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.


Alessandra Santucci 

Alessandra is a relatively recent transplant 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 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.

Alka Kumar   

Alka holds a Master’s degree in Life Science and has conducted research in Microbiology related to Vesicular Arbuscular Mycorrhiza in plants. 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.

Amanda Maxham

Amanda is an astrophysicist, popular science writer and college physics professor. She is the founder of the Flying Apple STEM Science Academy FlyApple.org and TutorHorn.com. Her work on gamma-ray burst astronomy has appeared in The Astrophysical Journal and The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The thing Amanda enjoys most is working with students to solve interesting problems.

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. She also taught textual analysis to middle schoolers, who brought their annotated books to a 10-year reunion to show her how much they still valued them and used them as a reference. 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. From 2012 to 2018, Anita brought government alive by connecting the Constitution and Bill of Rights to current events. In addition to books and reading poetry out loudIn addition to books and reading poetry out loud, Anita loves road trips and learning to see life through the camera lens.

Bethany Ellerbrook  

Bethany Ellerbrook holds an MLIS from the University of Washington. She has served as an archivist and librarian for UW Libraries, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and most recently, the Walt Disney Animation Research Library. A long-time fan of historical role-play games, she recognizes the value in contemplating what could have been. Bethany has formerly led courses about media and digital literacy. As a student of both library science and media production, she aims to help youth make sense of media and create their own to enact meaningful change that transforms communities.

Bradley Baumkirchner        

Bradley Baumkirchner holds a degree in Fashion Design and Production from Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California and also studied Fine Art at the Art Center in Pasadena. He has studied Philosophical Counseling and Philosophy with a focus on all Wisdom traditions at the Noetic Society in Southern California for over 20 years directly with Pierre Grimes PhD. A daily practitioner of meditation completing multiple retreats and seminars, Bradley’s background supports a well rounded, highly creative, and holistic way of approaching learning.

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.

Christy Reynolds

Christina (Christy) Reynolds received her BA in astrophysics and mathematics at Williams College, her master’s degree in software engineering at Harvard University, and her PhD in physics and astronomy at University College London. She has worked in telescope engineering, serving on the teams which built the IRIS solar space telescope, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the European Extremely Telescope. She returned to school in 2015, earning a graduate certificate in medical research techniques at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine. She is currently a senior research associate in neurology at Oregon Health and Science University, where she works with a diverse team to understand Alzheimer’s disease and improve life for those with the condition. She has used the MATLAB programming language throughout her career to carry out scientific research. She is a fifth generation Montanan, where she loves exploring the mountains on the trails.

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.

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 newfound 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.

Hannah Yukon

Born in New Zealand and raised in Singapore, Chiu-Yi Hannah Yukon (Hannah preferred) is a New York City-based artist, playwright, theatre director, actor, musician, licensed real estate agent, vegan cook, sister, cat-mama, and founder of an international art collective that connects artists with activists. Hannah holds an M.F.A in Writing and Activism from Pratt Institute, an M.A. in Community Development and Planning, and a B.A in Theatre Arts, Women and Gender Studies. Hannah believes in nurturing the gifts and natural talents of her students to empower them to make decisions that ring true for themselves. She observes her work with students as creating a strong foundation of acceptance, understanding and creative curiosity for future endeavors, growing a new generation of learners and thinkers who are spiritually, intellectually and emotionally prepared for the new world as it is being created.

Hannah Yukon

Born in New Zealand and raised in Singapore, Chiu-Yi Hannah Yukon (Hannah preferred) is a New York City-based artist, playwright, theatre director, actor, musician, licensed real estate agent, vegan cook, sister, cat-mama, and founder of an international art collective that connects artists with activists. Hannah holds an M.F.A in Writing and Activism from Pratt Institute, an M.A. in Community Development and Planning, and a B.A in Theatre Arts, Women and Gender Studies. Hannah believes in nurturing the gifts and natural talents of her students to empower them to make decisions that ring true for themselves. She observes her work with students as creating a strong foundation of acceptance, understanding and creative curiosity for future endeavors, growing a new generation of learners and thinkers who are spiritually, intellectually and emotionally prepared for the new world as it is being created.

Joan Horvath and Rich Cameron    

Joan Horvath and Rich “Whosawhatsis” Cameron are the co-founders of Nonscriptum LLC (www.nonscriptum.com). 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.

