English Language Teacher
Ms. Meaghan Goliday is originally from Vashon Island, right outside of Seattle, Meaghan Goliday is a Washington native from a family of educators. She has most recently moved from southwest Louisiana back to the Pacific Northwest to join the RVLA high school team and make a difference in the community that is closest to her heart. Meaghan earned her undergraduate degree from Washington State University and has a Master’s in Teaching from the University of Southern California, which emphasizes the importance of quality and culturally-relevant education in traditionally underserved communities.
As an educator in the southwest region of Louisiana, Meaghan served as an English teacher in communities of high poverty, homelessness, and trauma. This experience provided her with a foundation of unique and diverse teaching practices built to empower students to advocate for their own learning and ultimate success. She has training as a Differentiated Instruction Master Teacher and has designed and built curricula for a variety of grade levels and concentrations. A self-proclaimed “Classroom Cheerleader,” Meaghan lives by the motto, “There is no ‘I can’t.’ There is only, “I am currently struggling with…’”
Outside of the classroom, Meaghan spends as much time as possible with her family and two dogs, Disco and Ginger. She, her husband Kelvin, and their son Giovanni can often be found playing heated games of UNO or Pitty Pat around the kitchen table, walking their local beaches, or reading (most recently introducing Giovanni to the Harry Potter series). Meaghan is thrilled to be joining the RVLAHS team and is looking forward to building new classroom families this fall.
Performing Arts Teacher
Sylvia Hadnot is a multicultural educator extraordinaire! From jazz to ecological history to art leadership and more, Sylvia brings real-world knowledge and experience into her classroom experiences. Sylvia has performed jazz piano at the Triple Door and the Paramount, among other jazz houses. She launched her own benefit events company at age 22 to support local artists in the city. She has written youth curriculums for social-emotional health, college and career readiness, and environmental justice. Between all of her activities and work, Sylvia found the time to complete a Master’s in Education, with focuses on Multicultural and Urban Environmental Education.
Perpetually interested in the growth and success of those around her, Sylvia has been interested in education since age 5. Her Kindergarten teacher even put her in timeout for over-helping her classmates from time to time! She has since learned how to support others on their journeys to success rather than do the work for them. With several years of classroom teaching experience, from working with students in the King County Youth Detention Center in special populations, Sylvia is excited and prepared to teach a diverse group of scholars and guide them on their own personal paths to fulfillment.
Born and raised in Seattle, Sylvia grew up in the Beacon Hill neighborhood before moving to Shoreline to attend high school. She now lives in Columbia City with her tabby cat, Prince Shakur. When she is not walking around the neighborhood with Shak, you can find Sylvia studying the latest in equitable classroom practices, stretching in a yoga class, moseying around at a plant sale or riding the light rail to a networking event.
Mrs. H is originally born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She recently moved to Seattle, Washington in 2015 to pursue her passion in marine biology. Within the past 5 years, Mrs. H worked in a range of disciplines. She lead biology and music theory courses as a supplemental instructor at the University of North Texas, worked as a paraprofessional for violin studies in the Edmonds School District, and more recently, taught environmental sustainability as a predoctoral lecturer at the University of Washington.
Mrs. H graduated from the University of North Texas in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in Biology and Violin Performance as well as a minor in Chemistry and Music Theory. She went on to pursue her master's degree in Marine and Environmental Affairs from the University of Washington and recently graduated in 2018. Currently, Mrs. H is excited to start her second master's in Teaching from the University of Washington. As a life-long learner and educator, Mrs. H is passionate about music, biology, and the environment, and hopes to work in underrepresented communities to provide enriching opportunities in a variety of disciplines.
This year, Mrs. H is excited to teach 9th grade biology at RVLA. She is looking forward to working with students to help them learn about themselves and their surroundings through biology.
English Language Arts Teacher
Mrs. Valerie R. Masai-Aspaas is a native of Buffalo, New York, and has recently arrived in Seattle, WA. She graduated from the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education in 2018 with certification for teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She has experience teaching English Language Learners at Buffalo Public Schools and Cheektowaga Central High School in New York, and teaching English as a second language to Japanese learners of English in Shiso, Japan. This will be her first year teaching English Language Arts.
Mrs. Masai, as her students call her, is a world traveler. She graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a bachelor’s degree in Japanese, and spent two years in Japan as both a student of the Japanese language and a teacher of the English language. Mrs. Masai is passionate about linguistics and literature, and believes that language and culture are inextricably intertwined. Multilingualism and multiculturalism are cornerstones of diversity that are celebrated in her classroom.
Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Masai is a professional martial artist, specializing in Brazilian Jiujitsu and Mixed Martial Arts. She also enjoys art, reading, the outdoors, and all creatures great and small.
