Mr. Berry found his love for music, appropriately enough, in a middle school Orchestra classroom. As a young violinist he learned the values of teamwork and perseverance which he now hopes to instill in his students at Excel! Kyle attended the University of South Carolina School of Music where he received a B.M. in Music Education and a Performance Certificate in Vocal Music. While at USC he was the primary composer, arranger and keyboard player for several indie rock bands and held several Choral Scholarship positions at some of South Carolina’s leading institutions of worship. After his undergraduate Kyle worked as interim Band Director for E.L. Wright Middle School in Columbia, South Carolina before moving to the UK where he earned a M.Mus. in Music Composition from the University of Edinburgh Reid School of Music. His compositional interest lie primarily in miniatures and chamber music. Mr. Berry is excited about the great musical potential at Excel and looks forward to sharing his passion for music making with all of his students!
Ms. Braswell was born and raised in North Carolina, where she earned her B.A. in English Literature and Secondary Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Ms. Braswell worked as a student support counsellor at Rainier Beach High School for the 2015-16 school year and most recently as a teacher at Rainier Beach’s summer literacy program, CDF Freedom Schools. Because she is so passionate about closing the opportunity gap, Ms. Braswell will be entering a graduate program at Seattle University to earn her Master’s of Education and endorsement to teach English language learners. Outside of school, you can find Ms. Braswell riding her cool red bike around Lake Washington, buying some produce at the Columbia City farmer’s market so she can finally make all those vegan recipes she’s been hoarding on Pinterest, and maxing out her library card with books that she probably doesn’t have the time to read.
Mr. Farsheed is extremely excited to join the Excel team this year as the 7th grade math teacher. He was born and raised in Laguna Beach, California and recently moved to Washington from Chicago. He graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and always had a large passion for Math. Mr. Farsheed was a private math tutor for 4 years for the Russian School of Mathematics, where he tutored middle and high school students. He is particularly interested in introducing math in a relatable way to encourage students to look into STEM based careers. Mr. Farsheed loves playing and watching soccer and football and also working on fun engineering projects. He also enjoys volunteering with Special Olympics.
Ms. Fernandez is excited to be back for her second year at Excel, jumping from 7th Grade Life Science to 9th Grade Biology. Originally from the East Coast, Ms. Fernandez earned her B.S. in Chemistry from University of New Haven in Connecticut and M.S. in Environmental Chemistry at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. Shortly after graduating, she found her passion for teaching, and merged it with her love of science, joining Teach for America in New York. In NY, Ms. Fernandez taught three years of Science at Uncommon Schools in Brooklyn, engaging in fun experiments and instilling in her students the impact humans have on our world. Now that she’s in the PNW, Ms. Fernandez can be found doing her favorite outdoor activities – hiking, running, snowboarding, camping, and exploring all the diverse environments that Washington has to offer.
Mr. Locascio grew up in Federal Way, Washington and attended Gonzaga University (Spokane, Washington) where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics. He believes that it is necessary for all students to recognize the importance of a high-quality STEM education. During his time in Spokane, Mr. Locascio started an afterschool STEM program at a local Boys and Girls Club. This program focused on creating a variety of activities that connected the relationship between STEM concepts and everyday life. Mr. Locascio has a strong passion for motivating students to begin to both appreciate and understand how STEM education can be meaningful for everyone. For this reason, Mr. Locascio is very excited to be joining the Excel team as a 9th grade Algebra I and Geometry teacher supported by Teach For America – Washington and the University of Washington. In his spare time, Mr. Locascio enjoys playing basketball, spending time outdoors, and listening to music.
Mrs. Mahrt is excited to be teaching 9th grade English this year at Excel! Over the past five years, Mrs. Mahrt has been committed to helping all her students succeed, both here in Washington and in the Midwest. As a high school student in Oregon, she developed a love of literature, and she was inspired by her own teachers to pursue education. After graduating from high school, she went to the University of Oregon, where she received a double major in English and French, and a minor in Creative Writing. She also had the opportunity to study in France for five months through a study abroad program. Mrs. Mahrt started her teaching career in Chicago, and she spent the last two years in Seattle teaching at Rainier Beach High School. When she isn’t teaching, Mrs. Mahrt loves to cook, spend time with her husband and cats, and travel.
Health and Physical Education Teacher
Returning for Excel’s third year, Mr. Murphy is transitioning from his role as Dean of Culture to Physical Education and Health. Mr. Murphy is excited to facilitate the creation of a Physical Education and Health program throughout Green Dot Public Schools Washington. In addition, Mr. Murphy is thrilled to lead Excel’s inaugural girls and boys basketball teams. Mr. Murphy first became interested in education when he served as a Rural Economic Development Volunteer for the United States Peace Corps in Paraguay. During his service he was able to teach entrepreneurship and English to local high school students, and he quickly realized the need for a more specialized and focused curriculum. Following his two years in Paraguay, Mr. Murphy taught English in Japanese public middle schools through the JET Programme. It was after three years of living abroad that Mr. Murphy found a home with Uncommon Schools in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn where he has taught both History and English Language Arts for three years. In addition to his unwavering desire to help close the achievement gap, through rigorous coursework and character development, Mr. Murphy enjoys playing basketball, spending his weekends outdoors – at the mountains or the beach, and catching up on the latest films.
