Director's Page

Carter Petty

Carter comes to MDCS with a varied background. He obtained both a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Technical Theatre and Design from the University of Georgia. Before coming to MDCS, he worked in professional theatre and then for ten years as the sole proprietor of his custom metalworking business. He became involved with the creation of MDCS in February, 2001 serving on both the committee that wrote the charter application and the founding board that began the process of making the application a reality. He stepped in to serve as co-director in October, 2003 and has been a lead administrator at MDCS ever since. He began serving as Director in June, 2010 after serving a year as Interim Director.

Carter teaches 8th grade computer skills, an internet publishing elective, and co-leads the 7th and 8th grade education outdoors offerings. "I really love being so heavily involved in the trip to Hazel Creek. It gets me out in the field for a week, provides me with another opportunity to see the vision come to life, and gives me a chance to share my passion for local history with the students."

Carter currently lives in Bryson City with his wife, Ellen, and his two boys, Holden and Colyn.

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Exceptional Children

Jill Blake
Director of Instruction and EC Services

Jill Blake comes to Mountain Discovery with over 25 years of experience in teaching exceptional education students. She has taught in self-contained, resource, and hospital settings. Jill has worked with students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. She does not have a favorite group because she says there are wonderful qualities at each level.

Jill received her Exceptional Education Degree from Auburn University. She is always looking for opportunities to grow as a professional.

In August, 2009, a golden opportunity for professional growth presented itself when she was offered the chance to direct instruction as well as EC services. Jill is thriving in her new role.

Jill has been married to her high school sweetheart for over 30 years. She has a son who works in the building trade and a daughter who is recently graduated from the University of South Carolina and works for Investco in Atlanta. With her free time, Jill enjoys reading, riding road bikes, and spending time outside with her family.

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Crim Bassett
Office Manager

Crim grew up in North Georgia where she attended the University of Georgia and gained a BS in Child and Family Development. In 1996, she and her husband Jeff moved to the North Carolina Mountains to start their business, Bee Global Studio. For the past 16 years they have owned and operated a working studio gallery nestled in Stecoah Valley where they craft and market candles, ornaments, lamps and many other creations, all made from pure beeswax. They also maintain a bee farm where they harvest many types of honey. Crim has had much experience multitasking where she co- managed the studio gallery and office of her business. There has always been a part of her that knew one day she would use her degree in a positive way. “I am such a people person and like working in a community where I can make a difference. I feel honored to be working here at MDCS among a fabulous staff and ultra fabulous students.”

She has two wonderful sons, Elijah and Booth, who have thrived in this type of learning environment. Booth is a current eighth grade student at MDCS and Elijah attends Swain High School. In her free time Crim loves to spend time with her family, tend to her garden of more than 60 varieties of wildflowers, experience Fontana Lake and all of its magic, teach yoga, and knit.

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Kristin Schrader
Kindergarten Teacher

Kristin Schrader grew up in Southern California and moved to the coast of North carolina at the age of fourteen.  After graduating High School, Ms. Kristin spent the next two years traveling The United States.  She found her home in The North Carolina Mountains in 1994.  She attended Western Carolina University and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Science of Education, Magna Cum Laude.  She also has a DFA in Art.

Ms. Kristin has over sixteen years experience working with children.  She began teaching Kindergarten at MDCS in 2003.  Over the years, Ms. Kristin has contributed in many ways to the growth of the learning community at MDCS.  She currently heads a committee which oversees the training of new teaching staff and the implementation of K-8 classroom expeditions and hands on learning. 

“I am confident about the environment and routine my Kindergarten students live and learn in on any typical day in my classroom.  I have been very successful at creating a safe, happy, respectful, and productive classroom community.  My students are encouraged to take pride in both personal strengths and challenges they may encounter.  Even the youngest students at MDCS learn to make their own choices, have time to do their best work, and are proud to present finished projects with others.  I have a classroom full of confident Kindergartners who are very excited about learning.  Everyday, parents tell me how much their child loves school.”, says Ms. Kristin.

