Faculty and Staff

Travis Armknecht, B.A., M.A. - 9th Grade English
Mr. Armknecht grew up in Nebraska and received his B.A. in Journalism/PR and Theatre Arts from Concordia University there. His initial plan was to work in theater, either as a professional or in higher education, but as graduation came closer, he felt a calling to teach high school. While working in a factory and saving money to return to school for his teaching degree, he got a call from a friend in Indonesia about a drama teaching position that had opened suddenly. In 2004, he and his wife headed for Indonesia, where they both taught in a suburb of Jakarta for three years. They traveled extensively while there, and still consider it their second home.
They returned in 2007 and settled in St. Louis with their two dachshunds and the cat they’d rescued in Indonesia. Mr. Armknecht received his MA from Webster University in Teaching Communication Arts with an emphasis in Media Literacy. He is a member of the Journalism Education Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, and he and his wife are members of the Gateway Lo-Downs, a local dachshund owner’s society and enjoy participating in many events with the group.
Website: www.mrarmknecht.weebly.com
Email link: travis.armknecht@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Fred BachmanSecurity  
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.
Email link: freddie.bachman@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Stephanie (Nicki) Beier, M.A.T., B.A. – Dance
Mrs. Beier earned her MAT and BA in dance and performing arts from Lindenwood University where she taught for five years. While teaching dance educational programs in public schools for MADCO (Modern American Dance Company) and teaching dance to Autistic adults, she was inspired to share her passion with students and got her certification in Dance and PE. She received the Dance Award for Lindenwood University’s dance program and studied on scholarship at the Joffery Ballet School, the Edge Performing Arts Centre in Los Angeles, the School of Hartford Ballet and Rivernorth Chicago.  Mrs. Beier has performed for several companies locally and abroad such as the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and MADCO.
Email link: stephanie.beier@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Donna Black, B.S. – Title I Math 
Mrs. Black 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.
Email link: donna.black@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Deanna Breeden, B.S. – Math II and Pre-Algebra
Mrs. Breeden earned her BS in Education with an emphasis in Math at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri. She loves math and enjoys helping students learn new concepts! She has taught in both Texas and Missouri. Music has been a big part of her life and she grew up playing the piano, singing in choirs, participating in show choir, musicals and playing the alto saxophone in high school and university bands. Ms. Breeden and her husband, Jim, have three children, one of whom is a happy student here at GCAA!
Email link: deanna.breeden@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Megan Clayton, B.S.Ed. – Visual Art 
Mrs. Clayton graduated from Missouri State University with her BSEd in Art Education, K-12. Before arriving at Grand Center Arts Academy, she taught at Liberty Junior High and Blue Springs High School, both in the Kansas City area. In addition to teaching, she is also a practicing artist. Mrs. Clayton has traveled the country doing performance painting for various events and creating commissioned art for clients. She lives with her husband, Scott, in Town and Country, where they will soon welcome their first child.
Email link: megan.clayton@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Andrew (Drew) Cowell, B.M.E. – Vocal Music
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 Bachelor of Music Education (BME) with an emphasis in Vocal Music and is currently completing his Masters in Music Education (MME) at Kent State University. He also holds certifications to teach choral and instrumental music in both Missouri and Illinois as well as speech and drama. 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 Renaissance motets or modern vocal jazz, and believes a love for singing can be given to all learners. A pianist and vocalist, he has been featured in recitals and performances around the bi-state area.
“I am truly honored to have been a part of GCAA since it first opened its doors in the Fall of 2010. I truly believe the mission of this school and stand proudly behind the academic and arts education we are giving our students. Thank you for letting me be a part of it!”
Email link: andrew.cowell@grandcenterartsacademy.org
***Link to the GCAA Vocal Music Page***

