We collaborate. Players. Teachers. Coaches.
I appreciate how the Academy’s learning environment draws from a variety of educational models and approaches… “The school has been tailored to provide a path to healthy learning habits...” I also enjoy the intimate setting and opportunity to work closely with my students.
YSC Faculty Member
The dedicated faculty, staff, and administration at YSC Academy take pride in providing a personalized and customized educational experience for every student-athlete. Students are continually nurtured in the skills and habits of mind that are characteristic of self-directed learners. We use a variety of platforms, including email, discussion boards on Canvas (our online learning management platform), scheduled Workshops, and face-to-face meetings to maintain an ongoing dialogue with their students.
Parents are always welcome to request an update on their child’s academic progress by reaching out to their teachers or to a member of the administration. In addition, teachers and administrators are vigilant about monitoring student progress and are proactive about reaching out to students and parents if they see a troublesome pattern in academic work developing.
Doctorate in Education, Leadership in Professional Education, University of Pennsylvania
Doctoral Thesis: Social capital and elite private schooling: A case study of the beliefs and practices that create and strengthen social capital.
St. Joseph’s University – Adjunct Professor, Cognitive Processes: Research-based Brain Studies for the Education
MS, Educational Leadership and Administration – City University of New York
BS, Education – University of Washington
Dr. Nooha Ahmed-Lee currently leads YSC Academy as the founding Head of School where she continues to develop an innovative and progressive program for student athletes that is research based and student centered. She has worked in education for over 25 years, serving as the Head of Lower School at William Penn Charter School and Head of Lower and Middle School at the Shipley School. Prior to that she was a teacher at The Philadelphia School and Chestnut Hill Academy, where she also served as the Director of the High School Summer Program for minority students.
As a leader in three very different independent schools at all three division levels (lower, middle, upper), together with her experience as a university professor, she is an innovative and entrepreneurial leader in independent school reform. She is a well-known and respected visionary, collaborative and strategic educator, who possesses the passion and leadership to bring progressive change to schools always placing students at the center. She sets a tone of both caring and excellence and believes in each individual. Her experience in virtual and blended learning led her to YSC Advantage, YSC Academy mobile and virtual online program with an emphasis on “humanizing” online learning. She serves on the Board of Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS), a membership association of 130 independent, private schools in the Greater Philadelphia/Delaware Valley region and is also a Board Member of FC Delco Soccer Club.
In addition to her role as Head of School, Dr Ahmed-Lee is an adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s University where she teaches a graduate course in learning and the brain. Nooha is passionate about helping individuals understand how their brain learns so they can become advocates for themselves and continue as lifelong learners.
“Four Words that Change Everything: I Believe in You!” – Anonymous
Adam Barney has spent his last 16 years in education. His career in education and outreach began as a health educator and grant writer for the York City Bureau of Health, before earning his Master’s of Science Education degree, and establishing himself as a science teacher in the private school sector. His first teaching position placed him in the middle and high school science classrooms at his alma mater, York Catholic High School. While at YCHS, he served many roles, including high school boys soccer coach and 9th grade girls basketball coach. Adam’s next step in education, placed him as the middle school science department coordinator at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, MD for the next three years. As the science department coordinator, he was tasked with helping develop a robust project-based curriculum which incorporated emerging technology and innovative strategies to address the educational needs of the middle school student body.
As the science department coordinator at the YSC Academy, Adam has brought his passion and research into the implementation of project-based learning for his students. As the educational landscape in our nation continues to evolve, as does the need for an effective curriculum and approach to teaching that embodies real world issues and the use of many strategies to address problems.
“Your mind is a treasure house that you should stock well and it’s the one part of you the world can’t interfere with.” – Frank McCourt
BS, Chemistry and BS, Biology – Georgetown College
Minors: Math, Philosophy
Philosophy of Science – Oxford University
MDiv – Princeton Theological Seminary
Harvard University – Graduate coursework in Mathematics and Education
Drexel University – Graduate coursework in Mathematics and Education
Darren Burris is a Hoosier having grown up in the cornfields of Indiana. Darren pursued degrees in the sciences and philosophy, continued graduate work in philosophy, anthropology, and religion at Oxford University as well as Princeton Theological Seminary. He started teaching in Philadelphia and eventually pursued graduate work in mathematics while teaching in Boston. Darren comes to YSC Academy having 15 years of experience teaching at the Abraham Lincoln High School in Philadelphia, and teaching and administration at Boston Collegiate Charter School. He is a long-term advocate in the education reform movement in the United States and believes all students can learn at high levels. He is driven to offer students the highest quality education anywhere and to help them uncover the skills and abilities required to meet the highest standards.
