Our Dedicated Team
Marci Chang received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from University of California Santa Barbara and has more than 130 hours of additional Early Childhood Professional Development. Her passion as an Early Childhood Educator is to assist young students in learning and growing spiritually, socially, emotionally and academically. While she has taught and mentored children from Early Childhood through Elementary levels for over 20 years, she began teaching at Amazing Grace in 2017.
She is a Microsoft Innovative Educator, with a focused interest in tying literacy with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) through a variety of projects. Mrs. Chang believes that each child has many gifts, encourages students to achieve those gifts, and is committed to making learning accessible to all students. She is passionate about new developments in research and technology for diverse populations including special education.
Mrs. Chang is looking forward to lending an early childhood perspective to development of accessibility tools as Microsoft Innovative Educator. You can follow her on Twitter: @MrsMDChang
Emily Chant holds a Bachelors in Religion from Liberty University and a Masters in Social Justice from Kilns College. Her work has taken her around the world to Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia. Ms. Chant is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert who has spoken at Texas Computer Educator Association’s “Elementary Technology Conference” in Galveston, TX spotlighting Kindergarten student presenters who explained student perspective with Microsoft technology in the classroom.
Ms. Chant incorporates creativity and technology within the classroom which helps children explore their passions and find their voice to influence others, locally and globally. While also focusing on experiential learning, Ms. Chant desires for the whole of the child to be impacted in the learning process.
Ms. Chant’s multifaceted experience working with students locally and globally for over 10 years has prepared her for teaching both Kindergarten and First Grade at Amazing Grace Christian School since 2017. Ms. Chant’s substantial experience training social-emotional, fine and gross motor skills for children ranging from 18 months though 14-years-old as a gymnastics coach has provided a solid foundation for being a well-rounded educator. Before coming to AGCS, Ms. Chant began an afterschool tutoring program which supported low-income families in South Seattle.
Follow Ms. Chant on Twitter: @em_chant
Jun Eng is beginning her second year working as our after-care supervisor. She has over 20 years of experience in finances and HR. She has nine years of education both in China and in the USA in those two fields. Mrs. Eng has two degrees from Renton Technical College. She has volunteered for different non-profit organizations and for five years has been a tutor for both Math and Chinese. She cares deeply about students and knew that God could use her through her interactions with students at Renton Prep.
Michele Cooper (Falcao) has a Bachelor’s Degree in Textile Design, Manufacturing and Engineering and is also trained in grief counseling and child psychology. Her training at Goa University, in Goa, India and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia add an international perspective to Renton Prep’s community. Mrs. Cooper joined Renton Prep as an instructional assistant in 2017 to be a resource in grades 3- 10 because she believes in their mission and values that are in line with her own values of Christ, commitment and care of students. Her own core values revolve around “Christ’s teachings” of love for one another, honesty, integrity and compassion. She enjoys spending time with the students in their respective learning groups, in elevating them to the next level and always affirming them in their ability to reach for the stars. With Christ as a guide, Mrs. Cooper is excited and committed to utilize her skills in guiding every student to be positive leaders and believe that they all have the ability to be successful. Her favorite scripture in giving every students hope through Christ’s word, and helping them build their confidence in areas of growth is “You are a child of God, you are wonderfully made, dearly loved and precious in His sight. Before God made you, He knew you, there is no one else like YOU.” Psalm 139
Jennifer Fernandez Computer Science Teacher’s Assistant
Dr. Ryan Lowe received a DBA from Argosy University and a MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. Dr. Ryan was the chair for the Art Institute for all strategic planning and operational directives for five separate educational departments encompassing Digital Filmmaking and Video Production, Digital Photography, Game, Art, and Design, Media Arts and Animation, and Digital Effects and Motion Graphics. Dr. Ryan managed the workforce surrounding expansions and creating efficiency plans to drive cost-effective institutional operation, as well as created the curriculums for over 20 courses. He earned regional accreditation (SACS) for the schools programs. Dr. Ryan oversees marketing and branding for Renton Prep.
