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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.
Stefi Schafer - Preschool Co-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.
Ashley Morales - Preschool Co-Teacher
I am first and foremost a mother to my two sweet children, Lula and Sully. I am also a teacher, and have spent the last 19 years of my life working in various preschool classroom environments such as Reggio Emilio and Montessori, as well as more traditional classrooms. This work comes easily and joyfully to me, as I truly love children and have a great deal of respect for them. I love the emergent curriculum model of Blue Mountain, and I look forward to the possibilities of teaching in a way that really puts the child’s interests and ideas at the forefront. I believe my diverse background in preschool environments will be a huge asset to the classroom.
In addition to teaching preschool, I am a grower, and devote much of my time to my garden endeavors. It is important for me to provide pure food for my family, and I enjoy canning and preserving the food I grow just as much as I enjoy growing it!
I have a BS in anthropology and sociology with a minor in African studies, and my life experiences include working as a field manager to an environmental group and as a farm manager to Floyd EcoVillage. I backpacked all over Europe, Central America and the United States, finally settling in Northern California for a couple years before moving back to Virginia, which is my home state. I knew I wanted to raise my children in the mountains here, which is where I was raised as well. I feel blessed to be putting down roots here in this community and for the lovely opportunity to be a teacher at Blue Mountain School.
Hari Berzins - Kindergarten and Lower Elementary Co-Teacher
I'm happy to be at Blue Mountain School where freedom to throw the lesson plan out the window gives me great flexibility to work with these kids to build relationships which will lead to growth and deep learning about self and community.
Shawna Williams - Middle Elementary Co-Teacher
Shawna has a master's degree in education and over 15 years teaching experience in both public and private schools. Here is a brief look into Shawna's teaching philosophy:
I work to reach all of my students' needs at their individual level by creating lessons that incorporate as many different learning styles and multiple intelligences that the subject allows. If you walked into my classroom, you might observe us beginning our day with a Morning Message meeting and students participating in an academic game or movement activity. You might see us using the arts as a learning tool, a reflection piece, an assessment device, or a catalyst for exploring ideas and making connections. You would most likely observe students setting goals, leading discussions, and problem solving together, and while there would frequently be students chatting and engaged in group collaboration, you would also find other students completing assignments independently. You may discover exercise balls being used as seats or a student focusing on a sand garden while listening to a teacher-led lesson. Depending on the day and lesson, you could find students engaged in center work, a hands-on project, or a movement piece. My classroom is rarely completely silent; it is abuzz with student inquiry, activity, and reflection.
June Kelly - Kindergarten, Lower Elementary, and Middle Elementary Co-Teacher
Brien Egan - Upper Elementary and Middle School
Brien is on medical leave. Corey Avellar is currently filling in as the teacher for this class.
I have always dreamed of creating a place like Blue Mountain School, and it made me ecstatic to see that it is already here and that now I can be a part of its community. I come to you as a recovering public school special education teacher where I taught in Virginia Beach for 7 years working with children with disabilities in grades 3-8. I have a degree in psychology with a minor in special education and an ED/SLD (emotional disabilities/ specific learning disabilities) teaching certification for grades K-12, as well as a History certification for grades 6-12. While I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching and enriching the lives of my students over the years, I am very grateful and excited to be a part of such an amazing place here in Floyd.
I have created and been the sponsor for the EnviroClub and have been running an organic teaching garden at schools for 6 years now. I have taught in many different settings and have a lot of experience teaching kids how to deal with emotional as well as learning difficulties and how to overcome them, often with alternative methods (EFT [emotional freedom technique], Conscious Discipline, breath work/visualization exercises, brain gym, qi gong, yoga, tai chi, etc.) I have created and run a spiritual summer day camp at a local unity church in Chesapeake for 5 years as well which also incorporated the previously mentioned methods as well as integrating a holistic view on spirituality and quantum physics concepts along with leadership and creativity training.
