All Crossroads Academy teachers are highly qualified, experienced and effective. They have been selected through an extensive interview process conducted by proven educators. Crossroads Academy fosters a culture that attracts, develops and retains great teachers.

Crossroads Academy Staff

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  • Dean Johnson

    Executive Director

    Dean Johnson FY14

    Dean Johnson is a Kansas City native and 1993 graduate of Loyola University Chicago.  He joined the Jesuit International Volunteers and taught at Xavier High School in the Pacific Island nation of Micronesia.  Returning to Chicago, Dean taught and was principal at The San Miguel School.  Dean holds a Masters’ Degree in Multicultural Education from Columbia College Chicago, and a Masters’ Degree in International Political Economy and Development from Fordham University.  He was a humanitarian relief worker in Zimbabwe and Indonesia from 2005-2008.

    Presently, Dean is Executive Director of Crossroads Academy, which he and Tysie McDowell-Ray co-founded in 2011 in Downtown Kansas City.  Crossroads Academy, a K-8 charter school serving 350 children, is known for its exceptional teachers, unique community partnerships and dedicated students who are meeting high academic expectations in a creative and focused learning environment.  The school is completing an $8 million dollar facilities expansion project to accommodate student growth.  Due to high parent demand, Crossroads Academy will open a second elementary school in August 2016, and aspires to open a high school in 2018.

  • Tysie McDowell-Ray

    Chief Academic Officer

    Tysie McDowell-Ray FY14

    Tysie McDowell-Ray was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Elementary Education and a minor in African World Studies. Tysie taught for two years in Des Moines, Iowa before moving to Kansas City. She taught in the KCPS district and at another charter school before founding Nia Educational Consulting and becoming an adjunct professor at UMKC.   In 2012, Tysie partnered with Dean Johnson to co-found Crossroads Academy of Kansas City.  Tysie loves working with the talented staff, motivated students, and dedicated parents and community stakeholders.  Tysie is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and the Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association.  She serves on the board of To The World, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children here and abroad.  Tysie enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, traveling, and singing any chance she gets!

  • Nikki Bates

    Science Teacher (K - 4th Grade)

    Nikki Bates FY14

    Nikki Bates graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and comes as a first year teacher with a love for Science. Previously, Ms. Bates taught at The Boys and Girls Club of Kansas City during the summer program. Ms. Bates enjoys seeing students recognize their own accomplishments and realizing their potential.

    She has two daughters and enjoys spending her free time with them.

  • Sandra Botello

    Administrative Assistant

  • Rosie Brennan

    Development Coordinator

  • Kirsten Brown

    Middle School ELA/SS Teacher

  • Allison Bucklew

    Middle School Math Teacher

  • Taylor Burton

    Special Education Teacher

  • Frances Christian

    Second Grade Teacher

    Frances Christian

    Frances Christian has over 20 years of experience in the field of education. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Central Missouri. Mrs. Christian has spent her entire teaching career as an educator in the Kansas City urban core.

  • Andrea Clayton-Jones

    Kindergarten Teacher

    Andrea Clayton-Jones

    Andrea Clayton-Jones has worked in education for 10 years. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in 2001 from Stephens College. Prior to working at Crossroads Academy, Mrs. Clayton-Jones worked for C.A. Burke Elementary of the Hickman Mills School District where she was honored as “Teacher of the Year”. She also tutored for Applied Scholastics and is the Director of Bears and Balloons Nursery.

    Mrs. Clayton-Jones enjoys reading, watching football and spending time with her loved ones.

  • Adrianne Clayton

    Visual Arts Teacher

  • Valerie Deibel

    Third Grade Teacher

    Valerie Goulson

    Valerie Deibel attended UMKC’s School of Education and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Ms. Deibel taught in the Hickman Mills District previously.

    Ms. Deibel was born and raised in Brainerd, Minnesota but has since fallen in love with Kansas City! Some of her hobbies include reading, cooking, baking, gardening and cheering on Kansas City’s home teams at sporting events.

  • Bethany Drobeck

    Middle School ELA/SS Teacher

  • Lisa Gann

    Visual Arts Teacher

    Lisa Gann

    Lisa Gann has over 30 years of experience in the field of education. She received Bachelor’s degrees in Art Education and in Fine Arts from Northwest Missouri State University. She also received a Master’s degree in Arts Education from the University of Kansas. Along with a teaching certification in K – 12 Visual Arts, Ms. Gann holds an Elementary Education Certification for classroom teaching.

