LPS Teachers

Aisha Nurredin

Mrs. Nurredin teaches 6th grade at College Hill Fundamental Academy located in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has been teaching for 13 years and this is her second year participating in LPS. When she's not teaching, she can be found spending time with her family and providing community outreach with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. She is so excited to provide an opportunity for her students to have an another adult in their lives to help support their future dreams. Science and math have always been passions in her life, so she loves providing students with other opportunities to connect their learning to the real world. She is excited that her students will have the opportunities to hear from real scientists and start to consider a future in science.

Allison Hoyle

Miss Hoyle is the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science teacher at DePue Unit Schools in DePue, Illinois. This upcoming school year will be her 8th year teaching. This is her 4th year with LPS. When she isn't teaching she can either be found reading or cleaning up the state parks near her town. This opportunity will give her students the chance to learn about new places and new ways that science is done. In her classroom, Miss Hoyle values respect over everything. Respect for oneselves, respect for each other, and respect for the learning environment. Miss Hoyle is on Twitter - you can follow her @Hoyle_Science.

Amanda Haney

Mrs. Haney teaches 5th grade gifted students at Chardon Hills STEM School in Euclid, Ohio. This is her 13th year teaching and 9th year working with gifted students. Gifted students have their own unique brand of fun, and are the reason she loves her job! Mrs. Haney teaches all the academic subjects, but science is by far her favorite. Science lends itself to hands-on experiences that 5th grade students just love. Science class is always a favorite for the kids! This is Mrs. Haney's 6th year with LPS, and each year gets better and better. LPS is a great way for students to be connected with a mentor, especially someone more ‘exciting’ than their parents and teachers. Mrs. Haney hopes the scientists understand how much of an impact their letters can truly make, and how exciting it is for the kids to get a letter from a real scientist! Mrs. Haney loves to read, travel, and hike, but lately she's been spending more time exploring local parks and playgrounds with her 3 young sons.

Amy Wert

Mrs. Wert teaches 5th and 6th grade in National City, California. This is her 17th year teaching and she is excited to participate in the LPS program for the first time this year. Mrs. Wert is eager to bring LPS into her classroom to expose students to a wide variety of STEM careers and the diverse community within those fields. When she is not teaching, Mrs. Wert can be found reading, watching hockey, traveling, or on an adventure with her 8 year old daughter and husband. Fun facts...Mrs. Wert spent her childhood living in Canada (hence the love of hockey) and her favorite season is Autumn. @AmyWert4 on Twitter

Annette Licata

Miss Licata is a 5th grade teacher at Tracy Elementary School in Baldwin Park, California. She has been teaching for 24 years and this is her 4th year hosting LPS. Science is her favorite subject to teach and she enjoys sharing her love of science with her students. Her hope is that LPS will help bring science and careers in science to her students in a more authentic way.

Aurora Johnson

Miss Johnson is in Moreno Valley, California teaching 7th Science at Vista Heights Middle School. This is her 22 year teaching middle school Science and her 15th year at Moreno Valley Unified School District. Miss Johnson is energized to participate in her first year of Letters to a Pre-Scientist with her students. Students will be able to practice their writing skills in the program, and obtain a mentor for a short time. She views letter writing as a lost piece of history that needs reviving and views that letter writing can improve student's sense of self and motivate them to want to improve skills while encouraging a Positive Mindset. In the classroom, Miss Johnson wants her students to improve in both skill level and content knowledge. When Miss Johnson is NOT teaching, she can be found reading her Kindle, viewing the latest Marvel movie, or spending time with her niece and nephews.

Holly Spivey

Mrs. Spivey is currently an 8th grade physical science teacher. She has not always been a science teacher. Special education and English have actually comprised most of her 30 years in Georgia. Mrs. Spivey is excited about bringing LPS into her classes this year as her main goal is to expand the minds of her students and push them to dream big. She loves to support her students and personal children by attending the sport games they play. Outside of school related things, Mrs. Spivey reads fantasy fiction and drama, plays brain puzzle type games (scrabble/sudoku), and has started traveling more.

Bridget Heneghan

Ms. Heneghan is a 6th grade math and science teacher at Hibbard Elementary in Chicago, Illinois. She loves teaching science mainly because she loves learning about science, especially anything to do with astronomy and space exploration. This is her sixth year with LPS and loves the opportunity it gives her students to connect with scientists in professions and places that they never would have considered before. The best part watching the students' expand their understanding of what it means to be a scientist as well as what it means to be a good person. Ms. Heneghan loves teaching at Hibbard because of the way it embraces and celebrates its cultural diversity. With students from all over the world, many of whom speak languages other than English at home (from Spanish to Romanian to Arabic to specific dialects of Swahili), students come to Hibbard with a wide variety of background knowledge and experiences that makes it such a wonderful community. Follow her class on Twitter @msheneghansroom.

