Heads of School

Clay Kaufman and Jilly Darefsky serve jointly as Heads of School
Jilly Darefsky, Head of School, a member of Siena’s founding team, is a highly experienced educator and school leader.  Recognized as an Outstanding Teacher of Dyslexic Students, she has dedicated her career to working with students with language-based learning differences. Having undertaken roles of director, secretary and vice-president on the Board of the D.C. Capital Area Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, she now serves on their Advisory Board and is also a Board member of the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center. Ms. Darefsky earned a B.A., with honors, in English Literature with Psychology from the University of Surrey, a Diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties/ Dyslexia from Hornsby International Dyslexia Centre and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from Canterbury Christ Church University College. Furthermore, she holds a Master's in Specific Learning Difficulties from Middlesex University. Currently, she is pursuing a Doctorate in Education with a specialization in Mind, Brain, and Teaching at Johns Hopkins University.

Clay Kaufman, Head of School, is a longtime educator in the Washington, D.C. area. As a teacher, he has implemented hands-on, experiential learning and developed integrated curricula in the humanities and math/science, useful for students with learning differences, but also effective for all learners. Mr. Kaufman has been selected for a variety of leadership roles, including: the E.E. Ford Fellowship for private school leadership; the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program in Ankara, Turkey; and the National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Scholars program. He is a former board member of Sheridan School in Washington, D.C., and has presented workshops five times at the NAIS annual conference on the subject of skills and strategies for learning. He has run training sessions and served as a consultant at numerous D.C. area public and private schools.He holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University, and a Master's from Georgetown University.


Bekah Atkinson, director of admissions, has worked in schools serving students with language-based learning differences for over eighteen years. She was previously director of admissions and registrar at the Pershing and Chelsea Schools in Silver Spring, where she oversaw all aspects of enrollment, recruitment, assessment, retention, and financial aid. She also served in a variety of administrative leadership roles at Grace Episcopal Day School and The Gow School in South Wales, NY. In addition to supporting admissions functions, her roles at these schools included: directing and managing summer school programs; directing extended day, after-school and enrichment programs; and supporting business office functions. She jointly supports both the D.C. Capitol Area branch of the International Dyslexia Association and WISER (Washington Independent Services for Educational Resources) by serving as a board member. Ms. Atkinson also has extensive experience in athletics, having coached and/or participated in high school and collegiate soccer, lacrosse, swimming and diving programs. Ms. Atkinson holds a B.S. in health sciences/leadership studies from Marietta College.

Simon Kanter, director of technology, has worked in education technology professionally since 2012. He came to Siena from Sheridan School, where he was a Technology Coordinator focused on systems administration, maintenance, and classroom technology integration. Before that, he managed the fully student-run help desk at Grinnell College, from which he received a B.A. in Religious Studies. In between, Simon has interned in tech departments in the legal and financial sectors.   

Amy Walker, business manager, has worked in financial and administrative fields for over 35 years. Ms. Walker previously worked in client services for Ingalls, Quinn & Johnson, Chiat/Day and Anderson & Lembke and as business manager for Richard Williams Architects. Additionally, she served as treasurer of parent associations for 5 different schools, public and private, over a span of 15 years. Currently, she serves on the boards of the Maryland Independent School Consortium and the Timber Bay Shores Association. She has served as the treasurer on the board of the Edgemoor Club. Ms. Walker holds a B.A. in history from Dickinson College.

Vickie Pierce, office manager, previously worked at the Potomac School where she served as the Admission Services Coordinator. Prior to working at the Potomac School, she worked as the Executive Assistant to the Head of School at the National Child Research Center for nine years. In addition to working in private schools, she also worked in a few prestigious law firms which spanned over 17+ years as a Word Processing Manager at Wiley Rein and as a legal secretary at Sidley Austin located in the D.C. Metropolitan area. Ms. Pierce has an extensive background in administrative, secretarial and office management duties. She attended Yorktowne Business Institute in College Park, Maryland where she received a Certificate in Data Processing.

