Staff & Faculty

Administration/Staff

Natalie Bennett Admissions Director
nbennett@thefranklin.academy

(360) 733-1750 ext. 1509


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Education: Drake University, M.S. of Counseling; Washington State University, B.A. of History & B.S. of Psychology

Natalie Bennett joined The Franklin Academy community as the Admissions Director in January of 2014. She was born in the midwest, and her family relocated to Bellingham when she was entering 3rd Grade. Growing up, a middle child of four meant taking on the role of being a “harmonizer” between her siblings. An early youth transplant to Bellingham and a Sehome graduate, she has worked and traveled in a variety of locations before returning to her hometown. 

She holds undergraduate degrees in both History and B.S. Psychology from Washington State University and a Master’s degree in School Counseling from Drake University. As an undergraduate, she received both an Academic Achievement and Track & Field scholarship (GO Coug’s); was awarded a research grant to conduct a pilot program at The Tropical Health Foundation of India in Kerala, India. After undergraduate, she held positions in Student Life at two separate institutions: Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado (designated Hispanic Serving Institution) and Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa (midsized, private university). She has been devoted to service-learning efforts and teaching emerging leaders. Before returning to the northwest, she completed her graduate studies with an internship at Istanbul International Community School in Istanbul, Turkey (one of the world’s oldest international schools). In addition to admission responsibilities, she assists with some of the school’s marketing initiatives, student ambassadors, and has previously taught a career exploration course for students as they prepare for high school. When possible she enjoys volunteering or coaching the Middle School Cross-Country team, too.

She chose this school because of the friendly atmosphere and the small community environment and loves how much the school has grown and refined its programs in recent years. Thankfully, she had joyful experiences both working and attending independent schools after undergraduate, too. It’s her hope to integrate student-centered conversations into her admissions philosophy. She is grateful to be serving both students and families to create a smooth and positive experience as they explore and discern the best educational path, from inquiry through graduation from the school’s program and beyond.

In her free time, Natalie can be found spending time with her daughter and husband, wakesurfing, curled up reading a good book, hiking/fishing, volunteering in the community, or “attempting” to train for her next marathon.

One of her favorite things about her job: Volunteering to help with morning drop-off, which allows her to regularly greet and see kids with their parents/loved ones.

A favorite saying:  “Hope changes brain chemistry, which influences the decisions we make and the actions we take. Hopefulness must be pervasive, and every single student should be able to feel it, see it, and hear it daily.”  ~ Eric Jensen

Casey Brocato Director of Finance and Operations
cbrocato@thefranklin.academy

(360) 733-1750 ext. 1511


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Education: B.A. – Accounting; Western Washington University; Bellingham, WA

Casey began at The Franklin Academy in January 2020. Raised in Graham, WA, he graduated from Western Washington University with a BA in Accounting in 2014. Casey previously served as the Director of Finance & Administration at Cascades College & Career Academy and as an Operations Manager (Food and Bev) at Western Washington University. Since 2008 Casey has also committed time annually to Washington State Youth Conservation Camps, a not-for-profit organization located on Orcas Island in Moran State Park. Through this organization he has volunteered as a Leadership and Mountain Wilderness Instructor, teaching classes to 12-16-year-old boys and girls and delivering messages on the importance of natural resource conservation for future generations. 

When not working, Casey frequently spends time with friends and family and enjoys outdoor adventures hiking, kayaking, camping, or mountain biking all over the Pacific Northwest. He is also a drummer/musician and enjoys music of all types, formerly playing in multiple different genres of music with his twin brother. He is always enjoying all that Bellingham has to offer and is excited to join the community and positive culture at The Franklin Academy.

A favorite saying, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift.” – Steve Prefontaine

Gretchen Bucsko Head of School

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Education:University of Alaska Anchorage, M.ED Educational Leadership: Principal Certification K-8; University of Alaska Fairbanks, B.A. Elementary Education K-8

Gretchen Bucsko came to The Franklin Academy in 2014. She grew up in rural Alaska. When she was in high school, her small town ran out of classes for her to take, so they had her work as a teacher’s aid for elementary students. It was here that her passion for working with children first developed. She went on to receive her teaching certification and a degree in Elementary Education (K-8) from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Gretchen taught for many years in both Maine and Alaska, primarily 1st and 2nd grades. She received a master’s degree in Educational Leadership with a principal certificate from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She served as the lower school director at Pacific Northern Academy in Anchorage, Alaska, and at The Franklin Academy before becoming the Head of School at The Franklin Academy in 2019. She is glad to be part of such a welcoming community that truly values education. When she is not working, Gretchen enjoys exploring our area and spending time with her husband, her daughter, and Golden Retriever.

A favorite saying: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work” ~ Thomas Edison

Brekke Bull Middle School Social Studies Teacher, CANVAS Coordinator, and Hess House Advisor

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Education: M.Ed., Learning and Technology, Western Governors University
B.A., Elementary Education, Western Governors University
A.A.S., Whatcom Community College

Brekke Bull was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which inspired her love of living near the water. Over a decade ago, this love brought her on a new adventure to Bellingham. She has fallen in love with the wonderful people and bountiful natural beauty of the pacific northwest. Since becoming an educator, her love of mentoring and creating lifelong learners has been incredibly rewarding. Working with small class sizes at a community-based school is proving to be the perfect setting for Ms. Bull. She has a particular interest in meaningful technology integration and student-centered learning practices. The greatest reward for her is working to build keen-minded students who explore the world with an open heart and mind.

In her time away from school, she enjoys spending time with her son and Mom, who share her love of adventure. They can be frequently spotted exploring the shoreline and enjoying local farmer’s markets. Cooking, gardening, and spoiling the family dog Ollie are also cherished pastimes.

Favorite quote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

— Will Durant

Justin Buntemeyer Director of Services

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Justin was born and raised here in Washington and grew up across the water in Bremerton. He grew up playing baseball, drawing comics, and experimenting in the kitchen. Throughout his many years of both playing and coaching youth baseball, he developed a passion for helping and working with children. After graduating from Whatcom Community College he earned a degree in education from Bellevue University. Justin went on to work with youths in an educational capacity for various non-profits, including The Boys and Girls Club and YMCA where he created and led programs that were not only county wide but were recognized by the mayor.

Justin also has a strong passion for art. Drawing and comics and cartoons is what he’ll be doing the rest of his life!

When he’s not in the classroom, or in his studio, you can find Justin spending quality time with his two puppies, Dusty and Winnie, and his wife. He loves exploring the outdoors but is also a couch potato who loves to stay in and watch a good movie or TV show.

Katie C. Dement Development/Marketing Director

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Katie C. Dement was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. Having spent her childhood fly fishing with her father, she developed a passion for the outdoors. While attending the University of Nebraska, she co-instructed and led backpacking and rock-climbing trips and taught fly fishing, which ignited her enthusiasm for teaching and outdoor/adventure education. She transferred to Prescott College, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Education and a minor in Adventure Education. Katie’s zeal for education, the outdoors, and the sport of fishing lead her to co-establish the National Fishing in Schools Program (NFSP), a non-profit that provides schools with all the resources they need to implement fishing into their curriculum.

