Meet The Team Behind Challenge Island

Tia Sukenik

Owner-Challenge Island West Plano/North Dallas

Tia has been working with children for 25+ years in the Dallas area.  She began her teaching career in 1992 in Austin, TX but moved to Dallas in 1994 and began teaching in DISD.  When she had her first child, she quite teaching to stay at home with her son, but continued to work with children in several different ways – including a Gymboree teacher, preschool teacher, Destination Imagination volunteer and after school teacher in her children’s preschool.  Once both kids were in school, she continued working as a preschool director and also began as the Director of Camp Gan Israel in Plano, TX.  In addition to being the camp director, she also began work as the Religious School Director of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX.  Now that her kids are grown and she is about to be an empty nester, she began looking into what she could really sink her teeth into and dedicate herself, her love of children and all of her experience-that was when she found Challenge Island!!  She fell in love at first site and began building her business!  It has been a dream come true, working with kids, parents, her teaching staff and all of the other franchisee’s to create a place where kids to come and learn, create, explore and grow as people all while building their STEAM knowledge!  She can’t wait to see what will happen next!

Varna Bernstein


Varna Bernstein is a former teacher and mother of 2.  She bring to us her passion, enthusiasm and love of kids as well as a ton of experience!

Sunita Patel


Sunita Patel has been a dedicated volunteer for Destination Imagination, the premier creative problem solving organization.  She is highly motivated and bring to each class her “outside of the box” thinking!

Tony Phoung


Tony Phoung is a dedicated camp counselor and preschool teacher.  He brings to each class his ease with kids and fun attitude shows the brings the class to life!

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Stephanie Trimble


Stephanie Trimble has been a Girl Scout Volunteer for almost 20 years-still volunteering once her children aged out!  She has such a passion and love of kids and it shows through when she is with them!

Sharon Duke Estroff M.A.T.

Founder & CEO

Sharon is founder and creator of the Challenge Island™ program, She is an award-winning elementary school teacher with two decades of experience in Atlanta public and private schools. She started Challenge Island in her second grade classroom and began running it as an enrichment business using the current model in 2003. It has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since.

Sharon is a nationally recognized parenting and education expert and a freelance writer for numerous national publications including Scholastic Parent and Child, Parents, Woman’s Day and Good Housekeeping magazines. She is the author of the popular parenting book, Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? (Random House) and co-author of the upcoming Challenge Island book series that turns the Challenge Island curriculum into an exciting and educational story. She is sought-after speaker who has presented to scores of communities nationwide about the trials and tribulations of raising kids in the digital age.
Sharon received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Emory University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude.

She continues to run her local Challenge Island business in Atlanta, Georgia where she lives with her husband and four children.

Leslie Thibodaux

Chief of Operational Support

Leslie received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education 1st-8th grade and her Master of Education, Reading Specialist, and Academically Gifted Certification from Nicholls State University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She is a veteran educator with 20 years of teaching experience, 17 of which she taught mathematics to academically gifted children.

Leslie incorporates strong analytical problem-solving skills, her love for mathematics, and organizational skills into operating her own successful Challenge Island franchise in Louisiana, where she serves as co-owner. She lives in Louisiana with her husband and three children.

Meet Our Corporate Tribe