Cynthia Valle Lone

Jackie Ma

Ms. Ma teaches 6th grade at Lincoln Acres Elementary located in National City, California. She has been teaching for 9 years and this is her second year participating in LPS. When she's not teaching, she can be found on a hiking trail with her golden retriever, Waffles, and husband. She is so excited to provide an opportunity for her students to have another adult in their lives to help support their needs. Science and math have always been passions in her life, so naturally it transferred over to her teaching. She has been able to watch students develop their communication, become problem solvers, and practice perseverance through engaging science content. Now her students will be able to hear from real scientists, continue to foster a love for science, and have them start considering a future in science.

Jamie Radford

Mrs. Radford is a 6th-8th grade science teacher at Phoenix High School in Braithwaite, Louisiana. This will be her 13th year teaching and her 3rd year hosting LPS in her classes. She loves that LPS allows her students to connect with STEM professionals all over the world and see that they share similar interests and backgrounds.

Jenna Biggs

Mrs. Biggs teaches 8th grade physical science at Red Top Middle School in Emerson, Georgia. This will be her 13th year in education. She is excited to be hosting LPS in her classroom for the first time this year! Mrs. Biggs received her Bachelors in Biology from Georgia Southern University, her Masters in Science Education from Georgia State University and will graduate with her Specialist degree in Instructional Technology from Kennesaw State University in December 2022! When she is not in the classroom, Mrs. Biggs enjoys spending quality time with her husband and daughters, playing with her dogs, tending to her chickens, and boating on the lake. You can follow Mrs. Biggs on Twitter @jenna_lynn986.

Jennifer Holland

Ms. Holland is a 6th and 7th grade science teacher at Anacapa Middle School in Ventura, CA. She has been teaching for 11 years and this is her first year participating in LPS. When she isn’t teaching, she can be found hiking with her dog, nature journaling, and camping on the Channel Islands. Ms. Holland believes students learn science by doing science, and strives to provide as many real world, hands-on experiences for her students as possible. From engineering challenges to raising trout in the classroom, she tries to make her science classroom an engaging place to be. Ms. Holland is excited to bring LPS to her classroom and provide her students with the opportunity to connect with scientists around the world. She believes this will not only help get her students excited about science, but will help make STEM careers more accessible to all of her students.

Jessica Gastelum

Mrs. Gastelum teaches 5th grade at Lincoln Acres Elementary School in National City, California. This is her 13th year teaching and her first year participating in LPS. When she’s not teaching, she can be found at the beach with her family. She is so excited to help her students see themselves as future scientists by engaging in authentic letter writing. In her classroom, Mrs. G. is passionate about STEM subjects and she can’t wait to share a love of science with her students in a new way.

Jamie Radford

Mrs. Radford teaches 6th - 8th grade science at Phoenix High School in Braithwaite, Louisiana. This is her 12th year teaching and her 3rd year hosting LPS in her classroom. She is excited to provide her students with an opportunity to be able to connect with scientists and explore the world outside of their small community through this pen pal program. Mrs. Radford values hard work and perseverance in her classroom. She enjoys teaching science and watching her students become better problem solvers and creative thinkers during the investigation process. When not teaching, you can find Mrs. Radford spending quality time with her family.

Julie Sullivan

Mrs. Sullivan teachers 6th grade at Marion Mix Elementary in Elk Grove, CA. She has been teaching in EGUSD for 18 years and this is her first year joining LPS. When she is not teaching, She can be found with her family enjoying hiking and biking in Sacramento or Lake Tahoe. LPS will allow our student population to learn about the STEM field from people all over the world. Mrs. Sullivan values students that come curious about the world and ready to creative and adaptive problem solvers in the world. She believes LPS is one of the fun ways to achieve this goal.

Julie Wojnar

Mrs. Wojnar teachers 5th grade at Chardon Hills Magnet School in Euclid,Ohio, which is east of Cleveland. This is her 23nd year teaching and her will be her 7th year implementing LPS in her classroom. When she is not teaching, she enjoys family time with her 5 daughters, traveling, running, yoga, and reading. Mrs. Wojnar teaches science because she wants to guide her students to connect their learning to the world around them. By participating in LPS, her students have opportunities to engage with STEM professionals and see what is possible for them in their futures. Mrs. Wojnar would like STEM professionals to help foster all of the potential and curiosity her students have to offer.

