Staff Bios


Meghan Janci, School Director: Meghan Janci is thrilled to be the incoming school director for the 21-22 school year.  Ms. Janci is entering her ninth year at DSST - she spent four years teaching 10th grade chemistry, before becoming the ASD at DSST GVR HS.   Ms. Janci has her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and her masters in Instructional Leadership from the Relay Graduate School of Education. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, biking, reading and traveling with her husband to Chicago to see her family.  Being a founding member of DSST CG HS has been a dream - she has loved watching our school grow from the very beginning and is so excited to continue her work as a Hornet!

Nate Reaven, Associate School Director:  Nate Reaven is incredibly excited to be the incoming Associate School Director for the 21-22 school year! This will be Mr. Reaven's 11th year in the DSST network and third campus DSST campus. Mr. Reaven was also part of the founding team at CGHS! Mr. Reaven is a Denver native who attended the University of Colorado at Boulder where he earned an English degree and certificates in both Education and Leadership. He also earned his Masters in Public School Building Administration from Teachers College at Columbia University. In his free time, he enjoys reading, camping, traveling, and skiing. He is very excited to continue growing the Hornet community!

Jalen Love, Prep Academy Dean:  Mr. Love will join the Hornets as the Dean of Students for the 9th/10th Grade Prep Academy. For the past two years, Jalen has worked at Project PAVE in Denver, Colorado as a Prevention Coordinator and Prevention and Media Manager. Mr. Love earned his undergraduate and masters degree from Newman University in Interdisciplinary Studies and Organizational Leadership. He is excited to show his passion for relationship building and looks to make an impact on the students and the community. In his free time, he enjoys sports, eating, coaching, and hanging with friends and family.

Christine Schultz, Senior Academy Dean:  Mrs. Schultz is so excited to continue working with Hornet students as the Senior Academy Dean! With an undergraduate degree in English and Psychology from the University of Washington and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado Denver, Mrs. Schultz is excited to continue to pursue her love for equity in education and building relationships with students, parents, and community members in her new role. After 8 years in the classroom, Mrs. Schultz is excited for the challenge of something new and is looking forward to supporting students culturally as they get closer to achieving graduation and moving on to college. She can’t wait to spread joy and love to students each and every day! In her spare time, Mrs. Schultz loves to snuggle her babies Noah and Lily and work up a sweat at Orange Theory Fitness :)

Valerie Wilkinson,  Director of College Success: Mrs. Wilkinson is joining our team with 7 years of experience teaching with DSST Public Schools and will be teaching Design Thinking. Mrs. Wilkinson is moving up in age from working as an Art teacher at both the Green Valley Ranch and Cole middle schools and very excited to work with high school students. Last year she was named Master Teacher in addition to receiving both culture and academic awards. Mrs. Wilkinson is a Colorado native and earned a Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication from the University of Northern Colorado, and a Bachelor of Fine Art in Jewelry Design and Metalsmithing from Metropolitan State University of Denver. In her free time Mrs. Wilkinson keeps very busy with her baby boy/girl twins Oliver and Emerson, and husband Will.

McClellan Walcott, Director of Curriculum and Instruction:  Ms. Walcott will be joining the Conservatory Green High School team as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction in the 2018-2019 school year. Originally from Alabama, she taught high school math for four years before attending grad school to earn her Masters of Education in Language and Literacy. She moved to Denver in 2015 to become a Math Fellow Coordinator in Montbello, where she has worked for the past three years. Ms. Walcott is excited to join the CGHS staff in year 2 to support teachers in continuing to grow in their practice! In her free time, she enjoys running, reading, cooking, and planning her wedding--coming soon in March 2019!

Nichole MacVittie, Director of Curriculum and Instruction - Intervention:  Mrs. MacVittie will join the CGHS team as the Special Education Coordinator. She has taught students in grades 6-8 in Atlanta, GA, as well as undergraduate college students in Virginia. She earned a B.S. in Business at Virginia Tech, a M.Ed. in Behavioral/Learning Disabilities at Georgia State University, and is currently finishing a Ph.D. in Education at George Mason University. Mrs. MacVittie is beyond excited to move to Denver to be a part of the CGHS family. She enjoys learning new things, reading, outdoor adventures with her pup, and trying new food!

Maria Gonzalez (Cedillo), Senior Office Manager:  Ms. Gonzalez joined DSST-CGHS as the Front Office Manager. She has worked with students and parents at both Aurora and Denver public schools. She has a B.S. in Human Services and M.S in School Counseling. She is very excited about joining DSST-CGHS family she is ready to take on challenges and will help support everyone at CGHS. Ms. Gonzalez lives in Aurora and loves to spend time with her children, family and friends. She enjoys helping others and learning new things. She likes to listen to music, dance, meditate, walk in the park and watch movies.

