Meet Our Team

Our talented masters-level learning therapists work with our students, using research-supported approaches to provide world class treatment for the individuals that we serve.  We develop the educational scaffolding that is essential to produce thoughtful, prepared, and confident young men.

Andy Sapp, PhD

Founder, President, Owner

Bio

Dr. Andrew Sapp is the Founder & CEO of both Novitas Academy and Cherry Gulch. He has extensive experience working with children and adolescents in the fields of mental health and psychology. Dr. Sapp earned a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. He also graduated with honors from Oregon State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

In the early stages of his career, Dr. Sapp was a Field Supervisor and Therapist at a therapeutic wilderness program, the lead therapist on the adolescent unit of a locked inpatient psychiatric hospital, a therapist at a group home for foster boys where he did family preservation work. He also worked as a therapist at two community mental health clinics, a community college, an elementary school, and a youth correctional facility. Andrew is a veteran and honorably served as a Naval Lieutenant stationed at a Naval Medical Center where he worked as a therapist.

Dr. Sapp has served on the Government Relations Committee for the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) and a committee that wrote best practice guidelines for small therapeutic programs, much of which was later incorporated into NATSAP’s best practice guidelines for members. He has also been honored to present at a number of national and regional conferences.

Dr. Sapp has worked with patients ranging from 4 to 80 years of age and truly understands psychology and human development. He believes that therapeutic intervention can prevent a child from throwing away their future. He truly believes that to reach adolescents, one’s therapeutic interventions must be supportive, creative, and engaging. He is an expert in working with adolescent boys and at using the natural environment and everyday activities to create positive change in a child’s life. He is a firm believer in the power of outdoor experiential activities, adventures, and animals to aid in the healing process. He also believes that to effect lasting change in an adolescent, a holistic (mind, body, and spirit) approach is necessary.

Cherry Gulch is arguably the best therapeutic boarding school in the world for the population of middle school boys that they specialize in. Dr. Sapp and his team started the school from nothing but dirt and sage brush and Cherry Gulch is now the largest private employer in the County. Cherry Gulch has been honored by the Idaho Psychological Association as the “Overall most psychologically healthy workplace” in the State and by the Idaho Business Review as “One of the best places to work” in the State. Cherry Gulch has also been selected numerous times for National recognition for “Excellence in Education”. In 2011, the Idaho Business Review selected Dr. Sapp as one of the top 40 “Accomplished Under 40” professionals in the State.

Dr. Sapp is deeply passionate about helping boys who struggle academically because learning differences run in his family and he too has undiagnosed learning disabilities that he has spent much of his life trying to overcome. Andrew believes that these challenges have helped him become more determined to reach his goals. By far his greatest accomplishment has been starting two successful programs and serving the many students and families that have benefited from this award winning and life changing programs. His greatest joy is spending time with his three precious little girls and his wonderful wife.

Si Steinberg, MD

Consulting Psychiatrist

Bio

Dr. Si Steinberg was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and obtained an undergraduate Bachelors of Science degree in Anthropology-Zoology. Dr. Steinberg’s primary undergraduate focus was on Medical Anthropology. He graduated Honors with High Distinction.

Dr. Steinberg attended the University of Michigan Medical School where he was admitted to Alpha Omega Alpha, an honorary medical society for top students. Following his graduation from medical school in 1986, he attended UCLA where he spent the first two years of his psychiatry residency. The latter three years of his residency training, including his Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship, were at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. In addition to his Child and Adolescent Fellowship, Dr. Steinberg also obtained subspecialty training in Family Therapy through an externship at The Brattleboro Family Institute. He also obtained additional independent training and supervision for the treatment of victims of child abuse and adult survivors of trauma. Dr. Steinberg then went on to serve as the Clinical Director at a Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital in Lewiston, Idaho. He simultaneously became the primary consulting psychiatrist at a regional residential child and adolescent treatment center as well as consulting with rural community mental health clinics in the Lewiston-Clarkston area.

He has consulted with various school districts in the Lewiston/Clarkston/Boise/Nampa/Ontario areas. Dr. Steinberg is currently the primary consulting psychiatrist for the State of Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections, Ada County detention center, and several group homes for adults and children with developmental disabilities. In addition, he is the Medical Director and treating psychiatrist for numerous community mental health clinics in the Treasure Valley. Dr. Steinberg regularly conducts trainings for physicians, other mental health professionals and the general public in the areas of diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders with particular emphasis on differential diagnosis, child trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and medication management.

