blairamberlyBlair Amberly

Second and Third Grade Teacher

Having grown up in northern Virginia, Blair has called Charlottesville home since graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in Economics. A life-changing stint as a summer camp counselor followed by a post-college position as a PE teacher led Blair to pursue a Masters in Elementary and Special Education from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. He loved his first years as a classroom teacher, during which he taught 4th grade at Brownsville Elementary School in Crozet. Then the time was right to chase his long-time dream to open a record store, and he started Speakertree Records in downtown Lynchburg, VA. After two exciting years as a small business pioneer, Blair missed the classroom and the joy of working with young people. He sold the store and is now delighted to be teaching at Free Union. Blair has two children, one who graduated from Free Union, Zhivan, and one still enrolled, Vivian. Blair lives in Charlottesville with family and lots and lots of records.

Marguerite brunner1Marguerite Brunner

First Grade Teacher

Starting with homeschooling her own children, Marguerite has been an educator for over twenty years. Those include teaching elementary students, tutoring for the Boy's and Girl's Club and doing pre-service for teachers. She teaches best practice in elementary reading, math, and gifted education for UVA's Curry School of Education where she earned an educational specialist degree. Marguerite loves the outdoors and enjoys daily nature walks with her four dogs, hiking with her family, and traveling to new places. We don't know if she travels with her ukulele, but she does have one.

Jess BurnsJess Burns

Preschool Extended Day Teacher

Jess joins preschool for the afternoons and will lead early childhood (PS, PK, and K) extended day. She and her daughter Maggie come to us from Pittsburgh where she was involved for years in many capacities with the Waldorf School. Most recently, she earned an MSW from the University of Pittsburgh and piloted a large-scale mentorship and work skills training project for the most underprivileged teens in the state. Her deepest interests lie in effective community interventions and community building, in response to the great economic disparities of our time. Her teaching style imbues in students a sense of accountability to the larger group and the environment. Jess's coworkers describe her as the most patient person they have ever known. She can often be found anywhere outdoors year-round, hunting for fossils and arrowheads, and loves cold-water swimming. She is thrilled to join a community that shares her ideals and interest in progressive education. 

GB FinalGrace Carbeck

Naturalist/Outdoor Education Teacher

A native of northern Michigan, Grace traveled south to the university of Michigan where she received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. Before venturing further south for the first time to the beautiful Blue Ridge and Charlottesville, Grace taught environmental science in outdoor programs in Utah and Maine. She particularly valued the infinite connections that could inspire wonder and joy within children while using the natural world as a classroom. She loves fishing, hiking, and reading, especially the works of JoanDidion, having just finished The Year of Magical Thinking. Something you may not know about Grace is that growing up she competed in Scottish highland dance. Ask her to bring in her ghillies.

Sarah Donelson1Sarah Donelson

Preschool Teacher

Born and raised in South Carolina, Sarah moved to Charlottesville in 2009. A lifelong love of books and history took her from Davidson College to Clemson University (after a stint in textbook publishing) and finally to Miami University where she earned a doctorate in early modern history. After spending the last four years co-oping at Chancellor Street Preschool Cooperative, she discovered that teaching preschool was her calling. When not playing, reading books, and being silly at Free Union, Sarah can be found with her children, Eleanor and William; her husband, Jim; or reading, running, and knitting.

Megan Earle CroppedMegan Earle

Kindergarten Assistant Teacher

Megan earned a bachelor of science in education from Bloomsburg University before moving to Virginia to teach first grade and pursue a msters in reading instruction from UVA. She taught for five years before choosing to be a full time mom but continued working with children by tutoring and volunteering in the community. When Megan’s daughters started school, she returned to teaching in both public and private school and is now works with Free Union as an assistant in a number of grades. Megan believes that while all children are different, they deserve quality instruction from a dedicated teacher who cares about them. Outside of school she enjoys trying new recipes, learning about nutrition, and watching her girls play soccer. She loves to read and hopes to share that joy with students of all ages. She lives in Ruckersville with her husband Chris, daughters Molly and Sarah, black lab Steeler, and adorable rabbit Peeta.

