Teachers

Our teachers come from a variety of backgrounds in the arts, but they all have a common thread that brings us together. They are experienced teachers who share their creativity, gentle nurturing spirits and the ability to be flexible for the children and families we are honored to work with. If you are interested in finding out more about joining our program, the Breanna’s Gift Artist-Teacher job description is a great way to start. The next step? Fill out an application and this form which gives us permission to do a background check.

DANCE

website_teacher_shelleyShelley Westgor

Shelley has taught dance for over 20 years to children ranging in age from 2 through 18. The children study many dance disciplines including jazz, tap and ballet and also get to experience the joy of performing. Shelley has taught classes to toddlers and preschoolers in the community and currently teaches at Spectrum Dance. Her formal training began at age 10 and as with most dancers, her training continues to be a part of her weekly routine. Shelley has shared her talent and her love of dance with the children in the Breanna’s Gift program since its inception in 2007 and continues to be passionate about working with the children.

website_teacher_KristinadeSacramentoKristina de Sacramento

Kristina has been a generous force in the artistic community of Minneapolis since 1973 – for years as a painter and for over 26 years as a flamenco dancer, teacher and choreographer. She has studied in Paris, Chicago, New York, Santa Fe, San Francisco and Albuquerque. Kristina travels to Spain for a month each year to continue her studies. She is the Artistic Director of Anda Flamenco Company and Anda Flamenco School, both founded in 1995. Kristina believes that the personal pride and self-respect embodied in flamenco are healing for people in many different situations. She has dedicated herself to finding ways to share the power of dance with diverse cultural and economic communities of all ages and physical and mental abilities. Kristina joined Breanna’s Gift in 2008 and shares her unique and passionate teaching style with the children in the program.

MUSIC

amplatz_music.2013_460pxBetz Ulrich

Betz grew up playing the piano and over the last 38 years has added the harp and ukulele to her list of musical accomplishments. She retired as an RN after 40 years of working in the field and attended Augsburg College to pursue a degree in Music Therapy. In 2010, Betz did her internship at Fraser School in Minneapolis, working with children with a wide range of childhood diseases and disabilities; she received her Music Therapy degree that same year. Betz has been with Breanna’s Gift since January of 2009 and has been encouraged by the children’s response to music and the arts. She continues to be amazed at their resilience and how wise they are for their years. Each time Betz teaches the children in the Breanna’s Gift program, she believes that while they are learning something new, she is learning as well.

MUSIC and ORIGAMI

origami - RMH_cropRochelle Mazze

Rochelle holds an undergraduate degree from Lehman College in New York in sociology and a master’s degree in social research from Montclair State University in New Jersey. During this time, Rochelle studied the physiology and psychosocial development of language acquisition, which upon reflection, she believes prepared her for Suzuki’s approach to learning music. Rochelle is a certified Suzuki piano teacher and has been teaching Suzuki Piano for over 30 years. She has held various positions in the Twin Cities Piano Teachers Guild; is one of the founders of the Suzuki Association of Minnesota; contributes articles to their newsletters and has been a conference presenter for the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Rochelle joined Breanna’s Gift in 2007. She has developed a unique and innovative approach to music as she combines it with the art of origami. The ratio of one to the other varies with the ages and the physical capabilities of the children.

VISUAL ARTS

Malia Araki Burkhart

Malia is a multidisciplinary artist and educator. She teaches people how to create stories from scratch using whatever materials are around. Through arts residencies, classes and workshops, Malia loves introducing others to the wonder and magic of art. She often teaches puppet theater, mask making and set-design as well as music, visual arts and movement-improvisation. Her creative work blends together many forms of art, including music, sculpture, painting and storytelling.  She likes to explore funny voices, and objects that make interesting sounds. Malia joined Breanna’s Gift as a visual arts teacher in January of 2020.

Laura Burlis

Laura has traveled extensively and created art in the USA, Australia, and Italy. She has studied art at the Queensland School of Art, Brisbane, Australia, Minneapolis College of Art & Design, and the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze in Florence, Italy. She has taught at the Textile Center of MN, Minneapolis Community Ed, Courageous heArts, Phipps Center for the Arts, and Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts. Twelve years ago, Laura became entranced  with polymer clay. She loves sharing the transformative power of art and teaching both kids and adults how to work and play with this brightly colored, easily shaped, magical material. Laura is an avid gardener and lover of nature and has a great affinity for plants and landscapes. She takes her subject matter from the natural world and was Artist-in-Residence at Glacier National Park in 2017. She also paints utility boxes and pianos placed outdoors in the Twin Cities, makes scarecrows, and does performance art. Laura joined Breanna’s Gift as a visual arts teacher in January 2020.

