UCDS College for School Culture

Meet the Faculty

College for School Culture Faculty

Katie Morrison, Ph.D., Dean of Graduate School of Education and Core Faculty


katiem@ucds.org

Katie Morrison is the Dean of Graduate School of Education and a Core Faculty member. For UCDS Schools, Katie was the Science Specialist and Resident Program Co-Coordinator. Katie taught science for 21 years, and she loved doing experiments and collecting data with her students. Katie continues to be an active committee member of the National Science Teaching Association, sitting on the Outstanding Science Trade Book Selection Committee as well as the Preschool and Elementary Science Teaching Committee. Katie is also the Board Chair for the nonprofit organization Friends of Cooper Island, which supports a long term Arctic seabird study. She regularly presents on Science Education at local and national conferences.

Katie received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a B.S. in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Erica Swanson, Student Services Director and Core Faculty


ericas@ucds.org

Erica Riley Swanson is an incoming Core Faculty member and Student Services Director. She also serves as a Student Teacher Supervisor in the School of Education at Seattle Pacific University. Erica has taught middle school language arts for twelve years and believes that building authentic relationships, placing diversity, equity, and inclusion at the core of all discourse, and being courageous around failure creates transformative opportunities for learning and action. Erica has presented at regional conferences including the Northwest Association of Independent Schools Fall Educator Conference, and the Northwest Teachers for Social Justice. She is also a volunteer with the Global Citizens Initiative mentor program.

Dr. Sylvia Bagley, Instructional Faculty

Dr. Sylvia Bagley is an Instructional Faculty member at UCDS and lecturer at the University of Washington, where she directs the instructional leadership masters specialization in the College of Education. She was the Fritz Burns Endowed Chair of Instructional Leadership at Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles and was formerly an elementary school teacher and math coach in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Sylvia received her B.A. in Literature and Music from the University of California at Santa Cruz, her California Teaching Credential from California State University at San Marcos, and her Masters and Ph.D. in the Philosophy and History of Education from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Ben Chickadel, Instructional Faculty


benc@ucds.org

Ben Chickadel is an Instructional Faculty member in the UCDS College for School Culture and the Design and Technology Specialist for UCDS Schools. Ben joined the faculty of UCDS in 2006.

Ben earned his M.F.A. at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Carmine Chickadel, Instructional Faculty


carminec@ucds.org

Carmine “Chick” Chickadel is an Instructional Faculty member. He has been an educator for over four decades. He was an independent school administrator for The Bush School and The Evergreen School, both in Pacific Northwest. In addition, he has taught in numerous college and university graduate and undergraduate programs, most recently Seattle University and the University of Montana. His expertise is in educational cultures and philosophies, curriculum design, and teacher training and mentoring. Chick speaks and teaches frequently on the topic of qualitative evaluation and narrative assessments.

Chick was a co-founder in 2006 of Ravenna Solutions, designers of the innovative web-based platform ORCAS. ORCAS software is a sophisticated solution for student assessment, curriculum management, data storage.

Chick holds a BA in English from the University of Delaware and MIS from the University of Montana School of Fine Arts in the arts and education.

Deborah Chickadel, Instructional Faculty


debc@ucds.org

Deb Chickadel is an Instructional Faculty member, the UCDS Resident Program Coordinator, Level Coordinator and Classroom Teacher in the UCDS Elementary School program. At UCDS she’s taught students from early-childhood through 4th grade. Active in also teaching teachers, Deb has presented and taught at the NSTA annual conferences since 2014 and facilitated mathematical workshops both nationally and internationally.

Deb earned her M.Ed. at the University of Washington in 1996 and has been teaching elementary and middle school classrooms since then.