Kathleen CummingsSpecial Education

Rashaad Davenport - School Counselor
Rashaad Davenport received his B.A. from Missouri Baptist University, where he majored in Elementary Education. He went on to teach fifth grade at a neighboring district for a couple of years. While teaching, Mr. Davenport felt a strong passion to counsel students, so he pursued his M.A. in Counseling. While obtaining his degree, Mr. Davenport became a Middle School Counselor at a local charter school, before joining the staff at GCAA. Mr. Davenport has a wife and one child, and enjoys coaching, playing and watching basketball.
Email link: rashaad.davenport@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Marilyn DicksonISS (In-School Suspension Supervisor)
Ms. Dickson taught for the St. Louis Board of Education for 28 years.  Her lifetime certification is mathematics.   She’s been listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers multiple times.  Ms. Dickson is at GCAA to help the students stay on the right track in all of their education performances.
Email link:  marilyn.dickson@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Karen Dille, B.S. - Geometry and Advanced Geometry
Mrs. 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.  She and her husband, Dave, have four grown children and live in University City.
Email link: karen.dille@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Sha-Ron Edwards – Special Education assistant
sha-ron.edwards@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Tam England, B.A., M.F.A. – Reading Specialist
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.
Email link: tam.england@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Lucie Fairbanks, M.Ed. - Pre-Algebra and Algebra I
Mrs. Fairbanks graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Computer Science. The next 20 years she spent working with computers at Maritz. Inc. in St. Louis.  Six years ago, she decided to get her M.Ed., in order to teach mathematics in grades 5-9.  She taught for two years at Jennings, and last year, worked as a part-time 8th grade math teacher at GCAA. This year, she is teaching Pre-Algebra and Algebra I to 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th graders.  Mrs. Fairbanks and her husband have two daughters, a son, two granddaughters and a grandson. She loves GCAA and teaching!
Email link:  lucie.fairbanks@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Denise Farnworth, B.S. - Math I & II
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.
Email link: denise.farnworth@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Ted Frigillana, M.Ed. - Middle School Principal
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). Mr. Frigillana started at GCAA as the 7th grade social studies teacher, and this year moves up to his new position as principal of GCAA’s middle school.
His website can be found at www.heymrfrig.com.
Email link: ted.frigillana@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Lynne Glickert, M.A.T., Ed.S. - Principal
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 expertise 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. In December, 2013, as the administration expands to accomodate the growing student body, Ms. Glickert was appointed Executive Director of GCAA.  She will head the administration and oversee the principal and vice principals, and be able to work on GCAA’s long-term “big picture.”  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 is the proud mother of three grown sons.
Email link: lynne.glickert@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Andrew Goodin thumbAndrew Goodin, B.S., M.Ed. – Makerspace Manager
Andrew Goodin manages the GCAA Makerspace, a collaborative workshop in which students use their artistic abilities to solve real-world problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  He earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Washington State University and a Masters of Education from University of Missouri-St. Louis.  Andrew is co-founder of The Disruption Department, an educational technology nonprofit that creates tangible STEAM learning opportunities for students from under-resourced neighborhoods in St. Louis.  For his work, Andrew has been recognized as one of St. Louis Business Journal’s “30 Under 30,” and was awarded the St. Louis Science Center’s Loeb Prize for Teaching Excellence.  Andrew also plays snare drum with the John Ford Highland Pipe Band.
“I’m honored to be part of the renowned GCAA faculty and am committed to helping our school stand out as one of the region’s top for STEAM education.  I’ve observed that students learn most when they create the meaning for themselves.  The GCAA Makerspace is a cutting-edge opportunity for students to create authentic products that showcase their learning.  I look forward to meeting the families of GCAA and having you to our new space!”
Email link: andrew.goodin@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Lisa Hellman

Lisa Hellmann, B.S. – 8th Grade Science
Ms. Hellmann earned her BS in Biology and Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2008.  Along with the degrees, she earned three minors in chemistry, African Diaspora Studies, and anthropology.  Her certifications include both Middle School Science (5-9) and Unified Science (9-12) with a Biology Emphasis.  In May of 2013, she will be awarded a Masters in Secondary Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction.  She has loved the arts since a young girl, frequenting the cultural institutions of St. Louis and participating in both musical and dance training.  She also loves the outdoors, often camping and hiking in our national parks with her two sons.
Her website is:  www.hellmannsciencegcaa.weebly.com
Email link: lisa.hellmann@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Mike Howe

