Our Crew

Danielle Clayton - Acting Principal



Education: I graduated from Aurora University with a Masters in Elementary Education in 2007.  Since then, I have had the pleasure of teaching in a variety of different states. I have also had the unique experience of helping jump start an early intervention reading program (Dolly Parton Imagination Library), in Sitka, Alaska, and working for a Early Childhood nonprofit organization in Mobile, Alabama.

Why Teach?: Teaching gives me the opportunity to watch and facilitate children overcoming challenges and reaching for their best version of themselves. I whole heartedly believe in the "power of yet," and I love helping children achieve their goals.  

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I am excited that the Coast Guard has moved us to such a beautiful and unique place.  I am looking forward to learning more about Traverse City from my students and sharing my love and passion of persevering through challenging academics with them. I love the community support that Old Mission Peninsula School has, and I am excited to be a part of this family network.

Interests/Hobbies: I love spending time with my family, exploring new adventures. Since I was young, I have always loved riding horses, running and going to the beach.

Renee Kolle - Acting Principal



Education: I grew up in Traverse City.  I attended Eastern Michigan University for my undergrad and Grand Valley State University for my Masters.

Why Teach?: I chose education because working with kids is an amazing experience, helping them learn and grow.  They make me laugh every day, and they inspire me to continue to see the world through their eyes.  Seeing a child’s eyes light up when they learn something new, have an idea, or grasp a new concept, is incredibly rewarding to me.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I'm very excited to be a part of a brand new school.  The energy and passion going into this upcoming school year is truly awesome and I can't wait to jump right in.  I have always loved the community and environment in which OMPS sits, and I know both will be utilized throughout the school year.  Students will have a fresh, real world learning experience at OMPS with these benefits and curriculum offered. I am so thrilled that I get to be a part of all of it!

Interests/Hobbies: My number one interest is travel. My family and I (husband and daughter) travel when we can, but it's not as often as I'd like! I love experiencing different cultures, the traditions, food, lifestyle, etc.  It gets me out of my own world and helps me to remember the global picture.  Other hobbies include: reading, being outside whether it's swimming and boating or hiking through snow and skiing. 

Darla Eimers - Office Manager



Education: I have an Associate Degree in Applied Science and am currently working toward a Bachelor Degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Anthropology.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I am excited about everything in the new school year!  Not only will I be starting in my new position, but my son, Quinlan, will be attending OMPS as a new student.

Interests/Hobbies: I have several different hobbies, including scuba diving, fencing, both land and nautical archaeology, and I am in the process of learning to play the violin. I love challenges, trying new things, and learning in general.

Leslie Ketko - Administrative Assistant



Education: Illinois State University with a degree in Fine Art and a minor in Social work.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I live on Old Mission Peninsula and have been involved in our school for thirteen years and counting. I have volunteered for every school position and event! Now I am excited that I get to spend my days working at our wonderful school.I am excited for this year, seeing familiar faces again and meeting new ones. I am looking forward to utilizing our beautiful campus for hands on outdoor learning.

Interests/Hobbies: I love spending time outside, visiting friends and family. We spend most of our time out at our barn with our horses.

Leah Derris - Preschool Director and

Lead Preschool Teacher 



Education:  I have Associates Degree is in Early Education, Bachelors Degree is in Community Education and Engagement with two sub majors in Administration and Childcare

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS?: I am so excited to be at OMPS this year and to  be apart of the brand new Preschool Program!

Why Teach?: I teach because I want to provide children with the best early childhood experiences to help shape     their minds for the future.

Interests/Hobbies: When I’m not teaching, I enjoy working out and being outdoors.

Cheryl Zinn - Preschool Aide



Education: Illinois State University, Bachelors in Public Relations, Minor in Psychology American Montessori Society - Credential from West Side Montessori School, NYC 2010

Why Teach?: After working in the Entertainment World and Corporate America for many years, I knew that I was missing something. That something was discovered after I volunteered at The Chicago Children’s Hospital, and I knew then that I wanted to help guide and nurture children to become wonderful human beings in our society.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I am truly honored and excited to learn all about OMPS and the community!.

