Middle School Leadership

Sara Shapiro

Head of School 6-8


Sara is thrilled to be the Head of the GALS Middle School this year! She spent the past four years founding the GALS High School and absolutely loves being a part of this amazing movement! Her professional experiences include being an Assistant Principal, teaching 11th Grade U.S. History, 9th Grade Humanities, 8th Grade Humanities, and Middle School Special Education and Reading Intervention. She grew up in Chicago, attended Washington University in St. Louis, and obtained her Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Colorado, Denver. In her free time she enjoys cooking, performing Karaoke, singing in the car, skiing, trying new restaurants, attending lots of weddings, and hanging out with her very handsome dog, George.

Adam Betancourt

Middle School Assistant Principal


Adam Betancourt was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, which explains why his spirit animal is a lizard.  He spent four years in Durango, CO before moving to the Denver metro area. He is joining GALS middle school as the Assistant Principal of Instruction. He comes from teaching 4 years at a charter school in North Denver. His passions include trail running, eating, skiing, traveling, rock climbing, spending time in the sun, and cooking. One of his favorite foods are huevos con nopales. Yummy!

Jen Derosby

6-12 Assistant Principal of Programming


Jen is so proud to be in her 18th year of teaching and learning. She spent her first ten years at an urban charter school here in Denver and this is her 8th year at GALS. She received her teaching license from Metropolitan College of Denver in Secondary Social Studies and received her BA in liberal arts from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. This marks her first year as Assistant Principal of Programming. Prior to AP of Programming, Jen taught 6th and 7th grade Social Studies and GALS series in both the middle school and high school and she was most recently the dean 6-12 for 4 years. In her new role she will be coordinating the various programs at GALS 6-12 that align to our mission and vision. She will also be working with families to ensure that we are serving their students in the most inclusive way possible.She has a passion for teaching about issues of social justice and believes that GALS changes the way we see education and the way we can see each other. She is a 2008-09 United States National Holocaust Memorial Museum teacher fellow, a member of the Facing History and Ourselves teacher advisory board and 2006 Denver Mile High Teacher.

Maggie Dickman

6-12 Dean of Students


Maggie Dickman is so incredibly excited to be in her second year at GALS as the 6th grade GALS Series teacher. Having attended a women's college, Maggie is thrilled at the opportunity to work to empower the young women of the Denver community. Maggie graduated from Scripps College with a B.A. in Hispanic Studies and then went on to the University of Colorado Denver for a Masters degree in Curriculum and Pedagogy. Before coming to GALS, Maggie taught 2nd and 3rd grade at AXL Academy in Aurora, CO. Born and raised in Colorado, Maggie is grateful to be able to work in this community. Outside of school, Maggie loves to travel, camp, hike, snowboard, play in the water and generally be in the great outdoors. Ideally with a dog, of course!

Yarkenda Payne

6-12 Dean/Director of Student Affairs


Yarkenda Payne finds great joy in claiming her roots in Adel, Georgia where her passion for education and girl empowerment began. Yarkenda is excited to join the Girls Athletic Leadership School as Dean of Students. Her work is rooted in restorative practices that produce an equitable place for all students to thrive. Most recently, she worked with Denver Public School’s CareerConnect team supporting students through a youth apprenticeship program. She has experience leading classrooms and community organizations. She has come to realize that her passion for education is what truly drives her and it pushes her to find new ways to better understand how she can support social and economic progress through education. In her self-care time, you will see her submerged in a good book or trying a new brunch spot around the city.

Middle School Staff

Jake Bury

7th Grade Social Studies


Jake hails from the bustling prairie metropolis of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He earned his BA from Augustana University in History and Secondary Education and then spent two years teaching, first in Eagle River, Alaska working with high school students and then in Windsbach, Germany, where he lived and worked with eighteen energetic 7th graders in an all-boys boarding school. From there, he spent two years at Utah State University in Logan, Utah where he obtained his MA in religious history. He is now living in downtown Wheat Ridge and is incredibly excited to be entering his third year at GALS!

