Free Union Country School Faculty and Staff
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 of whom graduated from Free Union. Blair lives in Charlottesville with family and lots and lots of records.
Head of School
Eric comes to Free Union following a four-year stint as head of the International School of Charlottesville (ISC), so he is familiar with the ups and downs of the lonely life at the top, and also aware that the true top is the classroom where real student growth happens. Eric is a believer in progressive education and the research-based primacy of knowing students as individuals, and then immersing them in hands-on, experiential learning. Prior to his tenure at ISC, where the school earned "Best of" recognition from C-Ville Weekly and Charlottesville Family publications, Eric taught science and served as interim dean of faculty at Stuart Country Day School in New Jersey. His academic pedigree includes a master of arts degree in cognitive and biological psychology and training as a prestigious Klingenstein Fellow, both through Columbia Teachers College. But what most drew many of us to Eric is his unwavering resolve to prepare the next generation of young people to think and learn and commit to making a difference—for ourselves, for the community, and for our world. If you visit the campus, you will see people eating with metal utensils, drinking from metal vessels, and the occasional unrepentant soul hiding a plastic throw-away container. Eric can be found visiting classrooms, playing soccer with the Wednesday after-school bunch, and working hard to lead us forward. We are thrilled that he is with us!
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.
After leading early childhood extended day, Jess rejoins the staff as our kindergarten teacher. 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 be a part of a community that shares her ideals and interest in progressive education.
Naturalist/Outdoor Education Teacher/Physical Education
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 Joan Didion, 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.
Fourth and Fifth Grade 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 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.
Systems of all types have been of great interest to Marc since a young age: networks of blocks, domestic and international political systems, computers and their networks, defense/security arrangements, transportation, regional management, education, to list just a few. Marc's responsibilities at Free Union are as varied as his interests: he assists others with their management of information; provides consultation into systemic resilience; mends and configures information systems; pokes, prods, and nudges. He's also a parent of a Free Union graduate and a current student.
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 Free Union with his lovely wife, Jessica.
Early Childhood Assistant Teacher
Originally from Northern Virginia, Meg earned a degree in theatre from Ithaca College, and went on to live in New York City for seven years where she worked in the colorful arena of costume for film, tv, and theatre. Meg has always delighted in the curious minds and uninhibited silliness of children. She has led theatre and storytelling workshops for early childhood and elementary aged kids, and even spent a semester as a teaching intern at a public school in Vienna, Austria. Meg is thrilled to be at Free Union where she looks forward to getting to know this community and learning through play and exploration. When she is not at school, Meg enjoys sewing, singing, cooking hearty meals, playing board games with friends and family, and exploring the outdoors.
Full-Time Substitute Teacher
Daniel is a passionate explorer and reader, with a love of history and music. He hails from the far off land of Massachusetts, and is enjoying the warm winters here in Virginia! He can often be found drawing, hiking, or playing guitar for his dog during his free time. Graduating from UMass Dartmouth with a degree in history, Daniel is honored to return to Free Union Country School!
Mariclaire hails from Baltimore but has called Charlottesville home for a long time now. She has the great honor of being an alumni- and present-day parent here at Free Union. She just can't get enough of the beautiful campus and the wonderful people that fill her days. No matter whether it's reminiscing about days gone by or reveling in the fun of learning in the moment, she can't imagine a better place to come to work every day. As Mariclaire dispenses bandages and comfort throughout the year she loves seeing the confidence blossom in the students proving they are not just a student of Free Union but a student of life.
Jolee 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.
Stephanie comes to Free Union Country School with 25 years of experience as a teacher, almost all in Kindergarten in Albemarle County. Born in Tennessee, she has been a native of Virginia since she was in the third grade in Charlottesville. Her love of young children and their particular kind of magic began early on and was cemented when she worked in an orphanage in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, for part of one summer, just after turning 19. She originally studied for a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, and later went back to school for Early Childhood Education certification at James Madison University. Some of the things she has always loved are camping, hiking, reading, dancing, reading and writing poetry, and creating quirky, artistic crafts. Spending time outside with children, watching and listening to how they interact with the natural world and with each other, and observing their growth as unique individuals are constant sources of joy for her.
Logistical Magician and Sustainer of Morale
Janel attended UVA for undergraduate and graduate school and enjoyed a career in Information Technology serving the hospitality, not-for-profit, and manufacturing industries. She joined the Free Union family in 2007 when her son Jack enrolled in preschool and has had a special place in her heart for the school ever since. Jack and his brother Henry are now Free Union alumni and still love to bike up to the school to play hoops. Janel loves the outdoors and exploring the world. Obesrving her easy competency you would never suspect that in an earlier time she tracked dragons on the island of Komodo, watched Black Crested Macaques swim in the Mulucca Sea, dived for pygmy seahorses in the Lembeh Strait, and saw up close a tarantula in the wild. Janel still loves spending time outdoors with family and friends and caring for the furred and feathered. She lives with her husband, John, and sons just north of campus at the base of an ancient volcano.