María González, Office Assistant: joined the CG High School team as an Office Assistant. Originally from Medellin, Colombia, she has spent the last five years in Colorado studying English as a second language and Business Administration to achieve her academic, personal and professional goals (she will graduate in June 2021). Maria is passionate about being goal oriented, getting organized and delivering projected results. In her spare time, she loves being active, exercising, yoga, reading, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with her husband, her friends, and her dog Polo. Maria is excited to be part of the Hornets and spread her good attitude and commitment by doing her best, Encantada de conocerlos!

Mike Perez,  Athletic Director:  Mr. Perez will be moving up to the high school to be Conservatory Green Campus Athletic Director. For the last 2 years Mr. Perez has been the PE teacher at the middle school. Mr. Perez will split time next year at the middle school and the high school. Mr. Perez attended the University of Jamestown on a basketball scholarship and earned a degree in Physical Education as well as Health and Fitness Administration. He has been teaching for 8 years all in Denver. He has taught every grade level from Kindergarten to juniors in high school. He is excited for the challenge and opportunity to bring a great Athletics program to CG High School.

Carmen Espinosa, School Social Worker (& her Therapy Dog, Minerva!):  Ms. Carmen and her furry co-therapist Minerva is joining the Hornet Hive as the School Social Worker. Ms. Carmen has worked supporting 6th grade through 12th grade students in the Denver Metro area for 3 years and has been with the DSST Network for 1 year. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Central Michigan University and her Masters of Social Work and Certificate in Animal Assisted Social Work from the University of Denver. Ms. Carmen and Minerva are excited to bring experiential-based approaches to therapeutic support, such as Animal-Assisted Interventions, Humane Education, and Mind-Body Re-Integration, to Conservatory Green High School students. In her free time, Ms. Carmen enjoys teaching and practicing yoga; reading; hiking; dancing; and traveling around the world.

Rebeca Taylor, Psychologist:  Rebecca Taylor is honored to be joining the DSST: Conservatory Green community as the school psychologist for the middle school and high school. Mrs. Taylor earned her M.S.E. and Ed.S. degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She has worked in a variety of mental health fields in Wisconsin, Brazil, and Colorado. She has experience working with persons of all ages – birth to geriatric. Mrs. Taylor grew up in Wisconsin; her high school mascot was also the Hornets. Being a Hornet again feels like the right fit! She is looking forward to meeting all the staff and students in the Hive! Outside of work, Mrs. Taylor enjoys spending time with loved ones, running, skiing, hiking and summers on Lake Michigan with her family. However, most of the time, she and her husband are juggling duties for their 4 children’s activities (ages 17, 15, 13 & 10)!

Paulina Molina, Community Engagement Manager:  My name is Paulina, I was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. I arrived to Denver with my family in the summer of 1999 and fell in love with Denver. I’m passionate about working with students and families in diverse communities. My specialty is the relationship between families and schools, and its impact on students’ success in school and through life. My experience comes from working in different charter schools throughout Denver, as Office Manager and Recruitment and Enrollment Manager. I’m so excited about my role as Community and Engagement Manager with DSST: Conservatory Green, and I’m confident that this is a role I will love and one where I will make a valuable contribution with my skills and experience in student recruitment and family engagement.


English Team

Meriwether Joyner, AP Literature & AP Language:  Ms. Joyner will join the Conservatory Green family as a 10th grade English teacher. She has spent the last four years teaching 9-12th grade English and Creative Writing in Nashville, Tennessee. As an outdoors-enthusiast, she can't wait to move to Colorado. She is a Tiger at heart, as she graduated from Clemson University, but is excited to become a Hornet this upcoming school year! She is eager to meet her new students and to start diving into great literature together!

Alex Hippenhammer, Humanities & Composition Teacher:  Mr. Hippenhammer will join us as a 9th Grade Humanities teacher. He has taught all ages, from 1st grade through 12th, and he is excited to share his love of literature and life with his students. Mr. Hippenhammer studied English Literature and Writing at Indiana University. He spent last summer working with volunteer high school students building schools and teaching English in Anloga, Ghana. In his free time, he is an avid climber, traveler, dancer, and lover of the outdoors.

Rosanna Horton, World Literature Teacher:  I live in Denver with my wonderful husband, DJ. Our family includes 2 cats, Phineas and Iggy, and one giant Great Dane named Ajax. In my free time I love to travel and go to concerts. This summer I traveled to Croatia. Other interesting facts about me: I LOVE coffee, and I drink it every day. I'm obsessed with fancy travel coffee mugs. I taught 8th grade reading at DSST GVR MS for the past 2 years. I'm originally from California. I have 2 younger brothers and 1 younger sister. My favorite foods are raspberries and watermelon. My favorite animals are cats, sea turtles and elephants (Horton Hears a Who!).

