Meet Our Team
Arlette Acosta believes education is the key to greater opportunities and greater societal change. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. Acosta taught English in Madrid, Spain, Spanish II and III at the Noble Network Charter Schools in Chicago, and French I at St. Louis Public Schools. She is an alumna of Teach for America - St. Louis and received her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Ms. Acosta was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its rigorous academics that provide a strong pathway to and through college.
Emma Allen, Learning Support Specialist
Kelsey Barnes, 6th Grade Science Teacher
Kelsey Barnes believes that every single student is capable of reaching their dreams. Prior to working at the Kauffman School, Ms. Barnes was a student at Truman State University where she was on the debate team. She received a Bachelor of Arts in in Public Communication with a minor in justice systems. Ms. Barnes is a 2018 Teach For America alumni and received Middle School Science license through University of Missouri-St. Louis. Ms. Barnes was drawn to Kauffman because of the preparation and support for new teachers and the preparation and support for students to make a better world.
Sebastian Barraza-Shackelford, 5th Grade Fitness Teacher
Matt Beltrami, 9th Grade Pre-AP World History TeacherMatt Beltrami believes that every child in America deserves the opportunity to pursue and achieve their dreams, and that can only happen when every child receives an excellent education. He is driven by his sense of patriotism and his belief that true citizenship requires active participation in making society more fair and just. By teaching, he hopes to uphold his own responsibility as a citizen and inspire and empower his students to consider their responsibilities as citizens. Prior to joining the Kauffman School team, Mr. Beltrami worked in the political sector for nearly ten years, and has lived in Illinois, Iowa, Washington DC, New Hampshire, and New York. Mr. Beltrami received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Sociology from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is an alumni with Teach For America - Kansas City.
Chloie Benton, 6th Grade Guided Reading Teacher
Robyn Blakemore believes every student deserves an excellent education. She is committed to holding her students to high expectations so they will be ready to excel in college and their future careers. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mrs. Blakemore taught seventh- and eighth-grade math in the Kansas City Public Schools district at Central Academy of Excellence (formally Central High School). Mrs. Blakemore is an alumna of Teach For America - Kansas City. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Child and Family Studies from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She went on to receive her Master of Education in Secondary Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Mrs. Blakemore was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its unique and positive school culture. She is excited to celebrate students’ successes this coming school year.
Gerry Bolden believes in facilitating an environment where everyone has the opportunity to gain new and valuable information, and in doing so, have fun with the content they're learning. He has a gregarious spirit, and enjoys getting to know the students on an academic and personal level in an effort to better their chances of success. Prior to teaching at Kauffman School, Mr. Bolden recently graduated from Kansas State University, where he received his Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in English. Mr. Bolden was drawn to Kauffman School because of its unique and positive school culture. He is beyond excited to mold the young minds of the future, and even learn a few things along the way.
Halley Brooks believes that every student should feel empowered to love themselves and speak their minds. She is committed to helping students achieve success both inside and outside of school. Ms. Brooks received her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia with a minor in Psychology and a certificate in Multicultural Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Katie Chaffin, 5th Grade Math Teacher
Katie Chaffin believes that every student deserves an excellent education taught by passionate educators. She knows that each student can achieve great things when they are held to high expectations and given the support needed. Ms. Chaffin is a Teacher Resident as part of the Kansas City Teacher Residency program and is working to earn her Master of Education in Urban Education. She most recently graduated Drury University with a Bachelors of Arts in Advertising and Public Relations. Ms. Chaffin was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its commitment to and sweat the small stuff. This year, she is excited to foster relationships with students and celebrate their growth!
Katelyn Chapin believes that EVERY child has an inherent right to an excellent education and is inspired by Kauffman's mission to "create college graduates". She is committed to creating a classroom that is encouraging, loving, and safe while maintaining the high academic expectations that she knows every student is capable of achieving. Ms. Chapin started teaching through AmeriCorps in the Literacy Lab of Kansas City where she had the absolute privilege to work at Ervin Early Learning Center closing the literacy gap for Pre-K students. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri – Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in English and believes in the power of literature to cultivate critical thinking skills and open the door for meaningful conversation. Ms. Chapin could not be more excited to be a part of the Kauffman School team and to positively impact our Kansas City community!
