Elementary » Elementary Teachers

Elementary Teachers

I am delighted to introduce you to your classroom and specialist teachers for 2017-18. Many of our teachers are the same, and we have a few new teachers to welcome to our community this year. Our teachers understand that where you start matters and are committed to providing the best progressive educational program for your children.

As you will see, our teachers have an excellent array of skills, education, training, and interests. We all have one thing in common: each one of us commits to making Virginia Chance School an outstanding and exceptional place of learning for children and families!

Looking forward to a great year of learning,
Debbie Houston, Head of School

I am proud to present our Elementary Teachers to you:

Hayley Abell, Kindergarten & Primary 1 Teacher
I have a MAT in Elementary Education from Bellarmine University in and a BS in Psychology from University of Louisville. I discovered my desire to work with children in 2001 when I began working as a play, language, and socialization therapist for children. In 2004, I became a teacher at a local independent preschool. After eight years of training in early childhood education, I wanted to apply and expand my knowledge of progressive education and began teaching at Virginia Chance School as a 3s teacher in 2013 and joined the fantastic K-1 team in 2014.

My teaching philosophy is that the essential purpose of learning is to be able to better understand and delight in the world and its people, as well as to answer life’s great questions. My role as a teacher is to provide rich materials, thoughtful experiences, and a safe, inviting environment so children can joyfully develop skills that will enable them to explore, think on, and question over the world. I have two children at Virginia Chance School, Anna, who is a 4th grader this year and Jack, who is currently a 1st grader, and began at VCS as a three-year-old. My husband, Mike, and I have observed how supported our children have been in their academic learning, encouraged in their interests, and guided in their personal growth at VCS.

I enjoy new challenges and cultivate a love for art, baking, and exercising which I share with children in the classroom. I am also fond of reading and playing games with family and friends.

Lyndsey Popham, Kindergarten & Primary 1 Teacher
I have a Master in Elementary Education K-5 and a Bachelor of Science in Human and Health Promotion/Exercise Science from the University of Louisville. Before graduating college, I loved babysitting and working at my church’s preschool where I taught three and four-year-olds. My sister, Leslie Linde, has taught at Virginia Chance School since 2004 and so this was an excellent opportunity for me to substitute teach and complete my observation hours for my Masters program and gain insight from my sister’s experience at Virginia Chance. I have loved VCS since the day I set my foot in the door, and when I graduated, I thought of nowhere else I would rather teach.

This year will be my 9th year teaching at VCS. Since I started, I have taught the two-year-olds, Intermediates and K/1 where I am beginning my fifth year. Our family has been fortunate enough to be able to send our two children, Jaxon and Stella, to VCS. The whole child approach to teaching, the Stephen Glenn’s Developing Capable Young People & Jane Nelson’s Positive Discipline way of discipline, child-guided learning, and meeting children where they are, in their personal learning journey, are all very important to me as a mother and a teacher. I feel blessed that I am at a school where I am able and encouraged to teach in a way that is appropriate for all children.

When I am not teaching, I enjoy spending time with my family, watching movies, playing games, enjoying new restaurants and traveling as much as I can. Being a parent of two elementary children, I enjoy incorporating activities that we do together into my lessons and classroom. At home we experiment with making slime, participating in Lego challenges, and exploring the outdoors. Being a mom has made me a confident, caring, understanding, patient, and all around better teacher!

Heather Isham, Kindergarten & Primary 1 Teacher
I have an ABT Master in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota. My first experience with Virginia Chance School was when I toured looking for a Fours program for my son, Matthew (a 2011 Chance graduate). One visit with the people at Virginia Chance and a walk on the playground and I was hooked. What an awesome learning environment for my son! Beginning my 10th year at Virginia Chance, I have enjoyed teaching the Threes in our Preschool Program and now love teaching K/1 students!

My son, Matthew (now a Senior at Atherton High School) and I have been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for ten years. For the last five years, I have been an Assistant Scoutmaster. We spend our weekends camping, backpacking, kayaking, zip-lining, and rock climbing. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, rehabbing my old house, gardening, scrapbooking and reading.

