Our Teachers

Leaves of Learning, Inc.

Paige Andrew

Paige was a student at Leaves of Learning beginning at the age of eight until high school graduation. In 2016, she joined the staff as the assistant teacher in the Little Sprouts classroom. In 2019, she began attending the Greater Cincinnati Center for Montessori Education and earned her Early Childhood Montessori Teacher credentials in 2021. She is passionate about making children’s education a positive experience and is so grateful to have a place that helps make that possible.

Emily Barnes

Emily has a Bachelor of Music degree and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She has played the violin since childhood and played professionally for 20 years in Washington DC. She recently became an RN. She has taught violin and Pilates and is eager to teach more subjects. She is passionate about animal welfare and animal rescue, most recently adopting a 13-year-old pit bull from Animal Care Humane Society in Cincinnati.

Liza Barnes

Liza is a registered nurse and educator who loves coming up with creative ways to connect people with themselves, each other, and the planet.  She believes that hands-on learning is key to making this world a better place. She has taught in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, hospitals, and the great outdoors, and she’s thrilled to be teaching at Leaves of Learning.   She completed Ohio State’s Ohio Volunteer Naturalist course in 2022, and is a Certified Interpretive Guide.  She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UC, and a Bachelor of Health Promotion and Education from UC.  Liza is a Cincinnati native and lives in Wyoming with her husband, three homeschooled daughters, two dogs, and 5 chickens.  When she doesn’t have to be inside, you’ll find her with her daughter and dogs, out on a hike.

Lanie Berlage

Lanie Berlage is a Purdue University alum with a double major in animation and visual effects compositing. She has been teaching and working with the Academy of Cinematic arts for the last six years and has loved every second of it. She has experience teaching grade school to high school age students the entire film pipeline from scriptwriting to filming to editing the final render. She’s very excited for this new journey with the students of Leaves of Learning and wishes everyone a great year!

Chelsea Borgman

Chelsea Borgman is an artist and educator. She received her master’s degree in art education and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies from Penn State University and her bachelor’s in studio art from Kenyon College. She was the 2019 recipient of the Judy Chicago Art Education Award. Chelsea teaches a variety of art classes at Leaves of Learning and has experience teaching across age groups and contexts. She was a teacher and gallery coordinator at Brazee Street Studios for six years, where she taught children and adults glass fusing techniques. Chelsea has also worked as an educator in art museums, galleries, and schools. She is passionate about learning and experimenting through art-making.

Donald Broerman

Donald Broerman, a Cincinnati native, earned his Bachelor of Music in classical guitar performance at the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) under the direction of Clare Callahan, graduating magna cum laude in 2013. He has also studied with David Case at the University of Oregon (School of Music) and jazz guitar with Mike Denny and Chris Sorenson. He started his training at the Musical Arts Center in Cincinnati. His high school rock band won first place in the High School Band Challenge and fourth place in the Battle of the Bands at Bogarts. During his time at CCM, Mr. Broerman performed in master classes from internationally acclaimed artists such Oscar Ghiglia, David Russell, Robert Belinic and Rupert Boyd, and participated in classes given by Zoran Dukic, Marcin Dylla, Carlos Perez, Johannes Möller, Daniel Lippel, and others. Courses completed for degree include: Guitar Pedagogy, Guitar Repertoire and History, and Guitar Ensemble. Donald is an active composer, whose compositions are primarily solo guitar works. He briefly studied composition with Terry McQuilkin at the University of Oregon, Orchestration at CCM, and had private lessons with Jennifer Jolley (Composition Professor at Ohio Wesleyan, President and Co-founder of N.A.N.O. Works Opera Company). A budding interest in this field has led to performances of his own works at CCM’s Something Different, Classical Revolution, and a commission by The Ascend Project. Mr. Broerman serves the community through his work in nonprofits. He is the current president of Greater Cincinnati Guitar Society, as well as a member and guitar adjudicator for the Ohio Music Educators Association. Donald is a dedicated pedagogue. His students have won gold medals in the Royal Conservatory of Music examinations. He currently teaches at Indian Springs Academy of Music, Wyoming Fine Arts Center, and Northern Kentucky School of Music and is a co-director of and instructor for the CCM Guitar Youth Workshop.


Sharon Cardona

Sharon Cardona has been working as a sign language interpreter in the Greater Cincinnati area for the last fourteen years. Prior to that she worked as a teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the public schools, both in Ohio and in Indiana. Sharon has been homeschooling her two children, both of whom are students at Leaves, for the last eight years, and she loves the balance of working as a freelance interpreter with the homeschooling. Sharon is really excited to be working at Leaves of Learning, teaching and sharing her passion for ASL and the culture of the Deaf.

