We have assembled a team of leaders equipped to identify and nurture the individual strengths of our students. They are the perfect balance of kindhearted, fearless and grounded. Supported by a passionate network of administrators and staff, our team is a cohesive unit that works to empower educators and excite students.
Bill Kent Jr., President and CEO, has led Youth Learning Center (YLC) since its inception. Recognizing that so many of the boys he grew up with did not have the family support he enjoyed and that many of those boys ended up in prison, Mr. Kent was moved to leave his business career and dedicate his professional life to improving academic and life outcomes of youth from under-resourced backgrounds. He applied his background in business management to directing the original YLC building project in 2010 and the 2015 renovation. He has also overseen the development of programming from an all-volunteer organization to the current organization providing STEAM education through outreach programs and eventually the founding of The Biome School in 2015. The Biome School is a new kind of K-8 school for the next generation – one that offers customized, project based and student-centered learning opportunities with an emphasis on growth mindset and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) education. The Biome charter school creates a balanced learning ecosystem in which teachers work together with students to cultivate a growth mindset as they discover their unique gifts, talents and interests. Mr. Kent earned his Bachelor of Science from Lindenwood University and joined Youth Learning Center after serving as a manager and career insurance underwriter with Reliable Insurance Company for 13 years.
Dr. Pamela Retzlaff has been an educator for 36 years, working in private and public schools and as an adjunct university instructor. Dr. Retzlaff is dedicated to teaching and learning and has spent her career working with children, teachers and parents to provide the best learning experiences for each individual learner. She has spent extensive time studying, implementing and instructing others on implementing the RtI (Response to Intervention) model. She believes that by using the best practices in education you are providing the best opportunities for each learner. Dr. Retzlaff has a B.A. in Art Education from Cardinal Stritch University, an M.S. in Educational Administration from Bank Street College, Visual Arts certification from Parsons School of Design and a EdD. from St. Louis University. Dr. Retzlaff’s certifications are in Art Education K-12, Principal K-8, and Superintendent.
Mark Kent is a native St. Louisan. He received his Bachelor’s from Washington University and Master’s from DePaul University. Mr. Kent joined The Biome Foundation in the summer of 2016. He comes to us with a background in fundraising at Webster University and The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. He previously spent the first half of his professional career as an Opera Singer, singing both domestically and abroad.
Through working as President of The Biome Foundation, Mark is driven by the capacity to make a daily impact on the lives of our students. In his spare time, Mark loves spending time with his family and running.
Michele Mosley, Director of Social-Emotional Learning, has been a member of the Youth Learning Center team since 2004 when she began as a tutor and summer instructor. Over the years, Michele has evolved with the organization and has been responsible for YLC’s focus on youth outcomes, the development of YLC’s evaluation processes, and the growth of the organization’s community partnerships. Michele has played a significant role in spearheading initiatives to address positive youth development needs, such as the creation of Two Degrees, YLC’s new solution for teen alumni. She is a member of the St. Louis Outcomes & Evaluation Network (SLOEN), adjunct instructor at the Brown School of Social Work, 2014 Leadership St. Louis graduate, active volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, and self-proclaimed artist/painter.
Michele holds a bachelor of arts in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Social Work (MSW) with a Concentration in Children, Youth, and Families from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. Michele is passionate about improving outcomes for children and youth through holistic, culturally-inclusive approaches that empower children and their families. As a founding team member of The Biome, she is excited to continue to share her love for children and their development.
Debbie has been helping companies organize and improve their accounting functions for over 15 years. She received her B.S. in Accounting Information Systems from Maryville University in 2005, and has held positions in a variety of private industries, including legal, private funds, engineering, and construction.
Debbie joined our team in July 2016 and has been pro-active in understanding the challenges presented by both public school accounting and fundraising development. She has gone above and beyond to ensure the integrity of prior, current, and future financial data and reporting. Her goal is to continue building solid and efficient business processes for the multi-faceted entities of The Biome Foundation, The Biome School, and Youth Learning Center.
Brooke Bennett is so excited to continue her career with The Biome School as a Classroom Leader! Brooke joined the team in 2015 as the Innovation Leader teaching the tenants of growth mindset through STEAM challenges, in addition to designing creative and engaging units for all learners.
Brooke was born and raised in San Francisco, California and moved to St. Louis to pursue her passion of teaching. She graduated from Maryville University with her Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education. From a young age, Brooke always knew she wanted to be a teacher. Her favorite part about being a teacher is the “light bulb” moments. She likes seeing her students use the knowledge they are learning and enjoys being such a large positive part of their lives.
