faculty

Lauren Jones

Lauren Jones

Administrator

Mrs. Jones joined the BHCA family in 2022.  She brings extensive experience as a classroom teacher, a focus on excellence, and a heart for serving the Lord by educating His children.

ljones@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Brock Green

Brock Green

Assistant Administrator

Brock has a Bachelors degree in Business Administration, has owned several of his own businesses, and has been a role model and mentor to many. Brock has a deep love for the Lord and has a passion for showing children what God can do in their lives. He enjoys hunting, fishing and off-roading with his family and looks forward to continuing his exploration of the beautiful state of South Dakota.
One of Brock’s favorite verses is from 1 Corinthians 12:7: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Jody Merchen

Jody Merchen

Office Manager

Mrs. Merchen joined the team at BHCA in 2011. She has a love for serving children and their families. Her previous fifteen year experience in children’s ministry as a volunteer and children’s director, along with her business background, serve beautifully in her role as office manager. She looks forward to the new opportunities God has for her as she comes alongside the dedicated staff, the wonderful families, and the amazing children. She counts it a privilege and joy to be part of the BHCA family!  Col. 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

jmerchen@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Heidi Carstensen

Heidi Carstensen

Office Assistant

Mrs. Carstensen graduated from SDSU in 2006 with a degree in Chemistry.  She is married to her husband of 12 years and they are delighted to have 3 little boys who attend BHCA.  She always thought it would be great to work in the office at my kid’s school, and she considers it a huge blessing that God has allowed her to come into this position at BHCA.  She absolutely loves her job!  The Lord is continually showing her the beauty of the cross, and revealing His grace in new and amazing ways throughout the ups and downs of everyday life.  Mrs. Carstensen loves the Lord more than life itself, and hopes and prays that all she does here at BHCA will bring glory to Him alone.

hcarstensen@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Darla Gates

Darla Gates

Building Supervisor + Lunch Coordinator

Mrs. Gates started at BHCA in 2018.  She’s a hard worker with a servant’s heart, eager to support staff and students with her skills.  Mrs. Gates’ willingness to help makes each day brighter for BHCA staff, students, and families.

dgates@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Brenda Karp

Brenda Karp

Preschool Teacher

Mrs. Karp joined the BHCA team in the fall of 2017. She has a degree in Christian Education from OK Wesleyan University. She has served with her husband in pastoral ministry for 20 years and has led children’s programs. “I am very excited to be at BHCA and to work in a place where I can help kids learn about Jesus and to grow into the people God wants them to be.” A favorite verse of hers is Philippians 4:6-7a, “Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand…”

bkarp@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Jamie Groneberg

Jamie Groneberg

Aide

Mrs. Groneberg joined BHCA in 2013. She attended Oklahoma Wesleyan University studying early childhood development. Mrs. Groneberg worked in a daycare for 3 1/2 years in Buffalo, WY, and later in a Christian Preschool until she had children of her own. She has two children that attend BHCA and enjoys the convenience of having the same schedule. Mrs. Groneberg enjoys working in a Christ centered school environment, and is excited about being an aide at BHCA.

jgroneberg@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Desirae Green

Desirae Green

Pre-Kindergarten Teacher

Desirae is a wife and mother of three kids that all attend BHCA! She says, “My heart was for this school since the day I took a tour of it. I truly believe God lead us to South Dakota and is going to do some amazing things through our school and I can’t wait to be a part of it. Teaching quickly became my passion and being at the school full time and teaching PreK feels like a dream! I love showing kids what a life with Jesus can do for you and teaching them skills to carry over into their school careers and beyond. I am honored and excited for this year at BHCA! “

Favorite verse:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12 

dgreen@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Reyna Torberson

Reyna Torberson

Aide

Mrs. Torberson joined BHCA in 2021.  As a former classroom teacher currently pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, Mrs. Torberson has a wide range of experiences that add wisdom and joy as she supports both students and teachers in the pre-k classrooms.

rtorberson@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Tyffany Johnson

Tyffany Johnson

Kindergarten Teacher

Ms. Johnson joined us in 2019. She had been blessed to stay mostly at home raising her two daughters, who are now part of the BHCA family as well. She has always had a heart for children’s ministry since middle school, and joining BHCA has been an amazing extension of her passion for filling children with God’s truth! A verse she has found constant comfort in is Lamentations 3:23 “They are new ever morning, Great is thy faithfulness.”

tjohnson@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Ms. Johnson Planbook

