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

Pearl Brunt

Exploring American Culture: A Look at Gender and Race Through Iconic Films 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!  

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.

Brett Frain

Forest School Guide

Brett is a recent graduate of Oswego State with a Bachelors of Science in Zoology. He is a strong advocate for environmental sustainability and wildlife rehabilitation. Brett focused his undergrad research in aquatic ecology and ecosystems. Specifically, utilizing bio-indicators such as algae and aquatic insects to measure water quality around the Central New York region. Considering himself an amateur entomologist, Brett works to educate his peers about the importance of insects in society. Additionally, he has worked with both the Rochester Museum and Science Center and Seneca Park Zoo in educating the public about conservation. 

            Backpacking and experiencing nature serve as some of Brett’s biggest passions in life. He has sampled insect life and observed wildlife from the Rocky Mountains to the Catskills. Brett hopes to share his lifelong goal of respecting our planet for future generations to come. In his free time, he enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons, cooking, and singing karaoke.

Jennifer Green, Director

Research, Drawing and Painting, Art, Computer Skills, 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 earning a PhD in Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Rochester, where 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 14 learning centers throughout the Northeast. These visits and her academic efforts have inspired the development of Amiko. Previously, she served as the Assistant Head of School at the Montessori School of Rochester, Forest School Guide for the Earthworks Institute and Rochester Museum and Science Center, and owner of Flower of Life Gardening.  Jennifer has two young children and enjoys cooking and hiking.

Keith Handy

Electrical Engineering and 3D Printing + CAD 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.

Rebecca Lauzon, Ph. D.

Science, Math, and Environmental Education Guide

Rebecca is an earth scientist and environmental educator with a passion for improving science education. After starting her PhD in Earth Science at Duke University, she realized she loved talking to people about science more than doing scientific research. Soon after, she began teaching field trip programs at a local botanical garden and would go on to do over 300 hours of science outreach while in graduate school. She has been a Certified Interpretive Guide since 2014 and a Certified Environmental Educator since 2018. Her PhD research focused on how coastal ecosystems evolve over long timescales in response to changes in climate and other factors like land use. Specifically, she used computer modeling to study how the plants living in places like salt marshes and river deltas interact with the movement of water and sediment to shape those ecosystems. 

Since moving to Rochester, Rebecca has worked as the Outdoor Programs Coordinator for Girl Scouts of WNY, an Instructor for Snapology of Pittsford, and an Educator for the RMSC’s Cumming Nature Center. She is excited to join the Amiko team because she is passionate about the Center’s mission. In her teaching, she aims to help learners build a connection to the subject so that they will be motivated to learn more with the ultimate goals of increased science literacy and informed decision-making. Her favorite thing about living in Western NY is all the waterfalls! In her free time, she enjoys hiking, baking cookies and cupcakes, and working in her garden.

Pam Ryan

American History, Geography and Map Skills, and Voting in America: The Fight for the Right 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.

Nkiru Sewell

Video Editing Guide

Nkiru Sewell grew up on Long Island, NY and relocated with her family to Rochester, NY in August 2014. Sewell graduated from Syracuse University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts with a BFA in Illustration. Sewell has had a passion for drawing and art from a very young age. Sewell’s art focuses on storytelling. She enjoys depicting both fantasy and realistic scenarios and creates illustrations, short stories, comics and animations. While working in the animation industry Sewell gained experience in video editing and bringing coherent stories to life. She currently works at Animatus Animation Studio.

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 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.

Kate Felluca

Secretary

Kate is an attorney with Evans Fox LLP, where she focuses her practice on commercial real estate and business law.  She has two school-age children and enjoys biking, gardening, and birdwatching.

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 earning a PhD in Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Rochester, where 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 14 learning centers throughout the Northeast. These visits and her academic efforts have inspired the development of Amiko. Previously, she served as the Assistant Head of School at the Montessori School of Rochester, Forest School Guide for the Earthworks Institute and Rochester Museum and Science Center, and owner of Flower of Life Gardening.  Jennifer has two young children and enjoys cooking and hiking.

Spero Michailidis

Spero is a New Jersey native and has been proud to call Rochester home since 1997.  After graduating from Lehigh University with a degree in Environmental Science, and spending a year in Asia traveling and teaching English in Korea, he came to live on staff at the Rochester Zen Center for 3 years. He then earned his Masters Degree in Education from Nazareth College, and taught 2nd through 5th grade for 10 years at the Genesee Community Charter School. In 2014, Spero joined the staff at the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and began teaching social justice and nonviolence to students at Northwest Middle School and Enrico Fermi School #17.  During the 2016-2017 school year, he began working full-time at School #17 and helped create and manage their first Help Zone- a safe space for students to have their social / emotional needs met and to learn nonviolent ways to approach and solve conflicts.  Spero continues to work with School #17 today, and he is excited to bring his knowledge and experiences to the Amiko Learning Center community.

Joshua Murphy

Stay Tuned!