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About the Teachers - College for Kids

Find bios for instructors teaching adult classes here »

Claire Alexander, B.A.-Education, is a Traverse City native. She currently teaches language arts at The Greenspire School.

Joedy Annis has formal training in tap, ballet, jazz, modern, and hip-hop. She danced professionally for three years and teaches Hip Hop dance at NMC.

Jarred Araujo, B.A., is a graduate of Western Michigan University as a certified teacher. As a teacher, he has high expectations and strives to develop a learning community that has a firm foundation of skills for problem solving and critical thinking. Currently, Jared is a middle school teacher at Evart Public Schools.

Bill Bailey taught math and science to high school students for 30 years. He has been a member of the Grand Traverse Sail and Power Squadron for 10 years. He is a past Commander of the Grand Traverse Bay Sail and Power Squadron and completed the Junior Navigation course which deals with finding your way at sea with a sextant..

Susan Briggs, B.A.-Fine Art, holds a K-12 Teaching Certificate in art. She became an art educator after a 25-year career in graphic design. A graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy, she has worked in a variety of educational settings including public and private schools, community college, art centers, and home school partnerships. She has experience in a variety of art media, such as ceramics, photography, printmaking, mixed media, fused glass, and mosaic art.

Bo Burke, ISA Certified Arborist, ISA Certified Tree Worker and Climber Specialist, who has taught tree climbing for many years. He has over 12 successful years in the preservation, restoration, and care of trees.

Marco Cabrera, A.A., has over 15 years of experience in website and application development, interface support, project management, and training. Marco has worked with a broad variety of platforms and languages including CSS, XHTML, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, and Agile.

Annie Callahan, B.A., is a preschool teacher at Grand Traverse Academy. ­­­­­She has been teaching College for Kids classes since 2014.

Debra Coburn, M.H. Master of Humanities, B.F.A., B.S.-art education, and K-12 certified, recently retired from teaching fine arts at the high school and middle school level. Debra now teaches art workshops for adults and children around the community. Her medium of interest as an artist is Fused Glass.

Sam Collier, B.A., M.F.A., is a playwright, poet and writing teacher. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa, Cornell College, the Young Playwrights Theater, the Iowa Young Writers Project and elsewhere. She is currently teaching with Front Street Writers at the TBAISD Career Tech-Center.

Christina Collins is a local mixed media and brick artist. Christina is a member of Michigan LEGO® Users Group, has been featured on Interlochen Public Radio, and builds at History Center of Traverse City during annual brick events. She has taught both art and LEGO® to children ages 4-17.

Brady Corcoran, A.S.-Recording Engineer, B.S.-Finance, is a lifelong musician and multi-instrumentalist. Brady is a song writer, music teacher and recording engineer, and has worked for several major LA recording studios that include Paramount and Record Plant. Currently he works as an adjunct instructor for NMC’s Audio Technology Department.

James Dake is the Education Director at Grass River Natural Area and author of Field Guide to Northwest Michigan.

Tom Dollar has nearly 30 years of experience in the manufacturing industry as a mold maker, mold designer, parametric solid modeler, and manufacturing engineer.

Val Domkiv, M.A.-Human Behavior, has been a classroom teacher for 13 years. She is co-author of several Teacher Education books.

Kate Fairman, M.S.-Education, is an adjunct instructor at Grand Valley State University and artist who has taught art and outdoor education courses since 1984.

Stacy Farrell, A.A.S., B.A.-Business Administration, has been a Junior Achievement champion since she participated in it as a high school student. Since that time she has been a volunteer in the classroom and is currently serving as District Manager.

Leanne Fessler has been flying for five years and will soon have flight instructor certification. Leanne is a student leader for our aviation students and an ambassador for a regional airline company called Republic Airline. She is from Montague, MI (a small town north of Muskegon) and has been living in Traverse City for almost three years. Leanne loves to travel (one of the many reasons she’s a pilot) and enjoys outdoor activities with her friends. 

Tina Norris Fields, M.A.-Leadership, B.S.-Business/CIS, owns Tall Pines Computer Training and teaches computer courses for NMC-EES.

