Our Teachers

Our teachers are pivotal to the success of our program.

We hire knowledgeable teachers who are passionate about their subjects, teach in a hands-on way, and love and respect our children. Our teacher credentials compare favorably with some of the most expensive private schools in the area: about 40% of our teachers have advanced degrees. In addition, we recognize the importance of small class size in maintaining a quality learning environment, and keep an average of ten students per class.

Our Teachers:

Dr. Joanna Abrams

Joanna received her bachelor's degree in biology and psychology from Earlham College, before graduating with a PhD in neuroscience (focus on child development) from the University of Minnesota. Joanna has taught in many environments, and at many grade levels, including as a camp counselor, a museum science educator, a substitute teacher at Cincinnati Public, a troop leader for Navigators USA (an inclusive, all-gender scouting organization), and a community college instructor focusing on biology. Joanna is thrilled to be part of our team, and is excited to see science come alive through hands-on activities and experiments in her LOL classroom.

Paige Andrew

Paige was a student at Leaves of Learning beginning at the age of eight until high school graduation. In 2016, she joined the staff as the assistant teacher in the Little Sprouts classroom. In 2019, she began attending the Greater Cincinnati Center for Montessori Education and earned her Early Childhood Montessori Teacher credentials in 2021. She is passionate about making children's education a positive experience and is so grateful to have a place that helps make that possible.

Lisa Andrews

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD has been a registered dietitian for 30 years and has experience in clinical, community and culinary nutrition. As the owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati, she shares her nutrition knowledge through freelance writing, cooking demos and other presentations. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. She is a regular guest on local TV stations and is frequently quoted by her peers. Lisa is passionate about food justice and reducing hunger. Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati. For more information, visit her web site: www.soundbitesnutrition.com

Lauren Batten

Lauren Batten (previously Millhorn) is school counselor here at Leaves and teaches our Teen Discussion class. She received her Masters of Education through the University of Tennessee and although she has lived in both Tennessee and North Carolina, Ohio (home) is where her heart is. In her free time, she enjoys attending Reds' games with her husband, relaxing with friends and going to her dance class. Lauren has two older sisters, two nieces, two nephews, a dog named Ted and a cat named Face. Lauren is excited to be back for a new school year and excited to see all the familiar faces and to meet all the new ones!

Chelsea Borgman

Chelsea Borgman is an artist and educator. She received her masters degree in Art Education and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Penn State University and her bachelors in Studio Art from Kenyon College. She was the 2019 recipient of the Judy Chicago Art Education Award. Chelsea teaches a variety of art classes at Leaves of Learning and has experience teaching across age groups and contexts. She was a teacher and gallery coordinator at Brazee Street Studios for 6 years, where she taught children and adults glass fusing techniques. Chelsea has also worked as an educator in art museums, galleries, and schools. She is passionate about learning and experimenting through art-making.

Shawn Braley

Shawn is the Co-Founder of the multi- Emmy-Winning non-profit Cincy Stories, where he is involved in crafting the stories of the folks who call Cincinnati home. Through this work, he coaches everyday folks on how to better craft their stories and tell them on stage around the city. In addition to hosting events and coaching storytellers, Cincy Stories produces a PBS series and short films based on greater Cincinnati residents. His passion for storytelling and helping others understand the ways we both engage with the stories of our neighbors and embrace our own stories has been a driving force for this work. Being a part of the Leaves of Learning team and helping students better understand and craft stories is a huge honor for him.

