CIVA Staff Bio's
Betsy Acree McClenahan Artist in Residence
Ms. McClenahan (Ms. Betsy to her CIVA students) is Artist in Residence at CIVA Charter High School. When not at CIVA, Ms. McClenahan is the Program Director for Kaleidoscope Arts Project, a program of Imagination Celebration as well at the Artistic Director of Kaleidoscope Dance Project, a semi-professional dance company showcasing the Pikes Peak region’s premiere dancers. With more than forty years of experience teaching dance and theater arts, Ms. McClenahan is passionate about the thriving arts program at CIVA and coordinates performing arts experiences for Ravens throughout the community. In 2010, Ms. McClenahan helped to create the What If Festival of Innovation which now reaches more than 30,000 visitors to the Pikes Peak region and is on the Board of the Colorado Springs Dance Theater and Arts and Business Education Consortium.
Holly Archer Science Teacher
Ms. Archer earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Vermont and her Master of Science from San Francisco State University. Prior to her arrival at CIVA she worked in molecular biology and ecology labs in San Diego, San Francisco, and more locally at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. After nearly 13 years as a professional scientist she decided to leave the lab and pursue another one her passions, teaching! She maintains many professional and personal connections to the scientific community and is particularly excited to use these connections to the benefit of her students. Ms. Archer is an enthusiastic lifelong learner, and feels that being curious and well-informed is the key to an exciting and successful life!
When Ms. Archer isn't teaching Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, or Geography, she enjoys hiking, backpacking, and attempting to learn new languages.
Keith Benson Math Teacher
Mr. Benson teachers math and economics. He became a teacher after watching public education take a back seat to most other priorities and knowing that since most problems in our society are rooted in inadequate schooling, wanted to be part of the solution. Mr. Benson has been fortunate to have traveled to 35 countries so loves how CIVA embraces our international students. He is proud of the academic success that CIVA has achieved as SAT scores have trended upwards during the time he’s been at CIVA. Go Ravens!
Debbie Chinn English Teacher
Debbie Chinn, British by birth and married to an American Chinese, has enjoyed teaching English in several inspiring locations: on the lovely coast of England, she began her career at an international language school; teaching at a Hungarian power station, she experienced the country’s first democratic election following the fall of the communist block; she taught university students in three northern provinces of China, where she met her husband; in New Mexico, while earning a masters in special education, she worked as a sub, after which her family moved to the tropical island of Penang, Malaysia, for twelve years to teach in an American school. Now with five children and three amazing grandchildren, Debbie enjoys spending time running and hiking in the mountains. She loves her work and feels privileged to teach CIVA’s creative students.
Rhonda Cameron Music Teacher
Rhonda Cameron is a graduate of the University of Colorado's music education program. She has 28 years of experience on a wide variety of musical instruments, as well as vocal, composition, and music theory training. She has performed around the globe as an orchestral ensemble member from Spain to Carnegie Hall. As an educator, she has been able to serve as a sectional coach for Western Slope Honor Choir and has had the distinct privilege of serving as a guest clinician for Bennet Hill High School, Kit Carson School District, and at the annual conference for the Colorado Music Educators Association. Outside of her work at CIVA she enjoys cycling and spending time with her two daughters. This is her 11th year in public education, and her 8th year at CIVA Charter School.
Krasen Daskalov Social Studies Teacher
Krasen Daskalov is from Sofia, Bulgaria where he graduated from the Spanish Language High School “Miguel de Cervantes” in 1996. He studied International Relations at the University of National and World Economy and pursued his first Master's degree in European Studies at New Bulgarian University. In 2002 he moved to Italy and graduated from the University of Bologna with M.A. in European Policy Studies. He moved to the United States in 2004 and spent the following 12 years in Aspen, CO where he developed an appreciation for the beauty and lifestyle of Colorado. In 2016 he finished a postgraduate degree in Education from Colorado Mesa University and moved to Colorado Springs. This is his fifth year with CIVA Charter School where he teaches United States history, European history, and Global Politics, employing his rich life experiences and passion for history, teaching, and world affairs. He uses proven and innovative educational practices in order to prepare our students for the rigors of college, and life.