Chris Nearman started learning to make computer programs as a teenager in order to achieve his life-long dream of becoming the greatest game designer ever. While he has continued to pursue this goal, he also has branched out professionally. He has a degree in Linguistics from the University of Washington and worked as a mechanical designer before working as a software engineer. Chris spends a majority of his time at work assisting and mentoring others and he’s excited to bring this passion to the classroom. In his free time, Chris works on all kinds of side projects, ranging from designing board and video games, to writing music, to taking improv classes.
Lauri Nichols, completed her M.Ed. in Educational Design and Technology from Concordia University in Mequon, WI, and Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Concordia University in Seward, NE. She has been working with educators and students at both the Amazing Grace and Renton Prep campuses since 2004, teaching a variety of grade levels from 1st through 10th grade. She has also been active in leadership, and is working with educators and students at both campuses. Mrs. Nichols was a finalist for the Ahead of the Class Excellence Award from the Renton Chamber of Commerce. She has presented at the Northwest Council for Computer Education conference on STEAM projects and Staff Professional Development. Mrs. Nichols has informed tool design and product development for Microsoft by providing feedback on Paint 3D, Sway, and OneNote. She has been a Microsoft Innovate Educator Expert since 2016.
During Mrs. Nichols’ time at the schools, she has assisted in the selection and utilization of new technologies, curriculum and assessment design, training staff, creating our current achievement level system as well as reviewing policies and classroom practices. She especially enjoys working with students on interdisciplinary projects and seeing students collaborate with and teach one another. One of her greatest joys is seeing students pass on their knowledge to someone else.
Being committed to ministry at Amazing Grace and Renton Prep is meaningful to Mrs. Nichols because she is able to listen to and encourage educators, students, and parents and has the opportunity on a daily basis to celebrate the spiritual, academic, and social-emotional growth at both schools.
You can follow her on Twitter: @NicholsLauri
Vanessa Patino is joining our team in 2018 having recently moved from West Palm Beach, Florida. She was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and grew up in Cali-Colombia. Ms. Patino speaks Spanish and English. Her experience working with children began in 2014 with babies to 5th Grade students. Her college training at Palm Beach State College focusing on children included 40 Hours of Child Care Training, 5 Hours of Early Literacy for Children. She is Certified in First Aid and CPR with AED for infants, children, and adults. She loves the arts and continuing learning to best lead students, and is happy to be part of our school family.
A self-proclaimed code ninja, Brian Schwenk has worked in the software industry for 17 years. His passion for coding was sparked in his college dorm room while creating his first computer game. Upon graduation from the University of Idaho with a degree in Computer Science, Brian worked for various companies creating apps for desktop, mobile, and the cloud. Since landing with Nintendo four years ago, Brian leads a team responsible for building tools that enable game developers to bring their creations to Nintendo consoles. He also has been working on projects to help ignite that same spark he experienced in college for the next generation of coders. It is a thrill for him to bring the joy of coding to kids young and young at heart. Outside of the workplace, Brian enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, and constantly learning new things.
Susan Thompson holds a degree in Elementary Education from Western Washington State University along with advanced studies at the University of Washington. Since 2011, Mrs. Thompson has taught Kindergarten and 2nd Grade at Amazing Grace Christian School, and beginning 2018, serves as Learning Coach. Mrs. Thompson is a role model for career educators who reinvent their process and practice. In 2012, she welcomed “challengingly beneficial” ideas and learned to leverage technology to enhance education. In six short years, she has been twice selected as Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, presented at both staff meetings and at the NCCE (Northwest Council for Computer Education) conference, and highlighted with her 2nd Grade students on TV and “Renton Prep Featured In Kiro 7 News: Learn To Read Using New Microsoft Immersive Reader”
Mrs. Thompson believes that a positive, cheerful outlook on life is contagious and that it is important to maintain a sense of humor. She values the quality of being teachable and willing to learn from many sources, but especially from her students and is proud to assist in bringing out all the God-given potential of each student. She brings a love for children, for teaching and for challenging them to embrace and celebrate their gifts.
