2012-2013 Faculty Bios
Jessica Brown, Principal
Jessica Brown is the principal of The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush. She has had personal experience with the performing arts. She attended the J.R. Masterman School and Germantown Friends School where she played in both schools’ orchestras as a horn player. She was a member of the All-City Orchestra. For many years she took classes at The PA Ballet Company (PBC) and White’s Studio in Narberth. She had the rare opportunity to dance in the Nutcracker Suite with PBC. Ms. Brown received a B.A. from Kenyon College in history where she was recently inducted into the 2011 Athletic Hall of Fame for field hockey and lacrosse. She has a Certificate of Advanced Study (ABD) and Masters in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Administrative Leadership from Lehigh University.
Dana Rapoport, Assistant Principal
Dana Rapoport is excited to become the first assistant principal of the Arts Academy of Benjamin Rush after two years of teaching social studies and the completion of the Philadelphia High School Leadership Project administrative program. She was born and raised in New York City and arrived in Philadelphia in August 2008. She completed her AB in History at The University of Chicago, her MA in Social Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University and holds certificates in Social Studies, Mathematics and K-12 Administration. Throughout high school and college she dabbled in multiple academic and extracurricular activities such as dance, photography, French literature and Calculus. She has worked in professional theaters, in professional research labs, played soccer with Scottish National players, traveled extensively throughout Europe and visited each continent (except Antarctica).
Tasmara Davis – Geometry
Tasmara attended Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and studied Mathematics with a concentration in Secondary Education. While attending Shippensburg, she received honors and mentored freshmen students assisting with the transition from high school to college. Tasmara grew up in South Philadelphia and attended Meredith Elementary and Central High Schools. In school she played the violin and oboe, sang in choirs, and held acting roles in school plays. Outside of school she studied piano and guitar at Settlement Music School and took lessons in ballet, tap, and jazz. In 2011, Tasmara received a Master of Education degree from Cabrini College.
Jon Goulet – Algebra II and Pre-Calculus
Mr. Goulet grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where he lived through High School. During his early years in school, he had a passion for Math and Science and loved working with computers. He came to Philadelphia in 2001 to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. He graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2005 with a BS in Computer Science and Engineering. After graduation, he began his first job working as a software developer and providing technology support at a large financial services company. After three years of working in that field, he decided that a career change was in order and joined the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows in 2008. He worked for two years teaching Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, and AP Calculus at South Philadelphia High School and joined the staff at Rush in the fall of 2010. Mr. Goulet has a Masters of Education from Drexel University. In his spare time, Mr. Goulet enjoys running, watching sports, reading, and traveling.
Jeff Bevilacqua – Geometry and Algebra 1
Jeff Bevilacqua joined the faculty at The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush in 2010 after spending a year at Overbrook High School. He is excited to be working with such talented, enthusiastic students, and hopes to share his love of mathematics with each student, regardless of his or her prior math experiences. After being born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Jeff attended Ohio Wesleyan University, earning a BA in Mathematics while also attaining minors in both Physics and the Humanities. After spending a year living and teaching at Perkiomen School, a boarding school in Pennsburg, PA, he went on to earn an MA in Mathematics from Villanova University, and spent three years pursuing a PhD in Mathematics at Temple University. Although he has lived in the Philadelphia area for the past six years and considers it his home, he is still hopelessly loyal to Cleveland’s sports teams. He also enjoys running through the woods, bowling, playing video games, and watching tv and movies.
Dan Ritzheimer – Algebra 1
Born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, Daniel Ritzheimer is a proud product of the Philadelphia public school system. As a graduate, Mr. Ritzheimer is committed to serving the school district which helped him become the lifelong learner that he is today. While studying Mechanical Engineering at Temple University, Mr. Ritzheimer volunteered as a Calculus tutor. It was during this time that he discovered his passion for teaching. He quickly changed his major and received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education from Temple University. Since then, Mr. Ritzheimer has taught at Olney West High School, George Washington High School, and most recently Philadelphia High School for Business and Technology. Mr. Ritzheimer ensures the future success of his Algebra 1 students by providing them with a challenging curriculum that is relevant to their needs and interests.