Beth Kozel

Beth Kozel

Office Assistant

Mrs. Kozel came to BHCA in 2011. She studied Elementary Education at Boise State University. She feels that her job at BHCA is a direct answer to several years of prayer. “It has been a long wait, but in His timing God provided the perfect place for me to work. As a mom of two very active kids, I feel very blessed to have a part-time job that works with my family’s busy schedule, is in a healthy Christian environment, and also allows me to work with children and a team of quality individuals like the staff at BHCA.”

bkozel@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Taylor Ihmels

Taylor Ihmels

1st Grade Teacher

Taylor attended college at Black Hills State University, graduating with my Bachelor of General Studies degree. I have been working in the field of education since 2019. In Minnesota I worked in the autism spectrum disorder room. In Spearfish I was a toddler classroom teacher and taught social skills in the behavior room at Creekside Elementary. Each of these experiences has brought me closer to children. I believe that making students comfortable and capable is one of the most important gifts that you can give to any learner. In my free time I enjoy hiking, biking, and spending time with friends and family. I look forward to teaching first grade at Black Hills Christian Academy!

tihmels@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Miss Ihmels Planbook

Brittany Robinson

Brittany Robinson

2nd Grade Teacher

Mrs. Robinson joined BHCA in 2010. She graduated from Black Hills State University with a degree in Elementary Education and has her South Dakota certification. Mrs. Robinson also works with elementary children on Sunday mornings at her church. “I love working and teaching in a Christian school! This is a place where I can teach on my favorite subjects while keeping Christ at the center. I am looking forward to blessing each of these children and helping them grow closer to Christ.” One of her favorite verses is Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

brobinson@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Mrs. Robinson Planbook

Kari Harter

Kari Harter

3rd Grade Teacher

Mrs. Harter joined the BHCA family in 2022.  With a wide variety of experiences in providing interventions for students of all ages, Mrs. Harter excels at researching and finding resources to serve her students.  Her calm demeanor, consistent expectations, and commitment to doing what needs done bring strength and excellence to her role at BHCA.

kharter@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Mrs. Harter Planbook

Sheryl Malde

Sheryl Malde

4th Grade Teacher

Mrs. Malde attended Dakota Wesleyan University for business administration and took additional courses at Black HiIlls State University. She has been married to her husband for 40 years and they have two boys who both work and live in the Spearfish area. Sheryl has worked with students at the public school in Hot Springs for 13 years and LOVES to work with students of all ages.

Mrs. Malde said the following, ” I feel that the chance to work with 4th graders in a school with a Christian emphasis is an amazing God given opportunity for me. With a positive attitude and a heart for 4th graders, I am honored to work with the staff at BHCA. My life verse has always been Phillipians 4:8 ‘ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.'”

smalde@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Mrs. Malde Planbook

Katie Utecht

Katie Utecht

5th/6th Grade Teacher

Mrs. Utecht joined the BHCA staff in 2022. She graduated from Concordia University in Seward, NE with a degree in Middle Level Education and emphasis in Science and Theology. Her mission is to love and serve her students while proclaiming the Gospel message of Jesus’ death and resurrection for them. 2 Peter 3:18 is a daily reminder for Mrs. Utecht: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

kutecht@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Mrs. Utecht Planbook

Paula Gruenwald

Paula Gruenwald

PE Teacher

Mrs. Gruenwald joined the BHCA family as a substitute teacher in 2020, and came on staff to teach PE in 2022.  Her passion for children started at a young age, when she loved to babysit. After high school, she received her child development associates. She taught pre-k for 5 years, and then was a director of a daycare for another 6 years.  She has been blessed to stay at home mostly to raise her two boys for the past several years. God has truly guided the Gruenwald family here to BHCA and Mrs. Gruenwald looks forward to encouraging children to be their best. A verse she sees within BHCA is Thessalonians 5:11  “Encourage each other and build each other up.”

pgruenwald@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Julie Esmay

Julie Esmay

Art Teacher

Julie Esmay joined BHCA in 2022. She has an art education degree from The University of South Dakota and is excited to share her passion for art with the students. She believes that both engaging in the artistic process and learning about art throughout history are important and strives to create opportunities for both in her classroom. Julie is thankful to work in an environment where creativity can be explored and cultivated as a gift from God for His glory. 

jesmay@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Mrs. Esmay Planbook

Emma Siewert

Emma Siewert

History Teacher

Born and raised in Spearfish. A Black Hills Christian Academy alumni!  I graduated from Black Hills State University with a degree in history.  Ever since I was in middle school I wanted to study History so I could teach it. I’m very blessed to have that opportunity right out of college. Homeschooling my brother, as well as a couple of his friends, for a couple classes has been a big part of the last few years for me, and it has only reinforced how much I love learning and helping other people get excited to learn about God’s work throughout history. I can’t wait to start this next school year teaching middle school and high school history at BHCA! 