Michael Howe, B.S., M.Ed. – 10th Grade Chemistry
Mr. Howe is very excited about the potential of GCAA as he joins our 10th grade team.  He comes to GCAA after eleven years in the Clayton school district, where he taught Honors Chemistry, Chemistry and Biology, while serving as the Science Department Chairperson. Previously, Mr. Howe taught at Parkway South High School in all levels of Chemistry, served as department chair, adult education director and as principal of the Parkway/Maryville Summer Academy.  He is looking forward to exploring ways to further the integration of arts and sciences, as well as for new opportunities to play his trumpet and brand new flugelhorn!
Michael Howe’s Chemistry Website: http://www.howechem.net/
Email link:  michael.howe@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Rebecca Irving, B.A., M.A.S.L. – 9th Grade Algebra IA, I & II
Ms. Irving has her BA in Secondary Math Education from Wilmington College in Ohio and her MA in School Leadership from Baker University in Kansas. She taught college math for four years, high school math for 15 years and most recently, junior high math for three years, where she was also an instructional coach for the math department. She served as principal of a specialized school for emotionally disturbed and behaviorally disturbed students for three years as well. Ms. Irving has been an active costume designer and assistant theater director for high school productions for several years. It has been a lifelong dream of Ms. Irving’s to teach at an arts school and where she is surrounded by creative achievers. She has two adult children who both are involved in the performing arts. Her oldest son performed at Carnegie Hall with his song and dance troupe in 2005. Ms. Irving was blessed to attend the performance, a memory that she considers a chance in a lifetime. She also has a 3rd grade son who fills her time off with exciting adventures. Recently, she was blessed with her first grandchild…a beautiful baby girl.
Email link: rebecca.irving@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Casey JaguschB.A., M.Ed., – 10th Grade and AP World History
Ms. Jagusch 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, Ms. Jagusch can be found cheering for the Golden Gophers and the Jayhawks, tap dancing, trying new recipes or planning her next travel destination.
Email link: casey.jagusch@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Cindy Kalachek thumb

Cindy Kalachek, B.A., M.Ed. – 10th Grade English
As a teacher, curriculum writer and editor, Cindy Kalachek seeks out ways to infuse the arts into her English classroom.  She earned her M.Ed. in the Arts in Education from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, and her  B.A. from Washington University, where she studied English, Secondary Education and Art History.  For seven years, Ms. Kalachek taught Upper School English at MICDS in St. Louis, instructing grades 9-12 in the writing process and analyzing world and American literature.  She is thrilled to be a part of GCAA, a school that she has followed and admired since its inception.  She looks forward to using visual and performing arts as ways to enhance understanding of the reading her classes will do.  As students’ understanding of literature grows, Ms. Kalachek also looks forward to crafting strong writers, capable of arranging their thoughts and ideas with clarity and style.  She will be teaching Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” during the 2013-14, and eager to see how a group of student artists approach Shakespeare, expects a wonderful journey ahead.
She lives in University City with her husband and two active children, ages 6 and 3 1/2, who never cease to amaze her with their discoveries and imaginations.
Email:  cindy.kalachek@grandcenterartsacademy.org
Ms. Kalachek’s Classroom website:  http://kalachek.weebly.com/

