Eli Kramer

Executive Director

ekramer@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-581-7750 | @Eli_Kramer_

Favorite book: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni
Favorite hobby: Board games with my daughters

Eli Kramer has been the Executive Director of Hiawatha Academies since 2012. Before joining Hiawatha, Eli was a founding Dean of Curriculum and Instruction with Uncommon Schools in New York. Prior to that, he taught for six years in New York City at the elementary and middle school level. Eli was a 2003 Teach for America corps member in the Bronx, NY. He holds a B.A. in government from Harvard, a Master's in Education from Bank Street College, and a Master's in Educational Leadership from Brooklyn College.
Eli grew up in Minneapolis and is happy to be home.

Dawn Gunderson Taylor

Chief Talent Officer

dgundersontaylor@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-998-6015

Favorite book: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Favorite hobby: Traveling to destinations near and far

Dawn Gunderson Taylor holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia where she taught English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to tenth grade students and a 2001 Teach For America corps member. She taught high school English for six years in Baltimore, MD, and returned overseas to continue teaching in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2008, Dawn joined the staff of Teach For America where her work focused on alumni affairs for over seven years. Dawn returned to the Midwest in the summer of 2014 and joined Hiawatha Academies as Chief Talent Officer.
Dawn's daughter, Neela, is a student at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop.

Sean Elder

Chief Operating Officer

selder@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-251-3139

Favorite hobby: Backpacking and Camping

Sean Elder has been the Chief Operating Officer of Hiawatha Academies since May 2011. Before joining Hiawatha, Sean was an Area Manager for Skyhawks Sports Academy, the nation’s largest provider of youth sports programs and served several years as an Undergraduate Admissions Counselor at the University of Minnesota. Sean was also a 2010 Chicago Cohort Fellow with Education Pioneers. An active community member, Sean currently sits on the Education and Jobs Committee for the Greater Twin Cities United Way. He holds a B.A. in Sociology - Law, Criminology, and Deviance from the University of Minnesota and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas.

Ambar Hanson

Senior Director of Community Engagement

ahanson@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-239-1893 | @AmbarHanson

Favorite hobby: Dancing with my partner and kids

Ambar Cristina Hanson, M.P.A., is the director of community engagement at Hiawatha Academies. Since moving to the United States from the Dominican Republic eighteen years ago, Ambar has been dedicated to advocating for immigrant communities and communities of color to have equal opportunity and access to higher education, jobs that provide livable wages, health, housing and safety. Over the past ten years, Ambar advocated for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors through several roles at Casa de Esperanza and National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities. Currently, Ambar oversees the recruitment, marketing, parent engagement and community collaborations for the Hiawatha Academies network. Recently, Ambar received the Mano Amiga Award from the Minnesota Latino Economic Development Center for her commitment and generous contribution of time and work in behalf of the Latino community.
She lives in St. Paul and enjoys spending time with partner and two children.

Sara Boedecker-Johnston

Senior Director of People and Program

sboedeckerjohnston@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-385-6388

Sara Boedecker-Johnston is the Senior Director of Program at Hiawatha Academies. Prior to joining Hiawatha, Sara worked for ten years as a teacher and principal at a Lutheran Pre-kingergarten through eighth grade school on the south side of Chicago. Sara grew up in Michigan and attended Valparaiso University, where she completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology and Masters of Education degree.
Living in Minnesota brings Sara closer to lakes, trees, and her husband's family, all of which make her happy. Sara loves fonts, succulents, cooking and eating interesting food (especially pie) and wiener dogs (especially hers, named Ole).

Stephen Courchane

Senior Director of Operations

scourchane@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-272-3665

Favorite hobby: Running

Stephen Courchane is a homegrown Minnesotan, serving as the Senior Director of Operations for Hiawatha Academies. Prior to joining Hiawatha Academies in 2012, Stephen taught third grade in Jacksonville, FL, and worked as a School Operations Manager at Teach For America's 2011 Summer Institute. Stephen earned his B.A. in English at the University of Minnesota and is currently completing his M.B.A. at the University of St. Thomas.
Stephen loves all things outdoors, including geocaching with his wife (Kate) and running any chance he can get!

Brandon Royce-Diop

Director of Equity Initiatives

broycediop@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-2722

I received my Bachelor's degree in Psychology from St. John's University in 2007, and am currently working towards my Master's Degree in Education at the University of St. Thomas. My professional experience is heavily rooted in working with K-12 schools and non-profit organizations in the Twin Cities. My work is communal and collaborative in nature, and is centered around building systemic structures of racial equity in schools. I have served as a Discipline Specialist and Equity Coordinator with Minneapolis Public Schools, and as the Dean of Students at Fair School Crystal, where I developed a discipline model rooted in Restorative Practices. Last year I worked in higher education as a Dean of Students at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. In addition I am the founder and co-founder of the Minnesota Solutions Not Suspensions campaign, and the New Lens Urban Mentoring Society, respectively. Over the course of my career I have gained invaluable experience as a policy advocate, community organizer, organization founder, program coordinator, administrator, student and father. My diverse experience in education systems has provided me with the tools to advance the will, skill, knowledge, capacity of the Hiawatha Academies network towards a realization of our equity vision.

Brittany Porrazzo

Data Coordinator

bporrazzo@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-3765

Favorite book: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Favorite hobby: Running

Brittany Porrazzo is the Data Coordinator for Hiawatha Academies. Brittany grew up in Madison, WI and graduated in 2014 from Vanderbilt University where she studied Mathematics and Philosophy. After graduating, she spent a year volunteering for multiple organizations in the Twin Cities. Brittany loves working with youth and has mentored kids through Habitat for Humanity and Free Arts Minnesota. Outside of work, Brittany loves to run, make things with her hands, and explore the outdoors.

Carrie Roby

Network Literacy Coordinator

croby@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-236-6596

I am originally from Duluth, MN. I lived in New York City, NY for eleven years after graduating from college. I started in education as a Teach for America corps member, teaching second and third grades. I then joined Success Academy Charter Schools as a teacher and then founding elementary school principal. After moving to Minneapolis, I worked as a Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) math consultant before joining Hiawatha Academies as a network literacy coordinator. I enjoy partnering with teachers and school leaders to innovate the best ways to develop our students as close and critical readers.

Edwin Ochoa

Director of Human Resources

eochoa@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-250-1324

Favorite book: The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Favorite hobby: Running

Edwin began his career in the classroom as a Teach for America corps member in Donna, TX. After teaching 5th grade math, Edwin moved into an HR role for a private consulting firm in Austin, TX. Since 2015, Edwin and his partner have called south Minneapolis home. As Director of Human Resources, making connections with people and supporting efforts to bring more teachers of color into the classroom are favorite aspects of the role. He was the first in his family to graduate from college, with a bachelor's degree in Economics from Southern Methodist University.

Heather Busch

Network Literacy Coordinator

hbusch@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-310-0250

Favorite book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Favorite hobby: Playing with my two children!

I have experience as a middle and high school teacher in public and charter schools in Arizona, Texas, and here in Minnesota, and have been a literacy coordinator for Hiawatha for four years. With each year of experience, I understand more deeply the power of literacy and how as educators, it is essential that we empower students to both deconstruct and reconstruct meaning about the things that matter in their lives today.

Irma Márquez Trapero

Director of Talent Recruitment

imarquez@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-237-7636

Favorite book: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Favorite hobby: Dance is the hidden language of the soul

Irma was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, and moved to St. James, MN, with her family in 1999. She obtained her bachelor's degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in Political Science. After graduation, she was able to qualify for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and worked as a paralegal for an employee rights law firm and an immigration law firm before joining the Hiawatha Academies team in 2014.
As the Director of Talent Recruitment, Irma ensures that Hiawatha Academies consistently and efficiently sources and recruits equity driven teachers and education leaders. In addition, Irma serves as an equity co-organizer for the Network Support Team at Hiawatha, which leads the networks' equity work group.
Lastly, being a Queer Latinx has shaped her life to become an advocate for mujer, queer, and immigrant rights = human rights. Irma currently serves on the board of directors of NAVIGATE MN, is the policy committee chair of Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM), and is a 2016 Policy Fellow Alum from the University of Minnesota.

Libby Stegger

Director of Development

lstegger@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-388-3259 | @libbystegger

Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Favorite hobby: Singing in the car

Libby Stegger is the Director of Development of Hiawatha Academies. Prior to joining Hiawatha, Libby was Senior Manager at Hunger-Free Minnesota, overseeing a $1.5 million child hunger investment portfolio, strategy development, and partnership development. Libby previously served as a nonprofit strategy consultant for Community Wealth Partners and in program development at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Davidson College and an M.B.A. from Yale University.

Rosie Kellogg

Manager of Operations

rkellogg@hiawathaacademies.org | 507-269-1394

Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Favorite hobby: Being outside

I am originally from Rochester, MN. After moving to Wisconsin for college at University of Wisconsin-Madison where I studied business and educational policy, I lived in Sacramento, CA where I taught ninth grade Algebra and Geometry through Teach For America. I moved back to Minnesota where I taught ninth grade math at Hiawatha Collegiate High School for a year before transitioning to the Hiawatha Academies Network Support Team (NST). I feel incredibly fortunate to work every day with people striving to make the world a better place.

Tiffany Williams-Virden

Director of Talent Recruitment

Favorite book: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Favorite hobby: Interior design

Tiffany is from Tempe, AZ where the scorching summers taught her to appreciate Minnesota winters. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where she majored in American Studies and Comparative Racial and Ethnic Studies. She is currently completing a Master's degree in Organizational Leadership at St. Catherine University. Professionally, Tiffany has worked for a global talent management firm, Korn Ferry International, working to help clients meet their talent recruitment and leadership development needs. Tiffany loves old school R&B, good food and drinks, and long naps. She lives in North Minneapolis with her husband, daughter and two dogs.

