About our Teachers

Get to know our teachers!

Lisa Algate

Coming soon.

Carlos Avalos Cardenas

Carlos enjoys the energy the kids bring to the classroom. Born and raised in Torreon, Mexico, Carlos obtained his Electronics Engineering degree from Instituto Tecnologico de la Laguna University. After he moved to Michigan with his wife and son in 2011, Señior Avalos began teaching Spanish for Homeschool Connections in 2016. He loves playing soccer, riding bikes with his son, and puzzles.

Beth Bliznik

Beth’s passion has been working in education. She has had the privilege of doing this since 2006. She
received her Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Baker College in 2007, with a major in
Mathematics. Before starting with Homeschool Connections she has been a mathematics professor at
Baker College and most recently the Director of Education at the Sylvan Learning Center. Now making
the transition to part-time employment she will enjoy spending her spare time with her family and
friends. She looks forward to being a part of the Homeschool Connections team and sharing her
knowledge with their students.

Pam Briggs

The loves of Pam’s life are God, her husband Pete, two kids Peter and Paige, and Rottweiler Moses. Pam taught in the public school for eleven years prior to homeschooling her children. To her, homeschooling her children has been the best honor and blessing. During this time, Mrs. Briggs began teaching at Homeschool Connections. Pam enjoys watching students learn and grow. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in Elementary Education, Science and Mathematics, integrative Creative Art, and Early Childhood Development. Also, Pam obtained a Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove College. She teaches a variety of subjects, however, you will usually find her in the science and gym classes.

Claudia Browne

Claudia holds a B.A. degree in physical education, with minors in English and French. After
teaching in a public school for seven years, she pursued the path of a Waldorf class teacher for
twenty-five years and has accompanied four different classes through the grades. Since retiring from
full-time class teaching in 2017, she has enjoyed mentoring teachers, providing support to students,
teaching recorder, and occasionally substituting. Claudia credits her love of working with children to
her many years as a camp counselor and her years as a dance teacher. She loves spending time with
her four grandchildren, reading, dancing, and traveling to visit far-flung family and friends.

Katie Brukwinski

Katie Brukwinski is an expressive artist and Montessori teacher who started indulging in the arts at the age of three. As a child, she immersed herself in art activities and participated in various artistic disciplines, both inside and outside of school. She continued throughout adolescence and adulthood, finding creative avenues to pursue while navigating her academic path in health and human service-related fields. Her early art influences were artists Claude Monet, Salvador Dali, Alex Gray, and Pablo Picasso.
During her time attending college, for Social Services education, she discovered the expressive arts, and she began her journey in teaching process-oriented art making. While working part-time for a small, art-business, she gained experience facilitating holistic art-based programs for children, and adults through several community organizations, agencies, and schools. After graduating from college, she continued her education in the arts by attending Fleming College for the Expressive Arts program, where she obtained credits in several different areas of art making, practical approaches, and narrative arts.

Erica Caldwell

Erica completed her Master’s Degree at Central Michigan University in HR. Mrs. Caldwell’s professional background was built by being a highly involved STEM Girl Scout leader, engineering recruiter, and advertising salesperson.

Tammie Carollo

Tammie has been in the role of campus supervisor as well as a teacher here at Homeschool Connections since September.  She studied communications at Moody Bible Institute and worked as a paraprofessional in her local school district.  She enjoyed homeschooling both of her children and made good use of Homeschool Connections when they were young.  In addition to being a licensed hairstylist, Tammie enjoys writing, singing, and playing piano.  She has had the honor of being in the teacher role in various forms, including piano lessons, children’s church, and Mops mentor.  She enjoys time spent with family and meaningful conversations with friends.  She is beyond grateful to be given the opportunity to step into the teacher role here at Homeschool Connections.  

Sarah Cazan

Sarah graduated from Oakland University with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education. She taught
third grade for several years until she was blessed with two children of her own. She has been
at home with them ever since. She loves the beauty of nature and enjoys camping trips with her
family. She also enjoys gardening and canning food from her garden. When it comes to
children, she appreciates their unique personalities, curiosities, and imaginations. “You only get
to be a kid once”, and she is excited to be a part of that experience through teaching.


Diana Clay

Mrs. Clay joined Homeschool Connections in 2015. She enjoys teaching “fun stuff” and life skills, such as basketry, woodworking, sewing, and more. Diana has been married for over 30 years to Ray W Clay III. They have one son, Ray Clay IV, and have lived in Missouri, Texas, Minnesota, and now Michigan for over 10 years.

