Faculty List

2017-18-WLA-Staff

Teacher and Staff Bios:


Coach JJ Alvis, Physical Education

I was born in Vail Colorado and I graduated from Eagle Valley High School. I then went to Metropolitan State University of Denver where I received my degree in Education,  and I am excited to be the new Physical Education Teacher at West Leadership Academy. My daughter’s name is Cadence. I love being a Dad.  I love all sports and enjoy staying physically active. I am so excited for a great school year!

GO COWBOYS!!!

Bachelors degree in Human Performance and Sport with an emphasis in K-12 Physical Education.


Scott Ammerman, Chemistry
Mr. Ammerman’s class website

This east coast Jersey Boy was educated in the mid-west and raised a family in the southwest. I left the north suburbs for DPS in order to have an impact on the disparity in education facing ELL’s. Science is everywhere and powerful career choice for improving your future.

Indiana University – BS ’89
University of Colorado – MA ’16


Erick Arellano-Ruiz, Science

I was born in Mexico City but raised in a very small town 4 hours north of Mexico City. I came to the US (Madison, WI) in 2001 and lived there until I moved here in 2014. I enjoy cooking, politics, economics, computers, and SCIENCE.

University of Wisconsin Madison (BS – Chemistry, BS – Spanish Literature)
University of Denver (MA – Curriculum and Instruction)


Dra. Jacqueline Arriaga

I am a first generation Ecuadorian immigrant.  English is my second language and I am a third generation teacher.   I have been teaching for over 30 years (in Chicago and Denver).  Teaching to me is not just a job but also a calling.  I enjoy traveling, reading and spending time with my family and friends.

Soy una inmigrante Ecuatoriana primera generación . Inglés es mi segunda idioma y soy maestra de tercera generación . He estado enseñando por más de 30 años (en Chicago y Denver). Enseñando para a mí, no es sólo un trabajo, sino también una vocación.  Me encanta viajar, leer y pasar tiempo con mi familia y amigos.

University of Illinois Chicago (BA)
Lesley University (MA)
Denver University (PhD)


George Bandy, Social Studies

  • Denver Native
  • Product of Denver Public Schools
  • 23 years in DPS
  • Teacher/Mentor/Coach
  • Colorado Mesa University, AA
  • University of Northern Colorado, BA

Shannon Bockstahler, Language Arts
Mr. Bockstahler’s website

Welcome to YOUR Language Arts class! I have lived in Colorado most of my life, but I’ve lived in Georgia and Minnesota as well. I decided to become a teacher so that I could help other people be successful at whatever they want to do in life. I enjoy playing PC and role-playing games, expanding my technology expertise, bicycling, reading, and writing fiction. My goal this year is to make Language Arts unique for each of my students while teaching you how to think and communicate better than yesterday.

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs


Nicole Brodeur, Psychologist

This will be my second year as a school psychologist! I love working with students and building supports. Some hobbies of mine are photography, swimming, snowboarding, and yoga. I’m very excited to be at WLA!

Undergrad-Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire
Master’s-Rhode Island College in Providence, Rhode Island


Dan Curtiss, History

Hi, I teach 10th grade US History and electives. I am married with 2 dogs and a cat. I am the youngest sibling of 2 sisters that live in Denver and my parents live in Durango.  I also like playing most sports (my main sports are soccer, basketball, and tennis).

Ohio University, BA in Audio and Video Communication
University of Colorado Denver, MA Education


Akilah Davis

I am a Colorado native!  This is my 14th year teaching in DPS. I have had the privilege of teaching pre-school, kindergarten, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade math, eighth grade math, eighth grade science and now sixth grade science. My biggest passion and number one priority in life is being the mother of three fabulous children.  I find great peace in running (especially trail running), hiking, snowshoeing, watching movies and reading.

