Who We Are

About Honor Academy

From Humble Origins

Honor Academy started out as an after school program that was meant to support the traditional school curriculum.

We are here to provide expert instruction in math, science, writing, reading, and English to students who were not challenged enough in their day-to-day classes. At the same time, we are here to provide much needed extra help to students who are falling behind in their traditional classroom. As an immigrant, I also wanted to provide a home for students to learn English, so that they can keep up and get ahead in the classroom.

Over the years, our classes and students have grown, but we have never wavered from our commitment to small classes and individualized instruction. Instead of merely shoving more students into a class, we have scoured the various fields of education and extra curricular activities, as well as book clubs, speech and debate, and creative writing, to find expert instructors who are amazing at teaching young students.

Our faculty and our commitment to our principles is what sets us apart from other academies, demonstrated with our consistent track record of success.


Our mission at Honor Academy is to provide students with the skills and experiences necessary to expand their future opportunities in a world where education continues to become more competitive. As the barrier to higher education grows taller and taller, the public education system is under-equipped to give students the best chance at success whether they are the top of their class or under-performing. Honor Academy prides itself on helping our students achieve greatness in all levels of their academic journey.


Honor Academy was founded on the values of a students-first approach to education. At Honor Academy, we strive to meet the student at their level and work with them to further their personal education goals. Our tutors are flexible and adaptable allowing them to fit each student's individual learning style. Small classrooms also ensure that tutors get to know the students on a more personal level, which helps them think of innovative ways to engage the student. We strongly believe that education should work for the student, not against them.

Our Teachers & Coaches

BJ Ryu

I used to teach at private academies for about a decade. During my career as an educator, I've learned that students work the best in small groups with individualized instruction. However, this is just not the reality for most students in the public school system where one class can have 30 or even 40 students. That is why I founded Honor Academy: to give as many students as possible access to the type of education that works. Throughout my career I have taught classes in multiple academic subjects, test preparation, public speaking, TOEFL, and TOEIC. As an educator, I have learned how to adapt and be creative to meet the needs of my students. Thanks to my students, I was given valuable opportunities to improve and over the years, I have learned two truths. First, each student has their own way of learning. Thus, a one-size-fits-all approach will inevitably leave students falling behind. Second, students work best when they are surrounded by like-minded, motivated students. Honor Academy was made to uphold these two truths and dedicate itself to the continued success of our students. "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." -Benjamin Franklin

Scott Brown

Head Speech and Debate Coach
Scott has fifteen years experience teaching and coaching speech and debate. In the past two years alone, Scott has coached eight Honor debaters to qualify for the California CHSSA state championship, two to qualify for NSDA nationals (one top 20 performance), and three to qualify to the Tournament of Champions (TOC). Scott teaches debate as a process not only for competitive success but as a means for students to find their voice to self-advocate for change to transform their lives. Debaters whom Scott has taught currently attend Harvard, Stanford, Yale Law, Harvard Law, MIT Graduate School, multiple medical schools, have led engineering teams at Meta/Facebook, and managed the 2022 successful re-election campaign for the chief executive of the nation's third-largest county. Scott has an AA and BA in history and has taught for Honor since 2018. "If I work hard at it, I'll be where I wanna be." -Nas

Kitiny Phumchun

Head Speech and Debate Coach
Kitiny began her debate career in policy and parliamentary debate in college, achieving accolades at the local and national levels. In her time with Honor, her high school students have achieved multiple qualifications for the CHSSA state championship and qualified to TOC, while her middle school students have cleared at tournaments such as Jack Howe, Harvard, Stanford, and Georgetown. Kitiny enjoys seeing her students find competitive success, but she especially loves watching them find their voice and become advocates for themselves and their communities. "Do I dare Disturb the universe?" - T.S. Eliot

Carlos Pelayo

Speech and Debate Coach
Carlos has been coaching speech and debate for many years and has extensive experience at the collegiate level. As a debate competitor, Carlos has experience in Policy, Parliamentary, and Lincoln-Douglas debate. As an individual events competitor, he has competed in extemporaneous, impromptu, informative, persuasive, and after-dinner speaking. In each event and style of debate, Carlos has earned numerous awards at the local, regional, and national levels. Aside from coaching at Honor Academy, Carolos is in a PH.D. program and is also a member of the school's nationally competitive coaching staff.

Chathi Anderson

Speech and Debate Coach
Chathi is an experienced speech and debate coach who has incredible success at the elementary school, middle school, high school, and collegiate levels. Her students have won top honors at every single one of her coaching stops, which includes Irvine Valley College, Valencia High School, and Honor Academy. What sets Chathi apart from other speech and debate coaches is that she is a true educator who tailors her teaching style and methods to the age of her students. Additionally, she has expertise in a wide array of competition events, including: Parliamentary Debate, Oratory, Expository, Impromptu, Oral Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, and Dramatic Interpretation.

Gavin Patchet

Speech and Debate Coach
To Be Updated [Highlights as a competitor] Semifinalist Impromptu Speaking at American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament First Place, Informative and After Dinner Speaking at Valley Forensics League Tournaments First Place, Extemporaneous and Impromptu Speaking at Virginia is for Lovers Invitational First Place, After Dinner Speaking at Boxer Rebellion Speech Tournament First Place Open Impromptu Speaking at Golden Gate Speech Tournament Semifinalist, Impromptu Speaking CHSSA State Tournament

Max Wiessner

Speech and Debate Coach
Max is currently an active policy debater and undergraduate at California State University, Fullerton majoring in Women & Gender Studies. During her forensics career, Max has won multiple speaker awards and division champion titles at the national level. They have experience coaching students from the 4th-12th grade in Public Forum, Lincoln Douglass, and British Parliamentary debate. Their students have cleared at NSDA tournaments as well as receiving top speaker and team awards in the local circuit. Max is focused on helping their students understand the fundamentals of argumentation and how to apply them: both in and out of debate rounds. "Education is elevation." - George Lee [Highlights as a competitor] Intercollegiate Policy Debate JV semi-finalist at University of Mary Washington Debate Tournament 5th place JV speaker at University of Mary Washington Debate Tournament JV finalist at University of Wyoming Debate Tournament 1st place informative speech at the Blumer Invitational 8th place JV speaker at NJDDT 2022

Sam Semcheshen

Speech and Debate Coach
Sam is an experienced debater who is currently pursuing a degree in political science at California State University, Fullerton. As an alumni of Honor Academy's debate program, Sam has been debating for years, earning accolades at the local and national level. She resurrected the Oxford Academy Speech & Debate Club, acting as co-president and Public Forum captain. Sam found that helping novices was extremely rewarding, which is why she decided to return to Honor Academy as a coach. "True education is a kind of never-ending story — a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness." - J. R. R. Tolkien [Highlights as a competitor] 2X CHSSA State Championship Champion at California HOSA: Future Health Professionals Biomedical Debate Champion at OCSL State Qualifiers Public Forum Finalist - Claremont Wolfpack Invitational Varsity Public Forum 2nd Place at OCSL Spring Public Forum 2nd Place at OCSL Fall Public Forum Top Seeded and Semifinalist at Chuck Ballingal Memorial Tournament Varsity Public Forum

Anthony Kolshorn

Math Instructor, Speech and Debate Coach
Anthony graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a double major in philosophy and math. When he isn't tutoring, Anthony is working towards earning a Master's in mathematics from Portland Sate University. He is also involved in Lewis & Clark's Debate Team as an assistant coach. Anthony enjoys teaching and learning mathematics, and hopes that students will as well. During his free time, Anthony enjoys running and playing board games.

Yesenia Morales

Math Instructor, Science Instructor
Yesenia is an instructor who specializes in elementary through high school math, physics, and chemistry. As a mechanical engineering student at California State University, Long Beach, Yesenia is impassioned by her love of teaching students the applications of STEM courses both in their day-to-day lives and their future careers. Yesenia excels at working with students of all ages and skill levels, guiding them with a steady and patient hand. Besides math and science, Yesenia loves autumn and frostbite ice cream. “I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale.” - Marie Curie
elementary teacher

Javier Ortiz

Math Instructor
Javier is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton and earned his bachelor's in Liberal Studies. Aside from tutoring, Javier is currently working to obtain his credentials in Elementary Education and aims to become a 5th grade teacher in the near future. Javier is a perfect fit for students between 3rd grade and 9th grade, and he works well with both ambitious and reluctant learners with his personable attitude and positivity. In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar and basketball - just not at the same time. "There is no more critical indicator of the future of a society than the character, competence, and integrity of its youth." - Urie Brofennbrenner

