CEO & Instructor
Vanessa Iarocci, CPA, CA
Vanessa is an authentic and energetic leader known for her passion for education and innovation, which she brings to her role as CEO and co-owner at Brain Power!
Vanessa earned her Bachelor of Commerce, CPA designation and was selected to complete a post-graduate certificate in innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Following this, Vanessa spent over two decades in increasingly senior positions at PwC and TD Bank Financial Group. She then honed her entrepreneurial skills as the CEO of a national school apparel company, where she led an innovative turnaround and growth strategy. As an Executive-In-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Vanessa has developed curricula, case studies and mentorship programs for MBA students, including the world’s first MBA course exploring social innovation, as well as contributing to leading research on innovation and leadership. She also recently designed the ‘Scale-Up’ Program for the MaRS Discovery District, a playbook for Canadian CEOs seeking to scale companies globally. Vanessa has also authored multiple thought leadership papers that have been featured in major media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and the Globe and Mail.
Drawing on her 20 years of experience at some of the world’s leading firms and as a CEO, Vanessa has already lead instruction in exciting new courses at Brain Power that expose students to cutting edge business and investing concepts, including preparing them for the prestigious Wharton Investment Competition and providing insights and experience with the Stanford business design framework and other business theories. She is also active in providing career and admission mentorship, preparing and coaching our students in admissions, presentations and professional career strategies. During her tenure at Brain Power, Vanessa has also also spearheaded an expansion across multiple campuses, a virtual school and new curriculum.
Director & Instructor
Jason Boulet, Honours B.A. (Minor in Classics), M.A. , Ph.D. (English Language and Literature)
Jason completed his undergraduate degree at Mount Allison University and his master’s degree at Queen’s University. He then completed his doctoral studies at Queen’s, where his research was funded by a prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarship. For his graduate studies, Jason chose to specialize in Victorian literature, with an emphasis on poetry, Pre-Raphaelitism, aestheticism, and decadence.
Jason has published academic articles and book reviews in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, Victorian Poetry, and the University of Toronto Quarterly. In his time at Queen’s University as a teaching assistant and instructor, Jason taught material ranging from the medieval period to the 20th century, and he acted as full instructor in courses at the first-, second-, and fourth-year levels, in areas including British literature from 1790 to the present, Romantic poetry and poetics, Victorian literature and culture, nineteenth-century constructions of selfhood, Gothic fiction and monstrosity, and fin-de-siècle literature and culture.
Jason is a dedicated and passionate teacher, who believes in taking an interdisciplinary approach that connects the cultural riches of the past to the everyday experiences and concerns of his students. He encourages them to develop (or simply to deepen) a genuine enthusiasm for the arts and humanities, improving their critical thinking, reading, and writing skills in the process.
Director & Instructor
Jenn Chenkin, Honours B.A. (Minor in History), M.A., Ph.D. (English Literature)
Jenn completed her Honours B.A. in English and History at the University of Toronto before relocating to England to complete her M.A. and Ph.D at Queen Mary, University of London. Her dissertation was fully funded by a Queen Mary Overseas Research Student Award and a Queen Mary Principal’s Studentship.
As a course convenor, lecturer, and teaching assistant for undergraduate and graduate students, Jenn has over 10 years’ experience at the university level, teaching at both Queen Mary and Goldsmiths Colleges at the University of London. Her research interests include book history, the theatre, letter-writing, satire and rhetoric, Romanticism, the Gothic, the Victorian novel, literary coteries, and spectatorship. A versatile and knowledgeable teacher, she has taught literature ranging from the medieval period to the 20th century, as well as critical theory and research methodology. Jenn has published reviews and done peer review for journals such as The London Journal and The Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, as well as organized an international conference called “Text and Trade: Book History Perspectives on Eighteenth-Century Literature” in 2012.]
Jenn believes that a teacher should be caring, invested, and enthusiastic and brings this attitude with her every day to the classroom. She has always been interested in promoting student engagement and fostering a lifelong love of learning, and she has been known to organize reading groups and scholarly outings for her students, broadening the scope of education to make it fun and accessible. For this reason, Jenn has also participated in student outreach programs designed to make higher education more accessible to youth from less privileged backgrounds.
Halton and Peel Regions Campus Headmaster & Instructor
Cassandra Chapman, Honours B.A., M.A. (Linguistics), Ph.D. (Cognitive Science of Language)
Cassandra earned her Ph.D. from McMaster University, and the focus of her doctoral studies was on the Cognitive Science of Language. Her doctoral degree was funded by a prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarship. During her PhD studies, Cassandra also completed a visiting term at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was funded by the Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement. Cassandra’s dissertation investigated how sentence structure (syntax) and sentence meaning (semantics) affect reading times in language processing.
Cassandra has taught undergraduate courses at University of Toronto, McMaster University, Brock University, and Sheridan College. She has also earned teaching certificates from the MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching at McMaster University and Woodsworth College at the University of Toronto. As an educator, Cassandra recognizes that all students enter the classroom with unique backgrounds, experiences, and learning styles. She embraces this diversity in her teaching and utilizes a variety of teaching methods in the classroom. As an educator, Cassandra aims to inspire students to think critically about the world around them and to never stop learning.
