Teachers & Staff



Visit our Careers page to apply to join West Side Summit’s team of passionate, innovative, and mission-driven educators!

Meet the West Side Summit staff…

Elementary School


Jenny Sarff

First Grade

Natalie Renschen

Second Grade

Hello! My name is Ms. Backus. It’s my first year teaching at West Side Summit and I couldn’t be more thrilled! I graduated from Metro State with a B.S in Elementary Education. In my spare time I enjoy camping, shopping, hiking, baking, and traveling. I love teaching and I look forward to working with you!

Third Grade

Hi Friends! My name is Angel Crowley and I am one of the 3rd grade teachers at West Side. I started my undergraduate studies at the College of Saint Benedict where I played hockey, but then ended up transferring to Metropolitan State. I am so excited to have the opportunity to learn and grow with our wonderful scholars at West Side. Outside of school, I am obsessed with hockey and coach a U12 team in New Hope. I also love fitness and spend a little too much time at Lifetime fitness. Every Sunday I spend at a hip hop class which is very fun. I live in New Brighton with my wife Katie, our Great Dane puppy Brewer, our Black Lab puppy Dallas, and our 3 kitties Popper, Marli, and Spartan. We love all animals, and certainly have a busy household. I am so excited to be on board at West Side and I look forward to meeting all of you.

Fourth Grade

Hello! My name is Erin Holly and I am thrilled to be teaching at West Side Summit! I graduated from UW- River Falls in 2003 with a degree in Elementary Education but rather than immediately taking a teaching position, I started coaching gymnastics. I intended to only coach for one year, but ended up loving it and continued to coach for the next 14 years. I was missing the classroom and the diversity of students (I only coached girls!) so I resigned my coaching position last year and got happily got back into teaching. I live in Hudson, WI, with my fiance, John, and two beloved children, Natalie (11) and Brady (9). We share our home with a dog, two cats, and a very cranky chameleon. 🙂 I continue in the gymnastics realm as a judge, which takes up most of my weekends in the fall and winter! In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, running, yoga, playing pranks on my kids ;), and curling up on the couch with a good book.

Middle School

8th Grade Homeroom,
5th – 8th Grade Social Studies

middle-school-2My name is Jeremy Harder and I am super excited to be joining the team at West Side Summit. I graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth and have been a teacher for 10 years. I am excited to start a new journey at West Side Summit and am looking forward to being part of the team that will help create the Middle School. I am a lifelong Green Bay Packers’ fan and I play in several fantasy football leagues. This summer my girlfriend and I have decided to take up camping and spent a few weeks exploring some great parks.

7th Grade Homeroom,
5th – 8th Grade Language Arts

Hello, my name is Anna Poltrack and I’m extremely excited to be working at West Side Summit this school year! I found my way here thanks to Teach for America, and I couldn’t be happier. I recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in English and film, and a concentration in creative writing. I’m really looking forward to bringing my passion for literature, film, and storytelling into the classroom! In my free time you will find me writing fiction, playing ukulele, or watching Star Trek.


6th Grade Homeroom,
5th – 8th Grade Math

Hello, My name is Julia Stenzel! This is my first year teaching at West Side Summit and I am excited to be a part of the new middle school program as the 5-8 math teacher! I graduated from Winona State University. In my spare time I love to read, be outdoors, go to antique shops and flea markets, and spend time with friends and family. I also love to travel and have been an intern working with children in Jamaica four times with a fifth, shorter trip in the planning stages. I am excited for the school year and look forward to the learning and many adventures ahead!

5th Grade Homeroom,
5th – 8th Grade Science

My name is Ms. Sell. This will be my first-year teaching at West Side Summit and I am super excited to be joining the team. I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Neuroscience and Cognitive Development and I am currently working towards a Masters in Teaching at St. Mary’s . I only recently moved to Minnesota from Michigan, so I’m still trying to find my way around. In my free time I enjoy taking my dog for walks (although I do most of the walking) and biking!



Academic Intervention, K-8

I am Mrs. Niew and I have the privilege of being one of the 3rd grade teachers at West Side Summit. I graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota and started teaching in 2004. I have taught every grade (2nd-8th) over the last 12 years. That’s crazy! I live in North Minneapolis with my husband, Mr. Joe, and our dog, Weasley. I really enjoy reading the Harry Potter series over and over again, spending time in the city with my adorable little family and friends, playing board games, and just having fun. I love working with the amazing kiddos at WSS. Their joy, laughter, and dedication to learning make this place so incredibly special. I can’t imagine working anywhere else.


Physical Education, Health and Wellness

Hello, my name is Kristi Moua. This is my first year teaching Physical Education and Wellness, and my first year teaching at West Side Summit. I graduated from Hamline University in 2014. Previous to joining WSS, I both tutored and taught elementary aged students in St. Paul and abroad. I’ve also worked for nonprofits focused on promoting healthy lifestyles, and as an EMT for the city of St. Paul. In my free time, I love to travel, cook, play Ultimate Frisbee, and beat my partner in a game (or two) of cribbage.

english-lang-devEnglish Language Development, K-8

My name is Robin Slaman. I have a B.A. in english literature from the University of South Carolina and did my licensure work at Hamline University. I also studied linguistics at Arizona State University’s Graduate school before moving to Minnesota in 2007. I studied teaching English as a second language at Hamline University from 2012-2015 while working as a substitute teacher for Minneapolis Public Schools. I started at West Side Summit in 2015, teaching English Language Learners. In my free time I like to tend to my garden, read Star Wars novels and make sure my 2nd grader does his homework.


special-edSpecial Education Teacher, K-4

My name is Cassondra Rahn. I graduated from St. Cloud State with a degree in special education. I later earned my masters from St. Mary’s University. I have been teaching special education since 2004 with a primary focus in autism and developmental disabilities, but have worked with all categories. I recently joined the West Side Summit team and love the staff and students! In my spare time I love spending time with my husband, playing softball, singing karaoke, and hanging with friends and family!

Special Education Teacher, 5-8

Debra Schipper, B.A., M.Ed., and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Specialist, is the founder of West Metro Learning Connections (WMLC), a Center for Developing Social Understanding and Skills, in Excelsior, MN. A professional educator in general and special education for over forty years, Schipper is a passionate and innovative autism specialist, special education teacher, therapist, trainer, and entrepreneur. Under Schipper’s leadership and with her innovations and professional training, WMLC has grown into a premier agency with professionals known for their expertise in ASD and related social, emotional, and behavioral needs. In addition to pioneering and establishing a dynamic approach to group social skills therapy for individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism, in 2002 WMLC expanded operations to offer professional ASD services to school districts and in 2004 to offer a highly specialized center for unique learners.



Hello, my name is Zita Thelen and I am the new receptionist to West Side Summit. I am married and have three kids. My oldest child is Maricio who is 23 and he just graduated from Augsburg College. My oldest daughter Maricella, who is 18, will be graduating from high school this year. My youngest daughter, Angelita actually used to attend West Side Summit and she is 12. I also have a dog named Luna and a Cockatiel bird named Chico. I enjoy spending time with my family and am super excited about being a part of West Side Summit.

Meal Assistant and School Custodian

Hi my name is Monique Williams and I am the Meal Assistant here at West Side Summit! Some fun facts about me are that I like arts and crafts and I love fashion.

Educational Assistant

Nicolas Lopez is an Educational Assistant at West Side Summit, and this is his third year here. During his free time, he likes cooking and running. His native language is French. He is excited for another great year with WSS scholars.

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