Meet the Staff

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Michelle Nielson

Executive Director

In April 2021, Michelle Nielson was hired as the Executive Director of Kaleidoscope. Michelle has been living in Southern California for a couple years but is originally from Nebraska. She will be relocating to the Keweenaw area during the summer months as she transitions into the new role. 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. Gabrielle is nineteen and currently living in Nebraska going to college and Alyssa is sixteen and wrapping up her sophomore year of high school. As a family they enjoy many 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. During the 2021/2022 school year she’ll be teaching the Basecamp L’Anse class Music Adventures and a variety of virtual electives, as well as coordinating Kaleidoscope’s curriculum and programming. 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 through 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 is currently in her tenth year as a homeschool mom. Her interests include sewing, knitting, natural living, reading, exploring the great outdoors, and playing the violin and piano. She also is a volunteer EMT with Pelkie First Responders. 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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Jessica Cadeau

Administrative Assistant/Instructor

Jessica is Kaleidoscope’s Administrative Assistant. She will also be teaching the Public Speaking class during the 2021/2022 school year in L’Anse. 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 and teaching is being able to make a positive impact in her community.

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Dan Choszczyk

Instructor

Master Dan, is teaching the Kaleidoscope Martial Arts program for the 2021-2022 school year.

Master Dan holds the rank of Master in 2 types of martial arts and high ranks in other styles. He has been involved in martial arts training for over 45 years, and teaches Tae Kwon Do, and portions of 5 different styles. He was the head instructor for the USAF at Ki Sawyer for 2 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 the shooting sports with his wife of 37 years.

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

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Margaret Hanson

Instructor

Margaret is a native of the Upper Peninsula. She lives on a homestead outside of Hancock, Michigan with her young family. She has been a gardener and cook most of her life and is happy to be back in the Keweenaw. She has experience teaching middle school students about the art and science behind growing a garden and cooking whole foods in the kitchen. She encourages students through self discovery and holds the belief that being proficient in these skills can lead to personal independence and can encourage healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.

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Catherine Hiltunen

Instructor

Catherine will be teaching a handbuilt clay class. 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. She 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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Emily Johnson

Instructor

Emily’s family instilled in her a deep love and respect for nature when she was just a young child. Her passion for outdoor adventure has lead her to this opportunity. She enjoys encouraging kids and their families to get outside, explore, and create. Emily’s favorite part of teaching kids to explore the outdoors is seeing their confidence soar.

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Mary Mervar

Instructor

Mary will be teaching Story Adventures at Kaleidoscope L’Anse for the 2021-2022 season. After years in the business world, Mary’s company was sold and she decided it was a good time for a change of careers. She returned to school to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education. During this time, she met and married her husband, a L’Anse native, and moved to L’Anse. Mary worked for BHK as a preschool teacher at the Aura Center. She had to get her bus driver license, as she was the person who picked up the kids, taught them in a log cabin surrounded by the woods, and then returned them home. After teaching for several years, Mary and her husband adopted a 2-year-old boy and she decided to stay at home with their son. A year later, they adopted a baby girl. Mary has instilled in her children, and those in her past classrooms, a love of learning due to the quality of their preschool years. She was a homeschool mom, is a bus driving mom, has taught Faith Formation at her church, and started a summer reading/craft program at the library for kids. She likes to sew, crochet, read, hike, camp, pick worms for fishing for her son (but not fish herself) and hang out with her family. Mary believes that if a young child learns without realizing they are learning, they will become lifelong learners and the world of learning will be exciting to them….not dull and boring and hard.

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Alison Pontynen

Instructor

Alison will be teaching an Optional Learning Experience called “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 her 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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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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Christy Wilson

Instructor

Christy is an instructor at Kaleidoscope L’Anse. She teaches Art and Tinker Lab. 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, herself has 3 children ranging in ages between 10 and almost 17. She has been married for 22 years. She has wanted to teach and work with kids since she was a kid. She 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!