Our Staff

Amanda Vogel
Director, Founder, & Writing 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.


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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 timeat Nurturing Wisdom coaching other tutors, developing processes for our company, and working with data.

 

 
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Brittany St. Peter
Primary Teacher

Brittany joined our school as the very first intern, and has proven to be an integral part of the Vine family. She brings a unique set of qualifications and experiences that make her the ideal primary program director and lead teacher.  She first joined Vine Academy in 2012 as a 1:1 coach. She graduated with honors from Elmhurst College in 2013, with a degree in speech language pathology.  Brittany then completed her Montessori credential specializing in early childhood education.  This unique foundation in language development and early childhood developmental milestones has shaped the way Brittany tailors instruction and goals for her students, helping each student reach his or her highest potential. In addition, Brittany is Orton-Gillingham trained and uses this multi-sensory approach in her literacy class. She believes that children learn by doing and that her philosophy of classroom instruction allows children to learn in a natural way. In addition to her primary classroom, Brittany has taught many projected learning courses at Vine, creating open ended projects that allow students to explore their interests and talents. Her multi sensory approach, organizational abilities, and philosophy of student choice has allowed her to facilitate her classes so that students are allowed to explore with freedom and yet still have the structure to meet their needs. Brittany is thrilled to share her passion for educating young learners with the Vine community.

 

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 IMSA, 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 currently teach and run our chess club; in the past, he has run our Board Games and Broad Minds clubafter 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, 630-423-5916  x701
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.

 

Debbie McKenzie, 630-423-5916  x702
Literature Teacher

Debbie McKenzie joined Vine Academy in 2015 as a literature teacher, and her passion is helping students become self-directed learners. She attended Northwestern University, majoring in psychology, and then went on to earn a graduate degree in education from the University of Chicago. Debbie has worked in various facets of education for over 25 years: as a classroom teacher in public and private schools, as a private tutor, and as a homeschooler for over a decade. This broad professional background enables her to work flexibly with students, customizing educational experiences for each child. When she’s not busy finding good books for the students, Debbie might be found in tap dancing class, cooking, or planning a trip!

 

April Behnke
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.

 

Beverly Petravicius
Writing & History Teacher

Beverly Petravicius joined Vine Academy as one of our independent study teachers.  Bev graduated from the University of Texas with a major in political science, and then went on to Harvard Law School, graduating with honors. Afterwards, she worked for a major law firm and found her passion for writing. She has published several articles as a speech writer and freelance writer. However, her main passion has always been volunteering at her kids’ schools. In doing so, she has taught art awareness, writing, Great Books classes, and managed the enrichment program.

 

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.

 

Nikita May
Independent Study 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.

 
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Meg Alles
Literature, Writing, and History 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.

 

Jennie Coman
Business Manager

Jennie is our business manager at Vine.  She has a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design from Indiana University. After being a full time mom for 13 years Jennie began working for an educational consulting company.  She collaborated with graduate school level faculty to design courses for the online environment while meeting university requirements and expectations. Jennie first learned about Vine when her daughter transferred there during 6th grade in 2014.  Jennie was inspired by the Vine teachers and the amazing impact they had on her daughter’s education and her executive functioning skills development.  Jennie’s academic career and her positive experiences as a parent motivate her to provide the necessary support to help manage the business side of Vine.

 

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.