Our Staff

Karl Malefyt

Meet Mr. Karl! His special talent is problem solving! We are so thankful he brought his top notch problem solving skills to Innocademy last year and is a our family custodial extraordinaire.  

Can’t Live Without ~ Music  

Voted Most Likely ~ To be in a punk band  

Life Motto ~ Take care of others (He takes great care of us!)  

Favorite Snack ~ Cheese and crackers  

Mr. Karl’s favorite habit is put first things first because it is a great simple reminder. He would also like all the students to know “learning new things is so exciting, It’s like an ‘Achievement Unlocked’ in video games!”


Heidi Draft

Meet Ms. Heidi! Her special talent is making people smile and we are smiling because she decided to join our family last year teaching our 4 day program in Precademy.  

Theme song ~ “I Hope You Dance” 

Countries Visited ~ Germany, England, France, Belgium, Norway, Italy, Venezuela, Mexico and Guatemala 

Bucket List ~ Go skydiving  

Life Motto ~ There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.  

Ms. Heidi’s favorite habit is seek first to understand, then be understood because we need to listen for meaning. She would also like her students to know that “I believe in them, they have unlimited potential.”


Dave Zimmer

Meet Mr. Dave! Mr. Dave has traveled all over the world to Russia, Greece, Spain, Italy, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway and Turkey, but thankfully ended up in Michigan to be in charge of IES Finances. Mr. Dave’s life motto is to be humble and kind and he has kindly been a part of our IES family the last five years.  

Favorite Snack ~ Popcorn  

Can’t live without ~ coffee in the morning  

Bucket List ~ To be a street performer  

Special Talent ~ Plays the organ  

Mr. Dave’s favorite habit is to begin with the end in mind. He also wants our students to know “Be yourself and you can be anything.”  


Cati Vila

Meet Ms. Cati! Ms. Cati has traveled all over the world to Spain, Portugal, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Jordan, Italy, Switzerland, and Canada just to name a few… We are so excited to have such an international traveler join us last year. She is starting her second year as a Las Huellas teacher teaching 5th grade objectives.  

Favorite Snack ~ Cheese and crackers  

Bucket List ~ To go to Israel  

Voted Most Likely ~ to move to a faraway place  

Special Talent ~ She can touch her nose with her tongue  

Ms. Cati’s favorite habit is “Be Proactive” because if you are not you will find yourself in one hot life mess. She wants her students to know “I care about WHO they are as well as how well they learn.”  


Liliana Rivero

Meet Ms. Liliana! She is a world traveler that has visited the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, England, Spain, Portugal, France, China, Scotland, and Belgium. This world traveler has been part of our family the last three years and is our 4th grade teacher in Las Huellas.  

Bucket List ~ Learn to Ski  

Special Talent ~ Dance  

Can’t Live Without ~ Diet Coke  

First Job Ever ~ Sales  

Her favorite habit is “Think Win-Win” because she believes this habit creates harmony in any relationship. She wants all her students to know that “I learn at the same time with them, we are together in the journey.”


Melissa Meyer

Meet Ms. Melissa! Ms. Melissa loves to cook, bake, and try new recipes. She tried something new last year by joining our team as a paraprofessional for the youngest friends and this year is supporting our students in the 2 day Precademy program. We are so happy to have Ms. Melissa!

Life Motto ~ Be a light in the world  

Bucket List ~ Visit all 50 States  

Can’t Live Without ~ Sleep and a good book 

First Job ~ Video Store Clerk  

Her favorite habit is “Be Proactive” because it is the foundation of all great accomplishments in life. Ms. Melissa wants all her students to know “that they are uniquely created to make the world an amazing place!”  


Renee Frye

Meet Ms. Renee! She can’t live without a cozy blanket, but we can’t live without her! She has been with our family the last three years and is currently the Classic Blue Room Paraprofessional.  

