Learn more about our VCS Middle School staff.
Physical Education | Kathleen Birrell joined Valley Catholic in 2013 as the head girls golf coach and VCES fourth grade instructional assistant. At the start of the 2016-2017 school year, she transitioned to Valley Catholic Middle School, where she now teaches physical education. Kathleen is a graduate of University of Washington and both her children attended VCHS.
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 joins the Valley Catholic Middle School community as a language arts and mathematics teacher. Paul teaches Sixth-grade Math, Seventh-grade Pre-Algebra, Eighth-grade Yearbook and Journalism, and co-teaches two Eighth-grade Language Arts classes.
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.
English Teacher | Matt Coussens teaches 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English at Valley Catholic Middle School. Matt earned his bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga University in 2007, where he majored in history and political science. He also earned his master’s degree in teaching from Concordia University in 2017. Outside of school, Matt enjoys spending time with his wife and family, reading, and playing sports.
Science, 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 and English. 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 (current), Middle East Studies Center at PSU, and the Let's Get Healthy program at OHSU. She was a board member of the Oregon Council for the Social Studies and currently serves as a board member of 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 2019 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).
Social Studies, English
VCMS Assistant Principal | Dale French is the Vice Principal at Valley Catholic Middle School. He has been at Valley Catholic since 1999, the first three years as a coach on the boys basketball staff that directed Valley Catholic to its first district championship and appearances in the state tournament. In 2002 Dale became VCHS athletic director, where he remained until 2005 when he moved into the front office to become their dean of students/vice principal. He became VCMS’s first full-time VP in 2014. In 1992, Dale graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, where he was a four-year letter winner and, in his senior year, Most Valuable Player for the Falcons basketball team. Dale received his master’s degree in athletic administration from the University of Northern Colorado in 1993. He received his Education Administrator’s license through the University of Portland. He retired as a Lt. Colonel after serving for 20 years as an Intelligence Officer in the active-duty Air Force and Air Force Reserves. Dale and his wife Kate’s two children both attend school on campus and are members of the Class of 2021 (Will at VCHS and Addison at VCMS). He is also the head track and field coach for VCHS.
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.
Fine Arts Department Chair Religion | Julia Grieve has been teaching for over 20 years. She is dedicated to helping students develop a personal relationship with God, live valiantly and strive for excellence. She holds a BFA from Pacific NW College of Art and an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. She has taught courses at universities and colleges across Oregon. In her spare time Julia enjoys exploring the Pacific NW with her family....
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 sixth- and eighth-grade religion. Nicholas is a graduate of Beaverton High School and Portland State University and has a strong background in history, religion and archaeology. For the past two years Nicholas has worked with middle school students Summer Conference—a week-long camp for individuals and families designed to develop a strong faith-based community. Nicholas is a member of the National Catholic Education Association, the Oregon Council for the Social Studies, and the World Affairs Council. Nicholas has coached high school football since 2002 and is currently the defensive coordinator for the Valley Catholic varsity football team. In addition to coaching football he is the JV head basketball coach and varsity assistant for Valley Catholic High School. In 2012, his colleagues recognized his contributions to Valley Catholic with the Middle School Spirit Award.
Science, Math | Amanda Hudson joined Valley Catholic Middle School in 2018 and teaches sixth grade Earth Science. Having grown up in a Catholic school environment, Amanda felt immediately drawn to Valley Catholic when she moved to Oregon in 2016. Amanda spent her undergraduate years at Carroll College in Helena, Montana and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies. After Carroll College, Amanda spent a year in the Master of Geosciences program at Boise State University before switching her major to Secondary Education. When she’s not in the classroom, Amanda enjoys hiking, playing board games, and going to the beach....
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 to leading a trip to Spain this summer, and the following summer to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
STEM Department Chair | Melissa Iserson teaches math and technology and is the technology department head. 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. STEM Department Chair Math & Technology Teacher |Melissa Iserson teaches math and technology and is the technology department head. 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 Calculus II, Accelerated PreCalculus, Algebra One, and Honors Math in the Middle School. 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 nath 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. In 2013, the Valiants were state runners-up. In 2016, the Valiants won third place at state. Becky is also club director and coach for West Valley Juniors Volleyball Club. 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 and 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....
Religion, English | Gena was born in Venezuela, spent her childhood in France, her adolescence in the Bay Area (B.A. Psychology, University of San Francisco) and her married life first in Portland (M.Ed. Religious Education, University of Portland), where both her children were born, and for 32 years lived in Scottsdale, Arizona (M.C. Counseling, University of Phoenix. There she worked for fourteen years as a pastoral minister in a parish (religious education and liturgy), as a program director in a homeless shelter, as a professional choir manager, and for the last twelve years as Principal of St Matthew Catholic School, an inner city elementary parochial school (K-8th grade). From 1999 to 2015 she also maintained a part-time private counseling practice and she continues to teach Psychology remotely as an adjunct at Rio Salado College. At St Matthew, she and her husband, Patrick, built up a 67 person student body into a “filled to capacity” dual-language school. In 2016 Gena was awarded an honorary Doctor in Humane Letters degree by Boston College for cutting edge work bringing this model of learning to a student population not normally reached by this type of pedagogical approach. Following her husband’s death in 2017, Gena decided to “come home” to Portland to be close to her daughter and her family. She has spent three years at the University of Portland working and living in residence life and helping with campus ministry and this year is excited to be returning to the classroom to share her love of God, Scripture and religious studies with the young people of Valley Catholic Schools....
