Catalyst Alternative Private High School Boulder, CO

Our Teachers

Irma Balderama
Spanish and English
BS Secondary Education, Northern Arizona University, Arizona
MA Educational Leadership, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado
Phone (303) 604-6512

After graduating from Northern Arizona University with a B.S. in Secondary Education, Irma moved to Colorado to start her teaching career. A New Mexico native, Loveland, Colorado, became home with its seasonal beauty and majestic scenery. Irma taught at Loveland High School for 32 years and raised four wonderful children. She loves to read murder mystery novels, to travel with her kids, to walk her two dogs, and to tend her flower gardens.

Amy Dalton
Community Experience Coordinator, Assets Coordinator
BA  Religious Studies, Liberty University
Phone (303) 604-6512

Amy comes to Catalyst with an extensive background in outdoor education and leadership development. She has served on the faculty of Sheridan School at the Mountain Campus in Washington, D.C. where she integrated the outdoors with classroom studies. There, she gained an appreciation for experiential learning and a passion for whole student development. In addition to her BA from Liberty University, Amy graduated from the National Outdoor Leadership School. She has mentored both high school and college students and has guided backpacking, climbing, and kayaking adventures. Most recently, Amy served as the Guide Team and Wilderness Program Manager for Sky Ranch at Ute Trail in the beautiful San Juan Mountains. Her responsibilities with program and staff development and logistical solutions have come in handy as she adds richness and depth to the Wellness Program at Catalyst. Besides being outside, she finds great pleasure in the company of friends, a beautiful garden, learning new skills on her mandolin, and reading a really good book.

Markiah Friedman
Biological Sciences, Global Science, Chemistry, Creative Writing, Poetry,  Photography, Digital Art,  Technology,  Web Design,  Music Performance, Promotion & Business and Harmonica
BA  Literature, Minor in Chemistry, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
MA  Educational Leadership, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado
Phone (303) 604-6512

With over 30 years in education, Markiah has had a variety of teaching and leadership experiences, including 25 years as a science teacher at Loveland High School. He served for seven years as the Thompson School District’s K-12 Science Curriculum Specialist responsible for developing the district’s award winning standards-based K-12 Science Curriculum and Assessment System. He was the founder of and taught at the Thompson School District’s Credit Recovery Center for students who had difficulty in traditional high schools. Markiah was a founding board member for Colorado Online Learning, a state-wide provider of supplemental online high school classes, where he currently designs and teaches courses.  In his free time, Markiah is a musician and plays harmonica regularly with three popular local bands. He is a noted poet with four published poetry books, a digital artist and a professional web designer. As if that were not enough, Markiah hosts and produces a poetry television show on the local cable community access channel, CCTV 54. See to keep up with all of Markiah’s creative ventures.

Melita Gump
BA Mathematics, University of Colorado, Boulder
Secondary Education, University of Colorado, Boulder
Phone (303)-604-6512

Melita Gump has been teaching Math and Art at Catalyst for over 3 years now. She is a self-described Mathlete who once won a medal in an Algebra 2 competition in High School. Melita spent 6 years teaching in BVSD. During that time, she was on both the Middle and High School Curriculum Councils. She was also recognized and given an award by Xcel Energy for her lesson plans integrating art into the Math curriculum. Obviously, her hobbies include arts and crafts, as well as reading novels, listening to music, and spending time with her two daughters.

Julie Hancock
Language Arts and Learning Specialist
BA  English and Communication Studies, Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Virginia
MS  Secondary Education/Special Education, City University of New York, New York
Phone (303) 604-6512

Julie loves sharing her passion for reading and writing with students. She has taught around the country: Virginia, New York, California, and now, Colorado! Julie is a former New York City Teaching Fellow. She has received numerous grants for her research on helping students of varying learning levels access literacy, and has presented this research at state and national conferences. She has a strong background in Journalism, and her features have been found in The Virginian Pilot, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union Tribune and many more.  In her spare time, she enjoys international travel, volunteer work, hanging out with her husband and dog, and distance running.

John Kettling
Physical Science and Invention
BS  Metropolitan State College, Denver, Colorado
E-mail john.
Phone (303) 604-6512

John is a 20-year veteran of industrial and musical instrument engineering and manufacturing. He has been a science lab adviser for 17 years and has volunteered hundreds of hours guiding secondary students through internships and scholarships acquisition. John has served on the advisory board to the Rocky Mountain Children’s Clinic in Denver for 31 years. He holds a SCPD Certificate in Computer Security from Stanford University. He has studied nanotechnologies through Stanford’s Engineering Science Institute and neuroscience disciplines through Harvard University’s professional extension. John is an avid organ musician and collector of exotic antique automobiles. Finally, John is a Little League baseball fanatic, a writer of baseball stories, and a bit of a character.

Sierra Platte
BA Spanish San Diego State University
Phone (303) 604-6512

Sierra is a native of Boulder who has recently returned to the area, where she can balance her passion to teach with her love of family and being in the great outdoors. She received her Bachelor Degree from San Diego State University, where she majored in Spanish and minored in Social Work.  Sierra’s pursuit of Spanish stems from her desire to discover and facilitate true understanding and respect for cultural differences.  Her vision for teaching Spanish as a second language is to break through traditional educational barriers and to bridge the cultural gap by helping students become actively engaged in learning about Spanish speaking cultures, as well as the language.  In addition to covering grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure, Sierra’s students will join her in lively conversation, engage with native Spanish speakers during field trips, play games, create art and music and, of course, prepare FOOD! She has spent a great deal of time in past years in Central America studying, traveling, cooking and surfing.  Now Sierra is looking forward to being back in Colorado, where she can camp, fish, bike, hike, become part of the Catalyst community, and continue her education.  After all, we can never stop learning!

