English Language Arts Department
6th Grade - Katie Demicco
This is my second year at Renaissance and my first year as the lead 6th grade ELA teacher. As a Connecticut native, I pursued my love for the written word at UMass-Amherst, completing a B.A. in English and a minor in Sociology. Last year, I earned my Master’s of Education and English teaching license in the TEACH 180 Days UMass-Amherst graduate education program, in which I completed my practicum teaching at Renaissance! I am excited to continue teaching and learning with my students at Renaissance in the coming year!
When I’m not teaching, you can catch me reading my favorite books or eating barbecue chicken pizza while watching the Red Sox beat the Yankees.
8th Grade - Joy Leaning
My love of reading and writing strongly influenced my decision to become an English Language Arts teacher. I can’t imagine doing anything else! I went to UMass-Amherst and received my B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and am currently back at UMass getting my Master’s of Education. Learning and teaching go hand-in-hand, and I am so happy to currently be doing both.
When I am not at school, I am most likely drilling with the Army National Guard, which I have been a member of for 6 years. I have two children who also take up most of my time (and sanity!) and enjoy traveling, horseback riding, and trying to get as much sleep as possible!
10th Grade - Sarah Banning
I am in my third year at Renaissance. I teach 10th grade ELA and have a 10th grade Crew. I grew up in Alabama and attended the University of Alabama where I received a BA in English. I moved to Massachusetts to pursue my Master of Arts in Teaching at Mount Holyoke College. I enjoy reading, traveling, and gardening.
12th Grade - Lise Krieger
I grew up in Weston, Connecticut, playing in the woods, swimming in rivers, and riding my bike. Many years and many colleges later (Cornell University; the University of California, San Diego; Fairfield University; and Fielding Graduate University) my own love of learning inspired me to become a teacher.
After teaching English for 19 years at Norwalk High School in CT, I was fortunate to start working at the Renaissance School in the summer of 2007. I love Renaissance and its students, believe in its mission, and am committed to being part of making it continue to be a shining star in Springfield.
My passions include almost anything that requires being outdoors and exploring new places. I love to bike and ride my horses and spend a lot of time riding about, discovering new places. My favorite indoor hobbies are reading and writing.
I share my home with my partner, Jo, our dogs, cats and horses.
ESOL - Leixa Garrafa
I am happily married, the proud mom of two: a freshman at UMass and a HS Senior. I am originally from Puerto Rico but moved to the USA when I was in my junior year of high school; graduating from the Springfield Central High School as an ELL student myself. I attended UMass-Amherst and UPR where I earned my BA in Special Education. Years later, I earned my Master’s in Education with a concentration in Dual Language, World Languages and ESOL from Cambridge College. I have taught for many years (elementary to secondary levels) and have loved and grown from every experience. Part of my educational and professional accomplishments I owe to my dedicated and super-hero ESOL teachers, who believed in me and gave me the tools to succeed. This is my second year at Renaissance and I couldn’t be more honored to be part of this AWESOME community of visionaries and scholars. I am the Renaissance ESOL teacher of a group of fantastic young men and women, and it is my goal and hope to continue the legacy of what it was once done for me.
7th Grade - Emily Lepine
Growing up as an avid reader and naturally outgoing person seemed to lead me to become a teacher. This is my 4th year here at The Springfield Renaissance School as the 7th grade ELA teacher. Born and raised a Western Mass girl, I have stayed in the local community to bring high quality lessons and energy to the youth of our school. I started my journey at Holyoke Community College to get my Associates degree and went on to Westfield State for my Bachelors degree. I am currently in the final semester of my graduate degree program at Western New England University. I am proud to be a part of this school community and of the work that we do here.
When I am not grading papers and doing grad school work I enjoy CrossFit, running, biking and hiking; Generally, just being outside in the sun. I also have a pet cat, Paisley, who I rescued last year.
9th Grade - Erika Schraft (Dept. Chair)
I am eager and excited for my second year here at Renaissance! I cannot imagine a better place to enter my 10th year of teaching, having spent the last 6 years in the district teaching middle and high school English and Reading. My undergrad years were spent at Westfield State where I received degrees in English and Art. I ventured on and earned a Masters in English Education and Special Education from WNE. In my downtime I love to read (especially rereading Harry Potter!), creating art, and rooting for my favorite sports teams.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” - Ernest Hemingway
11th Grade - Chiara White-Mink
My journey at Renaissance begins as an eleventh grade English teacher. The School’s stated values – academic excellence, cultural sensitivity, and promoting intentional communities – align with my fundamental beliefs vis-à-vis teaching and education. I am committed to creating an educational environment that honors, nurtures, engages, and supports a wide range of learners. My experiences working with diverse youth (international intern teaching English in Namibia, Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Sierra Leone, tenth-grade student English teacher in Worcester, MA, and in varying roles with African Community Education, the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and the YMCA) have informed my philosophy that students learn best when educators acknowledge their multidimensionality.
Teaching is the vehicle I use to impart knowledge, ensure that students are skilled in analysis and comprehension of literature, honor freedom trailblazers’ legacies; equip students to deconstruct oppressive structures and discourses, reconstruct human agency, and construct equitable and socially just relations of power (per Gloria Ladson-Billings); and radically transform students, empowering them to change the world.
I enjoy traveling, reading, and writing. I am a proud graduate of Clark University, Worcester, where I completed a BA degree (Cultural Studies & Communication major, English and Education minors, concentration in Race & Ethnic Studies) and earned an MA in Teaching. I have traveled to eight countries (Egypt, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates) for study abroad, international teaching, and personal adventure.
I thank my Mom and Dad for facilitating my intellectual exploration and fostering my identity as a globally and socially conscious reader, analytical thinker, and reflective writer.
Librarian - Cynthia Sheehan