Britten Daywell

Britten is an artist, designer, and health and wellness practitioner. She loves the curious and open nature of children. She has two daughters, 7 and 9, and has worked in STEAM schools, coaching and with at-risk children. Britten has a dual degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in Art & Design as well as “Environment & Behavior”.  She loves to dance, sing, play ball, ride bikes, swim, and garden.

Michelle DeAlmeida

Michelle is married with two teenage children. She has previously worked for over 15 years as a mechanical engineer getting her Master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She then decided to pursue her passion for teaching math and got a Master’s in teaching from Eastern Michigan University. Although she loved teaching in traditional schools, she is really enjoying teaching in the homeschool environment. Her hobbies include any outdoor activities and taking care of her two golden retrievers.

Lily Dillon

Lily earned her degrees in 3D Animation and General Arts through the MACA program and attended Homeschool Connections throughout Middle and High School. She hopes to pass on a passion for learning and inspiring future generations.

Lisa Houck

Lisa has homeschooled her children for over 20 years. She loves seeing children learn and grow. Mrs. Houck has been married for over 30 years and has 3 daughters.

Jessica Jacobson

Jessica is an educator specializing in Elementary STEM education. Jessica has a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Walsh College and worked as a Web & SEO Analyst before becoming an educator. She loves reading, building things, and going on hikes.

Wendy Kapusta

Wendy Kapusta has been a teacher in some capacity for over 25 years. Her first two jobs were in the special education departments of the public schools before having her own children. Ms. Kapusta homeschooled her children through middle school.  Her last child is currently in college to be a teacher. She also shares her home with a dog named Sniper and a cat named Kiwi. Ms. Kapusta has been teaching for Homeschool Connections for ten years and for Highpoint Hybrid since its inception. Her favorite teaching moments are when a student has an “Aha!” moment or when a student says, “Class is over already?” She also tutors for Inkwell English Education, The Etiquette Guru, and does private tutoring. 

Rachele Karteczka

Mrs. K. graduated in 2003 from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a B.S. in Computer Science. Rachele has ten years of professional IT experience with a focus on training and documentation along with an additional six years of classroom experience at church, private schools, university coursework, and summer programs for students. She lives in Macomb County with her husband and their three children, two of whom school at home. Rachele has been home-educating since 2013. When not working with amazing students, she may be found practicing or performing music, volunteering with MOPS, or playing board games.

Liz Kaynor

Liz has been teaching children in various capacities for over 25 years, including piano lessons, Sunday School, HighPoint Hybrid, and homeschooling her own children. She graduated from Cedarville University in 1997 with a degree in Communications (Speech/Theater emphasis). She and her husband Dave have two daughters and two sons. She enjoys thrift store shopping and slow mornings with coffee and is very involved with her church.

Stephanie Landon

Stephanie Landon grew up in Lake Orion and graduated from Oakland University with a Bachelor’s in Music Education in ’99. She taught general music, choir, and musical theatre in public and private schools before deciding to stay home with her kids and homeschool. She also developed a homeschool Preschool/Kindergarten program at her church, where she loved working hands-on with the young children. 2021-2022 is Stephanie’s first year teaching at Homeschool Connections, but her children have been students here for years. She lives in South Lyon with her husband and 2 children. Stephanie enjoys the outdoors- camping, swimming, hiking, and gardening.

Virginia Lane

Virginia Lane has been with Homeschool Connections for over ten years. She teaches a wide variety of classes and enjoys all of them! Miss Lane graduated from Oakland University with a BA in Psychology and a concentration in Child Development. She obtained her Master’s credentials and was trained as a Montessori teacher, as well as, a certification as a reading specialist in the Orton-Gillingham reading program. Most of all Virginia loves seeing our students come to class with their bright smiles and excitement to have fun while learning new things. In her leisure time, Virginia enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.

Courtney Lee

Courtney’s journey with Homeschool Connections started in 2021 and she is now a technology teacher and Systems Specialist for our admin team. Courtney studied Web Development/Design after graduating high school and more recently became a Nationally Certified Veterinary Assistant. Some things that she enjoys outside of the classroom include: working with animals, learning through nature, making soap, and gardening.