First Job ~ Cart Girl at Kroger  

Favorite Snack ~ BBQ Chips  

Favorite Book ~ Harry  Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone  

Life Motto ~ Always another side to a story  

Ms. Renee’s favorite habit is “Think Win-Win” because she believes it helps you think outside yourself and look to work better with others. Ms. Renee also wants her students to know “Today can change by tomorrow and yesterday can grow your today, don’t ever stop growing and learning.”  

Rachel Rich

Meet Ms. Rachel! She is starting her 2nd year teaching Innocademy Middle School Spanish.  She lives by the motto that #Asíeslavida and we are thrilled to have her in our vidas.  

Favorite Snack ~ Chips and cheese  

Bucket List Wish ~ To watch the Olympic games in person  

Favorite Book ~ The Harry Potter Series  

Special Talent ~ Art such as drawing, sketching & painting  

Ms. Rachel’s favorite habit is “Put first things first” because she is a visual person and likes to have a To-Do list to help her feel ready for the day.  Ms. Rachel would like all of her students to know “I am excited to be here! I’m looking forward to getting to know you and the unique way that you learn, and to help you have a successful school year!”  

Becca Beebe

Meet Ms. Becca! She spent two years as part of the IES family through CTC and officially joined us last year! Ms. Becca’s first job ever was a lifeguard, but she now works as our Speech-language pathologist.  

Bucket List ~ Swim the Straits of Mackinac  

Special Talent ~ She can spot a Petoskey stone faster than anyone she knows  

Life Motto ~ If you pass physics, you can do this  

Favorite Book ~ The Hobbit  

Ms. Becca’s favorite habit is “Put first things first” because she is motivated by the reward at the end of the tunnel. She also really wants her students to know that ” I want out learning to be effective and always fun. When you are dismissed from speech we will celebrate together.”  


Eileen Brandwein

Meet Ms. Eileen!  “I just like to smile, smiling is my favorite!” is Ms. Eileen’s life motto. She has been sharing her bright smile with us the last three years as the paraprofessional for the Youngest Friends.  

First Job ~ Waitress at “The Choo Choo” in Illinois  

Can’t Live Without ~ Coffee and chocolate  

Special Talent ~ She teaches English to kiddos in China 

Voted Most Likely ~ to start singing out of nowhere  

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is Ms. Eileen’s favorite habit because she loves that it helps us listen and hear others. She believes we need to emphasize and learn from others before jumping to conclusions. Finally, Ms. Eileen wants her students to know “You are loved.”  

Sara Vereeke

Meet Ms. Sara! In grade school, Ms. Sara was a social butterfly, but also a rule follower. She continues to be a social butterfly while also following the rules as she takes care of all our Human Resource needs!  This is Ms. Sara’s 3rd year with us as part of the IES Family and we are thrilled to have her!

Can’t Live Without ~ Lipstick  

Special Talent ~ Plays the piano  

Favorite snack ~ Chocolate, lots of chocolate 

Favorite book ~ The Secret Garden  

Ms. Sara’s favorite habit is “Seek first to understand, then to be Understood.” She believes it is great to focus on understanding others’ point of view before expressing one’s own point of view.  Ms. Sara would like all the students to know…”You are capable of great things in your life. Make good choices, move on from your mistakes and you will be capable of anything you set your sights on!”

Sharon Brandner

Sharon Brandner is our art teacher here at Innocademy.  She originally earned her art education degree from Northern Illinois University, took classes at the Art Institute and taught high school in the Chicago area for 5 years before moving to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where she lived for 17 years and raised three children. There she attended Northern Michigan in Marquette in a graduate program.  In addition to art, she attained an early childhood degree.  She attended Cornerstone university and earned a masters degree in education.  She has taught every grade level as well as adults.  She most recently taught in Grand Rapids. She participated in Art Prize for 5 years and her work is shown at several school.  She loves to travel just about anywhere.

