Meet Our Team
Dr. Susan Toohey
Head of SchoolAbout Me
Dr. Susan Toohey - Head of School
“I love working with the scholars of Nelson Mandela Elementary School because they are our future and I have so much passion for education and I know that they will be the ones to change our city, our state and our world. I am thrilled that I will be able to join them on this exciting journey! I know that they will teach me so much and I am grateful.”- Dr. Susan Toohey
Dr. Susan Toohey is an Omaha native and has a vast array of educational experiences. She attended the Omaha Public Schools through eighth grade, and then graduated from Marian in 1982.
Susan graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with teaching degrees in Earth Science and Social Sciences in 1986. After teaching for one year in Colorado, Susan and her husband Mike returned to Omaha where she taught social studies, English and drama for OPS while also working to complete her Masters in Administration at UNO. Susan then accepted the position of Social Studies Supervisor for the Omaha Public Schools which included: textbook selection, standards alignment to state standards, teacher observation and coaching, curriculum alignment and strategic planning . After serving as supervisor and middle school liaison she then returned to a school setting as the Data Processor and Assistant Principal at Lewis and Clark Middle School.
In 2009, she accepted the position of Head of School at Marian, an all-girls Catholic high school and was responsible for fund-raising and the day to day administration of the high school. In 2012, Mrs. Susan Toohey became Dr. Susan Toohey after successfully completing her doctorate at Creighton University. In 2014, The Lozier Foundation offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to begin a unique, dynamic, creative, community-based , free, private school and Susan was compelled to return to her urban education roots and take on this amazing adventure.
Genevive Core - Principal
Genevive (Grant) Core was born and raised in North Omaha. She attended Belvedere Elementary, McMillan Jr. High, and graduated from South High School in 1994. She began her career as a first grade teacher at Walnut Hill Elementary. During her first year, she obtained her Masters degree through the Cadre program at UNO. The next year she was placed at Florence Elementary, where she spent 14 years teaching second grade.
In 2013, Genevive began a new position as the Instructional Facilitator and Academic Data Representative at Martin Luther King Elementary School. She enjoyed being an Instructional leader and supporting the staff, students, and families. She loved her position so much that she decided to go back to school for administration. She is currently attending Doane University and will graduate with a Masters degree in Administration in May of 2019. Genevive is married to her supportive husband Marcus. They share six wonderful children together... Khalil(22), LaRon(21), Veronica(18), TreVaughn(12), Janae(6), and Janessa(3).
Genevive states, “It is truly an honor to be at Nelson Mandela Elementary as the Assistant Principal. Ever since they renovated Blessed Sacrament in 2013, I’ve wanted to be a part of the beacon of light that was being transformed into Nelson Mandela.The hope that is instilled in every scholar will assist them through their life journey. I can’t wait to see them grow, learn, and thrive.!”
Assistant PrincipalAbout Me
Joe Murray - Assistant Principal
“We have, not an opportunity, but an obligation to serve the youth and families in our community.”
This is the mentality that was instilled into Joe Murray’s life at a young age. As he attended his Grandmother’s daycare as a young man, Mr. Murray was taught how to care for those younger than him very early in his life. He stuck to that path and followed it all the way into education.
Upon graduating from Omaha Northwest Highschool, Joe attended Northwest Missouri State University to study Elementary Education. After graduating in 2010, he accepted his first full-time teaching job 6 months later at Minne Lusa Elementary. He worked as a 5th Grade teacher for 3 years before shifting his path to private school and moving to Jesuit Academy as a 4th Grade teacher. During his 6-year stint at Jesuit he served the community, gained many mentors, and acquired his Masters in Educational Leadership in 2019. It was soon after that he sought out the Assistant Principal job at Nelson Mandela Elementary.
As he closes out the first decade of his career in North Omaha, Mr. Murray feels that he is “coming home” as he starts his first year at Nelson Mandela. He is excited to serve the scholars, families, and community as we continue to thrive. He joins the Meerkat Family with his wife Mallory, and his two sons Elijah and Myles. In July they welcomed home their first girl, Ivy.
Receptionist and Administrative AssistantAbout Me
Stacy Hudson - Receptionist and Administrative Assistant
Stacy Hudson is an Omaha native who worked at North High School for over ten years. For the last eleven years, she has kept herself busy as a homemaker. Stacy volunteered previously at her daughter's school where she has served on several committees and boards, Head Volleyball coach and Assistant Basketball coach. Her mission is to be active in children’s lives. Stacy is looking forward to being part of the Nelson Mandela Elementary family as a receptionist/assistant. She trusts their mission will effectively educate children while improving the community.
