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.
Lena Parker (she/her/hers)
Co-Clerk, Math and Personal Growth Teacher
BS in Educational Studies and Data Science, Davidson College
Born in Asheville, Lena grew up in New Delhi, India and Chapel Hill, NC. Before AMS, she taught in after school programs, and worked as a research analyst at Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. At AMS, Lena feels like she’s found a place that embraces the independence, curiosity and energy of adolescents. In between foraging for mushrooms, tubing down the river, and throwing a frisbee with students, Lena teaches math and personal growth classes. She also serves as a co-clerk of AMS, striving to honor the horizontal governance of the school, and incorporate the voices of our many community members – especially students.
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.”
Rebecca Zeldin (she/her/hers)
Co-Clerk, Language Arts, Spanish and Social Studies 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.
Christina Tyler (she/her/hers)
Admissions Coordinator, Art Teacher
BFA in Craft and Material Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University
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 an adult. It’s an important time for guidance and support.”
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: 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!
Math and Science Teacher, Outdoor Coordinator, Houseparent
BA in Philosophy, St. Mary’s College
Jake has enjoyed working with teens outdoors since 2010. He has been at AMS for eight years and had many roles including houseparent, teacher, academic advisor, Maintenance Coordinator, and Outdoor Coordinator. 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.
Lucia Pierson (she/her/hers)
Spanish and Social Studies Teacher, Academic Coordinator, Houseparent
BS in Psychology and Environmental Studies , Dartmouth College
After graduating college, Lucia 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.
Meg Guzulescu (they/them/theirs)
Language Arts Teacher, Houseparent
Meg is coming to AMS after working as a case manager at a youth-oriented social service nonprofit. They love collaborative, participant-driven communities where people get to figure out how they want to live and learn together. When Meg’s not sharing food and conversation, you might find them reading, making music, or recruiting folks for a movie night.
Middle-school memory: I was home-schooled as a middle schooler! I remember schooling being a lot less rooted in conversation and relationship, which was a loss, but this did make space for a lot of self-directed reading!
Matthew Wilhelm (he/him/his)
Teacher, Kitchen Coordinator
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 that AMS has 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 be at AMS, 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 loves playing outside, being in and on water, and learning new songs on her fiddle and mandolin.
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!
Aren Hazlett-Norman (they/them/theirs)
Language Arts and Spanish Teacher, Houseparent
BA in Environmental Studies, Bates College
Aren grew up in Durham, North Carolina with a lifelong love for the southern Appalachian mountains. They feel most alive when growing and cooking food for people, singing old time and southern gospel music, dancing, and working in community toward a more just world. Aren has enjoyed their time teaching and learning from young people both in the classroom as a teacher’s assistant and outdoors as a camp counselor and wilderness trip leader. Recently, they have worked as a farmhand and community organizer. Aren is excited to bring these experiences and their commitment to cooperation and collective care to their first year at AMS.
Middle School Memory: Once, on a middle school field trip to the Smoky Mountains, I was playing in a creek and looked up to find myself face to face with a black bear! We were both a bit startled. We had a moment of intense eye contact before slowly moving in a circle to let each other pass. I credit that bear with teaching me that, when dancing with a partner, the most important things are to watch, listen, and not step on each others’ toes.
Adam Alexander (he/him/his)
Math Teacher, Maintenance Coordinator
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.
Kyle Sullivan (he/him/his)
Math Teacher, Houseparent
BA in Ecology, Minor in Earth Science from Dartmouth College
Kyle is so excited to be starting his first year at AMS. In the past, he has been lucky enough to work with kids of various ages in Connecticut, Alaska, and New Hampshire, in positions focused largely on natural education and mentorship in the outdoors. He enjoys natural sciences, tide-pools, woodworking and carpentry, hiking, and cooking. He’s excited to support AMS students they learn, grow, and explore the world around them.
Middle school memory: In sixth grade, my language arts teacher used candy to motivate us to learn new vocabulary words, which I took very seriously. I had a lot of jolly ranchers that year.
Arden Boyd (she/her/hers)
BA in Environmental Studies with a focus in Sustainable Food Systems, The College of Wooster
Arden grew up in the South and is elated to move back to the mountains after graduating college in Wooster, Ohio. Her time in Wooster taught her to treasure opportunities for experiential learning. She enjoys listening to stories (and telling them!), knitting, making popcorn, meeting bugs, and learning fun facts.
Chloe Vassot (she/her/hers)
MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction), Emerson College
BA in Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies, Oberlin College
Chloe is a writer originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania who has lived and worked most recently at a summer camp in the Shenandoah mountains. She’s been a research assistant, barista, and book repair technician, and loves being wherever she can learn new things and talk to people about their lives. She enjoys reading, writing, daydreaming of places to visit, and being outside in all weather.
Middle school memory: I spent part of my middle school summers at a Shakespeare themed day camp, and that was where I learned that stories can be fun and powerful even when you don’t understand every single word.
Natalie Monaghan (she/her/hers)
BA in Studio Art, Carleton College
Printmaking Concentration, Penland School of Crafts
This is Natalie’s sixth 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.
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 seventh 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.