Donald Broerman

Donald Broerman, a Cincinnati native, earned his BM in Classical Guitar Performance at the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) under the direction of Clare Callahan, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2013. He has also studied with David Case at the University of Oregon (School of Music), as well as, Jazz guitar with Mike Denny and Chris Sorenson and started his training at the Musical Arts Center in Cincinnati. His high school rock band also won first place in the High School Band Challenge and fourth place in the Battle of the Bands at Bogarts. During his time at CCM, Mr. Broerman performed in master classes from internationally acclaimed artists such Oscar Ghiglia, David Russell, Robert Belinic and Rupert Boyd and participated in classes given by Zoran Dukic, Marcin Dylla, Carlos Perez, Johannes Möller, Daniel Lippel and others. Coruses completed for degree include: Guitar Pedagogy, Guitar repertoire and History, Guitar Ensemble. Donald is an active composer, whose compositions are primarily solo guitar works. He briefly studied composition with Terry McQuilken at the University of Oregon, Orchestration at CCM and private lessons with Jennifer Jolley (Composition Professor at Ohio Wesleyan, President and Co-founder of N.A.N.O. Works Opera Company). A budding interest in this field has led to performances of his own works at CCM’s Something Different, Classical Revolution and a commission by The Ascend Project. Mr. Broerman serves the community through his work in non-profits. He is the current President of Greater Cincinnati Guitar Society, as well as, a member and guitar adjudicator for the Ohio Music Educators Association. Donald is a dedicated pedagogue. His students have won gold medals in the Royal Conservatory of Music examinations. He currently teaches at Indian Springs Academy of Music, Wyoming Fine Arts Center and Northern Kentucky School of Music and is a co-director of and instructor for the CCM Guitar Youth Workshop.

Sharon Cardona

Sharon Cardona has been working as a sign language interpreter in the Greater Cincinnati area for the last 14 years. Prior to that she worked as a teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the public schools, both in Ohio and in Indiana. Sharon has been homeschooling her two children, both of whom are students at Leaves, for the last 8 years and she loves the balance of working as a freelance interpreter with the homeschooling. Sharon is really excited to be working at Leaves of Learning, teaching and sharing her passion for ASL and the culture of the Deaf.

Heather DeLaVega

I began homeschooling my 2 boys in 2000 and have been a part of the Leaves of Learning community since 2001. In 2012, I started back to work as a part-time assistant in the Little Sprouts classroom, where I was inspired to go back to school and obtain my Montessori Early Childhood Education credentials. I’ve attended the University of Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Center for Montessori Education. The opportunity to work with young children is very rewarding for me. I’m energized by their wonder and enthusiasm, and I thoroughly enjoy watching them blossom in the classroom. I’m passionate about the Montessori Method and Leaves of Learning. I love the way they both foster peace, independence, and a natural love of learning in the children. When I’m not enjoying my time in our Little Sprouts classroom, I love traveling and hiking with my family, nature and nature photography, gardening, and reading.

Jennifer Deming

Jennifer has been teaching for over 21 years. The first nine years were spent full-time in both public and private schools. When her first child was born she decided to become a stay-at-home mom—a decision that quickly led to becoming a homeschooling mom. During that time she continued to teach small groups part-time, and she also directed several children's choruses and theaters. Jennifer believes that hands-on exploration and play are vital to learning, and she strives to create a respectful environment in which work, active play, and creativity go hand-in-hand. She is looking forward to a great adventure at Leaves this year.

Julie Doughty

Julie Doughty graduated from James Madison University with a B.S. with honors in early childhood education. After graduation she moved with her husband to Blacksburg, Virginia, where she took classes from a professional potter and participated in the annual art show and sale in Baltimore for several years. Julie has been homeschooling since 1999. She began teaching at Leaves of Learning in 2008 but has been involved as a parent since 2001. Julie loves working with clay with her students and watching their projects evolve as they gain new skills.

Allison Evans

Allison is entertained and energized by teens - - she has launched three successful young adults from her now-empty nest and enjoys her semi-retirement by supporting adolescents on their path to adulthood. Qualifications include BS Metllurgical Engineering and a license in Professional Engineering -Manufacturing. Allison also earned an MBA here at Xavier and many professional certifications along the way including Six Sigma Blackbelt, Certified Myers Briggs Facilitator and ACT Educator. She has lived in multiple countries, been a lifelong volunteer leader with youth organizations, and continues to play oboe and English Horn with local community music-makers.

