Meet the FernLeaf Staff!
Nina Veteto, Kindergarten
Nina grew up in Charleston, SC, but left the South to pursue her undergraduate degree in art history and museum studies at Hartwick College in Upstate NY. She later received an master’s degree from UNC, Chapel Hill and a master’s in early childhood education from the College of Charleston. Nina began her teaching career as a K-1 teacher in the Chapel Hill-Carroboro City Schools, and taught in a number of different capacities as an environmental educator, a preschool teacher and as a Title 1 Reading Teacher in Buncombe County Schools. Most recently, Nina served as the founder and director of Monarch Rescue, an education based non-profit dedicated to creating habitat in WNC and teaching students about the needs of this imperiled butterfly. “Stay Curious” is Nina’s personal motto, and she believes wholeheartedly in nurturing a child’s sense of wonder in the world. She is thrilled to be a part of the Fernleaf Community. Nina lives in Candler, with her husband Tracy and is the proud mama of Mia, Wren and her stepdaughter Hallie.
Amy Schmitte, Kindergarten (Teacher Assistant)
Amy grew up in Syracuse, NY, where her childhood spent outside fostered her love for the environment. She earned a bachelor’s degree in conservation biology at the State University of New York. During her college career, she spent her time gaining experience in the environmental field. She volunteered at a local wildlife rehabilitation center and worked
as a hellbender salamander field research assistant. During her senior year, Amy fell in love with environmental education and decided to pursue that interest. She interned at a local nature center working with environmental educators teaching children in Syracuse city schools about the nature that surrounds them. Her love of all things nature led her to move to Western North
Carolina. She served with AmeriCorps Project Conserve for two years in Tryon, North Carolina as the education assistant at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center. She taught children in grades k-5 in schools, on field trips, and during summer camps. Amy is thrilled to be joining the FernLeaf community as a teaching assistant and is looking forward to a fun and exciting school year!
Jennifer Love, Kindergarten
Jennifer grew up in Richmond, Virginia, but fell in love with the mountains of Western North Carolina as a student at Warren Wilson College. She graduated with a degree in Elementary Education, and began teaching in Henderson County that fall. After eight years of teaching, Jennifer took a few years off to raise her two children, Henry and Tessa, and to serve as a founding board member of FernLeaf. She has spent the last four years teaching Pre-Kindergarten in Hendersonville. Jennifer is thrilled to be teaching at FernLeaf! She has a passion for play-based learning and strives to differentiate and make learning fun for her students. She has a love for children's literature (with a particular love for Roald Dahl) and finds great delight in sharing her favorite books with her students. In her free time, she loves distance running, cooking, geocaching, and going on adventures with her family.
Joe Hinchcliffe, Kindergarten (Teacher Assistant)
Joe grew up in South Florida, but relocated to the Asheville area 22 years ago. He holds an Associate of Arts degree and is certified in early childhood education. Joe has spent the past 14 years as a teacher and Child Enrichment Program Coordinator at Around the Son Preschool at Skyland United Methodist Church. In addition, he served six years as the Commanding Officer of the Asheville Division of the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps, a Navy youth leadership program. He has been married for 20 years to his wife, Kelley, and has 3 sons: Will, a sophomore studying Geology at North Carolina State University; Robert, a freshman studying Elementary Education at Appalachian State University; and Ben, a fifth grader at Glenn C. Marlow Elementary. Joe and his family enjoy many outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, traveling, and off road driving in their Jeeps.
Michele Corral, 1st Grade
Michele is an Asheville native (yes… really, a native). She graduated from UNC Asheville, and taught at Hall Fletcher Elementary for 10 years. She has a passion for environmental education, hands-on activities, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) projects and brain-based learning. While working at Hall Fletcher, she helped lead a pilot program that implemented commercial composting districtwide. She also led efforts that resulted in the school winning the Elementary Solar Schools Challenge in 2015. Most recently, Michele served on Hall Fletcher’s digital leadership team where she helped create engaging lessons with stop-motion animation and STEAM-based projects.