Katie Rienstra, LCSW

Executive Director

Bio

Katie is a licensed clinician with an M.A. from Boise State University. She is the Executive Director of Cherry Gulch. She has been with CG since 2015 and has served as a therapist and Clinical Director. Previously she has worked with children, adolescents and their families in multiple settings including hospitals, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics and schools. She is a registered supervisor with the state of Idaho and enjoys providing supervision for master’s level clinicians seeking clinical licensure as well as interns working on their LSW or LMSW degrees. Her therapeutic focus is in Trauma-Informed Care, Social Thinking, and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT).

Katie is an Idaho native but lived in Minnesota for 4 years to complete her undergraduate studies and participate in collegiate softball. In 2008 she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work with minors in Psychology and Health Care from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. She earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Boise State University in 2009, during which time she completed an internship with Cherry Gulch. In Katie’s time away from work she enjoys activities with her husband, new baby boy and family in the outdoors. She actively enjoys hiking, softball, fishing and hunting.

Melissa Proctor

Admissions

Bio

Melissa joined Novitas after teaching for 15 years in the classroom. During those years, she taught special education classes, high school alternative school classes, middle school, and kindergarten. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from William Penn University in Iowa, with endorsements in Special Education and Reading. Much of her time has been focused on childhood development and helping to provide interventions and accommodations within school teams for students with learning differences. She was a teacher mentor and served on the leadership commitee for several years. She and her husband, Chris adopted three beautiful daughters, and they spend time together outdoors camping, hiking, and playing!

Contact Info: [email protected]; Ph (208) 817-3128

Doug Green

Operations Director

Bio

Doug Green has his master’s degree in educational administration and he successfully taught middle-school mathematics for 6 years, serving at risk youth in the Las Vegas area. He earned his undergraduate degrees in construction management and business management, has been the Human Resources Director for a large, Las Vegas construction company and the Legal Administrator for a Las Vegas law firm. Doug is also a military veteran, having served in various positions in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves.

Doug feels that one of his life’s purposes is to help younger kids see how important and amazing they already are and to help them grow and develop into the best and happiest people they can be. With that belief and goal, he has volunteered extensively in the Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Nevada, the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, and now finds great satisfaction and purpose with us at Novitas Academy.

As the Director of Operations, Doug’s mission is to facilitate the success of students at Novitas Academy by ensuring that the campus, facilities, food, vehicles and more are perfectly situated. His attention to detail coupled with his affinity for working with youth make him a natural fit here at Novitas.

Bobbi Geiger, MNA, M.Ed, LSW

Clinical Director

Bio

Bobbi Geiger has over 25 years of experience in child welfare and human services as a practitioner and a senior manager. Bobbi began in a Therapeutic Foster Care program in North Dakota in 1992. She served as a case manager for seven years before moving into progressive managerial positions. In the fall of 2009, Bobbi relocated to Idaho to develop a statewide therapeutic foster care program as an Executive Director. Under her leadership, the program grew to five locations throughout the state. In addition to her work in therapeutic foster care Bobbi has worked in various roles in community-based treatment programs including a youth detention center, group home, and day treatment programs.
She holds degrees in Social Work and Criminal Justice from Minnesota State University, a Master of Education in Counseling from North Dakota State University, and a Masters of Nonprofit Administration from North Park University, Chicago. She is a Licensed Social Worker in Idaho. She was the 1998 Child Welfare League of America’s Western Region Child Welfare Worker and the recipient of the PATH Don Crompton Award of Excellence in Social Work in 2001.
Bobbi was drawn to Novitas Academy because of their approach to treatment, their focus on collaborative relationships, and their commitment to helping adolescents move towards a healthy start to adulthood. Bobbi believes wholeheartedly in using a relational approach as the foundation to join with others to help them address the obstacles that life brings to us all in different ways.
Bobbi strives to create a nurturing and safe atmosphere in which individuals are respected and can be supported in their efforts to change and grow as well as become connected to their strengths. She is genuine and passionate about helping adolescents and families. Adolescents and parents appreciate her nonjudgmental approach and her compassionate, calm and sincere style.
Bobbi is dedicated to equipping young people with the tools and techniques for embracing their growth and supporting their transformation during adolescence. Her areas of interest include transitions, conflict resolution, depression, self-injurious behaviors, anxiety, trauma, grief, parenting skills, social skills, and independent living skills. Bobbi integrates techniques from a variety of approaches in her practice that include family systems, cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused, experiential, mindfulness, systemic and structural therapy. She believes helping is an honor, therapy is a collaborative adventure and that we all do well when we can.
Outside of Novitas, Bobbi enjoys time with her husband and adult children, gardening, caring for her pets, reading and relaxing in the sun.

