People

<strong>Travis Armknecht - <em>9th Grade English I</em></strong> I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska where I attended Trinity Lutheran Elementary School and Lincoln Lutheran High School. I went to Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska and received a B.A. in Journalism/PR and Theatre Arts. In college it was my goal to continue work in theater, either as a professional or in higher education. As graduation came closer, I came to realize that I felt a calling to teach in high school. After graduating in 2003 I got married and stayed in Seward where my wife, Erin, was working as a reporter for the local weekly paper. On a Saturday morning in January of 2004, I received a phone call from my college roommate, Kale, who was teaching in Indonesia. The school was in need of a new drama teacher. In July of that year, we moved to Indonesia to teach at Sekolah Pelita Harapan in Sentul City, a suburb 30 minutes south of Jakarta. I taught English, drama and some religion classes and Erin taught English and history. During our three year stay, we grew to love the culture and the people so much that we still consider it our second home and think often about one day returning. While we were there we had the opportunity to travel during our breaks and went to many places all over Indonesia as well as Thailand and Turkey. As we approached our third year, we began to feel the call of returning home. I was anxious to return to head back to school to work on my degree. We moved to St. Louis with Beans, the cat we rescued in Indonesia, and live with him and our two dachshunds, Maggie and Charlie, in Webster Groves. In May of 2011, I graduated from Webster University with a Master of Arts in Teaching in Communication Arts with an emphasis in Media Literacy. I am currently a member of the Journalism Education Association and the National Council of Teachers of English. <strong>Fred Bachman -<em> Security</em></strong> Mr. Bachman spent over 35 years with the St. Louis police department. After his retirement from the force, he worked as a security guard at Third Baptist Church where he first joined the GCAA team, then moved with us to our new building full-time. He and wife live in Wentzville, and have three grown children and six grandchildren. Not only does he keep traffic flowing and our building safe, "Mr. Fred" gets to know every single GCAA student and is an integral part of our GCAA family. <strong>Jacob Becker - <em>9th Grade Social Studies. \</em></strong> <strong>Nicki Beier - <em>Dance</em></strong> <strong>Donna Black</strong> Mrs. Black is new to GCAA this year and is teaching 8th grade math along with Karen Dille. She has a BS with Distinction in Environmental Health from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., a Post Baccalaureate Certification in Computer Science from Kean University in Union, N.J., and her MA in Teaching from Missouri Baptist University. <strong>Deanna Breeden, Math Support, <em>B.S.Ed., Math Support </em></strong> Mrs. Breeden earned her BS in Education with an emphasis in Math at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri. She loves math and music and grew up playing the piano, singing in choirs, participating in show choir, musicals and playing the alto saxophone in high school and university bands. She has taught in both Texas and Missouri. Married for 27 years, Deanna has three children, one of whom is a happy student here at GCAA! Family is very important to her and spending time with hers brings her joy. She also loves to read. <h1>Allison Brewer, B.A., M.A.T, <em>Support Staff</em></h1> Ms. Brewer came to GCAA from Webster University, where she received her BA in Education with an emphasis in Special Education and a minor in English Literature, as well as her MAT in Special Education: Cross Categorical K-12. She joined the school for its inaugural year, and continues to enjoy every minute of it. Ms. Brewer previously worked at Confluence Academy-Old North. She has a three-year-old daughter who loves coming to school functions to see the students. Ms. Brewer is passionate about reading, and her favorite part of teaching is watching a student have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. She is excited about seeing the students grow academically, emotionally, and socially as the GCAA community blooms. <strong>Libby Burkhardt, B.S., </strong><em>8th Grade Social Studies</em> Ms. Burkhardt is new to GCAA this year, and is enjoying watching her students learn about their world. In addition to her love for social studies, she also has been a performer nearly her whole life as a singer and dancer. <strong>Megan Clayton - <em>Visual Art</em></strong> <strong>Eric Conners, <em>B.F.A, M.Ed.,</em> <em>Theater Arts </em></strong> Mr. Conners is a certified speech and theater educator for grades 5-12 and a professional actor. He received his BFA. in Theater Arts from Webster University Conservatory of Theater Arts and a M.Ed. in Secondary Education from the University of Missouri-St.Louis. Mr. Conners has performed with numerous theater companies including The Black Repertory Theater, Historyonics Theater, The Repertory Theater of St. Louis and the Imaginary Theater Company. In addition to “live theater” Eric has worked extensively in commercials, industrial films and motion pictures. He is an active member of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artist (AFTRA), both professional performer unions. As a teacher, Mr. Conners has worked in a variety of outstanding districts, including Webster Groves, Clayton, Maplewood-Richmond Heights and Kipp Inspire Academy, in a variety of educational roles. For the past 12 years, he has been on faculty at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) as a theater instructor teaching a variety of courses, such as improvisation, audition skills, actors’ workshops, Shakespeare and acting for the camera. Eric is enthused to be part of the Grand Center Arts Academy community, where, indeed, “arts and education come alive” and is proud to work collaboratively with colleagues, students and parents to build a premier arts school of excellence. <strong>Drew Cowell, B.M.E., <em>Music </em> </strong> Mr. Cowell is an educator, musician, and performer, originally from southern Illinois. As a 2006 graduate of the University of Missouri – St. Louis, Mr. Cowell earned his BME with an emphasis in Vocal Music. He also holds certifications to teach choral and instrumental music in both Missouri and Illinois. Mr. Cowell’s choral ensembles have performed at numerous competitions and festivals throughout the Midwest, including being ranked 5th in the state by the Illinois High School Association for the 2009-2010 school year. He is passionate about choral literature; whether it be Renaissance motets or modern vocal jazz, and believes a love for singing can be given to all learners. A pianist and vocalist, Mr. Cowell has been featured in recitals and performances around the bi-state area. Since 2005, he has served as the Director of Music Ministry for Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Shiloh, Illinois. <strong>Sharon Cross, B.A. Psych., <em>School Secretary </em></strong> Ms. Cross (originally from the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado) graduated from Washington University with her BA in Psychology. Before coming on board at GCAA, she has been and continues to be an integral part of her church located in St. Louis city, having served in ministry as administrative secretary and other capacities for twenty-three years. Her appreciation for the arts gave her the opportunity to employ her interest and creativity by directing the Dance Ministry which expanded to the Creative Expression Ministry for adults, youth and children. Ms. Cross also enjoys anything related to interior decorating. She is enjoying using her previous experiences to help to promote the growth and excellence of Grand Center Arts Academy. She resides in North County with her little dog named Judah. <strong>Rashaad Davenport - <em>School Counselor</em></strong> <strong>Marilyn Dickerson -<em> ISS (In-School Suspension Supervisor)</em></strong> <strong>Karen Dille, B.S., <em>8th Grade Math</em></strong> Ms. Dille graduated from Kansas State University with a BS in Education, majoring in Math. She has taught at the high school level in Manhattan, Kansas and at St. Joseph’s Academy and Ritenour High School in St. Louis. She has been a private math tutor for many years, working with students ranging from 5th grade through college level courses. She enjoys the challenge of helping students understand and become comfortable (maybe even excited!) with math. Mrs. Dille is shares 8th grade math duties with Ms. Black this year. She and her husband, Dave, have four grown children and live in University City. <h1>Tam England, B.A., M.F.A., <em>Reading Specialist</em></h1> Ms. England is a certified Reading Specialist. Her passion for teaching reading comes from her belief that reading is the basis for success in school and in life. She received her Reading Certification from Lindenwood University in St.Louis. Ms. England is also certified in K-12 Art and received her MFA from the University of Kansas. She has taught art history at Southwestern Illinois College, and also has experience in middle school special education. Most recently, she taught in the St. Louis Public Schools, where she served as a Pilot school board member. Throughout her career, Ms. England has proved to be an innovative and creative teacher who believes that understanding her students’ individual needs is an integral component of their success. Ms. England lives in South St. Louis with her husband. She enjoys practicing yoga and learning healthy cooking. <h1>Denise Farnworth, B.S., <em>6th Grade Math</em></h1> Mrs. Farnworth graduated from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville with her BS in Elementary Education. After graduating, she worked for two years with 6th grade learning-disabled students in O’Fallon, Illinois. She then taught middle school at a parochial school for five years in Maryville, Illinois. Most recently, Mrs. Farnworth taught 5th grade for three years at a charter school in St. Louis. Her favorite level is 6th grade, and she is very excited to be teaching GCAA 6th graders. She resides in Illinois with her husband, Jason, five-year old son and infant twin boys. Family is very important to Mrs. Farnworth; they support her teaching and hear about her students’ accomplishments often. <strong>Ted Frigillana, M.Ed., <em>7th Grade Social Studies </em></strong> Mr. Fridge, as he is fondly known by his students, earned his M.Ed. at Maryville University. He was named “Most Outstanding Senior” of New Mexico State University. Mr. Frigillana has been featured in US News and World Report, run for local