Mr. Scaife is an average sized hominid from a dense terrestrial planet located on the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way Galaxy approximately 25,000 light years from its center. This hominid was born a little over 416 moons ago, on the Asian subcontinent of India. He grew up in Vancouver, WA, and as his cells went through mitosis for 18 years he grew up and eventually moved to Los Angeles to attend USC in 2002. There he earned degrees in International Relations and Cultural Anthropology. After USC, he began teaching and also earned his Master’s Degree in Education from LMU. He studying Science methodologies and pedagogy at UCLA and he holds a WA Teaching Credential, CA clear teaching credentials for both Multiple Subjects and Single Subject Science, as well as being Nationally Board Certified in Early Adolescent Science. He has been teaching the fascinating subject of science for going on 11 years now and loves it even more today than when he started. Through his teaching and leadership, Scaife helped to promote a KIPP: LA Prep charter school in to become the number one school in Los Angeles. He helped to found Valor Academy Charter Middle School which rocketed to the number 2 school in Los Angeles and the number 1 science program; earning the CA Distinguished Schools awarded and CA Outstanding STEM Program award. He is very excited to join the already amazing work being done at Excel and is eager to both learn from the past successes of Excel and be a part of its continued growth and development into a top performing school for all children. The thing that, Scaife loves to do more than anything in this world is breath, because if he did not do that, then he would not be able to do his second favorite thing which is teach! When he is not teaching, you can probably find him trying to build or experiment with something new (because that is the best way to learn), or else you might find him out fighting crime with his favorite super heroes, so… do not be worried if he is not around; he is just out fighting crime.
Mrs. Topalian recently graduated from Western Washington University with a B.A. in Spanish and a Masters in Teaching for Secondary Education. During her first year teaching in La Conner, WA, she advocated for students who are bilingual or ELLs by implementing STAMP testing in the district in order for students to receive credit for their knowledge and be placed accordingly in classes to meet their needs. Mrs. Topalian loves learning about pretty much anything and hopes to encourage her students to find their own love of learning by connecting their interests to the importance of an education. In her free time you can find Mrs. Topalian trying to soak up any sun rays that escape through the clouds, dreaming up new flavor combinations for her baking, cooking with her husband, or probably reading some pretentious philosophy book.
Mr. Warren can’t wait to start this year with Excel! He’ll be teaching 7th grade ELA, however he feels he has large shoes to fill following Mr. Murphy! Mr. Warren attained his BA in History & Politics from Sheffield Hallam University in England and then went on to earn his teaching certificate from Leeds Trinity University in high and middle school History. Being from England he, of course, loves a good cup of tea, (real) football (Liverpool FC – YNWA) and pronouncing the word ‘tomato’ the correct way. Last year he taught first grade at Spokane International Academy, so this year will be sure to pose many different challenges! In his spare time he enjoys films, television, cooking and remembering to drive on the right side of the road.
Math Teacher and Instructional Assistant
I am a Washington native, born and raised in South King County by two dedicated educators. I currently live in Renton with my wife, two children, and two miniature dachshunds. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, and playing the piano. I also love to take advantage of our beautiful Pacific NW, enjoying outdoor activities including skiing, biking, hiking, running, kayaking, and golf, just to name a few.
I received my BA in Education from Central Washington University and earned my Washington State teaching certification with highly qualified status. I have spent time as a substitute/guest teacher in multiple districts, in grades 2 to 12. Near the end of the 2016/17 school year, I had the opportunity to guest teach at Excel PCS for several days. I am excited to be joining the talented and dynamic team at Excel. I look forward to meeting the scholars and focusing on their success.
Ms. Dibble grew up in Albany, Oregon and attended Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon where she graduated with a B.S in Psychology in 2013. She then moved Kent, WA and started working in the Kent School District in a Behavior Learning Support Program. Ms. Dibble wanted to positively impact students in the home, and not solely in a classroom, so she became a Registered Behavior Technician and worked as an In-Home Behavior Technician for clients all over King County. She started working 1:1 with impacted children and young adults who needed extra support to live productive, successful, and happy lives. Ms. Dibble wanted to implement her knowledge of Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy back into the local schools and was appreciative when she was offered a position with Excel as an Instructional Aide. She is motivated and excited to be able to combine her favorite learning techniques into a classroom setting while still providing individualized support. In her free time, she enjoys strategic board games, playing soccer, and being outdoors near the water.
Ms. Hollingshead was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ and moved to the Pacific Northwest in July 2015. She attended Arizona State University and discovered her passion for working with children and helping them learn and grow. She has formerly coached Speech & Debate at the high school level. She is extremely excited to start work as an Instructional Aide at Excel and build individual relationships with students and parents. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, backpacking, and anything related to dogs.
Mrs. Paciotti is very excited to join the Excel team this year. She was born and raised in Southern California. She attended Biola University where she received her B.A. in Intercultural Studies. During her time in college, she spent time serving in small villages across Mafikeng, South Africa. She believes in transformational development through empowerment and sustainability. When she’s not in the classroom, you can find her playing with her two cats or trying to figure out what’s going on in Game of Thrones.