Faculty and Staff

Faculty - Staff Roster

Armknecht_TravisTravis Armknecht - High School English, Speech and Journalism

Mr. Armknecht grew up in Nebraska and received his B.A. in Journalism/PR and Theatre Arts from Concordia University. 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 dachshund and the cat they’d rescued in Indonesia. They have a son, Sam, who was born in 2014. 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, the Missouri Journalism Education Association and the treasurer of journalismSTL, a St. Louis-based journalism teacher organization. Email link: travis.armknecht@grandcenterartsacademy.org





GN6A1678 ClemonsFred Bachman - Security   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) BeierStephanie (Nicki) Beier, Dance Ms. 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 Joffrey Ballet School, the Edge Performing Arts Centre in Los Angeles, the School of Hartford Ballet and Rivernorth Chicago.  Ms. 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







Black_DonnaDonna Black, Title I Math  Ms. Black has a BS with Distinction in Environmental Health from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and a Post Baccalaureate Certification in Computer Science from Kean University in Union, N.J. In spring 2011 she received middles school math certification. Ms. Black completed a graduate degree, Master’s of Arts in Teaching the summer of 2016. She was born and raised in New Jersey. Her path as an educator has not been direct. Before having children, she worked as a computer programmer/analyst. Their family has lived in South Carolina and Michigan and in Missouri for almost twenty years. For the past five years, she has taught at Grand Center Arts Academy. During this time, she has taught eighth grade math (pre-algebra) and Title 1 Math for sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade and Algebra I. She is the proud parent of 3 20 “somethings”. Her two older children have graduated from college. Her youngest son, a senior, attends Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Ms. Black loves to read, ride her bike, exercise and visit with family and friends. Ms. Black has high expectations for all her students and works hard to provide support needed to reach their potential. Email link: donna.black@grandcenterartsacademy.org




NEW SarahBorn-Visual ArtSarah Born - Visual Art Sarah Born is a St. Louis native who earned her B.F. A. in painting at Fontbonne University. While living in Colorado, she completed her teacher education at Colorado State University in Pueblo. She taught K-5 art at Monterey Elementary School in Colorado Springs before returning to St. Louis and happily finding her way to GCAA. In her spare time, Sarah loves to create pet and house portraits, and to explore abstract forms of self-expression. Sarah believes that the arts unlock imaginations, expand minds, and teach students to problem solve in new ways. Whether students choose to become artists, scientists, or mathematicians, the influence of the arts remains. .Email link: sarah.born@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Breeden_DeannaDeanna BreedenMath 1, 6th Grade Math Ms. 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 graduate of GCAA!    Email link: deanna.breeden@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Brockman_JessicaJessica Brookman - ELL Teacher Email link: jessica.brookman@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Raynard Brown - Vocal Music Email link:  raynard.brown@grandcenterartsacademy.org







MeganClayton- Visual ArtMegan Clayton, Visual Art  Ms. 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. Ms. 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. Email link: megan.clayton@grandcenterartsacademy.org









NEWMelissa Collins - Communications Arts Ms. Collins is a proud graduate of Jennings High School where she played the clarinet and sang soprano in their concert choir and women’s ensemble. After graduating from Jennings, she spent a little time at Howard University. It was there while participating in various mentoring programs where she discovered her love for teaching. This brought her back home to the University of Missouri-St Louis where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English and then received her teaching certification for high school English. Ms. Collins is excited to share her love of language, the arts and humanities with all of GCAA. Email link: melissa.collins@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Susan Crivello - Learning Specialist (SPED Teacher) Sue Crivello is born and raised here in St. Louis.  She received her BA in Special Education from Webster University in May, 2013.  Sue is currently working on her masters at Lindenwood University.  She enjoys reading and spending time with her family.  Growing up she was a dancer, and traveled overseas to Spain, Denmark and Russia to dance.  Naturally, her daughters also dance.  Her and her husband, Jim, has four children.  One son and three daughters.  Her oldest daughter graduated from GCAA last year and her other two daughters are currently attending GCAA.  Sue is very excited to working at GCAA. Email:  susan.crivello@confluenceacademy.org