Micayla Miller, Humanities Teacher:  Mrs. Miller will join the Hornets as a 9th grade English teacher. Born and raised in Colorado, she has taught grades 9th-11th in Denver Public Schools. While teaching, she has been promoted to grade level leadership positions because of her hard work, teamwork and vision for academic and cultural success. Mrs. Miller earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Communications from Colorado State University (where she was also a cheerleader) and her teaching degree from Metropolitan State University. She is excited to share her passion for learning, growth and leadership with future students! In her free time, she enjoys working out, walking her puppy, cleaning, going to church, eating, and spending time with family and friends.

Pierrette J. (PJ) Shields, Composition Teacher:  PJ Shields will join DSST: Conservatory Green High School as the 9th-grade composition teacher in the 2020-2021 school year. She taught for six years at DSST Montview Middle School, where she won the Sie Faculty Excellence Award and helped to lead the school's name change to remove the moniker of a former Denver mayor whose membership in the KKK became a point of controversy. Ms. Shields spent a 15-year career as a news reporter, focusing primarily on criminal justice, but also spending time on political and government beats. She earned her bachelor of journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where she also minored in English and political science. She also has a master's degree in professional studies from the University of Denver. Ms. Shields is an Aurora native and graduated from Rangeview High School. She is a huge Mizzou fan, loves to read, work out when possible and loves to follow the successes of her students as they grow and head off to college.

Jessika LaPaglia, World Literature & Senior English Teacher:  Jessika LaPaglia is thrilled to be a part of the Conservatory Green team! She grew up in northwest Aurora and graduated from the Metropolitan State University of Denver with a Bachelor’s degree in English in 2008. She also holds a professional certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Colorado at Denver. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, hiking and spending time with her husband and twin daughters.


Science Department

Kyla Taylor, AP Chemistry & AP Biology Teacher (Department Chair):  Ms. Taylor will join the Hornet's Nest next year as the Chemistry & Biology Teacher. Ms. Taylor earned her undergraduate degree in Cellular Biology and Chemistry from Western State Colorado University in Gunnison (Go Mountaineers!), and is currently working toward a graduate degree in Education and Teacher Leadership. She cannot wait to meet her students at Conservatory Green and share her passion for science with them! In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, spending time with her friends and family, and hiking in the mountains with her German Shepherd, Lola!

Nick Wilsey,  Engineering Teacher:  Mr. Wilsey will be teaching 9th grade physics and engineering. He earned his undergraduate degree in physics at Truman State University in Missouri and his master's degree in mathematics education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In his free time you'll find him trail running, hiking, mountain biking, writing books, and playing music. Mr. Wilsey helped to found another STEM high school in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he worked with students who designed an experiment that launched aboard the International Space Station.

Elias Heard, Physics Teacher:  Mr. Heard will join the DSST community teaching physics to incoming high school freshmen. He has taught middle school math for the last two years but has tutored students in high school and college for the last four years. Mr. Heard has received a dual degree major. One degree is in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology; whereas the other is in Mathematics from Fort Valley State University. He is excited to bring rigor and excitement for math to the incoming Hornets! In his spare time, he reads, does martial arts, plays the saxophone, and attends the theater.

KC Monaghan, Chemistry & Biology Teacher:  Ms. Monaghan will join the CGHS as a Science teacher. With 6 years of experience teaching Biology, her passion is getting students to think about how the world around them works! Known for her positive attitude and love of learning, Ms. Monaghan has led teacher development lectures on building stronger independent learners in the classroom. Her primary focus is helping students think critically and collaboratively. Outside of the classroom, she loves spending time with those she loves, hiking, baking, biking and training her dog. Born and raised in the Denver area, she is excited to move back after a decade in Chicago!

Jaelen Hysaw, AP Biology & BioChemistry Teacher:  Ms. Hysaw will join the Hornets as an 11th grade AP Biology and 12th grade Biochemistry teacher. She graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor's of Science in Biology, and is currently working towards her Masters of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in teaching science. She is excited to share her passion for all things science! In her free time, she enjoys good shows, good books, and good clothing sales!