Vanessa Palmer

Director of Data & Analytics

vpalmer@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-385-8373

Favorite book: Dune by Frank Herbert; The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Favorite hobby: Travel, reading, travel reading

As Director of Data & Analytics, Vanessa helps Hiawatha Academies measure, reflect, and grow as we support our scholars' journey to college readiness. Vanessa previously taught high school chemistry and health in Baltimore and middle school science in Houston. Before and since her time in the classroom, she has worked as an adventuring researcher in education, bioanalytical chemistry, epidemiology, and Antarctic glaciology. Vanessa earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Washington and an ScM from the Harvard School of Public Health. She hails from the great state of North Dakota and enjoys science museums, travel, being outside, and exploring the Twin Cities.

Jay Rathell

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

jrathell@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-8101 | @Jay Rathell

Favorite book: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley
Favorite hobby: Georgia and Loretta, my two daughters

These things are usually pretty standard, where are you from, what's your schooling and so on and so on. I'm going to switch things up a bit. I would much rather talk about where I'm going. I come from a web design background but I'm heading towards a more equitable future. I want to utilize my role in creating a more engaging social media presence for Hiawatha Academies.

Jaquie Archer

Network Assessment Coordinator

jarcher@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-9326

Favorite book: Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Favorite hobby: Architecture/Design

Jaquie Archer is a Chicago native, who serves as the Network Assessment Coordinator at Hiawatha Academies. Jaquie has earned a B.A. in Communications and an M.A. in Cultural Communication from Bethel University and the +University of Wisconsin. Before returning to Minnesota, Jaquie taught elementary and middle school Math in Cleveland, OH. In 2011, Jaquie joined the Peace Learning Center where she had the opportunity to coach interpersonal communication, advocate for silenced peoples, mediate, and educate children in restorative conflict practices. Jaquie currently acts as Board Vice President at Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church. Jaquie loves architecture, reading, traveling, trivia, tattoos, and family. She and her wife live in South Minneapolis.

Ashley Bomboka

Assistant to the Executive Director

abomboka@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-8083

Favorite book: The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
Favorite hobby: Reading

I am a first-generation Ugandan-American. I was born in Southern California and raised in the Twin Cities. I am a recent college graduate with a passion for education policy. My favorite aspects of my role is the exposure I get to all aspects of Hiawatha, and working closely with the Executive Director to chart the course of the academic year.

Liz Pangerl

Director Marketing and Communications

lpangerl@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-695-5467

Favorite book: The Zen of Oz by Joey Green
Favorite hobby: Paging through vintage photography books, studying modern design and branding books and getting inspired by the latest retail and fashion trends.

Originally from Southern California, I relocated to Minneapolis for the second time in 1992. Shortly thereafter I was hired by the Martin Williams Advertising agency to focus on their fastest growing client at the time, Target, along with several other retail clients. I was the first Latina Creative Supervisor at the agency and instrumental in bringing a diverse and strategic voice to the table. Post Martin Williams, I worked in various capacities within the corporate sector and also built a solid reputation in the community for my multicultural branding of several non-profit organizations in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
As the director of marketing and communications, my role continues to build on a strategic vision to broaden the reach, influence and awareness of the Hiawatha Academies award-winning network of schools. It's a joy to collaborate with colleagues who are leading the way with innovative educational initiatives.

Shannon Gavin

Family Engagement Manager

sgavin@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-5198

Favorite book: Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Douglas Wood
Favorite hobby: Traveling - preferably to an Arabic or Spanish-speaking country

As the Family Engagement Manager for Hiawatha Academies, Shannon is thrilled to be joining a community so grounded in social justice. Shannon has worked in the field of education in Minneapolis and abroad, leading literacy assessments in Yemen and technology-based education projects in Palestine. She speaks Arabic and Spanish, earned her B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and Latin American Studies from Brown University and her Master’s in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Shannon is from a big, close-knit family and spends much of her free time hanging out with her siblings, cousins and mom.

Jennifer Leazer

Network English Language Development Coordinator

jleazer@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-723-6353

Favorite hobby: Cycling and cross-country skiing

Jennifer is a long-time resident of Minneapolis, and committed to building schools in which students who are learning English have access to the challenges of rigorous instruction and the language support they need to become proficient in academic language. She has experience teaching English learners in many different English Learner (EL) program models, and is also a PhD student at the University of Minnesota in Second Language Education. Jennifer is excited to collaborate with teachers and leaders at Hiawatha Academies as we learn to support language development across all grades and content areas.

Ms. Alena Hyams

First Grade English Language Development

Ahyams@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-743-0627

Alena Hyams is the first grade English Language Development (ELD) teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. Although Alena has worked in a school setting for over five years this will be her first year in a teacher role. She is very excited about her new position!

Mr. Alex Trevino

Assistant Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park

atrevino@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-384-1762

Favorite book: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Alex Trevino is an Assistant Principal at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. Previously, Mr. Alex taught fourth grade. Before coming to Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park, Alex taught fourth and sixth grades in north Minneapolis as a Teach For America corps member. Alex enjoys working with all students, families, and teachers to make Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park a place where everyone feels welcomed, affirmed, and supported in reaching their hopes and dreams.

Ms. Amanda Underwood

Music Teacher

aunderwood@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-396-8258

Amanda Underwood is the Music Specialist at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Music Education from St. Olaf College in Northfield MN. Amanda believes that music education can open doors for students of all ages, and is excited to share her love of music with the scholars at the Morris Park campus. She also teaches Early Childhood Music classes at MacPhail Center for Music, and Improv classes for youth and adults at the Brave New Workshop Student Union. 

Ms. Angie Pfeffer

Second Grade Teacher

Apfeffer@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-490-4546 | @msangieteaches

Favorite hobby: Baking

Angie Pfeffer was born and raised in Appleton, WI. She studied Elementary education with a focus on English, language arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Angie has lived in Minneapolis for five years. Since she has been in Minneapolis she worked as a teaching fellow at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park and taught second grade in North Minneapolis. She is very excited to continue working with the Hiawatha team and family!
Angie loves baking, making arts and crafts and spending time outside!

Ms. Anna Dibley

Fourth Grade Teacher - Reading, Writing, Social Studies

adibley@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-306-2988

Anna Dibley is a proud Minnesotan and a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in History. Anna taught social studies for five years in South Dakota, nonfiction for two years back home in Minneapolis, and is excited to continuing working with the fourth grade team at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park this year!
In addition to teaching, Anna enjoys reading and camping.  

Ms. Becca Winkle

First Grade Teacher

rwinkle@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-998-5704

Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Rebecca (Becca) Winkle is a first grade teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-—Morris Park. She is originally from California and attended UCLA with a major in history and a minor in Education. Previously she worked as a recruiter for UCLA and had the opportunity to work with high school students in preparation for applying to college. Becca also had the opportunity to work in a fifth grade class room for a year, and "loved the kids".
In her free time, Becca loves to read cooking blogs (not so much cooking, but LOVEs to read about it), watch hockey, and most importantly spend as much time with her family as possible.

Ms. Emily Loh

Network English Language Development & Equity Coordinator

eloh@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-220-4809 | @emilyjloh

Favorite book: The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman

Emily is a second generation Singaporean American, born and raised in the Bay Area. She graduated from the University of California Berkeley (Go Bears!) and joined the Hiawatha team soon after. This is her fourth year at Hiawatha Academies, having taught at the Morris Park campus for the past three years. She is also an elected Teacher Board Member for the Hiawatha Academies Board of Directors. Emily enjoys exploring the Twin Cities, learning from podcasts and books, and running into her students all over Minneapolis!

Mr. Bryan Daly

Special Educator Teacher

bdaly@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-730-7634

Favorite book: Ulysses by James Joyce
Favorite hobby: Playing Guitar

I was born in Florence, MA, and moved to South Minneapolis six years ago. I've worked as an art instructor, a Pre-kindergarten teacher, and now as a Special Educator Teacher. I work primarily with third and fourth grade scholars.
I teach because children can be the funniest, kindest, and most hardworking people I know. It's an honor to spend time with them, and to do my best to help them find what they need.

Mr. Carter Haaland

Kindergarten Co-Teacher

chaaland@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-310-0437

Favorite book: The Tenth of December by George Saunders
Favorite hobby: Biking

Carter Haaland studied English Literature and Journalism at the University of Minnesota. He's currently pursuing his Master's of Teaching English as a Second Language from Hamline University.
In his free time he likes to ride around aimlessly on his bicycle.

Ms. Catherine Lapiska

Assistant Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park

clapiska@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-408-3379

Born and raised in Minnesota, Catherine Lapiska is thrilled to return home and join the Hiawatha team after a spell on the East Coast. Catherine earned her undergraduate degree at The University of William & Mary in Virginia, and her M.A.T. at American University. She is a Teach for America alum and taught first through fifth grades in Washington, DC. Catherine also enjoyed several years of teaching teachers at Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City. Catherine is excited to be a part of the Hiawatha team supporting students, families and teachers in achieving and exceeding their goals.

Ms. Charlotte Carlsen

Fourth Grade Math and Science Teacher

ccarlsen@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-490-5652

Charlotte Carlsen was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College in Maine. During college, she studied abroad in Mexico and volunteered with a non-profit in Guatemala. In 2006, Charlotte ventured to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to begin a career in education. Over the last seven years in Texas, she has taught Five District math curriculum. She is excited to be back in Minnesota working with the Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park campus.
Charlotte is also an enthusiastic skier and can’'t wait for the snow to start falling this winter.

Ms. Christina Maria Potts

Spanish Teacher

mpotts@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-382-3186

Ms. Clare Dudzinski

School Social Worker

cdudzinski@hiawathaacademies.org | 651-558-7472

Favorite book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein; Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Favorite hobby: Learning anything you want to teach me!

