Meet the College for Kids Instructors

College for Kids is proud of its roster of instructors which include Penn State Behrend faculty and staff, experienced community teachers, and local business professionals. Instructors offer a diverse class selection in a safe learning environment, which is sure to enhance a child’s education by challenging their imagination, creativity, and desire to learn.

Instructors are generally available at the drop-off location prior to class. If you would like to meet your child's instructor, please notify one of the College for Kids staff members to arrange this.

Join Our Team

If you are an educator or have extensive experience in a particular field and would like to be considered, or would like to recommend someone with these qualifications, please email College for Kids or call 814-898-6871 for more information. All instructors are required to have Pennsylvania Criminal and Child Abuse Clearances.

College for Kids 2016 Instructors


Tom Atkins
Education: B.S., Broadcast Journalism, Iowa State University
Experience: Evening Meteorologist-JET-TV & FOX 66; Instructor in Meteorology Penn State Behrend
Why I teach at College for Kids: “It has become tradition and I like it!”

Phil Askins Jr.
Education: B.S. Business Management, Penn State Behrend, Masters Special Education/Elementary Education, Mercyhurst University, Certificates in Marketing Education, Cooperative Education
Experience: Taught Marketing/Entrepreneurship grades 9-12 at central Career Technical School for ten years.  I furthermore volunteered at Eastminster Day Camp for 5th and 6th graders for 20 years. My hobbies include bowling, camping, cornhole and spending time with my family.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I enjoy working with students.  I love having fun and learning with and teaching students about different things.

Ed Beck
Education: MA Edinboro University
Experience: Teaching for over 30 years and teaching rocketry for over 30 years
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I enjoy working with children in this age group and interest level.  I teach high school in the Erie School District”

Maureen Beck
Education: State University of NY
Experience: I have made and sold beach glass jewelry and chimes
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I teach high school and enjoy teaching in this age group.”

Ashley Boetger
Education: Elementary Education, Penn State University; M.Ed. Early Childhood Education, Edinboro University; Montessori Teaching Certificate Ages 6-9, center for Montessori Education, NY
Experience: I have been teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade in a multi-age classroom at Montessori Regional Charter School for the last 7 years!
Why I teach for College for Kids: “I would like to for teach College for Kids because last summer I had a wonderful time working with all the children and learning new and exciting concepts! I hope this year is just as educational, exciting, and most importantly…fun!”

Denise Burns
Education: Elementary and Special Education, Mercyhurst College and Edinboro University,
Experience: teaching in the Erie Diocese for 26 years.  Have taught a variety of grades and subjects.  I currently teach computer skills to Pre K to 8th grade.  Hobbies are reading, golfing and spending time with my daughters, family and friends.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I would like to teach College for Kids because it would be a rewarding experience to teach students some fun material that they really want to learn about.  To give the students information and an experience that they and I will enjoy. To broaden the students’ knowledge in the area of art.

Terri Chulick
Experience: B.A. Environmental Studies, Mercyhurst College; Teacher Certification in Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Edinboro University.
Experience: 17 years teaching at various grade levels. I taught/teach math, science and social studies. Teacher at Iroquois Elementary School.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I like to teach at College for Kids because I enjoy working with children and enjoy teaching new and exciting things.”

Heather Cole
Education: MFA, Interdisciplinary Arts, Goddard College, Vermont; BFA, Applied Media Arts, Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA; K-12 Teaching Certification, Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA
Experience: Digital Arts Lecturer at Penn State Behrend.  During the school year, I teach Digital Art and Photography to college students.  I like making stuff and leveling up my art powers.  I also enjoy playing the guitar, although it probably can’t be called music yet.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I love art and I also love sharing that with students of all age ranges.”

Lindsey Dahl
Experience: MAT: Biological Sciences, University of Miami Oh, M.ed Middle and Secondary Instruction Edinboro University, PA Certification: Biology, General Science, Environmental Science and MS Math
Experience: Teacher with Erie School District since Fall 2008
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I would like to provide STEM experience for students over the summer.”

Jennifer Dennehy
Education: B.A. Psychology, Mercyhurst University; PA Council on the Arts Rostered teaching Artist, LUNA Dance Summer Institute 2014.
Experience: Hoop Dance Instructor at Dafmark Dance Theatre, the Neighborhood Art House and through the Erie School District GEARS program.  Twenty plus years of dance training, six years working in school service organizations.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “College for Kids provides children unique ways to continue the learning process, and I would love to bring the new creative movement art form of hoop dance to enrich the student’s summer experience.”

