Principal — Mrs. Christina Blankenstein
Mrs. Christina (Bournelis) Blankenstein is a native Oregonian who grew up in the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church community. Mrs. Blankenstein attended Catholic elementary and high school in the Portland Metro area. After high school, she earned a BA degree in Politics and minor in History from Whitman College. After spending a short time teaching English in China, Mrs. Blankenstein decided to return to school to earn her Master’s degree in Teaching at University of Portland. After graduation, she spent 2 1/2 years working for Project Mexico of the Orthodox Church in San Diego and Rosarito, Mexico where she met her husband. In 2001, they moved from San Diego (Project Mexico’s headquarters) to Portland where they are active members of the St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church community.
She loves working with children and for the Church in this very important ministry of educating our children. Mrs. Blankenstein has been part of the Agia Sophia Academy community for almost 13 years- as a mom, a Kindergarten/1st Grade classroom teacher, and the Development Director. She is very excited to have the opportunity to move into the Principal role at ASA and working with the greater pan-Orthdox community of Portland, Oregon. Mrs. Blankenstein and her husband, Paul, have two children; both are graduates of Agia Sophia Academy. They all love the outdoors, travelling together, and are very active in Boy Scouts as a family.
School Secretary — Ms. Euphrosyne McKenzie
Ms. Euphrosyne McKenzie was born and raised in Seward, Alaska. Shortly after converting to the faith in 1999, she moved with her family to beautiful Oregon. Struggling through a homeschooling program for her kindergarten age son, she was super excited to hear talk of an Orthodox school opening and jumped at the opportunity to enroll him that first year. Ms. McKenzie volunteered to administer ASA’s website and helped publish the school newsletters, later taking on more and more secretarial duties as the school grew. Agia Sophia Academy was a true blessing; her son soared academically. As her daughters reached enrollment age, they too loved attending ASA, and this fueled Ms. McKenzie’s desire to be continuously involved in this wonderful ministry. In 2008, she officially became a member of ASA’s staff and cherishes every minute of it. While her 3 children have all since graduated from ASA, her zeal for this fabulous educational program remains strong, and she looks forward to many more years of watching students as they too discover the building blocks to create a solid foundation for their futures.
Montessori Teacher — Ms. Padma Peri
Ms. Padma Peri was born and brought up in India, living mostly in Calcutta with her parents. She studied in Madras as well, when her dad was posted there, eventually receiving her Bachelors in Economics. She got married in 1987 and joined her husband in early 1989 in Phoenix, AZ. She has two girls and taught in their Montessori school in Phoenix from 1993 to 2006.
Ms. Padma received her Montessori Primary certification from Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in Phoenix Arizona 1997-1999, under Dr. Nimal Vaz. She then completed the AMI Infant-Toddler training in San Diego. Ms. Padma also received training under the renowned D. Montanaro, during a visit to the U.S. from Italy.
In January 2010, Padma joined our classroom as lead teacher and greatly enjoys it. She especially loves teaching cursive handwriting, further developing the language portion of our curriculum and reading poetry with the children. Her goal is to expose the children, by their third year in Montessori, to higher academic areas backed with the essential executive skills and strong love for learning.
Ms. Padma shares the following about her years at ASA: I have been with the school since 2010 and will treasure the warmth, support and care I experience daily from the school front as well as the parish. I am welcomed and have never felt I am not part of the community even though I come from a different religious background. I like the concept of thanking and remembering the Lord in all we do with the children.
Hobbies include: reading, music, sewing, Yoga, learning Sanskrit, Geometry and gardening!
Montessori Teacher — Ms. Rusudan Miminoshvili
Ms. Rusudan Miminoshvili was born in Poti, Republic of Georgia, which is situated on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. She is fluent in Georgian and Russian. Rusudan received a college degree from Poti Musical College in 1976 in choir conducting and then pursued further education by graduating from Kharkov University of Arts and Culture in 1985 with a degree in Academic Choir Conducting. Her previous experience includes: teaching children ages five and up through college level, working as a choir conductor (St. Nicholas church in Georgia) and directing children’s musical plays.
