MDCS
Inspiring Students

Our Staff

 

Administration

Edie McDowell - Director
Edie McDowell, a native North Carolinian, is thrilled to join the Mountain Discovery Charter School community as Director. Over two decades of educational leadership experiences have afforded her invaluable training in innovative, experiential education. Within the past decade, she has helped establish four local alternative schools, most recently serving as Director of Curriculum and Instructional Coaching at The Franklin School of Innovation, a Middle-High School EL Education Charter School in Asheville. In each of these positions, as well as in prior public school teaching environments, she has employed the philosophy and methodology wherein all members of the school community serve ...
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Carter Petty - Chief Financial Officer
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 ...
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Crim Bassett - Operations 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 ...
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Amy Jo Harvey - Dean of Students
Amy Jo is from Minnesota and graduated with a BSW from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She loves going back home each summer to see family and spend time in the beautiful lakes of this area! Shortly after college Amy Jo was in Peace Corps-Thailand working with children in rural health and traveling for several years. She has about 20 years experience working with children through teaching, mental health, Juvenile Justice and behavioral intervention. Amy's favorite part of her school day is getting hugs and smiles from kids and her favorite part of the after school day is swimming at Deep ...
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Tracy Wharton - EC Coordinator
Tracy Wharton joins Mountain Discovery Charter School with over 10 years of experience in education. Her career in education began as a middle school math teacher. Varied experiences have afforded her the opportunity to work in various settings and grade levels from kindergarten through twelfth grade. After several years teaching math, she had the opportunity to work in a Day Treatment setting providing instruction in all content areas to at-risk students in 6th - 12th grades. This experience guided her toward pursuing a career shift to Exceptional Children's Services. Tracy spent two years working as inclusion teacher with high school ...
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Emily Herndon - EC Teacher
Emily joins Mountain Discovery Charter School with over 10 years of experience as a classroom teacher and is looking forward to her new role in the Exceptional Children’s Department. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with a concentration in History in 2007. Her love of the outdoors, nature, and philosophy of education match perfectly with MDCS. “I am eager to continue my teaching and learning career in such a warm and inviting environment.” In her free time, Emily enjoys reading, cooking and traveling. She has visited many different ...
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Jessica Ray - EC Teacher
Jessica grew up in Morganton N.C. She is the youngest of three siblings and the only girl. Jessica moved away to attend college at Western Carolina University and ended up falling in love with the Western North Carolina area. She is a recent graduate with a degree in inclusive education. Jessica is able to teach general education, special education, as well as severe and profound disabilities. Jessica will be teaching K-3 max resource EC students. Her senior year at Western, Jessica did her internship at Mountain Discovery Charter School. She split her time in half with the EC department and ...
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Lindsay Heim - Title I/Speech Pathologist
Lindsay grew up outside of Boston and received her B.S. in Communication Sciences from the University of Vermont. She graduated from WCU with a M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2005 and has spent the last 14 years providing speech/language therapy here in Western NC to children with disabilities of all ages. Her love for the NC mountains started much earlier though as she spent her childhood visiting family in Asheville and vowed to live there one day. Her areas of expertise include speech sound disorders, preschool/school age language, Autism, social language, and supervision of graduate students. Her experience ...
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Teachers