Brian DeVore
Education: B.S., Penn State Behrend; M.S. Special Education, Mercyhurst University.
Experience: Technology Education Teacher and LEGO Robotics Coach at J.S. Wilson Middle School.
Why I teach for College for Kids: “I like the focus of a hands-on learning experience.”

Catherine DeVore
Education: B.A. Elementary Education, Minor in Spanish, Mercyhurst University and M.S. Special Education, Mercyhurst University
Experience: 15 years teaching 3rd-6th grade in the Erie Area with 12 of those at Harborcreek School District.
Why I teach for College for Kids: “I enjoy working with students and planting the seed for learning.”

Charles Dill
Education: Career Artists/Builder Apprenticed Erie, PA and New York City area
Experience: Thirty plus years Visual Arts.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “The Visual Arts allow students to explore and experience the world around them via personal hands on creation, which builds a sense of confidence and self-worth.  I feel compelled to pass on to the student that which I have learned…..The power to create.”

Lauren Falco & Peter Olszewski
Education: Lauren - B.S., Rhodes College, Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University. Peter – Fairfield University, BS & MS, State of Connecticut Teaching Certification, grades 7-12.
Experience: Lauren - Introductory Physics and Acoustics. Peter – One year of high school and six years of teaching experience.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “Programs such as these inspire students to learn about science and mathematics that they may not have the chance to learn in middle school or high school. This is a great way to do outreach and motivate further learning perhaps not seen in a regular physics class.”

Kaye C. Fleming
Education: BS in Elementary Education, Edinboro University
Experience: currently employed at Children's Behavioral Health, Therapeutic Support Staff (TSS) and St. James School (Aide).  Former in-home childcare and preschool teacher.

Why I teach at College for Kids: “I truly enjoy spending time in the summer with children who are eager to learn and have fun!”

Matthew Flowers
Education: Communication Arts & Science, Penn State University
Experience: Millcreek Township School District-Special Education Assistant, Coach Unified track & Field at McDowell High School.  Play in band Falling Hollywood

Why I teach at College for Kids: “I want to teach college for kids because I think it’s a great program where students can go beyond their textbooks and find curriculum that they’re truly passionate about.  In this way, they begin to associate learning with having fun, opposed to the clinical atmosphere of everyday classroom.  I hope my course can encourage students to learn about the world and find what they’re passionate about.”

Jim Gavio
Education: Penn State Behrend, Electrical Engineering Technology, Edinboro University, B.S. Secondary Education in Earth & Space Sciences with Geology minor
Experience: Over 20 years planetarium experience with the most recent being the Erie Planetarium and now the Yahn Planetarium at Penn State Behrend
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I would like to teach College for Kids because I think more of our young people should have exposure to Astronomy in the Erie area.  I find that many people are fascinated by the subject and want to learn more.  The planetarium is the perfect place for young students to get started in astronomy because the environment can be fun.”

Matt Greene
Education: Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Business Education, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Master of Education (Technology Concentration) Expected Graduation 2016
Experience: IUP Eberly College of Business Technology Manager, Erie Insurance Technology Division, Fairview High School, Business Education Teacher
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I’m interested in being able to teach the subjects that I am most passionate about.”

Tami Hritzay
Education: B.S. Art Education, Edinboro University.
Experience: Chautauqua Institute teacher in Young Artists and Special Studies programs, Erie Art Museum, Edinboro University (Kids camp program, high school art program, and adult-noncredit classes), Allegheny College (high school art program), returning teacher at CFK, and artist demonstrating and showing at Campbell’s Pottery, author of “The Hole in the Wall” series.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I never get tired of inspiring young artist! The gift of creativity can be used in so many ways to make this world a brighter place. So, I encourage my students and they in turn give me new ideas! Carpe Diem!"

Joel Hunt
Education: PhD Music Theory, University of California at Santa Barbara [ABD], MA Music Composition, University of California at Santa Barbara, BM Music Composition and Saxophone Performance, State University of New York at Fredonia
Experience: I teach music technology courses at Penn State Erie.  My creative and research interests include developing software for algorithmic composition and improvisation, computer analysis of popular music and jazz, and music production (recording, editing, signal processing).  I am primarily a saxophone player specializing in contemporary music, performance with live electronics and improvisation.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “Music technology is a fun and creative way for students to begin to engage with STEM concepts.  I am delighted to have the opportunity to introduce computer programming to students with music applications.  I am looking forward to making music with you.”

