Faculty and Staff Bios for 2018-2019
Welcome to New Faculty and Staff
We’re pleased to introduce our new faculty and staff to Ravenscroft as we kick off another great school year. In addition to Nicole Girvan, our new head of Lower School, we welcome 21 new teachers, three new staff members and several new coaches.
Among them are four Ravenscroft alumni, seven Wolfpack graduates, three native Spanish speakers, a former IT consultant, an aspiring pastry chef, three professional musicians, a dedicated mountain hiker, and a telepathic triplet! Read on to learn who’s who.
New Upper School faculty (L-R): Lorre Gifford, Ranya Samara, Anna Lawrence, Alli Leaptrott, Maria Rodriguez and Kendall Berents
Kendall Berents joins the Upper School English Department and will be teaching both levels of English II and Creative Writing. She comes to us from the Episcopal School of Dallas, where she was an English instructor, assisted with the literary magazine and was a varsity cross country coach. Ms. Berents graduated from the College of William and Mary with a B.A. in English and an affiliate degree from Oxford, and she earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia University. She is also a graduate of Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to her teaching duties, she will coach and serve as the faculty sponsor of our literary magazine, The Living Hand.
Fun Fact: Is a triplet, and she and her siblings are convinced they have telepathy
Lorre Gifford joins the Upper School Science Department and will be teaching College Prep Physics, AP Physics, Robotics and Computer-Aided Design. Ms. Gifford has spent the last 13 years teaching physics and robotics at Wayne Country Day School in Goldsboro and William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. She earned her B.S. in Science Education (Physics) from the University of South Florida and her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University in Tampa.
Fun Fact: Worked on a cruise ship as a fruit carver, making “awesome stuff out of melons”
Anna Lawrence joins the Upper School Computer Science Department and will be teaching numerous electives, including AP Computer Science A. Ms. Lawrence comes to us from the Asheville School, where she has been an instructor of math and computer science and served as a dorm dean and the director of service program. She earned her B.S. in Mathematics from NC State and her M.Div. from Duke Divinity School. She also attended the Klingenstein Summer Institute for Early Career Teachers. Prior to her work in education, Ms. Lawrence was an IT consultant for three years at Red Hat, Inc.
Fun Fact: Enjoys cosplaying and attending sci-fi conventions
Alli Leaptrott joins the Upper School Math Department and will be teaching Algebra II and Honors Precalculus AB. Ms. Leaptrott comes to us from Millbrook High School, where she taught courses ranging from Math II to IB Higher Level Math, and she was also the head varsity cheer and STUNT coach. She graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics and Education Studies from DePauw University and also earned her M.Ed. in Secondary Math Education from Wake Forest University. She is a National Board Certified teacher.
Personal Motto: “Love to learn. Learn to lead. Lead to serve.”
Ranya Samara joins the Upper School Math Department and will be teaching Algebra II and Geometry. Ms. Samara comes to us from Panther Creek High School, where she taught Math II through Honors Math III courses. Prior to Panther Creek, she taught math at Knightdale High School for three years. She earned her B.A. in Mathematics Education from NC State. She has a passion for using technology in the classroom to support student learning outcomes.
Fun Fact: Has two different-colored eyes
Maria Rodriguez joins the Upper School World Languages Department, where she will be teaching two sections of Spanish II. Mrs. Rodriguez earned an M.A. in World Languages and Literatures from NC State this year and a B.A. in Anthropology, English and Spanish from Peace College. While working on her master’s degree, she was a teaching assistant and taught courses at the college level. Before pursuing her master’s degree, Mrs. Rodriguez taught Spanish I, Spanish II and Spanish III for three years at a charter school in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. When not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her 3-year-old daughter, husband and dog. She also loves snorkeling, taking walks and going on adventures with her family.
Favorite quote: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” — Nelson Mandela
New Middle School faculty (L-R): Mark McLean, Christina Garner and Owen Asplundh
Owen Asplundh joins Middle School, teaching Humanities 6 and advising on the sixth-grade team. In December, Mr. Asplundh will earn an M.A.T. from NC State. He recently completed a fellowship at Cary Academy and is thrilled to be working at Ravenscroft. He earned his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. After coaching youth lacrosse for many years, Mr. Asplundh decided to pursue a career in teaching. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, Amy, and their 5-year-old son, Landon. A sports fan, Mr. Asplundh enjoys attending college lacrosse games and riding his bike.
