Susan Nielsen

Come to Susan when you have questions about funding; when you are concerned about an issue with your student; when you have an idea that would help the center; when you want to get a pep talk about life and your choices.  Susan can provide a political or historical viewpoint to home school partnerships, and will talk with any new families about the center and what it offers.
Office hours will be posted in the first week of school.  You can always make an appointment with Susan to speak confidentially as well.

Brian Rajdl

Nature and Survival, Outdoor Sportsmanship, Project based learning, Swimming

A nature enthusiast, wilderness adventurer, guide and mentor.  Brian’s path in life is to teach and mentor students and adults about the diverse wonders of our natural world, opening pathways for others to safely  explore and experience our wild places.He has been a wilderness guide and nature educator in the Lake Superior region for 20 years. As a Science and Mathematics certified middle and high school teacher, Brian has taught 12 years in the public school system; and 3 years as a full time instructor for the Discovery Center teaching homeschoolers.  He has completed many professional development classes, the most recent being the Art of Mentoring immersion program taught by the Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, Washington. Brian has 4 adventurous children whom he homeschools.

Jen Olson

Our librarian and organizer!  No one gets it done like Jen. If you need help finding materials for homeschooling, or books or games that meet your child’s needs, please see Jen.  She can assist you with the history of the center, and how to check out your library materials.

Deb Choszczyk

Creative Movement for Theatre

Creative Movement! Why does a musical theatre production such as Willie Wonka, Grease, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast,or even Phantom of the Opera need dance and movement? As a production choreographer, creative movement/dance instructor and educator with over 40 years experience this is the first question I will ask my students.

Creative Movement implemented in Theatre and Dance helps tell our story without words, and sometimes is even more effective than words.  The world of movement is a means to improve communication, body/kinesthetic awareness, creative expression, self-confidence, self- esteem and perceptual motor development.  In our study of this life skill, creative movement is born and will take flight!

Ms. Choszczyk first attended Kirtland Community College and completed an AA Liberal Arts degree with Honors.  She then received a BA with Honors in Theatre and Dance at Alma College. Her area of expertise was Dance History and Ancient Egyptian Dance.  Ms. Choszczyk earned her MAED at Hamline University. Her capstone was on Dance Education in Higher Education. Deborah was Dance Director at LSSU for eight years where she created and implemented the first Dance Minor in the UP and was awarded Distinguished Faculty of 2013. Since then she wrote a book for children based on a ballet she wrote for the stage called Faeries of the Night, Good and Evil and currently teaches adult ballet and Highland Dance in Marquette.

Most recently Ms. Choszczyk was production choreographer for the musical, Grease at the Soo Theatre and Summer Theatre/Dance Camp Educator and Choreographer for the Soo Theatre Children’s Summer Camp which produced Wille Wonka Jr in less than two weeks time!

My Mission has not changed: “Give students of all ages opportunities to move, create and dance unconditionally; simultaneously being educated about this performing art, a life skill.”

See you at the theatre!

Gina Kerr


Gina recently retired as a massage therapist after 20 years of running a successful in-home business in Arizona to move to the UP and pursue her lifelong dream and passion of farming and homesteading. She, with her husband Josh, manage 40 acres of gardens, fields, and orchards. They are working to quickly grow the property into a sustainable market farm with fresh fruits and vegetables, medicinal plants, eggs, meat and fiber animals. Gina has been an avid vegetable gardener and urban farmer since 2005 and is in the process of getting her Master Gardener Certificate.

Tanya Sajdak

Life Skills & The Trek

Tanya went to school at Concordia University for Paralegal and Communications. She is also a trained facilitator for the Trek program. Tanya has taught Impact Project and co-taught International Neighbors class at the Discovery Center.  In the past, Tanya has worked in corporate america as a paralegal in Milwaukee, project manager in Minneapolis and certified OSHA trainer in Chicago. She volunteered her time for over 15 years working with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation raising money for Elk habitat.  Tanya will bring her knowledge of budgeting, time management and life experiences to the Life Skills class.


Photography, Build Instruction, Build Open studio

Sergio Buoniconti is a local artist and tradesman that has been sharing his skills with the Discovery Center Family for the last three years.   He has a multi-faceted skill set, including 20 years of photography, 30 years of crafting and building, and a lifetime of travel and learning.  He started in the Photojournalism world working for the Daily Mining Gazette, and has since honed his art capturing unique perspectives and candid photos throughout his U.S and international travels as an Event and Portrait photographer.  He first picked up a hammer and saw when he was 8, and has spent a lifetime building and crafting for both a profession and pleasure. The unique thirst for life and perspectives gained from his travels infuse his teaching methods and motivates his passion for nurturing others on their learning path.

