Instructors

Emily Avakian

Ms. Avakian earned her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Montana where she focused on Native American Studies and Sociology. As an undergraduate student, Ms. Avakian conducted funded research on diversity in Higher Education. From there, she earned her Master’s in Student Affairs Practice in Higher Education from the University of Virginia. She is currently a Doctoral student at Liberty University where she is pursuing a degree in Education Administration: Educational Leadership at Liberty University. In addition to her professional endeavors, Ms. Avakian does work that honors her Native American (she is a tribal citizen) and Parskahye heritage. She had had numerous poems published and a play produced in Baltimore focusing on identity. She is also on the board of directors for an ALMA nominated school in Iran to that serves Afghan children.

Megan Bailey

Megan Bailey is a classically trained musician and music teacher, with a degree in biochemistry. While these two fields seem to be at opposite ends of the educational spectrum, Megan feels that they are more related than not. In the science world, she worked in Research and Development for the advancement of testing supplies for people with diabetes. During her time in Denton, TX, she taught rocketry, kitchen chemistry, and remedial math for the county's summer school program. After dabbling in the science world, Megan switched gears to explore her first love - music. She has taught violin, piano, ensembles, and various music classes for over 20 years - the last ten in the Charlottesville area. In addition to teaching at CHEC and private music lessons, she currently runs her own bookkeeping business and teaches full-time for PVCC's Kids College program. Megan has recently jumped, head first, into the homeschooling world with her two children - one of whom has special needs. Homeschooling has allowed her to feed her many passions: music, science, and math, to name a few!

Janet Beals

Janet Beals Orejudos is a process artist, teacher, and facilitator. She has taught in summer camp, year round programs, and Adaptive Recreation with C'ville Parks & Rec, offering 3-14 year olds classes in Beginning and Youth Sculpture, Collage, Home School Art, Paint Like Picasso, and Open Studio. Janet comes from Chicago's Open Studio Project, offering process art and social emotional skills through art to disadvantaged and other diverse populations. Process art, unlike traditional art, focuses on the experience of artmaking rather than the final product. Therefore, there is no "bad art," just a piece with a story or a message. Although classes may have a theme (Dinosaurs, Self Portraits, Dia de los Muertos, Martin Luther King), each child is free to express it in her own way. We honor each child's artistic vision. Classes use unusual materials and techniques when possible, and aim for creativity, learning, and self determination. Janet is open to students with special needs and communication disorders, and children outside the age parameters of the class.

Heidi Betts

Heidi Betts is a homeschooling mother of two children, with whom she enjoys exploring the outdoors. Originally from Seattle, Heidi has lived all over the United States, including the Northeast, the Southwest, and the Intermountain West. She received her BS in Special Education with a focus on learning disabilities from Brigham Young University. Heidi is an active volunteer with the Charlottesville Ballet Academy and the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont and serves as a children’s music leader for her church. She loves cats, crossword puzzles, and the color purple.

Gabrielle Buckle

Gabrielle Buckle was a competitive dancer on a national award-winning team. In her years of competing she won many regional and national level titles while training in multiple styles such as Jazz, Ballet, Tap, Lyrical, and Contemporary. Gabrielle also performed as a guest entertainer on The Miss Virginia Pageant stage for three years. During her competitive days, she also worked as a dance instructor, teaching children aged 2 - 60. After competing she assisted renowned choreographers and decided to further her academic career in business at The University of Virginia, where she will be graduating this Spring. Gabrielle’s love for dance and passion for educating the youth creates an inspiring and energetic atmosphere where dancers can grow and constantly feel motivated! She enjoys teaching students all different styles but her favorites are classes where students can fully show their creative side and have fun with the wonderful art that is dance!

Amy Eachus

Amy Eachus is a former public school teacher who took a different path and now homeschools her three children. She loves learning beside them. She’s passionate about nature, art, and children’s literature. She also enjoys gardening, watching science documentaries, and crocheting. She feels her primary role as a teacher is to assist her students in making their own discoveries. As Socrates said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”

Monica Farrell

A lifelong teacher of English, French, Writing and Mindfulness, I have taught writing in the Comparative Literature Department at UCLA and then in the Freshman Writing Program at The American University in Cairo. I've tutored high school and home schooled kids in subjects including English, World Cultures, Critical Thinking and French and helped them prepare for GCSE exams (high school exams in the UK). I have a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature (ABD) and currently teach yoga and mindfulness in Charlottesville in addition to teaching Yoga Teachers in my annual retreats around the world.

Rebecca George

I'm a lifestyle brand and family photographer, and I've been homeschooling my teen since 2019. You're also likely to find me whipping up some plant-based goodness in the kitchen, thrifting in my favorite second-hand shops in Cville, or curled up with a book on my Kindle and a cat in my lap. In most things that I do, I love the interplay of left-brain logic and science with right-brain creativity and imagination -- which is why I'm so drawn to photography! My photography classes celebrate this dynamic, with some emphasis on the science of how light and cameras work, balanced with lots of fun prompts and exploration of composition and varied points of view. My main goals in class are to open students' eyes to the new and different ways we can see the world around us, and to learn to strategize about ways to tell stories through images.

Teela James

I love learning about new things and finding connections between diverse topics. This tendency has lead to a rather wandering career path that has included programming, technical training, writing short stories, designing parks, teaching, and guiding wilderness camping trips. I am currently able to share my enthusiasm for these topics with my two custom educated children. I feel that my role as an instructor involves engaging students by presenting fun material and then supporting them in delving into the parts they find fascinating. Students with learning differences are welcome in my classes and I enjoy working with them to find effective accommodations. I have a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Saskatchewan and a MLA from the University of Georgia.

