Our team

While we bring people and resources to projects on an as-needed basis, our core team is a multi-disciplinary group of professionals well versed in the worlds of education, architecture, research, technology, and community engagement. Partnering with the University of Washington Small Schools Project and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we help educators and architects integrate the work of facility design into school reform.


Victoria Bergsagel

Victoria Bergsagel is an educator passionate about designing schools where all students achieve. She founded and directs Architects of Achievement and has a gift for nurturing people’s talents and insights to arrive at inspired solutions. Harvard-educated, Victoria has been a teacher, principal, adjunct professor, community relations director, and school district administrator. As director of educational design in a large school district, she led the educational program planning upon which the construction of new schools was based. She also served as a director of educational partnerships at Talaris Research Institute where she worked with researchers and educators to conduct, integrate, and interpret the world’s leading brain research. Victoria now works to bridge the worlds of education and architecture serving as a consultant, featured speaker, and design jurist for clients in the US and abroad. She has served on the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International Foundation & Charitable Trust Board of Trustees and is Founding member of the Board for Construction for Change. Balancing work with a love of the arts and outdoors, Victoria is a connoisseur of fine opera, extreme ski slopes, and northwest bike trails.


Tim Best

Tim Best is a strategic advisor experienced in envisioning and implementing projects focused on change, technology, and learning. Currently, Dr. Best serves as principal investigator for MATRIX Learning, a federally-funded research project that is developing strategies for using mobile technologies and Web 2.0 resources to re-engage under performing middle school students in mathematics. As a policymaker, Tim established and directed Ohio SchoolNet, a state agency charged with distributing over $800 million for educational technology to Ohio schools, ultimately wiring over 100,000 classrooms. He has served as director of state partnerships at the Wexford Institute (CA), directed national federal projects, brokered a partnership among fifty universities for the Ohio Board of Regents to design a professional development program, and was the first executive director of the Center for Leadership in Education, a Cleveland-based foundation focused on school change. In the private sector Tim served as the director of advanced development at Fitch, Inc., a London-based design consultancy specializing in learning environments. This former junior high school teacher travels extensively, gardens sporadically, weaves exquisitely, and collects priceless antiques.


Marja Brandon

Marja Brandon has dedicated herself to teaching and working with young people and their families for more than a quarter century. A graduate of Wellesley College and Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Marja has been a teacher, administrator, and consultant at both public and independent schools. This Quaker’s energetic, engaging style puts an emphasis on valuing the powerful connections between student-centered learning, high expectations, and healthy self-esteem. In 2000, she moved her family west to become the Founding Head of the hugely successful Seattle Girls’ School (SGS) – a place that inspires young women to become courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change. Expanding her influence as an educational consultant, Marja is committed to making connections between neuroscience and the classroom authentically and with innovation. In her spare time this foodie spends time with her four kids baking, loving animals, and admiring sports cars – which they, of course drive around safely whenever they can.


Nancy Callery

Nancy Callery is an architect who believes that good design can both inspire and empower people to better their lives. Following 15 years in a broadcast radio and television career, Nancy shifted her focus towards influencing mass culture in the spatial dimensions. She was educated at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and attained Master of Architecture Summa Cum Laude. A recipient of the AIA Medal of Distinction. Nancy brings exceptional communication and organizational skills to educational and community-centered projects as an associate with Bassetti Architects. A sensitive listener, she is especially dedicated to working with multi-cultural client groups. Nancy has been a leader within the American Institute of Architects chapters in Texas, California, and Washington, serving most recently in Seattle as board director for the Built Environment and chair of the Diversity Roundtable. As dawn breaks, Nancy is practicing advanced yoga asanas or long-distance swimming in Lake Washington.


Travis Culwell

Travis, an advisor to AofA, has spent his career at the intersection of design, communications and strategy. With a Master of Architecture from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford, his work in architectural design, planning, historic preservation and photography included numerous projects for the University of California and the National Park Service. Later as Director of Strategy at creative agencies Frog Design and Sapient, Travis led programs in development of new products and services, including the design of environments and brand communications. Travis has guided schools in program and facility design, and in articulating brand identities and communication plans for new initiatives. He has been an active volunteer with New Door Ventures, an organization that teaches job and life skills to San Francisco youth, and with Global Strategies for HIV Prevention, a relief organization bringing health care education and medicine to under-served populations in the developing world. Travis lives with his family in Burlingame, California.