Kristin's son Harvest is a student at Warren Wilson College.

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Jonathan Wertheim
Kindergarten/Junior Appalachian Musicians Program/Middle School Drama

Mr. Jonathan is a native North Carolinian. He received a B.A. in English Literature (Journalism minor) from Western Carolina University. He received his recording engineering certification from the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences. He also studied Theater at the North Carolina School of the Arts and Education at Western Carolina University. He thinks Kindergarten is the bee’s knees.

Jonathan began working at MDCS in the autumn of 2003, becoming part of the Kindergarten Team for the 2004-2005 school year. He strengthens the Kindergarten curriculum through storytelling, dramatic play, puppetry, writing, art, and music. Aside from directing years of Kindergarten Production Nights, Jonathan has produced several Expedition-themed albums of children’s music. The music is unique in that the Kindergarteners write all the lyrics.

Jonathan began teaching guitar at MDCS in 2004, eventually adding singing, recording, and other instruments. He has served as the Program Director for the Junior Appalachian Musicians of Swain County at MDCS since 2005. J.A.M. at MDCS meets after school, instructing third-eighth graders in Traditional Mountain, Old Time, and American Folk Musics. J.A.M. is supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources. He has also taught Middle School Drama and Music Production.

Jonathan is a singer-songwriter. He has written, arranged, performed, and/or engineered music in Chicago, Phoenix, Missouri, and North Carolina. He was co-producer of Smoky Mtn. Drum’n Bass. He has collaborated since 2001 in Jackson County’s own Moolah Temple $tringband (an old time meets electronic curio), on 10 albums to-date (and one ballet). His favorite author is Samuel Becket. Mr. Jonathan likes calling North Carolina home.

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First Grade

Donna Holcombe
First Grade Teacher

Donna spent twenty years teaching kayaking, guiding rafts, managing ropes courses, and leading adventure travel trips for Nantahala Outdoor Center. While this life was fun and exciting (drop by and she would love to swap adventure stories with you) something was missing. In 2003, Donna and her husband Jimmy flew to China and met their eighteen month old daughter Carolyn Xaioyao Holcombe.

After almost two years of being a stay-at-home mom with Carrie, Donna dusted off the Elementary Education Certificate she received from Webster University in St Louis and came to Mountain Discovery Charter School. Many of her friends had been involved in the founding of the school and she had watched its progress with interest. Donna had minored in experiential education and been involved in outdoor programming for at risk youth before she joined NOC. It was just by fate that she ended up in fourth grade but it turned out to be a wonderful fit; she loves both the age group and the curriculum.

Her daughter Carrie attended MDCS and is currently a student at Jackson County Early College.

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Trisha Crockett
First Grade Assistant

Patricia is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Boston University School of Law. She formerly served as a legal officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Transportation. She has been pastor of Cherokee Wesleyan Church since 2001.

Until recently, Patricia and her husband, Doug, owned and operated Cooper Creek Trout Farm in Bryson City. They have four children which they homeschooled.





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Second Grade

Gerry Murphy
Second Grade Teacher

Gerry was born and raised on Long Island in New York. As a service project in high school, she worked in a day care center and decided that she wanted to teach young children. She attended Harriman College where she earned her Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. She then went on to St. Joseph's in New York to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education.

After tutoring many different school age students up to twelfth grade, she began teaching in elementary schools in Connecticut and New York. When she moved to the mountains with her husband and two children, she began teaching again. Before coming to MDCS, she worked for 6 years in an elementary school in Jackson County. Gerry began teaching at MDCS in 2003.

Gerry loves teaching at MDCS, where she has the freedom to teach using creative ways to cater to the individual learning styles of each child."The way a child's eyes light up when they accomplish something they didn't think was possible, makes it all worthwhile."

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Val Zmuda
Second Grade Assistant

Born in Orlando, Florida Valerie moved to North Carolina in Elementary School. She attended Swain High and graduated in 2001. After High School Valerie attended SCC and WCU.