Justin Robinson        

Justin Robinson lives for art! He earned an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts from Mt. San Antonio College, a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Art and Design from Redlands University, and a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Azusa Pacific University. For the past 10 years, he has taught Graphic Design 1 and 2 as well as 3-D Design at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles. He also personally designed the curriculum for the graphic design 3-D class which received WASC Accreditation. Prior to becoming employed at Cathedral, he volunteered at the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona, while working as a college tutor for UC Riverside and the Pomona Unified School District’s GEAR UP program. As a volunteer for the dA, he taught silk screening and T-shirt design. He also assisted with the annual Chalk Festival held in downtown Pomona. While working for UC Riverside, he provided in-class academic tutoring and social-emotional/mentoring support to low income, first-generation, minority students. Justin is proud to be an active artist! He has had art shows all throughout the greater Los Angeles area. He also worked as a muralist and has painted a number of them throughout LA, several of which remain up to this day. He recently launched his passion project, Blk Chair Studio with two of his colleagues and looks forward to growing that into a creative business.

Kathleen Caine         

Kathleen obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics. Before moving into the field of teacher education, she taught at the middle and high school levels. She discovered math circles while helping students prepare for mathematics competitions, introducing students to many “low threshold, high ceiling” problems over the years. In working with students on any type of problem solving, her goal is to make sure the setup of the problem is clear, and then be the questioning voice that allows students’ ideas to come to the forefront. Kathleen grew up in Hawaii and California but has lived in Massachusetts, Arizona, and even Germany. As a mother of two bright, inquisitive kids, Kathleen has worked hard over the years to provide opportunities for her children and their friends to make projects of their own vision. Kathleen believes that learning to be okay with initial failure(s) is paramount to gaining the confidence to try really challenging problems. With her desire to provide a space to try new ideas and have a safe space to fail (but not give up), Kathleen opened TinkerSpace in Montclair, CA in 2018.

Maria Melkumyan    

Ms. Melkumyan holds a Master’s Degree and Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Polytechnic 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. She devoted herself to becoming a life-long educator and learner, and she strives to instill a similar desire in all of the students with whom she works. Ms. Melkumyan loves traveling, exploring different places and appreciating different cultures. Ms. Melkumyan is excited to be working at IEA Academy!

Nick Geiser

Nick is a political philosopher who works on and teaches issues in environmental policy, public health and biomedical ethics, animal ethics, and climate change. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Brown University and his B.A. in philosophy from Yale University. Nick is a past recipient of the IEA’s Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship and a passionate supporter of the IEA’s mission of supporting the intellectual, emotional, and social growth of gifted children. Nick is a native Californian and enjoys reading, cooking, tending his houseplants, and day-dreaming about finally adopting a cat.

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.

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!

Richard Krejcir         

Dr. Richard Krejcir is an author, researcher, and seasoned STEAM educator with exceptional students as well as in Special Education. He holds a BA from San Jose State University, a Masters in Divinity and Cross-Cultural Communication from Fuller in Pasadena, and a Doctorate in Philosophy from London. Richard recently renewed his SPED and Exceptional Student Teaching Credential, teaches Coding and Robotics, and is a LEGO League FLL Robotics Coach. Richard has 30 years of experience as an educator working in public, private and charter schools. He is Director of a nonprofit that offers educational training in third world countries, and has established tutoring centers in U.S. churches as well as in schools abroad, including India. As an “exceptional student” and STEM teacher at IEA, Richard pledges “to communicate with and motivate students to be active learners; to help them to achieve beyond perceived barriers; to inspire and encourage students to reach beyond society’s limits; to listen to parents and students to help empower them in an enriching, innovative learning environment where they can explore science, technology, engineering, art and math; to help give students the tools so they can thrive and be successful at learning and at life.” When not in the classroom teaching, Richard is a Boy Scout leader and enjoys spending time with his son who has autism.

Rod Carlo Columbres           

Rod graduated from University of California Los Angeles, where he received his BS in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. He has taught Math and Science classes to 4th- 7th graders at Saturday Science Academy II under Charles R. Drew University School of Health Sciences for two years. Rod is currently working as a Research Associate at California Institute of Technology where he studies the mechanisms of cancer and drug discoveries. During his free time, he enjoys outdoor adventures such as hiking, biking, and camping. He also loves traveling solo in different countries to experience all that their culture and cuisine has to offer.

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.

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!

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.

Institute for Educational Advancement - Connecting bright minds; nurturing intellectual and personal growth


–– Academy Parent

“The infectious enthusiasm of the students made teaching with IEA a joy—something I looked forward to each week”

– David Case, Instructor


–– Academy Instructor

© 2022 Institute for Educational Advancement | 569 South Marengo Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101 Phone: (626) 403-8900 Fax: (626) 403-8905