John FisherJohn Fisher

Fourth and Fifth Grade Teacher

John was born and raised in Washington D.C. but spent a good bit of his life in Milton, Delaware and Capon Bridge, West Virginia. After graduating from Guilford College with a degree in geology, John went into the field of Outdoor Education and then into the classroom. In 2002, after teaching fourth and fifth grade math, language arts, social studies, and science at an independent school in Alexandria for six years, he relocated to Albemarle County. After some pretty serious home renovations, John began teaching at Free Union in 2004 and has never looked back. He spends his free moments trying to slow the entropy of his surroundings, going on nice walks, and playing music. He lives in a great old house in Charlottesville with a dog, a cat, and his lovely wife.

Katie HarperKatie Harper

Preschool Assistant Teacher

Born and raised in Charlottesville, Katie has been a fan of Free Union Country School ever since watching her nephews attend many years ago. After obtaining her bachelor's degree in environmental science from Dickinson College, Katie went on to Mary Baldwin College for a Masters in Teaching degree. Before coming to Free Union, Katie taught in many area schools including Tandem Friends School, Charlottesville City Schools, and Louisa County Schools. She lives in downtown Charlottesville with her husband Jeff and her two beautiful daughters Reese and Josie, both of whom attend Free Union. When not at school you can find her playing and reading with her family, hiking, gardening, and running with her wonderful dog, Dasher.

Ruth Haske1Ruth Haske

Kindergarten Teacher

Ruth was born and raised in London, although she describes herself as a hodge podge of cultures, including Irish, South African, Israeli, and Polish. She earned a degree in Psychology and Social Work from the University of East Anglia (U.K.) where she later returned to complete her graduate studies in Education. Ruth has since taught middle school in a remote fishing village in Japan, and worked in a residential Waldorf school in Pennsylvania with children with special needs. She has also taught at an International school in New York City and a bilingual school in Honduras. She moved with her young family to volunteer at Innisfree village in Crozet and fell in love with this beautiful part of the world. Ruth is now contentedly settled in a little woodland cottage with her husband Chris, their two daughters Maia and Noa, both of whom attend Free Union, Charlie cat, and numerous chickens and guinea hens. Ruth loves to read, knit, garden, and cook. But, on rainy days she just can't help it and must go splashing through puddles!

Chicho LorenzoChicho Lorenzo

Spanish Teacher

Chicho brings exuberance, teaching experience, and Spanish language immersion to our kindergarten through fifth graders. Who better to familiarize students with Spanish language and culture than a native of Madrid, Spain? For the past nine years Chicho has applied his artistic flair and passion to our community in many ways: as art coordinator of IX Park for the last three years and as a teacher of art and the creative impulse at Clark Elementary, at the Boys and Girls Clubs, at the Virginia Institute of Autism, and for numerous children and adults with special needs. You can see his murals at IX Park, Potter's Cider Trailer, The Southern, and at venues throughout Charlotteville. He also taught Spanish at the International School. Ask him about his drumming and singing flamenco (a word with origins in the Spanish word flama, meaning "fire").

JoleeJolee Nail Horn

Director of Communications, Alumni Relations, & Events

Jolee came to Free Union Country School in 1992 when her daughter was enrolled in kindergarten. With a degree in English and museum education employment experience at the Smithsonian and Monticello, she found at Free Union the perfect combination of endearing children and paperwork to organize. Her contributions to the School include coordinating admissions inquiries, organizing special events and school programs, and creating the school newsletter. She also has a rather large, full band aid box for injuries, both real and almost real. Jolee and her husband have two daughters, Emily and Callie, who are alums of Free Union. Her hobbies include knitting, reading books for grown-ups and children, collecting fabric (making something with it too!), and finding interesting art projects for students and teachers. She would like to bring back the art of letter writing with smooth paper and good pens.

