Head of School and Head Teacher Charlotte Zinsser Booth began assisting in nursery school programs at 16, while apprenticed to the New Jersey Ballet Company. After receiving an Associate of Arts Degree from Simon’s Rock of Bard College in Theater & Dance, she worked in the Sweet Briar College Nursery and Kindergarten while studying Movement for Children and continuing to study modern dance. Charlotte obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Development Psychology from Sarah Lawrence College while becoming certified to teach preschool-eighth grade, and she has continued to work with children ages 3-14, and to dance, for the last three decades in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Virginia. She is the founder of North Branch School, mother of three NBS graduates, and currently works with Seniors on Reading and Music, Juniors in Music, Music and Movement to the Primary classes, Physical Skills with all ages, while costuming and directing plays with everyone. As Head of School, Charlotte is responsible for admissions decisions, class groupings, and curriculum coordination. She loves every minute of it!
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 a young NBS student. 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.
Preschool Teacher Jeanine Beiber came to North Branch having finished a 20-year career working in the prevention of violence against women and girls. She is excited about having the opportunity to work with young children in an environment that supports the development of the whole child. Believing that children are strongly connected with the earth, she looks forward to participating in the many opportunities children at North Branch have for interacting with and honoring nature—thereby learning to value themselves and others. In her earlier life, Jeanine worked for 15 years in the field of early childhood education– as a parent educator and the director of a child-development program. For ten years, she and her partner have hosted a summer camp for their eight grandchildren in which they sing and develop skits, explore the wonders of nature in central Virginia, discuss the merits of understanding nutrition as they prepare meals together, and learn lessons in negotiating life’s challenges. Jeanine’s degrees are in education, counseling, and health promotion.
Preschool Teacher Susan Butler has been a part of the North Branch family community since her eldest started in the Preschool Program 7 years ago. For the past 2 years she has had the joy of running the Wednesday Parent/Toddler Group program, which is free to all and has given her the opportunity to make new friendships. This year she joins the team of amazing teachers that guide our youngest with caring and knowledge. All three of Susan’s children attend NBS.
Preschool Teacher Toni Ranieri’s attention to the personal development of each child creates an environment for individuality to shine. She has strong interests in conflict resolution skills and science/nature studies that come into play in the classroom every day. These talents, combined with her Bachelor’s degree in Recreation, lead students into active engagement in the learning process. During her many years of working at North Branch as a Preschool, Juniors, and Science teacher, she has also worked summers in nature programs at Montessori, Wintergreen, and Camp Dogwood. Recently Toni took a sabbatical in which she explored a variety of academic programs, including teaching children in Guatemala and South Korea, working in a summer remedial reading program, and teaching Educational Psychology online for National University. During this period she also earned her MA in Teaching from Mary Baldwin College. Toni enjoys being with the children of North Branch, sharing all she has learned. Toni’s two daughters both graduated from NBS.
Early Primary Teacher and Preschool Coordinator Jessie Hudson’s relationship with North Branch began in 1992, when she began attending as a 7th grader. After her two years at NBS, Jessie attended Nelson County High school, and then began her studies at Virginia Tech, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services and then a Master’s degree in Human Development. Following VT, Jessie worked for several years as a Social Worker finding ‘forever homes” for foster children. In 2007, she graduated from Converse College with an MAT in Early Childhood Education and is currently certified to teach children grades PK-3rd in Virginia. Jessie returned to NBS in 2009 wearing the many hats of a faculty member, alumni, sister, and parent of two NBS students. She is honored to be at North Branch, and loves, loves, loves watching children make discoveries about how things work.
Early Primary Teacher Genevieve Dennis 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 is back at North Branch and very excited to be teaming up with Jessie for what is sure to be a wonderful year in Early Primary.
Primary I Teacher Krista Crocker received her B.A. in Elementary Education from Rollins College and an M.A. in Elementary Guidance at the University of South Florida. She taught elementary school in Florida before becoming involved with a parent co-op preschool and then the Nelson County homeschooling community. Now in her 10th year at NBS, Krista has shared her commitment to a whole language approach to reading instruction, and her delight in fostering independent learning from a young age. She has three children, all of whom are NBS graduates.
Primary II Teacher Summer Barnett received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Family Studies from James Madison University, where she was inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching from Mary Baldwin College, and was honored with the 2015 Outstanding Woman Scholar Education Award, and membership in Delta Kappa Gamma, the International Society of Key Women Educators. Summer is certified to teach students in grades PK-6th in Virginia. She has over ten years of experience working with children from diverse backgrounds, as well as four years developing curriculum and teaching in her own classroom. Summer has also served as Director for an after-school program and a therapeutic recreation camp; an Instructional Assistant in a public school, and a Therapeutic Behavioral Specialist, in which she supported children with behavioral and emotional challenges in the school setting. Summer’s research and experiences with children have led to her strong belief in the importance of a caring learning environment, characterized by positive student-teacher relationships and a classroom community, inquiry-based instructional strategies, and differentiation.
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 taking time to stay at home with her daughters. She also has been a musician and loves singing, dancing, and theater. She has a great love of reading, writing, traveling, and hearty laughter. Her daughters, Kiki and Sophia, attend NBS.
