Our Faculty

Karin McWhorter
Academic Director and Math Teacher

EDUCATION:
B.S. in Mathematics, United States Air Force Academy (1998)
M.S. in Secondary Education, Old Dominion University (2001)
Masters Certificate in Mathematics, The University of Central Florida (2016)
EXPERIENCE:
Sahuaro High School (2003)
University of Phoenix (2008-2012)
Osan American Middle School (2010-2011)
Caledonia High School (2012-2013)
The Mississippi School for Math and Science (2014-2016)
United States Air Force Academy (2017 – 2020)
Ascend College Prep (2020 – Present)

“I love teaching math because understanding how to approach a problem, apply a framework and find a solution is a critical life skill. I feel strongly that EVERY student is capable of success in mathematics, and once you understand “why” something works, the “how” becomes much easier. I have worked in public education for nearly 20 years, and I think we can do better with respect to STEM literacy, critical thinking and overall preparedness for future endeavors.”

Kjersten Blair
Junior English
Junior and Senior History

EDUCATION:
Double major in history and Christianity at Houston Baptist University
MSt and DPhil in Modern History at University of Oxford
EXPERIENCE:
Gordon College (2009)
Hood College (2009)
United States Naval Academy (2009-2010)
Excelsior College (2011-present)

“The study of history is really a study of how humans and civilizations operate. An understanding of history greatly deepens one’s understanding of current events. I love to challenge young people to think and question their assumptions through the vehicle of history, and then express their thoughts articulately – often a lost art in the 21st century!” 

Dave Vollmer
Physics and Environmental Science

EDUCATION:
B.S. in Meteorology from the Pennsylvania State University 1996
M.S. in Military Meteorology from Air Force Institute of Technology 2002
PhD in Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Science, North Carolina State University, 2008
EXPERIENCE:
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, United States Air Force Academy 2013-2018                                  Instructor/Associate Scientist, University Corporation for Atmospheric Science 2019-present

“I love sharing my passion for science and I’m energized by those moments when students discover something new and exciting.  I’m delighted to be part of Ascend because it’s an opportunity to help young men and women find their passions when it matters the most.”

Cami Gage
Senior English
Health and Wellness

EDUCATION:
BS, Humanities, Foreign Language Minor, US Air Force Academy
MA, Humanities (Literature Focus), California State University
200-hr YTT Certified USA Triathlon Level 1
USA Triathlon Paratriathlon
EXPERIENCE:
English Instructor, Air Force Academy Preparatory School
Coaching

“I love teaching because I love watching a student realize what is possible—it is incredibly rewarding to see a student recognize the full capacity of what is possible in them. I’m honored to be a part of ASCEND because Karin’s mission approaches education holistically, acknowledging and tending to the student as a whole human being.” 

Dan Polsgrove
Physics and Astronomy

EDUCATION:
B.S. Physics, USAFA (’98 Dominates!)
M.S. in Astrophysics & Astronomy, Michigan State University (1999)
PhD in Astrophysics, University of Minnesota (2009)
EXPERIENCE:
Physics I/Physics II + multiple astronomy courses over a total of 7 years in USAFA/DFP (2002-2004 & 2013-2018)

“Guiding young people to a deeper understanding of our universe is just plain fun… and there are few moments in life as thrilling as seeing a complex concept “click” for a student after weeks or months of hard work!  Beyond the simple fun-factor inherent to teaching college-level science to 11th/12th graders and getting to work with a team of world-class educators, I’m excited to be a part of Ascend because it offers an opportunity to play a small role in a school that will inevitably have a huge positive and lasting impact on the life of every student who walks through our doors.”    

Ray Magallanez
Statistics and Operations Research

EDUCATION:
B.S. in Mathematics from Oregon State University, Corvallis OR, 06/2002
M.S. in Operations Research from Air Force Institute of Technology, WPAFB OH, 03/2007
EXPERIENCE:
Math and Operations Research Professor, United States Air Force Academy (10 years)
Course Directed Probabilistic Models, Probability/Statistics, and Calculus
Instructed over 750 students covering the topics of Calculus, Operations Research, and Probability and Statistics.

“I love the enthusiasm of students and the joy/smile when a student gets it — when they learn that they can be good at math.”