. KathleenCummingsKathleen Cummings - Special Education Email link:







Kathleen.Cummings@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Dinwiddie_Ben Ben Dinwiddie - U.S. History, AP Benjamin Dinwiddie is a St. Louis native that has recently rejoined the Show-Me community after a brief stint in the Sandwich Islands where he taught Hawaiian history for two years. Previously, he was a world history teacher for four years at McCluer North High School in Florissant, where he grew up. Mr. Dinwiddie holds two bachelor degrees, and attended law school in Colorado before coming back to education to pursue his true passion. He is a father of two strapping and precocious young sons and spends his spare time playing music, reading, and traveling. Besides his unending motivation to history education and working with young people in the community, Mr. Dinwiddie founded an organization that provides humanitarian travel experiences for at-risk youth. He is very excited to be a part of the GCAA family and hopes that his work here will have a lasting impact on the lives and future success of our students. Email link: ben.dinwiddie@grandcenterartsacademy.org







 - PASS (Positive Alternative to School Suspension) Email link: 







. AliciaDunnAlicia Dunn: HS Physics Ms. Dunn obtained her BS in Physics at Missouri State University, as well as an MS in Geology at St. Louis University.  Raised in Nixa, Missouri, she worked 3 1/2 years in industry, and as a substitute teacher in the St. Louis city schools, as well as volunteering with the YMCA in Math and Literacy. She loves to cook, hike and spend time with her family, friends and two cats. She is married and has one son, who attends elementary school. Email link: alicia.dunn@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Kenneth Griffin - Social Studies Email link:  Kenneth.Griffin@grandcenterartsacademy.org







DanielGrimesDaniel Grimes - 8th Grade Math Mr. Grimes was Born and raised In Harrisburg, Illinois. He served in US Marine Corps from 85-91 as a plane captain/jet engine mechanic on F-4 Phantoms, A-4 Skyhawks, and AV-8B Harriers. For his education, he earned my Associates in Applied Science-Southeastern Illinois College 1993 and his BS Math Education SIU-Carbondale 1997. He taught in several schools from Tennessee and Southern Illinois. He hasone daughter—13 years old. His interests include fishing, hiking, rafting, St. Louis Cardinal baseball, Dallas Cowboy football, and whatever his daughter is involved in. He is happy to be a part of the GCAA staff and looking forward to working with the staff and the outstanding students. Email link: daniel.grimes@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Hagan_Dave Dave Hagan - Guitar/Band A St Louis native, Mr. Hagan is the resident guitarist here at GCAA. His educational background consists of an Associate of Science Degree in Recording Arts from Full Sail University, as well as a Bachelor of Music Education from Webster University. In addition, he is currently pursuing his Master of Music Education at the University of Missouri St Louis. While completing his BMEd, Mr. Hagan performed with the Webster University Classical Guitar Ensemble and several Webster University Jazz Ensembles. His previous teaching experiences include running the guitar and music technology programs at Ritenour High School, and many years of private studio instruction. His primary goal at GCAA is to establish one of the most successful guitar ensemble programs in the state. Email link: dave.hagan@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Dr. Kim Harding - Assessment Coordinator. kim-harding Dr. Harding earned her PhD at St. Louis University and has served in Francis Howell and Parkway as an assistant principal, in Columbia public schools as a principal and then Director of Personnel, and as the Assistant Superintendent and then the Interim Superintendent of the City of St. Charles School District before retiring in 2008. Since then, she has served as a Human Resources Consultant in the Clayton School District for three years and with the University of Missouri Kansas City as the Missouri Intergraded Model Implementation Specialist (where she facilitated teacher leaders in various school districts for the State of Missouri focusing on the implementation of Professional Learning Communities and Response to Intervention strategies.) She is currently a part time rater through the Educational Testing Services for the Missouri School Leadership Assessment (where she scores Missouri principal certification candidates). She will be with us part time (about 20 hours per week) to coordinate our assessments and to provide support for our teacher teams within a PLC development process. . .Email link: kim.harding@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Emily Hill - Social Studies







