Academy Teachers

Every IEA Academy class is taught by a content area specialist who is trained in teaching gifted youth.

Academy teachers are enthusiastic experts in their subject matter – they are academics, researchers, and gifted individuals themselves with a passion for learning, driven to support the gifted community. Each teacher’s expertise and commitment enables students to explore topics in greater depth with authorities on the subject. Take a look at their passions, their interests, and why they love teaching Academy students.

Academy Teachers

Alessandra Santucci

Alessandra is a relatively recent transplant from Chicago, IL. She received her BA from Northwestern University in Italian Studies and Visual Arts. In addition to freelance work in Graphic Design, she currently teaches 4th/5th grade at the Walden School in Pasadena, and has over ten years of teaching experience. She loves to share her passion for the Arts with students of all ages. As a product of a progressive education and environment, she believes that the most effective educational communities nurture creativity and curiosity, celebrate individuality, and foster a sense of responsibility for self, environment, and both local and global communities. Perhaps more Renaissance in nature, Alessandra also teaches yoga, dance, and Italian language lessons and is working on improving her French and Portuguese. She also adores darkroom photography, reading, cooking, linguistics, and travel.


Alex Romero

Alex is a New Mexico native with an insatiable curiosity that led him to become a scientist.  After graduating from Duke University with degrees in biology and chemistry, Alex attended Caltech for graduate school where he did research in biology and applied physics.  Since graduating from Caltech, he has worked both as a scientist and a teacher, working with students at all levels from kindergarten through college.  In addition to his love of science and teaching, he enjoys writing, playing music, riding bicycles, rollerblading, making art, and cooking.


Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown comes to us from the Mirman School for Highly Gifted, where she taught second grade for twenty years. Ms. Brown studied at UCLA and CSUN and went to graduate school at UCR. She also went to film school at L.A. Valley College. Ellen plays guitar and writes. She loves horseback riding, traveling, and movies! She brings her special Star Wars class to IEA.  This class focuses on the connection between the Star Wars movies and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. Students watch and analyze movies IV-VI, examining the stages of the hero’s journey and tracking character development and themes about life.


John Kneedler

John Kneedler is a UCLA-Certified Mindfulness Facilitator who has taught mindfulness practices and meditation throughout Southern California to people of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Duke University. John’s experience includes extensive work with children, both privately and in the classroom, having received training from the Mindful Schools Curriculum Training Program. He has shared these practices with students ranging from kindergarten through high schoolers in public, private, and charter school settings as well as through student enrichment programs, including the LAPD-created Operation Progress in Watts and the Culinary Arts Kids Eat program through the Mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles and Santee Educational Complex. He has also been a Teacher’s Assistant for several years for the UCLA undergraduate summer course, PSY 175: Mindfulness Practice and Theory. First and foremost, John is a dedicated practitioner who strongly values the continuing development of his own personal practice, including participation in annual residential silent retreats.


Meg Shevenock

Poet Elizabeth Bishop writes, from the perspective of a child undergoing epiphany in the waiting room, “How–I didn’t know any / word for it–how ‘unlikely,’” marveling at the strangeness, the miracle, that she, like anyone, exists. Meg’s art and writing circles this notion of what it means to be: to be at all, and more, to be seen, felt, heard, and to see, feel, hear, in turn. To connect. Her teaching practice is an extension of her interest in these most fundamental exchanges among beings, human and animal alike. Meg has taught art in rural Kenya, poetry in universities, writing to refugee students in Pittsburgh and everything in between; however, her primary work for the past 8 years has been as a private tutor for gifted students. Her teaching experiences have been among the most rewarding of her life. Meg received an MFA in poetry at the University of Florida and an MFA in sculpture at The Ohio State University. Her writing has appeared widely in publications such as Best New Poets, Times Literary Supplement, The Kenyon Review, Denver Quarterly and more. Her essays and poems have frequently been featured in the installations of artist Ann Hamilton, including in Hamilton’s current installation ONEEVERYONE at Dell Medical Center in Austin, TX; her own art has appeared in numerous galleries, often in collaboration with the artist Jamie Boyle.


Nathalie Blume

Nathalie Blume got the unusual spelling of her first name (that silent ‘h’!) from her French mother, and didn’t think much about it until she moved from France to the States as a teenager. Nathalie studied computer science, psychology and sociology at Oregon State University and Wellesley College and received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from UCLA. She has worked as a research psychologist and data scientist for over 15 years, focusing on pathological memory impairment, expertise formation, and bringing Big Data tools to public healthcare agencies. She is currently on a work break to care for her 6 year-old son who, though gifted, has struggled in school, and her inquisitive 3 year old daughter. Together, she and her family enjoy watching bugs in the garden and putting on shows at home.


Nicole Endacott

Nicole is a South Pasadena native who has always loved to learn and be outdoors. She received her B.S. in Biology with an Ecology emphasis from Azusa Pacific University. While in school, she had the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa, take Marine Biology field courses on Whidbey Island in Washington state, research and present on local fire ecology, and work in various supplemental instruction and tutoring capacities for both math and science. Since graduating, she has worked seasonally as an outdoor education naturalist – taking groups of students on hikes through the redwood forest in Santa Cruz while teaching them science using creative, hands-on methods. Nicole spends her free time hiking, tidepooling, reading, going to museums, and eating tacos while enjoying quality time with her friends, family, and dog.


Summer Ebs

Summer Ebs has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Science Education. She has been a secondary science teacher for 16 years, has done online teaching, and taught gifted elementary science students over seven summers. Summer loves teaching science, loves all things related to soccer, and enjoys spending time playing with her young son and daughter.


Toby Jacobrown

Toby has worked from Seattle to Switzerland to the Myanmar border, teaching biology, writing, movement theater, and massage therapy. He has managed a farm-based education program in Washington, and lead outdoor classes on wild-edibles in upstate New York. He has worked as a commercial filmmaker and created documentaries for non-profit groups. Currently he works as a writer, with several stories published and several plays produced. When he has free time, Toby enjoys ventures into Griffith Park, seeing local theater, composing music, and, of course, learning new things.


Tony Travouillon

Tony Travouillon is an Astrophysicist working at Caltech on the Thirty Meter Telescope. Tony has mentored several college students and has taught physics at the University of New South Wales where he obtained his Ph.D.

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