Instructor & Student Achievement and Extracurricular Advisor
Adam Richter, Honours B.A., M.A. (History), Ph.D. (History and Philosophy of Science and Technology)
As an undergraduate student at Glendon College, the bilingual campus of York University, Adam earned a Specialized Honours bachelor degree in History. After completing a Master’s degree at Dalhousie University, he earned his doctorate at the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. Adam’s research focuses on the history of science in seventeenth-century England, particularly the relationship between science and religion in that period. He has received numerous academic awards, including the prestigious Nathan Reingold Prize, which is awarded by the History of Science Society for the best essay by a graduate student. Adam’s research has been published in prominent academic journals including Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science, for which he also served as guest co-editor for the December 2018 issue.
Adam’s teaching is informed by the wide range of experiences and interdisciplinary training described above. He has instructed three courses at the University of Toronto and given numerous guest lectures at U of T and elsewhere. Most recently, he taught a course on the history of astronomy at the University of Toronto Mississauga. As a teacher, Adam strives to create a stimulating, humorous, and accepting classroom environment for all students. He is particularly passionate about encouraging students to become stronger writers and speakers. Whether they need to work on fundamentals or advanced techniques, students can count on Adam’s help to hone their communication skills.
Head of Toronto Campuses, member of the Executive Team, & Instructor
Joel Benabu, Honours B.A. (English and Theatre), Ph.D. (Renaissance Theatre in England – Shakespeare)*
Dr. Joel Benabu’s research interests include English Renaissance drama (Shakespeare’s stagecraft, specifically), theory of drama and performance, and Ancient rhetoric. Among his publications are: “’Shakespeare’s Technique of Opening: ‘Strands of Action’”, Theatre Topics, The Johns Hopkins University Press; “Shakespeare and the Rhetorical Tradition: Towards Defining the Concept of an “Opening”, Rhetoric Review, Routledge; “Shakespeare’s Stagecraft in Constructing an Opening: Macbeth”, The Shakespeare Newsletter; and “Shakespeare’s Macbeth: The Challenge of Reading a Theatrical Opening”, Mediaevalia. Joel’s book manuscript, Shakespeare and the Strategies of an Opening, has recently been accepted for publication (2022). Joel has acted in and directed for the theatre.
Over the years, Joel has taught a broad variety of university courses in the humanities as well as courses in academic writing, critical thinking, and oral presentation. Closely aligned with Brain Power’s mandate, Joel’s pedagogical philosophy maintains that students thrive best in a learning environment that challenges and empowers them. Consequently, his teaching method is less about imparting information and more about giving students the tools to forge their own pathways of knowledge. This can be achieved most effectively by helping students build a diverse skill set and confidence over time. In order to do so, all of Joel’s courses at Brain Power will work with creative pedagogical tools (developing new ways of engaging students) and assess the pedagogical tools developed in order to improve learning objectives over time. Joel’s overarching goal as an instructor at Brain Power is to make students realize their full potential to make a difference in their own lives as well as the lives of others in their community.
Oscar Jarzmik, Honors B.A., M.A., Ph.D. (History – Middle East Studies)
Oscar earned his undergraduate degree from York University (Toronto, ON) and his M.A. and Ph.D from the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. As a graduate student, Oscar specialized in the history and politics of the modern Middle East (Eastern Mediterranean). More specifically, he concentrated his studies in the Humanities on: a) the intellectual formations of state/colonial rule in the Middle East; b) how “power” is inscribed into the built and cultural environment of cities.
As a graduate student, Oscar lectured and instructed sessions at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. Over the years, he has also been involved in several social justice, educational, and community-building initiatives both locally and internationally. Oscar is an enthusiastic educator who believes in using an interdisciplinary, interactive approach to help students develop their interpersonal and critical thinking skills. Brain Power is so fortunate to have a brilliant language arts instructor who places great value in conscientious learning coupled with inspiring bright students to exceed their potential.
Ana-Maria Jerca, Honours B.A., B.Ed., M.A., Ph.D. (Cand.) Linguistics
Ana-Maria is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics at York University, where she also completed her M.A. and B.A. She has presented sections from her Major Research Paper (the capstone of her Master’s degree) at academic conferences in three countries. Currently she is in the process of publishing more of her doctoral work in academic journals and applying for scholarships with which to fund her research.
Besides her research, she is deeply passionate about teaching! Thanks to her bachelor’s degrees, Ana-Maria has taught at multiple levels in a variety of settings (from young students to university undergraduates and almost everywhere in between). She loves opening her students’ minds and helping learners understand material in new ways. Her teaching philosophy can be summed up in a simple quotation: “Education is about inspiring one’s mind, not just filling one’s head.”