Valerie returns to Mountain Discovery with a wide variety of skills. She began working at MDCS in 2005 as the Title I teacher. Then she was behavioral support until 2008. At that time she headed into Law Enforcement. She worked for the Swain County Sheriff's Department as a deputy and School Resource Officer from 2008-2011. Swain county is still holding her certification and she occasionally does Federal Transports runs for them.

Valerie then decided it was time to see the country. She got her CDL and drove 18-wheelers for US Express from 2011-2014. During that time she continued to volunteer and substitute at MDCS. Using this experience she decided to get her bus driver's license. She now drives for MDCS and Swain County Schools when needed.

Valerie also is a certified massage therapist and runs her own business, Alleviate Massage, in Bryson City.

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Third Grade

Angie Danforth
Third Grade Teacher

Angie was born and raised in Michigan. She attended college in Huntington, Indiana where she received a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in middle school language arts. She took her first teaching job at Academia Los Pinares in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and taught third grade there for two years while enjoying life in the Caribbean.

Angie then moved back to Michigan and took a job in Lansing at Mid-Michigan Public School Academy as a Primary Academy (Kindergarten-2nd grade) Spanish Teacher. While teaching there she met and married her husband Karl who was in the Air Force. Soon after they were married, Karl and Angie were stationed in the United Kingdom where she taught for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools for three years on RAF Lakenheath. She taught third grade for two years at Lakenheath Elementary and then looped up to fourth grade at Liberty Intermediate while pregnant with their first child, Sienna. Her free time during Karl's numerous deployments was spent finishing a Master's degree in Education from Oklahoma University.

When Sienna was just three months old the young family moved back to Michigan. Karl completed his schooling at Michigan State University and they welcomed a son, Tal to the family while living in East Lansing. Karl then began his career with the National Park Service and Angie spent the next several years home with their kids-- moving frequently! The NPS has taken them to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Cherokee, North Carolina and Padre Island National Seashore in Corpus Christi, Texas and now back to The Smokies. Somehow they've managed to live in the same place for years and have begun to put down some roots. Their children Sienna and Tal are both students at Mountain Discovery.

Angie loves being at MDCS and finds the school's educational philosophy to be a perfect match for her own educational beliefs. She is thrilled to be the third grade teacher and also enjoys teaching middle school Spanish classes.

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Lisa Murphy
Third Grade/EC Assistant

Lisa is an assistant in Third Grade. She loves guiding students through inquiry and investigations of science and social studies through the use of technology and games. Her personal quotes are “Just keep swimming;” “Just peachy;” “Never give up;” “Would ya look at that?” and “Judge not lest ye be judged”. Her life goal is to open 3D’s Christian Youth Center and Family Campground and to care for foster children in her home. Lisa lives with her husband, Daniel; son, Dillan; cousin, Earl; dogs, Harley, Ruby, Bella, and Gi-tli (Cherokee for dog); her cat Smoky, fish Polly, Al & Ali. Lisa’s faith is her passion. She would like every child to know that they have a purpose in life.




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Fourth Grade

Londa Bohl
Fourth Grade Teacher

Londa Patterson Bohl is a native of Transylvania County, in Western North Carolina. However, until recently, she lived and traveled outside of the state and the country. She comes to MDCS after a 25 year career in the corporate world as both a Series 7 Licensed Financial Consultant, and owner and founder of a small chain of specialty printing boutiques. Londa left the business arena to follow her heart and passion for working with children as a facilitator of learning. It is her belief that genuine learning is founded within a curiosity about the world around us. Ms. Londa’s goal with the 4th graders is to foster a responsibility for learning through fun and creative activities that stimulate a thirst for more knowledge. In order to prepare for her new role as a facilitator of learning in the elementary classroom, she recently completed Bachelor of Science degrees in both Elementary Education and Sociology, as well as her Master’s of Education Degree in Elementary Education. Ms. Londa is very enthusiastic about teaching 4h grade at MDCS because of her belief in the small school environment, and her respect for the fact that all children learn differently, at different rates, and that many factors contribute to the differences among students. Fortunately, her studies in both Elementary Education and Sociology have provided her with a good understanding of how cognitive, family, and community factors affect children. Ms. Londa enjoys creating a classroom that appreciates each student’s uniqueness by providing varied and productive learning opportunities for each student.