Additionally, Darren loves technology and thinking about systems-wide improvement. He is engaged both personally and professionally in education and education-related for-profits and nonprofits to leverage technology to enable learning anywhere, anytime, and for anyone.
“The assumption was that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.” – Wendell Berry
Wilian Hernandez was born in a village in El Salvador, but because of civil unrest in the area he spent his childhood in a refugee camp in Honduras. There, he did not have access to education. Fortunately, despite the on-going civil war, in 1988, after seven years in the camp, he and his family were able to return to El Salvador, where he was finally able to attend school, becoming the first person in his extended family to reach the high school level. In fact, while attending high school, Wilian taught literacy classes to adults.
At that time, his dream to attend a university was not realistic, and the possibility of attending a university in the United States was inconceivable. But with assistance from his community, in 2004 he came to the United States, settling in Philadelphia, where he started taking ESL classes at Temple University and working as a Spanish teacher for professional language schools. The learning process was daunting but at the same time challenging and rewarding, and Wllian graduated from Temple in 2012 with a BA in Latin American Studies.
Because of these experiences, Wilian understands the challenge of learning a foreign language. Having been a non-English-speaking student himself, he is able to draw on his background to develop pedagogic strategies to help students achieve high levels of proficiency in Spanish. He also draws on his degree in Latin American Studies in his teaching in order to incorporate cultural and literary readings unique to the Latin American cultures. Wilian is passionate about teaching Spanish and about helping students achieve an appreciation for the language and the culture.
“The secret of education lies in respecting the student”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Although Susan has been a part of the YSC community since 2016, she formally became a teacher at YSC Academy in 2018. Currently, Susan has the privilege of teaching on YSC Academy’s virtual platform, YSC Advantage. Through the novel program, she communicates with students all over the country and internationally. To keep her students focused during class, Susan personalizes the curriculum by applying real-world examples geared towards each student’s interests. Before working at YSCA, Susan tutored, taught, and created a curriculum for homeschool students who were pursuing their unique passions. She was also an upper school chemistry, math, and physics teacher at William Penn Charter School in nearby East Falls. Susan has a BSE degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and minors in Mathematics and Chemistry.
Susan’s teaching philosophy is based on the belief that when instructors tap into students’ curiosities and interests, giving them individualized opportunities to ask questions, investigate, and take risks, education occurs. When she is away from the classroom, Susan spends most of her time with family, running, traveling to warm locations, and reading non-fiction.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
Nick Kueny began his teaching career in 2013 upon graduating from the University of Scranton with a degree in Secondary Education Citizenship and History. While working at Simon Gratz High School – Mastery Charter, he briefly served as the Upper School Department Head for Literature before transitioning to work at YSC Academy. There he honed his craft by curating lessons that emphasized student accountability and understanding of the metacognitive process to serve as a foundation for building critical analysis skills. To become better readers, he challenged students to understand the ways in which their brains grapple with new information. He embraced lessons instructing students on how to synthesize new information and thereby develop a more robust understanding of both the content and themselves.
At YSCA, Nick has continued to develop lessons that push students to see themselves as lifelong learners. In his three years here, Nick has designed English and History curriculums, spanning grades 9 through 12. This year, working alongside Brendan, Nick launched an American Studies course. This interdisciplinary, thematic course allowed students (in their History classes) to navigate the story of the United States (starting in the Colonial era through the 1900s) with English classes highlighting novels that captured the spirit of American story.
Nick has grown up in native Bucks County and attended St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Kelly Shank is a native of nearby West Chester, graduating from West Chester East High School before earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics Education from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Kelly comes to YSC Academy having four years of experience teaching at the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School where she provided students throughout the state with a cyber education. She is thrilled to be able to incorporate her skills in online learning into the blended learning environment. Kelly believes whole-heartedly that math proficiency and understanding lies in each individual’s ability to unlock how he or she learns and put it into practice. Her high-energy approach in the math classroom keeps her students engaged and fosters a positive attitude towards the subject.
