Our Team: The Best of the BEST!

How do we describe our teachers? Dedicated, smart, talented, creative, skilled, dynamic and, above all, positive role models for our students!

We attract and retain the best of the best and invest heavily in their professional development. We provide a supportive professional environment that nourishes our teachers’ strengths, gifts, and talents and allows them to leverage these unique advantages in their classrooms each and every day to the benefit of our students.

JGS teachers have many decades of combined experience in regular, gifted, and special education. They are experts with implementing numerous instructional strategies for diverse learners and incorporating executive function and social skills instruction into daily lessons; and they all agree that constant adaptation, flexibility, and evaluation are the cornerstones of effective teaching.

Learn more about our incredible teachers and staff below!

Lower School Core Teaching Team

Monica Yaeger, M.Ed., BCBA
Monica Yaeger, M.Ed., BCBALower School Director
Monica holds degrees in Special Education, Consultation, and Collaboration. She began her career as a teacher, specializing in working with kids with autism & ADHD. After spending several years in the classroom, she realized her passion for helping children overcome challenging behaviors that serve as barriers to furthering their learning by becoming a board certified behavior analyst. In addition to leading the lower school, Monica helps develop & implement strategies for productive school-based behaviors—ensuring that every JGS student is able to perform at his or her best academically.
Caylin Kacmarcik, BA, M.Ed.
Caylin Kacmarcik, BA, M.Ed.Lower School Special Education Teacher
Caylin graduated from ASU with a BA in Special Education and Elementary Education, and is in the process of obtaining her M.Ed. While new to JGS this year, Caylin and our Lower School Director, Monica, worked together several years ago at a local public school. We are so happy to have Caylin on our team this year!
Adrienne Springfield, BA
Adrienne Springfield, BALower School Teacher
Adrienne holds a Bachelor in Education degree and is an accomplished, highly-effective educator. She joins our team this year after having been a lower school teacher at a well-regarded local private school for nearly two decades. Our Head of School, Dana, has had the pleasure of knowing Adrienne and seeing her “in action” in the classroom during that time. We are honored to have join us this year, and know that JGS students will benefit from her expertise!
Becca Thielen, BA
Becca Thielen, BALower School Teacher
Becca has worked as a teacher, paraprofessional and professional tutor since graduating with a degree in Elementary Education from Bethel University. Throughout college she worked at an ESY (Extended School Year) camp and as a one-on-one assistant to a child with learning differences. Since then, she has maintained a passion for working with students who learn in nontraditional ways. Becca’s positivity, spunkiness, and enthusiasm for learning have made her an invaluable member of the JGS lower school team over the past two school years.