Michele is a mom to two sweet children- Kauis (8) and Mila (6). She is also a life partner to Chris who is a teacher at Francine Delany New School for Children. She is super excited to be a part of FernLeaf Community Charter School!
Mary Rutkowski, 1st Grade
Mary grew up with a love of the outdoors and spent many hours fishing, camping, and exploring in the woods of Wisconsin. She moved to the city in 2009 to study at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, where she received her bachelor degree in Art Education. She remained there teaching K-8th grade art in public schools until 2015, when she and her partner set out on a new adventure and moved to Asheville. This is her 3rd year working with 1st graders at FernLeaf, and she is now certified both in K-12 Art as well as Elementary Ed. Mary’s favorite thing about FernLeaf is watching kids thrive in an environment that encourages exploration, creativity, and community. She has a passion for integrating art in all subject areas, learning through the natural world, social/emotional learning, and letting kids play! Mary currently lives with her partner in West Asheville. She enjoys art making, reading, camping, hiking, rockhounding, studying plants and insects, and doting on her cat, Fredy.
Gretchen Eastridge, 1st Grade (Teacher Assistant)
Gretchen and her husband, Bud, moved from a farm in Ohio to WNC 14 years ago to be near their daughter, Kara, and her family. Gretchen’s son, Eric, and his family live in California. While she and Bud owned and operated several businesses
together, her passion has always been working with children. She worked in public schools as an assistant teacher in classrooms for children with special needs, and as an administrative assistant in a middle school. Before coming to FernLeaf, however, she was an associate teacher at Swannanoa Valley Montessori School. She and Bud are avid gardeners and enjoy being near the water and exploring nature. Being a mother and grandmother are her greatest accomplishments.
Katelyn Harris, 1st Grade (Teacher Assistant) and Aftercare Programming Coordinator
Katelyn was born in Southern California, but was raised in Hendersonville. She graduated from West Henderson High
School in 2009 and knew education was where she was meant to be. She graduated from Mars Hill University with a degree in integrated education. Katelyn has a passion for working with children, and has experience in working as an overnight summer camp counselor and day camp director, combining her love for education with the unique magic reserved for being
outside! Katelyn is certified as an instructor in Foundations of Math and Foundations of Reading programs, and she is grateful to use these skills when working with awesome first grade scholars. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends, drinking coffee, cooking and baking.
Whitney Mebane, 2nd Grade
Born and raised in coastal Massachusetts, Whitney received her master's degree in education from Antioch University. During her studies, she spent a semester in New Zealand studying various ecosystems while creating and implementing an environmental education curriculum. Her time there marked the beginning of a wanderlust that has carried her far and wide. She spent a year in Hawaii teaching on the North Shore of Oahu, she has backpacked extensively throughout the world, from the deserts of the Southwest to rain forests of Tahiti, she lived on a 150-foot schooner in the Caribbean, and has studied the rain-forests and marine ecosystems of both Belize and Guatemala. Whitney, and her husband, Jason, moved with their two Saint Bernard dogs from Seattle, where she taught for over nine years and helped establish STEAM programs and curriculum, to WNC for the opportunity to be part of the FernLeaf community. As a family, when they aren't travelling, they like to take hikes and see live music.
Vic Wiesel, 2nd Grade
Vic is thrilled to be a part of the FernLeaf teaching team. With a degree in media studies, he had a brief stint working for the TV Food Network before leaving television to work with children in the outdoors. Vic has extensive experience teaching in a variety of environments, from backcountry environmental education to middle school language arts. He is committed to creating a safe educational space for everyone in his classroom. In his free time, Vic is an avid photographer, exploring traditional and historical photographic techniques in his Hendersonville darkroom. He also enjoys a variety of outdoor pursuits, including sailing, whitewater kayaking, and alpine skiing.
