MSCS Staff & Board of Trustees

MICHAEL BROWN, Ph.D.

MICHAEL BROWN, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Over nearly two decades as an educator and administrator, Michael has worked with a variety of students on topics as diverse as Guatemalan textiles, American nature writing, Permaculture, and film. He has experience with a wide range of academic skills and ages in a variety of classroom environments as well as guiding experiential education adventures across Guatemala with Where There Be Dragons and Western North Carolina with The Outdoor Academy. Michael’s B.A. is in English and Spanish from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and his Ph.D. is from Indiana University, Bloomington. His doctoral dissertation explored the emergence of the idea of preserved wilderness in the 19th century and its relationship to early photography. He began his teaching career working with children with dyslexia before teaching at the college and high school levels. Now, as director of Mountain Sun Community School, Michael is thrilled to work with younger students and witness the daily joys of transformative holistic education. Michael is very happy to live among the streams, forests, and mountains of Western North Carolina with his wife, Susan, a former Outward Bound instructor and accomplished educator, and their children, both Mountain Sun students.

 SUSANNE WALKER

SUSANNE WALKER

Office Manager

Susanne grew up in Florida, and while she still loves the beach and ocean air, was attracted to the western NC mountains after she became involved in a camp and retreat center in Highlands during high school. Throughout her college years (Susanne earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Western Carolina University) and then the next several, Susanne lived and worked at the center in Highlands, spending much time working in Youth and Outdoor Adventure programming-exploring and leading trips along the trails, cliffs, and rivers of the national forests in the area. She eventually moved into the finance and management departments and spent the next many years gaining valuable knowledge and experience of the business and administrative workings of a non-profit organization. Susanne and her family moved to Brevard in 2012 and she joined the Mountain Sun staff in 2014.

SARA SCHMIDT

SARA SCHMIDT

Communications Coordinator

Sara is a native of WNC and brings a decade of experience as an outdoor education professional in the camp industry. She is passionate about youth development through connection with nature and is grateful to join the Mountain Sun family. A light bulb went off in her head when she was a camp counselor and realized that everyone can be a teacher for children, leading by example. The weight of that responsibility drives her in every aspect of her life, especially as a new mom. She loves talking with parents and finding answers to questions. She has a degree in Broadcast Journalism from UNC Chapel Hill and eagerly seeks out opportunities for continued professional development. Sara enjoys taste-testing flavors at Dolly’s, swimming laps, and car camping. She lives in Brevard with her husband, Andrew, son, Arthur, and mustached-dog, Penelope.

MCNEILL MANN

MCNEILL MANN

Natural Education Coordinator

McNeill grew up in the Florida Keys where she enjoyed her childhood of exploring coral reefs and sailing around mangrove islands. Eventually, her adventures brought her to the Southern Appalachians where she attended summer camp in Brevard. Inspired by her childhood adventures and wanting to provide opportunities for young people to learn from the natural world, McNeill began leading whitewater canoeing, rock climbing, and backpacking adventures in the southeast. She attended Prescott College, Prescott, AZ and in 2007 graduated with degrees in Environmental Education and Writing and Literature. For the past twelve years, she has worked as an environmental educator, wilderness instructor, classroom teacher, and program administrator. Along the way, McNeill has lived in an off-the-grid home, studied earth skills, grown extensive gardens and livestock on a homestead, and explored many different traditional crafts. She also loves traveling, dancing, reading novels, and dreaming about tropical sailing adventures. McNeill is a certified Wilderness First Responder and holds a Permaculture Design Certificate and Coast Guard Captain’s License.

TINA LEONARD

TINA LEONARD

Primary Lead Teacher (Owls)

Tina grew up in Florida where she earned her BS in Mathematics from the University of Florida. In 1998, she moved to Brevard and found herself at home in the mountains. Tina was a full-time mom until her eldest daughter Kathryn was enrolled at Mountain Sun. Tina followed Kathryn to school as a volunteer and Board Member before becoming an assistant teacher for two years, bringing her youngest daughter Isabella too. While Kathryn graduated from Mountain Sun in 2018, Isabella is still currently a student here. Tina continues to be a life-long learner in the ways of Montessori and practicing Grace and Courtesy. When not at school, Tina is an avid reader and walker of her dog, Charlie.

