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Faculty

Please click on the faculty member’s picture below for their bio.

Classroom Faculty

Laura Weaver
Classroom Faculty Director

Laura Weaver, Classroom Faculty Director

Laura Weaver is an educational advocate, writer, parent, teacher, and the Director of Transformative Learning at the PassageWorks Institute. Laura’s writing history includes co-authoring the recently published book The Five Dimensions of Engaged Teaching (Solution Tree, 2013), co-authoring numerous curricula for the transitions years, and publishing dozens of poems, book chapters and essays on topics ranging from school-based rites of passage to death and dying. Over the last decade, Laura has taught numerous courses and workshops, offered presentations at schools and conferences, and facilitated transitions and rites of passage programs for young people. A passionate participant in the movement to transform education from the inside out, Laura supports individuals and learning communities to understand and access their own unique wisdom and resources. Laura regularly consults with school leadership to design experiential professional development programs for teachers and continues to develop innovative resources for educators and parents. Before joining PassageWorks, Laura taught English and Creative Writing in a variety of university settings and founded and directed Bridges—an all-volunteer agency serving the needs of homeless communities in the greater Philadelphia region. Laura earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Trinity College in Connecticut and her Master’s Degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.


Ari Gerzon-Kessler
Principal, Monaco Elementary

Ari Gerzon-Kessler, Principal, Monaco Elementary

Ari is the Principal at Monaco Elementary School in Commerce City, CO and has served as an Principal and Assistant Principal at four other elementary schools. He has also been an elementary and high school teacher, and he has worked as an educational consultant, journalist, and oral historian. In addition to completing extensive research on educational best practices within the U.S. (particularly in the area of social-emotional learning), Ari also traveled as a Fulbright recipient to visit schools in Japan and taught briefly in Mexico and Thailand. Ari is the author of two books and his writings on education have been featured in a variety of publications.


John McCluskey
Principal, Senior Passages Facilitator

John McCluskey, Principal, Senior Passages Facilitator

He has worked along side youth as a camp director, school administrator and for fourteen years as a high school teacher. John also works as a teacher trainer and consultant to districts around the country on issues of youth development, social/emotional learning and intentional, non-violent dialog models for youth. He lives with his wife Emily and their two children Reilly and Grace in Nederland, Colorado

Catherine Fink
Teacher (Middle & High School)

Catherine Fink, Teacher (Middle & High School)

Cathy is a Los Angeles-based educator who has taught English and Human Development at three independent schools for grades 7, 9, and 10. Cathy was a student of a PassageWorks transitions program in Colorado in 1997 and has been a Faculty member with the PassageWorks Institute since its inception in 2001. She brings both her experience as a PassageWorks student and her professional experience as a middle and high school teacher to each course she facilitates.


Batya Greenwald
Elementary School Teacher

Batya Greenwald, Elementary School Teacher

Batya was born and raised in South Africa, became a teacher in Australia and recently earned an MA in Education from the University of Montana. She currently teaches Kindergarten and has previously taught third, fourth, and fifth grade at the Boulder Community School of Integrated Studies. She was the founding Director of the Boulder Jewish Day School and has taught for more than 12 years. Batya has two daughters, aged 14 and 12, and is dedicated to empowering the lives of young people by facilitating and co-creating healthy communities in which they can thrive. Ms. Greenwald leads PassageWorks courses, and presents keynote addresses throughout the U.S.


Carrie Simpson
Elementary School Teacher

Carrie Simpson, Elementary School Teacher

Carrie Simpson lives her joy each day teaching and learning from kindergarten and first grade students at Friends’ School in Boulder. Bringing social, emotional, and spiritual education into her classroom is a daily priority, and she has collaborated with PassageWorks to create a semester-long Kindergarten Transitions Program which will soon grow to include a second semester. Carrie co-facilitates the 5th grade Transitions Program at her school and loves reconnecting with many of her past students as they prepare to move on to middle school. She has also presented for intern teachers and for parents and colleagues on the subject of social and emotional education. Other passions of Carrie’s include dance, music, yoga, traveling, and spending time with loved ones, especially kids!

SMART in Education Faculty

(Stress Management and Relaxation Techniques)

Rona Wilensky
SMART Faculty Director

Rona Wilensky, SMART Faculty Director

Rona Wilensky was principal and founder of New Vista High School in Boulder, Colorado from 1992-2009. Previously, she worked as an education policy analyst for the Governor of Colorado, the Education Commission of the States, and various education reform initiatives in Colorado. During the 2009-10 academic year, Rona was a Resident Fellow at the Spencer Foundation in Chicago. A contributor to state and national conversations on high school reform, her essays have appeared in Education Week, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan and Education News Colorado.