Speech PathologistAbout Me
Liz Anderson - Speech Pathologist
Liz Anderson grew up in Omaha and graduated from Millard South High School. In 2002, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Liz continued her education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and graduated in 2004 with a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology. Liz has worked in a variety of settings as a Speech-Language Pathologist with most of her service in pediatrics. She has experience working with patients aged 1 - 21 years and has treated diagnoses including autism, apraxia of speech, expressive and receptive language delays, phonological and articulation disorders, auditory processing disorders, social skills, aphasia, dysphagia, fluency, voice, traumatic brain injury and several other speech and language disorders.
The past five years she has worked in Omaha Public Schools providing services to children aged 3 - 12 years. She is a strong advocate for early intervention. Liz has four young children of her own and has grown as a Speech-Language Pathologist through experiencing child development first-hand as a parent.
In the fall of 2015, Liz will begin working at Nelson Mandela Elementary. "I am so excited to work with the students, families, and staff at Nelson Mandela Elementary. There is no better feeling in the world than when a child learns new speech and language skills and becomes a better communicator both in and out of the classroom."
Jaylan Ashley -Para-Educator
Jaylan Ashley is new to the Mandela team as of 2019. Mr. Ashley was born here in Omaha NE. He is passionate about working with kids, and he loves music. He’s excited to share those passions with the scholars at Mandela. Mr. Ashley says, “Mandela is a great place for kids to learn and grow.”
Riannon Bell - Culinary
Riannon Bell is an Omaha native that grew-up in the Ponca Hills area. She attended St. Phillip Neri, a National Catholic Educational Association grade school located in Florence, NE from kindergarten through 8th grade. She attended OPS North High Magnet School until 1995. Riannon started her culinary career in 1998 studying various cuisines including American Southwestern, Creole Cajun, French and Greek Mediterranean. She used her skills to start a career at Omaha Public Schools in 2007 as a kitchen assistant and becoming certified by the National Restaurant Association in ServSafe training.
Riannon transitioned to a traveling manager position assisting the central kitchen which distributes lunches to seven other OPS satellite kitchens. Riannon took a short hiatus in 2014 when she had her second son. She is an advocate for organic and locally sourced foods. Thanks to the Lozier Foundation, Riannon has the opportunity to use her collective culinary talents to serve the students of Nelson Mandela Elementary School.
She states, “I am very thankful and appreciative to be part of such a one of a kind and community serving institution like Nelson Mandela Elementary School. I am looking forward to the start of the school year, GO MEERKATS!”
Shiree Bonner - Para-Educator
Shiree Bonner is new to Nelson Mandela in 2019. Shiree Bonner graduated from Omaha North High School. She grew up in a military family, and she lived in many places, including the east and west coasts. Ms. Bonner has always had a passion for kids, between caring for her own daughters, Ariana and Shylee, and working in various places with kids of all ages. Ms. Bonner’s main passion is working with kids; she says, “It’s an incredible reward and joy when a scholar amazes you in what they do. I just want to see them grow, learn and be successful. I am very thankful to be a part of such an awesome team.”
Angela Bultez - Para-Educator
We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. -Maya Angelou
Angela Bultez was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. She attended Omaha Public Schools from elementary through high school and graduated from Northwest High School. Ms. Bultez started working for Omaha Public Schools at Springville Elementary as a paraprofessional, where she worked for 4 years. After that, she spent 2 years working as a restaurant manager. She then returned to the school system to work at King Elementary, because she knew her passion was working with kids.
Now, besides working at Nelson Mandela, she is attending classes at Metro Community College for an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education.
4th Grade TeacherAbout Me
Callie Burks - 4th Grade Teacher
Callie Burks joined the Mandela team in 2019. Before Mandela, she worked in the Omaha Public School (OPS) District for nine years, working with grades 3-6. She was also a Spalding Coach within OPS for two years. As of the summer of 2019, she became a certified Spalding Instructor. She loves working at Mandela and is passionate about teaching. She states, “Mandela is a great place for kids to learn and grow.”
Maurice Cotton - Para-Educator
Maurice Cotton is a native of Omaha. He is a graduate of Omaha Central High School and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Communication at Creighton University. Maurice has over 15 years of experience working with children. As Program Director at the Mid-America Council, Boy Scouts of America, Maurice received great experience working with OPS after-school programs and OPS staff. Maurice is also an Assistant Scoutmaster at troop #362. Prior to scouting Maurice had the privilege of working with the late, great Dr. Joe Edmonson at the Edmonson Youth Outreach Y.M.C.A., where he was a Director of the radio and broadcast journalism program as well Coordinator for after-school programming. Maurice enjoys cooking barbeque as well as well spending time with family and friends!
Lynette Dacus - Para-Educator
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who protest prepare for it today.” - Malcolm X
Omaha, Nebraska native. Lynette attended Omaha Catholic Schools and graduated from Marian High in 1986. She has been in education for ten years, working as an In-School Suspension Facilitator at Blackburn Alternative and Westside High School and as the Pac Facilitator at Franklin Elementary
Lynette has served as a chaperone for the non-profit Condors drill team for over 15 years, chaperoning anywhere from 15-20 youth (ages 7 to 18) who fundraise to travel to different states to perform. Their most recent trip was to Las Vegas to perform in the Martin Luther King Day parade. Lynette is excited to be a part of the Nelson Mandela Family!