Melissa Holloway – Biology I and II
Ms. Holloway graduated from Kittanning Senior High School and accepted a full academic scholarship to Edinboro University of PA. Throughout her college career, she enjoyed working at the EUP admissions office as well as the student fitness center. She graduated magna cum laude earning a degree in Biology and Secondary Education, and immediately accepted a teaching position at Harrisburg High School. After teaching for several years in Harrisburg, Ms. Holloway moved to the great city of Philadelphia to become one of the founding teachers of Rush Arts. Ms. Holloway earned her Masters in Education degree from Cabrini College in August 2011. In her spare time, she enjoys biking along the Schuylkill River, reading scientific literature, and traveling.
Cara Puff – Biology and Environmental Science Elective
Cara Puff is joining the faculty at The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush for the 2012-2013 school year, and will be teaching Biology and Environmental Science. Ms. Puff has been teaching in the School District of Philadelphia for the past seven years. Prior to teaching, she worked in the health care field for five years, three years in the Teen Clinic at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and two years at the Family Planning Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Pulling from her past work experiences, Ms. Puff hopes to make the sciences accessible, relevant, and fascinating, as well as expose students to a number of exciting health-related career opportunities.
Ms. Puff acquired her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and her Masters in Education from Eastern University. She currently lives in West Philadelphia, with her husband Rob Paul, who is also a teacher in the School District of Philadelphia, and her two rescued greyhounds Daisy & Little.
Paul Wagenhoffer – Chemistry and AP Chemistry
Mr. Wagenhoffer began his college career attending Widener University studying chemical engineering. After concluding that was not the path he wanted to traverse, he ventured into new territory at Temple University and began to study education, wherein he earned a BS in Secondary Education – Chemistry and graduated cum laude. During his time at Temple, Mr. Wagenhoffer spent four months teaching students Biochemistry at Science Leadership Academy, another 21st century learning high school. It was here that he began to hone his teaching craft, focusing on teaching life skills and content through student-driven inquiry. His long-time interests of science and mentoring have taken Mr. Wagenhoffer to elementary grade schools and summer camps where he designed and implemented science clubs and science theme weeks. He enjoys an active life-style, specifically running, hiking, football, and Ultimate Frisbee along with his other hobbies of reading, music, writing, cooking, and watching movies.
David Wright – Physics
Mr. Wright was born and raised in Southwest Florida. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in New College of Florida, in Sarasota, with major emphasis in Physics, and minoring in Mathematics. He has had graduate study in Physics and Education at the University of South Florida and Florida State University. He taught Physics and Physical Science for 11 years in Sarasota, FL, and Physics in Northern and Southern California. Mr. Wright has been with the School District of Philadelphia since the 2010 school year, teaching Physics and AP Physics B at Motivation High School and University City High School.
Mr. Wright has been married for 30 years, and has one son who is finishing his Juris Doctorate at Temple University Beasley School of Law.
When Mr. Wright is not teaching or studying Physics or Math, he paints and draws in oil, acrylic, and experimental medium. Mr. Wright approaches Physics and the fine arts with roughly equal passion.
Kevin Katz – World History
Mr. Katz grew up in Warminster in Lower-Bucks County. He attended King’s College, where he played baseball, while majoring in Communications with minors in Marketing and History. Mr. Katz was originally in the corporate world for 7 years as a web designer. He has his Masters in Secondary Education with a concentration in Social Studies. He is certified to teach Social Studies, English, and Business Education. He is committed to the new 3 Rs – Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance, and the use of technology as a conduit to learning. Mr. Katz is the girls basketball coach and baseball coach. He lives in the Graduate Hospital section of Philadelphia with his wife and 2 children. He currently teachers World History and American History.
