About Our Founder
Kiyo A. Morse, Head of School
Mrs. Morse, who has been Head of School since its founding in 1981, holds BS and MS degrees in Population Genetics and Immunology from the University of California, Davis. Her experience as a research scientist at the University of California and with the Swiss National Red Cross in Bern provided her with the expertise to serve as a science mentor for gifted students in the Plymouth-Canton Schools. She served for three years on the steering committee of the Plymouth-Canton Association for the Academically Talented (PCAAT).
As a mother of three gifted daughters, she saw a need for programming that was not available to them through other schools. In 1981, she founded Steppingstone School for Gifted Education with the mission of giving gifted students an opportunity to have the type of school experience most other children have – with curriculum and pacing designed for them and delivered by teachers that understand them. Further, she wanted gifted students to have an opportunity to develop friendships with other students their age. She had learned through experience and literature that gifted children need other children of similar intellect to provide the groundwork of similar interests and perspective, which are the basis for the development of satisfying relationships and friendships.
Having observed and listened to hundreds of students over the years, Mrs. Morse has gained deep insight into how gifted children think about themselves and their world. She helps shape each child’s Steppingstone experience to meet the child’s needs and goals.
In addition to all the responsibilities of daily and long-term school operations, she attends a wide variety of seminars and workshops on gifted education, nationally as well as locally. She is active with organizations focused on supporting gifted children and all of the areas of their development, and she is particularly interested in the social and emotional aspects of child development. Mrs. Morse currently serves as Secretary of the Michigan Association for Gifted Children (MAGC) and President of the Association of Independent Michigan Schools (AIMS).
Personally, Mrs. Morse has also been active in the performing arts community. She was a violinist with the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra for over 25 years and served for six years as President of its Board of Directors.
Keiko Morse Woods, Teacher and Faculty Chair
Mrs. Woods is a graduate of Steppingstone. In addition to her MA in School Administration from the University of Phoenix, she received her BA and teaching certificate from Hope College in Holland, MI where she majored in science and math, earned her teaching certificate, minored in fine arts, and was named to the Dean’s list for four years of her attendance. Her college curriculum was supplemented with dance (ballet, jazz, and ballroom), theatre management and technical assistance, intramural sports, and responsibilities as a resident assistant for three years in her dormitory. In 1994, she developed the Steppingstone Summer Day Camp program and directed it for 10 years. She joined the Steppingstone faculty in 1998 and taught for three years before accepting the challenge of a grade three and four classroom in Savoonga, a northern Alaskan town on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Straits. While there, Mrs. Woods served as the chair of the School Improvement Committee, Senior High School Advisor, Cross Country Ski Team Coach and Volleyball Team Coach. In 2003, she returned to teach the Pre High School class at Steppingstone. She currently serves as Steppingstone’s Faculty Chair and ISACS Committee Chair. Her hobbies include kayaking, reading, cross-stitching, and gardening.
Kristina Newswanger, Teacher
Kristina grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. Her mom was a child protective service worker and her dad was a high school physics and chemistry teacher. She attended private school from K-8th grade and a public high school.
She loves to do outdoor sports, like running, biking, swimming, and backpacking. In addition, she likes to read literature about education, bake bread, and cook exciting foods.
She started teaching elementary school students when she was 14 years old. She primarily told stories and led games and songs for camps. Then, she worked with high school students as a teacher, counselor, and tutor, mostly in math and science. She loved her jobs so much that she forgot she was even making money! Also, she received positive feedback about her teaching from her previous students and bosses. She teaches because she loves to help students reach their full potential. Kids need someone to believe in them, guide them, and challenge them; she wants to be that person.
She chose to go to Calvin College to pursue her passion for teaching. That is where she met her husband, Joel. They have been together since 2013 and have been married since May 27, 2017.
Teresa Louk, Classroom Assistant & Admin Assistant
Teresa graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2004, where she received a teaching certificate in elementary education with an early childhood endorsement. She is married with one child and three stepchildren. She enjoys playing board games, softball and volleyball in her free time. She has worked for P.C.C.S. for 19 years. This is her second year working at Steppingstone School and she is looking forward to another great year here at Steppingstone.
Part Time Instructors
John Wright, Music Instructor
John Wright is a banjo player and folk singer. Growing up in Louisiana, he was influenced by traditional country, gospel, blues, and Cajun/Zydeco music and later traveled in the Gaelic speaking areas of Ireland and Scotland in search of traditional music. Mr. Wright studied with famed musicologist Harry Smith, noted for his influential Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music.
Jordan Johnson, Japanese Instructor, Math Instructor
Jordan currently teaches math prodigies in southeast Michigan through Michigan State University’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program. Prior to this, he was a supplementary math instructor for Oakland Community College, Highland Lakes Campus.
Jordan is also a certified (Japanese Language Proficiency Level 1) Japanese translator and professional editor. He was the main translator and interpreter for NASA’s Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program in Nagoya, Japan for almost two years. He was also a contributing translator/editor for the Nagoya City Science Museum, where he worked on many of the exhibits used in the earth science department.
He received a full scholarship to attend Walsh College, where he received his BBA. After graduation, he worked for several Japanese and American companies. He currently runs his own bilingual services business.
Jordan is currently compiling his first textbook on the Japanese language, which he hopes to complete this year.
Beverly “Mei-Ling” Sheng, Mandarin Instructor
Ms. Sheng is a graduate of U of D Mercy with a Master’s in Educational Administration. She has taught Mandarin for 8 years and was an academic administrator for the Michigan Chinese School in Northville for 2 years.
Paula Schubatis, Art and PE Instructor
Paula Schubatis is a Detroit – based artist, designer, educator, marathon runner, and world traveler. She works in intersections of textiles, painting, performance, and installation. Her educational philosophy is inspired by her travels, her artwork, and a keen interest in math and science.
Philip D. “Reef” Morse II, PhD, Computer Instructor
Dr. Morse received his BA and PhD from the University of California at Davis in Zoology. He then did four years of post-doctoral studies in Physical Biochemistry (2 years in Switzerland and 2 years at Pennsylvania State University). He was an Assistant Professor of Biology at Wayne State University, and was then recruited to run the electron spin resonance research lab in the MD-PhD program at the University of Illinois. After joining the Chemistry Department at Illinois State University to teach and do research for a number of years, he retired from ISU as a Full Professor in 2001 with over 40 peer-reviewed scientific publications to his credit. Since then, Dr. Morse taught the Pre High School class at Steppingstone for two years and now teaches computer classes at Steppingstone, as well as math for grades 4-5. He has founded and is now developing the Steppingstone MAgnetic Resonance Training (SMART) Center as its Program Director. He has served on Steppingstone’s Board of Trustees since 1981 in various capacities. In addition, Dr. Morse runs Scientific Software Services, the world’s largest supplier of aftermarket software and hardware for Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectrometers.
Jason Roder, General Assistant, IT Specialist
Mr. Roder graduated with a BS in computer science from Wayne State University. In addition to maintaining all databases, he also assists with office and facilities tasks. He is an alumnus of Steppingstone and Cranbrook.
Amber Talaski, Marketing and Communications
Amber recently received her Bachelor’s from the University of Michigan, where she majored in Communications, International Studies, and History. She has worked in the past in Ghana, where she assisted a local non-profit organization with their efforts to eradicate human trafficking and child labor in the region.
She takes any opportunity she can to travel and hopes to make it to as many countries as she can. She is also an alumna of Steppingstone and thoroughly enjoys working with the school due to its impact on her as a young student. She maintains many friendships with former classmates from Steppingstone to this day, including her freshman year dormmate and current housemate!