Mrs. Masai is thrilled to be a part of the Rainier Valley Leadership Academy High School founding team, and to work closely with students, family, and community members. She hopes to share the excitement of learning and discovery with her students, not only in preparation for the future, but for the joy and curiosity of the present.
Ms. Matte is a Norfolk, Virginia native with a degree in English from University of Virginia with emphasis in Linguistics and Masters in teaching from from Old Dominion University. Dominique has explored many roles as an educator, from providing literacy tutoring to elementary students to working one-on-one with adults seeking alternative diplomas. Most recently, she has worked as a classroom teacher for 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students. Outside of teaching, she enjoys reading non-fiction, hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, spending time with her six nieces and nephews, and playing women's recreational league Rugby. She is beyond excited to begin working with RVLA this fall!
Mr. Pacanowski studied Improvisational jazz guitar at a music conservatory near NYC, and mastered several martial art/fighting styles., before becoming a math teacher. Although Mike no longer plays jazz, music is an integral part of who he is. He loves to hike, climb and freerun, and entertains the idea of opening his own fighting school part-time. He’s invested in learning and growth as vital aspects of daily life, and is constantly looking for new ways to grow. As an avid outdoors-person new to Seattle, he’s eager to discover the greater Seattle area's natural resources.
Perhaps central to his philosophy of education, Mike never enjoyed school or thought it to be genuinely interesting or useful. To combat this experience, he strives to create out-of-the-box lessons that incorporate authentic systems and physical participation -- making math more approachable to even the most math-phobic. From geometrically analyzing musical rhythms to modeling projectile motion by constructing and firing a catapult, Mike hopes to create a classroom experience that gives students a language to logically and creatively express the structure behind interesting systems.
World History Teacher
Ms. Amy Razo is joining RVLA from Los Angeles, California where she was born, raised, and where she began teaching over 7 years ago. Ms. Razo began her teaching career at Dominguez High School in Compton, California and spent the last three school years teaching for Green Dot Public Schools at Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy in Watts.
Ms. Razo is a proud, two-time graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History in 2010. It was during her undergraduate years that Ms. Razo discovered her passion for learning history that is diverse and representative, as well where she became aware of the ways in which education has left students of color historically underserved. Combining her new passions, Ms. Razo decided to pursue her teaching credential and graduate degree through UCLA’s Teacher Education Program where her training was focused specifically on serving urban communities. She began teaching in 2011 and graduated with her Master’s Degree in Education in 2012.
Ms. Razo is thrilled to serve as RVLA’s grade level lead and as a social studies course lead for Green Dot Washington. She is so excited at the opportunity to work with RVLA staff, students, and families to build a strong school culture that will set students on the path to success!
In her spare time, Ms. Razo enjoys hiking, rock climbing, camping, photography, and traveling. She loves spending time with her friends and family, especially her niece and nephews. Although she will miss being close to them, she is so excited to explore and begin her new life in Washington!
Computer Science Teacher
Mr. Eli Sheldon grew up in Massachusetts and earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Olin College in Boston. He’s volunteered with children ever since he was a child himself, and after a four-year stint at Microsoft he jumped into the world of education full-time in 2015. He has lived in Seattle for six wonderful years and never plans to leave!
At Excel Public Charter School in Kent, Eli created a Computational Thinking program that brought problem solving skills rooted in computer science to other disciplines. This CT program expanded to all Green Dot WA schools in 2016, featuring rich lessons such as using decomposition to analyze criminal justice reform or racial bias in traffic stops, using pattern recognition to study earthquake in real-time or to improve a kickball team, and using abstraction to create 3D Greek monuments or body-system-inspired amusement parks.
At RVLA HS, Eli will be teaching computer science, bringing these same computational thinking skills back into the realm of coding and physical computing. He’s excited to help establish the Panther community day by day and to set our founding class of ninth graders off on the road to college!
Ms. Amy Sickman is joining the Green Dot team from the Chicagoland area in Illinois. She has recently graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics Education, where she was a student teacher at Bloomington High School instructing Algebra, Geometry, and PreCalculus. During her studies, she also completed research for the university in a branch of mathematics called Graph Theory, and was coauthor of work that was published in the mathematics journal, Congressus Numerantium.
Ms. Sickman is passionate about bringing opportunities for learning mathematics, and other STEM topics, to underrepresented groups. During her time at Illinois State University, Ms. Sickman was focused on researching and creating resources that would allow youth to experience working on unsolved mathematics problems in an accessible way. She was also involved in volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Illinois State.
Ms. Sickman is excited to teach Mathematics at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy High School, and to be a mentor for the students of the founding class. Ms. Sickman also looks forward to building strong relationships within the community to best serve the students and their families.