Julie Severson – African American & American History
Ms. Severson originally hails from South Dakota, where she lived until she left to attend college at the University of Minnesota. While at the U of M, she studied History and Global Studies and spent her junior year studying abroad in Rome and Budapest. After college, she joined the Peace Corps and moved to the West African country of Guinea for two years to work as a Health Education Volunteer in a rural village. Following her time in Africa, she decided to follow her passion for teaching by moving to Philadelphia and joining the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows. She started her teaching career at Germantown High School, where she has taught history for the past four years. During this time, she received her Masters of Education from Arcadia University. She also became involved in working with students in extracurricular activities through BuildOn and Students Run Philly Style. Ms. Severson is looking forward to starting the next chapter in her teaching career by working at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush.
Bryan Steinberg – Social Science
Mr. Steinberg was born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia. After moving to Langhorne, he attended Neshaminy High School in which he ran cross country, indoor, and outdoor track for three seasons. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Temple University in 2008 with a Bachelors of Education emphasizing history and politics. He has worked as a server in fine dining restaurants for seven years before becoming a teacher in the Philadelphia School District. Since then, he has taught 9th through 12th grade History at Olney West High School for two years, and has coached track and field for the Olney Trojans. On his spare time, he loves distance running and playing piano. He also enjoys traveling, going to concerts, and especially getting tickets to any Phillies or Flyers game. Currently, he is getting his Masters in Education and Special Education at Holy Family College, and currently resides in Philadelphia.
Leslie Abend – Latin 1
A native New Yorker, Leslie Abend came to Philadelphia in 1998 on a one-year post-doctoral fellowship and stayed. Dr. Abend has been involved in the arts from the time she was in elementary school: she learned how to play the guitar at age seven, sang in community choral groups, and started studying voice at The Brooklyn Music School at age ten. Throughout her years in high school in Howell, New Jersey, she performed as an actor in numerous productions, at the same time continuing her musical training. She entered Hartt College of Music with a double major in Vocal Performance and Music History, but realizing that as much as she loved singing, she also loved studying languages, literature and art history. She graduated from The University of Hartford with a major in Foreign Languages and a minor in Music. She went on to receive Masters’ degrees in French Language and Literature and Theatre History and Criticism from the State University of New York at Albany before completing a Ph.D. in French Language and Literature with an Interdisciplinary Certificate in Medieval Studies at The Graduate School of The City of New York.
Before joining The School District of Philadelphia as a Teaching Fellow in 2006, Dr. Abend taught a variety of subjects at a variety of colleges, including all levels of French at Vassar College, various topics in Art History at The State University of New York at New Paltz, and classes in “Literature and Religion” at the University of Pennsylvania. As a teacher at Furness High School from 2006-2012, she taught French, English, Biology, Physical Science, Public Speaking and English as a Second Language. She joins the faculty at The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush as a Latin teacher.
Throughout her life as student and teacher, Dr. Abend’s approach has been obsessively transdisciplinary. She always seeks to make connections among the arts and literature, and grounds her understanding of the artifacts of our human imagination in the cultures that produced them. She hopes to share with her new students her love for words, her enthusiasm for learning, and her ongoing exploration of how we communicate through the various signs and symbols we create.
Dr. Abend’s extracurricular activities include reading and writing poetry; creating works of collage and assemblage; needlecrafts; going to the movies, and listening to all kinds of music, ranging from country to opera.
