Academics and Faculty

All KCAA students enjoy thematic units that weave the arts into the day-to-day classroom. Teachers use foundation curriculum from Denver Public Schools to teach extended blocks in literacy and math, regular blocks in science and social studies and a variety of arts based electives. KCAA middle school students are offered dance, drama, music, digital media, 2-D and 3-D art and PE based on choice and availability.

KCAA teachers believe in stimulating our students with provocative questions that guide investigations and build deep understanding as well as the critical thinking skills necessary for the 21st century. Academic teachers use Chromebooks in addition to iPad technology in their classrooms to support student learning as well as collecting assessment data.

Executive Principal

Peter Castillo

Hello KCAA Community. It is hard to believe it was 8 years ago when I first came to KCAA. We have grown so much, in size (we now serve over 970 students) in academic achievement (we are now in our second year of being a ‘Green’ school by DPS school performance framework) and artistically (receiving multiple awards at all district art shows and performance events). We celebrate our collective choice to imagine and achieve and we continue to push ourselves further and farther than anyone could have foreseen. We have two years in a row where we graduated 100% of our seniors! We have the first students completing their Associates degree through the ASCENT program free of charge! As KCAA looks towards its first decade celebration (2018/19).

It is an amazingly bright road ahead! It continues to be an honor to work for our KCAA Arts community.

Secondary Assistant Principals







John Delaney

Having the opportunity to be the Assistant Principal at KCAA and work with your creative students is not only an honor but also a genuine pleasure. The students, staff and community are so rich with ideas and energy that I feel like this is an excellent fit for all of us. I began my educational journey by teaching science in San Antonio, then moved to Colorado and worked in administration. As an assistant principal in Aurora Public Schools, I developed the leadership skills that have propelled me to Denver Public Schools. My experience is in working in a comprehensive high school that serves students of many diverse learning styles and cultures. My commitment to the KCAA community is that EVERY student receives a quality education- EVERY day!


Lindsay Erikson

I am originally from western Massachusetts and I moved out to Denver after I graduated high school to attend the University of Denver to pursue my education, to play soccer, and enjoy the beautiful Rocky mountains. I have since made Colorado my home. I got married in 2012 and now have two wonderful and active twin toddlers. I am an avid and competitive snowboarder. I also enjoy hiking Colorado trails in search of ancient artifacts to add to my collection. I have been teaching high school social studies in DPS since 2005. I have two bachelor degrees in History and Anthropology from the University of Denver. In addition, I have two masters in Secondary Education and Gifted and Talented from DU. Currently, I am working on my third masters in Leadership through CU Denver. I enjoy the small school and family focused setting at KCAA and enjoy supporting students in their career and college goals to help them become

Dorothy Abalos

Dorothy Abalos-Executive Secretary


My name is Dorothy Abalos.  This is my 5th year at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy as a bilingual secretary.  I am a Colorado Native.  Although, I love to travel, I always look forward to coming home to the Colorado Mountains.   I hope to one day purchase a cabin in the beautiful Rocky Mountains and retire.   I have 6 children, 5 boys and 1 girl.  I love to go camping, and just spending quality time with my family.

Bianca Dominguez

Bianca Dominquez-Secondary Secretary


Meet the Teachers


Jessen in Costa Rica

Clay Jessen – Math Instructor

Mr. Jessen has taught math at Kunsmiller for 10 years!  He was formerly an engineer but is now very happy working with students, parents, and teachers at KCAA.  He also coaches boys soccer.  He enjoys photography, hiking, and learning Spanish.

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Cheek, Tanner 6th Science

Tanner Cheek – Science

My name is Tanner Cheek and this will be my first year serving the students of KCAA. I am a true science NERD and I could not be more excited to be teaching 6th and 8th grade science through the use of arts and technology. I want to teach my students to question the world around them and learn to solve everyday problems. I was born and raised in Florida and moved to Colorado 3 years ago to escape the familiarity of everything I had been around my whole life. I have a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. In my free time I enjoy visiting national parks, playing tennis and volleyball, and I love to cook and bake! My husband and I have a 3 year old husky named Meeko who we adore. I can’t wait to make fellow science nerds out of my students this year!


Greg Jock

Mr. Gregory Jock – Social Studies

I was born in Los Angeles, and moved to the South Metro Denver area when I was 6. I played baseball and graduated from Cherry Creek High School. I played Collegiate baseball at Hesston College -Kansas, and Colorado State University- Fort Collins. I graduated from Colorado State with a B.A. majoring in Political Science with a minor in History. I began teaching in DPS in 2007, while teaching I earned my Masters Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix. I was an assistant coach for baseball at the Freshman, JV, and Varsity level at Lincoln for a year and coached the KCAA team last year. I will be coaching the team, as well, this year.

