Academic Faculty

Each Academic faculty member brings passion and enthusiasm to their area of content. Their diverse and rich backgrounds offer students a wealth of experience in the classrooms and flexibility in curriculum design allows for consistent creativity and imagination.

Amanda Wittpenn Montana Academy

Amanda Wittpenn


Amanda Wittpenn

School Registrar, Website Manager

BA Art Education with a Mathematics Minor
Montana State University

Amanda has worked at Montana Academy since 2015. Amanda was a Team Leader on Team 6 for several years and has since transitioned to working as the Registrar after having a family of her own. Amanda has also worked part time as an Auctioneer for Auction.com for the last several years and has also done freelance web design.   

Why do you work here?

I work at Montana Academy because I am passionate about its mission with youth and love the staff culture.

Interests  

In Amanda’s free time, she loves to bake bread, garden, collect house plants, play with her children, raise chickens, dream up future home improvement projects, and create art.

Rick Stern MEd, MS


Rick Stern MEd, MS

Social Studies Teacher – Team 1, Dean of Students

MEd, Curriculum Studies, University of Montana
MS, Environmental Studies, University of Montana
BA, Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

Teacher Certification:
Broadfield Social Studies (History, Political Science, Geography, Economics and Psychology)

Rick has been with Montana Academy since 2004 and serves as the Social Studies/Agricultural Studies teacher, Dean of Students, an Academic Adviser, and coaches Montana Academy’s Basketball team. Previously to joining the academy, Rick served as the Director of the Montana Field office with the Rock Creek Alliance and was executive director of the Missoula Urban Demonstration Project.

Why do you work here?

I work at Montana Academy because I appreciates the opportunity to help teenagers and their families make meaningful, positive changes in their lives, and I enjoy helping people appreciate a variety of perspectives about the past, present, and future of the world that we live in.

 Interests:

Gardening, playing and listening to music, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, family adventures, playing and watching sports, reading, learning, writing, and trying to make the world a better place.

Jack Cesarone MEd


Jack Cesarone MEd

Science Teacher – Team 3

MEd, Western Washington University
BA, Biology (Fisheries Emphasis), Western Washington University

Teacher Certification:
Biology, Broadfield Science, Natural Science & General Science (K-12)

Jack joined montana academy in 2002 having spent 15 years in fisheries and marine mammal research in Washington state and Alaska.  He brought with him a background rich in real-world experience in and around the life sciences, chemistry, and evolutionary biology.  Since his arrival he has designed and initiated courses in anatomy, marine biology, astronomy, field biology, and ecology and evolution as well as A.P. courses in biology and chemistry.  Jack is married with two daughters who are presently engaged in training wild Mustangs they adopted through the BLM. 

Interests

In his limited spare time Jack enjoys sailing, backpacking, photography, and writing articles geared toward science education.

Matt Avanzino MA


Matt Avanzino MA

English Teacher – Team 6

MA, Teaching, Western Washington University
BA, English Literature, San Francisco State University.

Teacher Certification:
Secondary 5-12 English Language Arts – Montana, California, Tennessee, & Washington

Matt joined Montana Academy in September 2017 for his sixth year of teaching after five years of public education experience in Eureka and Kalispell, Montana. Previously, Matt did his student teaching and graduate work in the Seattle Public Schools.  Prior to that, Matt first found the love for teaching during his four years as a publications intern, study skills coach, after-school activities teacher, and English tutor in the International Baccalaureate program of Munich International School in Starnberg, Germany.

Why do you work here?

I love Montana Academy because each day begins with a beautiful 45 mile drive to campus where I get to work with courageous students who teach me as much as I teach them about life, relationships, and yes, English literature and writing.

Interests

In his spare time Matt enjoys singing and playing music and has a blast with his kids as they all try to figure the world out.  He has over 30 years of choral music study and performance experience and currently sings under music teacher Craig Hodges in the Kalispell Compline Choir as well as in a local 1950s cover band, Zino and the Bel Aires. He throws a wicked Frisbee and has that fun talent where he can throw things across a room and have them land where he wants them to.  His biggest passion outside of family and music is traveling to different countries and cultures so he can understand more fully how diverse and wonderful the human experience can be.

Craig Hodges DMA


Craig Hodges DMA

Music Teacher – Team 7

DMA, Vocal Performance and Musicology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
MMus, Colorado State University
BA, Music, Kalamazoo College

Craig joined Montana Academy in 2010 and has four decades of experience as a performer, conductor and music teacher, including Professor of Music positions at Asbury University, Ouachita Baptist University and Campbellsville University, with an emphasis in choral/vocal music.

Why do you work here?

I love witnessing the spark of creativity become an eternal flame in the lives of the young people at Montana Academy and the many wonderful ways in which that is manifested in the classroom and community.

Interests

Craig loves to build things: tree houses, half-baths, fences, etc.  He also loves demolishing things and then putting them back together.  He finds as much contentment splitting a load of firewood as he does conducting a large choral work with orchestra.  If he is cut and bruised, he’s probably fallen off his mountain bike, or out of a tree. 

