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.

 

Alka Kumar

Alka Kumar is a nature lover and compassionate educator who loves to work with kids. As a highly motivated and energetic teacher, she believes that every student deserves to be challenged so they can reach their highest potential. Alka holds an MS in Life Science (Botany) and MPhil Degree in Microbiology. She started her career with TreePeople’s Generation Earth program, coordinating professional development workshops for middle and high school teachers in LA County. She worked as Day Camp Director with Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, designing science curriculum for camps. At Huntington Library and Botanical gardens she has taught science, gardening, and health and nutrition education for after school programs for Pasadena Unified. She initiated and taught the Learning Sprouts garden program at Benjamin Franklin Elementary with Glendale Unified and has worked as an independent consultant with Waste Less Living Inc., with the Zero Waste program at various schools. For over 12 years, Alka has been a “Project Learning Tree” facilitator. Recently, she taught Kindergarten and Pre-K at Arcadia Children’s Education Center, and is currently working with the Classroom Connection program of Caltech for teachers in LA County.

In her spare time, Alka likes to spend time with family, including her two daughters, one in elementary school, the other at university. She is also passionate about fundraising and planning events for her non-profit organization, Anugraha Drishtidaan, USA, which works towards creating Eye health awareness camps for senior citizens and under privileged.

 

Chris Bradfield

Chris has been working in the technology business for over 20 years, building internet startups and online game companies.  He currently works as a consultant, helping game companies to manage their engineering needs.  He began teaching computer programming to kids 3 years ago after discovering a passion for teaching.  He is a strong believer in the benefits of early computer science education and thinks that every child should learn to code.  He also volunteers with Girl Scouts and local schools to assist in STEM initiatives.  In his scarce free time Chris enjoys making things – tinkering with 3D printers, electronics, and computers.

 

Christina Seto

Christina is a South Pasadena native, recently returned from earning her B.A. from Barnard College in New York City as a double major in neuroscience and English. She is currently working toward her dream of becoming a physician, having just completed post-baccalaureate classes at USC. As a young gifted student, she discovered her passion for learning, and now loves sharing that enthusiasm with her students. She believes one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it, and has done just that, from musical theater in Glendale to high school chemistry in Hong Kong. When not in the classroom, Christina can be found tutoring local middle and high school students or volunteering nearby at Huntington Hospital. Her other passions include fitness, jigsaw puzzles, and reading everything from comic books to John Steinbeck.

 

Doug Duquette

Doug is a graduate student at Caltech pursuing his PhD in organic chemistry, where he performs research in small molecule synthesis and organometallic catalysis.  He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Harvard in 2009.  His interest in teaching with the IEA comes from his experience teaching and tutoring at the college level at Harvard and Caltech, as well as performing outreach with elementary and middle schools in the LA area.  When he isn’t working in the lab, Doug enjoys reading, playing Frisbee and cooking and eating new foods.

 

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.

 

Grayson Kent

Grayson is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara, where he earned his BS in Paleobiology. He has worked with a wide variety of animals from everyday household pets to sign language-using chimpanzees to venomous snakes, and has over 25 years of experience owning and handling exotic reptiles. He has also participated in several zoological/paleontological studies and is an officer of the Southwestern Herpetologist Society. Grayson has been employed as the Animal Curator of a children’s museum, the Reptile Specialist of a major chain pet store, and as an assistant/technician in a veterinary clinic. In 2012, Grayson started his own mobile natural history museum, Rock & Roll Reptiles, to bring his passion for animals and fossils to children everywhere
(and adults, too!). He is thrilled and honored to be teaching for IEA.

 

Kunal Gogna

Kunal Gogna has been a teacher and tutor for over a decade, starting from his days as a college student through graduate and medical school. Currently, he works for a private physician practice, where he combines his biomedical engineering and medical knowledge towards designing medical devices for patients suffering from chronic pain and other neurological and musculo-skeletal conditions. Having grown up in La Canada Flintridge, he feels fortunate for the opportunity to inspire and develop the minds of the upcoming generation. More than anything else, he actively teaches his students to broaden their horizons and to develop their methods of logical and critical thinking so that they will be prepared for any scenario, whether it is in a classroom or out in the real world.

 

Neelesh Tiruviluamala

Neel is a member of the mathematics faculty at USC.  He completed his PhD at UCLA where he worked in the field of partial differential equations with his advisor James Ralston.  Before that, he double majored in mathematics and physics at Dartmouth College.  Neel was inspired to be an educator by his grandmother.  She breathed into him a joy and respect for teaching and taught him almost everything important that he knows.  Neel loves working with USC students on research projects and he also has experience mentoring junior high and high school students through his previous work with CHAMPs (Casa Heiwa Angelina Mentorship Program).

 

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 year, 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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Thus far in 2014, 100% of students were satisfied or extremely satisfied with Academy, and 97% had their expectations met or exceeded.
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