I worked for the A.R.E. (Association for Research and Enlightenment) and the Edgar Cayce Center as a youth group sponsor/mentor for a couple of years working with high school students as well as for the Unity Renaissance Church where I run my camp. I have worked in the alternative middle school here for a year and a half as a long term substitute and the permanent substitute as well as at a boy's home for run-aways and estranged families (Seton House). I also worked as an SOL tutor at a high school here working with students who were at-risk and had failed previously. I've attended workshops on mindfulness, the Silva method, foraging, sustainability and many other spiritual, holistic, and environmental topics. I am also an Essene minister, a certified hypnotherapist and a reiki and karuna reiki master. I have been teaching and practicing reiki and karuna reiki for 10 years now.
Jenni Heartway - Jenni is currently on maternity leave.
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 fourteenth 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 dog, Ani. Two of my children, Cedar and Wren, attend Blue Mountain, and my husband, Perrin works as a holistic veterinarian. We are expecting twins this fall, and I will be taking a family leave before returning in the spring.
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.
Lore Deighan, Art
A Floyd native gone for many years, I have been happily settled back in this wonderful community since 2008. I am an artist, mostly working in painting, with a degree in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University. I am very passionate about the arts and have worked with many children in after-school art programs both in Richmond and here in Floyd. Teaching was not something I originally set out to do, rather it is a path that seemed to unfold before me. I communicate well with children and love sharing my passion and enthusiasm for art with them. I bring myself as an artist to the classroom, teaching from that place of passion and connection to the subject, encouraging each child's potential to thrive through creativity and exploration. I am also a mother of two wonderful young children and am very thankful for the role Blue Mountain School plays in both their life and in mine.
Jagadisha Rotella, 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.
Katie Wells, Creative Expression
Katie is currently on maternity and will be returning for the Winter semester.
Katie earned a M.F.A. in Dance and Physical Theater from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011 and a B.A. in Dance from Columbia College Chicago in 2002. Katie has performed solo improvisations in Europe and throughout the USA and recently taught Movement Meditation at spiritual festivals on the west coast. In addition to working at Blue Mountain School, Katie also teaches movement meditation and creative expression at the Blue Mountain Center for Chinese Medicine. Katie is currently on maternity leave and will be returning later this fall.
I have lived happily in Floyd County since 1982. Long before having children of my own, I participated in community workdays and fundraising events for the building of Blue Mountain School because I believe an independent, alternative school is an great asset for the community and a truly precious choice for our area families.
My participation as a parent at Blue Mountain began in 1992 when my now 22-year-old son, Ian, entered pre-school. Two years later my daughter, Laurel, now 19, gladly followed her brother to Blue Mountain. As a young parent, I appreciated that there was a local school where my children could progress gradually from the security of home to the greater world. I especially valued the nurturing support and the recognition of the individuality of each child provided at Blue Mountain.
I wanted to be involved in my children's education so for many years I was 'class parent.' I also served on the School Council/Board and on the fundraising, maintenance, publicity, hiring and curriculum committees. I got my first taste of teaching youngsters as a substitute teacher and assistant art teacher at BMS. When my children and their classmates were learning how to read, I volunteered in their classes as a reading tutor. Since then, I have taught many children, from pre-readers to college applicants, reading and writing.
My formal education includes a BS in Horticulture and certification as a Master Naturalist from Virginia Tech. In 2011, I earned a Masters of Liberal Studies from Hollins University; my studies focused on language and literacy acquisition. I have taught English to adult immigrants through Refugee and immigration Services and Literacy Volunteers. I now tutor students independently under the company name of Good English. I also work for Good Food/Good People at farmers markets.
I love the students, and I love teaching. My students feel safe, nurtured, and heard, while being challenged at their own levels. I bring education to life in my classroom, full of life experiences, experiments, imagination, and fun. For over twenty years, I have taught in private and public schools, but mostly at Blue Mountain School. All four of my children have gone to Blue Mountain. My teaching motto is, "I want my students to love learning so much that they are disappointed when summer vacation starts!"
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.
Inge Terrill, Office Assistant
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