Kelsey Cronmiller

Ms. Cronmiller has been teaching middle school science in Santa Ana, California for 9 years. She chooses to teach science because it is so exciting, and she hopes her own interest in science sparks new curiosities for her 6th grade students. She is thankful to partner with Letters to a Pre-Scientist for a 4th year because she has seen how scientist pen pals have opened her students’ eyes to ideas, careers, and possibilities beyond what a traditional classroom can teach alone. When she is not in the classroom, Ms. Cronmiller enjoys cooking, reading, and hanging out with her two cats.

Kevin Ohama

Mr. Ohama is a 6th grade teacher at Marion Mix Elementary School in Elk Grove, CA. This year could be year 20 for Mr. Ohama's teaching career, but he's not sure. He's doesn't organize his internal hard drive by date. With that said, this could be year 6 of hosting LPS. It has been a while, anyway. ""I teach every student at their level in every subject every day,"" says Mr. Ohama, summing up his instructional philosophy. Adding, ""LPS fits in perfectly with that mindset."" Teaching aside, Mr. Ohama is dabbles: guitar, chess, robotics, coding, FIFA22, long-suffering Cubs fan, bread baking, home brewing, but mostly he likes to read. (very infrequent) Twitter: @KevinOhama

Kim Jones

Ms. Jones teaches sixth grade science, math, and Food: From Farm to Face at Thomas Starr King Middle School's Environmental STEAM Magnet in Los Angeles, California. Ms. Jones is entering her 26th year of teaching for Los Angeles School District. The 2022-23 school year will be Ms. Jones's first year hosting LPS. She and her students are looking forward to meeting scientists through letter writing. In her spare time, Ms. Jones spends time cooking and eating good food with her friends and family. She loves movies (in theaters) and hiking. Also, Ms. Jones writes grants to study science in different places. She travels during summer break. This past year, she traveled to Jordan to learn about how water scarcity impacts and changes cultural traditions. Ms. Jones grew up on a farm in Tennessee and has always loved science. She didn't love the way science was taught to her in school, ""Read chapter six and answer the questions at the end of the chapter."" However, the observations on the farm were the inspiration for her science learning. Being part of an environmental program and spending time in the school garden with students is the best part of teaching for Ms. Jones.

Kristen James

Mrs. James teaches 8th-grade science at Phillips Preparatory School located in Mobile, AL. She has been teaching for 9 years and this is her first year participating in LPS. When she is not teaching, she is spending time with her family. She loves watching college baseball and football and loves to go fishing with her husband. She is very excited to help provide more opportunities to encourage her students to be globally minded individuals. The social-emotional aspect of this opportunity means the world to her students and she cannot wait to see the excitement on her student's faces.

Laura Rapsawich

Mrs. Rapsawich teaches 7th grade science at Euclid Middle School outside of Cleveland, Ohio. This school year will be her 17th year teaching and her first year with LPS. She is very excited to bring LPS to her classroom and connect her 7th grade students with STEM professionals to widen their horizons about STEM careers and opportunities. She values connections with students and providing a science classroom where students can explore and think critically. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and three kids, jogging, reading and spending time outside.

Libby Bertacchi

Ms.Bertacchi teaches 6th grade at Marion Mix Elementary School in Elk Grove California. She has been teaching for 7 years and is excited to start her 8th year teaching at the same school she started. This will be her second year bringing LPS to her students, and she can't wait. When not teaching Ms.Bertacchi is visiting Disneyland, which she is a HUGE fan of, or playing volleyball for rec leagues, or finding adventure with friends, family, and lab shepherd pup Tucker. She is excited to bring LPS back to her classroom to show students that ANYONE can be a STEM professional, and help students visualize what they might enjoy doing in their futures. She believes it is important that students build inquiry for the topics they study, and science is the perfect subject to lead students down a path of many wonderful discoveries and ongoing inquiries. Ms.Bertacchi values making connections with each and every student that crosses her path in her career. When students feel safe, the journey in learning is so much more meaningful. She hopes that her students will be life long learners, and remember how to do so by being in her class.

Lisa Balazs

Ms. Balazs teaches 7th and 8th grade math at Magic City Acceptance Academy Charter School in Homewood, Alabama. She has been teaching math and science for 19 years, and is pleased to be hosting LPS at her school for the first time! One fun fact is that Ms. B once worked for NASA as an educator at the Goddard Space Flight Center. LPS is going to be a great way for Ms. B to bring her love of science into her math classroom this year. She values the inclusion and diversity this program offers for her students! In her spare time, Ms Balazs loves to read, garden and play with her 3 dogs.

