[For who to contact about particular issues, see Contact Us or Who Do I Call?.

The following staff list is alphabetical by first name.]


Ben Wyrick

Language Arts Teacher & Social Media Outreach
MFA in Digital Production Arts, Clemson University
BA in Communication Arts, Allegheny College

Ben is thrilled for his third year with AMS. He and his white German Shepherd, Gandalf, live in Cordwood. Ben and Gandalf both salivate when the clouds part from the Celo Knob ridge line because they love trail running. Ben enjoys singing mountain music and playing the guitar. Previously he taught photography and graphic design at a community college and boarding school. Ben bakes fresh bread most days and is currently seeking competitive bids for a massive purchase of dark chocolate bars to get him through the winter. Ben has bicycled the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiked the Appalachian Trail, run the Boston Marathon, and completed two 50-mile ultramarathons.


Claire Oliphant

Kitchen Coordinator, Teacher
BA in Art Education-Sculpture, UNC Asheville
North Carolina K-12 Teaching License, UNC Asheville

Before arriving at AMS, Claire taught art in public school in North Carolina and at an alternative, tuition-free residential high school in Colorado. She has also taught farming and homesteading skills at a Quaker summer camp in Vermont, and she taught and demonstrated blacksmithing at an environmental education center in New York, and a tourist site in North Carolina. She’s excited to be back in the Southern Appalachian mountains.



Heather Dawes

Development Coordinator
BS in Nursery Crop Production and Landscape Design, Auburn University
Teacher Licensure for Secondary Science and MS Mathematics, UNC Asheville
Non-Profit Management Certification, Duke University

“Through my work I have the privilege of learning about the history of AMS, and meeting, by phone and in person, some of the people who have supported the school over its 53 year history. It’s a wonderful experience to hear the stories, and realize the deep connections that people keep with AMS throughout their lives.”


JJ Sterling

Co-Clerk, Language Arts and Algebra 1B Teacher
BA in English/ Drama, University of Georgia

JJ has worked at AMS since 2007, currently in the role of Co-Clerk. Before coming to AMS, JJ taught in public school, through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, tended flowers, followed the peregrine way to Santiago, Spain, wrote short stories, and acted professionally in Atlanta. In quiet moments, JJ is writing a young adult novel about a magic-less magician.


Jake Silver

House Parent, Teacher and Outdoor Coordinator
BA in Philosophy, St. Mary’s College

Jake enters his third year at AMS houseparenting in Dewing House and coordinating the schools outdoor activities. Prior to joining AMS, Jake spent a year in Maryland at St. Mary College doing assistant teaching and gardening. He has been a longtime camp counselor at Camp Shilo. He’s an amazing Ultimate Frisbee player and is coaching the AMS Soccer team this Fall. 




Justin Davis Metzner

House Parent, Teacher
BFA in Experimental Studio, Howard University

Justin likes to consider himself a citizen of the world with several languages under his belt and many years of international experience working as an artist and social justice activist.  He relishes the opportunity to inspire AMS students to visualize a better world and develop the skills required to build it.

Justine Cefalu

B.A. in Environmental Studies, Yale University

Justine has taught music in formal and informal contexts, from group fiddle classes to spontaneous worksongs while weeding on farms in Connecticut, and is looking forward to sharing the joy of song with the AMS students and staff. She enjoys cooking with lots of color, identifying plants, going on walks, reading, and contra dancing.


Kavita Hardy

Farm & Garden Coordinator, Co-Clerk
BA in Chemistry & Economics, Swarthmore College

Kavita has experience as a science instructor and tutor, oral historian, environmental educator and gardener. She was drawn to AMS as a place where experiential work provides the basis for meaningful inquiry. Kavita enjoys hiking, finding mushrooms and wildflowers, running, cooking, board games and gardening.  This is her seventh year at AMS.  


Matthew McGuire

House Parent, Bookkeeper
BS in Math and Environmental Studies, Guilford College
Inner Life of the Child in Nature Certificate; Center for Education, Imagination & the Natural World

Matt brings to AMS many years of experience as an educator both in and out of the classroom.  Most recently, after earning a post-graduate certificate in nature education, he led students as an earth guide for the Center for Education, Imagination & the Natural World.  He later worked as the business manager for the same organization, and will continue this work as the AMS bookkeeper in the coming year.  As a house parent, Matt looks forward to furthering his practice of combining reflection and action into meaningful learning. In his free time, Matt enjoys taking walks, finding swimming holes, and relaxing – especially with his partner, Sadie, and their son.  



