Our Staff

Amanda Vogel
Director, Founder, & History Teacher

Amanda is the founder and director of Vine Academy.  During her ten years as the vice president of Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring, Amanda was fortunate to be supported and encouraged in fulfilling her dream of opening a school. Prior to working for Nurturing Wisdom, Amanda earned a master’s degree in special education from Truman State University and taught 5th through 8th grade special education classes for four years. Her teaching experience made her an expert in differentiating and creating curriculum for a diverse set of learners.  At Nurturing Wisdom, Amanda has written curriculum for all types of tutoring: executive functioning, academic programs, and test preparation.  At Vine Academy, Amanda uses this expertise to ensure that the Academy’s curriculum is fully customized for students of all ability levels, including those who are gifted or have learning differences.


Yuka Wong
Math Teacher & Elementary Team Leader

With over ten years of experience, Yuka is passionate about teaching math to our elementary and middle school level students. After earning her Master’s degree in elementary education, she took the role of director and teacher at an after school learning center, a place that helped her gain the experience of teaching as well as gave her the opportunity to explore different curriculums and standards across various schooldistricts. She loves showing students how interesting the patterns and relationships of numbers can be. She places strong emphasis on critical thinking and logical reasoning in math, and she hopes to guide students to become excellent problem solvers in all areas through her love of teaching!



Abigail Zillner
Math Teacher & Assistant Director

Abby has known from a young age that she wanted to help others learn to appreciate the magical world of mathematics. After graduating from IMSA, Abby went on to earn a degree in mathematics from Grinnell College. She has over seven years of one-on-one tutoring experience, on subjects ranging from elementary school mathematics to calculus (and beyond!). Abby is one of our most requested tutors for math, test preparation, and executive functioning. She also spends much of her time at Nurturing Wisdom coaching other tutors, developing processes for our company, and working with data.



Kim Laniosz
Primary Teacher

From a young age, Kim has always wanted to be a teacher. She loves and enjoys spending her days with children.  She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Trinity Christian College with minors in English, Biology, and Special Education.  The majority of Kim’s 18 years of teaching experience has been in private education inspiring students to listen, question, read and explore. In Kim’s classroom, creativity, curiosity, and a passion for learning is nurtured through individualized and effective instruction.  She strives to provide a respectful and encouraging environment where students can learn and grow.


Michael McIntyre
Science Teacher

Michael McIntyre is Vine Academy’s elementary through high school science teacher.  Michael graduated from University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2005 with a major in molecular and cellular biology; he also has a Masters in Education from Quincy University.  Before coming to Vine Academy, he worked as residential counselor at the Illinois Math and Science Academy.  His passion for science and teaching makes him a perfect match for teaching not only our small group science classes, but working with individual students on personalized curriculum.  His enthusiasm for outside-the-box thinking has led Michael to teach  chess and run our Board Games and Broad Minds & Rube Goldberg clubs after school.  Michael worked previously as a highly requested tutor for Nurturing Wisdom, and his enthusiasm and rapport with students has made him a school-wide favorite.  Students thoroughly enjoy and seek out time with Mr. Michael, in particular his creative and detailed science labs.  His hands-on approach truly helps students to organize their thinking as future scientists and brings a concrete approach to a multitude of scientific concepts.


Jessica Staum
Literature and Writing

Jessica graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in English, and later completed a certification program in Language Arts Education.  She has worked in many facets of education: as a classroom assistant, a tutor for English language learners, a university registrar, and a testing specialist. It is almost impossible to find Jessica without a book in her hand, and she’s very passionate about helping children develop a life-long enthusiasm for reading.  Jessica encourages the student’s in her classroom to work hard, and share their ideas because she believes that everyone has something special to contribute to the world.  Jessica’s greatest passion lies with helping students achieve their full potential as writers, readers, and thinkers.


April Behnke
Intermediate Literature & Reading Teacher

She graduated from Truman StateUniversity with a major in English and a minor in psychology.  Her skills set in these areas make her invaluable as an assistant to staff as needed in implementing educational programming.  After graduation, April honed her managerial and organizational skills by initially managing a daycare and later moving on to office management.  These positions allowed April to become the essential team member she is today. April also is an Orton-Gilligham trained reading teacher.   April is invaluable at Vine for her ability to connect with and care for kids who are suffering from anxiety.


Heidi Osburn
Projected Learning Teacher

Heidi knew she wanted to be a teacher since helping her mother set up her classroom as a child.  She received her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in Reading and Early Childhood from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas.  Her passion for teaching has grown throughout the years as she taught elementary school, directed a daycare, and volunteered in school systems in 5 states. 


