Kindergarten Teachers & Teacher Assistants 2013-2014 Michelle Burleson Track 1: I am originally from Burlington, Vermont. I graduated from Elon University where I double majored in Elementary Education K-6 and Special Education K-12. I began teaching in 2000, and have taught K, 1st, 2nd and 4th grades. I truly enjoy what I do and spending my day with children. I have two girls, Julia, who is five, and Isabella, who is three. We love spending days splashing in the ocean waves, reading, swimming, traveling, gardening, shopping, walking, skiing, and riding bikes. Jenifer Poteat, Assistant Track 1 (Burleson): This is my second year at OCE although last year I was in First Grade, this year I am in Kindergarten. I like elementary because I see so much growth in the kids. It works out great for me on a personal level with my kids in school on the same schedule. I am originally from Greensboro, NC. I graduated from UNC - Chapel Hill (Go Heels!!!) I have 3 daughters and a sweet beagle puppy. Some of my hobbies and favorite activities are: boating, soccer, water skiing and the beach...but most of the time I am a minivan taxi driver for my kids! Irene "Reanie" Miller Track 1: This school year marks the beginning of my sixteenth ""voyage"" aboard the Olive Chapel Clipper Ship. I joined the teaching crew in 1998 having lived previously in Kansas where I taught ESL in a traditional kindergarten setting. I was born in New York, lived in New Jersey until I was eight, and then spent the remainder of my childhood living on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies. I have been fortunate to live in many states but now consider myself a Tar Heel. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Colorado State University in Pueblo. My true love for teaching began on my first day of student teaching at Pine Valley Elementary School at the United States Air Force Academy. My greatest joy as a teacher is to have the opportunity to fill young minds with knowledge, to spark curiosity, and to instill a love of learning. Seeing bright and eager faces every morning is why I teach. Every day and every year is a new adventure with five and six year-olds that believe all things are possible. My hope is that when children leave my room at the end of the year they have grown academically, socially, and emotionally and are proud of who they are and what they can accomplish. Olive Chapel is a wonderful place for both students and teachers where all children are reaching and achieving! My three grown children are my greatest gifts in life and I enjoy visiting them during track out. In my down time I enjoy reading, cooking, and spending time with friends. Maria Strause, Assistant Track 1 (Miller): I have been a Teacher Assistant at OCE for 2 years with a further 7 years experience as a parent volunteer. I have a BS in Elementary Education and love this age group. I am originally from Toms River, NJ but have lived in New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and now NC for 17 years. My family consists of Eric, my husband, two daughters, Sydney a graduate of OCE and Avery (still at OCE) along with my dog, Macy. I LOVE the beach and go as often as possible. I have played soccer my entire life and currently play on a co-ed team in Apex. My husband and I are hockey fans and truly enjoy going to Hurricanes games. Debra "Debbie" Byers Track 2: I love to teach kindergarten! My family and I moved to North Carolina from Chardon, Ohio, five years ago and live in Apex. We have one son, Joshua who is in his third year at UNC Charlotte with a major in Civil Engineering. My family loves to travel, ride bikes, take walks and participate in church activities. I graduated from the University of Akron in Ohio with a B.S. in Elementary Education, Kent State University with a Master's Degree in Gifted Education, and Ashland University with a Master's Degree in Elementary Education. I have taught for over 20 years, grades K-3 and as a gifted and talented coordinator. However, I have found my niche in kindergarten for the last four years at Lake Myra Elementary in Wendell and now at Olive Chapel. I love to see the growth that the children make their very first year of school. I am so happy to be here at such a wonderful school. Ms. Ruiz (Ms. Sonia) and I are looking forward to a wonderful year! Sonia Ruiz, Assistant Track 2 (Byers) TBA Kristin Bruce Track 3: I have been fortunate to be teaching since I graduated from the University of Kentucky with my elementary education degree. I grew up in Lexington, KY and met my husband in college where we married shortly after graduating. We moved to Ft. Thomas, KY and I continued my teaching career in kindergarten and 1st grades. During that time, I earned my Master’s Degree and a Rank 1 (30 more hours) from Northern Kentucky University. We had two boys and enjoyed the Cincinnati area before deciding to move to Apex for my husband’s job. I knew I wanted to teach at OCE after my oldest son started kindergarten here in 2007. The teachers and students were amazing! I was excited for a position to continue my passion in life - teaching young children. Luckily, I was hired to teach kindergarten at OCE in 2008. I have been here since