Faculty and Staff
Traveler. Dancer. Diver. Crafter. Hiker. Biker. Talker. Life-long learner. Teacher. Wife. Pet-lover. Friend. All of these describe the many facets, loves and pass times of this small town girl from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. From a young age, Jessica was always a scientist at heart. Her scientific endeavors involved worm colonies, driveway ponds explorations, compost piles, dumpster diving, and forest adventures. Jessica’s other love is writing. Still to this day she loves to share a good story with family and friends. Being from a small town encouraged Jessica to strike out and find what the Dixie Chicks called “Wide Open Spaces”. Her search for these open spaces took her to California, New Mexico, and Bolivia, before landing her gently at Two Rivers Community School in Boone. Through her travels and her studies, she learned Spanish which led her to meet her wonderful husband Michael, a life-long companion for her continued adventures. Jessica’s life goals include: visiting all fifty states, traveling on every continent, diving in the Galapagos Islands, and growing her own food on a farm with chickens and goats and her wonderful dog Inca chasing the other animals. Her favorite quote is “Not all who wander are lost.” Jessica loves to adventure and marvels at the wonderful discoveries she has made in her many local and global wanderings.
Jessica also loves to learn. Her undergraduate studies focused on environmental science, Spanish and international relations. She earned her teaching licensure and master’s degree from the University of New Mexico where she focused on science education and bilingual education at the elementary level. She is currently enrolled at Appalachian State in the doctoral program in Educational Leadership. Jessica taught at two different outdoor education schools and she taught fifth grade for eight years. Her last teaching position was in middle school science and Spanish. Jessica loves working with children to help them strive for their dreams. Being a life-long learner herself, she reminds her students to reach for the moon because even if they miss they’ll land among the stars.
Beth Vossen has been both the voice and the face of Two Rivers Community School. She has been the Administrative Assistant at TRCS since the first year of operation, August of 2005. She brings energy, humor and a commitment to honor the needs of others who pass through the doors of TRCS.
Beth is married to Glenn Randle, a local artist and they live in the Bethel Community and are the proud parents of Savanna Randle, an eighth grader at Two Rivers Community School. Beth enjoys swimming and jet skiing on Lake Norman, being with family and working together with Glenn to finish building their craftsman style home.
Vicki Meléndez Krueger (Founding Teacher) (pronounced Creeger)
Vicki was born in Ceiba, Puerto Rico and her first language was Spanish. She learned English when she went to school. Vicki had the calling to be a teacher since she was in fourth grade. She has been teaching Kindergarten at Two Rivers since the school’s beginning in 2005. She also teaches Kindergarten, 1st & 2nd grade Spanish and provides early morning care. She acquired her B. A. in Elementary Education from Columbia College in South Carolina and has worked the past 20 years with children in diverse settings to include teaching Children’s Choir and Sunday School, teaching at a Jewish Day school, as a teacher at Harmony School in Columbia South Carolina, a nanny, as a teaching assistant in summer school, translator, Dedicated Aide (Shadow) & Paraprofessional in Department of Defense Schools. Vicki loves her family! She and her husband Steve have four grown daughters, Stephanie Rae, Hilary Kay, Valerie Mae and Kimberly Fay, and one granddaughter, Olivia Kay. Vicki is a member of Boone First Presbyterian Church and enjoys leading worship, singing in the Praise and Worship band and singing in the Chancel Choir. She loves the ocean (Especially in Vieques, Puerto Rico) and loves the color yellow.
Dani is the Kindergarten Teacher Assistant and After School Coordinator at Two Rivers Community School. She is a native of Snellville, Georgia. She studied outdoor education at Georgia College and State University and worked the last four years at Buffalo Cove as a counselor. Dani loves physical fitness and primitive living skills and is an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys rock climbing, kayaking, hiking and skiing. She loves to travel. She has been to Thailand, Australia, Mexico, Canada and throughout the United States. She is excited for her first year at Two Rivers and feels lucky to be a part of the community.
Talia is the first grade teacher at Two Rivers Community School. She is a native of Pilot Mtn. North Carolina. This is her sixth year of teaching. She has taught kindergarten, first grade, and third grade. She is a lifelong learner who has a degree in Textile Products Design and Marketing from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. After realizing her heart was in working with children she went back to UNC-G and obtained a degree in Elementary Education. After teaching for a few years she decided that it was time to get her Master’s in Elementary Education at Appalachian State University. Talia is a music lover. It isn’t unusual to catch her singing and dancing to her favorite tunes. She also loves to travel. She has traveled all over the globe but her most favorite place that she has ever been is Treasure Beach, Jamaica where she and her husband got married. When she is not teaching she loves going to concerts, taking hikes and spending time with her husband, daughter, five dogs, and two cats.