Lisa DeFouw School Nurse/Registar/Health and Fitness Teacher
Ms. DeFouw received her BA in Biology from Kean University in NJ. After doing scientific research at UMDNJ- NJ Medical School, she completed her RN at Elizabeth General Medical Center. She then worked as an RN at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation as well as working in the NICU. She received her School Nurse Certification from Kean University in 2007. She has worked as a School Nurse since then, both in NJ and CO. In 2018 she fulfilled a lifelong dream and completed her 200 YTT yoga teacher training. It is her passion to share the many physical and mental benefits that practicing yoga provides. When she is not working, she enjoys practicing yoga, skiing, kayaking, SUP, and hiking.
Sean Dineen Social Studies/English Teacher
Going into the fourteenth year of his CIVA career, Mr. Dineen has filled many roles: from teaching music and directing musicals to coaching multiple sports to his current roles in the English and social studies departments. His bachelor's degree in English education and his Master's degree in religious education make him qualified for the job, but he feels, and many of his students throughout his career have validated, that it is his creativity, humor, and concern for the student as an individual that makes him most effective in his job. Mr. Dineen actually made his first contact with Headmaster Zimmerman as a parent rather than as a potential employee, and now has a CIVA graduate as well as a junior enjoying her third year at CIVA. “I don't think I could give a better compliment to nor express my faith in CIVA any better than by the fact that it's the school I chose for my own kids. It has been amazing seeing CIVA grow over these past thirteen years (including getting top scores on standardized testing and the SAT in the district), and I'm extremely excited to see how we can continue to grow moving forward."
Kyle Hills Art Teacher
Mr. Hills teaches art, drawing, painting, drawing and painting II, sculpture, art history, and A.P. Studio Art.
Mr. Hills likes working in all types of medium and doesn't like doing the same thing twice. He likes to challenge his students to explore new methods and mediums in order to grow as artists and to offer creative problem solving tactics as a mean to tackle any challenge one may encounter both inside and outside of the school he calls home.
Throughout the school year you can spot Mr. Hills running with the cross country team, or training for his next race. The shortest distance he has raced has been the 800 meters (half mile) in track and the longest run he has completed was a 100 mile race known as "Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile" in Steamboat Springs. He also ran the Boston Marathon in 2013 and finished with a time of 2:45:33.
Mr. Hills lives in Old Colorado City with his wife, son, and two Bengal cats.
Melissa Hills Math Teacher
Melissa Hills is a native of Wisconsin where she attended the University of WI – Milwaukee. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s of Science in Secondary Education and Mathematics. After graduating in 2007, she relocated to Yuma, AZ where she helped to open a large new high school and was the department chair. After 5 years of teaching, she changed careers and worked alongside the Marine Corp. Melissa worked to help develop curriculum for the Marine Corps' advanced flight school.
Eventually, Mrs. Hills relocated to the beautiful state of Colorado. She has a passion for reinvigorating student’s interest in mathematics. Her other passions are enjoying the great outdoors, trail running, and enjoying her family life with her husband and son.
Melissa Leider English Teacher
Ms. Leider is new to CIVA this year and is excited to be teaching Freshman English, Creative Writing, and Band. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching degree as well as a Bachelor of Music from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. When not teaching, she enjoys playing with her puppy, hiking, and kickboxing.
Malerie Madson Dance Teacher
Mrs. Madson grew up in Tempe, AZ and became a Royal Academy of Dance Majors Member. However, the lights of New York City beckoned and at 18, she moved to the “Big Apple”. In the spring of 2008 Malerie graduated from Wagner College with a B.A. in Musical Theater Performance and a minor in dance. During her undergraduate work she had the opportunity to intern both at Dance Magazine in Manhattan and Dance/USA in Washington D.C. In 2010 Malerie received her M.A. degree from New York University in Teaching Dance in Higher Education and The Professions with a concentration in ABT Pedagogy. She is a certified teacher of the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum for level Primary-7. She has worked over the last decade at professional regional theatres around the country as an actress and dancer in musical theatre productions. She has also worked teaching Fitness and Health at Northern Arizona University, Mesa Community College, Lifetime Fitness and Club Q. Her dance teaching experience ranges from ages 4-18 at schools, academies and privately owned studios. She is excited to share her fitness and dance experience with the CIVA students!
Nick Madson Theatre Teacher
Mr. Madson is excited to be teaching theatre here at CIVA in his hometown of Colorado Springs. A graduate of Oklahoma City University's prestigious performing arts program, Nick studied theatre, musical theatre, dance, and music. After college, Nick moved to New York City and traveled the world as a professional performer. After more than 2 decades of performing in theatre and television, Nick continues to perform, but is very excited to work with the students of CIVA. Having worked and performed alongside names like Zoe Caldwell, Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O'Hara, Donald O'Conner and many others, he is thrilled to have a chance to pass along the invaluable lessons and skills he gained to those who may not have the same opportunities to learn directly from such wonderful performers. Mr. Madson loves teaching the dedication, skills, and factual realities of the performing arts to those interested in a professional performing career. At the same time, he believes theatre can teach anyone the importance of working alongside others, communication, and public speaking. Mr. Madson strives to instill an appreciation and passion for the arts at CIVA, in the community and the world large.