Chad Zuber

Meet Mr. Chad! Mr. Chad loves tomatoes and trips to the lake and mountains. He has been all over the world visiting over 10 countries! Thankfully he has shared his worldly knowledge the last six years with IES students. Currently teaching Innogineering at both Innocademy Zeeland and Allegan campuses.  

First Job Ever ~ Meijer bagger (only time he has ever had to wear a tie to work)  

Bucket list ~ Learn an instrument (beyond a few cords of a ukulele)  

Life Motto ~ “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can” – Arthur Ashe  

Mr. Chad tends to get lost a lot… so his favorite habit is Begin with the End-in-Mind because that’s how you know where you are going. He also wants all his students to know “Your teachers will help you accomplish anything that you are willing to work for.”  


Katie Wilson

Ms. Katie is the Learn to be Fit teacher for all grades at Innocademy Homestead and Innocademy Allegan. This is her third year at Innocademy. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a major in Physical Education and a minor in School Health. Some of her hobbies are playing tennis, being outdoors, and spending time with her husband, Justin, and daughter, Madelyn.

Hillary Schmidt

Ms. Hillary sang her way into all of our hearts two years ago as she joined our IES Family. She brings music to all our lives by instructing general music at both Zeeland and Allegan campuses as well as oldest friend’s (grades 5-8) choir at Innocademy Zeeland’s campus. Ms. Hillary’s music wins our heart, but toasted coconut ice cream from Kilwins is the way to her heart.  

Bucket List ~ Eating her way through a trip to Italy and France  

Special Talent ~ Classically trained opera singer  

First Job ever ~ Cash register clerk at a dry cleaner  

Ms. Hillary loves the seven habits so much it was hard for her to choose just one. Habit 3 Put first things, first” is one of her favorites because she finds it really helpful to make sure she takes things one step at a time and identifies what needs to be done to accomplish a great goal. She also really loves Habit 5 Seek first to understand, then to be understood because if humanity could practice this habit, our world would be a brighter and more loving place for all. Finally, Ms. Hillary wants her students to know that “they are all music makers no matter what skills and abilities they bring into the classroom.”  


Noemi Hoven

Meet Ms. Noemi! She loves cashews, Jesus, and sewing! We have loved having her as part of the Innocademy family the last four  years as a paraprofessional in Las Huellas.  

First Job ~ Church’s Notary  

Bucket List ~ Visit Spain  

Life Motto ~ Live simply, love generously, learn constantly  

Type of Grade School Student ~ Humble learner  

 Ms. Noemi’s favorite habit is “Be Proactive” because it helps her remember that her joy is not dependent on others. She wants her students to know “They are uniquely amazing.”  

Ashley Dentler

Meet Ms. Ashley! She loves slushies, rainbows, and couponing, but she loves her students even more! She has been a part of the Innocademy family the last three years teaching Elementary FLES to our classic friends and this is excited to begin a brand new position as our Las Huellas Young 5’s teacher!.  

Life Motto ~ “Use your smile to change the world, don’t let the world change your smile.”  

Type of Grade School Student ~ Teacher’s pet  

Life Hashtag ~ #Holyhotmolasses  

Voted Most Likely ~ To be a teacher  

Ms. Ashley’s favorite habit is “Begin with the end in mind” because she loves setting goals and working towards them with a bigger picture in mind. She wants all her students to know “You are loved, creative, strong, and smart. You all teach me as much as I teach you!”

Kelly Lepley

Meet Mr. Kelly! He is famous for his selfies (#selfieswithmrkelly) and has been a part of the Innocademy family for 3 years teaching middle school social studies.  

Bucket List ~ Attend a major sporting event championship 

Life Motto ~ Hakuna Matata, it means no worries  

Special Talent ~ He can read minds!  

Type of Grade School Student ~ Very quiet and shy 

Mr. Kelly’s favorite habit is the first habit “Be Proactive” because he loves to plan ahead and feel prepared. Mr. Kelly wants his students to know “I love teaching history because it is stories about everyday people who did extraordinary and innovative things.”