Fun Fact: Is the oldest of 10 children
Christina Garner joins Middle School as a Spanish teacher and eighth-grade advisor. As she always wanted to be a teacher, Ms. Garner earned an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from Loyola University in Baltimore and a B.A. in Spanish and Secondary Education from the University of Richmond. She comes to us after spending over 10 years teaching Spanish in Maryland public schools and at St. Paul’s School for Boys. When not teaching, she enjoys the beach, traveling and spending time with her parents, sister and two dogs. She also loves to bake and attended culinary school for a year to study baking and pastry.
Favorite Quote:"You are YOU. There is only YOU. And YOU are important." — Charles Swindoll
Mark McLean joins the sixth-grade team, teaching science, assisting with STEM+ courses and advising. Mr. McLean earned a B.S. in Science Education from NC State. He has worked for Wake County Schools and volunteered at the Cypress of Raleigh, helping residents gain technology skills. Prior to earning his teaching degree, he worked in media production and design. Mr. McLean has a keen interest in creating educational content and is a proponent of lifelong learning. He lives in Raleigh and is a proud husband to a nurse, father to two adult children, and grandfather to a 1-year-old future scientist. Beyond the classroom, he enjoys nature conservancy work, hiking, biking, home restoration and reading.
Spirit Animal: The snow owl
Nicole Girvan joins the Lower School community as Head of Lower School. She has extensive leadership experience in lower school education at top independent schools. Most recently, Nicole was the Head of Lower School at Charlotte Preparatory School, a coed day school serving PreK through eighth grade. Prior to that position, she served as Head of Lower School at schools including Browne Academy in Alexandria, Virginia, and Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania, as well as teaching young children in the classroom, providing gifted/talented enrichment and instructing and supervising student teachers. Ms. Girvan brings a high level of expertise in curriculum development, a commitment to academic excellence, and an appreciation for differentiated instruction. “There are many things I am proud of, but probably the thing I am most proud of are the relationships I have cultivated with each and every student. My goal is to make every child feel special and unstoppable,” she said.
Fun Fact: Enjoys restoring old or antique furniture
New Lower School faculty, PreK-second grade (L-R): Layla Tanik ’13, Meg Ellis and Bernardo Guzmán
Meg Ellis joins the Lower School community as a PreK assistant. For the past three years, she has taught preschool at White Memorial Weekday School in Raleigh, where she introduced project-based learning to her students. She has also taught at the middle school, high school and collegiate levels. Ms. Ellis holds a B.S. from Wake Forest University, an M.T.S. from Duke Divinity School and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia. She is not new to Ravenscroft, as she is the proud parent of a “lifer,” Davis, who is in eighth grade.
Favorite Quote: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” — Frederick Beuchner
Bernardo Guzmán joins the Lower School community as a first-grade teacher, believing that if children do not feel seen and known, then we have failed them. He has been a member of three independent schools over the past 10 years, where he taught first and second grades. Mr. Guzmán earned his M.Ed. in Learning and Instruction from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University and B.A. from Bowdoin College. Mr. Guzmán will also coach Middle School soccer. He is a native Spanish speaker, professional musician/vocalist and an invaluable trivia teammate. He and his wife are expecting their first child in December.
Fun Fact: Is currently obsessed with houseplants even though, as he says, “I don’t know what I’m doing!”
Layla Tanik ’13 joins the Lower School community as a kindergarten teacher. She is a recent graduate of Wingate University with a B.A. in Elementary Education and holds a North Carolina Professional Educators License. She has served as a long-term maternity leave substitute in a second-grade classroom. Ms. Tanik is excited to come back to a school that had such a large impact on her. She was the captain of the Wingate Tennis team, where she won four conference championships and was named the school’s Female Athlete of the Year. She is looking forward to coaching tennis at Ravenscroft. During the times when she isn’t coaching or teaching, Ms. Tanik enjoys practicing yoga and spending time with her family.
Favorite Quote: “The world is full of nice people. If you can’t find one, be one.” — Nishan Panwar
New Lower School faculty, third-fifth grades (L-R): Ben Hoover, Kayla Malcolm, Margaret Chalkley, Ana Maria Mendez, Nicole Willis, Liz Morgan and Lauren Wieczorek ’08
Margaret Chalkley joins the Lower School community as a fourth-grade teacher after serving as a substitute teacher at Ravenscroft last year. Ms. Chalkley and her family moved to Raleigh from Austin, Texas, where she taught at an independent school, Trinity Episcopal. She has seven years’ experience in education, from preschool through fifth grade. She earned her B.S. in Elementary Education and a minor in Psychology from the University of Alabama. She is a firm believer in Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset theory and believes students should be explicitly taught the power of “yet” starting at an early age.