Treva Leslie, LPC

Therapist

Bio

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in Idaho, holding a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Capella University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. I returned back to school after raising my two children and owning and operating a floral business for 26 years. After selling my business I accepted a full time position as a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist and I pursued my Masters Degree maintaining a 4.0 GPA. I have experience working with military individuals suffering from PTSD and MST. The last two years, I have worked as a crisis clinician working in the emergency room, in the community, and in the juvenile detention center in Newport, Oregon. During that time, I encountered a wide diversity of situations, which involved a high level of complexity due to the nature of behavioral health problems and mental health treatment needs of adults and children. I have a passion for helping individuals explore, understand, and overcome personal, social and/or behavioral problems to promote optimum mental and emotional health. I am dedicated to creating and implementing innovative ways to strengthen and empower families and individuals.

My philosophy is all persons are treated with honor and respect. My mission is to offer a holistic, genuine, supportive, non-judgmental approach to therapy with an understanding that human beings experience individual life challenges. Life is a journey and events may happen that are overwhelming and challenging. I have experience in treating various issues, including depression, anxiety, sexual trauma, childhood trauma, emotional abuse, mood disorders, grief/loss, co-dependency and PTSD. I integrate techniques from a variety of therapeutic approaches including, but not limited to Cognitive-Behavioral, Person-centered, Experiential, Gestalt, Motivational Interviewing, and Solution Focused. I am client focused with strengths in communication, active listening, flexibility, and individual therapeutic techniques. There is a special reward in helping an adolescent discover their strengths to overcome the barriers life may bring. The reward is being present to witness the “Awe” moment when an adolescent gains personal insight of their potential of overcoming their limitations to achieve success as they transition into adulthood.

Activities I enjoy include sewing, knitting, gardening, writing, walking, and spending time with my family. I have a passion for learning and gaining knowledge not only through reading, but also through life experiences. I have been involved in Search and Rescue dog training over the last ten years as a trail layer.

Cole Sewall

Residential Director

Bio

My name is Cole Sewall, I’m married to my wife Lori and I’m a father of two amazing kids, my seven year old boy Kalen and two year old girl Christen. I’ve lived in Idaho my entire life. My interests include hiking, snowboarding, camping, hunting, wake-boarding, and anything to do with the outdoors.

I am a Residential Manager at Novitas Academy. Prior to Novitas Academy I worked for thirteen years at Cherry Gulch Therapeutic Boarding School. I had many roles and my last role at Cherry Gulch was the Residential Director. Over the years I have developed many skills in the residential field. I have completed several facilitator trainings and certifications which are as follows. Licensed by Satori S.A.M.A certified facilitator, Licensed Facilitator In The Arbinger Institute Model, CPI Certification, Certified Youth Care Practitioner and C.R.M Trauma Informed Care certification. I’m proficient or familiar with a vast array of intervention programs. These include de-escalation techniques, physical management programs, leadership strategies and residential treatment best practices. I love working with struggling youth and creating program systems to get our boys engaged in treatment and residential life.

Laura Pegram

Residential Manager

Bio

Laura Pegram is a Residential Manager here at Novitas. She is excited about providing a safe and supportive environment for students to learn and grow.

Laura graduated from Bishop Kelly High School in Boise. She received her Bachelors in Public Administration from Cedarville University and is currently pursuing her Master’s of Social Work at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa.

Laura’s work history includes serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA and working as a Resident Manager at a Ronald McDonald House in Boise. Laura also worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters in Dayton, Ohio, and was a Victim Advocate for survivors of domestic violence.

In her free time, Laura enjoys hanging out with her husband, Russell, hiking, going to museums, and watching Gilmore Girls. She has a dog, two cats, and a menagerie of house plants.

