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-2Third Grade

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.

Fourth Grade

Jenny Goplen

fourth-gradeFourth Grade

Hello! My name is Sam Ryan I’m very excited to start my first year teaching fourth grade at West Side Summit School! I’m most excited to meet all my new fourth grade students and the staff at WSS. This will be my first year teaching elementary school, although I’ve worked with students for a long time as a librarian in St. Paul. I graduated from the University of Minnesota with an english degree, and I’m currently working towards my Masters in Education at Hamline University. In my free time I really love to play music, go salsa dancing, and spend time outside. I’m looking forward to sharing a great year with everyone at WSS!

Fifth Grade

Ms. Schirm will be the 5th grade teacher at West Side Summit. This is Ms. Schirm’s 8th school year teaching, 1st year at West Side Summit! Ms. Schirm graduated from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She taught 6-8 multi age science, social studies, math and language arts in La Crosse, Wi for four years at SOTA II Charter School. She then moved to Altoona, Wi to teach 4th and 5th grade multi age at Altoona Intermediate School for three years. Here she also obtained her Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University-Portland. Ms. Schirm is very excited to be back in her hometown of St. Paul and to be teaching in a charter school setting again. She is an avid reader, loves to learn, play games of all sorts and enjoys a warm cup of coffee!

Middle School

middle-school-26th and 7th Grade Homeroom,
5th and 6th Grade Social Studies and Language Arts

My 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.


Physical Education

My name is Nicholas Cole the new Physical Education teacher here at West Side Summit. I am excited to be back with the elementary levels after teaching high school last year. This is my 4th year teaching Physical Education and Health and the first here at WSS. When I am not at school I am spending time with my wife, Meg and two kids, Olivia (6) and Amos (3). We love to take walks, play games in the yard and build forts or other make believe games. This summer we took a train trip to the East Coast, stopping in Chicago, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York, and the Thimble Islands. I am looking forward to playing lots of games and building on our learning community.

english-lang-devEnglish Language Development

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

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!

Music Teacher

Hello! My name is Bethany Higgins and I am the General Music and Band Teacher here at West Side Summit! While this will be my first year teaching here, I taught 3 years at St Paul City School and 2 years at Schmitt Music. I love music so much that not only do I teach children, but I am also the artistic director of a Minneapolis community band for adults as well! My husband and I are gigging musicians, so you’ll find us out and about on the weekends spreading the joy of music around the Twin Cities. Major tidbit about myself… I am a HUGE “Doctor Who” fan, so if you’re as nerdy as me we will get along great!!


Meal Assistant

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

Hello, my name is Logan Hanson. I am an Educational Assistant. I attended the University of MN – Duluth with a B.A. in Criminology. I am also a Rugby Player.

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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