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Betty MacAvoy
Fourth Grade Assistant

Betty is from Coral Gables, Florida where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology. She is retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Miami, Florida where she served veterans for 37 years as a laboratory supervisor and instructor. In 2013 she and her husband Jim relocated to Bryson City where she began working at MDCS as a substitute teacher and tutor. In 2015 she accepted a position as a teacher's assistant. Betty thoroughly enjoys working with the children and finds this experience extremely rewarding.

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Fifth Grade

Janet Smith
Fifth Grade Teacher

Janet Smith, born in Michigan, received her Bachelor of Science degree at Grand Valley University in Michigan and received her Masters in Education from Western Carolina University.  After graduating from Grand Valley, Janet taught several years in the Delton, Michigan school system before leaving to teach and travel in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Upon her arrival back in the States she took a summer job at the Nantahala Outdoor Center that stretched into a 20-year career in outdoor recreation. In the middle of her NOC career Janet went to South America to teach in Baranquilla, Colombia. There she was elected Teacher of the Year.  After returning to NOC, Janet was in her 5th year as a Vice-President for NOC when she decided to resume her other career: teaching.

Janet taught Language Arts for four years at the Swain County Middle School. In 2002 she earned her National Teacher’s certification. She transferred to the Andrews Public Schools system where she taught Social Studies for three years. She began teaching at MDCS in the fall of 2007 as the 3rd grade teacher, a mentor and Curriculum Coordinator.

She enjoys being part of the MDCS.  Having completed a 30-hour course in Reading Foundations, Janet is intrigued with learning more about how children become proficient readers.  A Love & Logic instructor, Janet has offered classes for teachers on “Teaching With Love and Logic”.

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John Mordhorst
Fifth Grade Assistant

John brings a varied background in experiential education to his role of Educational Assistant for Middle School math. For many years he worked for Outward Bound in the US, Canada and Hong Kong as a field instructor, course director and Program Director. Additionally, he worked for several youth-at-risk programs adapted from the Outward Bound model. In 1990 he moved to Bryson City to work with the Nantahala Outdoor Center and eventually directed the Action Learning Programs department at the Center. Later, he became Assistant Director for Programs at Bradford Woods Outdoor Center, the outdoor center of the University of Indiana.

John originally came to MDCS as an Educational Assistant for EC. Subsequently, he was the Educational Assistant for the 4th & 5th grades. He is currently the Educational Assistant for Fifth Grade and Middle School math.

John is married to Janet Smith, the 5th grade teacher at MDCS. They have two children, Katya and Matt.

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Middle School

Language Arts/Social Studies

Sarah Rave

Sarah grew up in Greensboro, NC where she attended UNC-Greensboro and graduated with a BA in Geography with a concentration in Earth Science. After college, Sarah spent almost 10 years living on the west coast in California, Arizona and Oregon working for several large corporations. Eventually, a longing for home sank in and Sarah returned to NC where she met and married her husband Matt, a professor at WCU. Sarah found her way to Mountain Discovery in 2008. Since that time, Sarah has worked in several positions at MDCS and has been fortunate to be able to spend time in most of the classrooms and learn from all of the incredibly talented teachers here at MDCS. Recently, Sarah returned to school, attending UNC-Charlotte, in order to earn her teaching license in Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies. Her teaching philosophy includes a focus on engaged, active learning and utilizing higher order thinking skills. Sarah's son, Christian, attended MDCS and is currently a student at Jackson County Early College. Sarah treasures her interactions with the students and feels incredibly lucky to have landed at MDCS and to be part of such a wonderful learning community.