Middle School Core Teaching Team

Elizabeth Westerfield, BA, MS, Ed.D.
Elizabeth Westerfield, BA, MS, Ed.D.Math, Science, Music & Theater, and Middle School Director
Liz earned her doctorate in Special Ed. (her dissertation investigated the impact of theatre-based reading interventions on reading comprehension at the middle school level—wow!); MS in Environmental Science from Johns Hopkins; & BA in Theater from Ohio Wesleyan. She takes pride in her eclectic background & finds it serves her well in her interdisciplinary approach to education. A certified special education teacher, Liz previously worked with students on the autism spectrum at the Temple Grandin School in CO, & has taught just about every subject in her 20+ years as an educator.
Sandee Levine, BS, MA
Sandee Levine, BS, MAMath & Humanities
After obtaining a bachelor’s in marketing, Sandee worked in commercial real estate. Five years later, she realized that she wanted to work with children & help them to be as impassioned about learning as she is. She went on to earn her post-baccalaureate and master’s degrees in Curriculum & Instruction. Sandee has now been an educator for 20 years. Prior to joining JGS in 2015, as a public school math specialist Sandee helped improve the skills of students labeled “at-risk.” She has also created & conducted seminars for teachers to help them discover new and innovative ways to reach all students.
Lauren Pilato, BAE, M.Ed.
Lauren Pilato, BAE, M.Ed.Humanities/FLEX Teacher, Generalist
Since joining the JGS team in 2013, Lauren has been highly effective as a teacher of all subjects to lower & middle school students. She earned a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a master’s in Math, Science & Technology from Hofstra Univ. in NY. Now in her 16th year as an educator, Lauren knew from a young age that she wanted to teach. Previously working at a local public school, Lauren was nominated “Teacher of the Year” (twice!).
Amber Struthers, MS, M.Ed., Ph.D.
Amber Struthers, MS, M.Ed., Ph.D.Science/STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math)
After graduating with two bachelor’s degrees—a BS in Biology & a B.Ed. in Secondary Education—Amber began teaching middle & high school science. Since then, Amber has earned her MS in Biology, M.Ed. in Elementary Ed., & Ph.D. in Education (Curriculum Instruction & Assessment). Amber additionally holds a certificate in gifted instruction. She’s had a fascination with science from a young age, with a particular interest in paleontology. (Amber is a published scientist for her work in determining dinosaur body size …how cool is that?!). Experienced in working with learners of all abilities, Amber joined JGS in 2013.
Karen Turner, BS
Karen Turner, BSMath & Humanities
Karen has been credited as having developed a love for reading in students who previously refused to read. We can’t imagine a better endorsement! Karen pursued her teaching degree after working for a nonprofit agency that supported children and adults with varying special needs (ADHD, learning and intellectual disabilities, speech/language impairments). After graduating, Karen moved to AZ to teach 4th & 5th grade students with learning differences. A certified Special Education teacher, Karen loves “using ordinary objects to teach extraordinary lessons.”
Amy Rasmussen, BA
Amy Rasmussen, BAMiddle School Teacher
Amy graduated from Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in English. An Arizona native, she most recently woked as a public high school English teacher. We are excited to have Amy join us this year!