  • Jamie Greason

    Blended Learning Coach

    Mrs. Greason received her Bachelor’s degree from William Jewel College and received a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Avila University. She became a Google Certified Innovator and an eMINTS certified teacher in 2012. She is passionate about engaging students in work that matters outside of the classroom, integrating technology into the curriculum and helping every child discover a love of learning.

    In her free time, she enjoys running with friends, gardening, traveling, evenings on the deck with her husband and a good book, and taking her dog, Moose, swimming.

  • Lee Gruss

    Fifth Grade Teacher

    Lee Gruss has been an educator for 29 years.  She graduated from Moorhead State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.  Lee has been a classroom teacher in grades K-8, with the last 20 years in Middle School teaching Science.  Lee enjoys working with students of all ages, but her favorite spot was the year she spent in a one room schoolhouse in rural Montana.  Pine Creek school was in beautiful Paradise Valley and offered its unique personality to her teaching experience.  Bear trainings, riding to school on a snowmobile and having to stay in school late one night because a Mountain Lion was lose are all memories that last a lifetime.

    Lee has a Masters degree from Webster University in Math and Science Instruction.  She believes in the inquiry approach to teaching and feels that students learn the best when they are active in the process.

    Lee has a wonderful husband who she enjoys spending time with.  They love to go to the city market together and watch baseball games.  She also loves reading mystery novels and sunsets.

  • Rachel Hockett

    Second Grade Teacher

  • Justina Holt

    Middle School ELA

    Justina Holt attended William Jewell College in Liberty, MO and received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and French. Mrs. Holt previously taught at Scuola Vita Nuova Charter School as a Fifth and Sixth Grade Communication Arts Teacher and the Ewing Marion Kauffman School as a Fifth Grade Guided Reading Teacher. Mrs. Holt was born and raised in Wichita, KS but now considers herself a KCMO native!

    She loves Chiefs football, reading and spending quality time with her friends and family. She is looking forward to a wonderful and productive year of learning and discovery with CAKC scholars, teachers and families!

  • Dana Jackson

    Assistant Principal

  • Mary Kennedy

    Title I Reading Teacher

    Mary Kennedy

    Mary Kennedy comes to Crossroads Academy with extensive teaching experience in private and public schools. Mrs. Kennedy received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas, earned her teaching credential from National University in Sherman Oaks, CA and a Master’s degree in Adolescent and Child Literacy from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA. She has worked as a K-1 head teacher and as a fourth and fifth grade lead teacher. Mrs. Kennedy has also worked as a Reading Specialist at the Kelter Center in Los Angeles, CA, and as a reading specialist at The Educational Therapy Center in Parkville, MO.

    Mrs. Kennedy enjoys hiking and spending time with her family. She also enjoys reading, yoga, traveling, family vacation and gardening.

  • Connie Kenyon

    Special Education Coordinator

  • Laura LaCroix

    Instructional Coach

  • Colleen Lawler

    English Language Learners (ELL)

    Colleen Lawler is a sixth-year teacher with a passion for education and language-learning. After graduating from Rockhurst University in 2010 with Bachelor’s Degrees in Spanish and Elementary Education, she taught for one year in Portland, Maine as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. She then returned to Kansas City to work as a Spanish teacher in an elementary charter school. In 2012, she obtained her Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).  Now she enjoys teaching English language learners of all ages and diverse backgrounds.  Colleen loves traveling to visit her family members and friends scattered across the country. She also enjoys making cards, reading, walking and communicating in Spanish.

  • Beverly Leonard


    Beverly Leonard

    Bev Leonard has over 30 years of professional teaching, administrative and community leadership experience. She holds an Elementary Education degree from Missouri State University, a Reading Specialist degree from Drury College, a Special Education Degree from University of Northern Iowa and a Specialist Degree in Administration from University of Central Missouri. She has worked as an elementary and middle school teacher, special education teacher and as an elementary and middle school administrator with experiences in public and charter schools.

    Mrs. Leonard is active in a variety of civic organizations and serves on Boards of Directors for various nonprofit agencies that support children in disadvantaged circumstances. Mrs. Leonard and her husband have been married 40 years and have two daughters and a grandson.

  • Kristen Marriott

    Middle School STEM Teacher

    Mrs. Marriott is excited to join the Crossroads Team as the middle school STEM teacher this year. She graduated from Kansas State University with her Bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a focus in Middle School Science. Mrs. Marriott has taught for seven years, three years teaching third grade and four years teaching Middle School Science.

