AMS is a staff run school. Full time staff members share equal responsibility and compensation, no matter how long they have worked here. While we don’t have a head of school, we do have clerks. This role serves as a liaison to our parents and board. They also guide staff to think about the bigger picture when making decisions in our consensus based staff meetings.
We are All Teachers
Most staff members have multiple positions. They can be houseparents, trip leaders, cooks, and fill one of the many coordinator positions all at once. One role we all fill is teaching. Whether it’s math class, a garden internship, or an elective, all full time staff (and most of our part time ones) teach students in some capacity. This structure allows students to recognize that everyone’s work is equally important and that we all has something to give.
BA in Philosophy, St. Mary’s College
Jake has enjoyed working with teens outdoors since 2010. He has been at AMS for seven years and had many roles including houseparent, teacher, academic advisor, Maintenance Coordinator, and Outdoor Coordinator. In his second year as Clerk, he will be chairing our Personnel Committee and be ever present to our parent’s needs and concerns.
Before coming to AMS, he worked on a farm and as a rock-climbing guide for campers in Shenandoah Valley, VA. Being in the woods, especially when it’s with students, is where he’s happiest. “I love how eager middle schoolers can be to explore questions of themselves and others, getting to the root of what matters and what role they can play in shaping the world. In working with them, I enjoy striving to make that an adventure.”
Middle school memory: At age 13, I tended to be pretty serious and uncomfortable with making mistakes. In 7th grade, had a teacher who encouraged us to write on the walls, examine found objects on the side of the road, and speak our poetry out loud. She taught me to keep finding ways to play, and that really opened the world up for me.
Lena Parker (she/her/hers)
Co-Clerk, Math Teacher
BS in Educational Studies and Data Science, Davidson College
Lena is originally from Chapel Hill, and also grew up in New Delhi, India. Before AMS, she worked in after school programs, and worked as a nonprofit research analyst. Lena is beyond excited for her second year at AMS, and feels like she’s finally found a place that embraces the independence, curiosity and energy of middle schoolers. Lena enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, learning about things she knows nothing about, and making bad puns. Lena’s high-energy disposition is fueled by students’ eye-rolls and hearing the words “Whoa, math isn’t that bad.”
Middle School Memory: I moved schools in the middle of sixth grade. On my first day as a new student, a bee stung me on the eyelid. Later in math class, my eye swollen shut, I answered a question using both the words “numerator” and “denominator” and quickly became “that bee girl who really likes math.”
Nicholas Maldonado (he/him/his)
Recruitment and Admissions Coordinator
BS in Communications & BA in Media Arts and Design, James Madison University
Nick has been working with teenagers for over 17 years and been part of the AMS community since 2009. He has been Clerk, teacher, academic advisor, houseparent, Maintenance Coordinator and Outdoor Coordinator. He will handling many of the school’s administrative responsibilities while continuing to keep up the strong relationships he had built with parents and students over the years.
Originally a technical writer designing instruction manuals, Nick quickly realized the corporate world wasn’t for him. After going on an Outward Bound trip, he found his love for simplicity and community and teaching middle schoolers. “They are in that really awkward place where they want to be both a kid and a adult. Its an important time for guidance and support.” This is Nick’s 11th year at AMS.
Middle school memory: I was going to ask a girl to dance at a party, but as I approached her I tripped over my own feet and fell flat on the floor. There was no dancing that night.
Bethany Rountree (she/her/hers)
BA in Sociology, Women’s Studies, Creative Writing, University of Vermont
Bethany is originally from Middlebury, Vermont, but has lived in western North Carolina for over 25 years. She is a member of Celo Community and she and her husband have a house down the road with a big garden. Bethany began working at the Extension Office with the 4-H after-school program, and then stayed home to raise and homeschool their three kids. When they were old enough, they each attended AMS for 7th, 8th and 9th grades, learning not only math and social studies, but sheep shearing, hiking, canoeing, caving, how to build a pizza oven, wash dishes and chop wood. Friday nights brought nights-out students and boisterous conversation around the dinner table. Bethany began bookkeeping for Celo Community and then for Carolina Morning, a small nearby business that makes meditation cushions. She is excited to take on her new role as Finance Coordinator at AMS, and again be part of the school community that gives so much to adolescents.
Middle school memory: I tend to call my junior high years the dark years. Life was full of insecurities, unspoken rules and social hierarchy. Fitting in was a constant struggle, and the knock off rugby with plastic buttons my Mom bought at an outlet store, rather than the name brand one with cool rubber buttons, didn’t cut it. Not to mention needing an alligator on my shirt, the right kind of docksiders and my backpack slug over only one shoulder. One silver lining was learning to juggle. I also joined band and learned how to play the trumpet and loved it. Not only that, but I started listening to music, tuning my radio to the top 40 and falling asleep to Duran Duran, Cindy Lauper, the Eurythmics, George Michael and singing Purple Rain in my dreams.