High School Core Teaching Team

Samantha De Palo, BA, M.Ed.
Samantha De Palo, BA, M.Ed.High School Director
Sam was an instructor for On-Track Tutoring and Academy (prior to our school’s name change) while she attended ASU’s Barrett Honors College. After graduating, Sam went to Mexico as a Fulbright Scholar; there, she autonomously taught university courses, launched an English language Book Club to promote healthy literacy practices, & honed her own Spanish fluency. Upon her return, Sam became a Teach For America Corps Member. At a local public high school, she taught Spanish & math, spearheaded a district-wide Collaborative STEM Initiative, oversaw the AVID program, & was honored as a Teacher of Distinction for student growth. Sam also has extensive experience helping students with college prep & entrance exams. Just before she rejoined our team in 2016, Sam earned her M.Ed. at ASU. Sam was recently honored as an appointee of the Barrett Campaign Cabinet at her alma matter.
Barry Boulanger, BS
Barry Boulanger, BSScience
A born teacher, Barry has facilitated learning both in and out of the classroom for most of his life: “I started teaching in 8th grade when I ski instructed for the local ski club. In college I tutored at ASU, helping fellow students make sense of the challenging concepts of math and science. And since college I have been making those same confusing and scary subjects fun and more interesting to hundreds of grade school, high school, college, and post grad students.” Barry emphasizes the benefits of study skills & organizational strategies to his students: “Organization is often the first step to confidence and success, even when tackling challenging concepts and subject matter.”
Mike DeLaura, BA, MA
Mike DeLaura, BA, MAHistory, Language Arts
A tutor (with our affiliate On-Track Tutoring) and teacher since 2006, Mike holds degrees in History from ASU and Central Michigan University. He has worked extensively with students for over a decade, ages 5 to 18, as a mentor, tutor, and role-model. He possesses a unique ability to make History and Language Arts relatable, fun, & interesting for students, and has had the distinction of igniting a passion for history in students who previously found it boring and irrelevant. His favorite aspects of teaching are when students gain an understanding for a subject and engage in critical thinking, helping students to achieve their goals, & seeing them thrive.
Josh Murray, BA, M.Ed.
Josh Murray, BA, M.Ed.English, Mandarin
Josh earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from ASU. As a Teach for America Corps Member, he began teaching at the local high school from which he graduated. Josh’s dedication is exemplified by a news-making promise that he made (and kept!) to a group of his students, many of whom had thought that college was out of reach: “If every single one of you can get at least $5,000 worth of scholarships for college, then I’ll get a tattoo with all of your names.” With his guidance, every student gained college acceptance and together they earned a total of $700,000+ in scholarships! We are thrilled to have Josh (and his enthusiasm!) join our team this year.
Jennifer Nimlo-Edmonds, BA
Jennifer Nimlo-Edmonds, BASpanish
Jen graduated from Whitman College with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Spanish. She has worked within Arizona to serve youth, as her own life was greatly shaped by purposeful and dynamic teachers and mentors. Her professional journey has taken Jen from mentor programs to prevention programs to twelve years at (JGS affiliate) On-Track Tutoring to special education classrooms and, FINALLY, back to On-Track and JGS!
Leigh Stapinski, BS, MS
Leigh Stapinski, BS, MSMath
An On-Track Tutor and Jones-Gordon teacher since 2011, Leigh is a gifted, dynamic teacher. At Bowling Green State University, Leigh studied Adolescent/Young Adult Mathematics Education. She taught in Ohio for 6 years, focusing on high school mathematics, particularly Geometry and Algebra. Leigh is an active learner herself; she recently completed her master’s degree in Mathematics.
Tesla Therrien, BS, M.Ed.
Tesla Therrien, BS, M.Ed.Science
New to JGS, Tesla holds an undergraduate science degree & M.Ed. in Instructional Practice. With a deep passion for all things science & its interplay with culture, she was driven to study biological anthropology at the U of A. It wasn’t until she spent a semester in Botswana completing her biology and public health minors that she realized that education was the true cornerstone of her interests. While teaching at a Botswanan preschool for children affected by HIV/AIDS, she saw the true impacts that education can have. Eager to integrate her belief in the power of science to her newfound love of education, she joined the Teach for America Corps & taught high school biology in Nashville while silmultaneously earning her M.Ed. (suma cum laude). Tesla “cannot wait to be a part of the innovative work being done at Jones-Gordon. I believe that science is the key to understanding our own realities, & that all children deserve a rigorous science education!”
Jared Vogel, BA
Jared Vogel, BAGeneralist
Jared joined the JGS High School team in 2015, after nine years of professional tutoring (much of that time with On-Track Tutoring, our affiliate). He holds a bachelor’s in Education, Social Science, & English from Millikin University. K-12 certified with endorsements in English, General Science, and Social Science, Jared has helped students of all ages improve their skills in nearly every subject. Prior to his time with JGS, Jared taught students with ADHD, Asperger’s, autism, & traumatic brain injuries. He believes that learning is a very personal journey, & loves when his students tell him that he explains concepts in a way that finally make sense!