Alex Feldman
Music Teacher

Alex Feldman is thrilled to join the Vine Academy team! Previously, he has been an in-demand tutor at Nurturing Wisdom and has taught private music lessons extensively. In addition, Alex taught music and test prep in the Chicago Public Schools. He believes that schools and educators should help students understand how their thinking, emotions, and behaviors affect their education. It is through the study of subjects like mathematics and music, Alex believes, that students can become their own best teachers, allowing them to pursue any goal in life.


Sandy Stickley
Elementary Literature & Reading Teacher

Sandy joins Vine Academy as the elementary literature teacher after teaching at the elementary and middle school levels in the public schools for eight years. After earning her Master’s in Reading at Concordia University, she is excited to focus on teaching literature to young learners. She enjoys watching students problem solve and think critically. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and cooking.


Stephanie Saucedo
Spanish Teacher

Stephanie Saucedo joined the Vine Academy team in late 2014 fresh out of Loyola University, Chicago. Stephanie grew up in Mexico learning Spanish as her first language. After studying Spanish extensively in college and majoring in psychology, Stephanie joined Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring and taught Spanish, ACT, math, and reading comprehension. Stephanie soon found her true passion and home at Vine Academy and is currently teaching elementary through high school Spanish. Stephanie cares about each individual student’s learning needs and aims to instill the love of learning a new language. She brings a fun, enthusiastic personality to the classroom, is passionate about expanding world views, and enjoys the challenge of creating a customized curriculum for each grade level. At home, Stephanie dedicates her free time to reading and playing tennis.


Jodie Riordan

Since Jodie was very young, she has enjoyed reading and discussing stories. During her college years, she greatly admired her literature professors and discovered her own path: teaching English. In 2004, she earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Elmhurst College and began the Master of Arts in Education program at Benedictine University. Jodie’s teaching career has taken many twists and turns since she obtained teacher certification in English and social science. In 2008, she began teaching in a small Catholic school where she taught not only English and social science but math and science as well. She spent nearly a decade teaching all academic subjects to mixed age classrooms. Jodie attributes this experience to the versatility she now has as an educator. Even when Jodie is not teaching, her mind is constantly in motion. She can be found reading, researching, and doing logic puzzles most often.


Amy Tripple
Art Teacher & Marketing Coordinator

Amy Tripple arrived at Vine searching for a place to bring out the best in her children.  When she fell in love with the education being offered here, she decided to join Vine full time as a teacher and marketing director.  She brings with her years of teaching experiences across a wide variety of formats.  She has previously taught not only second graders but also photographers from novice to professional.  Vine is very fortunate to have her as she brings her experience and talent in art, photography, entrepreneurship, and teaching to our students and classrooms. 


Tami Garrett
Literature Teacher

Tami grew up in Milwaukee, WI and received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, WI. In addition, she holds a Juris Doctorate from Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. Tami has taught middle school, high school, second grade and kindergarten in addition to homeschooling her daughter from second grade through high school. In May, she and her family moved from South Carolina to support her daughter in graduate school. Tami is a passionate reader and also enjoys baking and quilting in her free time. 


Nikita May
Projected Learning Teacher

Nikita May comes to Vine Academy from Boston, MA. She was given her first opportunity to work within education following graduating from Clark Atlanta University with a B.A. in Psychology in 2008. Since working at her first school in Alexandria, VA almost eight years ago, she has gained the knowledge, experience, and skill set to not only work with students from primary school through high school, but also to serve students with learning disabilities and other special needs. Nikita has a passion for projects and history and aims to always motivate her students to be in control of their learning. She is very warm and humble person who helps children feel listened to and respected.


Meg Alles
Writing Teacher

Since Meg was very young, she has had an insatiable interest in and curiosity for learning, reading, storytelling, and writing. As a teacher, her main objective is to share that unbridled enthusiasm with her students. Graduating from Columbia College Chicago with a B.A. in fiction writing, Meg has worked in various facets of education; assisting in film and reading classes in Chicago’s inner city schools, coordinating a story writing workshop for elementary students, working as a writing tutor for her college peers, and as a tutor for Nurturing Wisdom since 2013. Meg loves fostering students’ abilities to articulate their thoughts more effectively, the light that comes on when a student thinks of something in a new way, and witnessing a student’s confidence soar. In her spare time, when Meg is not playing with her two young children, she may be seen with a recorder and microphone in hand or editing audio for future radio stories.


Sarah Kempenaar
School Nurse & Coordinator

Sarah is a mother of four, a registered nurse, and a nurse practitioner.  She is absolutely passionate about the physical and emotional health of children, and has spent over ten years as a full time mom.  In her hospital nursing career, Sarah worked as a labor and delivery nurse.