Larry Runnels
Language Arts and Social Studies
BA  Political Science, University of North Texas
MA  Diverse Learners, University of Phoenix
Phone (303) 604-6512

Larry Runnels has been teaching government, geography, history, life skills, physical education, and health in grades 6 -12 for the past thirty-five years in Colorado. Larry was named to the Superintendent’s Honor Roll for outstanding service above and beyond the call of duty while working in the Boulder Valley School District and has been recognized for outstanding teaching by the Jared Polis Foundation. His experience includes over ten years of team teaching language arts and history classes and also teaching online courses. Larry enjoys sports, including golfing and working out, and he has over ten years of varsity football coaching experience. The natural beauty of Colorado provides a perfect venue for Larry to exercise his passion of riding his Harley whenever possible.

Dylan Scholinski
BFA Drawing and Printmaking, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota
MFA Painting and Printmaking, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Founder and Witness, Sent(a)Mental Studios, Denver, Colorado
Phone (303) 604-6512

Dylan Scholinski currently resides in DENVER/BOULDER CO. Dylan and is a distinguished artist, award winning author, and public speaker on many topics; including suicide prevention, navigating depression, a variety of art/studio expressions, LGBTIQA* rights and issues, etc. Dylan has appeared on 20/20, Dateline and Today to discuss his experiences and has been featured in a variety of newspapers and magazines. Recently his award-winning book (The Last Time I Wore a Dress: A Memoir – Penguin/Putnam) was listed in the Top 10 Must Reads in Out Magazine’s first Transgender Issue. His work not only portrays the anguish of his earlier years but also his ultimate triumph. Dylan is the founder/witness of Sent(a)Mental Studios and frequently opens his studio to a variety of youth to provide safe space to explore and discover ways of expressing and empowering themselves without bringing harm to themselves or others.  In addition to facilitating a variety of open studio/suicide prevention groups, public speaking, and teaching creative courses with Catalyst HS and JCOS; Dylan also spends many hours working in his studio, painting, drawing, and creating zines – such as Please Forgive Me For Judging You, Sent(a)Mental, and Freedom of Depression - and playing catch in the back yard. Dylan is also the collaborator of Benjamin Ballerina – Pretty Tough Clothing for Kids along with his partner Maggie Evans.

*LGBTIQA ( Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, and Allies)

Leanne Soucek
Language Arts
BA English Education, University of Florida, Gainesville
Highly Qualified in Social Studies, Certificate, Colorado
Phone (303) 604-6512

Leanne grew up in a military family, living in or traveling to many foreign countries, making 20 moves before the age of 20.  Leanne communicates well in Spanish and speaks smatterings of German and Persian.  She earned a B.A. in English at the University of Florida and completed graduate studies in education and counseling at Denver’s Regis University, University of Northern Colorado, University of Colorado Denver, as well as at Denver and Fuller Seminaries.  Leanne has taught Language Arts and Social Studies in Colorado for 22 years, including at Colorado’s Finest Alternative School in Englewood, and at Catalyst’s predecessor, Chinook Alternatives. From these years, Leanne relishes her four trips to Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, where she and her students planted fruit trees with Navajo families. Leanne was a finalist for the Boulder Valley School District’s Community Foundation Impact on Education Award. Leanne loves to read, with 10,000 books to her credit, and plans to read 10,000 more.  Her greatest life satisfaction comes from doing “impossible” things, such as riding over Independence and Rollins Passes on her heavy ‘ol mountain bike, bagging 11 of Colorado’s 14’ers, and backpacking in winter with Last Resort Juvenile Diversion program. Leanne recognizes that each of these accomplishments has required her own dedicated effort, but also the vital support of a “buddy community.”  Leanne says she experienced the true meaning of learning while climbing Mount Elbert one summer day with a group of her students that included a young woman who believed there was no way she could reach the summit; her buddies each promised, “We’ll help you!”  That day, every member of this “motley” group, including the young woman (who had never been out of the city before), summited Colorado’s highest peak. She (and Leanne) sobbed tears of joy! Leanne looks forward to finding that kind of spirit at Catalyst High School.

Dick Weeks
Math and Psychology
BS  Industrial Management, Clarkson University, New York
MA  Education – School Administration and Supervision, University of Denver, Colorado
EdS  Counseling, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
Phone (303) 604-6512

Working with teens has been Dick’s passion for over 43 years. Born in Boston, Dick’s career transcended from industrial management in Rhode Island to teaching — math, science, and psychology — to school administration. Dick started with teaching math, coaching ice hockey and being a dorm supervisor at Cardigan Mt. School in Canaan, NH. He then moved to Colorado Academy in Englewood, Colorado, where for eleven years he taught math and science and started an ice hockey program. Dick then became principal of the middle school and created and directed CA’s K-12 counseling program. In 1981, Dick and his wife returned to New Hampshire where at Brewster Academy he became Director of College Placement, Dean of Students, taught math, and coached several sports. Niwot’s Curse brought Dick and his wife back to Colorado in 1989 when, at Alexander Dawson, Dick became the Dean of Students and later Assistant Head of School. In 1995, Dick founded the George L. Bridge School, which he named for his grandfather. For 16 years, Dick served as Head of Bridge School, taught math and developmental psychology, and coached sports. Dick has retired as Head of Bridge School.  He now serves on the Board of Temple Grandin School. Dick is excited to teach and be the Vice Principal at Catalyst. Dick loves being with his wife of 27 years and his family, spending time outdoors, playing volleyball, and riding his road bike.

Catalyst teachers come with years of experience. They are creative and flexible. They make decisions with students on the fly. They love research and learning new things every day with the students.