Debbie McLachlan, Kindergarten & Primary 1 Teacher
I was born and raised in Scotland, UK and I have a PGCE (Masters) in Educational Leadership and Management where I graduated as an Elementary Teacher in 2005 from University of Glasgow. I have a Bachelor in Education from the University of Strathclyde. I am also certified to teach French! I have taught in Australia, Africa, and Scotland and now in the States at Virginia Chance School.

I have worked at Virginia Chance School for four years, and I am looking forward to my fourth year in K1. I am enthusiastic, motivated and passionate about education, and I love nothing more than to see my students grow and learn. I have a particular interest in outdoor learning and international education. I moved to Louisville with my husband five years ago and found Virginia Chance School through a friend of the school. I have a beautiful baby girl, and I am excited that next year she too will one day be part of the Virginia Chance family! In my spare time, I enjoy volunteering, hiking and hosting tea parties!

Alayne Vokurka, Kindergarten & Primary 1 Teacher
I have a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education with a Reading Endorsement from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Hanover College. I have fifteen years of experience in education working as a teacher, literacy coach and interventionist.

After extensive research and practice in the field, I became passionate about progressive approaches to education that involve learning through play and giving children time to explore the world around them and create meaning. I found that the more traditional practices do not allow time for children to develop this sense of wonder. I began seeking a community where I am surrounded by joy and coworkers who genuinely enjoy the company of children and feel that I have found that at Chance!

When I am not busy learning alongside my students, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our three children. We enjoy traveling, hiking and just being together. Our family is also passionate about the Kentucky Humane Society and enjoy volunteer work through their foster program. Being a parent myself has allowed me to look at each student knowing they are someone’s whole world.

Dr. Sonya Burton, Kindergarten & Primary 1 Teacher
I have a Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction from U of L, a Master’s in Education from Bellarmine University, and a Master’s in Teaching from U of L. My KY certification includes elementary education (K-5), special education (K-12), and secondary education (7-12) with 20 years of teaching experience, including teaching in multi-age classes and at the college level. I have lived in Japan and Italy, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world, and I enjoy to bring these experiences into my classroom. I believe that teaching involves working with the whole child, meeting their academic needs as well as their social and emotional needs. I also believe in the importance of building relationships with students and their parents, and it is through the connection with the children and family that I learn how to best meet each student’s academic, social and emotional needs.

Briegel Payne, Primary 2&3 Teacher
I am currently pursuing my Doctorate at the University of Louisville in Education, I have a Master in Education at Indiana University and Bachelor in Public Policy and Elementary Education from Washington and Lee University. I have applied, and honed distinct philosophies and approaches learned in the classroom to develop a unique personal philosophy of teaching. Holding an undergraduate degree in Politics, in addition to my Education Degree, has given me a unique perspective of how society, culture, national institutions, and education all must interplay to develop children of character. Ultimately, I try to bring this viewpoint into the classroom, and develop curious students who can succeed as global citizens. I believe that all students have an innate desire to learn, a curiosity that yearns to be fed, yet every student learns most effectively in a unique way. I like to structure my classrooms to address this need for differentiated and whole-child learning.

Outside the classroom, I enjoy spending time with my family, running, coaching cross-country and track, and teaching Pure Barre. My family enjoys going to the park, having game night, doing projects together, and watching sports.

Leslie Linde, Primary 2 & 3 Teacher
I have a Master in Elementary Education from Bellarmine University and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from the University of Louisville. I’ve had a love for children from an early age and starting at age 12 I babysat. I also worked at a daycare during high school and nannied for two families during college. While nannying, I was first introduced to Virginia Chance School. I was welcomed as I volunteered to help in the children’s classroom, drove on field trips, attended all assemblies, and performances. When it was time to fulfill my student teaching, I was blessed to get my opportunity at VCS. I fell in love with the school and knew I wanted to be a part of this unique environment.

I started teaching at VCS in 2004 in the K1 classroom. I taught K1 for two years and then moved to Primary which has been my home ever since. I absolutely love what I do and can’t imagine teaching anywhere else. I love being a part of a school that encourages and supports creativity, curiosity, collaboration and discovery. I love teaching the whole child (social, emotional, moral, listening, speaking, self help and physical development), not just academics. I love the community that is created within our classroom and with our VCS families through parental involvement, social activities, fund raisers, and the general sense of camaraderie that VCS fosters. I am also very thankful that my three children got their start at Virginia Chance School.