Mason Wales, Honours B.A. (English & American Studies), M.A. (American Cultural Studies), Ph.D. (cand) Media Studies
Mason is a PhD candidate in Media Studies at York University. She holds honours degrees in English and American Studies from the University of Toronto and a Master’s Degree in American Cultural Studies from Western University. This interdisciplinary education afforded her the opportunity to cultivate expertise across disciplines in areas such as social science methods, literary theory, political philosophy, political history, and the history of technology. Her writing and research focuses on the connections between political culture and popular media and has been published in national and international journals. Her recent article on Hannah Arendt’s idea of ‘natality’ in relation to US political television, published in the Canadian Review of American Studies, received The Canadian Association for American Studies Ernest Redekop prize.
Like her academic work, Mason’s approach to teaching is grounded in making connections. Years of undergraduate teaching taught her that a broad educational foundation is the key to unlocking students’ potential. Mason uses an interdisciplinary perspective combined with active and participatory learning strategies to build students’ critical thinking and communication skills while helping them develop the flexible competencies that encourage ingenuity.
Instructor & Admissions Ambassador
Kaitlin Ruether, Honours B.A., M.F.A. (Creative Writing)
Kaitlin earned her B.A. from the University of Victoria and an M.F.A. from the University of Guelph’s competitive Creative Writing program, where she focused on fiction and playwriting and completed a novel as her thesis. Her writing addresses themes of environmental impact, Canadian identity, and nostalgia in our era of the internet. Kaitlin’s work has been published in literary journals across Canada and the United States, and her plays have been produced in Victoria, British Columbia. She was recently longlisted for the Jacob Zilber Prize for Short Fiction! In her spare time she works as a freelance journalist for the Canadian media publication, Exclaim!
When teaching, Kaitlin believes in creating an environment where students feel safe and excited to share their ideas. She fosters enthusiasm about the material and works to see inspiration thrive. As a life-long learner, Kaitlin is thrilled to be a part of the stellar team at Brain Power and to be working with the incredible students!
Ryan Fics, B.A. (Honors), M.A., Ph.D. (Comparative Literature)
Ryan Fics earned a Bachelor of Arts (honours) and a Joint Master of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg, and he holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Emory University. Ryan has several years of experience working as a “Reading Teacher” with students in Grades 3 and 4. He has taught a broad variety of courses in the humanities, including courses on Classical Literature, Antiquity, Political Philosophy, Animal Studies, Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century English Literature, and oral presentation courses at the University of Manitoba, Emory University, and Wesleyan University. More recently, Ryan has taught Introduction to Ethics in the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto. Currently, he is a private high school teacher and continues to regularly attend national and international conferences. He has published articles and interviews in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters in presses such as Palgrave Macmillan. Along with teaching, Ryan is working on a book about animals, AI and climate change.
Ryan’s goal as an educator is not to teach, but to awaken. His teaching methodology involves facilitating a fun, interactive learning environment for the thoughtful acquisition and continuous development of the necessary tools students need to thrive in a changing world. Much of Ryan’s teaching methodology includes enhancing understanding and motivating curiosity in the student population by helping his learners gain mastery over the foundations of a topic so that they can effectively synthesize, evaluate, and communicate information in compassionate ways. As an instructor at Brain Power, Ryan’s aim is to help his students grow into independent thinkers, so that they can go on to solve difficult problems and make a difference in the world.
Aparna B. Srikanthan, B.A. (English & Psychology), M.Ed., Ph.D. (cand.) Education
Aparna B. Srikanthan holds a double major in English Literature and Psychology. She obtained a Masters of Education from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the same institution.
Aparna’s research interests are primarily focused on educational policies, with a particular emphasis on understanding how they impact student learning outcomes. With over 15 years of teaching experience, Aparna is deeply committed to engaging with young minds through interactive and immersive teaching practices that have the potential to transform students’ learning experiences. She is passionate about exploring innovative approaches to education and strives to empower students to become independent and lifelong learners.
Zoryana Babiy, Honours B.Sc. (Biology, Psychology, Chemistry), M.Sc. (Neuroscience), Ph.D. (Cand.)
Zoryana completed her B.Sc. at the University of Toronto with a double major in Biology for Health Sciences and Psychology, and a minor in Chemistry. She then completed her M.Sc. in the Neuroscience program at McMaster University. Her M.Sc. thesis focused on evaluating the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for treating postpartum depression. Currently, Zoryana is completing her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at McMaster University, with her research focused on postpartum mental health.
Zoryana’s work has been published in peer-reviewed journals including the American Journal of Psychotherapy and the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. She has served as a teaching assistant in numerous undergraduate courses in the Faculty of Science, including Human Nutritional Toxicology, Global Human Health and Disease, and Epidemiology. Zoryana also has experience with elementary and ESL education, as well as serving as the co-president of her graduate program at McMaster University.
Zoryana’s teaching philosophy can be explained by a quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
Stacy Costa, B.A. (Semiotics & SocioCultural Anthropology, minor in Sociology), M.A., Ph.D. (cand.) Education
Stacy A. Costa is a doctoral candidate in a collaborative program in the Department of Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and the Collaborative Program Engineering Education (ENgEd). She received her honours B.A. and her master’s degree from the University of Toronto. Her master’s research explored how mathematics discourse fosters design thinking and knowledge building in the elementary classroom.