Violin and Art TeacherAbout Me
Jessica Davis - Violin and Art Teacher
Jessica Davis is a teacher, musician and artist. She started studying the Suzuki Violin Method when she was six years old. She graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy and earned her Bachelors of Music Education from Bowling Green State University with University Honors under Dr. Penny Thompson Kruse and her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Painting at Bowling Green State University and Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy.
During her undergraduate studies, Davis lived in Empire, Colorado in the summers, and worked as the art director for an Easter Seals camp. Being introduced to a wide range of people with disabilities, Davis started pursing programs that offer musical and artistic opportunities to underprivileged students and people with disabilities. After graduation, Davis moved to Shizuoka, Japan and taught English through the Japan Exchange Teaching Program for two years. She played with the Hamamatsu Symphony Orchestra and studied Japanese ceramics and painting.
Currently, Jessica is a violin artist-faculty at the Omaha Conservatory of Music and Lead Teacher for the String Sprouts Program at Nelson Mandela Elementary and Cody Elementary. She believes that music is a way to empower youth, build confidence, and bridge ability gaps.
Michael Davis - Paraeducator
Michael Davis joined the Nelson Mandela team in 2019. Mr. Davis was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Blue Springs South High School where he served as a big brother/mentor to elementary and middle school youth. He then went on to graduate from Missouri State University. Currently, outside of Nelson Mandela, Mr. Davis owns his own audio company, MD Audio. He is a musician of all trades, acting as a drummer, singer, and live sound engineer to bands like Diamond Empire Band. Mr. Davis is enthusiastic about working at Mandela and being able to share his love for music with kids, he states, “I am very excited to be a part of the Mandela Staff.”
4th Grade TeacherAbout Me
LC Doss - 4th Grade Teacher
LC Doss is a native of Omaha. In 2007 he graduated from Omaha Benson High. After Benson, LC went on to Ellsworth Community College where he excelled on the basketball court as well as the classroom. He achieved 2nd team All American while also earning an Associate’s in Criminal Justice and Fire Science. In 2010 he was awarded a scholarship to attend Eastern Illinois University. In 2012 he earned his Bachelor's in Sociology. In 2019, he graduated from the College of St. Mary with a Masters Degree in Education.
Doss comes from a variety of child focused and educational settings. He had most recently been a support teacher at Children’s Square in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He also coaches youth and high school basketball at Millard South. He is also a Title 1 tutor with OPS and the 100 Black Men Saturday Academy. Doss is entering his fifth year at Nelson Mandela, and it is his first year teaching.
“He states, I am very thankful to have an opportunity to work with the Nelson Mandela team.”
5th Grade TeacherAbout Me
Annette Foster - 5th Grade Teacher
“Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”-Michelle Obama
Annette Foster holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and an endorsement in Special Education from Creighton University in Omaha. She also has a Master of Science degree in Reading from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has worked for the Omaha Public School system as an elementary and middle school teacher for 35 years until her retirement in the spring of 2014. Annette has taught undergraduate and graduate students, managed after school tutoring programs, designed and written various curriculum and programs and has been a member of numerous educational committees. Along with her daughter, Antoinette Davis, Annette is co-founder of Power of Words Literacy. Part of its mission is to encourage reading, so Power of Words co-hosts literacy fairs with various schools which include games, crafts and free books at no cost to participants.
Annette’s mission is to inspire her students to be the best they can be in all areas of their lives. She believes every student is unique and has a purpose. She encourages them to explore their talents and interests. She anticipates their needs and keeps them actively engaged in their own learning by using various assessments as tools followed by best practices in education. She believes educators teach more than subjects and concepts, they teach the whole person. She holds her students to high expectations and they know in no uncertain terms that she expects them to achieve. In response to why she is excited to teach the students at Nelson Mandela Elementary she states, “The reward in teaching is the satisfaction of knowing that I make a difference. When I teach, I have the joy of knowing that I was a part of inspiring a generation of teachers, doctors, lawyers, athletes and others. I may never see the end result of my teaching in a student’s life, but I know that I’ve played a part in planting the seeds.”
1st Grade TeacherAbout Me
Sadé Henley - 1st Grade Teacher
"I Am, Because We Are, And Because We Are, Therefore I Am!"
Mrs. Henley states, “This is an African Proverb that stands firm within my life. To me, it signifies that in order to become successful in life we all have to work together to become better. I am because of my ancestors, because of those who have come before me, and because of the scholars who step into my classroom or my life to gain the knowledge and expertise to become who they want to be in the future. We are all a part of a complete 360 that continues to start over and over again and in order to do our best, we have to give our best. My best is teaching and raising scholars.”