Sarah Cooper, 5th Grade Guided Reading Teacher
Evan Copaken, 11th Grade AP Seminar Teacher
Evan Copaken believes that access to a quality education should be a standard in Kansas City and the nation at large. He hopes to help students think critically about meaningful literary topics and build a strong writing foundation that will be useful long after graduating college. Before teaching at the Kauffman School, Mr. Copaken worked in sports marketing for the Los Angeles Chargers. Additionally, he did some photography work for the team. Mr. Copaken graduated cum laude from Wake Forest University with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and minor in English. The Kauffman School’s strong work culture and student engagement appealed to Mr. Copaken. He is particularly looking forward to some of the in-class debates this year.
Michaela Creer, 5th Grade Textual Analysis Teacher
Michaela Creer is passionate about working with students who see education as a pathway to their future goals and dreams. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Liberty University and is currently completing her Master of Arts in Education. Ms. Creer was excited to teach at the Kauffman School because of the unity of the staff and students around the same goals.
Alissa Cuellar, Learning Support Specialist
Alissa Cuellar believes all students should feel believed in and empowered with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to achieve their future goals. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. Cuellar worked as a City Year AmeriCorps Member at Northeast High School. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and received her Master of Education in Secondary Education from Grand Canyon University. Ms. Cuellar was drawn to the Kauffman School because of the strong belief that the teachers have in their students to succeed and excel in school. She is excited to see the growth that all her students make this year!
Emma DesMarteau, 10th Grade Pre-AP Language and Composition Teacher
Emma DesMarteau believes in equal education for all people. She is committed to doing whatever it takes to create college graduates. She is dedicated to hold her students to high standards to ensure they are able to reach their goals. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. DesMarteau taught emotional intelligence at the University of Kansas Marillac Campus. Ms. DesMarteau earned her bachelor’s degree from Washburn University where she studied Sociology. Ms. DesMarteau was drawn to the Kauffman School because of their vision and culture. She is so excited to have fun learning alongside her students this year!
Emma Doksansky, 9th Grade Algebra I Teacher
Emma Doksansky is committed to helping every student achieve academic excellence. She believes a quality education cultivates the self-efficacy students need as they pursue their dreams. Ms. Doksansky is a member of Teach for America - Kansas City. She received her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Georgia Institute of Technology, and she is pursuing her Master of Education at University of Missouri - St. Louis. Ms. Doksansky was drawn to the Kauffman School because of the relentless support staff members provide for its teachers, students, and families and because of the confidence staff members instill in Kauffman School students.
Beth Edmonds, 5th Grade Guided Reading Teacher
Beth Edmonds believes that everyone learns every minute of every day. She is committed to ensuring that students use the learning opportunities they have to grow each and every day. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. Edmonds taught at Eisenhower Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools district for four years. Ms. Edmonds has earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Education from Emporia State University as well as a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Kansas. Ms. Edmonds is joining the Kauffman School because of its culture and expectations. She is excited to meet her new students and to see growth this year.
Cassidy Elwell, Kansas City Teacher Resident
Every student deserves a great education and Cassidy Elwell wants to be able to help and support that goal and ensure students are ready for their next step in life. Ms. Elwell graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in Educational Studies. She was accepted into the Kansas City Teacher Residency program and believes this program will prepare her for holding students to high expectations and effectively teaching her students. She is enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City attaining her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She is so excited to be placed at the Kauffman School for her residency and learn from the programs and teaching styles the school has in place to support students!
Tim Ellis, 10th Grade Pre-AP Chemistry Teacher
Tim Ellis is a firm believer that all students deserve access to an excellent education regardless of their zip code. He is passionate about making lasting and meaningful connections with his students and strives to help them become the best versions of themselves every day. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mr. Ellis taught middle school science at Hogan Preparatory Academy, and was the math and science teacher at St. Regis Academy. As well as teaching at St. Regis Academy, Mr. Ellis also served as the STEM & Project Lead the Way coordinator. Mr. Ellis started his teaching career with Teach for America - Kansas City and is a proud alumnus. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. He went on to receive his Master of Education in Secondary Science Education from the University of Missouri - St. Louis. Mr. Ellis was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its mission to help students meet their full potential and make college a possibility for all.