Henry Ford Community College
University of Michigan
Currently earning a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at Grand Canyon University


Nicole Fetter

Hey I’m Ms. Fetter! I just recently moved to Denver less than a month ago from Chicago. I got my passion for teaching when I was in college at KU. I was a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and instantly fell in love with working with kids. I love to hike, run, and bike and hope to ski this winter. I hope to create strong connections with each of you and promote your learning throughout the year.


Kevin Filiowich, Language Arts

Born of Minnesota’s boreal coniferous forests, I developed a connection to the natural environment at a young age that still calls me outdoors.  As a young adult my curiosity led to horizon-chasing; travelling across oceans and continents to see something new.  I live for thrills, and I love adventure.  Presently, I continue to learn about myself and the world every day, and I look forward to learning together in 10th Grade World Literature.

Florida Gulf Coast University, Bachelor’s of Arts, Spanish and Education


Michael Fink, Math

I was born and raised in Dearborn Michigan.  I moved to Denver in 1994 and have live and taught in Denver ever since.  My goal is that all students will learn to do mathematics, but more importantly they will learn to be problem solvers that will contribute in positive ways to their community.

Eastern Michigan University, Madonna University (no connection to the singer.)  Bachelors of Science in Theoretical Mathematics.


Bronwen Forrestal

I attended the University of Colorado, Boulder, for both my undergraduate degree and my master’s degree.
Hi! I am a sixth grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher here at WLA. My twin sister and I were born and grew up in Denver, and we went to Kepner and graduated from Lincoln. I majored in Spanish Language and in Women’s Studies in college. My husband is from La Paz, Bolivia, and we have 2 sons that love playing soccer. I am a teacher because I LOVE seeing the light turn on in students’ minds – opening your mind to the world is so important and wonderful!

¡Hola! Soy maestra de lecto-escritura y de estudios sociales aquí en WLA. Mi hermana gemela y yo nacimos en Denver, y asistimos a las escuelas Kepner y Lincoln. Yo estudié el idioma español y el feminismo en la universidad. Mi esposo es de La Paz, Bolivia y tenemos a 2 hijos que juegan mucho fútbol. Soy maestra porque me ENCANTA ver que  una luz se encienda en los mentes de mis alumnos – ¡es una maravilla abrir tu mente al mundo grande y fascinante!


Jessica Hubbard, Language Arts

Teaching has always a passion of mine, and I consider myself a life-long learner. I approach the classroom and life with curiosity, learning from my students, and seeking out ways to challenge myself.  When not in the classroom, I can be found spending time with family, friends, and my adorable dog, Remy.

University of Colorado at Boulder – Bachelor’s Degree in History, Minor in English Composition
Metropolitan State University – Teacher Licensure Program


Daniel Kehm, Social Studies

My name is Mr. Kehm and I’m a geography teacher here at West Leadership Academy. This is my second year at West Leadership Academy, fourth year at West campus, and twelfth year in DPS. I have a wife and two daughters, two dogs, and two cars. I think my cars are the coolest. Outside of the classroom, I like martial arts, boxing, wrestling, and outdoor sports. In my classes, you will learn about how our environment affects us and who we are, and how we affect our environment. Welcome to my classroom.

Mi nombre es Sr. Kehm y soy maestro de geografía aquí en la academia de West Leadership. Este es mi segundo año aquí en la academia de West Leadership, mi cuarto en el campus de la West y cuento con 12 años en las escuelas públicas de Denver. Tengo una esposa, dos hijas, dos perros, y dos coches. Creo que mis coches son los más padres. Fuera del salón de clases, disfruto las artes marciales, boxeo, lucha americana y cualquier deporte relacionado con la naturaleza. En mis clases aprenderás como nuestro entorno nos afecta y quiénes somos y como afectamos nuestro entorno. ¡Bienvenido a mi salón de clases!


Sarah Kennedy, Language Arts

Ms. Kennedy was born in Indiana and raised in Colorado. She loves soccer, skiing, biking, hiking, swimming and camping. One of her passions is photography and she loves taking pictures of her three-year old son.  Mrs. Kennedy is a huge fan of the Denver Broncos!