Katie moved to Bellingham in 2012, where she currently resides with her husband and two children, both of whom attend The Franklin Academy. Katie has always been impressed with the school’s philosophy, STEM education, and quality staff, so when the position of Development Director at The Franklin Academy presented itself, she was excited to contribute her skills and passion. She is honored to be a part of The Franklin Academy community as a mother and as an employee.

A favorite saying: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Julie Fife Lunch/Recess Aide


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Julie Fife is a Gonzaga University graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and a concentration in Human Resource Management. She is a wife, mother of three, and has experience teaching preschool. She loves running, biking, golfing with her family, reading, and cheering on her kids at sports. Julie is enjoying her time getting to know all of the students at the Franklin Academy.

Favorite Quote: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” 

Winnie the Pooh by A.A.Milne

Stephanie Fox Physical Education Specialist - Kindergarten through 8th Grade & Athletic Director

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Education:Trinity Western University, B.A. in Physical Education; Central Washington University, B.S in Physical Education and Health, Teaching Certificate, Endorsement in K-12 PE

Stephanie Fox grew up in Abbotsford, B.C. on a raspberry farm where she learned the value of hard work and the power of working together. From a very young age, she was involved with sports and athletics and it became something she found joy in.  She attended a private high school in B.C and went on to Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. for her college education where she was a part of the Women’s Basketball Program. It was on a sports ministry trip to Kenya, that she discovered her love for working with children and decided to pursue a career in teaching.  Following my time at TWU, she moved to Washington State and attended Central Washington University where she completed my teaching certification.

It was while attending CWU that she met my husband and we moved to Chewelah, WA where we spent ten years in youth ministry.  We had two of our children there and she spent time teaching in the local school district and coaching Volleyball, Basketball and Tennis. She moved back to Whatcom County in 2012 to be near family.

The 2019-20 academic year was her first year at The Franklin Academy and she enjoys the community here.   When she is am not teaching, she loves a good cup of coffee and hanging out with her husband, who is a pastor in Ferndale, and her three amazing children.

One of her favorite verses is, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”~Romans 15:13

Tania Grumbles Lunch/Recess Aide

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Education: Utah Valley State College, Associates Degree in Music

Tania Grumbles was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and met her Texan husband while attending the University of Lethbridge. They moved quite a bit while constructing power plants throughout the Western US and eventually settled in Ferndale. She is a mother of four beautiful gingers and two gorgeous dogs. Her talents include all aspects of music, teaching piano, and playing the organ for her church. In her spare time, she loves kayaking, cross stitching, crafts, drawing, painting, attending live theater performances, and traveling as a family. She also enjoys watching her kids play sports, including swimming, volleyball, orchestra, band, cross country, dance, and track meets. Watching kids learn and develop their talents brings her much joy in life.

Favorite Quote: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”- C.S. Lewis

Michelle Ho Lunch/Recess Aide


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Education:

Richard Bland College of William & Mary, Communication & Media Studies.

Michelle Ho was born in Staten Island, New York. She attended Richard Bland College of William & Mary with a major in Communications. She met her husband during her studies, who was active military at the time. They made Bellingham their home in May of 2018. Later that year their daughter Ellie was born, who is currently a student at Franklin. They were introduced to The Franklin Academy by Mrs. Ho, who is also Michelle’s Grandmother by marriage. 

Michelle loves being involved in the classroom and was even a Room Parent during her daughter’s first school year. She and her husband have grown to love Franklin’s sense of community and their values. 

 In her spare time, Michelle likes to hike with her family, take Barre classes, and craft with her Cricut. She is thrilled to be apart of the staff as a Lunch/Recess Aid!

A favorite saying: “Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”   – Maya Angelou

Teresa Hubbell BSN, RN School Nurse

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Education: Boise State University, B.S. in Nursing, College of Lake County, A.A.S. in Nursing; Western Washington University, B.A. in Anthropology with a Biocultural Concentration

Teresa Hubbell is a registered nurse who is committed to life-long learning and serving others. She began her study of nursing, while her husband was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois. Shortly after obtaining her RN license, they moved to Idaho where she pursued her BSN degree. From 2013-2019, she specialized in geriatric care and has experience in both long-term and long-term acute care facilities.

Born and raised in Washington, she has lived in many cities across the United States. Teresa has been able to visit a number of interesting places. Of those, her favorite was Washington, D.C. The Memorials, Museums, and sheer history of the city were an impressive, meaningful, and highly educational experience.

In 2017, she was excited to move back to the Pacific Northwest where Teresa and her husband welcomed their first child into the world. When she finds some free time, she enjoys spending it with her family, going on walks, reading, and baking. Teresa believes Fall is the best time of the year and she loves everything pumpkin!

A favorite saying, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ~ A.A. Milne

Melanie Hurley Associate Head of School

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Education: M.Ed., University of Sioux Falls, Educational Leadership and Reading Specialist K-12
B.S., Black Hills State University, Elementary Education, Middle School Minor (LA, Social Studies, Science)
Orton-Gillingham Certification

Melanie Hurley joined The Franklin Academy in 2021. She attended Black Hills State University in South Dakota where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Middle School Minor. She continued her education at The University of Sioux Fall obtaining a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and K-12 Reading Specialist. Teaching and learning are her passion. From helping school districts meet rigorous standards, while learning how to differentiate to best meet students’ needs, Melanie has coached new teachers as well as veteran teachers to meet students where they are academically. 

Melanie’s experiences over the past 20 years have been in teaching children, adults and in administration: this has afforded her incredible opportunities; presenting international conferences, coaching school districts, developing school wide STEM projects and curriculum, mentoring new teachers, implementing reading challenges, creating school and district events and summer reading programs. 

Melanie’s educational experience began as a General Educator then Title One and District Literacy Leader. She taught K-5 and was a district demonstration classroom teacher. Her experience ranges from classroom teacher, to professor, superintendent, Department of Education consultant and coach. She has worked at both private and public school settings using her drive, inspiration and creativity to work serving students.

Melanie Hurley loves the outdoors and her family. She has a daughter who is her best friend and what she calls her “everything.” Melanie loves skiing, hiking, kayaking, reading, singing, gardening and spending time with her family. She has a strong faith which guides her throughout her life. 

A favorite saying: “It’s not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts.: – Mother Teresa

Rachel Lee Administrative Assistant, Robin Hall
rlee@thefranklin.academy

(360) 738-3321 ext. 1101


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Rachel joined The Franklin Academy community in August 2003 as an Administrative Assistant.

Rachel was born and raised in Bellingham. After graduating from Sehome High School, she attended Washington State University, Western Washington University, and Whatcom Community College. With a strong desire to work with people and travel, she attended and graduated from S.S.T. Travel School. She was hired by The Travel Gallery, Inc., where she worked for, and then later became manager for ten years. During this time, she married her husband Brian Lee. After their first child, Lindsay was born, Rachel decided to be a stay-at-home mom. After the birth of their son Jacob, she then started doing some part-time general bookkeeping and work for Whatcom Travel.

When both of her children had started at The Franklin Academy, she began volunteering in the school office and in her child’s classroom. Rachel was an active member of the parent association “PALS”, where she volunteered for, coordinated, and chaired numerous auctions. Rachel also served on the school’s parent finance committee and served as Officer to PALS as Vice President 2002-2003 and President 2005-06.

