Our Dedicated Team
Computer Science Teacher’s Assistant
Eliya Gangar earned her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Geological Sciences from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. Her Master’s thesis focused on structural geology, and included the making of a detailed geologic map of a fault-ruptured area along the California-Nevada border, north of the White Mountains.
While finishing her thesis, Eliya discovered her love of teaching junior high and high school students when she was employed by Sunnyside Christian High School, in Sunnyside, Washington, to teach Biology, Earth Science, and Environmental Science, as well as World Religions, Health, and Computers. Later, she was hired as an environmental geologist by GeoEngineers, Inc., in Spokane, WA, and eventually transferred to their office in Redmond, Washington to work with a team specializing in geologic hazards.
After four years working at GeoEngineers, Inc., Eliya became married and shifted her focus back to teaching. This time, she enrolled in TEACH-NOW, an intense program to become state-certified in teaching. Her student teaching practicum was held at Renton Christian Prep School, where she discovered that the school embodied a teaching philosophy that Eliya aspired to mimic herself.
Upon finishing the TEACH-NOW program, Eliya and her husband moved further north, where Eliya was then hired by Everett Christian School in Everett, Washington to work in the 1st and 2nd grade classroom, giving her an opportunity to widen her teaching experience to include some of the youngest minds in education. The past two years, Eliya has been working full time at home as a wife and mother.
Re-entering Renton Christian Prep School as a part-time teacher is an opportunity that Eliya is more than pleased to have. Her passion to teach science in a God-and Bible-centered way is at the core of every lesson, and she strives to help students see that science is never at odds with the God who created it.
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.
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
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!