Counselor | Sarah Moyer is Valley Catholic’s Middle School counselor. She is an Oregon native, growing up in the Portland-Metro area. She attended Jesuit High School and then continued her education at the University of Portland, where she studied Organizational Communication. In recent years, Sarah has worked for the Beaverton and Lake Oswego school districts supporting students of all ages. She is currently pursuing a MA in school counseling. She will complete George Fox University's 3-year program in the spring of 2020. Sarah looks forward to being a resource for VC students and families. Outside of school, Sarah enjoys spending time with family and friends, sports, and the great outdoors!...
PE Department Chair | I am extremely excited to begin my first year at Valley Catholic! I will be teaching sixth- through eighth-grade physical education and health. I was born and raised in Kentucky but have resided in Oregon for the past 12 years and married to my husband, Derek, for four years. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. I was fortunate enough to play collegiate softball for four years and have benefited from numerous educators and coaches that have taught me the value of health and fitness throughout ones’ lifetime. My hope and goal is to be a role model that promotes and instills lifelong lessons, morals and principles for the next generation of students and student athletes. In 2006, I was inducted into the Kentucky High School Softball Hall of Fame and, in 2011, into the Bellarmine University Athletics Hall of Fame. In my free time, I enjoy being outdoors, camping, snowboarding and playing just about any sport. Currently, I play coed softball, kickball and indoor soccer.
Math | Jim Ney is a 1980 Oregon State University graduate and received his master’s degree in 1994 from Lewis and Clark College. His first teaching position was at St. Mary of the Valley High School (presently Valley Catholic) where he taught math and coached cross-country and track. He left VCHS after five years, taught in public schools for 27 years, and then returned to his VCS home in 2012. Out of the classroom Mr. Ney enjoys running, reading, hiking and traveling.
English | Ashley Reverman, a proud graduate of Valley Catholic School, is excited and humbled to teach Language Arts and Drama at Valley Catholic Middle School. After graduating from VCHS in 2006, Ashley spent four years in Ashland completing coursework in theatre arts at Southern Oregon University, and acting with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It was during this period she rediscovered a great love of literature, and discovered a new love for teaching secondary education. She completed her BA in English Literature from Portland State University in 2013 and her M.A.T from Concordia University in 2018, where she was honored as the Valedictorian during the commencement ceremony. Ashley has spent her first few years of teaching in Washington and California. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys reading, writing, cooking, spending time with friends and family, and hiking with her English Cocker Spaniel, Tennyson.
Social Studies, English | Neema Sahebi is an alumnus of Valley Catholic School and teaches 6th grade social studies and English. Neema graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in History with Departmental Honors and Minor in Music in 2014. After graduating, Neema worked as an Instructional Assistant at the Beaverton School District within the Special Education program and later worked as an Instructional Assistant at the German International School in the preschool. Neema lived in Berlin, Germany from 2016 until 2018 where he completed his M.A. in Global History with special regional focus on North America at the Freie and Humboldt Universities. Alongside his studies, he worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the John F. Kennedy Institute, where he taught North American history. Upon returning to the Portland area in 2018, Neema completed a Masters in Teaching at Pacific University and is licensed in secondary education in the state of Oregon with endorsements in Social Studies and English Language Arts. While German began as a hobby, teaching German language and culture has transformed into one of his biggest passions.
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.
Health Department Chair | Michael Segerdahl has taught physical education at Valley Catholic since 1999. He earned a bachelor's degree in business and economics from Pacific University. During his years at Valley Catholic, he has been the CYO athletic director and coached volleyball and swimming. Mike is certified as an instructor in the American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED course. He enjoys biking, hiking ATV riding, bowling and spending time outdoors.
Social Studies, Math | Kerry Taylor joined Valley Catholic in 2019 after a varied and stimulating history of teaching on three continents--North America, Asia, and Europe. He teaches 7th grade social studies and outdoor education. Kerry attended the University of San Francisco and earned a B.A. in History and International Studies as well as the University of London, SOAS where he received an M.A. in History of the Near and Middle East. While studying, he was exposed to history and culture in many contexts from archaeological fieldwork in Guatemala to reading and analyzing texts. Throughout this process, Kerry discovered how history shapes both individuals and their communities and how we can use these lessons to create a better future. Most recently, Kerry spent four years teaching at a private middle school in Los Angeles. Kerry received his Oregon Teaching License with endorsements in Social Studies, Multiple Subjects PreK-12, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Other than a love for education and history, Kerry enjoys spending time with his wife and kitties as well as traveling, camping, cooking, and birding.
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 science. Lanie has lived most of her life in Beaverton, where she still lives with her husband and their dog. Her daughter is working towards a degree in nursing and her son is an accomplished theater artist in Portland.
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.