and I love it! The best part of my job is seeing the young faces grow before my eyes and having former students come back to visit. It’s an amazing journey and one I am blessed to be a part of. When I am not teaching I enjoy spending time with my family, being outdoors, running, shopping, and reading books. We love the beach, the lake and golfing. Cindy Eccles, Assistant Track 3 (Bruce): I came to OCE in 2005. I am originally from California. We have lived in NC for 10 years now! I graduated with a B.A. from University California at Santa Barbara. I live with my husband Gary, and my two daughters. Both of my girls attended and graduated from OCE!! They are now in middle school and high school. I enjoy going to movies and days/nights out with my family. We also have a cute Jack Russell named Gracie, my "third baby". Chase Simpson Track 3: I joined the OCE staff in 2011. I grew up in Raleigh, NC. I graduated from North Carolina State University in 2009 and then went back to graduate school at NCSU in 2010 where I earned my Masters in Elementary Education. I am the youngest of six children; I have two brothers and three sisters. I love being an aunt! I have 5 nieces and 4 nephews. I enjoy going to the beach with family and friends. I also enjoy water skiing and fishing. I absolutely love being a teacher and really enjoy having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children. I have loved my time here at OCE! Pam Shaw, Assistant Track 3 (Simpson): I grew up in Myrtle Beach, SC, where I worked on the ocean front in our family business. My favorite things are still sitting with my feet in the sand and eating a big platter of seafood! I graduated from Furman University with a BA in English. I worked for a number of years as a technical writer for various utilities. Once our youngest child started preschool, I begin teaching 4 year transition K preschool in a church environment and enjoyed that position for 10 years. I have been at OCE for 6 years, with most of that time spent in kindergarten. I have been fortunate to work with a dedicated kindergarten staff, and truly enjoy watching our youngest students become readers and writers. Karen Davis Track 4: I have been teaching since 1993. All but one year have been in kindergarten because I LOVE spending my days with 5-6 year olds! I grew up in Greenville, NC, and graduated from East Carolina University, (Go Pirates!), with a degree in Elementary Education (K-6) with a concentration in Reading (K-12). I live in Apex with my husband, John, my 2 beautiful girls, Ashlynn and Kailynn, and our 2 dwarf bunny rabbits. I have proudly worked at OCE since 2001 and know that your child is attending the best school in Wake County! My hobbies include going to dance competitions and gymnastics meets to watch my girls compete as well as clipping/organizing coupons, being with my friends and family, going to church and vacationing at the beach. Rhonda Oliver, Assistant Track 4 (Davis): I joined the OCE family in 2002, after moving to Apex (from New Bern) in 2001. I have worked in 2nd grade, Special Programs, and Kindergarten, and am passionate about our school and students! I am originally from Syracuse, New York, but have called North Carolina home for more than 30 years now. I am an East Carolina University graduate (go Pirates!), with a degree in Psychology and History. I have been married to my wonderful husband for 26 years, and we have 3 wonderful boys, ages 22, 20, and 16. We attend Apex UMC. My hobbies include exercise, gardening, boating, travelling, and reading. I hope to be a Clipper for many more years! Karen Decker Track 4: I began teaching as a special education teacher and fell in love with kindergarten early on in my teaching career. I started working at Olive Chapel in 1998. I received my B.A. from Illinois State University, my M.Ed. from National Louis University and received National Board Certification in 2003. I’m married to Greg (principal at Sanderson High School) and we have two grown children, Josh and Molly. We've lived in Cary since 1998 but are originally from Chicago, Illinois. My son, Josh, is working for a non-profit in Philadelphia and Molly is at N.C. State majoring in business. I LOVE my job and I’m so thankful to be able to teach kindergarten children. Besides teaching, I serve as the kindergarten grade chair and mentor new teachers at Olive Chapel. In my free time, I like to hang out with friends, volunteer at church, read, ride bikes, decorate, garden and play with Tilly, our sweet poodle. Karen Crighton, Assistant Track 4 (Decker): I have been working at OCE for 10 years. I love being here in kindergarten with Ms. Decker. I used to be a Dental Hygienist working in the community. I am originally from Wemyss Bay, Scotland, United Kingdom. I moved here 15 years ago with my husband's job for a 2 year work assignment. My family all still live in Scotland, I really miss them. I have 2 children. Jonathan is a freshman at ECU, Natalie is in 9th grade Apex high school and both are OCE alumni. My husband Alan is an engineer. We have a dog called Yoyo, and he is a little MaltiPoo. My favorite things to do are: hanging out with my family, watching movies and going on cruises.