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, a 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.

Email:     Mobile: (216) 370-8006

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 superpower that brings endless opportunities. “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way” – Frank Smith

Email:     Mobile: (216) 315-7942

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 for 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 a part 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.

Email:     Mobile: (216) 315-7942

Tim Gibbons – Director of Operations

Credentials: Bachelor of Arts, Spanish Major, Baldwin Wallace University

Mr. Gibbons brings his love for culture, language, learning, and operations to his role as our school’s operation manager. During his college years, he spent time in both Argentina and Spain as a Spanish major. Mr. Gibbons then spent the next couple of years working as an administrator at a Cleveland daycare. 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.

Email:     Mobile: (216) 512-9880

Marianny Ravelo – Building Secretary

Marianny Ravelo was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States when she was 12 years old. She has two beautiful babies. Ms. Ravelo went to school to become a Professional Medical coder and graduated in 2019. Her passion for traveling and meeting new people led her to work for the airline industry for five years. That opportunity allowed her to travel the world and meet amazing people.  During her free time, she likes to travel, paint, and volunteer at community events.

Email:     Mobile: (216) 315-7942

Shuoyu Chen – Teacher, Mandarin Immersion Program (Kindergarten & First Grade, 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 about the opportunity to enhance education for children from all points of view!

HsuanHui Huang – Teaching Assistant Intern, Mandarin Immersion Program (Kindergarten & First Grade, Dragon & Seaotter Room)

Credentials: Master’s degree in Education, Graduate Student, Tzu Chi University, Taiwan,  Bachelor in English Language and Literature and Mandarin Teaching Program at Tzu Chi University, Taiwan

Hsuanhui Huang is originally from Taiwan and found her career goal of being a Mandarin educator while she did an internship in Tzu Chi International School in Jakarta, Indonesia. She will be at GALA as an intern in the Dragon Class and Sea Otter Class, mainly helping to prepare teaching materials, operate class activities and support school activities. She is excited about being in a Mandarin Immersion classroom, utilizing her professional skills and learning with the students! During her spare time, she loves traveling, volunteering for NGOs, and trying out  different restaurants.

Yuting Huang – Teacher, Mandarin Immersion Program (Second & Third 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's degree in English from Fujian Medical University (China), and her master's degrees in Secondary Education-TESOL specified (2014) and Elementary Education (2016) from the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). Previously, she worked at St. Louis Language Immersion school as a language teacher and part-time at UMSL Child Development Center.

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's 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).

Zhangjie Chen – Teacher, Mandarin Immersion Program (Sixth, Seventh, Eighth 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's degree from Beijing Language and Culture University, the only higher education institution in China with the main feature of teaching foreigners Chinese, and a Master’s degree from the University of Tampa. Previously, she worked at Butler Academy charter school in South Carolina as a Mandarin Chinese teacher. Mrs. Chen has 15 years of experience teaching a second language to young learners. Her favorite thing is teaching. She also likes singing and traveling.

Zulaida Franceschi – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Kindergarten, Starfish Room)

Credentials: Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, Interamerican University of Ponce

Mrs. Zulaida Franceschi is from the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Since she was little, her love for education grew. She began her studies at the Interamerican University of Ponce, Puerto Rico, where she completed her Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education. Prior to GALA, Mrs. Franceschi worked as a Kindergarten, preschool, and Head Start Lead teacher. She has two amazing kids and loves to spend quality time with her family. She feels excited to be part of GALA and to contribute her knowledge and help future generations of students at 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 from 4th to 6th with a Specialization in Special Education. Soon afterward, 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.

Laura Hernandez Gago – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Second Grade, Octopus Room)

Credentials: English teaching for elementary school, Masters in teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language
Laura was born and raised in a small city of Barcelona (Spain), in a bilingual environment of Catalan and Spanish. She got her degree in teaching English for Primary school in Salamanca, where her family resides. Laura has always been interested in multilingual settings and teaching foreign languages. She lived in Finland and Scotland and got to learn about their different education systems. She worked in Ohio as a Spanish immersion teacher before returning to Spain in 2020 to be an English bilingual teacher again.  Laura was a teacher at GALA for the 2016-2017 school year. Now, she has decided to come back to Ohio and is looking forward to start this second experience in immersion schools.

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.

Hannah Dubyoski – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Fourth Grade, 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 license 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!

Maitane Ruiz Uranga – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Fifth 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 at the University of the Basque Country in San Sebastian and since then she has been traveling 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” which 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!

Daniel Weber – Teacher, Spanish Immersion Program (Sixth, Seventh & Eighth 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 develop a love for learning.

Veraniz Vazquez – Teacher, English Language Arts (Kindergarten, Ladybug Room)

Credentials: Bachelor's 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 the University of Puerto Rico. For several years she has been dedicated to working 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 at the Lakewood Childcare Center and worked with amazing Pre-Kinder children. In 2019, she had the opportunity to attend 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 it 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!