Jill Livingstone

Hello Young Scientists and Mathematicians. My name is Mrs. Livingstone and I am looking forward to meeting you for the winter/spring semester. My education includes a BA in Elementary Education from the University of Massachusetts and additional coursework in Speech Pathology.  I have a specialization in reading and multicultural Education.  I have taught for 22 years in grades 1 through 5, and developed two successful reading and mathematics intervention/tutoring programs. I grew up in Massachusetts, but my husband and I raised our three children in Michigan.  In my spare time I love to read, work on quilts, and warm up by the fireplace with my English Bulldog Rudy.

DJ Malseed

DJ is the father of two teenage boys and has been married to his wonderful wife for 19 years. He has a passion for teaching, especially the sciences, and looks forward to sharing his knowledge.

Bianca Marc

Bianca graduated in 2022 from Oakland University with a Bachelor of Mathematics and a Minor in Teaching English as a Second Language.  Bianca has been tutoring math students for over three years and teaches math courses for Homeschool Connections.  She has a passion for teaching and learning and is thrilled to be able to use her skills and passions for Homeschool Connections.  Outside of the classroom, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband and daughter.

Tara McCulley

Tara is married and has been homeschooling her two daughters since 2007. She has been self-employed for 15 years and has a background in various studies, including journalism, photography, art, poetry, social studies, research, computer science, fitness, nutrition, and Bible studies. She graduated in 2003 with a B.A. in Psychology and Art History from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She enjoys traveling on road trips with family and has been to 34 states, and has visited two other countries. She participates in several volunteer efforts and serves in the media, children’s ministry, and other programs at her church. She has taught all ages and loves teaching because it is the most important gift she can share with others to inspire learning.

Kaylee McMahon

Kaylee McMahon has been a stay-at-home mom for the last 11 years, and a homeschooling mom for the past 7 years. She has four children, ages 5-11 years old, all of whom will be attending Homeschool Connection classes. Some of her favorite things to do are: running, hiking, camping with family, and scrapbooking. Kaylee is looking forward to creating, teaching, and growing with your children this year.

Rod Moon

Rod Moon and his wife homeschooled their own children. After thirty years as an automotive industry sales engineer, he began teaching and then joined Homeschool Connections 13 years ago. His courses include math, science, history, critical thinking, and business. Mr. Moon is the author of fourteen books. Some of his students have been inspired and helped by him to publish their own books. Inspiring students makes his day. He earned his degree from Syracuse University.

Miranda Moore-Stepnitz

Miranda teaches high school Biology, Advanced Biology, and Chemistry at Homeschool Connections. Miranda has a master’s degree from the University of Western States in Health Science, where she majored in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. Miranda also has a bachelor’s degree from Oakland University, where she again majored in Health Science and concentrated in Integrative Holistic Medicine while minoring in Nutrition and Health. Miranda has a passion for all things science-related and shares this enthusiasm with her students by constructing an atmosphere that fosters a fun learning environment when discussing complicated scientific topics by bringing them down to a level that students can understand. Miranda is married to her wonderful husband, Jon, and they have one son they homeschool together. Miranda enjoys spending time with her family, hosting events, staying up-to-date on published scientific literature, reading, exercising, being in nature, teaching, and having brunch with friends. Miranda recently opened a Functional Medicine Nutrition practice in Shelby Twp, MI., and plans to teach at Homeschool Connections simultaneously for the foreseeable future.

Rebecca Nightingale

Becca has a passion for working with kids and is so excited to be teaching gym classes at Homeschool Connections! She has also recently become a certified personal trainer in 2022. Becca loves to play sports, especially volleyball, and even still plays on a team. She also loves being outdoors and hanging out with her husband, family, and friends.

