Faculty and Staff



George Sand – Executive Director

Name Preference -- Mr. S, preferred pronouns: he/him

I am excited and proud to be the interim Executive Director for Laura Jeffrey Academy. Our school provides an important choice for families in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. My job is to make sure the school is well run and teachers and scholars are provided with the support they need to excel in the classroom and the world. This will be a year of growth as we face the ongoing challenges of creating a school of excellence and I look forward to working with families, staff, and community to ensure the continued success of LJA. Let's get started! georges@laurajeffreyacademy.org

Tammy Pulver.jpg

Tammy Pulver - Director of Special Education                                     Name Preference: Tammy, Preferred pronouns: she/her

Tammy began her lifelong learning after high school at the University of Minnesota in Child Psychology. She  took a long break to work, marry and raise her daughter. She was hired as playground supervisor, then a para at her daughter's elementary school. She loved this work, so returned to school to get her license in special education. She received her MS in Special Education, with a license in Emotional/Behavior Disorders and Autism Spectrum Disorders. She taught high school and middle school serving as: Department Head, Autism Task Force, ASD Lead, Building Instructional Leader, Staff Development Committee and Site Committee. She completed a Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership with administrative licenses; Director of Special Education and K-12 Principal. Currently, she works with charter schools as a Director of Special Education and serves on the Secondary Transition Advisory Team at the Minnesota Department of Education. Tammy loves to travel with her family, and just finished a Yoga Study for teacher certification.  tapulver@comcast.net 

Office Staff

Cassandra Quam - Administrative Assistant                                      

Name preference: Ms. Cassandra, Preferred pronouns: she/her

Why I work at LJA: I love contributing to a community that is so dedicated to equity and empowerment! I learn things every day at LJA - about how to better support students and teachers, about how things work in the education field, and about how our school is unique and amazing in its mission and focus.

More about me: I  received my Bachelor of Arts degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and then completed a year of service with Minnesota Reading Corps as a Kindergarten-Focused literacy tutor at a St. Paul public elementary school.  I have been a camp counselor for six summers, teaching German to kids at Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, MN.  I have gained further experience with youth by volunteering with Project for Pride in Living, both in the school-year tutoring program and the summer reading program here in St. Paul.  I joined the staff at LJA in 2014, and I am currently obtaining my Masters in Educational Policy & Leadership from the University of Minnesota. I live in St. Paul with my fiance (husband after August 26th!) and enjoy biking to work in good weather! I also play violin in a symphony orchestra. cassandraq@laurajeffreyacademy.org



Mariah Holloway - Americorps Promise Fellow                                     

Name preference: Ms. Mariah, Preferred pronouns: she/her

I received my bachelor’s degree in Youth Development from North Central University in 2016. During my senior year at the university, I served as a Resident Advisor which really inspired my desire to be an emotional and academic support for students. I completed my internship through LJA in 2016 during the last two months of their school year by providing extra support in their classrooms. This past year, I served as the AmeriCorps Promise Fellow at Nicollet Middle School in Burnsville. I loved mentoring students so much that I decided I wanted to do it again only in the unique community at LJA. I have a deep passion to show students they are valued and heard as they learn who they are in this messy world. When I’m not working, I enjoy reading fiction, writing poetry, exploring the Twin Cities, catching every sunset I can see, and making my friends laugh.


Ariel Gristick - Food Service / Office Assistant

Name Preference: Ms. Ariel, Preferred Pronouns: She/Her

Ariel is a new resident to Minnesota who has recently relocated from Atlanta, Georgia. She has always had a passion for food and ces from a background of managing restaurants in the Atlanta area. Ariel has participated in several craft shows in her home town that focused on empowering women and hopes to continue in that spirit of community here at LJA. In her free time she can be found making jewelry and soaps, reading, playing with dogs, and spending time outdoors. arielg@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Emily Barnes - Literacy Intervention Specialist                                  

Name preference: Ms. Emily, Preferred pronouns: she/her                 

Emily has been with LJA since year 2.  She loves how all our students continually challenge themselves to stretch and grow in so many different ways.  She also especially loves getting to know the families of our fifth and sixth grade students as they begin their journey through middle school.  Emily came to LJA with many years of experience working with young people in Minnesota, Iowa, and Oregon.  Prior to LJA, she taught U.S. and World History at a small independent school in Saint Paul serving international and local middle school students.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Secondary Education from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.  Emily is so happy to be a part of this unique and inspiring learning community, and looks forward to another year of growing together with our students. emilyb@laurajeffreyacademy.org