University of Colorado at Denver, Bachelor degree in English
University of Colorado at Denver, Masters in Art  – Curriculum and Instruction


Yvette Martinez, Language Arts

I am a Mother, a Wife, a Daughter, a Sister, a Friend, a Teacher, & a Student! I love to laugh loudly, read, knit, hike & be with family and friends. My true career, one of a lifelong learner, turned me into a teacher, and I am truly blessed.

Metropolitan State University of Denver/B.A. Political Science with an emphasis on Middle Eastern Politics & a Minor in World History
University of Phoenix/Masters in Secondary Education


Jeannette Martinez-Yackel, Math

I have been a teacher for 23 years and for 23 years I have been passionate about my students and about mathematics. I am married and have 3 children and a really cute grandson. My parents are West alumni so I have been a Cowboy since birth!


Karin Mendoza

I was born in Colombia S.A., and raised in New York. I am Married, have three (3) wonderful sons.  I have been teaching in DPS for 14 years. I have wanted to teach since I was 5 years old. My family and I love to travel.  I consider education to be the most important asset a person can possess. I love the excitement and thrill of the ride.

Universidad Externado de Colombia: Business Degree, Minor: Marketing
Metro State University: Education License
CU Boulder: Masters in Multicultural Education


Angel Montoya, Language Arts

My name is Angel Montoya, I am from the Land of Enchantment (New Mexico). I have a profound love of learning and truly believe in the power of education, which lead me into the field of education. My family is the foundation of my life, and without them I wouldn’t be where and who I am today.  I am constantly on the path to self-discovery and adventure, so I’m constantly seeking new and exciting adventures. Currently, I’m working on my doctorate degree at CU Denver, this is such an exciting and challenging endeavor as I’m learning new information in the realm of education, which is challenging my thinking, but I’m also learning more about myself. In my spare time, I try to partake in various hobbies such as: Disney, movies, reading, musicals, concerts, traveling, photography, scrapbooking, and eating out.

  • Eastern New Mexico University: Bachelor of Science Communication/Sociology
  • Eastern New Mexico University: Master of Art Communication
  • Eastern New Mexico University: Master of Art Secondary Education
  • University of Colorado at Denver: Educational Doctorate Leadership for Educational Equity

Rachel Montoya, Math

Hello!  Welcome to WLA!  I am so excited to be your teacher!  I am a bilingual teacher, and I have worked in DPS for 16 years (at Munroe, Kepner, and WLA).  In my free time, I love to read, go salsa dancing, and scrapbook.  I am the happy mother of three furry babies (my dogs).

BA in Elementary Ed/Emphasis: Bilingual Education from UNC; MA in Bilingual Ed. from CU Boulder


Michael Ocasio

I have always had a passion for education and leadership.  I am humbled to have been given the opportunity to travel to many different countries all over the world.  I have taught English in China, given leadership lectures to students in Kenya, and worked at The American School In Switzerland.  My door is always open, please stop by and say what’s up.  Go Cowboys!


Elvira Olivas, Restorative Practices Coordinator

I was born in Chihuahua Mexico, raised in Denver.  My biggest passion and first priority in life, is to be a great mom to my only daughter Yaretzy. This is my 6th year working as a Restorative Practices Coordinator for the district, I love my job! I have two pets, a dog and a snake! I love adventures: skydiving, whitewater rafting, backpacking, hiking, camping, rock climbing, and traveling including road trips!! I’m always on the go, enjoying life in the company of daughter and my awesome boyfriend, they make life better. I’m super excited to be part of the WLA team! Cheers to a great school year!


Dr. Carrie  A. Olson

I grew up surrounded by pine trees and lakes in northern Minnesota.  I have lived in Colorado since 1985 and am in my 33rd year of teaching in Denver Public Schools.  I have a daughter, Katya, who is ia junior in college and I am owned by a horse named Nick at Nite.  I teach social studies, English Language Development, and AP Seminar.