Heather DeLaVega

Heather began homeschooling her two boys in 2000 and has been a part of the Leaves of Learning community since 2001. In 2012, she started back to work as a part-time assistant in the Little Sprouts classroom, where she was inspired to go back to school and obtain her Montessori Early Childhood Education credentials. She attended the University of Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Center for Montessori Education. The opportunity to work with young children is very rewarding for her. She is energized by their wonder and enthusiasm, and thoroughly enjoys watching them blossom in the classroom. Heather is passionate about the Montessori Method and Leaves of Learning. She loves the way they both foster peace, independence, and a natural love of learning in the children. When Heather is not enjoying her time in the Little Sprouts classroom, she loves traveling and hiking with her family, nature and nature photography, gardening, and reading.

Jennifer Deming

Jennifer has been teaching for over twenty-one years. The first nine years were spent full-time in both public and private schools. When her first child was born she decided to become a stay-at-home mom—a decision that quickly led to becoming a homeschooling mom. During that time she continued to teach small groups part-time, and she also directed several children’s choruses and theaters. Jennifer believes that hands-on exploration and play are vital to learning, and she strives to create a respectful environment in which work, active play, and creativity go hand-in-hand. She is looking forward to a great adventure at Leaves this year.

Erin Deschene 

Erin Deschene graduated from Saint Mary’s College with a Degree in Communications and a minor in Speech Pathology.  As a writer, she has been published in the textbook Principles in Advertising. She has worked as a computer trainer, as well as a public relations and media specialist. Her passions led her to study Art History in Italy and continue to earn a Master’s Degree in Italian and Literature at Middlebury College in Vermont. Erin’s passion for a global Classical education developed while studying at Middlebury College under professors from Europe. She has homeschooled her children for over 15 years. Additionally, she has taught middle school and high school literature, history, speech, debate, drama, and science to area homeschool students in classrooms for over 10 years. Her love of integrating concepts and ideas from Art, History, Geography, Philosophy, and Literature is a gift she uses to inspire her students.  

Julie Doughty

Julie Doughty graduated from James Madison University with a B.S. with honors in early childhood education. After graduation she moved with her husband to Blacksburg, Virginia, where she took classes from a professional potter and participated in the annual art show and sale in Baltimore for several years. Julie began homeschooling her children in 1999 and teaching at Leaves of Learning in 2008, but she has been involved as a parent here since 2001. Julie loves working with clay with her students and watching their projects evolve as they gain new skills.

Dianne Feltz

Dianne is excited to join the Leaves of Learning community. She is passionate about books and language and is looking forward to sharing that with students. Dianne graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in English. She brings classroom experience from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and Carroll High School in Dayton. Born and raised on the east coast, she has lived in the Cincinnati area for seventeen years and raised a family here. Outside of books she enjoys music, cheering for Notre Dame, and going on family adventures. Most recently Dianne created and led literary workshops and book discussions for middle-schoolers and adults at Book Bums.

Hillary Hahn

Hillary is from Independence, Kentucky. Upon graduating from Simon Kenton High School in 2010 she immediately began her career as a freelance performer and teaching artist. She performed as a ballet dancer with de la Dance Company in Cincinnati, Ohio from 2009-2014 and has also performed in many local musical theater productions including Chicago (as Hunyak and ensemble), Tarzan (leopard and ensemble) and The Who’s Tommy! (ensemble). In addition to dancing and singing on stage she has also been a singer-songwriter for the past ten years performing in venues all over the US from Brooklyn, NY to Nashville, TN to Boulder, CO! She has written and released two EP’s and is working on her third to be released later this year under her own independent record label called Sissy’s Girl Records. She also wrote and illustrated a children’s book in 2020 which launched her own publishing company called Miss Celery’s Stories and is now working on writing and directing her 5th and 6th original children’s theater production! She loves working in the arts and is very excited for a new season of creativity with new students!

Julie Hamman

Julie Hamman is thrilled to be part of the Leaves of Learning community. She previously taught middle school math and science in a private school in Chicago. Teaching in Chicago was such a wonderful experience, and she is so happy to be back to teaching and living in Cincinnati with her husband and children. Julie received her education degree from The University of Dayton and her master’s from Concordia University in Chicago. Julie loves working with the students and parents each year at Leaves of Learning.