Coco Connolly

Coco is an established Minneapolis artist whose background includes serving as an art director at Carmichael Lynch Advertising Agency and creative manager for Target Corporation in addition to owning her own design studio. She has won national and regional awards for her advertising and design work and her work has been recognized in Communication Arts, Print and Creative Quarterly magazines. Coco has been a featured speaker at venues in Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Washington DC for the American Institute of Graphic Artists. She has also been a guest speaker at the Perpich Center for Arts Education, sharing her love of art and design with High School students. Pursuit of her personal work has been ongoing. From three-dimensional work to book forms, with an abundance of drawing and painting in between. She’s taught watercolor workshops in the Midwest and Italy, volunteered in St. Louis Park, Minnesota grade schools leading art activities with kindergartners through third graders.Coco began teaching with Breanna’s Gift in 2017. “I love the process of art making. It gives me joy. I want to inspire others to feel free to create, to experience the delight of amazing themselves.”

website_teacher_KimGordonKim Gordon

Kim is a fine artist, graphic designer, illustrator and teacher. She attended the University of Wisconsin- Madison where she received a BS in Art Education. She has received additional training at the University of Minnesota, The Center for Book Arts and Minnetonka Center for the Arts. She has participated in many group juried and one person shows throughout the Midwest. As principal of Open Cupboard Designs in Minneapolis, Kim has created a line of illustrated greeting cards and luminaria. She is particularly drawn to the bond between individuals and the landscape, and this interest in a sense of place is evident throughout her work. Kim has taught workshops in landscape painting, observational drawing for biology majors, and a wide range of children’s art classes, art classes for disabled adults and classes for specific populations. She is a member of PAN (Project Art for Nature), Outdoor Painters of Minnesota and Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota. She also studies Iyengar Yoga and Sogetsu Ikebana. Kim joined Breanna’s Gift in the fall of 2015 and shares her love of all things art with the children.

Meg Hest

Meg Hest has a degree in art/education with a focus on drawing and design. Her skills have led to a wealth of opportunities, from creating oversized animal figures for the 1984 Dayton’s holiday display, Animalen, to collaboration with an art therapist in the design of a line of soft toys. These toys won the Oppenheimer Gold Seal, an industry award for outstanding new products. As a teacher, Meg works with people of all ages, including early elementary and senior citizens. She has spent more than twenty years working with students who experience physical and other health issues. Meg teaches classes in the fine arts and crafts, including drawing, printmaking, sewing, mosaic-making, origami, and more. Meg joined Breanna’s Gift as a visual arts teacher in January 2020.

website_teacher_MargoMargo McCreary

Margo wears many hats and costumes. She is variously a puppeteer, actor, visual artist, puppet designer, seamstress and mother. Margo is in high demand as a residency artist and performer. She started with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in 1976 and then cast off on her own. Her irrepressible good spirits onstage and in the classroom are contagious. Her work is peopled with her creations as she performs with her many puppet friends such as Jack-the-Dog in her play “Diggity Dog Days,” and her larger-than-life puppet character, Ollie McNutt who has come to life with Margo inside for over 30 years. Margo is a recipient of Art Tour Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, with which she presents her puppet shows around Minnesota, the most recent of which is “The On-Time Circus.” Margo became involved with Breanna’s Gift in the fall of 2010, when she held a three-day Puppet Workshop at Ronald McDonald House Upper Midwest. The workshop was so successful it has become an annual event. In January of 2011, Margo joined the organization as an artist/teacher and has been sharing her creativity and her wonderful look into the world of the arts ever since.

website_teacher_kidsclubCecilia Schiller

A sculptor and carver, Cecilia creates interactive mechanical sculptures (also called automata) from wood. These detailed, whimsical pieces have wooden gears and hand carved figures that are brought to life through the turn of a crank. Cecilia received her BA in Art from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point in 198. She subsequently studied European relief carving with Konstantinos Papadakis in Minneapolis and Balinese mask carving in Indonesia. She spent many years behind the scenes building props, puppets and masks for professional theater, and shared her skills with young people through performances and workshops as a roster artist for Young Audiences of MN and Intermedia Arts. She has won many awards and grants for her artwork, including a 2014 Minnesota Artist’s Initiative grant. Her interactive piece, “Good Morning Sunshine” is on permanent display in Celebration Hall of the Mother-Baby Center and her most recent hospital interactive piece, “Day and Night in the North Woods” is in the Palliative Care Center. Both pieces are at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. Cecilia joined the Breanna’s Gift program as an artist/teacher in November of 2011. It is in this setting that she continues to share her love and passion for the arts.

website_teacher_artChris Wilson

Chris is a vibrant artist whose most recent focus has been on large scale, oriental style brushwork. Chris has a degree in Arts Education from the University of Minnesota with graduate credits in foundry and paper making. She has attended bookbinding and printing classes at the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts, many classes in metal working through the Guild of Metalsmiths and served at Penland Craft School in North Carolina as a studio assistant in basket making. Chris has been in numerous shows in the Twin Cities area and in New York. Chris teaches part time in the Otsego, Minnesota area and joined Breanna’s Gift in the fall of 2013 where she began sharing her creativity and whimsical style of art with the program.