Valarie Atwood - Executive Director/Instructor
Valarie Atwood serves as Executive/Artistic Director for Arts & Minds and has been an educator for over 25 years. Her love for arts and education integration and the theatre inspired her to establish Arts & Minds. Previously, she founded Homeschoolers East Co-op where she fulfilled a variety of administrative roles on the Steering Committee for 10 years while teaching various subjects to a wide span of age groups. Before homeschooling, she developed the Virtue Of the Week (VOW) program and was a founding member of KIDPROV®
, an arts-in-education improvisational comedy troupe, working with over 300,000 students and teachers throughout the U.S.
Valarie integrates her extensive knowledge and unique application of improv, creativity, problem solving and team building skills into each class she teaches whenever possible. Some organizations she has worked with include Destination Imagination, Gifted & Talented trainings, Big Thought, Artsmart, the Dallas Theatre Center Teen/Children's Theatre, Dallas Children's Theatre, Brookhaven College, Northlake College, the YMCA and Girl's Inc. Valarie attended Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts in St. Louis, MO where she majored in theatre arts and is a graduate of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts of Houston, TX.
Jen Palmieri - Administrative Director
Jen Palmieri has homeschooled her two children, now teens, from the start. Jen seeks to provide a well-rounded, transcript-worthy high school experience for her children while they take classes alongside their friends. As a Co-Founder of Homeschoolers East co-op, she and her family enjoyed 10 years of classes and memorable experiences. She served on HSE's Steering Committee as Treasurer for 6 years, Class Coordinator for 2, and taught and assisted in a variety of academic classes including, philosophy, crafts, 3 years dedication to WordMasters Challenge competitions and fulfilling the role as Stage Manager, Costumer and Crew Manager for many of HSE’s performances and productions.
Jen graduated with a BA in Business Management from Baruch College in NYC. She spent several years managing people in the customer service industry and moved to Dallas in 1994 when she transferred her position with Prudential Securities, Inc. Jen’s interest in her own children’s education and happiness along with her genuine love for all children and a pursuit of excellence in academics make her a valued asset to Arts & Minds.
Abbie Reedy - Marketing Director/Instructor
Abbie Reedy is a freelance writer and editor whose decades-long affair with the English language has resulted in an intimate understanding of English grammar and usage and an aggressive eagerness to assist others in crafting, improving, and perfecting their own writing.
She studied first Journalism, then English Literature at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she received a BA in Postcolonial Literature in 2005. After college, she taught a year of English Literature and Writing at a Chinese university, then spent six years in Haifa, Israel, serving as a Research and Drafting Assistant in the Department of the Secretariat of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the worldwide Bahá’í community.
She has since undertaken a number of writing and editing projects, including blog articles, website content, and the editing of a 100-page academic paper for publication as an ebook, and spent about a year working full-time as the Content Specialist for a boutique content marketing agency.
She is currently editing a Young Adult novel, providing guidance on college admissions essays for international students, writing digital copy for various clients, and working on her own fiction.
Brianna Williams - Instructor
Brianna Williams is a dancer in the DFW area who travels to different dance festivals across the country to perform and take workshops with instructors from around the world. She has been dancing since the age of 4, took ballet, jazz, and hip hop at Janie Christi School of Dance and Rowlett Dance Academy and performed in the Moscow Ballet's production of the Russian Nutcracker at the age of 10. Brianna was part of the dance program at Lakeview Centennial High School, was in drill team and took classes in modern, contemporary, pom, military, and Bollywood dancing.
In 2012, Brianna started learning Latin social dances which include Salsa, Bachata, Cumbia, Merengue, and Cha Cha Cha when she lived in Austin, Texas. In the years following, Brianna has learned Kizomba/Tarraxhina, Semba, Brazillian Zouk, Afro-Rhythms, Afro-Beats, Kuduro, Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, and Tango. Brianna is currently part of Rhythm & Beatz Dance Company based in Los Angeles under the direction of Lola Monet aka Lola Queen Beatz.
She is in the process of completing her Associates Degree at Eastfield Community College and intends to transfer to the University of Texas for both Dance and Sociology. Brianna continues social dancing and performing her solo at various venues across Dallas. She is excited to be working with the team at Arts & Minds and is determined to make sure students receive a quality and safe dance experience.
Amanda Sevak - Instructor
Amanda Sevak earned her Bachelor of Science in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and has over 20 years of experience working and volunteering in education and the performing arts. She has worked in nonprofit administration for Rotary International and the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University and served as an AmeriCorps volunteer bringing arts enrichment to an inner city school in Chicago. Her international teaching experience, which includes India and China, stretches from pre-school to adults and encompasses subjects such as music, dance, drama, special education, and English.
Amanda's voice can be found on two musical albums: one with her college a cappella group, Significant Others, and, most recently, on an original children’s album, A Day in the Park, that she co-wrote and produced with her band, humdiddle.
Additionally, her background in dance is extensive, including over 20 years of dance training and 5 years of teaching various dance classes and creative movement. She has studied tap, jazz, modern, ballet and world dance styles (such as Bollywood, Bhangra, and African) and has significant performance and choreography experience. She believes everyone can dance and enjoys helping others discover the joy of expression and unity through movement.
The mother of identical twin girls, she is learning to play the ukulele and loves to sit by the water writing in her journal – the paper kind.
Amanda taught A Cappella Group in the Spring 2017 semester and is thrilled to be a part of Arts & Minds. She looks forward to inspiring students as well as being inspired by them.
Jen Wagnon - Instructor
Jennifer Wagnon started homeschooling her oldest daughter in 1999. Her two daughters have since gone on to be full-time college students, and Jennifer is now homeschooling her son for high school. As a military family the Wagnons moved many times while homeschooling, living in a total of 7 states and one other country.
Jennifer strives to take best advantage of every place they live, absorbing local history and culture while balancing those experiences with solid traditional school work. Jennifer studied literature at the University of Oklahoma and has taught a variety of literature and poetry classes in co-ops from North Carolina to Hawaii and in between. She has served as a Poetry Out Loud local homeschool coordinator for 4 different competitions.
Now that she is part of a retired military family that has settled down, she looks forward to seeing students grow their confidence in public speaking through poetry.