Founder, Director, & Lead Instructor of Brain Power Enrichment Programs Ltd.
Karine Rashkovsky-Tomas, Honours B.Sc., B.Ed., M.Ed., Ph.D. (Education Policy)
Karine is well-known for her passionate, quirky, and inspiring teaching from the heart, as well as her extensive knowledge in a variety of academic fields. At Brain Power, Karine brings her passion for writing, public speaking, literature, textual analysis, philosophy, and the humanities to our programs, where she sees it her duty to inspire a love of learning, especially in terms of critical thinking.
Karine has co-authored Brain Power’s math and problem solving textbooks, an advanced grammar and classical literature textbook, and research that has appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as Educational Leadership and Urban Education. Karine’s research interests include education policy, critical thinking education, and curriculum, teaching, and social justice. She is often a key-note speaker at local, and international education events and conferences, including the Association for Bright Children of Ontario. Additionally, Karine is part of an ongoing research collaboration with York University’s Faculty of Education: Using Place-Referenced Approaches to Extend Youths’ Problem-Solving Abilities and Literacy Engagement (a project which explores a pedagogical response that can provide relevant academic support to students) – the results of which were recently presented at a symposium with the prestigious Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. As an experienced and expert teacher, Karine has taught teacher-training courses at York University’s Faculty of Education and has provided professional development training for private school educators.
In addition to her above contributions, Karine is also the official Education Expert for Vaughan’s SRC community and an Ontario Mentor for select top youth startups through the Vaughan Business Enterprise Centre (VBEC). As well, Karine has received multiple awards and nominations for her work at Brain Power from organizations such as the Royal Bank of Canada’s Women of Influence, Notable’s Social Entrepreneur of Ontario, the Stevie Awards (National & International), and the Order of Vaughan.
Besides specializing in preparing Brain Power students for various gifted programs and entrance examinations, Karine also encourages her students (and their parents, too!) to participate in Brain Power’s social-justice book club, as well as extra-curricular opportunities such as essay and poetry writing contests, theatre experiences, guest speakers, and CBC radio events. Finally, Karine ensures that Brain Power’s brilliant students continue to network and remain in meaningful contact post-graduation through alumni events.
Associate Instructor, Office Manager, & Admissions Ambassador
Dara Greaves, Honours B.A., Ph.D. (English)
Dara completed her B.A. at the University of Victoria (British Columbia) and her Ph.D. (direct entry) at the University of Toronto. She recently defended her dissertation, New Woman Sympathies: The Affective Innovations of Fin-de-Siècle Feminist Fiction, which was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarship. At U of T, Dara worked with and was mentored by nationally-acclaimed and award-winning teachers. As both a course instructor and a teaching assistant, she taught topics including: Victorian literature and culture; contemporary poetry and prose; grammar and effective writing; feminist and LGBTQ+ issues; post-colonialism and aboriginal rights; and critical thinking. Passionate about pedagogy, Dara believes that academic ideas become the most vital and relevant in the hands of young people – who have the intellectual excitement of youth and the most time ahead of them to better our world.
Dara joined the Brain Power team because she loves impacting the lives of bright, curious young thinkers. When children and teenagers are given the tools for critical thinking and self-expression, she is consistently wowed by how thoughtful and sophisticated their ideas can be. Dara’s dedication to education, the arts, and social justice manifests in all of her endeavours. She is also an emerging screenwriter and filmmaker whose work explores contemporary social issues, as well as a writing mentor at SKETCH (a Toronto organization that empowers youth on the margins through art). Convinced that people learn best when they are having fun, Dara combines creativity and humour with a serious consideration of literature, ethics, and society.
Associate Instructor & Curriculum and Content Manager
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 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarship. For his graduate studies, Jason chose to specialize in Victorian literature (c. 1832-1901), with an emphasis on poetry and the avant garde, including Pre-Raphaelitism, aestheticism, decadence, and symbolism. 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. Jason has taught English literature courses at Queen’s at the first-, second-, and fourth-year levels, in areas including British literature from 1790-1985, Romantic poetry and poetics (c. 1790-1832), Victorian literature and culture (c. 1832-1901), nineteenth-century constructions of selfhood, Gothic fiction and monstrosity, fin-de-siecle literature and culture (c. 1885-1900), and gender studies.
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.
Joel Benabu, Honours B.A. (English and Theatre), Ph.D. (Renaissance Theatre in England – Shakespeare)*
Dr. Joel Benabu is a Lecturer at the Department of Theatre at the University of Ottawa, Canada. His research interests include English Renaissance drama (Shakespeare’s stagecraft, specifically), theory of drama and performance, and Ancient rhetoric. Recently he has been researching Jewish Canadian Theatre as well as Israeli/Palestinian Theatre. 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, A Playwright at Work: Shakespeare and the Construction of Openings, has recently been prepared for press review. 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.