Interests/Hobbies: I love yoga, pilates, hiking, running, SUP, basically anything outdoorsy...I can’t wait to explore everything that Northern Michigan has to offer!

Courtney Kierczynski - Kindergarten



Education: Western Michigan University, 2008 with a Bachelors of Science in Education, majoring in elementary education. I am presently working on my Masters Degree through Grand Valley State University..

Why Teach?: Since a very young age teaching has been a passion of mine. I can remember making my brother and cousins “play” school while I taught them in our living room. Once in elementary school I had amazing experiences and teachers throughout my education, especially in Kindergarten. I remember taking a field trip to my teachers lake house where we learned all about our beautiful area and community, I left thinking, “this is what I want to do when I grow up”.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I am most excited about being part of this new journey at Old Mission Peninsula School alongside our students, crew and community. It has been a dream of mine since graduating from college to work at the school where I learned to be a respectable, caring and exceptional learner. I look forward to an amazing school year and building relationships that will last a lifetime.

Interests/Hobbies:  I enjoy spending time with my husband on the water, fishing and riding bikes. We love to spend time on our family’s Old Mission Peninsula farm and fruit stand. I am excited and thrilled to be involved with “the most beautiful school setting in Michigan”.

Kaitlyn Thomas -Kindergarten 



Education: I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, MI before attending Michigan State University where I earned my degree in Elementary Education with a focus in Language Arts and a minor in Child Development.  I spent last school year in the Chicago Public Schools in a Kindergarten classroom

Why Teach?: It has always been a dream of mine to teach, and to be able to create a classroom community where all children feel welcomed, safe, and encouraged.  I am excited to be able to do that this coming year.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I was attracted to Old Mission Peninsula School because of the strong community support system with common goals for our students; this kind of support will help our students go above and beyond.

Interests/Hobbies: In my free time I love to be outdoors, and even more importantly on the water with my family.  I could not be more excited for the school year ahead!

Kaile Bartnick - First Grade



Education: Central Michigan University with an Early Childhood Degree in Education.

Why Teach?: After redirecting my career to education, I felt very passionate about guiding and helping young children make and learn valuable lifelong choices to make them better citizens in today’s world.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I feel very fortunate and excited to be a part of the OMPS team. I  strongly believe in the philosophy and vision that the school will be providing to their students along with involving the Community as much as possible. OMPS feels like a school family.

Interests/Hobbies: I enjoy golfing and spending time in the Upper Peninsula stream fishing and exploring the beaches along Lake Superior with my husband and two Jack Russell Terriers.

Tracy LaFoille - First Grade


Education: Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education with minors in English and Social Studies from Lake Superior State University. I also have a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in math instruction from the College of William & Mary..

Why Teach?: I feel that teaching is my calling and my passion. I love when a student finally grasps a concept and masters a skill. I love watching them grow academically and as a well rounded member of our learning community.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I am so happy to be back in Michigan, and excited to teach at Old Mission Peninsula School. I look forward to meeting my first graders and their families. I can wait to use my training to teach reading and math as well as the other core subjects.

Interests/Hobbies: My hobbies include: Traveling with my husband. In the past five years we have visited Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Mexico and Hawaii. I love to read and try to read a book a week. We have also taken up Kayaking. The rivers have become my new happy place. I also enjoy spending time with our four grown children, four grandchildren and our extended family.

Mason Hopkins - Second Grade



Education: Received my degree from Grand Valley State University for Elementary Education and English Language Arts. Previously taught Kindergarten at OMPS.

Why Teach?:  Ever since I was young, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. My goal is to create a space where children feel safe, accepted and challenged. I aim to instill a passion to learn in all of my students while helping them grow into kind, successful individuals.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I have loved every bit of Kindergarten but I am excited to start a new adventure in 2nd grade!

Interests/Hobbies: Aside from teaching, I enjoy boating, crafting, baking and trying new things!

Kelsey Knollmueller - Second Grade



Education:  I went to Augsburg College and graduated with my Bachelors in Elementary Education.

Why Teach?: I had some amazing teachers growing up that shaped me into who I am today and I want to be that for my students.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? It is my goal to create a warm, welcoming classroom where students feel safe and are excited to learn. I am excited to be part of such a strong support system here at OMPS.