Kevin Fitton, M.A.-Writing and Literature, is a graduate of the Writing Seminars at Bennington College. He is the author of the children’s book, Higher Ground, with Caldecott-winning artist Mary Azarian.  He has published in a variety of magazines and journals, including Jabberwock, The Broad River Review, and Limestone, and his short short, “Crashums,” which appears in The Broad River Review, was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award. He currently lives with his family in Lansing, MI.

Cathy Fitzgerald, B.A., owned and taught classes at her dance studio in Missouri for over 20 years. She took 2014 off to see the world, sharing photos and stories on her blog cathyfitz.com. Between travels, she loves to photograph weddings, families and dancers. She has taught in the College for Kids program since 2016.

Kim Gallagher, M.S.-Forensic Science, participated in undergraduate field research that analyzed the effects of environmental extremes on corpses and a burial excavation. She has been teaching College for Kids since 2012 and is currently a guest teacher for The Children’s House.

Michael George is the Instructional Technologist for the Regional Education Media Center at the Traverse Bay Intermediate School District.

John Gilligan, technology expert and entrepreneur, spent 10 years in the professional world before starting his own successful technology business. He is a co-owner of Quarkmine - a company based in Traverse City and dedicated to inspiring students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through events and World Championship level instruction.

Shanna Girrbach, B.A.-Business Administration, is a certified elementary teacher with a major in language arts. A mother of two energetic preschoolers, she previously taught preschool for 3½ years and was a summer camp supervisor for 3 years.

Deena Hamilton is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200), Zero Gravity, and Yoga for All Instructor.

Rachael Harrell, M.A., is the Owner/Director of Drama Kids of Northern Michigan which offers classes and camps to students throughout Northern Michigan. Rachael attended college at University of Michigan and received her Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from Roosevelt University in Chicago. Rachael is part of the Drama Kids International network, which cultivates skillful, caring teachers who are fully trained in their program and are focused on providing individualized attention and positive reinforcement to each student.

Eleonora Hayes, M.F.A., has been teaching and creating art since 2000. Her art has appeared in the Grand Rapids Art Prize competition since 2013.

Bogdan Heretoiu studied Film and Theater in Europe and Film Production in the USA. He has practiced Martial Arts for over 35 years, predominantly with studies in Okinawan Karate Goju-Ryu and Aikido. He is a member of the United States Aikido Federation and an instructor under the Romanian Aikido Federation. He has taught kids and adults of all ages for over 20 years, and he currently specializes in working with kids and young adults with special needs.

Lisa Hockin, A.A. B.F.A.-Art Education, is currently an elementary art educator with Elk Rapids Public Schools. As an artist, she uses a variety of art mediums including clay.

Jennifer Hoffman, M.A.-Early Childhood Education, is a certified elementary teacher. She has taught kindergarten and first grade at Kingsley Elementary since 2002.

Angela Ingold became a Zumba instructor in 2011, teaching regularly for 4.5 years, then part-time since 2015. She has taught an estimated 700+ Zumba Fitness classes. Angela is an avid runner, fitness enthusiast, and enjoys competing in pageants. She received her bachelor’s in accounting and has been an accounts payable specialist since 2010.

Dawn Iott, A.S., A.A., taught elementary science at The Pathfinder School, 23 years (retired 2015).  She was the TBAISD Outstanding Educator in 2012, and part of the Harvard Graduate School of Education Project Zero, 2003. Prior to Pathfinder, Dawn was a working scientist in materials and metallurgy at the Tenneco Automotive Research and Engineering Center for eight years, including fundamental research and work resulting in the acquisition of two patents. Dawn is the mother of two Interlochen Arts Academy graduates and a devoted grandmother.

LeeAnn Jacobs, B.A., grew up with horses and has worked with children and horses teaching novice through advanced levels of riding since 2000.

Rufus James, B.A-Design, M.F.A., is an adjunct instructor in NMC’s Humanities Area, and is a professional artist with a record of many national and international exhibitions and publications.

Scott Johnson, an admitted geek, has been building, tweaking, and tuning computers for more than 20 years. He has extensive experience in tutoring users for home and business and teaches computer applications for NMC-EES. He owns the Stained Glass Cabinet Company.

Nan Katzenberger, B.A., is an artist working in watercolor, acrylic and mixed media. She has taught art and painting classes to both children and adults for over 25 years in her studio at Art in the Loft. She has studied under well-known contemporary collage artists including Gerald Brommer, Jonathan Talbot and Elizabeth St. Hilaire.

