MEET OUR STAFF

ENRIQUE BALOYRA
Middle School Math

Enrique’s circuitous journey of learning and teaching has seen him follow his passion and curiosity all the way to TLC. He grew up in Chapel Hill, where he was a state champion swimmer. After graduating from the University of Miami, where he majored in anthropology and minored in history, he went on an archaeological dig in the French Périgord and saw the Caves of Lascaux in person. A veteran math teacher, he’s committed to creating memorable lessons that are experiences in critical thinking, the senses, and movement. Enrique has lived in Spain, Italy, and Germany and speaks several languages. 

HOLLY BAUMGARTNER
Operations 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.

Holly enjoys backpacking and caving, and is a long-time member of the Green Grass Cloggers.

DAVID BIRD

Academic Director; Middle School Language Arts

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 a decade 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 middle grades language arts, 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 Bio Pic

JENI BITTNER-HUGHEY
Structured Literacy Specialist; Student Support Coordinator; 34 Language Arts & Social Studies; 78 Language Arts & Social Studies

Jeni is a passionate and warm educator with an empathetic approach to teaching and learning—seeking to understand her students to best meet their needs. She brings a wealth of experience and has worked with students of all ages from babies to adults.  Jeni has taught in a wide variety of settings: international schools, pre-schools, yoga centers, parent-child programs, English as a Second Language, and through social justice. 

Teaching in an international school in Indonesia created a unique perspective that she brings with her into the classroom as well as her daily life. Her approach to teaching is at its core reflective, constructivist, and through a growth mindset. As a lifelong learner herself, she seeks understanding of her students and her content through compassion and curiosity. Jeni holds a Master’s Degree in Education and years of experience in meeting the needs of students with language-based learning differences, as well as second language learners. When not in the classroom, Jeni enjoys spending time in nature, and experiencing other cultures and perspectives through travel, dance, art, literature, and in meeting new friends of all ages. She is mom to a teen girl and one amazing, world-traveled, super-cat named Anzo. 

BROOKIE CONNELL
3/4 Math and Science

Brookie joined TLC after teaching abroad in Costa Rica for many years. 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. 

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. 

MADISEN DINGLE
Second Grade 

Madisen (she/her) is originally from Durham, North Carolina and comes from a family of educators. She received her B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Appalachian State University and has served in a variety of education roles over the years. Madisen has her QMHPC from working with children and adolescents in mental health settings and has been teaching for five years. She incorporates social-emotional learning and movement into everyday instruction. Madisen also teaches dance, gymnastics, and group fitness classes outside of TLC.

When not at school, Madisen loves dancing and spending time with her dog, Mowgli.

Kennedy Web pic copy

KENNEDY WESLEY

Classroom Assistant

Kennedy (she/her) is originally from Atlanta, GA. She attended the Asheville School for high school and since then has always wanted to return to Asheville, NC. She obtained a B.S. in Psychology and Communication Studies, as well as a M.S. in Counseling with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health. Throughout her time pursuing her higher education, she worked in school settings from pre-school/daycare to elementary/middle school in teacher assistant roles. In those experiences, she engaged in her passions of helping and supporting students and the community. She is excited to be able to engage in similar ways with the TLC and Asheville community. 

When not at TLC, she will be continuing to provide counseling services to GA residents online while pursuing her licensure to practice in NC, and enjoying all the beauty and comfort that the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Asheville community has to offer.

SHAWN SWARTZ
Facilities & Land Manager

Shawn is the father of two TLC graduates and is currently serving as Facilities and Land Manager. He has worked in natural resources management, construction, landscaping, and farming for three decades. He is a Licensed forester in North Carolina, has an AAS in Forest Management from  Haywood Community College, and a BS and MNR in Natural Resources from Oregon State University. Shawn spent 15 years as Forest Manager of Warren Wilson College where he mentored over 125 students. He is excited to maintain and improve all of the facilities on the campus, steward the land to health and as an outdoor classroom for the students, and to assist in the education of the students whenever needed. 

REGGIE HEADEN
Second Grade Classroom Assistant; Music

Reggie Headen is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. He has starred on Broadway at Town Hall’s “Rising Stars” and has done children’s theatre for Two Bean’s Production of  “Jack Sprat”.  After relocating to Western NC in 2018, he has been focusing on helping others become what he calls  a “fully embodied singer”, at his shows and in private lessons. Reggie’s excitement and joy for learning is evident in how he treats all students with care and respect . He believes whole heartedly that creativity is an integral piece to learning.

ROBIN JACOBS
Physical Education; Staff Training & Development

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 led and served on the silent auction committee. 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 and sweet puppy dog Panda.

NOAH KEENER
5/6 Math and 7/8 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. 

HEATHER KIPKA
Office Coordinator

Heather joined the TLC family in 2021 when her daughter started the 4th grade. She has been a valuable member of the TLC community; she’s been a weekly parent volunteer in the office, an Auction Team Leader, and more recently a member of the BEI Committee. Originally from Connecticut, Warren Wilson College brought her down to WNC where she earned a B.S. in Conservation Biology. She fell in love with the mountains and the people of this community and eventually settled down and started a family in Black Mountain. Heather is excited to be a part of an organization that shares many of her core beliefs and has hopes to help make positive changes for the future. When she is not at TLC, she loves going on outdoor adventures with her family, whether that’s camping, mountain biking, hiking, boating or trying something new!

LYMARIS LOPEZ
3rd-8th Grade Spanish

Lymaris was born and raised on the island of Puerto Rico. She graduated from the Bayamón Central University with a Bachelor Degree in Arts of Elementary and licensed by the Department of Education of Puerto Rico. She spent 5 years teaching on the island and also had a small business making sleepwear for private preschools. She moved to the United States in 2017 where she received her child care certification. 