Mimi has been with TRCS since the beginning. She started out as a volunteer in various classrooms as needed. She was hired as a Kindergarten assistant teacher working with Mrs. Vicki. Mimi graduated from the Kinder classroom (after three years) and moved to the multi-age classroom. Currently she is working in the second and third grades which is a pleasure because this means she is lucky enough to be working with some of these children since Kindergarten!
Mimi is a wife and mother. Zack in high school and Zoa in 7th grade at TRCS. You might not have known this about Mimi, but she loves acting and was in a lot of plays in high school and college. She also likes to be near water of any kind! Tennis is another love of hers! Tennis anyone???
Sandi supports Ms. Hope’s 1st grade class. Sandi Henry graduated from Central Michigan University with a BA in Elementary School Education and Art Education. She taught third grade at Bath Elementary School for four years before moving to Boone. She taught art at Appalachian Christian School for 18 years two days a week. She has written four art project books that were published by Ideals Publishing Company. She is a wife and mom to four children. She is an artist and an avid gardener. Sandi is currently working as a teacher assistant in first grade at TRCS.
Ali teaches 2nd grade at Two Rivers. Ali grew up in a gray house with a teal door and a small porch decorated by wind chimes. She breathed salt air and her playground was the beach. She disappeared into the woods behind her house for hours at a time to make mud pies, climb trees, explore and sit. The breeze moving through the forest, from tree to tree, is still her most comforting sound. Ali is a lover of the beach and mountains, traveling, running, good books and tea, ice cream, music, and games. She has a deep seeded love for the natural world and has always been a child at heart. These qualities led her to seek opportunities teaching students outdoors in experiential and playful ways. Her career began with the title of ‘naturalist’ in California and then Maine. Now she is ‘2nd grade teacher’ at Two Rivers Community School.
I am so excited to teach third grade and join the Two Rivers Community. I am a proud North Carolina native who grew up as a beach girl and city girl in Wrightsville Beach and Charlotte. I went to a tiny work study college in Asheville North Carolina where I discovered my love for children and science. I have travelled and worked as a naturalist, environmental educator, pottery instructor, and organic farmer. Recently I spent 8 years teaching as an Associate Teacher at another Expeditionary Learning school called Evergreen Community Charter while earning my teaching license. The path that led me here includes a lot of hard work and a little serendipity. I love travelling, hiking, fishing, dancing to live music, singing and pretending I can play guitar.
Michael Gelbart is the 4th grade and middle grades Spanish teacher at TRCS. He began his teaching career many years ago as a bilingual teacher in New Mexico and has spent over eight years as an elementary school teacher. He finds that teaching children keeps him young at heart, reminds him to take himself less seriously, and encourages him to be a more kind and patient person. When he isn’t surrounded by ten and eleven year olds, he enjoys hiking with his wife, Jessica, and his dog, Inca. He is also content when mountain biking, cross country skiing, scuba diving, cooking, reading, playing music and exploring beautiful places both near and far.
He has always been a traveler and an adventurer. Growing up in the middle of the country, he wanted to see more of what lay outside the small suburban community of Leawood, KS. Since leaving the “world’s bread basket,” he has lived in the South Western United States, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, and the Arctic. Other adventures have taken him through Europe, Central and South America, and parts of Asia. Through many years of wandering and adventuring he has come to the realization, that people everywhere are more similar than they are different, and that when we learn to communicate with others we not only learn more about them, but we also learn more about ourselves. Finally, he has learned that sometimes one must wander far to discover what lies in his own back yard.
Natalie is the 5th Grade Teacher. She comes to TRCS from Appalachian State University where she taught adjunct in the Psychology Department for the past thirteen years. After many hours volunteering in classrooms and leading science programs for children, Natalie decided to transition from teaching college students to working with children. Natalie’s interests in applying psychological theories to education led her to earn a doctorate in Cognitive Psychology with a minor in Developmental Psychology from the University of South Carolina. She has also taught a range of classes in psychology that are related to education.
