Non-Credit Instructor Biographies

April Bender brings several dimensions of grant writing to us.  First, as a practitioner, she has successfully written and received many grants from foundations and state and federal governments. Secondly, she has worked on state and federal levels to author requests for proposals. Thirdly, she has worked on state and federal levels to facilitate research and help draft rules and policies that help get money to practitioners.  And finally, she has scored grant proposals for state and federal governments.  She wants you to know that she has spent almost as much time writing and receiving a $500 grant for a washer and dryer for a day care center as she has for a $96,000,000 grant split by 21 state agencies and is happy and humble to share her mistakes and success!

Rick Berkman the 2007 SUNYAC Coach of the Year, recently completed his fourteenth season as the head coach of the men's lacrosse program at SUNY Potsdam. During Berkman's tenure the Bears have had nine winning seasons, twelve post-season appearances, a conference championship and amassed an impressive 47-37 mark in conference play.  Coach Berkman was previously named USLCA (Unites States Lacrosse Coaches Association) "Man of the Year" for his contributions to the growth of lacrosse in the North Country. He has organized several lacrosse clinics, tournaments and youth leagues since his arrival to Potsdam.  In addition to coaching lacrosse, Berkman also coaches the Men's Varsity Golf team, serves as a Physical Education Instructor and, is on the NCAA Lacrosse Advisory Committee.

Teri Blair is a local Zumba instructor who loves what she does! She started attending classes in early 2011 and was hooked. Shortly thereafter, she became licensed in Zumba as well as Zumbatomic. For more information, go to

Jill Breit is a folklorist and the Executive Director of TAUNY. She has 20 years of experience studying the traditions and folklife of New York's North Country and has taught folklore courses at SUNY Potsdam.

Megan Dinan is a New York State certified Teacher of Dance. She has been dancing since childhood.   She has studied ballet, jazz, modern, African, ballroom, Latin and swing.  She has been teaching couples how to dance for more than ten years.

Samantha DiPietro is a SUNY Potsdam student studying dance.  She assisted with the CLEAR dance program during both fall '11 and spring '12. 

Maggie Engels is an area ZUMBA instructor who is enthusiastic about sharing her love for ZUMBA with you!  Learn more about Maggie and her ZUMBA career at

Val Foote is an undergraduate student at SUNY Potsdam.  She most recently directed a summer youth program "Adventure Day Camp" on the SUNY Potsdam campus, as well as staffed the 2011 Princess Day Camp and Creative Arts Day Camp.

Jim Gerber was born and raised surrounded by vineyards in California's Central Valley.  He has been employed as a USDA wine grape inspector, winery quality control inspector and (winery) sales representative.  He has taught Wine Appreciation at SUNY Potsdam for more than 10 years.

Susan Haller is a professor of Computer Science at SUNY Potsdam. She received her PhD in 1995 from the University of Buffalo. Her research interests are natural language processing and computer science education.

Ralph Hastings is retired from the music faculty of the Malone Central School District where he taught middle school vocal and general music for thirty-four years.  He received degrees from Onondaga Community College, Syracuse (A.A.S.) and the Crane School of Music (B.S., M.S., M.M.) in music education and music history and literature.  He is also retired from a forty-seven-year career as a church organist, forty-two of which were at Malone's First Baptist Church.  A member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Hastings has published compositions with Belwin/Mills-Columbia Pictures (Alfred Publishing) and Wayne Leopold Editions.  One of his organ works was recorded at Salisbury Cathedral, performed by San Francisco's organist, James Warren.  Hastings is also a member of the St. Lawrence River Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, serving as Dean; SUNY Potsdam Chapter of Phi Mu Lambda, the American Academy of Distinguished Graduate Students; the Potsdam Alumni Association Board of Trustees; and is serving as President of the Julia E. Crane Alumni Association, Board of Trustees.  He has also served as chairman of the Helen H. Hosmer Excellence in Music Teaching Award Committee and is serving on the Board of the Orchestra of Northern New York.  In 2010, Hastings was named a "Leading Professional of the World" by the International Biographical Center, Cambridge, England.

