GALA Faculty & Staff
Meran Rogers – Founder, Executive Director
Credentials: Master of Business Administration, Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University | Master of Nonprofit Management, Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University
Ms. Rogers has twelve years of experience in the nonprofit and education sectors and received her K-12 Principal License in 2016 after completing the BRIGHT New Leaders for Ohio Schools fellowship. She established Global Ambassadors Language Academy (GALA) in 2012 and the school opened in August 2016. Prior to GALA, she spent several years working in Cleveland public schools during her tenure as an Executive Fellow of the Cleveland Leadership Center, City Year Cleveland, and Director of the Cleveland Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Additionally, Rogers worked as a third grade teacher in Taipei, Taiwan at an international English immersion school. Most recently, Rogers was a founding staff member of Global Cleveland, serving as Director of Community Affairs; leading services for volunteers, international newcomers and the Asian Initiative. In November 2014, Rogers was recognized as “One to Watch in Education” by Crain’s Cleveland Business Magazine. In 2010, she received the Cleveland 25 Under 35 Movers and Shakers Award, and in 2009 was featured as ONE2WATCH in Cleveland Inside Business Magazine. Rogers is a lifelong Cleveland resident, proud graduate of Cleveland and East Cleveland public schools, a first generation American and college graduate, and resides in Cleveland Heights with her family. Her son and daughter both attend GALA.
Gabriel Costa – Principal
Credentials: Master’s degree in Education. Kent State University, Bachelor’s degree in Education from Kent State University and Ohio State University. Endorsements from Ashland University, University of Texas at Tyler and Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP)
Sr. Costa has been an educator all his adult life. He grew up near Cleveland but has lived in Puebla, Mexico, where he has family, and has taught in Houston, Texas and Central Ohio. He is looking forward to re-establishing his roots in Northeast Ohio while maintaining a modest farm with his wife and son in Crestline, Ohio. He is particularly excited to join the team at GALA since he strongly believes that being multilingual is a super power that brings endless opportunities. “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” – Frank Smith
Bethany Wilson-Araujo – Assistant Principal
Credentials-Master’s degree in Education- Elementary Reading and Mathematics Specialization from Walden University & Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education, Elon University
Bethany has been an educator since 2004 after graduating from Elon University in North Carolina. There she taught general education in grades 3-5. She taught 8 years in a town called Haw River, then 2 years in Durham, NC. In 2014 she moved back to the Cleveland area with her husband and daughter and taught 4th and 1st grade at Village Prep School Woodland Hills. She has served as a mentor to new teachers and held leadership positions at each school she has been apart of. Mrs. Wilson-Araujo is extremely excited to be part of GALA and looks forward to sharing her love of learning with our kids and community.
Tim Gibbons – Operations Manager
Credentials: Bachelor’s of Arts, Spanish Major, Baldwin Wallace University
Mr. Gibbons brings his love for culture, language, learning and operations to his role as our our school’s operation manager. During his college years he spend time in both Argentina and Spain as a Spanish major. Mr. Gibbons then spent the next couple years working as an administrator at a Cleveland day care. This experience grew his passion to ensure that quality education was provided to all children in Greater Cleveland, which led to him joining Teach For America in 2016. During his time as a Teach For America corps member he taught kindergarten at Citizens Academy Southeast. Mr. Gibbons enjoys athletics and seeing all the sites and events that Cleveland has to offer with his wife, Kayla.
Tracey Payton-Johnson, School Secretary, 21st CCLC Student Enrichment Administrator
Credentials: Credentials: Master of Science in Psychology, University of Phoenix – Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration, University of Phoenix
Tracey Payton-Johnson has an extensive background working in the non profit, drug and alcohol and the mental health sector and has received numerous certifications and awards. Tracey has been recognized for her efforts on WKYC Channel 3 News, has received awards through the National Counsel of Negro Women (The Lorain County Section), has been recognized in the Morning Journal and The Chronical of Lorain County. Losing her late husband to a drunk driver in 2016, she made the painful decision to resign as Director of the Mission Services Department through Goodwill Industries of Lorain County. With encouragement from family and friends, she started a non profit organization “The Goal Diggers Fundraising Committee” which consists of thirty women in order to raise money to help those who are less fortunate. Tracey also opened an online motorcycle apparel store to honor the memory of her late husband. In her spare time and because tomorrow isn’t promised, Tracey loves to spend time with family and friends and she is constantly giving back to those who can never repay us.