Nicole Siering – Spanish 1 & 2
Raised in the Pine Barrens, Nicole Siering is a New Jersey native. She graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers University, where she double-majored in English and Spanish Linguistics, concentrating on New Media and Second Language Acquisition. While at Rutgers, she became a Phi Beta Kappan and member of two national foreign language honor societies. She spent one and a half months teaching English in Puerto Limón, Costa Rica in 2005 where she studied Afro-Carribbean history and culture. During 2008-2009, she received a grant from the Ministerio de Ciencia y Educación de España to teach English in a secondary school in Huelva, España. Shortly thereafter she relocated to Philadelphia as a Teaching Fellow and joined the faculty at Rush Arts. She earned her Masters in Education degree from Chestnut Hill College in December 2011. Her current academic interests include research in ethnomusicology and the role of music in the foreign language classroom. Nicole has a deep-rooted appreciation for nature, and is passionate about wildlife and open space conservation. She is an avid canoeist and hiker. She also enjoys traveling, playing guitar, and practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
Karenin Loinaz – Spanish II & AP Spanish
Karenin Loinaz was raised in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. She moved to Philadelphia when she was 14 years old and attended Edison High School. While at Edison, Ms. Loinaz was enrolled in a bilingual program where she learned English as a second language. In addition, she was an active dancer in school performances and wrote poetry for Spanish class. Upon graduation, she attended Temple University College of Education, where she majored in secondary education and Spanish literature. While attending college, Ms. Loinaz worked at her former high school as a bilingual tutor where she had the opportunity to work with a diverse population of students. From teaching them English as a second language to helping them with the transition from High school to college, Ms. Loinaz gained meaningful experience in guiding youth into the next stages of their lives. Besides working in schools, Ms. Loinaz co-founded an evening program for adults in North Philadelphia, who desired to improve their English and Spanish skills. During her Junior year of college, Ms. Loinaz had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain where she attended the University of Oviedo and took advanced Spanish courses. Upon completion of her study abroad program, Ms. Loinaz entered her final year at Temple University and completed her student-teaching semester at J. R. Masterman High School, where she taught Spanish. Ms. Loinaz graduated from Temple University in the Spring of 2009 with a B.S. in Education and a concentration in Spanish.
Molly Nicol – English
Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Ms. Nicol made the decision to become a high school English teacher while still in high school herself, where she was active in choir and musical theater. She graduated magna cum laude from Truman State University in Kirksville, MO with a B.A. in English and departmental honors. Upon graduation, she joined Teach For America and moved to Philadelphia where she began teaching and received her M.S. in Education from University of Pennsylvania. Since 2005, she has taught English and Theater in Philly and has been involved in student government and the Passport Residency Program with Philadelphia Theater Company. In 2009 she received the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for distinguished teaching. She is a proud member of the National Council of Teachers of English, Philadelphia Writing Project and Phi Beta Kappa. Outside of school, she enjoys reading, running, cooking and traveling. She is excited to share her love for the arts, literature and learning with the students of AABR.
Lorraine Ustaris – English 1 and AP English
Ms. Ustaris finished her undergraduate work at St. Joseph’s University, where she majored in English, minored in gender studies, and successfully completed all of the course requirements for pre-medicine. Having garnered distinction in her college academics, writing, and activism, Ms. Ustaris attained membership into the prestigious honors society Phi Beta Kappa and received various other honors. At Villanova University, she earned her masters in secondary education with teaching certification in English. Through her rigorous graduate assistantship, she became involved in research on dysconscious racism and coauthored a published scholarly article concerning the philosophy of teaching literature. In 2007, she achieved a nearly perfect score on her state certification examination, meriting her the Recognition of Excellence Award for exemplary knowledge of English literature, language, and composition.
In 2009, Ms. Ustaris joined The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush and left her position at Harcum College, where she had instructed freshman courses in composition, reading, critical thinking and college math, and tutored ESL, math, chemistry, and writing for a range of disciplines. At the Arts Academy, Ms. Ustaris has taught English 1, AP Literature and Composition, and SAT Prep. In 2010, Ms. Ustaris began an on-going relationship with PBS, launching a PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab in her English 1 class. During the 2011-2012 school year, she collaborated with The Galleries at Moore College of Art’s “Learning through Photography” initiative through which her students gained local attention for their writing and photography.