    At home, Mrs. Marriott spends time with her husband Mr. Marriott (Tim) and her daughter Brooklyn. She loves to go out and do things around Kansas City with her family. Having a membership to the zoo and season tickets to Starlight keep the entire family entertained. Mrs. Marriott also has a love for animals, she has two dogs, a cat and a bearded dragon.

  • Adrienne McGee

    Volunteer Coordinator

    Adrienne McGee FY14

    Adrienne McGee has loved being a part of Crossroads as a parent and volunteer since it was founded.  She is excited to join the team and to be able to help others experience the joy of serving at the school.

    Mrs. McGee grew up in Oklahoma and has also lived in Dallas, TX, and Wichita, KS. She, her husband and their two children moved to Kansas City in 2008 and are happy to call Kansas City home. She enjoys a good documentary, game nights with her family, and shared meals with friends.

  • Bonita Mickens

    Science Teacher (K - 4th Grade)

    Bonita Mickens FY14

    Bonita Mickens received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Missouri in Kansas City with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 2006. Teaching is a 2nd career for Ms. Mickens. She taught second grade for the five years and now enjoys teaching science as it applauds the natural curiosity in children and the wonderment of discovery.

    Ms. Mickens enjoys supporting her adult son in Special Olympics, which he has been a part of for 15+ years, entertaining her three grandchildren and traveling with family and friends.

  • Jacque Moore

    Fourth Grade Teacher

    Jacque Moore

    Jacque Moore has taught for 11 years in the private and now public setting.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from St. Louis University and her Master’s degree in Education from Webster University.  Mrs. Moore has lived in Kansas City for most of her life.  In her free time she enjoys reading, yoga, writing, watching movies, going out to eat, and spending time with family and friends.  She also has a little  black dog named Hosner.

  • Anne Nichols

    Chief Operating Officer

  • Jenee Nuelle

    Middle School STEM teacher

  • Amanda Osborn

    Middle School Math Teacher

  • Chris Osgood

    First Grade Teacher

    Chris Osgood

    Chris Osgood is an experienced international educator, having taught overseas for 7  years in South Korea and Thailand. Mr. Osgood has experience as a classroom teacher and in ELL. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Master’s degree in Elementary Education.

    Mr. Osgood enjoys spending time with his family, going to the lake, cooking and traveling around the world.

  • Mildred Pope

    Fourth Grade Teacher

    Mildred Pope

    Mildred Pope graduated from Northwest Missouri State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education.  Originally from St. Louis she moved to Kansas City two years ago to teach at Crossroads Academy. This is her second year teaching fourth grade.

  • Maria Ramos

    English Language Learning Teacher

  • Jennifer Rostohar

    Performing Arts Teacher

  • Marikate Sears

    Kindergarten Teacher

  • Pennie Senn

    Kindergarten Teacher

    Pennie Senn

    Pennie Senn has been an Early Childhood teacher for 41 years. Mrs. Senn attended the University of New Orleans where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. She continued her education there, completing a Master’s Degree plus 30 hours in Early Childhood Education. Mrs. Senn taught in the New Orleans Public School System for 32 years before Hurricane Katrina and then moved to Kansas City to teach at an urban public school.

    Mrs. Senn has two sons and a wonderful husband. Some of her favorite things include reading, going to the movies and watching a child’s eyes light up when they write their name for the first time or fall in love with their first book.

  • Lauren Smith

    Fourth Grade Teacher

  • Paige Smith

    Special Education Teacher

  • Rebecca Sommerhauser

    First Grade Teacher

  • Liz Spangler

    Middle School ELA/Math

    Liz Spangler graduated from Knox College with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education.  She gained a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from UMKC.  Before coming to Crossroads, Mrs. Spangler taught 4th and 5th grade for seven years.  Mrs. Spangler also has experience teaching children with emotional and behavioral disorders and adults.  In her free time, Mrs. Spangler loves gardening, running, and yoga.  After school and on the weekends Mrs. Spangler can  be found hiking  with her husband, Todd and  two dogs Belle and Doyle.

  • Rodney Thompson

    Teacher Paraprofessional

    Rodney Thompson FY14

    Rodney Thompson taught for two years at Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy and four years as an Administrator for the Kansas City Public Schools District.

    Mr. Thompson enjoys singing, acting and spending time with family.