FLEX Teaching Team

Melissa Wiegand, M.Ed., CDT, CALT
Melissa Wiegand, M.Ed., CDT, CALTFLEX Teacher, Wilson Level II Reading Specialist, IDA Dyslexia Therapist
Melissa earned a bachelor’s in Elementary Ed., Special Ed. & Reading, and a master’s in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Reading. With JGS since 2014, she was previously a special education teacher for PVUSD & a private tutor for nearly two decades. Early in her career, she became a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT). She is Wilson Language® certified (Level II), has been trained in Lindamood-Bell’s Visualizing and Verbalizing®, and is a Certified Dyslexia Therapist recognized by the Intl. Dyslexia Association (IDA). Melissa also devotes time to researching & planning ways to integrate technology into lessons, as she has found it beneficial to the quality of learning. A big fan of the musical Wicked, her favorite lyrics, “I think I’ll try defying gravity, and you can’t pull me down!” speak volumes about Melissa’s character as a role model. She empowers students to “defy gravity” every day!
Deborah Bello, BA
Deborah Bello, BAFLEX Teacher, Wilson Level II Reading Specialist, IDA Dyslexia Therapist
A K-12 certified teacher and Wilson® reading specialist, Deb became a valued member of our JGS FLEX Team after having proven herself a fantastic reading interventionist and On-Track Tutor. Deb attended ASU where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She has taught in the public and private school environments for more than 10 years. She also currently works as a consultant for professionals and parents regarding reading issues. Deborah finds pleasure in teaching reading and literature to people of all ages. “There are few things more gratifying than seeing someone’s eyes light up when they ‘get it!'”
Amanda Burke, BAE
Amanda Burke, BAEFLEX Teacher, Wilson Level 1 Reading Specialist, Generalist
Amanda has been a part of the On-Track Tutoring and Jones-Gordon team since 2008, and has proven to be an indispensable presence in all aspects of the organization. As a teacher since the school began in 2010, Amanda truly knows the “ins and outs” of working with students who learn differently! An ASU grad and certified teacher, Amanda has taught students in all grades and of varying abilities. An amazing math teacher, Amanda is also trained in and excels at helping struggling readers make strides in literacy, using a number of multisensory, Orton-Gillingham based programs.
Elaine Dachis, BA
Elaine Dachis, BAFLEX Teacher, Generalist
Elaine obtained her degree in Child Psychology & Sociology, and has a post-baccalaureate teaching certification in Special Education. An outstanding, caring teacher who goes above and beyond to see each child succeed, Elaine has been with JGS since 2012. She excels at creating multisensory, game-like lessons (this woman knows how to make learning FUN!). Her mission as a teacher is to “help children to set goals, believe in themselves, and work to achieve anything they put their minds to. Kids are meant to be discoverers & explorers of new things… our school gives children these opportunities. I am grateful for the chance to play a vital role in the academic lives of our students!”
Lisa Duran, BS
Lisa Duran, BSFLEX Teacher, Wilson Level 1 Reading Specialist
Joining us in 2014 from our affiliate, On-Track Tutoring, where she has worked one-on-one with students since 2013, Lisa is a JGS reading specialist. A graduate of ASU, Lisa has taught literacy skills for more than 7 years. She is a trained practitioner of the research-validated Lindamood-Bell® programs (LiPS, Seeing Stars, Talkies, Visualizing and Verbalizing, & On Cloud Nine), designed to improve students’ decoding, spelling, language comprehension, memory, and math. Lisa finds individualized teaching to be such a rewarding experience: “watching students improve & seeing their confidence rise is the greatest honor!” Lisa continues to fill her educator’s “toolbox”—she recently completed Wilson Language® Level I certification.
Kathy Fisk, BS
Kathy Fisk, BSFLEX Teacher, Generalist
A JGS teacher since 2015, Kathy holds a bachelor’s in Special Education from ASU. A dedicated advocate for children, Kathy prides herself on her ability to make learning accessible AND enjoyable for all learners. Kathy’s soothing disposition and first-hand experience as a mother of two now-grown children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, is invaluable to our students and families. Kathy is an expert in the art of parenting an exceptional child & in establishing critical relationships between families & the educational team—priceless skills that are a proven asset here at JGS.
Lauren Nolan, M.Ed.
Lauren Nolan, M.Ed.FLEX Teacher, Wilson Level 1 Reading Specialist
Since graduating Summa Cum Laude from ASU with a master’s in Elementary and Special Education, Lauren has worked with students with a variety of special needs. Prior to joining our team in 2014, Lauren spent two years teaching in a small, Special Education private school. A strong believer in individualizing instruction to meet each student’s needs & using positive reinforcement to foster student’s internal motivation and confidence, Lauren sets high expectations for her students. Before entering the education field, Lauren worked in the banking industry, which brought her to AZ from her home town in Michigan.
Creason Jones, BA
Creason Jones, BAFLEX Teacher, Writing Workshop
Creason holds a degree in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing from ASU. A writer by nature, Creason wrote online content for small businesses before he began tutoring with On-Track in 2015. It was then that he realized the talent he had for teaching, and has since joined the JGS team. He also enjoys helping with our growing sports program as a coach. Creason takes the greatest joy in watching students perform something difficult for the first time (whether in the classroom or on the field) that they didn’t previously think was possible.
Andrea Weiner, BS, MA
Andrea Weiner, BS, MAFLEX Teacher, Generalist
Andrea holds a bachelor’s in Secondary Education and a master’s in Critical Writing. She joined JGS in 2013, with over 30 years of teaching & tutoring experience behind her. Andrea has been credited with helping even the most struggling students with every aspect of learning. Andrea feels that she was born to teach (and we agree!), and has always been a champion for children who learn differently, those who struggle in traditional classrooms, and those who just need a chance to shine given one-on-one support. Having worked with K–college students, particularly in the areas of literacy, math, and study skills, Andrea is a dedicated educator who truly puts her heart and soul into ensuring each child’s success.

