Dr. Darren Pascavage- Head of School and Faculty, Mathematics
Founding Head of School, Dr. Darren Pascavage, joins Academy High with a wealth of experience in leading Independent Schools. He served as Headmaster of Valwood School in Valdosta, Georgia. Prior to that appointment, he served as Founding Headmaster of Eastminster School in Conyers, Georgia; as Executive Director of Escuela Internacional Sampedrana in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; as Headmaster and Vice-President for Academic Affairs of Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta, Georgia; and as School Director of Victory Charter School in East Point, Georgia.
In 2003, Pascavage was selected as a National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) E.E. Ford Fellow; in 2010 was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS); and in 2015 was elected as a member of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) Board of Directors.
Dr. Pascavage serves as Math faculty for Academy High’s inaugural school year. He began his career as a science and mathematics teacher, and taught in several schools as he began his work in administration. Dr, Pascavage was a six-time recipient the of STAR Teacher designation in the state of Georgia. His independent school teaching experience has included AP Calculus, AP Statistics, AP Physics, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Astronomy, Philosophy, Computer Science, Mythology, and Latin. Furthermore, he has served as a class advisor, student government advisor, club sponsor and has coached soccer and basketball.
Pascavage earned his B.S. in Physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology, his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of Georgia, and his Ph.D. in Social Foundations of Education from Georgia State University. Since 2001, Pascavage has taught in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University, teaching graduate courses in educational research methods and quantitative analysis.
“Dr. P.” (as he is affectionately known) and his wife, Andrea, reside in Urbana with their two children. He is also proud of his two daughters, who attend university in Georgia.
Amanda Heinsman- Faculty, English and Writing
Amanda Heinsman has a B.A. in English Education from Bethel College, and Professional Educator licenses in both Indiana and Illinois. For the first four years of her career, she taught 6th – 12th grade English Language Arts at the International Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. Since returning to the United States three years ago, Heinsman has taught middle and high school students in local public and parochial schools.
Heinsman is married to a Russian History PhD student at the University of Illinois. She enjoys reading, cooking, and playing video games.
Annie Tock Morisette- Faculty, Social Studies
Annie Tock Morrisette comes to Academy High after several years of balancing graduate school, archaeology work, and publishing. She earned a B.A. in History from Hanover College, an M.A. in European History from Eastern Illinois University, and an M.A. in Maritime Studies and Underwater Archaeology from East Carolina University. She is currently writing her Ph.D. dissertation in Canadian-American History with the University of Maine, exploring riots and the responsibility for public order in mid-19th-century Ireland and Canada. Tock Morrisette gets to share her other passion, historical archaeology, with college students on an excavation in Belgium every other summer, and she’s thrilled for this opportunity to explore the generalities and nuances of history with Academy High students.
Born and raised in Champaign-Urbana, Tock Morisette enjoys traveling, cooking, and hanging out with her family and friends, including two elderly black lab mixes, two fish, and a three-legged turtle.
Natasha Capell- Faculty, Science
Natasha Capell joins Academy High after almost a decade teaching high school biology in downstate Illinois. She earned a first class honors bachelor’s degree in biology from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Since then, she has also earned a M.S. in biology from the University of North Texas, an M.S. in the teaching of biological sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Capell will graduate from Illinois with her Ed.M. at the end of this semester. Before she discovered her enthusiasm and drive for teaching, Mrs. Capell worked for three years as a researcher at the University of Illinois where she studied limb regeneration in amphibians. In her position at Academy High, Mrs. Capell exposes her students to both lab and field research, where students get firsthand research experience working with faculty and graduate students from the University of Illinois.
While earning her graduate degree in Texas, Capell met her husband, who is a computational biologist at the University of Illinois. Together they have a daughter and a houseful of pets. When not in school, Capell likes to spend time with her family and enjoys running.
Eileen Chen- Faculty, Mandarin
Eileen Chen has a passion for learning about diverse cultures and new languages. Chen has an even greater enthusiasm for teaching and sharing her love of language and culture with her students. Her native language is Mandarin, however she also speaks English and Japanese. Chen earned her B.A. from Tamkang University in Taiwan and went on to obtain a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certification from the University of California, Irvine. A year later, she obtained her M.S. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. Chen then proceeded to earn a Certification of Advanced Study and her Master’s in Human Resource Education from the University of Illinois.
Between earning her degrees, Chen taught English as a Foreign Language in Taiwan and Chinese to students in New York and Illinois. While working as an educator in Illinois, Chen was the recipient of two Excellent Teacher Awards from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. Prior to becoming a faculty member at Academy High, Chen also tutored and worked as a part time Mandarin teacher. When Chen is not practicing her love of language, culture, and teaching, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family
Cristina Flores- Faculty, Spanish
Cristina Flores has a passion for sharing the Spanish language, as well as the culture of Spanish-speaking countries. She joins the Academy High faculty after more than 17 years of teaching/tutoring Spanish for K- 12th grade, as well as adults. Teaching is a career that found Flores, in a sense. Flores has always had a passion for learning and helping others to learn, so it seemed inevitable that she would be doing what she loves most. She holds a B.A. in Management Information Systems, and certifications in Project Management and Business Process Reengineering.
Ms. Flores lives in Champaign with her husband and two children. In addition to spending time with her family, she volunteers on various social and justice committees, teaches at a homeschool co-op, and is a board member of a local healthcare community center.
Nathan Westerman- Faculty, Studio Arts
Nathan Westerman comes to Academy High School as an artist with a variety of teaching experiences. Westerman earned a B.F.A. in Painting and Sculpture with a minor in Art History from Sam Houston State University. In 2004 he earned an M.F.A. in Sculpture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has held positions at the University of Illinois, Parkland College, Penland School of Crafts, and Champaign Unit 4 Schools. Westerman has worked as a preparator for Krannert Art Museum and as a display artist for Urban Outfitters.
Mr. Westerman was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and has lived and made artwork in Champaign for the last 16 years. He exhibits his artwork locally and nationally.
Amy Chesser- Faculty, Performing and Communication Arts
Amy Chesser joins the Academy High faculty overseeing the development of its student’s performance and communication skills. Chesser holds a B.A. in Theater Performance and Political Science at University of Missouri-Columbia, a B.A. in Education from Illinois State University, and an M.A. in Theater History from University of Illinois.
Chesser lives in Champaign with her husband, and has two children at home and one at university. She is grateful for the unique opportunities her family has had in their college town. Chesser’s time teaching in Champaign Unit 4 Schools, her fascinating homeschool journey with her now nearly grown children, and her introduction to Independent Schools through her youngest daughter’s exceptional learning experience at Countryside School have led her to Academy High. She looks forward to building a dynamic performance curriculum with the school’s students and faculty.
Dr. Young Kim- Faculty, Music
Dr. Young Kim joins Academy High as the faculty member of Music. His first courses at Academy High are Introduction to Music Recording and Production and Survey of Non-Western Music. Kim holds an M.A. and D.M.A. in Jazz Guitar Performance, with a minor in Music Composition and Theory, from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He also studied music at the Seoul Jazz Academy in Seoul, Korea, and at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Kim is currently an adjunct faculty member at Parkland College in Champaign, IL, teaching general education music classes and guitar as well as directing the Parkland Guitar Ensemble. He plays guitar in an eclectic local quartet, The Jaybirds, and the Community Center for the Arts jazz big band.
Dr. Kim lives in Champaign with his wife and daughter. In addition to spending time with his family, he enjoys playing and teaching tennis as an instructor at the Champaign Park District.