Melinda Frank, 6th Grade Textual Analysis Teacher
Ellen Frierson, 11th Grade AP Language and Composition Teacher and Department Chair
Debra Fox, Learning Support Specialist
Mrs. Fox believes that every child has the opportunity to change his or her narrative through perseverance and resilience. She is passionate about her students being successful, productive citizens in their community. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mrs. Fox worked in settings for children with significant emotional behavioral needs, and students with autism. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Art and Design from William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. She has completed her Master of Education in Special Education at University of Missouri-Kansas City and also holds certification in Early Childhood Education.
Megan Gertzen, 9th Grade Honors Biology Teacher
Angie Gipson, 12th Grade AP Biology Teacher
Abby Green, 10th Grade Pre-AP Language and Composition Teacher
Emiliano Gross, 10th Grade Spanish Teacher
Emiliano Gross truly believes that every child and every person has a talent that makes him/her unique and exceptional. Mr. Gross’ goal is to help students find their talents and guide them through the path they choose to fulfill their goals in life. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mr. Gross taught Spanish I in Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools district at F.L. Schlagle High School. He also was the head coach for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams. He received his Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from Central Christian College of Kansas in McPherson, KS. The education program at CCCK also allowed him to obtain the Spanish and ESOL endorsements right after graduation. Mr. Gross is eager to help develop a strong and rigorous Spanish program to prepare students for their future college challenges.
Michelle Hay, Learning Support Specialist
Robert Henderson III, 8th Grade Fitness Teacher
Robert Lee Henderson III believes every student deserves a champion and role model. He is committed to making sure all students are college ready. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mr. Henderson work as a firefighter engineer in multiple cities in Colorado. Mr. Henderson is an alumna of City Year-South Carolina. He received his Bachelor of Arts in History and American Studies with a minor in Asian Studies from Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois. Mr. Henderson is looking forward to working at Kauffman School because he believe they have created a living dynasty of family culture and putting students first.
Carley Henke, 11th Grade AP Chemistry Teacher
Carley Henke believe that every student deserves an excellent education and to find that excitement for learning. She is committed to holding her students to high expectations to make sure they are ready to be successful in college. Ms. Henke is an alumna of Michigan State University and is currently a corps member with Teacher for America - Kansas City. She received her Bachelor of Science in Statistics and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. She is continuing her education at University of Missouri-St. Louis where she is working on a Master of Education in Secondary Education. Ms. Henke is excited to bring joy to chemistry and inspire some future scientists.
Isha Isme, 7th Grade Textual Analysis Teacher
Isha Isme believes that every student deserves a safe learning environment to learn and excel, with a teacher who will challenge them to be their very best. Before joining the Kauffman School team, Ms. Isme was a substitute teacher in the Kansas City Public Schools district. She spent one year, on a long-term assignment, teaching French 1 at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy and the following year working in various other schools. Ms. Isme received a Bachelor of Arts in French with an emphasis in Education. She is currently part of the Kansas City Teacher Residency, where she completed a Master of Education in Urban Education. She was drawn to the Kauffman School because of the structure in the classrooms, student engagement, and the teacher culture at the school. This year, she is very excited to work with students, and watch them meet all their goals.
Jordan Jackson, 8th Grade Math Teacher
Jordan Jackson is feeling ignited to join the Kauffman School staff and work to ensure each student in Kansas City receives an excellent education. She is most excited about celebrating all the hard work that the students and staff do here at the Kauffman School. Ms. Jackson made her way to Kansas City as a 2017 Teach For America corps member. Originally from rural North Carolina, Ms. Jackson graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and minors in Journalism and Social and Economic Justice. Ms. Jackson feels honored to be a part of the bold mission at the Kauffman School and is hopeful to help graduate some future Tar Heels.