Middle School – Music
Songbird Burkey - Art Teacher Sarah Elizabeth Burkey (Songbird) is a Recording Artist, Songwriter, and Storyteller whose work has been featured on over 17 albums including Door of the Moon, When the Redbuds Bloom, Don’t Die Yet, and Honeysuckle Vine. She has toured 19 countries and earned an international reputation as an authentic voice for Roots Music and Cultural Arts. Songbird is deeply committed to the preservation and continuation of traditional knowledge and the vital role it plays in health, healing, and well-being. She worked for the Cherokee Historical Association for 5 years as a Historian, Heritage Arts Crafter, Assistant ...
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Kindergarten Teacher
Sarah Mwaniki Kindergarten Teacher Welcome to Our Kindergarten World! My name is Ms. Mwaniki and I am thrilled to begin the year with you at Mountain Discovery Charter School. I am from Asheville and have lived in Sylva for the past 13 years. I am married and have a one year old daughter named Betty. She is a very happy and active child! I moved to Sylva in 2008 to attend Western Carolina University and graduated in 2012. My Bachelor’s Degree is in Sociology. During my Junior year of college, I studied abroad in Kenya and learned about the educational ...
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First Grade Teacher
Jennifer Harbers Jennifer Harbers moved to Bryson City from California recently with her young son, Rowan. Jennifer moved here to be closer to family and start a new chapter in her life. She has over 20 years of teaching experience and has been involved in many facets of the education profession. Jennifer has a teaching credential, as well as a masters degree in education. She truly love school, and there is nothing that brings her more joy than getting to spend the day with a classroom full of children. Living in the mountains is a new gig for her, as ...
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Second Grade Teacher
Nicole Zmuda Nicole was born and raised in Bryson City, North Carolina. She attended Mountain Discovery Charter School as a student in 4th, 5th, and 8th grades. During this time, she decided she would one day become a teacher and give back to the students at MDCS. Nicole attended college at Southwestern Community College and Western Carolina University from 2011-2015 and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, as well as a minor in Psychology. Nicole began her teaching career at Swain West Elementary in 2016, where she worked for two years as a second grade teacher. She also ...
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Third Grade Teacher
Alexandra Nichols Alexandra grew up on the southern coast of Massachusetts and she is very excited to begin life here in the mountains as she wants to learn everything she can about hiking, camping, and kayaking. Alexandra grew up playing viola and piano and has played in many different orchestras. Her biggest passion, however, is teaching! Experiencing those "aha!" and "lightbulb" moments with students bring her the most joy. She is overjoyed to be working closely with the fantastic team of teachers here at Mountain Discovery to deeply develop her pedagogy. Alexandra received both her B.A. in Psychology and M.A.T ...
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Fourth Grade Teacher
Londa Bohl Increased responsibility. What a wonderful year fourth grade is. The foundation for many life skills can be introduced in fourth grade as students take on more responsibility for their own learning and behavior. They began to look at time management skills and how to complete assignments in a way that works to their advantage. At this age, students bring a sense of wonder and excitement to their study of the world. As fourth graders, our students are experimenting with ways to handle the new responsibilities and freedoms of being an older child. They are also learning about and ...
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Fifth Grade Teacher
Valerie Feathers Dr. Valerie Feathers joins Mountain Discovery Charter School with a varied educational background. A native of Elizabethton, Tennessee, Valerie grew up in the mountains and loved the outdoors. She attended East Tennessee State University and graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology as well as Foreign Languages. She decided to expand her horizons and moved to Louisiana where she attended Louisiana State University. Here, she received a M.A. in Anthropology as well as a PhD in Anthropology and Geography with a concentration in Archaeology. Yes, she’s an archaeologist! Her area of focus is Mesoamerican archaeology at a remote underwater ...
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Middle School - Language Arts & Social Studies
Preparing to Navigate Our Changing World Angie Danforth Exploring Our World At Mountain Discovery, we take an interdisciplinary approach to Language Arts and Social Studies in our middle school program. While grammar and writing mechanics are certainly taught and emphasized, our Social Studies curriculum is fully integrated into the Language Arts curriculum and provides meaningful opportunities for reading and writing. The combined Language Arts/Social Studies curriculum is designed to meet state and Common Core standards through active engagement, collaboration and hands on learning. Students are encourages to make meaningful connections between content and their personal knowledge and experiences. One of ...
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Middle School - Math & PE
Math Math in the MDCS middle school puts a strong focus on the “nuts and bolts.” As a teacher, I believe it is important for all students to have a strong math base. Having the opportunity to mold mathematical minds for three consecutive years helps fill in any weaknesses that a student may have. They leave here with all the tools to be successful math students and everyday users of math for the rest of their lives. Daily the students learn through structure and routines. This helps the students gain confidence in their abilities. We agree that practice makes perfect ...
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Middle School - Science
The Middle School Science Program at Mountain Discovery Charter School takes directly into account the State of North Carolina's science standards. Doing this, though, doesn't have to translate into teaching to the test. Curricular field trips are a critical part of Mountain Discovery's implementation of the Expeditionary Learning model. Each year the sixth graders embark on a geology trip in the spring, where concepts learned in the classroom are observed first hand in the field. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and MDCS team up for air quality studies in the spring. Data gathered by the seventh grade on this three-day hike ...
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Middle School - Art
I am so excited about the new school year! Often, during summer vacation, I indulge my personal creative pursuits with fabrics and paint. I also have time for my second indulgence, searching and reading art related articles on the internet. This time of self-exploration exposes me to many ideas and leads me into new directions for teaching art to our students. The essential question, “Why art?” will be the jumping off point for inquiry and reflection throughout the year. Students will be presented with art and artists from across time and cultures to answer questions such as, “Why do people ...
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Exceptional Children
"Helping Exceptional Children Reach Their Potential in the Least Restrictive Environment" At Mountain Discovery, we strive to create an environment that celebrates inclusion and diversity and that allows each child to discover their own unique potential. We pride ourselves on serving the whole child. We collaborate as an integrated team with teachers, parents, related services professionals, support staff, and the students to develop effective Individual Special Education Plans for each student. The E.C. Department’s goals are to provide innovative research based strategies and interventions to support all of our students’ academic, social, and functional growth. By utilizing a least restrictive ...
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Title I
Welcome to MCDS Title I Mountain Discovery has chosen to use its Title I revenue to implement a reading intervention program which helps students improve their phonics, decoding, and comprehension skills. Students in the program will receive 25 minutes of small group instruction Monday through Thursday. At MDCS, we use SRA's Corrective Reading program, which provides intensive, direct instruction-based reading intervention for students in Grades 3-Adult who are reading below grade level. This Direct Instruction reading intervention program delivers tightly sequenced, carefully planned lessons that give struggling students the structure and practice necessary to become skilled, fluent readers and better learners. Four ...
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Afterschool

Lisa Monnat  - Afterschool Coordinator
Lisa grew up as an Army Brat following her Dad’s military career. Her family settled in Alabama where she attended Troy University obtaining her B.S. in Marketing and her Masters in Business Administration. After graduation, she and her husband, Tony, travelled the United States with his Air Force career eventually retiring and settling here in WNC. They have 3 kids all who have attended MDCS. They enjoy being outdoors, biking, fishing, hiking, and kayaking as often as they can. She is excited to be a part of the MDCS family and to help educate the emerging generations ...
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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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Chrissy Ortiz - Bus Driver
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 pursued 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 ...
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