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Jim Killebrew

Jim grew up in LaGrange, GA. After graduating from LaGrange Academy in 1988, he attended Centre College in Danville, KY, majoring in Psychology and Religion. He graduated in 1992. From 1993-94 he worked at Comprehensive Care, an at-risk children’s therapy program in Harrodsburg, KY.

Jim moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1994 to accept a teaching position at the first “survival school” founded by the American Indian Movement, Red School House. He returned to college afterward with teaching squarely in mind. While taking classes at the University of Minnesota, Jim taught at another AIM school, Heart of the Earth, in Minneapolis. Jim received his teaching certification in science from the University of Minnesota in 2003.

From 2003–2005, Jim taught middle and high school science at Waters of Life, a K–12 charter school on the Big Island of Hawaii. He also served as Board Chair at this school. After returning to Minneapolis to finish his Master’s degree, Jim worked at SAGE Academy, a charter high-school founded on project-based learning principles and world travel. He received his Master’s in Education from the University of Minnesota in 2006 and then moved to Bryson City with his family to begin teaching at MDCS.

Jim now lives in the Wesser Creek Community with his wife, Vanina, their two boys, Cef and Pablo, and their daughter, Cielowen.

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Brook Stillman

Brook grew up in the small town of Homer in upstate New York. She was always interested in learning- especially math. Inspired by her 7th grade math teacher, Brook decided that teaching math was her calling.

From 1998-2002 Brook attended Western Carolina University, where she studied Elementary Education and participated on the women’s golf team. While she was there she focused her studies on math. After receiving her license to teach K-6, she became certified to teach middle school math.

Brook took a job at Mountain Discovery teaching Title I Reading in the spring of 2004. She took over teaching Middle School Math in the Fall of 2005. She loves getting to work with the same students for 3 years in a row. Building relationships with the students makes it easier to teach them.

Brook loves sports and all things athletic. She recently became a certified personal trainer. Her love for athletics shows during PE and Sports Elective. Brook also started the schools Cross Country team in 2012. During the school year she coaches Running Club for students in K-8th.

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Exceptional Children

Lynn Varian
Assistant EC Coordinator/EC Teacher

Lynn Varian moved from Florida to Bryson City in June of 2006 with her husband Craig Varian, a graphic artist, and their daughter Emma, who attended MDCS and is currently a student at Jackson COunty Early College.

Lynn has a Master's Degree in Psychology from the University of West Georgia. She has over 10 years experience working with youth and adolescents as a Therapist with an Experiential Learning focus. In addition, Lynn has enjoyed a 20+ year passion for yoga and has taught classes to a varied clientele. Lynn is currently teaching in the Exceptional Children's Department at MDCS and is Co-teaching the Our Whole Lives Course to the 7th and 8th graders. She is a licensed NC Special Education teacher.



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Chrissy Ortiz
EC Assistant / Transportation Director

Chrissy Ortiz grew up in Central Florida and moved to North Carolina in 2014. She attended Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, FL and graduated Cum Laude with an AS in Applied Science. Chrissy spent over a decade working in restaurant management. Then, 4 years as a District Manager for a commercial playground repair/cleaning company. Wanting to be home with her daughter on weekends and holidays, she persued a school bus license. Once employed at Mountain Discovery, an amazing position opened up as a one-on-one teacher in the Exceptional Children's Department, and it turned out to be a perfect fit! Chrissy lives with her daughter, MDCS student Keona and their two cats, Coal and Tinkerbell. She loves MDCS and North Carolina and hopes to stay forever!


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Amy Jo Harvey
Interim Behavior Support Specialist

Amy Jo Harvey has a degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She is also a Qualified Mental Health Professional, Licensed Therapeutic Foster Parent and a Nurturing Parent Educator. She comes to us with 15+ years of experience working with children and families. Early on Amy's desire to work with children lead her to work in Thailand with the Peace Corps then as a teacher, social worker as well as Behavioral Interventionist at Mountain Discovery from early 2004 through June of 2006. Amy Jo loves to travel and explore natural places with her family.