When not working, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, going to the beach, and gardening.

A favorite saying: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” ~ Thomas A. Edison

Abbie Middleton Lunch/Recess/Aftercare Aide


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Abbie Middleton is a student at Western Washington University and is majoring in Speech Pathology and Anthropology. She loves doing crafts and spending time outdoors. She really likes spending time with the kids and getting to know them and enjoys working at The Franklin Academy.

Virginia Patterson Lunch/Recess/Aftercare Aide


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Virginia Patterson is a junior at Western Washington University. She’s studying communications, hoping to one day be a screenwriter or director. She enjoys the 60s / 70s music, trivia, and fashion. Her favorite part of working at Franklin is learning about the kids’ dreams, aspirations, and interests.

Jay Persinger Aftercare Aide


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Educational Background: Associate of Arts in Integrated Studies from Cascadia College.

Jay is a Junior at Western Washington University majoring in History with an interest in Cultural Anthropology. He loves spending time with his cats and helping out at Scout events over the summers. He hopes to become a History professor or an exhibit designer at a Smithsonian Museum. His favorite part about working with kids is playing games and doing crafts with them.

Favorite Quote: “Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential to give something back.” – Diana, Princess of Wales.

Dawn Regier Administrative Assistant, Markell Hall
dregier@thefranklin.academy

(360) 733-1750 ext. 1505


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Education: Taylor Business Institute, Executive Secretarial Degree

Dawn Regier joined The Franklin Academy team as the Upper School Administrative Assistant in December 2013.  She previously worked as an Office Administrator for a local civil engineering/land surveying firm, an Office Specialist for the City of Blaine Public Works Department, and for a short time as the Administrative Assistant at Whatcom Day Academy before joining the school family.

Dawn was born and raised in New Jersey and moved to Bellingham in 1989.  She currently lives in Bellingham with her husband, Jim, and is the proud grandmother of five children.

During her free time, Dawn likes to read, bicycle, hike, and watch all the Seahawks games!

A favorite saying: “Wrinkles will only go where the smiles have been.”  ~ Jimmy Buffett

Bruce Reid Network Administrator

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Education: Simon Fraser University, Canada, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

Mr. Reid has serviced the network and computer needs of the school all the way back to the first computer on Walnut St. in 1995.  He takes care of any computer, network, or other technology issues staff and students may have at either campus.  Email helpdesk@thefranklin.academy or speak to your campus’ administration assistant to report a problem or make a request.

Both of his daughters attended Little Epistles preschool and eventually graduated from Grade 8 and 9 at the formerly named St Paul’s Academy.  Later graduating from university thanks to their education from this wonderful school.

A favorite saying on his: “Earth is 30% land and 70% sailboat race course.”

Charanjit Toor Lunch/Recess Aide


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Along with working at the Franklin Academy, Charanjit has also been an employee at St. Joseph PeaceHealth Medical Center for the past 19 years. She is the mom of a student at The Franklin Academy. Charanjit loves spending time with family and enjoys talking with students as a part of Franklin Academy.

Aaron Walters Chaplain & Lunch/Recess Aide

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Education: B.A. (History, Secondary Education) – University of Northern Colorado, 2001
M.Div. – Trinity Western University, 2007

Aaron was born and raised in Colorado Springs; his mother was a career elementary teacher and his father a Jazz musician. Aaron met his wife Kate at university at Campus Crusade for Christ. After graduation, they spent a year in China teaching English. It was there that they discerned the path toward vocational ministry. This brought them to the Pacific Northwest and Trinity Western University, where Aaron received a Master’s of Divinity and was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church.

Aaron and Kate and a team of others started The Table church in 2010, serving the south side of Bellingham. Aaron continues to serve as pastor of The Table, as well as serving at Mosaic church in Bellingham. Along the way, Kate and Aaron had their three children – Montana, Amos, and Silas.

Aaron began serving as Chaplain at Franklin Academy in fall of 2019. His hope is to bring his love of Jesus and his desire to develop critical thinkers into chapel services at Franklin Academy. Aaron enjoys dialoguing about faith and different spiritual practices, with a variety of people and perspectives. He sees his role as chaplain at Franklin Academy as another aspect of his call to serve Bellingham.

He loves trail running, laughing, and listening to his family’s stories while eating Jalapeno chips by his wood stove. He loves hearing the ideas and creations of the students at Franklin.

Teachers

JoJo Belmont 2nd Grade Teacher

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Education: Western Washington University (WWU), B.A. in Language, Literacy and Culture; Teaching Certificate, Endorsement in K-8 Education, ELL and Reading

Jojo Belmont was raised in Longview Washington where her passion for teaching began. From there she traveled north to Bellingham where she earned her degree in elementary education. After studying in Bellingham, she fell in love and decided to make it a permanent stay. She has previously worked for the Meridian School District as a second grade teacher and this is her third year at The Franklin Academy. She is thankful for the opportunity to teach second grade again at Franklin Academy and is looking forward to all the memories that will be made. She has a love for teaching as well as learning.

Outside of the classroom, JoJo is married and lives in Glenhaven. The beautiful forest area is perfect for long walks with her husband and three dogs (Tumbi, Spoons and Gran-Gran).

Marie Brewin First Grade Teacher

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Education: University of British Columbia, B. Ed. with a concentration in Early Literacy, Endorsement in Elementary Education (K-7); Simon Fraser University, B.A. in English and Psychology.

Marie Brewin was born in British Columbia and attended Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, where she received a Bachelor of English with a minor in psychology. She then completed a Bachelor of Education with a literacy concentration at the University of British Columbia.

Marie has enjoyed teaching and learning in many different settings over the years. After graduating, she taught Pre-K in Maui, Hawaii for several years. In 2007, Marie moved to Bellingham and was excited to become part of The Franklin Academy family. She taught kindergarten, first grade, and third grade, before taking some time to be home with her children and running a small tutoring business. Beginning in 2014, Marie taught part-time at a local private middle school as the 7th and 8th grade math and science teacher. She enjoyed sharing a love for math and science and launching inquiry-based projects. Marie was also the science and social studies specialist at a private Bellingham elementary school, where she focused on fun, hands-on lessons. Marie was thrilled to return to teaching at The Franklin Academy in 2018 and enjoys the strong sense of community. Her own two children attend Franklin as well!

Marie’s goal in the classroom is to develop a relationship with each child and family and to guide the natural curiosity in each student.  Marie strives to create a positive classroom community where students have choices in their learning. She loves the creative ideas of young learners. Their enthusiasm is contagious and is a joy to be around!

When not in the classroom, Marie enjoys reading, paddle boarding in Birch Bay, making puns, and exploring at the beach with her husband and two children.

A favorite saying: “Truly wonderful, the mind of child is.” – Yoda

Sophia Camaya Preschool (3 Year Old Program, 3 Days a Week)

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Sophia was born in Saipan in the Mariana Island and then move up and down the East Coast living the military dependent life. Her father is a naval officer currently serving still. She attended Western Washington University earning a Bachelors in Multidisciplinary Studies with a Minor in English. She continued her education at Western Governors University earning a Master of Arts in Teaching English Literature (Secondary Education). She plans to further her education even more at the right time. She has worked at Franklin Academy since 2017 as recess aid and as a substitute.