Mark teaches middle grades language arts and social studies. In 2006, he graduated from ASU with a degree in Special Education. He will receive his Master’s in Educational Media Production, in 2013. Mark is a native of the high country, growing up in Avery county. He was in the Marine Corps for four years where he taught combat water survival, among other things. Mark has been to 8 different countries, ran two marathons, surfed a volcano and has a son (Harvest) and a daughter (Honor). Mark has been married to his beautiful wife, Kathryn, since 2003. In his free time, he enjoys photography, swimming, wrestling, running, history, making stuff, web tools, and hanging out with his wife.
Mark’s favorite story is by Sir Ken Robinson: a little girl who was in a drawing lesson, she was 6 and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” and the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.”
Leeann Cronk (Founding Teacher)
Leeann Cronk teaches middle school (grades 6-8) math at Two Rivers. She graduated from ASU in 1987 with a degree in High School Science Education. Within a year she had added Middle School Math and Middle School Science to her certification and since joining Two Rivers has also added Middle School Language Arts. Over the years, Leeann has taught in several public schools, a private school, and in the adult education programs offered at a community college and a prison. She also worked for three years at Duke University in the undergraduate chemistry labs as a laboratory preparator (which is not a real word, but is really what her job title was). Leeann’s favorite thing to do (when she’s not teaching middle schoolers) is to write, exercise, eat healthy, and lie about exercising and eating healthy. Leeann has published five novels and has four more in the works. She is married to Scott who is the Broker-in-Charge at Real Living Carolina Property. They live in West Jefferson and have two children.
Elissa Brown is a California gal originally, though her homes have spanned the globe before coming to Boone this year to teach middle school science and Spanish. Elissa graduated from Williams College, having studied Environmental Studies and Psychology with a focus on Education. With the belief that the natural world is one of the best science teachers, Elissa spent a year traveling and teaching in various experiential education programs — from Germany to Costa Rica to Namibia. In the states, Elissa has worked as an outdoor educator in Connecticut and a science apprentice at the High Mountain Institute in Colorado. One of her greatest accomplishments is leading a bicycle trip of high school students across the United States. She is excited to have adventures with her students this year; in the words of Magic School Bus science teacher Ms. Frizzle: “To take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”
Rachel Wood is our Guidance Counselor. She is one of Two Rivers’ founding teachers. In 2004 Rachel graduated from ASU with a degree in Middle Grades Education. Since then she has been working slowly on a Master’s in Professional School Counseling. She loves adventure sports, especially bouldering and snowboarding. If she won the lottery, she would do the following: 1- take some time off to backpack all over the world with her family, stopping at all the countries that are famous for their cheese; 2- come home and do all the work on her house that will probably not get done if she doesn’t win the lottery; 3- hire the Beastie Boys to be the entertainment for a party for her family and friends; 4- put some away for her daughter, Johanna; 5- give the rest away and go back to her normal life, which is pretty awesome without the millions!
Sallie spent her life moving all over the world, never staying anywhere for very long. Finally, she has found a home that she wants to stay in, here in the High Country. Teaching and family therapy have been her callings. She loves both! Children are extremely important to her, but she never realized how important until she had her own. She has 4 children- 3 girls and one boy. Only her youngest, Xander, is still at home and probably always will be. Xander has autism and has opened her eyes to love, patience, family dynamics and alternative methods of teaching and living. On a lighter note, she loves clothes and boots! She thinks that how we present ourselves, both in clothing and attitude, can have a huge impact on our own lives and others. She loves to make days brighter. TRCS has become her home. Working here is a pleasure, because of the students, the staff and the parents. Please feel free to contact her if she can be of help in any way.
Kelly Snider is Two Rivers’ Art Teacher. She graduated from East Tennessee State University in 2006 with a degree in fine art. She specialized in painting, but learned much about drawing, printmaking, ceramics, fibers, sculpture, and art history. This is her 6th year at TRCS. Some of her favorite projects here at Two Rivers have been the school mural (completed in 2008) and the annual student art shows at The Jones House in Boone. She was born and raised in the Bethel community of Western Watauga County. Kelly plays fiddle in a local old time band, The Sheets Family Band. She and her husband Ian live in Todd, where they grow vegetables and farm with the help of their team of Suffolk Punch draft horses, Jim and Frank.
