Janessa Jandt | Office Manager
Janessa graduated from Minnesota State University Mankato (MSU) in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology & Criminal Justice. She graduated with a master’s degree in Sociology & Human Services in 2018 with an emphasis in victim services. Janessa will start the master’s degree in Social Work program at MSU Mankato fall 2019 for licensure to become a school social worker.
Janessa has worked as a direct support professional at REM Woodvale for 6 years. She was a previous Special Education Advisor at CHOICE Technical Academy. Janessa was a teaching a assistant at MSU Mankato for Victimology 2016-2018. She completed her internship as a victim services coordinator at Steele County State Attorney’s Office.
Most importantly, Janessa has two little boys, Jayden and Oliver Wilde. She enjoys traveling, camping and hiking state parks with them. Some of Janessa’s favorite things are yoga, reading, painting, live music, Halloween and the DC Comic series of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl.
Amy Stafford| Advisor
My name is Amy, and I am excited to be an advisor at CHOICE! I have a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a Linguistics minor and a Master’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies with an Anthropology emphasis both from Minnesota State University, Mankato. I also have an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from Bethany Lutheran College. I studied German, Norwegian, Hebrew, American Sign Language and Spanish in my linguistics program, and enjoy learning about the cultures of the world. I have traveled to Great Britain, India, and around the United States, and I hope to do more traveling! I enjoy exploring National Parks, singing & playing piano, murder mysteries, peppermint mochas, antiques, Indian curries, Jane Austen, Star Trek, and spending time with my husband, 3 kids and 2 cats.
Chad Olson| Advisor
Chad is entering his 6th year as an Advisor in Project Based Learning Schools. Prior to joining the team at CHOICE, he taught at Northern Lights Community School near Grand Rapids MN, and Voyageurs Expeditionary High School in Bemidji. Chad has worked with youth his entire adult life and truly, truly enjoys connecting with kids and helping them grow into adulthood. Prior to becoming a licensed teacher he was an Experiential/ Outdoor Educator and Wilderness Guide. Chad’s summers are spent in the woods either guiding youth in Wilderness Therapy programs or on personal trips. As an educator Chad believes that each student finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace. He believes that if we engage each student’s natural curiosity, we can create lifelong learners.
Natalia Pitts | Social Worker
Natalia is the new school social worker at CHOICE Technical Academy this year. In the spring of 2017, she graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato, with a Bachelor of Behavioral Sciences degree in Social Work. Prior to her new position as a school social worker, she worked as a Case Manager for homeless individuals and also as a Sexual Violence Program Advocate. In her free time Natalia loves hiking, watching movies, working on D.I.Y. projects, and hanging out with her cat.
Sam Bultsma | Special Education Para
This is Sam’s second year at CHOICE. She is 24 years old and lives in Lakeville. She earned her associates degree in Human Services from Century College in 2015. Before coming to CHOICE, Sam worked as a tutor and summer camp counselor at Lifetime Fitness and the Lakeville School District. She also worked as a sports coach and youth worker at the YMCA, as well as a special education paraprofessional in the Faribault School District. Sam enjoys working with the students at CHOICE.
Courtney Leyden | Special Education Para
Courtney Leyden is 28 years old, and has been living in Owatonna since 2007. This is her third year working as a Special Education Paraprofesional at CHOICE. In the spring of 2016 she earned her associates degree with an emphasis on Elementary Education through Riverland Community College. She plans on continuing her education in order to obtain her bachelors degree in Education through Winona State University. Courtney is hard working and a tremendous people person, and is excited to continue her journey at CHOICE Technical Academy.
Michael Millerbernd| Mathematics Advisor
Mike is the Mathematics Advisor at CHOICE. He graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in 2012 with a B.S. in Mathematics. After working through the first three actuarial exams, he realized that his true calling was teaching when a friend told him to sit in a math class one day. Before the end of the first period class, he had already determined that he needed to be a secondary teacher and went to Bemidji State University to get his teaching license. He is now dedicated to exploring how to best present mathematics in a project-based learning environment.
