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Teachers and Staff

Office Staff

 

Shelly Fox, Program Director

My background is in community-based and school-based counseling. With its foundation in human development, counseling is essentially about bearing witness to the change process in ourselves and those with whom we work. Serendipitously, Blue Mountain School’s model of Contemplative Progressive education is also grounded in values and practices that facilitate change and growth, and the model asks that everyone in our school community—parents, students, and teachers—support each other as we learn and grow from our experiences. I cannot imagine a better opportunity to bring my counseling background into practice in a daily way, than to be working at Blue Mountain School, facilitating change, growth, and learning in our students and in myself and our staff.

I am happy to be focusing my attention and energy to co-create (on a foundation that already has been established by those who came before) a small-scale educational system that fosters the development of loving human relationships, self-awareness, and self-efficacy—all of which are things that kids (and all of us!) need to be at peace in the world.

 

Heidi Dickens, Administrative Director

As a public school teacher and a technology integration specialist, I have lived a rich and full professional life, but one with a great deal of cognitive dissonance. Relationships impact everything we do and when I see programs, protocols, and data impacting a teacher's ability to build learning relationships, I am sad. Meaningful teacher-student relationships blossom in learning organizations that cultivate opportunities for inquiry, challenge, solving problems together, and doing work that is meaningful. In seeking coherency and consistency for my whole life, I come to Blue Mountain.

I am a native species, having been born in Patrick County and lived in the New River Valley almost my entire life. I have over 20 years of experience in schools as a teacher leader, mentor, instructional designer, program coordinator, trainer, facilitator, coach, collaborator, and consultant. I hold a MS in Education from Radford University and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Virginia Tech. In addition to being passionate about supporting schools that meet human needs, I am a ma, grandma, reader, gardener, cyclist, yogi, recovering marathon runner, emergent chef, hiker, and mountain lover.

Carol Volker, Office Manager

I have been working as the school's office manager since May 2011. My professional background is in technical communication, office administration, and research sponsored programs administration.


Classroom Teachers

 

Stefi Schafer - Early Childhood Lead Teacher

I am a native of Germany, and I settled in the New River Valley nearly 20 years ago. I found my true Heimat right here in Floyd. I have a degree in early childhood development and education from New River Community College, and I have been working in the early childhood field for about 15 years with various age groups. While my training is valuable, my experience as a teacher and as the mother of a college-bound daughter and two grown sons has taught me a lot about children that the textbooks left out. I strongly believe that children are capable collaborators in their own learning process: children are people, too! They deserve respectful and caring adults to guide them on their journey as they learn about themselves and others, and the world around them.

In addition to teaching, I also am an active member of the Floyd Humane Society and provide foster care for puppies and dogs.

Angie Barrett - Early Childhood Assistant Teacher

Born and raised on the eastern shores of North Carolina, I moved to Floyd County 11 years ago.  I began working at Blue Mountain School as a substitute teacher during the 2017-18 school year while taking full-time classes to finish an Associates Degree at New River Community College, and I am happy to begin my full-time teaching career at BMS this year.

I am the mother of two daughters.  Both of my girls have gone through the early childhood development program at Blue Mountain School and are current students. While enjoying my time as a stay-at-home mother since 2008, I have hosted numerous summer camps for children. For the past two years, I have also been director of the Children’s Universe at FloydFest, a local music and arts festival.

My family and I live happily in “the middle of nowhere” with our little dog George.  In my free time I enjoy gardening, baking, crocheting, and traveling with my family.

Jenni Heartway - Early Learning Co-Teacher & Forest Programs Lead

My passion is educating young learners using emergent curriculum and project based learning. I began my training as a Foxfire Certified teacher and have continued my love of learning that spirals from student interests, since that time. I truly enjoy helping students develop literacy skills in an authentic, meaningful manner, and scaffolding children’s play to create learning experiences. I have taught in a variety of settings; public schools, private schools, internationally and most recently in a Forest Kindergarten. This will be my 18th year in the classroom.

I am a licensed Birth through Sixth grade teacher and have an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education. My Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support. I have completed my North Carolina Environmental Educator’s Certification, and look forward to sharing my love of the outdoors with my students.

When I'm not in the classroom you can find me in the woods with my family and our dogs. My children attend Blue Mountain, and my husband, Perrin works as a holistic veterinarian.

