Teacher Bios

Maria Usher

Maria Usher – Director/Instructor

Maria began teaching dance in 1986 with only five students. She spent the first nine years of her teaching career working for Fowlerville Community Education. With the love and support of her family, friends, and Community Ed, Maria ventured out in 1995 to open her own studio, Maria’s School of Dance, Inc. Maria began dancing at the age of 3 and has continued training throughout the years. She has studied at Glenn’s School of Dance, Cheryl’s School of Dance, Roxy and Company, Tina Marie’s, and with Loraine Jones. Maria attended dance classes at MSU, as well as studied at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway in NYC, Gus Giodano in Chicago, and Debbie Reynolds in L.A. She continues to expand her dance education and stays current on what is new in the dance world by attending national conferences for dance educators. She also provides opportunities for her students beyond the studio by taking dancers to NYC to attend professional classes, to Walt Disney World to perform in parades in the Magic Kingdom and on a WDW stage, and to perform on a professional stage on cruise ships. In addition to teaching dance, Maria has a BA in Mathematics with a Secondary Teaching Certificate. She taught math and computers in middle and high school for seven years and has been teaching math at Lansing Community College since 2001. Maria enjoys sharing her love and knowledge of dance with her students. She also prides herself in providing her students with the most knowledgeable and qualified instructors.


Jennifer Krueger

Jennifer Krueger – Instructor

Ms. Jenn began dancing at the age of nine when she enrolled in a Livonia Public Schools Community Education dance class. With each class, her love for dance grew and developed into a lifelong passion for teaching and learning the art of dance.

In her high school years, Ms. Jenn was selected to attend and perform in the Livonia Creative and Performing Arts program where she decided to teach dance as a career. With her goals set, she advanced to Wayne State University and enrolled as a Dance major and English minor. She joined the Wayne State Dance Company and proceeded to dance, choreograph, and advance her knowledge of the dance world. She won various awards including the Copperfoot Choreography Award. She left Wayne State University with a Bachelors of Science degree and a Michigan Teaching Certification.

Jennifer began coaching gymnastics and teaching dance in 1989 while still in high school. After college, her time was spent continuing to coach gymnastics, working at a private Michigan school where she developed a creative movement program for pre-kindergarten through eighth graders, choreographing for high school musicals, working at a couple of Metro Detroit dance studios teaching and choreographing various dance styles, and raising her four children. In 2002 Jennifer began her teachers training in ballet with the Cecchetti Council of America, and became a member in 2004.

Currently, Ms. Jenn holds her Elementary level teacher’s certificate with the Cecchetti Council of America, and is qualified to send students to CCA ballet examinations. She is also an elected member of the Cecchetti Council of America’s National Executive Board of Directors, where she serves on the Summer School Committee, as well as the Classical Ballet Competition Committee.

Ms. Jenn is also a member of Michigan Chapter of Dance Masters of America. Through Dance Masters and the Cecchetti Council of America, Ms. Jenn continues her training and education by attending various educational events sponsored by these outstanding organizations.

In 2008 Ms. Jenn joined the Maria’s School of Dance family as an instructor and as a parent. She continues to grow and develop a comprehensive ballet program at MSD using the Cecchetti ballet method and the Cecchetti Council of America’s syllabus which builds a dancer’s self-discipline, artistry, technical excellence, and a love for the art of dance. Ms. Jenn also teaches and choreographs jazz, modern, lyrical, and ballet dances for soloists and groups in the MSD competitive dance troupe, Dance Express.


Kim Flores

Kim Flores – Instructor

Kim Flores has been teaching at Maria’s School of Dance since 1998.  She took a four year hiatus in 2009 after getting married and moving to NYC. While in NY Kim was blessed with two beautiful children who both now dance at Maria’s.  Kim started dancing at age 3 and danced with Maria’s School of Dance from age 7 until graduating high school.  After high school Kim attended Michigan State University and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. Throughout her years of dancing Kim studied various styles of dance and furthered her education by taking classes at Gus Giordano Dance Center in Chicago, Lansing Community College, touring conventions and on scholarship at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway in NYC. Kim competed with Dance Express for many years and earned various awards and scholarships.

Kim teaches all ages and levels of dancers including the competition team. Kim’s choreography has earned a variety of awards and special honors. In addition to teaching at Maria’s she taught for Summer Institute for the Gifted at the University of Michigan, and choreographed musicals for both the Howell High school and the Community Theatre of Howell. Kim enjoys teaching and passing on her dance knowledge to her students. 