Dan Hayes has worked on campus for PACES since 1977.  He is currently the Executive Director.  He also serves as the Business Manager of the Potsdam College Foundation.  He has taught courses in Accounting, Economics and the Dean's Freshman Seminar.  He has a BS degree from LeMoyne College and a MS degree from Clarkson University.

Lois Jenne has been instructing Aquatic Fitness for Non-Credit Programs at SUNY Potsdam for many years. She has 21 years of experience with this course.

Nathan LaRowe returns for his second season as diving coach for the SUNY Potsdam swimming & diving team, after a season away from the Maxcy pool.  A four-time All-American diver in his career at SUNY Potsdam, LaRowe capped his decorated career in 2010 after winning the NCAA Division III title in the 1-meter dive, besting Brian Sobel of Springfield (Mass.) by more than 20 points, at the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis, Minn. His national championship was the first for any Bears program since the men's basketball team won in 1986 under legendary coach Jerry Welsh. LaRowe, who also placed third in the 3-meter dive, was named Men's Diver of the Meet.  LaRowe was also a four-time All-SUNYAC honoree and had one other top five finish in the NCAAs, a fourth-place finish in the 3-meter dive in 2009.  A Latham, N.Y., native, LaRowe graduated from Potsdam in 2010 with a bachelor's in criminal justice and sociology.

Andrea Malik has been training in the martial arts for over 25 years and is a certified WTF certified 4th degree, Tae Kwon Do Master rank black belt instructor-"Forest Spirit Martial Arts."  Andrea also has taught Cardio-karate kickboxing and Qigong classes, is a student of renowned qigong master, Kenneth Cohen and has been practicing yoga for over 20 years.

Jeff Mann resides in Kingston, Ontario.  His art utilizes car parts and recycled materials.  Locally he has presented classes at the North Country Arts Association in Watertown, NY and at the Rome Art and Community Center in Rome, NY.  He has also been involved with an ArtStart grant project in two school districts in St. Lawrence County.

Michelle Martin-Atwood holds a Master of Music (2001) and a Doctor of Musical Arts (2009) in pipe organ performance and literature as well as a Sacred Music Diploma from the Eastman School of Music where she studied with David Higgs and a Bachelor of Music (1999) from the University of Alberta in Edmonton under the tutelage of Dr. Marnie Giesbrecht.  Michelle has been coached by leading performers and scholars such as Hans-Ola Ericsson, Martin Haselböck, Michael Gailit, Catharine Crozier, Robert Glasgow, Andrea Marçon, Simon Preston, Carole Terry and Andrés Cena Galán. Michelle has performed throughout North America and Europe and has been an invited performer in such prestigious events as the conference "Aspects of American Organ Building in the Twentieth-Century" (Rochester, NY) and the American Guild of Organists Young Artists Recital (Oneonta, NY).  Michelle has received numerous scholarships and grants including a Johann Strauss Foundation Scholarship for Advanced Study of Music in Austria, A Canada Council for the Arts Grant to Professional Musicians and Saskatchewan Arts Board Grants to Professional Musicians.  She was a semi-finalist in the 2002 Royal Bank Calgary International Organ Competition and a competitor in the National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance in 2003-04. Michelle is pursuing a career in organ performance, specializing in minimalist music with a strong interest in Baroque Spanish and Italian organ music and has commissioned new works such as a private symbol… (2001) by Randall Hall and Tremors of Nostalgia (2002) by Aaron Travers.  She particularly enjoys instrumental collaboration having performed with international award-winning artists such as saxophonists, Dr. Randall Hall and Dr. Chien-Kwan Lin, guitarists, Dr. Ken Meyers and Dr. Nathan Fischer, trombonist, Dr. Mark Hartman, duos with fellow organists, and dance and organ with the Elizabeth Clark Dance Ensemble. Michelle is currently working as project manager and performer for a recording of new organ works by Eastman composers and an album of organ plus other instruments.