Clare Dudzinski is thrilled to be joining the Hiawatha Academies family this year as the school social worker at the Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park campus. Clare is originally from the Chicagoland area, but she has made Minnesota her home for the last nine years. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from St. Olaf College and her Master of Social Work from the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University.
In her spare time, Clare enjoys running, yoga, and inventing new recipes to try out with family and friends. Her personal passions are travel and learning about new people, languages, and cultures.

Ms. Devyn Pittorf

Kindergarten Teacher

dpittorf@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-385-8784

Devyn Pittorf teaches kindergarten at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. Devyn was born and raised in Minnesota. She spent the last year in Chicago and is so excited to be back in her home state working with the scholars and teachers at Hiawatha Academies. Devyn graduated from Augsburg College with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education in 2012. She now lives in Minneapolis with her two cats.
In her spare time she loves to read, cook, and practice yoga. 

Ms. Diane Coddington

Reading Corps Tutor


Ms. Emily Curtis

Second and Third Grade English Language Development Teacher

ecurtis@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-558-6180

Favorite hobby: Reading, tennis

Emily Curtis grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Her first teaching position was in Kingman, AZ, and she then taught for two years in Colorado Springs, CO. She is passionate about English Language Development and is so excited to be back home and teaching in the Midwest!

Ms. Erin Maureen Baltz

Third Grade Math and Science Teacher

ebaltz@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-2560

Favorite hobby: Running

I am looking forward to my sixth year teaching. I have experience teaching elementary and middle school math. I earned my masters degree in urban education from Nova Southeastern University and my bachelor's degrees in kindergarten through eighth grade education from Winona State University. For the first three years of my teaching career I taught in Denver, CO. This will be my third year back in Minnesota.
I love relaxing with my family, friends and my dog Champ. I also enjoy running, reading, cooking and dancing.

Ms. Haven Davis


hdavis@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-998-2458

Favorite book: Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Favorite hobby: Reading

I grew up in northern Minnesota, and went to college at Gustavus Adolphus for English and Environmental Studies. I worked as an Environmental Educator for several years before deciding to explore employment in schools. That was when I found my way to Hiawatha Academies and have been very happy to feel right at home. My favorite aspects of my role are getting to work closely with a motivated and passionate team and building strong relationships with scholars.

Ms. Jenny Plantenberg

Kindergarten Teacher

jplantenberg@hiawthaacademies.org | 612-432-6456

Favorite hobby: Dancing

Jenny Plantenberg is a kindergarten teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. She grew up in Isanti, MN, along the Rum River and went to Butler University in Indiana to pursue a career in ballet. Jenny finished her college career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth earning a B.S. in Elementary Education. After college, she spent a year teaching fourth grade in Columbia Heights, MN. This is Jenny's third year at Hiawatha.
When she is not teaching, Jenny enjoys reading, sailing, and watching Vikings football!

Ms. Jessica Caine (Jessica Kerslake)

Kindergarten Teacher

jkerslake@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-385-2880

Ms. Jessica Hayes

Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park

jhayes@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-220-8762

Favorite book: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Jessica Hayes is the Principal of Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. Prior to this role, she was an instructional leader at Excellence Boys Charter School of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, NY. Jessica was a 2005 Teach for America corps member in the Mississippi Delta. She has taught both first and fourth grades in Mississippi and New York. Jessica is excited to be a part of the Hiawatha Academies team, and to work with teachers and families to make Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park the best learning environment possible for students.

Ms. Joanna Sparman

Second Grade Co-Teacher


Mr. Jordan Fitch

Physical Education Specialist

jfitch@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-490-7102

Jordan Fitch is the Physical Education specialist at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-—Morris Park. Though born in Kentucky, Jordan spent most of his growing up years in Illinois. He attended Bethel University in St. Paul, MN and graduated in 2006 with a B.A. in kindergarten through twelfth grade physical education. Since then, Jordan has lived in Minneapolis teaching physical education at a Montessori school. This is Jordan’'s second year at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-—Morris Park.
He is married to his best friend and has one daughter. In his free time, Jordan is often spending time with his family, stumbling through home improvement projects, or playing whatever sport is in season.

Ms. Karen Shapiro

Technology Integration Coordinator

kshapiro@hiawathaacademies.org | 650-576-9970

Favorite book: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Favorite hobby: Cooking and hearing live music

Having lived in California, Pennsylvania, New York, Israel, and France, Karen Shapiro is so glad to have a home in Minnesota. She's delighted to work with the caring, dedicated families of Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park, and to help all scholars become fluent in digital literacy.

Ms. Kari Kielsa

Special Education Teacher

kkielsa@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-296-5335

Ms. Kate Vishueski

First Grade Teacher

kmaynor@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-220-7550

Favorite book: Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

Kate Maynor is a first grade teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Kate earned her B.A. at Beloit College in Beloit, WI. She majored in both elementary education and music with a focus in French. After her student teaching in Chicago, IL and interning at Pierre Bottineau French Immersion in North Minneapolis, Kate was very excited to join Hiawatha Academies and work in a setting where student excellence is the top priority.
When she isn't in the classroom, Kate enjoys making music and playing fetch with her cat, Dexter.

Ms. Kelley Forsberg

Second Grade Teacher

Kforsberg@hiawathaacademies.org | 952-457-9161

A native of Minnesota, Kelley earned her B.A. in History and Elementary Education from Gordon College in 2010. She worked as a partner teacher in a first grade classroom for a year in Lynn, MA. Ms. Kelley couldn't stay away from her home state too long, she moved back and worked as a paraprofessional at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park six years ago and as a second grade teacher for the past three years. She is grateful and excited to be in her fourth year of teaching second grade at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park!
On her free time, you can find her lying out by one of the 10,000 lakes, taking her puppy on a walk, or shopping at the mall!

Ms. Laura Harringa

Third Grade Teacher

lharringa@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-387-0478

Favorite book: Anything by Leo Lionni
Favorite hobby: Reading and writing and talking about good movies and television.

Laura grew up in middle of nowhere northern Iowa. She then headed to Yale and focused on developmental psychology. After college, she moved to St. Louis, taught Kindergarten, first, second, and third grades, seeking to create a holistic, responsive learning environment for all students and families. She then moved on to continue learning in a leadership certification and Ph.D. program at UW-Madison. Her dissertation focused on community schools and the fostering of social capital for students and families. After completion, Laura transitioned to Minneapolis, where she helped found a new charter school. She is eager to continue working with students and families to create a more equitable, supportive culture for everyone at Hiawatha Academies.

Ms. Lindsey Kane

First Grade Teacher

lkane@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-7545

Lindsey Kane is teaching first grade at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. She grew up in the Twin Cities and graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in 2012 with a degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in communication arts and literature. Before teaching at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park, Lindsey taught first grade in Minneapolis.
When she isn't teaching she can be found drinking coffee at bookshops or outside enjoying the fresh air.

Ms. Maia Horsager

Movement Specialist

mhorsager@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-807-0519 | @MaiaJoH

Favorite book: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Favorite hobby: Photography

Maia Horsager is a Minnesota native currently living in Minneapolis, though she has enjoyed intermittently living in Lakeville, Minnesota, South America, and traveling the world since her graduation from St. Olaf College. Her degrees in Spanish, Children, Arts, and Society, and experience as a Pre-kindergarten and yoga teacher have prepped her for the exciting opportunity of being the Movement Specialist. Teaching yoga to students is a fun and creative role that allows her to interact with students in different ways, and truly teaches them to be themselves.

Ms. Marcela Rojas

Office Manager

mrojas@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-250-5604

Marcela Rojas is the Office Manager at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. Originally from Santiago, Chile, Ms. Marcela holds a Law degree from the University of Chile, and comes to Hiawatha Academies with over twenty years of experience working in Education. She is passionate about helping children and their families to achieve their greatest potential, academic and otherwise, in a community of high expectations such as Hiawatha Academies. She is also committed to working with the scholar's families, many times acting as a “cultural bridge” between immigrant families and the school.
When she is not working, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.

Ms. Mariah Mercil

Third Grade Teacher | Grade Level Chair

mmercil@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-432-6377 | @MsMariah_MP

Favorite hobby: Vikings!

Mariah Mercil is from South Minneapolis and has been teaching for seven years. She graduated from Hamline University with a bachelor's degree in psychology and elementary education. She loves sharing pictures of her daughter with her students and building relationships with scholars and families.

Ms. Maureen Fink

English Language Development Teacher

mharrington@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-1383

Favorite book: Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle (one of many!)
Favorite hobby: Reading!

Maureen Fink is from St. Paul, MN and graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2014 with degrees in English and Philosophy. She worked for a year at Faribault Public Schools on after-school programming before becoming an English Language Development teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. The best part of her role is getting to know her students and seeing how much they grow over the course of a year!

Ms. Meredith Webb

Third and Fourth Grade English Language Development Teacher

mwebb@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-807-2422

Meredith Webb is the third and fourth grade English Language Development teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. She grew up in Decatur, GA, but moved to Minnesota to attend Carleton College, from which she graduated with a B.A. in Political Science/International Relations in 2008. After an AmeriCorps term of service with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota, she returned south to join the Nashville Teaching Fellows in 2011, where she taught middle school Reading and Language Arts. She's excited to be back to her midwestern home-away-from home and a new community at Morris Park!
She's planning and looking forward to trips, speaking Spanish, making arts and crafts, and hanging out with her husband and baby boy.

Mr. Miguel Peña

Cafeteria Manager


Ms. Sarai Anderson

Transportation and Operations Coordinator

sanderson@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-237-0920

Favorite book: Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Favorite hobby: Baking

I grew up in Monterrey Mexico and graduated with a Law Degree specializing in Corporate Law at the University of Nuevo Leon in 2011. I got married and came to the United States the same year. I have been an interpreter and translator over the last few years and also work in the children's ministry at my church.
I live in Apple Valley with my husband, my beautiful two year old daughter, my four month old baby and my dog Rocket. I love to bake, spend quality time with my family and playing soccer in my free time.