Stephanie Hogan - Special Ed/OT email link: stephanie.hogan@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Howe_MikeMichael Howe, B.S., M.Ed. - 10th Grade Chemistry Mr. Howe is very excited to be at GCAA and is proud to be a part of the STEAM team. He came to GCAA after eleven years in the Clayton school district, where he taught Honors Chemistry, Chemistry and Biology, and spent 10 years as the Science Department Chairperson. Previously, Mr. Howe taught Chemistry, Honors Chemistry and AP Chemistry at Parkway South High School where he also served as Science Department Chair, Adult Education Director, and as principal of the Parkway/Maryville Summer Academy. He is looking forward to exploring ways to further STEAM connections, as well as new opportunities to play his trumpet and flugelhorn! Michael Howe's Chemistry Website: http://www.howechem.net/ Email link:  michael.howe@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Rene Hughes - Site Operations Manager Rene grew up in the St. Louis area, earning her B.A. in Business Management from Webster University.  After graduation, she moved to Colorado Springs, CO, to support military families relocating to Fort Carson during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The experience was so impactful she returned to school and earned a M.A. in Counseling.  In 2006, Rene returned to St. Louis and began working for Confluence Academy – Old North.  She’s worked for Confluence Charter Schools in several capacities over years, most recently joining GCAA in December of 2014.  Rene has always loved music and is thrilled to be a part of the exquisite GCAA team. Email link:  rene.hughes@grandcenterartsacademy.org







Ms. Rebecca L. Irving, Lower Academy Principal 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.  "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, be kind always” Email link: rebecca.irving@grandcenterartsacademy.org







JohnKleinJohn Klein - Director of Operations .Email link: JKlein@confluenceacademy.org















TimKloeppel-BandTim Kloeppel - Band Tim Kloeppel is thrilled to be teaching at GCAA. He has performed in such groups as The Gateway Men's Chorus, The St. Louis Wind Symphony, and Band Together. He has served as Artistic Director of the Growing American Youth Chorus and is currently the director of the Hope Choir at the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis. In his free time, he enjoys composing new music, reading library books, hiking, yoga, jogging, swimming, and cooking. Email link: tim.kloeppel@grandcenterartsacademy.org









GN6A4812 Sakina Lee Sikina Lee - Administrative Assistant Email link: sikina.lee@grandcenterartsacademy.org   .















LizLeSaulnier- Visual ArtLiz LeSaulnier - Visual Art teacher Liz LeSaulnier received her BA in Studio Art from Saint Louis University, and her MA in Education from Lindenwood University. She has been an educator for over a decade teaching Art, Theatre, and Religion in Illinois and Missouri. She lives in Illinois with her husband and two young sons where she stays active in the Arts by volunteering, running summer Theatre camps, and selling her work as an artist. liz.lesaulnier@grandcenterartsacademy.org









Karen Lynch - Nurse Email link:Karen.Lynch@grandcenterartsacademy.org 









MichaelMancusoMichael Mancuso - HS Math Mr. Mancuso is from St. Louis. He attended Southeast Missouri State University, majoring in secondary education in mathematics. Prior to joining GCAA last February, he worked at Construction Career Center for about a year, teaching Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.  Michael has played the drums since he was 14 years of age. Email link:  michael.mancuso@grandcenterartsacademy.org









SarahMathewsSarah Mathews - Theater  Sarah Mathews (Varley) has been a director, designer and teaching artist for over ten years. Sarah has been teaching in some capacity for about nine years. This is her first year teaching at  GCAA.  She has a BA in Theatre from Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, IN, and received her Master's in Education from Lindenwood University. Sarah studied scenic design at the University of Virginia and has studied Suzuki and Anne Bogart, as well as the Strasberg and Hagan methods, she also studied voice at the HAPS studio in Kansas City.  After a brief pilgrimage to Los Angeles to design, study and teach, Sarah returned to her hometown in St. Louis where she met her wonderful husband John, and was blessed with the opportunity to work here at GCAA.  Sarah lives with her husband John, her kid, Jack, and her dog, Steve Rogers (or Cap.)  Sarah is a lifelong learner and believes that acting and learning are a process of experience and discovery. She believes that a good story, speaks truth. Email link: Sarah.Varley@grandcenterartsacademy.org