Stacy is passionate about making learning simple, engaging, and accessible to students of all ages. She assists in solving knowledge, skill, and attitude gaps, helping students grow personally and professionally. She has extensive knowledge of STEM learning initiatives and works to integrate students into an innovation-driven knowledge society. Stacy is also an enigmatologist, puzzle designer, and public speaker. She speaks to various groups and professionals on the importance using puzzles to introduce problem-solving and STEM understanding in education. Her Ted Talk has garnered many views, and she enjoys it when students can have their “Aha!” moment.
Sarah Meehan Sirk, B.Sc. (Math and Philosophy)
Sarah Meehan Sirk is a writer, producer, and broadcaster. She’s the author of the critically-acclaimed short story collection The Dead Husband Project and the upcoming novel Like A Mother (2024), both published by Doubleday. Sarah’s writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Canadian Art magazine, spacing magazine, numerous online outlets and literary journals, and is anthologized in The Journey Prize Stories. She has written and produced award-winning shows for CBC Radio One, been nominated for a Gemini award and won Excellence in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.
With a background in theatre, a degree in math and philosophy, a graduate certificate with distinction from The Humber School for Writers, and a couple of young kids of her own, Sarah is a passionate instructor who brings a multi-faceted approach to her teaching and a longstanding dedication to the fostering of the arts.
Vivi Shi, Honours B.A (Minor in Geography), M.A. (English Language and Literature), B.Ed, OCT
Vivi completed her Concurrent Education degree and Master of Arts in English Language and Literature at Queen’s University. During her studies at Queen’s, Vivi was a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course on Renaissance poetry and prose. Vivi’s interests include Social Justice Education, supporting English Language Learners, Renaissance Literature, Romantic Literature, Children’s Literature, Chinese Canadian Literature, and Contemporary Literature. Vivi currently teaches for both York Catholic and Toronto Catholic District School Boards.
Vivi aims to foster student curiosity and bolster growth mindsets. Vivi believes in the importance of listening to her students, using their interests as a means to fuel their appreciation for learning, as well as their sense of responsibility and ownership of their own education. Vivi’s goal as an educator is to build enriching learning communities where students experience continuous achievement through discourse, feedback, individual work, group work, and hands-on experiential learning. Fun fact: Vivi is a Brain Power alum!
Instructor & Admissions Ambassador
Hannah Merchant, Dip. E.C.E., Honours B.C.D., M.Ed.
Hannah completed her Masters degree in Education at York University, also obtaining a graduate diploma in early-childhood education. She has been a keynote speaker for the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario on the topic of “Practitioner Self-Image and Advocacy for the Field.” She has also traveled to a developing country, where she provided workshops for teachers and educators who live and work in marginalized communities. Most recently, Hannah has provided workshops on pedagogical documentation for childcare programs in York Region. Over the last decade, Hannah has also organized and participated in various fundraising events that have benefitted the York Region Community, such as those for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Markham Stouffville Hospital.
Pairing her love for learning with her passion for teaching, Hannah utilizes a “strength-based” approach when working with children and their families. She believes strongly that each child and family bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom, and that these strengths should be recognized, celebrated, and respected. Outside the classroom, Hannah has many years of experience working with domesticated animals. She enjoys reading and writing, travelling, scuba diving, and is learning how to paint.
Kornelia Drianovski, Honours B.A. (English and Anthropology), M.A. (English)
Kornelia earned her M.A. from the University of Toronto’s Department of English, specializing in the Field of Creative Writing. Her graduate studies were funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarship. Her works of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction have been published across various Canadian literary journals, ranging from The Ex-Puritan to Canadian Notes & Queries.
During her studies at the University of Toronto, Kornelia served as a teaching assistant, leading various tutorials in creative writing. Prior to this, she worked as an Art Instructor at Oakville Galleries. As an educator, Kornelia treasures curiosity and embraces empathy-based teaching methods. In her role as an instructor, she strives to ignite critical thinking, instill self-confidence, and cultivate a profound passion for learning.
Anita Stalteri, Honours B.B.A. (Marketing Specialist), B.Ed.
Anita earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University and then earned her Bachelor of Education from Brock University.
Anita is an experienced and passionate educator who has enjoyed over 20 years of teaching and learning with the Peel District School Board. Her experience includes working as both a teacher and Guidance Counsellor for secondary students, teaching an array of courses, ranging from Business Studies, Mathematics, and Leadership, and supporting students with their postsecondary goals.
Anita takes an asset-based approach to teaching, in which she sees each student as an individual who brings to their learning environment their own unique identity and strengths. She believes strongly that leveraging these is the key to connecting with kids, building relationships, and making learning more meaningful and fun!
Akhila Jeyatheesan B.A. (Psychology), M.Ed. (cand.)
Akhila earned her undergraduate degree in psychological and mental health studies from York University in Toronto, ON, and is currently pursuing her Masters of Education at Niagara University in New York, USA. With over five years of teaching experience, Akhila has worked with students from every grade, ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Akhila teaches English and Social Sciences/Humanities at a post-secondary level, as well as teaching American Sign Language (ASL) to first-year university students. She also acts as an ASL interpreter for the Durham District School Board, advocating for students who are Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.