sara kenzie 3Sara Kenzie, B.S., M.A. - 7th Grade Geography & Cultures
Mrs. Kenzie earned a BS in Education with certifications in both Social Studies and Dance from Central Michigan University.  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. Mrs. Kenzie started at GCAA as a dance teacher, but is changing hats this year to explore people, places, maps, and culture with our 7th graders.  As a dancer, musician and historian, she is passionate about the integration of arts and academics and enjoys igniting this passion within the students and families at GCAA.  In her free time, she enjoys running, fly-fishing, reading, cooking, anything that has to do with music, and traveling.  She lives in South City with her husband, Jeff, and their two dogs, Phoenix & Maple.  Her website can be found at: mrskenzie.weebly.com
Email link: sara.kenzie@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Peter_Kileff thumbPeter Kileff, B.A., M.A.T – 6th Grade Communication Arts & Social Studies
Mr. Kileff earned his B.A. in English from Lake Forest College, where he was also an active member of the Garrick Players theater group, both as actor and director, and received Lake Forest College’s competitive Deerpath Theater Scholarship.  He went on to earn his M.A.T. with a concentration in Secondary Education and English from National-Louis University.  He holds certification to teach English/Language Arts, Social Studies, and Speech and Drama in both Missouri and Illinois.  After graduating and working as a substitute teacher in Chicago for a year, he and his wife served as Education Volunteers with the U.S. Peace Corps in the Kingdom of Jordan, where he was also involved in teacher training. Since returning to the US in 2011, Mr. Kileff has been working as a substitute teacher at GCAA and other area schools.  Mr. Kileff feels thrilled to foster the creative minds of the future, and privileged to collaborate with the outstanding GCAA faculty.
When he’s away from work, he enjoys playing guitar and piano, reading and writing, biking, swimming, and playing tennis, travelling, and spending time with his wife and young son.  Email:  peter.kileff@grandcenterartsacademy.org

The New CutLinda Lawson-Mixon – Technical Theatre
Mrs. Lawson-Mixon (aka “Fixin-Mixon” or “Mix-opedia”) has been teaching in the classroom for over 18 years and in various booths, backstages, and theatres for over 30. She holds Missouri teaching certification in Speech/Theatre education 7-12, General Science 7-9, and Library Media Specialist K-12. On top of her storied years as a teacher and professional theatre technician, Mrs. Lawson-Mixon has self-published her own poetry, performed on stage in local theatre and in a documentary on the St. Louis poetry scene. With a great interest in history, she has taken on the challenge of tracking the history of our new theatre. She is also a photographer who hopes, some day, to do an exhibition on St. Louis Jazz Musicians.  “Thirty years ago, when I started working in theatre, I envisioned a place where professionals and students could work together, a place where they could learn, question, challenge and create  the art that we love. I am so excited to have found that place in GCAA.”
Email link:   Linda.LawsonMixon@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Sikina LeeAdministrative Assistant
Email link: sikina.lee@grandcenterartsacademy.org

 

 

Liz LeSaulnier – Visual Art teacher
liz.lesaulnier@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Cortez Lofton, M.Ed. – Dean of Students
Mr. Lofton is a veteran of the United States Navy/United States Marine Corp. He is a certified vocational education teacher in the areas of Law Enforcement/Police Science and Fire Protection/Safety Technician. He earned a B.S. in Administration of Justice from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he also served as Student Body President.He received his M.Ed. from the United States International University (Alliance) while on active duty service, stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA.
Over the years, Mr. Lofton has worked for the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court-Juvenile Division as a deputy juvenile officer, The Missouri Division of Family Services as a child abuse/neglect investigator and as a teacher and administrator in the Jennings, Normandy and St. Louis City public school districts.
Mr. Lofton was raised in various multicultural education systems, including St. Louis, Denver, and Los Angeles.  He believes that every child has the right to a quality education in a safe environment, be it public or private. He personally holds himself responsible for protecting the safety of the children and parents with whom he works. He lives by his personal motto: “Children are innocent and need all the love and guidance they can get. Adults are responsible for giving them the guidance and love they need.”
Email link: cortez.lofton@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Damen MartinB.M.E., M.M.  - Instrumental Music, Orchestra
Mr. Martin comes to us from Lima, Ohio where he attended Ohio Northern University and earned 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 served as the graduate assistant in the choral department. Throughout Mr. Martin’s collegiate years, he has acted as principal cellist for the ONU Symphonic Orchestra and as a featured cello soloist. Mr. Martin was also 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 NY.
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 voices through their talents!”
Email link: damen.martin@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Jeremy MeltonJeremy Melton, B.S. - Instrumental Music, Band
Mr. Melton holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Education from the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and has been teaching instrumental and choral music and musical theatre at the high school and middle school level since 2008.  He is proud to have been born and raised in St. Louis, and currently lives in Webster Groves with his wife and two dogs.  He sees the opportunity to work with students and faculty and GCAA as a great one because we have a chance to go against the paradigm of American urban schools.  He believes that GCAA has far and above the most passionate group of families, dedicated to proving how successful this kind of school can be, and is excited about helping students define and pursue their passions and futures.
jeremy.melton@grandcenterartsacademy.org

