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Every member of our outstanding faculty has been carefully chosen not only on the basis of their field of specialization but also on their commitment to creating a positive educational experience for each child.
Click on a name to see the teacher's biography.
Julie Fox, Pre K Teacher
Rosemary Johnson, 1st Grade Teacher
Becca Newman, 1st Grade Teacher
Sally Brown is beginning her fifth year as a Kindergarten Assistant at the Lerner School. She is a graduate of Skidmore College with a BA in Political Economy. Prior to relocating to Chapel Hill, Sally served as the Religious School Principal of her synagogue in Indiana. Before coming to Lerner, Sally was a reading partner for grades K-5 in the Chapel Hill public school system for ten years. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and three children. Sally loves to read, take long walks and bake chocolate chip cookies with her family. She looks forward to getting to know the children each school year and loves being a part of the Lerner community.
Holly Fishback is the third grade teacher and very excited to be a part of the Lerner community! She is a graduate of the UNC-CH and received her teaching certification from Meredith College. She earned her national Board certification in 1999 and believes the national board process truly enhanced her teaching. Holly has taught for 14 years and loves to read and scrapbook. She has a wonderful husband, and three children (Matthew, Catherine, and Georgia) who keep her busy. Holly is looking forward to great year with her third graders!
Tori Morton is Lerner’s 4th grade teacher. She received a M.A.degree in Teaching from Meredith College in Raleigh and a B.A. in International Development from UCLA. Tori has lived and taught in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Durham. For fun, she likes listening to music, traveling, and learning about different cultures. She loves being a part of the Lerner School community.
Fiona Mueller is a 2nd Grade Teacher. At Lerner, she has previously taught Physical Education, 4th and 5th grades, and math groups from 1st to 4th grade. She was born and raised in the UK, and earned her teaching credentials at Lancaster University, England. She spent five years in public education in England and then enjoyed fourteen wonderful years teaching in American international schools in Italy and France. She moved to the United States fourteen years ago with her husband, Thomas (also an educator), and sons Benjamin and Jack. Fiona loves to spend time outdoors; gardening, canoeing and training her two Labradors.
Cecilia Payne is a Kindergarten Teacher. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she majored in Economics and Religion. She is a certified Montessori teacher. Cecilia has been teaching for twenty years. She began her tenure at Lerner in 1998 as a lead teacher in the Preschool program, and moved to Kindergarten in 2007. Cecilia is an avid nature lover and brings this enthusiasm for wildlife to her students. She lives in Durham with her husband and has three sons, Thomas, Daniel, and Michael. Cecilia looks forward to another wonderful school year getting to know the children.
Rachel Radner is excited to be the fifth grade teacher at Lerner. She grew up in Massachusetts where she attended college and taught fifth grade before moving to Atlanta. Once in Atlanta, she earned her Masters in Elementary Education from Georgia State University. When she is not working on enriching and fun lessons, Rachel loves to cook, spend time with her family, and read. She is looking forward to a fantastic year with the leaders of the school!
Melissa Rickabaugh is originally from West Palm Beach, Florida. She graduated from University of Florida with a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Elementary Education. Throughout college she worked as a civilian for the US Air Force at Hurlburt Field, Florida. From Florida, she moved to Phoenix, Arizona where she taught First Grade and also worked at Luke Air Force Base. She always wanted to teach abroad; which lead her to her next adventure- Israel. She moved to Ashdod, Israel and taught English in a local elementary school. Her adventure in Israel was not over yet! She also spent a few months in a seminary in Jerusalem, 3 weeks volunteering with the Israeli Defense Forces, and lots of traveling around the country. Upon her return to the United States she chose to call Durham, North Carolina her home. This is her second year teaching Second Grade at Lerner and she is loving every minute of it.
Arielle Derby is thrilled to be the Judaic Studies Curriculum Coordinator this year, and is very excited to be teaching, learning from, and praying and celebrating with all of the Elementary students! She has a close relationship to Jewish Education: she attended a Jewish Day School from age 4 to 14, and has taught at two Day Schools as an adult. She got her undergraduate degree at Smith, and has a Masters in Elementary Education from Bank Street College. She relocated from New York City where she was born and raised several years ago, and finding Lerner was like finding a little piece of home. She lives in Carrboro with her wife, Laurel (a PhD candidate in Anthropology at UNC), their beautiful baby son Edan, and as many houseplants as she can encourage to bloom. Her favorite thing to do outside of school is to hang out with Laurel and Edan on the Weaver Street Lawn and watch the hula-hoopers while consuming vast quantities of coffee.
