discovering Alternatives to Today’s Encounters), a sexual assault and rape awareness and prevention peer education program. Ms. Perez began tutoring at the age of 12 and has lovingly worked with kids ever since. She found her home at Middle Tree where she is spoiled with Hot Cheetos from her students and staff.