Red Cloud High School Faculty and Staff Profiles

Denver American Horse works with the Lakȟota Language level 1 students at Red Cloud High School. He has worked at Red Cloud since August, 2011, and is originally from Long Valley, SD. Denver attended Todd County High School in the early 70's, and then lived in Germany while completing a tour of duty with the U.S. Army. He obtained his college degree through Oglala Lakota College and also attended the University of South Dakota. Denver lives in the nearby village of Calico, and has one adult daughter, MaryBeth. He enjoys all cultural aspects of the Lakȟota, especially speaking the language. His tiyošpaye (extended family) is from Long Valley and not related to the "Chief" American Horse who is one of individuals who participated in the killing of Crazy Horse in 1877 at Fort Robinson. Denver likes working at Red Cloud because he says the students are a joy to work with. 

Br. Michael Baranek, SJ teaches Physics and Physical Science in the high school. He arrived at Red Cloud in January of 2010, serving as minister to the community and assisting the Pastoral Coordinator with parish and cemetery records. He started teaching full time in the High School in August, 2011.  “Brother B.” has been a Jesuit since September, 1978 and taught five years at the Jesuit School in Akron, Ohio and 15 years at Loyola high School in Detroit.  He enjoys teaching science and technology with a lot of student activities and with a sense of humor. 

Ashley Boone teaches Introduction to Theatre to 11th and 12th graders. She began at Red Cloud in the fall of 2012. She is originally from New York, but moved to South Dakota after volunteering and working in West Virginia for four years.  Finding Red Cloud was a fortunate stroke of serendipity for Ashley, and happened through the connections of two different friends who also work in the world of Jesuit education. As a formerly Jesuit-educated student herself and a life-longer adventurer, the mission of Red Cloud was perfectly suited for her.  She has a great passion for communication and theatre arts. Ashley’s goal as an educator is to create a learning environment where students feel challenged and supported in asking probing questions and discovering their personal creativity to address personal, community and world problems through intentional communication.

Matt Campbell has worked at Red Cloud High School since 2004. He is the department chair of the Social Studies Department. He currently teaches US History, Sports Statistics and Psychology. Matt grew up in Hot Springs, SD. He enjoys working at Red Cloud because of the great students, faculty/staff and community. Matt enjoys sports, reading and fishing in his spare time.

Russell Cournoyer  (Lakota name Heȟaka Luzahaŋ – Swift-moving Elk) is the chairman of the high school Spiritual Formation Department. He teaches freshmen and sophomores in the subjects of Lakota Rites and Sacred Stories. Since beginning work at Red Cloud in 2007, Russ has been Dean of Students in the high school (three years) and Associate Vice President for Development (one year). He is a resident of Rainbow Valley, Wakpamni District, and is an enrolled member of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
Russ feels a passion to teach about the purpose and meanings of the Lakota sacred ceremonies (particularly the Seven Sacred Rites). He feels that it is important for students to know and understand why we have these ceremonies, their purpose, and how we can apply the teachings of them to our lives. He was drawn to work here because Red Cloud supports the importance of teaching our language, customs, values and ceremonies. Plus, the overall academic program is excellent!

Russ is a parent of past Red Cloud graduates, and proudly states, “I still have two on the way!” He wants all of his children to have a powerful educational experience. With his two older kids in college, he hopes that his two younger ones will follow in their footsteps.

Susan Daniels has been at Red Cloud since 2004 with a brief stint away. Susan teaches sophomore Composition and American Literature. She enjoys the students at Red Cloud, considering them family. Susan graduated from Chadron State College in 2003. She loves to read, especially her bible, watch the Rockies, and crochet. She currently lives in Chadron with her "babies," Tank, Tiny, and Izzy.


Joe Fleischman, a Jesuit regent, joined the high school counseling department in 2012 after completing a Masters degree in counseling at Loyola University in Chicago.  He previously taught math at Red Cloud High School during the 2007-2008 school year. Joe is originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, home of the world champion Green Bay Packers.  He loves working at Red Cloud, as he enjoys laughing with the students while pushing each of them to excel as the person that God created him or her to be.  As a counselor, Joe hopes to support students as they attempt to overcome challenges and thrive in the midst of personal and contextual difficulties. Joe currently lives in the Jesuit community with his Jesuit brothers.

Allison Henning is working in the counseling department at Red Cloud as an intern from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She began this fall, 2012, working with both elementary students and high school students. She has traveled from Prior Lake, MN to complete her practicum work before graduating with her Bachelor of Science in Social Work. Allison is grateful for the opportunity to complete her degree while working with and learning from a culture different from her own.

Clare Huerter is a volunteer at Red Cloud teaching Composition 12, World Literature and Literature of Film. She is originally from Omaha, Nebraska, and is currently working on her Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration at Creighton University. Clare wants to instill in her students a love for literature, and impart to them the skills that will help them write and speak as well-rounded young men and women. She has already been graced with wonderful experiences of learning the rich Lakota culture and tradition, and hopes to continue to learn and grow in the light of the Lakota people.