Kathlene Stith (she/her/hers)
B.A. Sociology/Anthropology, Warren Wilson College
Kathlene comes to AMS after working twenty years in the music event business (mostly directing large music festivals) and then eleven years for the American Cancer Society within a combination fundraising and public health position that spanned her managing all of the WNC and Southwest Virginia territories for the ACS. Having grown up in Charlotte, NC, she has been living in Western North Carolina for 32 years and in particular, she and her family has been living within the Celo Community since 2001. She is also a parent of an AMS alumnus (07′ to 09′). In addition to having raised two sons, she now raises chickens as well as grows a large assortment of flowers and fruit vines, bushes and trees in her family’s garden.
Middle school memory: Middle school memory: My fondest memories of middle school are that of riding horses and hanging out at the horse barn in my neighborhood with my friends. We mucked out stalls and bathed the horses after a day of jumping horse fences and trail rides. I enjoyed being around the animals more than anything else I could have been doing during those years. To this day, my love of horses carries over into anything with four legs, fur or feathers. Luckily, I get to visit with a variety of critters any given time at AMS!
Rebecca Zeldin (she/her/hers)
Academic Coordinator, Spanish and Language Arts Teacher
MA in Philosophy and Education, Columbia University
BA in Spanish Literature, Haverford College
Rebecca’s first teaching experiences were in college, as a summer volunteer in elementary school classrooms in Costa Rica and Ecuador. Since then, she’s taught at a residential school for young adults with developmental disabilities and at a progressive school in Philadelphia, where she taught Spanish, English, Philosophy, and sundry other topics to middle school students. Including a stint in graduate school, she’s been in education for over ten years; she can hardly imagine any way she’d rather spend her workday than as a teacher. At AMS, Rebecca cherishes the consensus-driven adult community, the closeness with the kids, and the informality of the culture. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, wandering, reading, playing board games, chatting, and playing sports non-competitively.
Middle school memory: I had this incredible eighth grade English teacher. To my thirteen-year-old self, he appeared an ambassador of another world, a world in which words and ideas ranked more highly than TV shows, soccer practice, or most any of the other activities I was taken with in those days. So enthusiastic was this teacher about discussing books with us that he would sometimes bounce up and down with exhilaration. By the end of the day, his shirt would be streaked with chalk and sweat. I fell in love with many things at once that year–books, ideas, discussion, and indeed teaching itself. All this time later, who I am and what I’m doing can be traced back to the world my eighth grade English teacher first showed me.
Natalie Monaghan (she/her/hers)
Language Arts and Art Teacher, Houseparent
BA in Studio Art, Carleton College
Printmaking Concentration, Penland School of Crafts
This is Natalie’s fifth year at AMS. Over that time, she has been a houseparent, teacher and Academic Coordinator. Originally a Midwesterner, she has lived in these mountains for going on eight years. As an artist she works primarily in painting and printmaking. She loves working with middle schoolers, especially in the arts, because “they are at the age when they begin to delve wholeheartedly into the work of figuring out who they are, what they stand for, and what makes them unique as people.”
Middle school memory: I remember I had a short-lived obsession with drawing fairies in 7th grade. I encouraged my friends to join me in creating these fantasy creatures. It soon became clear, however, that the world of sweet little fairies I had envisioned was not going to materialize. My friends only wanted to draw monster fairies. Fantasy ruined.
Lucia Pierson (she/her/hers)
BS in Psychology and Environmental Studies , Dartmouth College
This is Lucia’s first year at AMS, and she is so excited to join this wonderful community. After graduating college, she stayed in New Hampshire for another six months to run an outdoor program in the White Mountains. Since then, she has found various ways to nurture her passion for experiential education and working with young people, including running a teen leadership and service trip to New Zealand, teaching a semester for gap year students across Eastern Asia, and running environmental science and team building programs in the Berkshire Mountains. In her spare time, she loves hiking, playing frisbee, cooking, petting dogs, and writing, and she loves working with middle schoolers because of how excited they are to develop and explore their passions.