You can follow her on Twitter: @SusanVThompson3
Kayla Vrudny received her Master of Science degree in Educational Design and Technology from Concordia University Wisconsin. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and a Music Minor from Concordia University, Saint Paul, and uses that training to co-lead Christmas and other music productions at Renton Prep. In addition, Ms. Vrudny has collaborated with the leadership team to design teacher training for Renton Prep’s August professional development and serves as a teacher mentor.
Ms. Vrudny believes that education begins with relationships, first founded in Christ. Her journey from Minnesota to Seattle started with God’s calling to teach at Renton Prep, and she values the opportunity to grow in faith with her students. Ms. Vrudny works to nurture positive relationships with the students to help them develop and apply skills that will benefit their lives. In the seven years she has been at Renton Prep, she has grown in how she utilizes technology tools to highlight her student’s learning and growth. Ms. Vrudny’s experience in teaching a variety of elementary grade levels and has helped her see how student learning is carried through and looks for opportunities of collaboration and mentorship across all grade levels. She has been selected for a third consecutive year as Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and is a Microsoft Certified Educator, and has co-presented at the Future of Education Technology conference (2018) and the Northwest Council for Computer Education conference (2018). Follow her on Twitter at: @kvrudny
Deanna Wright graduated from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania with a Bachelors’ degree in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Special Education. She previously taught third grade in Columbus, Ohio for four years. Miss Wright values respect and caring for others and instills these values into her students by valuing honesty and ensuring her classroom is a safe learning environment where students can thrive. She believes a safe, quality education should be provided to every child and has traveled to other countries to help continue this vision.
The accomplishment Miss Wright is most proud of in her teaching career is participating in Limited Resource Teacher Training (LRTT) in Bwindi, Uganda. During July 2018, she provided in school support to local teachers by observing, giving feedback, coaching, and mentoring. She also planned and facilitated teacher training workshops for local teachers focusing on the needs observed and expressed by the teachers. Miss Wright also presented at the National Teacher’s Conference in Florida and is a Microsoft Innovative Educator.
She appreciates the use of safe technology practices utilized at Amazing Grace. Please follow her on Twitter to stay up to date with what is happening in her classroom! @missdwright2
Dr. David-Paul Zimmerman received his Doctorate with a focus in Father and Child Relationships through Bakke Graduate University. Prior to that, he obtained a Masters of Divinity at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was ordained as a Pastor of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in 1988. Counseling young people in a locked home for suicidal teens, serving in the military in the U.S. Navy SSBN Francis Scott Key and U.S. Marine Corps as a combat medic, business roles, and governmental (U.S. Air Force Civil Air Patrol), David-Paul Zimmerman learned to approach challenges with passion, and accomplish a mission with limited resources. When he met his wife, Gloria Zimmerman, they envisioned a learning organization that they originally called: S.M.I.L.E. Seattle Metropolitan Institute for Learning Enrichment for diverse populations of students. In the early 1990s, Dr. Zimmerman took over business leadership for Amazing Grace Christian School, expanding the vision to reach the local community and first and second generation immigrant families who normally would not have access to the type of education and social and emotional learning environment offered at Amazing Grace. His budgeting and working multiple jobs has allowed for the schools to grant several millions of dollars in financial aid and scholarships for underserved populations since the 1990s. He ensured the schools had the latest computer technology in the 1990s. He was introduced to technology in graduate school with a Commodore 64 and a dot matrix printer, being one of the only students to type his thesis and print it with this technology. In 2007, he began researching future trends in education and made a commitment for re-envisioning our school where each child had access to personal technology devices, not just a computer lab. That began his process of determining the strategic plan to implement 1:1 laptops with HP TouchSmart with stylus inking and video capability. Since then, he has continued leading the expansion of the schools to two campuses in Seattle and Renton. He works directly with the City of Renton, as well as developing local relationships with Renton City Council, Renton Chamber of Commerce, Seattle Public Schools, Renton Public Schools, and local industry. Dr. Zimmerman was recognized in 2016 for leadership in the Renton Business Excellence Awards for Outstanding Non-Profit. He continues to take the lead in leveraging the latest Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality, and investigating Artificial Intelligence. He has been consulting and speaking with school leaders from around the world that visit Amazing Grace and Renton Prep as well as visiting schools around the world. In 2009 he and his wife taught English in China, and in 2017, returned to China to visit a school. Equity, and safety are top priorities, giving all families access to cutting edge, world-class education.