Diane Chickadel, Instructional Faculty


dianec@ucds.org

Diane Chickadel is an Instructional Faculty member, and she has been an enthusiastic teacher of learners from pre-K through the college level for over four decades. Diane’s interest lies in social and emotional health and its relationship to learning. Diane is a fiber artist and artists’ book maker. She was an Art Therapist at therapeutic boarding schools in England and Montana and at a children’s psychiatric center in Delaware. Diane joined the faculty of UCDS where she has been a classroom teacher, Division Head, and Resident Coordinator. 

Diane holds a Bachelor of Science from Neuman College in Behavioral Science and a minor in Art Education and Master of Education from City University.

Brenda Cram, Instructional Faculty

Brenda Cram is an Instructional Faculty member and currently serving in the role of Associate Head of Giddens School. She has held Associate, Assistant, Division, and Department Head roles at The Evergreen School and Bertschi School prior to her work at Giddens. Brenda is a founding faculty member of the NWAIS Emerging Leaders Program and serves as the Head Coach of the program. She is a certified leadership coach through Elena Aguilar and Bright Morning Consulting and currently consults with a range of educational leaders in both independent and public schools. Holding a Master’s degree from Lesley University in Curriculum and Instruction, Brenda established a resident program at Giddens School with the goal of immersing aspiring educators in a program that centers social justice and equity into curriculum design and pedagogy. In her free time, she likes to run with friends and her dog, Harlan, eat any and all food that is shared with her and cross country ski or hike in the mountains. She loves a good joke and has an affinity for clever comics (Far Side and the New Yorker). Left alone for several hours, Brenda would listen to loud music, sing at the top of her lungs, make pizza, and sit down with friends to eat together and tell stories.

Melinda Devin Deal, Instructional Faculty


melindad@ucds.org

Melinda Deal is an Instructional Faculty member, and she has been an enthusiastic classroom teacher of every grade level from preschool through eighth for over 35 years. After teaching 10 years in New York State public schools, she joined the faculty at UCDS, where she has been a classroom teacher, a curricular support teacher for Arts, Science, and Technology Specialists and a presenter at local and national conferences. 

Melinda holds a B.A. in Education and Psychology from the University of Washington and a M.A. in Educational Programming from the University of Connecticut.

Susan Foley, Instructional Faculty


susanf@ucds.org

Susan Foley is an Instructional Faculty member and has been a classroom teacher for 28 years. Before coming to UCDS, Foley taught Preschool-Kindergarten and was the Interim Director at HHCC Daycare in Boston, MA. In her more than 20 years at UCDS, Susan worked with students from early-childhood through 4th grade. She has advised the UCDS Schools All School Meeting since it began nearly 25 years ago. She has presented about student agency and advocacy through class meetings and all-school meetings at the NWAIS Educators Conference. 

Susan holds a B.A. in Psychology and Education from The University of Massachusetts and an M.A. in Special Education from The University of Washington.

Melissa Holbert, Instructional Faculty


melissah@ucds.org

Melissa Holbert is an Instructional Faculty member and has been an educator for 21 years. Starting her career teaching in the public schools in the Kent School District (Kent, Washington) teaching 3rd-4th grade for five years. Melissa then began teaching at UCDS and has taught in a variety of levels for the last 16 years. She is also a consultant with UCDS and works with their consulting team educating other teachers around the country. 

Melissa holds a B.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Washington, has a current Washington State Teaching Certificate with endorsements in Special Education and Psychology, she also has a M.A. in Education from Lesley University.

Sara Hoofnagle, Instructional Faculty

Sara Hoofnagle is an Instructional Faculty member and a seventh-grade science teacher at Eckstein Middle School, Seattle Public Schools. Throughout her 13 years as a classroom teacher, Sara has taught science at comprehensive middle and high schools in Colorado and Washington. Before entering the classroom, she worked for an environmental organization training classroom teachers. Sara earned her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado at Denver and a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. 

Sara enjoys a good book, skiing and hiking, running, and eating delicious food with family and friends.

