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Lab Faculty

Instructional Staff

Elizabeth Benitez

K-1 Spanish Assistant Teacher -

Elizabeth is a mother of four growing boys and wife of an educator. Two of her boys attend Charlotte Lab School and love it there. She is bilingual and is a first generation in her family from Puerto Rico. She came to the United States from Puerto Rico and was raised in the Lower East Side area of Manhattan, New York for the majority of her life.

Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, exploring the city of Charlotte and do-it-yourself projects.

Erique Berry

Math Teacher -

Erique is a native from Winston-Salem, NC and earned a degree in Applied Mathematics with a focus in Economics from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro NC. She has 6 years of teaching experience and has returned back to classroom after working for Apple Inc. for the last 4 years. Some of her favorite things are cooking and the Carolina Panthers.

Maggie was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. She received a degree in Elementary Education from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Following student teaching at Myers Park Traditional, she spent two months working with children from Kindergarten through 9th grade, in all subject areas, at a private school in Nicoya, Costa Rica. Margaret has spent the past three years teaching at Myers Park Traditional School. Her passions are teaching, traveling, spending time with family and friends, music, and all things outdoors.

She has three younger brothers, and a wonderful mother, father, step-father and stepmother.

Mary Royall has over 18 years of teaching and administrative experience in education. She received a degree in English from The College of Charleston and a Masters Degree in Teaching from Queens University of Charlotte. She then went on to receive a second degree from UNCC in teaching birth to kindergarten. Mary Royall taught pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and served as a Literacy Support Teacher for CMS as well. She also taught at Covenant Presbyterian Preschool where she assisted the director in duties to secure accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In addition to these responsibilities, Mary Royall has worked as the Director of the Dilworth United Methodist Weekday School for the past five years. She enjoys running, reading and traveling. She has a large family spread over the map from New Orleans, LA to Denver, CO.

Mary Royall has two daughters, Madeline and Martha, who both attend AG Middle School.

LaQueita is a native of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Queens University of Charlotte in Elementary Education with a minor in Psychology. She had the privilege of being a North Carolina Teaching Fellow, a scholarship program which provides aspiring teachers with full tuition scholarships to pursue an education degree. Through this opportunity she was able to train with Ron Clark at the Ron Clark Academy, teach at various schools in the Charlotte area, and even in Tanzania.

Laquieta has lived in Charlotte for six years and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Math and Science.

Victoria and is from Slidell, Louisiana. Her parents are originally from Honduras, so she and her two younger sisters are first-generation. They grew up speaking both Spanish and English, so she knows firsthand the benefits of being bilingual in our society. She also knows the difficulty of learning a different language since Spanish was the primary language of her household. Even her five dogs in Louisiana are bilingual!

Victoria graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University, in Hammond, Louisiana with a degree in Spanish and a minor in French. Speaking and learning different languages has always been a passion of hers and she loves that throughout the years she has been able to demonstrate that passion, to not only her peers but also to her students.

She taught Spanish at Ascension Christian High for the last two years and loved every minute of it! She's glad that she is able to combine her love of languages and culture into her teaching career.

She recently moved to North Carolina to further her career and academic goals. She lives with her boyfriend and her German Shepherd, Butters. She looks forward to getting to learn more about North Carolina and also know more about her colleagues and students.

Lisa is an educator, artist and mother of two. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art with a minor in Art History from Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York. Her own interests in art and education lead to her completion of a Master’s Degree in Art Education from New York University. Today, Lisa works in a broad range of media from ceramics to collage to sewing, and her artwork has been included in group exhibitions in NYC, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Prior to taking time off to start a family, Lisa was the Associate Curator of Education at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke where she worked with K-12 students and teachers. In addition to art, her interests include gardening, tennis, local food, and the outdoors.

She and her husband have two children, Teagan and Garret, and currently reside in Charlotte.