Additionally, Kelly has an extensive background in athletics, dedicating 10 years of her soccer career to the West Chester Predators, playing three sports in high school, and eventually deciding to pursue soccer at the Division I level. She also coached Girls’ Soccer locally for Bishop Shanahan High School. Kelly is so thankful to have the opportunity to teach at YSC Academy where she is an integral part of providing a quality education to young athletes.
“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” – Albert Einstein
For the past twenty-one years, Brendan has been an educator in the Philadelphia area. Prior to arriving at YSC Academy in 2018, he spent the first nine years of his career as a teacher and varsity soccer coach in Philadelphia area charter schools, and the remainder in a similar capacity at independent schools (St. Joe’s Prep / Germantown Academy). Brendan is certified to teach both Social Studies and Language Arts by the state of Pennsylvania.
His teaching style is rooted in traditional elements of deep critical thought, intensive Socratic method, and robust debate. However, he credits YSC Academy’s progressive vision and modern tools for helping to better foster these timeless skills in the ever-changing world. His belief in the YSCA model is highlighted by the fact that all four of his sons are now enrolled. This year, working alongside Nick Kueny, he launched an American Studies course. This thematic, interdisciplinary course allowed students to better understand their history by challenging them to read prose and poetry that captured the zeitgeist of the eras covered in the class. They plan on expanding this model into new forums.
Brendan is a proud Philly native who graduated from St. Joe’s Prep and The University of Pennsylvania. Both he and his wife, Heike, were varsity soccer players at UPenn where he was an All-Ivy Selection.
“Be who you are, and be that well” – Francis DeSales
Hailing from the west coast, Brett Blackiston is excited to join the YSC Academy team this year. After graduating from UCLA, Brett made the jump to the east coast as a part of Teach for America, a national education non-profit organization, in which he taught high school in southern Delaware for two years. During this program, he discovered a love for coaching the sport he played growing up, serving as the varsity soccer coach throughout his tenure. After finishing the program, Brett pursued his masters degree in Sport Psychology from Capella University, gaining practical experience from his time with IMG Academy and formerly with the Philadelphia Union youth program. He currently is a mental skills coach and consultant with Inner-Edge Sport Psychology, where he works with individual athletes of all ages, as well as with various high school programs in the greater Philadelphia region.
Relationships are at the core of his educational and youth development philosophies, incorporating the fundamental mantra of “they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This year, he will teach humanities and health/wellness, bringing a holistic and person-centered approach to the classroom. Brett has a passion for helping adolescent males live mentally and emotionally healthy lives, inspired by his experiences teaching, coaching, and mentoring at the Phelps School and the Haverford School over the past few years. He is currently continuing his education at the University of Pennsylvania, studying School and Mental Health Counseling, in order to expand his skill set in supporting the mental wellness of young men.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Sheldon Phillips has amassed a dynamic professional background that includes over 25 years in education, sports administration, and government.
After graduating from law school, Sheldon pursued his interest in education and taught American and World History for 8 years while coaching both girls and boys varsity soccer teams. With his legal training, he will share his unique understanding of written analysis, research, and verbal exposition through the Harkness and Socratic Methods as well as experiential critical thought.
Among his competition management duties as an executive working for the FIFA World Cup and Summer Olympic soccer venues in Washington D.C. and Birmingham, AL, Sheldon designed and implemented policy for community-based sporting programs with local government agencies and interest groups to foster legacies for the sport in those respective communities.
In 2013, Sheldon was recruited by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) to lead significant organizational reforms as its General Secretary. In the three years Phillips served, the men’s and women’s national football teams rose in FIFA rankings from 103 for the men and unranked for the women to 47 and 42 respectively. His management accomplishments were also reflected in his successful leadership in initiating and guiding the organization through significant governance and organizational policy reforms such as; the adoption of a new constitution, designing debt servicing initiatives that led to the elimination of 60% of the then existing TTFA debt, and creation of a platform for partnership between the TTFA and national government.
“Practicing your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable, and satisfying. And I’ll generally take a standup mercenary who takes pride in his professionalism over an artist any day.”