Summer Scholar 2017 Bios


Kassondra Chappell

Kassondra Chappell is a bilingual elementary school teacher in the Bay Area of California. Originally from Cary, Illinois, she received her Bachelor of Art’s degree in Spanish Language & Literature and Japanese Language & Literature from Kenyon College in Ohio. Upon graduation, she received a Princeton in Asia teaching fellowship and spent three years teaching English in a Japanese kindergarten. She returned to the States to join Stanford’s Teacher Education Program for a Master’s in Education and now works as a full-time teacher with students whose families come from Latin America, Asia, and the States.

Jason Chau

Jason ChauI am a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, having emigrated from Vietnam as boat person after the war. I earned a B.A. in English at UC Davis where I also played collegiate volleyball. My graduate studies include a master’s degree in English from San Diego State University and doctoral coursework at the University of Chicago, also in English. Highlights of my school days include playing volleyball and semesters spent abroad at University College of London and Cambridge University. In my spare time, I enjoy playing volleyball and tennis, reading, traveling, gardening, and tending to my nano reef. In addition to my work in the English department at Walter Payton, I also teach a class on aquatic biotopes, I run our school’s greenhouse and gardening program, and I am an assistant boys volleyball coach. Besides my lifelong love of literature, nature, and sports, I am also an avid car enthusiast.  This is my 17th year in Chicago, and my 13th year as a high school teacher.

Beth Daly

Beth Daly recently completed two years of service as a Peace Corps English Education volunteer in Moldova.  Prior to the Peace Corps, Beth was an English and Drama teacher at San Lorenzo High School for 14 years.  During her time at San Lorenzo High School, Beth directed numerous drama productions including The Laramie Project, The House on Mango Street, In and Out of Shadows, student-written adaptations of Our Town and Much Ado about Nothing, and a student-created documentary theatre piece titled The Russell City Project.

Elizabeth Danesh

Elizabeth Danesh teaches high school English in Chicago, Illinois. This year, her classes focus on Speech, Creative Writing, and World Literature. She also teaches play writing and poetry performance. Over the years, the authors that she has found that have made a lasting impact on her students include: Carlos Bulosan, Sherman Alexie, Amy Tan, Floyd Salas, Ben Okri, and Gus Lee. The authors that have had a lifelong impact on Elizabeth include: Willa Cather, Nathaniel Marshall, Charles Dickens, Paul Theroux, and Luis Rodriguez. Her passion in life is to help students see, speak, and act with enthusiasm as they progress through their lives.

Ryan M. Dooley

Ryan DooleyRyan M. Dooley is a high-school English teacher from Chicago, Illinois. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Northeastern Illinois University with a double major in English & Secondary Education. Last year, Ryan completed his Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning through Roosevelt University with a specialty in Spoken-Word Pedagogy. This year, he completed his submission portfolio as a candidate for National Board Certification; as a result, Ryan has a new found coffee addiction. In his classroom he likes to explore new methods, from student created TED talks, to role-playing, to analyzing podcasts. His friends have told him that if he buys one more book they are never helping him move again. When he is not in one form of school or another, he likes to play ice hockey, swing kettlebells around, and use his bicycle as a tool for discovery.

Ariel Dukellis

Ariel DukellisAriel Dukellis is an English teacher and department co-chair at Del Mar High School in San Jose, California.  Next school year, she will be piloting the senior year of the International Baccalaureate Language A: Language and Literature Higher Level course and continuing to teach sophomore World Literature.  As an educator, she is passionate about teaching a diverse range of students through dynamic, student-centered, discussion-based, culturally responsive curriculum.  In her spare time, Ariel likes to travel with her husband, knit, play D&D, watch hockey, take care of her menagerie of reptiles, and perform on clarinet with the Cupertino Symphonic Band and the California Aggie Alumni Marching Band-uh!  The Institute will be a callback to her high school drama heyday, and she is excited to return to the stage in an actual speaking role this summer.

Rebecca Fitle

Rebecca Fitle recently graduated with a MA in Applied Linguistics/TESOL through TR@TC2, a teaching residency program of Columbia University’s Teachers College funded by the federal Teacher Quality Partnership Grant.  Rebecca’s teaching is grounded in her belief that the ability to read and write are fundamental human rights. She also holds a BA in English from Boston College, an MA in Art History from The University of New Mexico, and is currently pursuing dual certification in English as a New Language and English Language Arts while teaching at a Brooklyn high school.  In the ten years that she has made NYC her home, Rebecca earned an MA and M.Phil. from the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, taught Art Humanities at Columbia College, and fostered the development of community garden groups in her roles as Regional Engagement Manager at New York Restoration Project and Community Organizer at Green Guerillas.  Rebecca has found the NYC public school classroom to be an ideal place to bridge her varied educational and professional experiences.  There she refines her expertise in visual teaching strategies, group structure and development and curriculum design.