Juniors and Art Teacher Karen Blackburn joined NBS in the fall of 2013. Karen came to teaching relatively late in life. 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 taught Pre-K – 10th grade students at The Hiroshima International School in Japan from 1998- 2000. She found that experience to be so fun and rewarding that she went to JMU and earned a second Bachelor’s degree, this time in Fine Arts, as well as completing her art teaching licensure requirements. For the next ten years, while raising her two children, who both attended NBS for Preschool, she also taught art to Juniors at NBS for a year and took long-term substitute positions in art at both Rockfish River Elementary School and Brownsville Elementary School. Her last full-time position was in 2011-12 at the Casablanca American School in Morocco, teaching art to international students, in grades K – 8th. At NBS, Karen uses a fully choice-based classroom environment to introduce art materials, skill development, and art history around a Teaching Artistic Behaviors (“TAB”) framework. She says that “working at North Branch feels like a dream finally come true!”
Seniors Teacher Maggie Buchanan earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Environmental Education from Cornell, her M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Smith College and an M.Ed. in Science Education from the University of Massachusetts. She has been working with 10- to 14-year-olds for over 25 years in a variety of environmental education, public school and private school settings. Maggie has taught at North Branch for well over a decade and a half. She is one of two homeroom teachers for the 5-6th grade Seniors, and teaches Seniors math and Middle School Science. Favorite activities are camping and hiking with her husband and two children, both of whom graduated from NBS. Maggie worked under a grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment to compile and describe North Branch School’s Environmental Studies Program in a book called “Fostering Appreciation of Our Natural World.”
Seniors Teacher Michael Donegan is part of the Seniors homeroom team and teaches Humanities and reading to that 5th-6th grade group. Michael graduated from Mary Baldwin College with a B.A. in Art. He previously taught art for Early Primary through Middle School at NBS, taught at Free Union County School, and was a graphic designer for a curriculum development nonprofit. Michael also runs a popular summer art camp at North Branch and teaches skateboarding for Charlottesville Parks and Recreation. He is the father of two NBS grads, both of whom are Seniors: Ian at Nelson County High School, and Niall at Guilford College.
Science Teacher April Erskin is part of the Seniors homeroom team and teaches Senior Science and Readers/Writers. Her curiosity and life path have allowed diverse experiences in 35 years – from training to be a Russian linguist in the Air Force, to theater and dance, college, the business world, farming, teaching, after school arts programs, and herbalism. Her many experiences have given her an ability to see the thread of connectivity between all subjects and an appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of the learning process. Most recently, April taught English to 7th and 8th graders at a middle school in Rockbridge County where she was also the Gifted Coordinator and Co-Director of The Groove Girl Project, an afterschool collective designed to build resilient middle and high school girls. April’s son attends North Branch, and her daughter is a 2015 graduate.
Middle School Coordinator Katrien Vance teaches Humanities, reading, writing, math, and music to North Branch Middle Schoolers and leads the school’s Chorus of 5th-8th graders. She has been to a lot of schools–Williams College (BA), Villanova University (MA), and the Breadloaf School of English, which included a summer at Lincoln College, Oxford—but coming to NBS 23 years ago was like coming home to the progressive school she attended from kindergarten through second grade, which inspired her love of learning and set the standard for all other educational experiences. In her 20 years at NBS, she’s sought to deliver that same kind of fun, challenging, and inspiring education to all of her students. Katrien also sings alto in the Virginia Consort, and you will often find her singing in the classroom, whether it’s a round about the cities Joan of Arc saved, Schoolhouse Rock favorites, or her own creations, such as “No Way, We Won’t Pay (The Stamp Act Rap).” One of her sons is a Middle Schooler at NBS and the other is a 2015 graduate.
Middle School and Juniors Teacher Jennifer Page graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Foreign Affairs, and from Catholic University of America with a Master’s Degree in Library Science. She lived overseas for a number of years learning languages and cultures. After working as an international and reference librarian for a decade, she has been teaching and working with children of all ages in foreign languages, math, science, and humanities for the past six years. She loves reading, gardening, hiking, spinning and knitting, and simplicity. Jennifer’s daughter is a 2016 NBS graduate, and her two sons attend NBS.
Spanish Language and Culture Teacher Oscar Cardenas has a B.S. in Information Science and Documentation Technology from Quindio University in Colombia. He is a Spanish teacher with experience in schools and universities as a librarian and media resources director in Bogotá, Colombia. He completed the Virginia Department of Education’s Career Switchers program at Blue Ridge Community College with an endorsement in Foreign Language. Oscar teaches all of the North Branch students with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. He uses a cultural approach and includes technology and his students’ artistic preferences in the classroom to increase participation and motivation. His objective is to encourage students’ independence, so that they develop both the desire and the ability to learn and think for themselves. Oscar provides plenty of opportunities for his students to communicate and learn using Spanish.
Development Director Bonnie Holliday has been affiliated with NBS as parent, teacher, administrator, or Board member since 1990. She is excited to be working with staff, parents, and Board members to expand North Branch’s programs in the areas of donor relations, foundation and corporate support, and community outreach. After attending Glenville State College in West Virginia and living in several cities, Bonnie discovered Nelson County and has called it 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. She and her husband, Tom, have two daughters, both of whom are graduates of NBS.