Akhila’s enthusiasm as an educator lies in empowering her students to embrace their unique potential and cultivate confidence in their learning journey. She consistently encourages her students to make a positive impact both inside and outside the classroom. Her dedication to nurturing young minds is evident in her approach to teaching, where she goes above and beyond to help her students reach their fullest potential.
Amanda De Iuliis, R.E.C.E., B.C.D
Amanda is an energetic and passionate early childhood educator with a bachelor’s degree in child development from Seneca College, King City. For almost two decades, she has worked with children from infancy to age twelve, gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience about educating young students. Amanda has also collaborated with non-profit organizations and early intervention services within York Region to support children and families experiencing challenges with growth and development. To expand her understanding of the needs of families and children dealing with adversity, she also acted as a Child Life volunteer at the Hospital for Sick Children, assisting the Emergency department and the General Surgery department in developing resources and programs for families.
Amanda is very enthusiastic and dedicated to her teaching practice, which is informed by her knowledge of children’s brain development, social development, and emotional development. Amanda knows that children thrive when they are provided with new and exciting learning opportunities and experiences. As a result, she ensures that she provides such opportunities for her students in every class. She also organizes fundraisers in the York Region and reading clubs in coordination with the Richmond Hill Public Library. Amanda believes it is imperative for children to be in environments that emphasize their strengths and advocate for their overall wellbeing. Her unique and creative methods for teaching are beloved by her students, and she is an expert in working with our very youngest, bright minds!
Chamuel Araya, B.A. (Sociology)
Chamuel has an Honors Bachelors of Arts in Sociology and a post-graduate certificate in Marketing Management. During his time at Ryerson University he was part of Ryerson ToastMasters, a public speaking group consisting of all ages and all levels of speakers. Chamuel has won multiple awards through various ToastMasters competitions, from Best Speaker to being a Finalist in the Division Area E52 Competition.
Chamuel continued his public speaking journey by teaching for various clubs, after school programs, and educational institutions; this led him to having over two and a half years of public speaking teaching experience. Chamuel is a strong believer Walt Disney’s claim that “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” He thinks that nothing is impossible with the right amount of diligence, creativity, and fun. His teaching philosophy focuses on helping students find their own style of public speaking, one suited to their own unique voices and personalities. Chamuel aims to create a positive impact in the lives of his students by building up their confidence in their public speaking skills to aid in their future careers and achieve their goals.
Hannah Ehman, B.A. Honours (Theatre and Drama Studies)
Hannah is a multidisciplinary artist, actor, host and holds a Specialist Honours Bachelor Degree in Theatre and Drama Studies and minor in Anthropology from the joint program between University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College. She has trained at Second City, Pro Actors Lab, On the Mic Voiceover Studio and Shaw Festival Theatre. She teaches public speaking and improv in various academies and workshops across Canada.
She is continuing her studies in ESL education from Humber College. She’s passionate about helping students in finding and sharing their voice. Getting to know and celebrate the unique viewpoint of each student throughout the term is truly invigorating!
Jennifer Walton, B.A. (Theatre and Dramatic Literature)
Jennifer has been teaching acting, public speaking, and presentation skills to talented young people for more than 30 years. She also leads team-building workshops and provides coaching for the corporate world. As Co-Director of The Creative Theatre Company, guest teacher-director with Shakespearience, Artist in the Classroom with the Hamilton and Catholic School Boards, and sought after guest workshop artist, Jennifer has empowered thousands of youth and adults alike to embrace the power of their presence.
As a playwright, Jennifer is the recipient of the 2021 Voaden Prize in playwriting for GUN PLAY (after the gun goes off). Her short plays have been featured in festivals around the world. As an actor, she most recently appeared in the critically acclaimed production of Your Own Sons – Same Boat Theatre and The Soldier’s Tale – Amphion Ensemble, Hamilton. Recent film credits include Things I Do for Money – filmed entirely in Hamilton! Other acting credits include Diary of Anne Frank and The Woman in Black – Theatre Aquarius. She directed The Tragedy of Othella Moore at the Hamilton Fringe Festival 2016 where it won Best of Fringe.
Jennifer has a degree in theatre from Brock University, studied with the Broadway legend Uta Hagen, and has spent many years studying theatrical clown with Helen Donnelly and Francine Cote of Cirque du Soleil fame.
Olivia Pietraszko, B.Sc. (Psychology), B.Ed., M.Ed.
Olivia is a passionate educator with years of teaching experience. Her own educational journey began when she achieved her honours Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto, majoring in psychology and minoring in ethics and sociology. She continued to follow her educational path, inspired by her interest in children’s development and the significant impact of education and pursued a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in developmental psychology at OISE, University of Toronto collaborating with world-renowned Ph.D. professors. These same twin passions led her to study at Tyndale University, where she received her Bachelor of Education and teacher certification in the primary/ junior level.
