Staff & Faculty
Jennifer Kontos, Principal & 1st -3rd Grade Teacher
Mrs. Kontos has been a teacher for over 20 years, certified in both regular & special education settings, along with a Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction. Working with children, collaborating with teachers, developing/implementing effective curriculum, & connecting with families are her true passions.
Our principal’s goal is to empower Saint Basil Academy’s teachers, so they are able to reach each student’s full potential & empower students to become lifelong learners. Teachers deserve the utmost support so they can be the best educators in the classroom. Being committed to working collaboratively with our parents is also a top commitment. It takes a village to educate our children. Teachers alone should not take on the full burden of educating the whole child. We want to support the whole family. When the whole family thrives, our students do better.
For our current families, thank you for entrusting your children’s education to Saint Basil Academy. For those who are looking into SBA, I look forward to inviting you on campus for a tour for you to get to know us & getting to know you. We truly have a special hidden gem in the Walla Walla community we would love for you to experience the possibility of taking this journey together.
Brandon Thompson, Middle School Teacher
Mr. Thompson has been teaching for 18 years, including seven years at Saint Basil Academy. He began his career teaching GED classes to inner-city youth in Chicago. After that, he spent several years teaching writing & literature at four different community colleges. He has earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy, a master’s degree in writing with an emphasis on teaching writing, & a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry.
Brandon is married & has six children. In Mr. Thompson’s spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading, writing poetry, jogging, & making music.
Mara Lewis, Kindergarten Teacher
“Some people could look at a mud puddle & see an ocean with ships,”
– Zora Neale Hurston
For Miss Lewis, this quote really encapsulates the essence of being five years old. Everything is big, possible, & full of wonder.
Miss Lewis continually nurtures curiosity, creativity, & resilience, not only in her Kindergarten classroom but schoolwide. She aims to kindle a lifelong love for learning, instilling problem-solving skills, collaborative spirit, & a deep connection with nature in her students. She loves nothing more than being a child’s gateway to reading & is so passionate about the UFLI phonics program which she absolutely loves to teach. It is an explicit, systematic program that teaches students the foundational skills necessary for proficient reading.
Miss Lewis had the privilege of growing up in a large family immersed in ideas, literature, art, & music. She learned that education is an endless quest for knowledge, truth, & beauty. With six years of teaching music & extracurricular activities to children aged 4-15, she has a well-rounded knowledge & hands-on experience in child development, able to tailor the curriculum to meet an individual child’s needs. Miss Lewis’ love for teaching shines through as she’s continually committed to personal growth through additional classes & certifications in early childhood education.
When not at school, Mara loves singing with the Walla Walla Choral Society, serving on their board, working in youth ministry, & lingering in a coffee shop right up to closing time.
Yanel Berentsen, 4th & 5th Grade Teacher
Becca Kontos, Office Manager
Lynn Bingham, Teacher Assistant
Jessica Walling, Teacher Assistant
Miss Walling is one of our Teacher Assistants on campus. Her family came to Saint Basil two years ago when her daughter was ready to start kindergarten. At the age of two, Miss Walling’s daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy where she had a few physical limitations. Saint Basil Academy was an absolute Godsend. Her entire family is fully invested in her children’s education & overall development. It was a clear decision she wanted to become part of the Saint Basil teaching staff. Her love for the students, positive energy, & assistance with classroom activities & projects brings so much joy to her life. Miss Walling is so grateful she gets to work with such a dedicated team & positive workplace. Miss Walling hopes to continue developing her skills with this position & continue to be a valuable asset to the students & SBA team.
Kelly Michelson, Teacher Assistant
Kelly Michelson is our Middle School Math Assistant. She has a natural way of reaching students, capturing their attention, assisting them, & making sure students fully understand concepts. The areas Miss Kelly assists in are Middle School Math, Prealgebra, Algebra, & Geometry. Miss Kelly also works behind the scenes with our Saint Basil Academy website. She has helped our school update information & make it visually aesthetic! Before Kelly heads into the classroom, you will usually find her engaging with the students on the field or having friendly conversations with students & staff.
Outside of Saint Basil Academy, Miss Kelly is a junior at the University of Arizona Online, studying Business Management with an emphasis in Digital Marketing. She will transfer next summer, down to Tucson, to finish her degree.
When Miss Kelly isn’t studying or working at SBA, you’ll find her reading books by her favorite authors, spending time in the sunshine, catching up on the latest movies & hanging out with her family & friends.
Phillip McKeen, Technology Teacher & IT Administrator
Mr. McKeen is an educator & IT administrator at Saint Basil Academy. He was born & raised in the Walla Walla Valley. Mr. McKeen brings a unique blend of local understandng, & over a decade of experience in various technology-related industries around the world. His roles have spanned across multiple sectors, equipping him with a diverse skill set that he now applies to ensure the seamless operation of the school’s technological infrastructure.
Outside of the classroom, Phillip is committed to professional development & continuously seeks opportunities to enhance his skills & knowledge. His dedication to both teaching & technology makes him an invaluable asset to the Saint Basil Academy community.
Fr Daniel Reese, Chaplain
Father Daniel Reese has been our Saint Basil Academy’s Chaplin, from its inception, serving the role of teaching Faith Class to our middle schoolers & providing invaluable support for conflicts & resolutions that may arise with students, their families, & school staff. Historically, Father Daniel has worked closely with our school principal, offering support, counsel, & encouragement.
Over the years, Father Daniel has seen our students flourish at Saint Basil Academy. Students who first enter the school, feeling insecure, or anxious, blossom into finding a role & voice, contributing to their sense of belonging while maturing of their young identities. Because of the low student/teacher ratio, students receive personal attention not only with their academics, but also with struggles with their peers, families, & daily questions about life & faith that often go unaddressed.
Father Daniel is a huge cheerleader for SBA! He greatly values the “team,” referring to our Staff Basil staff, as well as our current principal, Jennifer Kontos. He feels strongly that Mrs. Kontos is masterful at cultivating a sense of team unity. She checks in regularly with staff to see how they are doing, conducts weekly staff meetings to address an array of matters regarding student & staff needs, & acts as a visionary catalyst, offering best practices, looking into the future by better enhancing the education of our students.
Finally, Father Daniel greatly values our educational philosophy where we attend not only to mind but to body & soul as well. Undergirded by a rich Christian tradition, our staff pays attention to the formation of student’s values, how we treat one another, & the appropriation of wise choices in daily life. Students are given a chance, each day, to lift their hearts & minds up in prayer, & opportunities abound at our school to treat one another as the presence of Christ in our midst.