Mission

The mission of Amiko Learning Center is to support young people to build knowledge in ways that promote collaboration and autonomy, so they can understand the complexity of our world, to make informed decisions and generate innovative ideas, while acting with empathy for others.

Core Values

We work together to make choices about what and how we learn, so the knowledge we build is personally meaningful.

We develop responsibility and persistence to plan and achieve challenging goals, with accountability to ourselves and to our community.

We create evidence of our learning in a variety of ways to enhance our learning process, facilitate reflection, and to share with others.

Our collaborative community, built from diverse perspectives, strengthens our learning experiences and helps us to develop empathetic understanding.

Our Approach

The learning center is guided by research that supports people to have empowering learning experiences by promoting autonomy and collaboration. Instead of grades, guides facilitate assessment by providing and encouraging specific and helpful feedback from self-reflection, peers, other guides, and community members. We contribute to our community by documenting our learning and creating artifacts that can be shared with others. Courses are designed to be relevant by aligning activities with longer-term goals, creating connections beyond the learning center, and honoring engagement as the driving force behind learning.

Our Team

Jennifer Green

Director, Research Course Guide, Drawing and Painting Guide

Jennifer has a Masters degree in Art Education from Nazareth College where she earned the Excellence in Art Education Award. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Rochester. Her research interests center on student autonomy and collaboration. To investigate educational opportunities that support learners to make meaningful decisions about their learning, she visited 12 learning centers throughout the Northeast. These visits and her academic efforts have inspired the development of Amiko. Previous to beginning her studies at U of R, she served as the Assistant Head of School at the Montessori School of Rochester. She loves gardening and operated Flower of Life Gardening for 15 years. Now, she fulfills her desire to be immersed in nature while teaching at RSMC’s Forest School. Jennifer has two young children and enjoys cooking and hiking.

Michelle Cardulla

Sharing with Art Guide

Michelle Cardulla has been a teaching artist for 15 years with the Rochester City School District, primarily for Visual Arts.  In her personal artwork, she uses poetry to explore themes of nature and human experience.  Michelle is also a representative for the Meatless Monday Campaign (Kids Cook Monday), where she promotes plants-based eating in the senior and youth communities. She is also the Director for Kinderfarmin’, a program in which children visit Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY or Purpose Farm in Baldwinsville, NY and then create wonderful farm animal designs. Michelle is the co-founder and publisher of Lake Affect Magazine, a progressive arts and literary magazine since 1994. Previously, she was the Executive Director of MOKA (Museum of Kids Art) and was recognized as a “Woman to Watch” by the Democrat and Chronicle. She lives in Rochester, NY with her husband and many pets.

Joe Gomulak-Cavicchio

LEGO Robotics Guide

Joe was a curious kid. He took apart his toys just to see how they worked. Sometimes he could put them back together and sometimes he could not (don’t mention the CD player to his parents).

Joe grew up and became a teacher, but this inquisitive nature did not go away. Joe turned this interest into an asset and learned how to use technology to help his students. Eventually, he went to Nazareth College an earned a Masters degree in Educational Technology Specialist. One of Joe’s favorite classes was LEGO Robotics. He loved to build creations and program them to do all sorts of crazy things.

Currently, Joe is Instructional Design Specialist at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. In this role he gets to help the faculty design courses and plan meaningful activities for students. Joe is also enrolled in the Ed.D. program in Educational Administration at the Warner School of Education. When he is not busy at work and school. He is busy at home with his wife, Beata, and their three children.

Keith Handy

Electrical Engineering Guide

Keith has been composing, performing, recording, and producing original music since his childhood in the early 1980s. With a focus in progressive or “art” rock Keith has produced several concept albums and a rock opera. He studied music theory at SUNY Fredonia, as well as computer art and film making at University at Buffalo. In line with Keith’s passion for the continual study of the creative process in all forms, he has branched out into improv comedy, computer art in GIMP, programming in C++ for generative art and signal processing, puppetry and puppet making, and video editing. He is currently a regular at the Rochester Makerspace, and spends most of his free time inventing electronic musical instruments with CAD software, 3D printing, and Arduino microcontrollers.

