Meet Our Faculty and Staff
One of the keys to Wye River Upper School's success has been the hiring of faculty and staff who are not only invested in the mission of the school but also have the education and experience to serve students with diverse learning needs.
Did you know that 60% of our staff hold advanced degrees or doctoral degrees? We are trained in Orton Gillingham Reading Instruction, and every member of the staff has also been trained in the EmPower Writing Methodology and Mental Health First Aid.
Head of School
Stephanie Borges Folarin (joined Wye River in 2021) received her B.A. in Africana Studies from Bates College and her M.S. in Special Education: Mild to Moderate Disabilities from Johns Hopkins University. She recently completed her Certificate in School Management and Leadership at Harvard University. Stephanie has worked extensively with students, teachers, administrators, parents, and clinicians on various educational matters, including differentiated and inclusive education; equity and justice work; curriculum design and implementation; psycho-educational evaluations; teacher evaluations and professional growth; education policy; and education reform in both the public and private sectors of academia. Stephanie is extremely excited to bring her 16 years of educational leadership to the Wye River Upper School community.
Charles Guerriero (joined Wye River in 2020) provides transportation on one of our bus routes. Charles is local to the Eastern Shore and enjoys fishing in his time off.
Faculty - Learning Specialist
Dr. Amy Littlefield (joined Wye River in 2023) brings with her over 20 years of teaching neurodiverse students in all levels of education including post-secondary. She received her PhD in 2011 with a focus in Educational Psychology from The Catholic University of America. Amy also holds an MA in Learning Instruction from CUA, an MA in International Affairs from American University, and a BA in Psychology from Baylor University. Amy enjoys her newly established home on the Eastern Shore with her husband near her children.
Director of Advancement
Dr. Jennifer Palinkas (joined Wye River in 2023) brings well-rounded knowledge of a specialized independent school, having served first as a teaching faculty member and later as the Associate Head of School over Advancement at The Highlands School. Jennifer holds a Ph.D. in Art History from Emory University, a Master of Arts from State University of New York at Buffalo, and a Bachelor of Arts from Hood College. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership from Loyola University Maryland. Jennifer believes in the power of education to change lives.
Director of MakerSpace
James Martinez (joined Wye River in 2002) received his B.A. from Texas Tech University and an M.F.A. from the University of Delaware. He has taught fine arts at the University of Delaware and Delaware College of Art and Design. James teaches Makerspace and Project-Based Design at Wye River. He has led the school in the development of a new Makerspace which is a place for students and faculty to collaborate in the creation of hands-on projects utilizing high tech and low tech tools. James is the faculty advisor for Project Based Learning (PBL). He also supports students in portfolio development for graduation and college applications. James is a founding teacher at Wye River.
Faculty - English
Jon Baker (joined Wye River in 2018) has an impressive work history and two Master's Degrees; one in English and one in Library & Information Science. In addition to teaching English Literature here in the US, he has also taught conversational English in South Korea. Jon has led many outdoor programs for students including biking, hiking, skiing, and paddling. He also prepares students for a healthy lifestyle by providing them with insights on nutrition, consciousness, and stress/anxiety reduction. Overall, he loves the challenge/reward balance of teaching in such a creative, agile, and research-informed learning community.
Director of Enrollment and Communications
Katie Lillard (joined Wye River in 2018) first served Wye River as an Art Teacher and Communications Associate before taking her current position as Director of Enrollment and Communication. She received both her undergraduate Certificate in Painting and Master of Fine Arts at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Katie received her 200 YTT in 2022, and offers yoga and mindfulness as part of Wye River's Physical Education curriculum to students in grades 9-12. Outside of school, Katie is an independent artist specializing in figurative oil painting, digital illustration, and graphic design. She loves spending time with her son and exploring new places.
Faculty - Math
Kirsten Mosher (joined Wye River in 2018) brings over 30 years of experience that she gained by teaching high school students in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Economics from the University of South Carolina. Kirsten later earned her Teaching License in Mathematics and Certification for Highly Qualified Teaching in Middle/Secondary Mathematics. Before moving to the Eastern Shore in 2018, she taught high school math for 27 years. She was also the coordinator for the Teacher Education Program at Sewanee for two years. Kirsten aims to help students reach their fullest potential through participation in engaging learning experiences at Wye River.
Director of Business
Lawrie Dudley (joined Wye River in 2016) brings over 30 years of accounting and business management experience. She received her B.A. from Washington College. Lawrie also brings experience in sales and marketing from her real estate career with Coldwell Banker. She is delighted to support students, parents, and staff through her skills in business and finance.
