Our Team

Board

Leah Kalish - President

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Leah holds a B.S. in Dance Ed., a Masters in Developmental Ed., two Yoga Alliance certifications (CYT & ERYT 500) and is a Family Constellation Facilitator.  In addition to being a dynamic teacher/ trainer of play, yoga, mindfulness, and social-emotional learning, Leah is known for the successful products/ curricula she created for Gaiam, School Specialty, Imaginazium, Yoga Ed. and Barefoot Books.  Currently, through her own company,  Move with Me Yoga Adventures, Leah provides movement and mindfulness resources & training to parents & educators that integrate stories, yoga/creative movement, and self-regulation. 

Michael Stain - Treasurer

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32 year Financial Services career, including Corporate Banking, Commercial Banking, Private Banking, High Yield Fixed Income Portfolio Management. Responsibilities in relationship management, credit administration, sales & marketing management.
Current role: Regional Manager of the Central Valley for Citizens Business Bank. Responsible for leading a team of Commercial Banking Professionals in providing top rate financial services to successful middle market enterprises.
Providing coaching & education to Private Bankers & Managers in effective initiation, evaluation, structuring, pricing & managing customized credit solutions that meet clients' wealth creation & planning needs. Partner with Private Banking Managers on the effective recruitment & development of team members & achievement of regional line of business profitability.
Works closely with the Regional Managing Director, National Sales Director & Senior Credit Officer to design & implement strategic plans to meet Private Banking business goals. Manages cross-sell ratios & account retention within teams & helps to develop new business through existing customer base & interaction with external resources.
Specialties: Commercial lending, real estate financing, sales management, business management, team member coaching & development.

Doug Spence

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In his younger days, Doug Spence traveled extensively in Europe and through parts of Asia and the South Pacific. In Australia, he met Joanne, to whom he has been married happily for twenty-eight years. Doug and Joanne have three wonderful teens.

Doug’s wife and children inspired him to take more of an interest in yoga after yoga played such an important part in healing Joanne’s injuries resulting from a traumatic car accident. Subsequently, Doug trained to become a YogaFit instructor and has taught yoga classes at FitnessYoga’s studio in Regent Square and at Alexander’s Fitness Center in Monroeville. Doug has seen and experienced many positive benefits of yoga as they affect adults and is even more excited about the benefits that school children experience through the Yoga In Schools program.

Doug has practiced law for nearly thirty years. He has served on several boards including those of the Garfield Jubilee Association and Perspective Theatre, as well as the Advisory Board of Hosanna House, Inc. Doug has provided pro bono services to help incorporate many local non-profit organizations. His hobbies include chess, hunting, cooking, and swing dancing.

 
Joanne Spence

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Joanne Spence, BSW, ERYT, LFYP-2 is a social worker, yoga teacher, and an international speaker/trainer for health and wellness. She works primarily in schools and hospitals and is known for her ability and passion to empower, encourage and motivate teachers and therapists. Self-care and self-awareness are the hallmarks of her trainings. Joanne brings 30 years of social work experience to her work.  She is the director of Urban Oasis Pittsburgh, a yoga therapy studio in Pittsburgh’s East End, and the Founder and Executive Director of Yoga in Schools, a non-profit organization that currently reaches over 20,000 children with innovative children’s yoga programming as part of Physical Education to schools both locally and nationally. She also works part-time at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, where yoga is part of inpatient treatment. Joanne is featured in the DVD, “Absolute Beginner Yoga.” www.absolutebeginneryoga.com

Joanne is the mother of three lively teenagers.  When she is not teaching yoga, she enjoys entertaining, reading, traveling, dancing, and hiking.