NICK PEARL

NICK PEARL

Primary Assistant Teacher (Otters), Outdoor Education Teacher

Nick graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Sociology in May of 2013, in addition to initially majoring in Chemistry and Physics with a minor in Math at Western Kentucky University in the late 90s. Nick possesses a tried and true math and science mind. Sociology, math, and science are simply a part of how he makes sense of everyday life and the world. Because Nick is such a natural at cross-curricular integration outside of the classroom, this aspect of him will be a great asset in the classroom. Nick also has served as the Field Director at Trails Carolina, an organization he helped start in 2007, for over 3 1/2 years. Overall, between Trails and SUWS of the Carolinas, Nick has spent 8 years directing teen programs. Nick has also spent over 6 years teaching non-violent crisis intervention and communication. Nick comes to us with a great foundation for work with teenagers, work with conflict resolution, and work in the field. Nick and his wife, Melissa, have two children enrolled in Mountain Sun, Huck and Addie.

ANNE NICOLETTI

ANNE NICOLETTI

Primary Lead Teacher (Otters), Kindergarten Teacher

Anne brings nearly two decades of Montessori experience with her to Mountain Sun. She holds a Primary (age 3-6) Montessori diploma from the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). She also earned a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Florida. Most recently, Anne was a Primary Lead Guide at the Atlanta Montessori International School for 8 years, where she was inspired by the diverse cultural community there. She believes in the importance of nurturing the whole child and fostering environmental stewardship and social responsibility in children, perfectly aligning with the mission of MSCS. Anne is excited to explore the beautiful outdoors of WNC with her family camping, hiking, biking, paddling, and playing outside with her Rosie dog!

ANNA HEARD

ANNA HEARD

Primary Assistant Teacher (Otters)

Anna graduated from Brevard College through the WLEE (Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education) program and liked Brevard so much, she decided to stay! As a teacher’s assistant at Brevard, Anna developed a passion for teaching and alternative education. This passion grew through her work with several local youth development programs and summer camps. Those experiences led to a deep connection working with children, which she continued through teaching Sunday School at Brevard Community Church and now MSCS. Anna also loves being outside! She is excited to nurture the Owl class and go on adventures together. Anna lives in Pisgah Forest with her husband.

JANNA CARLSON

JANNA CARLSON

Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher (Acorns)

Janna studied Outdoor Education at Young Harris College in Georgia before transferring to Brevard College where she received her BA in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education. Janna spent several years working around the country in her field of study. In recent years, she has made her way back to Brevard, where she now calls home. Since being back in Brevard, she has worked with local camps, businesses, and a local non-profit, and served as a 3rd grade assistant at Brevard Elementary School. She enjoys combining her love of learning and her love of the outdoors. She especially enjoys sharing that experience with children. Janna and her husband, Charles, live in Brevard with their two cats and two dogs.

MORGAN SPRINKLE

MORGAN SPRINKLE

Math Specialist

Morgan has always known that she wanted to be a teacher. She counts herself lucky to have taught a variety of grades, in several types of schools, both in the US and in rural Thailand where she spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Appalachian State University where she in love with both the mountains of western North Carolina and her husband Daniel. Together, they live with their two sons in a house surrounded by trees.

She enjoys creating beautiful things for people, eating cheese, cooking for her family, taking photographs, making items out of wood, working outside with her husband and watching her boys grow. She feels fortunate to have her family all together, every day, at a school that is so full of love.

BRIGID FOX

BRIGID FOX

Lower Elementary Lead Teacher (Acorns)

Brigid earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from University of Texas in 1993. She holds a NC state teaching license for K-6 and earned her Montessori teaching certificate for ages 6-9 years. Brigid has over 14 years of classroom experience having worked as a lead teacher in both pre-school and elementary school in Brevard. Brigid has also worked at various camps and outdoor settings in positions ranging from Camp Counselor to Assistant Director. She lives in Pisgah Forest with her family and enjoys being outside whenever possible. Brigid combines her love of children with her love of learning and teaching to create an organic learning environment.