Todd Ferking

Todd Ferking is uncommonly thoughtful. This ace communicator observes insightfully, listens actively, and (when the time is right) asks penetrating questions with both grace and élan. Having worked on a variety of projects – including historic preservation, retail, civic, corporate (Boeing and Amazon) and education (both higher-education and pre K-12) – this University of Florida School of Architecture grad has discovered his calling. Driven to make a lasting contribution to the way students learn, Todd uses emerging technologies as effective learning and communication tools. (This makes sense when one considers his pedigree as the son of a beloved educator and a techy engineer.) Whether designing in 3D or tinkering with projects, Todd’s quest is to uncover new spatial typologies to enhance the ways we work, play and learn. And when not designing with and for students, Todd can be found at the cinema, cooking, or walking Rufus – his beloved Boston terrier.


Ellis Kaufman

Ellis Kaufman is uncommonly dedicated. Full of joie de vivre, he balances a love of the arts with a practical knowledge of school design. Having served in a variety of roles in education, including service as an English and Visual Arts teacher, gifted and talented coordinator, principal, school director, and facilities leader, he was most recently the Senior Vice President of a large architectural firm focused on educational facilities. Over the course of his career, he designed and managed a communications-technology academy, successfully transformed a failing school into an exemplar, supervised instruction and operations at several campuses, and coordinated the planning, construction and/or redesign of over sixty schools. With combined expertise in leadership, visioning, curriculum, instruction, photography, and writing, Kaufman is uniquely positioned to positively influence school planning and redesign processes. And whether on our East Coast or West, abroad or at home, he is a devotee of great film, musical theater, and all things Tony.


Rick Lear

Rick Lear is a knowledgeable and compassionate leader with three decades of experience working in and with small schools. This Ohio State University alum (three degrees) has founded two small schools, coordinated the Students at the Center Project at the Institute for Literacy Studies at Lehman College, directed the national ATLAS Communities Project, and worked as a senior researcher in school design for the Coalition of Essential Schools at Brown University, later serving on their national executive board. Combining a clear sense of mission with perceptive realism, Rick takes strategic planning and program implementation to an exemplary level. He currently directs the University of Washington Small Schools Project, which provides a range of services to the many new and emerging small schools in Washington State and throughout the nation. This former college football coach is an avid sports fan and movie critic, who practices culinary wizardry on a regular basis.


Rod Leland

Rod Leland is a focused leader with great skill in facilitating innovative processes. He studied industrial design and education at the University of Washington and went on to design airplane wings for the Boeing Corporation, teach in a secondary school for incarcerated youth, and operate his own company as a builder and independent contractor. For over 20 years, Rod has served as an educational facilities director in a large school district, managing the design, construction, renovation, and maintenance of scores of public schools. Graced with an enormous entrepreneurial spirit, Rod combines clarity of focus with the uncanny ability to challenge “tried and true” or simplistic design solutions to design educational facilities that better serve the needs of all students. A builder of boats and man of the sea, Rod is an aficionado and enthusiast of all things nautical.


Craig Mason

Craig Mason is an architect of uncommon talent. He listens well, designs creatively and has a knack for making the complicated simple. As the Education Studio leader for the DLR Group’s Northwest region, he has led a number of award-winning educational projects. Craig frequently speaks and writes articles about the role that built environments serve in the educational process. Driven by his passion to design schools that inspire students to learn, Craig helps communities explore fresh ideas and solutions, develop multiple options, and achieve consensus at each step in the process. His innovative work has established him as one of the most creative educational architects practicing today. This commitment to excellence — from aesthetic, functional, and economic standpoints — has earned him respect as one who cared deeply about educational excellence and pride. When not traveling the world, Craig can be found clearing brambles to reclaim a magical orchard next to his Seattle home.


Lorne McConachie

Lorne McConachie is an architect focused on the design of engaging public places. Over the past 25 years, he has developed extensive expertise in the programming and design of educational facilities, and as a senior principal of Bassetti Architects is gifted in facilitating interactive planning processes to achieve a common vision. His designs have won acclaim for their innovation, impact on learning, and civic and design excellence. They range from embedding a small high school into Seattle Center, the city’s cultural hub, to reconstructing historic schools to meet the educational needs of 21st century learners. His Edmonds-Woodway High School design captured the 1999 MacConnell—the top national award for school architecture. Beyond his passion for design, Lorne can be found playing baseball, hiking the trails of the Pacific Northwest, or exploring an old building in his commitment to historic preservation.