Secret Super-Power: Magnificent Multitasking Machine
Ben Hoover joins the Lower School community as a third-grade teacher. He is an experienced and enthusiastic elementary school teacher excited for a new opportunity to foster professional growth and continue to inspire students. He has six years of teaching experience at independent schools in the Washington, D.C., area. Ben received an M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his B.A. from Lafayette College. He is excited to enter his first full school year as a father, finally having justification for his “Dad” jokes. Mr. Hoover played football at Lafayette College and has experience coaching basketball.
Fun Fact: Played against two current NFL quarterbacks in college
Kayla Malcolm joins Lower School as a third-grade teacher. She has been teaching third, fourth and fifth grades in Wake County for the past seven years. She received a B.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and minor in Special Education from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, New Literacies and Global Learning from NC State. Mrs. Malcolm and her husband live with their two dogs and two cats and enjoy spending time outdoors, traveling and live music.
Spirit Animal: Long-haired weiner dog (dachshund)
Ana Maria Mendez joins Lower School as a Spanish teacher. She is a native speaker from Colombia, and her 17 years of experience as a Spanish, music and art teacher, eight of them in the United States, makes her an ideal fit for Ravenscroft. Teaching is her passion, and her goal is to enhance students’ understanding and appreciation for both the Spanish language and different cultures. With imaginative lessons and boundless energy, she motivates students and inspires them to learn Spanish. Mrs. Mendez earned her B.A. at Universidad de la Sabana in Bogotá, Colombia, and holds her North Carolina Teaching License with a certification in Spanish K-12 and Art K-12. She is also the creator of the Early Education Songs Volumes 1 and 2, for which she wrote lyrics, composed music, played acoustic guitar and was the lead vocalist.
Favorite Quote: “A true friend is the one who holds your hand and touches your heart.” — Gabriel García Márquez
Liz Morgan will serve the Lower School as a fifth-grade science teacher. Her most recent experience is with Duke University Talent Identification Program as the elementary programs coordinator, where she oversaw the academic program on college campuses in five states. She also created the curriculum for interdisciplinary, experiential, project-based learning for gifted students. Ms. Morgan received her M.A. in Educational Administration from Lindenwood University and her B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois. She is the proud parent of three Ravens, Hannah (sixth grade), Abby (fourth grade), and Jack (first grade).
Fun Fact: Has never eaten a hamburger or ketchup
Lauren Wieczorek ’08 joins the Lower School community as a fifth-grade Language Arts teacher. Lauren is a proud graduate of Ravenscroft and is honored to become part of the community that shaped her as a student. She received her B.A. in English from Wake Forest University, where she discovered her passion not just for English but also for instilling a love of reading and writing in others. She remembered how she developed close relationships with her teachers at Ravenscroft and how they had mentored her beyond what was required of them. It was those teachers who inspired her to pursue an M.Ed. at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. She taught ninth-grade English in Williamson County near Nashville, Tennessee, for three years. Ms. Wieczorek and her husband, Clay, moved back to Raleigh in 2017 and welcomed their daughter, Charlotte, in October.
Spirit Animal: Lemur
Nicole Willis joins Lower School as a third-grade teacher. She holds a B.A. in Child Development and Early Intervention and an M.A.T. in Elementary Education, both from East Carolina University. Nicole has taught third grade in Wake and Cumberland Counties for the past three years. She believes that education serves to ignite and uncover passions that can lead to lifelong professions. She prides herself on taking every opportunity to collaborate with other teachers, and the community, to provide hands-on and engaging learning experiences for her students. Ms. Willis also played Division I volleyball at LSU and East Carolina and is excited to continue to give back to the sport she loves by coaching volleyball at Ravenscroft.
Fun Fact: Played for and trained with the U.S. Women’s Olympic Volleyball Team
New Fine Arts faculty: Erin Stelling (at left) and Tasi Matthews
Tasi Matthews joins the Fine Arts Department and will be teaching Lower School Strings and private violin lessons. Ms. Matthews has been sharing her love of music with kids and adults in the Triangle area since 1997. She was a member of the adjunct faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill from 1997-2003 and the Cary School of Music from 1997-2000. For the past 18 years, she has run a private violin studio. She performs regularly in the area, currently serving as concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle and frequently playing as a pit musician for the Broadway Series at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Some of her other experiences include performing with the Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh Symphony Orchestras as well as with some well-known artists, including Josh Groban, Clay Aiken, Harry Connick Jr. and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Ms. Matthews earned her B.M. from UNC-Chapel Hill and her M.M. from the NC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. When she is not teaching or performing, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Jason, and their three children, Collin, Owen and Regan.
