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Instructors

Mrs. Sandy Adler

Sandy Adler attended Riverdale Community College in Austin, MN to pursue an AA degree in Fine Arts, Minneapolis Community and Technical College for an AA in Graphic/Commercial Design, and Crown College for a B.A. in Christian Education.  She is currently a practicing and accomplished artist in both fine arts and graphic design.  She is the Director of Marketing, Advertising and Promotion as well as Vice President of Heart of the City Ministries, a non-profit organization led by Sandy and her husband for the purpose of bringing racial and denominational unity to the Body of Christ in the Twin Cities area.  Her paintings in oil pastel have been featured in businesses and ministries in the Twin Cities area.  She has been teaching art for the past 18 years in area home school academies and co-ops as well as after school enrichment programs in the local school districts, with over 160 students during the 2008-16 school years.  In 2006 Sandy won a grant through the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council to bring her oil pastels class into a select group of inner-city schools, in order to provide supplies and instruction to students living at or below poverty level. She has also implemented art programs by providing curriculum, supplies and instruction to impoverished communities in third world countries through three mission trips. 

 An 11-year home school veteran herself, Sandy’s passion is to make art instruction engaging and inspiring for students of all levels, to introduce students to the sheer joy of art even as they learn advanced techniques, and to help them truly learn to “see” the beauty of God’s world around them as they learn art basics and secrets that hone their own skills and abilities as young artists.   

See sample lessons on main Fine Arts page

Mrs. Gina Archambault

Gina Archambault received a Bachelor of Science from the college of Saint Katherine including a Major in Elementary Education, a Specialty in Middle School Language Arts & Communications and a NFICA Coaching Certificate. Gina taught second grade for eight years until the Lord led her into a new role. Since then she has been homeschooling her three boys. Her oldest is entering highschool and the Lord recently blessed her with a daughter who will start kindergarten in a few years. During this time she has taught at various co-ops including gym classes. 

Gina grew up as an athlete, playing multiple sports. She was on the very first girls high school hockey team and won the state tournament in 1994. She has coached a variety of teams including middle school soccer and softball. 

Gina is heavily involved in her church, serving on the Pastoral Council and teaching faith formation classes. She recently stepped into the role of Childrens’ Leader at BSF and contributes to the welfare of children in the community by participating in Safe Families. She has a heart for raising children to be the very best God created them to be.

Mrs. Rheanna Arfsten

One conversation with Rheanna and you’ll sense her passion for the Lord and His Kingdom perspective! Rheanna has a strong desire to bring up the current and next generations in a firm foundation of identity, inheritance, and authority in Christ through deep and honest discussions; she believes great discipleship is built upon great questions! 

Rheanna is a veteran homeschooling mama of 4 beautiful children, one of whom is now grown and married. She is a best-selling author, podcaster, mentor, speaker, and the co-founder of the Freedom Culture ministry alongside her husband, Justin. Rheanna has earned an Associate’s degree in theology and continues to study the scriptures through Life Christian University, Florida. She loves to spend time in nature, cooking, listening to music, and reading all things non-fiction.

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” Matthew 6:33

Mrs. Hannah Barros

Hannah is a seasoned homeschool mom and is am working on her Masters of Psychology Counseling. Hannah will graduate with a minor in Biblical Studies, as well as Care Ministries. She has a background in Classical Conversation where Hannah has been a tutor for 8 years (4 year foundations, 3 years Essentials, 1 year Challenge 1). Over her years as a homeschooling mom, she has taught in many additional co-ops.

Hannah has been married for 20 years and has five children whose ages span 10 years from single digits to upper teens. She loves to serve children of all ages and engage with their minds. Teaching is one of Hannah's favorite things to do and it brings her tons of joy! Hannah also finds joy in sharing Jesus! Over the years, she has spent much of her time teaching children’s church, participating in street evangelism, running a women’s Bible study, leading American Heritage Girls, and volunteering in many ways.

Mrs. Katie Benik

Katie Benik graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1999 with a BS in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. She worked for Mn/DOT in the Office of Environmental Services supporting state-wide environmental compliance related to construction projects. After 5 years, her first son was born and Katie “retired” to care for her growing family. Ultimately blessed so far with 21+ years of marriage and 3 boys, Katie enjoyed many hours outside with the boys playing and teaching along the way. Fast forward several years, her oldest son has graduated and moved to Colorado, second son will be a senior, and third son will be in 9th grade. Just when she thought she could go back to work, God called her to homeschool their youngest son. Katie just finished her 4th year of homeschooling and is truly loving the learning process and weaving God into the studies! Katie had only known public education and has been amazed by how different curriculum so easily weave God into the studies.