Emily Svenson

All cooking classes

Hi, I am Emily Svenson, cooking instructor at the Discovery Center. As a child, I was often in the kitchen cooking, just for fun. I was fortunate to have parents who cooked from scratch and maintained a garden. My stepmom was once a chef; she taught me many of the knife skills and techniques I teach my students. My mom and dad also passed their cooking skills on to me, both of whom learned from parents and grandparents. Recipes have been passed down through generations, and food brings us together. I have studied nutrition, and explored world cuisine. I have worked at fine dining restaurants and have been cooking with my own three kids for years. I am passionate about helping people live healthier lives by giving them the skills they need to be confident and comfortable in the kitchen. I have seen kids blossom in the kitchen as they explore new foods and feel the joy of independence by cooking for their parents. Kids can do great things in the kitchen if given the opportunity. Please, let me share my knowledge and love for all things food and nutrition with your awesome children!

Heaven Hawkins

Administrative Assistant

Hello all, I am Heaven Hawkins. I will be the new administrative assistant, please come to me with questions, concerns or a friendly conversation! Being someone who has attended and thrived in an alternative school, I am very passionate about importance of options in education for students and parents alike. I believe that these environments offer priceless opportunities for students to flourish and experience learning in ways best suited for them. I appreciate and respect the value of structure with the freedom to have input and choices for students and their futures. Throughout my various roles working in a financial institution I obtained many skills and valuable knowledge of balancing and reconciliation of accounts, data entry, problem solving, time management, and critical thinking. As a photography assistant I aided in event planning, maintaining schedules, multi tasking, keeping track of equipment and client relations. I believe I can use all of my past experience to do my very best to be a valuable asset to the center. In my freetime I enjoy playing music, creating art, reading and spending time with loved ones. I look forward to meeting and creating relationships with all of you!.

Matt Boersma

Build instruction; Build Open studio

I have two wonderful boys that my wife Nichole and I homeschool.  My experiences in life have had me involved in many entrepreneurships/businesses, farming, and both professional and personal computer based technical work.  I have done many large and small woodworking projects, home improvement based construction/maintenance projects, and built many PC’s and even assembled a great home-based digital sound studio.  I love music, enjoy building everything, and being very active year round. My wife and I now own a beautiful farm, and it is currently our vision to continue growing a large market garden business, and expand our up and coming Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) program as well.  I also recently started teaching build classes at the Discovery Center, and love to help support the creativity of our communities’ kids.

Paul Sajdak

Passion Project

Paul went to school at Michigan Technological University for Business and Civil Engineering.  In addition, he is a trained facilitator for the Trek program. Paul also taught Entrepreneurship class and assisted with Build class at the Discovery Center.  In the past, Paul worked in management, sales and marketing. Paul enjoys working for himself and currently substitute teaches. Paul is a good communicator, leader, and loves mentoring and coaching kids.  

Adam Kausch

Robotics (all ages and Team), How Things Work, Forensics

Hey, I’m Adam Kausch. I have been working at the Discovery Center since its first year! I love all things engineering and technology. I am currently a student at Michigan Tech, going for an electrical and computer engineering degree. When I’m not at school, I greatly enjoy cooking and working on hobbyist electronics projects. I teach the robotics, and engineering classes here. I have been a part of robotics in some way since I was in 4th grade, and I love it!

Kristy Beutler

Famous Artists, Art Instruction, Art Open Studio, Drawing, Painting

For her whole life, Kristy has been admired and respected for her artistic talents.  Her art work was regularly displayed throughout her high school career. Her work for designing a logo for the Haana Foundation was presented at a Michigan Tech University event.  She is highly skilled in drawing and painting, and loves to share her passion with her students. Beyond traditional artistic mediums, Kristy’s artistic reputation for creating art through crafts and baking are well known.  Her talents are in high demand and never disappoint. Her special ability to connect with her students and provide a safe, nurturing environment allows her students to take risks and explore their creativity enhancing their own artistic abilities.

Ernie Butler

Ipad, Computers, Dungeons and Dragons, Minecraft

My name is Ernie and I have 3 of my 5 children attending the center. The discovery center has been a part of our family for three years now. And for those three years, it has felt like family. I believe I am right for the position I have as a technology instructor for a number of reasons, starting with passion for the kids. My own children take electives at the center, so I know what it means to be really invested in the programs that are offered. I also really love computers from the techie obnoxious side to the flashy creative side and everything practical in between. I know they are never easy but nothing worthwhile in life ever seems to be. I took programming in the three years my high school offered it. Those languages are archaic now but the skills apply. I dropped programming computers when I picked up programming the English language instead. I went to NMU for secondary education in English to be a high school teacher. After two years, I was not ready for any more school at the time, but education was always important to me and I never stopped learning. When Kristy and I faced problems with having our oldest two in the public school system, our conversations always ended the same way. There must be a better option for our children. Enter the Discovery Center. We started our official homeschool journey here. One year later I was having a blast getting my footing in ipad and minecraft classes. Learning every parent and their children’s names in school is one thing, but gradually learning who they are and who they hope to become is the real blessing. Being able to help them achieve those goals or at the very least give them encouragement along the way is priceless.

