Faculty & Staff
2022-23 Classroom Teachers and Faculty
|Director of Business & Operations||Shannon Gossard|
|Community Learning Center Site Director||Hazel Velez|
|Office Manager||Jada Kankel|
|Special Education Teacher||Lauren Cole|
|Special Education Staff||Elizabeth Bayliss(Speech); Cecilia Pivarunas (OT); Neely Harris (Psychologist)|
|1st Grade||Keaton Smith|
|1st / 2nd Grade Combo||Alison Sloan|
|2nd Grade||Caitrin Cullen|
|3rd Grade||Dana Smith|
|4th Grade||Eilish Poe|
|4th / 5th Grade Combo||Emily Walters|
|5th Grade||Kirsten Schnell|
|Music Teacher||Lorna Floyd|
|Visual Arts Teacher||Dianne Andrejasich|
|Expressions Teacher||Declan Brennan|
|School Nurse||Keri Dennison|
|Information Technology||Scott Wilson|
|Community Learning Center Teachers/Interventionists||Emma Erwin; Christine Thompson; Sierra Montez; Kaila DeJane;|
NICHOLE SCHLAGEL – PRINCIPAL
My name is Nichole Schlagel and I am honored to be the Principal at The Academy of Arts and Knowledge!
I live in Fort Collins with my family. We are very busy with 3 children (18, 17, and 10). My oldest is starting college so we are preparing him for his new adventure. We enjoy camping, car shows, and being outdoors. We are always up for trying something new and taking advantage of the social activities Northern Colorado has to offer.
I have been in education for many years and I have a passion for personalizing education to support students in reaching their personal best. I believe every student has a right to achieve at high levels. It is our responsibility to provide the necessary support to help them reach their goals. When students feel safe and secure in their learning environments they will take risks and discover their passion for learning. As a community, we will continue to work together to increase academic achievement as well as the social and emotional well-being of all of our students.
SHANNON GOSSARD — DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS AND OPERATIONS
From the moment I stepped into this school, I was blown away by the amazing things that teachers do every day with their students and the amount of passion and dedication they have for each and every child they work with. Over the last eight years, I have seen immense growth in our students and witnessed them blossoming into confident and expressive students who have the ability to think critically about the world around them. I am honored to be able to support such an amazing community of staff, students, and parents.
JADA KANKEL — OFFICE MANAGER
Both of my children are alumni of the school. I have been working here since 2009 and my heartstrings are tied to the children and staff. This school embraces students with differences and teaches them to be comfortable in their own skin. Students graduate from school with a confidence in who they are and acceptance for who others are. I greatly enjoy working with this community and I look forward to meeting new and returning students and staff in the fall.
AMANDA WOODS — RECEPTIONIST/REGISTRAR
My name is Amanda Woods, and I am so excited to join AAK in the main office. I have five years experience in a school office, formerly with Thompson School District, and also four years of experience as an elementary paraprofessional. I love working with kids and watching them grow, and I already know this will be the best school I have ever worked at.
I am married and have three kids, two sons aged 18 and 13, and a 4-year-old daughter. We also have two crazy dogs and three chickens at our house. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in both English and History, and a Masters’s Degree in Multicultural / Transnational Literature. I have lived all over the US, from California to North Carolina, and lived three years in Okinawa, Japan, but I am a Colorado native and I am glad to be here in this part of the state. I love to read, garden, cook, bake, hike, camp, and spend time with friends and family.
AMBER HALL – KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
I am beyond excited to be teaching Kindergarten at the Academy of Arts and Knowledge! This will be my second year teaching! I am a Colorado native and absolutely love anything outdoors whether that be snowboarding, hiking 14ers, paddleboarding, or running with my dog (Bentley).
I love the community AAK offers and can’t wait to welcome students and families into my classroom this 2022-2023 school year. Encouraging, supporting, and teaching children has been a lifelong passion of mine. I believe providing opportunities for children to strive, develop, learn, and grow is essential within a classroom setting. We are going to have such an amazing and fun year!
KEATON SMITH — 1ST GRADE TEACHER
This year will be my 6th year as an educator at AAK! I have had the wonderful opportunity to work alongside Ms. Sloan, and together we have fostered a creative, engaging, and safe learning environment here in first grade. One of my favorite perks of this job is watching the students grow, not only in education but also in their confidence in themselves as creative individuals. I love working alongside educators who are here to make learning feel unique, positive, and enjoyable.
In my free time, I am usually playing video games, dancing around my house, spending quality time with friends, or up in Wyoming visiting family.
ALISON SLOAN — 1ST GRADE TEACHER
I’m so excited to begin another year here at AAK. This is the most amazing school I have taught at. I love the freedom to be creative and to explore with the students. I’m beginning my 6th year in first grade with the best teammate in the history of teaching, Mr. Smith. As your child’s teacher I will work hard to show the students how amazing they are. Boosting confidence in academics and who they are as an individual are my goals as an educator. I’m looking forward to growing and learning with your child. In my spare time, I enjoy arts and crafts, video games, puzzles, and watching movies.
CAITRIN CULLEN — 2ND GRADE TEACHER
I am excited to be a Second Grade Teacher at the Academy of Arts and Knowledge! I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to Fort Collins, Colorado for college. I enjoy all that Colorado has to offer, from skiing to hiking to boating on Horsetooth Reservoir. I am excited to create a community in our Second Grade class full of learning, fun, laughter, and hard work. It will be a fun 2021-2022 year!
