Faculty

Smith Coleman

Head of School Smith Coleman has never stopped growing as a learner. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Mary Washington in Economic History, a Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from EMU, and a Certificate in Educational Leadership from JMU, with Endorsements in Administration and Supervision (PreK-12), Specific Learning Disabilities (K-12) and Middle Education (4-8). Throughout his career, Smith has continued to take training and immerse himself in ideas about the best way to educate children, including courses in Responsive Classroom and Place-Based Education. Smith’s leadership style reflects his desire to inspire great teaching and to bring community and patience to all that school is. His educational philosophy is a student-focused vision, embracing diversity and community collaboration paired with love of learning. Smith’s experiential teaching background includes science and social studies for all kinds of students, and he has been a sustainable farming practices consultant for 15 years. He and his wife, Teresa, live in Albemarle County with their children, Olivia, a freshman at James Madison University, and Amos, a 2023 North Branch School graduate.

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Autum Fish Class of 1996

Administrator Autum Fish has come full circle at North Branch:  she began in the Nursery program, graduated from 8th grade in 1996, and she is now a parent to two NBS students. After graduation from Sweet Briar College in 2004, Autum spent 10 years in college admissions and financial aid. She loves helping families find the right fit for their children and welcoming new and returning families to the North Branch Community. Both of her children attend NBS.

 

 

 

 

 

Gerry Bernard

Preschool Director & Teacher Gerry Bernard has had many years of experience working with children and families in Nelson and surrounding counties. She started teaching preschool in 1983 at The Sunshine School in Shipman, VA, the first school started by Charlotte Zinsser Booth, founder of NBS. Gerry’s love for working with children has continued for over 30 years. She worked for 14 years as Therapeutic Day Treatment supervisor and clinician with Horizon Behavioral Health, and she provided support, psycho-education and therapy for children in Amherst County Public Schools. Before that, as Director of Nelson County Public Schools Bright Lights Program, Gerry developed and ran the before and after school programs, tutoring, and summer programs for elementary age students. She taught enrichment classes at Tye River and Rockfish River Elementary Schools, and created curricula for public and private enterprises that focused on exploration of culture, arts, science, and language. Inspiring others to explore and develop a love of learning has long been a passion.  Involvement in the community has included serving as President of Nelson County Education Foundation from 1995 – 2001,  and serving as a founding board member for the Blue Ridge Medical Center.  Gerry holds a BA in Psychology from Mary Baldwin College, and has an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education- Child Care Specialist from Piedmont VA Community College. Gerry loves living in the woods, embracing nature, and spending time with her 4 grandchildren.

Jeanine Beiber

Preschool Teacher Jeanine Beiber has been a teacher in the NBS preschool program for 10 years. Prior to teaching at North Branch, she worked at the university level in the prevention of violence against women and girls, then as an executive director of Virginia’s Sexual and Domestic Violence coalitions. In her earlier years she was the director of a child development center in West Virginia that offered care for children from infancy through kindergarten, as well as a program for children with special needs. What does she love about working with young children and families? As a parent of four children herself, she is very invested in parents finding good care and educational opportunities for their children, freeing them to effectively handle their jobs and lives; she very much values the opportunity to work with teams of staff to create top-rate programming; she really and truly enjoys preschool children’s enthusiasm for life and their curiosity about the universe. Jeanine was particularly drawn to North Branch because of the many opportunities for nature exploration that exist here. In addition to her teaching activities, she has spent numerous summers helping provide nature camps for young children. Over the years she and her partner have also welcomed varying groups of their 9 grandchildren to summer grandkids camps.  Jeanine has an undergraduate degree in education, a masters’ degrees in counseling/rehabilitation and a master’s degree in health promotion. She enjoys reading, walking with her dogs, singing with community choirs, creating healthy food, spending time with family and friends, gardening, and caring for the variety of farm animals that have been part of her life over the years. Voted a CharlottesvilleFamily Favorite preschool teacher in 2020 and 2021!

