The Coaching Team
The primary vehicle for collaborating around the shared endeavor of the Midwest School Transformation project is a coaching team model. For more information on why EdVisions has chosen a coaching model, check out our first blog post on the project.
Avalon Charter School
Carrie Bakken was hired with a team of teachers to open Avalon School in St. Paul, Minnesota, 2001, where she is now a Program Coordinator and teacher. Avalon’s unique, student-centered approach empowers students to direct their own learning through student-designed, independent projects and interdisciplinary seminars. While students are empowered to lead their education, teachers at Avalon are similarly empowered to lead the school as shared decision makers.
In addition to her work at Avalon School, Carrie completed a two year Aspen Institute-Pahara Teacher Fellowship and won an Outstanding Educator in Ethics Education Award sponsored by the WEM Foundation. She also works as a cadre member for a Minnesota Charter School Authorizer and serves as a Teacher Powered Ambassador. Carrie has a Master of Arts degree in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University.
High School for Recording Arts
Joey Cienian serves as the Director of Educational Programming at the High School for Recording Arts in Saint Paul, MN. High School for Recording Arts is dedicated to engaging dropped out, overaged, and under-credited students using a highly personalized, creative, and constructivist learning program. HSRA believes in Hip Hop Pedagogy and an Arts Engagement focus to provide a creative and therapeutic environment to re-engage students. The focus of Joey’s work has been in building out HSRA’s advisory structure, a site-wide commitment to social justice programming, innovative pedagogy in the classroom, competency based assessment models, a portfolio validation system as a core vehicle for student learning, and dynamic project based learning. He is passionate about researching and implementing creative re-engagement techniques that help young people build positive relationships, resiliency skills, start to work through the effects of trauma, and learn topics they find provocative in ways that match their needs.
Joey has worked the last ten years in education in the Twin Cities as a Paraprofessional, Teacher, and Administrator. The foundation of his work in social justice advocacy came in his years as a Community Organizer working with Greenpeace in Arizona and Minnesota.
Joey holds an Honors BA in History and Political Philosophy from University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a licensed Social Studies Teacher and has his Masters in Teaching from Hamline University. He is currently a member of the University of Minnesota’s Principal Academy and a Deeper Learning Equity Fellow. He enjoys making art and music, spending time with his family, camping and hiking in Minnesota’s amazing parks, and playing basketball.
Minnesota New Country School
Aaron is an educator at teacher-powered Minnesota New Country School. MNCS is a rural, highly recognized project based charter school in the Minnesota River Valley of Henderson, MN. Currently, he co-teaches in a multiage grades 4-6 classroom. Additionally, he has served on the following committees/teams: Building, Supporting Students Together (Intervention), Experiential/Middle School/Orientation (EMO), Personnel and Technology. Aaron has been working in education since 2004, including roles in the nonprofit EdVisions Schools and serving as Director of EdVisions Cooperative.
Aaron holds a Bachelor’s from Minnesota State University, Mankato in English/Speech Education and a Master’s in Advocacy and Political Leadership from University of Minnesota, Duluth. His interests include: mindfulness/meditation, education policy, intervention work with students, hiking and skiing. His happy place is anywhere outdoors.
Michelle has been in Public Education for 23 years and currently teaches at Impact Academy in Lakeville, MN. She is passionate about empowering students and teaching the whole child. She feels fortunate to be a part of the Impact Academy development team and to currently be working with dedicated colleagues committed to innovate.
Avalon Charter School
Monessa has been a 6-8th grade Social Studies middle school advisor at Avalon Charter School, a PBL, Teacher Leadership Model charter school in St. Paul, MN since 2005. Due to her time at Avalon, Monessa has had opportunities to work amongst a staff that is at the forefront of the teacher leadership movement. She is well versed in PBL and the benefits and processes. Monessa has presented at conferences, workshops, and provided staff professional development on topics such as teacher leadership, PBL, restorative justice, and collaboration. Some teams she has been a part of and roles she has played include: Avalon school board, Communication and Mediation Team, Avalon 2.0, peer mediation trainer, QComp coach, middle school team, and many others. Monessa is thrilled to be part of the EdVisions Coaching Team and work to help educators create schools and spaces that most benefit students and empower teachers.