When I am not teaching at Chance I enjoy spending time with my family. My husband Bryan and I have been happily married for thirteen years. We enjoy traveling and we spend most summer weekends at our lake house on Rough River. When at home, I am often crafting or cooking with my girls, Avery and Addison, or playing games with my son Jude. When I get time to myself, I love to read, go antiquing and spend time with my friends.

Mandy Clemons, Primary 2 & 3 Teacher
I am currently pursuing my Master’s degree at University of the Cumberlands. I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Georgetown College. This will be my eighth year of teaching. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunities of teaching 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be teaching in a 2/3 classroom this year, as this is such a special time in a child’s development. I believe my strengths, as an educator, will shine through the lenses of a Chance classroom and feel so fortunate to be joining this community as a teacher and a parent.

I believe in a child-centered, differentiated learning environment that cultivates creativity and intentionality while discovering new knowledge and skills. In my eyes, a classroom is a place where inquiry is encouraged so that children will develop a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-motivation. When the child’s voice is heard and celebrated, the learning process is a meaningful experience that will be remembered and retained as an in-depth exploration, while cultivating the whole child.

A friend recommended I tour Virginia Chance School for my daughter, Emma, who will be joining the 3’s classroom this coming school year. While walking around the Virginia Chance campus, I witnessed the best practices of education in action and quickly fell in love with this community. Outside of the classroom, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, running, crafting and cooking. My husband, Rob, and I have been happily married for six years and continue to enjoy each new stage of life together. Raising our daughter is the most fun adventure we have had. As a family, we enjoy traveling, playing games, and going to the park together.

Josephine Hardison, Primary 2 & 3 Teacher
I have a MAT in Elementary Education from the University of Louisville and a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University. After completing graduate school, I have spent several years as a substitute teacher in various long term positions in kindergarten through 5th grade. I have also spent a year as an Instructional Assistant working with students in small group settings.

I love the teaching philosophy at Chance and feel it is a privilege to teach at a school that supports and encourages the whole child in such a positive way. I am thrilled to be a small part in guiding children on their learning journey.

Outside of school I have been an artist for many years and create oil and acrylic paintings in my spare time. My husband and I are scuba divers and enjoy exploring the beautiful world under the ocean whenever possible! My daughter is grown and recently married. Watching my daughter grow up and become a happy, successful and thriving adult is my greatest joy and my goal as a teacher for each of my students to do the same. I feel very blessed to be a part of the VCS family.

Holly Ringo, Intermediate 4 & 5 Teacher
I have a Master and Bachelor degree in Elementary Education from Western Kentucky University with an emphasis in literacy as well as certification in the area of gifted and talented and have trained in Cognitive Coaching. I am also a Nationally Board Certified Teacher in Literacy. I have been teaching for 15 years and worked with children from ages 5-18, and mentored elementary teachers in literacy.

Four years ago, I joined the faculty of Virginia Chance because I believe in the way VCS approaches learning with children. Learning is exploratory, personal and unique for each child; this encompasses academics as well as social and emotional guidance, and every child is respected and valued.

Not only do I have the privilege of working as a teacher at Virginia Chance, but both of my children are part of the VCS family. My youngest begins preschool this year, and my oldest is in the elementary program. She is a strong, independent, and creative young lady and our school program has helped her blossom because she’s had the opportunity to nurture who she is instead fitting into a pre-determined mold.

After school, my family and I enjoy getting involved in my church to “Love the ‘Ville,” and help out in the community. I love to walk and dance ballet, and I’ve even been known to share some steps with our Intermediate Friends!

Molly McCormack, Intermediate 4 & 5 Teacher
I have a Master in Special Education and a Bachelor in Elementary Education. My early teaching experiences include teaching visually impaired children ages 3-21, establishing an afterschool and preschool program and teaching Elementary music. In 1999 Virginia Chance School invited me to play my mountain dulcimer for the Primary classes as part of a theme study unit on Kentucky. I accepted the position as Intermediate teacher the following year, and Virginia Chance School has been in my heart ever since.

When I am not visiting my two sons, Finley and Noel, on the east and west coasts, I can be seen performing solo or with the Blind Dog String Band and teaching mountain and hammer dulcimer workshops around the country. I dabble in many creative explorations including painting and writing poetry. I am continually inspired by Virginia Chance students’ creative spirit.