Mr. Brian Dassler (Chief Academic Officer) is a recognized former teacher and principal. He is a two-time graduate of the University of Florida (B.A. 2001 and a M.Ed. 2002) where he was named an Outstanding Young Alumnus twice and where he is currently a doctoral candidate. In 2006, while teaching at Stranahan High School, Brian was named teacher of the year in Broward County, Florida, the nation’s sixth largest school system. The youngest person ever to receive the award, Brian taught English for five years and was also a founding teacher of the Urban Teacher Academy Program. Most recently, Brian was the principal of KIPP Renaissance High School, a part of the nationally recognized KIPP network of public charter schools. A member of the Bywater Neighborhood Association board of directors, Brian is also a member of the boards for Breakthrough Collaborative, formerly Summerbridge, and A Shared Initiative, Inc, a non-profit dedicated to promoting community development and eliminating poverty in the neighborhood where he lives and works, the Ninth Ward. Brian is an alumnus of the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute and a board member of the Leroy Collins Institute.
Math & Assistant Chair of the Academic StudioAcademic StudioWork Email: email@example.comINTERNETWork Phone: 504-940-2887work
Ms. Jennie Guidry (Mathematics), Founding Academic Studio Faculty member and Assistant Chair, holds a B.S. in Mathematics Education (2005) and an M.A. in Gifted and Talented Curriculum and Instruction (2006) from Louisiana State University. Prior to NOCCA, she taught all levels of math at a private school in Baton Rouge where she served as Mathematics Department Chair and oversaw the school’s successful reaccreditation process. Jennie brings to NOCCA a passion for mathematics education and curriculum development as well as a strong background in one-to-one laptop environments and technology integration.
Mr. Travis Haas (Integrated Sciences) is a Ph.D. candidate at Tulane University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He holds a B.A. in Biology and Music (Piano) from Lawrence University (2007), where his piano studies culminated in an interdisciplinary lecture-recital entitled, “The influence of birdsong in the literature of the piano.” He also holds an M.S. in Biology (Ecology and Evolution) from Tulane University (2010). Before joining the Academic Studio faculty at NOCCA, Travis was a Visiting Professor of Urban Studies for Bard Early College New Orleans, where he taught an interdisciplinary science course about biodiversity and human well-being. In recent summers, he has taught a field biology course for gifted and talented rising high school freshmen as part of the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP) at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Travis’ research examines the evolutionary and ecological implications of dam construction in the Southeastern United States, with the majority of his fieldwork conducted in the rivers and reservoirs of Alabama. In addition to his work as a scientist, Travis continues to teach a small number of piano students and perform on a limited basis.
Christophe E. Jackson Ph.D. has earned bachelors and masters in Biology and Piano Performance and completed an interdisciplinary PhD in Performance Arts Medicine through the Biology, Physics, and Music department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he worked across the disciplines of biology, physiology, physics, engineering, and music. Jackson was awarded funding from the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) and Ford Foundation. His research focused on the translation of scientific investigation into clinical application for specialized care to performing artists as well as the design of portable acoustic devices to dampen ambient noise. In addition, Jackson is a “musician at heart” who maintains an active classical and jazz performance life. Outside of performances and research, Jackson actively seeks opportunities to increase awareness and educate musicians about performance health. Additionally, Jackson works with researchers at Tulane University to establish a center for music, science, and technology.
Social Studies & Assistant Chair of the Academic StudioAcademic StudioWork Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgINTERNETWork Phone: 504-940-2847work
Dr. Kate Kokontis (History and Social Studies) Founding Academic Studio Faculty member and Assistant Chair, earned her B.A. from Yale in Theater Studies and Visual Art (2004), a post-baccalaureate certificate in Painting from Studio Art Centers, International (2005), and her Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley (2011). At Berkeley, she taught undergraduate courses about critical race studies, representational practices, knowledge production, and writing, and her visual artwork has been shown at galleries in New Haven, Florence, and the Bay Area. She is working on a book project emerging from her dissertation, Performative Returns and the Rememory of History: genealogy and performativity in the American racial state. At NOCCA she also co-facilitates the Plessy Project Student Working Group and the Academic Studio Leadership Council.
