Leadership TeamOperations TeamTeaching Staff

Leadership Team

Daniela Srini Vasan

Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy - Northrop

dvasan@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-462-2369

Daniela Srini Vasan is the founding principal of Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. Daniela speaks Spanish and French. She attended the University of Virginia and earned her Master's Degree in Education from Georgia State University. After graduating, she served as a Teach For America corps member in Atlanta, Georgia where she taught third and fifth grade. Daniela loves to spend time with her family, travel and experience new cultures, study languages, volunteer in the community, and explore the Twin Cities. One of the best parts about working at Hiawatha Academies is working with families and students every day.

Hattie Carvalho

Assistant Principal

hcarvalho@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-310-8025

Hattie Carvalho is the Director of Student Support Services for Hiawatha Academies. Prior to this role, she was the Assistant Principal at HLA-Morris Park, Special Education Coordinator, and a special education teacher with HLA. Hattie was a 2007 Teach For America corps member in Eastern North Carolina where she taught middle school. She then returned to her home state of Minnesota. She is excited to continue supporting HLA's students, teachers, and families as our scholars climb the mountain to college.

Operations Team

Diane Agudo

Office Assistant

dagudo@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-743-5825

Diana is excited to be part of Hiawatha Leadership Academies-Northrop! She was born in Ecuador. She attended Roosevelt High School and is planning on attending Minneapolis Minneapolis Community & Technical College. Diana enjoys traveling, learning about new cultures and tasting just about every type of food. She loves spending time with her son and family, and staying busy with outdoor activities.

Jaime Aguilar

Office Manager

jaguilar@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-455-4004

Kels Bruun-Bryant

Director of Operations | Hiawatha Leadership Academy - Northrop

kbruunbryant@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-730-3371

Kels Bruun-Bryant (pronouns: they/them) is the Director of Operations and Co-Equity Workgroup Organizer at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. Kels is also the co-founder and co-leader of the LGBTQIA Affinity Group for staff at Hiawatha Academies and the Gay-Straight Alliance at Hiawatha Collegiate High School. Kels speaks English and Spanish and they are committed to disrupting systemic inequity in Operations and continuing to shape Operations systems and processes at HLA-Northrop and Hiawatha Academies at-large that center the voices and reflect the needs of our youth and families.

Kels is a first-generation college graduate who gained access to college through a non-profit organization called College Possible that “makes college admission and success possible for low-income students.” Their experience as a queer and trans first-gen college student shaped their passion to utilize the field of education as a mechanism to ignite social change.

Prior to joining as the Director of Operations during Northrop’s third grade founding year (2016-2017), Kels taught in Atacames, Ecuador, worked for College Possible where they coached students and developed identity-based curriculum, and served as Hiawatha Academies' network Volunteer and Community Engagement Coordinator.

Kels has chosen to commit their life, at and outside of Hiawatha Academies, to the pursuit of racial, economic, and transgender justice through activism and advocacy. They enjoy being in queer/trans community with their chosen family, reading Critical Race Theory, creating and leading identity workshops, going to concerts, and writing poetry. Their favorite part of working at HLA-Northrop is learning from our brilliant scholars!

Maria Alvarado

Maintenance and Cafeteria Coordinator


Natasha Villanueva

Operations Coordinator

nvillanueva@hiawathaacademies.org | Office: 612-455-4033 | Mobile: 612-267-2286

Natasha has served as the Operations Coordinator for Hiawatha Leadership Academy- Northrop during the second, third and fourth grade founding years. Natasha is bilingual in Spanish and English and enjoys continually improving attendance, transportation, communication, and facilities systems throughout the school community to ensure that scholars, families, and staff have the resources, information, and support they need to thrive.

Natasha has had a wealth of inspiration throughout her life that led her to the field of education including advocating for undocumented and documented family members as they face immigration challenges, being a first generation college student from a wealth-poor family who has always loved learning and adored the fantastic educators that have motivated her, interpreting in the community, organizing renters, and the service that has shaped her such as being an Americorps Summer Reads VISTA through the Minnesota Literacy Council in St. Paul, MN and an education sector volunteer in Peace Corps Dominican Republic.

