Learning Relies on Relationships

As the founders of ARES, we understand that learning relies on relationships, and that the industry of education is no different - it’s a people business. We are both parents of school age children ourselves, and we’re both career educators, with experience in public classrooms, in academia, and in the private sector as successful entrepreneurs. The core ideas that have become ARES Learning have developed over decades, and especially over the past three years with the Moonshot Laboratory in Honolulu. 


We have increasingly felt we could offer a better choice to learners around the world, and now we’ve launched a new kind of school, right here in Irvine. In the midst of the pandemic, we’ve also discovered our methods are resilient, and lend themselves to a better more engaging distance learning experience for students, so we are excited to accept remote students from elsewhere as well.

In leading this new school, we each bring to bear over 20 years in education, with experience in teaching, formal research, curriculum development, and school administration. To supplement our subject area knowledge - and to bring in expert explorers and engineers, we tap into global networks of qualified educators and scientists to bring the most inspiring and empowering teachers from around the world to work directly with ARES Cadets. 

Mark Wagner, Ph.D.

Originally a high school English teacher, Dr. Mark Wagner also served as an educational technology coordinator at the site, district, and county levels. For fourteen years, he then served as CEO of EdTechTeam, a California Benefit Corporation and global network of educational technologists which provides professional development to fifty thousand teachers a year. In this capacity he helped lead the Google Certified Innovator Program since 2006, led a series of conference-style summits featuring Google for Education since 2011, and helped launch Future Ready Schools in 2014. Over this time he also founded or helped lead six influential non-profit organizations.

As co-founder of ARES Learning, Dr. Wagner now unites his early love of space exploration (he originally studied Astronautical Engineering as an undergrad) with his career in education technology. He brings a unique combination of experience with constructivist learning theory, school transformation, and space science education. He focuses on student agency, inspiring and empowering students to generate their own solutions to the problems they are most passionate about. 


Mark Wagner has a Ph.D. in Educational Technology and a master’s degree in cross-cultural education. His doctoral research focused on the use of video games in education, and specifically on the potential applications of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) as constructivist learning environments. He is the author of More Now: A Message from The Future for The Educators of Today (2018). Dr. Wagner is currently engaged in original research for graduate certificates in Space Education and Space Philosophy at the Kepler Space Institute, with expected completion in 2021. 


Outside of his work, Mark loves playing hockey, practicing martial arts, and obsessing over his ’62 beetle, which now runs on an electric motor and Tesla batteries. He is a certified health coach and biohacking enthusiast with a focus on longevity and healthspan. He also enjoys songwriting, spending time in nature, and exploring the world with his family and friends. He lives in Irvine, California with his wife, Eva, and their boys, Clark and Finn. Naturally, he’s a Trekkie... and a U2 fan.

Brendan Brennan

Brendan Brennan is an educator, researcher, curriculum developer and entrepreneur with roots in Boston, Honolulu, Osaka and Irvine. As an entrepreneur, Brendan has been a founder in a number of educational start-ups around the world and is always looking to imagine, design, build and scale innovative products and services to help improve the quality of life for people in those communities. ARES Learning brings all his passions, experiences and hopes into one place.


During his travels, Brendan has been fortunate to learn a number of western, eastern and indigenous innovation practices that inform his work in education. While in Japan, he learned about the principles of kaizen and Total Quality Management. During his time in Hawaii, he explored ethnographic research, Polynesian wayfinding and indigenous sustainability practices. In California, he dove into design thinking and human-centered, 10X problem solving. With a renewed focus on education, Brendan weaves these global innovation concepts into his pursuit of redesigning schools and changing the way people learn.

While working at the University of Hawaii, Brendan served as a teacher, researcher and curriculum developer at the University Laboratory School. There, Brendan combined the use of horizon technologies and human-centered design to create collaborative, formative and learner-centered curricula and teacher training programs. The Laboratory School also served as a testing ground for cutting edge techno-pedgogical education initiatives that would serve as the foundation for all of his work moving ahead including the Moonshot Lab and ARES Learning.


In the future, Brendan will continue to look for opportunities to innovate at the intersection of education, technology and design with the audacious goal of fundamentally disrupting and transforming the American education system.