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Brianna Saby Class of 2000

Preschool Teacher Brianna Saby has deep roots that connect her to the North Branch community. She attended North Branch from 3rd through 8th grade and credits this time for her strength of self and desire to help others. After graduating from North Branch in 2000, she attended The Miller School of Albemarle  (2004), and then Virginia Tech (2008) where graduated with a degree in Human Development, focusing in Human Services. After graduation, Brianna began a career as a Activity and Wellness Director for an assisted living community in Leesburg, Virginia and there she discovered her love of teaching. She returned to the Afton area in 2015 with her husband, Mark when they were expecting their first child. Brianna has spent the years since raising her two children, Ari and Maya, to be curious about the world and kind to others. She is absolutely thrilled to return to the North Branch family and looks forward to bringing her skills to teaching and growing with the children of this wonderful community. In her time away from school, Brianna enjoys gathering with her family, planning her future gardens and playing with her chickens.

Genevieve Hoover Class of 2001

Early Primary Teacher Genevieve Hoover became a part of the North Branch family as a student when she was just 9 years old. After graduating in 2001, she went on to Nelson County High School and then continued her education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. There, she received a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies and graduated with a Masters in Teaching in 2011.  Genevieve was thrilled to start her first year of teaching back at North Branch and taught the Juniors class for 2 years. After a brief move to Athens, Georgia for some musical adventures, she returned to North Branch to teach in Early Primary. Most days her toddler Penelope joins Genevieve on the NBS campus.

 

 

 

Laura Coté

Early Primary & Primary Science Teacher Laura Coté is an experienced teacher having worked with students in a variety of settings. Most recently, Laura was the Assistant to the Director of preschool programs at St. Anne’s Belfield School. She was excited to help launch their outdoor program at the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. Before that, Laura was a Program Specialist at Ivy Creek School in Charlottesville for 7 years. While at Ivy Creek, she specialized in crisis intervention with emotionally dysregulated K-12 students and was the enrichment science teacher there. She remained a sub while completing her graduate program. Her Masters, completed at Goddard College VT, focused on outdoor education. She has served as an outdoor instructor for the Living Earth School here on the North Branch campus. Laura is passionate about cooking, music, and nature connection. Laura also has a deep love of art and enjoys painting and stone carving. She looks forward to tying all these qualities together while working with the early primary and primary groups.

Susan Butler

Primary Blue Teacher Susan Butler has been a part of the North Branch community for the past 12 years as a parent and for the past 6 years as an educator. She is a nurturer by nature, having worked as a CNA before bringing her warm personality and caring qualities to the students at North Branch. She previously hosted the NBS Wednesday Parent-Toddler Group—a fun, community-based space for toddlers and their caregivers (in pre-Covid times). This program offered Susan a unique opportunity to support and follow this group of children until their second-grade year at North Branch. She was a member of the NBS Preschool and Early Primary teams, and now teaches the Primary Blue class. Susan’s goal is to provide a nurturing presence and a solid academic foundation for her class. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and traveling with her family, and she loves to read. A desire to share her love of the written language prompted her to seek training in the Orton-Gillingham method, a multisensory phonics instruction for reading, which she uses to teach her students. Two of Susan’s children currently are NBS alums, and her youngest is part of our Upper School. Voted the #1 Charlottesville Family Favorite Preschool Teacher in 2020 and #1 Elementary School Teacher in 2022!

Abby Love

Primary Yellow Teacher Abby Love currently resides in Albemarle County, where she was born and raised, and has taught for the last decade. Abby taught third and fourth grade for seven years before becoming endorsed to teach the Fine Arts. As an Art Educator, Abby worked with grades Kindergarten through Eighth grade before becoming a stay at home mom and home educator to her two sons.  While home, Abby strengthened her homesteading skills and worked as a stained glass artist, attending local markets and art shows. Growing up in the Blue Ridge mountains, Abby has always been inspired by nature and enjoys bringing the outdoors in, and letting the seasons help direct her lessons. She is enthusiastic about both problem-based and project based learning and can’t wait to see what her class dreams up this year in Primary Yellow. She is thrilled to have her sons Jude and Cyrus enrolled at NBS> Being a part of the NBS community feels like a dream for the whole family. 

Heather Harris

 Juniors Teacher Heather Harris graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in Teaching. She taught 8th–12th grade English for 11 years before joining North Branch School as an administrator. Heather then became a part of the Juniors team, teaching reading, writing, Humanities, and music. Heather has a true passion for instilling a love of reading, helping students recognize the joy of expression through writing, and bringing history to life with hands-on projects that stimulate a student’s innate curiosity and imagination. Heather has also been a professional musician and loves singing, dancing, and theater. She enjoys teaching students to read music, and loves watching their enthusiasm as they discover the joy of making music. She is passionate about reading and writing, and has traveled all over the world. Both of Heather’s daughters are NBS graduates.