*This is a unique stream of direct-entry to Ph.D. (post B.A.) for the top 2% of students in the country.
Hyla Robicsek, Honours B.A. (Art History and English), M.A., Ph.D. (Art History)
Hyla earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, where she completed a double major in English literature and Art History. She went on to receive her Masters degree in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, England where she focused on contemporary British art. Her thesis was published in Third Text: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture. Recently, Hyla completed her doctorate in Art History at Johns Hopkins University where she specialized in all things modern, specifically painting and sculpture from the mid-nineteenth century onward. Her dissertation comprised a sustained analysis of a single image by the great French painter, Edgar Degas.
During her graduate studies, Hyla taught art history at Ryerson University and Johns Hopkins University. Venturing outside the lecture hall, she spent three glorious summers teaching groups of university students in London’s most exciting museums and galleries.
Hyla is passionate about art and literature. Few things are more beautiful than a perfectly crafted sentence, painting or poem. She feels most at home in the classroom (or at her computer planning a lesson to share with her classroom). She considers writing well the most difficult task there is—but also the most gratifying. If she were dropped on a desert island and could only bring one thing, it might just be E.B. White’s Elements of Style.
She considers herself privileged to work with inquisitive and creative young minds.
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.
Lead Math & Problem Solving Instructor, Admissions Ambassador (Mathematics)
Reuven Rashkovsky, B.Sc., M.Sc., M.Ed., Ph.D. (Mathematics)
Dr. Reuven Rashkovsky received his Masters degrees in Mathematics and Teaching from the University of Odessa, former USSR. Reuven worked on post-graduate studies and Ph.D. research in Mathematics at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, and at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. Reuven has been a successful and sought-after teacher of Mathematics in four countries around the world as well as in Canada, specializing in math olympiad training and working with bright and gifted students. Reuven is well-known as Brain Power’s originator, as well as for his unique old-school-meets-new-school teaching style. Reuven has also been the driving force behind Brain Power Enrichment’s math workbook publications, available from various retailers across the globe and at Brain Power headquarters.
Associate Instructor & Admissions Ambassador
Christopher Harris, Honours B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. (Pharmacology & Toxicology)
Christopher is a dedicated educator and believes in the importance of early youth immersion in both science and art. He has facilitated and organized creative storytelling workshops for under-resourced schools throughout the Greater Toronto Area. He is also involved in delivering a unique science and art program to youth in Toronto.
Christopher believes STEM education is improved through the elements of art and storytelling and will improve science understanding and communication. He loves learning and practicing math, science and art and his infectious energy permeates everything he does.
Alex Maizlish, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. (Mathematics)
Alex joined the math Olympiad movement at an early age. He has won several prizes at the national mathematical Olympiads in Ukraine, participated as a jury member in the International Mathematics Tournament of Towns, and, in Canada, coached high-school and undergraduate students for various math contests such as the Canadian Mathematical Olympiad, NCS/MAA, Putnam competition, and others.
Alex has also taught over 20 undergraduate-level university courses during his doctoral studies. He has also taught many bright young students math and problem solving. In the classroom, he offers students multiple angles to understand new concepts, supports and uses an interdisciplinary approach to education, and enjoys providing a challenging and interesting class environment.
Jessica Elaine Wright, Honours B.A., M.A., Ph.D. (Cand.) Philosophy of Education/Social Justice Education
Jessica is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Her current research is funded by a prestigious Ontario Graduate Scholarship and she has received numerous grants and awards to pursue her graduate research. Jessica is published in academic journals and she has been invited to give presentations about her work at conferences in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. She earned her Masters of Arts degree in Political Science at York University, and completed an Honours BA with a Double Major in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies from York University.
Passionate about addressing issues of social inequity, Jessica works with various not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). She has taught workshops and seminars at organizations and schools across the Greater Toronto Area.
As a life-long learner, Jessica continues to research innovative pedagogical approaches to inspire her students to think critically and passionately, believe in their strengths and talents, and learn from each other to lead positive change in the world.
Karun Pathak, Honours B.A., Pg.Dip. (Law), Ph.D. (Philosophy of Moral Psychology)
Karun earned his B.A. from the University of Toronto (Specialist Philosophy and Minor Psychology), going on to earn a Postgraduate Diploma in Biotechnological Law and Ethics from the University of Sheffield and a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Moral Psychology from the University of Bristol. He has extensive teaching experience; he has not only taught at the primary and junior levels (Victoria Park Primary School), but also at the post-secondary level in subjects that range from philosophy, psychology, business and law (University of Bristol, University of the West of England, University of Guelph-Humber, and Humber College).