Ms. Rusudan has worked with Montessori programs since 2004, in both Toddler and Primary Classrooms. In 2008, she joined ASA, excited to be working in a school where the child’s development is addressed through mind, body and spirit in an Orthodox way. To further her training, Ms.Rusudan received a Montessori Diploma from North American Montessori International Association in 2013. She is delighted to begin her 10th year in ASA’s Montessori classroom and loves watching the children learn at their own pace and guiding them through their discoveries. She takes pleasure in building relationships with students and their families, as they learn and grow together over the years.
Ms. Rusudan loves Oregon and spending time with her daughter and granddaughter. She enjoys walking, reading, arts, nature and cooking with her family.
Lower Elementary Teacher — Mrs. Nicolette Hunt
Nicolette (Dimond) Hunt was born in California and raised in the Portland area. She grew up in the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral community and attended school in the Beaverton School District. Mrs. Hunt then attended Western Oregon University to pursue her education degree. She earned her BA in Early Childhood/Elementary education with an ESOL/Bilingual endorsement. After getting married the summer of 2016, Mrs. Hunt taught in Independence, Oregon for a year in a 3rd grade sheltered instruction classroom.
She loves working with younger elementary students and believes they are the future of our community. Every moment in the classroom she uses to teach love, compassion and knowledge of the world. Her goal in the classroom is that students will grow to love school and be driven to pursue their passion in life. In addition students will learn to read, write and learn about the Orthodox faith.
Upper Elementary Teacher – Fr. Ed Hillhouse
Fr. Edward Hillhouse, was born in Wisconsin, then soon traveled to Virginia and ended up in 13 different schools from San Diego to Alaska, as a Navy brat. These enriching experiences helped make him a better teacher, which he had had a vision of doing by the age of 14. He pursued his goal of becoming a school teacher through the education department at California Baptist University. After seven years teaching third grade in Riverside, California, Fr. Ed moved to the Santa Cruz area where he worked in the cleaning, landscaping, and hardwood floors businesses before helping to start an Orthodox school. He taught grades five through eight in his parish school for 16 years before moving to the Portland area. He has been a teacher at Agia Sophia Academy since 2006, a position he feels privileged to fulfill. He also serves as an assistant priest at St George Orthodox Church in Portland.
Fr. Ed and his Khouria Judy have been blessed with 3 sons and 5 grandsons. The latter dwell in Anchorage, Alaska, with their parents. Fr. Vasili is the priest of the parish there. Ryan and Jeremy enjoy life in their sunny hometown of Santa Cruz, California.
Just as key people in Fr. Ed’s life have left profound imprints on him, his vision for being a teacher is to empower children early on to become strong individuals who are able to course through life making informed choices that lead to success on all levels. He strives to teach every lesson and manage his classroom with the awareness that how he relates to every child in every circumstance contributes to academic, personal and spiritual growth. His ultimate goal is that children read, write, think and speak well in the context of a loving relationship with God. He has endeavored to accomplish this since 2006 at ASA, having taught grades 1 through 7.
Music & PE Teacher — Mrs. Brigid (Kathleen) Powell
A Northwest logging towns native, Mrs. Powell grew up surrounded by nature, grounded in a love for God, and steeped in music, dance and athletics. Teaching PE and Music at Agia Sophia Academy since 2006 has been a most natural fit.
She earned her B.Mus with emphases in Conducting, Vocal Pedagogy and Music Education from Western Washington University in beautiful Bellingham. Since then, she has completed both levels of BrainDance Education from Anne Green Gilbert and Orff Level 1. She has special training in Music and Drama for children with ADHD, Dyslexia and Autism, as well as movement for children with vision concerns and people with Parkinson’s Disease.
Mrs. Powell has taught every age from 2 months to 99 years old, in her private studio, in public and private schools, and in secular and Orthodox choirs. From 2003-2006 she served as the Youth Music Specialist for the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco Church Music Federation. While there, she organized, developed and taught curriculum for Sunday schools, Choir Conductors, Chanters & Choral Singers.