Mary-Ashley is a native of Roswell, Georgia. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with minors in Psychology and Math from Queens University of Charlotte, following a standout career as a varsity soccer player. She has also received her Master’s degree in Literacy Education from Queens University of Charlotte, as well as her Advanced and Intellectually Gifted certification from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has spent the past four and a half years teaching as a Talent Development teacher at Myers Park Traditional School. She is a lover of the beach, college football and being outdoors every opportunity she gets.

She has an older brother Thomas, and a younger sister Eleni, and currently resides in Charlotte.

Stephanie Doig

Kindergarten ELA Teacher -

Stephanie grew up in Clayton, North Carolina. She attended Western Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In 2008, she spent a semester in Granada, Spain at the Universidad de Granada learning Spanish and volunteering in schools. Stephanie earned a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education with a minor in English as a Second Language from UNCW. Stephanie is a passionate teacher and is currently living out her life-long dream of teaching kindergarten. She is a lover of the beach, traveling, crafting, and the Carolina Panthers.

Stephanie currently lives in Charlotte and has two brothers, Trey and Andrew.

Samantha Dreyer

1st Grade Math/Quest Teacher -

Samantha was born in Montclair, New Jersey. She received a degree in Early Childhood Education from Miami University in Ohio and a Master's Degree in Teaching Literacy from Bank Street College of Education. Samantha worked as an elementary teacher for 2 years in New York City. After relocating to Charlotte, she taught second grade in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. When Samantha is not teaching she enjoys traveling, being outdoors, spending time with family and friends, and trying new restaurants. She is also certified to teach Children's Yoga.

Samantha and her husband currently live in Charlotte, NC.

Shannon Fersner

K-1 Assistant Teacher -

Shannon is from Orangeburg, South Carolina. She has been working with children for over 12 years and absolutely loves it. Shannon received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from South Carolina State University. She is an Assistant Teacher in the EC department at Charlotte Lab School. She started working at the Lab School last year and is now in her second year.

Shannon is also a self-published author of two books that she is very proud of. She enjoys reading, dancing, traveling, writing and working out. Her goal as a teacher is to assist every child so that they can reach their full potential to be productive in the world.

Emily has taught in both public and private schools in the U.S. and abroad. She earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Florida State University. She later went on to earn her Master’s degree as a Literacy Specialist from Columbia University Teachers College. At Columbia, Emily was selected for an urban school fellowship to strengthen the impact of inquiry-based play on language acquisition and literacy skills. The past few years, Emily has worked as a literacy coach, helping teachers grow in their literacy instruction. She enjoys being outdoors, traveling to new places, and eating really good food.

Emily and her husband recently moved to Charlotte.

Carey is a North Carolina native. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a minor in Foreign Language Education from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her love of learning and languages has led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction for Bilingual Education through the University of Minnesota. She is also an active member of the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages and the Foreign Languages Association of North Carolina. She loves traveling and exploring new places, watching things grow in the garden, and being a part of the Baran Dance Company.

Denise is an educator with more than 10 years of experience in the classroom. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and British Literature from Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois. Her passion for teaching would lead her to receive a Master’s degree from the Columbia University Teachers College in Curriculum and Teaching, as well as in Gifted Education. She has had a variety of teaching experiences both in public and private school settings, here in the U.S. and abroad. She also has extensive experience in dual-language school settings. During the last 4 years of her full-time teaching career, Denise was the Spanish language catalyst charged with developing the K-8 Spanish curriculum, in addition to her role as Middle School Spanish teacher and advisory leader, for Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte, NC.

Denise is a founding board member of Charlotte Lab School and serves as a Talent Development teacher in the Literacy Department for 2nd-5th grades. Her three children are current students at Charlotte Lab School.

Dave Hartzell

Quest Teacher -

Dave is a Philadelphia native who graduated from the University of Delaware in 2006. Since then, he taught elementary school in both Richmond and Charlotte. While working in CMS, Dave founded the 40 Book Project, a grassroots campaign that provided high-interest home libraries to students who needed them most. He is also part of a small group of educators around the world to pilot an Imagination Chapter, which helps build creativity in students. Most recently, Dave was a Master Reach Teacher at Shamrock Gardens Elementary and a Seminar Instructor for TEACH Charlotte.

