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Leadership Team

Eli Kramer – Executive Director

Eli Kramer has been the Executive Director of Hiawatha Academies since 2012. Before joining Hiawatha, Eli was a founding Dean of Curriculum and Instruction with Uncommon Schools in New York. Prior to that, he taught for six years in New York City at the elementary and middle school level. Eli was a 2003 Teach for America corps member in the Bronx, NY. He holds a B.A. in government from Harvard, a Master's in Education from Bank Street College, and a Master's in Educational Leadership from Brooklyn College. Eli grew up in Minneapolis and is happy to be home.


Nicole Cooley – Hiawatha Collegiate High School, Principal

Nicole Cooley is the founding Principal of Hiawatha Collegiate High School.  She began her career in education teaching middle school in St. Louis through Teach for America.  She then moved to Chicago, where she worked as a teacher and administrator at Gary Comer College Prep, a campus of Noble Street Charter School, the highest performing high school charter network in the city.  While there, she led both students and teachers to unprecedented successes, most notably, 100 percent graduation and enrollment in college.  In 2013, she joined the Hiawatha Team as Director of Teaching and Learning.  When asked about her work, she shared “I feel amazingly grateful to be part of a network wherein one hundred percent of students will not only graduate from high school, but will be academically and personally prepared to experience both the success and challenge that will exist for them in college.”


John Kaczorek – Hiawatha College Prep, Principal

John Kaczorek is the Principal of Hiawatha College Prep, the middle school at Hiawatha Academies. John joined Hiawatha Academies as our founding middle school math teacher. Before joining Hiawatha, John taught 5th grade math at Rise Academy, a high-performing KIPP school in Newark, New Jersey. John was a 2005 TFA corps member teaching in the Bronx, NY. He grew up in Minnesota and attended St. John’s University.  John is thrilled to be leading Hiawatha College Prep into its fourth year.


Laura Schilling - Hiawatha College Prep, Assistant Principal

Laura Schilling is starting year six at Hiawatha Academies as Assistant Principal at HCP. Previously, Laura taught at Hiawatha Academies as a 3rd, 4th, and 6th grade teacher. Born just outside of Detroit, she went to the University of Michigan and met her now husband, Derek, there while studying Mechanical Engineering. Knowing that engineering wasn't a lifetime career for her, she joined Teach For America in '07 with the New York City corps. Teaching 8th grade math confirmed a love of teaching - living in apartments with only 2 windows and no trees in sight confirmed a need of Midwest living. Moving to Minneapolis has allowed her and her husband to expand their love of food and outdoor adventure while working at a school that drives Laura to improve and learn each day. Laura is an aspiring foodie and will happily eat and discuss food whenever you'd like.


Jessica Hayes - Hiawatha Leadership Academy- Morris Park, Principal

Jessica Hayes is the Principal of Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park.  Prior to this role, she was an instructional leader at Excellence Boys Charter School of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York.  Jessica was a 2005 Teach for America corps member in the Mississippi Delta.  She has taught both 1st and 4th grades in Mississippi and New York.  Jessica is excited to be a part of the Hiawatha Academies team, and to work with teachers and families to make Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park the best learning environment possible for students.


Julie Biersack - Hiawatha Leadership Academy- Morris Park, Assistant Principal

Julie is excited to start her fourth year at Hiawatha Academeis in the Assistant Principal role. Prior to this role, Julie was the 3rd grade math teacher. Although Julie was born and raised in Pella, Iowa, she has spent her recent years living and working with children in Chicago, San Francisco, and Kansas City.  She graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2008 with a B.S. in Elementary Education.  She spent two years with Teach For America teaching 1st grade down in Kansas City, where she spent her free time getting a Master’s in Education from Rockhurst University.  In her true free time, she enjoys reading, exploring Minneapolis coffee shops, spending time outside, and playing with her kickball team.


Catherine Lapiska - Hiawatha Leadership Academy- Morris Park, Assistant Principal

Born and raised in Minnesota, Catherine is thrilled to return home and join the Hiawatha team after a spell on the East Coast.  Catherine earned her undergrad at The University of William & Mary in Virginia, and her M.A.T. at American University.  She is a Teach for America alum and taught first through fifth grades in Washington, DC.  Catherine also enjoyed several years of teaching teachers at Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City.  Catherine is excited to be a part of the Hiawatha team supporting students, families and teachers in achieving and exceeding their goals.


Daniela Vasan - Hiawatha Leadership Academy- Northrop, Principal

Daniela Vasan is leading Hiawatha's second elementary school, HLA-Northrop. Daniela speaks Spanish fluently and French proficiently, and she earned a double major in Middle Eastern Studies and Spanish Literature & Culture from the University of Virginia. During her second and third years of college, Daniela studied in Jordan's University of Yarmouk in an immersion Arabic language program. After graduating, Daniela served as a Teach For America corps member in Atlanta, Georgia where she taught for four years. Daniela has also worked at Teach For America's summer institute program as a Corps Member Advisor and Curriculum Specialist. Daniela loves to travel and experience new cultures, study languages, volunteer with the Humane Society, and explore her new home: the Twin Cities.  


Sean Elder – Chief Operating Officer

Sean Elder is the Chief Operating Officer of Hiawatha Academies. Sean joined Hiawatha in June 2011 and leads development activities and other non-academic operations of the academies. Prior to joining Hiawatha, Sean was the Minnesota Area Manager for Skyhawks Sports Academy, where he managed a region of 7,000 participants and 120 staff for the nation’s largest provider of youth sports programs. From 2004-2006, he served as an Undergraduate Admissions Counselor at the University of Minnesota. Recently, Sean completed a summer fellowship in Chicago with Education Pioneers where he conducted marketing and business development work for Lighthouse Academies, a national charter management organization. An active community member, Sean currently sits on the Education Committee for the Greater Twin Cities United Way. He holds a B.A. in Sociology – Law, Criminology, and Deviance from the University of Minnesota and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas.

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