OUR TEAM

Our carefully selected staff are a passionate and energetic team whose top priority is to fulfill the FernLeaf Mission and Vision. We come from all over the United States and the world and offer a wealth of knowledge and experience to our community. Our diverse backgrounds help to make FernLeaf's community and culture vibrant and thriving.

WHITNEY MEBANE

Kindergarten Teacher

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...

CHRIS STANFIELD

Kindergarten Teacher

Chris' joy of teaching stems from two contributing factors. The first is his father. After retiring from the U.S. Army, his father went on to teach high school as his second career. Witnessing the impact he was able to have on his students was inspirational to Chris. Chris also admires a child's ability to learn...

NATALIE LATORRE

Kindergarten Teacher

Natalie is an advocate for young children with a passion for environmental education and mindfulness in early childhood. She believes in nurturing the whole child with an emphasis on the unique spirit of each individual. Natalie has 17 years of teaching experience from birth to 2nd grade and everything in...

ANDREA LARSEN

Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

Andrea grew up in Muskegon, MI, which meant that much of her childhood was spent in the water. For the past six years, Andrea has been working in the early childhood education field. First, as a lead in a toddler classroom and most recently...

MOLLY SACKETT

Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

Molly grew up attending summer camps in Hendersonville and fell in love with the mountains of North Carolina. She studied psychology and education at Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee and knew immediately that she wanted to live and work here in WNC...

JENNIFER O'GORMAN

Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

Jennifer graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor's in Psychology. She is currently working on her Master's in Elementary Education. Jennifer has been working with preschool age children (2-5 years old) for the last 3 years where she realized her passion for teaching...

JENN LOVE

1st Grade Teacher

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...

MICHELE CORRAL

1st Grade Teacher

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...

XAVIER LATORRE

1st Grade Assistant Teacher

Xavier has a love of sharing art, foraging, plant identification and life skills with children. He is bilingual and holds a degree in Art. He has 6 years of experience working with children ages 3 to 3rd grade at Asheville City Schools...

SARAH BACHLER

2nd Grade Teacher

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...

LEAH BANFORD

2nd Grade Teacher

Originally from Georgia, Leah came to North Carolina from Colorado in 2020, where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies and Elementary Education at Western State College in 2008. Leah has spent the last 11...

ZACK JOHNSON

2nd Grade Assistant Teacher

Zack grew up in Williamsburg, VA and spent most of his adult life in Charleston, SC. He fell in love with the mountains on an anniversary trip and finally moved to the Hendersonville area in 2014...

TAYLOR CODDINGTON

3rd Grade Teacher

Taylor grew up here, in Asheville, Bent Creek to be exact. He completed elementary, middle, and high school in Enka/Candler and attended church most Sundays and Wednesdays in West Asheville. He completed his bachelor’s degree...

LISA SPALDING

3rd Grade Teacher

Lisa is delighted to become a part of the FernLeaf community. She's especially excited to work with fourth graders! Lisa grew up in Winter Park, FL and moved to Raleigh, NC in 1990. She's been an educator for 34 years teaching elementary school for 15 years in multiple grades and then becoming an administrator...

ROBERT HINCHLIFFE

4th Grade Teacher

Robert grew up in western North Carolina and moved only a couple hours north to complete his degree in Elementary Education at Appalachian State University. He loves the mountains we live in and all of the adventures they have...

EMILY MORENO

4th Grade Teacher

Emily grew up in NW Ohio on a llama farm. After graduating she moved to NC where she lived and taught in the Raleigh area. She loves being in nature which is what drew her to call the mountains home...

BILLY HOYLE

3rd & 4th Grade Assistant Teacher

Billy was born in Marion, North Carolina, but now calls Asheville home with his wife, Ginny, and Bunnies, Ollie and Piper. He went to Appalachian State University for his Bachelor Degree in Recreation Management. He has been...

VIC WIESEL

5th & 6th Grade Social Studies Teacher

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 ...

ALEXIS HINCHLIFFE

5th & 6th Grade Literacy Teacher

Alexis has found a home in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina for the past four years after relocating there to obtain her degree in Middle Grades Education at Appalachian State University. She is excited to remain in the mountains as she moves to Hendersonville to join...

AHMED ALDOSSARY

5th & 6th Grade Science Teacher

Ahmed was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. After completing his bachelor’s degree in geology, Ahmed worked for the largest oil company in Saudi Arabia for several years and would most times be out in the desert or on off-shore oil rigs analyzing the soil samples and advising the drilling efforts...