Jacob Bonde - Peer Coach           

Name preference: Mr. Jacob, Preferred pronouns: he/him

Jacob started teaching at LJA in 2009. The time has gone so fast! He has been really impressed to see the school grow, adapt and improve. Jacob came to teach a tad late, spending a few years as a paraprofessional in Minneapolis charter schools before returning to school. He attended Harvard Grad School of Education, and then in 2009, Mr. Jacob returned home to his native Twin Cities after getting his Masters of Education and teaching certificate. Last year, he transitioned to a part time role supporting teachers and looks forward to another great year working with the brilliant & passionate educators of LJA to continuously improve our students' educational experiences.    jacobb@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Annie Lien – 5th & 6th Grade LASS (Language Arts and Social Studies) Teacher and 5th Grade Math Teacher  

Name preference: Ms. Annie, Preferred pronouns: she/her

Annie studied Sociology and Art at UW-Madison, and later earned her Master's of Teaching at the University of Minnesota. She has worked in a variety of schools in the Twin Cities as an Educational Assistant, Americorps Vista, and has spent the last five years teaching elementary school in Downtown Minneapolis. Annie is excited to be a part of the team at Laura Jeffrey Academy as she has a keen interest in Social Justice, Progressivist Education, and Feminism. She enjoys helping young people develop a sense of self, a curiosity about the world around them, and a sense of civic duty and engagement in their broader community. As she has spent time living abroad in the Czech Republic, she's dedicated to bring a cosmopolitan drive to her classroom pushing students to adventure around the world. In her personal life, Annie loves camping, biking, making art, watching movies, going to concerts, reading, and spending time with her daughter Willa and husband Joey. anniel@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Anna Robinson - 7th & 8th Grade LASS (Language Arts and Social Studies) Teacher                  

Name preference: Anna, Preferred pronouns: she/her

Anna studied Social Studies Education and Women's Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth.  Shortly after starting her teaching career, she returned to school for a Masters of Education through St. Mary's University, focusing on Social Justice Education.  Her teaching career has been in a variety of settings in Minnesota and New York and in all settings her passion for the transformative power of education has persevered and grown.  She is excited to continue at LJA working to empower students to find and use their voices.  In addition to teaching, Anna finds joy through spending time with her large and eccentric family, traveling, dreaming and eating!   annar@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Gaye Fisher - Music Teacher

Name preference: Ms. "G", Preferred pronouns: she/her       

Why I Came To LJA: I have had the opportunity to teach at the high school and elementary school levels. To finish my career in education, I was hoping to be able to teach middle school, as well. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made!

I graduated from Belmont University with a Bachelor of Music degree and a double major in commercial music vocal performance and music education. Several years later, I acquired a Master of Science degree in Music Education from Central Connecticut State University. I have performed in theme parks, with jazz bands, with symphony orchestras and have sung backup with Larry Gatlin, Charlie Daniels, Al Green and Shirley Caesar. My mother insisted that I learn piano and I have been playing piano since third grade. I am a DIVA!  I have also  performed in a lot of musicals like Bye, Bye Birdie, Annie Get Your Gun, and Big River at the professional level. Even with all of this performing, my real passion is teaching. With 32 years of teaching experience, I have taught at the high school and elementary levels. I am so thrilled to bring my talents to the middle school and I hope to inspire students to a lifelong love and appreciation of music in all of its different forms.  gayef@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Arden Ashley-Wurtmann - Geometry & Algebra

Name preference: Ms. Arden, Preferred pronouns: she/her

Why I love LJA: This is such an eclectic community of scholars. We are all growing and learning alongside each other and everyone -- from the new 5th graders to the administration -- embraces the school culture of empowerment, engagement, reflection, and resilience. 

