Meet the Staff

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Michelle Nielson

Executive Director

Michelle stepped into the role of Executive Director in April  of 2021. Michelle lives in Nebraska and will be relocating to the Keweenaw area. Michelle has a Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Administration and a Masters in Education degree. She has many years of experience working in non-profit organizations, grant writing, project/program management, teaching, curriculum design, and partnership development.

Michelle and her husband, Clay, have two daughters. As a family they enjoy  activities such as golfing, boating, swimming, and traveling.

Michelle has a great appreciation for education and a passion for lifelong learning. She is always ready for an adventure and exploring new possibilities. She finds her motivation in the making a positive impact on those around her as well as the community she lives in.

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Erin Gregorcich

Programs Coordinator/Instructor

Erin is Kaleidoscope’s Programs Coordinator as well as an instructor for both virtual electives and in person classes. Prior to working for Kaleidoscope, Erin spent 20 years in the field of education. She holds a degree in Music Education with a minor in Early Childhood Education and has worked as an instructor in schools, community centers, camps, and in her own music business.

In addition to her work for Kaleidoscope, she currently homeschools her own children. In her spare time she enjoys knitting, playing board games with her family, and exploring the outdoors. Erin’s favorite thing about teaching is being able to provide opportunities for students to develop their own confidence and creativity.

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Erin Lempkowski

L’Anse Coordinator/Instructor

Erin is the Kaleidoscope L’Anse Coordinator and an Instructor. She has a BS in Equestrian Science and has worked in a variety of educational and therapeutic settings (sometimes with horses, sometimes not). Erin has been homeschooling since 2011. Her interests include sewing, knitting, natural living, reading, exploring the great outdoors, and playing the violin and piano. She also is a volunteer EMT in her community.

Erin is passionate about helping families find ways to meet their educational goals and helping students access a wide variety of opportunities so they can discover their passions.

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Megan Shaw

Hancock Coordinator

Meg was raised in the UP and grew up loving nature. She attended Michigan Technological University, where she earned a B.S. in Biology and Science Education and then an M.S. in Forest Ecology.

After many years teaching and many more great experiences in rural Alaska, she and her husband decided to move their family back to the Upper Peninsula. Meg has been homeschooling their 3 kids since 2020.

Meg loves to inspire students to fall in love with science and to make science visible and accessible to all learners. She enjoys photography, reading, hiking, snowshoeing, gardening, and, of course, adventures with her family — preferably with no cell service.

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Jessica Cadeau

Administrative Assistant/Instructor

Jessica is Kaleidoscope’s Administrative Assistant. Born and raised in Baraga County, Jessica left the area to attend Michigan State University and Northern Michigan University to earn her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. She and her husband worked their way back to the area to raise their three children close to family, the community, and the beautiful landscape they so love and appreciate. Jessica currently homeschools their 3 children on their small scale farm in L’Anse. In her spare time she enjoys outdoor adventures and travel, as well as crafting and hobby farming. Jessica’s biggest inspiration for working with Kaleidoscope is being able to make a positive impact in her community.

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Shannon Hilaire

Board Administrative Assistant

As Board Administrative Assistant, Shannon brings her love for organization and attention to detail to our organization.

Shannon also serves as the Communications Director for the American Heart Association, telling the stories of those affected by heart disease and stroke through digital strategies and media placements. Previously, she worked in the communications department for the award-winning Greater Omaha Chamber, where she helped create the city’s brand and retain talent to the area. Shannon has volunteered on many boards throughout her professional career, including serving as PRSA Nebraska President. She was awarded the “Newcomer of the Year” award from PRSA Nebraska in 2011 .

Shannon and her husband, Jimmy, have a daughter, Holiday, who takes up all of their free time — and they love every minute of it.

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Alison Pontynen

Instructor

Alison is Kaleidoscope’s instructor for “Explore Isle Royale.” Alison has 20+ years of middle school teaching experience in Texas and Wisconsin. For 15 of those years, she taught 7th and 8th grades and was the science lead at a small school in Wisconsin where she led science field trips to Isle Royale and Catalina Island in California. She has a Bachelor degree in Art Administration and in Elementary Education. After her teaching career, and moving permanently into their 1927 log cabin in the Keweenaw, Alison managed the Visitor Center stores for Isle Royale and Keweenaw National Parks for the last 5 years.

In Alison’s free time, she gardens, paints and photographs, but birding and astronomy are new areas of interest. She and her husband Art have three grown children who love to travel and adventure almost as much as Alison does!

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Christy Wilson

Instructor

Christy teaches Art and Tinker Lab at Kaleidoscope L’Anse. She has worked with kids all of her life! When she was 20, she starting working with Youth Programs in the Air Force. She worked in the Youth Programs for over 15 years, working with children ages between 5 and 18. She has 3 children and has been married for over 20 years.

Christy  has wanted to teach and work with kids since she was a kid herself! Christy has been going to college on and off for years and hopes to soon finish her degree. Until then, she’ll stay creative and have fun teaching kids for as long as she’s allowed!

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Dan Choszczyk

Instructor

Master Dan is Kaleidoscope’s Martial Arts instructor. He holds the rank of Master in two types of martial arts and high ranks in other styles. He has been involved in martial arts training for over 45 years. He teaches Tae Kwon Do and portions of five different styles. He was the head instructor for the USAF at KI Sawyer for two years and has taught classes for various private schools, colleges, and universities, specializing in self defense training for law enforcement.