Sophia believes that students thrive off of positive examples, relationships and reinforcement. It is her desire to instill goals for all her students and help them achieve them.

When not in the classroom, Sophia enjoys going to the barn to ride horses, hiking with her dog Spectra, or spending the evening at home with a good book.

 

A favorite saying:

“Because I think my ability to imagine my dreams in intricate detail is one of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to achieve them.” – Rachel Hollis

Megan Carr First Grade Teacher

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Education:

University of West Florida, Master of Education, Curriculum and Instruction
Boston College, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science and History

Megan Carr was born in Maryland into a military family and raised around the country.  Her family settled in Pensacola, Florida after her father retired. Raised with a sense of adventure she left Florida and attended Boston College and studied political science and history for her undergraduate degree.  While working at a preschool in college Megan found her passion for teaching and knew it would become her career.  After graduation she returned to Florida where she began substitute teaching while earning her master of education degree.  Upon completion of her education degree, Megan started teaching intensive reading to middle school students.  She continued teaching as her family moved around the country.  Megan settled in Washington with her family in 2017.  After taking several years to be at home with her children, she began substitute teaching for the local school districts.  In 2021 she became a movement and library specialist where she taught physical education, music, art and library to kindergarten through third grade students.  While Megan enjoyed her time as a specialist teacher she is excited to be at The Franklin Academy and teaching first grade. Megan strives to create a welcoming and inclusive classroom for all where students feel supported and valued.

Megan lives in Anacortes with her two daughters and labrador retriever.  When she’s not teaching Megan loves to explore the local trails and beaches with her children.  She also enjoys reading, baking, and cheering on all of the Seattle sports teams.

Favorite Saying: “See the light in others and treat them as if that’s all you can see.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

Greg Coulter Middle School Math/Tech/Economics/Engineering & Kaiser House Advisor for 7th/8th Grade

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Education:

BS in Environmental Science, Marine Ecology focus, and minor in Spanish from WWU.
Teaching Certificate from CWU

Greg was born in Washington and has lived in Whatcom County since moving to Blaine during elementary school. After graduating from Sehome High School, he attended two years at Carleton College in MN before transferring to WWU and receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science with a focus in Marine Ecology. After graduating college, Greg worked as a biologist at the Lummi Nation Shellfish hatchery before moving into life safety equipment manufacturing. Coming from a family of educators, he fulfilled his desire to support the youth within his community by volunteering with a variety of programming around bicycle use and maintenance before going on to receive his teaching certificate from CWU during the ‘19/’20 school year. He has taught 7th and 8th grade math as well as 9th grade algebra before coming to the Franklin Academy. Greg believes that every child can succeed to high levels, and works to make his classroom a warm and welcoming space where students practice growth mindset, creative problem solving, and develop skills that will help them be successful into their futures.

When he is not at work, he can be found engaging in a variety of outdoor pursuits, primarily riding bicycles and skiing in the Cascades.

Favorite quote:
“Remind yourself that the only thing you can truly control is you- and your reaction to what the world throws at you.” -Patrick M. Regan.

Elke Daugherty 4th Grade Teacher

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Elke Daugherty was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin.  She attended the other UW (UW-Madison) for her undergraduate studies receiving a B.A. in sociology and environmental studies and later an M.A. from the University of Michigan in urban planning.  She returned to UW- Madison to study ecological restoration and received her MS in Land Resources at the Institute of Environmental Studies at UW- Madison.  This shift brought her to Bellingham where she worked as a Natural Resources Planner for Whatcom County for several years.  Always intrigued by teaching, and feeling she was missing her true calling, she decided to take a risk and pursue a teaching career.  Having received her teaching certification through Western Washington University, she has taught in elementary and middle schools in Wisconsin and Mexico, and joined the Franklin Academy in 2022.

Ms. Daugherty enjoys many aspects of teaching, among them: helping students become independent and confident, fostering good work habits by seeing that ¨talented¨ people worked hard to achieve their success, and reading and discussing great books with her students.

When not teaching, Ms. Daugherty spends time with her husband and daughter.  She loves biking around Bellingham, and walking in the woods.  She also loves to putter in her yard and garden.

Favorite quote: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”  John Muir

Olivia Dizon Kindergarten

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Olivia Dizon was born and raised in the Philippines where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She started teaching as a First grade two months after she graduated from Holy Angel University. Her teaching experience grew across different grade levels for several years until she moved to the United States in December 2004. 

While working as a childcare teacher in Bellingham, Olivia went to Whatcom Community College at night, earning her Washington State K-12 Teaching Certificate. This led to work as a substitute teacher at various grade levels within both elementary and middle schools. This experience combined with her teaching in the Philippines allowed her to bring the best education practices of two cultures into the classroom, to help Olivia grow professionally, and to provide a wider range of learning opportunities to students. 

In September 2019, she began teaching Kindergarten at Franklin Academy. She moved into the position after teaching Pre-K classes since December 2011.

She enjoys engaging children in ways that help them grow emotionally, socially, academically, physically, and mentally. Being with the children is always a blessing for her and she is amazed at how their natural curiosity leads them to new learning. The children make her feel good with their laughter and hugs.

Olivia loves baking and cooking new recipes during her free time. She also likes to reading and painting and enjoys doing crafts such as knitting, crocheting, and sewing. Lately, opportunities to travel have captured her attention, she loves telling her students about different places she sees and the people she meets.

A favorite saying: “Well done is better than well said.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Anna Dudley 4th Grade Teacher

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Education: M.A.T. in Elementary Education from Western Governors University
B.A. from Western Washington University, major in Environmental Education, minor in English.
Anna Dudley was born in Tacoma, WA. She moved to Bellingham to attend Western Washington University, where she graduated with a degree in Environmental Education. The next 4 years, Anna worked for Bellingham City Parks, Washington State Parks, and Montana State Parks. In these positions she led school field trips, visited classrooms, and ran junior ranger programs. Dissatisfied with the amount of office time versus teaching time, Anna applied to work as a paraeducator in the Bellingham school district. She loved being in a classroom so she decided to get her Masters in Elementary Education while continuing to work in a special education program. Anna is very excited to be teaching at Franklin Academy.

Anna loves learning and helping students grow as critical thinkers. She values creativity, thoughtfulness, and kindness.

When not in school, Anna prefers being outdoors. She enjoys running, hiking, kayaking. Some of her favorite things to do are cooking with her husband, playing board games with friends, reading with her cat on her lap, and hanging out with her nephews and nieces.
Stephanie Fox Physical Education Specialist - Kindergarten through 8th Grade & Athletic Director

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Education:Trinity Western University, B.A. in Physical Education; Central Washington University, B.S in Physical Education and Health, Teaching Certificate, Endorsement in K-12 PE

Stephanie Fox grew up in Abbotsford, B.C. on a raspberry farm where she learned the value of hard work and the power of working together. From a very young age, she was involved with sports and athletics and it became something she found joy in.  She attended a private high school in B.C and went on to Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. for her college education where she was a part of the Women’s Basketball Program. It was on a sports ministry trip to Kenya, that she discovered her love for working with children and decided to pursue a career in teaching.  Following my time at TWU, she moved to Washington State and attended Central Washington University where she completed my teaching certification.