George MackronisGeorge Mackaronis

Physical and Environmental Education Teacher, and Director of Admissions

George graduated from Denison University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. There he pursued an interest in history and philosophy and spent his junior year studying in New Zealand. Influenced by a love of camping as a child, George is at home in the outdoors and believes that nature is the greatest classroom. He devotes his spare time to climbing, running with his dog Jojo, and coaching various boy's lacrosse teams around town. He is a Virginia Master Naturalist and a Wilderness First Responder. This is his 5th year at Free Union country school.

Martha McClayMartha Maclay

Office and Facilities Manager

Among the notable graduates of Ohio's Muskingum College are astronaut John Glenn and recorder artist Martha Maclay, who graduated with a bachelor's in English while spending much of her time in the music department. Just two years after the founding of our school, Martha enrolled her children at Free Union. Shortly thereafter the school asked her to serve as an assistant teacher in kindergarten and first grade and as a math teacher in several other grades. Because she could write and reckon with the best, Martha quickly rose to the position of school business manager, a post she holds to this day. The students know her as the go-to person for splinters. Each year Martha's Shenandoah Recorder Society adds classical charm and natural beauty to the school's May Day celebration -- a perfect complement to student voices rising. Her three children,grown now, have children of their own, Martha's five grandchildren. Martha lives in Free Union with her husband, her mother's old cat Moses, and occasionally her son's old dog Bruno.

ElizaBeth McCayElizaBeth McCay

Head of School

ElizaBeth has always enjoyed children, learning, and schools. She graduated from Wheelock College in Boston with a Bachelor’s degree in special education and early childhood education, and earned her Master of Education and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in educational leadership from the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education. ElizaBeth has been a teacher, principal, and professor in settings ranging from preschool to graduate. She most recently served for eight years as principal of Jackson-Via Elementary School in Charlottesville. She believes in actively partnering with staff, parents, and the community to support and inspire the school’s mission. ElizaBeth believes that when we expect great things of all children and put in place a dynamic, comprehensive educational program that supports the whole child--as unique individuals and as members of a diverse yet intertwined community--children will experience learning as a deeply natural and cherished aspect of life. She is thrilled to have found her new home at Free Union Country School. In her other home, ElizaBeth and her husband are raising three teenagers and learning together about life’s ever-changing opportunities. She tries to keep a guitar and a yoga mat nearby, just in case there’s a spare moment to put either to use.

Tom McIntoshTom McIntosh

Physical Education Teacher

Tom’s three sons are all Free Union alumni. A retired floor trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, he has been the Physical Education teacher for grades two through five since 1988. Tom is currently serving his second term on the Free Union Country School Board of Trustees. When he’s not running kids around the playing field, he volunteers for the Nature Conservancy and the Virginia Men’s Rowing Team.

Howard MillerHoward Miller

Analytics and Marketing

Howard earned a bachelor''s degree at Lafayette College and a masters in animal behavior at The University of Rhode Island. Following a tour of duty in the Navy he worked at the Pennsylvania State University where he received a doctorate in education. Howard first came to Free Union as a substitute teacher. Because of the joy in learning he found here among students and faculty, he came out of retirement to accept a post as interim head of school. Previously, he worked for the State of New Jersey where he served as the governor's representative to the nine state colleges. After that, Howard served as executive director of a non-profit youth and adult services organization in New Jersey. In retirement, he then taught at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, New Jersey where he established an inquiry-based science program for grades one through four. Somethng you may not know: he recently picked up the saxophone after a 50 year hiatus. Howard believes in listening to children as a way of letting them know they are valued and loved. He lives in Free Union with his wife, dog, cat, and other larger critters.

kent newKent Raine

Music and Drama Teacher,
Events and Maintenance

Kent is a Free Union stalwart, having begun as an assistant in many grades before developing the music and drama program. Kent rounds out his duties with various building and grounds tasks including but not limited to shoveling too much mulch. He has a theatre degree from Roanoke College and is trained in Violin making and repair. After going to Haiti to teach and repair stringed instruments, he realized that teaching was what he loved and wanted to continue doing. Kent is certified in Music Mind Games, Kodaly, and Orff–Schulwerk. He has also been a working musician for 25 years and has worked extensively in technical theater. Kent, his wife and their two children live in North Garden with 2 dogs, a rabbit, 2 rats, 15 chickens and 30,000 bees (give or take a few hundred).

