Meet the Faculty
Although Paul was trained as a geologist, earning his MS from the UW in 1981, his real career was founded on his enjoyment of being a teaching assistant as a grad student and of teaching geology at the community college level. From the day he was first hired by The Bush School in Seattle in 1983, he has taught only middle school. For 10 years at Bush he taught science and learned about middle schoolers, and continued that as he became the founding head of Hyla Middle School in 1993. He has always enjoyed middle schoolers’ enthusiasm in general and, in particular, their potential to get excited about their discoveries about the ever-expanding world around them, whether those discoveries are intellectual, social, political, or personal. At Hyla, he has found that their ability to establish rewarding relationships with each other and with their teachers is a special delight. He started teaching 8th grade algebra at Hyla in 2003, and although he stepped down from his role as head of school in 2007, teaching math and science and doing the class schedule for Hyla keep him amused, charmed, busy, and intellectually engaged.
Growing up in a family of educators, Melissa thought it was the last profession she would choose. But after teaching theatre to groups of young adults who were trying to leave their gang activity behind, she was hooked. She already had a BA in Theatre Arts and Italian from Lake Erie College in Ohio, so went on to get an additional degree in secondary education from the University of Denver and has been an educator ever since. She began her career by teaching theatre and gifted and talented students at a middle school in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, where she found the vibrancy, and humor of young adolescents to be energizing. It was then she saw the promise and possibility of middle level education; these years being a crossroads where the life of an individual often makes up its mind. After Colorado, she lived and taught in East Lyme, Connecticut–a small town on Long Island Sound. While teaching language arts there she was named Holocaust Educator of the Year and became a conference presenter for the New England League of Middle Schools. She’s been a student of the Reading and Writing Project, Columbia University, New York since 2003 and moved to Seattle four years ago to pursue an advanced degree at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. She currently holds professional educator certificates in Connecticut and Washington. She chose to teach at Hyla because she saw happy children who not only had vibrant relationships with each other, but with their teachers as well. Experiencing other cultures has always been a particular delight for her, some of the most memorable being studying abroad in Italy and helping train Russian school teachers in Moscow. She also enjoys writing, reading, anything pertaining to the ocean, and hiking, but most of all she loves talking to friends over a cup of coffee.
As an avid reader who loves children and literature, it seems only natural that Jill would work as a middle school librarian. Born in Iowa to a close knit family of farmers, Jill was raised knowing the value of hard work and perseverance. After many years working within the public school districts in North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island, Jill was invited to create and design the library space at Hyla. Jill works hard to find just the right resources to support students and teachers and to enhance the curriculum. Her love of young adult fiction continues to spark enthusiasm in the middle school students that attend Hyla and often alumni students return to borrow our Hyla books also. Although promoting reading is important to Jill, she finds that teaching students about Iowa agriculture is just as rewarding. She has taken Hyla students to her family’s farm to explore Iowa and learn about that agriculture first hand during Exploration Week. If you were to look for Jill outside of school, you may find her browsing local bookstores, enjoying a great book in the sunshine, kayaking Liberty Bay, or crafting in her sewing room. Jill and her sons reside in Poulsbo.
Mike is a newcomer to Bainbridge Island and currently resides in Poulsbo. He came to Hyla in 2009 after teaching Spanish at Okanogan High School for four years. There he also coached the middle school wrestling team. Previously he instructed Math and Science at Maple Valley Alternative High School. He graduated in 1997 from Washington State University with a BA in Spanish Language and Literature and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree from the University of Salamanca in Spain. Mike first studied Spanish in junior high but fell in love with the language during a five month stay in Veracruz, Mexico as an exchange student. Mike later traveled to Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela during college which further enriched his Spanish language skills and his appreciation for the multitude of cultures in our world. Traveling, meeting new people, continually learning, and sharing what he knows are a few of the things Mike loves to do.
Jennifer is a happy person. She is forever viewing the world as sunny and mild of temperature. Her passions include American history and the outdoors. In her college years she dove into the study of the Civil War and the far west at Gettysburg College where, in 1993, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. While working at the “Civil War Institute,” Jennifer was inspired by the honesty and hope that middle schoolers had and realized that she wanted to teach. She went on to graduate school at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania to get her teaching certification. In 1998, after teaching in Pennsylvania for three and a half years, she moved west to follow another passion—mountains. Outside of school, Jennifer’s hobbies include backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, ice climbing and rock climbing, but most of all she enjoys introducing the wonders of life to her six year old daughter, Nevi and four year old son, Swift.