Tiffany Templeton

Ms. Tiffany Templeton – Math Instructor

This is my second year teaching math at KCAA, however this is my 11th year teaching in Denver Public  Schools. My husband I moved  here from Minnesota to enjoy the Colorado outdoors. You can find us hiking in the summers, and skiing in the winters. Three years ago we welcomed our little girl Adelynn and in October we will again welcome another little girl! I love passing on my passion for math to my students!

magyar, marina 6th ELA

Ms. Marina Magyar-Language Art Instructor

This is my first year teaching 6th grade Language Arts and 6th/7th grade ELD at KCAA.  I am a proud Metro State University graduate and I have been teaching for 14 years.  I never tire of getting students excited about reading and talking about great books!  I believe all students can achieve whatever they dream and that we can all come together to change the world for the better.  In my free time I like to go on long walks with my dog, read (of course), watch movies, and cook.  I look forward to embarking on an amazing educational journey this year at KCAA!

7th Grade

Gary Bahr

Mr. Gary Bahr – Science

Gary Bahr was born and raised here in Denver Colorado. He has two Bachelor of Arts degrees. One with a major in Recreation from Western State College in Gunnison Colorado and one with a major in Biology from Metro State College in Denver. He also received his teacher certification in secondary science from Metro State College. He has been teaching secondary science for over twenty years in Denver Public Schools. This is his first year at KCAA and he is excited to start this new path in his career. Being from Colorado he simply loves the Rocky Mountains and all that goes with them. Hiking, fishing, and 4-wheeling are at the top of the list.

Timothy Gilliam

Mr. Timothy Gilliam – Social Studies

I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. As I grew older, my family decided to move about 12 miles to the east to North West Indiana. It is at this time that I became a Hoosier. Well when in Indiana do what the Hoosiers do, so naturally I went to Indiana University Northwest campus. I met my future wife and we both finished our degrees, got married, and promptly moved down to sunny Florida. Overtime the heat became too stifling. We longed for the day of seasons. We moved to a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We both taught in Asheville, NC. After 2 years of ice covered treachery, we decided we needed to find ourselves a city to live in. Now we are in Denver, Colorado. Both Laurie and I are very happy that we play for the DPS team.


Eric Mendoza

Mr. Eric Mendoza – Math Teacher

Eric is from Medellin, Colombia and moved to Denver in 2003 with his wife Amparo and their two children, Felipe and daughter Fernanda. His wife is a stay at home mom, going to school to learn English and the children are already in mainstream classes. He is personally is very happy in Denver due to the tranquility this city offers. Eric attended the Universidad Eafit de Medellin’ and graduated in Business Administration. After graduating he was hired for three years to work for Chemical Bank in New York as a Loan Officer. When he went back to Colombia, he started an investment firm and sold it when they decided to move to the States. He is a eighth year as a middle school math teacher working on his Masters in Education. He was just awarded the Mile High Teacher 2008-2009 for Kunsmiller Middle School. Eric likes to go hiking with his family in summer and since they are new in the states they do a lot of road traveling as far as Florida, visiting the various cities Dallas, New Orleans, and of course Orlando (Disney). They have also visited Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and San Diego. They admire the roads and beauty of this country.

 Sharon Pendleton pic

Ms. Sharon Pendleton-6th and 7th ELA Teacher

Sharon Pendleton is a native of Colorado and loves being outside as much as possible. Her love of books and writing propels Sharon as she begins her 12th year teaching Language Arts for Denver Public Schools (her second year at KCAA).  Sharon earned a Bachelor of Arts from Fort Lewis College and a Master of Education from Lesley University.  When Sharon isn’t passing on her passion for poetry and literature to her students, she and her husband are either trail running, eating good food, checking out the live music scene or traveling. Carpe diem.

8th Grade


Mr. Eric Torres-Secondary Math Instructor

My name is Eric Torres, I am from Colombia, and I am working for a Denver Public School “DPS” since 2017 as a middle School Math teacher. Before I started work with DPS I worked as a volunteer in an IT company.

I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineer at Escuela Colombiana de Ingenieria Julio Garavito in Bogota Colombia in 2011. Since that I worked for a three companies because most of the time I have been working focus in my family business. I started Project Manager with concentration in management at CTU in 2017 and actually I really enjoy this program. Because of my education background I Love math and I want to share the strong knowledge about it.