  • Wartburg College, Waverly, IA:  B. A. in Elementary Education and Spanish
  • University of Colorado at Denver:  M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, (Language, Literacy, & Culture)
  • University of Denver:  PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, with an emphasis in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Carlos Mauricio Parra Quintero, Spanish

Mr. Parra is a native of Colombia (South America.) He has a bachelor of International Business from Santo Tomas University, a Master Degree in Education from El Bosque University and Spanish as a Second Language from Rio Piedra University at Puerto Rico. He has experience working with students  ranging in age from Preschool to College. Mr. Parra is in his 10th year of teaching Spanish for heritage speakers and AP Spanish Languages and Culture. He loves theater and Latin Dance.


Enrique Plaza Gonzalez, Science
Mr. Plaza’s Website

My name is Enrique and this is my first year at WLA where I will primarily teach Biology. I have been travelling the world for many years and arrived to colorful Colorado in 2013. I was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. I have a wife and two children, all of whom keep me very busy and entertained.  Some of my hobbies include cooking and travelling. This is my third year teaching in the US, before moving to Colorado I lived in Norway and Ethiopia. I am excited to start this new adventure at WLA and expect my students to be respectful to others and learn from mistakes and failures.

Me llamo Enrique y es mi primer año como profe de Biología en WLA.  Después de viajar por el mundo durante muchos años llegué al Colorado en 2013.  Soy de Madrid (España), estoy casado y tengo dos hijas que me mantienen bastante entretenido.  Soy aficionado de la cocina y los viajes.  Es mi tercer año enseñando en Estados Unidos y antes de llegar a Colorado viví en Noruega y Etiopía.  Estoy entusiasmado por poder empezar esta nueva aventura en WLA,  mi objetivo es que mis alumnos aprendan al máximo en un ambiente respetuoso y sin ningún miedo a equivocarse.

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) & Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU):
BS Forest Engineering
MS Environmental Science


Michelle Probasco, Physical Education

Hi all, I am a Colorado native that has been teaching in one way or another for over 20 years; been in public education for going on 11 years now. I’m a mermaid of course because I love all things to do with water, but even this water lover has to take her dogs on hikes but even then we seem to find some sort of water. I’m really looking forward to this school year!


Ximena Quintana

I am originally from Santiago Chile but was raised in Denver Colorado. My father being from the San Luis Valley is what brought the family to Colorado.  I earned my BA in Spanish at Metro State. On any given weekend you will find me exploring the outdoors with my two beautiful boys. I love everything about Colorado:  city of Denver, mountains, weather, and everything there is to do outdoors.


Melanie Rios

I am a Denver native. I graduated from North HS. I have been teaching in DPS for 15 years.

College of Santa Fe
Metropolitan State College
Regis University


Adrean Rivers

For the past 18 years I have enjoyed bragging about being a teacher to all my friends.  It’s a joy to work with young students to help build a foundation for success in life. Outside of the classroom I spend time with family and friends, and I love to hike with my two dogs, Oona and Morris.  Last winter I took a chance and tried something I have always wanted to do: narrate audio books.  I currently volunteer for Learning Ally to record a variety of books for people with reading difficulties, and I also narrate audio books that you can find on Amazon and Audible.

Metropolitan State University, BA in Spanish
University of Colorado at Denver, MA Cultural and Linguistic Diversity


Anita RoHa, Art

I love to do yoga, play soccer, make art, read books, watch the clouds roll by, sleep under the stars, go on road trips with my two kids and my husband, teach kids how to play with their ideas thru art making, and eat delicious food with my family and friends!

North High School graduate
University of Northern Colorado – BA in Art Education


Coach Matt Santistevan, Physical Education

I played baseball for Metro State for four years.  I was the hitting and outfield coach for Metro state for the next two years.  I started my career at the East Denver YMCA as the Physical Coordinator for the next four years.  I have been teaching P. E. for DPS for the past 14 years.

Metropolitan State College of Denver.   Bachelors of Science in Human Performance Sports and Leisure.