 

Karen Blackburn

Juniors and Art Teacher Karen Blackburn attended The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, receiving Bachelors in Psychology in 1989. After seven years working with adults and teens in an in-patient psychiatric setting, the last two years in the Art Therapy and Activities Therapy programs, she then spent several years as a store manager and window merchandiser for Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. In 1989 she got a job at The Hiroshima International School in Japan! She found her two years there teaching Art to Pre-K – 10th grade students to be so rewarding that she went back to school at JMU, earning a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts, and her Art teaching license certificate. For the next ten years, while raising her two children, both of whom attended NBS, she also taught Art part-time at NBS, and was a long-term sub at local elementary schools.  After teaching art full time at the Casablanca American School in Morocco, she and her son Russell returned to NBS.  While Russell graduated in 2018, Karen has continued as a Juniors teacher and Art teacher for Early Primary – Middle School. Karen uses a fully choice-based studio environment with a Teaching Artistic Behaviors (“TAB”) framework to provide each student with the tools, skill development, art education, and emotional support they need to fully express themselves artistically.  Karen is a member of the Virginia Art Education Association and has remained fully certified since 2001. 

Jill Fulmer

Juniors Teacher Jill Fulmer began her teaching career at Duke School, a model independent school in Durham, NC where she was trained to implement a learner-centered, project-based, integrated curriculum, similar to the program at NBS.  After switching gears and spending many years as an entrepreneur and business manager, Jill returned to the classroom in 2007 as a substitute teacher and leader of themed summer camp sessions before joining the Juniors team at North Branch in 2017.  Jill strives to immerse students in experiences that spark their natural curiosity and desire to learn.  She is passionate about sharing the beautiful patterns in mathematics in ways that excite students and help build their conceptual understanding, number sense, and fluency.  Jill enjoys taking daily walks through the woods and longer hikes when time and weather allow.  She always has an eye out for mushrooms along the way.

 

Tim Malloy

Seniors Teacher Tim Malloy is excited and humbled to be joining the faculty after having subbed quite a bit last year.  At Huntington Learning Center and Clayborne Education, he tutored students of all ages – guiding them back to grade level and beyond in reading, writing and math as well as working with high school students preparing for standardized tests. Helping discouraged students reconnect to their innate abilities and creating space for all learners to thrive are his favorite aspects of teaching. Tim enjoys cycling, hiking, skiing and cooking. He graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. His two children attend North Branch and his family lives in Waynesboro.

 

 

 

 

Taylor Blackburn

Seniors Teacher Taylor Blackburn has taught English and fine arts for sixteen years at the middle and high school levels. Motivated by a passion for helping kids find their voices as writers and develop their skills as readers, Taylor’s student-centered teaching style focuses on the play of the creative process, building community, and making connections across disciplines. She is thrilled to be a part of a school where students can be free to be curious and express themselves in an environment that honors and nurtures the whole child. She comes to school each day with her son Eamon who continues his North Branch career in Primary Yellow this year. Taylor enjoys integrating her personal interests in yoga, whole foods nutrition, and drama into her teaching and mentoring at NBS.

 

 

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Lindsey Osborne

Seniors Teacher Lindsey Osborne is excited to join the North Branch faculty as the Seniors’ Science and Music teacher. She attended North Branch as a 3 year old, and as a member of the Nelson County community, she has always loved and appreciated the holistic educational philosophy of the school. Lindsey has a Bachelors in Biology and Masters in Nursing from the University of Virginia. She most recently worked as a high-risk Labor & Delivery RN at UVA  and has experience as an Ayurvedic Health Coach and as a Reiki practitioner. Prior to her venture into healthcare, she owned and operated a horse boarding, training, and lesson facility in Nellysford where she coached students of all ages. She has also worked in large and small animal veterinary clinics and has volunteered with several wildlife programs. Lindsey brings extensive experience with the core science curriculum and a deep respect for the natural world. Lindsey loves to teach and learn- both of which have been common threads throughout her careers. Lindsey has never met a field of science she didn’t find fascinating. She’s most excited to cultivate students’ innate sense of curiosity through engaging students in asking questions and investigating the world around them. Musically speaking, Lindsey is a singer-songwriter and plays guitar and flute. She grew up singing in choir and playing music with her Dad. She has performed locally and regionally as a solo artist and with the dance and music group, Fire in the Belly. Lindsey is thrilled to be a part of the North Branch community with her boys, Owen and Theo, who will be in Primary Blue and Nursery.