Shuoyu Chen – Teacher, Mandarin Immersion Program (Kindergarten, Dragon Room)
Credentials: Master’s degree in Education, Ashland University – Bachelor’s degree, Translation and Interpretation, Chengdu Institute Sichuan International Studies University, PhD candidate
Shuoyu Chen finds her passion is teaching students Mandarin and how to build connections between learning and lessons. She has Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpretation from Chengdu Institute Sichuan International Studies University. She has earned her Master’s degree in Education from Ashland University, and is working on achieving her doctorate. Shuoyu has been working with the Ashland University International Service Office for three years, furthering her connection with multicultural backgrounds. Shuoyu has also been tutoring children in Mandarin for a year. Shuoyu is excited for the opportunity to enhance education for children from all points of view!
JuiChi Mei – Teaching Assistant Intern, Mandarin Immersion Program (Kindergarten, Dragon Room)
Credentials: Teaching Chinese as a Second Language Major at MingChuan University, Taiwan
JuiChi Mei was born and raised in Taipei City, Taiwan. She majors in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language at MingChuan University in Taiwan. During her college time, she has participated in a few internships as a teaching assistant and teacher. She has taught Mandarin to children online and in an elementary school after-school class, where she learned how to communicate with children, to design effective and creative teaching materials, and to establish the ability of classroom management. JuiChi is passionate in teaching Mandarin and definitely loves working with children. She looks forward to being part of the GALA Educational Team in the coming semester.
Baihui Zhou – Teacher, Mandarin Immersion Program (First Grade, Lamb Room)
Credentials: Bachelor’s of Middle Childhood Education Major, Cleveland State University
Ms. Zhou is a native Mandarin speaker born in Wen Zhou, China. She finished three years of college in China as a Business English major, passed the CET 4 test, and got the second class certificate of Putonghua(Mandarin). Starting in 2018, Ms. Zhou spent four years at Cleveland State University, majoring in Middle Childhood Education. From 2020 to 2022, she had two field observations and one internship in Marion-Sterling School, Euclid Middle School, and Campus International School to teach English Language Arts and Social Studies courses. She also taught Chinese for over three years in Goodland School and loves to talk and share interests with the kids. She also loves singing and dancing and can play the piano. She combines music with academic knowledge to help the students feel interested and get involved in their studies. She believes that each child is unique, and they can find their way to enjoy the process of learning.
WenChuan Lee – Teaching Assistant Intern, Mandarin Immersion Program (First Grade, Lamb Room)
Credentials: Bachelor of Teaching Chinese as Second Language at Chung Yuan Christian University
WenChuan Lee grew up in Taichung, Taiwan, studying in the Department of Teaching Chinese as Second Language at Chung Yuan Christian University, as well as studying Teacher Education, majoring in Chinese Teaching. She possesses two years teaching experience as a Mandarin teacher in online teaching, primary school and tutoring. Students age from kindergarten to adult. In her teaching skills, every student has their own teaching method. She will try to find their learning dilemma and deal with it. Ms. Lee also likes to combine life and entertainment in her teaching; It can make learning more interesting. In her free time, she likes to go hiking and diving.
Yuting Huang – Teacher, Mandarin Immersion Program (Second Grade, Panda Room)
Credentials: M.Ed., Secondary Education, University of Missouri-St Louis | M.Ed., Elementary Education, University of Missouri-St Louis
Ms. Huang is the Mandarin teacher in K/1 at GALA. She is a native Mandarin speaker from Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, China. She earned her bachelor degree in English from Fujian Medical University (China), and her master degrees in Secondary Education-TESOL specified (2014) and Elementary Education (2016) from University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). Previously, she worked in St. Louis Language Immersion school as a language teacher and part-time in UMSL Child Development Center.
