Our campus is open to all and our caring faculty and staff create a nurturing culture which reflected in how our students call their teachers by their first names. Our relationships are built on trust, honesty, and respect but also on love, fun, and sometimes even goofiness. With a student-teacher ratio of 5:1 every student gets the nurturing, and attention they deserve. And with the average years of teaching experience for our faculty being 15 years, our teachers have seen it all and can relate to just about anything. Oh, and did we mention that 56 percent of our faculty and staff have either a Master’s degree or PhD?
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- Rosedale Bible College | AA
- EMU | BS in Health/Physical Education
- University of Iowa | MA in Counselor Education
- Morningside College | Adminstrative Endorsement
DWIGHT is known to the Hillcrest community for his unfortunate Cardinals fandom, his fantastic basketball coaching career, and his long tenure as Hillcrest Academy teacher then guidance counselor and athletic director turned principal. But this narrative misses one key ingredient: Dwight is also a wood worker and knows how to use a lathe. Who knew?! A hard-working, strong communicator, Dwight leads by listening and building relationships with students and staff–often through stories and humor. He sees God’s love every day through the smiles of those he meets and nature on his commute. He cares so much about the school that he’s often on the move. We hope one day the Internet and data will break down so he can have a relaxing day at the beach.
Rebecca Beachy MillerDirector of Enrollment
- Goshen College | BA in Business Adminstration
REBECCA was happy to get out of the house and join us as the new Director of Enrollment. She’s brought lots of energy and the desire to reconnect with our Hillcrest community in addition to building new relationships beyond the community. Rebecca has a lot of new ideas and was quick to reorganize the decor of our faculty lounge which had been somewhat neglected. She loves her husband and kids; they make her laugh and “do a lot of eye-rolling.” She sees beauty in her family, the trees and fields just outside her office window, and the family feel of Hillcrest Academy.
Leanne BenderGuidance Counselor & Directed Studies
- University of Iowa | BA in Psychology & Social Work and MA in Education, specializing in Guidance Counseling
L-E-A-N-N-E. What does that spell? Great communicator! LEANNE joined the Hillcrest team this year as our Guidance Counselor and Activities Director and, boy, are we grateful she did. Leanne brings an organized, energetic, friendly, and direct style of communication that helps the Hillcrest community to reflect and grow in our social-emotional skill set. Leanne has extensive experience in a variety of social work realms and has felt God’s leading in each transition, including her arrival at Hillcrest. A people and a pet person, she spends most of her day communicating and laughing with others. Even so, she wouldn’t mind a good, solitary lie down on a beach somewhere to recharge.
Theresa BlossomDirector of Finance
- Hesston College | AA
- Goshen College | BA in Business Adminstration
THERESA’s personality is in her name: she helps us blossom, of course! That’s why she’s at Hillcrest: to be a part of the lives of young adults at such a pivotal point in their growth toward adulthood. She keeps our finances in check and our office area balanced in her role as Director of Finance. When she’s not tromping across Europe with her family, she can be seen with them in their natural habitat: laughing heartily while quilting, sewing or watching a Marvel movie. She often wonders if sarcasm could be seen as an impressive skill and may be lobbying to categorize it as such.
Maria BoucherFood Services Manager
MARIA is the grandmama of Hillcrest. Not because of her age–she doesn’t look a day over 20–but because of her warm nature, patience, and tasty cinnamon rolls. She helps keep the school running by covering us with prayer and our tacos with spicy salsa (Taco Thursday is pretty much our favorite day of the week). A natural people person, Maria loves the “family-oriented” nature of Hillcrest and the “beautiful spirit of the kids.” Many students, especially those who work for her in the kitchen, come to see themselves as one of Maria’s kids. When they see her outside of school, she is more likely to hear, “Hi, mom” than “Hi, Maria.” She keeps our cafeteria seasonally decorated and our bellies eternally full. We love you, mom!
- University of Iowa | BA in Elementary Education
Tenemos un verso de la Biblia hoy? Is it Bible verse day? If you walk by the Spanish room, you might hear students asking that question to their teacher SIERRA. Sierra is known for her strong faith and storytelling ability. Verso de la Biblia days explore a Bible verse in Spanish which is accompanied by a story from Sierra about how God is working in the world. She loves sharing the Gospel through stories and seeing how those stories inspire her students. A bright presence at Hillcrest, Sierra can engage anyone in conversation and find joy in every situation. If we had senior superlatives for faculty, we’re pretty sure she would be Most Likely to Host an Inspirational Podcast.