Natasha studied professional strategic communication at the University of Minnesota--go Gophers! Natasha loves spending time outdoors, teaching herself to play guitar, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies. Natasha’s favorite part of working at HLA-Northrop is learning from and with students and creating personal relationships with members of our community – so come by our office and let's chat!

Teaching Staff

Charise Powell

Fourth Grade Teacher

cpowell@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-578-0112

Chris Vaughan

Fourth Grade English Language Development Teacher

cvaughan@hiawathaacademies.org | 413-281-1268

Chris Vaughan is entering his fifth year at Hiawatha Academies as an English Language Development teacher, and is excited to be joining the Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop team beginning this year. Chris grew up in Western Massachusetts as the son of two educators. He graduated from Stanford University in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and a Minor in Spanish, and was a core member of a student activist group that fought for campus labor rights. Chris is passionate about working with families, students, and fellow teachers to help create environments in which English Learners can thrive and achieve their dreams. In his spare time, Chris enjoys hanging out with his partner, Victoria, playing various sports, and writing poetry.

Ellen Bluhm

Special Education Teacher


Ellen is a special education teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop, working with little first graders. This is Ellen's fifth year as a special education teacher and her first at HLA-Northrop. Previously she was a paraprofessional. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with her license in Early Childhood Special Education as well as a certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Ellen is excited for this new opportunity to work with scholars and their families.

Alongside teaching, Ellen dedicates herself to growing and developing inclusive and adaptive recreational opportunities for all people. She enjoys being outside, reading, and doing crafts. Ellen and her family and friends enjoy exploring the area and trying new experiences around town.

Jessica Damsgard

Katie Cooney

Special Education Coordinator

kcooney@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-743-8721

Katie Cooney (pronouns: she/her) is joining Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop this year as the Special Education Coordinator. Katie taught in the Mississippi Delta for five years before moving to New Orleans, LA to become a founding special education leader at a turnaround Charter Network. She designed, implemented and directed a therapeutic program for students with social, emotional and behavioral disabilities within the city. During this time, Katie received her graduate degree from Columbia University in school leadership.

Katie spent the last few years as a Director of Special Services, supporting schools in their implementation of student supports and coaching schools in their instructional and behavioral practices in Connecticut.

Katie and her daughter are excited to be back in Minnesota and near family. They have been spending lots of time with family, exploring all the amazing parks and lakes and going up to her family cabin on the weekends. She is looking forward to meeting our amazing students and families and learning and growing alongside our Narwal family!

Kayann Comeaux

Special Education Teacher


Natalie Ripley

Kindergarten English Language Development Teacher

nripley@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-267-2117

Natalie Ripley is entering her third year as Kindergarten English Language Development Teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. Natalie studied at Bethel University, which included a study abroad term in Spain and graduated in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and Spanish Education. This is Natalie’s tenth year of teaching and she has taught classroom Kindergarten, K-5 Spanish, and Kindergarten English Language Development. Natalie is currently pursuing her Master’s in Special Education at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. Natalie is passionate about working with the students and families at HLA-Northrop and helping young students develop their English language skills.

Natalie enjoys traveling and has visited Ukraine, Nicaragua, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia as part of church missions. Natalie enjoys experiencing other cultures, singing, reading, and spending time with her family. She lives in Farmington with her husband, Brett, and siamese kitty, Imogene.

Robertha Weil

Sheila Wilson

Second Grade Teacher

swillson@hiawathaacademies.org | 612-807-4695

Sheila is a second grade teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. Her previous teaching experience includes being a first and second grade co-teacher and a Prekindergarten teacher. Sheila was born in Virginia and has since lived in Guam, Utah, Florida, and Nevada before settling in Minnesota in 2014. Sheila graduated from Rasmussen College with a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education. She is currently a graduate student at Concordia University, St. Paul pursuing her Master’s in Teaching. Sheila enjoys spending time outside, going to concerts, traveling, and reading. Teaching is Sheila’s dream career and she so enjoys working closely with her scholars every day.

Theresa Ahles

English Language Development Teacher