Ms. Stephanie Sowma

Special Education Teacher

ssowma@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-695-0013

Stephanie Sowma is a third and fourth grade Special Education Teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. She grew up in Kenosha, WI and graduated from University of Wisconsin - Parkside in 2011 with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies. Stephanie is currently earning a Master of Arts in Teaching from Hamline University. Before teaching at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park, Stephanie taught sixth grade students in Milwaukee, WI and worked as a Tutoring Coordinator in Saint Paul, MN.
Outside of education, she enjoys cooking, team trivia, live music, and Brewers games! Stephanie is excited to begin her third year as part of Hiawatha Academies team, and awaits challenging and growing with her students.

Ms. Valkyrie Jensen

Second Grade Co-Teacher

vjensen@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-250-5819

Favorite hobby: Cooking

Valkyrie Jensen graduated with a degree in educational and developmental psychology from the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!) and is excited to begin her first year at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park as a co-teacher. Previously, Valkyrie has worked with third and seventh graders teaching summer school programs. Valkyrie is from St. Paul originally, and loves Minnesota.
In her free time, she loves to cook, ride her bicycle, read, and travel. She's also learning to play tennis – very slowly!

Ms. Kristin Kelley

Special Education Coordinator

kkelley@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-558-6066

Favorite book: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Favorite hobby: Reading

I grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota and have always lived in the Twin Cities metro area. My twenty seven years in education have included being a 9-12 Special Education Teacher in Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan; a 9-12 Special Education Administrator in Minneapolis; Director of Education at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights; a Psychoeducational Diagnostician with Park Nicollet and in private practice, K-5 Principal at a charter school, and Education Services Manager with a non-profit organization. At Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park, I’m excited to join a strong special education team and to form positive partnerships with the families with whom I work.

Mr. Jed Hermes


ehermes@hiawathaacademies.org | 651-558-7478

Favorite book: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
Favorite hobby: Running / Cooking / Reading (not all at the same time)

Jed Hermes grew up in Yardley, PA with his three sisters and two brothers. He graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with a B.A. in Literature and Gender Studies. He moved to the Twin Cities in 2008 and worked in retail, paying off student debt, before joining the Hiawatha Academies team in April of 2016. His favorite part of being a paraprofessional is cultivating calm; our scholars are such emotive and intuitive people, and Jed loves helping them find, grow, and practice their best selves.

Ms. Nancy Marin

Office Assistant

nmarin@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-388-1842

Favorite book: One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss.
Favorite hobby: Listen to music, shoping, fishing, movies, sports

Nancy Marin is new to Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park and is thrilled to be part of the Hiawatha team! Nancy was born in Ecuador and came to the United States when she was eight years old and has lived in Minnesota ever since. Previous to Hiawatha Academies, Nancy worked for an immigration law office for six years. She is fluent in English and Spanish.

Ms. Linde Grubb

Director of Operations | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park

lgrubb@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-743-9816

Favorite book: The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the search for meaning by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham
Favorite hobby: Cooking

After working for operations teams in higher education and non-profit companies in Virginia, Linde Grubb relocated to Minnesota to become the Director of Operations at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park. She joins the team with a degree in Biomedical Ethics from the University of Virginia and a Master’s in Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Having taught eighth grade science in St. Louis early in her career, Linde is thrilled to re-enter the education space and continue to interact with students and teachers.
She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Brad.

Ms. Erin Matschiner

Third Grade Teacher

ematschiner@hiawathaacadmies.org | 612-578-5214

Favorite book: The Giver by Lois Lowry
Favorite hobby: Reading

I was born and raised here in Minnesota, where I also attended college to receive my Associate's, Bachelor's, and Master's Degrees and am currently pursuing a K-12 principal's license. This is my twelfth year of teaching. The past eleven years of my career were spent teaching at a charter school in Apple Valley. What I value most about my experience at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park are the opportunities I have to grow and develop as an educator, leader, and person.

Ms. Kerri Thompson

Speech-Language Pathologist


Favorite hobby: Cooking

Kerri was born in San Diego, California, but spent most of her childhood years in the Twin Cities. After earning her undergraduate degree from the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, she lived in New York City for six years, but was very happy to return to Minnesota to earn her Masters degree from the University of Minnesota. She loves spending time outside, cooking, and knitting, as well as hanging out with her husband, friends and family! This is Kerri's first year at Morris Park and she is very excited to be a part of the Hiawatha team and help students with their speech and language!

Kels Bruun-Bryant

Director of Operations | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop


Kels is the Director of Operations at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. Kels will create and implement a system for volunteer recruitment and engagement, organize volunteer events, Kels serves as a fellow at New Sector Alliance.

Ms. Amanda Snyder

Music Teacher

amsnyder@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-388-6671

Amanda Snyder was born and raised in South Minneapolis. She graduated from Bethel University with a degree in kindergarten through twelfth grade Music Education. Before coming to Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop, she taught kindergarten through eighth grade General Music for two years at a charter school in North Minneapolis. This will be her third year teaching music, and first year at Hiawatha! Amanda loves to sing and perform. Her favorite styles of music are Jazz and Gospel.
Besides music, she loves to read, cook, and play with her family's new puppy!

Ms. Bailey Marmesh


bmarmesh@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-267-2144

Ms. Charise Powell

Second Grade Teacher

cpowell@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-0112

Ms. Daniela Vasan

Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop

dvasan@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-462-2369

Daniela Vasan is leading Hiawatha's second elementary school, Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. Daniela speaks Spanish fluently and French proficiently, and she earned a double major in Middle Eastern Studies and Spanish Literature and Culture from the University of Virginia. During her second and third years of college, Daniela studied in Jordan's University of Yarmouk in an immersion Arabic language program. After graduating, Daniela served as a Teach For America corps member in Atlanta, Georgia where she taught for four years. Daniela has also worked at Teach For America's summer institute program as a Corps Member Advisor and Curriculum Specialist.
She loves to travel and experience new cultures, study languages, volunteer with the Humane Society, and explore her new home: the Twin Cities.  

Ms. Hannah Forster

Second Grade Teacher

hforster@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-807-4899

Ms. Hattie Carvalho

Assistant Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop

hcarvalho@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-310-8025

Hattie Carvalho is the assistant principal at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. Prior to this role, she was the assistant principal at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park, director of student support services, special education coordinator, and a special education teacher. Hattie was a 2007 Teach For America corps member in Eastern North Carolina where she taught middle school. She then returned to her home state of Minnesota. She is excited to continue supporting Hiawatha Academies students, teachers, and families as our scholars climb the mountain to college.

Mr. Jessye Lewis


jlewis@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-432-2201

Ms. Karina Casarubias

Kindergarten Teacher

kcasarrubias@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-220-1596

Favorite book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Favorite hobby: Running! I am currently training for a half-marathon.

Karina Casarrubias is excited to be a Kindergarten Teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop this academic year. She was born and raised in La Villita in Chicago, IL. Karina earned her Bachelors’ degree from the University of Iowa. Karina is currently working on her Master of Education and kindergarten through twelfth grade Reading License at the University of Minnesota.
When she is not reading for school, Karina likes to go for sightseeing runs with her dog Abby, try new recipes, and explore children's literature.

Ms. Katie Houlihan

Kindergarten Teacher

khoulihan@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-747-8626

Katie Houlihan is excited to join the amazing staff at Hiawatha Academies this year as a Kindergarten teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy – Northrop. She grew up in northeastern Wisconsin (GO PACK!) and graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison where she studied elementary education and Spanish. Since graduation, Katie has taught kindergarten, first, and second grade in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
In her free time, Katie enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

Ms. Kelly Setala

First Grade Teacher

ksetala@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-386-7301

Favorite book: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Favorite hobby: Running and spending time with family

Kelly Setala grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University-Mankato with a degree in Elementary Education and a Masters in Teaching and Learning. She has had a variety of teaching experiences in Minnesota and California. Her favorite part of teaching is watching her students learn to read, an exciting time in the first grade! She also enjoys seeing students grow physically, mentally and socially - they bring so much joy to the classroom each day!
During her free time she loves being with her family and friends, traveling, working out, baking and being with her husband and dog Suzie.

Kelsey Romero

Social Worker

kromero@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-207-8811

Kelsey Romero is excited to begin her third year as a school social worker at Hiawatha Academies! She grew up in South Minneapolis and earned a B.S. in Social Work at Augsburg College. Kelsey later completed the Master of Social work program at the University of Minnesota, focusing her studies on children and families and clinical mental health. Outside of school, Kelsey enjoys hanging out with her family, walking around the city's gorgeous lakes, playing tennis and discovering new places to eat!

Ms. Lauren Bringe

First Grade Teacher


Ms. Lindsey Niznik

First Grade Teacher

lniznik@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-251-9064

Favorite book: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

I grew up in Minneapolis, MN and I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with degrees in Political Science and English. After graduating, I moved to the Mississippi Delta and taught second grade for two years as a 2013 Teach For America corps member. I moved back to Minneapolis this summer, and I'm excited to be teaching at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop.
When I'm not teaching, I enjoy traveling, playing soccer, reading, and binge-watching The X-Files.

Ms. Lindsey Radle

Physical Education Teacher

lradle@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-388-0093

Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Favorite hobby: Being outside during all four seasons of Minnesota!

