Math | John Brunecz came to Valley Catholic in 2006 after 38 years of high school math teaching, 18 in Pennsylvania and 20 in the Portland Public School District (where he was awarded in 2001 the Portland Schools Foundation’s Excellence in Education Teacher of the Year Award). At Valley Catholic John teaches Pre-Calculus, Algebra II, Advanced Algebra II, and Math 8. John also has 20 years of experience as a high school head coach of basketball, track, and soccer, earning four coach-of-the-year honors. John has a bachelor’s degree in math education and a master’s in education in math, both at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. John and his wife Wanda have a large family, whose most recent additions are three great-grandchildren.
French | Elizabeth Burgess is the Valley Catholic French teacher and World Language department chair. She has been a teacher at Valley since 2012 and is an alumna of the school as well. She developed her love for languages here at Valley, went on to study French at the University of Portland, and then lived in France for a year after graduation, teaching English.
English Department Chair and Math Teacher | Paul Caballero '10 returns to the Valley Catholic Middle School community as the English Department head and mathematics teacher. Paul teaches two math courses, Sixth-grade Math and Seventh-grade Pre-Algebra, as well as three sections of English, Sixth- Grade English, Seventh-grade English, and Eighth-grade English. Paul is a returning alumnus to the Valley Catholic Community, attending Valley Catholic K-12 and graduating from VCHS in 2010. He continued his education at Gonzaga University, where he received his bachelor's degree in secondary education and English literature in the spring of 2014. While studying at Gonzaga, his coursework included mathematics courses as well as training in secondary education academic subjects. He is very passionate about working with students across all age groups, and feels privileged to work with a handful of VCMS teachers who first inspired him to pursue his teaching career. Outside the classroom, Paul enjoys reading, hiking, playing and watching soccer, and spending time with family and friends.
Sydney grew up in Beaverton and is excited to be back in Oregon after attending Pacific Lutheran University and Central Washington University. She graduated from Central Washington University with her Master’s degree in Family & Child Life this past summer. Sydney enjoys establishing relationships with middle school students and recognizes the importance of reducing stress and anxiety in a school environment. She is passionate about supporting students in ways that work for them, as each child is different. In her free time, Sydney enjoys outdoor activities which include running, bike riding, and skiing. At the end of the day, she finds joy in playing with her dogs, Stella and Basin. With the combination of her education and faith, Sydney looks forward to supporting the students of Valley Catholic as they navigate middle school....
Science and Math | Though she chose Smith College in part because she would never have to take a math or science class again, Heather Ferebee graduated with a degree in Biology and a passion for connecting students of all ages to the phenomena of science. She has twenty years of experience teaching in a variety of public and private secondary schools, both indoors and out. She earned her MS in Science Education from Montana State University and began putting it to use at Valley Catholic in January of 2020. Heather’s interest in science is driven by her interactions with the natural world. When not working, she can be found hiking or camping, reading, in/on/under the water, or planning her next travel adventure with her family....
Social Studies Department Chair | Courtney Ferrari has taught at Valley Catholic School in Beaverton since 2000. She is the Social Studies Department Head for the Middle School, and teaches 8th grade history. Courtney earned a Bachelor of Arts from Lewis and Clark College, majoring in history and sociology. She has lived abroad in Germany, Senegal, and Japan. In 2010, she received the Oregon Middle School Social Studies Educator of the Year award from the Oregon Council for the Social Studies. In 2011, she received the Global Educator of the Year Award from the Oregon World Affairs Council. She has served on teacher advisory boards for the Portland Art Museum, Middle East Studies Center at PSU, and the Let’s Get Healthy program at OHSU. She has been a board member of the Oregon Council for the Social Studies and for the peer-reviewed Oregon Journal of the Social Studies. Courtney travels whenever possible and has received study abroad fellowships from the Turkish Cultural Foundation and Embassy of the United Arab Emirates. Teacher institutes she attended in the US included Ritual and Religion in the Medieval World (Fordham University, New York City), Martha Washington and Women of the 18th Century (Mount Vernon, Virginia), and Civil Rights, Civil Wrongs: Portland’s Black History (Portland, Oregon).
VCMS Principal | Jennifer (Passadore) Gfroerer is an alumna of St. Mary of the Valley Academy, as Valley Catholic was known until 1992. Jennifer has a B.A. and M.A. from College of Notre Dame and an M.A.T. in Liberal Studies/Curriculum from Lewis and Clark College, and is currently working on her EdD in Neuroeducation at University of Portland. Jennifer began teaching in a Catholic middle school in 1990 and has worked in Catholic schools ever since. During her career, she wrote and implemented the curriculum for four Catholic middle school programs and opened three new middle school buildings. She designed school-wide discipline policies, co-authored three middle school curriculum guides and parent handbooks, established many curriculum enhancement programs, which included student councils and a year-long anti-bullying program. Jennifer has won awards in curriculum development, assessment, and accelerated learning and has been a presenter at the CSTA (California State Teacher Association’s) Computer Using Educators statewide conference, and has been invited to present on neuroscience and the implications in the classroom at the upcoming CQiE (Critical Questions in Education) and ORATE (Oregon Association of Teacher Educators) conferences in February. Jennifer recently co-authored a report on Correlational Analysis of Interim Assessments for the Multnomah County Partnership for Education Research consortium (Gfroerer & Brown, 2019). Jennifer is currently a member of the Oregon Cognia Advisory Committee for accreditation and certification, assessment, and professional learning. She and her husband, Jeff, have two children, who both attended Valley Catholic School.