Zhangjie Chen – Teacher, Mandarin Immersion Program (Third Grade, Koi Room)
Credentials: Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology, University of Tampa – Bachelor of Literature English, English, Beijing Language and Culture University
Mrs. Chen comes from Beijing, the capital of China. She earned her bachelor degree from Beijing Language and Culture University, the only higher education institution in China with the main feature of teaching foreigners Chinese, and Master’s degree in University of Tampa. Previously, she worked in Butler Academy charter school in South Carolina as a Mandarin Chinese teacher. Mrs. Chen has 15 years of experience teaching second language for young learners. Her favorite thing is teaching. She also likes singing and traveling.
ChuEn Hsieh (Janet Bingham) – Teacher, Mandarin Immersion Program (Fourth & Fifth Grade, Bear Room)
Credentials: Master of English Language Teaching at The University of Nottingham, UK / Bachelor of Interpretation and Translation at Chang Jung Christian University, Taiwan / Elementary School Teaching Program at Chang Jung Christian University, Taiwan
Mrs. Hsieh (also known as Janet Bingham) is originally from Taiwan and has dedicated herself to becoming a life-long educator and learner in bilingual education. She holds her master degree in English Language Teaching from The University of Nottingham, UK and is a certified elementary school teacher in Taiwan. She has worked as a teacher in Costa Rica, Taiwan, and The United States. Mrs. Hsieh taught Chinese at New Century International Elementary School and 71st High School in North Carolina for 2 years. Most recently, she taught in an international preparatory studies program in a bilingual school in Taiwan. When not teaching, Mrs.Hsieh loves traveling and playing music (piano).
Yan Hong – Teacher Assistant, Mandarin Immersion Program (Fourth & Fifth Grade, Bear Room)
Credentials: Master of Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages at Southwest University, China
Yan Hong is from Harbin China and a native Mandarin speaker. She has a master’s degree in Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages from Southwest University in Chongqing, China. Some of her past work experiences include being a teacher’s assistant at Ohio State University’s Chinese Flagship Program in Qingdao, China, teaching Mandarin to 11 and 12-year-olds in Bangkok, Thailand for one year. Ms. Hong also served as a Program Manager at Art Dream, an NGO that brings art classes to schools in remote areas of China. Last October, she moved to Cleveland with her family. She looks forward to bringing the knowledge she gained in her past experiences and passion for teaching to the children at GALA.
Yuan Tu (Kennard) – Teacher, Mandarin Immersion Program (Sixth & Seventh Grade, Tiger Room)
Credentials: Masters in Education, Urbana University, Ohio. Graduated from college in Hubei province.
My name is Yuan Tu (Kennard). I am a native Chinese speaker. Before I came to the United States, I taught in Elementary School for a while. I love to work with my students together, to see them grow. At the end of 2009, I decided to come to the United States to learn more about Education. In 2012, I got a Master Degree of Education from Urbana University. I have taught Mandarin in some Chinese Schools on the weekends. Now, I am really excited to join GALA. I will definitely enjoy sharing my culture and experiences with my students. It makes my day to see how hard my students work to learn Chinese and I am really proud of them, especially with their reading and writing in Mandarin. In my free time, I love traveling and photography. I also love to play with my kids together.
XiaoQin (Lisa) Lu – Teaching Assistant, Mandarin Immersion Program (Sixth & Seventh Grade, Tiger Room)
Credentials: Master Degree in Financial Management, Southwest University for Nationalities
My name is Xiaoqin (Lisa) Lu. I am from Sichuan, China. After graduation, I have worked in Shenzhen for more than ten years, working with one of China’s top ten online education and training institutions for 7 years. I have also served as an assistant to the CEO of a large company for 4 years. I came to live in Cleveland in December 2021. I am good at communication in Mandarin, and can effectively guide students to improve their pronunciation standards and listening skills. I care for every student and like to see the children’s growth and progress in the classroom. I am willing to do my best to help them to learn Chinese. I like to travel, listen to music, play tennis and table tennis. I am very honored to join GALA as one of them.