TANYA PRATER

5th & 6th Grade Math Teacher

Tanya began her career as an Environmental Educator on the coast of South Carolina after completing her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston. She took a short break from education to do research with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources before moving...

PORTER BELL

5th & 6th Grade Assistant Teacher

A native North Carolinian, Porter has recently relocated from Raleigh to Asheville. However, as she puts it, she’s lived in western North Carolina all her life. Porter’s mother was born and grew up in Franklin where she...

ELLIE BUSSE

7th & 8th Grade Science Teacher

Ellie worked as an environmental geologist for the EPA before starting a career in teaching. She grew up in Atlanta, GA but has moved around since her adult years. She returned to North Carolina after living on the west coast...

LAUREN STANFIELD

7th & 8th Grade Literacy Teacher

Lauren grew up in Hendersonville and appreciates her home even more every time she visits a new, beautiful place. She attended Queens University of Charlotte, double majoring in music and French, and went to deepen her knowledge...

CELIA MELVILLE

7th & 8th Grade Math Teacher

Celia is extremely happy to become a part of the Fernleaf community. She was born and raised in South Africa and has various degrees ranging from Political Science, Philosophy, and Business.

ANDY WALLACE

7th & 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Andy is excited to join the FernLeaf community. He has many years of experience as a Language Arts and Social Studies teacher in independent and charter schools. With a focus on building authentic relationships with students, Andy creates a space for students to develop their unique voices...

RHETT REGISTER

7th & 8th Grade Assistant Teacher

Rhett was born and raised in North Florida, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of North Florida. He taught English for five years — two years teaching middle school English in Jacksonville, Florida, and three years as an assistant language teacher in Miyazaki, Japan...

SARAH KIDSTON

Intervention Coordinator

Born and raised in Western North Carolina trekking through the Pisgah National Forest, Sarah began her teaching career in Brevard. After teaching for 3 years in NC she decided to pack her bags and see what the world had to offer. She then spent the next 7 years in Seoul, South Korea working at an international...

LORNA FESTA

Intervention Assistant

Lorna is partner to David and mother to Luca (human) and Oscar (cat). She comes from an Italian American family that relocated to Greenville, SC from Newark, NJ. As a child, Lorna enjoyed writing stories, playing music (piano...

CONNIE DENNING

EC Director

Connie is so excited to be a part of the FernLeaf family. She is a native North Carolinian and grew up near the Outer Banks. She and her husband have lived in the mountains for about six years. They live on a lake and enjoy being outside kayaking, paddle boarding, and hiking with our dog, Derby...

ALYSSA MOORE

EC 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...

LISA JONES

EC Teacher

Lisa grew up in Minnesota and graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in English and Studio Art. She moved to Olympia, WA to serve as an AmeriCorps member and then to Thailand to teach with the U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer...

VALERIE MYERS

EC Teacher

Valerie was born in Indiana, but has also lived in eastern West Virginia, eastern North Carolina, and Anchorage Alaska before settling down in Fletcher, North Carolina with her husband and 3 children. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Liberty University and a Master’s degree in Special...

MARY HANSON

EC 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...

ADRIANA HERNANDEZ

EC Assistant

Adriana was raised in Asheville, NC, where her childhood spent in the mountains of western North Carolina, fostered a love of the outdoors. She is currently working to earn her degree in Civil Engineering...

KRISTIN INGULFSEN

EC Assistant

Born in Mission Hospital, Kristin is an Asheville native. She is working towards her degree in Elementary and Special Education K-12 at Western Governors University. She is excited to be a part of FernLeaf’s community and is especially passionate about the outdoor curriculum...

BRADY HURLEY

EC Assistant

Brady relocated to Asheville in 2020 from Aspen, Colorado, where he lived and explored the Rocky Mountains for over 20 years. The last nine of those were spent supporting students with disabilities as a paraprofessional, connecting, teaching, and learning with students ages 10 to 14.

JOE HARTLES

Behavior Support Specialist

Joe is from the United Kingdom and moved to North Carolina in 2007 after completing his bachelor's degree in Outdoor Studies. After hearing bluegrass music for the first time he knew this was home. Joe has extensive experience...

MARY RUTKOWSKI

K-4 Visual Arts & Environmental Education Teacher

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...

LIZ WIESEL

5th - 8th Grade Visual Arts Teacher

Liz Wiesel came to Fernleaf in 2017 after teaching Art in Henderson County for 11 years. Originally from Michigan, she received her BFA, K-12 Art teaching license, and certification from Michigan State University. During...

ERIC SCHEIDER

Music & 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...

