Amiko Learning Center is committed to building a rich community by welcoming families of all backgrounds.

We believe that the power of empathetic practices, critical thinking skills, and close relationships are built upon connections with people who have diverse perspectives, beliefs, traditions, identities, and cultures. We promote the development of meaningful relationships and learning with small class sizes (1:7-9) and practices that support learners to significantly impact what and how they learn.

While we welcome volunteer support for some tasks, there is no required volunteering commitment.

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, including photography and written means, to enhance our learning process, facilitate reflection, and to share with others, in person, and in digital spaces.

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, Drawing and Painting, Art, and Forest School 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. She also taught Forest School for the Earthworks Institute and the Rochester Museum and Science Center before launching Amiko’s Forest School. Jennifer has two young children and enjoys cooking and hiking.

Redi Adane

Kid Connection Guide

Redi Adane is currently finishing her Masters degree in Social Work at Keuka College. She found that she appreciated guiding children in 2014, when she began working in Kindergarten through second grade afterschool programs. Soon realizing that most kids resorted to anger while they tried to express their challenging emotions, she started conducting interactive activities that helped students express their emotions in a healthy manner. Then, building upon her experience, she became a Crisis Intervention Specialist and assisted students individually and in group settings. She used mediation and restorative circles as primary efforts to help children learn how to resolve conflicts between their peers.

 

Realizing the influence of connection and relationships in people’s lives, she focused on developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships with her students. She helped students come up with coping strategies through art, effective communication skills, role-playing, and other activities. She believes that building skills proactively is imperative for children to create solid foundations for their mental health.

 

Redi interns with Golisano Children’s Hospital Health Home program, connecting children and families living with chronic illness with resources to make their lives a little easier. She enjoys traveling and learning about different cultures to connect with people, and being out in nature and hiking with friends.

Pearl Brunt

Cultural Studies Guide

Pearl was born and raised in the United States.  She grew to appreciate traveling abroad when she spent her senior year in high school and her college summers in Germany with her brother.  She earned her BA in Political Science (Pre-law) at Norfolk State University. She chose to study there because it was an HBCU (Historically Black College and University).  After that, she spent two years in Paris, where she earned an MA in International Relations and Diplomacy from Schiller International University in Paris. She also met her husband, Pete, who is English, in a British pub off of the Champs-Elysees.  He happened to be studying abroad, as well. She moved to England the following year and earned her MBA in International Business from Schiller International University in London.

Shortly before graduation, she started her own foreign relations consultancy.  While she has worked on a variety of projects, her primary focus was to assist small and medium-sized companies in Europe that wanted to build relationships with companies in the US or the UK.  She has led one-on-one and group training opportunities, which included webinars, seminars, training videos, and developing online courses. She has also enjoyed volunteering to assist young people to gain new perspectives on their academic careers by introducing them to foreign languages as well as tutoring them academically.  After spending 12 years in Europe, Pearl and her family moved to Rochester for her husband’s work. She currently homeschools her two daughters, is the US Business Liaison for a German engineering and consulting firm, and continues to engage with clients in her foreign relations consultancy.

Jacyln Cellura Crane

Literacy Guide

Jaclyn Cellura Crane graduated from St. John Fisher College with a Masters Degree in Elementary Education. Writing, singing, dancing and collage have always enlivened her. The freedom she found in creative expression inspired her to specialize in the Arts for Children program at the SUNY College at Brockport. Her passion lies in making learning a fun and natural experience! It has been a delight to raise her two children in a creative household, and as a result watch them thrive as problem solvers and risk takers.

In addition to teaching in the Greece Central School District for almost 10 years, she has taught martial arts and meditation to both children and adults. Jaclyn recharges by spending time in nature with her family. Practicing yoga and finding fun ways to unwind like rollerblading or skiing, keep her smiling. Learning about the nature of the universe and practicing intuitive energy healing light her up!  

Maeve Cullinane

Young Researchers Club Guide

Maeve Cullinane has been a learner and teacher in student-directed education for most of her life. She participated in an alternative democratic high school, graduated from Hampshire College, and led a cooperative nursery school in her neighborhood. After receiving her Masters Degree in Elementary Education, she taught at Cobblestone School for many years. In 2005, she switched to Museum Education and has been on the staff of many local institutions. She has been writing since she was in junior high and continues to devote time to her poetry, short stories, essays, editorials, and even that quintessential (unfinished) novel!