Mrs. Henley was born and raised in Omaha, NE where she attended Howard Kennedy Elementary, Minne Lusa Elementary, McMillan Magnet Center, and Omaha North High School. She graduated from Omaha North High School in 2004 and went on to attend the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and Omaha. While attending college she worked for the Great Plains Girl Scouts of America and the CLC program through OPS. In 2008, she received her Bachelor's of Arts in Communications with a Focus on Journalism and Emphasis in Black Studies. After graduating she continued her work with the Great Plains Girls Scouts of America and the CLC programs through Omaha Public Schools, while also working as a telemarketer.
In Mid 2012, Mrs. Henley became a Paraeducator at Walnut Hill Elementary School, where she served in the Kindergarten and First Grade classrooms. During her time there she was awarded the opportunity to go back to school to obtain a Teaching Certificate through OPS's Para to Educator Program. In 2016 she received her Masters in Education with an endorsement in Early Childhood Education and an emphasis in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
She then began her teaching career at Belvedere Elementary School teaching kindergarten for four years prior to transferring to Mandela, where she is teaching first grade.
Mrs. Henley is happily married to her husband James, with whom she shares a blended family of four beautiful daughters Dakiya, Dakota, Inaya, and Najah.
OTD, OTR/L, Occupational TherapistAbout Me
Kerrie Ivey - OTD, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist
Dr. Kerrie Ivey grew up in Omaha and is a graduate of Omaha Northwest High School. Kerrie graduated in 2006 from Creighton University with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. Kerrie is an experienced pediatric occupational therapist who has worked at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, UNMC- Munroe Meyer Institute as a school based therapist in the Omaha Public Schools, and as a consultant for Phoenix Academy.
Kerrie is passionate about education and is dedicated to equipping our youth with the tools that will instill the confidence and ability to pursue meaningful learning activities by teaching foundational skills from a developmental perspective. Kerrie will use her expertise in the area of development to work with students and teachers to address the student's needs in the classroom. She will use a holistic and multisensory approach to help facilitate the Mandela students' optimal participation in the classroom.
“I am honored to be able to be a part of Nelson Mandela Elementary in it’s infancy. This is a unique opportunity to develop something great for children and I share the vision of empowering students through education. My role as an occupational therapist will be to address the needs of the students from a developmental and holistic approach that will allow them to be active, engaged learners."
1st Grade TeacherAbout Me
Tracy Jones - 1st Grade Teacher
Tracy Jones is a native of Omaha and a graduate of Benson High School. Tracy received an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education shortly after graduating high school. While working in the Early Childhood field for more than 10 years, Tracy’s strong desire to work with low income families and children encouraged her to pursue a degree in Human Social Services Administration while working for Early Head Start. Tracy worked with Early Head Start as a home visitor for 3 years which allowed her to go into homes and work with pregnant and parenting women connecting them with resources in the community and providing parenting and child development coaching. Tracy was promoted after receiving her undergraduate degree as the Family Development Coordinator for the Early Head Start Program which allowed her to supervise Home Visitors that worked with the families in the community and take on numerous administrative duties. During 9 years of supervision for the EHS program Tracy wanted to pursue her childhood dream of teaching. In January of 2010 she received a Masters of Education in Elementary Education. She began teaching Kindergarten for Omaha Public Schools and during that time she continued her studies in Education and received a 2 nd Graduate Degree in Educational Administration which was completed in February 2016!
“I am so excited to have the opportunity teach at Nelson Mandela and give back to the community that I grew up in! I am honored to be a part of the Mandela team. I look forward to continuing my journey in education and I am eager for the wonderful experiences ahead here at Nelson Mandela Elementary! Although I come with 25+ years of experience in Early Childhood/Elementary Education, I am very excited to learn more ways in which I can be more instrumental in the lives of our children and give all I have to make each child I come in contact with successful!”
Kindergarten TeacherAbout Me
Amanda Krier – Kindergarten Teacher
Amanda graduated from Papillion La Vista High School in 2013 and went on to pursue her degree in Elementary Education at Wayne State College. After graduating in December of 2017, she started work as a substitute teacher for Omaha Public Schools, Ralston Public Schools, and Papillion La Vista Community Schools. She is currently pursuing her masters degree in curriculum and instruction and will finish in May of 2020. Working with scholars is her passion. She loves helping scholars develop their social, emotional, and academic skills. Amanda believes that Nelson Mandela's unique approach to learning helps prepare scholars for the future by teaching them vital skills they can carry with them for life.
Amanda states, “Nelson Mandela Elementary is a family full of supporting individuals, all dedicated to the success of scholars. It is a warm and inviting place to be.”
