Dean of Arts
I grew up in Providence, RI, the daughter of an artist and a teacher, and this apple definitely did not fall far from the tree. I attended Oberlin College to major in Visual Arts and English, with a minor in Spanish. I received a MA in Art & Art Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College in NY in 2004, and my National Board certification in Adolescent Art Education in 2013. I have 14 years of classroom experience, including 10 years in a Title 1 high school in NYC where I built the art department from the ground up. I moved to Denver in 2015 and am thrilled to serve as the Dean of Arts at KCAA. I love to travel, and have studied art and art history in 20 countries around the world. I am a printmaker, a dancer, and a lover of the great outdoors; when I’m not at KCAA you can find me on a hiking trail in all seasons!
|Jesse Preston is a native of Colorado, and a product of Colorado schools. He attended Golden High School and Colorado Mesa University, where he received a BFA in graphic design. He was also a 4-year letterman and wide receiver for the Mesa State Mavericks football team. He worked as the lead graphic artist at FASTSIGNS of Arvada for 5 years, while also attending the Metro State College teacher licensure program where he became a licensed art, CTE, physical education, and science teacher. He has been a teacher and/or coach for 11 years and has been part of the KCAA community since the schools inception in 2009, working as a 7th grade science teacher, and teaching art at every level (K-12). He has coached softball, flag-football, basketball, and baseball at KCAA, winning 3 Prep-League Southwest Division Championships (Baseball 2011, Flag-Football 2013 and 2014). His students have won several district and community art awards including ‘Best of Show’ in the 2010 DPS K-8 Exhibition, and ‘Best of Show’ in the 2016 Citywide High School Art Show. In 2012 he received the inaugural ‘DPS Teacher Exemplary Concept Integration Award’ for his students’ work and his art teaching concepts at the Middle School Citywide Art Show. Mr. Preston is married to Kelli Preston, and they have a 4 year old son named William, and a 2 year old daughter named Maddox.|
|Jacob Neal is a practicing artist living and working in Denver, Colorado. He fancies himself a life long learner in the arts. Currently he concentrates his time illustrating and screen printing, but has been known to dabble in photography, painting, sculpture and graphic design. He currently teaches Middle and High School Digital Media Arts, for Denver Public Schools, in order to support and supplement his addictions to create and collect original art.|
| Bethany Narajka
|Bethany Haizlett Narajka teaches 6th-12th grade Ceramics and Sculpture. She grew up dancing, painting, singing (badly), acting, and writing in a tiny western Pennsylvania town. Before joining the KCAA team, Narajka taught Visual Arts at Castro Elementary for 3 years and served as a district Regional Team Specialist.
Her educational background includes a BFA in Studio Art from Slippery Rock University, an Art Teaching Certification from Carlow University, and a study abroad semester at the VSVU Academy of Fine Art and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia. From 2012-13, she spent a year teaching English in South Korea, where she also led a children’s yoga class and worked as an actor, director, and designer with a local theater group.
When she’s not at school, Narajka resumes her childhood hobbies of dancing, painting, singing (badly), acting, and writing with her husband, Greg, and goofy dog, Margot.
||I received my Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in History and Economics in 2007 and completed my teaching Internship the following year. I have been teaching in Denver Public Schools since 2009. My passion is working alongside students, so they can better recognize and make sense of the structures, systems, and history of the world. This then builds in students a better understanding of our interconnections world. The main focus in every class is for students to critically analyze the deeper meanings of class content. Then they can connect what they are learning in class to their personal lives to create a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world, humanity, and themselves. The ultimate goal of my pedagogy is for students to be empowered to imagine, create, and shape positive changes in the world as well as in their personal lives.On a more personal note, I am married to the wonderful and fabulous Mrs. Abel-Pype. We have the two best, cutest, most loving dogs ever named Sophie and Mona. I play guitar (somewhat poorly, but I love it anyway). My all-time favorite band is Pearl Jam. And, the quote that best describes me is: “…got a mind full of questions and a teacher in my soul…” -e. vedder.|
|I grew up in rural New Hampshire, where the trees vastly outnumber people.
In 1999 I moved to Colorado to attend Fort Lewis College in Durango, majoring in Psychology and Art. I spent a few years working in the field of substance abuse before deciding to become a teacher. In 2006, I moved from Durango to Denver and earned my BFA and teaching license from Metropolitan State University of Denver.
In my free time I love to hike (I got married on top of a 14,000 foot mountain!), backpack, play sports, snowboard, watch baseball (my favorite team is the Red Sox), and travel! The countries I have visited so far are: Mexico, Canada, France, Iceland, Costa Rica, Thailand, Ethiopia, and India. My favorite thing about traveling is meeting new people and learning about their cultures and traditions.
I began working at KCAA in 2012 where I have taught Visual Arts and Language Arts, and coached Softball and Basketball. I absolutely love being an art teacher because it combines my three biggest passions: connecting with people, making art, and constantly learning new things.
||I come from a family of artists. My grandfather was a musician that toured the US with country greats like Grandpa Jones and Minny Pearl. My mother is an accomplished visual artist that has her own studio where she teaches her own personal watercolor technique. I have been teaching in DPS for the past 12 years. Before coming to DPS I was the founding Artistic Director of Ballet Nouveau Colorado, which is now Colorado Conservatory of Dance and the Company Wonderbound. I have traveled the world as a classically trained ballet dancer, singer, actor, musician and performing artist. I graduated from Naropa University with a degree in Dance Movement Students and I am also a National Board Certified Teacher.|
||Jessica Widder grew up in Durango, Colorado and stayed in her home town to get her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Arts from Fort Lewis College. She then moved to Seattle, Washington where she volunteered both at an artist-run art gallery and the Seattle Art Museum. There she worked in the art studio where students on field trips would create museum related art. It was then that she discovered her passion and excitement for sharing her love of art with students. She obtained her teaching license and moved to Denver where she has taught visual arts for ten years. During her teaching career, she acquired her Master’s Degree in Art Education remotely from Boston University. Ms. Widder is very excited to be a part of the arts team at Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy!|
| Dell Brooks
|| Dell has been a teacher for most of his life. Prior to Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy, he taught instrumental music in various Denver Public Schools. He is also a certified BrainWise instructor and taught Critical Thinking Skills at a DPS Charter school.
For many years Dell studied Vipassana meditation with Buddhist Masters in Burma and Sri Lanka. After being awarded teacher certification, he opened his own meditation studio in Denver and taught meditation.
In addition, he has been a champion body builder, personal trainer, and actor.
He received his Masters degree in Music Pedagogy from the University of Colorado, and BA in Instrumental Music Education from Texas Southern University.
| Lauren Keller
| Moose Mamet
||Andrea Leggett holds a B.A. in Arts Management with a Dance Emphasis & an M.A. in teaching from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. She teaches dance for Denver Public Schools & the City of Westminster, CO. Andrea serves as an active member of the education association as a building representative, representative at state & national assemblies, committee chair, & recently was voted to the board of directors for the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. She has been a Colorado
Educator Voice Fellow for two years & is an NEA Teach Plus fellowship alumni, keeping her active in education policy and raising teacher voice.
When she isn’t dancing or teaching Mrs. Leggett enjoys spending time with her husband and two dogs. They all make the trip back to St. Louis, Missouri when they can in order to visit friends and family.