Sarah Weaver, 2nd Grade (Teacher Assistant)
Sarah started working with children as a teacher/counselor at Pressley Ridge in Walker, WV. She moved to North Carolina in 2007 after accepting a job as a wilderness instructor at the SUWS of the Carolinas near Old Fort, NC. She later relocated to Fayetteville, NC to serve as an exceptional children's teacher assistant for three years in an elementary school. Additionally, she worked as a respite care provider through Ft. Bragg, where she provided children with special needs of military families assistance in their day to day.
For the past five years, with a degree in Criminal Justice, Sarah worked for the Administration of the Courts as a courtroom clerk and The Department of Public Safety as a Judicial Service Coordinator. Alas, she missed working with children, and made the transition from the courtrooms back to the classroom at FernLeaf.
Leslie Cawlfield, 3rd Grade
Leslie has been a part of the FernLeaf community since its inception and is excited to now be a part of the incredible staff. She grew up in Mobile, AL and graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. For 20 years, and in many different homes, she has been lucky enough to be a teacher in a variety of ways including as an outdoor educator, yoga teacher, coach, camp counselor, tutor, mentor, and mother. For nine years, she has been a classroom teacher in public schools in both Hendersonville, NC and Austin, TX. She loves to help kids grow, get excited about learning, and find ways to develop and pursue their interests. She and her husband, Neil, both teachers, use every school break to check out new places, cultures, and experiences. They have two children, Isabella and Beckett, who they love taking along on their adventures all over the world.
Ashley Gregg, 3rd Grade
Ashley grew up in Greenville, South Carolina and fell in love with WNC as a kid when she and her family would visit the area to go on hikes. She graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Elementary Education and has been working with kids ever since. Ashley began her teaching career as a Kindergarten teacher at Vance Elementary in West Asheville. After teaching at Vance, she and her husband continued their teaching careers as International teachers where they taught in Panama City, Panama and Turin, Italy. Ashley loves to utilize student interest to drive instruction and enjoys the challenge of finding unique ways to engage all learners. You can find Ashley and her family mountain biking, trail running, or road biking on the weekends.
Sarah Bachler, 3rd Grade (Teacher Assistant) and EC Assistant
Sarah grew up outside of Chicago. She then moved to the mountains and attended the University of Vermont where she lived in applied housing for environmentally conscious students and found her deep love for hiking and gardening. While at UVM, Sarah obtained a dual license in Special Education and Elementary Education. Throughout college Sarah volunteered at a family shelter and helped to run an art therapy program for the children living there. She also mentored a teenager with Autism throughout college through a village mentoring type program. Sarah completed her student teaching at a magnet school with a sustainability focus. She worked with many refugee students and decided to dedicate a year after college to relocate to Thailand. Upon returning to the US, Sarah moved to Asheville (hoping to find a warmer Vermont) and began work at CooperRiis, a holistic healing community, and working at a Montessori preschool.
Sarah is thrilled to join the FernLeaf team!
Sarah likes to spend time with friends, go hiking in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and taking art classes.
Alissa Conti, 3rd Grade (Teacher Assistant) and EC Assistant
Alissa grew up in Fredonia, NY, which is a small town between Erie, PA and Buffalo, NY. She graduated from SUNY Fredonia in 2014 with a degree in Exercise Science. After working at a fitness center for a year and a half she was asked to be a nanny to her three younger cousins in Perrysburg, OH. After two years of that she decided to take a leap of faith and join AmeriCorps. This is what brought her to Western NC and to FernLeaf! Serving for one year of AmeriCorps developed her love for the area and the FernLeaf community and she is excited to continue her work with children as a staff member.
In her free time she loves doing any and every outdoor activity, spending time with friends, exploring and going back to Western NY to visit her family.
Kathleen Askew, 4th Grade
Kathleen grew up in West Virginia where she enjoyed spending time in the mountains with her family. She has called western North Carolina her “home away from home” since 2001 when she moved to Boone to attend Appalachian State University. She currently lives in Edneyville, where she can be found with her family working in the garden, listening to music, hiking, or cooking up a big meal. She loves to snowboard, scuba dive, fish, travel, and spend time by the ocean.
