Michael Durchslag is the Director of P.E.A.S.E. Academy (Peers Enjoying a Sober Education), the oldest sober school in the United States. He began working for P.E.A.S.E. in November, 1995 as the Social Studies teacher. Michael became the school’s Director in January, 2007. He is a licensed 7-12 social studies teacher and earned his Masters of Arts in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas in 2002. Michael also holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Beloit College (1991). His commitment to recovery schools goes beyond P.E.A.S.E. Academy as he also serves as a board member of the Association of Recovery Schools (ARS).
Amy PetersonAdministrative Assistant
Amy Peterson is the administrative assistant at PEASE Academy, with responsibilities in several areas. She came to MTS with many years of experience in psychiatric and chemical dependency, having worked for a treatment center in St. Paul. She earned an associate’s degree from Century College and is now completing her bachelor’s at St. Catherine’s University. Married and the mother of a daughter in college, Amy owns three dogs and a cat and serves as a foster home for Minnesota Rescue. Working with paint, reading, music and drawing are her favorite interests.
Peter CarlinEnglish Teacher
Peter Carlin has had several careers before coming to PEASE. He has driven a bus for Metro Transit, cast actors for movies and TV shows, and wrote and edited for magazines. Among his many unconventional education experiences, he has taught theater arts in Los Angeles, video production in Washington, DC, and the science of gigantic bubbles to students in Robbinsdale. He was also an English teacher at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in south Minneapolis. State-licensed and on his way to a Master’s in Education through St. Mary’s University, he has a Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. With his wife, kids, and pets, he enjoys swimming, reading, biking, movies, making things, and adventuring near and far.
Katie KestnerScience Teacher
Katie is the Science teacher. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona Katie grew up with her family in the wild wild west, but took many family road trips back to her parent’s home state of MN (with many cool stops along the way). Katie completed her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota, Morris. She continued with her education and went to the U of M, Twin Cities teacher graduate program to get her teacher license in High School Chemistry. Prior to starting at PEASE in the fall of 2016 Katie has worked as a Lifeguard and Swim Instructor, a Soccer Coach, in the gardens as a Horticulture Worker, and in a Soils Lab. In Katie’s free time she enjoys playing soccer, lindy hop, biking, traveling, being outside, reading, and daydreaming.
Ellen MinzelMath Teacher
Ellen Minzel is the mathematics teacher. This is her first full time teaching position after graduating from St. Cloud State University December of 2014. Prior to coming here full time, she was a long term substitute teacher in mathematics at PEASE Academy. For the past nine years, she has spent her summers teaching swimming lessons in her hometown, Mound, MN. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, being outside, and trying new things. She is excited for the school year to begin, and make a difference in the lives of the students.
Jeff SchommerSocial Studies Teacher
Jeff Schommer, Social Studies- Jeff grew up in the dairyland pastures of southeastern Wisconsin and moved to Minneapolis in 1995 to earn a BA in Urban Studies from the U of M. He worked as a town planning consultant off and on for about 10 years, then made a career change in 2008 after obtaining his teaching licensure in Duluth. He has lived in numerous neighborhoods in South Minneapolis, at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, at the end of the Gunflint Trail, in a barn in northwestern Wisconsin, on the North Shore of Lake Superior and in a Toyota Corolla. He loves travel, hiking and camping, gardening and cooking, fermenting things, and exploring the world with his wife and son.
Denise SimonSpecial Education
Denise Simon is the Special Education Case Manager and Resource Teacher. She started working at PEASE Academy in 2013; however she has been a special education teacher with the MTS district since 2006. Prior, Denise worked in District 197 and DCALS as an English/Language Arts teacher. She decided to go to graduate school for a Master’s Degree in Special Education which she completed in 2011. She is the mother of two sons 17 and 21 years of age. In her free time she enjoys spending time cooking and eating with her Italian family, traveling, gardening and reading.
Rufus BrownLicensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) and Board Certified Counselor (BCC)
Rufus Brown is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) and Board Certified Counselor (BCC). He has worked with youth in corrections, as well as homeless shelters for runaway and homeless teens. Rufus also has extensive background working with youth and adults in inpatient settings, outpatient programs, and residential treatment facilities. Rufus is a natural teacher and brings over two decades of experience to our team to help support, coach, and encourage our students.
Saraya DahlenSocial Worker
Saraya Dahlen is the School Social Worker. She started working at PEASE Academy in December, 2014. Prior to working at PEASE, she was working as a community social worker, providing school linked case management to families with children in the 622 school district. She also has experience working with families and individuals who were experiencing domestic violence and homelessness. Saraya completed her bachelor’s degree in social work from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2013. She is a licensed social worker (LSW) and school social worker (SSW) by the MN Board of Social Work and MN Department of Education. In her free time Saraya enjoys hanging with friends, traveling, and trying out new recipes from Pinterest! She loves getting to work with this population and be a resource for the students.
Heather ZemienResident Artist
Heather Zemien started at P.E.A.S.E. in 2005. She has been instructing art around the TC metro since graduating from NHCC with a degree in Graphic Design with a strong emphasis in Fine Arts. Heather’s skills are broad and cover painting, drawing, photography, cut paper, and sculpture. She teaches an array of people ranging across all ages and abilities. Her mission is to help other’s build self-esteem using art as her tool. Here at P.E.A.S.E. she uses an approach that puts the primary focus on student individual expression while incorporating the fundamentals.
She illustrated a children’s book that was published in 2014 where she used cut paper to do the illustrations. She is currently working on the sequel to this book. When not teaching or freelancing she can be found enjoying her 4 creative children and her loving partner (Steven) along with their 2 dogs and a cat. She also enjoys gardening, theater, concerts, hiking, and Art Activism.