Blaire Rodriguez, Chemistry Teacher - Ms. Rodriguez will be flying into the Home of the Hornets as a STEM teacher focusing on chemistry this year. She is fresh from the CU Boulder School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Education and has been waiting for her opportunity to teach since she was in 3rd grade! She received her undergraduate degree in Engineering Plus. This allowed her to earn an engineering degree emphasizing mechanical engineering while working with a concentration in CU Teach Engineering Physics to receive her teaching certification at the same time. She can't wait to meet all her students and spend time sharing stories, problem-solving, and creating together! In her current free time, Ms. Rodriguez rides her bike, golfs, catches up on TV shows and movies, and plans her wedding!

Chris Wright, Physics & Anatomy and Physiology Teacher: - Mr. Wright is joining the hornets teaching 9th grade physics and 12th grade Anatomy & Physiology. He is joining us from an Aerospace Engineering designing aircraft wheels and brakes in Dayton, OH. Mr. Wright earned an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Dayton. He is excited to share his industry experience and passion for understanding the world around us. In his free time, he enjoys anything that gets him outside, puzzles, and working with his hands (including making pottery, cooking, knitting, and painting).

Dr. Joshua Lewis, Apprentice Teacher:  Dr. Lewis will be joining the CG team as an Apprentice Teacher in Engineering. With his experience teaching in a college setting, he is excited to help empower students to find their own passion for technology and science, leading to future successes. He has undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and Political Science, a MS in Information Systems, and a PhD in Spatial Information Engineering from the University of Maine. In his spare time he likes to dabble in writing and game design. Dr. Lewis hopes that his year-long Apprentice Teacher journey will enforce the idea that one never has to stop learning and growing.


Math Team

Sarah Seaman, Math Teacher (Department Chair):  Mrs. Seaman will be joining the Hornets as a Math teacher. She has taught students from 7th to 12th grade in Houston, Texas. She earned her degree in Secondary Mathematics and Sciences from Texas A&M University in 2013 (Whoop!). Sarah is excited to share her love of math and passion for knowledge with her future Hornets! In her free time she enjoys long distance running, yoga, reading, traveling, hiking, and hanging out with her house-trained rabbit, Theodore. 

Amanda Somsky, Math Teacher:  Mrs. Somsky will be joining the hive next year as a 10th grade math teacher. Her deep content knowledge and years of experience in middle school have prepared her to make the jump to high school. After earning her undergraduate degree in Middle Childhood Math and Social Studies education, she taught in Chicago and earned a master's in Middle School Math Education. Through her experiences teaching in inner city Chicago, she learned much about the resilient spirit of young adults and the impact quality education (and love) can have on ones' future. Although she began her DSST career as a raptor, she is excited to become part of the hive and continue learning from its staff and students. In her free time she loves going on adventures whether it be camping or snowshoeing to traveling the world with her husband and son.

Brittany Stephens, Math Teacher:  Ms. Stephens is very excited to join the DSST: Conservatory Green team as a math teacher. She has experience teaching math at many different levels in Alabama and her home state of Georgia, from 5th grade math to 12th grade Calculus. Ms. Stephens graduated from Jacksonville State University in Alabama with a BS in Mathematics Education. From her very first visit to Denver, she fell in love with the mountains and weather (both very different from the southeast), and has dreamed of moving there ever since. She is excited that she has the opportunity to live in her dream city while teaching at a wonderful school like DSST. Ms. Stephens enjoys working with motivated students, but also likes the challenge of discovering strategies that work for individual students. In her free time, she likes finding new comedians to watch, playing with her dogs, and taking pictures of beautiful Colorado.

Jean Han, Math Teacher:  Ms. Han is so excited to join the Hornets as a Math teacher! She graduated from Central Michigan University with a B.S. in Education for Mathematics and English. Ms. Han has a passion for traveling and learning in new environments. She attended Korea University in South Korea, La Trobe University in Australia, Florence University of the Arts in Italy and even has some teaching experience in Ireland. Ms. Han can’t wait to meet her students, to learn and grow with them. She also loves snowboarding, reading, and going to concerts with friends.

Hilary Pehrson, Math Teacher:  Ms. Pehrson is excited to join the Conservatory Green High School Math Department. She has taught 8th grade math at DSST Montview Middle School for the past ten years. While at Montview MS, she earned the title of "Master Teacher" and her students demonstrated strong growth year after year. Ms. Pehrson earned her undergraduate degree in Mathematics as well as her graduate degree in Teaching and Curriculum from Michigan State University. She is excited to share her enthusiasm for mathematics with her future high school students. Ms. Pehrson loves being outdoors and enjoying the Colorado sunshine. Additionally, she loves to read and play volleyball.