Shiran Rothschild is the Hebrew teacher. She is an Israeli who moved to Durham a year ago. She has a teaching diploma in both special and regular education from Israel. In the past, she has worked in both the regular and the special education sectors while teaching reading, writing and exact sciences to children in elementary school.
Nathan Somers is originally from North Carolina, he attended the University of North Carolina at Asheville and Western Carolina University before moving to Baltimore where he gained a Masters in Jewish Studies from Baltimore Hebrew University. While in Baltimore he taught 5th grade at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and took part in the HaMorah program through The Baltimore Center for Jewish Education. He recently moved to Durham from Portland Oregon. He has been teaching 7th and 8th grade Jewish Studies at Portland Jewish Academy for the last 5 years, as well as, being Religious School Director for Congregation Beit Haverim, and a teacher and curriculum writer for Temple Beth Israel.
Ronit Zahavi teaches Hebrew in Kindergarten and First Grade. For the last five years she worked at Lerner as a Hebrew teacher for multiple grades and as a 3rd grade teacher assistant. Prior to joining the Lerner faculty, Ronit taught Hebrew at Tarbut v-Torah in California, and was a Kindergarten teacher’s assistant at Temple Bet Shalom. Ronit was raised in Moshav Almagor in the north of Israel and is a certified nurse. She relocated to the USA 15 years ago, lived in southern California and then moved to Raleigh six years ago. Ronit has two children: Noaam, 15 years old and Ben, 12 years old, a dog and 3 cats. She loves sports, gardening and volunteering in her children’s schools.
Cheryl Berkes is in her sixth year as a teacher in our preschool program. She graduated from San Diego State University in California with a BA in psychology and a minor in early childhood education. Prior to coming to Lerner, Cheryl had twelve years of teaching experience in Jewish preschools. Cheryl also worked in a special education/early intervention program in California for children ages birth-three years of age. She lives in Durham with her husband and son, who attends the fifth grade at Lerner.
Francie Jacobs-Segal has been a teacher in our Preschool program since 2005. She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Preschool Education. Francie has been teaching in preschool settings for the past twenty years, the last five of which have been at Lerner. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and has two sons, Ethan and Jared, who live in NYC and Austin, respectively. Francie loves to read and spend time with her family, and she loves being part of Lerner’s wonderful community.
Hinda Lind joined the Lerner School faculty in 1997 and has been teaching Kindergarten up until this year when she moved to the Pre Kindergarten class. She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Elementary Education. She also pursued graduate studies at Old Dominion University and Tel Aviv University. Prior to coming to Lerner, Hinda taught at Hebrew Academy of Tidewater in Virginia and in the public school system in Norfolk, Virginia. In addition to teaching at Lerner, Hinda is an active participant in the Jewish community, teaching at area Religious Schools and Hebrew Schools. In addition to teaching Pre Kindergarten, Hinda leads our school-wide Shabbat Sing-Along on Friday afternoons.
Dor Hartman was born and raised by the Sea of Galilee on Kibbutz Lavi. Dor has more than ten years of experience working with young children. Her education includes early childhood and psychology classes. Prior to working at the Lerner School, she worked at the JCC preschool in Phoenix, AZ and also managed her own private preschool in Tel- Aviv. Dor lives in Durham with her husband, who is a student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Dor’s hobbies are running, cooking and travelling.
Caryn Rosenberg begins her tenth year at Lerner this fall. She is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and has been teaching in the Lerner Preschool since 2002. Caryn moved to North Carolina in 1999 and currently lives in Durham with her husband and two young sons. Her interests include traveling, photography, shopping, and spending time with her family. Each year, Caryn looks forward to experiencing the joy of learning through the eyes of Lerner's youngest students.