Sarah Paternoster

Sarah Paternoster - Instructor

Sarah has been dancing with MSD since she was one and a half years old. She took classes in tap, jazz, modern, lyrical, ballet, and pointe. She was a member of Dance Express, a demonstrator for the Special Needs dance class for 5 years, and taught at MSD her senior year of high school. In addition to MSD, Sarah performed with Spirit Wind Dance Ministry during high school and the Community Theatre of Howell.

Sarah received a BA in dance and psychology from Hope College in the spring of 2014. While at Hope she took classes in ballet, jazz, hip hop, tap, modern, and historical social and studied under dance teachers such as Sharon Wong, jazz chair of The Alvin Ailey Dance School in NYC. Sarah also participated in Ballet Club and "The Nutcracker", was on the leadership team of Sacred Dance Ministry, and a member of Sigma Omicron Dance Fraternity.

Since returning to Fowlerville Sarah has choreographed several shows for Fowlerville Community Theatre, performed (again) with the Community Theatre of Howell, and choreographed and danced with Miss Kathey's Academy in Detroit. Sarah works as a Title I paraprofessional at Kreeger Elementary.

Sarah is excited to be teaching at Maria's where she began her dance career!


Marissa Leonard

Marissa Leonard - Instructor

Marissa is a native of Fowlerville, Michigan and has been a student at Maria’s school of dance since she was three. She has been dancing for nineteen years and teaching for six. During her time at Maria’s she has studied ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, and musical theater. She has also studied during summers at Broadway Dance Center in New York City.

Along with her dance studies, Marissa has a Bachelors of Science in Animal Science from Michigan State University. Additionally, during her collegiate years, Marissa was a captain of the Michigan State Elite Dance Team. There she trained in jazz, hip-hop, and pom extensively. Her leadership also helped the team become top ten in the nation three years in a row. Marissa is also the head coach for the Fowlerville Varsity Dance Team. She has the pleasure of helping students gain valuable team sport skills as well as allowing dancers an outlet to showcase their talents in the community.

During her six years of teaching, Marissa has earned best choreography awards and enjoys working with students to create pieces that are creative and built on a genuine love of dance. She is excited to continue to foster passion, growth, and a love for dance in students for many years to come!


Jasmine Brause

Jasmine Brause - Instructor

Jasmine has been dancing since the age of three, and is very excited to teach at the studio she grew up in. During her time at Maria’s School of Dance, she was part of the competition team and also a demonstrator. She has won many awards for her dancing at national and regional competitions. Jasmine had performance opportunities on Royal Caribbean, in Walt Disney World and in New York City.

Jasmine continued her dance education after her career at MSD at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, with her focus in dance theatre. She had a main focus in ballet and modern, but also took jazz, tap, and many musical theatre dance classes. Jasmine studied dance at Broadway Dance Center while in New York.

Jasmine loves expanding her dance education and her movement and doing so has taken classes from Travis Wall, Liz Imperio, Chaz Wolcott, and Mark Meismer. She is currently getting her physical therapist assistant degree and hopes to continue to specialize in sports medicine and become a physical therapist.


Rebekah Leonard - Instructor (only working with Dance Express for 2022-23 school year)

Bekah began dancing at 2 years old at Maria's School of Dance and competed for 13 years on Dance Express.  During Bekah's time at Maria's, she studied ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical, comtemporary, hip-hop, and musical theater along with being a competitive gymnast.  Bekah starting teaching at the studio in 2020 and is now an instructor for both recital classes and Dance Express.  Currently, Bekah is pursuing a degree in Civil Engineering at Michigan State University where she is also a part of the club gymnastics team.  

Bekah's main goal as an instructor is to make sure that every student has the opportunity to learn something from each and every class, and to have fun while doing it!



Sara Johnson - Instructor

Sara Johnson has been dancing since she was 6 years old, beginning at Gift of Joy Dance Studio and now taking classes at Maria’s School of Dance. Sara has previously taught ballet, tap, hip-hop, and pre-pointe at Gift of Joy for 5 years and has also choreographed for multiple musicals at the Community Theatre of Howell. She began teaching at Maria’s in 2020. She loves working with kids and hopes to not only challenge students with technique, but also to nurture a love for dance and the performing arts.



Susan Gronow - Instructor

Susan has a B.S. in Secondary Education, and has been working with youth in theatre for many years.  She has directed several youth productions at Community Theatre of Howell, including Honk! JR, 101 Dalmatians Kids, The Phantom Tollbooth JR, Aristocats Kids, Singin' in the Rain, Jr, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  She has also directed several youth productions at Scranton Middle School in Brighton and the Homeschool Connection in Ann Arbor.  In addition to the many off-stage roles she has had in the theatre, including crew, set build, set dress, Assistant Stage Manager, Assistant Choreographer, and Director, Susan has also appeared on the community theatre stage, in recent years, as part of the cast of Shrek the Musical, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and an Evening of One Acts.