An ideal day for Cami would be spent outdoors all day experiencing our environment. Having grown up in Nebraska, Cami loves extreme weather including summer thunder storms after hot humid days or winter bone-chilling winds. As an undergraduate a the University of Nebraska, she spent several summers outside studying biology at a field station, as well as researching cricket genetics in a laboratory and population biology on a prairie reserve in Minnesota. Cami continued her education at Cornell University where she completed a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. After graduate school, she was a biology instructor for four years in Chicago at DePaul University. Since moving to Bainbridge in 2007, Cami learned to appreciate Pacific Northwest for its trees, ocean, the temperate marine climate, and topography–none of which come naturally for a Nebraskan. Before coming to Hyla in 2009, Cami volunteered her time teaching science to kindergartners at St. Cecilia’s Catholic School and marine science to preschoolers at the Poulsbo Marine Science Center. In her free time, Cami enjoys biking, hiking, swimming, camping, playing on the beach, gardening and observing the fascinating behaviors of her chickens with her family.
Vicki grew up on Bainbridge Island and went on to study comparative religion and psychology at Lewis and Clark College. After graduation, she moved to Cambridge for graduate work at Harvard University, earning a Master’s of Theological Studies from the Harvard Divinity School and a teaching certificate through the Program in Religion and Secondary Education, a joint program with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She then enjoyed three adventure-filled years at the Pusan University of Foreign Studies in Pusan, South Korea, teaching English and studying Korean. Vicki worked next at the Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, MA, where she spent eleven years teaching math, serving as a dormitory housemaster and, for the last three years, as the school’s Director of Studies before her arrival at Hyla in 2009. Outside of school, Vicki enjoys kayaking, gardening, and playing obscure board games. Vicki lives on the island with her daughter, Emma, who is a recent graduate of Hyla.
As Development Manager at Hyla, Katherine oversees the school’s fundraising and marketing activities. Katherine grew up on Bainbridge and graduated from Lakeside School before continuing on to Smith College, where she studied government and French and spent her junior year in Geneva, Switzerland. She is an avid reader, loves film, and appreciates all forms of narrative and storytelling. Her professional work in strategic communications is also about storytelling: sharing the work and value of an organization through various distribution channels to encourage meaningful connections between like-minded groups. She is thrilled to join Hyla to tell our story – 20 years strong!
Chris has taught middle and high school mathematics for over 40 years, including several years at the UW when she worked with the MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) Program and co-authored a series of middle school modules that integrate mathematics, science, and careers. She has also conducted professional development workshops throughout the state for middle school teachers, presented sessions at regional and national conferences, and developed an on-line course for teachers who are using the MESA modules. In addition, she has taught secondary methods courses to prospective teachers for WWU, and served as a consultant for middle schools throughout the state as they revitalized their mathematics programs. She was a member of the founding committee for Hyla Middle School and began teaching here in 1998 when she and her husband moved to Bainbridge. In her spare time, she loves to sew.
Laura began college at Northwestern University in the Theater Department, concentrating on costume design. After studies at the Art Institute of Chicago, California College of Arts and Crafts, and the Fashion Institute in Los Angeles she had a brief career in fashion design. She completed her bachelor degree in Art at Cal State Northridge, followed by a Masters of Fine Arts at UCLA. She established herself as a fiber artist, exhibiting primarily in Los Angeles, Chicago, and later Seattle and Bainbridge Island. In 1987 Laura developed an art program for the Fairfield School in Los Angeles. In 1991, she began teaching art for the Bainbridge Island Parks Department, developing a preschool art course while running the youth and teen Art Workshops. These experiences led her to open her own art school in the fall of 1993, teaching after- school and Saturday classes. Laura joined the Hyla faculty during its first year. She lives on the island with her husband, Robert, and daughter, Caitlin, who is a Hyla alum. Whenever possible, Laura and her family pack their bags and journey to foreign lands.
Joyce is an actress, director, and theatre teacher. Her passion for theatre led her to study at Carnegie-Mellon University, The Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Hedgerow Theatre in Pennsylvania and to seek training at conservatories around the country. Joyce’s professional acting and directing career included residencies in theatre companies in Pennsylvania and Illinois followed by a connection with DePaul University’s Goodman School of Drama. Her move to the West Coast in 1980 expanded both performance and teaching opportunities. She developed the Shakespeare in the Schools program through the Seattle Arts Commission, taught at Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle area private schools, and traveled in the corporate world teaching vocal technique and management skills while continuing a successful professional acting career. She loves sharing the performing arts with students at Hyla.