In 2005, Kathleen graduated with a degree in elementary education. Prior to FernLeaf, most of her decade teaching was in fourth grade classrooms in Buncombe County Schools.
Kathleen is a National Board Certified teacher who is committed to differentiating instruction. She is excited to bring her passion to FernLeaf and help students develop strategies to reach their goals.
Eleanor Clark, 4th Grade
Before falling in love with the mountains, Eleanor was raised in the midwest. She graduated with a dual degree in Special Education and Elementary Education from Fontbonne University in St. Louis, MO in 2016. While in college, she was led to work at a summer camp in Zirconia, NC working with children on the Autism Spectrum. It was there where Eleanor developed her teaching philosophies of educating outdoors, promoting curiosity, and an emphasis on community building. After two summers at camp, working in roles of camp counselor and program manager, she decided she could never live elsewhere and relocated to the Asheville area. Eleanor is beyond thrilled to be teaching at FernLeaf and when she is not coming up with exciting opportunities for kids, loves to hike, canoe, knit, and try new restaurants.
Amy Harner, Teacher Assistant (4th Grade)
Aimee came to Western North Carolina five years ago after spending over 25 years in the Mountains of Colorado where she enjoyed working in the hospitality business… and doing lots of skiing, hiking and rafting. She went on to own two restaurants and a food truck. But Aimee’s real passion has always been connecting with her community through volunteering. Some of her volunteer roles have included jump starting a Middle School girls soccer program, launching a new food helpline at MANNA FoodBank, coordinating fundraising events and galas for her local animal shelter, and becoming a foster parent with her husband, Dave. She and Dave adopted Jaquoia in early 2017 who will be a 4th grader this year at Fernleaf.
Aimee believes every child has a unique learning style. She is very excited to be a part of the Fernleaf community and wants to help create a supportive environment where the teachers are able to connect and foster learning in every child.
Kelly Anderson, 5th Grade
Kelly relocated to Western North Carolina this summer from the Green Mountains of Vermont. She grew up with an appreciation of the outdoors and is excited to explore the mountains here. Kelly studied at both the University of Vermont and Castleton State College in Southern Vermont. She taught in Vermont’s school system for 13 years with most of her experience at the middle school level. She has a passion for teaching math and believes that student voice is an integral part of education. In addition to teaching, Kelly also spent many hours with her students coaching and officiating both soccer and basketball. One of Kelly’s favorite places to travel is to the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica where she has been a student as well as a teacher to English Language Learners. Kelly and her two dogs, Finn and Stout are excited to call Hendersonville their new home. She is thrilled to join the Fern Leaf Community!
Jennifer Ryan, 5th Grade
Jennifer has lived in WNC since 1999 when she was recruited to play for the Women’s Soccer Team for Appalachian State University. She graduated from there with a degree in Elementary Education in 2004. For the past 12 years she has taught 3rd-5th grade in Buncombe County Schools. She leads a multifaceted life where she is creative, energetic, and adventurous in the classroom and her family life.
She has a love for the arts and incorporates them into her classroom culture. As Liaison for the Leaf Schools and Streets Program she loves to expose her students to things that broaden their cultural horizons. She is energetic and loves to build a strong classroom community giving her students leadership roles to contribute and synergize in the classroom. You will often see her on the sidelines of her student’s ballgames cheering them on as leaders in the community. She loves to hike and explore the outdoors and is looking forward to utilizing the outdoors as a classroom. Her creativeness and hands-on approach to education makes her a perfect fit for FernLeaf!
Merritt McDowell, 5th Grade (Teacher Assistant)
I grew up in Charlotte, NC. After 18 years living in Asheville, I now live in Brevard with my two kids. Through high school and college at Appalachian State I studied and explored theater, dance and creative writing, but took to the woods soon after graduating. Hiking long distance though along the Appalachian Trail I was taught the power of quiet, community and the healing of nature. After hiking over 3500 miles I began a career in outdoor education where I worked with students of many ages and abilities. In 2006 I began my own family, and shortly after I returned to school for my teaching degree. I taught in 8th grade before being called to my original love of outdoor education. I am so happy to be at FernLeaf where connection to nature and creative spirit are honored.
Alyssa Moore, Exceptional Children Program Director and Teacher
Alyssa came to North Carolina from Kansas in 2004 with her family and received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Western Carolina University in Special Education: General and Adaptive Curriculum with a concentration in Elementary Education and Social and Emotional Disabilities.
Possessing a wealth of experience in inclusion settings, Alyssa enjoys working collaboratively with parents and teachers to achieve the best outcomes for students. She brings to FernLeaf skill sets and expertise that are beneficial not only to students within the Exceptional Children Program, but to all FernLeaf students. Alyssa is an expert in the inclusion model and able to provide tremendous in-class co-teaching and support; she believes fervently that the inclusion model is best for all students; she possesses a wealth of knowledge related to developing strategies designed to help students be successful; and she is capable of providing parents and teachers with common sense approaches to working with a variety of challenges. Some of her career highlights include: implementing an experimental program on inclusion for students with severe disabilities; presenting on inclusion research and strategies at the 2015 North Carolina's Council for Exceptional Children's Annual Conference; and being awarded the Morrill Family Fund for Research in Education grant for staff training in the area of inclusion.
Alyssa lives in Fletcher with her dog Abby and cat Noname. In her free time she enjoys playing outside with Abby, gardening, fishing, cooking, reading, and watching movies.
Mary Tody, Exceptional Children Teacher
Born in Wisconsin and raised in Raleigh, NC, Mary moved to Hendersonville in 2003 from Boone, where she attended Appalachian State University and acquired her Bachelor’s degree in Special Education grades K-12 with a concentration in Learning Disabilities. She has worked with children in a variety of settings including: tutoring, working with preschool age children, as a house parent at a boarding school for adolescent girls, working as an EC Teacher for grades K-5 in Henderson County, working one on one with a child with special needs and, her personal favorite, as a mom to her three kiddos. Mary firmly believes in helping students access their education through individualizing instruction, making accommodations, and setting attainable short term and long term goals with students and their families.
Mary loves to help in the community and serves on the Special Needs Sports Board, volunteers with The Humane Society, and has helped to raise money to fund an accessible playground in Henderson County as well as to run Camp Cliffview, a special needs camp for children. She loves to be outdoors, read and spend time with her husband, Damian, and their children. Their favorite things to do are to go camping, hiking, travel to new places and to continue to learn new things. Mary is looking forward to joining the FernLeaf team so she can continue to push herself to serve children in the best way possible.
Eric Scheider, Music and Performing Arts Teacher
Eric grew up in Buffalo, NY, and lives in Asheville with his wife, Emily, and daughter Lily. He has been exploring music with children in WNC since 2005. He has taught in and then led the education programs of the Hendersonville Symphony and taught orchestra at the middle and high school level for the Henderson County Public Schools. Eric currently performs professionally as a cellist with the Cafe String Quartet, in several orchestras, and freelance around the WNC, Upstate SC, and Eastern Tennessee areas. His pop/rock/folk/jazz cello career has included performances with lots of awesome artists and recordings for MTV Films, NPR Music, WNCW Radio, and more.
Eric is also an active conductor who has worked with children, collegiate groups, and adults in WNC and Upstate SC in orchestral, festival, and theatrical performances and workshops, currently directing the Four Seasons Chamber Orchestra in Hendersonville and the Jubilee! Summer Orchestra in Asheville. He has arranged dozens of pieces for chamber groups and orchestras, and is a prize-winning composer.
In previous lives, he has worked in a vegetarian restaurant, green building, non-profit management, a meditation center, and as a yoga teacher, all of which he still thinks are fun. Eric has a BA in Philosophy from the University of Rochester and further Music Education licensure coursework from the Eastman School of Music, Berklee College of Music, University of the Arts, Western and East Carolina Universities and elsewhere.
