Head of School and Head Teacher Charlotte Zinsser Booth began assisting in nursery school programs at 16, while apprenticed to the New Jersey Ballet Company. After receiving an Associate of Arts Degree from Simon’s Rock of Bard College in Theater & Dance, she worked in the Sweet Briar College Nursery and Kindergarten while studying Movement for Children and continuing to study modern dance. Charlotte obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Development Psychology from Sarah Lawrence College while becoming certified to teach preschool-eighth grade, and she has continued to work with children ages 3-14, and to dance, for the last three decades in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Virginia. She is the founder of North Branch School, mother of three NBS graduates, and currently teaches Music and Movement to the Primary and Junior classes, Physical Skills with all ages, Language Arts in Early Primary and Language Skills with the Seniors, while costuming and directing plays with everyone. As Head of School, Charlotte is responsible for admissions decisions, class groupings, and curriculum coordination. She loves every minute of it!
Administrator Cleo Keller graduated from California State University at Long Beach with a Liberal Studies degree with a History concentration. Her interest in community led her to Virginia, where she lived at Twin Oaks community in Louisa before moving to Shannon Farm community in 2004. She established a weekly Homeschool group there as well as leading a children’s singing group with her husband Craig. Her interests include teaching quilting, singing, and hiking in the woods. Her son Adrian attends NBS.
Administrator Heather Harris graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in Teaching. She taught 8th-12th grade English for 11 years before taking time to stay at home with her daughters. She has also been a musician and loves singing, dancing, and theater. She has a great love of reading, writing, traveling, and hearty laughter. Her daughters Kiki and Sophia attend NBS.
Preschool Teacher Jennifer Stuart has been with us for six years. In addition to her training from North Branch School, she has ten years of early education training and experience. Jennifer’s knowledge of the field comes from Grandmother’s House of Learning and Development, Nelson County Parks and Recreation, Randolph Macon Nursery School, Boar’s Head Inn’s children department, Lynchburg Community Action Group’s Headstart, Nelson County High School, Randolph Macon Woman’s College, and Mary Baldwin College. Jennifer is passionate about education, music, and dance and is thrilled to be a part of the North Branch Community.
Preschool Teacher Toni Ranieri’s attention to the personal development of each child creates an environment for individuality to shine. She has strong interests in conflict resolution skills and science/nature studies that come into play in the classroom every day. These talents, combined with her bachelor’s degree in Recreation, lead students into active engagement in the learning process. During her 17 years of working at North Branch as both a Nursery and science teacher, she has also worked summers in nature programs at Montessori, Wintergreen, and Camp Dogwood. Recently Toni took a sabbatical in which she explored a variety of academic programs, including teaching children in Guatemala and South Korea, working in a summer remedial reading program, and teaching Educational Psychology online for National University. During this period she was also earning her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Mary Baldwin College and observing many public school classes. Toni is very happy to be back home with the children of North Branch, sharing all she has learned. Toni’s two daughters both graduated from NBS.
Early Primary Teacher Jessie Hudson’s relationship with North Branch began in 1992, when she began attending as a 7th grader. Since that time, at least one member of her family has attended without interruption! Following two years at NBS, Jessie attended Nelson County High school, and then began her studies at Virginia Tech, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services and then a Master’s degree in Human Development. While at VT, Jessie met her husband, Matt, who is a Chiropractor practicing in Lynchburg. Following VT, Jessie worked for several years as a Social Worker where she placed over 60 foster children into adoptive homes, while also attending Converse College in the evenings. In 2007, she graduated from Converse College with an MAT in Early Childhood Education and is currently certified to teach children grades PK-3rd in Virginia as well as South Carolina. Jessie has two children, who both attend North Branch’s preschool program.
Primary I Teacher Krista Crocker received her B.A. in Elementary Education from Rollins College and an M.A. in Elementary Guidance at the University of South Florida. Krista taught elementary school in Florida before becoming involved with a parent co-op preschool and then the Nelson County homeschooling community. In those settings, as well as at NBS, Krista has shared her commitment to a whole language approach to reading instruction, and her delight in fostering independent learning from a young age. She is thrilled to combine her love of teaching children and yoga at school in this, her 9th year at NBS. Krista has three children; one graduated from NBS in 2007, one graduated in 2011, and one currently attends NBS.
Primary II Teacher Natasha Jahrsdoerfer received a Bachelor of Science in Education with a minor in Drama from Queens College, followed by graduate work in Russian at George Washington University and in Education at the University of Virginia. After decades of teaching in the US and abroad, she still loves to share the passions of her life – being outdoors, enjoying the natural world, hiking, gardening, travel, and the joy of reading a good book – with children. Her extensive travel abroad and to distant places in the US and Canada helps bring new material and ideas to broaden the children’s experience and understanding of the world. For decades Natasha has cherished and inspired children ages 6-8 to do their best work, whether they are learning to read, write, spell, count, add, subtract, research science and social studies topics, or push in their chairs.
Juniors Teacher Stuart Gunter brings to NBS a great love of language, music, art, books, nature, and the willingness to share these things with other people. He has enjoyed a variegated career path that has taken him from inside burning buildings to classrooms, from Alaska to Florida, from traveling in a band to leading outdoor trips, from here to there “sucking the marrow out of life.” He loves his family: Mary Catherine, James, and Juliette. They live in Schuyler, where they raise chickens and cook.