Ms. Ustaris thrives on traveling and dabbling in the arts. She plays the piano, sings, and is currently learning the guitar. She has also studied studio art in the past and still enjoys drawing and painting. Because of these experiences, Ms. Ustaris truly believes that arts integrated learning can powerfully affect students in the midst of forming their identities as whole-minded artists, innovators, and global citizens.
In 2012, Ms. Ustaris won the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. She is a proud member of the Philadelphia Writing Project at The University of Pennsylvania and frequently shares her work at local and national education conferences.
Sunny Bavaro – English 4 and English 4 Honors and SAT prep
Sunny Bavaro has been teaching for eleven years: six years as an instructor at Lehigh University, Community College of Philadelphia, Bucks County Community College and the University of the Arts, as well as five years for the School District of Philadelphia. Growing up, Ms. Bavaro attended public school in the city of Yonkers and the hamlet of Hopewell Jct., both in NY. After high school, she moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to attend Lehigh University, and she did so with the intention of becoming a Civil Engineer. However, her sophomore year at Lehigh taught her that she prefers the art that words make, wishing to understand how the world works through applied poetry rather than applied mathematics.
She went on to receive both her BA in English from Lehigh, graduating magna cum laude, as well as an MA in English with a concentration in Medieval Literature and Gender Studies. After realizing that her love for the art of reading and writing was sparked when she was in 9th grade, she decided to become a high school English teacher and received an M.Ed in Secondary Education from Arcadia University.
Most recently, she was the Comprehensive High School Region Finalist for the 2010 Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Teacher of the Year award for her work as a 9th grade English teacher at West Philadelphia High School. Before teaching at Rush, she also taught at Furness High School in South Philly.
Ms. Bavaro’s pedagogy centers on the liberatory possibilities for teenagers when we encourage modern student-writers to engage with their peers and to re-mix and re-create narratives of the past to create original, 21 century visions of their own future.
Max Feldman – English 3, English 3 Honors and Film Studies
Born and raised in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, Mr. Feldman graduated from J.R. Masterman High School. It was during high school that he was inspired to become a teacher after having a series of amazing, mind-expanding English teachers. He attended Penn State University where he majored in Secondary Education and spent his extracurricular time rowing for the Penn State Crew Team. Mr. Feldman has been at The Arts Academy since 2010, and taught at Olney West High School previously. Outside of school, Mr. Feldman enjoys traveling, camping, and biking. He biked across the United States during the summer after his college graduation as an adventure before becoming a teacher. His favorite books include The Catcher in the Rye and 1984, and his favorite films are too numerous to name.
Clare Kobierowski – Health/Physical education
Clare Kobierowski “Kobie” has been teaching Health and Physical Education in the Philadelphia School District for the past 5 years. Clare has a BS in Business Management from the University of Phoenix and a Master’s Degree in Multi-Cultural Education with a Health and Physical Education Certification from Eastern University. Clare is the first JV volleyball coach for AABR this year and enjoys rowing and running when not with her husband and two daugthers, 8 years old and 2 months.
Todd Corabi – Physical Education & Health, Athletics Director
Mr. Corabi was born and raised in Philadelphia and spent most of his youth living in the Harrowgate section of the city near Port Richmond before relocating to Huntingdon Valley in 2002. He attended Olney Elementary, Conwell Middle Magnet and Mastbaum AVTS High School before attending Temple University. A 1997 graduate from Temple, he currently has 99 credits in addition to his Bachelor’s Degree including a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design with an emphasis on Educational Technology.
Jeff Evans – Graphic Arts & World History
Jeff Evans is an illustrator, painter, and arts educator from Philadelphia. He has worked in various capacities for MAD magazine, New Yorker, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, PS Magazine (preventative maintenance guide for US Armed Forces) and THIRTEEN New York Public Media (PBS). A graduate of both The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art and The Tyler School of Art, Jeff’s current projects include an independent long-form graphic novel based on his childhood antics, logo design for a soon to be announced beverage company in the Fishtown section of the city. He was the recipient of the Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2009.