It was while attending CWU that she met my husband and we moved to Chewelah, WA where we spent ten years in youth ministry.  We had two of our children there and she spent time teaching in the local school district and coaching Volleyball, Basketball and Tennis. She moved back to Whatcom County in 2012 to be near family.

The 2019-20 academic year was her first year at The Franklin Academy and she enjoys the community here.   When she is am not teaching, she loves a good cup of coffee and hanging out with her husband, who is a pastor in Ferndale, and her three amazing children.

One of her favorite verses is, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”~Romans 15:13

Bre Harris Middle School Science Teacher & Ferlin House Advisor for 7th/8th

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Raised among the rugged Bitterroot Mountains, Bre spent her youth immersed in Ponderosa pine forests and rivers teeming with trout. She fell in love with the Pacific Northwest while studying Biology at Western Washington University. After graduating, Bre sought out a path that allowed her to facilitate meaningful connections in nature. Over the past three years she has served as an Environmental Educator with various nonprofit organizations including North Cascades Institute, North Olympic Salmon Coalition, and the Tahoe Environmental Research Center. Bre is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Teaching and Science Education. She is excited to continue her role as an educator and a mentor and looks forward to instilling student excitement and curiosity in the science classroom at The Franklin Academy. When not facilitating hands-on learning experiences, she can be found climbing in the Cascades, skiing amidst the shadow of Mt. Shuksan, riding her bike at Galbraith, or curled up drinking tea and reading a book near the bay.

Ole Hedahl Middle School Math and Coding


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Education: City University, M.A Curriculum and Instruction with and emphasis in Technology in the classroom; University of Washington, B.A. Mathematics Education

Ole Hedahl was born in Maryland to a military family and has lived in all parts of the country. When his father retired, they settled down in western Washington north of Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, where he earned a B.A. in Mathematics Education. Several years later, he completed his M.A. at City University in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Technology in the classroom.

The first twenty-five years of his teaching career were in Tahoma School District, southeast King County. Ole taught all levels of math in both the high school and middle school and served as department head of the math department. Ole then accepted a position in the Bellevue School District teaching computer technology classes, including AP Computer Science and business classes.

An opportunity arose to serve as a private school administrator of 450 students at his local church. When his wife found the “perfect job” in Wenatchee, he found a bilingual (Spanish/English) math position at the high school. His bilingual skills were then put to good use as an adjunct professor at the local college.

Recently, the Hedahls moved to the Bellingham area to be near relatives, including their grandchildren. Ole is very excited to work again in a private school setting where parents care for their children so much they are willing to commit time and resources for them. Ole enjoys hiking, biking and other outdoor activities.

A favorite saying:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5,6

Debbie Ho Preschool (3 Year Old Program, 5 Days a Week)

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Debbie Ho was born in Oregon, where she lived for only a short time. Her father’s work took her all over the world, and it was during these travels that she met and married her husband John.  In 1984 she moved to Bellingham with her family, and worked for First American Title Company until her second son Eric was born.  It was then she decided to attend Whatcom Community College.  Debbie graduated in June 2006 with an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She has been teaching preschool at The Franklin Academy since September 1999 and loves it! Debbie loves working with the children and their families.  She looks forward to helping children grow and progress.

When she is not teaching, Debbie and her husband John enjoy spending time with their grandchildren, visiting their son Eric who lives in L.A., and following their son Ryan’s music producing career.

As a teacher she especially loves working with the little ones and agrees with The Dalai Lama that, “Children are our greatest untapped resource.”  

Sarah Howe 3rd Grade Grade Teacher

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Education: BA Geography/Environmental Studies, Framingham State University, MAT Elementary Education, National Louis University

Sarah Howe grew up in Massachusetts where she also attended Framingham State University. After graduating with a Bachelors in Geography and Environmental Studies, Sarah joined AmeriCorps, a national service program. For three years, she served in various communities throughout the country.

During her time in Chicago, Sarah graduated with a Masters in Teaching in Elementary Education (K-8) from National Louis University. She started her teaching career in a 4th grade classroom at Francis W. Parker School. Sarah then taught in the Helena Public Schools in Montana as a Title 1 Reading and Math Teacher. For the past four years, Sarah has been teaching at Sonoma Country Day School in Santa Rosa, California. She has loved being a third grade teacher and is excited for the opportunity to teach third grade again at The Franklin Academy.

Sarah is a responsive educator, who values the diversity of students’ strengths. She believes in an inclusive, equitable, and democratic learning community where students can thrive and reach their full potential. Through building strong interpersonal relationships, Sarah strives to develop a positive teacher-student-family dynamic that will support students’ academic achievement, critical thinking skills, and social and emotional growth in a safe classroom.

When she is not teaching, Sarah is exploring her new hometown of Bellingham with her husband! She loves bouldering, biking, and is hoping to learn how to sea kayak. She also enjoys playing board games, listening to podcasts, and eating dessert!

A favorite saying: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Skye Hurley, Art Specialist Skye Hurley Art Specialist


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Ms. Skye Hurley has been a part of The Franklin Academy community since the Fall of 2021. She worked to develop Curriculum Maps for preschool through 8th grade, which will be implemented in 2022-2023. She aligned the maps to The Franklin Academy’s standards. 

Ms. Skye Hurley has been a teacher, nanny, camp leader, summer program advisor, Preschool teacher, reading program facilitator and art developer/designer for many years. Since birth Skye has grown up working and learning in schools alongside her mother; Melanie Hurley. Her first job was at 4 years old, helping her mom create and run the Summer Reading Program in Rapid City, South Dakota. Since then she has continued leading a life full of learning and educating. Included in this, Skye taught summer programs for children grades preschool through middle school. This program entailed developing and teaching lessons geared towards STEM and Art at an independent school in Atlanta, Georgia.

Ms. Skye Hurley has been immersed in many art domains and endevors. She has created t-shirt designs, logos, and fliers for the local music scene in South Dakota. She has presented and shown her work in stores and galleries. Her art mediums range from oil painting, to murals, and to creating custom rugs. As a life-long learner Skye is constantly learning new forms of art and implementing them into her belt of knowledge. 

Ms. Skye understands the importance of art in children’s lives. As it helps us grow through what we go through. Skye cannot wait to awaken joy and to encourage creativity!

Kristen Jeffrey Middle School Humanities & Hess House Advisor for 7th/8th

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Education: University of Washington, B.A. in English Literature; Seattle University, M.Ed. Adult Education and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

Kristen Jeffrey fell in love with teaching while working with international students in Seattle. She taught ESL in intensive English programs for years before transitioning into adult basic education where she taught high school completion and college bridge classes. In 2018, she relocated to Bellingham to be near family. After teaching for a year at a community college, she joined The Franklin Academy where she enjoys using her experience preparing students to be successful college learners to similarly equip middle schoolers.

Kristen believes in teaching students how to be life-long learners. She sees her role in the classroom as a facilitator and co-collaborator and finds that given the right guidance, students can step into an active role in their own learning.

When she’s not in the classroom, Kristen loves reading, practicing yoga, spending time with her husband and two kids, and exploring Bellingham, her new home town.