Katie has volunteered many years to teach religious education to youth from 1st grade to 10th grade, along with many other volunteer roles at St. Vincent de Paul. Katie has also volunteered for the past 5 years to coach middle and high school mountain biking to the Champlin Park, Osseo, and Maple Grove teams. Being outside, biking in the woods, and teaching kids skills- it doesn’t get much better! Katie also enjoys gardening, both flowers and vegetables, and baking all kinds of desserts.

Katie looks forward to mentoring and supporting PSEO students in science, helping to create solid foundational skills in critical thinking, time management, and an appreciation for the gift of knowledge and connecting our Creator to the beauty and complexity of our world.

Mrs. Jody Blauw

A graduate of Dordt University (music education and piano performance), Jody has a passion for instilling her love of music in others. She has taught K-8 classroom music, directed both high school and church choirs, and teaches piano lessons at her private studio. Jody pursues her love of singing by being a member of a local semi-professional choir, Deo Cantamus. 

When not practicing, performing, or teaching music, Jody enjoys doing home improvement projects with her husband, David, being active outdoors, and staying in touch with their three grown children.

Mrs. Heidi Bruder

Empowering and Equipping teenagers to grow as lifelong students of God's True Word is a passion of Heidi Bruder. She mentors and teaches teenagers in various co-ops, through her church, and as a part of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), where she currently serves as Children's Supervisor for the Rogers location.

Heidi graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis in Urban and Cross-cultural ministry. She served in an urban church, connecting the congregation to its diverse mission field. The highlight of her professional ministry years was developing a program that mentored and equipped teenagers to study God's Word and then empowered them to go out and make a Kingdom impact in their mission fields.

Heidi's homeschool journey began when her oldest was in kindergarten. Throughout her homeschool years, Heidi has taught in various settings around the metro. Her favorite subjects to teach are Faith Development, IEW, and Public Speaking.

Heidi cherishes family time with her husband and four kids. In her leisure time, Heidi enjoys spending time with friends, recharging on a family ranch in Montana, relaxing at her parent's cabin, and working out.

Mrs. Chris Carl

Chris is the mother of 6 children and has been homeschooling since 1995. She has been sewing since she was 13 years old and has sewn everything from baby clothes, to elaborate costumes and dresses, and recently recovered her living room couches. She has been involved with Children’s Ministry for many years which has given her the opportunity to teach children in a classroom setting.

Chris has enjoyed teaching Sewing at WEST for several years.

Mrs. Amy Carlson

Amy grew up in Illinois and became a Minnesota transplant after she married her husband. Her mother, who was an avid reader, instilled a love of reading in her at a very young age and even named her after two characters, Amy and Jo, from Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women.

Before moving to MN, she taught middle school social studies, language arts, and reading in a small private school in Chicago. Upon moving to MN, she taught 6 th grade social studies, language arts, and reading before transitioning into teaching AOM reading for struggling 6 th and 7 th graders in the Spring Lake Park school district. She “retired” from teaching to become a stay-at-home mom of four children. God eventually led her into homeschooling her children over the past 11 years, already graduating one from high school! 

Over the past several years she has taught a World Religions DSST class and an Environmental Science DSST class in her home and started tutoring elementary and middle school students.

In her spare time she likes to read, play her cello, and hang out with her family and friends. She really enjoyed her first year at WEST and is looking forward to many more. She feels blessed to be able to bring her love of reading back into a classroom setting where she can help create lifelong readers!

Mrs. Rachael Chernyavsky

Rachael Chernyavsky is a Monart Instructor and homeschooling mom since 2003. She studied at the University of Minnesota as well as at Trinity Bible School. While living in Washington, she started her art education at Issaquah Monart school, where she taught for three years before moving to Minnesota. Since returning to Minnesota, Rachael has had the opportunity to continue teaching art classes at Minnetonka Center for the Arts and provide art enrichment programs for the Minneapolis Public Schools. In addition to art, Rachael loves science, writing and story telling. She is a creative and enthusiastic teacher, whose passion is to engage students to become lifelong learners by providing an interactive and creative environment. An outdoor enthusiast and lover of nature, Rachael enjoys gathering her nine children to travel and have adventures. She loves sunshine, having a passport, camping, dogs, lots of kids, gardens and Jesus. 