Middle school memory: When I was thirteen, I read a book about Julia Butterfly Hill, an environmental activist who lived in a California redwood tree for over two years to protest deforestation. I thought that was awesome, and I wanted to imitate her experience in her honor. I unfortunately didn’t have two years to spare because of school and such, and my neighborhood in Connecticut lacked California redwoods, so instead I spent 24 hours in a Dogwood tree in my friend’s backyard. I set up a “ground crew” consisting of five friends who threw snacks up to me, and spent pretty much the whole time reading. It wasn’t quite Julia Butterfly Hill’s experience, but I did feel pretty cool.
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 eleventh year at AMS. She recently stepped down as Clerk to work part time this year. She has always been a teacher and has been the school’s Kitchen Coordinator. She enjoys working with middle schoolers because she finds them curious and asking the big questions while also being super playful.
Middle school memory: In 7th grade, I had really long hair, down to my waist. The boy behind me in Language Arts used to toss my braids as I tried to pay attention in class. To get even, I ding dong ditched his house. I am appreciative that AMS teaches our students better conflict resolution skills.
Manuela was born in Medellin, Colombia and moved to Rhode Island just in time for middle school. Her number one passion in life is learning which has led her to wear many hats over the years. Most recently, she spent seven months in Southeast Asia, graduated from Berea College in Kentucky, and spent the last year completing her fourth AmeriCorps term at a shelter for survivors of intimate partner abuse. Manuela loves community living, nature, art, social justice, running, cooking, languages, along with a gazillion other things. She is excited to start her first year at AMS, where she will have access to all of her favorite things and more.
Middle school memory: Learning English by singing along to questionable music videos like Candy Shop on MTV.
Madeline Wilson (she/her/hers)
BS in Natural Resources, Sewanee College
Madeline grew tall amongst the buttress roots and roadside papayas of Southeast Asia. She lived eighteen years of endless summer there, just North of the equator, before returning to a land she never lived; the land of her parents; the USA. She put a few spindly roots down in the Cumberland plateau where she graduated from Sewanee, The University of the South. The Appalachians and those who call them home taught her to read the land, to live comfortably in its hollows, to gracefully embrace the change in seasons, and to sing and make music all the while. These ancient mountains distilled in her a sense of home wherever she finds herself, and she is so gosh darn excited to live and work alongside kids, the true teachers, as everyone grows (always growing) into the home within.
Middle school memory: Moving up the road to another country half way through the school year, getting lost between classes, and coming face to face with a horde of monkeys.
Izzy Miller (he/him/his, they/them/theirs)
Kitchen Coordinator, Spanish Teacher
BA in Art & Archaeology, Princeton University
Izzy is beginning their sixth year at AMS. Past roles they have filled include Clerk, teacher, houseparent, and academic advisor. Most of all about AMS, Izzy enjoys playing games, baking tasty treats, and connecting with students. “I love talking to students about their feelings and asking probing questions about life. Sometimes it’s all eye-rolls and groans, and other times it gets pretty real.”
Middle school memory: When I was in middle school, I hated learning Spanish. I was afraid of saying the wrong words in class, messing up the grammar, or just making a fool of myself. It was only later that I came to understand making mistakes and wading through awkwardness offer some of the best moments for learning.
Matthew Wilhelm (he/him/his)
BFA in ceramics with Minor in Art History, University of Wisconsin River Falls
Matthew started working with teens in 2012 and has since been gifted with the ability to work with teens in many different capacities. Working in outdoor education, nannying and being a camp counselor have been some of Matthew’s favorites and he is excited for AMS to become another. Matthew also has a fine art studio practiced focused on functional ceramics. When he is not in the studio, he enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons, debating anything nerdy and cooking but more importantly eating.
Middle school memory: In 8th grade I always talked to my homeroom teacher more than the other kids in my class. This was common for me because I found that my teachers had interesting things to talk about than most of my peers. The funny thing is now I find myself enjoying conversations with teens more because they are more exciting than most adults.
Federica Ranelli (she/her/hers)
Federica is a naturalist, educator, and farmer. Teaching in a farm or outdoor setting sets the stage for her and her students to explore everything from applied sciences to social studies while actively practicing service, wonder, patience, and care. She is delighted to have foundAMS, a place that fosters curiosity and intentional relationship building among students, staff, and their environments. Though she has called a handful of places home, her roots are deepest on the edge of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota. She is beyond excited to get to know a new, beautiful place. She loves playing outside, being in and on water, and learning new songs on her fiddle and
Middle school memory: When I think of middle school, I think of music. I started playing violin and joined the orchestra then. It was a big step for a super quiet, shy kid like me. Music was a source of friends and confidence all the way through my middle school years. Still is!