A favorite saying, “What we know matters but who we are matters more.”  ~ Brené Brown

Tawny Johnson Preschool (3 Year Old Program, 3 Days a Week) & Lunch/Recess Supervisor, and Aftercare Aide

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Education: Olympic College, Associate of Arts, earned 2016
Western Washington University, BA in English Creative Writing with Endorsement in Elementary Education, expected 2022

Tawny Johnson is currently a preschool teacher (M-W-F) and a Lunch/Recess Supervisor for Franklin Academy.

She was born and raised in Washington state. She moved to Bellingham, Washington in 2017 to pursue her education through Western Washington University. Tawny joined the staff at The Franklin Academy in 2021.

Tawny has always taken an interest in education and working with children. She participated in WWU’s Compass to Campus program, and has a background working as an Assistant Teacher and Substitute Para-Educator.

Tawny believes in fostering a creative, fun, and organized learning environment for her students. She is always encouraging them to reach their goals and build their confidence to learn every day. In general, she enjoys spending time with the students and making positive connections with each one she meets.

In her free time, Tawny enjoys spending time with her cat Flax, taking walks at local parks, baking treats for loved ones, and trying out local restaurants, and antiquing.

One of her favorite sayings:

“What could be more important than a little something to eat?” -Winnie the Pooh

Danielle Jorgensen 1st Grade Teacher

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Education: Western Washington University, B.A. in Education in Interdisciplinary Child Development, Endorsement in Elementary Education; Skagit Valley College, AAUCT Transfer Degree

Danielle Jorgensen has been teaching first grade at The Franklin Academy since 2007. After graduating from Lynden High School and later Skagit Valley College, she graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelors of Arts in Education degree in Interdisciplinary Child Development, with an endorsement in Elementary Education.

As a teacher, she believes it is her responsibility to create and maintain a comfortable classroom environment, where her students are able to grow both academically and socially.  Danielle’s goal is to make her students learning as enjoyable as possible, by using a variety of teaching methods and techniques.

When not at school, Danielle enjoys spending time with her husband, Trevor, and their son Treyden.  She also likes crafting and reading.

A favorite saying: “I think I can, I think I can!” ~The Little Engine That Could

Naomi Killian Pre-K (4 Year Old Program, 5 Days a Week)

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Education: Western Washington University, B.A. History and Education

Naomi was born in Bellingham, and has lived here her whole life.  She graduated from Western Washington University with a B.A. in History and Education.   Upon graduating from Western, Naomi decided to teach preschool, because at the time she was the parent of two preschoolers.  What started as a temporary job, has turned into 14 year career. She loves the fact that preschool is such a hands-on learning experience.  Naomi taught preschool in a co-op for many years and had the opportunity to develop an integrated preschool with the Bellingham School District. She joined our school in 2019.

Outside of school, Naomi enjoys hiking and camping with her husband Kevin, and her three kids.  They are rarely allowed to head out on hiking trips without their beloved lab puppy, who insists on tagging along.  As a family, they have a goal to hike in all the national parks.

One of Naomi’s favorite sayings is, “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” ~ Zig Zigler

Christine Lyzwinski 2nd Grade Teacher

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Education: Pepperdine University, Graduate School of Education and Psychology, M.A. Education, Certified K-8, K-12 Italian, K-12 French; Pepperdine University, Seaver College, B.A. International Studies, European Studies emphasis

Christine Lyzwinski was born and raised in Bellingham, WA.  She attended Pepperdine University and received a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies with an emphasis in European Studies.  She continued her education at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology where she obtained her K-8 teaching certificate and her Master of Arts in Education.  She taught four years of Kindergarten in Richmond, B.C., Canada and moved to the United States in 1998 where she taught a First and Second Grade class in the Burlington-Edison School District.  She also wrote and published a character education curriculum for Kindergarten aged children for the State of California.  Chris comes from a family of educators with her three sisters being elementary school teachers as well.  Her father taught at Western Washington University for over thirty years and instilled in her the love of being a lifetime learner and educator.

It is Chris’ belief that each and every child is special and capable.  It is her desire as an educator to instill in her students a love for learning that will continue on throughout their years in school and as an adult.  She strives to make her classroom a nurturing and fun hands-on learning environment and feels blessed to work with such wonderful families at St. Paul’s Academy.  Her daughter currently attends St. Paul’s Academy and she is thrilled to have the opportunity to teach in the school that has made such an impact on her children with its academic excellence.

When not in the classroom, Chris spends her free time with her husband, Piotr and her children, Cody and Téa.  The family loves to travel together and enjoys skiing at Mt. Baker during the winter.

A favorite saying: “Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom.”  ~ Oprah Winfrey

Linnea McDonnell Spanish Specialist for Preschool – 3rd Grade & Ershig House Advisor for 5th/6th

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Education: Western Washington University (WWU), B.A. in Psychology; WWU, B.A. in Communications; Teaching Certificate, Endorsement in K-8 Education

Linnea McDonnell began teaching at The Franklin Academy in 2006. She has spent time as a teacher in the Lower School, as well as the Middle School. Ms. McDonnell loves the school community! She loves the “family feel” and the warm and welcoming atmosphere at TFA.

Upon graduating from college, Linnea worked in the banking industry for 10 years, then decided that teaching was going to be her second and forever career! Back to school she went, knowing that she was embarking on a career that she would love!

Linnea enjoys many things about teaching, especially the “a-ha” moments that students receive when they realize something for the very first time! Read-alouds in all grade levels are another favorite of hers, as students listen with open ears, eager to discuss the stories with one another! The blessing of watching students learn and grow academically, as well as spiritually and emotionally, is a joy for Linnea.

Outside of school, Ms. McDonnell spends her time with family and friends. She can often be found visiting with loved ones over a cup of coffee, taking her nieces and nephew to the donut shop and scooter riding at the skate park, or walking at the beautiful Bellingham parks. If not there, she’s probably at the local bookstore finding that next great book, or playing “fetch” with her cat – yes, her cat plays fetch!

A favorite saying: “Live well, laugh often, love much.” ~ Author Unknown
Jared McMinn Middle School Math/Economics/Engineering & Ferlin House Advisor 5th/6th

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Education:B.A. from Western Washington University, Major in Elementary Education.

Jared McMinn came to The Franklin Academy in 2020. He grew up on the Olympic Peninsula in Sequim. After graduating high school, he was hired at the Boys and Girls Club. It was here that his passion for working with children was realized. He went on to receive his teaching certification and a degree in Elementary Education (K-8) from Western Washington University in 2019. Jared spent the last two school years primarily substituting for Bellingham School District middle schools while also teaching electives at Franklin Academy in 2020. He is ecstatic to be welcomed into a community that truly understands the value of education and the potential of our youth.

When he is not teaching, Jared serves as a football coach for Bellingham High School. Even though his position as a coach is time-consuming, he still finds time to enjoy the outdoors via hiking, camping, and fishing.

A favorite saying is: “smooth seas don’t make strong sailors”.

Alejandra Mellos Early Preschool (2 1/2 - 3 Year Old Program)

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Education: Normal de Educadoras Colegio Ensenada (School for Early Childhood Education), Tijuana B.C. Mexico
Southwestern College, Chula Vista CA; General Education, Major in Child Development Education Program

Alejandra Mellos started working at The Franklin Academy in 2018 and has been working as a preschool teacher for over twenty-five years. She volunteering in preschools at a very young age by helping her my older sisters who were preschool teachers. She was born and raised in the city of Tijuana, Mexico where her parents both worked as school principals (middle school, Dad, and elementary school, Mom). She is thankful that she grew up around classrooms, teachers, children, and everything related to schools and education.

