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 has spent over 15 years working in the non-profit world in finance and office management. She also has a daughter enrolled at Mountain Sun, Lucy.

KAYLA LEED

KAYLA LEED

Communications Coordinator

Kayla graduated with the class of 2016 at Brevard College, where she received her BA in English with an emphasis in professional communications and minored in Spanish. Kayla has spent several years working in her field of study. In recent years, she has worked with local non-profits to better their marketing and communications efforts. She enjoys combining her passions of writing and her love of education. Kayla has been published in the Transylvania Times, Citizens Times, Times-News, Mountain XPress, and has an excerpt published in, "Heart Prints," by Anne Shober. Kayla and her partner, Callum, live in Brevard with their two dogs.

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 (Owls), 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.

ANNIE BURGESS

ANNIE BURGESS

Primary Lead Teacher (Otters)

Annie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Southern Wesleyan University, where she played on the basketball and volleyball teams. She taught Grades K-2 in Columbia County, Georgia while completing a Master’s Degree in Teaching from Lesley University. Her passion for Montessori Philosophy, classroom design, and implementing handwork into the classroom led her to take a position at Clemson Montessori School as an assistant teacher. During that time, she completed the Montessori Education coursework for ages 3-6. Upon learning about Mountain Sun Community School in the Summer of 2014, Annie and her family moved to Brevard to become part of the School. She and her husband Jody love exploring the forests and potlucking with all of the wonderful people that make up this community, including their four children: Anson, Joey, Harry, and Mac.

MACKENZIE HENRY

MACKENZIE HENRY

Primary Assistant Teacher (Otters)

MacKenzie is thrilled to be joining the Otter class as Assistant Teacher. In 2018 MacKenzie earned her Montessori Early Childhood credential through Northeast Montessori Institute and completed her student teaching year in the Otter classroom at Mountain Sun. She holds a B.A. in Liberal Studies from UNC Greensboro.

An educator and entrepreneur, MacKenzie is also co-owner of Two Pine State, a video production company creating documentary-style branding films. When not in the classroom or behind the camera, she’s probably doing a workout, making candles, listening to Whitney Houston music, hiking with her dog Charlie, watching some super-heavy HBO show with her husband, listening to a podcast, pulling weeds in her “garden,” or kicking back with a good seltzer water. MacKenzie’s favorite job is mom to Pax (an Acorn) and Bea (a kinder in the Owls).

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

Lower Elementary (Acorns) and Middle School (Coyotes) 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), and 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!

VICTORIA KERR

VICTORIA KERR

Librarian and Class Assistant

Victoria is an artist & entrepreneur. She co-founded and taught pre-school at Seven Springs School in Mountain Grove Missouri. After retiring from two careers (chef and interior designer), she returned to school and took early childhood education courses in anticipation of working with children again. She moved to Brevard to be closer to her family, including her grandchildren Jasmine and Koty

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

NICOLE MIHALAS, 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.

JENNIFER STEWART, Vice Chair, has her MEd. in Counseling Psychology and has worked in various therapeutic settings.  She and her spouse, Jeremy, have a daughter, Marlee, and a son, Rowan, who attend Mountain Sun.  Jennifer has been involved in other organizational boards in the past and has been an active volunteer with Mountain Sun for over four years.  She is an organized and dedicated Trustee who has coordinated several Mountain Sun special events, primarily the bi-annual consignment sale. She has also served as an individual teacher and a tutor for several years.

LINDA THOMPSON, Secretary, 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.

DILSHAD POSNOCK, Treasurer, is a flutist by profession and is a member of the Artist Faculty at the Brevard Music Center.  She 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 flute teacher for over 15 years.  Dilshad lives in Brevard with her husband Jason, and their 2 children, Max and Lylah.  They joined Mountain Sun in 2010 and love being a part of this wonderful community!

MARY BEARDEN  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 where she is with the families newest addition, Brooks, born just last fall. 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.

MEIGHAN BROWNING is a native of Carrollton, Georgia. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of West Georgia and practiced as a critical care registered nurse for 5 years in the Atlanta area. Meighan and her husband Ben moved to Brevard in 2014 to raise their son Connor in this wonderful mountain community and knew right away that Mountain Sun Community School was a perfect fit for Connor and their family. Meighan is currently a stay-at-home mom and also spends time helping in the Otter classroom, coordinating the Trade for Tots consignment sale, and volunteering in our local community at The Sharing House.

KEVIN LAUSCH was raised in Alabama before being lucky enough to move to western North Carolina in 2006. He has a master’s degree in public administration and worked in South Carolina for the state government. He later spent 15 years in church youth ministry and summer camp administration. In 2009 he was truly fortunate and met his wife on a mountain top near Brevard, and they’ve decided to make the Blue Ridge Mountains their home. He is a stay-at-home dad, part-time director for children’s religious education at their Unitarian Universalist church, and helps his wife with their real estate investment business. He enjoys supporting Mountain Sun where their older son Jacob is in the Acorn Class and their younger son Jackson is in the Owl class.

MELISSA GRILL-PETERSEN, 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.

JESSICA WHITMIRE is a native of Transylvania County, North Carolina. She attended Rosman High School and earned her Bachelor’s degree from Brevard College. Her parents, David and Debbie Whitmire, began Headwaters Outfitters in 1992. Jess now runs the show at Headwaters Outfitters, providing kayaking, tubing, and fly fishing outings all over the region. She is the Diversity Initiative Coordinator for the NC Trout Unlimited, serves on the local Chamber of Commerce board, French Broad River Partnership board, and the Mountain Sun Community School board. You might find Jess paddling and fishing the French Broad River with her partner Chris Franzen, and their son Waylon, an Otter student at Mountain Sun Community School.

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