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

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

Hello, I am Paul Putt.  I will be entering my eleventh year of teaching this year and my first at Westside Summit. I have had many distinct experiences along the way. I graduated in 2003 from Augsburg College with my Bachelor’s Degree in International Business and Management Information Systems. I ventured out into the world and was not able to find my path immediately as I tried a tech support position and even enrolled briefly at William Mitchell College of Law. During some self-reflection, I found that I most enjoyed my time I spent every Friday while at law school volunteering in my old elementary school in Eagan, Minnesota. I re-enrolled at Augsburg College in their Master’s program and began my pursuit of my license in elementary education (with a social studies emphasis). I completed my student teaching in a first grade placement but have had the opportunity to teach every grade from first through eleventh grade. My master’s program was completed in May of 2015. With a variety of experiences, I am so happy to be able to work this year with fourth graders as I hope to draw upon my background to help your child achieve their potential this year. I live in Farmington, Minnesota with my wife Katie and our son Teddy. We have been married since December, 2014. My son is 15 months and is a big part of our crazy life as he has ran, climbed, and stolen his way into our hearts. For leisure activities, we like to play games, watch shows, go to plays and orchestra performances, and read.

Fifth 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

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, Health and Wellness

​My name is Jules Collins, and this is my first year teaching at West Side Summit. I have a bachelors in Physical Education from Berea College. In my free time I enjoy cycling, camping and hiking. I look forward to a fun rest of year with all these great kiddos!

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

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

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

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

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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