Recent projects have included work with the Leadership Project of Passageworks Institute, with the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education and with the Language, Literacy and Culture Division of the Colorado Department of Education. She collaborates with Peter Senge to bring systems thinking strategies to educators and policy makers in Colorado.

Rona began her personal meditation practice in 2005 and received her certificate as a Mindfulness Instructor from Naropa University in 2012. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the Garrison Institute’s Initiative on Contemplative Teaching and Learning.

Rona holds a B.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University and taught that subject at Williams College and the University of Denver in the early 1980’s.

Linda Wallace
Mindfulness Teacher, Educational Consultant

Linda Wallace, Mindfulness Teacher/Educational Consultant

Linda Wallace has over three decades in the field of education, having worked as a specialist in literacy, title one, gifted and talented, as well as in a variety of elementary positions, and as a teacher trainer and coach. Ten of those years have included formally teaching mindfulness practices to students and adults. Linda currently works as a mindfulness teacher and consultant in educational, business, family and health care settings. As part of the interdisciplinary team responsible for developing the Impact Foundation’s SMARTinEDUCATION program, she assisted in writing curriculum, training trainers and teaching mindfulness classes specifically designed for teachers. She has trained at the University of Massachusetts’s Medical School in Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program, the Hakomi Institute in Boulder, Colorado, with the Paul Ekman group on Emotions Revealed, and has earned a certificate in Naropa’s Contemplative End of Life Care Program.


Andra Brill
Educational Consultant, Researcher

Andra Brill, Educational Consultant/Researcher

Andra Brill has over 20 years of experience as a professional educator, classroom teacher and coach. She has supervised mentor teachers, consulted with school principals, and advised district administrators. For several years she directed the Boettcher Teachers Program, a Masters level residency based teacher preparation program for new teachers serving urban schools. Andra has been creating reflective learning environments for students in K-12 classrooms since 1992. For more than a decade, she has worked with novice teachers enrolled in graduate education programs at both the University of Denver and the University of Colorado. Inspired by her many years of meditation, Andra brings a passion for supporting compassionate, holistic school communities to her work. Andra has published several articles, including a chapter in the book Teaching as a Moral Practice (Harvard Education Press, 2010). She obtained a Masters degree in Language, Learning and Culture and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Innovation from the University of Colorado at Denver. She conducts research and writes about culturally responsive pedagogy, theories of change, and how to create more compassionate, reflective classrooms.

Transformational Leadership Faculty

Mark Wilding
Leadership Faculty Co-Director

Mark Wilding, Leadership Faculty Co-Director

Mark Wilding is the Executive Director of PassageWorks Institute and a member of the core faculty at the Institute. In addition to his duties as a director, Mark teaches courses and workshops, facilitates conferences and dialogues, and presents keynotes and lectures. Mark works closely with Institute faculty to develop and deliver programs that support educators to develop the intra-personal and inter-personal capacities necessary to: sustain an authentic teaching practice, engage students, support social, emotional and academic learning outcomes, and collaborate effectively with colleagues. Mark is the former director of Naropa University’s center for business and economics, and helped launch a graduate degree program at Naropa in 1995. Mark continues to teach graduate courses in authentic leadership and systems thinking at Naropa. Mark has held leadership roles in government, business, non-profit, and academic organizations. In 1985, he helped found a public computer software company, and served on the board and in several roles until he left as President in 1993. Mark has a B.S. in Biology and an M.A. in Environmental Leadership.


Andra Brill
Educational Consultant, Researcher

Andra Brill, Educational Consultant/Researcher

Andra Brill has over 20 years of experience as a professional educator, classroom teacher and coach. She has supervised mentor teachers, consulted with school principals, and advised district administrators. For several years she directed the Boettcher Teachers Program, a Masters level residency based teacher preparation program for new teachers serving urban schools. Andra has been creating reflective learning environments for students in K-12 classrooms since 1992. For more than a decade, she has worked with novice teachers enrolled in graduate education programs at both the University of Denver and the University of Colorado. Inspired by her many years of meditation, Andra brings a passion for supporting compassionate, holistic school communities to her work. Andra has published several articles, including a chapter in the book Teaching as a Moral Practice (Harvard Education Press, 2010). She obtained a Masters degree in Language, Learning and Culture and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Innovation from the University of Colorado at Denver. She conducts research and writes about culturally responsive pedagogy, theories of change, and how to create more compassionate, reflective classrooms.