Holly Rothrock, counselor, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). She received her MSW from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. She most recently helped develop a social/emotional curriculum for an inquiry based education technology company. Before that, Mrs. Rothrock worked in a therapeutic group home for teens as the home’s clinical therapist, and served as an advocate for the residents’ educational experience. While living overseas in Estonia, she developed an after school program focused on social skill enrichment. Mrs. Rothrock is a certified yoga instructor and has recently taught yoga and mindfulness at the high school and elementary school level. She is dedicated to a holistic approach to educating our students.

Kaitlin Sarago, marketing and communications associate, is a graduate of Marietta College, where she earned a B.A. in English and Leadership Studies. While she was a student at Marietta College, she worked in the Writing Center as a Peer Writing Consultant, was the Senior Editor for Pulse, a Literary Magazine, and ran the McDonough Leadership Conference in 2017.


Claire Alexa, elementary teacher and after school instructor, is a graduate from the University of Dayton and holds a BS Degree in Early Childhood Education. Ms. Alexa enthusiastically serves as a Student Government faculty adviser for 4th through 12th grade. In addition to teaching at Siena, she works as a Summer Camp Coordinator at Our Lady of Good Counsel, serving campers ages 5-14 years old. She facilitates with the pre-planning and prep work regarding camp, including the structure of the day, enrollment of campers, and assists the camp staff as needed.

Elizabeth Augustine, reading teacher, was previously a reading teacher for students with language-based learning disabilities. Prior to teaching, she was a programmer with AT&T Corporation and an import/export coordinator for a Japanese trading company. Ms. Augustine holds a B.A. in English literature from Rutgers College and a certificate in computer programming from The Chubb Institute.

David Bonner, middle and high school science teacher, holds a B.S. in Biology cum laude and a Master's Degree in Science Education, both from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. He has worked in a variety of public and private schools in Georgia, North Carolina, and the D.C. area for over fourteen years, teaching and developing curricula for Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, and International Baccalaureate Physics. Prior to joining The Siena School, he also served as Librarian, Director of Technology, and JV Tennis coach at The Field School in Northwest D.C., where he was actively engaged in multicultural work. Mr. Bonner was awarded the Presidential Award and a degree from the professional culinary program at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg. 

Carolyn Bottelier, elementary and middle school science teacher, is a Washington DC native and recently earned a M.Ed in Science Education from Lesley University. A graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she was awarded the Filene Music Scholarship for vocal performance and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music with honors. Carolyn directs Siena’s Choir alongside Mr. McCormally. Carolyn also played competitive volleyball in both high school and collegiate level, has 5 years of varsity-level coaching experience, and joined Coach Noyes in coaching Siena’s team in 2018. While off the court, Carolyn enjoys cooking, discussing issues surrounding social justice, and playing with her dog, Ruff.

Marian Carpenter, high school humanities teacher, coordinator of auxiliary programs and college counseling, earned a B.A. from Bates College where she studied English, Creative Writing, and History. Bates College awarded her the 2007 John Tagliabue Prize for Creative Writing. After graduating from Bates she began her teaching career at the Woodhall School where she taught History and English to students with a wide range of learning differences. While at the Woodhall School she also served as co-director for many of the school’s theater productions, coach of the outdoor education program, dorm parent, and faculty advisor to the student literary magazine and yearbook. Mrs. Carpenter earned a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland after producing a book-length manuscript of original poems. As part of her Master’s program, she taught An Introduction to Academic Writing, a required course for all freshmen at the University of Maryland. She recently partnered with Beth Fabijanic to write an article on multisensory techniques for teaching writing to students with learning differences, which was published in the Spring 2018 edition of Independent Teacher, published by The National Association of Independent Schools.