Theresa Shebby

Intermediate/Advanced Sewing; Service Learning

Theresa came to the Copper Country in the late 1990’s to pursue her education in biomedical Engineering at Michigan Technological University. It was at that time that she developed a love for the multitude of small agencies that made a huge positive impact on those who live in this community. Theresa has continued to serve throughout the years for over a dozen organizations and local churches. Once her two daughters were born, service was incorporated in their lives from the start. Theresa is excited to share how others can make a big impact to fill needs around us!Theresa Shebby is also very excited to share her passion for sewing with students this year. Over the past thirty years, sewing has been many things for her: a creative outlet, a resourceful way to supply household needs, a means of income, and always a source of joy. When she is not homeschooling her two daughters Violet (9) and Lillian (soon to be 4), Theresa is a pattern tester for commercial pattern designers to ensure proper fit as well as correct pattern and instruction drafting. On occasion, she is also a strike off seamstress for fabric designers. This is where a fabric designer sends the first run (strike off) of their fabric to be sewn up and advertised for others to order!

Carly Jakrzewski

General Music I, II, Choir, Individual music lessons

Carly Jakrzewski has been teaching in schools for 2 years. She taught junior kindergarten through fifth grade general music in Huron Valley Schools. She studied clarinet with Caroline Hartig, Ted Oien, and Guy Yehuda while attending Michigan State University and has been playing for 13 years. She performed with the MSU Clarinet Choir in Madrid, Spain at the 2015 International Clarinet Association ClarinetFest. She marched alto saxophone with the MSU Spartan Marching Band. She has performed within the classical, jazz, and world music genres. She currently sings with the Livingston County Women’s Chorus. Carly is the Associate Director of Performing Arts Workshop – PAW, a Southwestern Michigan based non-profit that provides vocal, dance, art, instrumental, and musical theatre experiences for elementary to high school aged students during the summer.

Carla B

Local Lore

My name is Carla Belopavlovich and I am a Historical interpreter at The Quincy Mine. I am also a Keweenaw National Park volunteer and a mother of 3 amazing children. I started to love local history as a young child growing up near old Mining buildings and exploring them. Many members of my family were involved in the local mining industry. When I became an adult I bought every book I could find to learn more about copper mining and local history.  I love to explore any mining, milling or historical site locally to add to my knowledge base. As an historical interpreter for the mine and park service, I help bring to the forefront the struggles and victories the immigrants faced during their first years here in the Copper Country. Preserving and relaying the past is one of my greatest passions along with geology, minerals and crystals. My husband and I built a home 18 years ago on part of Quincy’s no. 8 shaft area so we could explore the rich copper history in our own backyard. I truly believe in putting my best foot forward every day with meditation and positive thinking.


Martial Arts

Dan is a master instructor with over 40 years experience in various styles of martial arts.  Dan has taught for various organizations including private and public colleges and universities, and boarding schools.  He also spent time as the head instructor for USAF for military and civilian personnel. He uses the different styles he studies to create a system that simplifies techniques for quick learning and practical use.

Rebecca Stroobe

L’Anse Instructor

Phil Knapp

L’Anse Instructor

I am a business professional, who has been working in the manufacturing industry for 20 years now. I started working at L’Anse Manufacturing in May of 1999, with very little experience, or knowledge of the industry. With a love of math, problem-solving, and a logical process- based mind…..I excelled in a very short period of time. I was a fast learner and was always striving to reach the next level. I started out as a machine operator, and fast moved through the ranks of set-up man, programmer, quality control, quality systems development, cost estimation, and purchasing, and for the past 7 years I have settled in as the Operations Manager.

Throughout that process, I have become a self-taught expert in the operation of CAD. Among the many projects I’ve sharpened my skills on, I believe my greatest accomplishment was the design and creation of CAD files for NHRA Pro-Stock Series racing car pistons, for a national champion team. I was responsible for generating the CAD which supplied our CAM programmer in the machining of the pistons.

I’ve also become an Excel expert. I continue to find new ways to utilize Excel, on a daily basis, in order to make my job easier, and communicate complex information more efficiently. I believe our use of Excel is ONLY limited by our imagination, and desire to pursue ways to make it work!

I have been fortunate, to parlay my many years of professional experience, into a great ability to teach, and lead others in their own personal growth. I am a very patient person, and this helps me to teach classes with various age, skill, and knowledge levels while allowing all participants to thrive and advance.