Meet our team
Middle School Staff
Our middle school teachers enjoy teaching and are excited to make this a great year for your student!
Gina Brown | Middle School Teacher (English Language Arts [ELA])
Ms. Brown started at Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA) in the middle of the 2017–2018 school year. A recent college graduate, she jumped right into her role as ELA interventionist, helping support the English courses and holding small groups for reading remediation. Ms. Brown's technology and organizational skills and upbeat personality have been a great addition to the middle school team!
Michelle Coleman | Middle School Teacher (History)
Ms. Coleman earned her bachelor's degree in history and political science at Incarnate Word College and her master's degree in international relations (conflict resolution and human rights) from St. Mary's University, both in San Antonio, Texas, where she grew up (and now, she just misses the tacos). She moved to Wisconsin and earned a PhD in curriculum theory (in social studies education), at University of Wisconsin – Madison. She has taught middle and high school social studies for more than a decade! Her students are often entertained with stories of her ridiculous cat Ivan The Terrible, hobbies of baking and watching movies, and her love of all things Star Wars and the Marvel Universe. Ms. Coleman started at WIVA in 2016, but she taught online for two years before that and really enjoys the challenge of teaching in a virtual environment.
Kaitie Gasser | Middle School Teacher (History)
Mrs. Gasser earned her bachelor's degree in English and history education at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. For several years, she was a substitute teacher, librarian, and stay-at-home mom—all of which enhanced her ability to think quickly and be adaptable. She came to WIVA in 2016 to teach American and world history. Mrs. Gasser has enjoyed the opportunities and challenges offered by online education and especially enjoys helping students discover new ideas and interests. She has two children, a husband who is a dairy farmer, and she loves reading, yoga, and trying new recipes.
Abi Gonzo | Middle School Teacher (ELA)
Teacher bio coming soon!
Rachel Knuese | Middle School Teacher (Middle School Lead Teacher, ELA)
Ms. Knuese received her bachelor's degree in education and English from Mount Mary College. She taught 7th grade language arts for four years at Oconomowoc Middle School. Then, while a stay-at-home mom, she worked part-time as a parish administrator, which helped her hone many interpersonal, problem-solving, and technology skills. In 2010, Ms. Knuese transitioned into online tutoring in English and essay writing for students in 4th grade through college, and that experience piqued her interest in virtual education. She started at WIVA in 2012 and has embraced the unique challenges and benefits of working with middle schoolers in an online environment. In addition to teaching English 8, Ms. Knuese is the middle school lead teacher and recently completed a graduate certificate program in e-learning and teaching.
Sara Leonard | Middle School Teacher (Math)
Ms. Leonard received her bachelor's degree with a major in finance and a minor in math. After working as a trainer in many of her jobs in the finance world, she decided it was time pursue her passion for teaching. Ms. Leonard received her master's in education from George Williams College of Aurora University in Williams Bay. She had previously taught in a self-contained 5th grade class and was the business and economics teacher for a K–8 school in Milwaukee. Ms. Leonard joined WIVA in 2016. She's excited to begin the new school year and enjoys the uniqueness of teaching in the virtual world. Outside of school hours, she spends her time watching her son play basketball (and often fetching rebounds).
Suzi O'Hern | Middle School Teacher (Math)
Mrs. O'Hern received her bachelor's degree in education with a math emphasis from Silver Lake College, Manitowoc. She also holds a reading teacher's license through Viterbo University, LaCrosse. She taught 8th grade math and 7th and 8th grade language arts for three years, followed by two years of teaching reading and three years teaching K–8 students in the special education setting as a paraprofessional. She spent five years as a Learning Coach for her son while he was enrolled at WIVA. She also worked for six months as the lead teacher at a charter school for behaviorally challenged students. Mrs. O'Hern has taught and continues to teach religious education through a tri-parish program and teaching vacation bible school. She began teaching at WIVA in 2016. Her varied experiences allow her to work well with families and students from diverse backgrounds and those with special needs. She has an excellent understanding of the Learning Coach–student perspective in virtual schooling. Outside of work, Mrs. O'Hern enjoys camping, kayaking, walking, and spending time with her husband, her three adult children, five grandchildren, and her cat.
Barbara "Barb" Ridd | Middle School Teacher (Science)
Mrs. Ridd has a bachelor's degree in secondary education and biology with a minor in chemistry from University of Illinois – Champaign/Urbana. Her master's degree is in marine biology/ecology – marine oceanography from University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She shares that she is a married, middle-aged, lecturer/scientist with three children. Her husband is a research chemist, born in Wales and currently living in Durham, North Carolina. In addition to almost 15 years teaching in brick-and-mortar classrooms, Mrs. Ridd also lectures online for DePaul University and a local college.