2nd Grade TeacherAbout Me
Kwin Kunkle - 2nd Grade Teacher
After wrapping up her tenth year in Omaha Public Schools, Kwin is excited to be a part of the Nelson Mandela Team. Kwin is an Omaha native, graduating from Central High School in 2003. She completed her Bachelors of Science with a focus in Elementary Education at Creighton University in 2007 and her Masters in Reading with English as a Second Language endorsement at Concordia University in 2010. Her teaching career began in 2007 in first grade in OPS; after also teaching second grade and ESL, she is excited to be back to the scholars in grade one!
Kwin has a particular interest in childhood wellness; reaching the whole child is her mission in teaching. She became a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher in 2013 and studied Mindfulness Fundamentals and Curriculum Training with Mindful Schools in 2015. Her varied educational experiences really transformed her teaching. This passion led her to develop a curriculum dedicated to childhood wellness in education. In addition to the classroom, Kwin has taught wellness classes with the Neighborhood Offshore, Omaha Girls Rock, Omaha Outward Bound, Girl Scouts of Nebraska, and University of Nebraska Omaha.
Kwin is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the unique learning environment at Mandela and looks forward to getting to know her students, their families, and the school community!
Daphne Krzemien - Paraeducator
Daphne Krzemien is a Nebraska native, born here in Omaha. She is passionate about working with kids, having previously worked with the Hillside Elementary after school program. She loves working at Mandela and the scholars. She says, “It’s a place where we can accomplish a lot and see the growth of young scholars.”
4th Grade TeacherAbout Me
Jessica Lahman - 4th Grade Teacher
Jessica joins the Mandela team this year as she begins her 6th year teaching. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Jessica attended University of Nebraska at Omaha where she received her Bachelors degree in Grades 4-9 Math and Spanish Education. Continuing at UNO, she earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in STEM through the CADRE Program. Her first five years teaching were spent with Omaha Public Schools in an eighth grade math classroom. Jessica is thrilled to begin teaching scholars at Nelson Mandela Elementary. She is eager to help scholars find their thirst for knowledge and to build strong relationships with the scholars and their families. She most loves watching them grow into kind and well-rounded humans. It is an honor to join the mission of Nelson Mandela and one that she eagerly implements in her classroom.
She often states, "How can anybody have a bad day when little people are always hugging you?"”
3rd Grade TeacherAbout Me
Ryan Margheim - 3rd Grade Teacher
Ryan Margheim was born in South Sioux City, Nebraska. He grew up in Mitchell, South Dakota after moving there in the second grade. Seeking a faster pace of life, he moved to North Carolina in 1999 to attend a small liberal arts school called Elon University. Ryan majored in technical theatre and in time became a professional stage manager, working at theatres across the east coast. He eventually settled in Charlotte, and took a position at the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, located in ImaginOn, a partnership with the Children’s Library, where he discovered his passion for working with children and children’s literature.
Ryan decided to go back to school to become an elementary teacher to make a difference in the lives of children. He took an opportunity to move to Omaha, where he would be much closer to his family, and where he would finally be able to find high quality, squeaky cheese curds. In the Spring of 2017, after finishing his degree long-distance, Ryan graduated with high honors from Guilford College with a B.A. in Elementary Education, and a minor in English. Calling Omaha home since August 2015, Ryan loves everything the city has to offer. When he isn't in the classroom, he enjoys his three dogs, cooking, trying out the city’s vibrant restaurant scene, and organizing his office supplies.
Ryan is excited to join the Nelson Mandela team because he is passionate about urban education and bridging achievement gaps. He not only believes that all children can learn, but that they deserve to be held to high expectations, and celebrated when those expectations are met and surpassed. A classroom, and a school is a family, and Ryan is excited to be joining the Nelson Mandela family.
KaSheena Maxwell - Library/Technology
KaSheena Maxwell is an Omaha native who has dedicated her time and knowledge to increase college readiness for students in various communities. She and her husband have three children. As proud parents, the Maxwell’s put education and diligence as the top priority within their home. KaSheena attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha and, since the birth of her last child, recently returned to school to finish her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. KaSheena has served as an active employee for Omaha Public Schools for ten years.
KaSheena has worked after school programs assisting children in areas of math, reading, science, and enrichment programs. Through funding provided by LEGO Mindstorms, she taught children how to build, control, and manage software to operate their own robots. As an employee of OPS, KaSheena has taken advantage of training programs offered through the company for new software applications. She has earned three certificates from Metropolitan Community College for Conversational Spanish and has also worked with colleagues for Lead Coalition Education through the UNO Sociology Department.