Natalie Monaghan

House Parent, Teacher
BA in Studio Art, Carleton College
Printmaking Concentration, Penland School of Crafts

Natalie is excited to come to AMS after living in neighboring Mitchell County and working at Penland School of Crafts for the last few years.  A native of the Midwest, she is an artist primarily focused on painting and printmaking.  She is happy to make teaching art a more integrated part of her life within the AMS community.  Any free time she has between making art and drinking coffee is usually spent in the woods with her dog.


Nick Maldonado

Language Arts & Math Teacher, Maintenance Coordinator
BA in Communications & BA in Media Arts and Design, James Madison University

Nick is from Shelton, CT. He went to school at James Madison University for degrees in Graphic Design and Technical Communication and graduated in 2000. He worked for a short stint in the corporate district before realizing what he really wanted to do was work with kids. The epiphany occurred while on an Outward Bound trip when his instructor informed him he was physically clumsy enough to help middle schoolers feel confident in their own awkwardness. He has been building those self-esteems ever since. He lives at AMS with his sons, Silas and Ezzy.



Rebecca Snavely

House Parent, Teacher
BA in Psychology and Fine Craft, The Evergreen State College

Rebecca is from Spruce Pine, NC.  She is excited to come houseparent and teach at AMS after a fun summer teaching art at Camp Springcreek, a residential camp for students with dyslexia. Rebecca majored in Psychology and minored in Fine Crafts with a Level II Welding certificate.  Her favorite creative obsession is making large sets of wearable steel wings.  She is certified by The Enneagram Center of Asheville to teach the enneagram, a tool for individual and interpersonal growth.  When Rebecca is not reading or making art, she loves to explore the many local hiking trails and play 4-player chess.


Sadie Kneidel

House Parent, Co-Clerk
BA in Spanish and Women’s & Gender Studies, Guilford College
MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, UNC Greensboro
500-hour Yoga Teacher Certificate, Free Spirits Yoga

Sadie is excited to take on co-clerking this year in addition to continuing to houseparent in Meadow House.  She came to AMS after many years of working in international education at the community college and university level.  Sadie is a licensed professional counselor and the author of two books, Veggie Revolution and Going Green.  In her down time, she loves spending time outside with her family, reading, and doing yoga.


Sarah Golibart

B.A. in English, Minors in Creative Writing, Anthropology, James Madison University
M.A.T. in Secondary Education, James Madison University

Sarah is a poet, teacher, vocalist, and produce-guru from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Her work is rooted in the salty loam of the Chesapeake Bay and blooming in the mountains of Harrisonburg, VA and beyond. Sarah seeks to empower students to unearth their voices and assemble them victoriously into beautiful works of self that challenge existing narratives and seek spiritual truths. Sarah enjoys running, reading, cooking, singing, or doing a combination of any or all of these.


Sarah Matesz

House Parent
BA in Studio Art and Ceramics, Earlham College

Sarah is in her fourth year at AMS and this year is back houseparenting in Dewing House.



Tanner Horst

House Parent, Teacher
BA in Political Philosophy, Bowdoin College
Graduate, Deep Springs College

Tanner grew up in Hillsborough, NJ before going to Bowdoin College in Maine and Deep Springs College in California. Since graduation he has worked as a carpenter, a farmer, a tutor, and a “content developer,” and in his free time from those he reads and writes. He is a believer in experiential education, is excited to be joining the AMS staff this year as a house parent and teacher, and is grateful for the opportunity to work from home.

Ward McAllister

Finance Coordinator
BSE in Industrial Engineering, University of Michigan

Ward grew up and lived in Michigan until 1979 when he and his family moved to Celo. They joined the AMS community in 1980, with Ward and his wife serving as house parent staff members, and their 2 daughters attending and graduating from AMS. After leaving AMS, Ward was a small business owner for many years, working with a variety of non-profit organizations on IT and financial management. In 2014 he returned to the AMS Finance Office, and has become completely charmed by the privilege of associating with the brilliant young staff members and lovely tweeners who comprise today’s AMS community.