  • LaTrecia Thornton

    Teacher Paraprofessional

    LaTrecia Thornton has worked with children professionally for seven years with the Kansas City Public Schools District.  Mrs. Thornton graduated from  TAD Technical Institute where she earned certification as a  Medical Assistant and Phlebotomist. She worked for Dr. Richard Wasserman for two years before he passed away.  It was during her time working in the doctor’s office where she felt the calling to work with young people.

    Mrs. Thornton began attending UMKC full time studying English/ Secondary Education but, returned to work after two years due to a family illness. She began working in the Early Childhood/Head Start  Departments of the Kansas City Missouri School District where she earned certification as a  Child Development Associate.

    Mrs. Thornton is married with five children, four daughters and one son. Mrs. Thornton enjoys playing and  listening to music, watching musicals, reading books about African American History and spending time with family and friends.

  • Christine Toliver

    School Nurse

  • Melissa Torres

    Enrichment Teacher

    Melissa Torres comes to Crossroads Academy with 7 years of elementary teaching experience, she has taught in Wichita Public Schools and North Kansas City Schools.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from Friends University in Wichita, Kansas and her Master’s from Northwest Missouri State University in Teacher Leadership.   While in North Kansas City, Melissa developed a passion for utilizing instructional technology and project based learning.  In her spare time, Melissa enjoys spending time running and riding bikes with her husband and daughter Maya.

  • Garet Uptergrove

    Physical Education and Health Teacher

    Garet Uptergrove

    Garet Uptergrove graduated from University of Central Missouri with a degree in Physical Education K-12. Since graduation he’s been involved with Blue Springs and Warrensburg School Districts supporting many community activities.

    Mr. Ups enjoys spending time with friends, family, his dog Natty and his wife.

  • Angela Vandeventer

    Sped Coordinator/Speech Pathologist

    Angela Vandeventer received a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Kansas and an M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Rockhurst University.   Mrs. Vandeventer holds her CCCs from the  American Speech-Hearing Association ( ASHA)  and is licensed in both Kansas and Missouri.

    Mrs. Vandeventer is passionate about working with students with a variety of communication disorders.  In her 11th year as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), Mrs. Vandeventer looks forward to providing services and working closely with students on her caseload at Crossroads Academy.   In addition to her duties as an SLP, Mrs. Vandeventer will be taking on the role of Special Education Coordinator for the 2015-2016 school year and is committed to ensuring  that all students with special needs are  successful.

  • Douglass Walker

    Student Relations Coordinator

    Walker, Douglass FY14

    Douglass Walker has worked with students as a Behavior Interventionist for more than 15 years. The three life skills that he instills in his students are: “I can let the adults be in charge, I can be okay when others are not okay and I can follow directions even when I don’t want to.” Mr. Walker has built meaningful relationships with his students, which allows them to partner together and develop the strategies needed to ensure success in the classroom.

    Mr. Walker enjoys his family and spending time with his two sons. When not in school, he is a singer/songwriter who also enjoys acting and coaching baseball.

  • Larry Washington

    Middle School Physical Education Teacher

    Larry Washington has worked in the Field of Education for over 10 years.  He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello with a B.A. in Physical Education and a Minor in History and received his Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching from the University of Central Missouri.   Prior to working at Crossroads Academy,  Mr. Washington worked at a Middle School in the Monticello School District in  Arkansas as a Tutor/ Long Term Substitute, as a Behavior  Interventionist and Football Coach  at Derrick Thomas Academy, and most recently, as a Behavior Interventionist, Tutor,  Football / Basketball Coach, and Male Mentor at Pathway Academy here in Kansas City.
    Mr. Washington loves spending quality time with his wife and three kids.  Originally from Louisiana, Mr. Washington enjoys watching  the New Orleans Saints and the LSU Tigers play during the football season.

  • Suzanne Welde


    Suzanne Welde earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Oregon, a Masters degree in Education from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and worked as a School Counselor in Hawaii, Virginia and Kansas City Public Schools prior to joining the Crossroads team.  She is also a Crossroads parent, of a 2nd grader and a Kindergartener.  Originally from Arizona, Mrs. Welde is now happy to call Kansas City home!

  • Leah Willard

    Operations Manager

    Leah Willard FY14

    Leah Willard has worked in the school setting for 12 years. She previously worked as an Office Clerk and School Secretary in the Hickman Mills School District.

    Ms. Willard enjoys traveling, spending time with family and friends and volunteering for a great cause.