Advancement and Business Associate
Melissa Lewis (joined Wye River in 2023) received a B.S. in Business Management and a Minor in Human Resource Management from York College of Pennsylvania. She brings over 20 years of business experience in account management, sales and marketing. Melissa is excited to be a part of Wye River Upper School as the Development Associate and assisting the business office. Melissa resides in Easton and enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children.
Director of Student Services
Paula Schoon (joined Wye River in 2014) holds a B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from Washington College and has completed two years of study in education. She is also certified in special education. Paula has supported the emotional and social well-being of teenagers in a variety of roles with experience working in Child Protective Services, private juvenile services, and child and family therapy. She believes in fostering student independence by finding the right balance of secure boundaries and self-expression. Paula is enthusiastic about helping students feel accepted and appreciated.
Roxanne Mitchell (joined Wye River in 2023) provides transportation on one of our bus routes. She moved with her husband to the Eastern Shore four years ago from the Annapolis area, where she worked as a dental hygienist. Roxanne brings with her driving experience from the Gunston School.
Shawna Buckley (joined Wye River in 2023) serves as our School Counselor. An experienced educator teaching Spanish to all grade levels for seven years at an independent school on the Eastern Shore, Shawna received her Masters in Social Work from Howard University in 1993 and served as a social worker in the District of Columbia, Connecticut, and on the Eastern Shore before transitioning to education. Her focus in social work entailed working with children and families in community and clinical settings marshaling appropriate therapeutic and academic services to meet the needs of clients to help them maximize their potential. She is excited to bring this experience to WRUS. Shawna lives in Chestertown with her husband and four children.
Zara Cowan (joined Wye River in 2018) comes with over 25 years of administrative assistance experience. She previously worked as a secretary for the Queen Anne’s County Department of Health and prior to that was an executive administrative assistant at Victor O. Schinnerer. She is thrilled to be supporting both academic and administrative programs at Wye River Upper School.
Assistant Head of School/College & Career Counseling
Nicole Sophocles (joined Wye River in 2002) brings more than 20 years of experience in formal teaching, outdoor education, and school leadership. She holds a B.S. from the University of Miami, a Masters in Education from the University of Maryland, and an Independent School Leadership Certificate from Johns Hopkins University, School of Education. Nicole is a founding teacher with a teaching certificate in biology. She enjoys traveling, fitness, the beach, and spending active time with her family in Annapolis where she resides.
Faculty - Humanities, English, Theater
Cynthia Bayne (joined Wye River in 2019) earned a B.A. in Secondary Education from West Virginia Wesleyan College, and specializes in Social Studies and Dramatic Arts. She also holds a Maryland Educator Certificate. Cynthia brings experience from public and private school settings, as well as abroad, having taught in Hong Kong and South Korea. She has also led learning expeditions to Thailand, New Zealand, China, and Italy. Cynthia has been instrumental in developing an engaging curriculum across content areas, structuring systems for mentorship, and providing specific support for students with Executive Function needs. Cynthia is dedicated to connecting with students and helping them become compassionate global citizens.
Dr. Jean-Pierre Laurenceau (joined Wye River in 2023) teaches Spanish at Wye River. As a graduate of Jefferson Bilingual High School in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dr. Laurenceau has engaged in academic endeavors with students in multiple Latin American contexts such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua. Bi-lingual in Spanish and English, Jean-Pierre offers Wye River students thorough experience in education ranging from classroom instruction in k-12 and collegiate settings to administration and school counseling. He holds a Doctoral Degree in Higher Education Administration (Student Affairs) from North Eastern University, two Master of Education degrees in Administration and Counseling from The Pennsylvania State University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. Dr. Laurenceau has taught courses and mentored students at Jefferson Bilingual School, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Richmond, Cornell University, Anne Arundel Community College, Reynolds Community College, Chesapeake College, and Washington College. He is passionate about supporting positive community change and works simultaneously as a Professional Community Interpreter in k-12 settings. Jean-Pierre joins our community in pursuit of inspiring and educating high school students. For fun, he enjoys strength training, spinning, and outrigger canoeing.
Ernie Smith (joined Wye River in 2010) provides transportation on one of our bus routes. Ernie became acquainted to Wye River through his wife, Ellen, who previously served Wye River’s Business Office. Ernie was one of the first drivers to provide transportation to our students!