Karla La Luz Rivera – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Kindergarten, Butterfly Room)
Credentials: Bachelor degree in Early Childhood Education, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus/ Montessori guide for infants and toddlers certification, Instituto Nueva Escuela (INE)
Ms. La Luz is from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, located in the Caribbean. She has 10 years of experience teaching young children. She graduated in 2010 from the Universidad de Puerto Rico and after that she worked as a Montessori guide for infant and toddlers in a developing community in San Juan, Puerto Rico for 7 years. In 2017, after hurricane Maria devastated the island, she and her husband decided to move to Cleveland, Ohio. After relocating to Cleveland, Ms. La Luz worked for two years as a preschool teacher in Gordon Square with The Centers for Families and Children. She enjoys being surrounded by nature, that’s why she loves to go hiking, biking, kayaking, exploring and traveling.
Hannah Dubyoski – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Kindergarten, Giraffe Room)
Credentials: Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, John Carroll University
Mrs. Dubyoski grew up in Bay Village, Ohio as the 2nd youngest of 4 siblings. She graduated from John Carroll University in 2012. During her time at John Carroll, she traveled to El Salvador and Ecuador, and studied abroad in Spain. These travels instilled in her a passion for the Spanish language and Hispanic cultures. After graduating from John Carroll, she spent a year as a volunteer English Teacher in Guayaquil, Ecuador, which strengthened her love of the Spanish Language and instilled in her a love of teaching and a passion for language immersion. When she returned to Ohio, she pursued her teaching licence and has been a Spanish Teacher for the past 4 years. She is excited to join the GALA Team and to contribute to the bilingual education of her students here at GALA!
Laura Soto – Teacher Assistant, Spanish Immersion Program (Kindergarten)
I’m originally from Isabela, Puerto Rico. I moved to Cleveland when I was 8 years old. Prior to GALA, I worked for a couple of years as a medical assistant at a private medical office. I’m a mother of 3 amazing kids. I enjoy going on road trips with my family and getting to know new places with them. I love seeing the growth of every student from the beginning to the end of each school year; it is a rewarding feeling when you see them learn a whole new language. I’m so grateful and blessed to be part of GALA.
Wanda Torres – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (First Grade, Seahorse Room)
Credentials: Master’s Degree in Special Education in Mild Disabilities, University of the Caribbean – Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education 4th to 6th with Specialization in Special Education, InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico
Ms. Wanda Torres is from the Caribbean Island, Puerto Rico. She started her passion for teaching as a young child. Her mother has always been her inspiration for her study and her role model in life. Ms. Torres started her studies at the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico in Elementary Education 4th to 6th with Specialization in Special Education. Soon afterwards, Ms. Torres received her Master’s Degree in Special Education in Mild Disabilities at the University of the Caribbean. Currently, she is continuing her professional training and started a PhD. Ms. Torres has worked as a teacher for toddlers and preschoolers for the past 4 years. She has also worked as a Special Education teacher, bilingual teacher, head start program teacher and child care provider. Ms. Torres loves being a teacher and teaching her students. She is extremely happy to be part of the GALA school team.
Keyshla Mercado – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (First Grade, Jellyfish Room)
Credentials: Bachelor’s degree Psychology, Cleveland State University
Miss Mercado (also known as Miss M) was born in Puerto Rico. She moved to Cleveland, OH when she was 6 years old and has lived in Cleveland her entire life. Miss Mercado knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in the third grade tutoring students. She is a CMSD graduate, as well as a first generation college graduate. Miss Mercado graduated from John Carroll University in 2017. Her love and appreciation of being brought up in a bilingual home and school setting reinforced her passion for teaching at dual language schools. She taught at Luis Munoz Marin, teaching Math, Science, and Spanish Language Arts to second graders for three years. Miss Mercado enjoys movies, traveling, attending concerts and being around family. Her passion and love for teaching lead her to GALA. She is thankful to be a part of a very supportive and welcoming school family.