Tom Harmon

Tom spent 23 years in business management before making a career move to follow his life goal of being a teacher. For the last 16 years, he has worked as a Philosophy and Music teacher for Great Oaks Schools Adult Education. He continues his work there.His love of philosophy began while attending Miami University when he was first assigned the work of Baruch Spinoza. Since then, he has studied and taught the combined works of not only Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, but also the evolving ideas of Kierkegaard through Satre. Tom has also been a jazz fusion, rock, and blues guitarist for many years, playing both solo and with his own bands. Tom lives in Cincinnati withhis wife, Tami. They are the happy and proud parents of two incredible adult children and two wonderful grandchildren.

Caren Harrison:

Caren graduated from the University of Dayton in 2005 with a degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Psychology, Sociology and Women’s Studies. From high school and beyond Caren has been on a stage performing or singing weddings. She’s been creating art from a young age and as an adult, coined her sewing business, Little Red Bird Studio from 2012-2016. When her second daughter was born she stayed home with both children and slowly found her way to coaching kids’ sports, attaining yoga certifications for both kids and adults while falling into the journey of homeschooling. Movement, music and many forms of creativity have always fueled Caren and it’s an absolute delight to bring sprinkles of mindfulness, movement and creativity to her classes at Leaves of Learning.  

Holly Hernandez

Holly is a history educator and writing instructor with more than ten years of classroom experience. She taught history courses and led writing workshops for the California State University system for years before moving with her family to Cincinnati. Today, she continues to serve the university’s students as a remote lecturer. She also works as a freelance writer, editor, and subject-matter expert, with clients ranging from small businesses, independent authors, and corporate textbook publishers. She holds a Masters in History from CSULB and a professional editing certificate from UC Berkeley.

Julia Jackson

Julia received her undergraduate degree in communications and public relations from the University of Dayton and a master’s degree in elementary education from DePaul University. After teaching kindergarten in Chicago for six years, she relocated to Cincinnati in 2013. For the past seven years, Julia has been raising two daughters, as well as running her family owned service technician dispatch company. She loves traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family. She is thrilled to join the Leaves team this year to provide a unique, challenging, and fun experience in the classroom.

Trelan Jones

Known for her talents as a whimsical collage artist with a self-reflective vision and approach to fine art and art education, it is no surprise to some that Trelan Jones is a highly talented studio artist, Smithsonian recruited, and an art educational professional. Her unorthodox and intricate mixed media artwork and creativity have made her a highly sought after artist and art educator. In 2004, she graduated with a BFA in painting and graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah, Georgia. Additionally, she possesses an Art Education Licensure and studies toward an MFA from the University of Cincinnati DAAP, Cincinnati, Ohio. Soon after undergrad, Trelan continued her work as a studio artist and began substitute teaching. She has experience teaching in the Indian Hill Primary and Princeton High School Districts, and as a resident art teacher at Wyoming Middle School. Similarly, she has taught private art classes for young people and adults for over ten years. Trelan incorporates STEM into art instruction through mixed media exploration, painting, collage, use of color, drawing, photography, commercial art, installation art, and art history. She is an advocate of self-reflection and fun in her classroom and utilizes oral presentations and creative group critique methods for class assessments. In her spare time, she enjoys hosting fun art classes with her girlfriends in her front yard, flea-marketing, art show exhibitions, and spending time with family.

Julie Klettke

Julie taught for nine years in an elementary school and has been at Leaves of Learning since 2007. During those years Julie has taught a variety of high school, middle school, and elementary school classes. Julie has an associate’s degree in nursing and spent four years working in healthcare as a registered nurse. Julie received a BA in biology and a BS in elementary education from UC. She has completed twelve hours of graduate work in gifted education at XU. Teaching is not just imparting knowledge; it is about inspiration as well. She encourages children to take part in their learning by sharing ideas and insights, using creative methods to solve problems, and reflecting on their progress and feelings about their work. Julie uses hands-on activities and critical thinking problem sets to encourage children to learn in different ways. Being a teacher is more than a job, it’s a calling. It’s where she feels happiest and most content, as though the very reason she exists has been revealed.

Joe Kozak

Born in Philadelphia, PA (and a huge Eagles fan) Joe is proud to be a part of the Leaves of Learning family! He graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. in history. After calling Chicago home for ten years (Go Cubs) he met and married Elizabeth, the love of his life, but they soon relocated to Cincinnati, where they now share a house with two cats and their daughter. He has taught some fun classes over the years including history, reading, mythology, film analysis, drama, psychology and law, and speech and debate. When he is not teaching or directing at Leaves of Learning, he enjoys acting in community theater. His theater credits include Paul in Barefoot in the Park, Gus in It’s Only A Play, Uncle Louie in Lost in Yonkers, Sidney in the Stagecrafters Theater production of Catch Me If You Can, and Owen in the Beechmont Players production of The Foreigner.