Nimisha Joshi, Instructional Faculty

Nimisha Joshi is an Instructional Faculty member and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Seattle Waldorf School (SWS). Her 14 years in education include teaching K-7 as a classroom teacher, as a specialist, and also serving as an administrative leader at international schools, and at independent schools in Seattle. She volunteers on various NWAIS committees, and a Parent Racial Equity Committee of a public school. Her way of self-care is to squeeze in time to do things that bring her joy such as Afro-Brazilian dancing, Capoeira, hiking, and running. 

Nimisha holds a M.A. in English from University of Mumbai, M.A. in Educational Leadership from University of Northern Iowa, and an Administrative License through University of Northern Iowa. She has also participated in a year-long national SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) program and the NWAIS Emerging Leadership Institute.

Nancy F. Kiefer, Instructional Faculty


nancyk@ucds.org

Nancy Kiefer is an Instructional Faculty member and has been working as an educator and artist for over thirty years. In her position as librarian at UCDS, Nancy works with preschool through fifth-grade students. Before joining UCDS she was an Artist in Washington Schools working in public schools throughout the state. Nancy taught in the Women’s Studies Program at Washington State University as part of her faculty position in Student Affairs. In February 2019, she joined Green River Community College as an artist-in-residence.

Nancy earned her M.F.A. from Washington State University. Nancy is a storyteller, visual artist and writer. 

Kawai Lai, Instructional Faculty

Kawai Lai is an instructional faculty member. She is a designer and facilitator who has partnered with other K-12 leaders in planning for the future with an equity lens. She also supports leadership development as an Design Coach with Global Online Academy and is a co-author of The New Team Habits (2020), which provides practices for leaders to build better habits for team learning, meetings, and projects. She started VizLit to unleash the visual mind of every learner. Formerly, she served as Vice President of Innovation at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), where she helped schools reimagine education, build capacity to innovate, and share stories of authentic progress. Kawai was a founding team member and helped launch and grow Education Elements. Prior to her career in education, Kawai was at Deloitte Consulting. She currently serves as a trustee on the board of Girls Middle School in Palo Alto, CA and Compass High School in San Mateo, CA. She has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Kimberly Mitchell, Instructional Faculty


kimberlym@ucds.org

Kimberly Mitchell is an Instructional Faculty member, researcher and international speaker on inquiry-based instructional methods. She teaches at the University of Washington’s College of Education and is the author of Experience Inquiry. A former Teach For America corps member, high school vice principal and elementary principal, Kimberly was also a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Director of Partner Engagement for Teach for All in Argentina.

Kimberly received her BA in History and Philosophy from Skidmore College and her MA in Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford University.

Abby Sandberg, Ph.D., Instructional Faculty

Faculty & Staff Directory 24
abbys@ucds.org

Abby Sandberg is an Instructional Faculty member and the Director of Learning Support at UCDS. In her 13 years at UCDS, she has worked with teachers at all grade levels to maximize the academic and social success of their students. During her tenure, she has also served as the Early Elementary Division Head for 7 years. In addition, she has spent several years designing the curriculum for the UCDS Experienced Teacher Cohort, an annual multi-day educator workshop. Before joining UCDS, Abby worked with a broad range of learners from preschoolers to university students. Abby received a Ph.D. in School Psychology from Illinois State University and a B.S. in Psychology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Katharine Sjoberg, Instructional Faculty


katharines@ucds.org

Katharine Sjoberg is an Instructional Faculty member, Division Head and fifth grade teacher at UCDS.  In her 17 years at UCDS, she has taught all grades from preschool through fifth grade.  She has presented and instructed at conferences nationally and internationally, including the annual UCDS Institute’s Math Workshop. 

Katharine holds a B.A. in Mathematics from Mount Holyoke College and a M.A. in Teaching from Seattle Pacific University.