Lindsey Radle was born and raised in Arkansaw, Wisconsin. This will be her fifth year of teaching Physical Education and her third year at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. Lindsey earned her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with an education emphasis from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She had the opportunity during her undergraduate degree to briefly teach in Houston, Texas at Grantham Academy for Engineering and Milwaukee, Wisconsin at Milwaukee School of Languages and Elm Creative Arts Elementary. The thing she loves best about her role is seeing all the students in the school.
She enjoys being outdoors, staying active, cooking, and visiting family in Wisconsin.

Ms. Maggie Borman

Third Grade Math Teacher

mborman@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-296-9498

Maggie Borman was born and raised in Minneapolis. She graduated with her bachelor's degree from Boston College and just received her master's in education from Harvard. Boston will always hold a special place in her heart, but she is excited to be back in Minneapolis teaching.
Besides working hard with her scholars, she enjoys watching sports, reading and going to brunch!

Ms. Maria Alvarado

Ms. Melissa Holten

Special Education Teacher

mholten@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-250-7029

Melissa Holten is the Special Education Teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy- Northrop. She loves being part of the Hiawatha team! Melissa grew up in the Twin Cities and graduated from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. She earned her Master’s in Education from the University of St. Thomas and holds teaching licenses in special education, elementary education and middle school math. She has taught special education in Minneapolis for the past five years.
Besides teaching and being an ongoing student at the University of St. Thomas, Melissa loves to spend time with her husband and daughter!

Ms. Micayla Irmiter

Art Specialist

mirmiter@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-1915 | @@Micayla_Irmiter

Favorite book: Beneath the Bonfire by Nikolas Butler
Favorite hobby: Drawing

Micayla Irmiter grew up in New Ulm, MN and is a graduate of Luther College in Decorah, IA. After graduating Micayla served as an AmeriCorps VISTA through the Minnesota Literacy Council in Fairmont, MN.
She loves spending time in the studio with the Narwhals and listening to their stories and ideas!

Ms. Natalie Dahlquist

Kindergarten English Language Development Teacher

ndahlquist@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-267-2117 | @dahnat

Favorite book: If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff
Favorite hobby: Singing

I grew up in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. I graduated from Bethel University where I double majored in Elementary Education and Spanish Education. I taught Kindergarten for my first five years of teaching in Blaine, MN and then K-5 Spanish for two years in Cottage Grove and Woodbury, MN. When I'm not working I enjoy singing and am a member of two professional choirs. I am excited to be starting my first year at Northrop.
I enjoy spending time with my family and my Siamese cat Imogene, and am a huge fan of Netflix and Hulu.

Ms. Natasha Villanueva

Operations Coordinator

nvillanueva@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-267-2286

Favorite book: Too many to choose!
Favorite hobby: Making music

I was born and raised in small Midwestern town in Warroad, MN and Grand Forks, ND. As a young person, my Dad's identity as an immigrant from Guatemala and the love of reading that my mom instilled in me converged to give me a passion for helping immigrant communities advance through education.
I felt a calling to be immersed in a diversity of both thought and culture so I decided to attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities to obtain a B.A. in professional strategic communication. My classes in youth and Chicano studies inspired me to contribute towards success in education at its foundation by entering the Americorps Summer Reads program after being the first in my family to graduate from a four year university. I spent a wonderful summer in St. Paul, MN working with Hmong youth on literacy.
The service was so gratifying I worked to aid middle school and high school students in preparing themselves for college with the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program during that school year. It was humbling to have the chance to work with such driven young people who shared the same goal of higher education that I valued. That year I was compelled to continue advancing my own life journey by going to the Peace Corps and using my literacy skills to train with facilitators in the Dominican Republic for two years.
When I returned I started building my life from the ground up. I studied and worked in medical interpreting. From there I became a Bilingual Associate Educator with the Minneapolis Public Schools. When the opportunity presented itself to work on growing a social justice school from an administrative vantage point I thought it was an excellent environment to apply the full gamut of my skills and fulfill my dream of helping immigrant communities while contributing to the education of young people.
A favorite aspect of my work is taking part in education and making it happen by providing scholars, staff, and families with trusted guidance and resources. No day presents the same celebrations or challenges!

Mr. Nick Baker

Volunteer Coordinator

nbaker@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-327-8486

Favorite book: Belonging: A Culture of Place by Bell Hooks
Favorite hobby: Playing music!

I grew up in the Twin Cities and graduated from St. Olaf College nearby. Last year was my first year with Hiawatha Academies and I taught homeroom kindergarten at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop, which was a blast! Now I manage volunteers who work with 25 students across the kindergarten grade level. I love working with students all morning and helping volunteers all afternoon. I especially like being able to provide volunteers with bilingual or Spanish literacy resources.
Outside of work you can find me playing music with my band, reading books, and being active in the Twin Cities justice coalition movement!

Mr. Tom Kloos

Second Grade Co-Teacher

TKloos@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-2216

Tom Kloos is a Second Grade Teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. He was born and raised in the Twin Cities area. Tom earned his Bachelors’ degree from Winona State University. He is currently working on his Masters’ degree in elementary education at Hamline University in St. Paul.
In his spare time Tom likes to travel, play basketball, baseball, go for runs, bicycle, and read.

Ms. Xue Xiong

English Language Development Teacher

xxiong@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-251-9749

Favorite book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Favorite hobby: Reading

Xue Xiong was born and raised in Wisconsin and obtained her Bachelor's from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She joined Teach for America in 2013 as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and does not regret her choice. As an English Language Learner while growing up, she hopes to guide her students to be multilingual lifelong learners. Xue enjoys time with her large family, friends, and her partner. Xue's hopes and dreams as a teacher is to foster multilingualism and social consciousness; to empower the littlest scholars that even they can make the biggest impact.

Ms. Sheila Willson

First Grade Co-Teacher

swillson@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-807-4695

Favorite book: In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek, Christine Roussey (Illustrator)
Favorite hobby: Listening to music and spending time outside.

I was born in Virginia and raised in Utah. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education. I began my journey in Education as a K-3 Substitute and a Pre-kindergarten Teacher. At Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop, I have the unique opportunity of being a first grade Co-Teacher and it's awesome! My favorite aspect of this role is being able to spend my day focusing on literacy and interventions with amazing first graders!

Ms. Natalie Ripley

Kindergarten English Language Development Teacher

nripley@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-267-2117

Favorite book: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Favorite hobby: Reading

Natalie Ripley is in her second year of teaching Kindergarten English Language Development (ELD) at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. She enjoys helping Kindergarten students develop a love for language and learning. She grew up in Brooklyn Park, MN and graduated from Bethel University where she majored in Elementary Education and Spanish Education. Natalie taught classroom Kindergarten for her first five years of teaching in Blaine, MN and then K-5 Spanish for two years in Cottage Grove and Woodbury, MN. She is currently working toward her Master's in Teaching English as a Second Language at St. Mary's University of Minnesota.
When Natalie is not working she enjoys spending time with her husband and cat, watching Netflix, and relaxing.

Ms. Aubrey Hendry

ahendry@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-387-2651

Favorite book: The Giver by Lois Lowry, Imogene's Antlers by David Small, Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Favorite hobby: Playing volleyball

I have been working with children in Pre-kindergarten since 2010. Between 2010-2012, I was a Minnesota Reading Corps Member making sure that Pre-kindergarten students had the literacy skills they needed for kindergarten. I completed my student teaching through Augsburg College and spent three years teaching preschool, Pre-kindergarten and then kindergarten. I have loved working with Hiawatha Academies scholars and seeing their love for learning and rapid growth!

Ms. Lauren Langhout

llanghout@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-296-0384

Favorite book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Favorite hobby: Cooking

I am from Deerfield, WI. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where I substitute taught for a year. Subsequently I taught for one year at Harvest Seed Prep before beginning to teach at Hiawatha Academies almost three years ago.

Ms. Erika Hansen

Third Grade Teacher

ehansen@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-239-0827 (work) | 815-973-6628 (personal) | @@erfranhan

Favorite book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Favorite hobby: Hot yoga

I am from Dixon, IL – a small town 100 miles west of Chicago. I graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa in 2012 with a degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in Reading and Early Childhood. I moved to Memphis, TN following my graduation to become a member of the Lasallian Association for New Catholic Educators (LANCE) program at Christian Brothers University. During LANCE I taught as the third grade teacher at De La Salle Elementary (DLS) and obtained my Masters of Education as a Reading Specialist. At the end of the LANCE program in 2014, I continued to teach as the first grade teacher at DLS. After four years in the South, I decided to make my way back North and found my home at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. I love seeing the potential in my students every day! I appreciate that I work alongside individuals that share the same passion to empower students to become the best version of themselves.

Ms. Tress Ahles

English Language Development

tmahles111@yahoo.com | 857-242-8670

Favorite book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Favorite hobby: Reading, cooking and yoga

Joining the team at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop marks my return to Minnesota after twenty five years away. My teaching career in English Language Development (ELD) has been in urban school districts of Boston, and around the world in Japan, China, Micronesia and the United Arab Emirites. One of the aspects of ELD that I enjoy the most is the unique nature of language acquisition. No two students ever develop and grow their language skills in the same way, so the challenge of finding the best ways to support them is always there. I'm happy to be 'home' in Minneapolis and Hiawatha Academies.

Ms. Rachel Knutowski

Kindergarten Teacher

rknutowski@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-1391

Favorite book: The entire Dr. Seuss collection of books
Favorite hobby: Yoga

Originally from Milwaukee, WI, I have spent the past five years calling Minnesota my new home. Within those years, I have traveled and lived overseas in Southeast Asia and taught in Thailand. It is my mission to instill a love of learning in my students. I have a passion for social injustice and helping in closing the opportunity gap in our local communities. My favorite aspect of teaching is creating fun and engaging activities that support each scholar's needs and interests.