Jennifer Chambers, math and science department chair and environmental education coordinator, is an author, former small business owner, and has 22 years of environmental and special education experience. Prior to starting her own environmental education business, Hiking Along, LLC., in 2004, she taught middle school social studies at the Chelsea School. She founded Hiking Along to lead children on D.C.-area hikes to engage them in the science that surrounds the trails. In addition, she was an environmental educator with the Audubon Naturalist Society's GreenKids program and created the Student Trail Stewards program in partnership between Northwood High School and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. As an activist, she was State Advocate for Leave No Trace and Board Chair of American Hiking Society. In 2013 and 2014, she authored two books: a children's book, Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, and a hiking guidebook, Best Hikes with Kids: Washington, D.C., The Beltway & Beyond. Jennifer holds a BA in Political Science from the University of South Carolina, an MA in American/Women Studies from SUNY Buffalo and a MEd in Special Education from the University of Maryland.

James Coleman, artist-in-residence, art teacher, has significant personal experience participating in and teaching the arts and athletics. He is an accomplished contemporary artist and has been featured in multiple solo and group exhibitions in and around Washington, D.C. Mr. Coleman has taught general art for grades 6 - 8 at The King's Academy. He is also an experienced athlete, having played many competitive team sports. Mr. Coleman previously worked as an assistant at the Speed Zone speed and agility clinics for kids. He holds a Bachelor of Liberal Studies from the University of Mary Washington in art history & studio art.

Peni Critchell, reading teacher, earned a B.A. in American Studies from the University of North Carolina and an M.A.T. from George Washington University. She is certified as an LD tutor through the Lab School of Washington. Ms. Critchell has worked in education in the metropolitan area for over 30 years; she began her career as a classroom teacher at Georgetown Day School and has most recently worked as a learning specialist at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School and as a tutor at the Lab School of Washington Summer Camp.

Katie Danver, high school English teacher, joins us from the Saint James School in Hagerstown, MD where she taught high school English, worked in the dorm, and coached soccer. Before that, she gained teaching experience as a middle school math teacher while earning her teaching certification from Penn State Harrisburg. Katie holds a B.A in English from Washington College.

Amanda Davis, Spanish teacher, has over 10 years of teaching experience as a Spanish, French and English teacher. She previously worked in the Montgomery County Public Schools. Ms. Davis holds a B.S. in education (English and Spanish) from the University of Kansas and an M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury College, Madrid campus. She received her French certification at Sorbonne University in Paris, France. Ms. Davis was a recipient of a foreign language fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Beth Fabijanic, humanities department chair and middle school English teacher, has been teaching language arts across grade levels at Siena for ten years. Ms. Fabijanic holds a M.Ed in Elementary Education from DePaul University and a B.A. in Drama Studies, cum laude, from Northwestern University where she fostered a specific skill set in the use of drama education to enhance students' literacy skills. In addition to training in multisensory instruction, she has pursued training in arts integration, child and teen yoga, and social-emotional learning. She recently partnered with Marian Carpenter to write an article on multisensory techniques for teaching writing to students with learning differences, which was published in the Spring 2018 edition of Independent Teacher, published by The National Association of Independent Schools.

Riley Fisher, elementary/middle school history teacher and after care instructor, holds a B.A. in History and a Minor in Film Studies from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, PA. She received her teaching certification in Secondary History and is currently working on earning her Masters in Education Leadership at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Her passion for History has taken her from jobs at the Smithsonian and the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to the classroom setting.

Nick Franson, engineering teacher, earned a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. While in college, he gained a strong foundation in robotics, manufacturing, and product design.  After graduating and working four years in the mechanical contracting industry, Mr. Franson began his career in education as the engineering teacher at a STEM-focused school in Virginia. Outside of school, you can find Mr. Franson cooking, hiking, camping, and playing soccer and ultimate Frisbee.

Maya Furukawa, middle school English teacher, holds a double-B.A. in Creative Writing and Literary Studies from Beloit College and an M.S. in Secondary Education from Johns Hopkins University. Ms. Furukawa spent two years teaching high school special education English in Baltimore before discovering Siena. In her free time, Ms. Furukawa enjoys writing short stories, baking, and spending time with her two dogs.