Alfredo Cervantes

6th Grade Science


This is Alfredo’s 2nd year at GALS. Prior to GALS, he graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.A. in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology. He then attended the University of Colorado School of Medicine and received a MA in Medical Science. He spent the majority of his childhood living in West Denver and lived in El Paso, TX for his teenage years. He moved back to Denver at the age of sixteen and has lived here since. He married his high school sweetheart from El Paso and has two daughters, one of which is attending GALS HS. He has always wanted a career working with children and science, so becoming a science teacher is a natural fit.

Paige Dersham

8th Grade Science


Paige is a Colorado native who grew up on a farm near Brighton, CO. She has degrees from Western State Colorado University, University of Denver, and Mississippi State University. She has been teaching for 20+ years. Paige is a National Board Certified Teacher, one of the first to earn certification in Colorado. In her free time she loves to bike - both road and mountain, garden, read, and just hang out with family.

Stephanie Drake

8th Grade Language Arts


Stephanie is thrilled to be joining the GALS MS staff this year as the 8th grade English Language Arts teacher. Stephanie earned her BA at Wheaton College (MA), in English and Secondary Education with a concentration in Leadership Studies. Upon graduating, Stephanie moved to Aspen, Colorado where she taught English and Experiential Education for grades 9, 10, and 11. Stephanie moved west to follow her love of the outdoors and you can find her hiking, biking, skiing, or reading in her spare time.

Danielle Ennis

7th Grade Language Arts


Danielle has been a part of the GALS community in various roles since 2016. She joins the middle school teams as the 7th grade Language Arts teacher and lacrosse and basketball coach. Danielle received a Bachelors in Journalism and English from the University of Connecticut where she captained club ultimate frisbee and wrote for the sports department of the school newspaper (She is so thrilled to start the GALS student magazine). Danielle also teaches ski lessons, loves to rollerblade and swim in the ocean, plays endless sports, and—in her rare moments of sitting still—enjoys writing.

Ivana Kilibarda

7th Grade Math


Ivana is entering her ninth year teaching, and her third year as a 7th grade math teacher. She holds a B.A. in Journalism from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School. Her career as an educator has spanned across ages (preschool to college), locations (New York, Indiana, China, Colorado), and subjects (math, science, English). Two values that drive Ivana both personally and professionally are passion and humor and it is her goal to showcase these values in the classroom. Ivana is a firm believer in the motto, “Work Hard. Play Hard.” She is an avid hiker, a decent skier, and a subpar frisbee thrower. While she consistently strives to be a better educator, Ivana also wants to improve her writing, cooking and painting skills. Ivana is excited to be at GALS, and can’t wait to experience the joy and growth that arise when academics mix with movement.

Caleb Light

6th Grade Math


Caitlin Long

7th Grade GALS Series


Caitlin Long is thrilled to teach 7th grade GALS Series for her second year! Caitlin graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.A. in cultural anthropology and certificate in peace and conflict studies and has a Masters of Education in curriculum and teaching from Teachers College Columbia University. Before GALS, Caitlin has worked with several girl-specific organizations such as Girls Incorporated and Girls Leadership. Caitlin is honored to be teaching GALS Series and is looking forward to continuing to provide students with the learning conditions necessary for them to thrive on their own terms and become powerful advocates for themselves and others.

Janei Maynard

6th Grade GALS Series


Janei Maynard was proudly born and raised in the Denver-Aurora metro area. She received her B.A. in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity with a concentration in Identity, Diversity, and Aesthetics and M.A. in Communication with a concentration in Media Studies, both from Stanford University. Before GALS, Janei conducted ethnographic education research, taught, and implemented restorative practices in a variety of non-profit organizations, middle schools, high schools, and institutions of higher education in California (Oakland, Palo Alto, and East Palo Alto) and Cape Town, South Africa. In addition to education, Janei is a passionate dancer, singer, and writer. She is excited to be bringing all the above mentioned together with her passion for wellness to help GALS students be their best selves!

Eric Messerli

8th Grade Math


Eric has a BA in Mathematics from the University of Vermont and an MA in Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Colorado. With 20+ years in education, Eric has worked educating youth in neighborhood and charter schools, a private school, and an outdoor education center. He has had many roles during this time, including teaching and administrative positions. He is married and has two girls (Ellie & Cady) and one very large dog (Moose). He spends fall and spring weekdays and weekends helping coach his girls' soccer teams. He says Thursday is the best day of the week, as that is the day he plays ice hockey!