Mrs. Kelly Cote

In 2006, Kelly married her husband and high school sweetheart, Nate, from the St. Michael Albertville school district. . Kelly has been blessed with two amazing boys, Neil and Nick. She has really enjoyed homeschooling her sons since 2015 and is excited to teach Earth Science along with Melissa Kuch this upcoming year! Kelly met Melissa when she was newly married and living in the same apartment building in Roseville. Kelly was a CMA working at Roseville Medical Center at that time. Kelly and Melissa re-connected this last year when her son, Nick, signed up for Earth Science with Melissa. Along with teaching at WEST, on Wednesday mornings Kelly will be teaching the Kid’s Bible Study Fellowship school program at Edinbrook Church in Brooklyn Park. Currently, she is teaching a small group for Kid’s Quest at North Ridge Fellowship Church in Rogers, where her family attends.

Mrs. Ashley Darkenwald

Ashley Darkenwald is the owner of inFIT24 (a family fitness center in Albertville) and has been an active part of the fitness and wellness community for over 20 years. Her passion is encouraging and educating youth and adults on how to live healthy, balanced lives. Publishing two award-winning health & fitness books, Ashley values and shares current, cutting edge health information with her students. Ashley has her Master's Degree in Exercise Science with an emphasis in Nutrition. She is a certified personal trainer,  group fitness instructor, and nutrition coach. Ashley works with pre-olympic athletes, professional athletes, and the students that identify as "non-athletic". Her passion is to teach students how to make a healthy lifestyle a lifelong adventure

Ashley has two teenagers and a toddler (the two older children are WESTies)! Life is busy and fun at her house -- and it's all about balance -- which is a core principle in her health and fitness class. In her free time, Ashley, with her hubby and kids, love to camp, fish, and work at home on their hobby farm. Ashley is also a praise and worship leader at her church in Elk River. She loves to connect happy movement (exercise) with praise and worship -- in everyday life!

Ashley specializes in youth fitness, corporate wellness, golf enhancement, pre/post-natal exercise, and athletic fitness performance training.  

Mrs. Nancy Djerf

Nancy is a seasoned homeschooler of seven children. The Djerf’s began their home school journey before it was popular, which makes Nancy one of the pioneers of the movement in Minnesota. She has taken delight in mentoring other mothers in their home school challenges and she continues to support families as they make educational decisions on behalf of their children.  She has been a home school consultant with T.E.A.C.H. Institute and was a co-founder of Teach Co-op.  She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. degree in Therapeutic Recreation and Child Development, worked as a Child Life Specialist at Minneapolis Children's Hospital, and she and her husband were youth pastors for a number of years.  Her skill as a teacher of the primary students is well established and she has skillfully taught IEW classes to middle and high school students as a Accredited IEW Instructor since 2008.  She has been affectionately called, "The Child Whisperer," due to her keen ability to reach and teach both the gifted student as well as the struggling student...and all the students in-between!  

Mrs. Diana Dutcher

Diana was born with a passion for cooking good food. She was raised in a kitchen at the family restaurant in Columbia Heights; which is closing its doors in 2017 after 45 years in business. The entire family is looking forward to having more time to embark on new endeavors. For Diana, that means continuing to teach at St. Thomas University as an adjunct professor in the Engineering Department’s graduate program for medical device design, teaching at WEST Academy, spending the days raising five young children, and growing a home-based business through teaching people how to reduce their toxin intake and live chemical-free.

Diana has been a volunteer at the Kitchen Window Culinary School since 2013, which allows her to be a teacher and a student. New skills, tips, and recipes are constantly being acquired so the WEST Kitchen will stay fresh and relevant.

Diana and her family currently attend Genesis Covenant when the kids decide to cooperate on Sunday mornings. Her other hobbies and interests include reading, cooking for friends and family, hosting do-it-yourself parties, and boating.

Mrs. Michelle Foster

Michelle Foster received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin- Stout with a concentration in Graphic Design in 1999. Prior to that she received a Bible certificate from Cairn University (formerly Philadelphia College of Bible at the Wisconsin Wilderness Campus). After pursuing her education, she worked as a graphic designer for 12 years. Her experience spans various projects such as gift bag lines, packaging lines, trade show design, advertising, photography and product development to major retailers. She resigned in 2011 after the birth of her first child and continues as a freelance designer out of her home today.

Michelle is married to Clint. She is currently a homeschool educator to her own two children, to whom she loves weaving all sorts of creativity into their lessons. When she has free time, she enjoys gardening, creating artwork, camping and hanging out at the lake up north with her family. She is looking forward to playing a role in helping PSEO students learn new insights that will impact and broaden their understanding of Art throughout history and today.