Tatiana Davis

Meet Ms. Tatiana! Did you know she is really good at calligraphy? She has talent with all types of writing and has been sharing her ELA knowledge with students at Innocademy the last 3 years; the first two she spent with our older and oldest friends in the middle school. This year, we are thrilled to have Ms. Tatiana move to the Blue Room to teach 4th grade objectives our middle friends! 

Life Theme Song ~ “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles  

Favorite Book ~ The Midnighters  

Can’t Live Without ~ Nora (her cat)  

Voted Least Likely ~ to reach the top shelf  

Ms. Tatiana’s favorite habit is “Sharpen the Saw” because it is easy to get wrapped up in the craziness of daily life and she likes having a reminder to pause and take care of herself. She also would like her students to know “You really can make a difference in the world! Never stop believing in yourself.”

Kate Webb

Meet Ms. Kate! Have you heard that her PowerPoint presentations are legendary?  Ms. Kate has been a part of our Inno family the last 4 years sharing her technological expertise as well as teaching Special Education for middle school friends.  

Can’t Live Without ~ Music  

Bucket List ~ Hike Sleeping Bear Dunes & the Porcupine Mountains  

Favorite Book ~ Anything with a cover, lots of pages in the middle, and a back cover… 

Life Motto ~ “Be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody” – Kid President  

Ms. Kate’s favorite habit is Habit number 5 “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” She loves this habit because truly hearing others’ needs (and being heard yourself) is so important to having good relationships with others. She would also like her students to know “You can accomplish anything you set your mind to – and we’ll support you all the way there.”


Sara Sultan

Sara is grateful to be part of the Innocademy family for a third year!  She graduated from University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.  This is her first year in Blue Room and is thrilled to be working with the middle friends. Sara moved to Holland about two years ago and loves exploring Michigan with her husband, Tipu.  Sara also enjoys hiking, watching movies, photography and pyrography (wood burning).

Gina Dobbin

Meet Ms. Gina!  Ms. Gina’s life theme song is “Sunshine on my Shoulders” by John Denver and she has been bringing sunshine to the Innocademy family the last four years teaching our youngest friends in Kindercademy.  

 First Job Ever ~ Blueberry Picker  

Special Talent ~ Doing the wave!  

Bucket List ~ Visit Greece  

Life Motto ~ “If you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine! If you stumble, make it part of the dance!” 

 Ms. Gina’s favorite habit is “Think Win, Win” because thinking win, win is thinking of others! She also would like all her students to know “Mistakes are proof that you are trying! (Refer to my life motto and make it part of the dance!)”  

Alvin Essenburg

Meet Mr. Alvin! Mr. Alvin’s bucket list wish is to visit All the National Parks in the United States. We are lucky enough to have him share all his outdoor and science knowledge with us the last four years as the Oldest Friends (Middle School) Science teacher.   

First Job ~ Paper Route  

Favorite Snack ~ Combos/Mountain Dew  

Favorite Book ~ The Bible  

Special Talent ~ Computers and fixing things  

Mr. Alvin’s favorite habit is “Synergize” because it is a challenge (and fun) to get all the moving pieces to work together to present a unified whole. Mr. Alvin wants his students to know that “I want to help them be curious about the world around them and use their knowledge to make a difference in that world.”  

Jessenia Martinez

Meet Ms. Jessenia! She can speak, write, and read in two languages and LOVES to dance! We are so happy she has been teaching the students of Innocademy a second language the last 5 years as a teacher of third grade curriculum in the Las Huellas Blue Room.  

Favorite Snack/Can’t Live Without ~ Cheese  

First Job ~ Cashier at Burger King 

Bucket List ~ Go Skydiving 

Life Motto ~ Work hard, have fun along the way!  

