Meet the Helensview School Staff
Principal & Vice Principal
My name is Dan Cohnstaedt and I am the Vice-Principal at Helensview School. Much of my experience is working with court appointed students in outdoor settings: 60-day primitive skills backpacking trips in Southern Utah or 30 day canoe trips in the Florida Everglades. I have a wife and two boys and we spend as much of our time outside hiking and rafting as we can.
I really enjoy being part of all the opportunities that are available for Helensview Students. From dual enrollment courses, bicycling program, summer internships and credit recovery I feel strongly about meeting students where they are at and helping anyone who is willing to try.
My name is Joseph Andaya. I am an Educational Assistant at Helensview High School and am happy to be here. I enjoy working with people and helping them succeed with their educational goals. My hobbies include, but are not limited to: video games, movies, tabletop games, anime, and VR games.
Behavior Support Facilitator
My name is Evan Cain and I am the Behavior Support Facilitator at Helensview School. I was born in Georgia but went to college and spent a large part of my life in Asheville, North Carolina. I moved to Portland in July of 2019. I have several years of experience working with youth of all ages. Over the years I have been a Unit Director at a Boys and Girls Club, worked at a psychiatric residential facility, worked as an Intensive In-Home worker, and worn a few other hats along the way. I have come to find that one of my favorite ages to work with is highschool students. I truly admire the resiliency that so many of these students have and their desire to learn. My biggest passion is to help others and provide guidance where I can. When I am not at Helensview, I love being active and outside. My favorite things to do are hiking and experiencing new areas. I have absolutely loved my time at Helensview and feel incredibly lucky to be part of this community!
Bilingual Educational Assistant
My name is Alejandro Ceballos and I am the Bilingual Educational Assistant at Helensview. My educational experience includes teaching art with preschoolers at the Environmental School and after school programs with middle and high school students at Sabin and Scott School. I have also done murals with preschoolers at Applegate Head Start and Scott. Being an artist I have learned the importance of bringing the arts to the students' growth. I have also worked as a Transition Specialist, and being a Bilingual Educational Assistant makes me experience the transition students go through as they learn the language to understand, communicate, and become part of their new culture.
Hello, My name is Shantae Clayton. I have been working with teenagers for about sixteen plus years. I love working with teenagers because they have wonderful insight about life. I beginning working in this field when I did a college summer internship at a juvenile boot camp stationed in Pennsylvania. The bond I created with the young ladies grew so strong that we cried together before I left the boot camp.
I love Helensview School because of the way staff meet the students where they are at in life then help the students grow. At the Helensview graduation I shed a tear because I helped in giving someone skills to meet his or her goal of graduating.
I am a Portland Native. I have been an RN for 8 years and 8 months. I have been a school nurse and a 1:1 RN over 6 years ago. My positive experiences serving children and youth is why I returned. I enjoy bicycling, gardening, enjoy playing with my two senior tortoiseshell cats and have had a certified Portland Audubon Native Backyard Indigenous Bird Habitat for 10 years.
Science, Math, Natural Resources & Bike Shop
Hi, my name is Jennifer. I teach science and math at Helensview. I also teach natural resources and bike shop. I love teaching at Helensview! I have been teaching here since 2018 and it is a great place to be! All of the adults here care about helping kids grow.
I grew up in Colorado and lived there until I moved to Portland in 2017 to be near family. I have been teaching since 2010, before that I was a hydrologist for many years. I sampled and studied groundwater and streams and rivers. I love to be outside in my free time and when I teach! In my free time I also like to read and play games.
My name is Helen Gandee, I am a parent to two teenagers and a foster parent. Before working at Helensview I was a stay-at-home parent for 8 years.
I love working with babies. Working at Helensview has allowed me to work with many wonderful babies and their parents. I feel a great deal of pride in the work I do at Helensview.
Rosa Garcia Perez
Bi-lingual Campus Monitor
Hola! My name is Rosa Garcia Perez; I am the bi-lingual campus monitor. I have been working in education for over 16 years. My main role is to support in areas of the classroom as well as manage the school smoothie bar.
I grew up in Mexico and came to America when I was 16. I currently live in Portland with my husband and my three children. In my free time I enjoy reading, exercising, cooking and spending time with family. People who know me well would say I am reliable, organized, and hard working.
