Caroline Russell, Executive Director
Caroline Russell was raised in Alexandria, Virginia and attended the University of Virginia where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1995 with a B.A. in both French and Political and Social Thought. After college, she earned a Master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Cambridge, England. Caroline began her career promoting non-profit institutions of learning while working at the World Affairs Council in Richmond. Upon moving to the Rockbridge Area in 2008, she was appointed to a position in the Washington and Lee Development Office where she worked for six years and specialized in corporate and foundation grants, capital gifts, and stewardship. Caroline has deep ties to Woods Creek Montessori as a parent and a board officer, serving as Board President in 2004-2005. During this time, the Board oversaw an expansion in program facilities and staff, and developed a long range strategic plan. More recently, Caroline has been a volunteer language arts enrichment teacher at Waddell Elementary where she has taught a Great Books program. She lives in Buena Vista with her family: husband Chris, who serves as Buena Vista’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, and their three children, ages 16, 14 and 12, each of whom attended the toddler and primary classrooms at WCM.
Amy Holston, Assistant to the Director
A native of Tidewater, Virginia, Amy received her M.Ed. in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of South Carolina and her B.A. from Dickinson College. Throughout her career, she has worked in many capacities in gifted education, specifically as the Director of Student Activities at both The Georgia Academy of Mathematics, Engineering, and Sciences, and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. More recently, she worked for Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, developing and managing summer programs for gifted students. Since this time, she has been busy raising two children, Kate and Ben (who was a Woods Creek Montessori student). Her husband, Ryan, is a professor at VMI. While at home, Amy also developed a small cake business, and has been an active member of Grace Episcopal Church where she served on the Vestry and in various other roles. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, walking, and gardening.
Amanda McKemy, Lead Teacher, Pre-toddler
Amanda McKemy has been a Lead Teacher over the Pre-Toddler and infant age groups since 2001, both here at Woods Creek Montessori as well as another preschool. She received her RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) certification in Florida during the summer of 2008. Amanda truly has a passion for working with young children and finds them to be very interesting. “It is amazing what we, as adults, can learn from children.” Amanda and her husband Eddy are life-time natives of Rockbridge County. They have one son, Logan, who recently graduated from college and is pursuing a career in business.
Rebekah Taylor, Assistant Teacher, Pre-toddler
Rebekah Taylor is a Senior at Southern Virginia University, majoring in Liberal Arts. She loves music, theater, and literature and hopes to become a children’s librarian. Rebekah began working at Woods Creek Montessori during the summer of 2015 and has been an After School teacher since January 2016. She absolutely loves working at Woods Creek!
Samee Taylor, Lead Teacher, Toddler
Samee Taylor and her husband, Mark, have lived in Rockbridge County with her husband Mark and their eight children since 2000. Samee has used her Family Science degree from BYU while she was home schooling her children, hosting four foreign exchange students, and providing emergency and respite foster care. Her family is also active in music and theater. Samee’s love for children led her to join the Woods Creek staff as an After School teacher.
Michael Taylor, Assistant Teacher, Toddler
Michael Taylor has lived in Rockbridge County since 2000. He holds a BA from Southern Virginia University, where he studied music and philosophy. He plays viola and piano. He is the oldest of eight children, and loves working with students of all ages. He began work at Woods Creek Montessori as a substitute in 2013, and since then he has worked in the After School and Summer Camp programs. Michael is excited to work with the Toddler class this year.
Erica Jones, Assistant Teacher, Toddler
Erica is a junior at Southern Virginia University from Morgantown, West Virginia. She transferred to SVU from West Virginia University after completing a mission for the LDS church in Las Vegas. She plays the saxophone and is a music education major with hopes to teach music at the elementary level. As the oldest of six, she has always been drawn to children and is very excited to be working with them here at Woods Creek.
Farishte Irani, Lead Teacher, Primary I
Farishte Irani was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. She holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Maryland. Farishte and her family moved to Virginia in the summer of 2010 from New Hampshire. There she worked for 8 years at Mont Blanc Montessori Academy in many capacities including Lead Primary Teacher, Elementary Teacher and Middle/High School Teacher. She is passionate about the Montessori Philosophy and truly believes every child is a natural learner. Farishte lives here in Lexington with her husband, Afshad (Professor at W&L) and her two children Kaizad and Parizad.
Wendy Redfern, Assistant Teacher, Primary I
Wendy Redfern relocated, with her husband Mark, to Rockbridge Baths/Lexington six years ago from Los Angeles to look after Mark’s nearly 200-year-old ancestral home and be closer to their family. Wendy has been working as a photographer and co-founding publisher of indie-music magazine Under the Radar for the last 16 years. She began working as the music director at Shenandoah Preschool in 2016 and continues to share her love of music with children there and at EarthSong Community School currently. Wendy and Mark love raising their daughter Rose, who is the ninth-generation to live in this family home, in such a vibrant and engaged community and are thrilled to now be part of the Woods Creek family.