On-Site Specials & Support Team

Barb Burgess, M.Ed.
Barb Burgess, M.Ed.School Psychologist, School Leadership Team
Barb brings warmth, energy, and a wealth of experience to our team. Her experiences as a school psychologist, social worker, mother of three, and grandmother have helped her in her role as a school psychologist in both public and private school settings. She has performed comprehensive psychoeducational evaluations, therapy, social skills, parenting seminars, and so much more throughout her lengthy career. Barb enjoys working with children of all ages, and continues to be an asset to the students, teachers and parents at The Jones-Gordon School.
Michaela Sands, BSW, MSW
Michaela Sands, BSW, MSWSocial Skills & RULER Education Director, School Leadership Team
Michaela joined our expanding team in 2015 and immediately became a valued member of our staff. Michaela holds an undergraduate degree in Social Work from NAU and a Master’s Degree from the University of Washington, also in Social Work (with an emphasis on Children, Youth and Families). Having experience and specialized training in school-based environments, Michaela has brought a wealth of information and energy to our school.
Jeanine deRozieres, LPN
Jeanine deRozieres, LPNHealth Services
Jeanine is patient, kind, skilled, and has a great sense of humor: perfect qualities to care for our kids, especially when they’re in need of TLC! Jeanine and her family have recently moved back to Arizona after a few years living in Florida—we think she stumbled upon a few too many gators ;). Jeanine has more than a decade of experience in working with children as a Licensed Practical Nurse, Paraprofessional, and MOM to 3 amazing boys. We are thrilled to have Jeanine on our team!
Shawna DeLaura
Shawna DeLauraCooking, Study Skills & Support
Shawna shines when working directly with students and teachers as an aide in the classroom, leading cooking specials sessions, and assisting with art. Shawna grew up around lots of children; she’s one of five(!) and she spent her youth and teen years assisting her mother operate a home-based childcare center in Portland where she was born and raised. Shawna has a passion for everything creative and may soon earn the title as the next (honorable) Martha Stewart! Beyond her creative skill set, Shawna has an inherent ability to bond with students of all ages. Shawna is often the go-to person when someone is having a “bad day” and is often the voice of love, logic and reason.
Joseph Jackson, BA, M.P.Ed.
Joseph Jackson, BA, M.P.Ed.Physical Education, Athletics Director
J.J. earned his bachelor’s degree at the Univ. of South Alabama and his master’s in Physical Education from the Univ. of West Alabama. Prior to his teaching career, J.J. played baseball at ASU and enjoyed coaching baseball with the L.A. Angels of Anaheim. He has taught P.E. at other local K-8 private & charter schools as well as at Greensboro High School (Greensboro, AL), where he was also head varsity baseball coach. J.J. has a stellar reputation for inspiring students of all ages and abilities to participate in sports and fitness activities, regardless of their perceived strengths or challenges.
Wendy Grace, BFA
Wendy Grace, BFAArt Education
Wendy brings her creative genius to our specials team! An artist & instructor with a lengthy history teaching art to students of all ages, Wendy attended UCLA prior to transferring to Parsons School of Design in NYC where she received her BFA. Wendy’s sculptures can be found in galleries & museums throughout the country. She created and instructed art workshops for children in the East Village, NYC, while continuing to show her own work. Wendy began designing jewelry in 1998 and launched Wendy Grace Jewelry, which can be found on Etsy (check out her work; it’s gorgeous! ☺). Wendy most recently taught art at a local private school, and is eager to help our students keep their creative juices flowing!

