Academy Teachers | Programs | Institute for Educational Advancement

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

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.


Amy Gilbertson

Amy has dedicated her life to exploring the gifted identity and learning how to best serve the needs of the gifted individual. In 2014, she started a homeschool and hybrid teaching and mentoring business and has been helping HG, PG, and 2E students and families navigate the rough terrain of gifted education in the Greater Los Angeles area since then. While her main focus is English and Writing, Amy Creative Writing, American and World History, Biology, Policy Debate, Biology, and ACT/SAT test prep. She also mentors students by helping them tackle the life skills they need to master in order to grow into happy, healthy, independent adults. She attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she earned her B.A. in Literature and Creative Writing. After graduating, she worked as a homeschool curriculum builder for an education resource center in the Bay Area, a camp counselor at a theatre arts camp, and a SAT/ACT tutor for a local prep company. When she is not teaching, Amy enjoys exploring America’s National Parks, travelling, hiking with her dog Forrest the Pitbull, playing board games, cooking, reading, writing, tinkering, building, and fixing.


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.


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.


Doa Humphreys

Dao is currently in her 10th year of teaching high school Math and Science.  Prior to her role as Director of Math and Science Academy at Cathedral High School, she worked as a medical doctor with a specialty of internal medicine. She received her B.S in Physiological Sciences from University of California, Los Angeles and her MD from Ross University. She has a great passion for the sciences and has been involved in over 10 years of medical research.  During her days in research, she was involved in over 6 publications in the areas of pulmonary and radiological sciences and presented in numerous medical conferences. Her new found passion is motivating, mentoring, and teaching our future generations about the areas of math and science. She loves to use her knowledge and past experiences to help students learn more about different fields of study and the beauties of science. Dao is the mother of an amazing 3 year old and resides in East Los Angeles. In addition to traveling and experiencing life through the outdoors, she loves to cook, eat and try new things.



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.


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.


Joan Horvath and Rich Cameron

Joan Horvath and Rich “Whosawhatsis” Cameron are the co-founders of Nonscriptum LLC ( Since 2015 their Pasadena-based consulting and training firm has focused on teaching educators and scientists how to use maker tech, with a particular focus on teaching math and science with 3D printing. Joan is an MIT alumna, recovering rocket scientist and educator. Rich is an open-source 3D printer hacker who designed the RepRap Wallace and Bukito 3D printers. They are working on their eight book together,which teaches calculus with 3D printed models.


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!


Meslissa Roemmele

Dr. Roemmele is a Research Scientist at SDL in Los Angeles, working in the area of natural language processing. She obtained her PhD from the Department of Computer Science at University of Southern California. As a PhD student, she worked as a research assistant in the Narrative Group led by Andrew Gordon at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. As part of her research there, she developed an application intended to help people write stories by automatically generating suggestions for story segments. Her pursuit of artificial intelligence research originally came from studying social science, through which she became interested in modeling social science phenomena using computational methods. Before coming to USC, she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Linguistics at Miami University and a Master’s degree in Computational Linguistics at Indiana University. She is passionate about bridging the gap between humanities and engineering disciplines, and helping to make math and computing more accessible and appealing to broad.


Nicholas Brown

Nicholas Brown recently relocated to the Pasadena area from Chattanooga, TN, where he taught at an outdoor and active learning-focused school called Ivy Academy. Nicholas’ passions are inspiring his students fall in love with the learning process and helping them understand how they learn best. Nicholas has taught History, Language Arts, Writing, and Contemporary Issues. He earned his Bachelor’s degree is Secondary Social Sciences from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and a Master’s of Education from Bryan College. He loves cooking, hiking, and music. Nicholas is thrilled to be a part of the IEA community, and for the opportunity to inspire a love and appreciation for Shakespeare’s life and work!


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.


Oishee Shemontee

Oishee Shemontee is an experienced SAT instructor and academic tutor with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in English from the University of California, Irvine. She is deeply passionate about making science more relevant and easily accessible to people from a young age. During college, Oishee worked as a private tutor, as well as a SAT instructor with The Princeton Review. Since then, she has gained over six years of experience as a private tutor in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Oishee believes in tailoring teaching strategies as uniquely as possible for each student to create the most effective learning environment possible. Born in Bangladesh and raised in Singapore, Oishee has a passion for traveling. She has a goal of visiting every country in the world, and so far has traveled to 23 countries. She enjoys learning languages – besides English, she is fluent in Bengali and can understand Mandarin Chinese and Hindi. Oishee is also heavily involved with nonprofit organizations that encourage the education of girls and women in her homeland of Bangladesh.


Alessandra Santucci

Alessandra came to Southern California from Chicago, IL, where she received her BA from Northwestern University in Italian Studies and Visual Arts. With over 10 years of instructional experience, including her time spent as a 4th/5th grade teacher at the Walden School in Pasadena, Alessandra loves to share her passion for Art and Design with all students. She particularly enjoys combining art and design with other disciplines to create interesting, well-rounded courses. Alessandra is a dedicated proponent of polymathic study, and 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. In addition to freelance work in Graphic and Web Design, Alessandra is a certified yoga instructor, teaches dance and Italian language lessons, and is working on improving her Mandarin Chinese and Korean. She also adores darkroom photography, reading, cooking, linguistics, and travel.


Patrick McGrail

Patrick has been a tutor in the Pasadena area for the past thirteen years, covering a wide variety of topics and grade levels ranging from preschool to college. He holds a BA from Claremont McKenna College and draws on his passion for interdisciplinary studies to help people see the academic world in a new way. Since joining IEA Academy in the summer of 2018, Patrick has taught Rocket to Calculus, combining physics, algebra, and calculus to show that math can be explosively interesting!


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.


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.


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.


Cynthia Molt

Cynthia Molt is a Southern California native, her family having moved to the San Gabriel Valley in the 1920s. Ms. Molt has been an educator and administrator for nearly 30 years.  She has a B.A. degree from California State University, Long Beach, majoring in English literature with a teaching emphasis and graduating in 1980.  She possess three Master’s degrees:  in administration, curriculum, and teaching, from Azusa Pacific University.  Though she started working in administration after graduation, her career took her in another direction when she began writing in Hollywood, including covering events for the entertainment industry and interviewing notable individuals; her two books on Hollywood history are still in print.  She returned to education in the early 1990s, writing a social studies curriculum for Arcadia Unified School District, which was later adopted by the state, and has worked in private, public, and charter school systems ever since, spending the majority of her tenure at Pasadena Unified School District.  Ms. Molt has also developed course modules for K-12 students who are learning in a blended and/or virtual environment.  Ms. Molt has worked with gifted students in nationwide programs and has certification in administration, multiple subjects, second language learners, and gifted education.  She enjoys spending time with her cats and dogs and bird, as well as reading about history and biographies, doing sewing and crafts, and writing new books.


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.

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