More about me: This is my 10th year of teaching. I have a bachelor's degree in Biology from Macalester College and a master's degree from Bank Street College of Education in New York. I  first came to Laura Jeffrey Academy in 2009 as the lower grades science teacher. While co-teaching in a science/math classroom, I was bit by the "math bug" and completed my math license while transitioning into the role of 7th and 8th grade math teacher. After some time away with my young daughters and teaching at Saint Paul Public Schools, I am thrilled to have returned to LJAin 2016 as the Pre-Algebra and Algebra teacher. I love using math to teach students to think critically, and I enjoy guiding scholars toward responsible independence.  ardenaw@laurajeffreyacademy.org

Morgan McLaughlin - 5th & 6th Grade Science Teacher and         5th Grade Math Teacher    

Name preference: Ms. Morgan, Preferred pronouns: she/her

Why I love LJA: I came to LJA for a student teaching experience and immediately fell in love with the school. The empowerment the school gives from being girl-focused motivates scholars to excel in not only STEM, but in all of their other interests was unique and inspiring. I knew that LJA was where I wanted to be. 

More about me: I grew up in a tiny little town in Northern Minnesota. I received my bachelor’s degree in Biology, Pre-medicine from the College of St. Scholastica, where I later obtained my 5-12 Life Science teaching license. I have been at Laura Jeffrey Academy since my student teaching experience with Ms. Lizzie in 2015. I strive to motivate my scholars by teaching them the reasoning behind their response is just as important as having the correct answer. I engage my scholars’ learning through hands on activities, excitement and my own love of learning. In my spare time, I enjoy Harry Potter and doing public access training for service dogs. morganm@laurajeffreyacademy.org

Lizzie Forshee – 7th & 8th Grade Science Teacher                            

Name preference: Ms. Lizzie, Preferred pronouns: she/her

Lizzie Forshee comes to Laura Jeffrey Academy with a bachelor's degree in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Minnesota and a 5-12 Life Science masters degree in education from the College of St. Catherine.  Lizzie has been at LJA since the doors opened.  Lizzie’s passion to engage girls through hands on learning is evident as soon as you step foot into her classroom.  The energy for learning and life is contagious. Lizzie’s commitment to a safe and responsive environment for young learners keeps scholars wanting to learn in their STEM class each and every day!   lizzief@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Asiya Ali - Special Education Teacher                                      

Name preference:  Mrs. Asiya, preferred pronouns: she/her

Why I love LJA:  I like to empower girls and young women to have equal footing in their middle school education and have all necessary tools to excel in high school and college.  I want to prepare them to become  strong, confident, and powerful scholars who are courageous enough to question things when not right  and demands to have their place in society!

I received my BS from University of Minnesota and worked as a social worker for the past ten years.  I'm currently in school to become an ASD teacher and finishing up my Master's Program at University of St. Thomas.  I'm one of the new team to join LJA family  and have been hired as a special education teacher.

I am married  and have four beautiful children and my oldest daughter (Fatima) will be joining LJA this year for her sixth grade.  This is an exciting transition for both of us and I'm eager to meet each and everyone of you!  asiyaa@laurajeffreyacademy.org



Rachel Young - Art Teacher                                   

Name preference: Ms. Ray, Preferred pronouns: she/her

I joined the teaching staff in 2017. I began my work at LJA for my year of service as a Promise Fellow because of the unique community of scholars and educators who truly value the importance of a socially conscious education. I'm continuing as Art teacher to contribute my passion and expertise through the development of our scholars' artistic expression. 

I received my BA as a Visual Arts and Psychology double major in 2016 from Seattle University. For the last three years, I worked as the lead scenic artist for the Seattle University theater department.  I also worked as an assistant for two local professional artists and volunteered at a Housing First group home and a daytime women's and family shelter in the wider Seattle community. I am truly thrilled to have the opportunity to join the LJA community and to build engaging relationships with scholars. In my free time, I like to hike, listen to music, explore book shops, and am learning to skateboard.