Nayely Ramos – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Second Grade, Squid Room)
Credentials: Bachelor’s degree Psychology, Notre Dame College
Miss Nayely was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She’s a recent graduate from Notre Dame College as a Psychology major and is currently working on her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a focus in Trauma at Grand Canyon University. Miss Nayely has dedicated several years helping the Latino community here in Cleveland. She has worked with Latino Cleveland, founded the Latino Student Union at Notre Dame and worked with the Cleveland Leadership Center building and shaping young minds to become leaders within their own communities. Miss Nayely is very excited to start her new chapter of her educational journey helping and teaching our next generation of young Hispanic/Latino leaders.
Maria Luisa Plata Mendoza – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Second Grade, Starfish Room)
Credentials: Master’s Degree in Educational Sciences, and Pre-School Education
Mrs. Plata was born in Colombia and has a degree in Pre-School Education, with a Master’s degree in Educational Sciences. She is excited to serve as a second-grade teacher at GALA. Mrs. Plata is proud to be a very organized person with a lot of motivation, and someone who is continually setting new challenges. She is passionate for her profession and is dedicated and committed to the work she does, both outside and inside the classroom.
Claire Steiner – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Third Grade, Hippo Room)
Credentials: Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish, Minor in Communications, and TEFL Certification from the University of Akron
Ms. Steiner is very excited to continue teaching younger students at GALA after her time in Madrid teaching in a primary school. Claire graduated from the University of Akron in 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish, a minor in Communications and a TEFL certificate and shortly after graduating moved to Spain to further her teaching experience and immerse herself in the Spanish culture and language. She has taught and tutored students of all age groups, from online ESL classes to Spanish tutoring through the University of Akron. Claire has 8 younger siblings, so she enjoys working with younger students the most. She is very passionate about language and teaching and hopes to share the wonder of learning from new perspectives and making personal connections to the material.
Jesus Aguero Ramirez – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Third Grade, Octopus Room)
Credentials: J.D., Centro Universitario de Sonora, San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico
Mr. Aguero was born in Mexico where he lived most of his life since he was a child. As a child, he developed a love for music (Mariachi) and learned to play several musical instruments. In his adulthood, Mr. Aguero had the opportunity to teach religion classes to people of all ages, including kids. He graduated from Law School in Mexico, and later taught “Constitutional Law” and ” Introduction to the Study of Law” at the same University where Mr. Aguero was a student. Mr. Aguero has a certification in mediation ( an alternative method for conflict resolution). Mr. Aguero arrived to the United States in August 2016 and has worked as a legal assistant in the immigration area, helping Latino immigrants to gain legal status in the U.S.. Mr. Aguero thinks that it is very important that our new generations learns a second language to expand their opportunities and he is very excited to be able to help children at GALA, by implementing all his knowledge to help students progress in Spanish.
Maitane Ruiz Uranga – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Fourth Grade, Whale Room)
Credentials: Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Basque Country (UPV)
Miss Ruiz was born and raised in Zumaia, Basque Country, Spain. She has been bilingual since she was born, as in the north of Spain where she lives “Basque and Spanish” languages are official. She studied in the University of the Basque Country in San Sebastian and since then she has been travelling and teaching in different countries, such as: Peru, Colombia and England. Apart from teaching she has volunteered for several years with different non-profit organizations, the most important one is called “Darahli” that works with Saharauian Refugees. Miss Ruiz loves discovering new cultures and ways of living, as well as water sports and dancing. She is very excited to join GALA Educational Team!