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Jenn Storm
Title I/Afterschool Coordinator

Jenn was born and raised in Clearwater, Florida. She moved to western North Carolina with her family in the summer of 2004. Jenn is the proud mother of three sons. Her oldest son, Kyle lives with his wife in Clyde. Her middle son, Dalton, and youngest son, Jake, are both MDCS graduates. Dalton recently graduated from Swain High School, while Jake is a current Swain High School student. Prior to joining the MDCS community as an EA, Jenn was a stay-at-home mom for 5 years, during which time she returned to college to pursue a degree. She attained her AA in Elementary Education through St. Petersburg College at the end of 2007. Currently, Jenn facilitates Title I Reading instruction to students in grades 3 through 8, and is the coordinator of the After School Program. Jenn is also responsible for many of the beautiful photographs of MDCS activities and students.

“We couldn’t ask for a better learning environment for our children. Mountain Discovery Charter School is a wonderful community and I’m privileged to be surrounded by such caring and dedicated people.”

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Amanda Singley
Afterschool Assistant

Amanda grew up in the Nantahala Gorge in Swain County. She and her husband, Henry, have two sons attending MDCS, Christian & Christopher. Amanda calls them her "little blessings." She was a stay-at-home for five years before working at MDCS. Amanda also works part-time at The River’s End at the NOC. When she is not at MDCS, Amanda spends her days with her family. They enjoy attending church, 4-H, picnics, or just sitting at home together. Amanda is grateful to be able to spend her evenings at MDCS and absolutely loves being a part of so many children's lives.




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Krista Skrede
Art Teacher and Art Curriculum Coordinator

Krista was born and raised in Wisconsin, in a town right along the Mississippi River. From the time she was little, she knew two things: she wanted to be a teacher and she wanted to travel the world. Krista graduated from Winona State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in art education. She also holds a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Webster University in St. Louis. Soon after graduation, Krista packed her bags and moved the the Netherlands, where she taught art for 10 years at The American School of The Hague. Eventually, she wanted to experience a different part of the world and accepted a position in Dhaka, Bangladesh at the American International School/Dhaka. For 6 years she worked as an art teacher and department head. Living in the developing world was challenging, but more importantly, transformational. Krista states, "In Bangladesh I experienced so many interesting, compassionate, and ingenious people. It is where I truly got my education." After living in Asheville for a year, Krista trekked back over "the pond" to teach in Belgium.

The Penland School of Crafts brought Krista to WNC and she fell in love with the landscape and the people she met. After taking classes at Penland, she realized how much she had missed creating her own art, and so began using her experiences overseas and interactions with people to inform her work. As a practicing artist, Krista is constantly exploring new materials and ideas to enhance her own work and to share with her students. She has experience with a wide variety of materials and tries to learn a variety of techniques and mediums in order to share them with her students so that they can express themselves in a variety of ways. Through critical thinking, problem solving, and experimentation, Krista encourages her students to respond to local and global issues in unique and creative manners. After living a rather nomadic life, Krista is happy to be settled in Franklin, NC with her family. She spends her free time creating art, working in the garden, cooking, and playing with her family.

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Michael Collings
K-5 Music Teacher/Band Director

Mr. Collings is interested in all kinds of music and one can find him directing choir at his church, playing in a pit orchestra at WCU, playing jazz in local clubs and of course, teaching in the classroom. When Mr. Collings was a kid, he listened to music all the time and made his own drum sets out of pots and pans. As he got older his parents feared that he may have too much time on his hands and they bought him a guitar. In school, Mr. Collings enjoyed music class and was fortunate enough to have good teachers. He decided to continue studying music in college and eventually he got a couple of pieces of paper proving that he learned enough about music to be called a "Master of Music." Though this sounds impressive, he still has a lot to learn. He hopes to keep learning about music and looks forward to teaching the students of MDCS a little of what he has learned. Mr. Collings is excited to join the MDCS faculty this year and looks forward to meeting his new students and parents. He and his wife moved to Western North Carolina ten years ago and live in Sylva with their four children.

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Photo credits: Terri Clark Photography and Jenn Storm
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