Brenna Jenisch, 5th Grade Science Teacher
Brenna Jenisch believes that a quality education is a right not a privilege. Prior to joining the Kauffman School team, Ms. Jenisch did City Year in Orlando, FL working with 9th grade Algebra students. She attended Truman State University in Kirksville, MO and received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and Psychology. As a corps member with Teach For America - Kansas City, she will be pursuing her Master of Education in Elementary Education. Ms. Jenisch is excited to work at the Kauffman School and was drawn here because Kauffman truly believes each student will be successful and is dedicated to serving students and their families. She is looking forward to supporting student growth and celebrating their successes.
Tait Jensen, 11th Grade AP US History and 11th Grade AP Language and Composition Teacher
Tait Jensen believes wholeheartedly that a good education has the potential to change a child’s life and even alter a generational trajectory. Prior to joining the Kauffman School, Mr. Jensen taught American Government, Economics, and English for two years in Memphis, TN, as a member of the Teach For America - Memphis program. In his second year of teaching, he designed and implemented a guided reading program that targeted students’ literacy gaps. Mr. Jensen is an alumni of Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, where he graduated with a degree in Business Administration and English literature. During his time in college, he volunteered with Junior Achievement delivering weekly lessons on economics and personal finance to 8th graders. It was this experience that eventually affirmed that he did, indeed, want to become a teacher. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree through Johns Hopkins University, where he focuses on secondary social studies education. Mr. Jensen is also a Green Fellow with Teach For America - Kansas City, allowing him the chance to work closely with other KC-based teachers to brainstorm the future of education in this city. Besides his work with students, Mr. Jensen deeply loves art museums, the National Park System, and good books.
London Koehn, 6th Grade Math Teacher
London Koehn is committed to helping every student achieve academic excellence. She is driven to support her students go wherever they want to go. Ms. Koehn received her Bachelor of Arts in Law, Politics, and Society from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Ms. Koehn is excited to grow with the students and celebrate wins each and every day.
Linda Kovac, 5th Grade Textual Analysis Teacher
Linda Kovac believes every student is capable of great things and deserves every opportunity, especially education. She is committed to holding her students to high expectations so they will be ready to leave Kauffman and be a citizen of the world. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. Kovac taught preschool in Chicago, Illinois and at University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ms. Kovac is an alumna of AmeriCorps in Chicago, Illinois. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies from Saint Louis University. She went on to receive her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Kalilah Lasenby, 10th Grade Honors Geometry Teacher
Kalilah Lasenby believes that quality education should not be based on whether or not you can afford it. No child should have to pay to have a quality teacher who truly cares about them and their success. Instead, it should be an expectation that all students receive excellent educators. Ms. Lasenby came to Kauffman School after graduating from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida where she completed both her Bachelor of Arts and her Master of Education in Exceptional Student Education. What brought her to the Kauffman School was the passion to break generational stereotypes that are projected on students; she saw a staff that expected success and great things of all students.
Mr. Liddell received his Bachelor of Art in German from the University of Notre Dame, and his Master of Education in Secondary Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. After graduating, he taught English in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar, then returned to the United States to teach sixth through eighth-grade math at Genesis Promise Academy in Kansas City, MO. He is a Teach For America alumnus. Mr. Liddell was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its rigorous academic mission. He's looking forward to getting to know a new group of students this year.
Sienna Liston, 8th Grade Guided Reading Teacher
Sienna Liston believes that every student deserves an equal opportunity to receive the best education. She believes that every student has the potential to do amazing things and she holds all students to high standards so they are reaching their potential. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mrs. Liston taught 7th and 8th grade Spanish in the Shawnee Mission School District. Mrs. Liston is an alumna of the University of Kansas where she received a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Language Education: Spanish. Mrs. Liston was drawn to the Kauffman School because of the focus on excellence and the focus for higher education. She is so excited to see all the success of her students throughout this school year.
