The Learning Community School l Asheville, NC l 828.686.3080

The Staff

Katherine Murphy

Executive Director

Katherine began her life at TLC in the fall of 2000 as a classroom teacher for grades 3/4. She is now the school’s Executive Director but still enjoys leading a few middle school math classes.  Ms. Katherine’s classroom is a multi-sensory, hands-on educational experience for all students. Math is taught through the use of manipulatives, games, and movement lessons. Katherine helps her students to create a rich, inquiry-based classroom, allowing each student to become fully engaged and enthusiastic about learning.

Holly Baumgartner

Administrative Director

Holly’s family became a part of the TLC family when her daughter entered 1st grade in the fall of 1999. Holly became an employee of the school in the fall of 2004 when her son entered Kindergarten, and has been on staff ever since. While her children have long since graduated TLC, Holly enjoys remaining in community with people dedicated to raising good human beings. Much of her time is spent managing business operations. 

Robin Jacobs

Office Manager

Robin joined the TLC community in the fall of 2012 as a TLC parent, with children in grades 1 and 4.  She began volunteering in the office and classroom, and then served on the TLC Board as a parent member from 2014 to 2017, and enjoyed serving as Facilities Committee Chair and working on TLC policy during that time.  Robin joined the TLC staff the fall of 2017 as a P.E. Teacher and Special Projects Coordinator. She has served on the silent auction committee since going the TLC Community and has served as organizer since.  Robin is an avid fitness geek with a background in playing and coaching soccer, is a black sash in ShaoLin Kung Fu and enjoys teaching Kung Fu and self-defense classes. She is an attorney and practiced locally with Pisgah Legal Services focusing on public benefits, disability and Medicaid services law, before taking a break from law.  In her spare time, Robin hangs out with her family — artist husband Fox, two amazing kids Fox and Jesse, and sweet puppy dog Panda.

Brandon Betz

K/8 Music Teacher; 4/5 Assistant Teacher

Brandon is thrilled to be at TLC! A graduate of Kent State University’s Music Education program, Brandon is passionate about music and the ways in which it encourages us to grow, form community, and express ourselves. In addition to teaching music, he assists in the 4/5 classroom and drives the bus! Mr. Brandon comes to us from Ohio and he enjoys hiking, reading books, cultural studies, creating new recipes, knitting, skiing, and puns.

Theresa Cote

K/8 Arts Integration

Theresa Cote has been a member of the TLC community since 2000 when her son, Max, entered Kindergarten. She volunteered with and then headed up the art program for many years before becoming a school employee. She also started TLC’s after-school art club. She has begun integrating art with the rest of the curriculum, which has been a major success. She continues to look for ways to add more art opportunities into TLC’s daily routine. Additionally, Ms. Theresa has designed, produced, and coordinated the costumes for all the musicals. You can check out some of her amazing handiwork on the “school musical” link. 

In her spare time, Theresa enjoys working own art projects, with a current focus on surface design. She lives in Swannanoa with her beloved cats.

Mitzi Prendergast

K/1 Lead Teacher

Mitzi has been the lead kindergarten and first grade teacher at TLC since the fall of 2001. She has four children and her youngest is a graduate of The Learning Community School. She loves teaching our youngest students to read. Mitzi has participated in many professional development classes and workshops for both Writer’s and Reader’s Workshop as well as specific phonics and reading programs. She completed training in the multi-sensory based Orton-Gillingham language education program and is excited to have so many fun and solid strategies to bring to the K/1 classroom.

Brookie Connell

2/3 Math and Science Teacher

Brookie is joining our team after living abroad in Costa Rica for the last decade. During this time, she helped open a new elementary school, design curriculum, and teach grades K-3 using a bilingual language structure. She also spent many years during this time teaching in an online environment. As a Georgia native, she spent her first five years teaching 5th grade in the Atlanta Public School classroom before making the move. This has given Brookie a rich and diverse background that she is excited to bring back to the classroom at TLC. 

Brookie is energetic, passionate, and knowledgeable. She has earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. In her classroom you might see students engaged in learning projects, delving into science experiments or integrating math into real-life situations. She has a love of learning and seeing the joy and spark of her students puts a huge smile on her face. 

Brookie is now settled in Asheville and loves calling the mountains home. In her free time, you will find her spending time in nature hiking and camping. She enjoys having a good book in one hand and a cup of joe in the other. Brookie loves to spend time with her friends and animals. 

David Bird

8th Lead Teacher; 6/7/8 Language Arts; 6/7/8 Spanish

David has taught a variety of subjects in a multitude of environments: from public schools and non-profits to his current position at TLC School. Teaching for more than ten years in traditional public schools left David looking for something more innovative and creative… a place where a student’s individuality is important and vital to learning. He currently teaches language arts, Spanish, and coaches for the Hospitality League teams at school. He has studied abroad in Madrid and travelled through Mexico. He received his National Board certification in Spanish in 2010 and is Orton-Gillingham trained. David’s passion with education begins with the culture inherent in a language; he seeks to create an environment rich with authentic resources and experiences.

Jeni Bittner-Hughey

4/5 Lead Teacher; 6/7/8 Global Studies, Language Arts, Social Justice, Applied Science; K-8 Service Learning Coordinator

Ms. Jeni completed her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education in 2002 at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and moved back home to the mountains of Asheville to start her teaching career while simultaneously earning multiple yoga certifications. Ms. Jeni immediately enjoyed the lively and varied environment at TLC since joining the community in 2012, which has pushed her to stretch herself in new ways each school year. TLC provides an engaging teaching environment by supporting innovative learning experiences for both students and teachers as learners, and is a great fit for her both personally and professionally. In her spare time, Ms. Jeni enjoys spending time hiking and climbing waterfalls with her daughter, and exploring all of the wonders of nature.