Elena Licu

Elena has lived on two continents and attended school in three countries. She is fluent in Romanian, French, and Italian. Elena loves to cook and bake with her LOL students. She enjoys listening to chamber music, and jogging in the company of her two dogs. Elena attended law school in Bucharest, Romania, where she was born and raised. She continued her studies in Vancouver, Canada, where she focused on criminology and law. Elena married and followed her husband to Cincinnati, Ohio, when he landed an engineering job in aviation at GE. She attended graduate school at University of Cincinnati on a full merit scholarship. Here, Elena earned her MS in criminal justice. As a doctoral student at UC, Elena taught research methods and statistics for social sciences on campus, as well as facilitated distance learning for criminal justice graduate students. She conducted research, reviewed for Security Journal, and published work in the areas of international crime, victimization, statistics, and workplace violence. When her first daughter was born, Elena became a homeschooling mom. In 2012, Elena and her two daughters joined the Leaves of Learning community. Ten years later, she is excited and honored to share her passion for cooking, languages, and social sciences with her students. Elena loves teaching at Leaves of Learning!

Sarah Mahoney

Sarah has been a part of the Leaves community since 2013. Her two children attended Leaves of Learning for their preschool and elementary education. She has worked as a long-term substitute teacher and a tutor at Leaves. Sarah graduated from University of Cincinnati in 2005 with an Applied Science degree in radiologic technology with a focus on physics and math. Sarah’s teaching approach is teaching the whole child, learning from them, and digging deep into their passions. Sarah is thrilled to be a permanent member of the staff and is excited to create an engaging learning environment where students feel happy, healthy, safe, engaged, and supported to explore new challenges.

Amanda Marasch-Brinkman

Amanda Marasch-Brinkman is a boomerang Cincinnatian with a degree in Musical Theatre.  She spent eleven years living in and loving New York City, where she worked in the stage, TV, and film industries. Amanda loves teaching the next generation of artists and humans. ( Including her son who will be seven soon! ) She teaches with many different organizations in the Cincinnati area and feels like her cup overflows when she can support her students in expressing themselves through the arts. 
Some of her TV credits include HBO’s Girls, the Dr. Oz Show, and How Do You Write a Joe Scherman Song. She also appeared as an inmate on six seasons of Orange is the New Black. Amanda worked three years as a stand-in on various sets, including Netflix’s Seven Seconds for Nadia Alexander, HBO’s Girls for Aidy Bryant, and Netflix’s OITNB for Kate Mulgrew, Annie Golden, Dale Soules, and Natasha Lyonne. 

Christina Matthews

Christina is the happy flower farmer-florist behind The Flower Lady LLC. She earned a BA in mass communications from Wright State University, and horticultural training through Berea College and The Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati. Christina specializes in growing flowers using organic growing practices and creating beautiful and fragrant solutions for just about every floral need. Her primary focus is serving brides, private clients, local restaurants, and small businesses in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood where she lives, works, and gardens. She also LOVES to teach her trade of flower farming-floristry and is grateful for the opportunity to grow and learn with the staff, students, and families of Leaves of Learning.

Diana Mattson

Diana has a Chemical Engineering degree from Purdue University. She worked in research and development for a polymer manufacturer where she specialized in adhesives for food packaging applications. During her nine years in the industry, she earned several patents for adhesives in coextrusion applications. Diana’s passion for teaching in the classroom was kindled after becoming involved in several science outreach programs that connected technical professionals with K-12 teachers and students. She decided to make the switch to teaching and has loved it ever since! Diana brings a practical and problem solving approach to the classroom. Her goal is to foster curiosity in students through a hands-on and process-oriented science program.

Jack Novak

Jack Novak is a Cincinnati native with a passion for the social sciences. Jack received his BA in History with a focus in Global Studies from Otterbein University in 2018. He then moved to the Washington D.C. area and attended Law School at the American University Washington College of Law. While finishing his law degree online due to Covid-19, Jack began working at Leaves of Learning as a substitute teacher in 2021. He quickly fell in love with the community at Leaves of Learning and began teaching his own courses in 2022. Jack is excited to broaden the range of social science classes that Leaves of Learning has to offer.

Amy Owens

Amy has a degree from Ball State University School of Architecture and has practiced architecture in Georgia, Indiana, and Ohio. She has also worked in the graphic arts field, owning her own design studio creating wedding and event stationery. Presently she is a homeschool mom of four boys. She is also a certified instructor of the American Cursive Handwriting System created by Master Penman Michael Sull and teaches lettering, calligraphy, and cursive to students all over the country. She is a member of the International Association for Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH) and the Greater Cincinnati Calligrapher’s Guild. When not teaching or practicing calligraphy, you can find her hiking and enjoying the outdoors with her husband and sons.