TraceyMense-PsychologyTracy Mense:  HS Social Studies Ms. Mense obtained her BA in Secondary Education at St. Louis University. She was raised in the St. Louis area (North County). After graduating from college, she taught English and Social Studies at Construction Careers Center.  She also taught English and Social Studies at Bishop DuBourg High School and she taught English at Gateway Science Academy. She has four kids, one dog, one cat, one fish and one rabbit. Email link: tracy.mense@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Ms. Toni Mobley - Special Services Learning Specialist and Process Coordinator. Ms. Mobley earned her MAT at Webster University in Special Education and Reading Specialist coursework at Harris Stowe State University. She has served as a Title 1 Reading Specialist, Special Education Teacher, and Process Coordinator with Confluence Academies, and most recently as a Homebound Instructor with Special School District. Email link: Toni.Mobley@grandcenterartsacademy.org











MarissaMoore- DeanofStudentsMarissa Moore: Dean of Students Ms. Moore obtained a BSED in Spanish Education from Southeast Missouri State University. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Educational Leadership at Saint Louis University. Raised in St. Louis, she has spent 4 years teaching in the St. Louis Metro area and previously taught English in Barcelona, Spain for a year. Ms. Moore is a strong believer in PBIS and what it can do for the climate at GCAA. This year she plans to be busy being PBIS' biggest cheerleader. During her free time, Ms. Moore avidly roots for the Detroit Red Wings, plays video games, practices what is called "floating," and travels; she has been to 11 countries in the past 10 years. When you see Ms. Moore around, give her a high five--she'll be excited to see you! .Email link: marissa.moore@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Caitlin Munguia- Visual ArtCaitlin Munguia:  Visual Art Mrs. Munguia has a Bachelors in Graphic Design from Robert Morris University and a Masters degree in Art Education from Webster Univsersity. She is highly experienced in the graphic design and photography industry, doing freelance work in both fields in her free time. When not at school you can find her traveling, spending time with family & friends, or meditating at local coffee shops.  She lives in University City with her husband, (soon to be) two children, and puppy, Dory. She is looking forward to another great year at GCAA where she continues to thrive in her career while being inspired daily by her students, colleagues, and environment. .Email link: caitlin.munguia@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Murphy_AmberAmber Murphy - 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 at Jennings Senior High School. This will be her fourth year at Grand Center Arts Academy, where she places a strong focus on multi-cultural literature and the writing process. Email link:  amber.murphy@grandcenterartsacademy.org











MattNaesMatt Naes - 11th Math/Chair Mr. Naes is the head of the Math Department at GCAA. He has a Bachelors in Secondary Math Education for Southeastern University and a Masters in Mathematics from the University of West Florida. He is certified to teach middle school, high school, and under-graduate college level courses. He taught high school for 6 years, and taught college courses for 3 years at St. Louis Community College and Lindenwood University. He is excited to be working at this amazing school. Website for Matt Naes:  http://naesgcaa.weebly.com Email link:  matt.naes@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Sarah Nester - Social Studies . .Email link: sarah.nester@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Newton_ArnezArnez Newton, M.S.-SS & ELA - 6th grade Social Studies and 6th grade Communication Arts Mr. Newton obtained his BA in history/political science at University of Pennsylvania.  He obtained his Ed Certification at Dominican University. His hometown is Chicago, Illinois.  His past professional experience includes: Teach for America (2004), teaching for six years in Chicago public schools, taught one year in the Memphis city schools, three years at SLPS, and 10 years at Chicago, Memphis, St. Louis. In addition to teaching, he is interested in filmmaking and motivational speaking. Email link:  arnez.newton@grandcenterartsacademy.org .