Sarah Gram joins the Valley Catholic community as the 6th grade religion teacher and middle school choir assistant. Sarah attended Valley Catholic K-12, graduating from VCHS in 2017. During her time on the VCS campus she took piano and vocal lessons, while participating in the school choir. In middle school, she was selected to participate in the Oregon Music Education Association (OMEA) All-State Conference.
After high school, she continued her education at Oregon State University where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in English. Outside of the classroom, Sarah enjoys reading, playing volleyball, volunteering, and attending trivia night with her friends. She is so excited and thankful to return to the Valley Catholic community....
Fine Arts | Director of Orchestras at Valley Catholic, Travis Hatton has proven to be one of the most versatile conductors of his generation. His wide interests have led him to work with opera companies, orchestras, chamber orchestras, choruses and bands.
Mr. Hatton held two posts during his five years in Europe (1992-1997): Conductor of the Moravian Opera Theater (Olomouc, the Czech Republic) and Artistic Director of the City Opera Theater of Usti nad Labem (also in the Czech Republic). As an orchestral conductor, Mr. Hatton has appeared as a guest conductor with orchestras in Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic while in Europe. As a wind ensemble conductor, Mr. Hatton served as Interim Director of the Symphonic Band and taught classroom conducting at Oregon State University (1998-2000).
As a teacher, in addition to his position at Oregon State University, Mr. Hatton was Assistant Conductor of Orchestras at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, Instructor in Conducting at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and Conductor of the East Central Indiana Youth Symphony. He has also served as the On-Site Director of the International Opera Workshop in Opava, the Czech Republic (1993-1997), organized by Symphonic Workshops, Ltd. of Toronto.
Mr. Hatton is the Music Director of the Sunnyside Symphony at the Sunnyside SDA Church in Portland, Oregon. He is also the Music Director of the Beaverton Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Hatton holds a Bachelors of Music degree (awarded Magna Cum Laude) in Music Theory and Composition from the University of the Pacific and a Masters of Music degree in Orchestral Conducting from the New England Conservatory of Music.
Religion Department Chair | Nicholas Hegwood has taught at Valley Catholic since 2008. He currently teaches eighth-grade religion, and is the Director of Community engagement. Nicholas is a graduate of Beaverton High School and Portland State University and has a strong background in history, religion and archaeology. He is truly passionate about his subject and his faith. In 2012, his colleagues recognized his contributions to Valley Catholic with the Middle School Spirit Award.
Outside of school Nicholas enjoys spending time with his family and friends. He has a passion for sports of all kinds, especially football and basketball. He truly believes that Valley is a second home and loves being a part of this community.
Spanish | Profesora Huidor joined Valley Catholic High School in 2017 and currently teaches Spanish I and a new class on the history of cinematography in the Spanish speaking world. She relocated to Oregon from Texas in 2015 where she worked as an educator for several years in public schools (elementary through high school), college, and a retirement community. She earned her B.A. in Italian/ Art History from UCLA, and her M.A. in Spanish from Indiana University. Her interests include playing Scrabble, taking road trips across the country with her husband, hiking in national parks, biking, traveling in the USA and abroad, reading and eating. She has studied abroad in Italy and Guatemala, and if she were younger, she would do it again, but this time it would be an Asian country! Catalina is passionate about exploring and learning about other cultures, and enjoys sharing her passion with Valley Catholic students. She is leading a trip to Spain this summer, and the following summer to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Director of Design Thinking | Melissa Iserson is the Director of Design Thinking, the STEM Department Chair and teaches math and STEM classes. She graduated from Marquette University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and spent time working for a global management and technology consulting company prior to pursuing her teaching career. After building her technology background, Melissa earned a Master’s degree in teaching at University of Portland. She is a passionate teacher who enjoys working with students of all ages. Melissa is a Digital Citizenship Certified educator by Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship program. Outside of teaching, Melissa enjoys running, hiking, traveling, camping, spending time with her family and friends, and exploring the Pacific Northwest.
Math | Kipp Johnson has taught mathematics at Valley Catholic since 1986, and is the chairman of the math department. His current assignments are AP Calculus I, AP Calculus II, Accelerated PreCalculus, and Honors 7th Grade math. Kipp earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Princeton, a master’s in mathematics from Portland State, and a master’s in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. His hobbies are doing the New York Times crossword puzzle (best Saturday time: 15 minutes) and playing the piano (and still, after 60 years, working on Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in E flat minor).