Dianne Feltz

Dianne is excited to join the Leaves of Learning community. She is passionate about books and language and is looking forward to sharing that with students. Dianne graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in English. She brings classroom experience from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and Carroll High School in Dayton. Born and raised on the east coast, she has lived in the Cincinnati area for seventeen years and raised a family here. Outside of books she enjoys music, cheering for Notre Dame, and going on family adventures. Most recently Dianne created and led literary workshops and book discussions for middle-schoolers and adults at Book Bums.

Laurel Fiorelli

Laurel Fiorelli coaches students to grow a love for Spanish at Leaves of Learning. She enjoys learning about other cultures, immersion-style travel, and spending time with her family and friends. Her relationship with Spanish has taken her on many adventures and opened many doors, and she looks forward to sharing that enthusiasm and those opportunities with her students. Previously, Laurel worked at Sojourners and at The Global Fund for Children in Washington, DC., taught in international schools in Ecuador and in Saudi Arabia, studied in Mexico and in Uganda, and worked with international students and service-learning programs at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy and at St. Ursuline Academy locally. She holds a B.S. in journalism and an M.A. in international development.

Becky Flanagan

Becky has returned to Leaves in a new capacity as a staff member who has many roles and responsibilities. As a former teacher of American Sign Language and interpreter, she might be caught signing with students at lunch or in the hallways. Her current responsibilities include coordinating school event calendars, sending electronic communications, installing printed event posters, working with the hospitality team, planning and overseeing student parties, dances, performances and other events and posting on social media and occasionally substituting in the classrooms. She attended California State University Northridge (CSUN) graduating with her degree in Deaf Studies and later studied linguistics at Gallaudet University. She worked as a freelance sign language interpreter in Los Angeles and Washington, DC for business, government and educational events before becoming a business owner (Signing Safari) and teacher at Leaves of Learning. She has 3 children in college; two attended Leaves during their elementary and middle school years. She enjoys getting to know the teachers, staff, students and families that make Leaves of Learning such a unique place.

Leslie Hamilton

Leslie Hamilton has been teaching at Leaves of Learning since 2002. Her classes have included history, geography, government/civics, international relations, and PeaceJam. Aside from working with amazing students and teachers who delight her every day with their enthusiasm, love of learning, and incredible creativity, her favorite thing about LOL is the opportunity it gives her to build a strong social justice and service learning component into not only PeaceJam but many other classes as well. She is also thrilled to have taken part in numerous conferences allowing her students to interact with Nobel Peace Laureates like Betty Williams, the Dalai Lama, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Mikhail Gorbachev, Shirin Ebadi, Muhammed Yunus, Lech Walesa, and many others. Outside of Leaves, Leslie coaches the 10 & under swimmers with the Mercy HealthPlex Sea Wolves and plays with her fantastically goofy son.

Julie Hamman

Julie Hamman is thrilled to be joining the Leaves of Learning community of learners. For the past ten years, she taught middle school math and science in a private school in Chicago. Teaching in Chicago was such a wonderful experience and she is so happy to be back to teaching. She moved to Cincinnati over the summer with her husband and 2 year old son. Julie received her education degree from The University of Dayton and her masters from Concordia University in Chicago. Julie is looking forward to working with the students and parents at Leaves of Learning.

Kelly Hilgeman

Kelly is a graduate of Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She has taught for thirteen years in Northwest Local School District. During that time, she taught all subject areas and all grade levels but spent a majority of the time teaching language arts and math for third grade. After having her fourth baby boy, Kelly stayed home to focus on her family. Now, she is excited to join the Leaves of Learning team and to get back into the classroom. Kelly brings an enthusiasm for educating and enriching young students and inspiring them to have a love for learning.

Julia Jackson

Julia received her undergraduate degree in Communications and Public Relations from the University of Dayton and a Master’s degree in elementary education from DePaul University. After teaching kindergarten in Chicago for 6 years, she relocated to Cincinnati in 2013. For the past 7 years, Julia has been raising two daughters as well as running her family owned service technician dispatch company. She loves traveling, cooking and spending time with her family. She is thrilled to join the Leaves team this year to provide a unique, challenging and fun experience in the classroom.