Kerry Kelly has been on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes since 2006. He retired from Dow Chemical in 2004 and is involved in a wide variety of volunteer projects at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Diane Kimmel, M.A., is a recently retired certified teacher specializing in educational technology. Throughout her career she has taught English, Business, and Computer courses. Diane has been teaching computer courses for NMC-EES since 2004.

Coreene Kreiser, B.F.A., is an adjunct instructor in NMC’s Humanities Area. A professional photographer, Coreene has many publications and years of experience in the field.

Mandy LaBarre, M.A., has 11+ years with TCAPS. Her passion for reading inspires her current role as a 2nd grade teacher at Eastern Elementary.

Pamela LaGattuta, M.A.-Early Childhood Education, is a GSRP lead preschool teacher in the Crawford AuSable School District. She has taught Kindergarten-2nd Grade for 17 years. 

Phyllis Laine, PhD, spent her career as a college professor in biology and microbiology (retired), teaching at a number of universities and colleges, including Xavier University (Cincinnati), University of Cincinnati and Cornell University. In Ohio, Phyllis served in the federally-funded position of State Science Educator for the Southwest Region of Ohio, focused on improving elementary and secondary science education. In that role, she presented many workshops for primary school students and teachers utilizing discovery techniques in science units. As a recipient of a National Science Foundation curriculum and instruction grant, she helped to produce a new college biology course and textbook designed with discovery methods. Phyllis has earned three Wheeler Awards from Xavier University for improving the quality of undergraduate education. In Traverse City, Phyllis both managed the library and library reading programs at The Pathfinder School as well as served as a guest teacher.

Kathleen Merrill Leach, M.A., taught since 1972 in Lansing and Grand Rapids. She has been teaching cooking classes for teens for many years, cooked for summer camps, and cooked as a personal chef.

Philip Leete is currently the Robotics Program Director at TC West Senior High School and runs the Northwest Michigan VEX and VEX IQ Robotics League. He has a background in Mechanical Engineering, Math and Dance Choreography along with a deep fondness for all things “technology.”

Madison Lesoski, B.A.-Elementary Education is a certified K-5 educator. Madison is a returning College for Kids teacher who recently interned in Grand Rapids Public Schools, where she gained invaluable experience teaching 2nd graders. She is an enthusiastic educator, who believes in creating and implementing hands-on lessons where students can truly engage in the content and find their love for learning! 

Jennifer Loup, B.A.-history, was zookeeper at Traverse City’s Clinch Park Zoo, and has over 15 years of animal care experience. She has 10 years of experience training dogs one-on-one and in group class settings.

Shannon McCann, B.A.-Secondary Education, has taught at Grand Traverse Academy since 2010. She holds a teaching certificate with a biology endorsement.

Olivia Meyer, B.S.-Early Childhood Education, has been volunteering and working with young students since 2010. Olivia is currently a lead preschool teacher for Kingsley Children’s Center.

Sarah Montgomery-Richards, M.A.-Interfaith Action through Claremont Lincoln University in California, has abundant experience in cultural and religious studies. Sarah studied Comparative Religion at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Western Michigan University. Her experience includes: teaching at Western Michigan University in the Department of Comparative Religion during graduate school, and a current adjunct faculty role in the Philosophy Department at NMC where she teaches Western and Eastern Traditions, as well as a seminar on Global Citizenship & Religion. She is currently serving as the Director of Lifespan Experience for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse, has made multiple trips abroad, and participated in the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, UT. Sarah has a background in world religions, history of religion, psychology of religion, philosophy of religion, interfaith action, mindfulness, religion in the public sphere, and myth and ritual. She enjoys teaching in an academic setting, as well as leading group meditation and ritual, and participates in celebrations of a variety of world spiritual perspectives.

Wayne Moody, is Director of Automotive Technology at NMC. His is an ASE Master Automotive and Truck Technician who, for 34 years, owned and operated a local automotive repair facility in Traverse City.