Coach Ken McLaughlin began his career at SUNY Potsdam in 1985, and returned in 2002. Some of his coaching highlights include age group swimmers ranked as high as 1st in the U.S. , 12 junior national qualifiers, 4 senior national qualifiers, 2 Olympic trial qualifiers, 6 NCAA national qualifiers 1 All-American, 13 conference champions, 22 Potsdam record setters and one SUNYAC MVP. He holds both a Bachelors degree in Physical Education and a Masters of Science degree from Indiana University. During his years as a swimmer at Indiana his achievements included being a four-year Division I national qualifier and a school record holder. In 1981 he also attained a world ranking of ninth in the 50-meter Freestyle.

Cheryl Miller is a Professor in the department of Mathematics at SUNY Potsdam.  She earned her PhD in Mathematics in 1989 from Wesleyan University in Middletown Connecticut. Her specialty within the field of Mathematics is Logic, but she also has a strong interest in the History of Mathematics, especially the origins of mathematics in various cultures.

Jill Mouthorp is a baker at Cindy's Cake Shop in Canton, NY.  She has been employed with the store since its opening in '98.

Cindy Murdie is the owner and operator of Cindy's Cake Shop in Canton, NY.  The business has been open since '98.

Jay Pecora is an Associate Professor of Theatre at SUNY Potsdam where he teaches classes on theatre history, educational theatre, applied theatre, and dramaturgy.  He directs the college's Theatre Education Major, which leads to NYS K-12 teaching certification.  An applied theatre project he directed, "Project Homecoming: women veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan reflect upon returning from war" was invited to the International Drama and Education Associations 2007 conference in Hong Kong. Jay received his BFA from the Theatre School at DePaul, his teacher certification in social studies from Hunter College and an MA in Urban Education from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  His PhD is from New York University in Drama Education.  Jay's dissertation, chaired by Dr. Philip Taylor, was reflective practitioner research, entitled: "Drama and the Holocaust: a qualitative study of student and teacher experience in a hjgh school social studies classroom".  As a professional actor and director Jay worked in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City.  He taught high school social studies at an Alternative High School in Manhattan for ten years. 

David Peets has been studying and teaching dance for the past five years.  He started out learning the Waltz and became interested in Swing dancing, Salsa, and the Tango shortly after.  He has also explored the art of break-dancing, and hip hop.

Linda Potter, M.A. of Nautilus Retreats designs and leads group or one-on-one retreats for women, non-profit organizations, and businesses. A former non-profit executive and development consultant, Linda now actively pursues a life of intention working with women and local organizations to build community in Northern New York where she lives with her family and enjoys kayaking, running & hiking.  For more information you may visit the Nautilus Retreat website:

Julia Rapczynski has been certified by AFAA, NDEITA, and ESA as an Aerobics Instructor. She is also an AFAA certified Personal Trainer/Fitness Counselor and a member of the Reebok Alliance. She received her Yoga Flight National Teacher Certification and has eighteen years of experience teaching fitness courses. Julia completed additional training in Pilates that specifically includes stretching techniques, core body conditioning, and back pain prevention.

Melissa Richards is a graduate student at Clarkson University working on her PhD in Mechanical Engineering.  She  formerly  instructed and served as an academic advisor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Clarkson University.  She also has been an instructor for  both summer and winter K-12 outreach programs for the past eight years.

Kelsey Rimmer returns as the Parent-Tot Swim instructor this spring! She has been involved with CLEAR over the last four years as a youth swim instructor, lifeguard, and Aquatic Fitness instructor. She also has six years of experience teaching swim lessons at the Parishville Beach. Regarding her role with CLEAR Kelsey says, "it's a fun atmosphere and I love meeting new people!" A resident of Potsdam, NY, Kelsey attended Potsdam Central School prior to enrolling at SUNY Potsdam. Now in her senior year, Kelsey is completing a major in Childhood/Elementary Education and a minor in Geology. When asked about being a student at SUNY Potsdam Kelsey responds with, "I love the people and how close the campus community is!" Kelsey looks forward to becoming an elementary teacher in the southern states post-graduation. In addition to her studies and work with CLEAR, Kelsey also enjoys both Greek Life and swimming.