BECKY LANGERMAN

BECKY LANGERMAN

Upper Elementary Lead Teacher (Monarchs), Curriculum Advisor

Becky earned her Master’s Degree in Education from Loyola College of Maryland in 2000 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Appalachian State University in 1997. In conjunction with her M.Ed, she received her Montessori Elementary diploma from Association Montessori Internationale for ages 6 -12. Becky has been working in Montessori classrooms since 1998, having started out as an assistant in a primary classroom. After her training, she worked as a lead teacher in Montessori schools in Santa Cruz, California, and Bowie, Maryland. She has been a lead teacher at Mountain Sun since it opened in 2008. Complementing her classroom experience, she has also completed Positive Discipline for the Classroom training with Jane Nelsen and is certified to teach Parenting the Positive Discipline Way. Becky is enthused by the holistic approach at Mountain Sun. She enjoys working with the upper elementary age group and taking her students in the outdoors into the natural classroom environment, which every year includes two extensive camping trips and two backpacking trips, along with several day hikes and field experiences. Becky lives in Brevard with her son, Judson who is a student at MSCS.

KIM SKEEN

KIM SKEEN

Art and Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher (Monarchs)

Kim holds a Bachelor’s degree in Recreation Management from Appalachian State. She has long dedicated herself to her professional development in the visual arts with a special emphasis on ceramics. She has taught pottery classes for years at the Carwile-Dodson studio at MudDabbers Pottery in Brevard as well as directed the art program at Eagle’s Nest Camp. In addition to working with children in the arts, she has years of experience in outdoor education, having worked with several environmental and outdoor education programs leading backpacking, caving, and climbing trips. She is also certified as a Wilderness First Responder. She lives in Brevard with her husband, Rob, and their two daughters, Cedar Ann (MSCS class of ’14) and Lillian who attends MSCS.

DANIEL SPRINKLE

DANIEL SPRINKLE

Middle School Lead Teacher (Coyotes)

Daniel is a born educator, with over 13 years of teaching experience, including 9 years of work in the North Carolina Public Schools and 2 years of teaching experience in Thailand, where he taught everything from English to fish composting as a Peace Corps volunteer. He graduated from Appalachian State University in 2006 with a B.S. in Secondary English Education. Though certified to teach high school, it took Daniel no time to realize just how much he loved being around middle schoolers, and they have been his favorite kind of people ever since. He lives with his wonderful wife Morgan, who is also a teacher, and together they are doing their best to turn their wild pair of hooligan boys into somewhat respectable small humans. Daniel and his family live in the woods, where he feels most at home. He is an amateur dendrologist, a passable chicken farmer, a barely-acceptable woodworker, and an inept permaculturist gardener. However, Daniel is a passionate teacher, a lover of education and he is proud to be a part of the Mountain Sun family.

JOSH CARTER

JOSH CARTER

Music Teacher

Josh Carter is a local musician and farmer. He grew up inspired by the local old-time music community here in Brevard, but loves all kinds of music. A Brevard College Gradute, he went on to serve a Music Teaching Fellowship at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in 2011.
He served as program director for the Junior Appalachian Musicians program at the Boys and Girls Club from 2012-2015. He now teaches at Mountain Sun and plays with his current band, Pretty Little Goat.

ELIZABETH GIBBS

ELIZABETH GIBBS

Music Teacher

Liz holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Meredith College and a Master’s Degree in Flute Performance from ECU. Prior to moving to Brevard 6 years ago with her husband and now 2 children, she taught elementary K-5 music for 8 years. During that time she earned National Board Certification in Early/Middle Childhood Music as well as 2 levels of Orff Certification. The Orff approach to teaching music combines music, movement, drama, and speech into lessons that are similar to a child’s world of play. Liz has been a full-time stay at home mom for the past 4.5 years. Raising her own children has given her a new appreciation for the importance and significance of music in the development of young children and she is excited to have the opportunity to share her love of music with the primary classes at Mountain Sun!