Nicole hails from Idaho where she grew up, earned a Bachelor's in Elementary Education from Montana State University in 2006, and comes to us loaded with experience teaching and nurturing young children. Prior to landing in Central Virginia, Nicole taught on the other side of the world, Tauranga, New Zealand, and then devoted her first six years in this state to public school teaching as an intervention specialist and a teacher of first, third, and fourth-graders. Inspired in 2013 to create a nature-based preschool for her son Henry and other children, Nicole founded the highly regarded Round House Playschool in Crozet. Nicole currently is pursuing a Masters in Environmental Based Learning from Mary Baldwin. When she is not at school, Nicole enjoys hiking, biking, camping with family, do-it-yourself projects, and vegetable and flower gardening. She is excited to be at Free Union and we are thrilled to have her as a coworker.
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.
Website, Inbound Marketing
Howard earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Lafayette College and a Master of Science in animal behavior at The University of Rhode Island. Following a tour of duty in the Navy he worked at the Pennsylvania State University, earning a doctorate in education. Howard came to Free Union as a substitute teacher and because of the joy in learning he found here came out of retirement to serve as interim head of school. Previously, he worked for the State of New Jersey as a representative to the nine state colleges. After that, he served as executive director of a non-profit in New Jersey and as a science teacher at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, where he established an inquiry-based science program for grades one through four. Howard believes in listening to children as a way of valuing and connecting. He lives in Charlottesville with his wife.
Pamela was brought to yoga in 2007 seeking grounding after a family tragedy. In 2010, she participated in a Permaculture Design course at Sivananda Ashram, immersing herself in daily yogic practices while working on 77 acres in the Catskills. Pamela was encouraged by the mental and physical shifts Hatha yoga provided her and completed her 200 hrs. certification in 2012 in Grass Valley CA, where she also led yoga KidsCamp. She has gone on to teach in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Austin, and completed 500 hrs. in 2016. Pamela continues the study of Ayurveda and Sanskrit and loves sharing this ancient knowledge with young yogis. In addition to yoga and gardening, Pamela is finishing her Elementary Education B.A. in hopes of enriching young ones for years to come.
Second and Third Grade Teacher
Michael hails from the fighting north side of Chicago, having taught eight years of classes there as a primary grades teacher at a dual-language academy. He holds a Master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a focus on radical pedagogy, play-based research, and foreign-language acquisition. Michael is now enjoying his one-year-old daughter, Flora, by acting like a chimpanzee. Always up for a game of tennis or chess, Michael loves to cook stews with a Blue Note jazz record spinning behind him. Arriving in Free Union and joining the faculty, Michael continues a chapter in his life where he not only contributes mightily to the school but takes the time to discover hiking trails, be close to family, and continue to explore, grow, and celebrate alongside the members of the staff.
Animator of Three-Dimensional Learning
After graduating with degree in anthropology from Brown University Jonathan spent several years working as a painter, a carpenter and a boat builder. Following that, he accepted a job at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic CT, where he worked in various roles and eventually led both the education and exhibits departments. His career has been dedicated to developing interactive learning environments. His inclination to teach using hands-on methods stems from a personal joy in creating by hand. He is a woodwright, having taught wood carving classes and built furniture, cabinets, and wooden boats. Jonathan embraces the values-based environment of Free Union Country School. Ethical behavior, the universal truths of compassion and forgiveness, and appreciation of the natural world inform his teaching. Jonathan, his wife and two dogs recently moved from Rhode Island to Free Union, VA, where he was delighted to discover the Free Union County School.
Megan was born and raised in Virginia and has been fortunate to call Charlottesville home for nearly 18 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 Claire, a happy Free Union student, and George, a Free Union alum. 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.
Director of Business and Operations
Camilla joins us after a five-year stint as HR/Admin Lead for an international research firm following a career in education, teaching in Charlottesville and Northern California. Raised mostly in Austin, Camilla followed her adventurous spirit to San Francisco, where she spent her weekends devouring coffee, training for marathons on the Pacific Coast Trail, and observing the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge. After finishing a Masters in Education and two years of teaching middle and high schoolers in California, she packed her bags for a new adventure, relocating from one coast to the other, and landed in Charlottesville where she has been raising three children, the first of which will head to college this fall. For the last 17 years she has been coaching various youth sports; leading youth reading groups; developing a green thumb; and tutoring local children. These days, Camilla stirs many pots -- operating an Airbnb in her basement, learning from three growing children, leading group fitness classes before sunrise, editing college student essays at night, gardening, and dancing to cheesy music before an audience of eye-rolling teens. She hopes to be found digging in the dirt and shooting hoops when she’s not knee-deep in contracts and spreadsheets. Please come by and say hello!
Ryan Williamson grew up on a West Virginia mountain homestead watching his parents attempt to do everything: teaching, gardening, homebuilding, auto repair, fine woodworking, and even beekeeping. As some apples don't fall too far from the tree Ryan enjoys diverse interests and employment. Through high school and college Ryan walked over 10,000 miles of long-distance trails. In 1994 he stared a small business while a student at Western Albemarle High School called The Mouse Works. He designs, sews and sells warm winter fleece hats online and at craft shows. Ryan is often found in the bee yards taking care of over 100 honey bee colonies, selling their honey, queens, and starter beehives. As a stay at home father Ryan is often accompanied by his two young assistants rambling in the woods, sewing, farming, fixing things, and building the family home. When his lovely wife can watch the kids, Ryan can be found after hours keeping the Free Union Country School buildings safe and in good repair.