Austin Pack (Founding Teacher)
Born within the throes of civil upheaval in the jungles of Borneo, Coach Pack used his indelible spirit and lightning quick legs to evade capture from tyrants run amok. This, as well as various occurring stories within the Coach Pack mythos, is unfounded and based on scant evidence, mainly the hearsay of his students. This Coach Pack character, of mediocre descent and no useful super powers, has a passion for running, bodyweight exercises, and guiding his students beyond their own perceived limits. He is engaged in constant research and self-experimentation to provide the most up-to-date and functional fitness methods to his classes. His alter ego wears glasses, is obsessed with used book stores and 80’s love songs, and answers quite simply to Austin (or Nitsua).
Cyndi Rapenske (Founding Teacher)
Cyndi Rapenske was invited by the founding Board of Directors to lead Brain Gym®, a movement- based program that is part of the Two Rivers Community School Charter. Cyndi is licensed by the Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym International. She has completed over 600 hours of coursework with the Edu-K Foundation including Brain Gym for Children with Special Needs, Brain Gym for Educators, Integration of Infant & Childhood Dynamic and Postural Reflexes, Movement Re-education, and Whole Brain Learning. Cyndi says her best training comes from working with the students. “The students’ ideas, needs, movement patterns and discoveries inspire me to share the activities and concepts of Brain Gym in new ways and with continued awe for how we learn.”
Cyndi’s experiences include working 15 years in Outdoor Education, facilitating adults and children in adventure programs, challenge courses, team building, and primitive living skills. She was a trainer and builder for Alpine Towers International for 9 of those years. Cyndi has co-instructed several courses at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching.
Cyndi loves swimming in her pond, farming sustainably, participating in Aboriginal Studies Programs at the Schiele Museum of Natural History, hiking, and being a lifelong learner of the natural world.
Joy Schlagal is Two Rivers’ Reading Specialist and Testing Coordinator. She has a Master’s in Reading and a B.A. in Anthropology/Archaeology, both from the University of Virginia. She is also certified to teach Permaculture Design, and for a year was a teacher in a nationwide NASA program that encouraged underserved children to pursue careers in the sciences. She taught as adjunct faculty for six years at Appalachian State and for one year at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay. For four years she taught high risk teens in a residential treatment center and was a Title I teacher before she came to Two Rivers. She is one of the co-authors of Houghton Mifflin’s English, the first K-8 text book series to teach the process approach to writing. She has sold two children’s stories to magazines and her writing has placed in several contests. She has also written a book and numerous short stories that all live in a cardboard box in her downstairs bedroom. A variety of past experiences makes for plenty of stories to tell, including work experience in a donut shop, a tire factory, the law library at U.Va., and a short stint as an EMT. She started one of the first certified organic farms in Watauga County and spent happy years milking goats, raising lambs and her three children, and selling eggs far and wide. In her past life (that means when she was younger), she jumped into a quarry full of garbage to save a drowning dog (he lived to be fifteen), chopped all her own firewood, and ran a five minute mile. She started doing yoga in high school, long before it was fashionable (“You’re going to get stuck like that,” her mother said.). Joy inherited her love of housekeeping, gardening, flowers, the natural world, and her green thumb from her mother; and her love of music from her father, who took her to a Hank Williams movie and then bought her first guitar, and later a mandolin. Joy has always loved reading and books, books, books. She knows that teaching children to read, many of whom believed they would never be able to read, is the greatest gift on earth!
Joanna Betts is Two Rivers’ Exceptional Children Teacher and after-school director. Joanna graduated from Appalachian State University in 2005 with a B.S. in special education and a minor in psychology. She worked at Grandfather Home for Children as a cottage worker and Grandfather Academy as the behavioral therapist before she joined Two Rivers in 2007. Ms. Jo as she is referred to by the students is from the Charlotte area originally, she came up to go to school and has never looked back. Ms. Jo enjoys being with friends, family and her two very energetic dogs.
William Stoudt is part of the After School Program at Two Rivers Community School. He was born in Montrose, Minnesota and moved with his family at the age of twelve to Boone, North Carolina. He attended Hardin Park Elementary School and graduated from Watauga High School in 2010. In addition to his job at Two Rivers, he works with his father doing various construction jobs around town. He enjoys spending his free time outdoors fishing and hiking.
Additional Support Staff and Contractors
Anne Vilen: ELS School Designer
Kathy Triplett: Speech Therapist