Julie Harris will teach Art this year. Julie is a certified teacher, having received her multiple subject Teaching Credential from San Diego State University, and Graduate degrees in Jewish Education and Jewish Communal Service from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Julie has taught General and Judaic studies, and has served as Director of Judaic Studies at a day school in Palo Alto, California. She has taken many courses over the years in painting, mixed media, mosaics, photography, quilting, and sewing. Julie and her husband Etan have two children at Lerner: Jayden (3rd grade) and Noam (5th grade). She loves to travel, exercise, bake challah, and work and play in her home art studio.
Janice Nicholson is the Lerner School Librarian. This is Janice’s fourth year at Lerner. She has an MA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MS in Library Science from UNC Chapel Hill. Her prior experience includes teaching high school English in Ohio and Pennsylvania. She is most proud of being a grandmother to her four grandchildren.
Marcie Ollis is the Reading Specialist at the Lerner School. Marcie is a graduate of Scripps College in California and holds a MA in Elementary Education from UC Davis, California. Marcie additionally holds certifications in Montessori Education, the Orton-Gillingham program, and the National Institute for Learning Disabled Education. She also has numerous certifications through the professional development program at the Hill Center in Durham. Marcie has worked in the field of education for thirty years in a variety of school settings. Prior to coming to Lerner, she taught at the Hill Center and in the Special Education program of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro School System. She has also worked as a classroom teacher for Kindergarten and 1st Grade. Marcie has five children, and lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and teenage daughter. She enjoys making the world of language come alive for children.
Jordan Shamp is the Lerner School’s Physical Education Teacher as well as the Director of the After School program for Elementary school students. Jordan is a graduate of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, with a BS in Physical Education. This is his fourth year teaching at Lerner. In addition to teaching the Elementary School students, Jordan also teaches P.E. in the Preschool program. During the summers Jordan directs local sports camps and he also plays basketball, soccer, and softball in local adult leagues. Jordan recently got engaged and loves to travel, play guitar, and spend time at home with his family and his cats.
Laurie Siegel is the Music Teacher at Lerner. She holds a Bachelor and Master of Music in Music Education from UNC-Greensboro with a voice concentration. She has been teaching elementary music since 1997 in North Carolina public and private schools and at the Lerner School since 2004. Certified in three levels of Orff-Schulwerk training, Laurie believes in incorporating singing, movement, instruments and student creativity into every music lesson. Laurie enjoys performing in the local theater community, both singing and acting. When not teaching or performing, she spends time with her husband, Daryn, and daughter, Danya
Rachel Bearman joined Lerner as Director of Development at the start of the 2012 school year. Rachel has been an active volunteer at Lerner since her daughter started Kindergarten in 2000. Since that time she has served on the Lerner Board as Development Chair, Vice-President and President of the Board. When not at Lerner, Rachel worked as a public health/public policy researcher at UNC School of Medicine in the Department of Family Medicine. Since moving to Chapel Hill Rachel has been involved with non-profits as a volunteer and board member, often specializing in development and fundraising. Rachel holds a BA in Political Science and Judaic Studies from Tulane University and an MA in International Service from American University in Washington DC. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband Nathan, and her three children, Noa (a Lerner graduate) and Dov and Lev (Lerner students).
Barbara Deena is in her seventh year at Lerner, this year stepping into the role of Director of General Studies. She has a M.Ed. in Special Education with a focus on Early Childhood special education from the University of Florida. Barbara grew up in Durham and returned to North Carolina in 2001 after teaching for almost a decade in Florida. She lives in Durham with her family. Barbara is excited about to be part of Lerner and to share the joy of learning with the Lerner community.
Foley Coleman is the Office Administrator. This is Foley’s sixth year at Lerner. She is the voice who answers the phone at Lerner and is often the person at the front desk assisting staff, parents, and students alike. Foley truly enjoys her job at Lerner and all her interactions with the students. She lives in Hillsborough with her son, Grady.
Mary Crane is the Head of School of the Lerner School. Mary holds a BA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from the University of Dubuque, Iowa and a MA in Elementary Education, with a focus on Reading, from UNC Chapel Hill. She has almost twenty years of teaching experience in Preschool, Kindergarten and 1st grade combined. Mary has been at Lerner for eleven years and taught 1st grade at Lerner for five years before moving into a supervisory role. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband of 36 years and has three grown sons, all of whom she enjoys visiting.