***Instrumental Music Website***

Chivas-Merchant-BuckmanChivas Merchant-Buckman, B.F.A. – Dance, Ballet and Modern (Horton)
Chivas Merchant-Buckman, a native from Washington, DC graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts.  He then received his BFA in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College where he worked with choreographers such as Robert Battle, Jiri Kylian, Chris D’ Ambroise, Jose Limon, Sean Curran, and Donald Byrd.  Previous companies that Chivas has worked with are Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Elisa Monte Monte Dance, and guested with The Big Muddy Dance Company.  His musical theater credits include Petrouchka in The New York Musical Festival and recently The Wiz with The St Louis Black Repertory.  This is Chivas’ first year with GCAA.
Email link: Chivas.MerchantBuckman@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Amber Murphy thumbAmber Murphy, B.A., M.A. – 9th grade English
After spending her childhood on the south side of St. Louis, Ms. Murphy attended the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. After interning at local magazines and newspapers, she moved to Chicago to work as a copywriter, while also volunteering in local schools. In 2009, she decided it was time to leverage her passion for urban issues, education and communication arts and moved back to St. Louis to earn her Masters in Teaching from Webster University.
Ms. Murphy served as an AmeriCorps Literacy Tutor in the St. Louis Public Schools, worked as a fellow and teacher for Aim High St. Louis and taught English and American Literature last year at Jennings Senior High School. Recently, Ms. Murphy is most proud of her work with the GOOD Ideas for Cities initiative, which was hosted by the Contemporary Art Museum and Regional Arts Commission.
As a writer and urban enthusiast, she is excited to return to the city and soak in the inspiring and creative culture at GCAA, where she plans to focus strongly on story-telling, literature analysis, creative non-fiction and language expression. She was drawn to GCAA because she felt like the school was “creating unique solutions and making impressive strides” in urban education.
Email link:  amber.murphy@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Denise Pranger, B.S. – 8th Grade Communications Arts
Ms. Pranger earned her BS in Education from Southern Illinois University. After graduating, she taught for 10 years with an emphasis in language arts and then homeschooled her two children for 13 years. She is thrilled to be a part of the GCAA family, as she believes in integrating each individual student’s love of the arts into the Communication Arts curriculum. Acting has always been one of her loves. She has performed in community theatre and has been a comedic motivational public speaker in the Missouri and Illinois area for the past 11 years. Her interests are musical theatre, nature, her faith, Colorado, children, running, gardening, and most of all, her family. She lives in South County with her husband, two children, dog, cat, and her bunnies.
Email link: denise.pranger@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Alex Rearick, B.S. – Physical Education
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. Mr. Rearick believes every child has the potential to be successful, and he is excited 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.
Email link: alexander.rearick@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Connie Rich1Connie Rich, B.A., M.Ed. – Spanish I & II
Ms. Rich hails from the San Francisco Bay Area where she grew up in a large (11 kids!) multi-cultural family. She earned her B.A. in English from the University of CA, Riverside and her Masters of Education from Lesley University, MA. She comes to GCAA with 11 years of teaching experience in English, Spanish and ESL. Teaching and nurturing children is her passion. In her spare time she enjoys swing dancing, Zumba, keeping in touch with her relatives in El Salvador, painting, fly fishing in the lovely Ozark streams, and spending time with her grandson, Jude. Ms. Rich is “excited to be on board with such a creative and talented student body and staff.”
Email Link: constance.rich@grandcenterartsacademy.org