Trelan Jones

Known for her talents as a whimsical collage artist with a self-reflective vision and approach to fine art and art education, it is no surprise to some that Trelan Jones is a highly talented studio artist, Smithsonian recruited, and an art educational professional. Her unorthodox and intricate mixed media artwork and creativity have made her a highly sought after artist and art educator. In 2004, she graduated with a BFA in Painting and Graphic Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah, Georgia. Additionally, she possesses an Art Education Licensure and studies toward an MFA from the University of Cincinnati DAPP, Cincinnati, Ohio. Soon after undergrad, Trelan continued her work as a studio artist and began substitute teaching. She has experience teaching in the Indian Hill Primary and Princeton High School Districts, and as a Resident Art Teacher at Wyoming Middle School. Similarly, she has taught private art classes for young people and adults for over ten years. Trelan incorporates STEM into art instruction through mixed media exploration, painting, collage, use of color, drawing, photography, commercial art, installation art and art history. She is an advocate of self-reflection and fun in her classroom and utilizes oral presentations and creative group critique methods for class assessments. In her spare time, she enjoys hosting fun, art classes with her girlfriends in her front yard, flea-marketing, art show exhibitions, and spending time with family.

Melissa Kelly

I’m from Louisville Kentucky. I grew up in Louisville Ky. I went to Eastern Kentucky University for Deaf education major with a minor in ASL. After graduation, I worked in the ASL lab as Assistant Manager for a year. I moved to the NKY area. I worked at St. Rita school for the Deaf for 9 years. I worked in a variety of classes from preschool- high school. Then, I taught ASL at Sinclair Community College and Cincinnati State College. I’m currently working on my ASLTA (American Sign Language Teacher Association) certification. My goal is to get a Master Degree in ASL at Gallaudet. Being involved in the Deaf community has been a big impact in my life. Such involvement is including, Silent Dinner Committee, KCDHH Commissioner, Cincinnati Service for the Deaf Activity committee, Shared Reading Program, etc. I am married with two children. One is in high school going to Ignite Institute and the other one is getting ready to start middle school in the fall. We like to go hiking, play games, listen (play) music, and watch movies together.

Julie Klettke

Julie taught for nine years in an elementary school and has been at Leaves of Learning since 2007. During those years Julie has taught a variety of high school, middle school, and elementary school classes. Julie has an associate’s degree in nursing and spent 4 years working in healthcare as a registered nurse. Julie received a BA in biology and a BS in elementary education from UC. She has completed 12 hours of graduate work in gifted education at XU. Teaching is not just imparting knowledge; it is about inspiration as well. She encourages children to take part in their learning by sharing ideas and insights, using creative methods to solve problems, and reflecting on their progress and feelings about their work. Julie uses hands-on activities and critical thinking problem sets to encourage children to learn in different ways. Being a teacher is more than a job, it’s a calling. It’s where I feel happiest and most content, as though the very reason I exist had been revealed.

Joe Kozak

Born in Philadelphia, PA (and a huge Eagles fan) Joe is proud to be a recent addition to the Leaves of Learning family! He graduated from Northwestern University with a B.S. in History. After calling Chicago home for ten years (Go Cubs) he met and married Elizabeth, the love of his life, but they soon relocated to Cincinnati, where they now share a house with two cats and a baby to be named later. He has taught some fun classes over the years including History, Reading, Mythology, Film Analysis, and Drama, and is happy to be adding Psychology and Law and Speech and Debate to the mix this year. When he is not teaching or directing at Leaves of Learning, he enjoys acting in community theatre. His theatre credits include “Paul” in Barefoot in the Park, “Gus” in It’s Only A Play, “Uncle Louie” in Lost in Yonkers, “Sidney” in the Stagecrafter’s production of Catch Me If You Can and “Owen” in the Beechmont Players’ production of The Foreigner. Joe looks forward to meeting all of the families and staff associated with the school, and is excited for the new school year.