Olivia has a strong background in the Reggio-Emilia educational approach, which emphasizes the importance of experiential learning and the learning environment. Encouraged and inspired by hands-on learning, this approach encourages students to use their senses to investigate, learn, and flourish. Olivia is an avid advocate for being a co-learner alongside the classroom community. She believes in the importance of socio-emotional development, making sure the students feel seen and valued in their everyday educational experiences. She works to implement a curriculum based on children’s interests, and employs creative, engaging, and stimulating activities. Olivia believes that an educator must consider the whole child and encourage academic, social, physical, cognitive and emotional development.
Olga Fridman, B.Sc., B.Ed., M.Ed., M.Sc. (Mathematics – Differential Geometry)
Olga Fridman holds Masters degrees in Mathematics and Education (Honours Specialist in Gifted Education) from the University of Toronto. She is an experienced mathematics teacher with nearly three decades of teaching in the Toronto District School Board.
Olga’s love of educating bright young minds is evident in her student-centred and inspiring approach to teaching; she is excited by critical thinking and creative problem-solving techniques, and shares her passion for mathematics with gusto. Olga is thrilled to bring her expertise in both teaching and mathematics to Brain Power.
Ella Gutin, B.Ed., M.Ed. (Mathematics)
Ella Gutin has a B.Ed, M.Ed and Mathematics Degree, she has taught in three different countries where she received many teaching certifications. Ella began her career in Russia, where she taught in an elementary school. Later she moved to Israel, where she taught mathematics in grades 1-10 and received teaching certificates from the Ministry of Education and Culture of Israel. She has also received training and implemented special education programs for gifted children and for children with learning disabilities. Upon coming to Canada she received her teaching certification and has been teaching continuously. She experienced all three-education systems and gained great knowledge and experience dealing with different students, situations, expectations, and curriculums. She is passionate about math and her goal is to inspire young minds to see the beauty of math.
While working in all three countries she always tried to develop and implant programs and methodologies to students of different levels, she strengthen her expertise in classroom management, student relations and learner retention as well as gaining in depth knowledge of children’s developmental psychology. Ella is always researching and implementing new techniques and methods to create better and more effective lesson plans.
Sana Spektor, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. (Mathematics)
Sana Spektor received her two PhDs from the Department of Mathematics at the Dnipro State University and the University of Alberta. Throughout her teaching career, she has had opportunities to interact with students at all stages of life, from grade school to college, at the university level and post-degree, in classroom, online, and one-on-one settings. The insights she has gained into how students learn have helped her to make the teacher that she is.
In Sana’s experience, the three biggest obstacles to learning are a student’s belief that math is boring, math is impossibly difficult, or math is irrelevant to real life. In response, she has developed a threefold teaching philosophy. Make math interesting: Sana brings excitement and a storyline to her classes, using energy and enthusiasm to teach ideas, guiding students along a path where each new concept is a natural consequence of the previous and a natural precursor to the next. Make math possible: Sana makes sure her students understand that while a problem may be long or difficult, they have all the tools needed to solve it. Make math relevant: Sana stresses that mathematics has a profound impact on our daily lives, and she provides real-life examples where mathematics is used.
Zhen Wang, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. (Applied Mathematics)
Zhen Wang earned her Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, a globally leading math program in North America. Her research interests broadly include building and analyzing mathematical models for a variety of biological systems. Recently, she has been working on projects involving the effect of disease latency, and optimal vaccination strategies using systems of delay differential equations. She has published seven academic articles in the field of biological mathematics.
Zhen has tutored over 20 undergraduate-level university courses during her doctoral studies and taught Calculus I, II, III, Linear Algebra, and Differential Equations after graduation. She enjoys teaching and supporting her students through their academic journey and brings with her extensive knowledge and passion for math!
Marcelo Bacha, B.Sc. (Physics-Education), M.Sc. (Material Science & Technology), Ph.D. (Material Science & Engineering)
Marcelo completed his undergraduate degree in Physics-Education and his master’s degree in Material Science and Technology at Sao Paulo State University Julio de Mesquita Filho. He completed his doctoral degree in Material Science and Engineering at the University of Sao Paulo.
Marcelo worked for six years as a monitor and an amateur telescope maker at the Astronomical Observatory Lionel Jose Andriatto, and for two years as a teacher in one of the biggest Astronomical Observatories in Brazil CEU Foundation. During this time he coauthored the book Construção e utilização de lunetas no ensino de astronomia (The Construction and the Use of Telescopes in Astronomy Teaching). He also has four years of experience in university-level Mechanical Engineering departments, teaching physics, thermodynamics, heat and mass transfer, CAD, as well as supervising capstone projects and undergraduate research.
As a teacher, Marcelo believes in the Paulo Freire theory, which says that true education provides freedom by teaching students how to learn through critical thinking.
Vadim Tyuryaev, M.Sc., Ph.D. (Cand.) Statistics
Vadim is an international educator and a data scientist with extensive academic and industry experience. A PhD candidate in Statistics at York University, he holds a M.Sc. in Statistics from Texas Tech University, and a US teaching license.
The background of Vadim’s teaching career spans over 10 years and includes multiple countries such as Mexico, Bahrain, China, and the United States. He has taught at top international schools whose graduates attend leading North American universities.