Jordi Brunet Espuela – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Fourth & Fifth Grade, Dolphin Room)
Credentials: Master’s degree in Teaching Spanish as a Second Language, Valencia International University (Spain); Four year Bachelor’s degree in Education major Physical Education from Universidad Isabel I (Spain); Three year Bachelor’s degree in Teaching Universitat de Vic (Spain)
Sr. Brunet Espuela has been teaching since 2008. He has taught in Barcelona (Spain) and Mansfield (Ohio) as an elementary teacher, and in Winterthur (Switzerland) as a Second Language Teacher. Born and raised in Barcelona and fluent in Catalan, Spanish, Italian (University of Perugia), and English (Cambridge University) and with a good command of French and German, he loves learning and teaching languages. He is delighted to be part of the GALA team and to guide the students on their adventure of learning through languages. “Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.” Flora Lewis
Linda Feliciano – Educational Aide, Spanish Immersion Program (Fourth & Fifth Grade)
Ms. Linda was born in Parma Heights from Puerto Rican parents. As a young child she would spend months at a time in Puerto Rico. She would always lead and participate in cultural events within the schools she attended, Julia de Burgos, involved and then eventually working for the Jobs for Ohio Graduates program, which continues to this day assisting Ohio youth. Because Ms. Linda’s parents were pastors for many years, being involved in the community was a heavy part of her life. This is something which she actively does as of today with her husband and Jaleesa who also is a student at GALA. A background in the operational side of both private medical practices and hospitals, having served as associate pastor in Texas and now in Cleveland, public speaking and translator, counseling youth and young adults alike. Everything that Ms. Linda has learned are from life experiences that have truly impacted her in some way. Now at GALA she is blessed to use the life changing experiences, skills to counsel, assist and demonstrate that all things ARE possible because she’s living proof.
Daniel Weber – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Sixth & Sevent Grade, Jaguar Room)
Credentials: Master’s degree in Theology, Carolina University
Mr. Weber was born and raised by missionary parents in the Dominican Republic, where he became bilingual in Spanish and developed a love for the Hispanic culture. He is a graduate of Carolina University with a degree in Theology and has worked on a Master’s Degree in Education Administration at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. He served as a Youth Pastor, Assistant Pastor and Senior Pastor for over 30 years, and was part of the teaching staff and administration of a small private school in Warren, Ohio. He has been married for 39 years to Kim and they have 2 adult children and two precious grandchildren. Mr. Weber is excited to be part of the GALA community and passionate about seeing students developing a love for learning.
Joshua Ford – Teacher, Math and Science (Sixth & Seventh Grade)
Credentials: BS Applied Linguistics, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL
Mr. Ford is originally from Los Angeles, California. He worked for 11 years as a Data Migration Consultant working with multiple Fortune 500 companies and spending two and a half years in India with his family. He is a father of 4 amazing children and has been living in Cleveland for the past 7 years. Mr. Ford is passionate about teaching skills to help his students grow into healthy and happy adults. He loves writing, reading, and is a nerd culture enthusiast. He is an avid motorcyclist, amateur mechanic, and enjoys traveling whenever he can.
Veraniz Vazquez – Teacher, English Language Arts (Kindergarten)
Credentials: Bachelor degree in Early Childhood Education – Elementary Primary Grades K-3, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus
Ms. Vera has been an early childhood educator since 2004, after graduating from University of Puerto Rico. For several years she has been dedicated to work as an English Language Arts teacher and assistant teacher for the primary grades with a population of bilingual children in Puerto Rico. In 2018, Ms. Vera was part of the family in the Lakewood Childcare Center and worked with amazing Pre-Kinder children. In 2019, she had the opportunity to attend to the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) at “The Ohio Early Childhood Annual Conference” in Sandusky, Ohio. Recently, she decided to move back to Lakewood, Ohio with her sister and niece. She loves nature, sharing with her family and her Golden Retriever! Ms. Vera loves to sing songs with children and enjoys being an early childhood teacher. She is so grateful and happy to be part of the GALA community and team!
Jing Votruba – Teacher, English Language Arts (First Grade)
Credentials: Master of International Trade at China Agricultural University | Bachelor of Bio-engineering at China Agricultural University
Mrs. Votruba grew up in the beautiful city Yangzhou, China. She went to college and graduate school in Beijing and has worked there as a student counselor for two years. With the desire of working in the Education field, Mrs. Votruba started substitute teaching as an elementary school teacher in Alaska. Through an alternative teaching program, Mrs. Votruba obtained a Colorado teaching license in Elementary Education (K-6) while teaching at a language Immersion school in Colorado Springs. Mrs. Votruba has been working at GALA as one of the founding teachers after her family moved back to Ohio in 2016. She studied at Cleveland State University and received her Ohio Early Childhood (P-3) with (4-5) Endorsement teaching license. The seven years of Mandarin language immersion teaching experience have deepened her understanding of American Education, child development, and the importance of diversity and equity. She loves working with children and enjoys teaching them the Chinese language and culture. She believes every student shines at GALA. Besides teaching, she enjoys hiking/biking/fishing in the Metro Parks and visiting the National Parks with her family.