Mr. Hunter Fraser

Hunter Fraser is a Minneapolis singer-songwriter and worship leader. He is a professional freelance musician as a vocalist, guitarist, and keyboard player and has a background in classical and jazz piano. Hunter has been involved with churches in the Twin Cities area including Open Door, Rockpoint and others as well as with local artist Joel Hanson (PFR), the University of Northwestern - St. Paul, and his own music projects including the Hunter Fraser Band.  Since 2010, Hunter has been growing students in their piano and guitar abilities while at the same time, helping students reach musical goals they have set. Hunter has designed lessons to be engaging, and student-oriented.

Hunter graduated from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul with a degree in public relations.

Mrs. Robin Fraser

Teaching and empowering students with knowledge and the love of learning is a high value to Robin.  She is excited to interact with students in the classroom again.

Robin holds a degree in education – has taught a variety of subjects in the inner-city public schools at the middle/junior high level.   In 1993 Robin won the Sallie Mae First Class Teacher of the Year Award for Wisconsin.  She has also served as an inner-city youth director, has worked in the corporate world and has served in church:  council member/teacher/ministry lead and more.

Robin is a home educator of 18+ years.  She is the founder of F.I.C.H.E. homeschool coop, co-founder of WEST, serves her church and is a certified as a Spiritual Director.

Mrs. Rebecca Halverson

Rebecca grew up in Ecuador where her parents served as missionaries with the World Mission Prayer League. She finished high school at Hillcrest Academy in Fergus Falls, then went on to earn a degree in Social Studies Education from the University of Northwestern in St. Paul. After graduating from Northwestern, Rebecca worked in Forest Lake, MN for two years teaching in their Spanish immersion program. In 2014 Rebecca was invited to teach at Hebron School in South India, and gladly accepted the opportunity to serve the children of Christian workers across Asia. 

From the moment she arrived at Hebron School, Rebecca enthusiastically immersed herself in boarding school life. In addition to teaching Middle and High School History, Geography, and Earth Science, she directed several plays, served as dorm parent, and participated in a variety of school activities. After working in India for four years, Rebecca returned to Minnesota where she stepped back into teaching at Forest Lake Area Middle School, met and married Caleb Halverson, and settled into a cozy little blue house in North Minneapolis. 

Rebecca left full-time teaching in the public schools when her daughter Abigail was born in June 2021. She is loving her new role as a stay-at-home mom, however she does miss the energy of the classroom and is excited for the opportunity to re-enter the world of academics and work with students again at WEST. :

Mrs. Marhea Harris

Mrs. Marhea Harris was born and raised in Minnesota. She graduated with her BS degree in Early Childhood from Crown College in St. Bonifacius, MN in 2009. She has enjoyed signing since junior high. She took American Sign Language classes in college and eventually graduated with her American Sign Language Studies Certificate in 2005.

Mrs. Harris has been able to help interpret for church Deaf ministries and has had the privilege to go on a couple missions trips in which she has had contact with people who are Deaf. One mission trip was to Jamaica to a Deaf school. She has taught a Community Education ASL class for elementary students and has a passion for ASL as a language and teaching people the language to be able to connect with people who are Deaf. She also enjoys singing and/or signing music, reading, doing Counted-cross stitch. She is married and has a sweet 2.5 year old son.

Mrs. Rebekah Higgins

Rebekah graduated from Bethel University with a bachelors in environmental science and a minor in biology in 2019. From a young age, she has loved science and the outdoors, marveling at God’s beautiful creation. She always felt closer to Him when immersed in the woods or studying His works. She also loves reading and learning, and if she could, would be a full time college student as a job. She was homeschooled all her life and did PSEO in 11th and 12th grades. She has been married since 2020  and now has a 15 month old son whom she is looking forward to homeschooling someday. Rebekah is very excited to explore this new opportunity teaching at WEST that God has brought into her life.

Mrs. Jennifer Holt

A graduate of the University of Minnesota at Morris with a Bachelor of Arts (an English major with Biology and Chemistry minors), Jennifer Holt loves learning as much now as she did then. The opportunity to serve as a tutor for WEST allows her to share and pass on this enthusiasm for learning. 

Jennifer has a passion for engaging all styles of learners and enjoys incorporating that passion into each setting for classroom instruction.  Whether it is having a coffeehouse-style discussion, role-playing the class content, or using hands-on models, Jennifer’s goal is to make learning effective, fun, and memorable.  She is delighted to have served over ten years at WEST, where she has tutored Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy, Physics, Study Skills, Literature, and Middle School World History.  Jennifer looks forward to a new year of personally supporting students while communicating God’s power, beauty, order, and creativity.

Mrs. Nikki Hopf

Nikki graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor's of Science in Educational Psychology and Sociology. She held many positions in the Osseo Schools including Dean of Students at North View Middle School. She's also led small groups of all ages over 25 years.

