Staff

Michael Durchslag – Director
Michael Durchslag is the Director of P.E.A.S.E. Academy (Peers Enjoying a Sober Education), the oldest sober school in the United States. He began working for P.E.A.S.E. in November, 1995 as the Social Studies teacher. Michael became the school’s Director in January, 2007. He is a licensed 7-12 social studies teacher and earned his Masters of Arts in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas in 2002. Michael also holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Beloit College (1991).

Amy Parkhurst

Amy Parkhurst – Administrative Assistant
Amy Parkhurst is our Administrative Assistant since December of 2008. She previously worked as the Administrative Assistant at Multicultural Indigenous Academy (MIA), another site of Minnesota Transition Charter Schools, for over a year. Amy is a mother of four. She has been an active member of Danza Mexica Cuauhtémoc for the past eight years, and is the speaker and organizer for the Woman’s Circle within the group, which includes organizing meetings, cultural history classes, and promotes healthy lifestyles for mothers and their families. She has coordinated student participation in the annual Chalchiutlique Environmental Justice Summit. She also instructs Native American beading with youth in our community.

Anna Shindler

Anna Shindler – Science
Anna Shindler has taught and shared science with students for 9 years. She’s worked for a large public high school, a small recovery school and the Science Museum of Minnesota after graduating from the U of M, Duluth in 2005. She loves working with youth in recovery because she believes they possess strengths that your average teenager does not. She’s currently completing her masters degree in science education at the U of M, Twin Cities. When she’s not planning lessons, washing beakers or grading science portfolios, she’s a mother to two children who loves cooking, bike riding, gardening, camping, fishing, and vacuuming the house (no joke).

Ben Justin

Ben Justin – Math
Mr. Justin’s passions are mathematics, sports, music, technology, and learning. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, Minored in Physics, completed Initial Licensure as a Minnesota math teacher, and Master of Education in Math Education from the University of Minnesota. He met his wife while they were marching together in the University of Minnesota Marching Band and both played in the Men’s Basketball Pep Band. Mr. Justin has been teaching mathematics for five years and enjoys working with students to find novel solutions to interesting problems.

Denise Simon – Special Education
Denise Simon is the Special Education Case Manager and Resource Teacher. This is her first year at PEASE Academy; however she has been a special education teacher with the MTS district for seven years. Prior, Denise worked in District 197 and DCALS as an English/Language Arts teacher. She decided to go to graduate school for a Master’s Degree in Special Education which she completed in 2011. She is the mother of two sons 17 and 21 years of age. In her free time she enjoys spending time cooking and eating with her Italian family, traveling, gardening and reading.

Saraya Dahlen – Social Worker
Saraya Dahlen is the School Social Worker. This is her first year at PEASE Academy; prior to working at PEASE she was working as a community social worker, providing school linked case management to families with children in the 622 school district. She also has experience working with families and individuals who were experiencing domestic violence and homelessness. Saraya completed her bachelor’s degree in social work from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2013. She is a licensed social worker (LSW) and school social worker (SSW) by the MN Board of Social Work and MN Department of Education. In her free time Saraya enjoys hanging with friends, traveling, and trying out new recipes from Pinterest! She is excited to get started in this new position and be a new resource for the students.

Sheila McMahon – Language Arts
Sheila started with PEASE in 2005. She attended the U of MN for both her undergrad and licensure work. She has worked at several other high schools both as an English teacher and as a Theater Arts teacher, but she finds she feels most at peace at PEASE. She works with the resident artist, Heather Bassler Zemien, to create the Studio Arts class. Outside of school, Sheila’s interests lie in writing, reading, and knitting. She has written one novel and is working on another, and she is working on several children’s books as well.

Jeff Schommer

Jeff Schommer – Social Studies
Jeff Schommer, Social Studies- Jeff grew up in the dairyland pastures of southeastern Wisconsin and moved to Minneapolis in 1995 to earn a BA in Urban Studies from the U of M. He worked as a town planning consultant off and on for about 10 years, then made a career change in 2008 after obtaining his teaching licensure in Duluth. He has lived in numerous neighborhoods in South Minneapolis, at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, at the end of the Gunflint Trail, in a barn in northwestern Wisconsin, on the North Shore of Lake Superior and in a Toyota Corolla. He loves travel, hiking and camping, gardening and cooking, fermenting things, and exploring the world with his wife and son.

Rufus Brown

Rufus Brown – Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) and Board Certified Counselor (BCC)
Rufus Brown is a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) and Board Certified Counselor (BCC). He has worked with youth in corrections, as well as homeless shelters for runaway and homeless teens. Rufus also has extensive background working with youth and adults in inpatient settings, outpatient programs, and residential treatment facilities. Rufus is a natural teacher and brings over two decades of experience to our team to help support, coach, and encourage our students.