LUKE SHOFESTALL

STEM Teacher & Upper Grades Interventionist

Luke is also known as “Murphy’s dad” to many in the Fernleaf community. His son Murphy has been enrolled in Fernleaf since 2016 and has been able to thrive in such a wonderful environment and community. Luke graduated from...

ALISSA ARRINGTON

Athletic Director & Physical Education Teacher

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...

WILL HINCHLIFFE

Adventure Sports Coordinator & Environmental Science Teacher

Will grew up in Western NC before attending NC State University, earning a BS in Geology. He has worked in research, including water quality management in the Piedmont as well as landslide monitoring in the Green River Gorge. Ultimately he fell in love with teaching as a STEM instructor at West Virginia...

HANNAH CHARBEL

Spanish Teacher

Hannah was born and raised near Dayton, Ohio. After graduating from high school, she then moved to Southeast Ohio to attend Ohio University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Education and a Master’s Degree in Critical Studies. Upon graduating, Hannah moved to Spain to teach English for...

HANNA LEDFORD

Extended Care Coordinator

Hanna is a western North Carolina native who grew up spending the weekends camping, hiking, and finding swimming holes. She attended UNC Asheville and graduated in 2019 with a BA in psychology. She has worked with children with special needs for over five years in a variety of community, clinic, and...

SHANNON FRAZIER

Extended Care Assistant

Shannon Frazier was born in Durham, NC but was raised in Ohio and Delaware. She moved to Johnson City, TN after high school to be near her family. Shannon graduated from East Tennessee State University with a BA in Mass Communications with emphasis in Advertising and a minor in Art.

ALEXANDRA MILLS

Extended Care Assistant

Alexandra Mills was born in Asheville but soon moved to Summerville, SC (near Charleston) when she was 2 years old. She grew up in Charleston and moved back to the mountains when she started middle school. She attended Hendersonville middle and high school and graduated in 2021.

SARAH WEAVER

Administrative 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....

KOREY ALFRED

Lower Grades Counselor

Korey and his wife moved to North Carolina from Utah in 2021. Originally from Montana, he loves nature, people, and encouraging others. His favorite activities include learning peoples’ stories, reading good books, and dabbling in all the foreign languages.

DAVID CRAIG

Upper Grades Counselor

David Craig is a husband to his amazing wife, father of two wonderful boys, and a resident of Western Carolina for more than 20 years. He loves the outdoors, good books, playing and feeling useful...

JEFF BANFORD

Custodian/Maintenance Director

Jeff grew up in Brattleboro, VT. His love of the mountains and snowboarding brought him to Crested Butte, CO in 1998, where he lived and worked in the ski industry as a maintenance manager for the next 22 years, until he moved from the Rockies to the Appalachians in the summer of 2020.

MICHAEL LUPLOW

Executive 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...

MOLLY LUPLOW

Director

As one of the school’s founders, she has worked to support the development of FernLeaf behind the scenes since 2013 through committee and board involvement. Molly earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Iowa, and...

KATHLEEN ASKEW

School Director

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...

SCOTT MCDONALD

Chief Financial Officer

Scott considers himself a rare breed of "interesting" accountant. He got his business degree with a minor in chemistry from UNC Chapel Hill. Not knowing what to do after graduation, he went back for his Masters in Accounting....

NICOLE RULE

Communications, Marketing & Events Coordinator

Nicole grew up in Michigan, met her partner in Chicago and moved to WNC in 2002 for a literacy tutoring and service learning project assignment with AmeriCorps. She then went to Western Carolina to get her Masters in Physical Therapy...

RICKY BISHOP

Bus Driver

Ricky was born, raised, and educated, in Henderson County, NC. He graduated from East Henderson High, is US Air Force veteran, and retired after 30 years of service as a deputy sheriff in Henderson County.

JEFREY WISHARD

Bus Driver

Jefrey is currently retired from years of working with the Federal Government. His background is in aviation, logistics, ministry, construction and transportation. Jefrey is currently pursuing a second act.

DAVID ELMORE

Bus Driver

David Elmore, affectionately known as Elmo was born, raised, and educated in Henderson County. He graduated from Edneyville High School and retired from Henderson County Public Schools after 30 years of service as a bus driver. He likes football, Nascar, and hanging out with friends.

AMBER

Social and Emotional Support Expert

Amber joined the FernLeaf team in 2019 and has been supporting staff, students, and families in innumerable ways ever since!

POPPI AND GEORGE

Social and Emotional Support Expert

Think of them like emotional support bunnies crossed with furry companions that provide students the important experience of learning responsibility and care for animals.