Amy Adams - Early Learning Co-Teacher

My teaching experience began at Apple Ridge Farm in Copper Hill taking children on educational hikes in the woods in 2003. My time there inspired me to complete the Waldorf teacher training at Sunbridge College in New York. It was truly a life-changing experience that gave me an in-depth look at childhood development and taught me the love of life-long learning. I completed my training with a certificate in Early Childhood and taught at Waldorf Schools for the next two years before returning to Floyd in 2009. That summer I joined the BMS board and was later hired as the early childhood teacher. I led the classroom for two years until I decided I wanted to start my own family. The following year while I was pregnant I had a small in home program for 2-3 year olds. Since 2012 I've been a stay at home mother enjoying the world of early childhood with my own two children. As they have gotten older we have enjoyed being a part of the BMS community and feel very drawn to the philosophy and its teachers. Joining as a co-teacher with Jenni Heartway feels like a beautiful transition for our family and and an exciting entrance back into the world of teaching for  me. 
 
Drawing inspiration from my Waldorf teacher training background, I continuously seek to find ways to nurture the wonder of childhood with young children. I value the whole child approach to learning so that children can learn through experience and incorporate their knowledge in a multitude of ways. I strive to inspire their imagination and the creative thinking process in hopes of instilling a love of lifelong learning. 
 
In my home life I find joy in the outdoors each day. We have a small homestead with dairy goats, chickens, pets, gardens, trails in our woods, and a pond rich with aquatic critters. I have a passion for cooking, baking, cheesemaking, and eating with my family. For fun weekly exercise, I skate roller derby with the Twin Valley Roller Derby league.

Tammie Sarver - Early Elementary & Forest Kindergarten

I’ve been teaching in and out of the classroom for nearly 25 years ago.  I’ve worked as a preschool teacher and an art studio teacher, I've managed a Creative ReUse Center, and I taught and learned in my own Homeschooling environment with my children and a few others. I find my greatest inspirations come from the environment around me—in nature, through non-traditional materials, the arts and especially through the beautiful wonder of early childhood.

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Tech, with minors in Education and Psychology, and I just completed a Masters Certificate in Emergent Inquiry from East Tennessee State University. I’ve been inspired by philosophers like Dewey, Vygotsky, Paley and especially the philosophies of Reggio Emilia. I am especially proud to have traveled to Reggio Emilia, Italy for training. In reflecting on my educational philosophies, I feel I’ve been a constructivist educator my entire adult life.

I believe learning grows best in a nurturing environment where everyone feels secure in expressing our unique gifts, where aesthetics and peace are emphasized, and where community and social development are the foundation for all good learning. I strive to create a learning environment where children feel valued, respected, and honored for their unique insights in a place where they are given the space to express their curiosity and explore their answers.

When I am away from my classroom, I love spending time with my family, hiking, gardening, writing, cooking and being with my 2 dogs. I have 5 children, Eva Rose, here at Blue Mountain School; Jeremiah, Elias, Emily Grace and Sarah. My husband, Eric, is an Endangered Species Manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Most recently in my free time I have been volunteering with a local group to support families and young children in a nearby county.  I’ve been going through the many steps of putting Little Friendly Libraries in deserving communities to help get books into homes that may not have access to them. I have also spent part of my summer volunteering with an art studio at a free lunch program in the same county. If anyone has any great books you would like to share with deserving readers you can share them with me!

I look forward to learning, laughing and growing with everyone at Blue Mountain School this year!

Shelly Sherman - Middle Elementary

I began my teaching career in Mesa (AZ) Public Schools as a kindergarten and first grade classroom teacher. The school to which I was first assigned sat on the edge of the Pima Indian Reservation where many of my students lived. The experience of working with a culture different from mine was invaluable to me as a young teacher. 

When I started my family, I chose to stay home with my children to facilitate their learning. My husband and I unschooled our three children for 20 years. This afforded me many opportunities to explore a variety of educational approaches as my children learned and grew developmentally. This experience formed and influenced the educational philosophies that I hold as an educator today. 
 
When my children successfully left home to start their adult lives I began a journey back into the public school system. These experiences included working as a literacy aid, SOL remediation coach, pre-school teacher, first grade teacher, second grade teacher and third grade teacher. My work in these different education positions solidified and validated my own educational philosophies and made it impossible, in good conscience, for me to return to the high stakes, test-centric public education environment this year.
 
There are so many things that make BMS attractive to me as an educator. The whole-child approach BMS practices appeals to my own educational philosophies and aligns with my most formative experiences in education. I am interested in the contemplative curriculum and how children respond and interact with it. I am excited about having a small class so that I can get to know the children and get to work with them on a deeper level than in my past experiences. I love the physical environment; the indoor and outdoor spaces. I am excited to be able to consider each child’s development and interests when addressing individual needs. 
 