Gloria Zimmerman earned her Bachelor’s degree in Kindergarten through 12th Grade Education with a Special Education Endorsement from Concordia University, River Forest, in Chicago, Illinois. She put this work into practice at a residential home for behavior disorder students in Chicago. Her Post Graduate work in Child Psychology and Special Education was though University of Washington. Her work with the Crisis Clinic and later working in a locked home for suicidal teenagers has equipped her with the skills to support Trauma Informed Classrooms and mediate behavior responses to trauma. She created a model for a safe space for children so they know “you don’t come to school to get hurt” and she has established the protocols for anti-harassment, anti-bullying, and anti-intimidation, and placed an emphasis on the importance of social and emotional learning in school. Her social justice focus is part of a continued legacy that began with her mother, Florence Storck working in St. Louis with runaway teenagers, orphans, and with Tuberculosis patients in each of the segregated hospitals in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Mrs. Zimmerman began teaching in 1972 and has taught all of the grades from 3-year-old preschool through 10th Grade in all subjects, and adults. She has taught a range from special education though advanced placement students, multi-level classrooms, and cross-age mentoring. In 2009, she and her husband, David-Paul Zimmerman, taught English in China, adding an additional location to teaching in California, Washington, and Chicago. Her approach to guiding learning is the foundation of Amazing Grace and Renton Prep. She has designed the foundations of the curriculum and assessment guides, behavior and safety protocol, experiential learning, interdisciplinary instruction, classroom management, and bringing in fun, humor, and teaching science with toys into the classroom. Fine arts, including musicals, choir, elements of design and Visual Thinking Strategies have all been part of her approach to a balanced education. She established the goal of taking one field trip each month as part of standard educational procedure since the 1970s. Mrs. Zimmerman envisioned teaching with tools to help students reach their full potential starting in the 1970s and has embraced the transformational change necessary to continually reinvent the vision of our schools to teach and learn with the latest technology, while maintaining consistent values based in a model of Jesus. The research she uses to support the learning design has been consistently confirmed to work in practice, not just in theory. Most importantly, she established the school to be on a foundation of Jesus as the model and guide for developing the whole child. She has led the school to receive multiple awards including an award for Urban Education. Follow her on Twitter: @_gloriaz
Michelle Zimmerman received her Ph.D. in Learning Science and Human Development through University of Washington, College of Education. Her dissertation based on her original research was conducted at Amazing Grace from 2007-2011 and implemented back into the classroom across the entire school. The in-depth focus on cross-age mentoring and what happens when older students teach younger students was inspired by apprenticing under her mother, Gloria Zimmerman, since she was in 5th grade. She has personally experienced learning in education settings from private elementary school as a student at Amazing Grace starting in 1988, to being homeschooled in 5th grade and assisting in her mother’s Pre-Kindergarten classroom at Amazing Grace where she decided she wanted to become a teacher. During the time she apprenticed under Gloria Zimmerman, she experienced distance learning with a paper-and-pencil high school correspondence courses through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She attended public school at Renton High School, and completed her Bachelors in Psychology at University of Washington a year and a half after officially graduating high school in the dual enrollment program though Hazen and Running Start at Bellevue College and Green River Community College with an A.A.S Direct Transfer Agreement and a focus on Visual Design and Early Childhood Education. Her M.Ed. is in Human Development and Cognition through the College of Education at University of Washington and intertwined with the Elementary Teacher Education Program. This work became the foundation for her doctoral research, merging knowledge in neuroscience, biology, psychology, anthropology, motivation theory, human movement through play and dance, as well as non-traditional methods of documentation, data collection and analysis with video, audio, and poetic transcription. These led to formulation of non-traditional assessments in the classroom.