Karun is a passionate individual who takes a creative, comical, and philosophical approach to teaching. He believes that life is about endless learning, and teaching is about awakening the natural learner and seeker within the minds of students. In order to do so, he presents course material in the context of thought experiments that compel each student to confront their deepest convictions about a range of personal issues typical of self-discovery.
When Karun is not teaching, he pursues his passion for the martial arts (Shotokan Karate, Silat, and Tae Kwon Do), combative and stunt acting, meditation, dance, and music. He believes that the martial arts and dance are important forms of self-expression that improve the learning process, while promoting mental freedom and physical health!
Cassandra Chapman, Honours B.A., M.A. (Linguistics), Ph.D. (Cognitive Science of Language)
Cassandra earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Ottawa where she majored in Linguistics and Spanish. She then completed a Master of Arts in Linguistics from the University of Ottawa. The results of her M.A. Major Research Paper were published in the Canadian Journal of Linguistics. 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. Cassandra’s dissertation investigated how sentence structure (syntax) and sentence meaning (semantics) affect reading times in language processing. She has presented the results of her doctoral work at both national and international conferences.
Cassandra has taught undergraduate linguistic courses at McMaster University and communication courses at Sheridan College. During her Ph.D. studies, she took courses on teaching through the MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching at McMaster. In 2017, she completed the Teaching and Learning Foundations Certificate of Completion offered by the MacPherson Institute. 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 order to make the material accessible to as many students as possible. In the classroom, Cassandra aims to inspire her students to improve on their writing each week. Cassandra is thrilled to be joining the dynamic and enthusiastic team of educators at Brain Power!
Ron Heichman, B.Sc. (Engineering & Mathematics), M.Sc., Ph.D. (Cand.) Aerospace Engineering
Ron’s area of expertise and passion is aerospace engineering, with a focus on applied math and uncertainty quantification in structures. His degrees include aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, and mathematics. In academia, and as president of a professional engineering club, Ron has fostered a learning community focused on pursuing academic excellence through research and professional development. Ron has also been actively involved in educational outreach (via university institutions), with a focus on encouraging youth to enrol in university and pursue science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics-oriented careers.
Ron has extensive teaching experience in math, physics, computer programming, and engineering. As part of his teaching philosophy and vision, Ron focuses on cultivating a deeper understanding of mathematics with the hopes of motivating students to explore, learn about, and solve complex problems with elegance and rigour. Outside of the classroom, Ron is an avid rock climber and outdoor enthusiast. In the kitchen, he likes to apply his engineering and math acumen towards making the best food he can!
Associate Instructor, Executive Administrator & Admissions Ambassador
Tonya Seltzer, Honours B.A. (Sociology), B.Ed., M.Ed.
Tonya holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology from McMaster University and a Bachelor of Education from York University, the latter focusing on social justice and equity issues within the education system. Tonya has also earned a Masters in Education in which her research focused on the Sociology of Education and Equity Studies. Tonya has since spent many years teaching students from all academic backgrounds, and, while serving as an English teacher in Israel in 2010, she received a much coveted Teacher Excellence award. At Brain Power, Tonya has taken on dual-roles as an executive administrative services manager and also an educator in the Foundations levels of the Language Arts program. Tonya has several years of experience as a Children/Family Program Manager at the Schwartz/Reisman Centre and, due to her active involvement in the community and her allegiance to lifelong learning, Tonya brings an abundance of professional energy and detail-oriented skills to Brain Power students and parents.
Miriam Selick, Honours B.A. (English and History), B.Ed., M.A. (English)
Miriam completed her undergraduate degree in English and History at Queen’s University. She went on to receive her Master’s degree in English Literature from York University, where she focussed on post-WWII feminist poetry and completed her Bachelor of Education at University of Toronto, with a focus on Intermediate/Senior English and History.
Miriam has worked in a range of positions as an educator, writer, curriculum developer, business innovator and artist, and is committed to creating engaging and supportive opportunities for youth development. Miriam’s passion for education has fueled her drive to pursue opportunities for professional development, ensuring that her pedagogical toolkit is always up-to-date. She has taught for 5 years with private schools in Toronto and Kingston, working with students in grades 1-7, and has also worked as a tutor in math and literacy for students in elementary through middle school. Outside of the classroom, Miriam is the co-founder of CANVAS, an organization that leads arts-based programming for youth in camps, schools and community centres on the topics of bullying, body image, and self-esteem. She also works as an educator for international teachers at University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Miriam is committed to supporting each student to reach his/her full potential by providing them with a sound knowledge-base, critical thinking skills, and (most importantly!) a life-long love of learning.