Louis Lowe, Building Substitute Teacher
Louis Lowe believes every student deserves to be prepared for college. He is committed to holding his students to high expectations so they will be ready to excel when they first step onto a college campus. Prior to joining the Kauffman School team, Mr. Lowe was a college athlete attending Avila University where he received a master’s degree in Business Management. He was drawn to Kauffman School because of its unique and positive school culture. He is excited for another strong year at the Kauffman School and to grow with his students this year.
Amber Merola, 6th Grade Guided Reading Teacher
Madelynne Moore believes each student deserves a positive and challenging learning environment that allows them to succeed to their fullest potential. Ms. Moore is an alumna from the University of Texas at Austin, TX and received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Human Development and Family Sciences. Ms. Moore was drawn to the Kauffman School by the amazing staff, unique school culture, and the similar beliefs and core values of the school. She is excited to teach her first classroom and to create positive learning environments for the students' success.
Edward Morse, 7th Grade Fitness Teacher
Edward Morse – Coach Mo – believes that students deserve to have a school environment that sets them up to be able to focus on learning. A graduate of the University of Central Missouri, Coach Mo began his teaching career in Higginsville, MO. He made his way to Kansas City area and taught at both Ruskin High School and DeLaSalle Charter High School before joining the Kauffman School team. He felt like he could fit with Kauffman School team because of his belief that strong school structures allow students to feel predictability in their school day.
Trevor Obermueller, Learning Support Specialist
Trevor Obermueller is committed to educational equity. He previously taught in a fourth grade classroom and began his journey in education with the Teach For America - Kansas City program. During his time in Teach For America, he attended University of Missouri - St. Louis where he earned his Master of Education. Previous to teaching he attended the University of Nebraska - Lincoln where he studied Psychology and minored in sociology and women's studies. In this university, he was active in on-campus social movements, such as Black Lives Matter and Husker Dialogues. He was drawn to the Kauffman School because of their commitment to educational equity, college access, and sustaining a positive environment.
Michaela Patterson, Learning Support Specialist
Micaela Patterson believes every student has the ability to positively shape the world. She is committed to helping every student follow their passion and find their place. Prior to working at the Kauffman School, Ms. Patterson received her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry from Missouri State University. She went on to receive her Master of Social Work at the University of Missouri – Columbia where she had the opportunity to assist in the creation and implementation of a transition preparation program for high school students with developmental disabilities within Columbia Public Schools through her time as a practicum student at The Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Ms. Patterson was drawn to the Kauffman School because of the positive and supportive school culture as well as the school’s mission of creating college graduates. She is excited to join the Kauffman team and get to know her students and families!
Allissa Patton, 8th Grade Textual Analysis Teacher
Allissa Patton believes that all students have the ability to succeed and that they deserve an education that will help them foster their success. She is committed to working with students to develop their own critical voice that can carry them beyond the Kauffman School. Ms. Patton currently is training with Teach for America - Kansas City. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (with a concentration in Social and Cognitive Psychology) from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. Ms. Patton was drawn to the Kauffman School because of the drive that both the teachers and students possess. She is excited to work with her new students this year!
Martina Pezzino, 6th Grade Music Teacher
Martina Pezzino believes music is a powerful tool for self-expression and communication that all students deserve access to. She is committed to using music to help students develop meaningful skills of self-confidence and self-expression. Prior to teaching at Kauffman School, Ms. Pezzino taught elementary music in Galesburg, IL. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Knox College in Galesburg. She has a particular love for choir and vocal music, but is excited to bring music of all kinds to the students at Kauffman School.
Megan Porche, 7th Grade Math Teaching Fellow
Megan Porche believes that every student is capable of reaching their goals and aspirations, in and out of the classroom. She is committed to creating a classroom where students can become confident in their math skills and be successful in their future math courses. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. Porche was a student at Baker University and was a part of the softball team. She received her Bachelor of Science in Middle Level Math Education. Ms. Porche was drawn to the Kauffman School because of the high expectations the schools sets for their students, the commitment it has to ensuring college access for all students, and the unique school culture and supports for both students and staff. She is excited to complete her first year at both Kauffman School and teaching in general!
