Veritas In Academia

Serving homeschoolers through Catholic tutors.

VIA Tutors' Biographies

Amy Bittner first dove into theatre when her mom played The Phantom of the Opera for her at age ten.  Curious about the Theatre, she played Boy Munchkin #3 in her first play at Spotlight Family Theatre, and has loved it ever since.  Twelve years later, Amy graduated from Benedictine College with a BA in Theatre Arts. She has been involved both onstage and behind the scenes at Spotlight Family Theatre, Continental Ballet Company, Chesterton Academy, Chaska Valley Family Theatre, Benedictine College Theatre, Open Window Theatre, and The Classical Actors Ensemble.  Selected credits include: Much Ado About Nothing / Arden of Faversham (Ensemble), Charley’s Aunt (Donna Lucia), Twelfth Night (Olivia), Mother Courage and Her Children, (Yvette Pottier), Fuenteovejuna (Laurencia), and Laughing Stock (Mary).   Specialties include Performance, Stage Management, Costume Design, Props Design, and Hair and Makeup Design.  When not thriving around the stage, Amy loves spending time with her amazing husband, Josh, reading books, listening to podcasts, and almost anything involving lakes and rivers.

I live in Elk River, and have three married daughters and many grandchildren. I homeschooled my youngest daughter and help with homeschooling two of my grandchildren. I was the music director at Mary Queen of Peace Church for eleven years, where I directed the adult and children’s choirs. Presently, I am directing the VIA Homeschool Choir  and play the organ at St. Thomas Church in Corcoran on the weekends. I also teach piano lessons out of my home and at VIA. I love walking in our several, beautiful parks, and love to read, draw and paint, and of course play the piano and sing.
I have been a Catholic homeschooler my whole life graduating in 2020. I have 6 younger siblings (all homeschooled) and love teaching music to children. I was in the JP2 co-op, and am currently Diana Anderson's assistant with the children's choir at the Sacred Heart co-op. She is also my family's piano teacher. I have just started taking students of my own this past year. I love all kinds of music, and I enjoy playing the piano and Irish whistles.

Jenni received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science (SCSU) with a minor in Mathematics.  During and after college, she traveled to 10 different countries, including working for nine months in Australia. Converting to the faith as a young adult made her passionate about sharing and defending the Catholic faith. She has spent many years doing that in various ways, such as in the church choir, as a lector, catechist, small group leader, and apologist – doing sought-after talks and classes for both youth and adults.  For nine years, she worked in the computer software field, rising from Programmer to Designer, to Customer Liaison, to Quality Assurance Manager.  When her son was born, she felt called to pursue homeschooling full-time and join her husband, Jeff, in their video and photography business, where she not only does photo and video but also handles the accounting, taxes, and contracts.  Having a penchant for leadership, she has helped lead the JP2 Homeschool Group, and coached an FLL robotics team for seven years.  Her FLL robotics team consistently performed well, advancing to the State level every year but their first and advancing to the World tournament in both 2017 and 2019.  As with all things she is passionate about, she loves sharing and mentoring.  She has helped start a new FLL team almost every year she coached, helped run the 4H STEM Club, tutors, and leads faith-sharing small groups.  In her little free time, she enjoys nature, arts and crafts, and spending time with her husband and two children

     Gladly spending time with little ones, high school students, and children in between, reminds Julia Johnson that faith and character development are more important than textbooks. Language Arts is Mrs. Johnson’s best-loved subject because combining words in special ways is definitely an art. She has earned licenses in Elementary Education and Language Arts but home school and classroom experiences are more joyful accomplishments. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson enjoy a fast pace with four boys, their eldest daughter who also teaches, and their youngest, Mary, who remains powerful against her four older brothers. Julia is passionate about teaching at VIA and looks forward to this fall with you!