Vadim’s teaching philosophy is centred around the belief that extensive practice and a focus on mental mathematics are essential to a comprehensive understanding of mathematical fundamentals. In his classroom, he prioritizes the development of a strong foundation in mathematics, recognizing the crucial role that it plays in a student’s academic success. He also believes in the power of artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool to support education and to make it more personalized and efficient. He views AI as a tool to provide targeted and individualized instruction that caters to each student’s unique learning style and needs. By leveraging the power of technology, he aims to create a dynamic and engaging learning environment that inspires his students to reach their full potential.
Throughout his career, Vadim has honed his teaching skills through a wide range of experiences in diverse cultural contexts. These experiences have taught him to be adaptable, flexible, and empathetic, enabling Vadim to connect with students from various backgrounds and create inclusive learning environments that foster academic growth and personal development.
David Boroto, BASc., MPhil (Engineering)
David graduated from the University of Toronto with a BASc in Engineering Science, before pursuing his MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development at the University of Cambridge. His academic research focused on investigating the infrastructure enabling environment to uncover ways to improve infrastructure project development in low-income countries. He brings with him a multidisciplinary and multicultural background, having lived and worked in Canada, Guatemala, Kenya, Uganda, Denmark, and the UK. He now works as an infrastructure advisory consultant at Mott MacDonald Canada and volunteers as the Chair of the Engineers Without Borders Canada Board of Directors.
Born in South Africa to Congolese parents, David is a “third culture kid” Canadian with a global outlook. He is dedicated to creating a world in which every individual has the opportunity to achieve a fulfilling life. If he were not an engineer, David would be a full-time teacher. Education runs in the family, as his grandfather was a school headmaster in the DRC. David loves the process of explaining challenging concepts and seeing the joy in students’ faces when they understand a new topic. His approach to teaching focuses just as much on the process of how to find the answer as it does on getting the right answer. He is excited to bring his love of education to Brain Power and work with its many bright students!
Robert Coutts, Specialized Honours B.A. (Humanities), B.Ed., M.Ed.
Robert earned his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees at York University and his Masters of Education from Mount Saint Vincent University. Robert is a student-centred teacher, who has been teaching with the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) for twelve years.
He is a teacher with a dynamic form of classroom engagement, which encourages positive equitable behaviour and academic excellence, allowing students to feel both challenged and worthwhile. Robert also is a teaching specialist in integration of information and computer technology in instruction. Outside of the classroom, Robert can be found coaching volleyball at his school, watching TV/movies, playing Nintendo Switch, or working on home renovations.
Samantha Camardo, Honours B.A., B.Ed., M.Ed.
Samantha earned her Honours degree in Law and Society in 2017, completed her Bachelor of Education in 2019, and then went on to obtain her Master of Education in 2020 while simultaneously earning a graduate diploma in Language and Literacy. By invitation, she is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society at York University, and has earned additional teaching qualifications in Mathematics and Special Education. She has also volunteered for organizations like Toronto’s Inner City Outreach Program and participated in The Shoebox Project campaign which works to aid local women impacted by homelessness.
Samantha believes it is important to remember, as Bill Nye says, that “everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.” This insight is behind Samantha’s teaching philosophy that education is a holistic practice that involves the work of many. She understands that the lived experiences of her students and their families are crucial to cultivating a learning environment that extends well beyond brick-and-mortar buildings so as to inspire life-long learning rooted in passion.
Samantha’s passion for education stems from her grandfather Diego; an immigrant from Italy who worked hard to provide for his family and moved to Canada to make all of their dreams possible. She is forever indebted to him for inspiring her to become a “professore” just like her Uncle Joe.
Instructor & Admissions Ambassador
Jennifer Pritsker, Honours B.Sc. (Biomedical Science), B.Ed. (Cand.)
Jennifer completed her undergraduate degree specializing in Biomedical Science at York University. She is extremely passionate about math and science education, and she works with students to ignite the flame of learning and unlock their potential to succeed. Jennifer has 10 years of experience teaching and tutoring, as well as developing training materials in corporate and university settings. Jennifer completed high school at William Lyon Mackenzie C.I, in the MaCS Program, and is keenly aware of the importance of engaging bright, talented students in enrichment education. She works closely with Brain Power students to support them in preparing for entrance exams to enriched programs and independent schools.
Jennifer is committed to being a lifelong learner and stays up to date on new tools and techniques to support students in the classroom. She engages students to create a space conducive to learning, inspiration, inquiry, and exploration. Jennifer’s student-centered approach helps students develop a growth mindset by making sure they build their knowledge from a strong foundation, while allowing them to tackle challenging problems both independently and with peers. Jennifer makes sure her students know they can succeed in anything with effort and determination!
Olivia Epelbaum, Honours B.Sc (Mathematics & Statistics, Minor in Psychology), B.Ed (Cand.)
Olivia earned her mathematics degree at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She has a passion for math education research and has published peer-reviewed work on mathematics alongside noteworthy Canadian math professors. Olivia has also developed Python programming curriculum for high-school teachers to use with their students.
Her teaching philosophy models a scaffold approach, and her students benefit from her dynamic teaching style. She loves the learning process, and student-centred learning will always be a focus in her classroom.