He and his wife have three sons - Calvin, Finn and Levi.

Stephanie Hollands

ELA/Quest Teacher -

From a young age, Stephanie knew she wanted to be a teacher. She loved learning and wanted to spread her enthusiasm for education to children. Stephanie received a Bachelor of Science Degree from Michigan State University and a Master in Education from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She then went on to get certified in ESL (English as a Second Language). While in Chicago, Stephanie worked in both public and private schools in a variety of roles. For the past eight years she taught kindergarten. Outside of teaching, she loves traveling, spending time with family and friends and being outdoors. Stephanie is excited to be part of the Charlotte Lab School Team!

Larsee received her NC Early Childhood Education Credentials in 2011 at Central Piedmont Community College. She has taught professionally in an Early Childhood setting for 3 years, acting as a lead teacher at the Learning Garden. Most recently, she has served as a teacher assistant with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

She currently resides in Charlotte, NC.

Elizabeth was born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia in a bilingual household. Elizabeth's mother is Peruvian and she grew up speaking Spanish. Elizabeth received a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Elon University and later obtained her Master's of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. She taught second grade at a Catholic school in Vienna, VA and first grade in the Fairfax County, VA school system. Additionally, she spent several years working as a teacher's assistant at a Montessori preschool.

She and her husband, Dan, reside in Charlotte with their two children, Anderson and Annabel.

Dee Lanier

Quest Teacher -

“Sociologist turned Technologist,” Dee is a passionate and energetic educator and learner with over a decade of instructional experience on the K-12 and collegiate level. Dee holds Undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Sociology with special interests in education, race-relations, and inequality. From 2007-2012 Dee served at Crossroads Charter HS as a full-time Vocational Studies teacher, Testing Coordinator and Title I Director. Dee also served as the Technology Catalyst for the Lower School at Trinity Episcopal School and is currently the Director of Creative Instruction with Think Open Schools and a STEM Specialist at Charlotte Lab School in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A native of Taiwan, Lee-Jung received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Language from the University of Tamkang in New Taipei City, Taiwan. She later received her Masters of Science in ESL and EFL Education from the University of Tennessee - Knoxville. Lee-Jung has spent the past several years teaching Chinese to elementary school students as a Chinese teacher at the Great Wall School of Education in Huntersville, NC, as well as a private Chinese tutor. She enjoys watching cooking shows and painting.

She and her husband, Venkata, currently reside in Huntersville with their two daughters, Sloka and Riya.

A Michigan native, Jim moved to the South while serving in the Air Force as a fire fighter. Later, he attended George Mason University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, later followed by a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. While in Alexandria, VA, he had the privilege of being on the founding faculty of a public elementary school, teaching 3rd grade. For the past 8 years, Jim has taught 2nd and 4th grades at Trinity Episcopal School and coached middle school basketball. He is also in his third year as a STEM Fellow with Discovery Place and is pursuing an Environmental Education Certificate from the State of NC. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his family, going on adventures, finding "curiosities" to share, playing basketball, fishing, kayaking, and finding a good read-aloud!

He currently resides in Charlotte with his wife, Julia, son, Jack, and stepchildren Caleb, Cole, and Addison.

Andrea Miller

Behavior/Counseling Assistant Teacher -

A native of South Florida, Andrea moved to North Carolina to attend Wake Forest University, receiving a Bachelors degree in Economics with a minor in Psychology. After a year at an all female Boarding school, she learned that she was better suited for a career in counseling children. Andrea went on to earn her Masters and Educational Specialist degree in Counseling from UNC-Greensboro, a North Carolina supervisory license in Professional Counseling, and a supervisor certification as a Registered Play Therapist.

Most of Andrea's career has been spent in a local private practice providing counseling services to children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. She recently earned her Post-Masters certificate in School Counseling and completed her internship at Charlotte Lab School in the Spring 2016. Andrea is a strong believer in supporting the needs of the whole child. She knew Charlotte Lab School aligned well with her own beliefs about how children learn and grow.