Ann Marie O’Brien

Ann Marie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State
University in 1992 where she majored in marketing. She also attended Oakland University from
2005-2007 taking 40 credit hours of French and Spanish and earning a Summa Cum Laude
academic achievement including awards for the highest grade in a section. Traveling is a
passion of hers. Ann enjoyed studying Italian history and language in Florence, Italy during
the summer of 1990. In 1993, she lived in Germany for six months and worked at 3M Medical in
Borken, Germany as a consultant to the marketing department in order to provide executives
with recommendations for the entry of the American product line Buf-Puf into the German
market. Afterward, she backpacked throughout Europe riding on the Eurail and meeting up with
Spartan friends in Paris, France. She has traveled to Beijing, China where she toured the Chinese
Imperial Palace of the Ming Dynasty and climbed up the steps of the Great Wall of China.
Professionally, upon graduating from Michigan State University in 1992, Ann worked in the
business field as a Financial Analyst at ValueRx in Bloomfield Hills and then as a Senior Systems
Developer at R.L. Polk designing and automating market share reports for the American auto
manufacturers in Southfield. In 2005, she decided to change careers and become a teacher, so she began substitute teaching in Clarkston and Waterford school districts from 2002-2004 which she
greatly enjoyed. She was married in 2004 to the Honorable Daniel Patrick O’Brien after working
on his political campaign for a year. They had three boys named Danny, Colin, and David who Ann
homeschooled until they were of kindergarten age. She is currently single but enjoys so much fun
and laughter with her three sons. She is very excited to teach Playing with Parts of Speech,
Emerging Readers, and Hands on History: Age of Exploration this year through Homeschool
Connections. We will have fun and learn so much during this school year of 2023!

Sue Osis

Sue joined Homeschool Connections in 2007. She specializes in computer technology, robotics, lego engineering, and graphic classes. Mrs. Osis also has experience as an occupational therapist with special needs students. Married for 40 years before the passing of her husband, Sue loves her 2 adult daughters. And she enjoys the priceless reward of teaching.

Michelle Pate

“We homeschool because home’s cool!”

Mrs. Pate has dreamt of teaching since she was a small child, but didn’t expect it to unfold as it has with homeschooling (she LOVES it!). Married to Craig Pate, Michelle has 4 children, 2 grandchildren, and a chihuahua named Jr.  She has been homeschooling since 1998, and has successfully graduated 3 of her children with it. They’re all doing fantastic! She will be graduating her youngest child in 2023.  Michelle graduated from Impact Bible Institute in 2013. She came on board, teaching with Homeschool Connections in 2016. Michelle delights in working with tweens and teens. She is passionate about homeschooling and its community.  Mrs. Pate works well with a variety of subjects. Literature, writing, and life skills are her favorite topics to focus on.

Shelley Pruett

Shelley grew up in Michigan and lives in Clinton Township with her husband Nick and two teenage daughters. When her daughters were in lower elementary school at a small Montessori school she felt the call to bring her girls home and begin their homeschooling journey. She was introduced to Homeschool Connections when her daughters started taking classes there early into their homeschooling journey. Only a few short years into their homeschooling journey her daughters decided they wanted to go back to traditional school for high school. Since her girls were at school five days a week she took a job as a campus supervisor at the then new Clinton Township Campus  At the start of the second semester there was a need for an Art teacher for one waitlisted art class. So Shelley said yes to teaching it and has loved teaching art ever since. She is so grateful the God has given her the desire of her heart because she’s always wanted to teach elementary art but after getting married and having children did not continue to pursue a degree in education. In her free time she loves taking walks in the woods, exercising, cooking and baking and spending time with family. 

Karly Royer

As a certified ESL teacher with a background in linguistics, literature, history, and dance, Karly taught at Palestra for many years. In 2015 she joined Homeschool Connections. Mrs. Royer delights in teaching writing and literature. She revels in showing students that writing can be–if not fun–at least tolerable.

Pepper Schmeckpeper

Pepper graduated from Western Michigan University with a B.S. in Textile and Apparel Technology. She then married her wonderful husband and worked in the automotive industry designing car seat fabrics. Through this career, she realized that she also had a gift and passion for teaching and helping others. This was one of the many reasons that led her to homeschool her four children, which has been her primary focus for the last 16 years. Beyond homeschooling, she has used her various interests and talents to serve in her church, in Community Bible Study, and in the homeschooling community. She has also taught many different subjects and classes online in order to help Chinese students improve their English comprehension, grammar, and pronunciation. Her many interests include history, English, math, sewing, food, crafts, painting, knitting, and just about anything that involves creativity. She cannot wait to share these interests and passions with her students and to help them learn something new.

Ben Schmittdiel

Ben Schmittdiel is married with 4 grown children, 12 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren (yikes!) He is known as “the fun grandpa” in the family! He spent three hard years (haha) in the U. S. Air Force stationed at a small radio site called RAF Martlesham Heath near the town of Ipswich in the absolutely beautiful nation of England. He completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Organizational Development from Spring Arbor University and retired following a 40-year career in telecommunications that included managing network operations as well as conducting training and implementing statistical control and quality improvement programs. Upon retirement, Ben decided to fulfill a lifetime interest in teaching by working as a substitute teacher in public and private schools. He feels Homeschool Connections is the perfect place to share his talents without restricting the time he spends with his wife, family, and church. 