government, and after meeting Dan Quayle, had him autograph a potato(e). For class information, go to <a href="http://heymrfrig.com/">www.heymrfrig.com</a>. <tt> </tt>His email address is <strong>Lynne Glickert, M.A.T., Ed.S., <em>Principal </em></strong> In July, 2009, Lynne Glickert was hired and charged by the Confluence Academy Board of Directors to open a charter arts school by August, 2010. With her background as a music teacher and school principal, her expertize in Arts Integration, and her connections to the art community, she was the ideal person to make that dream a reality. Ms. Glickert has worked as a music teacher in the Clayton School District and John Burroughs School, and as an administrator in the Parkway, Lindbergh and University City School Districts. She is also an anti-racism facilitator with Educational Equity Consultants, and has worked in a variety of schools and organizations throughout the St. Louis area. She and her husband, Michael, have three grown sons and live in University City. <strong>Bella Hafezi, M.Ed., <em>Counselor </em></strong> Ms. Hafezi was born and raised in Albania and moved to the United States (St. Louis) in 2000. She graduated from Saint Louis University with her B.A. in Psychology in 2005. In 2008, Ms. Hafezi completed a Masters of Education in Counseling at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is a certified K-12 School Counselor. After graduating, she worked as a long-term substitute 9th grade counselor in the Lindbergh School District, and then as an adjunct Counseling faculty member for St. Louis Community College’s Forest Park Campus. For Ms. Hafezi, being able to assist our students in maintaining a healthy psychological and emotional lifestyle in order make the most of their educational experiences is truly a privilege. <strong>Margaret Beaver Hassenstab - <em>Dance</em></strong> Margaret Beaver Hassenstab holds a BFA in Dance from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Margaret danced professionally in New York City for 11 years, including 6 years in Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular and 3 years at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. In addition to being a principal dancer with the Santa Fe Opera, Margaret has performed in musicals at professional theaters throughout the United States, including West Side Story at The MUNY, Evita at Tennessee Rep, and Beauty and the Beast at Ogunquit Playhouse. Internationally, she toured with Grease in Germany, danced on the Royal Viking Sun World Cruise, and was a featured singer and dancer at Ocean Dome Resort in Japan. Margaret has taught at performing arts centers, studios and arts intensives in Rhode Island, Montana, Connecticut and Oberlin, Ohio. Locally Margaret taught at COCA and Dance Elite. <strong>Lisa Hellman - <em>8th Grade Science</em></strong> <strong>Laura Hoffman, B.S.E., M.S.E., M.Div.P.C., <em>Middle School Team Leader </em></strong> Ms. Hoffman came to GCAA with a wide range of experiences, from curriculum development during her days as a Newspaper in Education Coordinator, to her teaching days in El Paso, Texas, to her years spent doing individual and family counseling (including a stint as the Treatment Supervisor at an adolescent treatment center), to her experiences as a children’s and youth minister and her time as a hospice chaplain and bereavement coordinator. Ms. Hoffman’s life has been spent educating, whether formally in a classroom or in a therapeutic setting. She believes that students, no matter their ages, are always capable of learning – it is the job of the teacher to awaken the student to the joy of learning. Ms. Hoffman has a deep love of the social sciences and particularly enjoys engaging her students in practical life application. Ms. Hoffman and her husband, Warren, moved to St. Louis in 2005. They have two furry, four-legged kids, Tupper and Molly. Keeping in line with her love of history, she enjoys collecting antiques and the many stories they tell. <strong>Rebecca Irving - <em>9th Grade Algebra I and Algebra II. </em></strong> <strong>Izetta Johnson - <em>Librarian</em></strong> <strong>Sarah Kenzie - <em>Dance</em></strong> Ms. Kenzie earned a BS in Education with certifications in both Dance and Social Studies from Central Michigan University, where she danced and choreographed with the University’s dance company for three years. She taught both subjects for grades 7-12 at a fine arts charter school in Michigan for five years while also earning her MA in Humanities. After moving to St. Louis with her husband last year, Sara taught high school Social Studies at Confluence Preparatory Academy. As a dancer, musician, and historian, Sara is passionate about the integration of arts and academics and is excited to ignite this passion within the students and families at GCAA. <strong>Emily Kohring, M. F. A., B.F.A.