Dr. Matthew McJunkin, Math Teacher:  Dr. McJunkin will be joining the Hornets as a Mathematics teacher. He earned his PhD in Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences from CU Boulder (Go Buffs!) after majoring in Mathematics and Physics and minoring in Astronomy and Spanish at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He has taught high school junior and senior level mathematics, including Algebra 2, Precalculus, Trigonometry, and AP Calculus first in Chicago and now in Denver. He is a huge nerd (and proud of it!) who loves talking about his love of math and the mysteries of the universe with his students. In his spare time, he likes to play board games, play video games, and read sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Charlie Schwartz, Apprentice Teacher:  Mr. Schwartz will be earning his black & yellow hornet stripes as an Apprentice Teacher for Ms. Seaman, helping with AP Statistics and AP Calculus AB. He enters the teaching world from the tech world, having worked at a variety of large and small companies in different industries such as cybersecurity, digital advertising, non-profit, and even restaurant tech! Mr. Schwartz is no stranger to being in front of a crowd; he's performed in seven full-length musicals and was President of his college a cappella group. He comes to CGHS with an educational background in Human Development (bachelor's) and Data Science (master's). When he's not at school, you'll likely find Mr. Schwartz watching a Chicago Cubs baseball game, looking up nearby concert tickets, or walking his dog Butter around the neighborhood.


History Team

Patrick McCarty, World History Teacher:  Mr McCarty will be joining the team at CGHS to teach World and US History. He earned his undergraduate degree in History/Social Science Education from Illinois State University. Following graduation, Mr McCarty was a wilderness guide at two Boy Scout High Adventure Camps where he enjoyed teaching young people to responsibly thrive in the outdoors. He has most recently moved back to the U.S. from China, where he taught science and social studies to 7-12 grade ESL students. Mr McCarty is passionate about photography, travel, exploring the outdoors, and challenging students to think critically and creatively about the world they share. He is excited to call Colorado and CGHS his new home!

Elijah Kane, AP US History Teacher:  Mr. Kane will join the Hornet Crew as an 11th Grade A.P U.S History Teacher. He has taught students in 7th and 8th Grade in Rockingham, North Carolina and Tarboro, North Carolina. While teaching at W.A Pattillo in Tarboro, Mr. Kane served as chair of the Social Studies Department, Resilience Team and Eighth Grade Level Team and has coached Cross Country. This past school year, he was voted "Teacher of the Year" for his efforts in developing rigorous and engaging curriculum for both the Social Studies and English Language Arts Department. Mr. Kane earned his undergraduate degree in History with a Social Studies Teaching Certification from Messiah Collage in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. While Mr. Kane will always appreciate his Pattillo Viking Family, he is excited for this new chapter of sharing his love for history and to see his students use history as a tool to develop effective communication skills as well as becoming empathetic and informed citizens. In his spare time, he enjoys running, traveling and exploring the latest new and bizarre Netflix series.

Teresa Perez, World History & American History Teacher:  Teresa Perez- Ms. Perez will join the Social Studies team at DSST Conservatory Green. For the past three years, Ms. Perez taught Pre-AP World History at KIPP: Northeast Denver Leadership Academy. She graduated from Depaul Univerity with a BA in Psychology and attended the University of Denver for the TEP master degree program. Ms. Perez enjoys spending time with friends and family, shopping and reality TV.

Art Curtis, AP Government & Senior Projects:  I'm excited to join DSST CG! I taught AP Government, Foreign Policy and Social Justice for 8 years at KIPP Denver Collegiate. I also taught Kindergarten for two years in South Korea! I have a bachelors in History from the University of Northern Colorado, and I also completed a Secondary Ed program at Metro State. I'm from Colorado and went to Columbine High School. In my spare time I love reading, camping and going to the movies.


Spanish Team

Victor Aviles-Garcia, Spanish Teacher (Department Chair):  My name is Victor Aviles and I am from Ponce Puerto Rico (The best part of Puerto Rico). I studied Language Education at Universidad Interamericana de Ponce and taught at several grade levels including elementary, middle school, high school and college. As a professor at Trinity College of Puerto Rico I had the opportunity to see many students find and develop their passions into amazing and promising careers. I believe that a good teacher shares knowledge but a great teacher shares the curiosity for learning. I'm a fan of all things pop culture, arts and memes. I love talking about movies, series, gaming, comics, books and YouTube videos. I'm also an executive producer and host at PRESENTAOS - EL PODCAST which is a weekly episode Spanish podcast that analyzes pop culture and other interesting subjects. I always have a new project or challenge in mind and I love to encourage others to try do the same. I moved to Colorado two years ago, had a great time teaching at Strive PREP but now I'm super excited to join the Hornets and call this school my home.