Justine Patton

Justine has her B.A in Montessori education from Xavier University and over twenty years of teaching experience. Montessori is a way of life for her. She loves to watch the progression of children through the three-year cycle and to be able to participate in their development. By the time they complete the cycle, they have grown into confident, capable, curious, and caring people. She treasures being a part of the process and is so happy to have the opportunity to work at Leaves of Learning. Justine is a Cincinnati native and has two sons.

Bikem Polat

Bikem grew up in Cincinnati before moving to California where she lived for five years. There, she earned degrees in Bioengineering (B.S.) and Psychology (B.S.) from the University of California, San
Diego (UCSD) and established her love of teaching. After UCSD, Bikem moved across the country to Pennsylvania for graduate school in Urban Education (M.Ed. & Ph.D.) at Temple University. Her interests
in education equity, particularly the school-to-prison pipeline, school discipline, and education during incarceration drew her to that program. While in Philadelphia, she taught undergraduate courses at Temple University and graduate courses at West Chester University and served as Assistant Director for
Academic Coaching at Temple University’s Center for Learning and Student Development. The pandemic brought her, and her constant companion and favorite travel buddy (her little dog, Gary) back home, where she is very excited to be a part of the Leaves of Learning community.

Pam Rice

Pam is passionate about math and believes it can be enjoyable for everyone. She spent ten years designing games. Through this work she learned to be creative while using her math brain; she hopes to bring this mindset to her students. Pam holds a M.S. in Predictive Analytics and coaches youth soccer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two young sons. She is passionate about music, literature, and art and sees math as an integral part of all the beauty in life. 

Jennifer Showalter

Jenny graduated from Miami University with a BA in mathematics and statistics and a BS in secondary mathematics education. She taught everything from algebra to calculus at Middletown High School for four years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She taught part-time at Miami University Middletown. She has taught at Leaves of Learning since 2006. While teaching at Leaves, Jenny earned her master’s degree in education. She lives in Franklin with her husband, two children, three cats and one dog.

Jessica Summers

Jess has been active in the photography field as a professional for over three years with her company, ‘Say Yes To Jess’, but she has been a practicing photographer for over ten years. Jess has a background in digital arts, video, and business. In the past couple years she has taught several after school enrichment classes to children looking to further their skills in the arts. She is excited to be able to share her passion for photography with Leaves students.

Elizabeth Tillis-Gilland

Elizabeth loves the hands-on philosophy LOL embraces, the passion with which children are encouraged to learn, and the opportunities for success LOL provides. She is excited to meet her students and delve into learning with them! Elizabeth has a B.A. in international affairs and a M.Ed. in elementary education from the University of Cincinnati and is a certified teacher. She taught sixth grade at Freedom Elementary in the Lakota school district for five years. She has also tutored children in math, reading, and writing. Elizabeth believes strongly in creating a nurturing learning environment in which children are supported in their individual learning styles. As the workshop facilitator for the Bullies and Victims program, she worked with students, parents, and educators throughout the Greater Cincinnati area to teach strategies to eliminate bullying. Additionally she has been a teacher at Camp Invention. Her son, Evan, attended Leaves of Learning for 10 wonderful years before graduating and heading off to college. Elizabeth enjoys reading, cross-stitch, playing board and card games with her son and husband, and attending cultural events.

Justin West

Justin West is a composer and artist whose work integrates sound, electronics, and installation. As a member of the art collective Intermedio, Justin creates interactive and immersive musical experiences using speakers, computer programming, and live performers. His installations create spaces where observers become participants. Throughout his work he explores the roles of composer, conductor, performer, instrument, and listener — what they are and what they will become in the age of the bit. His artwork and performances have been featured at the Contemporary Arts Center, BLINK, Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, and most recently with a new outdoor installation called “Twist” in the Court Street corridor in downtown Cincinnati. Justin was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1988. He received his B.M. in music composition from Heidelberg University in 2011.

Madelaine Wilkerson

Madelaine is a performer with a background in musical theater, jazz, and rock and roll performance. She attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA where she earned a Bachelor of Music in jazz vocal performance and then began a master’s in K-12 music education. She left the master’s program in order to work in private childcare while working as a performer for the next several years. She returned to the Cincinnati area in 2015 and continued working in the performance arts as the front woman for a local wedding/event band while also managing two local businesses and volunteering with various community theater groups. Madelaine left her role as a general manager in order to be able to dedicate more time to the performing arts and is thrilled to be teaching at Leaves in the 2022-2023 school year. She has a deep love for choral music and musical theater and is delighted to be sharing the joy of music and theater with students of all ages.