Ms. Jessenia’s favorite habit is “Put first things first” because the order in which you choose to do thinks matters ALL the time. She wants her students to know “that I care and value the education they get each and every day here at Innocademy. I hope that they feel appreciated, cared for and loved by staff and students in our school. AND that learning another language is NOT easy, but it is SO rewarding. How cool is it to speak to people in their native language?” 

Rachel Walendzik

Meet Ms. Rachel! Her first job ever was running steel bending and cutting machines at Steelcase, but we are thankful she chose teaching as her lifelong career. She has been a part of the Innocademy family the last three and a half years and currently teaches second grade objectives to younger friends in the Las Huellas Green Room.  

 Life Motto ~ Pura Vida! (Life is good!)  

Special Talent ~ She can wiggle her ears  

Favorite Snack ~ Cheese popcorn and slushies  

Can’t live without ~ Fuzzy slippers and hot tea 

Ms. Rachel’s favorite habit is “Put first things first”, because it feels great to get a job done and relax afterwards! She wants her students to know that “In a world where you can be anything, be kind!” 


Jody Voss

Meet Ms. Jody! Ms. Jody’s life hashtag is #lettheadventurebegin. She has been adventuring with us the last six years as an assistant to our older and oldest middle school friends as well as planning AMAZING adventures, domestically and internationally, as our lead for field experiences.  

Favorite Snack ~ Anything with chocolate, caramel, or mint  

Can’t live without ~ pajama pants and a large, soft blanket  

Bucket List ~ Visit the 7 Wonders of the World  

Special Talent ~ Baking all kinds of yumminess  

Ms. Jody’s Favorite habit is “Think Win-Win” and she wants her students to know that “they are important, they matter and if they need something I’m always read to listen/help.”


Heidi Wolters

Meet Ms. Heidi! Ms. Heidi is the Boss and Queen bee as she does it all for all three IES Schools. She does the registrar, pupil accounting, the front desk and countless other tasks for our schools.  

First job ~ Grocery store cashier  

Favorite snack ~ Doritos  

Can’t Live without ~ Her husband & kids  

Quote to live by ~ “Life is all about the choices you make”  

Ms. Heidi wants all the students to know that “You are capable of great things in your life. Make good choices, move on from your mistakes and you will be capable of anything you set your sights on!”  


Cory Dams

Meet Mr. Cory!  Mr. Cory joins us for his sixth year with Innocademy as the oldest friends (Middle School) math teacher. He is a lover of data, Doritos, Mountain Dew, and Mike and Ikes.   

Life Motto ~ Some day, I’m going to own this place.  

First Job ~ KFC  

Favorite Book ~ The Giving Tree 

Special Talent ~ Being average  

Mr. Cory’s favorite habit is “Begin with the end in mind” because he is a planner and likes to know where he is going. He would also like his students to know “We can all continue to grow. There is never an end. There will always be ways we can improve.”  

Kristie Aukema

Meet Ms. Kristie! Ms. Kristie’s life motto is that “Life is a gift, so celebrate everything you can!” We celebrate that Ms. Kristie has been with us for the last four years as a teaching assistant for the 4-day Precademy classes and this year begins a new adventure as the lead teacher for our two day program!  

First Job ~ Paper carrier  

Favorite Snack ~ Fruit… and chocolate  

Favorite books ~ The Bible and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe  

Special Talent ~ Wrangling kittens and baby tigers  

Ms. Kristie’s favorite habit is “Sharpen the Saw” because it reminds her to take her time to pursue balance, refreshment, and fun in her professional and family life. She would also like her students to know “that they are unique, amazing, and incredibly special! There is no one in the world like you!”  


Kerri Bosch

Meet Ms. Kerri!  Anyone that knows Ms. Kerri knows she loves her Cheez-its and we have been loving her the last 10 years! Ms. Kerri has taught many grade levels over the last 10 years, but currently teaches the Blue Room middle friends.  

