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, Corporate and Foundation Relations, 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.
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.
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.
Laurel Giacone is thrilled to be continuing with The Biome School for her second year, continuing to learn from our expert staff and curious learners. She is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, but she moved to St. Louis to pursue her passion for elementary education. The Biome School has continued to foster that passion throughout her undergraduate career as well as her professional career, providing a space for Laurel to lead learners through an engaging and inquiry-based curriculum. Building relationships with The Biome community has been one of the foundational aspects of Ms. Giacone’s commitment to the education of the kiddos of St. Louis, and she can’t wait to nurture those relationships throughout this year as well.
Laurel’s classroom perspective is learner-based, allowing the interests of children to help guide discussions and projects. Laurel also believes that learning occurs most naturally outside, so experiential education, especially with our very own flourishing green space outside, has become paramount in her classroom.
Outside of the classroom, Laurel enjoys reading, biking, crafting, being outside, and exploring the cuisine of St. Louis. She loves traveling home to New Orleans to visit her family, and she makes sure to incorporate a little bit of New Orleans culture in her classroom activities!
After receiving her B.S in Accounting and Finance in 2000 from the University of Missouri, Heena worked in the public accounting industry where she performed audits, reviews and compilations for a wide variety of industries. She effectively analyzed, evaluated and enhanced their client’s information systems internal controls processes and made recommendations. With the demanding long hours and lots of travel, Heena took a break from accounting to stay home and raise her family for a few years and has now returned to work with the Biome Team.
Natalie Guard is excited to return to The Biome for her second year as an AmeriCorps Member. Ms. Guard is also currently a sophomore at Saint Louis University majoring in education and minoring in Special Education. Her first experience at The Biome was through a student classroom observation assignment, but she quickly fell in love with the school community. After a few months, The Biome became her second home. She enjoys serving as an AmeriCorps Member because it gives her the opportunity to do more for her community outside of the college 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!
Kianna Jordan is new to The Biome School and is excited to join our community and the new adventure she will embark on as a Second Grade Classroom Leader. Ms. Jordan graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in Early Childhood Education. Her drive to become a teacher stems from the deep impact that teachers can have on students. With a dream to change the world, she believes she will through her role as a teacher. In her free time, she enjoys writing, performing poetry, running, dancing, traveling and reading.
Meghan Jones is excited to join The Biome School this year as our Student Services Coordinator. Ms. Jones is a St. Louis native who has turned her passion for children into a career in education. She has spent the last fifteen years dedicated to child development in a broad spectrum of environments. Ms. Jones is a special educator who began her work in residential care, focusing on kids needing extra social-emotional support, as well as children on the Autism Spectrum. Additionally, she is well-versed in children’s trauma and grief support. Meghan believes that building relationships with each student individually is at the core of their success.
In her free time, Meghan enjoys volunteering for local organizations and exploring all that St. Louis has to offer- you can often find her roaming around MOBOT or Laumier Sculpture Park. She has a love of art and design and works to spread that creativity to her students. Meghan received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Truman State University and earned a Master’s Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorder from Fontbonne University. As there is always something new to discover, she aspires to continue to grow, learn, and thrive in Special Education.
Carolyn Jordan is an enthusiastic educator passionate about motivating students to find success as readers and writers. Ms. Jordan holds over twenty years of experience in balanced literacy, reading recovery, and working with the reading process. She has spent her career in the Hazelwood and Parkway school districts and most recently directed field experiences for undergraduate students at Webster University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Missouri State University and a Master of Arts in Education from Maryville University. Further, she holds teaching certifications in Special Reading (grades K-12), Elementary Education (grades 1st-8th), and Learning Disabilities (grades K-9th). She is thrilled to join The Biome School community and delve back into her passion working directly with students and helping them become confident readers and writers.
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.
Don Knobbe is thrilled to be joining The Biome School as our Music Leader. He is excited about the opportunity to combine two of his greatest loves: teaching and music. He and his wife, a sixth-grade science teacher, have raised three children, each of whom is a musician as well. Mr. Knobbe “retired” in 2017 after 35 years in public education. Upon graduating from St. Louis University, he taught children with learning disabilities for the Special School District. He spent the rest of his career teaching science and communication arts to sixth-graders in the Webster Groves School District. He also earned his Master of Arts degree in Education Administration at the Univerisity of Missouri – St. Louis.
Mr. Knobbe has been a musician even longer than he’s been a teacher. At his last school, he organized school-wide weekly music assemblies and coached hundreds of student performances over more than twelve years. He directed several plays and musicals for after-school clubs. In his free time, Don plays bass guitar and sings in a local band.
Ivette Lozano is excited to return for her second year as an AmeriCorps Member at The Biome. Ms. Lozano has been passionate about assisting others since elementary school, where she found it to be her duty to help other students that were struggling. Ivette has worked with multiple organizations through the AmeriCorps program since 2009, including organizations that help individuals who lacked the proper resources to obtain the justice they deserved and organizations where she served as an academic tutor. Ivette is also a former Teach For America corps member and she taught 3rd grade. As a teacher, she noticed that there were many students facing multiple obstacles when it came to academics. After growing up in a low-income environment herself, Ivette, recognizes how difficult it can be to obtain the assistance and resources someone needs to excel in academics.
Ivette is a graduate of California State University, Northridge and is recently completed her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. She is eager to work and apply her knowledge and experience to ensure that The Biome students obtain the best education they possibly can.
Vince Morse eagerly looks forward to working at The Biome School this year as a Psychology Intern. Mr. Morse is currently pursuing his Educational Specialist Degree in School Psychology (EdS) at the University of Missouri St. Louis. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his son, talking his dog on long walks, and playing softball for fun.