Interests/Hobbies: When I am not teaching I am out hiking with my dogs, swimming or reading a book with a cup of tea.


Lizzie Berger - Third Grade



Education: G DePaul University- Major in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Language Arts and Literature in the Middle Years and a Minor in Community Service Studies.

Why Teach?: Both of my grandparents were teachers, so growing up I would visit my grandpa's high school English classroom and fell in love with what he was doing. From then on I was on the path to be an educator! I love working with kids and seeing the big and small lightbulb moments throughout the day.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS?I am looking forward to the community of families and teachers. I love being involved and engaged with my students and coworkers and look forward to the relationships that will form over the years to come.

Interests/Hobbies: I enjoy being outdoors as much as possible! I am just moving back to Traverse City after 10 years in Chicago and am looking forward to being back with nature and space. I love going for runs around along the peninsula during all seasons, but especially during the summer months, cross country skiing on the VASA during the winter, and biking along the TART trail. I am an avid reader and can often be found with my nose in a book at one of the area's coffee shops.


Liz Hague - Third Grade



Education: Graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and I obtained a Master’s Degree with a Master in the Art of Teaching focusing on Reading and Literacy from Mary Grove College. I taught second grade for two years in southwest Florida. In 2008, I moved up to Michigan after marrying my husband and taught third grade for six years in Oxford, Michigan.

Why Teach?: Ever since the third grade I have wanted to become a teacher. My main goal as an educator is for students to be excited to come to school and have fun learning! I want to instill the value of being a life-long learner and serving others.


I have two daughters that currently attend OMPS. I love to be outside in all seasons either running, hiking, walking my pups, snow skiing and boating. I also love to be with my family! I am looking forward to an exciting year teaching third grade!


Molly Norton - Fourth Grade



Education: I was born and raised in Columbia, Maryland. I graduated from Salisbury University where I obtained my degree in Elementary Education. Right out of college, I secured a full time substitute teaching position at Courtade Elementary School where I worked with students from K-5.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I am so honored to begin my teaching career at OMPS. Something that I am looking forward to this school year is getting to know all my students and their families. I am over the moon to be working with an exceptional staff that are all as optimistic and enthusiastic about teaching as I am. 

Interests/Hobbies:  Being new to Michigan, I love to explore some of the surrounding towns to take in incredible sceneries! Family and friends are important to me so I enjoy spending time with them. I love to cheer on the Philadelphia Eagles during football season. I am also a big fan of crocheting and reading a good book. You can often find me humming along to a latest country music hit or popular Disney song.

Brianna McGee - Fifth Grade



Education: Grand Valley State University with a degree in Elementary Education and Mathematics.

Why Teach?: The reason I chose education is to watch a child walk out of school at the end of the year feeling loved, more intelligent, and ready for the next step! I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to teach at OMPS.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I recently moved back to Traverse City so I could pursue my teaching dream along with being close to my family. One thing that really attracted me to OMPS was the community and culture based around the school.

Interests/Hobbies:  In my free time I enjoy working out, watching movies, and spending time with my friends and family. Needless to say, I am so excited to be teaching at OMPS.

Carolyn Mammen - Sixth Grade



Education: I began my career in a hematology research lab at Wayne State University utilizing my BS in Biology from Oakland University. I began my teaching career in 2006 upon obtaining a Masters in Education from Wayne  State University. I then proceeded to teach 7th and 8th-grade science in Rochester Community Schools. During my time at Rochester I developed science curriculum and implemented the State’s new standards (NGSS).

Since 2014 I have been the Michigan Science Teacher Association regional director for the Grand Traverse Region. Since my move to Traverse City, I have been teaching 5th grade at Trinity Lutheran School.

Why Teach?: It has been a pleasure helping students learn about and discover the world they live in, and how they can impact it.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I look forward to being able to create this impact in my beautiful Peninsula community among neighbors and friends.

Interests/Hobbies: Outside of the classroom, I have always had a passion for the outdoors— hiking, kayaking, skiing. I love adventures, from climbing cascade volcanoes, exploring the forests of the Appalachians, and of course, walking the beaches of home. I’m excited to share these experiences with my students.