 

 

Yoga in Schools Ambassadors

Joanne Spence - Executive Director

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Joanne Spence, BSW, ERYT, LFYP-2 is a social worker, yoga teacher, and an international speaker/trainer for health and wellness. She works primarily in schools and hospitals and is known for her ability and passion to empower, encourage and motivate teachers and therapists. Self-care and self-awareness are the hallmarks of her trainings. Joanne brings 30 years of social work experience to her work.  She is the director of Urban Oasis Pittsburgh, a yoga therapy studio in Pittsburgh’s East End, and the Founder and Executive Director of Yoga in Schools, a non-profit organization that currently reaches over 20,000 children with innovative children’s yoga programming as part of Physical Education to schools both locally and nationally. She also works part-time at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, where yoga is part of inpatient treatment. Joanne is featured in the DVD, “Absolute Beginner Yoga.” www.absolutebeginneryoga.com

Joanne is the mother of three lively teenagers. When she is not teaching yoga, she enjoys entertaining, reading, traveling, dancing, and hiking.

Q&A with Joanne Spence

By Carmen J. Lee 
Heinz Endowments Communications Officer 

Yoga in Schools is providing teachers in the Pittsburgh region with new “tools” to help students focus in the classroom and live healthier lives. Executive Director Joanne Spence describes how the 7-year-old program continues to grow as students, teachers and administrators realize that yoga works


Q: What has been your organization’s biggest triumph of the past year? 

A: Seeing evidence that both physical education and classroom teachers are getting it. We have a two-pronged approach. We teach PE teachers how to do yoga programming from a curriculum as part of physical education. They can use yoga as a warm-up for whatever sport they’re teaching. We lay a skill on top of their kinesthetic intelligence and degree in education with a specialization in PE – and the yoga is the simplest part. The hard part is often them saying: “You want us to do what? But the kids need to run around?” We’re not disagreeing about kids needing to run around, but this is so much more than that. You can have a really strong yoga practice that is very athletic and can help you to calm your mind and relax your body, but there’s also a practice that focuses more on the subtle aspects of yoga that does wonders for your mental health. Some early studies are showing that this can be as equally effective as a drug like Prozac, which is used for depression. Traditional PE programs have wonderful components, and we are adding a layer of mindfulness, a way of being in one’s body that not only affects the body but the mind also. This takes PE into the realm of lifetime wellness – and that is the heart of Yoga in Schools – teaching lifetime wellness through yoga. 

Our second track is called Mind Body Tools for Teachers. We work with school principals to provide five, 45-minute sessions for teachers at each building. At some schools, that’s every week for five weeks, or it could be once a month for five months – after school or before school, depending on their schedules. We teach a basic yoga practice, usually something you can do standing or sitting at your desk, that’s based on simple movements, breathing or simple activity like a short visualization. When the teachers are able to relax in their own bodies, they’re able to communicate that to the students. This is designed to create a shift in the state of the classroom – to calm or to energize – so that at any given time the teachers can pull a transition aid out of their “tool belt” to use with the students. 

We’re teaching people how to be friends with their bodies. Yoga is a practice of self-care and self-awareness. When implementing aspects of our simple yoga program, teachers and kids have found that they are better able to focus and even be still when they need to be. Let’s face it; it is a useful skill to have even if we don’t like being still. Then, surprise, all of a sudden, we start to notice there are benefits to stillness that we may have previously overlooked. It actually calms and centers the mind. 

Q: What has been the biggest trial? 

A: There are days when a school district wants to make positive changes in children’s behavior; the school board is in alignment with what our program offers; and we have funding from wonderful foundations like The Heinz Endowments. But it can still be tough to connect with teachers. Teachers obviously have many more demands on their time these days. We believe in providing excellent professional development for PE and classroom teachers, and supporting and coaching them in a way that honors them and their existing skill set. This is how to have effective and empowered teachers. And I think that teachers want more of a say in what type of professional development they receive. 

That said, we meet any and all resistance with compassion, skill and professionalism. We understand that it may be hard to believe that high school students like learning yoga. We also see time and time again how empowered children of all ages feel when they realize that they can regulate their own behavior and that breathing and movement facilitate this process. 

Q: What issue or event has had the most impact – positive or negative – on your organization in the past year and how have you responded? 

A: Though I am the executive director of this program, it is a part-time position. I have another part-time position as a yoga therapist at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. I was working on March 8 when the shootings occurred in the building lobby that killed one person and wounded several others. 