Mellanie Valle

Math Instructor
Melanie graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a bachelor's in Biology. She has spent the last 5 years as a tutor, helping students of all grades with a focus on a variety of STEM courses. Melanie understands that STEM can be intimidating, but hopes that students can gain an appreciation and understanding for the field. In her free time, Melanie enjoys reading mystery and romance novels, running, and teaching her dog new tricks. "Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today." - Malcolm X

Giselle Gaspan

Math Instructor, Science Instructor
Giselle graduated on the Dean's List and Cum Laude from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor's in Animal Science. She hopes to use her education and skills to help students, mainly focusing on biology and chemistry. In addition to working as a tutor at Honor Academy, Giselle is a full-time veterinary technician. She is an animal-lover and has two dogs: Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Jay Yoo

Math Instructor
To Be Updated Algebra I and II, Calculus, Geometry, Middle School Math, Physics, Statistics

Kyra Colaco

English Program Director, AP Psychology Instructor
Since graduating from California State University, Fullerton with a degree in Psychology, Kyra has spent close to five years working as an instructor at Honor Academy. Kyra has extensive experience tutoring K-12 students, as well as students in higher education. Kyra’s teaching style is best suited for students who require intensive test preparation and/or students who prefer learning about challenging concepts. Her teaching philosophy is highly student-centered, and her curriculum focuses on topics that are both socially and culturally relevant to each student. "He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Hanbi Kim

English Instructor, Blog Writer
Hanbi has been working as tutor since 2016, helping students across a wide range of ages and abilities. After graduating from the University of California, Davis with a degree in cultural anthropology and English, Hanbi obtained her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from California State University, Long Beach. No matter the subject or the student's ability, Hanbi focuses on consistent improvement and fostering independent, creative thinking. Aside from reading and writing, Hanbi loves to draw. "Children must be taught how to think, not what to think." - Margaret Mead

Jessica Mendoza

English Instructor
Jessica is a professional writer, English tutor, and book club teacher. She earned her bachelor's from California State University, Long Beach in Screenwriting, where she also began her journey as tutor. Jess has experience teaching all ages with a teaching style that encourages deep critical thinking, creative application of academic concepts, and development of grammatical skills. She likes to get to know each student individually, allowing for a highly personalized lesson plan. When she’s not reading or writing, Jess loves going to see plays and musicals and watching cheesy black-and-white movies. "I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering 'bout the big things and asking 'bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.” - Alice Walker, The Color Purple
writing tutor

Tyler Mackey

English Instructor, History Instructor
Tyler is a tutor who works with students of all grade levels and works to challenge each individual with the goal of improvement. He is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles with a degree in History. Tyler has experience in proctoring students through independent research and online application. Tyler is trained to help students develop critical thinking skills through argumentative essay writing and engaging content. He aims to overcome the idea that writing is boring by introducing writing prompts tailored to each student’s interests. Last but not least, Tyler is also certified to teach ESL students. "There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time." - Malcolm X

Kriston Santiago

English Instructor
Kriston is a tutor for English and book club classes at Honor Academy. Kriston graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in Liberal Studies and a Preliminary Multi-Subject Teaching Credential and plans on becoming an Elementary School Teacher. She has an extensive tutoring background working with K-12 students in reading and writing. She loves to read non-fiction books, especially sci-fi/dystopian books. Her teaching style is student-focused and aims to blend student interests with individual needs in each lesson. She is dedicated to the education of a diverse range of students by establishing a positive, safe, and productive learning environment that promotes the academic potential and social well-being of all students. Kriston loves trying new boba places and going to Disneyland. “Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” - Rita Pierson

Olivia Gillespie

Math Instructor
Olivia is an instructor who specializes in middle school and high school math. She has completed two years of her undergraduate degree in mathematics at Cornell University and plans to finish her degree in California as a Math Education major. Olivia has a passion for teaching math and helping students on their own journeys towards developing a love and understanding of math and problem solving! She enjoys working with students of all math backgrounds and understands the importance of both guided learning and self-discovery during the learning process. Math can be challenging at times, and Olivia recognizes the importance of making sure to have fun while learning! Besides solving for x, Olivia loves to bake and even owns her own small baking business! “Don’t forget the chain rule!” -Olivia’s AP Calc BC teacher Mr. Drix