Elena Licu

Elena has lived on two continents and attended school in three countries. She is fluent in Romanian, French and Italian. Elena loves to cook and bake with her LOL students. She enjoys listening to chamber music, and jogging in the company of her two dogs. Elena attended Law School in Bucharest, Romania, where she was born and raised. She continued her studies in Vancouver, Canada, where she focused on Criminology and Law. Elena married, and followed her husband to Cincinnati, Ohio, when he landed an engineering job in Aviation, at GE. She attended graduate school at University of Cincinnati on a full merit scholarship. Here, Elena earned her MS in Criminal Justice. As a doctoral student at UC, Elena taught Research Methods and Statistics for social sciences on campus, as well as facilitated distance learning for Criminal Justice graduate students. She conducted research, reviewed for the Security Journal, and published work in the areas of International Crime, Victimization, and Statistics, and Workplace Violence. When her first daughter was born, Elena became a homeschooling mom. In 2012, Elena and her two daughters joined the Leaves of Learning community. Ten years later, she is excited and honored to share her passion for cooking, languages, and social sciences with her students. Elena is looking forward to a great year at Leaves.

Julie Locker

Julie earned her B.A. in Performing & Media Arts from Cornell University and her M.A. in Acting from East 15 Acting School in London, where she completed a residency at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. She additionally has training and experience in several styles of dance, including ballet, tap, modern, hip hop, Bollywood, and Middle Eastern dance. She moved to Cincinnati for the acting internship at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, where she remains as both a teaching artist and a recurring performer, writer, and director for their Off the Grid series. She also teaches theatre with Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati and dance with Cincinnati Ballet, The Carnegie, and Pones, and additionally tutors academic subjects and SAT/ACT test prep. When she's not teaching, she's usually rehearsing or writing a play -- ask her about her upcoming projects!

Tara Maddock

Tara is a Geographer who enjoys learning and teaching about world cultures and the environment. She has degrees in Geography from the University of Hawaii (BA), University of Georgia (MA), and The Ohio State University (Ph.D.). Tara has taught geography and environmental courses at the University of Kentucky and Ohio University, and most recently the University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash Campus. She has also worked for the Mill Creek Watershed Council assisting local governments and residents with water quality and storm water management. In her spare time, Tara loves to read, try new restaurants with her husband and two teenagers, and explore local trails with her dog, Maya.

Sarah Mahoney

Sarah has been a part of the Leaves community for the past 8 years. Her two children attended Leaves for their preschool and elementary education. She has worked as a long-term substitute teacher and a tutor at Leaves. Sarah graduated from The University of Cincinnati in 2005 with an applied science degree in radiologic technology with a focus on physics and math. Sarah’s teaching approach is teaching the whole child, learning from them, and digging deep into their passions. Sarah is thrilled to be a permanent member of the staff and is excited to create an engaging learning environment where students feel happy, healthy, safe, engaged, and supported to explore new challenges.

Christina Matthews

Hi! My name is Christina, and I am the happy flower farmer-florist behind The Flower Lady LLC. I earned a BA in Mass Communications from Wright State University, and horticultural training through Berea College and The Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati. I specialize in growing flowers using organic growing practices, and create beautiful and fragrant solutions for just about every floral need. My primary focus is serving brides, private clients, local restaurants, and small businesses in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood where I live, work and garden. I also LOVE to teach my trade of flower farming-floristry. I am very grateful for the opportunity to grow and learn with the staff, students and families of Leaves of Learning.

Diana Mattson

Diana has a Chemical Engineering degree from Purdue University. She worked in Research and Development for a polymer manufacturer where she specialized in adhesives for food packaging applications. During her 9 years in industry, she earned several patents for adhesives in coextrusion applications. Diana's passion for teaching in the classroom was kindled after becoming involved in several science outreach programs that connected technical professionals with K-12 teachers and students. She decided to make the switch to teaching and has loved it ever since! Diana brings a practical and problem solving approach to the classroom. Her goal is to foster curiosity in students through a hands-on and process oriented science program.