Andrea enjoys running, baking, watching movies, and spending time with family and friends. Andrea and her husband reside in Concord and have twin boys who attend Charlotte Lab School.

Luis Morales

Spanish Teacher -

Originally from Chile, Luis is a dedicated and passionate teacher. He is always seeking ways of integrating technology into existing curriculum and creating new lesson plans to encompass technology and spanish in all classrooms.

Previously to CLS, has spent the last few years working with both K-8 teachers and students as an a Spanish Technology Teacher and Instructional Technology Specialist in a Spanish Immersion Program at CMS. Also, he provided instructional technology support to school and Technology professional development on Essential Standards, 21st Century skills, and online, blended and mobile learning.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in Digital Communication and Multimedia & an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science. Also different training such as “Creativity, Innovation and Change”, “Developing Innovative Ideas”,“Managment”. Besides of teaching he has more than 10 years in the Technology field as well a few years as an Entrepreneur.

He loves traveling, music and outdoor activities, and also enjoys spending time with his family and friends.

A native of Argentina, Barbara received her Bachelor’s degree in English-Spanish Translation from the Instituto de Ensenanza Superior Olga Cossettini in Rosario, Argentina. She later received a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Culture from SUNY Empire State College in Saratoga Springs, NY. She was raised in an English Immersion program herself and has experienced the benefits of immersion first-hand. She has more than 10 years of experience in teaching and language/human services. Besides teaching, translating and interpreting, Barbara has developed, implemented, and collaborated with several impactful self-sufficiency programs targeted to the Latino community in need such as computer knowledge, ESL (English as a Second Language), job-preparation, and financial literacy classes in partnership with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Regional Library, the YMCA, and Davidson College. She has been devoted to the promotion of diversity and inclusion in the Lake Norman/Charlotte community for years and has been actively engaged in the Latin American Chamber of Commerce Charlotte and served in the Lake Norman Diversity Council to support this effort.

"Senora” Najenson loves children and is passionate about teaching and learning languages. She has worked in CMS in the Spanish Immersion Program at Oaklawn Language Academy with students of various age-groups and more recently, she has been teaching Spanish at Vance High School.

When she is not teaching, she loves spending time with her family, two daughters and husband and visiting with friends and family in her native land, in the southern hemisphere of the world.

Brittany Newswanger

EC Lab Fellow -

Brittany was born and raised in Mason, OH. After high school, she attended the University of Cincinnati where she pursued a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Leadership. Throughout her college years she became involved in a student-lead non-profit called, College Mentors for Kids where she found her passion for working with children. She also served as the President her last two years. Following her undergraduate degree, she worked at a non-profit called, Stepping Stones where she worked with children and teens with disabilities. Brittany taught sensory processing and independence. In August 2015, Brittany moved to Charlotte, NC to be an AmeriCorps VISTA member for Charlotte Lab School where she assisted with program development, recruitment, developing an after school program and more in the CLS Maker Lab. This year Brittany took on the position of an EC (exceptional children’s) LAB Fellow in Math, grades 2-5 at Charlotte Lab. Brittany is the youngest of 3 and loves hiking, camping and mountain biking.

Maria Pollara

EC ELA Teacher -

Maria was born in Toms River, New Jersey and grew up in Marco Island, Florida. She attended the University of Central Florida where she earned a BS in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a minor in Special Education. Maria first became interested in working with individuals with special needs when she started working with Camp Able in 2007, and has continued working with the organization every summer since. Her experience with Camp Able ignited her passion of working with individuals with disabilities, leading her down the career path of working in Special Education. During college, Maria worked as a Lead Teaching Assistant at United Cerebral Palsy for a self-contained classroom for preschoolers with severe disabilities for 3 years. After graduating, Maria joined TEACH Charlotte, relocated to Charlotte, and accepted a job as an EC Teacher in the public school system. After teaching in CMS, Maria was offered an opportunity to teach in Seoul, South Korea for 10 months. She has since relocated back to Charlotte and is working on her Masters in Special Education and graduate certificate in Autism at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Maria enjoys the outdoors, traveling, hiking, camping, photography, reading, cooking, and exploring new places.