Tom Tracy

6/7/8 Language Arts; Musical Director

Tom has been around TLC since his son entered third grade in the fall of 1999. His daughter followed soon after and both children have long since graduated. Tom, however, was not allowed to leave and his graduation is still pending. Tom’s family is his main passion. He is married to his most excellent partner, Libba, and he enjoys watching his own children continue to blossom.

Tom received his Bachelor’s of Elementary Education at the University of Georgia and a Master’s in Early Childhood Education at Arizona State University. While his children were attending TLC, Tom helped introduce the Writing and Reading Workshop programs. He loves to create an environment where young people can express and explore themselves through their own writing and by delving deep into literature. He works hard to create a safe and rigorous community of writers and readers. Since being with TLC, Tom also took on the job of directing the all-school musical.

Isabel Winston

2/3 Homeroom and Language Arts Teacher

Isabel is from Wilmington, North Carolina but moved to the mountains in 2009 to study at Appalachian State University.  After graduating from college, she moved to northern Thailand where she ran an English tutoring company, and she taught all subjects to international students for three years.  In the classroom, Isabel focuses on providing a meaningful, diverse, and a hands-on learning experience.  In her spare time she likes to write and illustrate children’s books, cook, go camping, work in her garden, hike, play tennis, and play with her beloved cat, Turnip!  She is absolutely ecstatic to be working at TLC!

Noah Keener

7th Lead Teacher; 6/7/8 Math and Science

Originally from North Georgia and landing in WNC after leaving the northeast, Noah graduated from the University of North Georgia with a B.S. in biology and a minor in chemistry. While his interests are vast, science has always been his passion. He strives to make science and math more meaningful to students by engaging them in the benefits of scientific and mathematic endeavors in all disciplines and throughout life.

He believes there is as much value in failure as there is in success, as both are powerful teaching tools. His classroom is a community where students can talk about science openly and address misconceptions. Noah likes to teach by utilizing a hands-on approach called proof of concept, where investigations into scientific and mathematical principles ultimately lead to exploratory learning that stands to validate often abstract ideas.

When he isn’t teaching, Noah can usually be found playing with his kiddos, hiking, or cycling. 

Ben Fleming

PE Teacher; Outdoor Education Instructor

Ben is joining the TLC community along with two of his three sons as the PE and Outdoor Education Teacher. He grew up on the coast of SC and loved escaping to the mountains on family camping trips as a kid. Those trips led to work in WNC as a whitewater canoe program leader and environmental education instructor. 

Ben went further afield as a classroom teacher in Cali, Colombia and kayak instructor and raft guide in Ecuador. On his return to the US Ben was program director at a Florida non-profit working in Central America and the Caribbean.
Since arriving in Asheville Ben has devoted his time to raising three boys. He has held a variety of volunteer positions including soccer coach and Cub Scout Den leader. He looks forward to getting outdoors and active with the TLC community.

Maria Perez

Office Assistant; Classroom Assistant

Maria is so excited to be back at TLC! She is a TLC alum (class of 2014), and then went to the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville, graduating in 2019. She is currently a sophomore in college studying psychology with a concentration in pediatric development. Maria is excited to be on staff so she can finally eat lunch again with Ms. Katherine and Ms. Holly as she did each day when she was a TLC student! She is very happy to get back into the community and help out wherever she can.

Maddie Harms

K/5 Spanish Teacher

Maddie started as a student at TLC when she was four years old and there were only twenty students in the entire school. She went on to Asheville School for high school and DePauw University in Indiana for college. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish after spending time studying in both Cuba and Spain. After volunteering as a teaching assistant in a middle school during her undergraduate years, she has returned home to Asheville to teach Spanish, help out in other classes, as well as providing tutoring in math. Maddie enjoys working with some of the same teachers that shaped her by implementing the same hand- on and culturally inclusive work that she has for ten years.

On the weekends Maddie enjoys spending time outdoors with her dog hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, cooking, and lots of baking! She is super excited to be back at TLC, this time in the role of an educator.

Savannah Fredericks

WWC Intern

Savannah is currently attending Warren Wilson College majoring in Outdoor Leadership with a minor in Early Childhood Education. She is passionate about the outdoors and is excited to be working with TLC as an intern. She will be helping in the classroom as well as leading outdoor education lessons for students at TLC. In 2019, Savannah hiked 2,192 miles on the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. Since her thru hike of the AT, she has enjoyed hiking and spending time outdoors in New York, Colorado, and North Carolina. Savannah is excited to see and be a part of outdoor learning in action at TLC. 

A Community Striving For

Personal Growth

Talk it out

Everyone counts

Appreciations, not putdowns

Make it fair

Fostering A Culture Of


  • TLC is even more of a home this year than it used to be!


  • I would like to appreciate Mitzi for her calm, sweet, peaceful, and patient way in the K/1 classroom. She is the best!

    – Kiersten

  • I feel so grateful for this school. My kids come home happy each day!

    – Alexandra

  • We appreciate Kiersten for helping settle the K/1 classroom into their new handwashing routine each morning; John, Dan, and Meggan for helping in the morning carline; and Daisy for her office/recycling/trash support!

    -H and K



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The Learning Community

We would love to hear from you. We welcome visitors to our school for tours on select Wednesday mornings at 9:00.

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1220 Bee Tree Rd
Swannanoa, NC 28778