Michelle Davis

Mrs. Davis teaches 7th grade at Euclid Middle School in Euclid, Ohio. This is her 24rd year teaching and will be her second year implementing LPS. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, long walks with her dogs, and being outside in nature. Mrs. Davis teaches science because she enjoys the curiosity the students bring to the classroom about all topics in science. She was once told that she asks too many questions, and she does not want to stop students from observing, wondering and asking about the world around them. Her hope is to bring real people who have careers devoted to science and help foster a life-long career or passion for the sciences. Also, she hopes the students value the memory of the communication with the pen pal program. Mrs. Davis values respect for all living things and their connections to the world as a whole which connects to her number one expectation of respecting self, others, learning, materials and all living things.

Michele Zollars

Ms. Zollars teaches 6th through 8th grades (all subjects) at a small rural school in northern California. This is her 8th year as a classroom teacher, though she's worked with children in various roles for 30 years. Fun Fact: she's lived in Japan (6 yrs.), North Carolina (8 yrs.), Missouri (1 year) and 5 areas of California. When she's not teaching, she's singing, chilling at home, at the dog park, or kayaking. She's very excited to host LPS for her 4th year. This program really expands students' exposure to science, college, and geography. Michele sees her role as a facilitator, helping students learn more about themselves and access the vast world of possibilities. Interacting with real scientists gives students excitement and hope.

Melissa Kwan

Mrs. Kwan teaches 5th grade multiple subjects at Lincoln Acres Elementary in National City, California. This is her 22nd year teaching and her 3rd year hosting LPS in her classroom. When she isn’t teaching, you can find her practicing yoga or hanging out with her two kids. She is so excited to watch her students engage in authentic writing through LPS while also broadening their horizons with STEM careers. In her classroom, Mrs. Kwan is passionate about perseverance, kindness, and integrity.

Nahdia Kchouri

Mrs. Kchouri has been teaching for the past 14 years and is currently a 7th grade teacher in Southern California. This is her third year hosting LPS. She enjoys cooking, baking, and spending time with her family. One fun fact: she had bright pink hair in high school and dyed her hair blue several years back. She is excited to host LPS this year because she hopes that participation for students will help to connect her scholars to STEM professions (that they may have never known existed!). Mrs. Kchouri is appreciative of the STEM professionals that become role models in her students’ lives!

Rob Moore

Mr. Moore is a 6th grade Math, Science, and AVID Elective teacher at Sierra Vista Middle School in Baldwin Park, California. The 2022-23 school year will be his 26th year in education. When he is not teaching, he enjoys cooking plant-based meals for his family, going to concerts, and learning Jiu Jitsu. This is his first year hosting the LPS program. He hopes this experience will inspire more students to consider a future as a STEM professional.

Robin Walsh

Ms. Walsh is a 7th grade science teacher at Busbee Creative Arts Academy in Cayce, South Carolina. She has taught for 25 years and is excited about participating in LPS. This is her third year hosting the pen pal program. When not teaching, Ms. Walsh coaches archery and participates in RunDisney 5k’s. Ms. Walsh expects LPS to assist her students in the realization that they themselves have no limitations on their future aspirations. Scientists, researchers and engineers come in every gender, ethnicity and age. Follow her class and their journey via Twitter @GerzemasClass.

Sarah Malec

Mrs. Malec teaches 8th grade Science, Flight & Space, and Medical Detectives at Corvallis Middle School in Norwalk, California. She has been at Corvallis for nine years and teaching for 15 years. This will be her first year hosting the LPS program at her school site and is excited for her students to engage with STEM professionals and open up a new world of possibilities for them. Mrs. Malec focuses on building relationships in her classroom and fostering a safe and inclusive space for all of her students. She enjoys teaching science because it inspires a sense of curiosity about the world in her students. When she's not teaching, she can be found hanging out with her daughter at local amusement parks, reading, or playing board games with friends and family (fun fact: she owns over 250 hobby board games). Mrs. Malec has spent her whole life in Southern California and loves it there. You can follow her class on Instagram @SmartMalecScience or on Twitter @SmartMalecSci

Simran Sabharwal

Ms. Sabharwal is the 8th Grade Science Teacher at KIPP Heritage Academy in San Jose, CA. This is her 5th year at her current school where she is also the content lead for the science department. Before moving to San Jose she completed her undergrad in Biology at Middlebury College and taught for 2 years in Boston Public Schools. She is proud to be a teacher and has many STEM professionals in her family including siblings who are doctors and her husband who is a software engineers. Ms. Sabharwal also love her 2 cats and enjoys hikes in nature. She is excited about this opportunity to help her 8th grade students see themselves reflected in STEM and learn about STEM career opportunities from their pen-pals and all of their expertise.