Faculty - Teacher
Jamie Caron (joined Wye River in 2023) joins the WRUS faculty as a graduate University of Virginia with a Master of Education with a focus in Literacy (Chair’s Fellow) and a B.A. in English from Skidmore College. Jamie brings experience teaching at Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s County, Kent School, and Gunston School. Raised on our very own Eastern Shore, Jamie is thrilled to work and serve his local community.
Front Desk Manager
Julie Connaire (joined Wye River in 2023) brings with her 18 years of experience working in administration for Queen Anne's County public schools. Julie raised her children on the eastern shore, where she still lives with her husband. On her time off, Julie enjoys gardening, cooking, and boating.
Multi-Role School Support Specialist
Kay Brown (joined Wye River in 2018) provides transportation from Wye River and teaches Driver's Ed and PE. She attended Morgan State University where she studied Information Systems. She worked for the State of Maryland for 15 years where she last held the position of Accounts Clerk II. Before teaching driver’s education for eight years, Kay worked at Wye River from 2018-2019 and then returned again in 2021. Kay loves the atmosphere and learning environment at WRUS.
Laura Beth LeBlanc (joined Wye River in 2022) became a Humanities (Art, Literature, Music) teacher in 2018 after completing the Master's in the Art of Teaching program from the University of Maryland (UMD). Laura previously earned her B.A. in English from UMD while working full-time in the field of entertainment and live concert production at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Proudly, motherhood and working as the Art Camp director at Howard County Center for the Arts also helped her to segue her entertainment career into Arts Education. Encouraged by drama and stage production, she also earned a Citation in Renaissance and Baroque Studies to familiarize herself with formal stage produciuton and to encourage a multicultural view and understanding of humanities. Laura is passionate about changing the lives of high school students.
Faculty - Social Studies, Theatre
Lydia Meeks (joined Wye River in 2006) received her B.A. in History from the College of Wooster. Afterward, Lydia completed several post-graduate credits in teaching. She has been teaching, substituting, and tutoring for over 15 years at Wye River. Lydia is dedicated to bringing history to life and helping students to build connections between themselves and the past. She wants students to leave social studies classes with the ability to have an opinion, fact checks that opinion, and then support it. Today's world needs citizens who make independent decisions and Lydia teaches students with that goal in mind.
Science Teacher and Curriculum Specialist
Michele Cheyne (joined Wye River in 2023) comes to Wye River with over 30 years in science teaching and science teacher education. Michele taught biology, chemistry, environmental science, genetics, and in summer school enrichment and remediation programs in Wisconsin. She then taught in the graduate science teacher education program at the University of Pittsburgh, preparing science teachers in grades 7-12. While at the University of Pittsburgh Michele worked with Pittsburgh Public schools to open two new schools: Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy and Milliones 6-12. Following her work at the University of Pittsburgh, Michele worked for the Knowles Teacher Initiative, a not-for-profit supporting early career math and science teachers. In her work there, Michele developed curriculum for these teachers as well as for school districts on fee-for-service agreements. Michele most recently has supervised and mentored pre-service teachers for Salisbury University. Michele is passionate about developing a science curriculum that provides opportunities for students to explain real-world phenomena.
Director of Operations and Athletics
Ron Vener (joined Wye River in 2012) holds a B.S. in Health and Physical Education from Lock Haven University and an M.S in Instruction and Curriculum from Western Maryland College (McDaniel). He has also completed the Maryland State Administration Certificate. Ron has over 28 years of teaching and coaching experience in private and public schools. During his career, he developed strong athletic programs over the years in his role as Athletic Director at two prior schools. Additionally, Ron has been instrumental in mentoring a number of our students in their potential career choices. He currently leads the very popular Personal Finance course, a year-long credit course that supports students in mastering basic finance skills.
Roy Hughes (joined Wye River in 2018) provides transportation on one of our bus routes. Roy worked at Easton Hospital for several years before joining our community. He enjoys working with mechanics, spending time with his grandchildren, and helping out elderly neighbors and friends.
Faculty - Math
Tom Fleagle (joined Wye River in 2020) earned his degree in Secondary Education for Mathematics at Penn State. He currently teaches Algebra, Geometry, and Physics. Tom comes to Wye River with a background in sales and property management. Wye River’s unique size and mission statement grabbed his attention and prompted him to return to the classroom. He hopes his students gain a better understanding of the big picture and appreciate the intricacies and beauty of math. Tom is originally from a small town in eastern Pennsylvania and has lived at Lake Tahoe, Reno, Honolulu, Copenhagen, São Paulo, and other unique places.