Melinda Jackson teaches Pre-Algebra and Geometry. She has been at Red Cloud since 2008.  Melinda was born and raised in Gordon, Nebraska. She graduated from Chadron State College in 2000, and has enjoyed teaching on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She enjoys being part of the students’ lives and having a vested interest in their education. Melinda and her son Kaden currently reside in Gordon. 

Carla Jasso first joined Red Cloud Indian School in 2010, and serves as the student activities director in the high school. Prior to that, she was the kindergarten aide at Our Lady of Lourdes for one year. She was raised in Oakland, CA. Carla believes in empowering the students through activities and creating learning experiences for them that will help the school community. She says that the students give her energy to keep going with her job, and that she works hard to make RCHS the best experience it could possibly be for everyone.

Robin Johnson has been a part of the Red Cloud High School staff since 2004. She enjoyed six years of teaching in the Social Studies Department and coaching volleyball and track. She then moved into the high school Dean of Students role in 2010, and the Principal's chair in 2012. Robin believes Red Cloud's mission of educating the whole person spiritually, culturally, intellectually, socially, and physically is important in preparing for each student's future. Robin currently resides in Gordon, Nebraska with her husband and two children.

Philomine Lakota is in her seventh year of teaching Lakȟota at Red Cloud High School, and her fourth year as Department Chair for the Lakȟota Studies Department. She started out as the only Lakȟota language teacher in the high school, and taught sophomores as a required course and juniors and seniors in a Lakȟota II elective. Beginning this year, three levels of Lakȟota language are required for all high school students, and Philomine teaches Level III.

Teaching Lakȟota is more than a job to Philomine; it is a spiritual directive. It is helping the Oglala Lakota Nation to strengthen its identity, and increase the use of its heritage language among the young people. It is Philomine’s intent to bring integrity to teaching Lakȟota in an academic setting.

What inspires Philomine in her job, and keeps her at Red Cloud are the students and their families who are very respectful and have a strong desire to learn to speak Lakȟota. Students bring their enthusiasm and humor, and show her great respect as an elder; calling her “Uŋči” (grandmother). The Red Cloud administration’s leadership and guidance in ensuring that the Lakȟota language is taught with the best interests of the students in mind also means a lot to Philomine. She feels blessed and honored to be part of a great team of teachers.

Shannon McConnaughey teaches Biology to 9th graders and Anatomy and Physiology to 12th graders. She took a hiatus from her graduate work and began teaching at Red Cloud in 2011. Shannon was born in Huntsville, Alabama and attended undergraduate and medical school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves watching students get excited about the workings of the world around them as they delve into science.

Patrick McElwee teaches Economics, Personal Finance, and Government at Red Cloud High School. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in May, 2012 with a Social Studies degree focused on urban education. Patrick feels privileged and honored to be able to teach social studies at Red Cloud. He looks forward to learning and growing with the staff, students, and the rest of the Red Cloud and Pine Ridge community.

Christian McGhee is Red Cloud’s Athletic Director and head boys’ basketball coach. He began in the fall of 2012, having attended school at Red Cloud from 1994-2008. He is from Pine Ridge, but is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Christian always wanted to work with students and he loves sports, so he felt being an Athletic Director would be the best fit for him. He says that the thought of people underestimating him for his youth is what motivates to come to school and work hard every day.

Meagan McMahon teaches World History and Geography to freshman students at Red Cloud High School. You may also find her driving one of the school buses! This is her first year at Red Cloud and she is very excited to be here. A member of the Red Cloud Volunteer Program, Meagan is originally from Akron, Ohio. She believes strongly in the ability of education to open doors and minds, and hopes that through her teaching she will be able to positively influence her students' futures. 

Nakina Mills is the Director of Advancement and Alumni Support. She began working at Red Cloud Indian School in the fall of 2012, and is also an alumna, having graduated from Red Cloud in 1998. She was also a member of the Red Cloud Board of Directors prior to accepting her current position.

Nakina is from Pine Ridge and graduated with her Bachelor’s degree from Creighton University in 2002. She attended Red Cloud School from the time she was three years old, and is very excited to be able to give back and help others by returning to Red Cloud, which she says has always felt like her “second home”.

Sister Connie Schmidt teaches in the Spiritual Formation department of Red Cloud High School.  She has been at Red Cloud from 1993-1999 and again from 2003 to the present. During her 15 years, Sister Connie has served as a teacher in the middle school and the high school, as the Volunteer Coordinator, and on the pastoral team both as Parish Life Coordinator at Our Lady of the Sioux in Oglala and as the Pastoral Coordinator for the reservation. She is a School Sister of Notre Dame from St. Louis, Missouri, and came to Red Cloud because she loves to teach. Sister Connie continues because the Pine Ridge Reservation is a holy place with the Lakota people being a holy people with whom to minister and live.