Mitchell DreyHealth & Physical Education
- Iowa Wesleyan University | BS in Physical Education and MA in Management Leadership & Athletic Administration
MITCHELL has been arguing with teachers about their rules his whole life and now that he is one, he’s excited to see if making the rules himself works out better. A fan of cat videos and a semi-professional video game player, Mitchell says he would cry if the internet broke down. But the tears wouldn’t last long! He’d soon pick up a basketball or spend time staring at the love of his life: the ocean. Mitchell works hard to improve and loves the feeling of working toward that improvement. He’s a good-natured, fast-talking, newbie teacher and we’re glad he’s with us!
- Rosedale Bible College | AA
- EMU | BA in Biblical Studies & Theology, Christian Ministries
- Eastern Mennonite Seminary | MDiv
Which country has the world’s fastest-growing population? Ireland. Every day it’s Dublin. This is the kind of thing you might hear from our pastoral and punny Bible teacher, LEE. A lover of music, student antics, and Seinfield, Lee brings a joyful earnestness to his various roles at Hillcrest. You might see him leading a chapel, leading a Bible class or jamming out in Praise Band, Pep Band, and his side gig the Old Man Band. Lee loves learning, collaborating with coworkers, and witnessing the beautiful diversity of those he encounters. Oh, and after helping raise two daughters, he’s also become a master hair braider.
- University of Iowa | BA in Education
If you ever have a grammar question, ANDREA is your gal! She loves the Oxford comma, classic literature, and (most importantly) talking about Jesus. She was born an Okie from Muskogee, but grew up in the Wellman and Kalona area. She married her husband Mark in 1999. After graduating from the University of Iowa, she worked as a supervising teacher with the Mid-Prairie HSAP while homeschooling their three daughters. After a two-year stopover in western Iowa, the Farrier family moved to Guatemala for four years to serve as missionaries in an adult-education Bible school, a K-12 school, a women’s shelter, and an after-school program. They returned to the area in 2018 and moved to a lovely (but needy) old Amana home in fall of 2020. You will often find Andrea there hanging out with her family, gardening, doing home repair and renovation, writing, and walking her one-eyed Basset hound.
Pam Gerig UnruhMath
- Goshen College | BA in Math Education
Teaching Math is not all that PAM does. Not by a long shot. Whether it’s helping her husband Lowell on the family farm, spending ‘Grandma time’ with her (soon to be) 3 grandchildren, or just curled up with a good book, Pam is always busy. Although not all of her 3 children live in Iowa, she loves being with her family. And she’s always up for playing a good non-cooperative board game…because she likes to win. Pam is blessed with the gift of preaching and she is always energized by a captive audience. Just ask the congregation she pastors.
- William Penn University | BA in Biology, Minor in Chemistry
- University of Northern Iowa | MA in Science Education
Once a teacher, always a teacher. After retiring from teaching at Oskaloosa High School in May of 2020, Hillcrest Academy is blessed to have MIKE join our team. He is famous for beginning tests with the direction of: “Explain the question from the molecular level to the macro level.” His thorough knowledge of and experience with creatively teaching the subject matter are assets which he brings to our Science Department. With Mike, it’s not all about teaching. Having eight grandchildren, he stays busy babysitting, attending sporting events, camping, birthday parties, going on canoe trips, kayaking, and driving to the afore-listed. He would say his granddaughters only visit him to eat his famous grilled cheese sandwiches and see “Mags”, his yellow labrador retriever. Each fall, after a summer of competing in as many 3-D archery shoots as possible, you will find him sitting in a tree stand with his trusty Bear compound bow. Mikes says, “The solitude gives me time to feel God’s presence in His nature.” He bought his first archery deer hunting license when he was sixteen and seldom misses a season. This love for archery led to him being the advisor for (the first in the nation), high school Pheasants Forever Chapter.
- Goshen College | BA in Art Education
Art Teacher BRYN brings such a thoughtful, kind presence to Hillcrest – you’d never know he was a secret rocker and Jim Gaffigan fan. If you see him in the Hillcrest hallways and strike up a chat about faith and art, go ahead and pull up a chair, and perhaps a coffee, because you’re about to have a stimulating conversation. An adventurer at heart, Bryn’s imagination is wide, his love for art is deep, and his ability to scale rocks in the southwest is something we’ll have to take his word for. He knows more about his personality than most people know about the back of their hand and believes eating injera with his family is about the best thing in the world . . . and he has the best high school photo of all our faculty and staff.
Marcus MillerSocial Studies
- EMU | BS in American History
- Temple University | MA in History
Santa Claus, boys’ soccer coach, wood worker, gardener, solar panel installer, bus driver, and RAGBRAI finisher: all of these are accurate descriptors of our history teacher, MARCUS. He’s so well-read that he is a member of the Wellman Library Board and won first place with the Hillcrest Academy trivia team at a library fundraiser. Marcus cultivates the love of learning in his students like he cultivates his beard: with care and a concentrated effort. He sees beauty in the “ground fog of low lying land”, flowers, and a bald eagle he often sees flying over the English River on his drive to work. He has the amazing ability to get lost even while using a GPS which he calls “exploring.”
