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 of 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 Health, 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.
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.
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.
Elizabeth Kahn English & Yoga Teacher
Elizabeth Kahn comes to CIVA with 29 years teaching experience in high school Theater and English. She has an undergraduate degree in Theater Performance and Directing and English from the University of Northern Colorado and a Masters Degree in Arts and Humanities from Colorado College. While teaching has kept her life busy, she has been active in the Colorado Springs Theater Community since her daughter, now a senior in Social Work at CSU Fort Collins, was born! Ms. Kahn is an actor, director, set-designer, violinist with the Pikes Peak Philharmonic, and now runs a production company aimed at bringing the stage to the actor and patron who can no longer come to the theater in-person. She also is a veteran yoga teacher, owner of too-many-pets, and avid volunteer. Ms. Kahn lives in the mountains of Manitou Springs with her husband and furry friends.
Brio Lynam Music Teacher
Brio joins the CIVA family in 2021 after their internship with the previous music teachers that took place right as the pandemic began in March 2020; a baptism by fire into the world of teaching. They spent the past year teaching grades 3-12 General Music, Band and Orchestra in District 2 and marveling at the ability of teachers, students, and their families to adapt and innovate. They have an undergraduate degree in K-12 Music Education from the University of Northern Colorado. Brio's primary instruments are the clarinet and saxophone, although they also have experience singing in choirs and have recently delved into learning the piano and banjo. They play and perform on the clarinet with the Woodland Park Wind Symphony and substitute for the Little London Winds ensemble. They previously directed the Sonic Harvest New Music Chamber Orchestra. Rock climbing is one of their favorite past times, along with camping, hiking, writing, and gardening. Brio is enthusiastically looking forward to teaching and learning with the CIVA students and staff.
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 / 504 Plan Coordinator
Born in California’s Imperial Valley and raised in Yuma, AZ, Dan Orraj is CIVA’s Special Education / 504 Plan Learning Specialist & 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 (Special 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 37 years, Peggy, decided to move to Colorado Springs. The 2021-2022 school year with mark Dan's 4th year teaching at CIVA. He considers it an honor to work with such an exemplary group of students and educators. Dan and Peggy's 2 dogs, Emmett and Hunter (both mixed-breed rescues), 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.
RaeLynn Robertson English Teacher
Raelynn Robertson was born a military brat and spent most of her childhood bouncing around before settling with her family here in the springs where she graduated from Mitchell High School and went on to Adams State University. She doubled majored in English and Theatre. She joined the CIVA family for her student teaching right at the beginning of the pandemic and stay after it ended to help with in house support and supervising. Doing her student teaching and getting her license during the pandemic has been a learning experience, but she is excited and prepared to teach English and Sophomore seminar.
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.
Melissa Spruill Registar
Ms. Spruill is excited to start her position as Registrar at CIVA Charter High School. She was born and raised in Michigan, attended Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois, and moved to Colorado over 20 years ago. Since being in Colorado, she has held many roles in education and mentoring teens such as: Attendance Secretary, Musical Director, Piano Accompanist and Volleyball Coach. She has a desire to see each and every student be the best they can be and succeed in their education and in life. She has four grown children and a grandson whom she loves spending time with! When not at work, she enjoys spending time traveling, camping, doing arts and crafts, and baking.
Rachel Van Scoy Science Teacher
Ms. Van Scoy is thrilled to continue teaching at CIVA. She instructs Chemistry, Environmental and Earth Science classes, and holds licensure in both secondary science and special education from CU Denver. Her background is a bit mixed; she attended Littleton Public Schools, graduated from St. Olaf College in Music History and Literature and completed a year of service while operating a farmer’s market in Minneapolis. Her first career was coaching USA Swimming, which she still does now and then, and she performs with theatrical groups in the Denver area. She is also a new mama, so take the last two things she listed and cross them out for a few years! In addition to content learning, her primary goals while working alongside this amazing student body are 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 thirteenth year of 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 children (Violet and Carter), doing arts and crafts, and going to Disneyland!