ChristineNobbeChristine Nobbe, Instructional Coach Ms. Nobbe obtained her E.D.-S in Curriculum Instruction at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her hometown is Columbia, Missouri. At present, she lives in Maplewood, "so I'm a Kewpie and my two grown kids are MRH Blue Devils."  She has 35 years teaching experience, from K - University (Webster).  She explained that she "Loves exploring the Universe, walking or cuddling #Oscardog, my Shihtzu." Email link: christine.nobbe@grandcenterartsacademy.org











GingerO'DellGinger O’Donnell: HS ELA. Ms. O'Donnell, who grew up in St. Louis, obtained her BA in performance studies at Northwestern University and her MAT in career arts at Webster University.  Prior to coming to GCAA, Ginger taught Dance and Theater History at the Chicago High School for the Arts and Humanities and at UNO Rogus Park High School. In addition to teaching, she teaches Zumba and is also a freelance writer, focusing on food, education and the arts. Email link: Ginger.ODonnell@grandcenterartsacademy.org











MichelleOyola- Language ArtsMichelle Oyola, Ed.D. - Communications Arts Dr. Oyola is a mother, educator, and lifetime nerd. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Dr. Oyola worked at her hometown newspaper in Washington, MO, as the web and youth editor. During her time advising the youth staff, Dr. Oyola realized her true calling was to teaching. She applied and was accepted to Teach For America St. Louis as a member of the 2008 corps. Her nine years in St. Louis City education have been spent in middle school and high school language arts classrooms as well as in mid-level administration. She has served as the adviser of various clubs, including journalism, poetry, drama, creative writing, anime, and Dungeons & Dragons. Recently, Dr. Oyola published her dissertation titled “Content Planning and Delivery in a Flipped Classroom: A Qualitative Examination.” She, her husband, and two boys reside in Affton, and she enjoys reading, writing, outdoor activities, anime, video games, and other dorky pastimes. Email link: michelle.oyola@grandcenterartsacademy.org











ThomasProctor-DanceThomas Proctor - Dance Instructor Mr. Proctor is in his 3rd season as a professional dancer with Ashleyliane Dance Company. Thomas began his dance journey at Southeast Missouri State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. During that time, Thomas was given the opportunity to work with fantastic guest artists and intensives such as Pilobolus, Jose Limon, and Ashley Tate, to name a few. After graduating, he moved to St. Louis and has been dancing and teaching there ever since. In addition to dance, he also has training in Judo and fencing, specifically with the Scottish broadsword. Mr. Proctor is also the body conditioning instructor for Ashleyliane Dance Company. .Email link: thomas.proctor@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Pranger_Denise Denise Pranger, 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 home-schooled 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











Rearick_Alexander Alex Rearick, 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 .











Elisabeth Reeder - Math . .Email link: elisabeth.reeder@grandcenterartsacademy.org











BrandonRiley-TheaterBrandon Riley - Theatre 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 everyone at GCAA.. Email link: brandon.riley@grandcenterartsacademy.org .











Sampson_DanielleDanielle Sampson - Dance Ms. 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 Sasser Melissa Sasser, GCAA Data Owner Melissa Sasser moved to St. Louis from Chicago and graduated from Kirkwood High School. She married Paul Alan Sasser and they moved frequently, throughout the U.S., with the U.S. Air Force. She received a Bachelor Degree in Computer Science and Business Administration from Troy State University in Alabama. She has twin daughters that are grown and has seven grandchildren. She has been with GCAA since July of 2013 after running the office for her husband’s healthcare rehabilitation company for 12 years. She builds and rehabs houses, loves to cook, garden and sing. Melissa and her husband have a small farm in Southern Missouri, where they plan to retire one day. Email Link: Melissa.Sasser@grandcenterartsacademy.org











EmilySchiltzEmily Schiltz - Special Ed/Speech Emily Schiltz is a Speech-Language Pathologist who loves working at GCAA.  She has worked for the Confluence district since 2009, serving the Confluence community by providing private and group therapy, screenings and evaluations, consultation services, professional educational opportunities, and support and education for staff members. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from Truman State University, and her Master’s Degree from Saint Louis University. She is a certified member of the “American Speech-Language-Hearing Association”, and she is licensed in the State of Missouri. Ms. Schiltz lives in St. Louis with her husband and two children. As a family, they enjoy reading books together and hiking – especially in the Rocky Mountains. Most summers, you will find them traveling out West to spend a week camping and hiking. She and her family greatly enjoy living in the city, and they can often be found out and about at the amazing places St. Louis has to offer. They also greatly enjoy the Arts in St. Louis. Her husband has a degree in voice, and worked for Opera Theater of St. Louis for several years. They both sing in a local choir, and toured Scotland in June of 2014 with their choir. She is inspired by the talent and dedication of the GCAA students! Email Link: emily.schiltz@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Shelby_PhyllisPhyllis Shelby, Technology Assisted Credit Recovery and Study Hall 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