Penny Morris, aka Head Hip Shaker, began her journey with the Art of Belly Dance in 2003, and has been teaching since 2005. She has owned and operated Crystal Bindi Studios, the leading authority on Middle Eastern Dance in the northern half of the state since 2006. Penny has taught for NMC Extended Education, Interlochen Arts Academy, Blissfest, Grand Traverse County Senior Center, and many other local organizations. Penny received training in anatomy and physiology and body mechanics as a medical massage therapist. She has worked as a fitness trainer for Curves, a group facilitator for Michael’s Place, where healing begins for grieving families, and is involved in a local non-profit that offers spiritual retreat weekends. All of Penny’s classes center around one concept: Learning to love and appreciate the body you are in and the unique person you are; learning to value yourself and the unequaled gifts only you can offer to the world. She believes dance to be the perfect method to teach these ideals.

Brad Novak has been playing drums and percussion for over 25 years. He studied at Central Michigan University and the Berklee College of Music in Boston with famed instructors Larry Finn, Dave Zerbe, and Robert Hohner. Presently Brad teaches percussion for Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools and is owns the Beat Lab in Traverse City.

Craig Olsen has been an environmental educator/naturalist for 30+ years. He graduated WMU with a major in environmental studies/geography. Prior to working at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as a park ranger, he had a 24-year career at Peace Valley Nature Center in Pennsylvania.

Jenna Parker, B.S.-Engineering, is a guest teacher for TCAPS. Jenna uses her love of science and art to create dynamic classroom STEAM experiences. She spends most of her time working with youth and teaching art classes in the area.

Allison Leigh Peters, B.A., was Journals and Outreach Coordinator at Michigan Publishing, where she founded the Michigan Library Publishing Club. Allison is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. She is founder, editor, and director of Green House Press and publisher of Orange Quarterly.

Jerrilynn Pike has over 17 years coaching and judging experience in cheerleading. She is a former Ferris State University head coach and currently head coach of Traverse City West High School competitive team as well as Waters Edge All Stars cheer program. She is certified nationally through National Cheerleading Association for first aid, CPR and cheerleading safety for tumbling and cheerleading. 

Melinda Lise Pokorzynski has been a music lover since she was small child. She began piano at the age of 6, clarinet and saxophone in grade school, and then took lessons in banjo, mandolin and flute. She graduated with a double major in music performance, and professional management from Albian College. She has been teaching kindermusik,® the leading music and movement program for children, for 20 + years in Northern Michigan.

Patti Ramoie is a graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design. She is a designer and College for Kids instructor. She has taught art workshops and classes for over 25 years and her experience spans pre-school through adults.

Annette Richter has worked in early childhood education since 1993. She has a CDA and has studied Early Childhood at NMC and Fox Valley Technical College. Annette has taught pre-school in Cedar Rapids, IA and Coloma, WI. Recently, she worked for Head Start and is currently a church Children’s Director.

Gavin Richmond, teaches 4th grade at Glen Lake Community Schools and coaches U-10 Soccer in Leelanau County.

Kaitlyn Rickman, M.Ed.-Education Technology, B.A.-Language Arts/Elementary Education, has been teaching with TCAPS since 2009. She currently teaches kindergarten at Courtade Elementary and is passionate about the power of technology for younger learners.

Rosemary Rokita, B.S., lived and traveled in Japan for three years where she taught English.

Caroline Schaefer-Hills, has a B.F.A. from The College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit and an M.A.-graphic design from the Savanna College of Art and Design (SCAD) graduate program. She has been the Visual Communications Program Coordinator at NMC since 2008. Her background is in Graphic Design and Art Direction. She was accepted into the MFA program at Royal College of Art in London for Graphic Design, and also explored film and new media with graduate work at the Maine International Film and Television Workshops in Rockport, Maine where she was first Apple Final Cut Pro Certified. Caroline is currently completing her M.F.A. from SCAD in Visual Experience Design.

Stephanie Schall-Brazee, M.M.E., B.M.E., teaches elementary music for TCAPS. She has worked with elementary, high school, and college choirs and currently directs NMC’s Lyric and Prelude Children’s Choirs.

Jenasie Schopieray, who holds a Child Development Associate Credential, is a preschool teacher at Kingsley Childrens’ Center. She is currently attending NMC, working towards a bachelors in Early Childhood Education. 