Dani Steele is the Office Manager in the high school. She began working at Red Cloud in March of 2011. She also works as the assistant girls’ basketball coach. Dani is originally from Pine Ridge, and graduated from Red Cloud in 2005. She likes Justin Bieber, rocky road ice cream, and long walks on the beach.

Steve Summers teaches Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 in the high school. He is also the assistant football coach, as well as the high school store manager. He started at Red Cloud in 1989. The central tenet of Steve's teaching comes from the late Br. Denny Ryan S.J.; "We teach the total package". What he meant by this is that we at Red Cloud do not teach just the “3 R's”; we also teach social skills, religious teachings whether Lakota or Catholic, and community service. We work to give our students the tools to become productive citizens when they graduate. We work at a unique school:This is the only Lakota-Catholic-Jesuit School in the world, and Steve is happy to be part of this learning process.  

Mike Sunderland teaches 12th grade English and Journalism at RCHS. He started working at Red Cloud in 2006 and is currently in his sixth year at the school. Mike has been an assistant coach on the boys’ basketball team each year he has been at Red Cloud. He has helped with the school newspaper, the Gates Millennium Scholarship application process, and various after-school clubs, such as Chess Club. Mike is originally from the Philadelphia area, and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 2006 with a double major in English and Classics. He has completed a graduate program in Education through Montana State University and will graduate with an M.A. in English from Middlebury College's Bread School of English in 2013. Mike has taught the following classes at Red Cloud: AP English Literature & Composition, Composition IV, Journalism, Creative Writing, Mythology, Native American Literature, and British Literature.

Jacob Vocu joined Red Cloud as the high school librarian in August of 2012 through AmeriCorps, and is a 2009 graduate of Red Cloud High School. He decided to join Red Cloud as the librarian in order to both work for a school he has history with, and to get some experience with working in a library. He lives in Pine Ridge with his family, and he currently attends classes at Oglala Lakota College.

Dave Waliser teaches advanced biology, physical education, and health in the high school. He is also the head coach for cross-country and track. This is his first year at Red Cloud Indian School, and he is proud and excited to be a part of the students’ high school experience.

Dave graduated from Chadron State College in May, 2006.  He earned a Bachelor of Science Education Degree and an endorsement in coaching all levels.  After college, Dave taught physical education and health at St. Francis Indian School on the Rosebud Reservation for six years. While there, he also coached sports. He had a great experience at St. Francis, and hopes to continue his success here at Red Cloud High School. 

Dave’s hometown is Rapid City, SD. He will be commuting to and from Pine Ridge on a daily basis.  He hopes for an exciting year both athletically and educationally. Dave says that he will do his best to assure that all of our students have the best high school experience possible.

LuAnn Werdel, M.Ed., joined Red Cloud Indian School in 2012 as the High School’s Dean of Students. She is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Nation of South Dakota has worked in education since the early 1990’s. 

Ms. Werdel as worked in a variety of capacities on the Pine Ridge Reservation with organizations including the University of South Dakota, GEAR UP, and Oceti Sakowin Education. She has also served as the Director of Indian Education for the State of South Dakota and was a member of the Secretary of Educations’ Management Team. In 2002 she was chosen as a Fellow for the American Indian Leadership in School Administration Program at the University of Oklahoma where she earned her M.Ed. in Educational Administration a year later.

Ms. Werdel continues to enjoy her role at Red Cloud, which allows her to work closely with students to better serve their needs and collaborate with staff. In addition to her role as Dean of Students, she has started a rodeo after-school program at the school and looks forward to sharing many enjoyable years with the staff and faculty.

LuAnn Werdel currently lives in nearby Chadron, NE with her husband Ron and two children, Ty and Kaycee. She is proud of both her children who are recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Roger White Eyes is a 1979 graduate of Red Cloud High School. After graduating, he went to the University of Colorado for one year. There, he met his wife of 30 years, Vita. Together they have four children: two boys – Thomas and Robert – and two girls; Angel and Autumn. All four graduated from RCHS. Roger also has seven grandchildren. Three are enrolled in Our Lady of Lourdes, and one is an eighth grader at Red Cloud Middle School. He also has three granddaughters living in Aurora, Illinois.

In 1997, Roger graduated from Black Hills State University and started teaching social studies classes to 11th graders. In 1998, Roger was offered the Native American Studies teaching position and has been teaching Lakota Studies, Indian wars, Lakota singing, Lakota spirituality, sociology and psychology since that time. What keeps Roger motivated to teach at RCHS are the high expectations required of the students, and the support and compassionate teaching staff. Most important to him, however, are the students who come to RCHS to receive their education. Roger hopes that when students leave his classes, they take with them an understanding and appreciation for their Lakota culture and heritage, and share that knowledge with whomever they meet when they continue their journey in life.