When not teaching and training, Dan is a custom knife maker who creates knives and other types of bladed weapons and enjoys gardening, fishing, hunting, and shooting sports with his wife of 37 years. 

Master Dan’s favorite parts of teaching are watching his student progressing through the various colored belts, and the moment when a student receives a promotion.

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Emily Svenson

Instructor

Emily is a Functional Medicine Health coach and the virtual Health class instructor for Kaleidoscope. In the past, she has taught Healthy Living, Kids Cooking classes, and Zumba, and was the Wellness Coordinator for the Keweenaw Co-op. Emily is currently pursuing yoga teacher certification and board certification for Health Coaching.

Emily is a mom of three amazing kids who enjoys dance, yoga, fitness, adventure, nature, and great books. Emily has dealt with her own health struggles such as asthma and allergies and disordered sleep. She has significantly improved her own conditions through lifestyle change, and has a passion for helping others do the same. Emily loves to be an ally for others on their journey towards better health and a more fulfilling life.

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Catherine Hiltunen

Instructor

Catherine is the owner of Magic Kiln Studio in Hancock. Before opening the Magic Kiln, Catherine was an elementary school teacher in Texas. She has worked in the community for over 8 years providing a place where families can be creative. She has also coordinated with Great Explorations after school, summer programs to bring art projects to the schools, and has offered workshops and art classes through her studio.

Catherine is a proud mom of two teenagers and one dog and is passionate about allowing kids opportunities to express themselves through art.

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Zack Osborn

Instructor

Zack Osborn has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He’s spent time working at biotech companies and with the Center for Sustainable Science and Planning at UCSD, where he also ran a farm and garden program (both at the University and at Elementary schools across San Diego). He also currently works with the Center for Science and Outreach part of Michigan Tech University doing environmental science field trips with schools across the U.P.

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Chris Amidon

Instructor

Chris wants to empower kids of all ages to learn in their own way—have adventures, solve mysteries, and follow projects that capture their imagination.

Kaleidoscope is an opportunity to encourage these nontraditional learning opportunities through financial backing, resource sharing, and family support.

Chris works as a park ranger for Isle Royale National Park and volunteers as the Kaleidoscope Board of Directors President.

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Tiffany Nygord

Instructor

Tiffany was born and raised in the UP, which is where her love for nature and art began. She wanted to draw all of the beautiful nature that surrounded her.

She has been a Certified Nurses Aide for 16+ years and plans to continue her education to become a nurse. Helping others has always been important to her.
Tiffany has been homeschooling her son since 2020 and loves developing fun and creative ways for him to learn.

In her free time she enjoys reading, going for hikes, gardening, drawing, and painting.

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Liam McKeage

Summer Intern

Liam McKeage is from the Garden Peninsula in the south central U.P.  He graduated from Big Bay de Noc high school in 2018, and has been attending Finlandia University, where he is on the football team. Liam has worked at the Salvation Army Summer day camp and couched youth sports at the YMCA. Liam is spending summer 2022 as an intern for Kaleidoscope.

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Michelle Anderson

Instructor

Michelle was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. After meeting her husband, who was in the US Coast Guard, they spent the next 15 years stationed all over the United States. The Oregon Coast, Florida Keys, Napa Valley, Juneau, Alaska, and finally, the Keweenaw, where they have resided the past 6 years. After being stationed in Dollar Bay, her family fell in love with the area and decided to settle in the Copper Country.

Michelle has been a veterinary technician for over 25 years, and has focused on wild bird rehabilitation for the past 15 years. Michelle is the director of Keweenaw Wild Bird R.E.C., a local non profit whose mission is to provide rehabilitative care to sick, injured, and orphaned wild native birds. The non-profit mission also includes school-aged education and conservation projects helping local birds.

When Michelle is not helping wild birds, she is a substitute teacher at Dollar Bay-Tamarack school and an instructor for elementary outdoor field trips through the Michigan Technological University-Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.

Michelle is passionate about teaching kids the wonders of the natural world, especially those of the feathered variety.

She enjoys spending time at her homestead with her husband and daughter, along with their dogs and chickens. Michelle’s hobbies include gardening, cross country skiing, wildlife photography, hiking, and bird watching.

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Andrew Shaud

Instructor

Andrew is the Executive Director of the Copper Country Suzuki Association. He is the CCSA’s cello instructor as well as the Conductor of the Keweenaw Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Andrew holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Cello Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University where he studied with Mihaly Virizlay. He has completed Suzuki training for Cello Units 1 through 7, as well as Suzuki Principles in Action and Wrap Your Brain Around Targeted Technique Practice. He has taken courses with Pam Davenport, Sally Gross, Avi Friedlander, Annette Costanzi, Carrie Reuning-Hummel and Timothy Durbin.

As a performer, Andrew has played with the Keweenaw Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Maryland Symphony and Gettysburg Symphony Orchestras. He has performed recitals in Baltimore, Boston and Cicero, NY.

Andrew teaches students of all ages and abilities, in his studio. His students have played in Baltimore and Howard County All-County Orchestras, the Baltimore Symphony’s Side-by-Side Concert, Maryland’s All-State Orchestra and all levels of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra.

In addition to teaching private lessons, Andrew taught at the Baltimore Talent Education Center for 11 years. Prior to moving to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Andrew was the Director of the Upper School String Orchestra and Middle and Lower School String Ensembles at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland.