Hi! I'm Wendy Spencer, and I love teaching children! I started teaching kids to read as a teenager, and I've been teaching ever since! After directing my first choir of Hmong youth as a Senior in High School, I studied at Brigham Young University. While at BYU, I traveled the world with the BYU International Folk Dance Ensemble performing in International dance festivals, including the renowned Jerash Music Festival in Jordan. I've lived and taught in Mexico, as well Brooklyn and Queens, New York, both of which shaped me deeply.
After teaching 2nd grade both in Utah and California, I decided to take on my favorite and most important job ever: being Mom to four beautiful children. I've had the privilege of homeschooling them for eleven years, and it as shaped my view of education in ways I couldn't have imagined. I am truly grateful! I love to read, dance, sing, play games, discuss literature, hike, homeschool, write, and share these 'loves' with my children. I am passionate about bringing leadership, classy performing arts, and the love of learning into the hearts of the children and youth of my wonderful hometown of Merced.
Meet Our Teachers!
Young Leaders Performing Arts
Young Leaders Performing Arts
Amanda Hill grew up in Southwest Wyoming, in a town small enough to allow her to try everything from swimming to speech and debate. She attended college at Brigham Young University, graduating in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. Together with her husband and children, she's lived all over the the US, and traveled every inch of I-80! In 2012 she sat down to her computer on a whim, and started writing. Today she has several publications in children's magazines, anthologies, and e-picture book apps. Amanda loves sharing her love of science, writing, crafting, gardening, and music with children and adults alike.
At the age of six, Leon Carswell discovered a love of dance after seeing Michael Jackson on television, and since then, he has never stopped dancing! After becoming a professional at the age of 18, he traveled the world competing in dance competitions and at the age of 20, he began working with major artists and celebrities! Leon has danced and choreographed for well known recording artists and has choreographed for and performed in popular films. In his spare time he enjoys exploring,art, and nature, especially at the beach! His truest passion is mentoring kids and he is proud to be teaching at Building Young Leaders.
Broadway Kids and Company
Sophie has been dancing and performing for over 15 years! A Central Valley, hometown native, Sophie trained as a child and through her teenage years right here in Merced! She furthered her dancing education while attending college in Fullerton, California. She is well versed in Ballet, Jazz, Broadway, Modern, and Tap. She is also a trained yoga instructor! She has an enormous passion for dancing, and is so grateful to be working with all of the wonderful dancers at Building Young Leaders! "Dance your heart out!"
Margot Padilla is an especially gifted performing arts instructor and Assistant Director of our Young Leaders Performing Arts department! She graduated from Fresno State majoring in Liberal Studies with a minor in Dance in 1992, and while there was part of the resident dance company, Portable Dance Troupe. She earned her teaching credential from Chapman University and has loved teaching the children of Merced County ever since! She has studied and performed with local dance companies, Merced Civic Ballet and The Women at the Well.
Margot is able to continue pursuing her passions of dancing and teaching with the love and support of her amazing husband. Together they have made Merced their hometown and are raising a young man and two beautiful girls who also love to dance. She feels blessed to be part of Building Young Leaders where she can share her talents in an environment that is an extension of her own values!
Katrin Freitas is excited to share her knowledge about movement and performance as she teaches at Building Young Leaders. Katrin is trained in various traditional styles of dance including ballet, lyrical, tap, jazz, modern, contemporary, hip hop, swing, and musical theater. In addition, she is well versed in many cultural styles of dance from Latin America and the Pacific Islands. Over the years, Katrin has competed in many national dance competitions where she has won top scores, Judge’s Choice awards, and National Titles. Ms. Freitas has also engaged in the performing arts through her participation in a variety of theatrical plays ranging from Alice and Wonderland, The Secret Garden, and The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. To further her repertoire and love of the performing arts, Katrin studied music and chorale performance in San Francisco where her appreciation for all aspects of music and performance was enhanced.
Broadway Kids and Company
Dynamic Hip Hop
Natalie grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where she excelled in several sports including fast-pitch softball and volleyball. She was also involved in tap and jazz dance, swim team, bowling, basketball and eventually took up surfing! She learned to play the piano and flute, and sang in her church choir. After high school Natalie attended Utah Valley State College where she studied Business Management and Floral design. She then became the sole proprietor of a successful wedding floral business. In December of 2016 Natalie married and moved to Merced, where her husband teaches at the local University. Natalie has spent much of her time serving as a leader in her church’s children’s Sunday school classes. She enjoys being around children because of their eagerness to learn new things and their candid comments about life! Natalie enjoys many hobbies including gardening, sewing, painting, decorating and scrapbooking and is excited to weave her many talents into her teaching!
Sewing & Homeschool Enrichment