Math | Becky Kemper joined Valley Catholic’s faculty in 1994. She has taught advanced seventh-grade math through advanced algebra II but primarily teaches geometry and advanced geometry. Becky graduated magna cum laude from Western Oregon University in 1990, where she was a member of the Wolves volleyball team from 1988 to 1990. During her years at WOU her team finished second in the nation, and she was named an NAIA All-American and NAIA Scholar-Athlete. Becky is head coach of Valley Catholic’s perennially successful volleyball team. The Valiants were back to back State Champions (2018 and 2019). She has been named the OSAA 4A Coach of the Year and also the NFHS Section 8 Coach of the Year. Becky and her husband Warren have three children: Clay, Sam and Tori all graduated from Valley Catholic, where they were star athletes.
Yvonne Kibombo Ayesiga
STEMinar | This is Yvonne Kibombo Ayesiga’s first year at Valley Catholic Middle School. She will teach 7th grade STEMinar. Yvonne earned her bachelor’s degree from Wartburg College in 2013, where she double majored in International Relations and Political Science with minors in History and Intercultural Studies. Yvonne went on to earn her master’s degree in Postsecondary Education, Student Affairs from the University of Northern Iowa in 2016. Yvonne is currently working to earn her EdD in Student Affairs at the University of Portland.
Yvonne enjoys spending time with her spouse, watching movies, cooking, and watching the Trail Blazers and Timbers play.
English | Kelly Kohler joins the Valley Catholic Middle School community as a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade language arts teacher. Previously, Kelly taught middle and high school language arts in Honolulu HI.
Kelly earned her bachelor's in education and English from Villanova University in 2016 and then joined the University of Portland's PACE program. During her time in the program, Kelly had the opportunity to teach at a private school on Oahu. She learned an enormous amount about the culture from her students and staff and will forever cherish the experience. In 2018 she graduated from the PACE program with a master's in education with a concentration in reading.
When Kelly is not teaching, she loves to stay active by doing yoga, running, hiking, and traveling to new places. In addition, she is always grateful to go back to her home city of Chicago and visit her family and friends.
Digital Art, STEMinar | Yin-Fang Liao joined Valley Catholic Middle School in 2019 and teaches Fine Arts, Digital Arts, and Technology classes. After graduating from Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taiwan with a BFA in Graphic Design, Yin-Fang Liao moved to the United States to pursue her MFA degree in Computer Art/Animation at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her passion for computer animation led her through over 15 years of production experience in the film industry where she was involved in Visual Effects Compositing, 3D Layout, and Character Animation in various major movie productions: the Laika films “The Boxtrolls,” “ParaNorman,” and “Coraline;” Blue Sky Studio’s film “Robots;” and Big Idea Productions’ Veggie Tales. Because she wanted to give back to following generations, she went on to attain her Career Technical Education License with an endorsement in Media Arts through Portland Community College to start her teaching career. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her two kids and husband, friends, and extended family in Taiwan as well as traveling.
Spanish | Danielle Lomartire joined Valley Catholic’s faculty in the fall of 2020. She is a Middle School and High School Spanish teacher. She also coaches both the high school Charisma Dance Team and the Varsity Girls’ Tennis Team. She has a B.A. in Elementary Education K-8 (2019) from Carroll College in Helena, Montana and completing licensure for Spanish Education K-12. Danielle is a VC alumni, graduating in the class of 2015, and she enjoys dogs, fitness, and the outdoors....
PE Department Chair | Kara Moore teaches physical education and health. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Concordia University in Portland, Or. While attending Bellarmine, she played for four years on the softball team and her senior year was voted the conference player of the year. She finds joy in teaching middle school students and appreciates their enthusiasm, energy, and thirst for knowledge. While not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, camping, and playing just about any sport. She also enjoys visiting her family in her hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky.
English | Molly Schick teaches English at Valley Catholic Middle School. A native of Spokane, Washington, Molly moved to Oregon to attend the University of Portland, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Teaching. She first joined the Valley Catholic faculty in 2001, teaching middle school Language Arts and freshman English for six years before taking some time off to care for her young children. In 2016, Molly returned to Valley Catholic to teach senior English for four years before returning to the middle school in 2020. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and playing volleyball for as long as her knees will allow.
Math Department Chair Learning Support | Lanie Toth graduated from Oregon State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and worked with children in a variety of settings for 15 years. She then went back to school and earned her master’s degree in teaching from George Fox University, including an endorsement in advanced math. Lanie has been teaching at Valley Catholic Middle School since 2012 and currently teaches math and provides learning support for students. Lanie has lived most of her life in Beaverton, where she still lives with her husband and their two dogs. Her daughter is working towards a degree in nursing and her son is a software engineer.
Science Department Chair | Sarah Zinzer has been at Valley Catholic Middle School since 2011. She currently teaches eighth-grade biology and drama and serves as the science department head for the middle school. Sarah graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology education from Corban University in 2006, a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Portland State University in 2010, and is certified through the International Baccalaureate program. Sarah has taught science, math, health, and technology in various schools in the area since 2006, and is so thankful to be part of the Valley Catholic community.