CAROLINE SAFFORD

CAROLINE SAFFORD

All School Assistant

Caroline has dedicated her career to nature conservation and she feels that her own education perfectly aligns with the mission of Mountain Sun: a balance of thoughtful, direct instruction and experiential learning. Caroline graduated from Brevard College with a BS in Biology and with an Ecology Minor. She thrives working with children, most recently at Carolina Mountain Naturalist in Mills River, NC, where she developed programming for small groups and shared her love of studying and recording wildlife. Caroline also enjoys taking advantage of the natural playground in WNC to rock climb, mountain bike, and hike whenever she can! She is excited to share her unique knowledge set with the Mountain Sun community.

CLARE DESMELIK

CLARE DESMELIK

Spanish and Yoga Instructor

Clare Desmelik is teaching Yoga and Español at Mountain Sun this year. She started learning Spanish in kindergarten and studied all the way through high school. She values the importance of starting language learning at an early age. She went to the University of Georgia, where got her degree in Public Relations and she minored in Spanish. She spent a semester abroad in Costa Rica, a year in Spain, and continued to travel to other Spanish speaking countries in Central America. The immersion was where she realized that all of the practice truly paid off. After working with the hispanic population at the Teton Literacy program, she decided that she wanted to become a teacher, so she moved back to Asheville and attended UNCA, where she earned a degree in Spanish, as well as her North Carolina Teaching Certificate for Spanish in K-12. She moved to Brevard to begin teaching at Brevard High School in 2007, where she enjoyed working for eight years.

Clare also has been practicing yoga since the 90s and obtained her RYT 230 hr teaching certification last fall, while taking personal leave away from the high school to deal with some family issues. Yoga has been a life saver for her. She is very enthusiastic about sharing the magic of how a deep breath is a tool to help ground, center and calm yourself. She will teach some mindful breathing techniques and will link those breaths with movements as the students move through some asanas building strength and balance. Clare teaches a couple of classes at Brevard Yoga Center, enjoyed teaching yoga at Keystone Camp during the summer and teaches a couple of classes in Asheville. She also enjoyed teaching SPOGA (Spanish Yoga) at Lotus Path last year, and plans to incorporate some of that into her plans this year here at Mountain Sun!

Clare is married to a regional musician/singer songwriter and has two boys- Holmes (8) and Vincent (5). Their family loves a good music festival, hiking, sports, cooking good food and being outside. She is thrilled to be able to teach two of her passions in the beautiful setting with all of the amazing kids and colleagues here!

Board of Trustees

Contact the MSCS Board of Trustees

DILSHAD POSNOCK, Chair & Accreditation Committee, is a flutist by profession and is a member of the Artist Faculty at the Brevard Music Center and Brevard College. She is also a member of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. Dilshad grew up in Mumbai, India, and holds degrees from Royal College of Music, London, and Carnegie Mellon University. While in Pittsburgh, she performed regularly with ensembles including the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Pittsburgh Ballet and Pittsburgh Opera. Dilshad served as Artist Lecturer in Flute and Director of the Artist Diploma Program at the Carnegie Mellon School of Music. She has a great passion for teaching young musicians and has been active as a music educator for over 15 years. Dilshad lives in Brevard with her husband, Jason, and their two children, Max and Lylah. They joined Mountain Sun in 2010 and love being long-time members of this wonderful community! 

NICOLE MIHALAS, Past Chair, a native of Charleston, SC, graduated from Ashley Hall School and attended the College of Charleston. A goldsmith by profession, she followed her passion for many years working with antique and vintage jewelry. She has been an avid volunteer with years of experience on boards tackling various needs from community assistance to clean water conservation. Nicole has been fortunate enough to travel extensively, but landed in the Brevard area about three years ago and has at last settled down with her family and grown roots. Nicole and her husband Mike live in Pisgah Forest with their three children Nicholas (17), Zoe (15) and Xan (13). Mike likes to tell the kids this quote “Where ever you are, be all there.” Moving so close to everything we love: family, friends, rivers, and the forest has been a great reminder to “be all there”. I hope to help the board make a difference. As my children grow older and move out of Mountain Sun I look to the future for other generations to have access to this amazing school.