Juniors Teacher Genevieve Dennis started her very first year of school at North Branch as a Junior, and is now beginning her first year of teaching ever at North Branch as part of the Juniors team again! She is a born-and-raised Nelsonian and is thrilled to be back in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After graduating from NBS and attending Nelson County High School, Genevieve went on to Virginia Commonwealth University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Teaching. She is certified to teach Pre-K through 6th grade in Virginia. Genevieve enjoys singing, vacations in the Outer Banks, her grandmother’s Italian cooking, cheering on the VCU Rams basketball team, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Cooper.
Seniors Teacher Jon Goff, a Nelson native, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in history at the University of Virginia in 2011, specializing in the history of China. With a passion for world history and literature, he strives to make the past come to life as students step into ancestors’ shoes with hands-on projects. Jon is a musician skilled in a range of musical styles and instruments, and he is also experienced in various construction trades. Though he loves world travel, Jon has always dreamed of being a teacher at home in Nelson County and at a school that places no cap on learning, such as North Branch.
Senior Science Teacher Margaret Lambert joined us in the fall of 2012. Margaret graduated from The Evergreen State College with a B.S. and an emphasis in Biology and Field Ecology. As part of her scientific field experience, she has banded songbirds in the Sonoran Desert in NW Mexico and assisted with Tufted Puffin and Common Murre population studies in the Alaskan Barren Islands. She has also spent 5 years teaching environmental education at both the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Olympia, WA and The Living Earth School summer camp in Sugar Hollow, VA. She is thrilled to share her enthusiasm for discovering the mysteries of the natural world with students at North Branch. Margaret will also be teaching math to one section of the Juniors. When she is not out in the woods hiking around, Margaret enjoys making sourdough pancakes, playing ultimate frisbee, and discovering new children’s stories.
Middle School Coordinator Katrien Vance teaches Humanities, Language Arts, math, and music to North Branch Middle Schoolers, leads the school’s Chorus of 5th-8th graders, and sings with the Juniors. She received her BA from Williams College and has an MA in English from Villanova University, where she won the Graduate Essay Award in 1991. She also studied English at Breadloaf School of English in Vermont, which included a summer at Lincoln College, Oxford. She sings alto in the Virginia Consort and founded the Blue Ridge Family Chorus. A teacher for 25 years, 19 at NBS, Katrien has taught students from ages 7-17, and has found her home in middle school. She loves reading, writing, thinking, singing, and laughing, and loves that she gets to do all of them with the middle schoolers. Katrien’s two sons attend North Branch.
Middle School Science and Math Teacher Jebb Cuthbert first taught at NBS beginning in 1992. After 6 years on the faculty, she went to graduate school at U.Va., where she earned her Ph.D. in Cell Biology. After teaching grad students as a Teaching Assistant in the Biology Department, she returned to teaching Seniors and Middle Schoolers at NBS in 2010 as a substitute teacher of science and math, and for the past two years she has taught Algebra I. Jebb is the mother of 2 sons, one of whom graduated from NBS, and she lives with husband Chris, 7 horses, and 3 dogs.
Middle School Science, Math, and Language Arts Teacher Jennifer Page graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Foreign Affairs, and from Catholic University of America with a Master’s Degree in Library Science. She lived overseas for a number of years learning languages and cultures. After working as an international and reference librarian for a decade, she has been teaching and working with children of all ages in foreign languages, math, science, and humanities for the past six years. She loves reading, gardening, hiking, spinning and knitting, and simplicity. She has two children who attend NBS.
Spanish Language and Culture Teacher and Library/Media Resources Specialist Oscar Cardenas has a B.S. in Information Science and Documentation Technology from Quindio University in Colombia. He is a Spanish teacher with experience in schools and universities as a librarian and media resources director in Bogotá, Colombia. He has recently finished Level I of the Virginia Department of Education’s Career Switchers program at Blue Ridge Community College with an endorsement in Foreign Language. Until 2007, Oscar was employed with Virginia Cooperative Extension from Virginia Tech with the EFNEP program (Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program) as a program assistant. He conducted nutrition education programs to Spanish- speaking families in the Rockingham and Harrisonburg areas, with great results in changing behaviors. He has also completed several translations of educational materials. Oscar teaches all of the North Branch students with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. He uses a cultural approach and includes technology in the classroom to increase participation and motivation. His objective is to encourage students’ independence, so that they develop both the desire and the ability to learn and think for themselves.
Development Director Bonnie Holliday has been affiliated with NBS as parent, teacher, administrator, or Board member since 1990. She is excited to be working with staff, parents, and Board members to expand North Branch’s programs in the areas of donor relations, foundation and corporate support, and community outreach. After attending Glenville State College in West Virginia and living in several cities, Bonnie discovered Nelson County and has called it home since 1981. Her previous work experiences in the area include Wintergreen Resort, Sweet Briar College, and the University of Virginia. She currently serves on the Nelson Memorial Library Advisory Council and the Nelson United Methodist Administrative Council. She and her husband Tom have two daughters, both of whom are graduates of NBS.