Emily Grijalva

Emily GrijalvaEmily Grijalva roots her pedagogy in social justice and love. The youngest daughter of Central American immigrants, she has been an English teacher for 11 years. Currently, she teaches at Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School in Boyle Heights. She holds a B.A. in Sociology with an Education Studies Minor and a M.A. in Education with a Teaching Credential from UCLA. She also has a M.S. in School Counseling because she realized her students needed critical social-emotional support along with developing their literacy skills. Emily received United Way’s Inspirational Teacher award in 2014 and is a UCLA Writing Project Fellow. Along with teaching, she is a Restorative Justice Lead teacher, Students Run LA marathon coach and works to engage parents and community members in supporting students’ education. She is also on the board of a non-profit photography mentorship program for young women, Las Fotos Project.

Haley Honeman

Haley Honeman is a community-based theatre artist living in Phoenix, Arizona. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She uses the arts in educational and community settings as a tool for learning and community wellbeing. She is a teaching artist with Rising Youth Theatre and in Childsplay’s dual language EYEplay program. She is the resident artist working with Minnesota’s peer-led mental health nonprofit Wellness in the Woods on the Acts of Solace project.

Brian Katz

When I was in the 5th grade, I was devastated to find out I had been assigned to play the Caterpillar in our humble elementary school production of Alice in Wonderland. I so badly wanted to be the White Rabbit—after all, he had almost as many lines as Alice! Meanwhile, the Caterpillar only had three words that he repeated over and over and over again: “Who are you?”

At the time I thought my minor role did not really matter. But fatefully, these three words have become central to my life as an English teacher and as a human being. Not only would I ask students year after year to think about their identity and their place in the world, but I too would reexamine who I was and go through transformation after transformation, always growing, always dying, always being born.

I now see that my nemesis is the White Rabbit, the one who fearfully submits his will to a heartless ruler who chains him to a tick-tock clock which drives him more than his own heartbeat beats. When I look back on my choice to become a public high school English teacher, I see myself transforming from the White Rabbit to the Caterpillar who understands the difference between a cage and a key—that one cannot be free unless they truly know their name.

Rick Kreinbring

Rick KreinbringRick Kreinbring teaches English at Avondale High School in Auburn Hills Michigan. His current assignments include AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition. He is a member of a Statewide research project at Michigan State University, as well as the National Writing Project concentrated on improving writing and has presented at the national Advanced Placement convention and the National Council of Teachers of English convention. He is in his twenty third year of teaching, and makes his home in Huntington Woods.


Alex Kuehn

Alex KuehnHello, my name is Alex Kuehn, and I’m a social studies teacher at a small, alternative middle and high school in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where I teach students who have been diagnosed with a variety of mental health disorders. Students at my school receive therapy services in addition to their education. As someone who is still relatively new to the teaching profession, I’m excited to continue to learn and improve my curriculum and my own teaching practice so I can help prepare my students to be more critical, democratic, and tolerant citizens. In my free time, I love to spend time outdoors, including biking, hiking, and downhill skiing. I also love to read and travel!

Ruth Le

Ruth LeRuth Le is the first American born child in her Vietnamese family that migrated to Boston, Massachusetts. Chasing the sun to Los Angeles, she attended the University of Southern California for her Bachelor’s in Public Policy and received her Master’s in Special Education at Loyola Marymount University.  Her capstone project entitled “Building Communities through Restorative Practices in Schools” embeds student voice, critical hope and the practice of circle in bringing about safer classrooms. Called Ms. Le during the day, she is in her 4th year as a special education high school educator at Camino Nuevo High School co-teaching 11th grade English and Geometry. Through poetry, facilitating dialogue and obsessive color coding, she hopes to continue exploring identity and spaces for sharing stories. Ruth enjoys playing volleyball, drinking sweet coffees, and browsing Spotify for new releases.

Andrea Levinsky

Andrea LevinskyAndrea Levinsky is an educator from Portland, Maine who has taught middle school English and Social Studies. She is a graduate of Connecticut College with a double major in Human Development and American Studies and a Dance minor. As an educator, Andrea is interested in social justice education, design thinking, inquiry-based learning, and student-centered practices. She strives to help students find and use their voice, integrate the arts, and connect her classroom to the greater community. In addition, Andrea is a camp enthusiast and is interested in educational policy that contributes to greater equity in education. Outside of education, Andrea loves the arts and especially enjoys dancing, singing, and going to museums.