MARY BEARDEN, Vice Chair, grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She is a high school graduate of a Montessori style school rooted in a Howard Gardner approach to teaching/learning. Mary later graduated from college with a Bachelors Degree in both Elementary Education and Special Education from a specialized program known as the Multiple Abilities Program (MAP) through The University of Alabama. Throughout her schooling, and after graduating, she has worked with all age groups: pre-school, elementary, middle and high school; as well as all learning types: special, regular and gifted. At the end of 2010 Mary moved with her husband to Western North Carolina, and shortly after they had their first child, Evie, who currently attends Mountain Sun Community School as a Kinder Owl. After having Evie, Mary decided to stay at home full time with the family’s newest addition, Brooks. Along with raising a young family, Mary and her husband, Nick, are very involved in the Brevard community by working with and serving on the boards of several volunteer organizations. They are also huge Alabama Football Fans who love spending time together doing projects around their home and consider themselves to be amateur “foodies” who love to try new foods and restaurants all over Western North Carolina.

REN URIARTE, Treasurer, graduated from the College of William and Mary with a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology. After college, Ren lived the do-gooder, non-profit life, first in Los Angeles, then in Brevard. The financial aspect of writing and administering grants was challenging, so she took some accounting classes and got a certificate in bookkeeping (with honors). She has worked as the Finance Director for PLATT since 2013. Born and raised in San Francisco, a sports enthusiast and foodie who doesn’t cook, she enjoys playing with her kids, going out to eat with her husband, and traveling with her family.

LINDA THOMPSON, PhD, Secretary & Accreditation Committee, a native of Chattanooga, TN, retired to the Brevard area after living in Atlanta, Germany, Montana, Indiana and Pennsylvania. An educator with 42 years’ experience, she was a classroom and special education teacher and a consultant for several State Departments of Education, a federally-funded Technical Assistance Center, and a number of low-achieving schools and districts. For 10 years she was a National Assessment Consultant for McGraw-Hill Publishers, primarily in the areas of Reading and Writing. She holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University with additional degrees from Winthrop College and Georgia State University. Linda is an active volunteer with the Brevard Music Center and serves on its Board of Trustees. In addition, she volunteers with young readers in the Acorn Class. Linda and her husband Ron live in Pisgah Forest.

HEATHER RICHARDSON grew up mostly in Raleigh, NC. She received a BS in Mathematics at Appalachian State University in 1996 and began teaching and working as a naturalist & high ropes instructor at environmental education centers around NC. She taught at a Montessori School in Madison, WI, while living/working on a CSA organic farm with 75 member families. From 1999-2006, Heather taught math (among other roles) at the Outdoor Academy which ultimately guided her to assist young people with personal problems rather than math problems. She went on to receive a MAEd from WCU in School Counseling in 2008 and has been practicing as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Brevard since 2009. She works with children, adolescents, young adults, and their parents/families at a small agency (Alliance CBS) using a wide variety of interventions that lean on a strength-based approach. Her youngest, Birdie (5), will return to the Otter class this year for Kindergarten. They love the Brevard community and feel very fortunate to live, learn, and play in such a beautiful area.

STEPHANIE SMITH is native to Cary, NC. She found her love for living in the mountains while earning her bachelor’s degree in science for interior design at Appalachian State University. After working at a firm in Charlotte for a few years,  Stephanie and her husband decided to slow down and settle into a new lifestyle. Together with their daughter, they are now settled in Brevard where they love the people, the outdoors, and the laid-back lifestyle. She is a part of the Brevard Planning and Zoning Board and is enthusiastic to be a part of the Mountain Sun community where the teachers and students are making huge changes in our community and around the world.

MELISSA GRILL-PETERSEN, MS, DC, BCHH, Board Communications Coordinator, Mom, wife, friend, red wine lover, board-certified holistic health doctor, marketing fanatic and 20+ year wellness warrior on a mission to help empower people to create the business, health, and life they love. Melissa is the founder of the Inspired Health Institute & CEO of IMPACT Inc, home of Women’s Impact Network and Practice Impact Masters. She has authored two books, 3 meditation series and is a former adjunct professor for Life University. She and her family moved from Atlanta in 2016 to Brevard so their son Topher could attend Mountain Sun Community School and have cherished every moment of living in and being a part of this community.

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