Mr. Byron Lilly (History and Social Studies) moved to New Orleans in 2003, following a two-year commitment to the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA (2001) and a Master’s Degree in U.S. History from Tulane University (2009), where he is currently a interdisciplinary doctoral candidate. In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Mr. Lilly is a master carpenter who, in the years following Hurricane Katrina, operated a contracting company while also pursuing an interest in urban farming.
English & Assistant Chair of the Academic StudioAcademic StudioWork Email: email@example.comINTERNETWork Phone: 504-940-2837work
Thomas Spreelin “Spree” MacDonald is an Assistant Chair of the Academic Studio and founding English faculty member in the Integrated Humanities program. He holds a Ph.D. in African Arts and Literatures from Ohio University’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts, as well as an M.A. in International Affairs/African Studies (Ohio University), and a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary English Education (Northern Michigan University). He has taught and mentored students at all levels, including with the American Reads Program, the Upward Bound Program, the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa, and at Ohio University, where he taught courses in English and African Studies. As a scholar Spree has published a number of essays on African and African Diasporic literature, performance and philosophy, and has held several research fellowships, including four Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships from the U.S. Department of Education, the Anthony Trisolini Graduate Fellowship and the I. Hollis Parry/Ann Parry Billman Fine Arts Award. As a poet, Spree has published in journals such as Poydras Review, Danse Macabre, Symmetry Pebbles and Timbila Journal of Onion Skin Poetry.
Dr. Kitt Nelson (Science) earned a B.A. from the Paracollege (tutorial and evaluation based educational system) at St. Olaf College in 1994. She completed her M.A. in Anthropology at Northern Illinois University (1997) and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Southern Methodist University (2001). She worked for Tulane University for 9 years, during which she taught undergraduate and graduate classes, mentored students, and conducted archaeological fieldwork in Egypt, Peru, and the American Southwest. For her dedication to students in the classroom and the field she was awarded the Newcomb Distinguished Faculty Award (2010). She is currently carrying out archaeological research in Belize and publishing her results from past projects.
Student Support SpecialistAcademic Studio
Ms. Jackie Pittman is a 2007 alumni of New York University with an individualized B.A. degree in Media and Social Change. After working in both New York City and Washington D.C. producing special events, she moved down to New Orleans in 2008 to participate in the teachNOLA Fellows program. She is certified in Special Education and has worked in both public and charter high schools in New Orleans for the past five years. Most recently, she was a founding staff member and Director of Student Support at KIPP Renaissance High School. At NOCCA, she oversees all online learning, special education, standardized test coordination, and supported study/growth plans. She is proud to be here at a school where everyone is genuinely committed to every student succeeding in both academics and the arts.
Ms. Noelle Reznik (Mathematics) is a native of New Orleans and graduate of Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics (2000). She has earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from LSU (2001) and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of New Orleans (2011). Ms. Reznik has taught middle and high school mathematics across South Louisiana and enjoys the art and science of curriculum design, having designed multiple courses through her work as classroom teacher and instructional coach.
Dr. Russell Wolfe (Integrated Sciences) earned his B.S. in Physics and Biology with minors in Mathematics and Biophysics from Creighton University (2007) in Omaha, Nebraska. While at Creighton he researched the physical properties of bone cells using lasers with a focus on improving cancer detection techniques. He received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University (2013) where his research focused on understanding the effects of physical forces which stem cells are often exposed to during large-scale bioprocessing. While at Tulane, he taught hands-on undergraduate courses in robotics, electronic circuits, and medical device design, in addition to mentoring undergraduate students in research practices, public presentation, and professional career development. Dr. Wolfe’s artistic endeavors include ceramics and digital photography.