I enjoy working at Helensview because I am a strong believer in education and diversity. I didn't complete high school in the required 4 years--I needed a bit more time because of personal family hardships. I am proud to be a part of a team that values students not just in the classroom but also the factors that contribute to them outside of the classroom.
My name is Ami Gonzalez; I am the Bilingual Campus Monitor at Helensview School. I am also a proud graduate of Helensview School class of 1995 (yes, Helensview has been around that long). Prior to coming to Helensview (as a staff member) I had done a wide variety of jobs from Photography to Call Center Supervisor and many things in between, which allows me to share a little knowledge about a lot of things. I grew up in the Portland area and have overcome a number of challenges that help me to not only relate to our students but to demonstrate that change is possible. I have had the pleasure of working with some incredible mentors over the years and thoroughly enjoy working with staff and students at Helensview School.
Social Studies / Literacy / Special Education Teacher
I grew up in a family of teachers—both of my parents and many of my relatives including aunts, uncles, and cousins are teachers. So, I wanted to do something different and spent many years in different professions—film production, construction, and touring as a performing musician. I went back to school to earn a teaching degree and finished a Special Education program at Portland State University in 2014. To get started on a teaching degree, I took online classes while playing music on the road, and worked substitute teaching assistant jobs for Multnomah Education Service District programs. That's really what brought Helensview School into my life!
I was hired to run the music production program at Helenview in 2011, which fit my years of experience as a performer, and I continued taking classes and working toward a teaching degree. The students and staff at Helensview inspired me to focus on working with high school students. In our classroom community, I learn as much from them as they learn from me. I still teach a little bit of music at Helensview, but have moved primarily into Social Studies and Literacy instruction as well as Special Education. I believe that learning happens about all subjects at all times, so my class combines social skills instruction with reading and writing skills while also teaching history, politics, and economics.
Child Development Center Teacher
Hi my name is Shameka Harris and I am a teacher in the Helensview Child Development Center. After spending over 10 years teaching in childcare centers, I'm thrilled to expand my role at Helensview High School. I teach because, it allows me to work on hearts and minds, to help guide the young people and their families in becoming empowered, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to help change the world. I know that play is a child's most important work, and I strive to create and maintain an environment where children can grow, learn, and thrive while exploring the world around them.
When children do not surround me, I enjoy going shopping, hangouts with family and friends, and exploring new restaurants. I'm excited about the new school year and what’s in store for the children, families, and the community. Thank you for having me apart of an amazing team!
Social Studies / Special Education / Work Placement
My Name Is Joe Miller. I grew up around Cleveland Ohio, and got my Master's degree while teaching in Washington D.C. I came out to Portland for the beauty of nature and the promise of a better life. I have worked in education for 4 years, and find Helensview to be the absolute best school I've ever encountered. I believe that everyone learns differently, and everyone is always learning whether they're in school or not. My job is to help students become stronger readers, writers, and thinkers so that they can pursue the future they want and not one that is being sold to them.
I got my start in teaching while living in Boston, where I taught Special Education in an inclusion classroom during the school year and served as a principal in an inclusion summer school during my summer breaks. After thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, my husband / hiking partner and I fell in love with the west coast and formally moved to Portland a few years ago.
My work with Helensview is both specific and wide-ranging. Some of the things I do as the Special Education Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) include assisting the special education team with their deadlines and paperwork, providing coaching, and acting as a mentor for new teachers. This year, I'm very excited to also have the opportunity to co-teach a reading skills class twice per week. I feel incredibly lucky and proud to be part of a welcoming, talented, and passionate school!
I am Kim Nomensen, the counselor. I am so excited to be part of such an amazing community. I believe in the power of alternative education, and am lucky to be part of a school that supports young people as they grow and transform their lives.
I have had wonderful experiences working with youth throughout my career. I’ve worked in the areas of suicide prevention, homelessness, domestic violence and alcohol and drug abuse prevention. Years ago, I took a break from working with youth to attend culinary school and get to know my family overseas. While I’m not in the kitchen for my profession anymore, I am still passionate about cooking—and mostly eating!
I look forward to getting to know you and working together.
Gerna B. Palmer
My name is Gerna B. Palmer. I am a retired math teacher with 24 years of experience in one local school in my country, Philippines. I have three kids that are all boys ages 18, 20 and 21. I enjoy outdoors, walking, gardening and camping. We came here in the United States in 2013. I believe every student should be valued and treated with respect. I believe that education should empower a student and can help make a positive contribution to our community. Working at Donald E Long school for 3 years helped enhance my skills as a better educator. I passionately enjoy teaching and I look forward to getting to know all my students well this school year, while working with a great community and family at Helensview School.