Fun Fact: Got to play “Let It Go” with Elsa herself, Idina Menzel, and it’s on YouTube
Erin Stelling joins the Fine Arts department and will be teaching Middle and Upper school foundational art classes. She comes to us from Jordan High School, where she was a visual arts instructor, yearbook advisor and assistant varsity soccer coach. Erin graduated from Saint Joseph’s University with a B.A. in Fine and Performing Arts, and she earned her M.F.A. in Photography from University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, Erin received a grant to study at the Royal College of Art in London. She also earned an AAS in Graphic Design from Parsons, The New School. Her work has been exhibited in numerous shows in Pennsylvania and New York. Erin played Division I soccer at Saint Joseph’s University. She lives in Durham with her husband, Michael, and their 1-year-old son, August.
Favorite Quote: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” — Albert Einstein
New coaches: Michael Ramel and Anna Nethery
Michael Ramel has been named head coach for the girls varsity basketball team. He comes to Ravenscroft with extensive knowledge and experience coaching at various levels throughout his 10-year career and has been successful in developing and mentoring players. Most recently he served as assistant varsity, head JV and Middle School boys basketball coach at Francis Parker School in San Diego. Before that, he was head coach of the varsity girls basketball team at Canyon Crest Academy, also in San Diego. Mr. Ramel has an M.A. in Coaching and Athletic Administration and is state-certified in K-12 Health and Physical Education. He and his wife, Melissa, have a daughter, Adalyn, age 2.
Fun Fact: Has hiked the highest points in 15 states (ME, VT, RI, MA, CT, NY, PA, MD, WV, DE, NC, SC, GA, TN and CA) and is working toward getting all 50
Anna (Merriman) Nethery has been named head coach of the girls varsity soccer team. Mrs. Nethery, who teaches Spanish in the Upper School, has been a part of Ravenscroft soccer for the past two years, serving as the assistant coach. She served as head coach for varsity girls soccer at her previous teaching post at Academic Magnet High School in Charleston, South Carolina, where her team won several state 2A championships, and she was named an NSCAA South Carolina Girls High School Coach of the Year for five consecutive years and NSCAA Atlantic Region Girls High School Coach of the Year for two.
Fun Fact: Went to the Galapagos Islands for her honeymoon this summer
New staff: At top, Jessie Hale Tesh ’05; (L-R) Blane Winston and Trey Lewis ’03
Jessie Hale Tesh ’05 joins Admissions as an administrative assistant. It’s a return to Ravenscroft, as she is an alumna of the Class of 2005 and was a “lifer.” Mrs. Tesh graduated from NC State with a B.S. in General Education Studies and brings a great deal of administrative experience to her role. In recent years, her career has been in the real estate industry, with experience in marketing, recruitment, developing client relationships, sales and database use. She and her husband, Adam, have two boys, Parker, who is 5 years old, and Dylan, who is 1.
Secret Super-Power: Organizing cabinets and closets
Blane Winston joins Institutional Advancement as the data analyst and database manager. He is a graduate of UNC-Greensboro with a B.A. in Economics and a minor in History. In December, he will graduate with an MBA and M.I.S. from North Carolina Central. He has gained a myriad of professional experiences from organizations such as North Carolina Joint Underwriting Association and NC Department of Transportation and as a graduate assistant. Mr. Winston comes from a family of educators and sought this opportunity to work in education along with his passion of information science and technology. He was born and raised in Raleigh and enjoys attending church, traveling, reading and sports.
Fun Fact: Is a sci-fi and anime fan
Trey Lewis ’03 joins the Ravenscroft community as a Lower School physical education teacher, a member of the Admissions team, and a member of the Middle School support team. After graduating from Ravenscroft in 2003, Mr. Lewis went to Ball State University and earned a B.S. in Sport Administration with a minor in Interpersonal Relations in 2008. While at Ball State, he was 4-year starter on the football team. Previous work experience includes being a service representative for Cintas and a recreation supervisor for the City of Greenacres in Florida. He has been an assistant coach on the varsity football team for the past four seasons and served as coach of the JV boys basketball team from 2014-16.
Fun Fact: Was inducted into the Ravenscroft Sports Hall of Fame in 2011