Tiffany Medcalf

Tiffany is a mechanical engineer from Purdue University. She worked as a process engineer at Procter & Gamble and as a manufacturing engineer at Cummins (diesel engines) before joining Leaves. She is teaching engineering the way she wishes she had been taught—learning concepts through hands-on experiments first instead of deriving equations. In addition to understanding science and engineering concepts, she believes it is important for students to develop skills in teamwork, writing and communication, recording and interpreting data, and drawing conclusions.

Dr. Sara Neyer

Sara has an MEd in Secondary Education from Xavier University, a PhD in Educational Studies and Research Methods from the University of Cincinnati and a Teaching Writing certificate from Johns Hopkins University. She spent two decades in nonprofit management before finding her way back to education. Sara could probably have saved a lot of time by following her childhood dream of becoming “The Library Lady” who spent her days reading books with students and helping match students with the books of their dreams. She is thrilled to be reading and writing with the middle schoolers at Leaves. Sara and her husband, John, have two daughters: Hope, a public health major at American University and Kat, a Leaves student heading off to Hollins University. The family is moving to a small farm in Clermont County where Sara keeps adding to the list of things to grow and keep (apples, blackberries, cut flowers, goats and chickens, so far).

Diana Osborn

Diana is the founder of Leaves of Learning and has been the director since the beginning of the program. She loves working with children of all ages and has a passion and commitment to individualize education. She feels that while an education certainly provides skills and opportunities for a child's future, it is also an important part of the journey, and as such, should be enjoyed. She believes that education should meet children where they are and take them where they want to go, through caring guidance, enthusiasm and support. Her favorite moments at LOL are when students discover their talents and passions for learning. Diana has three children, all of whom attended Leaves of Learning. Her daughter has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Voice Performance and is currently pursuing a master's degree in vocal pathology. She has a son with a BS in mechanical engineering, and another son with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, materials science, and nanotechnology. Diana has taught Hands-on Science classes for NSF and L.O.L. She was a chemist for DuBois Chemical and a pharmaceutical representative for Whitehall Robbins. She holds a BS in Chemistry.

Amy Owens

With a degree from Ball State University School of Architecture, Amy Owens has practiced architecture in Georgia, Indiana and Ohio. She has also worked in the graphic arts field, owning her own design studio creating wedding and event stationery. Presently she is a homeschool mom of four boys who teaches lettering, calligraphy, and cursive to students all over the country. She is a certified instructor of the American Cursive Handwriting System created by Master Penman Michael Sull. She is a member of the International Association for Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH) and the Greater Cincinnati Calligrapher’s Guild. When not teaching or practicing calligraphy, you can find her hiking and enjoying the outdoors with her husband and sons.

Justine Patton

I am a Cincinnati native and have my B.A in Montessori Education from Xavier University. My husband and I have 4 and 6 year old sons. I have been on hiatus from teaching for the past 4 years to enjoy my family. I am excited to return! Montessori is a way of life for me. I have been a Montessori Teacher for 18 years. I love to watch the progression of children through the 3 year cycle. It is so wonderful to not only watch but participate in their development. By the time they complete the cycle, they have grown into confident, capable, curious and caring people. I treasure being apart of the process. I am so happy to have to opportunity to work at Leaves of Learning.

Brooke Powell

This is Brooke's first year at Leaves of Learning and she could not be more excited. Brooke received her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Political Science from The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!). She began her career in Nashville, TN as the co-editor and writer for one of the first country music news websites. After several years in the industry, Brooke decided she wanted to switch gears and go to paralegal school. She worked for several years in the legal field and continued that work when she moved back to Columbus, OH. She soon grew tired of sitting behind a desk all day and thought long and hard about what she was passionate about. She remembered a long-term sub position she did right out of college and realized she was meant to be a teacher. She got her Master's in Education from Antioch University and got her first teaching position in Columbus City Schools. Two years later, Brooke had her first child, moved back to Cincinnati, and decided to stay home with her children for the first few years of their lives. During that time, she started her own photography business (Brooke Adair Photography). Once her son entered first grade, she went back to teaching. Brooke lives with her husband, two children, and two cats. She is thrilled and blessed to be a part of your child's educational journey.