Before joining EdVisions, Julene Oxton was the Innovation Coordinator for the Lakeville Area Public Schools in MN where she worked with teachers to transform educational systems. She served as the lead developer of Impact Academy which is a learning environment for about 450 students in grades K-5. The Teacher-Powered School opened in 2013 in Lakeville, MN, a suburb of the Twin Cities. Julene serves as an ambassador for Teacher Powered Schools, works closely with Education Evolving staff. In addition, she along with a regional colleague, coordinates the Student and Teacher Empowered Network supported by the Bush Foundation. Julene received a Master’s Degree in Teacher Leadership from the University of Minnesota and an Administrative Specialist Degree from St. Thomas University, MN. She started her career in Montana and moved to the Twin Cities area for most of her teaching years.
Avalon Charter School
Tim Quealy began working at Avalon Charter School in 2008. Since 2014, Tim has served as Program Coordinator and high school teacher, sharing an advisory with Nora Whalen. In February 2018, Tim participated in Education Reimagined’s Pioneer Lab (San Francisco) and was also recognized by the WEM Foundation as an Outstanding Educator in Ethics Education in June 2018. Though licensed in Language Arts, Tim loves math, bad jokes, and soccer. Tim has a degree in English from the University of Minnesota and a Master’s in Teaching from Hamline University.
Avalon Charter School
Gretchen served on the original team that launched Avalon where she still currently works. She has a teaching license in the field of Language Arts and a Masters in Experiential Education. Gretchen has served in a variety of roles at Avalon, including test coordination, recruitment, marketing, and enrollment, serving on the Personnel committee and the school board, acting as a Q-comp coach, leading Language Arts seminars, and advising high school students. Gretchen participated in Education Policy Fellowship Program, Education Reimagined’s Pioneer Lab, and has been recognized by the WEM Foundation as an Outstanding Educator in Ethics Education.
Before coming to Avalon, Gretchen taught Language Arts at the Teen Pregnancy Program in the Anoka/Hennepin school district. She also spent two years teaching English on a very small island in the Caribbean as a Peace Corps Volunteer with her husband, Jonathan.
Erin has spent the last two decades working as a high school and continuing education teacher, curriculum writer, video producer and Project-based Learning (PBL) coach. Her commitment to support PBL as a vehicle to equitable teaching and learning practices is paramount in her professional experience. Erin has taught in both self-directed and teacher directed PBL environments, and knows firsthand that PBL is a continuum, with each school/district having a unique vision and journey.
Erin’s career in education has afforded her the opportunity to weave classroom teaching with curriculum development, instructional coaching, school design and resource provision. As a teacher, she served students in grades 6-12, using project-based learning to reach those students furthest from opportunity, giving them voice and agency to become change-makers in their community.
Erin was a national coach with EdVisions during replication, guiding six schools on the West Coast from planning through their second year, with direct involvement in instruction, operations, and finance. For the past eight years Erin has been a National Faculty member at PBLWorks (Buck Institute for Education), focusing on school-wide PBL implementation. Most recently, she was a PBL coach for Chief Leschi Schools for the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, and she co-founded PBL Path, an organization that partners with Native communities committed to place-based, personalized learning.
Vivi Saufferer is currently a Community Support Specialist at Impact Academy at Orchard Lake Elementary in Lakeville Area Public Schools where she has been employed for the last 23 years. In her current position, she supports teachers and students in a K-5 learning community. Vivi served on the development team for Impact Academy where students are placed in their just right learning targets in literacy and math and have opportunities to participate in Service Learning projects. She has a passion for helping other teachers and schools move toward a learner-centered environment and innovative practices.