A.C. Clouthier -- Wellness Teacher

Name preference: Mr. C. Preferred pronouns: he/him

A.C. Clouthier is a graduate from the University of St. Thomas, BA in Physical Education, with a minor in Communication Journalism.  Clouthier will begin his 6th year in education that extends from kindergarten to high school.  Last school year, AC taught K-2nd grade P.E at Our Lady of Grace in Edina. Prior to that, he taught health and P.E. at Xavier High School in WI.   In 2013, he taught high school Personal Finance and K-5th grade Computers in the Twin Cities Educational System (WI).  Clouthier is a former high school  head girls’ basketball coach, and is continuing his coaching as an assistant women's basketball coach at the University of St. Thomas.  acc@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Jennifer Ryg - 7th & 8th Grade LASS Teacher

Name Preference - Ms. Jennifer (or Jen), Preferred Pronouns - she/her

I am thrilled to join the LJA teaching team in 2017!  I have been an LJA parent since 2016, and I love the open, generous heart of the students and staff.  

I have been teaching English since 2008 and directing high school theater since 2004, both in southern MN. My undergraduate degree in theater is from the University of WI, Stevens Point, and I received my Masters in Education from Augsburg College in 2011.  In addition to teaching and directing plays and musicals, I have loved volunteering with youth as a Girl Scout Troop leader.  I am passionate about empowering students to share their stories and live their truths.  For enjoyment, I spend time with my husband and daughters, find ways to laugh with friends and extended family, travel, knit and spend quiet time in nature.   jenniferr@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Mee Oh - 7th & 8th Grade Math Teacher

Name Preference -- Ms. Mee, Preferred Pronouns - she/her

I love working at LJA because of its STEM focused curriculum for young women. Especially its math class can inspire and motivate students to explore and prepare for their bright future. I graduated from a girls’ middle school, a girls’ high school and women’s college and university as well.

I have taught math in secondary schools  with a math secondary teaching license, and I finished my master degree of mathematics at university in Seoul, South Korea. Also I have many teaching and tutoring math experiences at urban and suburban middle and high schools in Minnesota. I love teaching and communicating with my students. My favorite part of being a teacher is being able to watch my students grow to love math and have strong math abilities.

Other than working at school, I enjoy taking care of my three children - two girls and a boy -  and one beautiful cat(Semo) at home. My eldest daughter has a bachelor’s degree in math and my second daughter is on her way to pursue it in college. I am really excited to be a part of LJA community and working together with great scholars. meeo@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Dori Beedle - Special Education Teacher

I am so excited to have the opportunity to join the staff and students at the Laura Jeffrey Academy.  I have many years of experience teaching students with diverse backgrounds and diverse learning needs.  I was blessed to work with many amazing students and staff throughout the Twin Cities. I’m looking forward to continuing my teaching career at the Laura Jeffrey Academy.

I earned my four year degree in Human Services/Counseling from Metro State University.  I completed my teaching licensure at the University of St. Thomas. I hold a special education teaching license.  I have worked in schools, treatment programs, vocational and residential programs over the years. I am passionate about working with youth and I’m excited about teaching in a community that values each students learning needs.

My family is very important to me.  I enjoy cooking and gardening as well as eating a variety of foods.  I enjoy playing and watching sports, yoga, puzzles, games and many other activities.  I have a dog and a cat, love animals, nature and life.

Support Staff

Lakisha Witter - SPED Coordinator

Name preference: Ms. Lakisha, Preferred pronouns: she/her

I transitioned to Minnesota from Florida about two years ago, and so far I love the long winters and short summers! In my free time I enjoy kayaking, biking, knitting, traveling and eating(I love food)!  I have an educational background from the University of Florida in Sociology(BA), Special Education(ME), Educational Leadership (Specialist).I'm currently working on my Doctorate in Educational Leadership for Minnesota State University (Mankato).  I have used my background in special education and education leadership to create, develop, rebuild and support current schools infrastructure for special education programs and compliance. I have been a servant leader within the domain of education for over a decade serving in the capacity of paraprofessional, special education educator, coordinator, director and school board member. lakishaw@laurajeffreyacademy.org


Patricia Ferrell - SPED Educational Assistant

Name preference: Ms. Patricia, Preferred pronouns: she/her

Why I love LJA : I love the concept of Laura Jeffrey Academy, empowering, girl-focused education, always asking questions, and always innovative. I love to empower our scholars to think outside the box, show generosity of spirit and fight the stereotypes of society.  It’s the place to be if you want to be an independent, competent scholar.  patriciaf@laurajeffreyacademy.org

Terrence Thigpen - Cultural Liaison

I spent my childhood growing up in Chicago. From there, I went on to study Organizational and Professional Communication at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. While at UW-La Crosse, I found success in the classroom and as a sprinter in track. After college, I began my professional life in the Twin Cities. My previous experiences include working with youth in a variety of different settings. As a first year member of the LJA faculty, I believe my passion for youth will assist in building a culture where the leaders of tomorrow will feel connected and supported, inside and outside of the classroom. When I'm not at LJA you will probably find me biking, eating, traveling, being a barista or doing crossfit.