brandon rileyBrandon Riley, BATheatre Arts
Mr. Riley is a graduate of Missouri Baptist University. He holds BAs in Middle Education, Secondary Education and Speech/Theater. As an active participant in the theater community for years, he has performed and directed in productions like The Crucible, Guys & Dolls, West Side Story, The Wiz, A Song for Coretta, Aida, and several others. Mr. Riley’s passion for working with and inspiring young people has led him to work and volunteer with many coaching and tutoring companies throughout St. Louis. He would like to thank his family and GCAA students, parents and staff for sharing their passions and inspirations as a community. He is excited to collaborate and create with all of you.

Dan Rubright, B.M., M.M. - Director of Arts and Community Partnerships
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. Mr. Rubright’s son, Aidan, is the best production of all and the joy of his life.
Email link: dan.rubright@grandcenterartsacademy.org

IMG_9046 DanielleDanielle Sampson, B.A. – Dance
Mrs. Sampson earned her BA in dance with a minor in Fine Arts Entrepreneurship from Southeast Missouri State University. She also holds a variety of fitness certifications in Zumba fitness, Kangoo Power, Kangoo Jumps and more. She has performed in a variety of Dance Concerts in styles of Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop, Swing, Modern and Contemporary and also plays such as Trojan Women and A Streetcar Named Desire to name a few.  Mrs. Sampson has been teaching for over 10 year throughout the St. Louis and Cape Girardeau area. This inspired her to co-found a studio with her sister here in St. Louis called I.A.M. Dance and Fitness, LLC, which stands for “It’s All In The Mind.” She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity and has been an ongoing mentor with Junior Achievement. She has always found the time to give back to her community by being a mentor to our youth of today, and not only sharing her passion for community service but sharing her passion for the arts. Mrs. Sampson has joined the GCAA family to help mold students into well-rounded artists that are prepared for their life journey of creativity. She wants them to know, if you can dream it and are willing to work hard, you can achieve it.
Email link: danielle.sampson@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Melissa SasserMelissa Sasser, GCAA Office
Email Link: Melissa.Sasser@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Phyllis Shelby, B.S., M.Ed. - Computer Applications
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 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.
Email link: phyllis.shelby@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Shaun Sheley HeadshotShaun Sheley, B.F.A. - Theater Department
Shaun received his BFA in Performance from Niagara University’s Conservatory Training Program and his MFA in Directing and Performance Studies in 2007.
Shaun has been an actor and teaching artist for 18 years. He is a member of Actor’s Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio, as well as a member and Recommended Actor/Combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors.
Most recently (2013), Shaun performed Hamlet under the direction of Dr. Saul Elkin, a former mentee of Joe Papp, and founder of the third largest, and third oldest, free Shakespearean festival in America–Shakespeare in Delaware Park. Under the auspices and generosity of GCAA’S partner, St. Louis University, He was given the unique opportunity to return to New York City, his home for eight years, to study the techniques of the historically renowned and visionary actor trainer, Jerzy Grotowski, as presented by former students and master teachers of Grotowski’s technique and theory.
Notably, Shaun has performed locally as Rochester in Mustard Seed Theatre’s production of Jayne Eyre, The New Jewish Theatre Company’s production of Talley’s Folly, as Matt, and Kurt in Hot City Theatre’s production of The Winners.
Additionally, Shaun has worked as an actor, director, movement and fight coach with The MUNY, Stages St. Louis, St. Louis Repertory Theatre, Union Avenue Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and Mustard Seed Theatre.
Beyond all of these wonderful experiences, Shaun is most proud to be the father of four brilliant and beautiful children, all of whom fill him with love, wonder, hope and creativity.
Email link: William.Sheley@grandcenterartsacademy.org
To see Shaun’s Curriculum Vitae and pictures etc., go to shaunsheley.shaunsheley.weebly.com