Mehul Gandhi, apprentice teacher, holds a B.A degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Mathematics. He has past experiences working with elementary students in a classroom setting through Freedom Schools, and middle school and high school students through one on one tutoring in courses such as Algebra I, Algebra II and Calculus. Prior to such, Mr. Gandhi interned for a Representative on Capitol Hill where he was able to be part of the legislative process. Outside of school, Mr. Gandhi likes to play basketball, travel, and workout. 

Mike Holmes, athletic director, physical education teacher, and head varsity boys' basketball coach, has been with The Siena School for 11 years and has actively participated on different sports teams throughout his life. Mr. Holmes has over 18 years of experience teaching physical education to students with learning differences and has a wide range of coaching experience including football, basketball, and soccer. He started a strong athletics program at Siena, growing our athletic offerings to 13 competitive teams. Mr. Holmes holds a B.A. in Political Science and History from West Virginia Wesleyan College and has completed special education training at American University.

Leslie Holst, reading teacher, is an ASDEC trained Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) and IDA Certified Dyslexia Therapist (CDT). An experienced early childhood educator, Ms. Holst specializes in using the Orton-Gillingham approach to teach students with language-based learning differences from preschool to 8th grade. She received her undergraduate degree in Social Work from Longwood University and her Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech. When not teaching, Ms. Holst enjoys volunteering at her kid's swim meets and baseball games, reading mysteries, and walking her dog.

John Lucas, dean of students and high school science teacher, is a practicing physician and experienced teacher. He taught elementary and high school science, English and photography in a program for high-potential dyslexic students at Landmark West School. After his time at Landmark West, he taught 7th and 9th grade science at the Westlake School in California. Over three years he created the pre-K through 2nd grade science program at The River School in Washington, D.C.  From that experience he developed, with SRA/McGraw-Hill, the "Snapshots Simply Science" program. He has served as staff physician at the University of Maryland Health Center and the Kaiser Permanente Frederick, MD office. Dr. Lucas is board certified in Family Medicine with an M.D. from Georgetown University and a B.A. in history from Hamilton College.

Sam McCormally, music teacher, has worked as an educator in a variety of settings. Sam has experience working with high school students on outdoors trips and elementary school students in after-school enrichment programs. Prior to The Siena School, Mr. McCormally worked for D.C. Public Schools in Early Stages, which identifies 3-5 year olds with learning disabilities. Mr. McCormally plays in a variety of bands and ensembles and composes music for film. He holds a B.A. in economics and math from Earlham College.

Joel Mercado, high school math teacher, joins us as a graduate of the local university in Takoma Park, Washington Adventist University. He received a B.S in Mathematics and was able to work as a professor for 2 years after graduating before joining Siena. Mr. Mercado enjoys staying active with cycling and soccer and will be assisting Siena's soccer team as coach.

Megan Noyes, associate dean of students and middle school history teacher, holds a B.A. degree in History and Political Science and a M.A.T. in Social Studies from The University of Pittsburgh. Prior to joining Siena, Ms. Noyes worked with students with reading disabilities through the Huntington Learning Center in Pennsylvania and taught 7th and 8th grade within the public school system. Ms. Noyes is active in recreational sports, and applies her passion for athletics to coaching multiple sports teams at Siena. Along with coaching the varsity boys' and girls' basketball teams at Siena, Ms. Noyes also assists Coach Robert Burke with his SPD Basketball training program. 

Michael Pfeiffer, middle school math teacher, attended Florida International University in his home town of Miami, Florida where he earned a B.S. in Computer Science. He taught middle school vocational technology in Miami for two years prior to moving to Denver, Colorado. In Denver, Mr. Pfeiffer taught mathematics and a variety of computer science courses in middle school and high school for seven years. In addition to teaching math and technology, Mr. Pfeiffer has developed and taught a wide range of extracurricular music courses including guitar, percussions, and electronic composition and recording. Mr. Pfeiffer holds an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on secondary mathematics and second language acquisition from University of Denver.