Amber Jones

I have a BFA in Painting & Printmaking from VCU. Throughout the post-college years, I’ve worked in many art supply stores and am familiar with a wide range of art making techniques and materials, including intaglio etching, welding, fiber spinning, encaustic, plaster, and woodworking. Currently, I own and operate a small farm which specializes in goat milk soaps. I homeschool my three young children whom you may have seen running around the playground at CHEC. We’ve been with CHEC for about three years and absolutely love this community!

Kim Lohan

Kim Lohan is a homeschooling mama who loves exploring ways to use all our senses to engage with learning. She especially loves hands on activities and crafts as a way to anchor the information in a tactile way. She and her family spend their time hiking, studying bugs, gardening and exploring the outdoors. Her love for all things nature lead her to train as a master naturalist. She finds that when she slows down she sees so much more. She graduated with a Bachelor in Science from Minnesota State University.

Susan Maccarelli

I am a homeschooling mom who recently moved back to the Charlottesville area, and am so excited to be involved with CHEC! I loved working with our former co-op in Delaplane, VA, and have a Masters degree in Education from JMU. I figure if I am too old to take all of these interesting/fun CHEC classes myself, at least I can teach some! I enjoy an eclectic approach to homeschooling with my own kids: 2 parts self-directed-meets-unschooling and 1 part structured/traditional (for the type A personality in me!).

Jacob Pugh

I am Jake Pugh and I will be sharing a lifetime's worth of passion and over 25 years of experience in keeping reptiles through my uniquely interactive class. I grew up in northern Virginia and am just barely old enough to have missed out on the internet during my elementary school years, thereby limiting my exposure to the reptiles I longed to learn about. As a result I have remained insatiable in my pursuit of knowledge and experience with the cold-blooded, which has taken me from avid collector to breeder, and now a forever-home rescuer. I have even had the opportunity to work directly for one of the original pioneers of the herpetological hobby, and can boast that any ball python you have seen for sale in Petco or Petsmart over the past year came from the breeding season that I played a majority hand in while at Ophiological Services.

Elizabeth Riner

Elizabeth has been tutoring (mostly science), coaching creative problem solving teams, and offering private art instruction for 20 years. She loves all creative outlets and is well versed in dozens of art mediums because she can't chose just one. She has always been a talented artist, but is most passionate about helping other artists improve their skill and develop their own style. She loves science, reptiles, creating elaborate costumes, crafts, art and homeschooling.

Alena Solenne

Alena Rose Solenne, M.Ed, is an independent teacher based in Charlottesville, VA. She has been teaching and tutoring children and teens in the homeschooling community over the last three years. She has recently been focusing on the teen community as they bridge out of the offerings of the homeschooling coops, and become ready for a more academic setting in a local community college or high school. She has her Masters in Education from Antioch University, and has completed additional training in both Integrated Learning and Waldorf teaching modalities. She has a love and appreciation for each unique developmental stage, including those that we continue to experience as adults. She has a passion for exploring culture, history, geometry and art, and then finding the interesting connections and patterns hiding within them. In each class, there is a focus on aesthetics and beauty, while also gently integrating social, developmental, and academic skills.

Louis Torkornoo

My name is Louis Torkornoo and I'm originally from Ghana in West Africa. I'm a proud alumnus of the University of Virginia (Go Hoos) where I began as an Engineering student but graduated with my Masters in Math Education and Bachelor's in Religious Studies. I'm currently pursuing my doctorate in curriculum and instruction at UVA. As a result of my unique background, experiences, and numerous talents, I've been gifted with the opportunity to serve the youth in more ways than one. I've been in the states for 25years and during that time, I've encountered and shaped lives of young students through different forms. I taught middle school students as a licensed, professional Algebra 1 and Pre-Algebra teacher for 13yrs. I've also served as a Math tutor, Karate instructor, Guitar and Piano teacher, Soccer coach, Sunday school teacher, Christmas Pageant coordinator, Computer coach, SAT Math and college prep instructor, Summer camp counselor, and Talent Show coach. I've also experienced several volunteer opportunities in Charlottesville such as Madison House's Big Sibling Program, Computer 4 Kids, and free tutor. I'm currently part of the folk music team at my church and have been a guitarist and back up pianist for 16yrs. I'm excited to join the CHEC team where I can share my talents and skills with the community's youth help more young students grow as well-rounded individuals.

Casandra Wendell

Hello all! My name is Casey and I cannot wait to see your family in one of my classes and around CHEC! Here is a quick blurb about me: Previously-I have been a preschool teacher, an elementary classroom teacher, and a self-contained special education teacher. Professionally-I am a licensed teacher here in Virginia and am working towards obtaining my BCBA licensure. I currently work with children as a Registered Behavior Therapist. Personally-I am a homeschooling mom of three and have been a part of the CHEC community for the last three years. I am so excited to join the community of amazing CHEC teachers!

T Williams

I have been teaching and coaching children and families through Westcity Soccer in the Cville area for the past 10 years. As a former Division 1 College Coach and former 2 Sport College athlete, I provide students with insight and training into what it takes to compete at the highest level. I implement a personalized coaching and training approach with each student. I follow a curriculum for teaching technique, tactics, fitness and mental aspects of team sports with emphasis on American football and soccer. I support each player in the moment, aiding in their complete development over time. I provide a teaching and learning environment where each student can succeed.

Cindy Young

In addition to being an instructor at CHEC, Cindy is also the administrator. In her life before kids, she earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UVA and a law degree from WLU. She has worked as a patent examiner, lawyer, lobbyist, blogger, and business owner. In her current life, Cindy is a homeschooling mom of two children, ages 10 and 16, and considers herself an amateur naturalist and artist. She loves painting, drawing, hiking, nature photography and all things outdoors.