That afternoon, I was scheduled to teach a class for the teachers at Edgewood Primary, but they had to reschedule because of test preparations, which was just as well since I didn’t make it home until 8 p.m. that day. I usually finish at 1 p.m., which would have been right before the shooting took place in the lobby. I initially didn’t leave the building at my usual time because I was dragging my feet. If I had tried to leave then, I could easily have been in the midst of the chaos. Such tragic events can be defining. It is a sobering reminder to do the very things we teach people every day: Be present in your life today. Notice what is in front of you. We have no promise of tomorrow. Yoga is a practice that teaches this sort of awareness. 

Q: What new initiatives have been started? 

A: At the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, we began a new partnership with the Woodland Hills School District. This is very exciting for us and for them. 

Q: As head of this organization, what goals do you have for it next year? 

A: To successfully train all of the PE teachers in the Woodland Hills School District in yoga programming and give all the classroom teachers a taste of Mind Body Tools for Teachers. We also would like to raise money specifically to study the longer-term outcomes of our work. Our hope is that our work leads to world peace, which we believe begins with one person at a time. 

Q: So if your organization were a person, what type of personality would you say it had? 

A: Feisty, courageous, gritty, compassionate, honest, calm, and curious. 

Q: What’s one of the biggest misconceptions about your organization? 

A: People often think that yoga is just about stretching or that PE and/or yoga have nothing to do with kids’ ability to learn or their test scores. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are now many studies that show how important breathing and movement are to learning and memory. 

Q: Can you share a short story about an incident or event that illustrates the impact you believe your organization is having on your local community or the region? 

A: It’s kind of fun to go into Giant Eagle and have kids shout, “It’s Mrs. Yoga!” They drag me over to meet their parents and start doing tree pose. I love that – it happens a lot. Or I will bump into PE teachers from Pittsburgh Public School whom we worked with last year, and they tell me how much their kids are enjoying doing yoga. I appreciate hearing that they are using their yoga skills once their training is over. PE teachers have told me they have instructed kids to use their yoga breathing to break up fights. It’s a powerful way to regulate yourself, and more people are noticing this. 

Q: Could you share a short story about an individual’s experience that captures what your organization is meant to be to the community? 

A: A principal in a Pittsburgh public school, who by her own admission has a Type A personality and wants better ways to cope with her stress, did not see herself as a “yoga” person. However, she reluctantly agreed to “give it a try” and to lead her staff by example. Moving slowly and noticing her breathing was really difficult at first, she decided to ignore her mental chatter that told her it was “boring,” “difficult” and “a waste of time.” Several classes later she was able to report that she imagines a day when principal meetings include “child’s pose,” because it really does help people to calm down. 

“I never thought I would be so aware of my breathing and noticing it really does help me manage my stress,” she said. “I think I get it now.” And truly, she does. We hear these types of stories over and over. 

 
 
Andrea Hyde

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Dr. Andrea Hyde is an associate professor in the Department of Educational and Interdisciplinary Studies at Western Illinois University, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the social foundations of education, including education policy and qualitative research. As a consultant for Yoga in Schools, Dr. Hyde helps to design standards-aligned, professional development programs for teachers in the use of yoga techniques. Dr. Hyde also provides program evaluation, including analysis and reporting for district leaders and external funders.

Felicia Savage
Cathie Sunderman

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Cathie Sunderman is a Registered Yoga Teacher who has worked with adults and children since 2007 through wellness programs in studios and in schools. She also enjoys working with children as a pre-school teacher.

Barbara Pane

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Barbara Pane is licensed clinical social worker as well as a 200-hour certified yoga teacher living and practicing in the North Hills. Barbara has had the honor of sharing yoga in a variety of settings for over 9 years, including school districts, preschools, psychiatric hospitals and a soup kitchen. In her psychotherapy private practice where she serves adults, teenagers and families, Barbara often incorporates yoga into her work with individuals and groups because of yoga’s numerous mental health benefits, particularly the skill of mindfulness. Her mission is to help people develop skills to experience the peace, joy and equanimity that is each person’s birthright. http://barbarapane.com

Monica Gaydos
Anna Robinson

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Anna is a Licensed Professional Counselor who taught elementary school and for many years, worked as an elementary school counselor running a program with an emphasis on preventive, proactive social and emotional learning. She has always found joy in teaching and helping others in a safe, caring environment. Anna turned to yoga fifteen years ago as a way of managing stress and found it to be a joy, challenge, place of personal reflection and a deeply peaceful experience.