Kristin Flippen,Lead Teacher, Primary II
Kristin Flippen was born in New London, Connecticut and spent much of her childhood along the Atlantic seaboard. In 1990 she graduated from Eastern College with a B.S. in Psychology and minor in Biology. Kristin moved to Virginia in the fall of 2000 from New Hampshire with her husband, David, and two sons, Brody and Henry. She has spent the last twelve years home-educating her boys, as well as teaching writing for a local co-op and working as the Assistant Youth Director at her church. Kristin joined the Woods Creek community in the fall of 2013 as a long-term substitute in the Primary II classroom. She also worked this past summer with the five to ten-year old “Frogs” in the Woods Creek summer program. She joins our team full-time this fall as the Assistant Teacher in the Primary I classroom.
Ashley Blasko, Assistant Teacher, Primary II
Ashley Blasko received her bachelor’s degree at Southern Virginia University in 2017. She majored in Family and Child Development. She is originally from Columbia, MD but lives in Buena Vista so her husband can finish school. Ashley has been working with children since she was 15 years old. From nannying, to coaching, to directing a summer camp for parks and recreation, as well as, being an after-school counselor for Central Elementary School. She hopes to one day further her education in social work and become a licensed family therapist. She has always had a passion for the mind and understanding others. A lot of her time is spent writing, playing with her golden doodle puppy, or watching her husband in track and field while he throws javelin or shot put. She is very excited to be a part of the Woods Creek Montessori team and cannot wait to work with the children and learn from them as well.
Melody Cluff, Music Specialist
Melody Cluff has taught music and provided music programs in elementary classrooms as a volunteer in San Diego, CA, Knoxville, TN, and here in our local schools for more than 25 years. While living in Knoxville, she founded and directed “Sunshine Singers,” a singing group for children grades K-5, which performed throughout the Knoxville area for several years. Teaching music, tutoring, and reading aloud to children has been a way of life for her. She continues to lead children’s and youth choirs in church settings. Melody loves living in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and enjoys spending time with her husband, an English professor at Southern Virginia University, their five children, and their four grandchildren. Melody has a deep love and respect for all children and is excited about working and learning with them at Woods Creek Montessori.
Betty Anderson, Elementary After School Teacher
Betty Anderson was born in Sedalia Missouri, moved about in the Midwest before her family settled in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in Horticulture, she received her Teaching Certification (in many fields including Vocational Agriculture) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has taught and tutored mathematics in several schools as well as with private clients. As a Girl Scout volunteer she does Outdoor Training- teaching leaders to take Scouts hiking, camping and backpacking. She has helped lead Girl Scouts on trips to Mexico, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, and The Isle of Man. One highlight in 2015 was leading Girl Scouts on an overnight camping trip on the south lawn of the White House. She lives in Rockbridge County with her husband Michael, a Professor at W&L. They have two adult sons and one granddaughter.
Charlotte Jacobs, Elementary After School Teacher
Natasha Earls, Primary After School Teacher
Natasha Earls moved to Lexington in the summer of 2017 with her husband, Keith (a law student at W&L), and her two daughters. She is originally from Gadsden, Alabama. She holds degrees in Anthropology (B.A.) and Secondary Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning – Social Sciences (M.A.) from the University of Alabama. She has taught high school social sciences in Alabama and Florida. She enjoys spending time with her family and watching classic movies. She is excited to be a part of the after-school program at Woods Creek Montessori.
Kassidie Funk, Primary After School Teacher
Kassidie has lived in Lexington for 15 years and graduated from Rockbridge County High School. She is currently a student at Virginia Western Community College pursuing a degree in engineering. In her free time she enjoys kayaking, shopping, and spending time with family and friends. She is very excited to be a part of Woods Creek Montessori!
Charity Krites, Toddler After School Teacher
Sienna Atkisson, Toddler After School Teacher
Sommer Wasser, Pre-Toddler After School Teacher
Sommer Wasser is originally from Connecticut, however has traveled and lived all over the United States. She recently moved to Lexington, VA with her loving husband and her three children. She has two boys and a girl to whom she adores. Sommer holds a bachelors degree in Human Resource Management and an Associates in Business Administration. However she tends to find herself drawn to working with children. In recent years she received her substitute teaching degree and worked closely with CASA. She has also ran children’s camps and been very active in local schools. Sommer enjoys running, cooking, boating and traveling with her family to the beach!