Jaëlle Croom – Teacher, English Language Arts (Second Grade)
Credentials: Currently pursuing a Master of Science in Education for Curriculum and Instruction/Literacy
Madame Croom is a bilingual (English/French) professional educator with a decade of experience and a diverse portfolio. She is passionate about culture, teaching, research and learning. After college, she lived, learned, and taught abroad for nearly half a decade. In her most recent position, she taught American Literature in France. Ms. Croom holds numerous certifications : English Language Learners, French Language and Culture (France), Pedagogy Management and Curriculum Design (France), Social Research with Human Subjects, English Linguistics, Yoga, and Early Childhood Development — additionally, she has just enrolled in a 2nd master’s degree. She credits her passion for the French language to John Michael Langa who inspired her to switch from education research to the classroom. Originally trained as an Anthropologist, Madame Croom uses a culturally responsive and research informed approach to teaching. She is excited to bring all of her experience and training to GALA, and she hopes to introduce the first French programs soon!
Cyrus White – Teacher, English Language Arts (Third Grade)
Credentials: Bachelor of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language, Kent State University
Cyrus grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, and graduated from Kent State University with a degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. He has volunteered with the ESL Center at Kent State as well as with a small preschool in Akron, where many students were children of Syrian refugees. Through these experiences he found his passion for teaching, and reinforced his love for languages and learning. When he has time to spare, Cyrus loves reading, traveling, gardening, and theater. Mr. White is very excited to be joining the GALA team, and he is hoping to inspire students to become lifelong learners.
Mark Sellards – Teacher, English Language Arts & Social Studies (Fourth & Fifth Grade)
Credentials: Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Ohio State University, Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Ohio University
Mr. Sellards grew up in Springfield, Ohio and attended the Ohio University Scripps School of Journalism where he learned to become a professional writer. He has worked as both an editor and a writer for a variety of publications including newspapers, magazines and websites. Early in his writing career he took a part-time job as and aide at a local elementary school in Ashland, Ohio where he found out quickly that he also loved working with children as a mentor. He decided to pursue a second career as a teacher and earned a Master’s degree in education. He has been a professional educator for more than 18 years, and he is excited to help students at GALA develop a passion for the written word, by both reading other accomplished writers and by learning the tools to become excellent writers themselves. Mr. Sellards resides in Bedford with his wife and two teenage sons.
Andy Luu – Teacher, English Language Arts & Social Studies (Sixth & Seventh Grade)
Credentials: Master’s degree in Education from Hamline University, Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Minnesota
Mr. Luu immigrated to Minnesota from Vietnam with his family when he was 10 years old. He is passionate about teaching and has been a teacher for the past 25 years. He has taught in both an urban school in Minnesota and an international school in Singapore. He loves to travel and has been all over the world. He recently moved back from Singapore and is looking forward to settling in Cleveland. Mr. Luu loves reading, exploring new places, trying new and interesting foods, cooking, and dancing to latin music. He is excited to join the GALA team!
Lauren Jasica – Teacher, Physical Education
Credentials: Bachelors of Scie
nce, Physical Education, Sports Administration, Kent State University.
Lauren grew up in Lakewood, Ohio. After high school she attended Kent State University. During her time at Kent State she was very involved in Intramural Leagues. She worked and participated in Intramurals for 4 years. Also during her time at Kent State she was an Intern for Athletics at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent, Ohio. There her passion for athletics and education grew. She graduated with a degree in Physical Education and minor in Sports Administration. Since college Lauren worked at as Summer Camp Director at a local daycare in Mentor, Ohio and as a Director of Activities at an Assisted Living community. Lauren started her Physical Education career at The Intergenerational School in Cleveland. She is excited to share her passion for health and athletics with GALA and build life-long relationships with each student.