Through her entire educational career, she has been working alongside her parents, David-Paul and Gloria Zimmerman to continue the legacy her grandmother began in the 1930s and developing the schools into what they are today. Dr. Michelle Zimmerman began apprenticing under Gloria Zimmerman in 1993, and officially began teaching in 2000 at Amazing Grace. With 18 years of classroom teaching experience, she has taught all the grades from 3-year-old preschool through 10th Grade in multi-level, cross-age mentoring, with a focus on middle and high school since 2009 and was the first to implement the 1:1 laptop program.
Her students have won awards in writing, videography, social justice, civics, art, design, computer science and poetry contests, have presented with her nationally at professional education technology conferences multiple times each year since 2012, co-authored with her in international publications, invited blog posts, and written content for her book: “Teaching AI: Exploring New Frontiers in Learning” Her students have been identified as National Merit Qualified as young as age 12 when taking practice SAT tests. She has won over 11 awards for teaching, including NCCE Outstanding Technology Educator of the Year in 2016, and awards in innovation, and STEM Excellence, and has been invited as a Featured Speaker for conferences including at STEM Summit for Scientific American and Macmillan at New York Academy of Sciences and New York Academy of Medicine, SXSWEdu UCLA and New York University among others, live global webinars, events and podcasts. She has served on the Professional Education Advisory Board for University of Washington College of Education since 2012, informing practice for their teacher education programs. She achieved Adjunct Faculty position at Concordia University Wisconsin in 2015.
She is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert consecutively since 2014, Microsoft Surface Expert since 2015, a Microsoft Certified Educator, PBS Digital Innovator in 2016, selected for the Museum of Pop Culture Advisory Board in 2018, selected as a Delegate for the Global Educator Exchange Leadership Summit in Singapore in 2018. Dr. Michelle Zimmerman has established partnerships with Microsoft starting in 2012, presented her research to Satya Nadella and his executive team, worked with and informed educational technology design and established the partnerships that led to our schools being selected as Microsoft Showcase Schools. She has consulted educational transformation from research to practice and spoken with Ministers of education from more than 10 countries who have visited our schools. She has been selected as Microsoft MVP for three consecutive years for Global Impact, and established partnerships for our schools to become WE Schools, Global Goals for Sustainable Development and accepted as a TEALS Partner School. She conducted four years of research on gaming in the classroom and partnered with Valve Software to give her students early access and collaboration with developers before HTC Vive was released to the public and early access to HoloLens though a pilot with mixed reality in the classroom. Her work has been highlighted in news from the Seattle Times to Venture Beat, Renton Reporter to KOMO 4, King 5 and Kiro 7.
In the past two years, she has been learning about School Law, how to write policy and protocol, curriculum guides, teacher training, professional development, marketing, modern business models, international relations, social media, and developing the 10-year vision for our schools. She and Gloria Zimmerman work on the interior design of the schools and closely with Renee Asdit from ColorWhiz. She and her mother are also the producers and directors of the all school dance productions each year with 2019 celebrating the 20th Season. She is committed to continuing to encourage and support each faculty member to reach their full potential and was proud of having 11 teaching faculty present with her at Northwest Council for Computer Education in 2018, support and coaching for our faculty writing proposal and public speaking engagements and setting up opportunities for global collaborations and global events like Hack the Classroom and Back to School Live. She was thrilled to have and over 45 students present with her in the 2017-2018 school year alone.
Dr. Michelle Zimmerman made a promise that she would dedicate her life to children and that whatever she did in education would be to the glory of God. She has prayed for wisdom every step of the way and for the strength to persist when life feels too difficult to keep moving. Without Jesus, none of this would be possible. In Him she lives, and moves, and has her being. She learned from her mother: “If what you do can make a difference in one child’s life, is it worth it?” The answer is always: Yes.
You can follow her on Twitter: @mrzphd
by the passion of these individuals!