Rachel Nielsen

Rachel NielsenRachel Nielsen currently teaches high school English at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. Her career has brought her from Minneapolis to Chicago to New Orleans and back to Chicago, and she was quite surprised somewhere along the way to discover that Chicago had become home. Now, a particular interest is in discovering more about this place through the literature of those who have written in and about Chicago. Rachel enjoys running and spending time outdoors, as well as watching her son perform in plays and her daughter play soccer.

Elle Porter

Hello, my name is Elle Porter. I have written an essay about art in Lebanon, talked to a refugee from North Korea, taught Enrique’s Journey about a boy who traveled from Guatemala to see his mother in the U.S., and been surprised by the immigration story of my own small town. My passion for the immigration cause and learning more about it with students has grown steadily over the last 20+ years. In 7th grade English students are learning to ask thoughtful questions and their curiosity drives me. Because of them, I too explore and wonder and question. A board member for the local theater and a mom for a first year college student, I see the institute as a chance to push creative boundaries in teaching through theater, and in her community.

Sandi Robertson

Sandi RobertsonSandi Robertson has been teaching for 21 years and in currently teaching 10th and 11th grade English at Bearden High School in Knoxville, TN.  She has, at some point in her career, taught all English curricula in grades 7-12. She has trained in International Baccalaureate Language A,  is a member of the Holocaust Educators Network, having studied for two summers at the Olga Lengyel Institute in New York. She is also an Alfred Lerner Fellow at the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous and a Belfer Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  She created and directed an outdoor Shakespeare performing troupe, Shakespeare on the Mountain, in Huntsville, Alabama for thirteen years.  She is a graduate of The University of Colorado, Athens State University, and the University of West Alabama, holding bachelor’s and graduate degrees in English, education, and library media. She lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, with her husband Jeff and son Brian, and has two grown daughters.

Echo Rue

Echo Rue has taught 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade as well as after school theater programs for all ages on 3 continents. Echo is passionate about education, travel and the performing arts. Before becoming a teacher, she worked as a stage manager, a multimedia producer/director and a TV Studio Scheduling coordinator. She is an Adult Third Culture Kid, having spent more of her life living outside the US rather than in her native country. Currently, she is raising her own TCKs while working overseas at an American school with her military spouse.

Elyse Tussey

Elyse TusseyElyse Tussey is an Arizona native, but calls the Windy City her home. This is her 5th year teaching Theatre at Chicago Bulls College Prep, a Noble Charter School. She was previously a traveling children’s theatre actor with the Child’s Play Touring Company which took children’s stories and adapted them into a show that was then performed at their school. She is a former Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon where she taught TEFL, HIV/AIDS education, and created a book of songs, games, and poems for Cameroonian teachers to use in their TEFL classrooms. She is very politically active with the ACLU and can often be found at Second City performing improv or reading a book with both of her cats sleeping on her lap.

Terra Vetter

Terra Vetter is a teach of International Baccalaureate (IB) History of the Americas and Theatre Arts at The Brooklyn Latin School in Brooklyn, NY. She has also taught IB World Religions and established an extracurricular drama and play writing program at Brooklyn Latin. She is a former professional stage manager, and holds a Masters of Education and a Bachelors in Theater and Sociology from Hunter College.

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco

Ricco SiasocoRicco Villanueva Siasoco is a New York-based educator, writer, and activist. He received his MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and has taught at Boston College and Columbia University. His fiction and essays have been published in AGNI, Post Road, Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, and The North American Review, among others. Ricco is completing doctoral work at Teachers College, Columbia University, and teaches 8th grade English at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. 


Pren Woods

Pren WoodsI am a native of Charleston, SC and I have been in education for fifteen years. I am presently a 7th grade social studies teacher of world history (1492-what just happened five seconds ago). For the last nine years, I have taught at an arts-integrated school where students “major” in voice, piano, drama, dance, orchestra, band, and art for three years.

I have a background in dance, piano, drama, and voice. As a result of these experiences, my history class is very “artsy.” We not only create unique artistic expressions of events but we also look at the arts and literature of the period to enhance our understanding of the narrative.

I am so excited about our summer experiences. #moreexcitedthanJesseSpano


Jenny Zimmerman

Jenny ZimmermanJenny Zimmerman is completing her 13th year teaching high school English at North Buncombe High in the mountains of western North Carolina.  She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with degrees in English and Performance Studies.  An avid reader of young adult literature, she has a passion for getting great books into the hands of her students so that they can explore new worlds and points of view. Jenny loves to hike on the many trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  She gardens, cooks, and enjoys the outdoors with her husband, Chris, and six-year-old daughter, Hattie.  Jenny’s Hogwarts house is Hufflepuff!