Paula Smith, Instructional Faculty


paulas@ucds.org

Paula Smith is an instructional faculty member and has served as the Head of School at UCDS for more than 25 years after first arriving as a lead teacher in 1987. She loves working side-by-side with such a creative and passionate group of educators as they reimagine school design and provide a collaborative working model for the 21st century. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Paula received herBachelor of Education degree from Western Washington University, a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington, and a P-12 Principal Endorsement from the State of Washington. She enjoys the fact that two of her grandsons are now a part of the UCDS community and still considers the continuing evolution of the school to be the focal point of her career in education.

Matt Swanson, Ph.D., Instructional Faculty

Matt Swanson is an instructional faculty member, and also serves as the Lower School Music Teacher and Chair of the Performing Arts Department at the Bush School in Seattle. He previously taught at UCDS as a classroom teacher and music teacher, and also taught music at St. Johnsbury Academy Jeju in South Korea. He received his Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Washington, a Masters in curriculum and instruction from the University of Washington, and a Bachelor of Arts from Whitman College.

Jennifer Vary, Instructional Faculty

Faculty & Staff Directory 9
jenniferv@ucds.org

Jennifer Vary is an Instructional Faculty member and Assistant Head of School at UCDS. During her 17 years at UCDS, she has taught all grades from preschool through fifth grade. 

Jennifer earned her Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Design from Lesley University. 

Aliya Virani, Instructional Faculty

Aliya Virani is an instructional faculty member, who has worked in independent schools for the last 21 years in various capacities, from teaching elementary grades to serving as Curriculum Director, Director of Inclusion and Community Building, and then Director of Admissions. She currently serves as the Lower School Director at Bush School. Aliya obtained her M.A. degree in Elementary Education from NYU and a Master of Education in private school leadership from Columbia University. Aliya’s love of learning and service led her to co-found an international summer program called Global Encounters and is currently on the Annie Wright Board of Trustees. Aliya treasures any opportunity to learn from other educators and most importantly her students!

Katie Walters-Krohn, Instructional Faculty

Faculty & Staff Directory 30
katiew@ucds.org

Katie Walters-Krohn is an Instructional Faculty member and the Director of the UCDS  Infant/Toddler Education Program. Katie has been at UCDS since 2006. 

Katie holds a M.S. in Early Childhood Public Policy and Advocacy from Walden University and a B.A. in Elementary Education and Liberal Studies from Smith College. 

Amanda Ward, Instructional Faculty

Amanda Ward is an Instructional Faculty member and is beginning her fourth year as Head of School at The Island School, a K-5 independent elementary school on Bainbridge Island. Prior to her current role, Amanda spent 20 years in public education in Kitsap County, serving in a variety of roles including high school English and Social Studies teacher, department chair, instructional coach, dean of students, new teacher support specialist, National Board facilitator, and associate principal.

Amanda served as a national teacher fellowship with Hope Street Group, conducting research with other fellows on teacher preparation programs. She presented this research at the National Board’s National Conference in Washington, D.C. Amanda has also presented at local conferences about the positive impact of learning walks on both beginning and experienced teachers.

Amanda graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.A. in American Studies, earned her Master in Teaching at Seattle University, and received her administrative credentials from the University of Washington’s Danforth Program. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and holds both a Washington State teaching certificate and principal certificate.

Amanda enjoys running in the woods near her home, gardening, practicing yoga, and spending time with family and friends.

Lelia Yerxa, Instructional Faculty


leliay@ucds.org

Lelia Yerxa is an Instructional Faculty member and has been teaching for 10 years. She has been on the faculty at UCDS for four years, teaching in 1st grade through 4th grade classrooms. Before this, she taught at the elementary level in New York City public schools and taught English as a Foreign Language to children and adults in Moscow, Russia. She has also worked in staff development at Songadeewin of Keewaydin, a summer camp in Vermont, for 13 years. 

Lelia holds a B.A. in International Politics and Economics and Russian from Middlebury College, and an M.A. in Elementary Inclusive Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

The UCDS team is incredibly warm and personable, while also delivering professional, quality content in an organized, efficient way. Every hour with them felt purposeful and worthwhile. I left each class a better educator!
UCDS Institute Student