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 and is a graduate of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts of Houston, TX.
Jen Palmieri - Adminstrative 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.
Robertus van der Wege - Instructor
Robertus van der Wege is a career artist, arts administrator and art educator. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Asian and Pacific Art History from the University of Hawaii and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture from Northern Illinois University. He possesses a Certificate in Art Administration from the Harvard Business School as well as multiple welding certifications.
Robertus van der Wege has served two-terms as president of the Hawaii Museums Association, has over 12 years of college art teaching experience, and is currently a board member of the Texas Sculpture Association. His work has been exhibited in the United States, South Africa, Mozambique, Libya, and Canada. Please visit Wege Art & Design for more information.
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.
Rachael Lefevre - Instructor
Rachael Lefevre is the mother of three boys who she homeschooled for over 15 years. Most recently, she helped co-found Homeschoolers East where she served on its Steering Committee for 4 years and was a parent-teacher for a variety of classes for 10 years. She previously was a member of SAIL Homeschool Co-op as the assistant robotics coach for 3 yrs and served as President of Homeschoolers Excel for 2 of her 5 yrs as a member. Rachael was inspired to teach on the subject of money management after her eldest took a course on the subject the Air Force requires and came back to her saying, "They didn't cover anything that you didn’t, Mom. And I think you explained it better.”
She is currently working in the UT Southwestern Department of Surgery Education Office ensuring that the residents are in compliance with all accrediting boards before they graduate.
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.
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 is thrilled to be a part of Arts & Minds and looks forward to inspiring students as well as being inspired by them.
Tim Perry - Instructor
Tim Perry is an award winning film and video professional, with 35 years experience in the media production field, both in Los Angeles and DFW. He has worked with and for such notable companies as NBC, Universal Studios, Disney Studios and Time Warner Cable Media. He is a skilled producer, director, cinematographer and editor.
Tim has taught video production, at the Gallup Area Arts Council’s Performing Arts Academy, to Navaho, Hopi and Zuni youth in Gallup, New Mexico. He is currently a member of the Dallas Producers Association and also recently served as the Technical Director of the Frame4Frame 2016 Film Festival in Arlington. His company, Perry Productions produces feature length documentary films, short films, commercials, music and corporate videos. Tim has participated locally in multiple 24-hour and 48-hour video races.
Shawn Patrello - Instructor
Shawn Patrello has been a character actor and improvisational comedian in the DFW area for 30 years. He has performed with Comedy Sportz and Ad-Libs, as well as created and directed his own improv comedy troupe, Rubber Chicken.
He is one of the founders of Kidprov, an arts-in-education improv troupe that has been entertaining and educating kids in Texas for almost three decades. With Kidprov, Shawn has conducted Gifted & Talented trainings as well as Destination Imagination workshops. He is currently performing with the local improv troupe, Fish Sticks in Dallas.
In the past eleven years, Shawn has become very fond of his work in the clown world. He is honored to spend time with the kids at Children’s Health in Dallas and Cook Children’s Hospital in Ft. Worth as a therapeutic clown in the professional medical clown troupe, Funnyatrics. Shawn also appears as a member of the NY Goofs, a professional clown performance group. In addition to his clowning pursuits, Shawn is also a talented cartoonist and ventriloquist.