Christina Das

Forest School Guide

Christina is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Studies. She has worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Vermont, the Pacific Northwest, California, and Wyoming. In these roles, she build knowledge in public land management, visitor recreation usage, and wildland-fire management practices, while enjoying beautiful country. She also participated in an Environmental Education internship with Green Mountain Audubon. Christina worked as a substitute teacher for three years in Rochester, where she grew up. Most recently, Christina worked as a Learning Guide for the Earthworks Institute. Christina believes wild spaces offer refuge from our daily lives. She hopes to support young people to love the great outdoors as their comfort and confidence level grows. She is a strong advocate for experiential learning and place-based education. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, traveling, stargazing, live music, and trying new things.

Danielle Dong

Math and Science Guide

Danielle joins Amiko Learning Center with a B.A. in Art History and Mathematics from UCLA, an M.A. in museum studies from NYU, and a dedication to innovative, child-directed learning in both formal and informal settings.  Most recently, Danielle worked for the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, California.  During the summer, she developed, implemented, and evaluated curriculum for various school-aged camps, supervised and mentored fellow educators, and spent copious amounts of time exploring the grounds of the Golden Gate Recreation Area.  During the school year, Danielle served as a lead teacher at The Discovery School, the museum’s licensed, onsite preschool — building on the work of her master’s thesis (an analysis of The Discovery School, the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, and twenty-first century learning).  Prior to working in the classroom, Danielle facilitated classes and tours in fine arts museums, documented and preserved the work of older adult artists, and worked with Jumpstart to provide positive early learning experiences for children from under-resourced communities.

Jamie Eggleston

Forest School Guide

Jamie grew up in Upstate New York, where he found joy in the outdoors and camping with family and friends. It was there, covered in dirt, where the seeds of appreciation and familiarity for the planet were first planted. Jamie eventually went on to earn his B.S. in Finance from SUNY New Paltz and has since lived in the UK, China, Chicago and Colorado. In Fall 2016, Jamie visited Standing Rock, ND to stand in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and support indigenous peoples and planetary rights. It was during that time that Jamie was able to reconnect with what he feels it means to be human. This experience inspired Jamie to become part of the effort to close the loop of interbeing between people, planet and community. He realigned his purpose to that of being in service to life and the planet, and now works as an environmental educator with Impact Earth. Impact Earth is an organization that supports communities in being better stewards for the planet by educating and building infrastructure for a circular economy. 

As an imperfect human, Jamie strives to humble himself, feed his curiosity and help young people discover their unique gifts through connecting with nature. In his free time, he enjoys cooking and sharing meals, spending time with family and friends, and getting outside in as many ways possible.

Keith Handy

Electrical Engineering and 3D Printing 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.

Pam Ryan

American History Guide

Pam Ryan is a lifelong history buff. She recently retired from the Penfield School District, where she taught elementary school for 22 years. Pam practiced law in Rochester for over 12 years before switching to teaching. Pam has a B.A. in Political Science from Union College, a J.D. from Washington & Lee University School of Law, and a Masters degree in Education from the Warner School at the University of Rochester. She is a certified docent at the Susan B. Anthony House. Pam also volunteers at the Dayton’s Corners School in Penfield, an 1850s one-room schoolhouse, where area students experience the typical school day of an 1850s farm child.

Pam and her husband raised their two children in Penfield and now live in Fairport next to the historic Erie Canal. She loves to travel, read, cook and spend time with her granddaughter. She is thrilled to be part of the Amiko Learning Center team.

Patrick Stefano

Optics Guide

Patrick J. Stefano is a graduate of Monroe Community College’s Applied Science of Optics program. While enrolled, he led community outreach efforts working with the RCSD for STEAM Day and individual classroom presentations, Rochester Maker Faire, and regional STEM/STEAM Public Presentations to cultivate curiosity and appreciation for Optics and STEAM-related fields. He also works for Optel, Inc., a local medical device engineering firm, designing, building, and testing new equipment. He is also a freelance photojournalist, focusing on musicians and their career progression. In his free time, Patrick loves to hike, camp, trail/mountain bike ride throughout the Northeast and Pacific Northwest & Colorado territories, and desperately tries to improve his vegetarian/vegan cooking skills.

Tony Tepedino

Teen Connection and Kid 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 Yannello

Yoga Guide

Sarah is a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, 95-hour Yoga Ed (Pre-K-grade 12), and Trauma Informed Yoga Instructor. She began practicing yoga as a young adult in 2000, when she immediately discovered a profound connection with herself on the mat. Her personal practice allows her to see growth in all aspects of her life and she has found that through the evolution of her yoga practice, her ability to rise to challenges and accept difficult moments have increased along with her self-awareness and self-acceptance. Sarah takes joy in guiding her students through their own personal journey of discovery through movement, breath, and inquisition.

Sarah offers family and kids’ yoga classes as well as adult yoga classes at Molly’s Yoga Corner, Beautiful Birth Choices, and ROC & Soul Fitness. She will also be certified as a Relax and Renew restorative yoga teacher in late 2019.

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.

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.