First Job ~ Dairy Queen  

Bucket List ~ Whitewater rafting  

Favorite Book ~ Wonder  

Voted Most Likely ~ To get married 

Ms. Kerri’s favorite habit is “Synergize” because she loves working with others.  She also would like her students to know “one person can make a difference in your life if you are being bullied! Be that person to stand up for someone else!”  

Natalia Bravo

Meet Ms. Natalia! Ms. Natalia has always loved learning! Her bucket list wish is to continue her academic learning. She has shared her love of learning with us the last 7 years and currently teaches our kindergarten friends in Las Huellas.  

Type of Grade School Student ~ Quiet, worried about grades/turning in homework 

Can’t Live Without ~ Coffee  

Favorite Book ~ Romeo and Juliet  

First Job ~ Dishwasher (at 8 years old)  

Ms. Natalia’s favorite habit, is habit number 3 “Put first things first” because she likes to prioritize things that are most important. She would also like all of her students to know “that we all have different personalities, different ways to learn and talents, but they all are special to me.”  

Kelli Gunn

Meet Ms. Kelli! She has been a part of the Innocademy Family for over a decade as she begins her 12th year! Her very first job, ever, had her calling customers at a car dealership to ask if they were satisfied with their service. We have been highly satisfied with Ms. Kelli as the point person for Innocademy Zeeland and middle school electives teacher.  

Life Hashtag ~ #soyouaretellingmetheresachance 

Can’t Live Without ~ Her son Cam  

Bucket List ~ Visit every continent  

Voted ~ Most spirited (nice way of saying she has endless energy)  

Ms. Kelli’s favorite habit is “Synergize” because she gets an adrenaline rush from a great brainstorming session. She would like the students to know “that they are valued and the whole world is theirs to explore.”  

Monica Kraai

Meet Ms. Monica! In grade school, Ms. Monica loved school, studied often, and loved to make new friends. She has been sharing her love of school and teaching our youngest friends how to make new friends the last 7 years as the youngest friends’  kindergarten teacher.  

Favorite Snack ~ Veggies and spicy hummus 

Special Talent ~ Art! She loves to draw, write, and create art  

First Job ~ Serving ice cream at The General Store  

Bucket List ~ Traveling out of the country with her kiddos and husband  

Ms. Monica’s favorite habit is “Seek first to understand then to be understood” because she thinks it is important to learn to listen to others first before talking. She wants her students to know “that they can do and be anything! Once you believe in yourself, the sky is the limit! Our students have so much potential-it is our job to help them reach it!”  

Leisa Lobbezoo

Meet Ms. Leisa! She believes her special talent is her super loud whistle, but after being part of the IES family for the last 11 years, we know she is a woman of many talents!  Ms. Leisa wears many hats as one of the iCademy Global interventionists as well as working in communications and enrollment.  

 Type of Grade School Student ~ Teacher’s pet… for real…. they gave her an award  

Voted Most Likely ~ to become an actress  

Life Hashtag ~ #hangontightandenjoytheride 

Bucket List ~ Visit Europe, walk on a glacier, watch the Detroit Tigers play in most of the MLB ballparks 

 Ms. Leisa’s favorite habit is “Be Proactive” because you can’t beat the feeling of being prepared and ready for whatever life is going to throw at you.  She would like her students to know “how glad I am that you are here and we are learning, together!”  


Cyndi Nykamp

Meet Ms. Cyndi! She can’t live without her glasses and would love to see Victoria Falls in Kenya one day. We have loved seeing Ms. Cyndi daily the last 6 years as a teacher in the Green Room teaching the second grade curriculum to our younger friends.  

Special Talent ~ She can touch her tongue to her nose 

Voted ~ Funniest Laugh  

Favorite Snack ~ Chocolate covered peanuts, not double-dipped  

Life Motto ~ Jesus Loves Me, This I Know  

Ms. Cyndi’s favorite habit is “Begin with the End in Mind” because she likes to set goals for herself. She also would like her students to know “they are valued and loved.”