Having lived in many small logging towns as a child, Mrs. Powell dreamed of living in a larger city, riding mass transit and getting paid to sing. In Portland, she does all those things and more. She serves as soprano section leader for the choir Kliros and conductor of Music Makers (Kindergarten) and Nova 1 (grades 1&2) at Pacific Youth Choirs. With her family she enjoys watching and performing in concerts & plays, hiking, and testing frozen yogurt flavors.
Latin Language Teacher — Mrs. Martine Downs
Mrs. Martine (Mulder) Downs was born in Utrecht, The Netherlands. She was raised in a Dutch Old-Catholic family, which formed a balance for her classical education. After graduating from the Gymnasium, where she specialized in both Latin and Greek, and four other languages, and working a year as a volunteer in a physical rehabilitation facility, she started at the University of Utrecht, where she earned both her Kandidaats and Doctoral degrees in Andragologie. It translates best as “Educational Philosophy and Psychology” at the PhD. level.
In her church at the time, she was involved with youth work, and traveled to singing conferences with friends in Germany. Her husband she met in church, when he and his seminary classmates were traveling. They married in 1979, and made their home in San Andreas, California. As an immigrant, the now Mrs. Downs learned to be an American and later a mother. Church life kept the family busy, and teaching Sunday school was an early joy. Home has been in two other parishes in California, and one in Washington. Then came the big turn around: a goodbye to the Episcopal Church, and first steps to become Orthodox Christians. Mrs. Downs lived for one year on a Military Base in Biloxi, MS, and then moved to Portland,OR in 1997. She is now a member of the Church of the Annunciation, where her husband is known as Deacon Cuthbert. Her son, Robert, and his family are members of St.John the Baptist Orthodox Church. For Mrs. Downs, it is coming full circle: having the opportunity to be at Agia Sophia Academy and teach Latin in a Christian environment. Giving the students a chance to further their studies with a Latin underpinning will help make their language studies come alive.
Greek Language Teacher — Mrs. Ioanna Polyzoi
Ioanna was born and raised in Athens, Greece. She went to a Greek-French school. At the age of 19 she moved to Italy (Rome) where she earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Civil Engineering from Sapienza University. She then worked for the university as a research assistant for a few years. She lived in Ireland for 2 years with her husband and moved to Oregon in 2011. They now have two children, both born in the States.
Ioanna taught in the Holy Trinity Greek School in Portland in 2013 and, again, is currently teaching Greek where she has discovered her passion to encourage and support her students in learning the Greek Language and Culture. Speaking 4 languages herself (Greek, Italian, French and English) and having lived in 4 different countries she knows the challenges but also the opportunities that a new language can bring.
Ioanna enjoys spending time with her family and friends, cooking and traveling. She is very excited to join the team at Agia Sophia Academy.
Art Teacher — Mrs. Magdalena Perussi
Mrs. Perussi was born in Romania. She has been surrounded by art since her childhood. Her father is an iconographer and he helped develop her artistic inclinations. She has a degree in painting with a minor in teaching art from the University of Fine Arts in Bucharest. Soon after receiving her degree she came to the green and beautiful Oregon. Over the years Mrs. Perussi has painted icons for her church and parishioners and worked on religious murals at the two Romanian Orthodox churches in Portland. Currently she continues to challenge herself with new art projects. She also enjoys reading, gardening and spending time with family. She loves teaching art class at ASA where the education of children is addressed academically and spiritually. She feels privileged to be part of such a wonderful community.
School Librarian — Ms. Lisa Farris
Lisa was born and raised in Southern California. After high school, she moved to Oregon to attend Oregon State University on a Naval R.O.T.C. scholarship. Lisa earned a bachelor’s degree and a commission in the U.S. Navy. She served on active duty as a Naval Officer for 8 years. Since leaving the military, Lisa has earned a master’s degree in business administration and a masters of arts in teaching.
She currently spends her time volunteering at local schools and non-profit organizations in order to support the growth and success of future generations.