Carleen Schnitker

Academic Director

Bio

Carleen Schnitker is a passionate educator who dedicates her talents towards optimizing schools and systems to best meet the needs of all students. Carleen has been an educator for 20+ years. She is the founding principal of the first Innovation school in Idaho! She lead a team through a design process to inspire, research, calculate, transform, and open Union High School, a Big Picture Learning school, which is an alternative public high school in Nampa School District. Carleen has taught and led secondary schools in Meridian, Eagle, Online, and in Nampa, including a career technical education alternative program, where she was honored as the District Secondary Teacher of the Year.

Carleen has worked in and developed multiple programs and schools, while writing grants and innovating forward to do what is best for ALL students.

Carleen Schnitker has also been involved in many civic and professional organizations including the Idaho Association of School Leaders, Stanford School reTool Leadership, Big Picture Learning, Deeper Learning Network, National Math Alliance, Algebra Project, Young People’s Project, Idaho Mastery Education Network, and more. Carleen is a True ColorsTM elite trainer, and an expert in both adult and youth learning. She has presented in many international conferences, and is looked to for guidance and support by many educators throughout the world.

Carleen earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education from Boise State University. She earned her Masters degree in Educational Administration from the University of Idaho. Carleen also works with multiple National and International networks who create and support opportunities of equity and access to students in education everywhere. Carleen is extremely passionate about creating, supporting, and sustaining schools which truly help students by meeting them where they are, and growing them forward, through their OWN passions, interests, and pursuits.

In addition to all of this, Carleen is a proud mother of two adult kids and a very spontaneously brilliant grandson (yes, she is bias.) Carleen is a native Idahoan and the middle sister of three, thus named as the only “boy” in the family. Her father’s name is Carl, so she is Carleen. Her parents wanted to use the middle name Alex, so the cat got named Alex, while Carleen’s middle name became Alexis. She is definitely the outlier in the family. Carleen loves the Idaho outdoors, nature, architecture, landscaping, woodworking, biking, Saturday market, cultural events, traveling, spending time with her family, close friends, and so much more! The best days, however, are when the Idaho sun is shining in her backyard, and she is able to build various creative and unique projects, while listening to a nonfiction book on her headset (and her day is even better if her kids or grandson are hanging out with her!)

Carleen recently joined the Novitas family, as part of the Academic team. She begins her journey with us as an Academic Coordinator and instructor.

Korinne Pecunia

Science Teacher

Bio

Meeting the individual needs of students and acting as an advisor for their post secondary planning gives me a great sense of purpose in life. My passion is working with youth who have struggled in a traditional model, helping them to discover their own passions and attain small victories, ultimately pushing them hard enough to be proud of what they have done and build their confidence in their own abilities. Continuous growth and collaboration is critical and I model that for my students and colleagues. I am committed to helping kids grow socially and emotionally in addition to setting high expectations for academic growth.

I have expertise in STEM areas and research and throughout my career I have been recognized for improving student achievement and helping to develop, implement and instruct innovative programs and classes. I love working alongside students, actively researching and testing ideas together. I strive to make topics relevant and exciting for students and have found that increases student engagement dramatically. My students always have a voice in my classroom and we have fun by DOING science together. I teach my students graduate level laboratory techniques because I know they find it fascinating and they’re completely capable. My favorite topics to teach are human biology, botany, beekeeping, aquaponics, horticulture, farming, technical math concepts and laboratory chemistry and biology techniques. 

My professional experiences showcase my dedication to education and serving others. Some of my experiences include sitting on an AdvancEd accreditation review team, teaching a session on learning outcomes at the Idaho Mastery Education Network conference, onsite principal of the UHS summer school, leading professional learning, mentoring new teachers on Big Picture teaching approaches, and using formative assessment, standards based grading and mastery based teaching and assessment. In addition to this knowledge and experience, I have also been involved in recruiting, accreditation, curriculum work, higher education teaching experiences, managing internships, acting as liaison to internship mentors, schools, parents and community members, and sitting on committees. 

I completed my undergraduate journey at Boise State University where I majored in Biology Secondary Education with an additional certification in physical sciences. I built upon my degree program at BSU taking biochemistry, two semesters of organic chemistry and three semesters of physics to align my credentials with pre-medical students. During this time I worked at BSU as a paid laboratory research assistant and as an Anatomy and Physiology tutor. 