Layla Reed

Layla is an e-RYT 500 yoga teacher who has been teaching yoga for over eleven years. She graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and from Wright State University with a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She taught fifth and sixth grade for a few years before finding her calling teaching yoga. Layla loves creating community and connecting with people. Her classes reflect her welcoming and inclusive style. She is excited to invite Leaves of Learning students to the mat and explore all yoga has to offer. Her personal yoga practice is rooted in mindfulness, meditation, movement, and Ayurveda. Off the mat, Layla loves to cook, read, travel, listen to music, garden, bicycle, and hike. She and her husband adore their grey pitbull named Byrd.

Christie Sawyer

Christie has been at Leaves of Learning since 2003 and is the Assistant Director. Her commitment and positive attitude make her stand out as an effective teacher and administrator. She taught in Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago for five years before moving to Cincinnati. She has a master’s degree from Xavier University in educational administration and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Ohio University. She believes that experiencing the excitement and joy that a child expresses when he/she learns something new is one of the greatest benefits in the business of education. Christie loves to read, run, bike, travel and experience new and exciting things. She is looking forward to watching your children grow in their knowledge and enthusiasm during the upcoming year.

Jennifer Showalter

Jenny graduated from Miami University with a BA in mathematics and statistics and a BS in secondary mathematics education. She taught everything from algebra to calculus at Middletown High School for four years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. She taught part-time at Miami University Middletown. She has taught at Leaves of Learning since 2006. While teaching at Leaves, Jenny earned her master’s degree in education. She lives in Franklin with her husband, two children, three cats and one dog.

Sarah Skeggs

Sarah Skeggs is an engaging teacher known for her creativity and animatedpersonality. Her lifelong love of literature led to her pursuit of a career in language arts, and her enthusiasm and energy help foster a warm, welcoming environment where creativity can blossom. Sarah has a passion for Shakespeare, and is an engaging, energetic teacher who can't wait to continue the tradition of Shakespeare performance at Leaves! Sarah studied Shakespeare extensively in her graduate program at Xavier University, closely analyzing A Merchant of Venice in her coursework. While at Walnut Hills, she attended Cincinnati Shakespeare Company productions with English classes; Sarah has also taught AP English Literature, in which her class read and discussed Hamlet and Macbeth. Sarah received her B.A. from Ohio University in Psychology, where she also cultivated skills in social science, film, media studies, and art. She earned her Professional Licensure in Secondary Education, Integrated Language Arts, grades 7­12 and M.Ed. from Xavier University. Sarah also enjoys swimming, hiking at her favorite parks, and animals (especially dogs).

Rick Sowash

Rick Sowash is an accomplished composer, author, publisher, storyteller and filmmaker. You might ask how Rick became a teacher at Leaves of Learning! In 2013 he spent a day here presenting his touring program to our language arts classes and was taken with the students and program. He inquired about the possibility of becoming more involved, and the rest is history! All his life, Rick Sowash, 64, has loved stories and music. He has earned most of his living by weaving the stories of his native Ohio into books which he writes, publishes, and markets himself. His books include Ripsnorting Whoppers: A Book of Ohio Tall Tales; Critters, Flitters and Spitters: 24 Amazing Ohio Animal Tales; Heroes of Ohio: 23 True Tales of Courage and Character, and The Boy Who Would Be Famous (a comical boyhood autobiography.) Over the past twenty five years Rick has presented storytelling assemblies based on his books at more than 2000 Ohio schools, entertaining and inspiring more than 750,000 students. Rick is also a filmmaker, having written, produced, and starred in two documentaries, Johnny Appleseed and Storytelling Know-How for Teachers, Preachers, & Speechifiers. But Rick’s true calling is the composition of classical music. He publishes sheet music and produces CD recordings of his 400+ compositions. Rick’s music has been featured in several film scores for Florentine Films, Ken Burns's production company. His cello concerto was premiered in Carnegie Hall in April of 2007. His newest major work, Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, was recently recorded by the St. Petersburg Symphony in St. Petersburg, Russia. His music has been performed many times in Europe and many, many times in the United States, and his CDs are broadcast regularly on classical music stations all over North America. He has also been an elected public official, an arts administrator, a classical music radio broadcaster, an innkeeper, and a church music director. Rick lives in Cincinnati with Jo, his wife of 42 years. They have two children, poet/teacher Shenandoah, 32, and trombonist/chef Chapman, 28.