ShaunSheleyShaun Sheley -Theater Department Shaun Sheley 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 .











. EvanSmithEvan Smith - Social Studies Chair: Voices from the Margins, 20th Century United States History through the Arts, World History 10 A native of the Show-Me State, Mr. Evan Smith began his teaching career in the South Bronx as a member of the New York City Teaching Fellows Program. With an undergraduate degree in Government from Cornell University, Mr. Smith earned his graduate degree from Mercy College in Urban Education while teaching full time. Mr. Smith is certified in both Social Studies and Special Education. Mr. Smith is a father, partner, student of politics and culture, chess player, soccer fanatic, and experienced traveler of Latin America. He is inspired and humbled to be working with this group of talented young artists. “…it is essential to educate the educator himself.” Email link:  Evan.smith@grandcenterartsacademy.org











RustySmithRusty Smith:  HS Counselor Mr. Smith obtained his BSE in Speech, Theater and English, 7-12 from Truman State University and his Masters in Secondary School Counseling at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Although a native of Mexico, Missouri, Smith currently resides in Washington, Missouri, where in his spare time he enjoys actively participating in the lives of his wife, three children and two dogs.  Smith has spent many years in education, most of which were spent at the high school level. He is a past recipient of Eureka High School’s Teacher of the Year, the St. Louis Suburban’s High School Counselor of the Year and the MSCA’s Missouri High School Counselor of the Year.  He believes that everybody has the potential to be SOMEBODY and enjoys helping them discover and develop that person. Russell.smith@grandcenterartsacademy.org Ext 6203 Email link:  Russell.smith@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Smith_WesWes Smith - Vocal Music Wesley G. Smith holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Music Education from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, where he studied choral conducting with Cameron LaBarr. He has served in a variety of conducting and teaching roles, directing singers of all ages. Past experiences include director of Asbury Children's Choir at Broad Street United Methodist Church; interim assistant director at Oakville High School; Teaching Intern with the Savannah Children's Choir; guest conductor at Manchester United Methodist Church; student conductor of Choral Union at Lee University; conductor of a student-led, collegiate chamber chorus; participant in the Conducting Institute at Westminster Choir College with James Jordan in June 2012, and bass section leader of the Lee University Chorale. As a baritone, he has performed with the Tennessee Chamber Chorus, the Manchester United Methodist Church and the Broad Street United Methodist Church chancel choirs, various ensembles at Lee University, the 2012 Tennessee All-Collegiate Choir, and Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also a participant in the Lee University Festival Chorus which performed for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. He has studied voice with James Frost and James Burns, and collaborative piano with Perry Mears. Publications include articles in The Chorister, published by Choristers Guild, as well as choral reviews published in the Choral Journal and The Chorister. Email link:  wes.smith@grandcenterartsacademy.org











AnnaSobatka-EnglishAnna Sobotka:  HS ELA Anna Sobotka is a proud St. Louis native. A graduate of University City High School and Washington University (BA English, MA Teaching), she has spent most of her life enjoying everything this city has to offer. This is her second year at GCAA; previously she taught in the Jennings School district. She is the proud sponsor of GCAA's Poetic Soulz spoken word poetry team and is looking forward to building on the successes of last season. When Anna isn’t teaching and reading, she can probably be found exploring local restaurants, playing Dominion, or watching documentaries. She looks forward to another year packed with powerful reading, writing, and discussion. You can contact her at anna.sobotka@grandcenterartsacademy.org. .Email link: anna.sobotka@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Spiguzza_DaveDavid Spiguzza - 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