Cathie Jo Seamon

Cathie Jo joined Homeschool Connections in 2015. She teaches sciences including biology & chemistry. Cathie Jo loves being with the kids & sharing science with them. Mrs. Seamon studied Civil & Environmental Engineering for her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Michigan. Then she earned her Master’s Degree in Hazardous Waste Management at Wayne State University.

Janice Smith

Janice began teaching with Homeschool Connections in 2019 and loves teaching because she gets to spend time with young people – the people of our future. She has also taught at HighPoint Hybrid Academy. Janice studied at Wayne State University and Michigan State. She wants to pass on her love of language to her students. Mrs. Smith enjoys walking and reading good books and is married with 3 grown daughters.

Holly Spalding

Holly Spalding loves art! She grew up going to art fairs where her mom sold ceramics, macrame, Artex, and other crafts. Holly loves upcycling, too. She has a 2-year degree in Visual Merchanding from OTC. Holly decorates and helps facilitate fundraisers in her spare time. Creativity is her passion. Holly has also participated in many Huron Valley Theater plays at Lakeland High School. She looks forward to educating your children on the fundamentals of art and drama and sparking a passion in them.

Christine Spangler

Christine Spangler has been a teacher and educator for 20 years in science, math, and STEM. She graduated from the University of Illinois and received a master’s degree at DePaul University in Chicago. Christine taught for 11 years before becoming an instructional coach in Wayne County servicing urban demographic schools. Currently working at Wayne State University, she is also teaching for Homeschool Connections at the new Plymouth / Canton location. Christine lives in Northville with her husband and high school senior. She is also the proud parent of two kids in college.

Julie Thenn

Julie Thenn grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She graduated from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL with a BA in Business Administration. She worked in the financial industry for several years and then received her Masters in Business Administration from Columbia College. She loves seeing students reach goals and get excited when they learn new things. She coached soccer for 11 years, taught Sunday school at her church, and is an avid runner. Julie is a military spouse and mother of three children.

Rachelle Tolwin

Rachelle Tolwin is an artist, mother, and art educator. For the past two years, she homeschooled her two children and created an organic children’s clothing company called Little Mountain. She received a Bachelor‘s degree in studio art from NYU and an MFA in drawing and painting from California College of the Arts. Rachelle has exhibited her artwork in various galleries and has taught art to students ranging from toddlers to college age. She loves making art inspired by nature, baking, and yoga and recently moved to Michigan.

Beth Totten

Beth Totton is happy to be joining the Homeschool Connections teacher staff in
Brighton for the 2023 school year. She started her teaching career by receiving her Elementary
Education degree at Eastern Michigan University. Having taught young children for over 35
years as a preschool teacher, Program Director, Arts and crafts teacher, Home Daycare owner,
tutor, and elementary teacher, she is grateful to add HC Art teacher to the list!
She believes art should first be about the process, learning, and experimenting, and
secondly about creating beautiful works of art to feel proud of and enjoy.
She has three adult children that she is very proud of and an amazing husband that
supports and often joins in on all her endeavors and adventures.
Currently, she has a home workshop business, Flipsy Daisy, where she paints and
refinishes used furniture for resale. She also just purchased a small lakefront campground with
cabins in Northeast Michigan. Along with her business partners, she is happily working hard to
renovate the buildings and get the property ready to open up this summer.
She is looking forward to meeting the families and teaching and enjoying art with the
children of HC!

Erika Walker

Erika Walker grew up in Troy and graduated from Troy Athens High School. After high school, she attended Oakland Community College and Walsh College of Accountancy and Business Administration. She graduated with a BBA in Marketing. During high school and college, she taught American Red Cross learn-to-swim classes to all ages and Lifeguard Training. She also coached middle school and high school varsity swimming during college. Erika has been married to her husband Todd for over 25 years and they have 3 children, two of whom they have homeschooled for the last 8 years. She loves to read and cook and lives on 10 acres with her husband, children, chickens, and two dogs Hendrix a Great Dane, and Capt. Mal an Anatolian Shepherd.