Laura Soto – Teacher, English Language Arts (First Grade, Jellyfish Room)

Jing Votruba – Teacher, English Language Arts (Kindergarten & First Grade, Sea Otter Room)

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 of 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.

Nayely Ramos – Teacher, English Language Arts (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.

Sheri Buckingham – Teacher, English Language Arts (Second & Third Grade, Owl Room)

Credentials: Bachelor of Arts, English Language & Literature and Psychology, Ohio University, Master of Arts in Education, Curriculum and Instruction with Specialization in PK-3rd grade, Ursuline College

Ms. Buckingham became an educator in 2003 after graduating from Ursuline College’s Teacher Apprentice Program where she student-taught kindergarten at Gilmore Academy and second grade in Lakewood. She has experience teaching both second and third grades at Highland School District as well as most recent experience teaching at the preschool level. She has always had a passion for English and she is happy to be back in the classroom working with second graders again helping them to gain a love for reading and writing! She loves the language immersion program at GALA and is so excited to be a part of such a unique school!

Tanya Davenport – Teacher, English Language Arts (Third Grade, Chameleon Room)

Credentials: ---

Ms. Davenport ---

Mark Sellards – Teacher, English Language Arts & Social Studies (Fourth & Fifth Grade, Capybara Room)

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.

Dannysha Luna – Teacher, English Language Arts & Social Studies (Fourth & Fifth Grade, Elephant Room)

Credentials: Master's in International Chinese Education from Henan University, Bachelor's in Education and Applied Mathematics from the University of Akron, and TESOL Certification
Ms. Luna is a dedicated educator born in Akron, Ohio and lived in China for 8 years. She was able to combine her diverse academic background and passion for education and spent four transformative years teaching English and History at a university in China.

Throughout her teaching journey, she has embraced cultural diversity and nurtured a dynamic learning environment. She firmly believes in the power of education to bridge gaps between cultures and empower individuals to thrive in a globalized world. Her experiences as an educator in China have reinforced her commitment to promoting cross-cultural understanding and fostering meaningful connections with her students. 

James Evans – Teacher, English Language Arts (Sixth, Seventh, & Eighth Grade, Dinosaur Room)

Credentials: Master’s degree in Special Education, Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, and Bachelor’s degree in Education from Bowling Green State University
James is a compassionate and driven individual with a diverse background. Originally from Twinsburg, Ohio, he pursued his undergraduate studies at BGSU. Seeking new experiences, James moved to Los Angeles, California in 2015 and became a field producer for TMZ. However, he soon realized he yearned for more meaningful work experience that could have a positive impact on the lives of others. James transitioned to become a life and job coach for adults with autism in Santa Monica, California. His dedication extended to working with toddlers with autism at a daycare center in the same city. Despite finding fulfillment in his work, James missed his family and decided to return to Cleveland, Ohio, in 2018 to further his education. Back in Cleveland, he embraced a role as an Associate Teacher at a center for autism in University Heights, while also working within a Residential Facility in the same location. Eager to grow professionally, James pursued and obtained his Master's degrees, becoming a Behavior Analyst at a behavioral health center in Cleveland, Ohio. Outside of his professional life, James is an avid movie lover, and cherishes his two beloved feline cat companions Viper and Cobra. Alongside this, James is passionate about sports and enjoys exploring thrift shops for hidden gems. James is thrilled to be part of the Global Ambassadors Language Academy family, and his enthusiasm for middle childhood education is evident. He is committed to being the best English Language Arts teacher he can be, and his unwavering dedication to his students' growth and development shines through in all he does.

Joshua Ford – Teacher, Math, and Science (Sixth, Seventh, & Eighth Grade, Sloth Room)

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, and reading, and is a nerd culture enthusiast. He is an avid motorcyclist, and amateur mechanic, and enjoys traveling whenever he can.

Lauren Jasica – Teacher, Physical Education, and Dean of Students

Credentials: Bachelors of Science, 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 a minor in Sports Administration. Since college Lauren worked 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, and 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.

Jesus Aguero Ramirez – Teacher, Music

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 in 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 learn 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.

Michele Dunn – Teacher, English as a Second Language (ESL)

Credentials: Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology, Kent State University

Michele Dunn was born in Caracas, Venezuela, was raised in South Texas, and spent several years living in the province of Quebec. She believes these experiences have shaped her love of diverse cultures. Michele has worked in the field of education for the past 20 years. During these years she has dedicated her efforts to teaching language skills to both neurotypical and neurodivergent students. Michele enjoys playing games and exploring Cleveland with her husband and their two children.

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 had a successful career in banking technology, before pursuing her passion for teaching. For the last two years, she was a lead preschool 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 teaching 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 career growth of minorities. Yolanda has studied abroad in Spain and loves traveling, 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!

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