Brad Archer (he/him/his)
Social Studies Teacher
MA Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs, American University
BA in Social Studies Education, Northeastern State University
A social studies classroom teacher since 1998, Brad has spent much of the past two decades helping teens understand their own agency in a world desperate for radical solutions to our planet’s myriad human-made problems. Having taught in places as far afield as California’s Mojave Desert and the Ecuadorian Andes, he has never felt more at home than he does here at AMS.
Adam Alexander (he/him/his)
Maintenance Coordinator, Science Teacher
MA in Philosophy and Education, Columbia University
BA Philosophy and BS Psychology, Viterbo University
Adam is a curious young man from Wisconsin who moved out east for graduate school. His academic training is in philosophy, so he’s had a variety of jobs in IT, teaching, and manual trades. He enjoys frisbee, board games, photography, woodworking, gardening, and mechanical projects, as well as working with young people. As a child, Adam spent much of his time daydreaming about hypothetical societies and wishing he was an astronaut.
Middle school memory: Once I was given an assignment to write an autobiographical statement. I procrastinated and procrastinated until I thought no one remembered I was asked to do it. Then I learned someone wrote my autobiography for me. I was given the option to replace it with my own story, but decided to leave it as was. They did a pretty good job of impersonating me.
Mary Ellen Solon, LCSW (she/her/hers)
Houseparent, Wellness Consultant
Masters of Social Welfare, University California, Berkeley
BA International Studies, University of San Francisco
Mary Ellen never in a million years believed she would work secondary education, spending much of her teen years trying to avoid school as much as possible. After bouncing all over the country doing jobs like disaster relief work; bartending; and non-profit social justice work, Mary Ellen caught the 7-12th grade bug during her MSW internship at a middle school where she coached cheerleading to students whose parents were victimized by state violence. From this experience, Mary Ellen gained a firm belief that collective play, support, and care in school environments can inspire transformational social healing, and after 7yrs as a school social worker, Mary Ellen is excited to share this enthusiasm with the Arthur Morgan School community. Mary Ellen resides at AMS with her partner Brad and their daughter Maisy, and has a private psychotherapy in downtown Burnsville, too.
Middle school memory: In 7th grade I ran for school government, thinking I would be a shoe-in because I considered myself rather popular. Instead of preparing my campaign, I spent time harassing my fellow candidates by placing “Vote for Solon” stickers all over their lockers and name-calling in the halls (Not going to lie, I was a bully). When it came time to give a speech about why I should be considered Vice President of our class, I turned bright red, murmured something about recycling, and walked off the stage. Needless to say and rightly so, I did not become Vice President, and whenever I think of that moment in time I still eat that very humbling pie.
Caitlyn Bove (she/her/hers)
BA in Critical Pedagogy and the Arts, Antioch College
Caitlyn Bove is a valley girl from Los Angeles who has spent the last four years at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio(in the Miami River Valley). While at Antioch, Caitlyn was able to study many different subjects, from soap making to performance art to prison abolition. She has spent the last two years working as the math tutor at Yellow Springs High School and recently began teaching swim lessons. Caitlyn will be an intern this year at AMS and is very much looking forward to doing math with students.
Middle School Memory: During winter break of sixth grade I started getting these red and splotchy marks on my face, quite mysteriously. Also during winter break my math teacher tasked us with finishing a huge math packet Every time I tried to sit down and work on the packet the rash oh my face would flare up and I’d had to take a break. My family and decided that year that I was allergic to math, but I still had to finish the packet. I like to think about that memory now, clear skin and with a new love for math!
Trinity Andrews (she/her/hers)
Deep Springs College
Trinity is originally from the Northern California forests. She has recently graduated Deep Springs College where she gained an appreciation for alternative learning and tight-knit community. As a middle-schooler she was lucky enough to spend about as many days in nature as in the classroom and is excited to facilitate both at AMS!
Middle school memory: My middle school math teacher kept Icebreaker candy in his desk and would occasionally give my best friend and I one if we arrived before class. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but we were early for class every day in anticipation!
Matthew McGuire (he/him/his)
BS in Math and Environmental Studies, Guilford College
Inner Life of the Child in Nature Certificate; Center for Education, Imagination & the Natural World
Matt’s connection to nature was solidified on a 15-day raft trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon when he was 13 years old. Most recently, after earning a postgraduate 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. This Matt’s sixth year at AMS. In his free time, Matt enjoys taking walks, finding swimming holes, and relaxing – especially with his partner, Sadie, and their children.
Middle school memory: I somehow managed to wet my pants prior to a basketball game, and couldn’t change out of my uniform. I pretended that I had spilled water on my pants, but I’m pretty sure my teammates knew the true story.
Arthur Morgan School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation or preference, gender identity or expression, marital status, economic status, or disability.