She has an older brother, a younger sister, and a 7-year-old nephew.

Woody has been teaching and performing music in New York City for 11 years. From 2007-2015, he served as a multi-instrumental instructor at the NYC Guitar School and Brooklyn Guitar School. During that time he maintained a weekly roster of over 70 students, teaching guitar, bass, piano, drums, ukulele, music theory, digital music production, and songwriting. Woody's teaching philosophy is based on incorporating a broad music curriculum, while allowing individual students to achieve personal greatness through music that will remain relevant as the student grows. He strongly believes that every song offers an important lesson in music, math, history and culture.

Woody was raised in Greenville, South Carolina. After attending the Fine Arts Center in high school, Woody earned a Bachelor's Degree in Studio Music and Jazz from the University of Miami. During his time at Miami he received 3 Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards.

Woody lives in South Charlotte with his wife Laura, their daughter Lillian, and rescue dog Judd.

Marie Astrid Salas

Kindergarten Spanish Teacher -

A native of Chile, Astrid earned her BA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Gabriela Mistral University in Santiago, Chile, as well a Masters of Arts in EFL Education from the same university. She continued her journey to learn and she is currently pursuing a M.Ed. in ESL and Bilingualism at American College of Education, USA.

Her education background and teaching experiences are a valuable asset and have proven to be a powerful tool throughout her years as an educator, both in Chile and USA. She has more than 10 years of experience and has worked with various ages/levels. She came to United States in 2011 to teach Spanish at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, where she was a K-Lead Teacher in a Spanish Immersion Program, working in a multicultural classroom environment integrating 21st century Skills. She is really proud to be nominated as “Teacher of the Year” for 2 years consecutively at her last school.

When she’s not teaching, she loves spending time outdoors with her husband and traveling

Mollie Smith

1st Grade ELA Teacher -

Mollie recently moved to Charlotte. She taught in both public and private schools in New York City. She earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Deaf Education at Bloomsburg University. Her love of reading would lead her to earn a Master’s degree as a Literacy Specialist from Columbia University Teachers College. The past few years, Mollie has worked as a literacy coach, consultant and teacher in kindergarten and first grade classrooms. When she is not teaching, she loves reading, trying new restaurants, crafting, and hanging out with her husband, Zach.

Colby Snyder

Scientist-In-Residence -

“Scientist and Maker” Colby enjoyed an extensive professional career of over 20 years as an environmental scientist. She recently took her experience and passion for science and put it to work as an educator at the Charlotte Lab School. Last year, Colby helped to develop the Maker class curriculum at the Lab School as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Colby is looking forward to continuing this journey in the upcoming year as Charlotte Lab School’s Scientist-in-Residence.

Qian Wang

Chinese Teacher -

Mrs. Wang was born in Wuhan, a city in central China where she received

her bachelors degree in English Education from Huazhong Normal University. She had over 8 years of experience with age groups from 6 to 13 years old when she taught elementary and middle schools in Wuhan. She moved to New York City in 2006 and received her second bachelor degree in Illustration from Parsons School of Design. She is a passionate teacher who loves to incorporate arts into her teaching through various art projects.

A native of the United Kingdom, Kaylee hails from Scarborough, a small, coastal town located in northeastern England, where her parents and younger twin sisters still live. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Education with Information Technology from York St. John University in York, England and is currently pursuing her Masters in Education and Technology from the Institute of Education, University College London. Kaylee has been teaching since 2009, and has great experience promoting interactive and child initiated learning for students at the pre-k and elementary levels. Recently, she has served as a global ambassador, first grade teacher and grade level chair in Union County. Previously, she worked as an Early Years leader in England. Outside of teaching, Kaylee does not like to sit still. She loves the outdoors, traveling, F1 racing, snowboarding, and attending concerts.

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