 Julie Waugh

Ms. Julie Waugh-8th and High School Social Studies

I have been an educator for twenty years, four of which have been spent at KCAA. I am currently teaching English and U.S. History part-time; and spend the rest of my workday coaching teachers. I am the mother of four adult children and the proud grandmother of twelve. Two of my grandchildren are current students in our school. My husband and I love to travel; and our most recent adventure was five weeks in England and Scotland.

Mr. Ward

Mr. Andrew Ward-8th Grade Language Arts

Hi I’m Mr. Ward I am one of the Middle School Language Arts Teachers here at KCAA.  This is my first full year in the classroom but I have been in DPS for almost two full years as a Guest Teacher.  A little about me, I received my Undergraduate Degree from MSU Denver in Political Science. I am currently in the process of completing a Master’s degree from CU Denver and have begun my Alternative Licensure program at MSU Denver.  I am a native of Denver having graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 2002.  My wife Marisa, who is a teacher at Hinkley High School in Aurora, and I have been married for four years, we have one son and three wonderful dogs.  In our spare time we love to relax at home watching a good movie or reading a good book or watch our son play soccer and dance, and simply be together as a family. I am very excited about this year and look forward to getting to know the families of KCAA.

Kristie Burke

Ms. Kristie Burke – Literacy/English Language Development

Kristie Burke has been teaching Middle School Language Arts and English Language Development in SW Denver for the last 7 years! She hopes to guide her scholars as they become good readers, critical thinkers and active learners in their own communities. She truly believes that each student has the potential to become leaders in this world and Ms. Burke hopes to help all her students on their personal journeys. Ms. Burke loves all things related to young adult fiction and can be found climbing, mountain biking or performing yoga on her down time.

Margaret Hunt Pic

Ms. Margaret Hunt-MS Science Teacher

Mrs. Hunt is excited to be back at KCAA, teaching 8th grade science. She

earned her B.S. in Health & Exercise Science at Wake Forest University, and her M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction from Denver University through the Denver Teacher Residency program. Mrs. Hunt enjoys playing outside and being with her family.

 Josh Burke PicMr. Joshua Burke STL Science/Social

Joshua Burke has been teaching since 2007 in Denver and Chicago. He split his childhood between Los Angeles and Chicago. He went to school at the University of Illinois and have a Master’s degree in Biogeochemistry. After college he and his wife moved out to Colorado to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and the much more enjoyable climate.  They have both been teaching in the Denver area for 8 years now. When not teaching my wife and I can typically be found climbing, mountain biking, hiking, or doing yoga outdoors.

Special Service Provider

 Ramo, Rebecca SPED   Rebecca Ramos – Special Education Instructor

Rebecca Ramo-Cofino grew up in Denver, Colorado.  She attended Brandeis University, (BA in Philosophy,) and Hunter College, (MS in Adolescent, Special Education.)  She teaches special education here at Kunsmiller.  When she is not teaching, “Ms. Ramo” sings professionally and delights in taking care of her baby, Samantha Rose.  

Stephanie Wippel – Special Education Instructor

Stephanie Wippel is one of the middle school special educators here at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy. She graduated summa cum laude from Metropolitan State College with a BA in Psychology and and a minor in fine art. She was selected to participate in Denver Teach Today, a rigorous alternative license program, where she earned her teaching license in Special Education. Prior to becoming a teacher, she worked as a paraprofessional in a Multi-Intensive (MI) classroom. This is her 9th year working for DPS.

chavkin, ryan HS MS Math

 Mr. Ryan Chavkin-Middle School and High School Math Instructor

I am a Denver native, and a proud Denver Public Schools graduate. After graduating from East High School, I went to Santa Clara University, where I studied Biology and Philosophy, and played Rugby. After spending some time teaching at KCAA, I’ve found that it is truly a unique school. The school community has fostered an environment of acceptance and openness that is unparalleled. I feel lucky to be part of such a special school. As a math teacher, I am committed to helping each and every student actualize their potential not only as a student, but also as an upstanding individual.



 Sharolyn Wilkin-PicMs. Sharolyn Wilkin-Gifted and Talented MS

I teach Gifted Education at KCAA MS on Mondays and occasional Fridays.  I am a Denver Public Schools graduate, and it is my 33rd year as a teacher!  I enjoy working with students and teachers, traveling, cooking, watercolor painting, making jewelry, and hiking!