Lydia Luark - Instructor

Lydia danced for 14 years at Maria's School of Dance and was part of Dance Express for 11 years.  She is currently a student at Michigan State University studying business.  Lydia is part of the regular schedule at MSD starting Fall 2022.


Alexis Gronow - Instructor

Alexis has been dancing since she was nine years old, and before that, she grew up observing her mom teach dance classes.  She has had a variety of learning environments in dance including community theatre, homeschool cop-ops, regular classes at multiple studios, and the Dance Express competition team.  She is extremely grateful and excited that she has the opportunity to teach at Maria's School of Dance.


Cait O'Connor - Instructor

Caitlyn starting dancing at the age of 3 and competed for 14 years at The Arts Center of Music and Dance in Lima, Ohio.  She attended Ball State University from 2016-2018 majoring in dance where she studied ballet, modern, tap, jazz, world dance, improvisation, and dance conditioning.  Cait also performed in several dance shows at Ball State.  She has been teaching dance and acro for 4 years and was a student assistant at her studio growing up.  Cait participated in the Ohio Dance Masters title event and regularly attended ODM conventions. She trained in Acrobatic Arts with Drew Burgess and Jill Garlock.  Cait trained with many choreographers including Travis Wall, Mark Meismer, Jason Parsons, Alex Wong, Stacie Tookey, Ray Leeper, Lauren Frodeman, Branon Bryant at NUVO, and Excell in Motion.

She moved to Webberville in 2021 with her fiance and son.  In addition to teaching dance and acro, she is a cosmetologist at Uptown Alure in Fowlerville.  Cait brings out the best in her students and is excited to work with all of the dancers at MSD.  She hopes to nurture her students' passion to create a lifelong love of dance.



Connie Chapman              

Connie Chapman (and Archie) – Office Manager

Connie began working at Maria’s School of Dance in 1996 doing many different projects around the studio.  Over the years she has continued to grow, learn, and take on new roles and responsibilities.  Connies is currently the office manager. Since many of her grandchildren now dance at the studio, her husband (Dave) - head usher, daughter (Kim) - instructor, and sons (Jon) and (Chris) - usher/dancing dad, and jack of all trades, are also involved.  Connie has come to think of the studio as her second home and the staff, students, and their families as her extended family.

Archie joined the staff in June of 2020. He enjoys hanging out in the office area  and greeting the instructors as they  come in to begin their classes.  Needless to say he does have his favorites.  He loves when he gets to stop and view the dancers while they are dancing in the classrooms.  He especially loves watching tap. If you see Archie  at the studio be sure to stop and say  Hi! He enjoys meeting all the students!


Nancy Paternoster

Nancy Paternoster - Receptionist

Nancy's first dance class was a mother/daughter tap class with her daughters taught by Maria in 1993, then another mother/daughter tap class a few years later. Nancy has enjoyed taking tap since then and in the last 3 years has also added jazz, lyrical (1 year), and ballet classes at Maria's School of Dance. She has joined the adult jazz and tap classes at the regional competitions.

Dance classes have grown into participating in theater, also. Nancy was in 42nd Street, White Christmas, and Mary Poppins with the Community Theatre of Howell, all with Maria as the choreographer. Nancy has more recently become involved with Fowlerville Community Theatre and has been in 6 shows with FCT.

Nancy has a BA in Psychology, but has worked in many other fields over the years. She has experience in bookkeeping, insurance, and teaching and retired in 2018 from teaching reading and math under the Title I program at Smith Elementary. Nancy was married to Dan and they have 2 grown daughters and a son-in-law.

Nancy enjoys meeting the dance families and helping them find the classes that best fit their needs. She gets excited when another dance mom joins the fun of the adult classes!


Katie Johnson - Receptionist

Katie started working at MSD in the fall of 2020. She is a homeschool mom to her three kids, Sara, Erik and Karalynn. As a young girl, Katie danced for 4 years but then switched to competitive swimming. She also coached swimming for many years while attending MSU. As her children became interested in dance and theater, Katie volunteered her time at the dance studio and various job at Howell Community Theater.  In her free time, she likes to bake sweet treats, hang out with her family, and work out with friends.
Katie loves meeting all the MSD families and work with the amazing staff.








Ballet, Pointe, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, & Hip Hop