She states, “I’m excited to embark on a new journey with a company that is passionate about all students in the community.” The program is an amazing curriculum that will offer a chance to be competitive and engage students in a divergent technique of learning. She is passionate about inspiring and motivating children to be better than their circumstances. Maxwell states, “Many people will judge you based upon where you live. Majority of these students have no control over that area in life. They can show the world how intelligent they are while upholding respect, nobility, and grandeur about themselves. You may be in your habitat but you do not have to be a product of your domain if your environment is not conducive to your success.” As Nelson Mandela said, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
2nd Grade TeacherAbout Me
Mattkia Montgomery - 2nd Grade Teacher
Kia Montgomery was born and raised in Omaha, NE, and is a mother of one. She graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Inclusive (PreK-3rd grade) from Wayne State College and her Master’s Degree in Special Education from UNO. Throughout her teaching experience, she has taught second grade and worked as a special educator.
Her goal as an educator is to build independent, proactive thinkers and leaders, provide a fun, yet structured learning environment where scholars feel safe, and help learners reach their highest potential. She states, “I am excited to bring my enthusiasm for teaching to Nelson Mandela Elementary.”
4th Grade TeacherAbout Me
Alisa Moore - 4th Grade Teacher
Alisa Moore is an Omaha native who grew up in the heart of the city. She enjoys exploring hidden parts of the city and partaking in new experiences with her friends and acquaintances. Alisa has strived to make an impact on her community and feels that teaching gives her the opportunity to aid in her success. As a product of the OPS school system from Kindergarten to twelfth grade, Alisa credits her education for many of her accomplishments in 29 years.
After graduating from Omaha North High in 2009 Alisa took her talents to University of Nebraska at Omaha where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 2014. During her time at the University, Alisa was and is currently a member of an assortment of organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta, NSSLHA, and NCNW. After receiving her degree Alisa also joined Urban League Young Professionals and continues community work on a regular basis. University of Nebraska Omaha laid the foundation and paved the way for Alisa’s aspirations in early childhood education.
She truly believes that children are the future and her mission is to be a vessel to assist in expanding a child’s mind and help them reach their full potential. Her true passion shines through in the presence of children with the eagerness to learn and grow. She has been called to help children and further their education by being an early influence in their education process. By retaining a position at Nelson Mandela Elementary Alisa has gained the opportunity to explore her passion and is excited to change the world, one child at a time.
She often states, "How can anybody have a bad day when little people are always hugging you?"”
Volunteer CoordinatorAbout Me
Amanda Myroniuk - Volunteer Coordinator
Amanda Myroniuk is originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota. She comes to Omaha and Nelson Mandela through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps-a year-long service organization that encourages its volunteers to be intentional about social justice, simple/sustainable living, community, and spirituality.
Amanda attended Minnesota Public Schools until 2015, when she graduated from Eastview High School. She went on to attend St. Olaf College, and just recently graduated in May of 2019 with a degree in Dance and English. At St. Olaf, Amanda studied choreography, dance history, arts management, and poetry. During the summers she worked at both Lake Wapogasset and Ox Lake Bible Camp in Amery, Wisconsin as a counselor, staff support member, and team leader.
Maya Angelous said: "Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls." When working with children, Amanda believes that both patience and passion are required.
Amanda states, "I am excited to be working at Nelson Mandela with a passionate team of educators that believe in this school and its scholars."
1st Grade TeacherAbout Me
Clarissa Redick - 1st Grade Teacherh4>
Clarissa Redick was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. She received her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education from Metropolitan Community College in 2009, and her Bachelor’ Degree with an endorsement in Early Childhood from Concordia University in 2018. This is her 12th year in education. Previously, she taught second grade in OPS at Belvedere Elementary. Before teaching 2nd grade she was a Kindergarten Paraprofessional.
Mrs. Redick is married with 3 children: Desiree’, Keilan, and Tre’lan. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Mrs. Redick states, “I am so excited to join the Nelson Mandela Team!”
Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today. -Malcolm X
Kate Pomrenke - Para-Educator
Kate Pomrenke grew up in the small town of Orange City, Iowa. There, she graduated from MOC-Floyd Valley High School. She has a variety of educational experiences, specifically in the arts and music.
Kate graduated from Aurora University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music in 2015. She then went on to earn a Master of Music degree from Bowling Green State University. In her studies and performances, she focused on classical music and opera. Throughout her collegiate career, Kate taught and facilitated a variety of musical educational experiences including vocal lessons, choral programs and rehearsals, and music classes.
After receiving her master’s degree, she traveled throughout Europe for a summer, practicing her language, artistic and cultural immersion skills with nothing but a backpack. When she returned to the U.S., she worked as an Executive Assistant for Catholic Charities at The Diocese of Toledo in Ohio while also singing for Toledo Opera Chorus and Toledo’s Rosary Cathedral. While living and working in Ohio, she focused on furthering her musical career and auditioned for a variety of musical positions.