Brooke is looking forward to continuing her own education at the University of Missouri – St. Louis to obtain a Master of Education degree in Educational Psychology. Currently, she enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Jack and Oliver, and exploring the many attractions that St. Louis has to offer.
Stacie Chronister joined YLC in December of 2014 as the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO of YLC and The Biome School. She is a native St. Louisan, however lived in Chicago for five years and Indiana for 24 years. She worked at a Community Mental Health Center in Indiana for 17 years in a variety of administrative positions. She possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Columbia College in Columbia, MO.
Stacie volunteers at The Biome School’s after school program, leading a piano club. She is very passionate about the learners, and the mission of the school. She shares her life with her dog Camelot, a Rough Coated Collie.
Laura Cortner has dedicated her career to providing hands-on, minds-on learning experiences to all students. Laura holds a Master’s degree in Teaching, certification in Early Childhood Education, Special Reading certification K-12, CDA Professional Development Specialist, and a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services.
She and her family have road-tripped all over the 48 contiguous states exploring our National Parks. Laura has visited all but one! Her love for nature is evident in her approach to learning, and she enjoys offering opportunities to share that love through her work as a Department of Natural Resources Seasonal Naturalist. Laura is excited to bring her talents to learners at The Biome!
Brian Dominick has been an early childhood educator for more than 12 years. He began his educational journey attending Cayuga Community College where he obtained his A.A. in Early Childhood Education. While studying there, he began teaching preschoolers through field experiences. Brian then went on to St. John Fisher College where he graduated with a B.S. in Childhood and Special Education. It was through this special education experience in the Rochester public school system that he was able to learn to individualize a given lesson to students of a variety of abilities and styles.
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Brian began substitute teaching in a rural district in Central New York. It was during this time that he was given the opportunity to teach English overseas for the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education in South Korea. Through this experience he was able to create teaching strategies for over 600 students, as well as 20 teachers. Upon returning to the states, Brian began teaching at the same elementary school that he was substitute teaching at before his trip overseas. Here he taught kindergarten for a little over a year before moving to NYC. While in NYC he taught at River School, working with preschoolers in a daycare on the Upper West Side. At River School he was able to learn about the Project Approach and create lessons and units by following his students interests. Brian took monthly field trips with his students in order to extend their learning from beyond the literature and classroom experience to the real world. He was able to continue his studies of the Project Approach while he received his M.S.E. in Early Childhood Education from Fordham University.
After teaching at the River School for 4 years, Brian and his family moved to St. Louis where he began teaching Pre-K at Forsyth School. Over the past 3 years he was part of a restructuring of the Pre-K program. He, along with his co-teachers, created a curriculum generated by the students interests while helping each child achieve their maximum potential. While at Forsyth, Brian was able to embrace his love of creating and focused heavily on the classroom’s dramatic play area. With the help of his students, he transformed the space into animal hospitals, pirate ships, and food trucks, amongst other things. He is a big fan of turning a cardboard box into anything his students can come up with and was able to use this talent to raise money during Forsyth’s biannual gala.
Brian is the father of a 3-year-old daughter and uses his home experiences to help him with his classroom teaching. He is very excited about teaching at The Biome and working with the diverse body of students and families.
Chasity Douglas joined The Biome School’s staff in October of 2016. She is a native St. Louisan. Chasity has over ten years of working with children.
Part of our mission focuses on the physical environment that our children learn in. Chasity is a key component in ensuring that our children experience a clean and safe environment on a regular basis.
Galicia Guerrero, Out of School Time Program Manager, has been a member of the Youth Learning Center team since 2014 when she began as a practicum student. Over the years, Galicia has been instrumental in the development, implementation, and evaluation of high-impact STEAM programs as well as building and managing relationships with community partners to support YLC/The Biome School learners.
Galicia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN and a Masters of Social Work (MSW) from Washington University in St. Louis, with a concentration in Children, Youth, and Families and a specialization in Management. Galicia is passionate about increasing access to quality educational opportunities for children and families. She is excited to support the continuous growth and development of our learners and our school community.
Dackory Hill acts as the Biome School’s Lead Enrichment Teacher, assisting in the direction of the After School Program. Mr. Hill graduated with his Bachelor’s of Arts from Saint Louis University and Master’s in Public Policy Administration from the University of Missouri- St. Louis. Mr. Hill has worked in the field of education for over five years, previously employed as a third grade teacher in the Normandy School Collaborative. He is currently finishing his elementary education certification and hopes to return to the classroom.
Amy Hoffman graduated from the University of Richmond with a B.A. in English and Sport Science and an Education endorsement. As a teacher, she has worked with students of various ages and ability levels in diverse educational settings. She truly believes that an experiential approach in instruction enables students to more fully master skills and develop a lifelong passion for learning. She is tremendously excited to be part of The Biome School because of the innovative and cohesive atmosphere and the focus on a growth mindset.
