Kirsten O’Malley, M.A.T., Executive Director & Founder

With degrees from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and Vermont’s premier School for International Training, Kirsten holds a double Master’s degree in English and Spanish Language Teaching and a K-12 teaching certificate. An experienced educator and administrator, she has earned a reputation as a lively and knowledgeable teacher with extensive training in cutting-edge language teaching techniques, educational software, and holistic approaches to encouraging student success. Her years of experience in public and private education, interest in local school policies, and graduate work in language education have provided Kirsten with a unique understanding of the challenges facing students today. She shares what she knows and actively seeks out professional development opportunities to remain at the top of her field.

Community involvement is a mainstay of the Academy’s philosophy of helpfulness and support. Kirsten is an active member of the Eastside giving community, most recently serving as a 10-year Issaquah Schools Foundation Trustee. She was formerly the Foundation’s Secretary (’07-’08), and VP of Programs (’08-’10) and spent a number of years as a Programs Manager for the Foundation, overseeing the After School Homework Help (high school level) and the Targeted Academic Intervention Programs. In 2005, Kirsten enjoyed a pivotal year as President of the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, the last year the Chamber was all-volunteer led. She sat on the SAMMI Awards of Distinction Advisory Board (’05), and served as the Head Interviewer for the SAMMI Awards Business Category (’06-’08) and Teen Spirit Category (’09). Kirsten was also a 2005-2008 student of the inaugural class of Leadership Eastside, a leadership development program focused on enhancing leadership capabilities and building a regional perspective. Under Leadership Eastside, Kirsten was a member of a team exploring Civic Engagement on the Eastside and is (still!) learning the methods and techniques of Appreciative Inquiry. When she isn’t working on an Academy program, Kirsten can be found reading, playing guitar, or (very recently!) learning how to knit!

Lois Bauer, Academic Coordinator

Lois works with Kirsten and the Academy team to provide additional support to Pacific Learning Academy staff and instructors. She meets with families to choose the best fit instructor and provides oversight for ongoing academic programs. Lois comes to us with a background in alternative schooling for her own children, years in Program Management at Microsoft, and as an active volunteer supporting learning and education in the schools and communities of Issaquah and Snoqualmie Valley. Lois has a BA with Distinction in Germanics from the University of Washington in Linguistics and German, with emphasis in Math and Computer Science. In addition to being the mom of two college students who previously used Pacific Learning Academy services to great success, she enjoys walking (training for half marathons), baking, gardening, crafting and quilting.

Lizzie Rothwell, Academic Coordinator

Lizzie works with Kirsten and the Academy team to provide additional support to Pacific Learning Academy staff and instructors. She meets with families to choose the best fit instructor and provides oversight for ongoing academic programs. Lizzie earned a Master of Science in Biology with distinction from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ. She previously attended Skagit Valley College and Western Washington University, where she originally discovered her passion for biology. She strives to empower students to master difficult subjects and ultimately achieve their academic goals. Lizzie is thrilled to have returned to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where she enjoys running, hiking, and camping (weather permitting!).

Dr. JD Wyneken, Educational Development Director

JD is a professional historian, writer, and educator. He got his B.A. in History from Humboldt State University, his M.A. in American History from the University of Nebraska, and his Ph.D. in Modern European History from Ohio University. JD has traveled extensively, lived abroad, and done research and writing in many countries. He especially loves teaching History, English, Writing and Study Skills, and has tutored and mentored students from middle school through university for over a decade. JD’s favorite places in the world are Berlin, London, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Disneyland, good BBQ and teriyaki restaurants, and Safeco Field. He dreams to one day go to a baseball game in Japan, to hear his voice echo from a mountain top in Tibet, and do a triathlon in Iceland. JD spends his free time writing his novel, cooking, traveling, training for triathlons, tracking Star Wars movie rumors, following his favorite bands, and cheering on every single Seattle sports team.


Karen Zeivel, Office Manager

Karen is a 30-year Sammamish resident. She has been involved in our local schools as a classroom helper, PTSA board member, and substitute classroom aid in both mainstream and special education. In addition to public school volunteerism and leadership, Karen has also provided administrative support for Montessori/private education before coming to Pacific Learning Academy. Karen has been with the Academy since 2010 and has watched both the school and our students grow!

Karen Houlding, School Administrative Assistant

Karen provides support for the Academy’s leadership team, instructors and families. She grew up in Canada and graduated from the University of Guelph with a B.A. in Geography. Her family is excited to be settled in Sammamish, after living for the past 20 years in Tampa, FL and Camas, WA. She developed a passion for education through an unexpected homeschooling journey with her two boys through the middle school years. It was a most enriching time for her family! Her sons are now thriving at college and high school. A longtime volunteer at all levels of schools, she has donated her time at numerous events and assists with a College & Career education series at a local high school. Karen spends her free time reading, crafting, cooking, camping, traveling and enjoying the outdoors for nature therapy. She is particularly fascinated by the continuous parade of Pacific Northwest wildlife that passes by their property on the greenbelt!

Elizabeth Dowling

Elizabeth Dowling, Marketing Coordinator

Elizabeth works with the Academy team to curate and create content that communicates the Academy’s values and services. She attended Gonzaga University where she studied English Literature, Spanish, and Digital Marketing. Growing up, Elizabeth always wanted to be a teacher and is now delighted to be able to use her creative marketing skill set to help students receive the personalized support and education they need. Elizabeth grew up in the Snoqualmie Valley and enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, biking, and camping. She also spends a lot of her free time reading, designing, and taking care of her houseplants!

Pacific Learning Academy

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