Andrea Lyons – Fine Arts and Fine Arts AP
Andrea Lyons is both a working artist and a veteran teacher of Art. She received a B.F.A. in printmaking and art education from Tyler School of Art, and a certificate and M.F.A. in painting. She won a full scholarship to attend Tyler upon graduating from Northeast High School. Years later, Ms. Lyons received scholarships and a grant from the Barnes Foundation to attend The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Ms. Lyons has been a muralist, illustrator, painter, printmaker and sculptor. In 2000, she won the prestigious Leeway Grant for Women in the Arts: the $15,000 Edna Endrade Award. Her paintings have also been purchased by the fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Ms. Lyons grew up in the Bells Corner section of Northeast Philadelphia and now resides in Horsham, Pa. She taught at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, The Philadelphia Creative & Performing Arts High School, and Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School. She encourages
students to seek her out any time and she wants to involve them in numerous contests and outside art programs as well.
Louis Mazza – Media Arts and Library Media Specialist
Louis Mazza received his B.F.A. in Media Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art + Design and his M.A.T. in Visual Art from the University of the Arts. He has been involved in visual art, design, and education in various combinations for the past twelve years, including jobs as Education Technology Specialist (Walker Art Center, 1997-2001), Web Producer, (Urban Outfitters 2001-2002), education and design consultant (Tides Foundation, Princeton University Art Museum, Minnesota Public Radio, and Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership). Mr. Mazza contributed two lesson plans to “Making Media Matter” (Vols. 1 & 2), a collection of media literacy projects for classrooms published by the National Council of Teachers of English. His photography and design work have been published in New Media Design: Reloaded, (1999) Wired, (2000), and the Philadelphia City Paper, (2001). Louis has been a high school educator since 2006, when he was part of a site-selected 13-member faculty at the “School of the Future”, a partnership between Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia. Mr. Mazza lives in Media, PA and has two sons entering University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN in September, 2010. He was the recipient of the Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2010.
Jeff Loda – Music, instrumental
Originally, from the Chicago area, Mr. Loda holds both a Bachelor’s of Music Education and a Bachelor’s of Music – Trumpet Performance – from Northern Illinois University. He graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2006. While at NIU, Loda played principal trumpet for the Wind Ensemble, Wind Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestra. Most recently, Mr. Loda taught general music and started/directed a choir program at Neal Math and Science Academy in North Chicago, Illinois. He has special interests in world music and composition.Mr. Loda’s performing background includes the Chicago Brass Band and the Sicilian Band of Chicago,among others. He has performed with trumpet legends Allen Vizzutti, Niklas Ecklund,and John Foster. He is an active church musician and an eight year member of the Wheaton Municipal Band, which is recognized as one of the finest community bands in America. Mr. Loda is a member of the Illinois Music Educators Association, The National Association for Music Education (MENC), and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
Suzanne Spencer – Vocal Music
Suzanne Spencer has been a performing musician and teacher in the Philadelphia area for over seven years. Ms. Spencer moved to Philadelphia to finish her Bachelor of Music in Jazz Vocal Performance at the University of the Arts. After completing her degree, she continued on to earn her Masters of Arts in Teaching in Music Education from the University of the Arts. In addition to teaching, Ms. Spencer is an avid performer and studio musician. While living in Philadelphia she has performed at the Merriam Theater, the Academy of Music, the Kimmel Center, The World Live Café, the Tritone, the Tin Angel, and overseas at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. Ms. Spencer is also presently the lead singer of the Sunday James Band- a Philadelphia based wedding/dance band. Ms. Spencer believes firmly in training her vocal students to not only be the best singers they can be, but the best musicians as well.