Originally from the East coast, she has lived in Saint Louis for quite some time. She loves reading and playing board games with her three sons. She treasures being out-of-doors at any opportunity, and spends a great deal of time walking, hiking, camping, swimming, and rock climbing. One of her favorite things to do on weekend mornings is to sit outside in her camp chair, with her dog beside her and a strong cup of coffee in her hands. What a great way to start a day!
Sandra Jones is the Food Service Coordinator at The Biome School. She is a native St. Louisan. She has worked in the corporate world for over 34 years. She was educated in the St. Louis Public Schools. She earned an undergrad degree at Lindenwood University and has master’s level hours towards Christian Counseling. She has retired from her corporate duties. Currently she works for St. John Community Improvement Corporation as the Co-Founder and Executive Director. She has 15 years of service there.
She has acquired a natural passion to empower youth to be all they can be.
Lindell Kent is the Facilities Manager for Youth Learning Center. He began working for Youth Learning Center in 2003 as the Membership Services Coordinator. Lindell enjoys working in a capacity that affords him the opportunity to serve others. He is currently a student at Lindenwood University where is working towards his degree in Counseling. He enjoys working around children and is committed to helping people.
Myles Keough has been a member of the Youth Learning Center team since 2007 when he began working as a summer enrichment teacher. Over the years, Myles has infused creativity into YLC classes by creating and executing classes in art, animation, video game design, digital painting, robotics, and entrepreneurship – he is a proponent and resource for all things STEAM. He has been responsible for leading teachers in professional development, researching and designing innovative strategies to engage youth in STEAM education, and helping to expand YLC/The Biome community partnerships.
In addition to his background in K-12 education, Myles is a well-regarded professional artist, showing his artwork in high profile galleries and shows in the St. Louis Metro Area for over 10 years. He holds a bachelor of fine arts in studio art and a bachelor of science in art education from Culver Stockton College. Myles is a firm believer in creating classroom experiences that every learner would enjoy, including himself! He hopes that each day every learner is excited to go home and share new discoveries from their classes with their families.
Ashreale McDowell is a native of St. Louis, MO. She discovered her passion for dance in high school, at Central Visual and Performing Arts. She was rewarded with a pre-professional scholarship to COCA. Through the tough struggles of starting dance at a really late age, COCA helped her grow and develop her technique. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Webster University. It was there, at Webster, where she was able to not only deepen her training as a dancer, but discover her artistry as a mover and performer. She has had the wonderful opportunity to work with artists such as Alicia Graf(Alvin Ailey), Antonio Douthit- Boyd(Alvin Ailey), Kirven Douthit- Boyd (Alvin Ailey), Leonard Cruz(Bill T. Jones Arnie Zane), Jimena Paz(Stephen Petronio Company), Jessica Taylor(DamageDance), and Alana Marie Urda(Amalgamate Dance Company). She has performed in The Wiz and The Black Nativity at The Black Rep. She has also performed in AIDA and High School Musical at The Muny. Ashreale has also had the wonderful opportunity to study and perform in Italy. She is a teaching artist with Springboard and COCA. She has professionally danced with Beyond Measure Dance Theater, under the direction of Alicia Sunshine Gbaho. She is currently dancing with Consuming Kinetics Dance Company, under the Executive and Artistic direction of Arica Brown.
This is Interventionist, Mrs. Kathleen McManis’ first year at The Biome.
Mrs. McManis is a native St. Louisan. She earned her Bachelors degree from Saint Louis University, her Masters from Southwest Baptist University, and additional credits from Truman State University.
Mrs. McManis has spent most of her educational career as a Special Educator within the Saint Louis County Special School District. Most recently, she worked as a Learning Specialist at Grand Center Arts Academy, a charter school within Saint Louis City.
Mrs. McManis’ passion and energy for working with students at the elementary grade level makes her a good fit for Biome learners. She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to interventions in both behavior and academic areas.
When she is not at school, Mrs. McManis enjoys spending time with her husband, four sons and five (soon to be six) grandchildren.
Keonna Shelton is the Administrative Assistant and Family Coordinator at The Biome. She has experience working with children of all ages. She joined The Biome team in April of 2016. She is very passionate about helping children and their families in any way. Keonna joins The Biome after working as a long-term substitute teacher at Saint Ann Catholic School.
Keonna holds a Bachelor’s of Liberal Arts Degree from The University of Missouri, Kansas City, with high hopes of pursuing a Master’s Degree in the near future.