Anna is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Masters Degree from Boston University in Counseling and Human Development. She is 200 hour RYT who completed the EmbodiYoga™ Teacher training with Lisa Clark and  recently completed the Yoga Playgrounds training with Joanne Spence. The yoga teacher trainings helped to create balance in her life by allowing her to obtain a deeper understanding of the integration of various body systems with movement, breath and energy and the healing strength of aligning body, mind and spirit. Anna’s core interest continues to be helping children. She sees teaching yoga as a positive next step that combines her love for teaching with a way of helping school-age children to journey toward living a more centered mindful life. She looks forward to helping others to discover the joy, peace and balance that yoga brings.

Katrina Woodworth

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Katrina Woodworth is a yoga practitioner, teaching both group and private yoga to adults, seniors and children for 8 years. She blends movement, breath and stillness in her classes in order to enhance mental, emotional and physical health. She is a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher and working toward her 500-hour certification. Katrina has taught teachers and students through Yoga in Schools in the Urban League Charter School, Pittsburgh Public Schools and Woodland Hills Schools. She teaches at Yoga on the Square and Vintage Senior Center as well as her own private studio space in East Liberty.

Renee Prymus

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Renee Prymus, MFA, RYT200, uses her secondary Yoga Ed training to enhance teaching college writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She writes about her teaching, as well as the intersection of yoga and Christianity, at www.ReneePrymus.com.

Beth Marshall
Heidi Zelli

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Heidi Zellie, CYT/ RYA, had her first experience with yoga during undergrad in 1999.  After studying on her own for the next 4 years, she decided to deepen her knowledge and practice by completing a 200-hour RYA certification based in the Iyengar tradition from Lighten Up! yoga studio in Asheville, NC.  Since then, she has taught Iyengar, Vinyasa, pre-natal and youth yoga classes to all levels in Highlands, NC, Santa Fe, NM, Boulder, CO and Pittsburgh, PA.  Teaching over 200 people at Bonnaroo (music festival) to extend from the heart in Warrior II was one of the most beautiful collective movements she was blessed enough to witness and lead.   Heidi thrives in giving private yoga therapy sessions integrating her Thai Yoga Massage certification.  She extends her knowledge to elementary through high school students and teachers.  She has incorporated yoga into the high school anatomy/physiology classes she taught.  She has developed and led trainings to yoga teachers and physical education teachers through The Wellness Initiative and Yoga in Schools.

As a trained scientist and formal educator, Heidi compliments the safety and structural alignment of her anatomy and physiology training with the incorporation of different learning styles.  She teaches from her heart, ensuring your comfort and easing your growth.

Heidi finds that yoga keeps her balanced and energized as she works to make the world more sustainable, healthier and spirited.  Practicing and living this ancient art form also makes her more aware of the people and environment around her, deepens her breath and keeps her flexible in mind and body.  

Heidi espouses to the mantra: Breathe Deep, Feel Light, Shine On.

David Ohm

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David is a painter, sculptor and Art Therapist. David is a Registered and Board Certified Art Therapist who has been in the field for 20 years. He has designed many previous collaborative mural artworks and is currently a doctoral student at Mount Mary University.

As part of his doctoral studies he had the privilege of working with Yoga in Schools as an intern, supervised by Joanne Spence. This internship helped David embody breath and movement together -- an important skill in creating art.

David is a member of the Creative and Expressive Arts Therapists team at WPIC, with a strong belief in the healing power of the arts. Art Exhibitions include the Penn Gallery and Imagebox in Pittsburgh, as well as multiple individual and group shows across the country. The artist's works are in private collections, the Southern Ohio Museum of Art, and the Stifel Fine Arts Center. Art Therapy publications include illustrating “Word Pictures” (2004) and contributing text and illustrations for “Working with images” (2002).