In Spring of 2018, she was offered a position at Opera Omaha as a Holland Community Opera Fellow. Kate moved to Omaha in July of 2018 for the position. Through Opera Omaha, she worked as a partner with Nelson Mandela Elementary, working with Meerkat Melodies and the after-school Opera Creative Program. During her time at Opera Omaha, Kate also facilitated a variety of arts and music programming at many Omaha organizations including Omaha Public Libraries, Ollie Webb Inc., Gotta Be Me, Siena Francis, MICAH House, Collective For Youth, Intercultural Senior Center, Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility, Union for Contemporary Art, and KidsCan. While off-contract from Opera Omaha in the summertime, Kate worked for Travel For Teens, where she led and supervised cultural immersion and educational trips throughout Europe for high school students.
While working with Meerkat Melodies in the partnership with Opera Omaha, Kate found a lot of joy being at Nelson Mandela Elementary working with the students. Upon her completion of her contract with Opera Omaha, she decided to continue gaining educational experience with students and an institution she already knows and strongly believes in.
“I am so privileged to work with the amazing scholars at Nelson Mandela Elementary. They are extremely talented and smart, and I learn and grow every single day I spend with them. These students deserve the best, and I’m excited to be at an institution that provides that.”
1st Grade TeacherAbout Me
Bajah Pittman - 1st Grade Teacher
Ms. Pittman is currently a student at College of St. Mary in pursuit of her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Special Education and an endorsement in Inclusion. She is maintaining a 4.0 g.p.a. while taking classes full time, mothering two teenagers (Jadai 17 and Vincent 15), and working full time with Nelson Mandela (previous experience Conestoga and Standing Bear of OPS). She loves to build relationships, empower families, and be a team player. In her spare time she loves to sing, cook, and enjoy family time.
2nd Grade TeacherAbout Me
Bianca Sherman - 2nd Grade Teacher
Bianca Sherman graduated from University Nebraska-Omaha with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Her teaching career began with Omaha Public Schools at Minne Lusa, where she taught 4th grade for two years. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her two daughters, Laila and Zhuri!
Bianca states, “Every child has… the right to be respected… the right to dream… the right to be loved and cared for… gifts that should be recognized and valued… the right to achieve their potential… the need for unconditional love”
Bailey Shirley - Para Educator
Bailey Shirley was born and raised in Sidney, Iowa. Her father (Brian) is a farmer, and her mother (Marcie) is an accountant. She has one younger brother, Brock.
She attended Sidney Elementary and graduated from Sidney High School in 2013. She attended College of Saint Mary where she studied Secondary Education. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Education in 2018 from College of Saint Mary. She also has a minor in Spanish. She did her student teaching in Sidney, Iowa.
Her first education job was Kids Can. She then got asked to join the awesome Meerkat family. She had to take a short break to continue her schooling. After her schooling she was asked to be a special education para in her hometown. Last summer she worked at the YMCA as a preschool teacher/lead. She has worked nearly 4 years with children of all ages. She has taught all the way from preschool to seniors in high school.
“Sometimes the thing your students need most, has nothing to do with what’s on the lesson plan”
Title I SupportAbout Me
Alice Smith - Title I Support
Alice Smith provides support to our scholars through Title I. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the purpose of Title 1 funding, “is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.”
Family Support CoordinatorAbout Me
Monica Wells - Family Support Coordinator
Monica R. Wells serves as the Family Support Coordintor at Nelson Mandela Elementary in Omaha, Nebraska and has been working with inner city youth through education and mentoring for over 15 years. Monica’s personal mission has always been to inspire others to be happy, confident, and believe in their full potential.
Monica Wells dedication to her community has shined through the many organizations, committees, and boards she has served on throughout the Greater Omaha Area. Monica currently serves as Board Vice President for African Culture Connections, serves on the Diversity Committee for the Human Resource Association of the Midland, she is a Glass Class representative for the Anti-Defamation League of Nebraska, and an active member through TeamMates mentoring program, Sacred Heart Catholic Schools mentoring program, and the College of Saint Mary’s mentoring program.
Graduating in May of 2019 with a Master’s in Educational Leadership, Monica continues to pursue education and works hard everyday to strengthen the lives and give hope to the youth and families in her community. She states, “It takes a village and the importance to empower and nurture our future leaders within our community. It only takes one person to believe, inspire a world of kindness, and change the world.”
Her daughter, Lalah Wells, is also a scholar at Nelson Mandela.
Spalding Certified Teacher InstructorAbout Me
Tamara Wharton - Spalding Certified Teacher Instructor
Tamara Wharton is a native of Ralston, Nebraska who has spent the past 28 years in education. She attended Ralston Public Schools and graduated from Ralston High School in 1987. She earned her teaching degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 1992 and began teaching in the Omaha Public School District in the fall of 1992. In 1998 she earned her Masters of Arts degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Urban Education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. During her 22 years with OPS, Mrs. Wharton spent 1 year teaching at Kellom Elementary, 3 years at Druid Hill Elementary and her last 18 years in the Omaha Public School District at Skinner Magnet Center.
