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Meet the Team


Kaycee Lindeman

Curriculum Advisor

Kaycee is a Curriculum Advisor at Academia.  She is also a clinical assistant professor at Illinois State University.  Before moving to higher education, Kaycee taught for Chicago Public Schools, primarily as a special education teacher but also in general education, ESL, and bilingual education.  She holds Master’s degrees in both Curriculum and Instruction from the American College of Education, and Educational Leadership and Linguistics from the University of Illinois.

Riacela Ortiz

Early Childhood Instructor

Riacela is originally from Puerto Rico and now resides in the Chicago area.  She is currently an Early Childhood Instructor at Academia.  Riacela has worked with preschool-age children for over 12 years and is certified in first aid and CPR.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the Universidad Catolica de Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Northwestern University.

Andreina Guerra

Spanish Preschool Instructor

Andreina is a native of Venezuela and currently resides in the Chicago area.  In addition to being a Spanish Preschool Instructor at Academia, she teaches Spanish to grades K-8 in both public and private schools.  Andreina has previous experience at Language Stars teaching Spanish language programs to children ages 1-10 at centers and several school programs.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Law from Universidad Santa Maria, Caracas and a Master’s in Banking and International Finance from Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, Caracas.  Andreina also has a Master’s in International Law and International Relations from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.

Julieta Falla

Spanish Preschool Instructor

Julieta is a native of Guatemala and now resides in the Chicago area.  She currently teaches Spanish preschool at Academia.  Julieta was a lead instructor for Language Stars teaching Spanish language programs to children ages 1-10 at centers and several school programs.  While in Guatemala, she was a volunteer at the Museum of Mayan Art and Archeology.  Julieta studied Law at the University Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala.

Vipanchi Raghu

Indian Mythology Instructor

Vipanchi is a native of India and currently resides in the Chicago area.  She is a freelance learning designer and consultant with over 12 years’ experience in designing learning solutions.  At Academia, Vipanchi designs and teaches open-minded, theme-based explorations of classical Indian mythology and culture through interactive stories, activities, and fun engagements.  She believes passionately in raising global citizens and enjoys contributing to the interconnected cultural learning at Academia.  She also teaches Hindu philosophy to children in an Indian spiritual organization.  Vipanchi holds a Master’s degree in English Literature with a focus on Indian writing from Bangalore University, India.

Erin Marie Higgins

French Instructor

Erin is an educator with twelve years of classroom teaching experience in all levels of French.  Erin is fully credentialed in K-12 French in both IL and CA.  She currently teaches high school French for the Chicago International Charter School.  Erin received her BA in French from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and spent a year studying abroad in Montpellier, France, at the Université de Montpellier.  She has a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a Doctorate of Education from UCLA.  Erin has spent the past year working on a project for the University of California creating online courses in French.

Qi Guo

Mandarin Instructor

Qi is a native of China and currently resides in the Chicago area.  Before moving to the Chicago area, she lived and worked in Kobe, Japan, for three years where she learned to speak and write Japanese.  Qi has experience teaching both adults and children in a small group environment and believes that “A different language is a different vision of life.”  She obtained her Master’s degree in Bilingual/Bicultural Education from Columbia University.  Qi also trained to teach an immersion program in the New York City public school system.

Chryssa Papacosta

Greek Instructor

Chryssa is a native of Greece and now resides in the Chicago area.  She currently teaches Greek Language and Culture with an emphasis on the “Ellinomatheia” test (Certificate of Attainment in Modern Greek), of which she is a certified examiner.  As a teacher of Greek (Modern and Ancient), Chryssa has had the opportunity to instruct students in secondary educational settings in Greece.  For ten years, she was also an adjunct lecturer and field supervisor of teacher training programs at the University of Athens, Greece.  Chryssa earned her Bachelor’s degree in History, Archeology, and Greek Language teaching. Her graduate studies were focused on Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education.


Erin Young

After School Team Lead

Erin is currently an After School Team Lead at Academia.  In addition, she is a Special Education teacher in the Chicago area.  Erin has numerous years of experience as a Head Coach for youth athletes in the Special Olympics.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Richard Lawson

After School Team Lead

Richard is currently an After School Team Lead at Academia.  He is an experienced programs manager with a coaching and youth counseling background.  Prior to Academia, Richard was a Site Director for the Apollo after school program.  He has an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice and is currently completing a Bachelor’s degree in Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies at DePaul University.

Valeri Salazar

After School Coordinator

Valeri is an After School Coordinator at Academia.  She is a native of Colombia and currently resides in the Chicago area.  Valeri has numerous years’ experience as a Teacher’s Assistant at a local school.  She led groups of children under the age of four and created weekly age-appropriate lesson plans.  Valeri has a Bachelor’s degree from Colegio Emilio Sotomayor, Colombia.

Magaly Cordero

Music Instructor

Magaly Cordero is an active performer and educator in Chicagoland. A trained classical/ opera singer, she has performed roles with the Cedar Rapids Opera Theater, Evanston’s The Savoyaires, and Chamber Opera Chicago. She has also sung with the South Shore Opera Company, Music Theater Works, and Wisconsin’s Music by the Lake festival. She is a proud member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus.
As an educator, Magaly has several years experience teaching music and Spanish. She has previous experience as a Spanish teacher with Language Stars, and she also provided Spanish lessons in people’s homes. Magaly has had a vibrant private voice studio for the last 10 years and is the founder of the Pop-Up Music School, which provides music and ethnomusicology classes in people’s homes.  She is currently assisting with the choral music program at Chicago’s St. Procopius School. Magaly has a Bachelor’s degree in Music from Northwestern University and a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts.



Ksenia Golikova

Program Administrator

Ksenia is currently the Program Administrator at Academia.  She is an educator, therapist, and administrator with experience and passion for working with children of all ages.  Ksenia has serviced a diverse range of students in the Chicagoland area and Russia, her birth country.  She loves traveling around the world, exploring different cultures, and sharing the knowledge of her homeland traditions. Ksenia has created and led a series of cultural workshops that introduce children to Russian culture and language, and conducted tutoring sessions for adults interested in learning Russian. She strives to create a stimulating environment for students to grow, learn, and thrive together.  Ksenia has a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Development, Early Childhood and Elementary Education from N.N. State Pedagogical University, Russia.

Christian Castillo

Human Resources and Training

Christian is a native of Belize and currently resides in the Chicago area.  He transports children to and from local schools to Academia, and can often be found playing board games and reading to the children during the afterschool program.  Christian is an excellent cook and in his spare time loves to prepare food from his native Belize.  He also enjoys taking his children for nature walks at Thatcher Woods. Christian speaks Belizean Creole, a pidgin language of Belize.


Andria Billman

Customer Services Manager

Andria is a native of Belize and grew up in Oak Park, IL.  She now resides in Champaign, IL.  Andria supports the Academia staff with billing, HR, and customer service.  Andria graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Anthropology and a minor in Greek Studies.


Brigida Arreola

Brigida is a bus driver and on site attendant at Academia.  She previously worked as a Library Assistant in Youth Services for the Berwyn Public Library and a Teacher’s Assistant at Heritage Middle School in Berwyn, IL.  Brigida studied Early Childhood Education at Northeastern Illinois University.


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