Vivian Elliott
Educational Consultant, Coach

Vivian Elliott, Educational Consultant/Coach

Vivian Elliott is a Senior Consultant with Learning Forward and with Elliott Service Systems, Inc. She provides professional development and leadership coaching to teachers, school administrators, and managers in organizations throughout the United States. Dr. Elliott earned her Ph.D. at the University of Colorado, Boulder studying organizational change, equity, and leadership. For more than thirty years, she has conducted educational research, designed and facilitated workshops, and published educational writings to promote cultural responsiveness and bias elimination. Her recent publication, The Principal Story Guide, commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and Learning Forward, is widely used in conjunction with the documentary, The Principal Story. Vivian Elliott is known in school districts, universities, and non-profit organizations for skillful facilitation, excellent team leadership, and quality project management. Dr. Elliott co-created the Colorado Coalition for Equity in Education, and served in leadership roles for the National Coalition for Equity in Education and the Colorado Partnership for Educational Renewal.

Rona Wilensky
Leadership Faculty Co-Director

Rona Wilensky, Leadership Faculty Co-Director

Rona Wilensky was principal and founder of New Vista High School in Boulder, Colorado from 1992-2009. Previously, she worked as an education policy analyst for the Governor of Colorado, the Education Commission of the States, and various education reform initiatives in Colorado. During the 2009-10 academic year, Rona was a Resident Fellow at the Spencer Foundation in Chicago. A contributor to state and national conversations on high school reform, her essays have appeared in Education Week, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan and Education News Colorado.

Recent projects have included work with the Leadership Project of Passageworks Institute, with the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education and with the Language, Literacy and Culture Division of the Colorado Department of Education. She collaborates with Peter Senge to bring systems thinking strategies to educators and policy makers in Colorado.

Rona began her personal meditation practice in 2005 and received her certificate as a Mindfulness Instructor from Naropa University in 2012. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the Garrison Institute’s Initiative on Contemplative Teaching and Learning.

Rona holds a B.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University and taught that subject at Williams College and the University of Denver in the early 1980’s.


Barb Catbagan
Professor, Mediator

Barb Catbagan, Professor/Mediator

Barbara is an educator with more than twenty years of experience. She is Chair of the Contemplative Education Department at Naropa University, and is an Associate Professor. Barbara’s commitment to transformational leadership is grounded in her K-12 teaching background and her association with the National Coalition for Equity in Education through which she works with institutions of higher education on issues and initiatives of equity, social justice, and personal and professional development. Through her past work as the Director of the Human Rights Resource and Education Office for the City of Fort Collins, she facilitated professional development and community educational opportunities on topics of civility, communication and human rights, and investigated and mediated allegations of discrimination. As a certified mediator, she has worked with individuals and groups on workplace mediation and to settle disputes of discrimination. She consults with businesses, organizations and educational institutions, and has presented locally and nationally on topics germane to diversity and social justice. She has a B.A. in English and a M.Ed. from Colorado State University.


Scott VanLoo
Assistant Principal

Scott VanLoo, Assistant Principal

Scott VanLoo is an Assistant Principal at a diverse elementary school in Fort Lupton. He has over 17 years of experience in education including elementary and high school teaching and central and building-level administration with a background in Special Education, English Language Learners, Homeless Education, Equity and Diversity training and parent programs. Scott is the former Director of the César Chavez Cultural Center at the University of Northern Colorado where he helped recruit, retain and support hundreds of Latino(a) students and helped raise over $60,000 for endowed student scholarships. He has been a facilitator with the National Coalition for Equity in Education, Respecting Ethnic and Cultural Heritage Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the Generating Expectations for Student Achievement program. As a consultant, Scott is passionate about creating transformational experiences that promote and challenge participants’ thinking and professional growth. This passion has allowed him to work with Colleges, Universities and school districts across the mid-West. Scott has volunteered with the United States Armed Forces Entertainment Unit, traveling overseas for three tours and entertaining hundreds of service men and women and he currently plays in a Denver-based salsa band. He completed a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies: Music and Business, an M.A. in Special Education and post graduate work in Educational Leadership including a Principal’s license and Doctoral course work. Scott is an extremely proud father of two boys.

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