James “Jimmy” Johnson


James “Jimmy” Johnson

Art Teacher – Team 6

BFA – Illustration, Brigham Young University–Idaho
MFA – Illustration, Academy of Art University
Teaching Certification: Visual Arts K-12 (ID, UT, pending MT)

Jimmy brings with him a range of experience as both educator and professional fine artist. As an educator, he taught drawing and painting classes for three years at BYU–Idaho, followed by two years at a Navajo secondary school in the beautiful red rock country of southeastern Utah. He has developed curricula for nature-based educational ventures, and taught younger students at Kalispell Montessori just prior to joining the team at Montana Academy. As a professional artist, his illustrations have been published nationally, and his graphic design and logos have been used by a variety of individuals and organizations. More recently, in the western art world, his impressionistic oil paintings and landscapes have been sold or featured in galleries, exhibitions, publications, and museums. His paintings now hang in both private and public collections, and he continues to paint on the side.

Why do you work here?

Each unique student at Montana Academy reminds me daily of the primary reason I work here: to lift and encourage potential key players in the rising generation who, like many a stalled artistic piece, is struggling to develop into the leader and living masterpiece they have every hope and reason to become.

Interests

When away from the classroom or easel, Jimmy enjoys spending time with his young family, serving in his church, drawing lessons from classic cinema, and playing basketball, frisbee, or extreme foosball.

Visit James’ personal website to view his work: https://jamesjohnsonart.com/

Josh Johnson


Josh Johnson

Spanish Teacher – Team 5

BA, Spanish and International Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Transitional Teacher Certificate Program, University of Nebraska-Kearney

Josh joined Montana Academy in 2018. Josh became interested in the Spanish language while studying at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His interest in the Spanish language led him to study abroad trips in Costa Rica and Mexico. Josh started his teaching career as a Spanish teacher at North Platte High School in Nebraska.

Interests

Outside of the classroom Josh enjoys spending time with his family, hiking in the mountains, running marathons, cheering for the Huskers, and playing board games.

Bryn Wade


Bryn Wade

Library & Office Assistant

BS Elementary Education with a k-12 Reading Endorsement Masters in Special Education K-12  

      

Prior Work Experience – Bryn began her teaching career and taught on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation and at Havre Public Schools. Most of her career was spent working with children with social, emotional and behavioral disorders as well as substance abuse issues . It was a phenomenal experience and working on the reservation made her realize how much  she loves to help children. Bryn moved to the Flathead Valley to be with her husband and when she started her family she left teaching to focus on raising her children.

Why do you work here

We live and run a 3rd generation cattle ranch in Pleasant Valley, which is about 6 miles from Montana Academy.  Lost Prairie is my home and where we raise our family and to be able to get back to a career that I love, while being close to home, is the ultimate goal. I love working with children and their families.

Lastly, What are your interests?

Bryn loves to spend time with her family. She has a five year old daughter and an eighteen month old son, so whatever she is doing it is usually with them in tow. Bryn likes to spend time outdoors whether it’s snowing or sunshine. She lives on a ranch so there is plenty of space to run around, ride horses, fish, play in the creek, hike, etc.

David Hembroff Montana Academy Math

David W. Hembroff, BS, MS, MEd, Lt Col USAF (ret)


David W. Hembroff, BS, MS, MEd, Lt Col USAF (ret)

Math Teacher

B.S. Physics (Chemistry minor), Central Washington University, Ellensburg WA
BMP Meteorology, Texas A&M University (AFIT), College Station TX
M.S. Space Physics, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks AK
M.Ed. Instruction & Curriculum, Montana State University, Bozeman MT

Between 1980 – 2008 David was enlisted and commissioned in the US Air Force. During his time in the USAF, he performed duties in Radar operations and maintenance, as a weather officer, a Space Operations Officer, and a Strategic Planning and Communications Officer.  His assignments included small radar sites in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, & Arizona and Weather and space assignments included Washington, Colorado, California, Alaska, South Korea, Germany, and Washington D.C..

Following his time in the USAF, David taught Science and Math at Glacier High School in Kalsipell MT.  David taught courses in chemistry, physics, astronomy, and algebra. He also Coached wrestling, and speech & debate. David also spent time teaching at Stillwater Christian School in Kalispell MT and taught courses in introductory chemistry, dual-credit chemistry, dual -credit physics, AP Calculus, Algebra II, and  led seminars on focused topics.

David  also taught a year at another Therapeutic Boarding School in Montana and taught courses in Physics, Astronomy, Pre-calulus, and Algebra II.

Why do you work here

I love to learn, I love to teach, but mostly I love to make a difference in someone’s life.

What are your interests?

When not at work, David enjoys learning.  He reads a lot, over a lot of different subjects.  He also enjoys hiking and travel, fly fishing and hunting but doesn’t do these often enough.  He also kills time in the evening doing crossword puzzles and sudokus.