First and foremost, Robin is a Catholic daughter of God, wife, and mother of 6 here on earth and 3 little ones in Heaven. Not very long ago when she was young, she was inspired to teach Math after having had excellent examples of teachers in both high school and college. Math could actually be fun! She also liked that it was objective--no opinions about 2+2=4.  Truth is truth when one is seeking the true, the good, and the beautiful! She earned a B.A. in Mathematics with minors in Secondary Education and Business Management from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, and held a Secondary Math Education teaching certificate. She currently teaches part-time at Holy Spirit Academy, a Catholic high school in Monticello. She has previously taught at VIA and also taught a year of fifth grade at a parochial school in Virginia and privately tutored several students in various Math subjects over the years. When God called her to the vocation of marriage and motherhood, she stayed home to raise her kids. When she is not teaching Math or homeschooling her younger kids or taking care of the rest of the family and home, she assists in bookkeeping for the family business, because she can't get enough of numbers. To balance the right and left brain, she enjoys reading and discussing books with her Well Read Mom friends and, well, just socializing in general!

       Jenna grew up in a homeschooling household. She is the middle (and best) child of the Leighton family. In 2014, Jenna earned her B.A. in Theology and Catechists with a minor in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville. During her college years she had the opportunity to study abroad in Austria, to join a women’s faith community called Madonna of the Streets, and to serve as the president of the Students for Life club on campus. She is currently serving at the Church of Saint Henry in Monticello as the Director of Youth Formation and Ministry (6th-12th grade). Jenna enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, playing with her niece and nephew, adventuring outdoors, running, play board games, reading, and sewing or doing crafts. She and her fiancé Ben are engaged to be married July 2021!
       John earned his bachelor's degree, master's degree, and PhD with Electrical Engineering as a major for all degrees and with Physics as a minor for his graduate degrees. John then practiced engineering as his first career designing semiconductor processes, devices and circuitry for the disk-drive industry as well as designing focal plane arrays and developing image processing algorithms for the infra-red camera industry. John is a named inventor on multiple patents. John graduated from Hamline School of Law in 2010 and shortly thereafter embarked upon his second career practicing patent law. John first began practicing law at Thompson Patent Law and now has joined the team at Kinney & Lange. In his spare time, John loves being husband to his beautiful bride and being father to his adorable children.
    Julie Leighton is a homeschool mom of five children. She has a degree in Elementary Education and Studio Arts. Before homeschooling, she taught at St. Vincent de Paul and St. Stephen’s Catholic schools.  Her passions include drawing, painting, teaching, and being a mother, grandmother, and wife to her adoring husband.
Kathy Michael is a nationally certified Sign Language Interpreter. She has worked as a free lance interpreter for over 30 years. Kathy is the youngest of nine children, three of which are Deaf. Kathy has been signing ever since she can remember. She received a degree in ASL interpreting.  Kathy enjoys sharing her love of the language and Deaf culture with others.
Jordan comes from a large Catholic family in western, rural North Dakota. During his senior year of high school, he attended a student conference in Washington D.C. that provided a closer look at the function and operations of the U.S. government. He attained a bachelor’s of art degree in History and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas in the spring of 2017. Jordan’s passion and study of history has taken him to the shores of Normandy, France as well as Paris; London, England; Köln and Berlin, Germany; Rome, Florence, and Naples, Italy; Krakow, Poland with a visit to the Auschwitz/Birkenau concentration camp; and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Jordan’s Catholic faith engaged him into a deep understanding and appreciation of the sacred liturgy and art of the Roman Catholic Church.  The greatest event in the history of Jordan’s life occurred on October 10th, 2020 when he married his bride Maria Westrich.

    Jacob holds a masters degree in pastoral theology and a masters degree in philosophy with a concentration in ethics. He has worked in the Church for over ten years, has done mission trips to Ukraine, Latvia, and Wyoming and has lead pilgrimages to Poland and Italy. Jacob has a strong passion for education and political philosophy as well as social ethics. His classes will often take a socratic approach which means more discussion based exploration of the topic than lecture, depending on the topic and the necessity of lecture. He has also co-hosted his own radio program with Jonathan Stute and helped found an academic journal with his co-host. Jacob lives in Maple Grove with his wife and son and is expecting his second child in December of 2019.

        Ana Grace is a native Spanish speaker, born in San Jose, Costa Rica. She earned a Master of International Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management, and a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State University. She has traveled throughout five continents, visited 26 countries, and enjoys learning about other cultures. She is the mother of six children (one in heaven) and has been homeschooling for 10 years.