<em>, Theater Arts</em></strong> Ms. Kohring joined the GCAA family through a residency our first year working with our teachers and Peer Leaders. She has been Metro Theater Company’s Education Director/Artistic Associate since 2002. She has her MFA in Theater for Youth from Arizona State University and a BFA in Theater Arts from University of Idaho. She joins the GCAA theater department this year as a full-time teacher. <strong>Sikina Lee - <em>Administrative Assistant</em></strong> <h1>Jessy Linn, B.S., <em>Special Education</em></h1> Ms. Linn, in addition to her teaching career at GCAA, is a member of the Air Force Reserves. She spent part of last spring in training, and has returned to teach this fall. She also recently spent a month teaching English in China. Reading is one of her passions, and she hopes to encourage more students to make reading a part of their everyday lives. <strong>Cortez Lofton - <em>Dean of Students</em></strong> <strong>Damen Martin, M.M., B.M.E., <em>Music</em></strong> Mr. Martin comes to us from Lima, Ohio where he attended Ohio Northern University earning a Bachelor of Music Education with a focus in choral and instrumental music. Mr. Martin currently holds a Master of Music degree from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville where he was the graduate assistant in the choral department. Throughout Mr. Martin’s collegiate years he has acted as principal cellist for the Ohio Northern University Symphonic Orchestra and as a featured cello soloist. Mr. Martin also was principal cellist of a select Chamber Orchestra which toured with the University Singers. Mr. Martin also has participated in the Ohio Northern Wind Ensemble where he played the Bb clarinet and has played bass guitar for numerous pit orchestras. While attending ONU Mr. Martin was also given the position of Assistant Conductor to the Ohio Northern Men’s Chorus and The University Singers. During this time Mr. Martin has performed and conducted in venues such as the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, CA, Severance Hall in Cleveland, OH and Carnegie Hall in New York. Mr. Martin is also an active performer throughout St. Louis. He currently is a principal singer for the Saint Louis Bach Society (where he is a featured vocal soloist on the recently produced CD, “Great and Marvelous” Hymns, Anthems and Spirituals), Ladue Presbyterian Church and volunteer singer with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus. In January 2009 he became a part of the faculty at Lindenwood University as adjunct professor in vocal and cello studies and currently plays in the University Faculty ensemble, Con Brio Trio. “Music has given me an outlet my entire life. It expresses things inside me that I otherwise would not be able to express. I am excited to be able to assist students in finding their own voice through their talents!” <strong>Gayle Mason, R.N., B.S.N., <em>Nurse </em></strong> Ms. Mason came to Grand Center Arts Academy after working in Parish Nursing for several years. As the Parish Nurse in a St. Louis City church, she was able to apply her love for community nursing to the surrounding neighborhood, including working with school nurses in two public schools to enhance their health education programs. By bringing the church, the neighborhood and the schools together, the parish established a community garden, which became an educational health tool for the children and provided fresh vegetables for the neighborhood and the local food pantry. She takes a holistic approach to nursing, seeing a healthy body, mind and spirit as essential for total personal health. <strong>Connie Mueller - <em>8th Grade Pre-Algebra</em></strong> Ms Mueller graduated from UMSL with a degree in Computer Science, and worked at Tripos, inc. as a software administrator. More recently, she received teacher certification through Webster University, as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching with a specialty in middle school mathematics. She taught enrichment mathematics at Immacolata School for 8 years, and tutored for many years. She loves to help kids be more comfortable with math so that there is less fear and more fun! Her goal is for her students to become problem-solvers and lifelong learners. In her spare time, she also loves to paint watercolors, garden, and teach flatfoot clogging. She lives in University City with her husband, Kim Portnoy, and their teenaged son Alex. <strong>Laura Nunez Clithero - <em>9th Grade World Language (Spanish)</em></strong> I was born and raised in Mexico City. I graduated from Simon Bolivar College in Mexico with my BA in Elementary Education. I also obtained a B.A. in Sociology from the Metropolitan Autonomous University. I worked in Mexico as an elementary teacher in 2nd, ,3rd, 4th and 5th grades for a total of 10 years. I moved to St. Louis 14 years ago and I was a substitute teacher for Parkway and Kirkwood School districts teaching Spanish in elementary, middle and high school. I am a certified to teach Spanish K-12 and earned my MAT from Lindenwood. I also give Spanish tutoring to all levels. I have 2 lovely children and 2 sweet dogs who mean the world to me. I have learned a lot from my students and their needs. It is my desire to have great communication with my students and to be able to make a difference. I am very happy to be part of GCAA. <strong>Denise Pranger - <em>8th Grade Communications Arts</em></strong> <strong>Alex Rearick, B.S., <em>Physical Education</em></strong> Mr. Rearick earned his BS in Physical Education and Health for K-12 from Southwest Baptist University in 2010. He lived overseas when he was younger, graduating from Ukarumpa International High School in Papua New Guinea. He began his GCAA career as a substitute teacher and saw the potential our students hold and is to be a full-time faculty member. Mr. Rearick believes every child has the potential to be successful, and he wants to help our students reach high by getting