Jessica Summers

Jess has been active in the photography field as a professional for over 3 years with her company, 'Say Yes To Jess', but she has been a practicing photographer for over 10 years. Jess has a background in digital arts, video and business. In the past couple years she has taught several after school enrichment classes to children looking to further their skills in the arts. She is excited to be able to share her passion for photography with Leave's students.

Elizabeth Tillis-Gilland

Elizabeth loves the hands-on philosophy LOL embraces, the passion with which children are encouraged to learn, and the opportunities for success LOL provides. She is excited to meet her students and delve into learning with them! Elizabeth has a B.A. in International Affairs and a M.Ed. in Elementary Education from the University of Cincinnati and is a certified teacher. She taught sixth grade at Freedom Elementary in the Lakota school district for five years. She has also tutored children in math, reading, and writing. Elizabeth believes strongly in creating a nurturing learning environment in which children are supported in their individual learning styles. As the workshop facilitator for the Bullies and Victims program, she worked with students, parents, and educators throughout the Greater Cincinnati area to teach strategies to eliminate bullying. Additionally she has been a teacher at Camp Invention. Her son, Evan, attended Leaves of Learning for 10 wonderful years before graduating and heading off to college. Elizabeth enjoys reading, cross-stitch, playing board and card games with her son and husband, and attending cultural events.

Justin West

Justin West is a composer and artist whose work integrates sound, electronics, and installation. As a member of the art collective Intermedio, Justin creates interactive and immersive musical experiences using speakers, computer programming, and live performers. His installations create spaces where observers become participants. Throughout his work he explores the roles of composer, conductor, performer, instrument, and listener -- what they are and what they will become in the age of the bit. His artwork and performances have been featured at the Contemporary Arts Center, BLINK, Eaux Claires music festival, and most recently with a new outdoor installation called “Twist” in the Court Street corridor in downtown Cincinnati. Justin was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1988. He received his B.M. in Music Composition from Heidelberg University in 2011.

Madelaine Wilkerson

Madelaine is a performer with a background in Musical Theater, Jazz, and Rock and Roll performance. She attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA where she earned a Bachelor’s of Music in Jazz Vocal Performance and then began a Master’s in K-12 Music Education. She left the master’s program in order to work in private childcare while working as a performer for the next several years. She returned to the Cincinnati area in 2015 and continued working in the performance arts as the front woman for a local wedding/ event band while also managing 2 local businesses and volunteering with various community theater groups. Madelaine left her role as a general manager in order to be able to dedicate more time to the performing arts and is thrilled to be teaching at Leaves in the 2022-2023 school year. She has a deep love for choral music and musical theater and is delighted to be sharing the joy of music and theater with students of all ages.

Jennifer Wilkey

Jennifer Wilkey loves learning and teaching about the languages and cultures of the ancient world. Before parenthood, she taught Latin I through Advanced Placement Latin at St. Ursula Academy. She has an MA in Classical Archaeology from the University of Cincinnati, and a BA in History and Classics from Indiana University. She has traveled all over the Mediterranean on excavations and study abroad trips, and even spent a summer at the legendary site of Troy in Turkey. She homeschools her two daughters and loves camping, historical fiction, and crochet.