She moved to the beautiful city of Bellingham, W.A. in June of 2018 with her husband of twenty-five years, and her two sons (24 & 19 years old). Her daughter is married, is in the Airforce and lives in Honolulu, Hawaii with her husband.

She is fluent in Spanish, knows folkloric dance, ballet, tap, jazz, Zumba, and yoga. All of these passions she likes to include in her curriculum planning and share with students. She has experience in Christian, private and public preschools as well for the school district, state, and Head Start programs. As a result, she is very excited to be part of The Franklin Academy family as a 2 1/2 year old teacher. You will discover very quickly that she is very passionate about she does. It is clear that she loves her job and she realizes the big responsibility of teaching each and every one of my students. She feels very blessed to wake up every morning feeling thankful to God for giving her a job that makes me happy and filled with great purpose!

Barbara Misday STEM/Science Instructor (K-4) & Hess House Advisor for 5th/6th

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Education: M.A.E.D. University of Phoenix Administration: Supervision and Leadership (K-12)
Literacy Specialist Certification (K-12)
B.S: University of Pittsburgh- Elementary Education (K-8), English Literature/Writing

Barbara Misday was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She attended the University of Pittsburgh and received a BS in Elementary Education. While at Pitt, she studied abroad and student taught in Birmingham, England. Barbara taught middle school for the Pittsburgh Public School District before moving to Las Vegas, Nevada to teach for the Clark County School District. Barbara’s teaching career in Vegas included teaching second, third and fourth grades, and serving as the remedial reading teacher and science specialist (K-5). She also opened a new school and served as the literacy specialist and learning strategist before moving up to administration.

Barbara was an assistant principal for less than two years before being appointed as Principal of Tomiyasu Elementary. Barbara served the Tomiyasu school community for six years, before she was recruited to serve as the Head of School at Sandy Searles Miller World IB School. Sandy Miller was designated the Number One Magnet School of America and received School of Excellence and School of Distinction by the Magnet Schools of America with Barbara as their Head of School. During the six years that Barbara was principal of Frank Kim Elementary achievement soared, and Frank Kim ES was designated a 5 -STAR, High Achieving School.

Barbara retired after 33 years with CCSD in 2014, and moved to Birch Bay, WA with her husband Tom. Her adult children, Sean and Kayla soon followed, and they now live in Seattle. Barbara soon missed working with children, so she started to work as a substitute teacher for the Blaine School District before coming to The Franklin Academy.

Barbara believes that every child wants to learn and can achieve. She works tirelessly to unlock each child’s potential and helps them realize and achieve their goals. Her classroom is a safe, happy place where mistakes are accepted and celebrated as a part of the learning process. Barbara creates a hand-on learning environment for her students and believes in an integrated subject approach to instruction to build connections and make learning more meaningful for her students. She is a lifelong learner and has enjoyed putting all that she learned as an administrator and teacher leader into practice in her classroom.

When not in the classroom, Barbara enjoys gardening, decorating, cooking, reading, watching the Seahawks and spending time with her pets (dogs Mickey and Pluto; her cat, Minnie). She loves to travel the world with her husband, Tom and her adult children, Sean and Kayla. Barbara finds her peaceful place on the water…boating, watching the sunset or walking along the rocky beach at Birch Bay, WA.

A favorite quote:

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. “

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Shelley Owen Early K, (4-5 Years Old, 5 Days a Week)

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Education: AAS in Biology Whatcom Community College, BS in Biology and Mathematics Western Washington University.

Shelley Owen was born and raised on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.  She moved to Bellingham to continue her education at both Whatcom Community College and Western Washington University.  In 2013, she graduated from Western with a B.S. in Biology and Mathematics. Shelley joined the staff at The Franklin Academy in October 2017 and she is a proud parent of a Franklin student.

Shelley is thankful for the opportunity to work in a nurturing and loving environment where children can learn and experience new challenges that will help to build their confidence.  She really enjoys seeing the benefits that a creative curriculum allows and is committed to helping children find the connection between the classroom and real-world experiences.

Outside of the classroom, Shelley and her family enjoy the many benefits that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. The family enjoys spending time together and making meaningful memories camping, swimming, bike riding, and exploring.

A favorite saying: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”Mary Poppins

Sinak Pickerill Pre-K (4 Year Old Program, 3 Days a Week)

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Education: Western Washington University, B.A. of Education and Whatcom Community College, A.A.S

Sinak Pickerill grew up in Wenatchee, Washington. Her family is also from Cambodia. Sinak attended Western Washington University and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. 

Sinak has worked with young aged children (two to five years old) for over 15 years. Sinak has always been passionate about helping and working with children. She enjoys seeing her students’ curiosity and imagination blossom at this young age. Sinak strives to make your child’s preschool experience positive and engaging. 

When Sinak is not at school, she enjoys spending time with her two sons, husband, and extended family. She loves to read all different genres, gardening, and enjoys going to the many beautiful parks around Whatcom County.

A favorite saying: “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind, the second way is to be kind, and the third way is to be kind.” ~  Mr. Rogers

Nickie Rail 3rd Grade Teacher

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Education: California State University San Marcos – Bachelors in Education, Minor in Visual and Performing Arts
CSUSM Teacher Credential Program – Arts Cohort
Concordia University, Irvine – Master’s in Educational Administration

Nickie Rail was born and raised in San Diego, CA.  She attended California State University San Marcos where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Education with a Minor in Visual and Performing Arts. 

She received her Teaching Credential from CSUSM and her Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Concordia University, Irvine.  She taught for 12 years in the Vista Unified School District in Southern California in grades Kindergarten through Fourth grade. Since moving to Bellingham in 2018, Nickie has worked as a substitute teacher and Reading Intervention Specialist in Bellingham Public Schools as well as a preschool and kindergarten teacher at The Franklin Academy.

She absolutely loves teaching and believes that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and stimulating atmosphere to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially.  As a teacher, she strives to be creative, enthusiastic, motivated, and inspired to help make connections between the content and her students’ lives. 

Nickie lives in Birchwood with her husband and two elementary aged kids.  She really enjoys exploring the beautiful nature the Pacific Northwest has to offer.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, swimming, reading, and cooking.

A favorite saying: “A teacher affects eternity; s/he can never tell where his/her influence stops.” – Henry Adams

Amber Richcreek 2nd Grade Teacher

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Education: Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood and Family Studies from the University of Washington. Master of Arts in Teaching: Elementary from Western Governors University

Amber spent her early childhood in Santa Barbara County, California, and teenage years in northwestern New Mexico, on the border of the Navajo reservation. After spending a year in Vancouver, Canada to attend film school, Amber moved to Seattle and spent a couple of years as a makeup artist for independent films. After working on a short film with child actors, Amber discovered that she preferred working with children over doing their makeup and decided to pursue a career in education.