Nikki lives in Minnetonka with her husband Adam. They have two children that attend WEST along with two adult children. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family, friends and caring for their three fur babies. She (Coach Nikki) is also a basketball coach for the North Metro Blazers and travel softball in the Plymouth/Wayzata community.

Mrs. Heather Kipp

Heather Kipp graduated with a B.S. from Northwestern College in Roseville, MN, with majors in Mathematics Education and Bible and a minor in Science in 2000. In 2014, she received her M.A. in Education from Bethel University in Arden Hills, MN with a concentration in Online Teaching.   

She has taught mathematics in a variety of capacities and levels - elementary math through college courses.  Prior to teaching at WEST she taught high school mathematics in the public schools, ACT prep courses, tutored individual students, and started a tutoring ministry.  In recent years, she has been a stay-at-home mom and has enjoyed the opportunity to homeschool her own children in addition to teaching PSEO math and ACT Test prep classes at WEST. She has a passion for teaching mathematics and enjoys helping students become life-long learners.  Many of her favorite tutoring experiences have been while ministering to students in the inner-city, and she is always blessed when she sees students overcome struggles and begin to thrive.

Her interests include music, reading, hiking, and gardening.  She is actively involved in the music ministry of her local church and serving the practical and spiritual needs of others at CityLifeWorks, a ministry in North Minneapolis. 

Mrs. Melissa Kuch

Melissa Kuch received a Minnesota teacher's license in elementary education and middle school science in the fall of 2011 through the University of Minnesota.  Here is where she also completed several graduate level courses in education.  Her Bachelor of Arts degree was earned in 2001 through Northwestern College in St. Paul, where she received a major in both graphic design and Bible, and a minor in art.

Now Melissa enjoys combining her knowledge of Bible, science, and art to bring a creative classroom experience to students, based on both biblical and scientific knowledge. Making science fun for the students has become a passion for Melissa, as she enjoys bringing hands-on learning experiences to students while developing positive relationships. Working with the homeschool community has proven to be very rewarding for her, as she has been at WEST since 2012. Other teaching experiences she has had in the past include being involved in children's Sunday school programs, substitute teaching through the Elk River School District, and being a private piano instructor.

Mr. Michael Leibig

Michael Leibig is a stay-at-home, homeschooling dad. He has four children, and he has homeschooled all of them since the first grade. Teaching them and helping them to grow and learn has been one of the most wonderful experiences of his life.

Michael graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in Physics and received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago. After doing pure research work for four more years, he decided to leave academia and pursue teaching, which was always what he really wanted to do. He taught high school physics at Princeton Day School in Princeton, NJ. When he and his wife Cora started their family, they decided that Mike would stay home with the children. As the kids got older, homeschooling seemed like something worth trying and they found a wonderful community of experienced homeschoolers to help them get started.

Now that the youngest of Michael’s kids is in high school, he has found himself with more time, and he is very excited to join the community at WEST to share his love of learning with its students. His teaching method emphasizes not only a seeing the real-world application of physics principles, but also a commitment to helping students develop a practical approach to solving problems.

Michael has two other passions – theater and board gaming. He satisfies his love of theater by coaching the Metro Edge Debate and Speech Club. His love of board gaming has caused him to acquire a large (maybe embarrassingly large) collection of board games, and he is always looking for friends to join him around a gaming table.

Mrs. Lolene Love

Lolene Love is married to Dr. Alan Love and has homeschooled their four children (two of whom are now college graduates!) through all of their school years. She graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with a BA in Biology, specializing in Animal Anatomy and Physiology. While in college she played lacrosse and participated in Marine Corps ROTC. Along the way, she studied linguistics, Spanish, and three semesters of calculus. After college she lived in Romania for one year and then served with Campus Crusade for Christ for eleven years. In addition to math, she loves grammar, Latin, and the materials from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. She has taught children other than her own for many years and enjoys the fun and energy of students in the middle grades.

Mr. Abraham McMahan

Abe McMahan is the co-owner of Harvestores LLC, a self-employed individual based in Minnesota, United States. He built a seven-figure e-commerce business using a team of shoppers and virtual assistants. He currently coaches and develops dozens of students to grow their e-commerce businesses. Abe is a subject matter expert in e-commerce platforms (Amazon, Walmart, and eBay) and has been featured on podcasts and videos. Before starting his own business, Abe worked 20 years in manufacturing and logistics at Animal Supply Company, Mondelez International, Nabisco, and Frito Lay. Abe has a heart for teaching and loves to share his knowledge with others. In his spare time, he has a hobby farm raising chickens and honeybees with his wife, Jenny, and their three children.

Mrs. Julie Monseth

Julie is convinced she won the lottery with being given the opportunity to teach History & Writing at WEST!   She’s a grammar nerd that stumbled upon IEW in 2006 when her oldest 2 boys were in 5th & 6th grade.  IEW has been foundational in the education of all five of her boys. Julie is an Accredited IEW Instructor.  One of her favorite subjects to teach is history! She holds a strong belief that God has much to tell us through looking at the lives and events of people from the past. Studying how God has worked and moved in the past, informs believers how HIS story shapes today.  Julie holds a B.A. in 1-6 Education and a minor in Bible from the University of Northwestern, St. Paul.  She is wife to Nate (a public school teacher for 30 years), mom to five boys and a beautiful daughter-in-law, and grandma to one sweet little boy. Julie taught elementary school while helping to start up an American/International school in Dubai, UAE.  After the birth of her third son, Nate and Julie returned to the US and have homeschooled for the past 20 years. Julie was the WEST Registrar for 10 years and is excited to dive back in as a tutor this time. In her free time, you’ll find Julie reading, traveling (most recently to Ghana and Italy), taking walks, teaching piano lessons at her private studio, leading studies for women at church, and binging on Masterpiece Theater period shows. 

Mrs. Tracy Ophoven

Tracy has been a homeschool teacher since 2004 and has taught at several homeschool co-ops, mostly middle and high school. Tracy also has taught CLEP, DSST, and dual enrollment college classes. Her two older children have graduated as homeschoolers and are pursuing degrees in Science. Prior to homeschooling, Tracy worked at Youth for Christ where she worked with teenagers, and she has been able to utilize many of the techniques learned there in her teaching. She is a lifelong learner. Some of Tracy's hobbies include researching, reading, and networking. She also enjoys gardening and planting flowers in the spring and spending time with her family near the Saint Cloud area where they reside.

Mrs. Joy Padilla Berg

Joy Padilla Berg attended Bethel for a Business Degree with an emphasis in Accounting and Minors in Coaching and Bible. She has been a youth leader since 2009 and a basketball coach since 2012. Mrs. Padilla Berg has also worked as a trainer and manager for college students at a non-profit organization that prepares taxes for low-income taxpayers. She is the owner of an Accounting Firm - Berg Accounting Services, LLC with locations in Robbinsdale and Maple Grove. Her business hires and trains young talent in running a business and maintaining high standards of customer service while also preparing tax returns.   

Mrs. Padilla Berg enjoys sharing her knowledge of finance and tax with others so that others can utilize the knowledge and thrive in their own finances.  She is a homeschool parent who is excited to teach students the value of understanding personal finance and then carry it into adulthood. 

Mrs. Jessie Papia

Jessie is certified as an IEW instructor and has taught this and other writing courses for five years. She also homeschools her five school-age children. Jessie graduated with a bachelor’s degree from North Central University in 2008 and is a passionate life-long learner. Jessie is a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God. Education, foster care/ adoption, and helping students unlock their God-given gifts fills Jessie with passion. She loves working directly with students to help them grow in both skill and confidence.

Jessie lives in the Twin Cities with her husband, six children, and German Shephard, Boston. She loves coffee, reading, spending time outdoors, and traveling with her family. 

Mrs. Tiffany Pavlish

In 1990, Tiffany Pavlish graduated from Normandale Community College with an A.A.S. degree in Office Systems and Management. While working as an Agency Secretary full time, she achieved a Business Education degree in 1993 from the University of Minnesota. Rather than teaching in high school classrooms, Tiffany chose the route of a computer applications trainer in the business world where she taught for 14 years before staying home with her four children. 

During her time as a trainer, Tiffany had the opportunity to work with large and small companies locally as well as across the country. A portion of that time was also spent at Normandale Community College, where she taught semester classes for 1.5 years. After Normandale, she taught with the Continuing Education departments at North Hennepin and Anoka-Ramsey Community Colleges respectively. In 2009, Tiffany returned to the classroom teaching computer application tools to homeschooled students and continue as a contract trainer. 

The real-life examples Tiffany has gleaned from teaching in the corporate world and community colleges are what fuel her passion for facilitating learning. This background information will springboard your student into the next realm of confidence and skillset necessary to help them succeed when accomplishing school work, landing an entry-level office job, and/or excelling as a PSEO/college student.

With God as a compass, alongside with her husband, Tiffany has been homeschooling her children since 2006. Besides receiving joy through teaching, Tiffany also adores the Christian book club she belongs to and meeting local historical Christian fiction authors in person. 