Administrative Team

Dana Stempil Herzberg, M.Ed.
Dana Stempil Herzberg, M.Ed.Founder, Head of School
With degrees in Special Education, Curriculum and Instruction, and more than 20 years in the education industry, Dana is well known in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area for her work with students who have learning differences, ADD/ADHD, and twice exceptionalities (giftedness in addition to learning difficulties). Dana was able to overcome her own learning challenges in school, thanks in large part to several exceptional teachers and tutors. In 1999, she founded On-Track Tutoring in order to provide children of all abilities the same high-quality educational services that she had received. Over time, the need for a small, nurturing, and supportive learning environment for high-potential children with attention and learning challenges became increasingly more apparent. In order to help fill that unmet need, Dana began JGS (then called On-Track Academy) in 2010, specifically designed for students who learn differently.
Jessica Wilhelmsen, BA
Jessica Wilhelmsen, BADirector of School Operations
When Jessica started with us in 2012, we immediately questioned how we had ever managed without her! She has brought a plethora of skills and insight to our team and, in fact, we are nearly certain that there isn’t anything that Jessica can’t do. An ASU graduate with a bachelor’s (Magna Cum Laude) in Psychology and an interest in School Psychology, Jessica spent several years volunteering and working in the nonprofit world, focusing on the social and emotional development of youth. She is the “behind the scenes machine” who makes everything happen: Jessica manages our online parent portal, facilitates events, manages accounting, works closely with the PTO, assists with testing and assessments… you get the idea. ☺ Beyond her endless skill sets, Jessica is an essential (and adored!) part of our team.
Samantha De Palo, BA, M.Ed.
Samantha De Palo, BA, M.Ed.Director of High School and Program Development
In addition to leading the JGS High School team, Sam lends her expertise to our Admin team as our very capable, hard-working, and enthusiastic Director of Program Development. Sam is currently assisting with JGS’s high school curriculum development and has been instrumental in the process of obtaining school accreditation. Once accredited (which we anticipate will happen by the end of 2017!), our high school students will benefit from a hybrid program with even more flexibility and opportunities for customization. Sam also continues to expand and enhance our high school advisory program, JGS Connect, in order to ensure that each student is fully supported in achieving their personal education and career goals.
Shari Schwartz, BFA
Shari Schwartz, BFAChief Operations Officer
In 2006, Shari joined the On-Track Tutoring team and has since been invaluable in helping facilitate the growth of OTT and JGS, sharing Dana’s passion for education and kids (especially those who don’t necessarily fit into “perfect” molds!). A graduate of the U of A’s visual communications program, Shari has extensive experience not only in graphic design and communications, but also in small business management and development, human resources, public relations, and marketing. Shari has also spent much of her personal and professional life working with kids in various capacities, from being a camp counselor, to teaching art at the Boys & Girls Clubs and in private school settings, to tutoring students in literacy. Shari, along with Jessica, is key to making sure all the “parts” of JGS are working behind the scenes!
Kim Hogan
Kim HoganOffice and Facilites Manager, HR Representative
Kim spent much of her early career in human resources before making the decision to leave the workforce to spend more time with her family. During her hiatus, Kim enjoyed volunteering at each of her children’s schools (3-4 days each week!). Loving the school atmosphere and the flexibility to work the same hours as her kids, Kim accepted a position as a paraprofessional where she remained for the 5 years prior to joining us at JGS in 2015. In addition, Kim worked for 8 years side-by-side with the director of a local day camp where parents and campers affectionately referred to her as “Mama Kim.” Always at the top of her game, Kim helps ensure that JGS is a well-oiled machine. It’s hard to imagine how we ever managed without her!
Kenai Herzberg
Kenai HerzbergGreeter, Therapist, Original Mascot, Professional Napper
“My favorite hobbies are eating (even things not usually considered edible), walking my owners and the Jones-Gordon Staff, playing with and calming JGS students, and using my telepathic powers to get people to pet me. When I’m not visiting my 4-legged friends at doggie daycare, you’ll often find me in Dana’s or Jessica’s office, doing what I do best: sleeping or gnawing on my toys (which includes anything I can get my paws on)! ” ☺
Zoe Jane Wilhelmsen
Zoe Jane WilhelmsenDirector of First Impressions, Therapist, Noisemaker
Zoe (Jessica’s furbaby girl) joined the JGS Support Staff in December, 2015. Zoe is the “queen” around JGS and is often found snuggling on someone’s lap, getting into shenanigans with Kenai, laying on Ms. Dana’s desk, howling for someone to love her or just hangin’ out and being too cute for school!