Michelle Stone, Honours B.Sc., B.Ed., M.A. (Mathematics)
Michelle has completed an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics along with her Bachelors of Education in Intermediate/Senior Mathematics and Science (with a specialization in Biology) from York University. Michelle has recently completed her Masters in Mathematics and currently holds a full-time, permanent, secondary teaching position with the Toronto District School Board. She has worked with a variety of students, ranging from those in a Pre-International Baccalaureate program to those with Special Education needs. Over the years, Michelle has attained a broad range of skills which she applies daily in her teaching. She has worked extensively with students from diverse learning and cultural backgrounds. Through these experiences, she has been able to appreciate the uniqueness that exists within each school and community. Michelle creates a classroom environment that promotes and encourages students to respect themselves, their classmates, and the learning process. Outside of the classroom, she has many years of tutoring experience, and has provided both one-to-one ongoing/remedial assistance and taught students who required home schooling.
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.
Gregory Vainberg, B.A., M.B.A.
Gregory holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from York University, Toronto, as well as a Masters in Business Administration specializing in Education from Aspen University in Colorado. He has strong communication skills and a passion for success.
Gregory has many years of experience in a prestigious teaching hospital (University Health Network) in the education technology and research innovation fields. Moreover, his education and interest in mathematics enable him to bring a particular dedication to extraordinary problem solving strategies and logic puzzles so fundamental to his work at Brain Power. During his career in teaching, Gregory has developed and adapted progressive teaching curriculum and pedagogical styles, while constantly improving both his own knowledge base and those of his students and colleagues.
Gregory is a dynamic educator both in small or large groups, in or outside of the classroom, and is sensitive to students with special needs. His pedagogic leanings include a penchant for nurturing strong student-teacher rapport and providing a student-centred environment. Gregory motivates students towards better performance and self-actualization.
Associate Instructor & Admissions Ambassador
Elena Sukovati, Honours B.A., B.Ed.
Elena received her degrees at York University, Toronto. She has worked in both the private and public (YRDSB) fields of education as a teacher in the primary and junior divisions as well as an International Language Instructor. Elena is also certified in Pedagogical Documentation to Enhance Formative Assessment, Tribes, Special Education, and ESL (York University).
Over the years she has refined and honed her pedagogical practices. She has been working with students of diverse backgrounds and abilities, creating and developing unique, inclusive, critical, and inquiry-based lessons through careful lesson planning and by employing relevant pedagogy. She has witnessed the dividends of her lessons, seeing the students learn, apply the learned material and enjoying education.
Her goal as a teacher is three-fold: The first goal is to provide the students with a safe, secure and stimulating learning environment, where sensitivity to and caring for our society are as important as academic learning. The second goal is to help students develop discipline, self-esteem, character and perseverance so that they can become productive, mature, responsible and influential members of society. The third goal is to model excellence of character by fostering principals of empathy, responsibility, and fairness for her students.
Executive Administrator & 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.
Maria Gorelik, Honours B.A. (French Studies), B.Ed.
Maria Gorelik is both a French Immersion teacher in YRDSB and a passionate polyglot. She completed her Honours Bachelor of French Studies and Bachelor of Education at Glendon, York University, specializing in teaching intermediate and senior grades. Maria speaks Russian, English, French, and Spanish and loves learning, teaching (with zest!), and analyzing grammar and literature in all four languages. She has extensive experience in formal education and has taught theatre, journalism, and media in summer camps and in various conferences. Aside from teaching and languages, her hobbies include volunteering with animals, cinema, hiking, and cooking.
Associate Instructor, Logics Facilitator
Paul Giampuzzi B.ASc. (Mechanical Engineering – Robotics)
Paul graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering (Robotics Specialty) and worked in research, design, and development of custom robotic devices for different industries before realizing that he wanted to have a greater impact on today’s society and dedicated his life to education. Paul founded the University of Toronto Robotics Association, which has grown to one of the largest design clubs at the University of Toronto Engineering Department. Paul’s intrinsic design capability and leadership has led the organization to receiving many gold medals at international competitions. The organization has grown to provide design resources, software and hardware educational tutorials, high-school mentorship programs and much more. Paul’s unique blend of skills honed through his education and experience along with his enthusiastic and driven personality makes him invaluable to the Logics Academy Team!