Jan Morrison

Jan Morrison provides vital support to National and State STEM initiatives, most recently serving as the Senior STEM advisor to The White House and the U.S. Department of Education in development of their Race to the Top and Innovate to Educate education reform programs. Current national engagements include work as the Senior Consultant for STEM Education for the Gates Foundation, NASA STEM education initiatives, Battelle Memorial Institute, the Philanthropy Roundtable, and the National Governors Association. As an advisor to the states of Arizona, California, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington, as well as General Electric, Intel, The Carnegie Foundation, Siemens and Chevron, Jan’s work on curriculum, professional development and project-based learning is reaching millions of children in classrooms every day. She has designed and implemented STEM programs in schools across the nation over thirty years and is driven by her belief that while most student in our country are underexposed to the dynamic STEM fields, they will — given the chance — find themselves drawn to science and the technical fields if challenged and provided with outstanding teaching.


David Stephen

David Stephen is an architect whose professional life straddles the worlds of architectural design and education reform. As an architect, he has over 18 years of experience in building design and construction. As an education reformer, he has worked with high schools nationwide to envision, develop, and implement innovative practices in teaching and learning. Until recently, David worked at High Tech High (HTH) in San Diego as an instructional facilities designer. He completed the conceptual designs for the high school and middle school, and managed the building renovations. The HTH facility received a "2001 Educational Design Excellence Award" from the American School & University Architectural Portfolio. David received his B.A. in architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design and his M.A. in education from Lesley College. David is passionate about spending time with his daughter Isabelle, singing Spanish ballads and dancing salsa.


Lou Rosenblatt

Lou Rosenblatt is a seasoned STEM leader who excels at helping people move beyond narrow disciplinary boundaries to integrated explorations of exciting ideas and issues. Committed to keeping the student at the center of the work, he is a teacher with over 30 years of experience, chiefly at The Park School, but also at The Baltimore Freedom Academy, Johns Hopkins University, The University of Leeds, and Gallaudet College. He has published several articles, presented at numerous conferences, and he was a member of the design team which founded The Baltimore Freedom Academy. He also wrote Rethinking the Way We Teach Science: The Interplay of Content, Pedagogy, and the Nature of Science (2011). Informal and readable, his book draws on current research and theory in science education, literacy, and educational psychology, as well as the history and philosophy of science, to make its case for transforming the way science is taught.


Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is one of the leading educational entrepreneurs in the world today. This Managing Partner of Revolution Learning previously served as President of the X PRIZE Foundation and Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he developed and implemented more than $3.5 billion in scholarship and grant programs to improve education throughout the United States. In December 2006, Newsweek readers voted Vander Ark the most influential baby boomer in education. Prior to his role with the Gates Foundation, Vander Ark was the first business executive to serve as a public school superintendent for one of Washington State's larger school districts that has been recognized for narrowing achievement gaps and reducing administrative costs. Tom also has extensive experience in the private sector ranging from business consulting to corporate finance and engineering services. He blogs regularly at www.EdReformer.com. When not on a red-eye fligth or serving on a variety of national boards, Tom can be found knee-deep in home improvement projects, international food tasting, or kayaking the shores of glorious Puget Sound.


Elliot Washor

Elliot Washor is one of the most innovative educators alive today. This co-founder of Big Picture Learning has worked in school reform for more than 30 years as a teacher, principal, administrator, video producer, and writer. Elliot’s interests lie in the field of how schools can connect with communities to understand tacit and disciplinary learning both in and outside of school. Elliot is deeply committed to imagining Big Picture Learning as a ‘do-think-do’ organization, and persistently pushes the boundaries of design in order to continually innovate practice and influence in the world of education. His professional development programs won an “Innovations in State and Local Government Award” from the Ford Foundation and the Kennedy School at Harvard Universit. His dissertation, "Innovative Pedagogy and New Facilities" won the merit award from DesignShare, an international forum for innovative schools. Recently selected as one of the Twelve Most Daring Educators in the World by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, Elliot lives in sunny San Diego with his wife and five dogs.


Amy Yurko

Amy Yurko is an architect and educator who encourages every learner to experience the joy of discovery. Applying brain-based strategies to the design of educational environments, Amy has created meaningful places for learners throughout the country and abroad. This teacher, speaker, writer and designer has held faculty positions at the University of Southern California and Illinois Institute of Technology. As Chair of the Curriculum Design Committee for the American Institute of Architects, she is leading efforts to redefine continuing education for its 80,000 members worldwide. Known for her straightforward style and no-nonsense approach, Amy has a proven talent for bringing people and ideas together in new ways. The thoughtful integration of education and architecture allows for fresh approaches to translating educational goals into clear and effective directions for programming and planning school facilities. Passionate in her support of parents wanting children, Amy loves all children — particularly her miracle son, Sammy.