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 Mural:  "One Day at a Time," Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic, Pittsburgh, PA

Jessica Ovesney
Jacob Spence

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Jacob Spence (17) is a 200-hour trained yoga teacher and a senior at Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy, where he started a yoga club for his peers. He teaches Yoga for Boys at Urban Oasis Pittsburgh. Jacob loves how he feels when he does yoga. He is also an Eagle Scout.

Merryn Spence

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Merryn Spence (19) is a 200-hour trained yoga teacher. She is currently living in community at Lee Abbey, where she serves on the kitchen team and teaches yoga in North Devon, England. She is a graduate of the Pittsburgh Creative & Performing Arts High School.

Scott Mandarino

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Scott Mandarino is a certified Health and Physical Education teacher that has been teaching in the Pittsburgh Public Schools for 18 years. He has been involved with Yoga in Schools since 2006. He practices yoga daily with the students at Pittsburgh Faison, and has presented at numerous conferences with Joanne Spence about the benefits of teaching yoga in physical education.

Polly Manke
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Polly Manke, Certified Yoga Instructor and Yoga Therapy Practitioner, trained with Yoga in Schools in 2008.   
She teaches yoga to students in schools, and has conducted in-school professional development.
Additionally, she offers a summer graduate course through Ashland University for educators and health care workers.
In Chagrin Falls, OH Polly teaches adult yoga, meditation and  reiki classes.  In her private practice, Integrated Yoga and Movement Therapy, she takes a heart-centered approach in working with adult, teen and child clients where she integrates yoga with her training in Gestalt, BrainGym, Rhythmic Movement, and Reiki.
Linda Williams
Wendy Koval

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Wendy is a secondary English teacher in an alternative setting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Yoga in Schools has enhanced her life both personally and professionally.  Most of all, the students appreciate the opportunities to move and breathe which helps them to better focus. 

Jimmie Rhodes

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Jimmie Rhodes has been working at Pittsburgh Urban Christian School for 16 years.  He has been teaching K-8 Physical Education for the last 7 years.  His students are truly fit and active and understand the benefits of moving and breathing.  Training with Yoga in Schools has added a richness to Jimmie's teaching and love of movement.  He has personally benefitted from adding breathing practices into his daily routine and his PE classes.  He has assisted Joanne Spence at several PE Teacher Yoga Trainings.

Tim Krupar

 

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Driving along Penn Avenue, contemplating the challenges different neighborhoods and demographics face within the City of Pittsburgh, and realizing that even systemic changes are made through individuals changing first, Tim thought he could best serve the world around him by introducing the practices of yoga and meditation, with its incredible benefits for both body and mind, to children before they get into trouble, and inmates once they have.
 
He traveled and stayed 30 wonderful, growth inspiring days studying, breathing, eating, and sleeping yoga at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Nassau, Bahamas, where he not only earned his RYT 200 certification, but also realized for himself how potent a healthy transformation the complete immersion into yogic living can be.   
 
Since then he has trained with James Fox of the Yoga Prison Project and Joanne Spence with Yoga in Schools, deepening his understanding of the populations he aims to reach and the techniques to better reach them.
 
Tim currently teaches in schools, at libraries, studios, and summer camps.  With the blessing of the monks with whom he has studied and practiced meditation for nearly a decade, Tim also facilitates monthly donation based meditation workshops throughout the area.
 
Tim can be followed and reached at www.sitandbreathe.com.

Advisory Board

Suzette Anderson McClelland
Applied Technical Services, Seattle, WA

Jean Blaydes
Action Based Learning, Addison, TX
www.abllab.com

Dr. Kim Weiner
Counseling, Faculty Member, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA

Justin Brown
Executive Director, Education Partnership, Pittsburgh, PA

Steve Hellner-Burris
Executive Director, Rebuild Together, Pittsburgh, PA

Lisa Hoitsma
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Sarah Jamal Martin
Retired Head of Health and Physical Education, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pittsburgh, PA