Jenny Meyer is a homeschool mother of 4 children, and aspires to become a Lay Carmelite. She has countless hours of practice in prayer, having begun her relationship with Jesus at the ripe age of 5. She loves it more than anything else (except for her wonderful husband and precious children). Jenny also has a great love for all children, and very much enjoys teaching and working with them. She began taking dance instruction herself when she was 3 years old, and danced all the way through high school. Many of the latter years she was in competitive dance. After a decade-long break, she greatly missed her passion and began teaching dance to children of all ages at a few different dance schools over the next 5 or 6 years. Around the same time, she became a member of a young adult competitive dance team at Dancin on Broadway where she again began receiving dance instruction. After these numerous years of teaching and competing herself, she decided "throwing in the towel" was the best thing for her family in order to have more time for her children and their activities. Now, after several more years have passed, she once again feels called and inspired to share her knowledge and talents with others and to work with God's precious children.
        Karyn grew up in a family of ten, and went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish, Catechetics, and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH in 2010.  In 2018, she received her Masters degree in Education from University of Mary in Bismarck, ND.  During her studies she spent an extended period of time living in Argentina and Chile, as well as visiting over 15 other countries along the way.  She taught middle school Spanish for one year prior to having children and she now stays home with her four little ones and enjoys learning and implementing the Montessori Method with her children within the home, as well as speaking Spanish to them from the very start. In addition, Karyn loves staying active and learning about healthy eating and she enjoys cooking everything from scratch.
       Susan earned her B.A. in Classics from Gustavus Adolphus College. She has a love of all things ancient and spent seven months in Greece during college, studying and working on an archaeological excavation in Athens. After graduation, she taught Latin, Greek, Ancient History, Art History, and other fun topics at Trinity School at River Ridge before marrying her husband and happily settling into her role as the wife of a farmer. She has kept her connection with education through teaching at a number of Catholic schools in the western metro area, most recently at St. Francis Xavier School as the K-8th Latin Teacher. Susan is happy to focus her passion for teaching on her most important students: her three children. Homeschooling is a perfect fit for a farming lifestyle. Susan feels blessed that God has given her the opportunity to
share her passion for teaching with the students at VIA.

       Mrs. Weber earned her BA in education, is certified in all three levels of Montessori Training: Level I (ages 3-6), Level II (ages 6-9), Level III (ages 9-12) and in The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Levels I and II. She has many years of experience teaching in public Montessori grade schools and Catholic schools. She is passionate about being a catechist in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Atrium and a directress in the Montessori Children's House.

      Shelly Westrich earned a Bachelor’s degree in Math with a minor in Quantitative Methods and Computer Science from the University of St. Thomas.  She has been homeschooling her kids for over 20 years and coaching  FLL robotics for 7.  She, along with older VIA students from both First Lego League Challenge and First Tech Challenge robotics teams will be working together to share their passion for robotics with the next generation.

Sherry Zeisel used to teach math and science at Holy Spirit Academy, but traded that in for being a full-time mom a couple of years ago. While her children are still too young for school, she is still passionate about all things science, and is working on bringing Catholicism and science together for homeschoolers in a brand-new set of high-school courses, starting with biology. In private life, she is an incorrigible collector of skills, from music, to spinning and weaving, to gluten-free baking...because one can never

have too many interests and hobbies, right? Sherry has a B.S. in Microbiology from MSU Mankato, and lives in Montrose with her family.

       Mr. Joshua La Fond earned a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies degree from Magdalen College in and has various musical experience leading personal voice training, formal cantor training, children’s and youth choirs, academy choral programs, sacred scholas, chant workshops and scholas, polyphony choirs, full adult choirs including a men’s choir, performance choirs, and drama musicals. Well aware himself of the dry mouth, sticky palms and sheer panic which comes with performing music, Mr. LaFond’s ease with the human voice makes him easily help the inner singer come out!  Spreading the joy of the heart through music is a delight to him, and is evident in the students he teaches. He has yet to meet a truly “tone-deaf” student who cannot learn to sing beautifully.  His six children and wife all love to sing and offer a personal testimony to his love of the human voice lifted in song.  Mr. La Fond often quotes Saint Augustine’s phrase “He who sings, prays twice!” as well the music of King David in Psalm 98:  “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth: break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!