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.

AMY SCHMITTE

Teacher Assistant - Kinder

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...

KELLY ANDERSON

Teacher - Kinder

Kelly relocated to Western North Carolina in 2018 from the Green Mountains of Vermont. She grew up with an appreciation of the outdoors and is excited to continue exploring the mountains here. Kelly studied at both the University...

LAUNA TIERNEY

Teacher Assistant - Kinder

Launa joined the Fernleaf family from the Hendersonville Community Co-op. Her passion for nurturing children is not a new one. Originally from Michigan, Launa spent years nurturing children through Girl Scouts, coaching middle...

LUCY MACGREGOR

Teacher - Kinder

Lucy is deeply honored to spend her days with children. She is inspired daily by their love, curiosity, authenticity, and presence to life. While she is a guide to their learning at school, she is clear that each day, the children...

BILLY HOYLE

Teacher Assistant - 1st Grade

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...

JENN LOVE

Teacher - 1st Grade

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

Teacher - 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...

SARAH BACHLER

Teacher - 2nd Grade

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...

WHITNEY MEBANE

Teacher - 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...

ZACK JOHNSON

Teacher Assistant - 2nd Grade

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...

LESLIE PRESCOTT

Teacher - 3rd Grade

Leslie has been a part of the FernLeaf community since its inception. She grew up in Mobile, AL and graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. For over 20 years, she has been lucky enough to be a teacher in a variety of way...

ROBERT HINCHLIFFE

Teacher - 3rd Grade

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...

SARAH WEAVER

Teacher Assistant - 3rd Grade

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....

ASHLEY GREGG

Teacher - 4th 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...

TAYLOR CODDINGTON

Teacher - 4th Grade

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...

ALISSA CONTI

Teacher - 5th Grade

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...

CHRISTINE ANDREWS

Teacher - 5th Grade

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Chris has always had a passion for learning, but she didn't always know she wanted to be a teacher. She graduated with a BA in Psychology from the University of Maryland and then traveled to...

PORTER BELL

Teacher Assistant - 4th/5th Grade

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...

CELIA MELVILLE

Teacher - 6th/7th Grade

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.

ELEANORE BUSSE

Teacher - 6th/7th Grade

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...

JOE HARTLES

Teacher Assistant - 6th/7th Grade

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...

LAUREN STANFIELD

Teacher - 6th/7th Grade

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...

VIC WIESEL

Teacher - 6th/7th 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 ...

LEAH BANFORD

Intervention Coordinator

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...

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...

ALYSSA MOORE

EC Coordinator/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...

ANDREW MCCABE

EC Teacher

Andrew grew up in Hendersonville, and currently lives in Weaverville with his wife, two kids, and three dogs. He loves the outdoors, and enjoys fishing, gardening, boating, and hiking...

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...

LORNE KLEIN

EC Assistant

Lorne grew up in the city of Charlotte, NC but made frequent escapes to the woods to go camping, hiking, fishing, and any other outdoor activity he could find. After growing up in the city he decided to head to the mountains...

MARY TODY

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...

ERIC SCHEIDER

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...

LIZ WIESEL

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...

LUKE SHOFESTALL

STEM Teacher

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...

MARY RUTKOWSKI

Visual Arts and Outdoor 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...

CAITLIN RILEY

Afterschool Programing

Caitlin grew up in Minnesota, where she spent most of her time exploring the woods and lakes with her family. In college, she spent her summers working as a trip leader and cabin counselor at a small camp in Northern Minnesota...

BRYAN GILLETTE

Counselor

Bryan grew up among the cornfields and woods of northeastern Ohio, but his heart has always been in North Carolina. (There’s a song lyric in there somewhere.) During his yearly migrations to Sunset Beach with his extended family...

JOE HINCHLIFFE

Custodial/Maintenance Coordinator

Joe grew up in South Florida, but relocated to the Asheville area in 1994. He holds an Associate of Arts degree and is certified in early childhood education. Joe spent 14 years as a teacher and Child Enrichment...

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 at FernLeaf, Lilie and Violet. Karie is a graduate of West Virginia State University where she earned her...

KATHLEEN ASKEW

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...

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...

NICOLE RULE

Communications & Marketing 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...

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....

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.

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!