Marilyn Sheperd – Development Consultant
Email link:  marilynsheperd@aol.com

Evan Smith - 9th grade Social Studies
Email link:  Evan.smith@grandcenterartsacademy.org

David Spiguzza, B.S., M.A. - Visual Art
Mr. Spiguzza has his B.S. in Education from Missouri State University and a Master’s from Webster University. Before coming to GCAA, he taught full-time in the Kirkwood School District for 31 years and part-time for two years. In addition to full time teaching in Kirkwood, he also taught pottery for 25 years through the St Louis Community College Continuing Education program. Mr. Spiguzza is a well-respected artist in the St. Louis community where he continues to pursue his own professional work with pottery and painting.
Email link: david.spiguzza@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Alex Terrance thumbAlex Terrance, B.A., M.A. – 8th Social Studies
Alex Terrance was born and raised in New York and only recently moved to the St Louis area. He join the United States Marine Corp in 2001 and served with the 8th Tank Battalion and the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion overseas in 2005.  During his time as a Marine, Mr. Terrance was able to attend school on the side, and he graduated from St. John Fisher College in 2008 with a B.A. in History, Adolescent and Special Education. He taught Social Studies in Rochester, NY, instructing students in Psychology, World History, and American History for four years.   During that time, he also returned to school for a Master’s Degree in Literacy and rejoined the military, this time in the United States Air Force Reserves. He graduated from State University of New York at Geneseo in 2012, and is currently attached to the 375th Security Forces Squadron on Scott Air Force Base.
Mr. Terrance is excited to teach at Grand Center Arts Academy, because for as long as he can remember, his family has shared an appreciation of the arts.  His father played saxophone for a volunteer orchestra, and Mr. Terrance played sax as well, from 5th to 9th grade. His parents also took him to see musicals in New York City, Toronto, and London.  To date, he’s seen Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Les Miserables, Joseph and the Technicolor Raincoat, Lion King, Legally Blonde, and Wicked.  He is looking forward to working closely with students and staff to improve their appreciation of history.
Email link: alexander.terrance@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Eric Theby, B.S. - 7th Grade Science
Mr. Theby earned his BS in Education from Southeast Missouri State University in 2006. This will be his sixth year teaching. His first four years teaching were as a 5th grade teacher and as a K-5 Science teacher. Last year was his first year with GCAA, and he loved every minute of it. He found his calling teaching Science to 7th graders, and he enjoys watching his students grow academically and socially in his class. Mr. Theby resides in Affton with his wife of five years, Krista.
Email link: eric.theby@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Patty Ulrich, M.Ed., M.A. –  High School Principal
Patty Ulrich comes to GCAA after teaching drama for almost twelve years.  She holds a Masters in Educational Leadership and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Missouri-Columbia as well as an MA in Theatre from Lindenwood University. She has taught at Lindbergh High School and Ritenour High School.  Before entering the education profession, Patty served as a Family Preservation Worker for five years.  In addition to social work and teaching, she has acted and directed professionally in St. Louis for the past 20 years, and ran Muddy Waters Theatre Company as co-artistic director with her husband for nine years.  Patty is currently pursuing her PhD in Educational leadership at Saint Louis University.
Email link: patty.ulrich@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Fred WarrenFred Warren, B.S., B.S.E. – 9th Grade Physics
Frederick Warren graduated from Drake University Magna Cum Laude, with University Honors, earning two degrees: a BS in Environmental Sciences and a BSE in Secondary Education.  He describes himself as “an enthusiastic science teacher.” He has taught Physical Systems in the high school setting and pioneered the 8th grade science here at GCAA.  He is excited to be back in the high school setting teaching Physical Science and Physics to our freshman.  Over the summer he taught ecology in the New Mexico Rocky Mountains, a college course on sub-cultures and their role in mainstream culture, as well as assisting in teaching a technology course for college students.  