Devin Sheehan, Social Studies

Within two months of graduating from college, I opened my own pizza restaurant with a couple of friends.  Two years later I was living in the north of Chile teaching English and getting a taste for the world.  I’ve lived in a variety of places and worked with a range of students.  I continue to move forward in my new home at WLA in Denver.

James Madison University, BA English


Mike Stroh, Computer Science
Mr. Stroh’s Website

I was born and raised in Upstate New York.  I earned my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the State University of New York at Albany.  After college, I worked in the field of Information Technology for seven years before becoming a teacher.  I’ve recently earned my master’s degree in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education from CU Denver.


Adria Tate, Dean

Adria Tate is a Secondary Teacher Effectiveness Coach, supporting West Leadership and George Washington High School.  She has been an educator for 19 years.  She began her teaching career in 1995 as a Social Studies teacher in California, moving to Colorado in 2008 to become the AVID Center Program Manager to Colorado, supporting 92 secondary sites.  Most recently, she was the College Readiness Systems Manager for DPS, supporting AP, IB and AVID teachers. In addition to working at a TEC, she continues to consult for AVID, providing professional development and instructional coaching to secondary teachers throughout Colorado and the nation.

Adria has a MA in Curriculum and Instruction.  Her passion and expertise include academic program development, rigorous instructional design, and curriculum alignment around district and state standards. Her goals as a TEC include anchoring the work of her two schools in the Denver Plan, with a strong focus on equity and access for all students.


Javier Tolsá Potous

Nací en Alicante, una ciudad costera de España. Siempre he estado vinculado a los deportes relacionados con el agua (vela y natación). Los idiomas (este año quiero aprender el quinto: portugués), la familia, viajar, la psicología, cocinar y observar a las personas. Eso e intentar no perder la sonrisa nunca, serían mis pasiones. He vivido y trabado en Italia, Inglaterra y Holanda; en el 2013 me mudé a EEUU. Sobre West, creo firmemente en ella, en sus valores y en esta familia. En definitiva, llevo desde el 2007 rodeado de alumnos, quienes me enseñan cada día.

Elegí ser profesor cuando tenía 15 años viendo a mi profesora de literatura española, me encanta la magia que desprendía.

Saludos, saluti, fins aviat,  lembranças, greetings.

I was born and raised in Alicante, a coast city in Spain. I have been always related to water sports (sailing and swimming). Languages (this year I want to learn my 5th: Portuguese), family, travelling, psychology, cooking and observe people are my passions, besides trying to keep smiling all the time. I have lived and worked in Italy, the Netherlands and UK; in 2013 I moved to the US. About West, I strongly believe in it, in its values and in this big family. In conclusion, I have been surrounded by students since 2007, who taught me every single day.

I chose to become a teacher when I was 15 observing my Spanish Lit teacher. I loved the magic she transmitted to us.

Saludos, saluti, fins aviat,  lembranças, greetings.

Licenciatura en Universidad de Alicante y máster Auburn University.


Amanda Vitry

I was born in Denver and have lived here my whole life. I was raised by a single mother who taught me to self-advocate and to never give up on my dreams. I enjoy colorguard, art, music, camping, dogs, and my favorite power tool is a chainsaw. I love reading and learning, so I have wanted to be an English teacher for most of my life. I am excited to help our students achieve their dreams and become leaders at WLA this year!

Regis University


Marita Whalen, Math

Ms. Whalen was born in Denver and she moved to Washington, D.C. for college. Before becoming a teacher she had some pretty awesome jobs… like guiding a bike trip across the United States and teaching wheelchair users to ski. For her first two years as an educator, she lived and worked in a small village in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Ms. Whalen spends her free time chilling in the mountains; she goes backpacking in the summer and skiing in the winter. She also has a passion for politics and government, so you can often find her reading the news and meeting with our legislators.  She loves her WLA family… GO COWBOYS!

George Washington University, 2008, Bachelor of International Affairs