Trent is excited to return to The Biome this year as our Mind and Movement Leader! He is originally from Marion, Illinois and moved to Saint Louis attend Maryville University and play Tennis. After, learning more about Elementary Education he fell in love with education because of how much fun he has when he was teaching. This discovery ultimately led him to transfer and complete his degree at Webster University.
When he isn’t in the classroom, Trent loves playing and teaching tennis. He also loves being outdoors and taking his dogs Karma and Buddha, both huskies, on hikes. In his spare time, he also enjoys volunteering at the Humane Society in the Education Department traveling to schools giving students presentations on how to be a responsible pet owner.
Emily Schiltz is a Speech-Language Pathologist who is thrilled to be joining The Biome School. Mrs. Schiltz ( or Emily) has extensive experience working with school-aged children. She began her career with a focus on early intervention, working with the Missouri First Steps program, and several private preschools to serve children aged 1 through 7. In 2009, Mrs. Schiltz (Emily) began focusing exclusively on school-aged students when she took a position with a local charter school, where she has served as a speech-language pathologist to students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade since that time. She has also worked in private practice, and has specialized her skill set to focus on meeting the needs of students, families and teachers in the educational setting. Mrs. Schiltz (Emily) believes that all students have the right to meet their educational potential, that all parents can be supported to help their children’s skills develop at home, and that all teachers can be supported to help students with speech and language needs excel in the classroom. She is looking forward to serving the Biome community by providing private and group therapy, screenings and evaluations, consultation services, professional educational opportunities, and support and education for staff members. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from Truman State University and her Master’s Degree from Saint Louis University. She is a certified member of the “American Speech-Language-Hearing Association”, and she is licensed in the State of Missouri.
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.
Mark Smith is thrilled to be joining The Biome School this year as a First Grade Classroom Leader. Prior to joining The Biome team, Mr. Smith was a teacher with the nonprofit organization Bworks, where he was a staff instructor for the Earn-a-Bike program. Mr. Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in English and Mathematics from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. In his spare time, he loves to mountain bike, and spend time with his daughter, Malia, and their pet cat, Cranberry.
Brittany Sullivan is so excited to be returning to The Biome team as a First Grade Classroom 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 led her to move 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 her classroom.
Jean Turney has been teaching for the last 20 years across disciplines and grade levels from elementary through high school. Jean holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication/Political Science, from Stephens College, Columbia, MO and a Masters degree in Adult Community Development from Regis University, Denver, Colorado. Jean’s teaching experience includes elementary teaching, assistant principal, youth ministry, learning consultant, education coordinator, adjunct professor and is currently the Education Coordinator for Forest Park Forever. Jean has many accomplishments and awards including grants for educational programs, engaged multiple community partners and providing exceptional learning experiences. She is on the Council for Environmental Education 2015, and received the following recognitions: the Missouri Art educators, Heart for Art Award in 2015; the Christa McAuliffe ‘Read for the Stars” award from the National Social Studies Association 2008; and was awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, Missouri Humanities Council, 2010.
Anna Waddel is excited to return to The Biome School for a second year as a practicum student. She is a graduate student at Saint Louis University pursuing a master’s degree in social work (MSW) with a curricular concentration in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). Before attending Saint Louis University, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.
For the past two and half years, Anna has worked as a substitute teacher at schools in St. Louis city and the surrounding county, primarily working in the special education setting. There she has had many opportunities to work with children toward their educational, physical, and emotional goals. She enjoyed working alongside special education teachers, and in particular, learning how they tailor their approaches to education based on the unique situation of each student. Further, she volunteers with Voices for Children as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the St. Louis City Family Court, where she advocates for children in the foster care system.
These experiences have developed her interest in comprehensive school models that can address many intersecting obstacles to education. With these interests, Anna was intrigued by The Biome’s creative approach to education and community engagement.
Dr. Virginia Walker is excited to join The Biome School this year as the Fourth Grade Classroom Leader. Dr. Walker originally from Washington, D.C., is now a long time Missouri educator. As a mother to four children, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education, a specialist degree in reading from the University of Missouri – Columbia. In addition, she holds a Doctorate in Education from Maryville University in St. Lous. Dr. Walker believes her educational background reflects her deep love of learning and a desire to perfect her craft as a teacher. Her philosophy as a teacher is to try to inspire and instill in all her students this same love of learning and inquisitive spirit that she has cultivated within herself. As a classroom teacher, she believes it is her job to bridge the gap between the curriculum and her students’ interest. Throughout her many years of teaching, she has found it to be the best way to create a caring community of engaged learners.
Cole Warner is excited to join The Biome this year as an AmeriCorps member. Mr. Warner is a recent graduate from Washington University in St. Louis and a lifelong St. Louis resident. Over time, he has continued to discover just how much disparities in education impact families across the city and he hopes to help create change. His undergraduate studies focused on American culture which influenced him to consider the importance of an equitable education system. On top of this, he has a passion for working with children to help them explore all of their curiosities. With plans to attend medical school in the fall of 2019, Mr. Warner hopes that the upcoming year will further his ability to extend compassionate care to all of his future patients.
Kristin Williams is a passionate and energetic teacher with several years of experience in early childhood education. Kristin holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration-Accounting and a Post-Baccalaureate degree in Early Childhood Education (Birth-3rd grade) from Missouri Baptist University, St. Louis, Missouri.
As an educator, Ms. Williams focuses on implementing instructional strategies that actively engage students in meaningful learning experiences to ensure the development of the learner’s fullest potential. She especially enjoys working with young children because she believes that’s when students can be molded and shaped into leaders of the future. Her mission is to uplift, encourage, nurture, and prepare students academically, socially, and emotionally for successful living.
In addition to her love for working with children, Ms. Williams also enjoys working out, baking, and serving as an active member in her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.