esiewert@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Ms. Siewert Planbook

Sentel Schreier

Sentel Schreier

Ms/HS English

Mrs. Schreier is passionate about introducing students to great works of literature through a Biblical worldview. She enjoys cultivating confident writers and speakers — teaching students to utilize their talents to grow the Kingdom.  Mrs. Schreier graduated from Augustana University in 2019 and has taught at BHCA every year since. When she’s not at school, Mrs. Schreier herds sheep on her family ranch and writes for state and local publications.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

sschreier@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Mrs. Schreier Planbook

Gregg Dennison

Gregg Dennison

HS Math Teacher

Mr. Dennison joined BHCA in 2012. He has a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Colorado State University in mathematics. He has 20 years of experience teaching mathematics at the secondary level as well as 4 years experience teaching English as a second language to adults. He also holds a Master’s of Divinity degree from The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, California. “I am so thankful to have the opportunity and privilege of working with students, parents, and staff in a setting such as BHCA that seeks to honor Christ in the pursuit of instilling Christian principles with academic excellence. May He receive all the glory!”

gdennison@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Mr. Dennison Planbook

Jen Zoller

Jen Zoller

MS/HS Math, Science Teacher

Prior to teaching at BHCA, Mrs. Zoller worked at Spearfish Middle School as an Education Support Person. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from BHSU in 2002 and then earned her teaching certificate from BHSU in 2012 specializing in Chemistry. She is also endorsed in middle school math and science. Zoller currently helps teach middle school-aged students at her church. For her to be able to talk openly about her Lord and Savior in school is such a wonderful thing.  Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

jzoller@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Mrs. Zoller 2023-2024 Planbook

Cory Smith

Cory Smith

11th/12th Grade Bible Teacher

Originally from Frankenmuth, Michigan, Cory is  the Family Pastor at Connection Church in Spearfish. He and his wife, Olyn, have been married for 7 years, and met as students at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. They welcomed their daughter, Harper, to the world in June of 2019, and then their son, Atticus in January of 2022. They enjoy reading, hiking, cross country skiing, and hosting friends. He is excited to meet more students and families in the Spearfish area while teaching the students about the beauty of a life lived for Christ.

csmith@blackhillschristianacademy.com

 

Tim Tonak

Tim Tonak

Music Teacher

Tim is currently on the worship team at The Black Hills Cowboy Church and plays many instruments. He likes to be a light for others.
Tim grew up in a Christian family that all enjoyed playing music, and his mom was an elementary music teacher for 40+ years. He’s been in choir, a men’s acapella group, and wrote and played Christian music ( Fun fact…his song was even played on KSLT).
He now focuses his time on coursework from BHSU and enjoys giving private guitar, bass,and drum lessons. He loves to travel and take in concerts wherever he can and continues to play bass with a band in Denver and a band in the Black Hills.

ttonak@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Mason Hiemstra

Mason Hiemstra

MS/HS PE/Health Teacher

Originally from Alliance, Nebraska. Mr. Hiemstra began teaching at BHCA in fall of 2023. He is currently working towards his Physical Education degree at Black Hills State University. Mason was a college athlete playing basketball his first three years of college,  two years playing at Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska and  one year playing at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska. “I am thankful that I get to work in a Christ centered environment while being able to share my love and knowledge of physical education. “

mhiemstra@blackhillschristianacademy.com

 

Amber Weeks

Amber Weeks

Middle School English

My name is Mrs. Weeks! I began teaching at BHCA in 2020. I taught 5th grade my first two years here, and then last year I co-taught 5th/6th grade. This year, I have the privilege of teaching 7th/8th grade English. I graduated from BHSU with an English degree, and that same year married my amazing husband, Chris. This year, we get to bring a beautiful baby girl into the world in January, which is why I stepped back from teaching full time. I am so excited and grateful that God has opened the door to continue teaching, and at the same time, stay home with our baby when the time comes. God is so good and so faithful.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6

aweeks@blackhillschristianacademy.com

Jeff Neikirk and Aaron Schrader

MS 9th/10th Bible

Jeff currently pastor’s at Foothills Community Church in Sturgis, and Aaron is a former teacher at Sturgis High School. Both men have a passion for the word and teaching others about life found only in Christ

jneikirk@blackhillschristianacademy.com

aschrader@blackhillschristianacademy.com