Megan SpoffordMegan Spofford

Art Teacher

Megan was born and raised in Virginia and has been fortunate to call Charlottesville home for nearly 15 years. After obtaining a BA in Art from Ferrum College and studying Italian Renaissance Art History and Drawing in Florence, Italy, Megan went on to pursue an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from UVA. Her background includes working at an art gallery, selling and showing artwork, and teaching private art lessons, all prior to starting a full-time teaching career. She began in Pre-Kindergarten in Campbell County for several years before relocating to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to teach art at Ruckersville Elementary School until her children were born. She is mom to George and Claire, both happy Free Union students. When she is not hiking, gardening, gallery hopping, wielding a paintbrush, poring over her favorite children's book illustrations, or preparing meals from scratch for her family, you may find Megan and her husband in Lane Stadium cheering on their beloved VT Hokies.

Tom TrotterTom Trotter

Fourth and Fifth Grade Teacher

Tom received a B.S. in Economics from the College of William & Mary. Following a successful career as a writer and editor, Tom sent his eldest child to Free Union in 2001. Several years of volunteering in the classroom led him to discover his true calling as a teacher. He completed the Alternative Teacher Licensure Program at Lynchburg College in 2006 and has worked at Free Union ever since as a teacher, librarian, and technology guy. Tom lives down the block from school with his wife Amy and two children, Theo and Delilah.

Emily UmbergerEmily Umberger

Health Education Teacher

Emily Umberger teachers health and human sexuality at Free Union. She’s been promoting healthy choices and risk-reducing behaviors in a variety of settings for a dozen years. She also teaches health at Village School in Charlottesville and has previously worked with teens and tweens living in foster care. Emily holds a bachelor's in psychology from Roanoke College and a master's in exercise physiology from the University of Virginia. She lives in Crozet with her husband and two children, Grady and Tilda (both Free Union students). When she isn’t working or spending time with family or friends, she squeezes in as much exercise as she can, and loves digging through cookbooks looking for new recipes.

Bonnie Wilfore

Second Grade Assistant Teacher

A true force when it comes to decoding the mysteries of early reading, Bonnie is here to help our students on their way to becoming life-long readers. With a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Vermont, a master's degree in developmental reading from the University of Virginia, and thirty years as a reading specialist in the Albemarle County public schools, we are indeed fortunate to have Bonnie with us. As a bonus, she loves kids, has raised two sons, and delights in adventures with her two granddaughters. Bonnie is an ardent Red Sox fan (especially when they are humbling the Yankees), loves summer and the beach, and enjoys a good run with friends. Her most memorable recent moment was standing at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in 2014, a year following the bombing. Bonnie lives in Earlysville with her husband, two cats, and a dog.

Beth WinnBeth Winn

Second Grade Teacher

Beth rejoins the Free Union faculty in her beloved second grade after a twelve-year hiatus during which she hiked many mountains, taught many children, and had two of her own. Beth holds an undergraduate degree in environmental science from Duke University and completed a master's in elementary science education at the Teton Science School and the University of Colorado. She has designed and taught curricula at a botanical preserve in northern Virginia and a science museum in Colorado, and has led camping trips in the Teton mountains. However, her desire to form deeper and more long-lasting relationships with her students led her into the classroom where she continues to facilitate inquiry-based learning in all subjects. She lives in Ivy with her husband, two sons (both Free Union students), two dogs, two gerbils, and five chickens. She thrives on children's wonderful ideas, long runs, and getting lost in a great book.