Gang Prevention Specialist
My Name Is Dontae Riley. I am the Gang prevention specialist at Helensview High School. I have worked in alternative education for 12 years (10 at Helensview). I am also the founder of the S.T.A.R.S. Mentoring Program. A non-profit organization that provides after school programming for our at risk student population. Graduating from an alternative program, I know the different issues students face not attending a traditional high school. No resources, no support, ultimately they are unsuccessful. I believe that all students learn differently, and using a strength-based philosophy allows me to grow relationships, build confidence, and reassure students of their own success.
The reason why I work for Helensview is to help those who need it most. To help them become positive contributing members of their community. My hope is that Students see their self worth, and are equip to work towards their own personal success. To know that they deserve the life that they dream about, and through hard work, and perseverance their dreams can become their reality.
Mental Health / Art Therapist
My name is Annie Tabachnick. I am a mental health / art therapist here at Helensview. I moved to Portland in 2004 and I am still learning and discovering all it has to offer, most specifically tasty food and the outdoors are my favorite things to explore.
I have worked all around Portland, mainly with children and teens in non-profit community-based organizations. I love using creative arts to make and build connections whenever possible. I am excited to be part of such a fantastic team and community, and feel lucky to be able to work with truly talented and amazing students here at Helensview
Nina Van Beuning
Hi! My name is Nina Van Beuning. I am the occupational therapist at Helensview along with six other MESD programs. I am a recent graduate of Pacific University's Doctor of Occupational Therapy program and an Illinois native. I support students using strength based modalities to facilitate full engagement in learning. This includes identifying and coping with emotions, planning and organizing tasks, typing and handwriting, building body awareness, and participating in social activities. In my free time, I enjoy visiting coffee shops, thrift shopping, watching movies, listening to music, SUP boarding, and hiking with my dog and partner.
I enjoy working as a part of the Helensview team and appreciate the opportunities offered for hands-on learning. Students are welcome by kind and supportive staff who display their passion for learning and supported growth.
I am so excited to be a part of MESD! I am a George Fox Portland graduate and originally from Walla Walla Washington. This is my third year as a practicing School Psychologist.
Welcome to Helensview, an amazing school where teachers are constantly working to meet student’s needs in and out of the school. I come to Helensview from the town of Shreveport, Louisiana. I was raised by my loving grandparents and surrounded by my 7 siblings. They instilled in me a strong sense of family values, discipline and work ethic. I have an amazing wife, Jennifer, who is also a teacher, a 2 year-old daughter, Jayda, and a 5-month-old baby, Jace. You will most likely hear about them throughout the year since I believe you do not leave family at the door of the school.
I believe working closely with families and building strong relationships. At Helensview I run small groups, work independently with students, teach a woodshop class and assist teachers in their classroom. I look forward to sharing and building on our skills throughout the school year.
My name is Joseph Williams and I am the Mathematics Instructor at Helensview School. Prior to working at Helensview, I spent 7 years working with middle and high school students in Oakland, CA. I am excited to return to Oregon as I went to college in Ashland and spent time as a cook in Portland roughly 10 years ago. My passions include math (of course), cooking, art, cycling and exploring the outdoors through hiking and backpacking.
As our world becomes more technology based, the emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses increases. Many students see math as a major hurdle while working towards their diplomas. My goal for students at Helensview is that we can spend time working within small groups to help develop skills within mathematics through student discourse, exploration and by making mistakes. Communication is at the core of my math instruction with the belief that the more students talk about the strategies they use to make sense of concepts the more the world of mathematics makes sense to them and others.
The best way to reach me is through email. I look forward to meeting with you as we kick off the 2016-17 school year at Helensview!
Student Attendance Liaison
I am Craig Woods a local from Portland Oregon. My family is from Birmingham, Alabama. I enjoy the Northwest’s seasonal weather. Walking for me is great exercise. It is my excuse to visit neighborhoods around the city and eat at a variety of places. I spend a lot of time coaching youth sports with all ages of children. While I am not a professional actor, someone recognized me from the TV show Leverage, I appeared in a couple episodes.
Here at Helensview I am a Student Attendance Liaison. I have worn many hats over the years in my job. I get the great joy from the students seeing them mature and graduate.
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