Satara Strong - SPED Educational Assistant                                        

Name preference: Ms. Satara, Preferred pronouns: she/her

I love LJA because of the concept of showing scholars how to empower themselves through a non-traditional education. My favorite part of the is LASS and Specialty classes because they give our scholars an amazing opportunity to use education about history and new concepts combines to voice their truths in this world. I love to teach scholars how to apply this education to real-life situations in a way that is different from what everyone else is doing. sataras@laurajeffreyacademy.org


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Franny Novak, Education Assistant

Name Preference: Ms. Franny, Preferred pronouns: she/her

Ms. Franny became a Mathematics teacher over 20 years ago. She left full-time teaching in order to have time for grandchildren & family life. Then returned to school 4 years ago as a charter school guest teacher. She loves mathematics & teaching scholars of all ages. Ms.
Novak also worked in the finance & banking industry for a decade. She has degrees and education in Social Work, Mathematics, Math Education, Montessori methods & other fields related to human development. Focusing on STEM education for girls is very important. As a female STEM student at the UofMN, I had to search out mentors & bathrooms. Mentors were easier to find. At the university level I was encouraged & supported in many ways toward getting my degree in mathematics.
This did not happen in high school. Fortunately, my parents gave my brothers & me a solid, hands-on STEM education at home. I hope to be able to share this with LJA scholars. “Doing” is vital for learning. I am very happy to be part of the LJA staff and school community!


Gary Taruscio, Americorps Math Tutor

Name preference: Mr. Gary, Preferred pronouns: he/him

I received my bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota and worked for 37 years in technology, most recently as a software test engineer at Thomson Reuters.  I am fulfilling a longtime aspiration of teaching and making a contribution to my community by helping LJA students as a tutor in the Minnesota Math Corps program.  I am a St. Paul native and have lived just a few blocks from the school for nearly 25 years.  I call myself a perennial Spanish student, and have traveled extensively to Latin America.



Mollie Merkel - Social Worker                                     

Name preference: Ms. Mollie, Preferred pronous: she/her

Mollie is excited to be joining the LJA community in the position of social worker! Mollie received her Bachelor of Social Work from James Madison University. She then moved to Denver where she received her Master's of Social Work and certification in Animal-Assisted Social Work from the University of Denver. As part of the Animal-Assisted Social Work program, Mollie was partnered with her certified therapy dog, Raven, who she has been fortunate to have assist with her social work practice. Raven is a black lab/golden retriever mix who just celebrated his 8th birthday by swimming in Minnehaha Creek. Mollie practiced school social work across all grade levels in the state of Colorado for 5 years before moving back to her home state of Minnesota with her family. After finishing her clinical hours at a psychiatric hospital working with patients with intensive mental health needs, Mollie received her LICSW in 2014. Since moving back to Minneapolis, Mollie has enjoyed practicing school social work and spending time outdoors with her husband and two young children. Mollie will be supervising two MSW students for the 2017-2018 school-year from the University of St. Catherine's, Elin and Alyssa. molliem@laurajeffreyacademy.org                                                       




Elin Amundson - Social Worker Intern

Name preference: Ms. Elin, Preferred pronouns: she/her

I'm a first year student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of St. Thomas / St. Kate's. For the past few years, I've been working as a food- and garden-based educator - first in Madison, WI; then Wilmington, NC; and most recently, Postville and Decorah, IA. I served two Americorps terms with a program called FoodCorps, where I got to teach hands on cooking and gardening skills to students aged 4-18. I graduated from UW - Madison with degrees in US History and History of Science & Technology, and I love to dance, cook, read, and ride my bike. 




Alyssa Radichel - Social Worker Intern                                                   

Name preference: