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! email@example.com
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dawn Andrada - Office Manager
Name preference: Ms. Dawn, Preferred pronouns: she/her
What I love about LJA: Being at a school that values individuality and provides an environment where students can discover their brilliance is amazing! I appreciate that we push students to expand their minds while staying true to their own path.
More about me: I am the proud parent of an LJA graduate (Paxton, Class of 2013). I joined the staff of LJA during her first year at LJA, in 2009. I serve as the hub of communications at LJA and am here to help support students, staff and caregivers as they make their way through daily life at a middle school. In addition to my administrative duties, I am happy to have worked on bringing a number of activities into our school including volleyball and debate. One of my favorite things is organizing and accompanying students on our annual "Pay It Forward" community service trip each year. I am proud to spend my work days making a difference in young people's lives. email@example.com
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. firstname.lastname@example.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. email@example.com
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. firstname.lastname@example.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. email@example.com
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. firstname.lastname@example.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! email@example.com
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Arden Ashley-Wurtmann - 7th & 8th Grade Math Teacher
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. email@example.com
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. firstname.lastname@example.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! email@example.com
Jill Greenwood - Special Education Teacher
Name preference: Ms. Jill, Preferred pronouns: she/her
I have been teaching at LJA since 2012. I was drawn to this school because I understand that in the march to equality and empowerment for all, there is no time for complacency. Women must break the glass ceiling once and for all and claim their full, equal citizenship in our country and in the world.
I completed my undergraduate teaching degree and special education licensures at the University of North Dakota in the early nineties. I has been teaching special education for over twenty-eight years. In 2007, I completed my autism licensure, and I am currently completing a Master's of Education degree through the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I live in Menomonie, Wisconsin with my husband, our youngest daughter, and several pets. I also have two married adult children, one five year old granddaughter and one year old twin grandbabies (a girl and a boy). My wish for them is that they will grow up in a world where all persons are judged only on the "content of their character" (MLK); in a country that is committed to bringing peace and prosperity to all world citizens. firstname.lastname@example.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! email@example.com
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.
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. firstname.lastname@example.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. email@example.com
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.
Brenda Berckenhoff - SPED Educational Assistant
Name preference: Brenda, Preferred pronouns: she/her
Since coming to Laura Jeffrey Academy in 2013, I have brought many of my experiences to our scholars, like being a woman in the military and from my travels around the world. While I have worked in various school environments, LJA is unique. My mind is broadened everyday and my expectations exceeded on not only what I bring to the scholars but what they bring to me. I have worked in male dominant environments my whole career, and to work in an equity empowering school such as LJA, I have seen the strength and power within each scholar. LJA has inspired me to continue my education in the Special Education field and am currently pursuing my Masters in Special Education. firstname.lastname@example.org
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. email@example.com
KaXue Xiong- Education Assistant
Name preference: Ms. KaXue
KaXue studied Forensic Sciences at the University of North Dakota. Prior to pursuing her teaching career, she worked in a variety of setting as an educational assistant, Flag Football Coach, after school Math Instructor, and AmeriCorps Promise Fellow. She is really excited to start off the year at LJA that has welcomed her with open arms, where she hopes to empower our young woman of scholar to be confident global leaders and life long learners. In addition to her commitment at Laura Jeffrey Academy, she is the STEM Specialist/FIRST LEGO League Coach at West 7th Community Center, and completing her science teaching license at Hamline University. In her spare time, she loves to paint/draw, make Kimchi and spend time with her family.
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. firstname.lastname@example.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
Manny Rivera - Food Service
Name preference: Mr. Manny, Preferred pronouns: he/him
Manny has been with Laura Jeffrey Academy since 2012 and handles the kitchen during our daily lunch service. The students love his easy-going manner and love working with him when he needs an extra set of hands.