Denise Masters – Dance
Mrs. Denise Drumel Masters has been performing, educating and studying all forms of dance for over 30 years throughout the Philadelphia Region. She holds a masters degree and state certification in Dance Education from Temple University. Her background includes teaching ballet, point, tap, jazz, various modern techniques and other world dance traditions to all ages through private, studio and public school settings. She has staged and created original choreography for numerous Broadway musicals for middle and high school level students as well as create her own curriculum in dance. This curriculum includes historical, cultural, composing, choreography, analyzing and critiquing dance studies to focus on interdisciplinary connections through the arts. She has performed at the Adrienne, Arden, Drake, Arts Bank and Conwell theatres in Philadelphia. In 2004 she was awarded the national Isadora Duncan Choreography Award followed by the Sarah Hilsendager Professional Educators Award in 2006. She presented on integrating dance movement therapy into a public school in 2011 at the National Dance Education Conference in Minneapolis. She is devoted to creating a college preparatory dance program and enhancing knowledge about careers in dance for her students. She is extremely proud to be a part of the Rush Arts Team. It is her dream job.
Sally Wojcik – Theatre Arts
Sally Wojcik is originally from Springfield, MA. She studied Theatre, English, and Secondary Education at Albright College where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and with Departmental Distinction. Sally spent a semester at the prestigious National Theatre Institute in Waterford, CT. Directly after graduation, Ms. Wojcik accepted a position at Arden Theatre Company in the Arden Professional Apprentice Program, one of the country’s most competitive and rigorous theatre training programs. Sally remained on staff at the Arden in the Education and Marketing Departments for five years. She has also worked a teaching artists for Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Ms. Wojcik is currently pursuing her Masters Degree at Temple University.
Sara Kovula – Learning Support
Sara Koivula, a native of Finland, received her Bachelor’s Degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge with a major in Psychology and a minor in Russian. While studying at LSU, Ms. Koivula began working as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist with preschoolers on the Autism Spectrum and discovered a passion for working in a Special Education setting. After graduating from LSU, she began working as a classroom aide and a counselor at the Summit Area YMCA in New Jersey. While working at the YMCA, she decided to pursue a career in education and applied to the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows program. Ms. Koivula moved to Philadelphia in June 2012 when she was accepted into Cohort 13 of the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows and completed her pre-service training at Audenreid High School. She is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Special Education and English at Chestnut Hill College. This is Ms. Koivula’s first year of teaching and she is very excited to be a part of the Rush community!
Candace Dare -Learning support
Originally from South Jersey, Ms. Dare graduated from Rowan University with a degree in English Literature with a minor in Philosophy. While attending Rowan, she began working in a home school program for two sisters with Autism, which sparked her interest in working in Special Education. After graduating, she continued to work with the home school program and also began working at a day program for adults with a wide range of developmental disabilities. It was during this time that she earned her M. Ed. and certification in Special Education from Arcadia University. Ms. Dare has also worked in Early Intervention, teaching an Autistic Support classroom for children aged 3-5 in North Philadelphia. Ms. Dare has worked for the School District of Philadelphia since 2008 when she began at Rush Arts as an Autistic Support teacher. Ms. Dare is also a proud member of the Philadelphia Writing Project. The 2012-2013 school year is Ms. Dare’s second year as the 11th – 12th grade Learning Support teacher supporting students in English III & IV, Algebra II, and Physics.
Claire Frosch – Autistic Support
Ms. Frosch is originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where she first worked with children with autism in the home setting and began to consider a career working with individuals with disabilities. While a student at Barnard College, she volunteered as a tutor with America Reads America counts and interned for a NY state senator focused on improving conditions for NYC children and families. After graduating with a degree in Political Science, she decided to pursue a career in urban education and was accepted into the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows as part of Cohort 10. There, she specialized in Special Education and social studies. She began teaching at The Promise Academy at Roberts Vaux High School while she continued her studies; she received a Master’s in Special Education with honors from Arcadia University in the spring of 2012 and is excited to begin her third year in the district.