Mrs. Mari Rodriguez

I am a graduate of Christ for the Nations Institute Mexico City with a degree in Biblical Studies and Missions. After completing my Biblical Studies, I served as a missionary in Argentina and worked with street children. I returned from Argentina to finish my Missions certification. Upon completing all of my studies, I went to the Philippines where I served as a missionary alongside Family Circus, a ministry reaching the children and youth of Davao City.

I have been married for sixteen years and have three children that God has given me the privilege to homeschool. My husband and I were children’s pastors at Grove Christian Center for seven years. The past eight years I have taught elementary Spanish, and Spanish I and II at WEST. It has been a blessing to get to know my students and build relationships with many families. I’m also a private tutor for students that want to present the Spanish CLEP test.

I enjoy teaching children and have been able to hear not only the students who have attended my classes communicating in Spanish but their parents as well, which gives me great pride. I love to teach my students not just the language, but also the important things that go along with it such as the food, dances, and songs from Latin American culture. It is an honor to teach at West and I am excited for the adventure that awaits us in each class!

Mrs. Jan Sands

For over 30 years Jan Sands has taught, tutored, and tested her own six children and hundreds more. She’s taught in public and private schools, one-room schools and single grade classrooms, tutored one-on-one and offered algebra classes in her home. She also administers an annual achievement test for homeschoolers. Jan believes her varied experiences makes her better at meeting students’ individual learning needs.

Her favorite subject is math, and she loves to share the joy of math with her students. WEST provides her with a uniquely wonderful opportunity to help many students succeed in math.

Besides a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, with a concentration in math, from the University of Minnesota, Jan Sands also holds a master’s degree in education from Winona State University.

Mrs. Cristen Schmalz

Cristen Schmalz has a bachelor degree in speech communication from University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.   She loves the power of words and learning how to construct messages that clearly communicate, inspire, and empower those around you.   She will help you to feel comfortable while growing in your skill of public communication.  Cristen and her husband, Gary, have four kids.  Together they homeschool and travel as much as possible.

Mr. Gary Schmalz

Gary Schmalz is a graduate from Minnesota State University with a degree in Secondary Education and Social Studies.  He is a history fanatic and especially loves to learn about World War II.  

He currently works in full time ministry to college athletes, through the ministry of Athletes in Action.  He and his wife, Cristen, have four children and have homeschooled them over the years.  

Gary loves to travel,  watch sports and documentaries.  

Mrs. Angie Smith

Psychology has been a part of Angie's life since elementary school when my mother returned to college to get her own degree in the field.  For the sake of practice and analyzing us, she gave me and my sisters personality tests, constantly asked how we felt about various things in life, and helped us to understand the things we were going through in those developmental years were normal.  We found Myers Briggs to be particularly interesting. 

During high school and the early years of college, Angie took a few psychology courses but never pursued a degree or employment in the field.  She eventually worked in the insurance industry, met her husband in 1998, got married in 2001, and had two boys in 2003 and 2005.  Angie chose to be a stay-at-home mom until her youngest was old enough to be in school full time, at which point she worked for her chiropractor as an office manager.  Though this was a great opportunity, after three years, Angie was encouraged to pursue her love for photography and start her own portrait photography business, which is now called Bobeedy Photography, LLC.  Bobeedy was officially established in 2015, growing this small business has been an absolute blast for Angie!  

Because growing or challenging herself physically, spiritually, or mentally is a part of who Angie is, she decided to go back to college in 2016 to get her degree in psychology.  Angie's first class was at Metro State.  Because the foundation of psychology was rooted in Darwinism and felt incredibly secular, she looked elsewhere and thankfully landed at the University of Northwestern St. Paul where she felt much more at home.  The combination of Christianity and psychology was fascinating to Angie.  Every essay she wrote included scripture to back up why she was thinking, feeling, and saying.  It was fantastic!  Angie finished the two-year adult FOCUS program and graduated with distinction.  Because her boys are now teenagers and will be going off to college themselves soon, Angie did not want to take away from their college funds to pursue her master’s degree, yet. She figures the day will come and God will show her how to move forward in the field of psychology.  In the meantime, Angie finds herself using psychological concepts and tools in various relationships as well as during photo shoots-especially during family photo sessions and senior photo sessions.  

Teaching is another thing Angie enjoys, no matter the age being taught.  She taught children’s Sunday school for years at Calvary Lutheran Church many years ago.  Angie has also facilitated small groups and led a BSF discussion group (when they studied REV!).  To be a Course Assistant in a Christian setting discussing the basics of psychology sounds like a little piece of heaven.