Micah Robinson believes that every student deserves an equal opportunity and access to a quality education. Mr. Robinson feels honored to be working to provide an excellent education for children who grew up in the same community that he did. From Kansas City and a graduate of Lincoln College Prep, Mr. Robinson graduated from Emporia State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies and an emphasis in Biochemistry, Education, and Psychology. Mr. Robinson served as a Resident teacher with the Kansas City Teacher Residency. Mr. Robinson was drawn to Kauffman School because he saw a team working toward the common goal of creating college graduates in our community. Mr. Robinson is excited to see the growth that students will show this year!
Macey Rose believes all students can achieve at high levels if you give them love and support. Mrs. Rose graduated from the University of Arkansas with her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and spent two years teaching in Tulsa Public Schools through the Teach For America program. Mrs. Rose joined the Kauffman School team because she believes the Kauffman School is a school in Kansas City that is truly fulfilling its promise to students and families of “creating college graduates”. She is excited to see the growth her students can make in just one year at Kauffman School and cannot wait to see her students’ results at the end of this year!
Adriana Ruiz is committed to empowering the leaders of tomorrow to succeed in any way they see fit and to use their voices to advocate for themselves; she hopes to foster an environment of growth and learning for herself and her students. Ms. Ruiz is a member of Teach For America - Kansas City. She graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Sociology. This year, she is committed to actively addressing students daily needs as well as their long term needs and intentionally working towards a more equitable classroom. She is excited to navigate the world of virtual learning and building relationships with students and families!
Taylor Sidles, Specials Teacher
Ashleigh Slover, 5th Grade Textual Analysis Teacher
Ashleigh Slover believes that every student deserves an excellent education in order to make their wildest dreams a reality. She is committed to holding all students to high expectations and pushing them to achieve at high levels. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mrs. Slover taught Kindergarten and Third Grade in the Independence Schools district. Mrs. Slover is an alumna of the University of Central Missouri. She received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She went on to earn her Master of Arts in Literacy Education from the University of Central Missouri. Mrs. Slover was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its high expectations of students and staff. She is excited to develop relationships with students and families alike and celebrate the success of our school community.
Bailey Smith, 8th Grade Textual Analysis Teacher
Bailey Smith believes that a quality, rigorous education should be the right of all students regardless of their socioeconomic background. She is energized by pushing her students’ education to places they never imagined. Before teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. Smith taught preschool in the Kansas City. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts with a minor in Psychology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ms. Smith was drawn to the Kauffman School because she is committed to serving the kids of Kansas City. She is excited to watch her students reach new academic heights in the coming school year!
Maya Smith, 6th Grade Textual Analysis Teacher
Maya Smith believes that every student deserves the opportunity to explore their interests and develop the tools they need to pursue them. She is committed to working with students both in and out of the classroom to ensure they feel supported and empowered in their education. Prior to joining the Kauffman School team, Ms. Smith worked with City Year Kansas City as a near-peer mentor at Northeast Middle School. She received her Bachelor of Science in Sociology from the University of Minnesota. Ms. Smith was drawn to the Kauffman School's strong sense of community and belief in every student's ability to succeed. She is very excited to connect with students and start learning together this year!
Cydney Snyder, 5th Grade Math Teacher
Cydney Snyder believes in creating equity in the education system, and is committed to meeting her students needs so that they may succeed throughout school. Ms. Snyder is a Teach For America - Kansas City corps member, and she recently graduated from Southern Methodist University where she received degrees in Human Rights, Public Policy, and Political Science. She is currently working on her master’s degree through the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Ms. Snyder was drawn to Kauffman because of the dedicated staff, and loves that she works with a community of people that are as committed to the work as she is. She is so excited to help her 5th grade students transition into Kauffman School, and watch them grow academically and personally.
Alice Sollitto, 7th Grade Textual Analysis Teacher
Alice Sollitto believes that every student has the ability to achieve his or her dreams. She is passionate about providing a high quality education to every student she works with. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. Sollitto taught first and second grade at Coney Island Prep Elementary, a charter school in Brooklyn, NY. She also spent one year teaching second grade in the Kansas City Public Schools district at Phillis Wheatley Elementary. Ms. Sollitto received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Social Studies. She recently completed a Master of Education in Special Education from Niagara University. Ms. Sollitto was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its positive school culture and strong emphasis on teacher development.
Kasey Kay Spencer believes every student should know the value and purpose they uniquely bring to the world. As a Health/Fitness teacher, Ms. Spencer wants to teach students what it actually feels like to not only set goals, but to reach them. She is passionate about walking alongside students as they get out of their comfort zones with perseverance, courage and boldness. Ms. Spencer spent the past six years in Memphis TN, where she worked at an after school program as a mentor and sports coach. Once the group of students she started with back in 2012 graduated high school, she moved back home to Kansas City to live near family and work at the Kauffman School. She graduated from Evangel University where she played softball and earned her bachelor’s degree in social work; she eventually also earned her bachelor’s degree in social work. Ms. Spencer was drawn to the Kauffman School because of the team’s drive to build meaningful relationships with students when they are in school, as well as once they graduate. She desires to build lifelong relationships with her Kauffman School co-workers, students and families!
Logan Stacer believes the job of the artist is to equip the audience with the tools to imagine the future. In this case, his audience is the soon-to-be high school graduates and future leaders of our country who are nearing the end of their time at the Kauffman School. Knowing that these students will continue in their journey as directors of their own lives, Mr. Stacer aims to equip them with the ability to critically understand the past in order to radically imagine the future. Before joining the Kauffman School, Mr. Stacer attended Kansas State University and graduated with a major in Relational Communication, a minor in Leaderships Studies, and a certificate in Nonviolence Studies and Social Movements. From there, he attended New York University where he received his Master of Arts in Art and Public Policy from the Tisch School of the Arts. Mr. Stacer has worked with artists, professionals, and students from 7th grade to PhD levels, most recently as a teaching artist at Columbia Law School. He now aims to bring his wide array of experience as both a working artist and arts educator back to his hometown of Kansas City, landing at the Kauffman School as a beacon of excellence and innovation in education. Mr. Stacer is excited to lay a foundation in fine arts education that will inspire not only the students, but the larger Kansas City community.
Born to Ethiopian immigrants who came to the U.S. to build a better life for their family, Hana Asmamaw Uzo-Diribe developed a passion for education at a very young age. As a first generation college graduate and first generation American, Mrs. Uzo-Diribe believes every student deserves access to an equitable education. She is committed to helping students thrive in both curricular and co-curricular environments. Prior to joining the Kauffman School team, Hana worked with Aurora Public Schools in Aurora, CO as a College and Career Success Coordinator. She was also an adjunct instructor for Advancing Academic Achievement at the Community College of Aurora. Mrs. Uzo-Diribe received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Northern Colorado and a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from the University of Denver. Mrs. Uzo-Diribe was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its unwavering commitment to student success. She is excited to join the team and transition into the classroom fulltime.
Lucero Denisse Valderrama believes that every student regardless of their ethnic background, socio-economic status, and immigration story is worthy of a quality and equitable education. She is committed to the holistic well-being of her students both in and outside of the classroom, as well as their continued success to and through college. Before joining the Kauffman School team, Ms. Valderrama taught writing to rising 8th and 9th graders as a Teaching Fellow with Breakthrough Silicon Valley program for three summers. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Ethnic Studies from Azusa Pacific University located in the Greater Los Angeles area. Ms. Valderrama was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its commitment and care to, not only their students, but their teachers as well. She is most excited to learn and grow in this new environment and to finally meet her students.
Julian Vizitei, 10th Grade AP World History Teacher
Julian Vizitei believes every student deserves to go to a school that both challenges them with rigorous content and supports them with a positive and fulling school environment. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mr. Vizitei taught ninth grade World History at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in the Kansas City Public Schools district. He received his degree in Secondary Education Social Studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia and went on to receive his Master in Education in Social Studies Learning, Curriculum, and Teaching from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Mr. Vizitei joined the Kauffman School because of the opportunity to not only reach his highest potential but join a school with positive school culture for both teachers and students. He is excited to see students rise to the challenge of both content and character set by the Kauffman School.