April Ruddell | Middle School Teacher (English)
Mrs. Ruddell received her bachelor's degree in education with endorsements in language arts and reading from Ashford University. She taught language arts, social studies, and reading intervention at Jefferson Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin, before she started teaching for Stride K12 in 2016. She enjoyed incorporating technology into her brick-and-mortar classroom, which helped lead her to teaching virtually. Mrs. Ruddell values building strong relationships with students and making learning relevant and meaningful. When she is not teaching, she is traveling with her husband, running with her husky, fishing, camping, reading, and snowboarding.
Emily Satterstrom | Middle School Teacher (Math)
Ms. Satterstrom received her bachelor's degree in business management and accounting. After working as a lender and a bookkeeper, she decided education was her calling. She returned to school, receiving her master's degree in education from George Williams College of Aurora University in Williams Bay. She has taught 5th grade math, middle school science and social studies, and was a reading and math interventionist. Ms. Satterstrom's undergraduate schooling was virtual, which allows her to have a better understanding of the students she teaches. She joined WIVA in 2016, and she enjoys working with math students and their families in a virtual environment. Outside of teaching, Ms. Satterstrom stays busy cheering on her children at their different sporting events, spending time with friends, and going for walks.
Karen Schwaab | Middle School Teacher (Math)
Mrs. Schwaab started teaching at WIVA in the 2018–2019 academic year. Her bachelor's degree is in pre-law from Michigan State University's James Madison College. After living in Madison, she and her husband lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for five years while he completed his residency, and she worked as a supervisor for Presbyterian Health, the largest employer in New Mexico. (A headhunter found her the position after she helped with an IS system conversion at Physicians Plus.). After relocating to Illinois, she accepted a position in Research and Planning with McHenry County College, where she worked in statistics. Then her daughters came along! Mrs. Schwaab left her position and finished her master's in sociology from Northern Illinois University where she taught SOC101 and worked in the quantitative research lab. As a stay-at-home mom, she volunteered in her daughters' dual-language classrooms, chaired committees, led their girl scout troops, and taught at church. After student teaching 5th grade and finishing her master's in education from North Park University in Chicago, Mrs. Schwaab and her family moved to Wisconsin in 2016. She has loved teaching in the Madison area as a substitute and long-term substitute K–8. After school, she enjoys spending time with her family. She also loves to bake, read, and garden.
Noel VandeBerg | Middle School Teacher (Science)
Mrs. VandeBerg earned a bachelor's degree in life science from the University of Colorado and an engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines. She loves to know how things work but finds it even more rewarding to explain how things work to other people. She worked as a veterinary technician during her college years. After graduating, Mrs. VandeBerg worked for Lockheed Martin. A desire to get away from the big city took her to South Dakota, where she worked for a company selling air conditioning equipment. She came to Wisconsin with her husband and children and worked as an engineering manager for Carnes Company in Verona that makes the equipment she sold in South Dakota. After much thought, she decided that teaching was the best way to combine all her life experiences. She has two children, and she loves bike riding and walking her dog in the summer. She hibernates in the winter.
Matt VanEffen | Middle School Teacher (Social Studies)
Mr. VanEffen received his bachelor's degree in social studies with an emphasis in secondary education from Lake Superior State University. After a year in the AmeriCorps Vista program, he accepted a teaching position at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic School in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. He taught middle school social studies for five years. During that time, Mr. VanEffen earned his Master of Arts in educational administration from the University of Notre Dame. After graduating from Notre Dame, he was an elementary principal in the greater Green Bay Area for three years. After missing the classroom during that time, Mr. VanEffen taught in the social studies department at De Pere High School for four years. He joined WIVA in November of 2019. Mr. VanEffen looks forward to sharing his passion for teaching with students in a virtual setting. Outside of teaching, he enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife have two sets of twins! When he's not chasing his kids around, he can be found running, reading, heading to the Upper Peninsula, or hopefully catching a cat nap.
Beth Watson | Middle School Teacher (Reading Interventionist and ELA)
Mrs. Watson is WIVA's middle school reading interventionist and 8th grade ELA teacher. She has a lifelong love of both kids and words, which led her to become an English teacher for grades 6–12. Early in her career, she became interested in working with students who had reading difficulties, and she pursued additional education in that field as well as running her own reading tutoring business for the past 20 years. Mrs. Watson has taught in the Waunakee and DeForest School Districts and at private and parochial schools, most recently at Edgewood High School. She has been interested in WIVA for several years and was thrilled when she was offered the opportunity to join the team. When not immersed in reading and writing with her students, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their two daughters, hiking, biking, cooking—and reading and writing!