Ofra Sheetrit is the Director of Programming. She graduated from David Yellin College in Jerusalem, Israel, with degrees in Hebrew as a Second Language and Early Childhood Education. Ofra has over twenty years of teaching experience both in the US and Israel. At Lerner, Ofra taught Hebrew and Judaic Studies for four years before becoming the program’s director. She is responsible for the planning and implementation of events focusing on Jewish holidays and other Jewish topics at Lerner. In addition to supervising these programs, Ofra teaches 1st Grade Judaic Studies and 2nd Grade Hebrew. She has three children: Lee, a recent graduate of UNC Charlotte, Aviv, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Noam who is in 11th grade. Ofra's hobbies include cooking, reading, and of course, teaching at Lerner!
Simone Soltan is the Director Emeritus of the Lerner School. In 1995, along with a dedicated group of parents, Simone officially opened the Jewish Community Day School of Durham Chapel Hill, now the Lerner School, with one class of 13 students housed in the Judea Reform Congregation building. She developed curriculum for both Judaic and general studies began the Library collection, ordered books and equipment, hired staff, and established the philosophy of the school, later called "One Child at a Time.” Over the next five years Simone led a successful capital campaign to build Lerner’s beautiful new campus, created a preschool program for children ages 3 and 4, and developed programming to complete the full range of classes from Preschool to Fifth Grade. By the time Simone retired in 2004 enrollment had grown to over 90 students, and the Lerner staff had grown from 3 to 30 teachers and staff, which included art, music, physical education, Hebrew, Judaic and classroom teachers. Simone has left a lasting legacy of love, caring and professionalism that still remain hallmarks of the educational experience at Lerner.
Susan Springer joins us this year as our new Director of Admissions. While this is a new position for Susan, she has worked closely with the admissions team for years as a volunteer and board member and has also been a substitute teacher. Prior to moving here in 2000, Susan worked in various capacities at a regional bank in Maryland, including strategic planning and commercial real estate lending, and as a fourth grade teacher at Germantown Elementary. Locally, Susan has volunteered as an adult tutor, a past board president of the Durham Literacy Center, the co-chair for the Jewish Federation's annual Mitzvah Day for the past five years, and has served on numerous school and community committees. She holds a BS degree from American University and an MA degree in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University. She lives in Chapel Hill with her wonderful husband and two girls: Madison, a recent Lerner graduate, and April, a rising fourth grader. Susan is looking forward to working with Lerner's top notch faculty, staff and students!
Elizabeth Takla is our Business and Facilities Manager. She is a graduate of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. This is Elizabeth’s sixth year at Lerner, and she enjoys being a part of the warm Lerner School community. She lives in North Durham with her husband, cats, and flock of hens. Elizabeth enjoys cooking, gardening, and speaking French.
Autumn Myrick is the Administrative Assistant in the Business Office. This is her first year at Lerner and she is looking forward to getting involved and is excited to interact with the students, families and volunteers. Autumn moved to North Carolina in 2007 and has enjoyed getting to know the community and loves the many friendly people. Autumn lives in Cary with her six year old daughter, Amelia. Together they love to cook, read, and play games.
Hannah Williams is beginning her third year as the Preschool Director. Hannah holds a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from Emory University and an MA in Jewish Studies Education from Siegal College. Before moving to Durham, Hannah was an Early Childhood teacher, with thirteen years teaching experience in Atlanta, GA, Asheville, NC and Palo Alto, CA. Hannah’s professional development includes participation in two national Fellowships, the Covenant Foundation Fellowship for Leadership in Early Childhood Education and the Covenant/JECEI (Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative) Fellowship. These prestigious programs incorporated in-depth study of Best Practices in Jewish Early Childhood Education, a Study Tour in Israel and site visits to vanguard preschools throughout the United States. Hannah is excited to be a member of The Paradigm Project, a group that recently won an Ignition Grant from the Covenant Foundation with the goal of strengthening the professional development networks for local groups of Jewish early childhood educators. Hannah enjoys travel, reading, cooking, and spending time with her family - her husband, Joel, and their three children, Henry, a Lerner first grader at Lerner, Alice, who is in the Lerner preschool and Isaac, who will attend Lerner as soon as he is old enough!