Dan Orraj Special Education Learning Specialist
Born in California’s Imperial Valley and raised in Yuma, AZ, Dan Orraj is CIVA’s Special Education Coordinator (also highly qualified in CTE, English Language Arts, Business and Social Studies). Dan obtained his B.A. in Philosophy at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, CA in 1979 before traveling to Europe to earn his M.A. in Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Leuven, Belgium) in 1983.
After returning to the U.S., Dan owned and operated his own insurance agency in Yuma, AZ, for 15 years before moving to Highlands Ranch, CO, in 1998. Over the next 15 years, he worked for several Fortune 500 companies including SAFECO Insurance, Citigroup/Smith Barney, and TIAA-CREF. In 2014, after obtaining a 2nd M.A. in Education from the University of Phoenix, he began his teaching career at Alameda International High School in Lakewood, CO.
In November of 2017, Dan and his wife of 35 years, Peggy, decided to move to Colorado Springs. Their 2 English Springer Spaniels, Emmett and Keyna, ensure that “empty nest syndrome” will never be an issue.
Kellie Palmblad English Teacher
Kellie Palmblad is an educator, creative writer, and musician native to Colorado Springs. She studied literature and film at UCCS then education at Colorado College in the MAT program. Throughout her years teaching in Colorado Springs and a semester exchange in New Zealand, she developed a passion for art-based education. She is honored to be a part of the CIVA team and to share in the exploration of the arts with CIVA's amazing students.
Elise Robinson Administrative Associate
Ms. Robinson, a Colorado native, graduated from Northwest University and has been involved with mentoring teens for over 20 years. She works hard to assure that students have the support they need as they work toward achieving their goals. She has an open-door policy to meet with students to discuss schedules, post-secondary plans and share her chocolate.
Rose Souza Administrative Associate
Ms. Rose is excited to start her position as an Administrative Associate at CIVA Charter High School. She was born and brought up in Brazil and she speaks Portuguese and Spanish. She obtained a Bachelor of Sports Science in Sao Paulo (Brazil) and she taught Physical Education for seven years back home. After moving to the USA, she earned her Masters in Business Management and worked for Grand Rapids Public Schools in Michigan from 2015 to 2017. On personal front, Ms. Souza loves hiking with her dog, practicing yoga, traveling, refinishing wood furniture, crafting, enjoying family and learning new skills. She is happy to be a part of the CIVA community and looks forward to meeting everyone.
Rachel Van Scoy Science Teacher
Ms. Van Scoy is thrilled to be at CIVA and working alongside this amazing student body. She instructs Chemistry and Earth Science classes, and holds licensure in both secondary science and special education from UCTE and Noyce Scholarship programs at CU Denver. Her background is a bit mixed; she attended Littleton Public Schools, graduated from St. Olaf in Music History and Literature, completed a year of service, coached USA Swimming (which she still does on the other side of I25!) and occasionally performs with theatrical groups around town...once they open back up. She is also a new mama, so take all of those other things she just listed and cross them out for a few years! In addition to content learning, her big goals are for students to improve their research skills and scientific literacy, as well as build critical thinking, problem solving and astute discussion habits.
Chris Wolfe Video/Photography Teacher
Mr. Wolfe is a graduate of the Adam State University's Bachelor of Fine Art program. In the past, Mr. Wolfe has had the honor of collaborating on artworks for DC comics. He spends his free time with his darling daughter and further exploring the realms of digital art. He is currently on his third year teaching at CIVA.
Haley Wolfe Math/Science Teacher
This is Haley Wolfe's twelfth year teaching at CIVA. She currently teaches Geometry, AP Physics 1, and Pre-Algebra. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) with a double major in biology and chemistry. Mrs. Wolfe later received her teaching certificate through BOCES Teachers in Residence Program. Math has always been a great passion of hers; something she even enjoys doing for fun. She is highly qualified to teach both science and mathematics. When not teaching she enjoys spending time with her daughter (Violet), doing arts and crafts, and going to Disneyland!