Wildlands Science Research School
Liz Seubert is a founding teacher of Wildlands Science Research School and has been an innovator in the field of student centered learning since 2005. She has led many expeditionary learning trips with students, developed community based learning and service connections, and advised countless projects. In 2015 Liz co-authored An Improbable School: Transforming the way Teachers Teach and Students Learn with her colleague, Paul Tweed. She has consulted with online platforms to develop better PBL management strategies and tools, developed and taught institutes for teachers in areas including PBL, student centered learning, and school culture. Liz coaches and consults with educators in Wisconsin and Minnesota to help them develop student-led, project-based learning communities and teacher-led schools. Liz has been an ambassador for the National Teacher-Powered Schools Network since 2016 and is currently their Wisconsin regional network leader. Liz has a B.S. from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a M.S. from University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Minnesota New Country School
Vanessa Tompkins is the 4/5th grade advisor in a co-taught 4-6th grade classroom at Minnesota New Country School in Henderson, MN. She is passionate about student centered learning, fostering student autonomy through choice and PBL, and puts value of building student relationships at the heart of her classroom. She loves learning and sharing about her focus on Project Based Learning, Responsive Classroom practices, as well as creating and optimizing student learning space through classroom design. Before teaching at MNCS she taught special education, 6th grade, and Kindergarten. Vanessa is excited to help other teachers take positive steps towards creating and improving student centered environments. My goal is to provide teachers with strategies that will take their classroom to new levels of engagement by sharing applicable tools for student centered learning and PBL.
Wildlands Science Research School
Paul Tweed is a veteran teacher and professional development leader in student and teacher areas of inquiry based science, active learning, project-based learning, and community-based science with over 30 years experience. He founded Wildlands School in 2005 with two colleagues and was active in the science teaching community for 20 years before Wildlands. He has presented at conferences all over the country, taught at the secondary and university level, has been on textbook authoring teams, and consulted with school districts and state education departments in the areas of science, constructive and inquiry learning, project-based learning, and school culture change. Paul has been recognized for his efforts with awards such as Wisconsin Biology Teacher of the Year, The Wisconsin Presidential Award in Science, Genentech Access Excellence Fellowship, GTE GIFT Program Fellow, Kohl Teacher Fellowship, and Wisconsin Charter School Teacher of the Year, and more. He has worked closely with HeadRush to develop more effective means for managing and assessing project-based learning. A founding and current board member of ISN he also coaches and consults with schools to help them develop student-led project-based learning communities, teacher led (teacher-powered) schools, and relationship based learning cultures.
Avalon Charter School
Nora Whalen is one of the founding teachers of Avalon School—hired in the Spring of 2001 to open a democratic, teacher-led, project-based charter school located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Over 15 years she has served as as a high school advisor, participated on the personnel team, enrollment, marketing, q-comp and other committees as needed to run the school. Nora also worked closely with EdVision Cooperative as a board member and later as a technical consultant, helping new schools open in California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Nora currently sits on the Avalon School board and Education Evolving Board of Directors.
In addition to her work at Avalon, she collaborated with Avalon colleagues to consults with other charter schools to further develop personalized learning for students. She served as a technical assistant with Project Foundry, and now supports work with Headrush online platform. She also works with Innovative Quality Schools charter school authorizer to assess quality charter school programs in Minnesota. In 2006, she earned her MA in Educational Leadership from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Previous to Avalon School, she earned her degree from the Saint Olaf College’s Paracollege, much like Avalon’s project-based learning, where she took advantage of extensive travel learning programs to study in the Middle East and India. She also taught middle school for three years in large suburban districts.
Northwest Passage Charter High School
Peter Wieczorek is currently the Director of Northwest Passage Charter High School in Coon Rapids, MN. He is a passionate advocate of Project Based Learning, Field Studies, Expeditionary Learning, and Inclusion. Peter started his career at NWPHS 15 years ago as a biology teacher and advisor, he has also served on the NWPHS school board as the chair, and treasurer. Peter took over the role of Director in 2013 during this time he has been able to maintain a limited teaching role, lead expeditions and lead an advisory of student ambassadors. Prior to working at NWPHS Peter was the Director at YMCA Camp Icaghowan, he has also spent time as a trail guide, outdoor educator and consultant. Peter received an undergraduate degree in Outdoor & Experiential Education from the University of Minnesota. He earned this Life Science licensure and M.Ed from Goddard College in Vermont. If you ask Peter to describe himself he would say he is a Dad, a teacher, a youth worker, a disruptor, an explorer, a part-time Jedi Master and a life-long learner.