Meet our Instructors!

StairWay5 Instructors are focused in their areas of expertise and love to teach kids using innovative, hands-on, problems solving methods. 

Melinda Ragona – Digital Media

A graphic designer for print and web, Melinda’s area of expertise include marketing, branding, and specializing in logo design and photography manipulation. As an University of Iowa Art Alumni, she has been freelancing with multiple local businesses throughout the Iowa City area for over a decade, using her art knowledge and design principles.

Melinda has two young daughters and her family loves Iowa City’s vibrant community.  In her free time she loves tending to her vegetable garden, yoga, and raising Monarch butterflies with her young daughters every summer.

Yariana Diaz – Math

Yariana Diaz is PhD student in Mathematics at the University of Iowa, as well as a member of the Camerata Singers choir. She grew up in Massachusetts, where she obtained her undergraduate degree in mathematics and music at Amherst College.

When not singing or learning/teaching math, Yariana enjoys dancing and cooking. Some of her favorite cuisines to cook (and eat!) include caribbean, korean, and italian.

Francesca Eckstrom – Math

Francesca is a 5th year undergraduate student at University of Iowa double majoring in Chemistry and Mathematics. Next fall, she plans to pursue a PhD in chemistry during which she will aim to develop sustainable polymers and plastics. Francesca grew up in southern Minnesota, and hopes to move back to the Twin Cities at some point.

Outside of school, she enjoys running, rock climbing, reading, listening to music, and playing piano.

Jordan Jensen – Math and Robotics

Jordan Jensen is currently a graduate student at the University of Iowa studying Biomedical Engineering. Jordan was raised in Arizona, but has called Iowa home for the last 7 years. She received her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State University where she also played on the women’s basketball team.

Outside of the classroom and research, she likes being outside biking or taking her dog, Tank, for walks.  Jordan loves sharing her passion for science and technology with others, especially the next generation of thinkers and innovators. “I’m excited to help students gain confidence and reach their goals!”

Rebecca Sorsen – Math

Rebecca is currently a Math graduate student at the University of Iowa. She received her B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2018 and received her M.S. in Mathematics from the University of Iowa in 2020. Rebecca’s current research area is Topology, with a focus on Knot Theory and Braids. She plans to get my PhD and teach math at a smaller college. Rebecca loves helping students learn to enjoy math as much as she does.

In her free time, she likes to go on hikes and walk her dog. Rebecca also enjoys cooking and baking. 

Ruby Donald – Science & Technology

Ruby earned a Bachelors degrees in Microbiology and Chemistry from Northern Arizona University and a Masters in Immunology from Vanderbilt University. She fell in love with coding while teaching Microbiology in college and changed careers to become a Software Engineer, working at internet start up firms all the way up to fortune 10 corporations.

Ruby is the founder, president and curriculum director of StairWay5. In her spare time, Ruby loves to garden, play badminton, travel and spend time with family and friends.

Caely Tietz – Spanish

Caely is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Iowa studying Political Science, Spanish, and Communication Studies. She is from Minneapolis, Minnesota where she hopes to go to law school in the future. Caely spent Spring 2020 taking immersive Spanish courses in Salamanca, Spain with a study abroad program.

When she is not teaching or studying, Caely enjoys going to yoga classes, cooking new recipes and planning her next trip. She hopes to share the love for Spanish language and culture that she has developed over the years with her students!

Brigid Martin – English and Social Studies

Brigid is a graduate of the English and Creative Writing program at the University of Iowa, where she also minored in Theatre Arts and Latin. She is a published author and playwright, and is currently working on an audio drama and debut novel. She hopes that she can pass on her love of literature to students and give them a strong humanities structure for their futures.

When she isn’t writing or teaching, Brigid enjoys rollerblading, listening to music, and watching the NTL Shakespeare Collection.

Madi Beauchamp – French

Madi graduated from the University of Iowa in May 2020 with her Bachelor’s degree in French with minors in Spanish and Translation. She is excited to connect with students over foreign languages.