Liz Wiesel, Art Teacher
Liz Wiesel comes to Fernleaf after teaching Art in Henderson County for the past 11 years. Originally from Michigan, she received her BFA, K-12 Art teaching license and certification from Michigan State University. During her time with Henderson County Public Schools she taught High school Art and Photography and earned her National Board Certification. When not actively making America smarter, Liz can be found wrangling her three kids, spending time with her dreamy husband, playing with her far-too-devoted-dogs, or managing her not-nearly-devoted enough cats and pet bunny. Liz is also a working artist focusing on painting, printmaking, and ceramic arts. Liz is a horrible but enthusiastic baker, an avid but self deprecating gardener, and an above average dancer. Liz is so excited to bring her love of art and creativity to the students of Fernleaf.
Administrative and Support Staff
Chad Camby, Building Custodian
Chad Camby is a WNC native and has worked with the Henderson County Public Schools for four years as a Custodian with Balfour Education Center, two of those as head Custodian. After working full time for HCPS in the maintenance department as a HVAC tech and part time in the evenings for FernLeaf for 8 months, Chad is now able to be at FernLeaf full time! He is thrilled to be part of the Fernleaf family and is incredibly grateful for everyone making him feel so welcome!
Michael Luplow, Director
Michael’s interest in educational policy, educational psychology, and creative approaches to teaching and learning were piqued while studying music education at the University of Illinois. Over the next 17 years, Michael had the opportunity to develop thoughtful, compassionate, and innovative approaches and programs in urban, suburban, and rural K-12 settings in Illinois and North Carolina schools as Director of Orchestras. This broad experience gave him a unique lense into the entire K-12 landscape and the possibilities for change within public education. He also recognized a personal strength in building programs and creating rich, positive, and meaningful experiences for children. After informally studying school leadership models and programs, he earned a master’s degree in Western Carolina’s unique entrepreneurship program, which provided a foundation better suited to his interests and passion for enacting meaningful change in the lives of children. After a failed attempt to launch a summer camp, which had the fortunate byproduct of allowing him and his wife, Molly, to raise their amazing children Bridget and Oscar on 30 beautiful acres in Mills River, he began planning for what would ultimately become FernLeaf Community Charter School.
When Michael is not scratching his head about the next big project and trying to change the world one school and one child at a time, he can be found somewhere in the woods with Molly, Bridget, and Oscar.
Molly Luplow, Director of Support Services
Molly is excited to be a part of the FernLeaf team! As one of the school’s founders, she has worked to support the development of FernLeaf behind the scenes for the past six years through committee and board involvement. Molly earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Iowa, and then a master’s degree in human services counseling. She is a licensed professional counselor, and holds a NC school counselor license. Molly’s background includes 17 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families in both the school and community setting. She is passionate about her own lifelong learning opportunities and applying her knowledge and experiences to develop student- and school-centered programs and supports. Molly has initiated and facilitated the development of a system-wide Crisis Response Team protocol in Henderson County in addition to the creation of the Henderson County Suicide Prevention Toolkit. She is an engaged member of her professional community with multiple published articles and frequent speaking engagements at the local and state levels.
Karie Martin, Administrative Assistant
Karie is a West Virginia native who relocated to Henderson County in 2014. She and her partner John have two daughters Lilie age 8, who will be attending third grade at FernLeaf & Violet age 3. Karie is a graduate of West Virginia State University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Prior to relocating to North Carolina, Karie served as Assistant to the Director for a statewide children's advocacy program for her home state of WV. She has worked as an administrative assistant in various settings over the years and is very excited to be in a supportive role here at FernLeaf!
Colleen Weber, Aftercare Administrative Coordinator
Colleen, and her husband Ed, moved to the Hendersonville area two years ago from Erie, Pennsylvania to spend more time with their four children and grandchildren, and to help their oldest son begin a local brewery.
While raising their children, Colleen decided to open an Home Day Care which she ran for 13 years. Now, Colleen can be found most morning at a local gym working out. Besides fitness some of Colleen’s favorite things are spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren (one at FernLeaf now, and the other will be there next year!), and exploring the many attractions that are available in the area.