DANA SMITH — 3RD GRADE TEACHER
Hey y’all! I’m Dana Smith, and I am so thrilled to be teaching third grade at AAK. I love learning new things and believe that if you’re not learning, you’re not living! I’m so grateful I get to share that passion with my students every day and help them reach their full potential. I was born and raised in Mississippi and now live in Fort Collins with my husband Brad, our dog Sadie, and our cat Hannah. I enjoy reading, playing video games, writing, hiking, and camping.
EILISH POE — 4TH GRADE TEACHER
I am extremely excited to be a part of this wonderful community. For the last 2.5 years, I have been working at Bauder Elementary, here in Fort Collins. I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and moved to Colorado when I was 18 to come to Colorado State University. I am an extremely community-based teacher and feel like AAK is going to be a great fit for that.
EMILY WALTERS— FOURTH/FIFTH GRADE TEACHER
Bio coming soon!
KIRSTEN SCHNELL— FOURTH GRADE TEACHER
I am excited to be teaching my 4th year of teaching at AAK this year. I have previously taught 4th grade at Rice Elementary and 6th grade at Preston Middle School in the Poudre School District.
I moved about six years ago to Fort Collins from Western Washington. All my family still lives there, and I dearly love the Pacific Northwest.
Before I obtained my teaching degree, I got my B.A. in Art History. I love incorporating visual elements into all my lessons. I love using both my passion for teaching and art to celebrate the learning process for all students.
DIANNE ANDREJASICH – VISUAL ARTS TEACHER
I have taught at AAK since the opening of our school. Watching our highly creative students’ brilliance shine has been one of the greatest inspirations in my 20-year education career. Before I received my teaching license I worked as a commercial and fine artist for 20 plus years teaching art as an artist-in-residence for schools.
As a young elementary school student, several core academics were difficult for me because I learn differently than most people. Ingenious teachers guided me with different learning methods opening new doors for me and raising my academic studies. Thus, I strive to unlock frustration in students who need a different approach to many academic subjects through the visual arts. Along with motivating them to soar to new heights in their artwork. Our art projects begin with a goal of giving students choices for exploring various materials that will complete their imaginative concepts building confidence with their accomplishments.
My goal in the visual arts is not assembling project activities with little room for creativity. Instead, students will go beyond their initial ideas to develop higher-order thinking skills in their approach to artistic problem-solving. “Genius is made, not born. And human beings are gifted with almost unlimited potential for learning and creativity.” How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci
LORNA FLOYD – MUSIC TEACHER
I have been the music teacher since the fall of 2010. I love how our school music program meets and exceeds the Colorado State Music Standards in a unique way–by offering an elementary instrumental program!
When I am not in my classroom I’m in my many gardens with my husband and three little dogs or making my own music! I play alto saxophone with the funk band Archie Funker, flute with Bole Bole Brazilian band, and clarinet and vocals in my own ensemble, Lorna’s Swingset.
DECLAN BRENNAN – EXPRESSIONS TEACHER
I am thrilled to continue my journey as a teacher at AAK, recently relocating from Dallas, Texas. Growing up I always had a strong love for the performing arts. Starting theatre in middle school, I struggled to learn the disciplines of the craft. But nonetheless, I preserved and have performed in countless productions since. That drive is what eventually led me to teach and I haven’t looked back since. I studied theatre at Cabrillo College for several years before moving to Dallas to teach. While there I taught for Drama Kids International and directed student productions with Art Centre Theatre. As a patient and compassionate teacher, I strive to create a safe learning environment in my lessons so that every student can feel comfortable to explore and achieve his or her full potential. All I ask of my students is that they participate and give their all in my class. If they do this, I truly believe that they will be successful in my class and learn a new way to express themselves.
LAUREN COLE— SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER
My name is Lauren Cole, and I am very excited to be a new member of AAK Elementary School. I have been teaching in many capacities for over 9 years. I graduated from NM Highlands University and started my teaching career in a small rural community in New Mexico. I am originally from Colorado and have family here, so I am thrilled to be back!
We all learn differently, so I look forward to helping you grow as a learner and a positive student. Students with a disability all have an ABILITY! The number one goal in my classroom is respect, and that we will be a school family and work together. I will only ask you to work as hard as I will.
When I am not in the classroom or teaching, I love to enjoy the outdoors, especially sunflowers! I have worked on a ranch with cattle, horses, and buffalo. My two absolute favorites are my son and our black lab, Duke!
ELIZABETH BAYLISS— SPEECH PATHOLOGIST
My name is Elizabeth and I am a Speech-Language Pathologist. Although I am a native Oklahoman, I have lived in several states (TX, NJ, MO) throughout my journey, and I am so grateful to have landed in Fort Collins! I received my Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and completed my Master’s degree at Rockhurst University. I have worked in several settings including home healthcare and outpatient clinics, but I am especially excited to be working in a school setting with such a devoted team and supportive community. I have a passion for communication and believe every child’s “voice” is important. My mission as a speech therapist is to provide the tools, support, and encouragement each child needs to understand and communicate in his or her world. Communication is the key to connection!
In my free time, I enjoy reading, yoga, art projects, and exploring Colorado with my Blue Heeler, Buckley Blue!
CECILIA PIVARUNAS— OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST
NEELY HARRIS — SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST
HAZEL VELEZ— COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER SITE DIRECTOR
SCOTT WILSON— INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Bio coming soon!
LEE MARTINEZ— CUSTODIAN