Warren Phenegar, high school history teacher, earned a B.A. from Saint Peter’s College where he studied history and secondary education. After college, he served as an AmeriCorps volunteer and also has over ten years of experience as a secondary social studies teacher. In his most recent teaching position, Mr. Phenegar designed several core and elective courses as well as creating and launching orientation and activities programs for Emerson Preparatory School in Washington, D.C. Prior to coming to Siena, he worked as a specialist with the American Institutes for Research and several state clients to design their online testing and educational materials.

Frank Rowlette III, elementary teacher, graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. Prior to joining The Siena School, Mr. Rowlette worked for Dekalb County Public Schools in Georgia where he served as the 4th Grade Chair as well as a mentor teacher for math instruction and technology in the classroom. Outside of the classroom, Mr. Rowlette is an active church musician.

Edie Schutz, elementary teacher, is a native of the Washington, D.C. area. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Before coming to The Siena School she was a caregiver for elementary aged children, a camp counselor for more than ten years, and coached a variety of sports. She is very active in intramural sports and played collegiate lacrosse. While teaching a class called Project Discovery for an ESF camp, she was awarded The Master Teacher Award. 

Jabari Sellars, high school humanities teacher, assistant to the coordinator of the internship program, joins Siena with experience teaching in public and independent schools in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. After graduating from Guilford College and Duke University where he earned a B.A. in English Literature and M.A. in Secondary Education respectively, Jabari entered the classroom driven to develop culturally responsive and identity-affirming curricula for middle school and high school students. In addition to teaching, Jabari has served many roles including football coach, debate team coach, spoken word/slam poetry coach, anime and comics club advisor, Queer affinity group advisor, and African-American affinity group advisor. Before joining Siena, Jabari earned his M.Ed in Language and Literacy from Harvard Graduate School of Education where his focus on student motivation and pop culture-infused curricula earned him the Intellectual Contribution Award.

Martha Silk, reading teacher, has been tutoring students with dyslexia, language-based learning differences, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and reading comprehension challenges since 1997. Ms. Silk has worked with students from age six through adult, and has special expertise in auditory processing issues, math, dysgraphic issues in print and cursive, strengthening working memory, reading comprehension, and directional language. Her extensive training includes coursework with William Stixrud & Associates, Stevenson Skills, LIPS and VV and ASDEC. Earned certification (CERI) The Center for Effective Reading Instruction. Ms. Silk holds a B.S. in mathematics from Spring Hill College.

Richard Sorrell Jr., facilities assistant and support staff, holds an Associates Degree from Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, VA, and is currently working towards finishing a B.S. in Psychology from Radford University, VA. Mr. Sorrell has been teaching self-defense and jui-jitsu to children for ten years. He has experience as a caregiver for newborns to elementary aged children. Mr. Sorrell also runs enrichment classes at Siena, in the areas of woodworking, pinewood derby and comics. 

Stephanie Wendell, performing arts teacher, graduated with a BFA in Theatre from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA.  Mrs. Wendell was the Director of Theatre at The Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, MD, where she taught dance and theatre as well as directed productions.  Most recently, she was a teaching artist for the pre-professional program at Adventure Theatre, and also taught ballet, tap and jazz to kids of all ages at ACD Dance.  She is a proud member of Actors' Equity Association, and has performed in many professional productions including a tour of Disney's Beauty and the Beast.  

Kristian Whipple, digital arts and elementary maker teacher, is experienced in outdoor, out-of-school and community-based education with a specific focus on expeditionary learning with students of varied backgrounds. Before arriving at The Siena School, he managed and taught both youth and adults at New Community's ArtSpace in Washington, D.C. In addition to teaching at Siena, he works as a professional photographer. Mr. Whipple holds a B.A. in Art with a concentration in Photography from New England College and studied abroad in Quebec City and London.  

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