Ms. Tessa Buschmann

Special Education Paraprofessional (SPED)

tbuschmann@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-250-1476

Favorite book: The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery by Graeme Base
Favorite hobby: Painting

While I grew up in and around St. Paul, MN I have settled in Minneapolis after graduating from the University of Minnesota with degrees in Youth Studies and Spanish. Prior to beginning with Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop, I worked with Project for Pride in Living, Inc. coordinating an after-school literacy program and serving as an educational advocate for families in South Minneapolis. Now, since joining the Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop team, I look forward to the daily high-fives and fist-bumps that celebrate overcoming some of our biggest challenges.

Ms. Robbi Weil

Founding Third Grade Teacher

rweil@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-3437

Favorite book: Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress
Favorite hobby: Walking the lakes

I like to say I am a Minnesotan, but true Minnesotans will remind me that I did not move here until I was three years old. I have been teaching for over thirty years, everything from Pre-kindergarten to seventh grade. I worked for many years in the private sector, but realized my passions for equity and justice are more easily accessed by working in diverse communities. What I love the most about my role as a teacher is the relationships I build with my students, and continuing to watch them grow.

Ms. Mandi Williamson

Special Education Teacher

mwilliamson@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-807-8614

Favorite book: East of Eden by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck
Favorite hobby: Muay Thai and boxing

Greetings! I am from Apple Valley, MN and attended the School of Environmental Studies. I love working with children and I am excited to be teaching in my own community. This will be my fourth year teaching as a Special Education Teacher and my thirteenth year working with individuals with special needs. In Spring 2013, I graduated with my Master’s in Special Education from the University of Minnesota and received my licensure in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, as well as Autism Spectrum Disorders. In Summer 2014, I continued my education at the University of Minnesota, and student teaching in Mounds View, earning my licensure in Learning Disabilities.

Ms. Williamson, Brittany

Fifth Grade Literature Teacher

bwilliamson@hiawathaacademies.org | 816-729-2667

Favorite book: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Favorite hobby: Going for walks

Ms. Williamson believes that all students should be prepared to get to and through college. As the fifth grade literature teacher at Hiawatha College Prep, she pushes her scholars to be the best readers, writers, and people they can be. Ms. Williamson grew up in Minnesota where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Sociology from Hamline University. From there, she moved to Kansas City, MO, as a 2010 Teach for America corps member where she taught for four years and earned her Master's degree in Elementary Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Family and a true love for the Twin Cities brought her home to Minnesota and to the Hiawatha Academies family. Ms. Williamson lives in St. Paul with her husband and son, Andre. When she's not working, she loves exploring the lakes of Minneapolis, spending time with her friends and family, exercising, reading cool books, and traveling to new places.

Mr. Bedoya-Ortiz, Carlos

Operations Coordinator


Mr. Vaughan, Chris

English Language Development Coordinator

cvaughan@hiawathaacademies.org | 413-281-1268

Favorite book: Nonfiction: The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. Fiction: East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Favorite hobby: Poetry or sports

I grew up in Massachusetts and graduated with a B.A. in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity from Stanford University. I've been an AmeriCorps volunteer doing community outreach in Milwaukee, an adult English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in Boston, and a staff member at Minneapolis Public Schools. Through all these jobs, I've enjoyed using my Spanish and engaging with communities—passions I brought to my work when I joined Hiawatha College Prep in 2013 as the English Language Development Coordinator.

Ms. Dobratz, Christina

Seventh and Eighth Grade Language Teacher

cdobratz@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-730-7389 | @christinasalter

Favorite book: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Ms. Dobratz is the seventh and eighth grade language teacher at Hiawatha College Prep. Christina grew up in Bettendorf, IA. She is a proud alum of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and brings a passion for both grammar and writing to her classroom. She completed coursework for her teaching license at Hamline University and previously taught sixth grade in St. Paul, MN. Ms. Dobratz most recently worked in communications for an education advocacy nonprofit in Minneapolis and has written for several newspapers in the Midwest. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on the Wildcats and going to concerts with her husband.

Ms. Andrews, Danielle

Seventh Grade Humanities Educator

dandrews@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-408-6598

Favorite book: The Giver by Lois Lowry
Favorite hobby: Traveling

Ms. Andrews is originally from Chicago, IL and moved to the Twin Cities after living in Milwaukee, WI for ten years. She has been in the education field for over ten years, serving as a mentor, paraprofessional, and educator during her career. Ms. Andrews has worked for various school districts since living in Minnesota, bringing with her a wide range of experiences with a vast array of students. Each year, she enjoys being able to watch her students transform as they take control of their educational experience, academically, socially, and personally.

Ms. Stiteler, Gabriela

Eighth Grade Literature Teacher

gstiteler@hiawathaacademies.org | 202-316-8271

Favorite book: Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Favorite hobby: Travelling and experiencing new things

Gabriela Stiteler is the eighth grade literature teacher at Hiawatha College Prep. She was born in Pittsburgh, but has lived in Lousiana, Texas, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. She earned her Bachelor's degree from Oberlin College, and her Masters' in Education from the University of Maryland. She taught at KIPP DC: Key Academy for six years before moving to South Minneapolis with her family. In her spare time, Gabi reads mystery novels, plans trips to exciting new places, and makes a mean pizza (her favorite food).

Ms. Di Meglio, Joana

Fifth Grade Humanities Teacher

jdimeglio@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-408-9038

Favorite book: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Favorite hobby: Attending concerts

Ms. Di Meglio was born in the Philippines but lived in most regions of the United States while growing up. She moved up north to attend the University of Minnesota-Morris and earned her Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Social Sciences, and secondary social studies licensure. While in college, she worked as a mental health rehabilitation specialist and English Language Learner (ELL) tutor. She is currently in her second year as a Teach for America 2014 Twin Cities corps member.

Mr. Kaczorek, John

Principal | Hiawatha College Prep

jkaczorek@hiawathaacademies.org | 651-341-7821 | @@JohnKaczorek

Favorite book: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Favorite hobby: Fishing

Mr. Kaczorek was born in Milwaukee, WI, and raised in the Twin Cities. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from St. John's University and a Master's Degree in Math Education from Pace University. He began his teaching career in the Bronx, NY, teaching eighth grade math. For the next four years, Mr. Kaczorek taught fifth grade math with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) New Jersey in Newark, NJ. In 2011, he served as the founding fifth grade math teacher at Hiawatha College Prep, and transitioned into the principal role later that year. Mr. Kaczorek lives in South Minneapolis with his partner Betty and children Jon Micheal (Hiawatha Class of 2020), and Manny (Hiawatha Class of 2033).

Ms. White, Katie

Fifth and Sixth Grade Language Instructor

kwhite@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-8269

Ms. White was born and raised in central Iowa (also known as heaven). She graduated with a B.A. in English - Secondary Teaching from the University of Northern Iowa, and then spent a year and a half working at Sylvan Learning Centers and subbing in school districts (Iowa and Indiana). She worked as an English Language Arts (ELA) pull-out teacher for Bloomfield Jr./Sr. High School (Indiana) before joining the Teach for America Twin Cities 2012 Corps (at Metro Schools/Lighthouse Academy of Nations). Ms. White has also had the privilege of coaching Hiawatha College Prep's girls soccer team for four years.

Ms. Guy, Keiona

Cafeteria Manager


Ms. Uribe, Kelsey

Sixth Grade Literature Teacher

kuribe@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-986-3504 | @KelseyBitney

Favorite book: The Giver, a novel by Lois Lowry
Favorite hobby: Spending time with my husband and dogs, yoga, and going on walks with friends.

Ms. Uribe is in her fourth year at Hiawatha College Prep. She grew up in Shell Lake, WI, and graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010. She then taught in South Korea and Wisconsin for a year each before returning to the Twin Cities as a 2012 Teach For America corps member. Outside of teaching, she loves spending time with her husband and two dogs, singing, reading, playing board games, going on walks with friends, and mastering her next yoga move!

Ms. Rodriguez, Laura

Office Manager

lrodriguez@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-387-7047

Ms. Schilling, Laura

Assistant Principal | Hiawatha College Prep

lschilling@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-353-4324

Favorite book: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Favorite hobby: Anything food related

Ms. Schilling is the Assistant Principal of Hiawatha College Prep. She joined Hiawatha Academies as the founding third grade math teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park in 2010. She then went on to found fourth grade math and later sixth grade math at Hiawatha College Prep. Before joining Hiawatha Academies, Ms. Schilling taught eighth grade math in the Bronx as a '07 Teach For America corps member. She grew up in metro - Detroit and attended the University of Michigan where she studied Mechanical Engineering. She lives in south Minneapolis with her partner Derek and son Mason. When Ms. Schilling isn't with students and staff, she enjoys cooking, figure skating, and anything outdoors. She is thrilled to be part of Hiawatha Academies, especially with their focus on closing the opportunity gap.

Ms. Johnson, Lindsay

Seventh and Eighth Grade Drama Teacher

ljohnson@hiawathaacademies.org | 608-797-5028

Favorite book: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Favorite hobby: Game nights with family and friends, theater, and being outside!

I grew up in La Crosse, WI and earned my Bachelor's degrees in English and Spanish at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2009. I studied a semester in Ecuador, teaching English as a second language. I taught sixth grade reading and writing in New Mexico for three years with Teach for American (TFA) before relocating to Minnesota to begin working at Hiawatha College Prep in 2012. I have taught fifth grade reading, fifth grade social studies, and I currently teach seventh and eighth grade drama. I love watching kids grow as actors!

Ms. Gilles, Liz

Seventh Grade Science Teacher

lgilles@hiawathaacademies.org | 573-424-7014

Favorite hobby: Hiking

Ms. Gilles is the seventh grade science teacher at Hiawatha College Prep. Born and raised in Columbia, Missouri, Ms. Gilles spent her summers exploring nature in her parents’ home state of Montana. She received her Bachelors Degree in Biology and Creative Writing from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. Her past professional experiences have included prairie restoration, scuba diving on mussel projects, tropical conservation and forestry. She began her teaching career in the Peace Corps in rural Panama where she worked on environmental education and conservation. After returning, Ms. Gilles earned her Masters in Education at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. She loves hiking, camping and biking and lives with her husband, hermit crab, guinea pig, dog and cat.