to know them as individuals. He has many interests outside of the classroom, including coaching and playing soccer, camping, hiking, running, and working at a local YMCA. <strong>Casey Rivarola, M.Ed., B.A., <em>6th Grade Social Studies</em></strong> Mrs. Rivarola earned her BA in Political Science with a concentration in Global Politics from the University of Minnesota. She then received her M.Ed. in Social Studies Education from Rockhurst University across the state in Kansas City. Before coming to GCAA, she worked for the city government of Mission Kansas. She also did substitute teaching and worked as a Program Instructor for Close Up in Washington, D.C. In her free time, Mrs. Rivarola can be found cheering for the Golden Gophers and the Jayhawks, tap dancing, trying new recipes or planning her next travel destination. <strong>Dan Rubright, B.M., M.M., <em>Director of Arts and Community Partnerships </em></strong> Mr. Rubright is a guitarist, composer, educator, bandleader and artistic/managing director. For the last twenty years, he has been a member of the jazz faculty at Webster University in St. Louis, where he’s taught numerous classes as well as undergraduate and graduate jazz guitar students. He is an in-demand guitarist and has performed with several of his own jazz, rock and “eclectic” ensembles. He has performed frequently with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Fox and Muny Orchestras, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, among others. In 2001 he co-founded and managed Crossings Concerts with Melissa Brooks, Assistant Principal Cello with the SLSO. Crossings was a non-profit music presenting and producing organization that created innovative concerts blending classical, jazz, folk, world and experimental music. Crossings collaborated with some of the region’s top artists, including standout members of the SLSO, top jazz artists, and nationally known instrumentalists. He has written music scores for an assortment of films airing in diverse venues regionally and nationally. Mr. Rubright wrote the music score for the Emmy-Award winning PBS documentary, “Oh Freedom After While” which was broadcast nationally and featured Julian Bond as narrator. He is a published songwriter and his works can be found on iTunes. Dan’s son, Aidan, is the best production of all and the joy of his life. <h1>Phyllis Shelby, B.S., M.Ed., <em>Ass’t. Dean, I.S.S.</em></h1> After receiving her BS in Education with a minor in Mathematics from Harris Stowe Teacher’s College, Ms. Shelby pursued her M.A. in Teaching at Webster University, where she focused on Education Emphasis in Computer Resources. She joined the GCAA staff after 10 years of experience teaching math and computer science to grades 6-12 in various St. Louis metro area schools. She has also worked in adult education for many years, teaching literacy and computer skills at St. Louis Community Colleges. <strong>David Spiguzza - <em>Visual Art</em></strong> <strong>Eric Theby, B.S., <em>7th Grade Science </em></strong> Mr. Theby is new to GCAA this year, but not new to education. His Bachelor of Science degree is in Elementary Education with a Concentration in Science. He has been teaching since 2007 and is very excited to be part of the GCAA faculty. <strong>Carol York, B.S., M.A., <em>6th Grade Science </em></strong> Ms. York received her BS from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Food and Nutrition. After graduation, she worked for a number of years in an area hospital as a clinical dietitian and as assistant dietary manager. During this time, she earned her MA in Management from Webster University. Soon after her marriage, she and her husband joined the US Peace Corps, which took them to Botswana, Southern Africa, where she worked as a dietitian for the Department of Health. Later, Mrs. York stayed home when her children were young, but kept busy teaching preschool, working with Parents as Teachers, coaching middle school girls’ soccer and leading Girl Scouts and Ventures. She received her teaching certificate in science with an emphasis on middle school education. Mrs. York has many interests, not the least of which is her family. She also enjoys exploring nature, hiking, reading, and being involved in her community. <strong>Elissa Yost, B.J., B.A., <em>7th Grade Communication Arts</em></strong> Elissa is new to GCAA this year. She has a Bachelor of Journalism degree and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, both from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has taught 6th and 7th grade communication arts, served as Grade Level Team Leader, and has an extensive background in the field of journalism. <strong>Liz Zeiser, B.S.Ed., <em>6th Grade Communication Arts </em></strong> Ms. Zeiser earned a BS in Education with an emphasis in Middle School Language Arts from the University of Missouri – St. Louis in 2009. While completing her undergraduate education, she taught in a variety of classrooms and in the St. Louis, Ritenour and Parkway districts and spent two years as a substitute teacher in the Fox School District. She believes in her students’ potential, and strives to get to know each one as an individual with specific needs. Currently, she dedicates her time to tutoring students in reading and writing. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, and traveling with her husband, and they now have a six month old baby boy.