Laurie MillerAdminstrative Assistant
If you see a bright, smiling face in the office with a look that says “I’d really like a good hug” you probably have just met our LAURIE. She is an alumna and is excited to return: “It is an amazing school and has not only impacted my life, but really has a positive impact on the students’ lives as well. I’m excited to get to know the students and staff at a deeper level!” she says. Although part-time at Hillcrest, Laurie is busy full-time raising three boys and breeding Goldendoodles on their farm. She experiences God in the beauty of nature and enjoys spending time outside with her family. We haven’t seen it in action yet, but we hear she can also talk with her mouth closed.
Chris NachtigallActivities Director
- Hesston College | AA
- Iowa Wesleyan University | BA in Sports Management
- Concordia University | MA in Coaching & Athletic Administration
Like a boomerang, CHRIS has returned to the Ravens team after 9 years away. A people-oriented person, Chris loves connecting with people of all ages in conversations and on and off the court. As a father, coach, and part-timer remodeler, Chris stays busy working and playing. It gives him joy to see others achieve success after he’s worked with them on something. From Chris’ perspective, sports, arts, and activities create those kinds of opportunities for success and life lessons. He sees Hillcrest as an opportunity to continue to keep Christ at the center of his career and life. We’re glad he circled back to our team!
- Rosedale Bible College | AA
- William Penn University | BA Secondary English Education
If you see something hopping in a classroom at Hillcrest Academy, don’t worry. It’s nothing abnormal, just one of our English teachers, BRYAN, jumping with excitement for his content. Bryan is chock full of passion for Jesus, books, and student “aha” moments. His faith is why he chose Hillcrest: “Jesus intrigues me,” he says.. “His teachings both challenge and invite. His way of life is startlingly vibrant. . . . I love that we seek to follow him together at Hillcrest Academy.” A writer at heart, Bryan observes the world carefully and so discovers beauty in small moments from a sip of fresh coffee to a quiet conversation with God to a well-phrased sentence that a student just wrote. And if the internet were to crash tomorrow? No problem! Bryan would find a good book or shoot some hoops or play with his kids and be content.
Jeremy OursDirector of Advancement
- EMU | BS in Pre-Medicine
Early to bed and early to rise makes this “Jack of all Trades” who he is and getting a daily dose of The Andy Griffith Show helps to give his life perspective. JEREMY is a Renaissance Man with an old soul that is as vintage as the Land Cruiser he drives. A communicator, , bookworm, designer, cyclist, husband, and father, just don’t ask him to play a board game. An optimistic go-getter, Jeremy brings energy to his role and loves being a part of the long history, tradition, and culture of Hillcrest. So much so, he married a 1993 grad.
Wendy PaivaFamily Consumer Science
- Arizona State University | BA in Bilingual Elementary Education
WENDY has lived in Paraguay, learned Spanish, studied bilingual education, and, perhaps most importantly, learned how to blow spit bubbles. Although the spit bubbles were a defensive device from the boys who sat beside her in 7th grade geography, everything else points to Wendy’s love of learning and exploration. An Iowa native, Wendy’s explorations include historical fiction, policy research, and YouTube video montages of accidents (“Where no one gets hurt, obviously!” she adds). She loves her family and God’s Word and Truth and spends time with them all every day. For Wendy, there’s no better feeling than being able to encourage and make a difference in someone’s life.
- University of Iowa | BM in Music Education
- Morningside College | MA in Education
SHAWN is a busy guy. He’s not only an experienced teacher (formerly a band director for the past 33 years – most recently Linn-Mar High School) and talented musician (percussion, brass and woodwind instruments), he’s also a dedicated family man. Together with his wife, Jennifer, they have 8 children (7 boys and 1 girl), which they homeschool in their home in Middle Amana, in what used to be an old Kitchen House. Shawn and his family take advantage of living in such a historic part of Iowa by going to antique shops and looking for old Amana antiques, as well as mid-century lamps and furniture. When they aren’t shopping, you might see Shawn and his family on a stroll in Amana or on a family bike ride around Lily Lake. On the weekend, you’ll catch Shawn and his kids playing in his church’s worship band, and grilling burgers almost every Friday night. He also enjoys making cinnamon rolls for his family on Saturdays right before they enjoy a rousing game of Spike Ball together.