Ms. Tanisha Stanciel is a St. Louis transplant who earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication, Public Relations from Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, MO in 2006. She then completed a Master of Arts in Teaching Special Education-Emotional/Behavioral Disorders from Walden University in 2010. She recently completed her Master’s in Education Specialist for Administration from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO in August of 2014. Special Education and helping all students achieve is her passion!
Ms. Stanciel has an auto-immune disease called Alopecia Areata Totalis (Hairloss of the scalp). She is the oldest of eight siblings and a mother to a bright and smart eight year old little boy. When she is not blogging, she loves to listening to music, attending community events and most importantly LAUGHING!
She looks forward to being in the lives of children, helping them reach their educational goals for many years to come.
Janet Strain is excited to join The Biome School team as the Reading Specialist! Janet will collaborate with The Biome team to provide an effective and evidenced-based reading program for all students.
Janet attended Webster University’s graduate Reading program. She has a strong background serving children with special learning needs. Janet taught students that had an educational diagnosis of Emotional Disturbance for ten years, served as an Autism classroom teacher for four years, and a Reading Specialist for the last three years. During that time, Janet received the two highest awards given to a teacher at her school: The Circle of Children Award and the Bill Ferzacca Award.
Janet is committed to the success of each student. She strives to be an expert on subject matter, and to keep instruction flexible and creative to spark interest, increase motivation, and inspire a passion for life-long learning. Janet enjoys creating a safe, positive learning environment. She believes in each student’s ability to succeed and adapts teaching to complement the student’s unique learning style. Janet’s dedication, passion and enthusiasm inspire students to achieve their goals.
Janet is blessed to have a granddaughter and three wonderful children – two sons and a daughter. Her favorite pastimes are reading and playing with her granddaughter, watching her daughter barrel race, swimming, camping, horseback riding, hiking and traveling with her family.
Brittany Sullivan is so excited to be returning to The Biome team as the Adaptive Thinking Leader. She has been a member of the Youth Learning Center Team since 2014; during her time at YLC, she has taught reading, math, creative writing, play lab, and robotics.
Brittany was born in a town just outside Chicago, Illinois where she spent most of her life poolside. She took her first swim lesson at the age six-months-old then 15 years later became the swim lesson teacher. She went on to develop and implement her own swim lesson program for children with special needs. Teaching swim lessons was the spark that lighted the passion for teaching and education.
That passion for education lead her moving to Saint Louis, where she attended Saint Louis University. She graduated from SLU with her Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education and Special Education. She is looking forward to bringing her creativity and love of learning to the Adaptive Thinking classroom.
Ms. Williams is a Reading Interventionist Leader at The Biome School. As a Reading Interventionist Leader, Ms. Williams will focus on all five of the main components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
Ms. Williams S. Williams has over 17 years of experience in urban education. Ms. Williams began her educational career as an elementary teacher. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the Lincoln University, a master’s degree in Elementary Educational Administration and an Educational Specialist Degree in Mathematics Instructional Leadership from Lindenwood University.
Most recently, Ms. Williams has served as fifth and sixth grade team leader for three years at Lucas Crossing Elementary Complex in Normandy Schools Collaborative District, in which, each time the grade level made AYP. As team leader, Ms. Williams has had great opportunities to work collaboratively with administrators and teachers on the fifth grade team to ensure student success. She has assisted in the review of lesson plans, assisted teachers with the development of strategies to improve instruction, including classroom management techniques, and served as a resource person in remediating unacceptable areas as cited by the administrators on observation forms. Also, she has created and administered common assessments, analyze test results, and develop strategies for improving instruction. In addition to being an urban educator, Ms. Williams has been an adjunct professor in the Early Education Department at Forest Park Community College.
Ms. Williams is very passionate about helping children develop proficient reading skills that will contribute to their academic growth. Ms. Williams wants all children to become better readers and lifelong learners. Ms. Williams is excited and looking forward to increasing student achievement at The Biome School.
Amanda Dezort Wittenkeller is thrilled to be joining The Biome as a Kindergarten Classroom Leader. Amanda grew up in Edwardsville, IL and just moved back to the area. She earned her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois in 2007 and then earned her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Loyola University in Chicago in 2013. In 2015, she completed her coursework for her endorsement in English as a Second Language.
Amanda taught Kindergarten at St. Agnes of Bohemia in Chicago for six years and loved every minute of it! She spent the past two years as the Development Director and Curriculum Support person at St. Agnes but is eager to get back in the classroom.
Amanda and her husband, Doug, live in Edwardsville, IL and she is excited to be back in the area. She is an aunt to eight wonderful nieces and nephews. She likes to read books, workout, watch television, hang out at the pool, and spend time with her family. Amanda is so excited to meet her students and their parents. It is going to be a wonderful school year!