Ehren Knapp
Education: BFA Edinboro University, Art History Minor, Post-Baccalaureate Teaching Certification for Art Instruction K-12
Experience: Professional Artist/Muralist 2001-Present, Elementary Art Instructor, Erie Rise Leadership Academy Charter School, August 2012-May 2014, Drawing Instructor, Erie Art Museum, January 2011-Present, Painting Instructor, Michael’s Arts & Crafts, August 2010-Present, Art Instructor, Neighborhood Art House January 2010-September 2012. Graphic Design/Layout Artist, 2008-Present, Assistant Artist-in-Residence, Fairview Middle School, April 2009-May 2009
Why I teach at College for Kids: “To inspire students to do whatever it is they love.  To share my knowledge and experiences as a professional muralist.  To have students experience the satisfaction creating a large work of art from start to finish.”

Junior Achievement, Gail Whitney
Mission: To ensure that every child has an understanding of the free enterprise system.
Purpose: To educate and inspire young people to value free enterprise, business, and economics to improve the quality of their lives.

TJ Laffan
Education: B.S. in Theater and Communication Arts, Gannon University
Experience: Coordinator Teen Program and Present/Storyteller, Brushwood Folklore Center, Sherman NY

Why I teach at College for Kids: “What it comes down to is this:  The world around us is not only stranger than you imagine, it is stranger than you CAN imagine. This is why teaching an integrated system that combines Science with Technology with Engineering and Art and Math is necessary to learn and solve real world problems.  Plus Oobleck is fun!

Ali Lenze
Education: Master in Reading, Edinboro University, Elementary Education K-6 Certificate, Mercyhurst College, BA: Communication, Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, PA
Experience: I have been a teacher for 9 years and enjoy teaching English Language Arts the most.  I also love cooking, outdoor activities, and seeing the completed version of a new DIY project.

Why I teach at College for Kids: “College for Kids provides me the opportunity to enhance the skills and academics of my students, which allows them to become more well-rounded and exceptional individuals.  It is quite an experience to teach a roomful of students that want nothing more than to learn”

Steven O’Donnell
Education: B.A. History, Penn State Behrend; Teaching Certificate from Edinboro University.
Experience: High School Teacher, musical director, stage manager and a decade of teaching at College for Kids.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “It is a joy to teach the skills of theater to youth”

Lisa Pearson
Education: B.S. Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Edinboro University; Masters Equivalency +48 credits, Gannon University
Experience: 18+ years as a classroom teacher; currently teaching sixth grade in the Harbor Creek School District; formerly taught first and second grade for 12 years.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I enjoy the opportunity to teach children who are eager to expand their knowledge in the relaxed fun-filled setting of summer.”

Alexa Phelps
Education: PA certified 7-12 English Language Arts Teacher, Edinboro University of PA Graduate Student Special Education 7-12,

Experience:three years of classroom teaching experience, 12 years dance teaching experience, 8 years cheerleading coaching experience, and 12 years experience working with children and adolescents ages 3-18
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I would like to teach for College for Kids to ignite the passion for learning new, kinesthetic, and hands-on material during the summer months.  I love to working with children and positively impact their lives through mentoring and being a positive role-model.

Dan Quiggle
Education: BA History Penn State Behrend, Social Studies Certification
Experience:I have been teaching 7th and 8th grade at the Harborcreek Junior High for over 10 years now!
Why I teach at College for Kids: “Because it is so much fun and I can continue to be a kid at heart!”

Patti Rial
Education: B.S. Education, Edinboro University; M.Ed., Edinboro University; certified Elementary and Reading specialist.
Experience: Thirty three years teaching experience K-7, currently teaching seventh grade reading. Hobbies include camping, crafts, travel, and history.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I want to share my experiences and my love of history with young people. I hope in this sharing that they will acquire a curiosity and appreciation for our heritage.”

Vicki Saska
Education: B.S. in Elementary/Special Education, Edinboro University, Masters in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
Experience: Special Education teacher for the Fort LeBoeuf School District from 2003-current.  I have experience in teaching gifted glasses, enrichment classes, math re-teaching classes, beginning Spanish classes and students in need of Learning Support in grades K-5.  Americorp member assigned to the Millcreek Township School District working with the elementary age students in need of academic and/or behavioral support.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “The College for Kids program allows experiential learning to happen.  The hands-on approach is designed to meet the needs of all learners and the families have the opportunity to self select the classes based on individual interests.  The factors allow for a higher level of engagement from the students.