Ms. Williams, Mandy

Fifth Grade Science Teacher

awilliams@hiawathaacademies.org | 651-334-0992

Favorite book: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Favorite hobby: Hiking and Canoeing

Ms. Williams grew up in Hastings, MN. She graduated from St. Mary’s University with a B.A. in Secondary English Education in 2009. After college, she joined Teach for America in the Mississippi Delta, where she taught seventh grade reading and worked on her southern drawl. She moved back to Minnesota with her partner in 2011, and lives with her many wonderful pets!

Mr. Knutson, Michael

Director of Operations | Hiawatha College Prep

mknutson@hiawathaacademies.org | 651-210-2801

Favorite book: Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
Favorite hobby: Wilderness adventures

Mr. Knutson is in his fifth year as director of operations at Hiawatha College Prep, originally joining the team to support the opening of the school. He received a B.A., in History and International Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During his junior year, he studied and taught english in Madrid, Spain. After graduation, Mr. Knutson joined Teach for America as a bilingual first grade teacher for two years on Milwaukee’s south side. He also received his M.A., in Bilingual Urban Education from Cardinal Stritch University and taught first grade for a year at a small school in Panajachel, Guatemala. Michael is an avid traveler who enjoys improving his Spanish, reading, water sports, and backpacking trips into the wilderness. He is happy to be home, supporting Hiawatha's mission in Minneapolis.

Ms. Hardy, Ryane

Eighth Grade Humanities Teacher

rhardy@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-805-3399

Favorite book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Favorite hobby: Being active outside

Ms. Hardy is the eighth grade humanities teacher at Hiawatha College Prep. Ms. Hardy earned her Bachelors' degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. After college, she moved to McAllen, TX to teach Texas History for two years. She returned to Minnesota to complete a Masters' in Education from St. Catherine University. She now lives in Plymouth with her husband, Clint. In her spare time, she loves to be outdoors, exercise, and read.

Ms. Black, Sarah

Sixth Grade Humanities Teacher

sblack@hiawathacademies.org | 612-655-3275

Ms. Black is the sixth grade humanities teacher at Hiawatha College Prep. She was born in Madison, WI, but considers Minnesota her home. Ms. Black earned her B.A. in History and Social Science as well as her secondary licensure for Social Studies at the University of Minnesota-Morris. After college, she joined Teach For America and moved out to New Haven, CT, where she taught high school social studies for two years.  In 2008, she and her husband moved back home where she has been teaching middle school social studies in south Minneapolis ever since.  Outside of school, Sarah loves spending time with family and friends, reading, going to museums, supporting the Minnesota Twins, camping, and doing crossword puzzles.  She is incredibly honored to be working with the amazing scholars of Hiawatha College Prep.

Ms. Swenson, Sarah

Seventh Grade Literature Teacher

sswenson@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-251-8828

Favorite book: The Giver, a novel by Lois Lowry

Ms. Swenson is from Brookfield, WI. She has been teaching middle school english since 2010, and has also helped to design teacher training materials for Teach For America. One of her favorite things about teaching literature is that she gets to read a lot of good young adult books!

Ms. McKinley, Whitney

Assistant Principal | Hiawatha College Prep

wmckinley@hiawathaacademies.org | 312-375-5129 | @mckinl_w

Favorite hobby: Knitting

Ms. McKinley was born and raised in south Minneapolis, and returned to the Twin Cities in 2010 after spending four years teaching in Chicago Public Schools. In her time with Hiawatha Academies, Ms. McKinley has been an English Language Development (ELD) coordinator, art teacher, and is currently one of the assistant principals at Hiawatha College Prep. She has a passion for education and social justice and enjoys watching her middle school scholars develop their personal identity and voice. In her free time she enjoys travel, exploring new communities, trying new foods, knitting, and bowling.

Ms. Blum Grundyson, Suzanne

Special Education Coordinator

sblumgrundyson@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-741-9434

Favorite book: As a child, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and now, Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Favorite hobby: Playing sports and cooking

I was born in Brooklyn, NY, but grew up in the north west suburbs of Minneapolis. I attended Bethel University for undergrad and North Park University and National Louis University for my M.A. degrees in Community Development and Teaching Special Education. I am currently pursuing my Administrative License (Principal K-12) at Hamline.
I became a special education teacher because I believe that all children can learn and actualize their potential. I love when a student "gets it" and their face lights up. When students and their families are truly heard and seen in all their unique ways, we truly acknowledge the humanity in all of us.

Ms. Hermansen, Kristina Nia

Seventh Grade Math Teacher

nhermansen@hiawathaacademies.com | 612-408-6391

Favorite book: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowlings
Favorite hobby: Outside sports!

I grew up in Shorewood, MN, I went to college at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA. I worked for two years teaching sixth grade math in the Moundsview school district. My favorite aspect of my job is working with scholars everyday.

Alyx Chapman

Special Education Teacher

achapman@hiawathaacademies.org | 651-270-9514

Favorite hobby: Running, reading, and trying new restaurants in Minneapolis

I grew up in Stillwater, MN. I graduated from the College of St. Benedict with an English major and Secondary Education minor in 2010. I am currently enrolled at the University of St.Thomas earning my Master's of Special Education. I have taught English Language Arts (ELA) classes in a variety of middle school and high school settings and am excited to help students of all abilities find and celebrate success in the classroom.

Ms. Wacholz, Tanya

Seventh and Eighth Grade English Language Development Teacher

twacholz@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-876-1825

Favorite book: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Favorite hobby: Learning foreign languages

Ms. Wacholz is from Delano, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in History and German Studies. Ms. Wacholz speaks German, and is always seeking to learn new languages (Spanish and Chinese are what she is currently working on). After graduation, she spent the next five years in Berlin, Germany, where she worked as an english teaching assistant through the Fulbright program and took courses in education at the Freie Universität. In her current role as the English Language Development (ELD) teacher for seventh and eighth grade at Hiawatha College Prep, she loves seeing the creativity and humor of her students shine through!

Ms. Cuhel, Jessika

Special Education Teacher

jcuhel@hiawathaacademies.org | 507-304-2018

Mr. Cervantes, Cruz Conejo

Physical Education Teacher

cconejo@hiawathaacademies.org | 847-313-8516

Mr. Cervantes is excited to start his second year as part of the Hiawatha College Prep team as Physical Education teacher. Born and raised in San Diego, Cartago, Costa Rica, Cruz began his professional education through the Universidad Florencio del Castillo in physical education. He began coming to Minnesota to serve as summer camp staff through Concordia Language Villages from 2006 until 2011. Between 2010 and 2011, Cruz worked as a Spanish Native Assistant at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. Following the experience, Cruz decided to finish his bachelor’s degree in physical education through Minnesota State University Moorhead which he earned in December of 2013. He completed his student teaching at Sunrise Park Middle School and Otter Lake Elementary school in White Bear Lake, MN. Cruz’'s passions in life are to spend time with his family, teach physical education and play, watch and coach Futbol.

Ms. Craig, Cristin

Dean of Students | Hiawatha College Prep

ccraig@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-990-7221

Favorite book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Favorite hobby: Sharing time with my friends and family

I was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, and moved to the Twin Cities to attend college. After graduating with a B.A. in Youth Development Studies, I began working as a special education paraprofessional. I fell in love with education and quickly got my teaching license and M.A. in Education. I taught middle school and high school students with social/emotional/behavioral needs for eight years. I love being the dean of students at Hiawatha College Prep because it gives me the opportunity to meet a lot of students and help them to be successful in school.

Ms. Hanson, Dana

Tenth Grade World Literature Teacher

dhanson@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-600-5451 | @obviouslyforgot

Favorite book: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Favorite hobby: Bad TV and Food Blogs

Ms. Hanson is a Twin Cities native. She studied English at the University of Iowa, where she graduated in 2008. In 2010, she joined Teach for America, and taught high school English in Indianola, MS. From 2012-2014, she was the founding Academic Director of Beyond Walls: Urban Squash Twin Cities, an after-school college prep program.

Ms. Carlson, Amy

Special Education Teacher

acarlson@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-220-5301 | @@coach__carlson

Favorite book: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Favorite hobby: Coaching

Ms. Carlson is a founding special education teacher at Hiawatha Collegiate High School. Having grown up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, she received her B.A. from the University of Minnesota. She began her teaching career with Teach For America in lower state South Carolina where she taught high school math for two years. She says having the opportunity to work with her students - the future change-agents and leaders of tomorrow - is her favorite aspect of her role at Hiawatha Collegiate High School.

Ms. Eddie, Anna

Director of Operations | Hiawatha Collegiate High School

aeddie@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-0123

Favorite book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Favorite hobby: Horseback Riding

Growing up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Anna left her home state to earn her B.S. in Political Science and Educational Studies at Colgate University. Her interest and passion in education reform and policy led her to Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College where she received her Masters in Public Policy with a focus on K-12 education policy. Anna worked on a federally-funded research project centered on intense math and reading interventions for struggling first graders in urban schools. She joined the Hiawatha Academies' team after graduating as the director of development. After supporting the network in raising over $1.5 million dollars, Ms. Lee is thrilled to transition to the role of founding director of operations at Hiawatha Collegiate High School!