Katrien Vance

Head Teacher/Middle School Teacher Katrien Vance, named CharlottesvilleFamily’s Favorite Teacher of 2019 and Favorite Middle School Teacher in 2020 and 2022, has taught reading, writing, math, and music to NBS Middle Schoolers since 1992. Starting in 2023, as Head Teacher, Katrien is also an advocate and resource for all NBS teachers, bringing a teacher’s eye to the North Branch experience. Daughter of two teachers and sister of two teachers, Katrien loves school. She did not love Middle School, however (did you?), and her goal is to make middle school engaging, fun, challenging, and confidence-building for all kinds of students. She has a BA from Williams College and an MA from Villanova, and she continues to educate herself in big and small ways about the best ways to reach students and lead teachers. She has been at NBS since 1992. Her two sons both went to NBS; one is a 2023 UVA graduate, and the other is in his sophomore year at Dickinson College.

 

Heather Weidner

Middle School Teacher Heather Weidner teaches Humanities and reading/writing to North Branch Middle School students.  She has a BA in English, history, and Medieval Studies from Swarthmore College and an MA and PhD in history from the University of Virginia.  She’s a historian of the early modern Atlantic world and of maritime and environmental history.  Heather taught history at the college level for 12 years before stepping away to write books.  A plot twist brought her to middle school at North Branch.  Both of her children attend North Branch. 

 

 

 

 

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Melanie Stine

Middle School Teacher Melanie Stine has worked as a scientist and teacher in a range of settings – she has performed research in Glacier National Park, Montana and on the wetlands in the mountains of West Virginia, and has shared her love of nature in teaching preschool age through the graduate level. Melanie has a B.S. in environmental science from Sweet Briar College, an M.S. from Virginia Tech, and a Ph.D. from Texas State University, where she focused her dissertation work on ecosystem change in mountain environments. She worked as a college professor at the University of Texas – San Antonio and at Sweet Briar College in Virginia before switching to work in private industry at an environmental consulting firm. Melanie is excited to return to teaching and sharing her passions for science and the environment with students at North Branch. Her son attends North Branch. 

Karina Ruiz

Upper School Spanish Language & Culture Teacher Karina Ruiz was born and raised in Santa Barbara, Honduras. She moved to the USA at the age of 15 with her family and attended Charlottesville High School. In 2017 she began working at the International School of Charlottesville, and also worked in the after school program and summer camps. In 2019 Karina began her bilingual associates program in child development while working with toddlers and preschoolers at the International School in Charlottesville. In 2021 she obtained a certificate in ADHD for elementary children. Karina has a true passion for working with North Branch students!  Helping each child progress in all areas of their development—academic, social, language, and motor – is a challenge that she is honored to accept daily. She strives to create a community of learners that nurtures this growth in a positive, fun environment, and loves sharing her native Spanish language and culture. Her greatest passion is her family. Karina has one son, Joshua. She loves to work with children, is a member of the dance group, Flor de Cana, and loves to hike and camp.

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Cibeles Ramos

Primary and Juniors Spanish Language and Culture Teacher Cibeles Ramos joins the NBS faculty this year to teach our younger students. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonnie Holliday

Development Director Bonnie Holliday has been affiliated with NBS as parent, teacher, administrator, or Board member since 1990.  She enjoys working with staff, parents, and Board members to expand North Branch’s programs in the areas of donor relations, foundation and corporate support, community outreach, special events, and marketing.  After attending Glenville State College in West Virginia and living in several cities, Bonnie discovered Nelson County and has called this beautiful area home since 1981.  Her previous work experiences in the area include Wintergreen Resort, Sweet Briar College, and the University of Virginia.  She currently serves on the Nelson Memorial Library Advisory Council and is a founding member of her book club of 27 years. She has two daughters, both of whom are graduates of NBS.