Nicole Ryks, Spanish Teacher:  Ms. Ryks will join Conservatory Green campus starting the '19 school year as a Spanish teacher. She is very excited to share her passion and knowledge of foreign language and culture with the amazing students at DSST! Nicole grew up in the Midwest and earned her undergraduate degree from South Dakota State University and her masters in Spanish Literature at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Since then, she started her career in education as a paraprofessional and worked in higher education as a Spanish instructor and coordinator. She loves to spend her free time with her three-legged pup, exercising, and being in the Colorado mountains.

Mari Stevens, Spanish Teacher:  Maestra Stevens will be joining the Hornets staff as a Spanish teacher. Born and raised in Park Hill, she is very excited to be moving back to her hometown after spending a few years in Madrid, Spain, New York City and Portland, Oregon. She has taught middle school Spanish I and Spanish for Native Speakers and has worked with students from 4th through 12th grade in both Oregon and New York City. Maestra Stevens graduated from the University of Portland with a joint degree in Education and Spanish. She then earned a Master’s in teaching Spanish at New York University and published her thesis in Spanish about the effectiveness of using humor in the classroom (which she shamelessly applies with or without student approval). She has lived abroad in Costa Rica and Spain and is excited to share her experiences and acquired passion for language and culture with her students. Outside her classroom, Maestra Stevens loves to craft, draw, bake unhealthy treats, and spend time with friends, family and her dogs. Maestra Stevens is also a certified Zumba instructor and big Broncos fan. She can’t wait to get to know all of you!

Francisco Flores, Spanish Teacher:  Mr. Flores will be joining the Hornets as a Spanish teacher. He is eager to share his knowledge and passion for Spanish with his future students. Before joining Conservatory Green, he spent seven months in China as an ESL teacher. Prior to that, he was part of Denver Language School where he was the Spanish lead teacher for third-grade. Mr. Flores earned his undergraduate degree in International Relations and a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Colorado Denver. He has lived in Berlin, Germany; Shenzhen, China; and Chihuahua, Mexico. In his free time, he enjoys soccer, volleyball, snowboarding, reading, and has a passion for traveling and interacting with people from different cultures.


Exceptional Learner Team

Alexandra Medrano, English Language Development Teacher Leader:  Maestra Medrano will join the Hornets staff as English Language Development Teacher Leader. She has taught high school Spanish, both in second language and heritage language settings. Mstra. Medrano graduated with her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Spanish from the University of San Diego. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder in Educational Equity & Cultural Diversity: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education. She looks forward to sharing her experiences in diverse cultures as a result of being bilingual and passion for Latino culture. In her free time, la maestra enjoys being outdoors, running, playing soccer and hanging out with her dog. She is excited to meet all of her future Hornets!

Molly Cleary, Special Education Teacher:  Ms. Cleary will join CGHS as a special education teacher in the fall.  She graduated from the  University of Dayton with a Bachelors in Science as an Intervention Specialist with a minor in Social Work.  During her time at the University of Dayton she was on the Dean’s List and awarded The Raymond & Beulah Horn Award of Excellence to the outstanding student in the area of Intervention Specialist Education.  Ms. Cleary has had a diverse amount of experience being placed in a variety of schools since her freshman year at the University of Dayton.   Ms. Cleary is eager to begin and continue her passion for teaching.  Outside of school Ms. Cleary enjoys spending time with family and friends.  She loves to travel and very excited to explore the beautiful Colorado mountains hiking and skiing.   

Jake Leuders, Special Education Coordinator:  Mr. Lueders will join the CGHS team as the Special Education Coordinator this fall. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a B.S. in Special Education. Prior to moving to Colorado, he taught high school in Wisconsin for four years, while also coaching cross country, track and field, and Special Olympics. Most recently, he has spent the last three years teaching at DSST: Montview Middle School. Mr. Lueders is thrilled to return to working with students at the high school level where he can teach students to better understand their disabilities and empower them to be strong, independent self-advocates as they prepare to embark on their future endeavors. In his free time, he enjoys running, hiking, taking his dog on outdoor adventures, going to concerts, and trying new things!

Karla Alanis, Paraprofessional:  Ms. Alanis joined DSST: Conservatory Green High School in August 2019. Growing up in Colorado with my mother and five siblings, I enjoy reading books and creative writing. During my education career, I was fortunate enough to have a mother and educators who believed in the value of education. I am committed to the protection of the youth through education and opportunities to rise from poverty. The need for individual attention, guidance, and encouragement to the youth pursuing their dreams is key to a brighter future. I am thrilled to be working with a lovely community.