ElizabethSteckmanElizabeth Steckman:  HS Geometry . Ms. Steckman earned a BA in Mathematics and a BA in Music (with a minor in Secondary Education) at Carthage College. She was born and raised in Rothschild, Wisconsin. Prior to coming to GCAA, she spent one year as the Head Math Teacher at Bukiriro secondary school in Bukiriro, Ngara, Tanzania (Africa!)  She also spent two years at St. Anthony High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she taught Algebra I and II. She has been playing the French horn for more than 15 years. Email link: elizabeth.steckman@grandcenterartsacademy.org Classroom Website: www.steckmangcaa.weebly.com.











Tate_AshleyAshley Tate - Dance Department Chairperson Ashley L. Tate is the founder, artistic director, and head choreographer of Ashleyliane Dance Company (ADC), a full service dance organization based in the Greater St. Louis area. Ashley has studied dance for over 28 years. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Science from Texas Christian University, where she served two consecutive years as captain during her four-year stint as a member of the TCU Showgirls Dance Team. She has been an instructor for National Dance Alliance, a cast member in a Sony Dreamworks motion picture, and a bodily-kinesthetic intelligence presenter for St. Louis Area Resources for Community and Human Services (ARCHS). Ms. Tate has choreographed for NCAA basketball and football halftime shows, studio recitals, theatre productions, professional dance organizations, and national and regional dance competitions. She teaches master classes and workshops in contemporary jazz, hip hop, street jazz, lyrical jazz, and specialty classes in turns, leaps, and cardio hip hop. She was a member of the Saint Louis Rams Football Cheerleaders, serving as a captain for two years. She also served as the head cheer and dance coach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She also taught hip hop at the Downtown Dance Center, home of the The Big Muddy Dance Company. Ms. Tate is now a member of the Regional Arts Commission Citizen Review Panel, a board member for Missouri Dance Organization, and an adjudicator for Cathy Roe Ultimate Dance Competitions. Ms. Tate is the chair of the dance department at Grand Center Arts Academy and an adjunct instructor of dance at Washington University in St. Louis.  She was invited to a private audition for Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour and is a recipient of Grand Center’s Emerging Artist Visionary Award. She has served as a judge for the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation’s Teen Talent Showcase. She is also a winner of the Pulse On Tour Dance Convention Protégé Scholarship, a Monsters of Hip Hop Scholarship (and a former Monsters Show Nominee), and is signed as a dancer and dance educator with Clear Talent Group in Los Angeles, California. Her work was chosen to be featured in choreographer showcases at the Peridance Capezio Center and TADA! Theater in New York City. Email link: ashley.tate@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Loretta Waheed - SPED Email link:  loretta.waheed@grandcenterartsacademy.org











Williams_KeithKeith Tyrone Williams - 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











CourtneyYoungCourtney Young - 10th Math This year I have the opportunity to teach Algebra at GCAA. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Truman State University and a Master of Teaching degree from Lindenwood University in the area of Secondary Mathematics. Prior to working here at GCAA, I was a math teacher at Soldan International Studies High School for two and a half years. I’ve spent time working in the math department at Rockwood Summit High School, as an accountant for The Boeing Company and as an event planner for Youth Encounter. I was honored to receive the award of Outstanding Beginning Teacher in 2013 by MACTE, and I look forward to an outstanding year at GCAA! Website: http://younggcaa.weebly.com/ Email link: courtney.young@grandcenterartsacademy.org











AllisonZeissetAllison Zeisset - 7th and 8th Grade Science Mrs. Zeisset graduated from Illinois State University, where she received a BS in Environmental Health Science. She holds a General Science (grades 5th – 12th) certificate. Prior to joining GCAA, Mrs. Zeisset taught 8th grade Science at Central Middle School and taught Biology part time and full time at Belleville West High School. She currently resides in Swansea, IL with her husband and two sons. “We love spending time in the outdoors, kayaking, camping, rappelling and hiking.” Email link: allison.zeisset@grandcenterartsacademy.org

Photography by Caitlin Munguia, Erich Vieth, Jess Dewes and GCAA Graduate JuJu Vieth