In the classroom, she uses the method of learning by doing along with strategies that facilitate the acquisition of knowledge. She believes that each child is unique and has their own way of learning  
Lymaris enjoys nature and family time. 

CAT MONTGOMERY
School Counselor; SEL Facilitator

Cat (she/her) is so grateful to be joining the TLC family as the school counselor! Cat grew up in Asheville and attended Appalachian State University for her BSW, followed by Western Carolina University for her MSW. Cat is also working towards her LCSW and LCAS licensure. Cat is eager to work alongside students to navigate emotions, face challenges, explore their curiosities, and dance within the “brave zone” to grow and learn. When Cat isn’t working, she is usually frolicking in the woods, with her friends & family, or hanging out with her cat, Squash. 

KATHERINE MURPHY
Program Director; Middle School Math

Katherine began her life at TLC in the fall of 2000 as a classroom teacher for grades 3/4. She 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.

MAYA NEWSOME
Science

Maya was born and raised in Norfolk, VA. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in biology and environmental studies. After undergrad, she joined Americorps in Asheville where she traveled throughout the Southeast improving national and state parks. Her Americorps experience gained her experience in herbicide use, invasive species, carpentry, and chainsaw use.

When she is not working on her paper for grad school at Oregon State, she enjoys hiking, reading, gaming and gardening.

MITZI PRENDERGAST
K-2 Structured Literacy Specialist

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.

REBECCA ROBERTSON
Kindergarten & First Grade

Rebecca hails from Baltimore, MD where she worked as a Kindergarten Lead Teacher. She has worked as a teacher in various schools for over 6 years and is an integral member of the community! In addition to reading and writing in her free time, she enjoys working in her home art studio. She loves traveling with her husband and spending time outdoors to inspire her creative spirit!

JANE ROHRER
Orton-Gillingham Tutor

Jane Rohrer grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, where she also earned her Bachelors in English Literature from Franklin & Marshall College. Jane also holds an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry from UNC Wilmington, and an MA in English Composition from the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to working as a publishing poet, Ms. Jane has a diverse background as an educator; she has served in a multitude of roles including a Tour Guide at a historic mansion museum, a literacy tutor, and a university instructor! She is thrilled to have joined TLC, where she can provide a meaningful, high-impact, and inclusive learning experience to her 5th and 6th grade students. In her free time, Jane loves to hike, listen to music, write and read, and hang out with her dog and cats–Otis, Blue, and Frankie!

AMANDA GERWING
5/6 Language Arts & Social Studies

Amanda grew up outside of Chicago, IL before attending Appalachian State University for her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. After graduating, she spent many years teaching and leading students in outdoor and environmental education settings throughout the country. Through hands-on, experiential, and interactive lessons, she hopes to inspire students through curiosity and creativity. To her, there is nothing more exciting than seeing the look on a student’s face when they discover something new.

In her free time, you can find Amanda on her bike, paddling down a river, climbing rocks, or diving into a sewing project. Her dog, Mango, is always happy to tag along on her adventures. 

SOPHIE CARUSO

 

Sophie is thrilled to be a part of the TLC family! Originally from Louisiana, Sophie moved to New York City to study Theatre Arts and Art History at Marymount Manhattan College. She later moved to New Jersey where she spent the past few years teaching Pre-K 3, Pre-K 4, Kindergarten, and music, along with directing the lower school musicals. Sophie is so excited to be calling North Carolina home after years of spending her summers going to camp at Montreat. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her cat, Khaleesi, and go hiking.

ANDY UNGURIS
Outdoor Education

Andy grew up in a small Wisconsin suburb on the shores of Lake Michigan. He found an early passion for environmental education and science. At age 16, he was volunteering and teaching programs at a local Audubon nature center. Soon after, he studied environmental education and wildlife management at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Andy has taught environmental science to students of all ages, from kindergarten to college. He has worked in The Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Maine, coastal SC and Western North Carolina. He has a “hands on” approach to science and encourages his students to observe and always ask questions. He remembers how his mentors helped him and strives to pay it forward.

When not at TLC, you won’t find Andy. He is in the woods enjoying the wonders of nature

NIKKI YOUNG
Admissions; K-2 Spanish

Nikki was drawn to TLC by a passion for helping children discover their innate interests and abilities. She has over 20 years of experience working in public and private schools and non-profit educational settings. She enjoys inspiring a love of learning with lessons that are active, hands-on, experiential and infused with creativity and fun. She especially loves cultivating deep relationships with her students, colleagues, friends, and family. Nikki was born and raised in a small and vibrant community in Little Havana, Miami. She moved to Asheville with her husband and two children who are enrolled at TLC.  She loves being with her family, growing food year round, cooking big, hearty meals, knitting, dancing and discovering the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.

THERESA COTE
K-8 Art

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 staff member. She also started TLC’s after-school art club. She integrates art with the school’s curriculum and considers this a major piece to the program’s success. Additionally, Ms. Theresa has designed, produced, and coordinated the costumes for all the school’s colorful and vibrant musicals. 

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

ANNA WHITE
Kindergarten & First Grade Classroom Assistant

Originally from central Florida, Anna earned a Bachelor of Arts from Florida State University and has since worked as an art teacher and photographer. In addition to working as a photographer, Anna has worked with local art galleries to support makers far and wide.

For Anna, creativity is a bridge to many things–learning, cultivating community, navigating the every day, and so much more. She is thrilled to share authentic and meaningful experiences in the classroom with her students. 

In her free time, Anna loves to spend time outside in any capacity, draw with her beloved colored pencil set, and spend time in community. 

MIRANDA NORLIN
Summer Camp Director

Coming soon!