Stacie Cocca

Ms. Cocca is a 7th grade science teacher at Sierra Intermediate in Santa Ana, California. She became a teacher because she loves sparking curiosity and creativity in her students. While her students gain a passion for science in her class, they struggle to visualize themselves as future scientists because of their misconceptions of what scientists actually look like. This is why she is excited to bring LPS into her classroom. This is her 4th year with this program, and she is looking forward to watching her students realize that their goals are achievable and scientists are real people just like them.

Stephanie Portillo-de Leon

Mrs. Portillo teaches 8th grade science at math in Montebello, California. This is her fourth year teaching and will be her first year implementing LPS. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, playing soccer, and taking ballet classes. Mrs. Portillo is excited to introduce the LPS program to put a face/person to different STEM careers so her students can discover new career options and know that they have options. The discovery of new things is a big reason she teaches science as she likes to teach the students about the science that happens around them. Mrs. Portillo values collaboration, curiosity, and creativity.

Ron Ochoa

Mr.Ochoa has been teaching 5th/6th Grade for over 15 years. He now teaches 6th Grade at Marion Mix Elementary in Elk Grove, California. This is Mr. Ochoa's First Year participating in the LPS Program. When not teaching, Mr. Ochoa performs in a variety of Jazz/Latin bands in the Sacramento area, continues to study drum and percussion techniques/applications, practices Jeet Kune Do/WIng Chun/Escrima, and is preparing to learn how to surf. He is excited to demonstrate to students that the Sciences are a Multi-Disciplinary Field. He believes that the LPS program will help students realize that fact. Students in Mr. Ochoa's class will realize that every Inquiry about the World around them can lead to a multitude of Scientific pursuits. Mr. Ochoa looks forward to guiding students toward the realization that Science was never intended to be taught/learned explicitly through text books, tests, and one annual project. Instead, Students will be able to practice science through inquiry, experimentation, and communication with experts in the many fields of Science.

Salma Shehto

Ms. Shehto (pronounced Sha-ha-toe) is a high school science teacher in Moreno Valley, California. When not in the classroom or working, you will find Ms. Shehto spending time with family, cooking, or taking a walk. Ms. Shehto has been teaching for 13 years and is starting her third year with LPS. Ms. Shehto is excited about incorporating reading and writing in her classroom and exposing students to STEM careers and mentors. She is looking forward to the exciting LPS letter opening parties! She values discipline and self-growth. Incorporating 21 century skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity is important in her classroom.

Sindy Trieu

Ms. Trieu teaches predominantly 9th graders in the subject of Biology at Florin High School in the Elk Grove Unified School District, in Elk Grove Californian. This is her 17th year in education as a teacher and former administrator. This is her first year with LPS and she is super excited for the connections her students will be able to build with their Mentors. When Ms. Trieu is not teaching, you can find her with her hiking boots strapped on tight and her border collie, Hiro, by her side climbing up a hill taking selfies. Many high school students are not exposed to science and math as much as Ms. Trieu had hoped. By being part of LPS, she is able to introduce her students to other adults in science and math, where they can ask questions to build or further their interest in science. Extensive exposure to science is not common in elementary school. It is important that students get a good introduction to what science and STEM is like when the opportunity arises. Ms. Trieu finds satisfaction when her students come in not knowing or have an opinion about science and walk out of her class loving science or even walk out of her classroom asking questions and developing models.

Stacy Katzenstein

Mrs. “Katz” teaches engineering and physics at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley, California. The 2021-22 school year will be Mrs. Katz’s 14th year teaching and third year hosting LPS. When not teaching, Mrs. Katz can be found going on adventures with her family --even if it’s just in the backyard. She also loves cooking, going on hikes, or learning something new or building something crafty with her kids. She is very excited to host LPS in her engineering class because it connects students directly to STEM professionals and broadens their ideas and perceptions about STEM careers. Mrs. Katz values curiosity, collaboration, diversity, and creativity. Mrs. Katz can be found on Twitter and Facebook at @STEM_Shindigs.

William Gabriel

Mr. Gabriel teaches 8th grade science in Los Angeles, California. He has been teaching middle school for 17 years and this will be his 4th year hosting LPS. When he is not teaching in the classroom, you can find him walking his two dogs around the neighborhood or trying to stay fit at his local gym. He is also trying to fill up his “Passport to Your National Parks” with a stamp from all of the established National Parks in the country. He is excited to bring LPS to his classroom this year because he wants to inspire his students to consider themselves in a career in STEM. Having wonderful teachers and education growing up inspired him to become a teacher and he hopes that he can do the same for his students.