Jared Rankins

7th Grade Science


Sally Ryerson

6th Grade Social Studies


Sally Ryerson was born and raised in the beautiful mountains of Vail, CO, which explains her love for skiing, mountain biking, and nature in general. She attended Bates College in Lewiston Maine, where she Nordic skied competitively and studied Teacher Education, Positive Psychology, and Spanish. After college, Sally taught at a traditional middle school but wanted to teach at a school that incorporated movement. Thereafter, she found GALS and is beyond thrilled to be active all day, teach Social Studies, and create meaningful connections with all of her students!

Hannah Tegt

8th Grade GALS Series


Hannah hails from the great state of Nebraska and graduated from the University of Kansas with a BA in English- Creative Writing. After a variety professions, Hannah decided to return to school to become an educator at the University of Colorado Boulder. Hannah went on to teach 8th grade English for four years in Southwest Denver, focusing on creating culturally sustaining curriculum and developing student’s critical lens of the world around them. When she’s not teaching and learning, you can find her road biking, cooking, traveling, and antiquing/thrifting. Hannah is BEYOND PUMPED to pursue her dream job as the 8th grade GALS series instructor, where she hopes to facilitate a curiosity and investment in the unique perspectives of our local communities and our world.

Carissa Solomon

8th Grade Social Studies


Carissa grew up in Pennsylvania and Maine, where she spent lots of time hiking in the Appalachian Mountains with her family. After earning her BA in Philosophy & History from George Washington University and an MA in Political Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, she decided it was time to conquer new challenges in life. In 2009, she moved out to Colorado to begin her teaching career and try her hand hiking in the Rockies. She is also a certified yoga instructor who enjoys sharing her love of yoga with the students at GALS.

Lynne Spear

8th Grade Geometry & 6th Grade Math


With great anticipation, Lynne enters her third year in the GALS math department as Middle School Math Specialist. In this new role, she is inspired to guide GALS students in their mathematical discoveries. This summer, Lynne trained as a World Peace Games facilitator and is honored to bring this game to GALS. In addition to creating a career in urban math education, Lynne earned a BA and MA in English Literature from CU Boulder and raised two amazing daughters (Aiyana, GALS Pioneer Class of 2018, and Eilish, viola performance and political science major). She is a fan of the United Nations, chamber music (especially when played by her oldest daughter), toe socks, cats, and superheroes.

Joseph Zarrella

6th Grade Language Arts


Originally from Staten Island, New York, Joe moved to Denver in 2014 to teach and is joining the movement at GALS with experience teaching both middle school ELA and elementary school. He's passionate about the practice of yoga and is excited to bring yoga and mindfulness into 6th Grade Language Arts at GALS. He enjoys reading, journaling, hanging out with his dog and close friends, and spending time outdoors.

Student Support Team

Amber Brydon

School Psychologist


Amber is the school psychologist at Girls Athletic Leadership School. She is thrilled to be part of the Inclusion Team, working together to support our students’ growth. Prior to coming to GALS, Amber worked as a school psychologist and MTSS Coordinator near Chicago. Amber graduated with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Coaching from Miami University. She earned her Ed.S. from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Amber enjoys running, hiking, biking, and spending time with her family, Spencer, Finley and Owen.

Sarah Covey

GALS Special Education


Originally from California, Sarah moved to Boulder 16 years ago to attend University of Colorado, Boulder, where she completed her BA in English and History. She went on to complete an MA in Special Education at the University of Colorado, Denver. This is her 11th year teaching. Her experience has taken place in three different districts, in regular neighborhood schools and charter schools, with students from Kindergarten through 8th grade, and in various models of education. She is very excited for her second year at GALS!

Yolanda Dandridge MA, LPCC, R-DMT

Lead Counselor


Yolanda Dandridge is a registered psychotherapist and researcher who has committed her career towards integrating Psychology and the Arts as an approach to emotional health stability. Yolanda has a master’s degree in Somatic Counseling Psychology, specializing in body and movement therapy. She has facilitated therapeutic and empowerment groups for over 10 years, addressing areas related to body paralyzation and phobias associated with: attachment styles, life transformations, women’s health, traumas, illness and community health. In, particular Yolanda’s master paper “Unveiling the Embodied Riddle - The Role of Dance/ Movement Therapy in the Black Body’s Developmental Experience” has started the conversation addressing the black body, and intergenerational trauma and how dance/movement therapy application can support the awakening, healing and re-educating the black body from the state of paralyzation to mobilization through the lens of developmental psychology. She also was a professional dancer for over 15 years, trained extensively in West African Dance, under the direction of Melvin Deal, African Heritage Dancers and Drummers. Yolanda’s philosophy “movement and body awareness are major components to healthy psychosocial development which support unity between the body, mind and spirit, as one.”

Karen Davidson

Director of Special Education


Karen is thrilled to be the Director of Special Education at GALS and the BOYS School. She is a native of Denver and loves to read and travel. Karen received her Bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Denver and her Master's degree in Special Education from Metropolitan State University. She has worked for DPS, Adams 14, Children's Hospital Colorado, and as an independent educational consultant. When not at GALS, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband, 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.

Julie Dolin MA, LPC, BC-DMT

Director of Counseling & Wellness


Originally from New York City and a long time resident of Boulder, Julie is delighted to begin her 6th year at GALS. Each morning as the Denver skyline reveals itself during her morning commute, she feels her urban roots are watered.  Julie holds a BA in English from Vassar College, an MA in Dance/Movement Therapy from Naropa University and is a Licensed Professional Counselor.  She maintains a private psychotherapy practice, has been Adjunct Faculty in Naropa University’s Somatic Counseling Psychology program and worked in day treatment and hospital settings.  Julie is passionate about making mental health services accessible and integrated into the educational setting, as well as supporting social and emotional wellness through body-centered, mindfulness and expressive arts therapies.  She is the proud mama of two sons, age 21 and 15.

Jessica Dunn

6-12 Art Therapy Intern


Denver born, Jessica is currently pursuing her MA in Transpersonal Art Therapy at Naropa University, in Boulder CO. She received her undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (psychology and visual arts), from Naropa before being admitted into her graduate program. Jessica has had experience with mentoring organizations in the Denver area, and facilitating emotional support/art therapy groups with teen girls at the Empowerment Center of East County. She has done several professional trainings on trauma-informed art therapy and believes deeply in the ability for art materials and processes to facilitate discovery, healing, growth, and transformation. Jessica is grateful to be a part of the community at GALS and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Laura Fajardo-Arbelaez

Bilingual Counselor


Laura has a MA in Mindfulness-based Transpersonal Counseling from Naropa University in Boulder, CO and a BA in Sociology from Regis University in Denver, CO. Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Laura was raised in Latin America and the United States. Prior to joining the Counseling & Wellness team at GALS, Laura worked in various social service agencies as an educator in the prevention of child abuse, domestic violence, and human trafficking. She believes that schools are a place of connection and safety for many families, therefore her work at GALS is centered around supporting mental health care and wellness of all community members. Laura is excited to return to GALS for her 3rd year!

Ilana Fishman

GALS Special Education


Ilana comes to Colorado from the best city in the world, Philadelphia! She received her Bachelors in Psychology at Temple University and her Masters in Special Education at Arcadia University. She lives in Denver with her husband (a local) and their 2 daughters. Ilana has taught for over 20 years, and has taught every age from pre-school through Adult Education, and has enjoyed each age group immensely. When not teaching, or dragging her children to the mountains or bike trails Ilana loves to relax with a good book and espresso.

Ashleigh Davis

High School Counselor


Ashleigh Davis is in her second year as a school counselor and first year at GALS, after working as a guest teacher for GALS, she fell in love with the philosophy and made it her mission to be a part of the organization. Originally from sunny San Diego, CA, Ashleigh received her BA in Communication from Cal State University San Marcos, while there she ran the 100H, 400H & 4x100 relay. After spending a short time in the Town of Newburgh, New York raising her daughter, she was bit by the education bug and went back to school to receive her MA in School Counseling from Capella University. Denver, CO is no foreign place for Ashleigh, she and her family spent countless summers and holidays here visiting extended family. Ashleigh is thrilled to be living here and to call Denver, CO home! In her free time Ashleigh enjoys tending to her urban garden, roller skating and spending time with her daughter Olivia enjoying the beautiful outdoors and visiting museums.

