Academy Teachers | Programs | Institute for Educational Advancement

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

Stephanie Baptiste

Aside from her work in analytics, Stephanie Baptiste’s passion is helping young people find the joy in education. While earning her BA in Economics from Rutgers University, Stephanie partnered with the Junior Achievement Program to teach K-5 graders Financial Literacy. At Northwestern University Center for Talent Development, she had the pleasure of teaching courses such as chemistry, math, biomedical engineering and music.  A New Jersey native, Stephanie is currently pursuing her MS in Pharmaceutical Bioengineering from the University of Washington while working in the pharmaceutical industry. Stephanie also enjoys cooking, travelling, reading and boxing.  She is very excited to bring her passion and experience teaching STEM to IEA!


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.


Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown comes to us from the Mirman School for Highly Gifted, where she taught second grade for twenty years. Ellen believes that every child deserves individualized instruction, and that incorporating values into each lesson is key to fostering the whole child. Ms. Brown studied at UCLA and CSUN and went to graduate school at UC Riverside. She also went to film school at L.A. Valley College. Ellen plays guitar and writes, and loves horseback riding, traveling, and movies! True to her own passions, she has taught a wide range of topics, including poetry and drama, history of cinema, and political and cultural histories. Classes such as Study of Star Wars: The Hero’s Journey and Buy Me That! A Kid’s Guide to Surviving Commercials, and King George: What Was His Problem? continue to be favorite offerings at IEA.


Summer Ebs

Summer Ebs has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Science Education. She has been an elementary and secondary science teacher for 18 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.


Nicole Endacott

Nicole is a South Pasadena native who has always loved to learn and be outdoors. She received her degree in Biology with an Ecology emphasis from Azusa Pacific University. She has had the opportunity to study on safari 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 educational capacities for both math and science. She has also worked as an outdoor education naturalist in the Santa Cruz redwoods, as a classroom science teacher, and currently is on staff at IEA. Nicole spends her free time hiking, reading, going to museums, and finding new places to eat while enjoying quality time with her friends, family, and dog.


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 teach at IEA.


Alka Kumar

Alka is a passionate science educator who believes in learning by doing. She holds a Master’s degree in Life Science and has conducted research in Microbiology related to Vesicular Arbuscular Mycorrhiza in plants. Alka has been an IEA instructor for four years, offering courses such as Kitchen Chemistry, Science in Action, Microbiology, Plant Anatomy, Budding Botanists, and Environmental Defenders. In addition to her work at IEA, Alka is an instructor and independent consultant to public and private schools in and around LA. She currently teaches STEAM to grades K-5 at Sierra Madre Elementary, and offers her own Curious Kids Science Enrichment classes, camps, and workshops. Dedicated to inspiring young girls who have a passion, talent and aptitude in the STEAM fields, Alka has also brought her love of teaching to Project Scientist Academy. A nature lover at heart, Alka enjoys visiting National Parks in her leisure time with family.


Tessa Lamb

Tessa has been a teacher for over 15 years. Originally from Vancouver, BC, Canada, Tessa graduated from the University of British Columbia, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Education. She has worked in many roles from classroom to specialist teacher. Most recently she has been teaching at a progressive micro-school that focuses on the Reggio education model and she has developed an independent practice supporting children identified as twice exceptional through reading and writing. Tessa loves to spend her free time walking on the beach and cooking with her family.


Maria Melkumyan

Ms. Melkumyan holds a Master’s in Computer Science from Polytechnical Institute in Yerevan, Armenia. Ms. Melkumyan has over 25 years of experience teaching Math, Physics, and Computer Science at a range of institutions including public and private schools, and community colleges. Ms. Melkumyan loves teaching Math and is dedicated to teach children how to think and apply mathematical principles in their daily lives. Ms. Melkumyan is excited to be working at IEA Academy!


Tristan Murphy

A recent graduate of California Institute of Technology, Tristan has a deep love for teaching and all forms of education. He is driven to reconstruct the way that students look at school and its impact on learning, providing students with the tools to learn how to create new knowledge as opposed to rote memorization. After entering college as a mechanical engineering major, Tristan moved on to complete his BS in Geology and History. Though he began by teaching engineering and robotics to elementary and middle school students four years ago, Tristan has since taught people of all ages in rock climbing, Geology, and sword fighting. He believes in well-rounded education that will provide insight into the multi-facetted nature of science, engineering, humanities, and social sciences. He is currently pursuing further studies in history, philosophy, and language in preparation for PhD studies in History.


Anita Russell

Anita is a third-generation Californian and self-confessed bookaholic. She graduated from CSUN with a B.A. in communication studies, and earned her teaching credential in history from National University. Anita also attended film school at L.A. Valley College. While at Fairfield School, where she taught for fourteen years, Anita created a class called Global Awareness, which combined geography, current events and history after a student told her that his family drove to Cuba for the weekend. Upon joining Community Charter Early College High School in 2004, Anita created a Humanities course incorporating state standards in English, history, drama and art to help her students understand how other cultures can be very different from their own. In addition to books and reading poetry out loud, Anita loves road trips and learning to see life through the camera lens.

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