Ryan Cosby, Paraprofessional:  Ryan Cosby - Mr. Cosby will join the Hornets as a Health Aid Paraprofessional. He has spent the past 5 years working with K-5 Special Education students, and is excited for the opportunity to work at the high school level. Mr. Cosby attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, spending most of his time playing trumpet and singing in many different ensembles including Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combos, Marching Band, The Men's Glee Club, and the Adam Saxe band. He is very passionate about sharing his love for music and art with his students on a daily basis. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, reading, recording and producing music, painting, and exploring his new home, Colorado.

Michaela Dietrich, Special Education Teacher: Miss Dietrich will join CGHS as a special education teacher. She will be graduating from CSU in may with her degree in Human Development and Family Studies. She will be working with Teach for America and getting her masters in special education from CU. Miss Dietrich has wanted to be a teacher her whole life. She is excited to pursue her passion in education! In her free time she enjoys hiking, camping, going to the lake, and eating.

Debahni Norris, Paraprofessional:  Mrs. Norris is very excited to be joining the CGHS team as a paraprofessional. She loves taking on challenges and learning new things as much as helping others do the same thing. Mrs. Norris was born in Mexico but raised in Colorado! On her free time she enjoys spending time with her family going on hikes, watching movies, trying new restaurants, going to concerts and making memories.

Mallory Kimmell, Special Education Teacher:  Ms. Kimmell will join the Hornets in the fall of 2020 as a Special Education Teacher. She graduated from the University of Dayton with a Bachelors in Science Intervention Specialist. During her time at the University of Dayton she was a student athlete and achieved the Deans List for all four years. Ms. Kimmell had the opportunity to work in a variety of diverse schools in her experience at UD. She also worked at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis throughout her college career as a camp counselor and respite worker. Ms. Kimmell is thrilled to move to Denver and continue her passion of teaching. In her free time, she enjoys playing sports, hiking, traveling and learning. She can't wait to add being a hornet to the list!

Shaye Smith, English Language Development Teacher:  Ms. Smith will be joining CGHS this fall as an English Language Development teacher. Born and raised in Colorado, she is more excited than ever to be returning to her home state after living for two years in Indiana, where she earned her Master of Arts in Second Language Studies from Indiana University and taught developmental academic English courses for multilingual students, and two years before that in Guatemala City, where she taught 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts in a bilingual international school and began learning Spanish. After earning her undergraduate degree in Anthropology from Colorado College, Ms. Smith began her career in education by serving as a Math Fellow in Denver Public Schools. When she's not in the classroom, you can find her reading a book, baking vegan treats, practicing yoga, or exploring the outdoors. She can't wait to return to Denver, meet her students, and join the community at CGHS.

Lauren Thompson, Paraprofessional:  Ms. Thompson will be joining the DSST team as a paraprofessional in the MIS center this fall. She is a former collegiate soccer player and received her Bachelor of Science from Colorado Mesa University. Ms.Thompson is excited to create a fun and enjoyable learning experience for all of her future students. She is also excited to share her passion for sports with her future Hornets! In her free time she enjoys traveling, hiking and watching sports.

JJ Leon, Paraprofessional:  JJ Leon is a new team member from Southern California. He enjoys playing soccer, being outdoors, and trying new types of food. He has experience coaching youth soccer and hosting personal training sessions for competitive players. JJ is a very active individual with lots of determination and drive. He feels that he is at his best when faced with new opportunities and challenges. One of JJ's favorite things to do in Colorado is to explore new hikes and areas to go camping. JJ is excited to share his passion for soccer with students.

Sophonias Paulos, Apprentice Teacher:  My name is Sophonias Paulos and i will be joining DSST CGH as a SPED Apprentice Teacher. I myself am an alumni from DSST GVR campus class of 2015. I earned my undergraduate degree at University of Colorado Denver in Sociology and minor in Ethnic Studies. I spent my first year after college at DSST Mountview as a special education Para. I am very excited to meet the staff and students at CG!


Creative Core Team

Lacey Ruskin, Theatre Teacher: Ms. Ruskin is beyond thrilled to be a Hornet again this year and feels so lucky to be the CGHS founding performing arts teacher. Ms. Ruskin graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey (a long time ago) with a B.A. in Theatre and received her master’s degree from Goddard College in Vermont. Ms. Ruskin grew up just outside of NYC (in New Jersey) and has lived in NY, FL and even spent ten years in Alaska.  She moved to Colorado in 2008 and plans to grow old(er) here. Ms. Ruskin sincerely hopes you will come check out the black-box theater in room 318 this year!