Kathleen Mugnolo

Montessori Morning Guide

Kathleen earned a Bachelors degree in English Literature, with a minor in Art from the University of Michigan and is trained in Lower Elementary Montessori Curriculum. She holds a healthy balance between the philosophy of “a lesson forced is a lesson lost” and pushing a student past a hurdle to reinforce a pattern of success. Kathleen believes that all children want to do well and helping them recognize their intrinsic motivation will lead to individual accomplishment. Kathleen is a Certified Holistic Birth Doula and Herbal Educator and applies her skills and zeal from these areas to her teaching and every day encounters.

Tony Tepedino

Teen Connection Guide

Tony Tepedino graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College with a Masters Degree in Education in 2004. He has worked as an educator at Allendale Columbia School for 22 years. He has had many different experiences in education, he taught physical education for 7 years, kindergarten for 7 years, has served as the Director of Curricular Technology and helped Allendale Columbia School adopt an iPad 1:1 program in its middle school and implement school wide usage of Google Apps for Education for all students. In his current position, Tony teaches electives for both middle and high school students in the Allendale Columbia School, Center for Entrepreneurship. Tony is also the Coordinator for Faculty Professional Development and Hybrid Learning. Tony has presented at variety of conferences, on the topics of Digital Literacy, Individualized Learning, iPad implementation and best practices, and the use of social media in education, both as a classroom tool and for educators to develop Personal Learning Networks (PLN). Tony is passionate about changing current educational paradigm to meet the needs of all students. Meeting the needs of all students starts with creating safe spaces for all people to be seen and heard. Only then, do we have the ability to truly learn, take risks and explore our curiosities!

Sarah Vitberg

Beyond the Book Guide

Sarah Vitberg has been an American Sign Language Interpreter for over 10 years.  She has a BA from Ashford University in Social Sciences, with a minor focus in Education. She also earned a degree from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in ASL to English Interpreting. She currently co-teaches ASL classes throughout the city. You may also have seen her hosting the public open mic event event, “Storytime”, where she builds community with creative storytelling prompts. Sarah enjoys making collage art, selling her wares at art and craft events and loves raising her awesome little girl.

Our Board

Lisa Ernst-Suess

President

Lisa is grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Amiko Learning Center from the beginning and can’t wait to watch it grow. She is an adoptive mom, foster parent, and social justice advocate. She studied elementary education and child psychology at St. Bonaventure University and then worked with a childcare center to create and run a school-age program.

Lisa can be reached at lisacsuess@gmail.com.

Mark Ippolito

Treasurer

Mark is very happy to join Amiko Learning Center as Treasurer. He has over 30 years of accounting and financial analysis in healthcare and higher education and is excited to use his skills to contribute to the success and sustainability of this endeavor. Mark and his family have been residents of the Swillburg neighborhood of the city of Rochester for over 10 years. They enjoy city events and casual gatherings, especially potlucks, with their homeschooling, neighborhood, and church communities. In multiple alternate universes, Mark would be a farmer, an accomplished banjo player, a poet, a professional disc golf player, and a full-time reader of graphic novels.

Carole McNamara

Secretary

Carole is a lifelong learner with a passion for educational philosophy, social justice, and simply enjoying the great outdoors. She has been a home educator for 12 years, during which she has had the opportunity to witness the value of meaningful, self-directed education. Prior to her career as a home educator, Carole used her degree from NTID as an American Sign Language interpreter in the Rochester community.

Amy Jeary

Amy is excited about the development of Amiko as an alternative learning center.  She holds several education certifications and currently owns and operates The Wren’s Nest, an early childhood program that supports children to develop their creativity and imagination through healthy rhythms and free movement.  She enjoys self-development through a psycho-spiritual path, reading, camping, and raising her bunnies.  She resides in the city with her partner and three children.

Jennifer Green

Executive Director

Jennifer has a Masters degree in Art Education from Nazareth College where she earned the Excellence in Art Education Award. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Rochester. Her research interests center on student autonomy and collaboration. To investigate educational opportunities that support learners to make meaningful decisions about their learning, she visited 12 learning centers throughout the Northeast. These visits and her academic efforts have inspired the development of Amiko. Previous to beginning her studies at U of R, she served as the Assistant Head of School at the Montessori School of Rochester. She loves gardening and operated Flower of Life Gardening for 15 years. Now, she fulfills her desire to be immersed in nature while teaching at RSMC’s Forest School. Jennifer has two young children and enjoys cooking and hiking.