Elise Hageman | Advisor
Elise graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2014 with a degree in Social Studies Education. During her college career, she studied abroad and taught in an International school in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Elise loves to learn about different cultures and the world that we live in. This is Elise’s first year at CHOICE. Previously, Elise taught in St. Peter, MN where she helped implement History Day and AVID in the Middle School. Elise is looking forward to connecting to students at CHOICE and helping them grow as learners. In her free time, Elise likes to cook, bake, spend time outdoors, and knit.
Melissa Donner| Project Manager
My name is Missy Donner and this is my third year at CHOICE. If you are interested in art, I am the one to see. I enjoy working with just about any medium and like to see the students push themselves while learning new things. Creativity is such a valuable outlet for expression. My husband Brad, (a wildlife artist) and I live in Waseca, MN where we raised seven children, and now have seven grandchildren, who are, unfortunately, not in Waseca. They are spread out all over the country. I love to read, and someday I want to have a house with a library in it so that ALL of my books can be out. I also like to sew dolls and animals from my own original patterns. It’s fun to see something that was two-dimensional become three.
Alexa Ammundson| Special Ed Para
Hello, my name is Alexa. I studied Fine Arts at the UMN Twin Cities. I am married and have two children of my own. In the past, I have been an 911 dispatcher, a lab Analyst, and a cake decorator. None of which are remotely alike. I am looking forward to helping students with projects and watching them achieve their goals.
Jennifer Hughes | Title I Advisor
Jenny Hughes has been with CHOICE Technical Academy since the 2016-2017 school year. She started as a substitute, then became a Project Manager, and now has the pleasure of being the Title I Advisor and test coordinator, as well as the Convener.
Jenny graduated from Mankato State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and Cum Laude honors in 2011. Currently she is participating in the FastTrack program with Bemidji State University in order to earn her teaching license in Communication Arts and Literature.
Some of Jenny’s favorite things are bad puns, worse movies, knitting, reading, and guiding student growth. She is very fond of foxes and would like to own a pet fox one day.
Connie Devries | Special Ed Para
Connie grew up in Owatonna and graduated from Owatonna Senior High School in 1973. She has worked in many positions over the years. For the past 10 years, Connie has been involved with special education. In 2014, she became an Orton-Gillingham tutor for Dyslexia and reading delays.
Connie is married and has three children. She enjoys spending time with her children and pets. Connie is very excited to join the team at CHOICE Technical Academy.
Jeff Phiefer | Fernbook – Skills Worker
Greetings! I am Jeff Phiefer and I absolutely love working with a variety of populations, including young children, adolescents, and adults, by helping people reach their full potential and becoming aware of how mental health affects each and every one of us. I have been a mental health practitioner for 7 years and have been employed through Fernbrook Family Center throughout this time. Prior to my years at Fernbrook, I worked at a local group home “Rainbow Residence” for 8 years as a direct care coordinator helping residents complete their daily routines as well as writing behavior modification programs for populations dealing with co-occurring intellectual disabilities and additional mental health diagnoses. I have additional experience working with specific populations struggling with addiction and anxiety diagnoses, and favor working with the adolescent population soon merging into adulthood. I have been working on behalf of Fernbrook in collaboration with schools around Owatonna for the past 5 years. Currently, I have my LADC (Licensed Alcohol Drug Counseling) license, as well as being a current student in my second year of graduate school pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology through Argosy University, Twin Cities. In my spare time, I enjoy gardening, spending time with my significant other and our pets, and being outside in nature. I am a fan of abstract art and lifelong learning, holding close to my heart that everyone has the capability of reaching their full potential if they are supported and provided with a helping hand.
Rochelle Shultz | Fernbook – Mental Health Therapist
Rochelle began her career at Lutheran Services in Iowa providing direct services to people with disabilities, adults with chronic mental health issues, families involved in child welfare services, and children and their families with mental health issues for 4 years. For the next 10 years, she managed 9 different programs in Cedar, Louisa, Scott, and Muscatine Counties and provided clinical oversight to mental health services. After moving to Minnesota in 2017, Rochelle joined Fernbrook Family Services and, now provides mental health services to students at CHOICE Technical Academy, the Alternative Learning Center, and Owatonna Middle School. Rochelle’s education includes a BA in psychology (2003), BA in sociology (2004), Masters of Social work (2013), and a Masters in Public Administration (2015). Rochelle is currently licensed to practice in Iowa (LMSW) and Minnesota (LGSW).