Olivia enjoys many hobbies outside of teaching, including yoga, long-distance running, and cooking/baking.
Tara Fesharakinia, B.Sc., M.Eng. (Biomedical Engineering)
Tara is an experienced educator who holds a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering from Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson). With over 8 years of experience in teaching Math and Science in various schools and institutions, Tara makes complicated mathematical concepts easy to understand for her students. Tara believes that math can be enjoyable and exciting, and she enjoys making her classes engaging and fun for her students.
One of Tara’s key strengths is her ability to make individualized learning approaches for each of her students based on their abilities. She understands that every student has a unique learning style, so she tailors her teaching methods to meet the specific needs of each student. Tara takes the time to get to know her students’ strengths and weaknesses, and she helps them to develop their knowledge and skills. She creates a comfortable and supportive learning environment that allows her students to feel confident and motivated to learn. She also uses creative and innovative teaching methods that keep her students interested in the subject matter, and she encourages her students to think critically and develop problem-solving skills. Additionally, over the years, Tara has helped many students with math contests and prepared them for the future. Her dedication and commitment to her students have enabled many of them to excel in their academic pursuits.
Joshua Liu, Honours B.Sc. (Materials and Nanoscience for Biological Applications)
Joshua graduated from the University of Waterloo with an Honours BSc specializing in Materials and Nanoscience for biological applications. He has experience working in a graduate-level research lab that focused on creating artificial organs. He is also passionate about his current work in the video game industry as a Project and Product Manager.
Joshua is a patient instructor with a deep sense of empathy. He’s determined to help students find the fun in math and the sciences by showing them how every math problem is just like a little puzzle in one of their favourite games! He believes that to make the world a better place, you must arm the future generations with the tools and knowledge to reach your goals faster than you did.
Mark Plotkin, B.A. (Political Science and Government), International Master
Mark is an International Master (IM), who has been playing chess since he was 4 years old and has been teaching chess for the past five years. He achieved his Fide Master (FM) title in the summer of 2018, when he also got his first International Master (IM) norm in the Philadelphia International. He led University of Toronto to first place in the Canadian University Chess Championships in 2019, when he also got his second IM norm at the Canadian Chess Championships (Zonals), where he tied for 4th place. He became an International Master (IM) in 2020, and he is currently inside the top 15 in Canada.
Mark’s chess classes provide a structured curriculum, direct coaching, expert guidance, game analysis, ample opportunities for practice, and lots of fun! Chess instruction can help students improve their critical thinking, logical reasoning, and spatial reasoning skills, as well as their focus and memory recall.
Instructor and Social Media Director
Michal is completing her undergraduate studies at McMaster University in the Health Sciences program. Her passion for scientific research innovation has led her to work with world-class researchers and to contribute to a collection of published papers. Michal wrote and developed Brain Power’s Science Exam Preparation course.
At Ryerson University chemistry laboratories, Michal developed a saliva-based blood alcohol content indicator for her start-up, SpitStrips, aimed at reducing drunk driving. She competed with this venture at the International SAGE Business World Cup alongside representatives from 32 countries, placing 2nd in the world with her team and winning a United Nations medal. Michal has also been a Research Assistant at the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower (Ontario Cancer Institute), and she was involved in a clinical sciences project at Baycrest Hospital. Currently, she is conducting gastroenterology research on inflammatory bowel diseases, while taking part in two large-scale COVID-19 patient projects with the support of the COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund. Michal is also a part of a celiac disease study being conducted at the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, based out of Harvard Medical School. Michal is the Editor-in-Chief of McMaster’s open-access, peer-reviewed undergraduate Health Sciences Journal, The Meducator, while also leading a mentorship program for incoming University students.
Having completed the MaCS (Math and Computer Science) program at William Lyon Mackenzie, Michal is very familiar with the Ontario science curriculum. Within MaCS, Michal was a math tutor to students in Grades 9-12, as well as a part-time tutor in Grade 9 and 10 science and Grade 11 chemistry. She designed creative inquiry-based events for 200 members of the school’s Science Club, and she also planned the annual Science Olympiad for middle school students in the Toronto District School Board. Michal is committed to fostering a supportive, engaging educational environment for children to excel in. Michal’s primary goal is to help facilitate the translation between scientific research and everyday language, so that everyone understands what is going on at the cutting edge of the field.
Sam is an award-winning public speaker, who is completing his BBA at the prestigious Schulich School of Business. He also holds certifications in analytical, strategic, and social media marketing from Cornell University.
As a Brain Power public speaking alumnus, he is passionate about the various modes of reasoning and techniques of persuasion. He is both a coach to competitive Brain Power public speaking students and a mentor on cultivating resonance through stylistic emphasis.
Sam is also the founder of Advocates in Motion (AIM), a keynote speaker with Markham Mayor’s Youth Council, and a provincial gold winner of FSWC’s Speaker’s Idol competition. Additionally, Sam has extensive experience as a coordinator for an international talent agency and as a copywriting contractor for law firms, medical offices, and retailers. In the classroom, Sam is a dynamo for inspiring young people to find and use their best public speaking voice!