Mike Severino-PattersonScience & Agriculture
- Oberlin College | BS in Biology & BA in Anthropology
- University of Iowa | MA in Education
If you were stranded on an island and could choose only one Hillcrest faculty to be with you, you would want Biology MIKE (not to be confused with Music Mike) for three reasons: he’d help you avoid poisonous plants, is “pretty good with a machete” (we think he’s being modest here), and is just a really nice guy. A nature enthusiast, Mike and his classes can be found outside more often than inside a classroom. He loves “exploring the beauty and complexity of God’s creation with students” and spending time with his wife and two daughters. He and his family spend summers in Ecuador where his wife’s family lives and where he learned to speak Spanish and Kichwa. When back in the states, he keeps our campus greenhouse, compost system, and FFA club running.
It’s a beautiful morning at Hillcrest: the birds are chirping, the sun is rising over the low fog of the Joetown hills, and Custodian MIKE (not to be confused with Biology Mike or Music Mike) is already hard at work. Mike is our house morning person; while some of us might require coffee before perking up, Mike is not one of those folks. He feels that every day is lucky because “God has given it to me.” With a cheery smile, he will always ask you how your day is going or how your weekend was. We love it when he has a birthday or anniversary because he frequently brings in treats for the whole staff. We’ve learned a lot about Ukranian culture and food (yummy!) from Mike. He’s crazy about his kids, wife, and landscaping and keeps things running smoothly at Hillcrest. He loves that we have chapel every day and can talk about the Bible in every class. We couldn’t do it without him!
Angela SnakenbergBusiness & Technology
- Northwestern College | BA in Business Education
“Kids Say the Darndest Things” is not just an ABC TV show–it’s the subtitle of ANGELA’s life. Angela splits her time between beefing up the Hillcrest Business Department and caring for her two adorable children. A mama at heart, she adds a warm energy to the Hillcrest faculty. When not with her kids or students, Angela can be found crafting or gardening. We are glad she joined us this year even if we can’t push Fareway shopping carts as impressively as her two-year-old and four-year-old.
- Hesston College | AA
DONNA ‘moved North’ after marrying her husband of 48 years, Dick Swartzendruber. When it came to legalities, Swartzendruber was also her maiden name so she already had mastered all 14 letters. One might say that Donna likes driving. Through the years, her numerous jobs included driving a summer school bus at age 16 and driving a ‘big rig’ in her 40’s. The one job that kept her attention the most was working at Gingerich Well & Pump. For 30 years she ran the office and kept things running smoothly. Now with more free time, besides spending time with family, she loves being outside and helping on the multi-generational farm. Donna (like all grandmothers) has a special relationship with her two grandsons, Oliver (10) and Ames (5). She and her husband Dick, share the special gift of hospitality. Whether it’s in their home, in their event barn, or at their pond, folks are always made to feel welcome…like they are family. Music has always been an important part of Donna’s life. Her high school music teacher was a big encouragement to her, now she’s the high school teacher inspiring and encouraging Hillcrest Academy students. Whether it’s from the first church choir she directed before she was 20 years old, a family reunion, or a company Christmas party, she has a song for all occasions.
Marissa UnruhAdministrative Assistant
MARISSA is an Administrative Assistant by day and a graphic designer by night. We are sure glad she married an Iowa boy (alum Marcus Unruh ‘07) and joined our team. With a quick wit, fast work pace, and an eye for beauty and patterns of everyday life, it didn’t take Marissa long to contribute new ideas and energy to the Hillcrest office team. She comes from huge familes (99 on her dad’s side and 70 on her mom’s), loves to cuddle up with a good book, and spends her time “eating or thinking about food.” She is a self-proclaimed skillful baker of “a pretty mean pan of pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting” and we all hope to test this skill set soon.
Zach WeissFacilities Manager
ZACH joined the Hillcrest team in the spring of last year and quickly rose in the ranks to join Marcus and Mark in the fight for the best Ravens beard (results are inconclusive at this point). As the Director of Maintenance, Zach has hit the ground running as he tackles important projects that keep Hillcrest humming. A man of many skills and few words, he might, when pressed, say that he adores his wife and daughter and that he anchors his life around Jesus.
Jane Widmer YoderLibrarian
- Hesston College | AA
- Goshen College | BA in English
- University of Iowa | MA in Library Science
If you see someone wearing a sock on their hand, it’s our good friend and librarian, JANE. (The sock is a creative way to dust her many bookshelves) An avid gardener, reader, walker, traveler (ask her about hitchhiking across Europe in the 70s) and volunteer, Jane exudes balance, calm, and occasionally some sarcasm. Spending time in nature connects her to God and moments “when people are silly and don’t realize it” make her laugh. Jane sees the good in people and loves Hillcrest because of the “wonderful people and the exposure to many different subject areas.”