During the course of her teaching career Tamara has taught kindergarten and first grade, served as a grade level leader, Instructional Learning Team Leader, member of the Safe and Secure Schools team, and a volunteer tutor. Tamara has always believed strongly in the value of integrating arts in the classroom. Several of her classrooms participated in UNO residencies with Josie Metal Corbin. Tamara has participated in Schools Transformed Through the Arts (STart), a project that examined issues related to making meaningful study in the arts integral to a child’s education. More recently, she participated in Arts LINC (Arts & Literature Integrated in Nebraska & California). This federally funded research project investigated how visual art and music could be integrated with literature and language development to increase student achievement. Tamara also co-authored an article in the Early Childhood Education Journal titled Learning About Culture Through Dance in Kindergarten Classrooms.
Tamara started at Nelson Mandela Elementary as a kindergarten teacher. She served in that role for two years. After several years of experience and training she became a Spalding coach and then Spalding Certified Teacher Instructor. This allowed her to take on a dual role as classroom teacher and Spalding coach for the Nelson Mandela team. Tamara has now moved out of the classroom into a new role. She is one of the Spalding coaches at Nelson Mandela Elementary. She also provides support and enrichment for scholars.
Tamara believes in the quote "Each and every day for each and every child". She states, “I am extremely excited to be part of Nelson Mandela Elementary. I believe in the school’s mission and am proud to have a role in helping the scholars of Nelson Mandela develop their gifts and talents.”
Kindergarten TeacherAbout Me
Heidi Wilhelm -Kindergarten Teacher
Heidi Wilhelm has spent the majority of her life teaching in a variety of roles from the traditional classroom to the theater. She attended Millard Public Schools and graduated from Millard North High School in 1995. Heidi earned her degrees in Early Childhood, Elementary, and Special Education from the College of Saint Mary in 2004 and began teaching in the Millard Public School District in the fall of 2004. Mrs. Wilhelm spent all of her 13 years with MPS at the same school that she attended as a child, Cottonwood Elementary. During the course of her teaching career Heidi has taught pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade. She has served as a grade level leader, Millard Intervention/RTI team member, member of the PbIs team, Art Club sponsor, Google Guide, Class Dojo Mentor, Staff Development leader, and building mentor. Heidi’s teaching career has been focused on empowering the whole child to become not only the best learner they can be, but the very best person. She is passionate about educating young minds and helping them to develop and bloom into responsible, well-rounded, and successful members of our world. Her strengths in adaptability and creativity have enabled her to develop lesson plans that accommodate multiple intelligences and hands-on learning opportunities that keep her students engaged and excited about learning. Heidi draws on the diverse interests of her students to help in building their own connections between the classroom and the world around them.
Heidi states, “I am so excited to be a part of Nelson Mandela Elementary. The value of every child is apparent the moment you enter the building. I have always believed that every child is gifted. The mission at Nelson Mandela Elementary school ensures that every child is given the tools needed to develop and realize their own gifts.”
Michael Wilhelm -Para-Educator
Although he is not a native Nebraskan, Mr. Michael Wilhelm has spent the last 32 years calling Omaha home. While he was growing up his father served in the Army, so Michael and his family travelled all around the United States. They also spent four years living in Tehran, Iran. He truly appreciated the opportunity to see so many new and exciting places. When his father retired, his family settled in Lansing, Kansas where Michael finished up high school. After graduating from high school, he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Heidi states, “I am so excited to be a part of Nelson Mandela Elementary. The value of every child is apparent the moment you enter the building. I havIn 1986 Michael was living and working in Pratt, Kansas, where among other things he became involved with a youth theater organization, the Pratt Children’s Theater, first as a volunteer and then as a member of the program staff. In 1988 he took a full time position with the Emmy Gifford Children’s Theater here in Omaha. He spent the next 28 years working for the EGCT, which later became known as the Omaha Theater Company for Young People at the Rose. Over the years Michael worked as an actor, educator, Performing Arts Academy Director, Assistant Education Director, National Tour Director, Sound Design Technician as well as having the opportunity to direct over 75 student productions and 6 mainstage productions.
In 2016, Michael took a position with Girls Inc of Omaha as their new Associate Program Director. In this capacity he worked to hire and help train programming staff, as well as helping to develop and schedule programming for the girls being served in Kindergarten through High School. Working at Nelson Mandela Elementary, Michael is very excited to get back in the classroom environment and spend more time working directly with the scholars.
Physical Education SpecialistAbout Me
Brandon Williams -Physical Education Specialist
This is Brandon William's first year working at Mandela and his first year teaching PE. Before Mandela, Brandon spent 12 years teaching golf. He plans to eventually become a film actor, and Mandela offers a safe space to grow and continue to learn alongside the scholars.