Mrs. Tanya Stewart

German was my first language, followed quickly by English. I was raised bilingual by my mother who was born and raised in Germany. Growing up, we spoke German at home and traveled to Germany every summer. I earned a high school diploma -- twice, once in the U.S. and once in Germany. I also took biology twice--once in the U.S. and once in Germany. To graduate with a German high school diploma I was also required to take chemistry and physics. Later I taught science in various settings, including as an ESL teacher, and as a home school co-op teacher. Science is all about learning about our Father's world - the rules that make the material world work. It was a joy to come back to science spring 2020, when a physical science teacher was needed at WEST!

I studied at the University of Frankfurt (Germany). I earned my teaching degree at George Mason University in Virginia, where I also taught ESL science and German in the Fairfax County Public School system. Later, my husband and I and our 3 boys moved to Minnesota, where the boys have now graduated from the Stewart homeschool academy.

Having grown up bi-cultural and bilingual, I have experienced firsthand how different the world can "look" from different worldviews.  Yet Jesus is accessible, no matter from which direction one comes. I have long been a fan of Francis Schaeffer, Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Frank Turek, Ken Ham, J.Warner Wallace and others, who help us understand ourselves and Jesus through differing lenses. In the worldview class, we will learn how every worldview represents a person's journey to find answers to the heart's big questions of life.

Teaching is a joy and a challenge for me. Every student is unique, bringing a different story and different set of skills to the classroom. Together we will seek to develop those abilities for the good of society and the glory of God by maximizing wholeheartedly the opportunities set before us. Soli Deo gloria!

Mr. Stefan Svard

Stefan Svard is a lover of Jesus and of people, a researcher, developer and has been a business owner for more than 25 years. He has loved mechanics since he was a teenager and has had several hot rods and project cars besides loving to study and modify even his daily driving vehicles.  He and his first wife Jacque, who died of cancer, had a vision for mentoring youth to love Jesus more and fix, repair, and modify cars.  Now, 10 years later with two teen boys and 3 toddlers, Stefan and his second wife, Jessica, are excited to see the beginnings of this vision coming to be.  He is excited to share his knowledge and experience with others who want to learn and grow their practical knowledge of maintaining, repairing and even modifying vehicles. 

Mrs. Cami Thomassen

Cami received her training and B.A. degree in Theatre and Creative Writing (emphasis in youth/children’s theatre) in 2001 from Bethel University. She is a former actress, freelance director, playwright, coach, and has been teaching theatre classes at other homeschool co-ops, churches, and private schools the past 20+ years. Cami is passionate about teaching youth skills that not only will help develop their confidence, but bring out their best in creativity for the stage and every area of life. 

When Cami's not teaching, she's spending time with her family, mentoring and encouraging single mom friends (her ministry), or behind the lens of her camera as a professional photographer. She's a mother of 4, and wife to a native born and raised Norwegian man, having lived in Norway for 5 years.  She loves singing worship, watching her two oldest girls perform in musical theatre productions, chasing her 1 year old, and cheering her son and husband at soccer games. 

Mr. Nick Tucker

After teaching drum lessons from his home for two years, Nick and his wife Anna were excited to welcome their oldest daughter, Eisley, into the world, but there was a problem. Evening drum lessons and a sleeping newborn don’t mix. So, Nick took his drum lessons to a small commercial location. This was the start of his first ever business venture. 

That small commercial location ended up transforming into a much larger multi-location operation called Spark School of Music and Dance. Within six years, Nick and his team have grown Spark into a team of 30 with significant annual revenues. Additionally, Nick owns multiple commercial properties and is the co-founder and president of a software company. 

Nick lives in Dayton with his wife Anna, daughters Eisley and Braelynn, and two very large dogs, Bear the Bernese Mountain Dog and Elsa the Black Lab/Great Dane. 

Nick previously taught at WEST in the capacity of Worship Band instructor and is thrilled to be back offering a class around one of his biggest passions - teaching how to build and operate a successful business.

Mrs. Rae Wielgus

Rae grew up in Plymouth, MN, and earned a degree in Studio Art with an emphasis in Ceramics from the University of Northwestern St. Paul (formerly Northwestern College). After living in a small town outside of Madison, WI for a few years, her husband and three kids recently relocated back to the Hanover area. Professional experience includes teaching wheel-throwing and hand-building ceramics camps at Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, an internship with award-winning ceramic artist Paul Eshelman learning slip-cast techniques, mentoring middle school girls at her church, working with young adults with special needs in career and life transitions, and teaching art to young students. Personal interests include kayaking, listening to folky music, dabbling in vinyl cutting and printmaking techniques, and dreaming up a cross-country train trip out West.