Greg Seaman has been a guitarist, singer, music instructor and songwriter for 30 years. He teaches private lessons on ukulele, guitar, bass guitar, 5-string banjo, and voice.

Alexandra Smith B.A.-Communications, B.F.A.-Graphic Design, has worked for several marketing and promotions firms including Visual Services, Inc. and Evigna, where she worked on accounts for several Fortune 500 companies such as Ford, Jaguar and Bosch. She now dedicates herself full-time to teaching, and is currently an instructor for the Digital Graphic Design and Digital Imaging classes at NMC.

Nicole Speelman, holds B.A. and M.S. degrees in Chemistry. She has been teaching chemistry at the community college level since 2010. She enjoys sharing the love of science with her students.

David Sprenkle teaches English Composition at NMC. He has extensive experience teaching chess to both kids and adults. 

Maggi Steele, B.A., M.M., is a retired teacher who taught for Midland Public Schools for 30 years. She teaches College for Kids cooking classes and is also a volunteer assistant for NMC-EES adult cooking classes.

Jackie Stremlow, M.A.-Curriculum and Teaching, B.A.-Elementary Education, ZA endorsement for Early Childhood, has spent her career in lower elementary classrooms, and is currently a kindergarten teacher at Long Lake Elementary.

Katie Tomczyk, M.A.-Special Ed/Physical Ed, holds certification in Kettlebell Training, Pilates, Spinning, and Yoga, and has been teaching HIIT at Yen Yoga and Fitness for 3 years. She loves teaching and participating in group fitness classes for the connection, fun, and challenge. She is a certified Barton Reading/Spelling system tutor and is a private tutor for students with Dyslexia. 

Michael Torre, M.F.A., has 25 years of college teaching experience, and is a professional artist who has participated in over 100 exhibitions with many publications. He is also NMC Art Department Chair.

Becky Tranchell is a graduate of the Great Lakes Culinary Institute (GLCI). Her work experience spans coast to coast - Alice Water's Cafe Fanny in Berkley, Green's Restaurant in San Francisco and personal chef work in New York. Locally, she was the Executive Chef at Om Restaurant and operated a food truck concentrating on local and sustainable cuisine. She has also studied nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, FL. She currently teaches Professional Cookery at GLCI and consults with Cuppa Jo to incorporate a modern vegetable focused theme for their menu options. 

Adam Van Houten, M.A.-Curriculum and Teaching, B.F.A.-Painting and Art Education, is a full-time visual arts instructor for TCAPS. His watercolor paintings appear in many local art galleries and have received many awards including First Place for the 2014 National Cherry Festival Commemorative Print Competition. His illustrations appear in Reggie’s Runaway Adventure. He has been teaching classes to children and adults with NMC-EES since 2012.

Todd Vipond is Director of the Dolce Ensemble of the Northwestern Michigan College Children’s Choir.

Hillary Voight, B.S., has been dancing since 1998. She has performed dance internationally and has been teaching creative movement, pre-ballet, and beginning ballet since 2013.

Rebecca Walters, B.A., K-12 certified, currently teaches American Foods, Global Foods, and Creative Living at West Middle School. She has been a part of TCAPS since 2008.

Ann Weber, M.S.-Chemical Engineering, has 10 years of public school teaching experience. She is a firm believer in "Progress not perfect."

Marie Wheaton, B.A.-Spanish and M.A.-Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages(TESOL), has taught High School Spanish at TC West and currently is home-schooling her 4 children where they now live in northern Virginia. Marie continues to tutor elementary age children within her community, as well as teach piano lessons. Marie’s overseas Spanish speaking experience includes study abroad in Spain as well as volunteer work in Honduras. She enjoys hiking and camping with her family, hosting guests in her home, and reading good books.

Janine Winkler, B.S.-Elementary Education, is a teacher at Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools. Janine holds an elementary and middle school science endorsement from Northern Michigan University and certificates from University of Michigan Pellston Biological Station's LEAD Science Education and Groundwater Education programs. 

Glenn Wolff, B.F.A., began his career as an illustrator for such clients as the New York Times. He currently concentrates on fine art and illustration having worked with numerous authors including Stephanie Mills, John Gierach and Jerry Dennis. His mixed media fine art has been collected and shown privately and in public galleries. His work with environmental organizations and local groups in the area is legendary.

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