Amber began working with children in 2007 as a preschool teacher. She continued working in early childhood until coming to The Franklin Academy as the Kindergarten-4th grade art teacher in the 2018-2019 school year. Working at TFA inspired Amber to return to school to obtain her Masters in Teaching in 2020.

When not at school, Amber can be found reading, practicing photography, and baking. She also spends plenty of time with her two sons Solomon and Apollo, and her husband John. Together they enjoy having movie nights, camping, and board games.

Favorite quotes:

“All grown-ups were once children…but only a few of them remember it.”-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Treasure Samuel Specialist - Library (K - 8th Grade)

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Treasure Samuel was born in Washington but raised in Oregon on a small farm with dogs, cats, birds, and pygmy goats. She attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where she studied English, History, Dance, Education, and How To Survive Lake Effect Snow When You Are From Oregon. She hightailed it back to Washington after college, where she taught high school Language Arts in Maple Valley. She also coached dance team and assisted in the direction and choreography of the middle school drama productions.  She moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington iSchool, and after earning her MLIS, Treasure was a children and teen librarian for Seattle Public Library. She took a number of years off to raise her two daughters and is excited to back working with classes of students. Both her daughters attend The Franklin Academy, and she loves seeing them thrive in the small classroom environment. When not at the library or reading, Treasure ferries her children around, plays with their rescue dog Bert, or plans her next travel adventure with her husband.

A favorite saying by Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliantgorgeoustalented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 

 

Grace Schmidt Middle School Math & Kaiser House Advisor for 5th/6th

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Born and raised in Bellingham, Grace Schmidt grew up with a love for all things Pacific Northwest. After graduating from Seattle Pacific University with a degree in psychology, she moved back to the area and worked as a legal assistant for several years. During this time, Grace frequently volunteered with children of all ages through her church, leading her to realize that her true passion was caring for and educating children and pursue her Masters of Arts in Teaching through Western Governors University.  For her internship, Grace had the incredible opportunity to complete her student teaching at The Franklin Academy.  She instantly felt a connection with the students, teachers, and families and is thrilled to now be working as a member of the staff.

When Grace is not in the classroom, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen, practicing classical guitar, traveling the world, or exploring our wonderful corner of the country with her husband, Daniel, and her dachshund, Spezi.

Lesley Smith Spanish Specialist for 4th – 8th Grade & Ershig House Advisor for 7th/8th

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Education: Seattle University, B.A. Spanish, Western Washington University, M.Ed

Lesley Smith joined The Franklin Academy in 2015. She was born in San Diego, California.  For the first 18 years of her life, she lived with a native Spanish speaker.  This was the starting point of her teaching career.  She graduated from Seattle University with a degree in Spanish, later moving to Bellingham to complete a Master’s degree in Education.  She has taught at the Franklin Academy for the last six years and is very excited to be part of the community once again. She finds the energy here contagious and hopes to inspire her students to love the Spanish language and culture.  Also, she wants to inspire students to travel abroad. She is a dedicated wife and mother.  In her free time, Lesley enjoys spending time outdoors.

A favorite saying is, “Fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds of distance run.” ~Rudyard  Kipling

Jennifer Snyder Specialist - Music (Preschool - 4th Grade)

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Education:Western Washington University, B.A. in Music Education

Mrs. Snyder has been a part of the school community since 2003.  She currently teaches general music for preschool through 5th grade, middle school band, and is the chapel pianist and librarian for the lower school.  She is also the director for the annual Nativity program.

Mrs. Snyder has always loved music.  Starting at age six, she took private lessons on the electric organ.  In 5th grade she joined band, choosing to play trombone, much to the amusement of the boys.  She later switched from organ to piano lessons in high school.

She received her BA in music education and her Professional Certification from Western Washington University.  At Western, she studied advanced trombone, piano and piano accompanying, and played in several groups including wind ensemble, trombone choir, and a brass quintet.

Some of the many things Mrs. Snyder loves about teaching music is hearing the children’s’ beautiful voices and watching their faces light up with excitement as they explore playing instruments, singing, dancing and creating music.  Her main teaching goal is to help students develop a life-long love of music.  Music can be enjoyed in so many ways and helps people live a more joyful life.

Outside of school, Mrs. Snyder enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and two black cats. She is a self-proclaimed crazy cat person, as many of her students are aware!

Jo TeVelde Pre-K (4 Year Old Program, 5 Days a Week)

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Education: Tidewater Community College, Associate of Science for Early Childhood Education along with a career certificate for Preschool (Graduated Magna Cum Laude)

Joanne (Jo) TeVelde joined the staff at The Franklin Academy in 2021.

She was born in Abbotsford, B.C Canada but raised in Sumas Washington. She went to the same high school as both her parents. Some of her favorite past times growing up were the following activities: playing sports, riding horses, and showing dairy cows.  After high school, she became a nanny for a military family. She worked for that same family for seven and a half years raising their two children starting when the first was only three months old.

When she’s not working with children, she enjoys riding her horse, playing softball, and working with the draft horses that you see every year at the Lynden Fair.

A favorite saying: You’ll never be bored when you try something new. There’s really no limit to what you can do.”  Dr. Seuss

Suzanne Yorks Kindergarten

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Education: M.A. Montana State University, Special Education (Learning Disabilities focus), B.A. Elementary Education, Native American option (high honors)

Suzanne Yorks was educated in a private/independent school for first and second grade so she understands first hand the value of small classes and a personalized learning environment. She is thrilled to be joining St. Paul’s Academy for the 2018-19 school year. She credits her early learning instructors for giving her an academic advantage, which led to her graduation early at age 16 from high school. Like the families at our school, education was very important to her parents, and careers were common topics. She knew by middle school that she wanted to become a veterinarian or a school teacher. Suzanne wanted other children to love school the way she does, and she chose education as her field. After received her Elementary Education degree she went on to teach for five years on the Crow Indian Reservation in Pryor, Montana. Some of her students had unusual difficulty in literacy, and she returned to college in Billings, Montana to gain insight and strategies. She received her Master’s Degree in Special Education, with a Learning Disabilities focus, in order to help children in the regular education classroom. She moved to Washington to be near her parents in Longview, and taught primary-level students for six years in Neah Bay. Suzanne moved to Bellingham to teach first grade with the Mount Baker District in 1993. She continued her education in teaching strategies with language acquisition programs: GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design), and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Suzanne then became a National Board Certified Teacher, as a generalist in Early Childhood Education.

It is Suzanne’s passion to make learning fascinating and accessible. She strongly believes that every child wants to succeed. The best strategy of all lies in the teamwork between student, teacher, and family. Suzanne is delighted to teach kindergarten at St. Paul’s Academy, as part of the wonderful team of parents and staff who support its high academic standards. Her goal is to lay the foundation for success with her kindergarteners so that they enjoy learning and become life-long learners, delighted to explore new ideas. Each child is unique, and their creativity and individuality is encouraged in a learning environment that is safe, fun, and caring.

Outside the classroom, Suzanne volunteers with the Master Gardeners’ Weed Garden at Hovander Park. She is a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) instructor and participant, and has her beginning level ham radio license. She enjoys the outdoors, and loves to learn about the local plants and animals (bird watching, scuba diving, tide pool life…). Her old border collie/lab mix accompanies her whenever she can.

A favorite quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “My best friend is the one who will get me a book I have not read.”