Michelle Robinson is a senior at SUNY Potsdam from New Paltz NY.  Michelle is working toward a BS in Chemistry and a minor in biology. She plans to stay at Potsdam to pursue a masters degree in secondary education in chemistry and biology, and hopes to obtain a job teaching science in the future.  Michelle has worked at summer camps, the Cornell entomology lab and as a vet technician at Dolphins Plus over the past few summers.

Daniel Romlein is a Potsdam native and recently graduated summa cum laude from SUNY Potsdam. Within his degree of studio art Daniel concentrated in graphic design, which he says he enjoys "Because it's an intersection of so many fascinating things—working with people, problem solving, media, technology, and of course: art." He is currently acting as a freelance designer and engaging in a variety of other creative roles which include painting and photography. Daniel began working with CLEAR as a lifeguard in 2010, and has since then taken on numerous responsibilities that include instructor, program director and photographer. An Eagle Scout and American Red Cross Certified Lifeguard, he has over the years held leadership/teaching positions in a number of capacities, including ones with 4-H, the Adirondack Mennonite Camping Association, Boy Scouts of America, and the local church.

Mary Sue Seymour is a New York State Certified Teacher with over ten years of public classroom teaching experience.  She is a graduate of SUNY Potsdam who has given private art and piano lessons for over twenty years.  She was Maxfield's resident artist for eight years and kept approximately 70 paintings there.  Her artwork has been accepted at the SUNY Potsdam Juried Show and the Massena Art Association Juried Show.  She has won best of show honors at the Artists of the Thousand Islands Annual Show and the Watertown Artists' Guild Show.  Mary Sue is currently the art teacher at Ogdensburg Catholic School.

Tracy Sharlow is a Certified PE/Adapted PE teacher and lifeguard.  She is employed with St. Lawrence-Lewis County BOCES.

Keith Shult has over 30 years experience teaching piano, voice, guitar, brass and woodwinds both privately and in public schools.

Sifu (teacher) Tom Sokol is a Master Level Instructor with over 30 years experience teaching and training various Martial Arts and Fitness Classes and is a NYS Registered and Nationally Certified Athletic Trainer.  His Tai Chi Chuan lineage comes through official disciples of T.T. Liang and is a complete system for health and self-defense utilizing Qigong and, at the advanced level, two-person exercises and weapons training.

Jessica Stewart, also known as Basimah, started studying Middle Eastern dance in 2001 in Cincinnati Ohio. In 2010 she relocated to Northern NY and holds weekly classes, workshops and haflas (Middle Eastern dance parties). She is honored to be hired as an adjunct instructor of Middle Eastern dance at St. Lawrence University. Jessica frequently travels regionally and nationally, performing and vending at events in the dance world. She also participates in workshops to further her dance research. Her mentor, Aegela, frequents the area lecturing and teaching workshops to her students and local universities.

Laura Toland is a graduate of The Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam and has a Master of Sacred Music degree from Georgia State University.  She is currently Director of Music and organist at the First Presbyterian Church of Potsdam.  She accompanies the Children's Chorus of Crane, is active in the St. Lawrence River Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and teaches organ privately.

Heather Wheeler has a Bachelor's degree in piano performance from the Catholic University of America and a Master's in Music Education from the Crane School of Music. She has worked as a music teacher, private piano teacher, pianist, and music director for the past eighteen years in Washington D.C., Louisiana, and New York.  Heather started a Family Music program at the Acadiana Conservatory in Lafayette, Louisiana.  She is currently teaching piano at the Crane School of Music.

Rebekah Wilkins-Pepiton is a photographer, designer, and mixed media artist with over 10-years of industry related experience.  Visit her website at to learn more.

Frances Winig is a SUNY Potsdam student.  She is a certified lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor.

Shannon Zaykoski is a junior Music Education major with a Special Music Education minor at SUNY Potsdam. She took educational gymnastics for four years when younger and competed for three years at both Level 4 and 5.  Alongside gymnastics, she also danced competitively for 11 years and now teaches dance when home on break. This is Shannon's third semester as the Director of the Educational Gymnastics program.