The benefits of working in the BMS environment include the many opportunities to practice what I believe is the best way to educate children. I also see many opportunities for me to learn and grow at BMS.
 
 
Lore Deighan - Upper Elementary & Art
 
As a Floyd native by birth carried away for many years, I have been happily settled back in this wonderful community since 2008.  I have taught at Blue Mountain School now for six years, spending that time as a part-time art teacher, and now in 2018 I am transitioning into being in the classroom full time! I have learned so much about teaching, parenting and myself as I've grown into my role as an educator at BMS.  As I look toward transitioning into being a classroom teacher I am filled with gratitude, joy and wonder. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as art teacher over the past six years and while sad to be transitioning out of that role, I feel deeply called to continue my path as an educator in this capacity. I am excited about the learning process for myself as a teacher, and the endless learning opportunities to embark on with the students.
  

Holly Haworth - Upper Elementary & Middle School

I am very happy to be beginning my third year at Blue Mountain School! I believe in nurturing the natural gifts of each student by encouraging them to explore their interests and follow their passions. I aim to empower young learners to be active participants in their own process of becoming while I serve to guide them by sparking their curiosity about the world and offering my own insight and experience. I love growing and learning with my students! As a writer outside of the classroom, my interests are in plant and animal intelligence, biodiversity, extinction, fossil fuels, history and culture, deep time, the stars and the night sky, ocean and freshwater ecology, forests, Native American cultures, the history and practice of art, and evolutionary anthropology. I bring my pursuit of all these to the classroom with me and engage my students in large questions. I seek to share the richness of the world with them as they enter adolescence and begin to seek their purpose.
 
I love teaching at the middle-school level. I teach a curriculum that weaves a tapestry of experiences in the classroom, the BMS woods, and the wider region as my students begin to expand their vision and enlarge their worlds. Through games, exercises, discussions, assignments, and activities, I actively share my love for plants and animals; for geography and maps; for poetry and literature; for storytelling; for contemplative practice; for art; for the creative process. My approach to education is holistic; I seek to explore the connections between all fields of study and to prompt students to make connections and think big. I seek to foster respect for all living things and to emphasize the individual’s connection to the greater whole. I believe in bioregional education and a consideration of one’s home ground. I am a deep believer in place-based learning that engages students directly with the world in which they live.

I bring a diversity of experiences to my teaching at Blue Mountain. After college, I was an Americorps VISTA volunteer in the small mountain town of Ruidoso, New Mexico, where I practiced environmental education in collaboration with educators on the Mescalero Apache reservation. I worked as an organic farmer in northern New Mexico and on the Mexican Gray Wolf reintroduction in the Gila National Forest, for the Center for Biological Diversity; in that position, I became a student of land rights, public lands issues, the history of wildlife extermination in the West, and top-predator ecology. I have worked as an activist and educator in the coal fields of Tennessee and for two years edited a newspaper about the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia; in that position, I expanded my understanding of environmental policy and law and practiced education and outreach. In 2012, I received the Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism, which gave me the support to complete a year-long investigative reporting project. I earned a certificate as a Southern Appalachian Naturalist at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute in 2014. I earned a master’s degree in creative writing from Hollins University, where I was a Jackson Fellow. In 2015, I was the Artist-in-Residence at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. When not in the classroom, I am a freelance writer and journalist. My work appears in Orion, Oxford American, and Lapham’s Quarterly, among other places.

 
 
Haley Leopold, Upper Elementary and Middle School Math
 

Enrichment Programs

 

Sarah McCarthy, Yoga and PE

I am an artist and mother who has loves being part of the community in Floyd. I have been practicing yoga and meditation for over fifteen years and received my children's yoga teacher certification from the Asheville Yoga Center. In my classes, I encourage students to look within themselves and learn more about their world through yoga, meditation, and cooperative games. I love to experience the calming, grounding effect that yoga and mindfulness have on myself and my students. I practice Zen meditation and participate in silent and family retreats at Great Tree Zen Center in Asheville, NC.

Jagadisha, Contemplative Studies

Jagadisha has been involved with the contemplative arts for over 30 years. He practices and teaches Nada Yoga, the yoga of sound, an ancient form of Classical Indian Music. He is a lover of bonsai, the art of tea, cooking, and simple, mindful living. As well as teaching at BMS, Jagadisha teaches environmental education and team building at Apple Ridge Farm, a local non-profit organization.

Corey Avellar, Drama & Art

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