Kara Nickel - Virtual Teacher



Education:  Bachelor's of Arts degree from San Francisco State University in Geography with a focus on Environmental Studies.  I have my Masters degree in Education from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a focus on social justice in education as well as a multiple-subject teaching credential.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I feel strongly connected to communities that place value on building relationships and collaboration and that's what I am drawn to with OMPS. Right from the start I could feel how strong the teaching community supports one another. I am really excited about building relationships with my colleagues, families and students. I'm looking forward to growing roots at OMPS!

Why Teach?: I love being a teacher because I have the amazing opportunity to be a part of my student's worlds. Their young minds, creativity, curiosity, honestly, resilience and love inspire me to be the best person I can be. I work hard to make teaching meaningful and fun for them and being of service to others feels good!

Interests/Hobbies: My favorite thing to do is make others laugh:) Beyond that, I meditate every day and study the "science of happiness". I am a curious person and also enjoy learning about ancient civilizations and quantum physics. I am a stargazer. I love to dress up in costumes and be playful. My biggest joy is being with my family.

Kathleen Hoagg - Art Teacher



Education: BFA  Painting College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI.  MAT Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD.  Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, ME.

Why Teach?: I’ve always enjoyed and been interested in children. They’re funny, spontaneous, curious, authentic and perplexing. Art can be magic, thrilling, and at times daunting and intimidating. I cannot think of a better way to engage with, learn about and support children through all of this self-discovery and learning about our world than through the arts. And through it all I grow as a person and an artist.

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS?

I can’t wait to settle in, get to know the staff and children, and see what interesting and exciting things we come up with to do together!

Interests/Hobbies: I can find it hard to be inside on a beautiful day and enjoy outdoor activities in every season! I’ve been an organic gardener for years and have chickens too. I also really like to cook. I love reading and learning about all kinds of things, but especially the arts and sciences. I treasure time with my family and friends as well as the  solitary time in my studio.

Laura Axelson - Music and Physical Education



Education: I graduated from Shenandoah University and Conservatory of Music in 2009 with a Bachelors Degree in Music Education. Since then, I have been lucky enough to teach high school and middle school choir and musical theater in Virginia, and elementary music, physical education and improv theater camps in Alaska.

Why Teach?: Every child is an artist. I believe in learning in and through the arts to open a whole world of opportunity and new perspectives. My goal is to not only teach musical concepts and physical skills, but confidence, compassion, and citizenship. Learning takes place over a lifetime and I hope to inspire our students to be passionate about learning, thinking outside the box, and being creative!

Interests/Hobbies: Hiking, Rafting, Camping, Baking, Singing, Quilting.

Christine Nowak - Special Education



Education: I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. I attended Grand Valley State University for my Bachelor of Arts

Why Teach?: I chose education because I love creating relationships with children! There is always something new to learn on both ends

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I am most excited about working at OMPS to get to know the incredible families in the community. I am thrilled to be a part of an outstanding staff who is knowledgeable about the curriculum and is excited about the years ahead.

Interests/Hobbies: I love to cook, read, and bike! In the summer, you can find me in the water or on a patio with friends and family. I also love to pickle and make kombucha!

Alan Kierczynski - Head of Grounds and Maintenance 



Education: Powers Catholic High School in Flint Mi, and I studied Industrial Maintenance through Kirtland Community College

What are you excited about in the school year ahead at OMPS? I am excited to see the growth of all of the students I met in my first year and to see the school community continue to grow and come together.

Interests/Hobbies: My hobbies and interests involve everything outdoors in Michigan! Top of the list is fishing, hunting and boating. I also enjoy hiking, biking, camping, and tinkering and working on any kind of old equipment from tractors and farm equipment to lawn mowers and snowmobiles.

Theresa Corcoran - Head Chef


Old Mission Peninsula School

2699 Island View Rd
Traverse City, MI   49686

Hours: 8:15 to 3:15

Phone: 231.252.0225

Mailing Address
2699 Island View Drive
Traverse City, MI 49686