Ms. Kidder, Caleea

Founding Dean of Students | Hiawatha Collegiate High School

ckidder@hiawathaacademies.org | 651-485-1148

Favorite book: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Favorite hobby: Cooking

Ms. Kidder is the founding dean of students at Hiawatha Collegiate High School. She was born and raised in St. Paul, MN, and attended Saint Paul Public Schools and then the University of Minnesota, where she earned a B.A. in Spanish Studies and Child Psychology. She then earned a M.Ed. in youth development from the University of Illinois at Chicago, only to return home to Minnesota to serve the communities she calls home. Ms. Kidder has worked with youth as a mental health professional as well as through coordinating a college access program for Latino adolescents. She believes that young people thrive when surrounded by consistently supportive adults, and she's excited to be able to interact with young people on a daily basis. Outside of work, Ms. Kidder enjoys playing and watching basketball, trying out new recipes and playing with her children, Oscar and Mabel.

Ms. Strickland, Gabriela Xochihua

Art Teacher and Paraprofessional

gxochihua@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-227-2887

Favorite book: Bless me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Favorite hobby: Ceramics

I was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2015 with a personalized major including the Arts, Psychology, and Social Justice. I have worked with numerous non-profit arts organizations within various educational settings. I have always felt the need and urgency to serve underrepresented populations. I love my work at Hiawatha Collegiate High School because it enables me to grow in many and unforeseen ways. Working closely with youth is a passion of mine, I find their perspective of the world to be inspiring, and refreshing. Our scholars push me to be better and stronger everyday. I feel that our community works hard to help one another be the best that we can be.

Mr. McLaughlin, Ian

Special Education Coordinator

imclaughlin@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-220-8829

Favorite book: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Favorite hobby: Cooking

I was born and raised in New York City, NY. I began my career researching disabilities and psychophysiology at the University of Minnesota before I transitioned into K-12 Education - where I have worked as a special education teacher and now coordinator across the Minneapolis metro area. I love my work as a special education teacher as it allows me to help students who sometimes struggle in school - as I struggled in school having been diagnosed with Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Mr. Humble, Jordan

Founding Biology Teacher

jhumble@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-220-1769

Favorite book: Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn
Favorite hobby: Backpacking and Canoeing

After growing up as an outdoor enthusiast in Connecticut, Mr. Humble moved into the mountains of Vermont to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Vermont. Upon graduation, Jordan's love for teaching and the natural sciences brought him to Minnesota where he has been teaching high school biology for the past four years. He holds a master's degree in teaching from Hamline University and can usually be found exploring the wilderness of Minnesota on foot, in a canoe, or on a bike.

Ms. O’Connor, Meg

Tenth Grade Speech and Composition Teacher

moconnor@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-0996

Favorite book: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Favorite hobby: Reading, knitting and writing short stories

Growing up in Minneapolis, Ms. O'Connor couldn't imagine living anywhere other than this lake laden land. She attended the University of Minnesota, where she earned her B.A. in English Literature. She began her teaching career at a small private school in Burnsville, MN, where she taught literature and composition. Always wanting to work in a high school, she was eager to begin her journey with Hiawatha Academies. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Teaching from Hamline University.

Ms. Nibbs, Nadia

Multicultural Literature Teacher

nnibbs@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-6653

Favorite book: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Favorite hobby: Salsa and bachata dancing

Ms. Nibbs graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. in History. She became passionate about teaching English Literature after teaching high school english for four years in Kansas City Public Schools. Now she is a member of the founding team of Hiawatha Collegiate High School and could not be more elated to acclimate to Minneapolis with the support of such a great school team.

Ms. Heath, Natalie

English Language Development Teacher

nheath@hiawathaacademies.org | 608-386-5907

Favorite book: Wonder by Raquel J. Palacio
Favorite hobby: Playing soccer

I was born and raised in La Crosse, WI. I came to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota. After graduating in 2010, I joined Teach For America and taught for two years in Memphis, TN. I returned to Minneapolis in 2012 to teach middle school english language arts. After three years of teaching middle school, I jumped at the opportunity to join the founding team at Hiawatha Collegiate High School. The best thing about my role is working with the best students in the world and helping them reach their goals.

Mr. Vallette, Heriberto Natanael Moreno

Office Manager

nmoreno@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-547-9056 | @@natinmoreno

Favorite book: The Bible
Favorite hobby: Photography

Mr. Vallette is the Office Manager at Hiawatha Collegiate High School. Born and raised in Chile, he moved to the United States in 2005 with his parents to serve the Hispanic Community in Fairmont, MN through The Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). He graduated from Minneapolis Community & Technical College (MCTC) with a degree in graphic design and is currently finishing his B.A. in advertising and business management at Metropolitan State University. As a Hispanic college graduate who knew how it felt to be invested in — by caring teachers and other mentors in his life, Mr. Vallette is passionate about closing the opportunity gap by supporting teachers at Hiawatha Academies. When he is not working on campus, he enjoys spending time with his wife Leah, daughter Magdalena and working on videography and photography projects.

Ms. Cooley, Nicole

Principal | Hiawatha Collegiate High School

ncooley@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-547-9746

Favorite book: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Favorite hobby: Yoga

Ms. Cooley is the founding Principal of Hiawatha Collegiate High School. She began her career in education teaching in St. Louis through Teach for America. She then moved to Chicago, where she worked as a teacher and administrator at Gary Comer College Prep, a campus of Noble Street Charter School, the highest performing high school charter network in the city. While there, she led both students and teachers to unprecedented successes, most notably, 100 percent graduation and enrollment in college. In 2013, she joined the Hiawatha Academies as director of teaching and learning. When asked about her work, she said, "“I feel amazingly grateful to be part of a network wherein one hundred percent of students will not only graduate from high school, but will be academically and personally be prepared to experience both the success and challenge that will exist for them in college".”

Mr. Williams-Virden, Ryan

Dean of Students | Hiawatha Collegiate High School

rwilliams-virden@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-6659

Mr. Williams-Virden is from Northeast Minneapolis and is dedicated to making his city more just and equitable. He is the founding social studies teacher at Hiawatha Collegiate Prep.

Mr. Toppin, Matt

Dean of Students | Hiawatha Collegiate High School

mtoppin@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-802-5521 | @mtop7

Favorite book: The Bible
Favorite hobby: Playing tennis and sports with my son

Mr. Toppin was born and raised in Hastings, MN, then went on to Gustavus Adolphus College (go gusties!). He began his career in education as a High School math teacher, where he taught algebra I and geometry at North Miami Beach Senior High. After moving back to Minnesota, he spent three years coaching new teachers before joining Hiawatha Academies in 2013. Before his role as dean, Mr. Toppin taught seventh grade math at Hiawatha College Prep from 2013-2016. He is eager to be back working with high school students and to see his founding class graduate in just two short years. Outside of school he enjoys spending time with his family - wife Lauren, son Luke and daughter Audrey.

Ms. DeLand, Lindsay

English Language Development Specialist

ldeland@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-281-4443

Favorite book: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Favorite hobby: Writing

I'm from St. Cloud, MN. I earned my undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa and my graduate degree in language teaching from the University of Oregon. I have experience teaching in Iowa, Oregon, Mexico, and Japan. The favorite part of my work is seeing scholars go from limited to no English to communicating fluently!

Ms. Melgarejo, Alejandra

Bilingual Social Studies Co-Teacher

amelgarejo@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-6433

Favorite book: Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Favorite hobby: Reading

I moved to the Twin Cities from Portland, OR, in August 2016 and began working at Hiawatha Academies within my first week here. My background is in politics and I had been working professionally on campaigns since 2012 as well as consulting firms. My favorite part about my role and working at Hiawatha Collegiate High School is my ability to grow professionally as a teacher and the opportunity to work with a population of scholars that I relate to on a personal level.

Mr. Kennealy, Joe

World History Teacher

jkennealy@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-600-3094

Favorite book: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Mr. Kennealy was born, raised, and educated in Minnesota. He followed the Mississippi River down to Memphis, TN, and spent three years teaching history before returning home to Minnesota. Outside of work, Mr. Kennealy and his wife spend time discussing what Dumbledore really saw in the Mirror of Erised and what the Hufflepuff common room looks like.

Mr. Laven, Jon

Math Teacher

jlaven@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-600-5411

Favorite book: East of Eden by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck
Favorite hobby: Running

Mr. Laven grew up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis and is excited to be teaching in the city that he calls home. After graduating from St. Olaf College in 2012, Jon moved to Las Vegas, NV and taught high school math as a Teach for America corps member. In 2014 he moved to Connecticut where he studied theology at Yale Divinity School. He graduated in May of 2016 and is excited to be back in Minnesota working with the Hiawatha Collegiate High School team. Mr. Laven admires the grit and zeal of his students. He loves to see them energized by learning, community, and service.

Ms. Alcazar, Beatriz

Social Worker

balcazar@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-600-1875

Favorite book: Feminism is for Everyone by Bell Hooks
Favorite hobby: Going on walks with my three sons.

I was born and raised in California where I studied sociology and multicultural studies. I moved to Minnesota to pursue a masters degree in social work at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. I have experience working in schools and various nonprofits providing advocacy, crisis intervention support, outreach, case management and mental health support.
As a first generation college graduate and daughter of Mexican immigrants, I understand the challenges that can arise when preparing for and pursuing higher education. I am excited to work in a position where I can work with our scholars as they embark on their own academic journey.

Mr. MacKenzie, Ben

Ninth Grade Speech and Composition Teacher

bmackenzie@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-695-3800 | @@MrMacK_MN

Favorite book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Favorite hobby: Inventing games with my brothers

I grew up between mountain ranges in Montana. Since then, I've called classrooms around the world home. From the Indian Himalayas to the dusty Ghanaian plains, from city skyscrapers to country pastures, I love working with young people. Having returned to Minnesota to start a family, I've been active in making great schools for local families. I always love helping young people start to find their voice, express their opinions and share their ideas with the world. I'm most excited when they take over from me.

Mr. Andrade, Tony

Enrichment Coordinator