Davis Warton believes that educated minds lead to change and therefore every child deserves a high quality education. He is committed to challenging his students to do their best every day both inside and outside the classroom. Mr. Warton is a recent graduate of William Jewell College and earned a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry. Mr. Warton is a current corps member of Teach For America - Kansas City. He was drawn to the Kauffman School because not only do they work towards the big picture, but they take the time to focus on the smaller things as well. Mr. Warton is very excited to start his first ever year of teaching and getting to know all of his wonderful students.
Simone Wells believes that every student is capable of succeeding if they have the right resources and support. She is committed to doing everything in her power to make sure students succeed holistically in life. She graduated from Oakwood University, a historically-black university located in Huntsville, AL, with a degree in social science education. Simone was called to the Kauffman School because of its deep belief in creating college graduates. She is excited to start working with a team who pours into each other and provides resources and support to ensure that every student can succeed.
Roxine Westhues, Learning Support Specialist
Roxine Westhues believes every student deserves to have his or her voice heard and be pushed to communicate in meaningful, sophisticated dialogue with peers. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mrs. Westhues taught English for grades eight through 12 in New Mexico and Texas. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and her Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM. Mrs. Westhues came to the Kauffman School because of the strong culture and high expectations. She is excited to know the students and hear each of their unique voices.
Chelsea Whittle, 6th Grade Math Teacher
Chelsea Whittle believes all students deserve the best education. She knows each student can obtain his or her goals with determination and hard work. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Mrs. Whittle taught at Faxon Elementary in the Kansas City Public Schools district for three years and also taught in San Angelo, TX. Mrs. Whittle received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. She is an alumna of Teach For America - Kansas City. Mrs. Whittle grew up in the Kansas City area and is very excited to influence the lives of students at the Kauffman School. She can’t wait to see her students’ achievements this year!
Kourtney Williams believes that students learn through experience; therefore, she is committed to having her students play an active role in their education. Before teaching at Kauffman School, Ms. Williams taught for three years in the Kansas City Public Schools district. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of Missouri- Kansas City (UMKC). Ms. Williams was drawn to the Kauffman School because of the support the school gives to teachers and kids to be the best they can be.
Courtney Winchester, Learning Support Specialist
Amilia Winter believes that books can change our world and all people have a right to learn. She is committed to finding a book you and your scholars will love! Ms. Winter grew up in Kansas City and loves her KC community. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. Winter taught middle school English in Los Angeles, CA and high school English in Kansas City, MO. She received her Master of Arts in Education through Teach for America - Kansas City. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications: Journalism from the University of Kansas. Ms. Winter is excited to join Kauffman School because she is inspired by all the future college graduates!
Peyton Wydick believes in caring for the student as a whole person. She is committed to doing this by providing a safe learning environment, holding students to a high standard, and providing rigorous academic content. Prior to working at the Kauffman School, Ms. Wydick attended Rockhurst University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. Ms. Wydick was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its strong values, community, and emphasis on teacher development. She is excited to work with students and watch their growth and success this coming school year.
Lyndsay Yates believes that a high quality education should be the expectation for ALL students, not the exception. She is committed to creating a more equitable education landscape in Kansas City and helping prepare the next generation of world changers. Prior to teaching at the Kauffman School, Ms. Yates taught fourth through eighth-grade Social Studies at Kansas City International Academy (formerly Della Lamb Charter School). She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK and completed her teacher certification at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ms. Yates was drawn to the Kauffman School because of its culture of excellence among both teachers and students. She is excited to be a part of such an incredible team of students and teachers.
Mackenzie Yaw is an alumni of Teach For America - Kansas City. She received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, and is pursuing her Master of Education in Secondary Education at University of Missouri-St. Louis. Ms. Yaw is excited about teaching English Language Arts at the Kauffman School because of the school’s amazing culture and dedication to its mission of creating college graduates.
Jason Zimmerman, 10th Grade Honors Geometry Teacher