Matthew Munson – Integrated Arts
Credentials: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Illustration, School of Visual Arts, New York City | Associate of Arts in Indonesian Language and Culture, Presidio/Defense Language Institute of Monterey, CA | Teach for America, Tulsa, OK
Mr. Munson is thrilled to lead GALA’s student-centered art studio. Mr. Munson’s love and appreciation of art, as well as his passion for creating art, has been a common thread throughout his entire life.
While serving in the United States Marine Corps, he obtained his Associate of Arts in the Indonesian Language and Culture at the Presidio/Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA in 2014. Mr. Munson went on to earn his BFA in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City (2019), where he excelled in Printmaking, Painting, Color Studies, and Life Drawing.
Over the past two years, Mr. Munson enjoyed working with middle school students and their families at Citizens Leadership Academy Southeast in Cleveland, creating/developing curricula in Science and Outdoor Leadership, utilizing a variety of technologies and online methods while teaching courses. He also developed and organized the CLAS Art Club and ensured that each student found an opportunity to showcase their individual creative strengths while supporting them in areas where they could grow.
Mr. Munson is looking forward to creating an energetic, positive learning environment that is student-centered and also developing venues where all students will showcase their amazing creations.
Jennifer Broa – Teacher, English as a Second Language (ESL)
Credentials: Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Baldwin-Wallace College and Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from State University of New York at Stony Brook
Ms. Broa enjoys teaching children of all ages and backgrounds. She began teaching in New York in 2001 as a Spanish teacher in a dual language program. She later moved on to teach ESL in Parma, Ohio. Her love of teaching and traveling combined and she moved to Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and China. While teaching in each country, she gained invaluable experiences in second language acquisition. Outside of work, Ms. Broa loves spending time with her daughters, going to the beach in the summer and skiing in the winter. She is excited to join GALA and share her love of language and different cultures with her students.
Yolanda Jennings – Teacher, Intervention Specialist
Credentials: Master’s Degree in Special Education (Moderate to Intensive, K-12 grades), Reading Highly Qualified Teaching licensure
Yolanda Jennings is from Cleveland, Ohio and grew up as a daughter of a first-generation migrant from Puerto Rico. She graduated from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics; and earned a Master’s degree in Special Education from Cleveland State University, along with a Highly Qualified Teaching (HQT) licensure in Reading. Yolanda has had a successful career in banking technology, before pursuing her passion for teaching. For the last two years, she was a lead pre-school teacher at a five-star, Head Start program. Prior she was an active volunteer of PNC Bank’s Grow Up Great campaign; which provides resources to underprivileged students in urban schools at the primary grade levels. She volunteered as a teacher assistant at a public school in Elyria, while tutoring inner city students in reading and math. In addition, she taught Sunday School and Children’s Church (ages 3 to 10 years). Yolanda also had opportunities to lead forums and serve as the Communications Chair on the PNC Cleveland Chapter Women’s Employee Resource Group (EBRG) to provide awareness and advocate for the inclusion of women and minorities in technology; all while mentoring and supporting the career growth of minorities. Yolanda has studied abroad in Spain, loves travelling, hiking, and gardening. She is enthusiastic to join the GALA team and looks forward to empowering students to achieve their dreams.
Jenny Balina – Teacher, Intervention Specialist
Credentials: Master’s degree in Special Education (Mild to Moderate, K-12 grades), Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Reading Endorsement all from Cleveland State University
Jenny was born and raised in the Cleveland area. She worked 4 years as an Intervention Specialist with grades K-8 at Saint Bridgets of Kildare in Parma, OH. Last year Jenny taught 5th grade at Saint Adalbert’s Catholic School in Cleveland. She is the mother to four teenage boys. Jenny loves to travel, cross stitch (sew), and do outdoor activities; including camping and hiking. Jenny has always wanted to be a teacher and began by teaching swimming lessons to babies, children, adults and those with special needs when she was still in High School. She is excited to be a part of the GALA team!