He teaches 9th Grade Science (and the visual art elective) in the summer with the AIM High summer program.  Some of his proudest accomplishments at GCAA include starting the School Garden next door with his 8th grade class last year, forming the rocketry club last year (which he looks forward to continuing this year), and mentoring the girls robotics club to a strong finish in the Jr. First Lego League last year.  He is looking forward to bringing Physics to all the 9th grade students this year in Physical Science or the Physics First class, continuing the Rocketry Club, and starting an Environmental Club. He is most excited to be returning to the GCAA family of faculty, students, and parents.  More than any other, GCAA is the school he has been most excited to be a part of in his long line of experiences. His classroom website can be found at www.warren-science.weebly.com. All classroom notes, assignments, and due dates can be reached from this site. As well as basic information about the clubs that he is sponsoring.
Email link: fredrick.warren@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Keith williams PortraitKeith Tyrone Williams, M.A., M.F.A. – Dance and Musical Theatre
Keith Tyrone Williams brings a very diverse experience to the faculty here at GCAA. He has performed, directed, and choreographed throughout the United States and extensively in Europe. He is artistic director of Innervision Dance Theatre, which most recently premiered the inspirational work, The Ties That Bind, to sold out audiences. Some may remember him as “Horse” in The Full Monty at Stages St. Louis for which he won the prestigious Kevin Kline Award. His choreographic work of “Sarafina”, a musical about South African apartheid, received rave reviews and garnered him another Kevin Kline Award for best choreography.  He also appeared in Damn Yankees” (Applegate) for which he won the Woodie King Jr. Award for best actor, was the recipient of the Katherine Dunham Award, and the NAACP Cultural Arts Award. Keith has appeared in many national, international, and Broadway productions, such as Legs Diamond, Once On This Island, Five Guys Named  Moe, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Starlight Express, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Weber, and is currently working on his dream production of “The Ties That Bind” , believing that it will one day be performed on the Broadway Stage.
Keith is very proud to be among the few people certified by Katherine Dunham to teach the world renowned Dunham Technique, and served as co-writer and appeared in the historic documentary on Dunham Technique with the Library of Congress and performed in the  Dunham Gala performance at Carnegie Hall..  Keith has a BS in Theatre/Dance (Southern ILL University Edwardsville, MA Theatre/Directing (Lindenwood University) and completing his MFA (Directing). He has been a member of Actors Equity Professional Union for more than 30 years, and is excited about sharing his years of professional experience to the wonderful young artists here at GCAA.  
Email link: keith.williams@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Tristi Winscott – Student Health Services
After receiving her B.A. in Business Administration from Graceland University, Tristi Winscott moved to St Louis and pursued her degree in Nursing.  She graduated with a B.S.N. from Goldfarb School of Nursing and has since worked at Progress West Hospital as well as at a clinical research facility.  She lives in St. Charles with her husband, dog, and new baby girl.  She loves music and is thrilled to be at GCAA where she can hear it all of the time.  She looks forward to helping the students stay healthy so they can pursue their educational and artistic endeavors.  Tristi also has a website where you can find important information about the school health office as well as interesting information on current health topics.

Vanessa Yanick - Middle School Guidance Counselor
Email link:  Vanessa.yanick@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Carol York, B.S., M.A. – 6th Grade Science
Mrs. York received her BS from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Food and Nutrition. After graduation, she worked for a number of years as a clinical dietitian and as assistant dietary manager in an area hospital. 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.
Email link: carol.york@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Elissa Yost, B.J., B.A. – 7th Grade Communication Arts
Ms. Yost joined GCAA last year. She holds 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 a Grade Level Team Leader, and has an extensive background in the field of journalism.
Email link: elissa.yost@grandcenterartsacademy.org