Susan Ebner – Autistic Support
Susan Ebner Autistic Support teacher, and this is her first year at the Arts Academy. She is very excited and happy to be part of such an awesome faculty!
She has received extensive training in the area of autism, both locally and nationally, and as such incorporates verbal behavior strategies and sensory integration into her daily lessons and routines.
Susan has had many experiences in the performing arts, as an instrumentalist and vocalist, and at times, as a dramatist. She began performing at a young age and continues to pursue opportunities to play her flute and sing. She uses music in her approach to reaching students with communication delays and feels that being here at the Arts Academy is the best of both worlds.
Mrs. Ebner began working with students with autism in 1993, first in a home-based program, then as an early intervention specialist. She received her Bachelor of Science in special education from Gwynedd-Mercy College, where she was a Dean’s List student, and a member of the Mercy Honor Society, Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Society, and Harmony Theatre, a group that, under the direction of the Director of Music, teaches young adults with Intellectual Disabilities the art of performing. She received Program Honors at graduation. In 2007, she received her Master’s of Education from Arcadia University.
Susan’s favorite quote is from Dale Carnegie… “ Act enthusiastic, and you become enthusiastic.” She adds this, “ The way I travel through life is the most powerful legacy I can give my students.”
Outside of school, Susan enjoys spending her time with her 6 grandchildren, camping and going to the beach.
Susan Senner – Counselor
Susan Senner joins the staff of The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush as the counselor for the inaugural 2008-2009 school year. Working at the Arts Academy will be a coming home of sorts, as she attended Rush when it was a middle school. No stranger to the School District of Philadelphia, she has worked in the District for the past 20 years. Coming in to the District through a co-op program right out of nearby George Washington High School, Ms. Senner started as a secretary while attending school in the evenings to work on a degree in sports administration and journalism at Temple University. After finishing a Bachelor’s degree at Temple, she moved on to Eastern University to pursue a degree in Secondary School Counseling. After receiving her certificate, she worked at Chichester High School in Chester County briefly before returning to Philadelphia to serve as the 9th grade counselor at Overbrook High School. Most recently, she completed her principal’s certification program at Penn State University, Great Valley campus. For the past five years she has worked in both the North Region and Northeast Regional offices as the No Child Left Behind District Liaison. The NCLB Liaison was responsible for overseeing Title I programs, working with schools on budgets, school improvement plans and compliance issues as well as working with parents around supplemental educational services and the school choice program.
Laura Sitvarin – Counselor
Laura Sitvarin is new to the faculty at The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush for the 2012-2013 school year, after spending the past 3 years at the Louis H. Farrell school. Ms. Sitvarin graduated from Temple University with a B.A. in Psychology and from Holy Family University with a M.S in Counseling Psychology with a Family and Marital concentration. She then went back and earned her Secondary School Counselor certification. Ms. Sitvarin believes working with students to help them discover who they are and who they want to become is extremely important.
Outside of school, Ms. Sitvarin enjoys spending time with her husband and son.
Veronica Hanley – Academic Support Staff
Born in Germantown and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, Ms. Hanley attended Archbishop Ryan High School where she played flute for the school orchestra and marching band. She began her college education at East Stroudsburg University, then put a hold on college to marry and raise six children. During this time, she took classes at LaSalle University and Community College of Philadelphia, earning a Liberal Arts degree with honor in 2003. She slso studied voice at Settlement Music school for two years. She was a staff member of the Keystone State Boychoir during it’s inception, managing the music library, chaperoning concert performances, as well as tutoring new members in music theory and sight reading while her son was a member of the choir. She most recently spent two years as secretary for the Board of Directors of the Academy Sabres Sports Association, where she coached softball and basketball.
She is currently serving as President of Home & School Assocoation for the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush. Her hobbies include geneology (she has traced her family history to about 640 A.D), hiking, reading, and she has traveled with her husband and children throughout the United States, including Alaska, and to Europe, Nassau, and South Africa.