Upon completion of my undergraduate degree I began working as a Program Manager at Huntington Learning Center where I was responsible for hiring and training new teachers, reviewing nationally accepted exam data with parents to identify learning gaps for students, and individualizing student curriculum. I have since taught both middle and high school science in traditional and non-traditional learning environments. In addition to my 6-12 teaching experiences, I began teaching dual credit college  biology classes in 2015. I have taught both online and in-person Biology 100 lecture courses as well as in-person Biology 100L labs and a hybrid fitness class with College of Western Idaho.

For the past five years I have been working for a school of innovation using the Big Picture Learning Model, a research based approach to teaching. This is where I learned to focus on personalized learning, as well as real-world, interest-based learning through internships and projects. We also placed a strong emphasis on post secondary preparation and planning. I began experimenting with various interventions and realized more student potential by finding out what works for each student and at different times in their lives. My teaching experiences with at risk youth steered my interests away from medical school as I fell in love with the barriers I saw my students overcoming in my classroom. I realized I was changing the trajectory for students who were headed in the wrong direction and developed amazing relationships with students and families. 

I decided to pursue my M.Ed in Educational Leadership at BSU and completed my coursework in 2019. I am currently pursuing an additional Special Education Director endorsement.

Kelley Phipps

Teacher

Bio

Kelley will be serving as the special education teacher/student advisor at Novitas. With more than 25 years of teaching experience, Kelley is well-versed in meeting the diverse needs of students. She most recently served as the Student Services Director for Treasure Valley Classical Academy. Kelley is certified by the State of Idaho to teach Special Education, receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of Idaho and a Masters in Literacy from Eastern Oregon University. In addition to experience in many varied educational settings (public, private, home, virtual, charter, and international,) Kelley is an educational consultant and learning differences specialist with CenterPoint Learning Solutions where she advocates for families and students with learning differences. She specializes in the Davis Methods for teaching students with Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism and other differences. She and her husband have raised eight children. Kelley is looking forward to sharing her experience with the students and families of Novitas.

Alex Attano

Teacher

Bio

Alex is an Idaho native and attended the University of Idaho where he majored in Secondary Education and English. He recently moved from Moscow to Meridian, Idaho to join our amazing team! While his speciality is English Language Arts, Alex has also taught multiple content areas while working with students with learning differences. He is invested in supporting people he cares about with social-emotional needs as well. In addition, Alex has worked in the growing sector of the Forestry field. He is excited to share his knowledge from his experience with that as well.

Alex values respect, flexibility, and giving second (or third, or fourth) chances. He spends his spare time reading, drawing, writing letters, watering plants, and playing with his cats.

One of Alex’s biggest goals in the classroom is to help students set goals and realize their potential within themselves. Goal-setting can sometimes feel like a huge, impossible task for adolescence. Alex has developed a system that helps teach students how goal-setting can be tangible, accessible, and manageable. This process starts with practice and daily goal-setting in small ways which build the foundation for students to build toward creating and managing larger goals. Alex wants to make sure every student is supported and given the materials they need to succeed while being able to celebrate those successes with them once it is obtained.

Mikela Baciu

Educational Assistant/Registrar

Bio

Mikela moved back to Idaho from Colorado Springs in 2016. Since being back she has earned her associate degree in Liberal Arts and is currently a full-time Boise State University student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She has four semesters left and will continue and pursue medical school.

Mikela has over 10 years of experience working with children ranging from toddlers to high schoolers. Her time over the past seven years has been spent in Special Education In Kansas, she had the opportunity to give back by creating relationships with fellow military families while helping their children to learn how to be confident in themselves and their schoolwork. She later moved back to Colorado Springs where she was employed with the Air Academy district where she taught in both elementary and middle school special education. In 2017, Mikela had the opportunity of a lifetime to work with a group of boys in a residential facility, which has been (up until this point) her most rewarding and proudest time of her career. Mikela was both a paraprofessional for that school and the registrar/ admin assistant. Not only was she constantly at the teachers’ side, helping in every subject, she also managed cumulative files, collected information from schools around the United States, helping build transcripts and other secretarial duties. These combined perspectives gave her a better understanding of what students need and what they were trying to accomplish. Through her experiences, Mikela is passionate about meeting kids where they are to move them toward their dreams!

As a boy mom, Mikela’s life consists of Legos, gaming, finding and identifying bugs, scouts, karate… the list goes on! Her favorite activities include traveling, napping, researching, shopping, crafting and most importantly, spending time with family.

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