Paul Semrau
Education: B.A., Humanities; M.S. Special Education; certified to teach Elementary and Special Education and High School English.
Experience: Son, husband, father and grandfather; 17 years as a Technical Training Instructor at Verizon/GTE; 3 years as the Emotional Support Teacher at Seneca High School.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “What a fun way to spend the summer!  CFK is a blast!”

Scott Strasser
Education: B.A., Geography and Teaching Certification, Edinboro University, PhD Program in Cryptozoological Sciences, American Institute of Metaphysics
Experience: I currently teach Language Arts and Social Studies at Villa Maria Elementary School.  I enjoy writing, hiking, kayaking, archery, practicing woodlore, and continuing cryptozoological work.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I enjoy College for Kids because it allows instructors and students to focus in depth on topics of interest in a way that the regular school year does not, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to share many of my interests with others.

Todd Talbot
Education: B.S. Secondary Education, Edinboro University; M.S. 21st Century Teaching and Learning, Wilkes University.
Experience: 20 year operating Naval Nuclear Power Plants, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Seneca High School.
Why I teach at College for Kids: "College for Kids students have a desire to learn that should not be interrupted by summer vacation."

Theresa Tonelli
Education: B.S. Elementary Education, minor in History, Mercyhurst College; Masters in Special Education, Mercyhurst College.
Experience: experience Children’s Museum, Bricks for Kidz
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I love seeing the kids from year to year and how they have grown.  I enjoy watching their faces when they learn something and understand it.  It makes learning fun.”

Jake Trojak
Education: Instructional Media (MS) Wilkes University; Physics, General Science, Secondary Education (BS) Grove City College
Experience: Teaching High School Math & Science for 6 years

Why I teach at College for Kids: “On top of teaching, I was a counselor and/or lifeguard at a summer camp for 3 years full time and on a volunteer basis for many more, I am currently a youth leader at my church.  I love working with kids/students of all ages.  College for Kids is an intriguing summer job for me that combines all of my interests.”

Kristin Tregaskis
Education: Masters in Special and Elementary Education, Slippery Rock University
Experience: I have been a substitute teacher for the Erie School District for the last two years.  I also have worked at Chick-Fil-A for five years
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I have been a student coordinator for the past two summers and always have a great time.  This year will be my second year teaching!!”

Julie Vavreck
Education: B.S. Family and Consumer Sciences Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Experience: Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher, Penn State Cooperative Extension Family Living Summer Assistant, hobbies include cooking, baking, sewing, outdoor recreation, and aerobics
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I would like to provide an atmosphere where kids can learn lifelong skills while having fun.”

Melissa Weismiller
Education: United States Air Force, Pennsylvania Paraprofessional Certificate

Experience: Paraprofessional 11 years, College for Kids 8 years

Why I teach at College for Kids: "I love College for Kids!!!!  I think this is a great way for kids to learn more about fun and interesting things and discover what kind of hobbies/interests they like.”

Amber Wildfire
Education: B.S. Computer Engineering, Penn State Behrend
Experience: Computer Instructor – St. James Elementary School
Why I teach at College for Kids: “I love seeing how kids’ minds work. If I can convince at least one student to try engineering, I’ve done a good job.”

Mrs. Vicki Zellefrow
Education: Master’s Equivalency Elementary & Special Education, Mercyhurst University.
Experience: 25+ years collectively teaching in urban schools, Catholic school and a private school for children with social/emotional/learning needs in Pittsburgh, PA.  Private tutoring for over 10 years.  Prior Scout leader.  Several years teaching with the College for Kids program and enjoying each session!

Why I teach at College for Kids: “Teaching during the summer allows for a relaxed, more informal environment; most of the class time is hands-on and allows the children to apply current skills to activities/projects offered during the College for Kids classes….and have great projects to take home at the end of the week!  I love having the time to allow the kids to ask questions and give input because of the small class sizes!”

Richard Zhao
Education: Ph.D. in Computer Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
Experience: Instructor of Computer Science at Penn State Behrend with a focus on teaching game development courses.
Why I teach at College for Kids: “College for Kids is a great way for students to learn in a nontraditional setting.  Kids love to play games, and introducing them to the basics of creating their own game is a great way of introducing them to the concept of computational thinking while they are having fun.”