Kris joined Hyla in the fall of 2004 as counselor for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Kris comes to Hyla with a strong background in youth counseling and program administration at numerous local schools and organizations. Kris is counselor at The Island School where she formed the counseling program in 2000. She is also a consultant for independent schools in Seattle. Kris serves on the steering committee for The Holt Webster Fund, which serves “at risk” youth on Bainbridge Island. Kris worked as a counselor for Bainbridge Youth Services where she also founded and facilitated the BYS Youth Board, a peer education program where high school students worked with middle school students to promote drug/alcohol education and prevention. At Seattle Country Day School, Kris formed the counseling program, served as interim dean of students, worked in admissions, served as counseling consultant, and served on the board of trustees. During the early part of her career, Kris worked in the King County juvenile court system, at Seattle Children’s Hospital, a runaway shelter, a Seattle youth service bureau, and a community mental health center. She also had a private practice on Bainbridge Island for over 10 years. Kris has a BA in Social Work, and an MA in Psychology. Kris lives on Bainbridge Island with her husband Brad and daughter Maxsena (Hyla ’11). Her daughter Bridget (Hyla ’03) is now working in education.
Cindy’s sense of adventure and exploration has taken her many places in her life thus far. She grew up in New York and Pennsylvania, went to school in Boston (with a short stint in Australia), and then moved from Los Angeles to Seattle, to San Francisco, and back to Seattle again. After experiencing life in many different places, she has settled here on Bainbridge Island with a desire to stay put and raise her family. Her husband David and two sons Ryan and Luke keep her very busy. As a family they enjoy the outdoors, gardening, biking, and co-exploring the island. Cindy completed her BA in math and education at Boston College, then later her MA in Multicultural Education at UW. She has taught middle school for over 10 years at The Overlake School, The Hamlin School, and Lakeside School. She has experience with a variety of ages, but her true passion is teaching middle school students. She loves this age group for their sense of fun, humor, and budding intellectual maturity. She is excited to be a part of the Hyla community.
Born in Eastern Canada, Kimberley moved to the United States after high school to continue her education. After graduating with a degree in English Literature, studying theatre and playwriting in London, England, Kimberley received her Masters in Social Work and her Juris Doctor from Syracuse University. Kimberley has lived in a number of states throughout the country but she is most happy in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Kimberley shares her passion for learning through experiential class activities. Outside the classroom, Kimberley maintains a law practice focusing on family law issues. She is licensed to practice in New York and Washington. She is also a Guardian ad Litem for Kitsap County. Kimberley loves photography and is the current art director for a local restaurant. In her spare time, she enjoys sculling, writing, and cooking. Of course, her favorite pastime is spending time with her husband, Mead, and two daughters, Alexa and Easson.
Kris Van Gieson has had a lifelong interest in teaching and counseling. He graduated from The Evergreen State College in 1982 with a focus on life sciences and education. He received his Masters degree in psychology from Antioch University in 1987 and obtained his teaching credential from City University in 1993. He has taught, coached and counseled young people since he was a teenager himself. Kris has worked in outdoor adventure programs, schools, churches, community mental health centers and the juvenile justice system. He started a multi-cultural youth adventure program and maintained a counseling practice for kids and families for 11 years. Kris has a lifelong habit of taking on challenges and sharing them with others whenever he can. These adventures have included a cross country bike trip, dogsledding in Hudson Bay, competing in triathlons, building a house, starting a non-profit organization, and learning to surf at 40 years old. In the greatest adventure of all he raised two kids, Kira and Izak, with his wife Kathie McCarthy. Kathie and Kris are currently adjusting to an empty nest. Izak left for college and Kira is starting her rookie year of supporting herself after graduating college last spring. Kris has worked at Hyla since 1995.
Skyler leaves very little time between adventures. When he is not at Hyla, you’ll have to search for him among the Washington and Oregon surf spots, the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, the ultimate frisbee fields of Seattle or any rock, tree or wall worth climbing. Skyler is the first Hyla alumnus to come back and be on the teaching staff. He has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology of Education from Western Washington University where he played on a national level ultimate frisbee team. He is interested in the coalescence of psychology and physical activity in the well being of individuals. Whether coaching on the Frisbee field, belaying on the climbing wall or teaching people how to surf, Skyler seeks to utilize the physical realm to foster internal health.