Jon Caravello, Visual Arts & Digital Arts Teacher:   Mr. Caravello is honored to be joining the Conservatory Green community as the High School Visual Arts teacher. After receiving his bachelor's degree from The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, New York, Mr. Caravello spent the next ten years working as a graphic designer in Marketing and Advertising throughout NYC. Fortunately, he woke up one day and realized his true purpose and calling in life was in education. Shortly after he and his family packed up and moved from Queens, New York to Denver, Colorado, he swiftly completed the Teacher Licensure Program at Metropolitan State University for K-12 Art Education. Mr. Caravello is very much looking forward to creating, exploring, contemplating, experimenting, discovering, and communicating new ideas through the visual arts with students for years to come. Outside of school, he spends his time with his wife, chasing their three sons; Jack (2.5), Alex (1), and Sam (1). In rare moments, he enjoys drawing in his sketchbook and being outside building things in his garage.

Kevin Berstler, Spanish Teacher & Music Teacher:  Mr. Berstler is a Spanish teacher whose passion for language has lead him to DSST: CG. He has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in Colorado, Minnesota, Puerto Rico and Colombia. Mr. Berstler earned his BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies from Stetson University where he won a scholarship to study in Peru as well as the Robert L. Smith Award for Outstanding Student in Latin American Studies. He earned his MA in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Education from the University of Colorado, Denver with a 4.0 GPA. As well as being a passionate educator, Mr. Berstler loves to play, write, and record music from various styles, including lofi hip hop and progressive metal. He speaks four and a half languages. Ask him which ones they are!

Rae Temple, Computer Science & Psychology Teacher:  Rae Temple is joining us and is super excited to begin as the Hornet's Computer Science Teacher!  He earned his degree in Computer Science at the University of Vermont and is moving from Vermont where he worked at a Ski Resort. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, reading, video games, sports and adventuring with my dog Ranger.  

Chad Edwards, Physical Education:  Mr. Edwards will be joining DSST CG High School for the upcoming school year, as our new Physical Education teacher. Mr. Edwards is a Colorado native and enjoys playing basketball, tennis, golf, fishing, chess, traveling, and spending time with family. He has worked with students in various capacities as a Counselor, Dean of Students, and former Athletic Director and Physical Education teacher at DSST Noel Middle School. Mr. Edwards graduated from Grambling State University, an HBCU with a degree in Marketing and studied Youth Development Leadership at the University of Minnesota. He looks forward to joining the Hornets Hive and making P.E. fun and engaging.

Alexis Wallin, Visual Art & AP Art:  Ms. Wallin joins DSST: Conservatory Green's Hornet's nest as the Art teacher. She comes from a family with roots in Argentina, Puerto Rico and Sweden (Yas, Messi!) but grew up mostly in Buenos Aires, Madrid and London. Growing up overseas is a big part of who she is and she connects quickly with people from all kinds of places. She has taught art for 16 years in both New York City and Denver after earning a Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts and Art History at Columbia University and a Masters degree in Art & Art Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. During that time, she worked with many professionals in arts-related fields including comic book artists, toy designers and fashion designers. She even had the opportunity to work with a few famous graffiti artists in Spanish Harlem to create a mural that was published in a book, "On the Wall". After teaching in NYC for five years, she moved to Denver and taught children through Art for middle school and high school students. She believes strongly in providing multiple and varied opportunities for students in order for them to discover passions and purposes; collaborating and learning new skills to pass on is one of her foci. When she's not inspiring her students through art, she enjoys traveling, reading, binge-watching a number of shows (ask me which in the hallway), and mostly hanging out with her two young daughters. Like their mother, they also love creating art as well as listening to music, bike riding and nerding out on history, philosophy and science, particularly astrophysics and marine biology. Ms. Wallin is excited to join the Northeast Denver DSST family and looks forward to years full of discovery, creation and community.


College Success Team

Ariel Valles, Manager of College Success: Ms. Valles will be joining the Hornets as a Manager of College Success. Before coming to DSST, Ms. Valles taught first and fourth grade in Boston. She earned her undergraduate degree in Social Studies from Harvard College, where she worked as a member of the First Generation Program run by the admissions office. She is very excited to work with Conservatory Green's founding class to establish a college-going legacy starting with the Class of 2021. In moving to Colorado, she is looking forward to hiking, biking, and finding her favorite restaurant in Denver.

Andy Kretz, Internships:  Andy Kretz is thrilled to join the DSST Conservatory Green community in the 2019-2020 school year as the PE Teacher. Andy received his BA in Business Administration with a minor in Organizational Leadership and Management from Peru State University. He has been coaching and playing sports his entire life and all over the world, from South Korea to Italy and many places around the United States. He is passionate about sharing his love for fitness, team sports, and character development with todays’ youth. He is currently involved in the Athletics Department at DSST CG as the head volleyball coach, assistant basketball coach, and Strength and Conditioning teacher. He is looking forward to building the PE program at the high school to ensure every student has the foundational knowledge and skills to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.