Tim Lloyd

GALS Special Education


A native Coloradan, Tim has also lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. Tim became inspired by adventurous social experiences when he was a teenager. Inspired by friends, novels, and music, he found insight in addressing and, at times, embracing life’s unforeseen challenges. This resolve stuck with him through college, leading him to get his BA in English Literature from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Tim quickly saw a need and developed a deep passion for working with adolescents of divergent backgrounds. He eventually went on to earn his MA in Educational Psychology from the University of Colorado, Denver. In his spare time, Tim works out, makes music, and explores uncommon, often illogical, creative ideas. He also loves/hates exploring Colorado and the West with his family in their 1982 Volkswagen Vanagon, responding to its frequent breakdowns, as a paradigm of life itself.

Lori Riley

SPED Liaison / Lead Paraprofessional


Originally from Los Angeles, Lori found her way to Colorado via Texas and Florida. She attended Florida Southern College where she received a BS in Business Management. Lori has worked for Denver Public Schools since 2010 and has been with GALS since 2016. What started out to be a personal mission to learn about our education system, has since turned into a true passion for working with kids. She has served in various roles throughout her time in education and is currently part of the Inclusion Support Team and is also a GALS parent. In Lori’s spare time, she enjoys hot yoga, walking, paddleboarding and cooking, and is especially passionate about traveling, and spending time with her two daughters.

Michelle Shea



Michelle grew up in Connecticut and has been living in Colorado for close to 10 years. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies and Government from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA and an MA in Special Education from the University of Colorado Denver. Prior to GALS Michelle completed two years of AmeriCorps at Mile High Youth Corps, where she built trails, used a chainsaw and provided the Denver Metro area with environmental education. She then went on to become a Denver Math Fellow at DCIS Montbello teaching 6th grade math in a unique small group setting. When outside of the classroom, Michelle can be found exploring the city and mountains she has grown to love so much!

6-12 Support Staff

Betsy Barrow

Director of Enrollment


Betsy has been with GALS since 2011, and is currently the Director of Enrollment for both GALS and The Boys School of Denver.  She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and attended Davidson College in North Carolina. She served as the Program Director for Breakthrough Houston, an educational enrichment non-profit in Houston, TX and then taught Biology and Environmental Science before moving to Denver in 2011. She loves hiking, yoga, vegetable gardening, and hanging out with her husband, daughter, and three pets.

Alma Bencomo

6-12 Front Office


Jacqueline Rios

6-12 Front Office


Jackie has been working as a front office staff for 5 years now starting off with DPS and made her way to GALS this school year.

Dolores Schaack

Director of Operations


Dolores was born and raised in Liberia, West Africa. She moved to the United States for college and studied General and Religious Education at Southern Methodist College in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Dolores moved to Denver and attended the University of Denver where she majored in Business Administration. Prior to joining the GALS team, she worked as a Business Manager for another Denver Charter School, and a Sr. Administrative Coordinator for a laboratory products distributor, also in Denver. Dolores has a son with whom she enjoys relaxing and hanging out in her free time.

Kylie Shields

Athletic Director


Kylie is ecstatic to share her love of blending personal development and growth with the electricity that comes with athletics and physical movement here at GALS and The Boys School of Denver. As the incoming Athletic Director, Kylie is most excited to be part of a mission and school (movement) that not only supports, but breathes these ideas into life each and every day. Kylie grew up in New York before moving to Alabama where she received her undergraduate degree in Health Promotion from Auburn University. Kylie also competed all four years at Auburn as an all-arounder on their Gymnastics Team. Realizing her heart felt more at home in the West near the mountains, Kylie moved to Denver three years ago and obtained her Masters in Sport and Performance Psychology from the University of Denver. If she isn’t out supporting all our incredible athletes and coaches, you can find Kylie doing handstands as mental boosts, climbing 14ers, napping (recovery is important too!), and exploring all the fun art and restaurants here in town.