Mary Virginia Bunker
K-1 Lead Teacher
A born and bred storyteller, Mary Virginia fills the days of K-1 students with mythic lessons taken from folktale and legend. Inspired by Joseph Campbell’s work describing the cultural basis of the hero’s journey through myth and folklore, she believes it is through learning ancient stories that truths of personal power, justice, and interpersonal understanding are embodied.
Mary Virginia passionately enjoys teaching at Odyssey, guiding her young students to see purpose and meaning in their academic lessons, celebrating their shifts in understanding, and helping them learn how to manage their energies, through imaginative play, social skills and the developmental tasks related to academics.
A graduate of Loyola College of Maryland (Bachelor of Elementary Education) with graduate-level work in special education, Mary Virginia has also earned a Masters of Appalachian Studies from Appalachian State and a Masters of Library and Information Science from UNCG. She has recently completed a post-master’s level CASE (Advanced Study in Education) degree from the Notre Dame of Maryland University (2011).
K-1 Lead Teacher
As a K-1 teacher at Odyssey, Samata has the training, vision, and enthusiasm that are hallmarks of the school’s spirit. She believe that childhood is a time of creativity and joy, and also a time to learn self-discipline and empowerment. Samata infuses the K-1 day with these elements through song and kirtan, yoga, centering, and goal-setting, and takes care that the children practice speaking from the heart center of power.
As a professional musician and co-founder of Sangita Devi Kirtan, a kirtan group that meets weekly to share in devotional sacred music, Samata has a deep understanding of the power of heart-centered communication. She brings the magic of childhood alive, and is thrilled to have found resonance at Odyssey.
After receiving a BA in Elementary Education from Warren Wilson College, Samata studied education in India, with the plan of opening a mind-body-spirit oriented school for children. Later, she returned to work as a first grade teacher’s assistant at Hall Fletcher Elementary School and initially came to OCS as a pre-school and after-school program instructor.
Katie’s enthusiasm and passion are clear in her energetic approach to teaching and learning. Katie is dedicated to meeting the needs of each child in her classroom and creating community among children, families, and colleagues.
Raised in the mountains of North Carolina, Katie spends her time enjoying all that encompasses Appalachia from hiking to sharing in the culture of this unique region. Sharing those experiences with the people around her bring her the most joy. Katie graduated from Western Carolina University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Philosophy. She has experience working in different counties around Western North Carolina and different age groups ranging from preschool to fifth grade.
When she’s not at school, you might find Katie hiking with her dog, checking out a local music venue, creating crafts out of found materials, having a cook-out with friends, or planning her itinerary for her next trip!
Determined to make a meaningful impact in the teaching community, Stacie Popowski is a member to the Odyssey family joining us from Pittsburgh, PA. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and has recently moved to the Asheville area. Stacie is further certified in CPR, first aid and AED use for adults and children. Her education and professional experience has been enriched by substitute teaching at two Pittsburgh school districts, tutoring after school, actively participating as a mentor for personal and academic success for college peers and managing a college level dance ensemble. In addition, she enjoys dancing, music, traveling, movies, food, flowers, crafts, singing, jogging and astronomy.
As a result, Stacie’s teaching philosophy is based around the importance of involvement and exposure to learning experiences, as well as resources. This involves a combination of independent learning, constructivism, exploration, and opportunity. She believes individual thoughts, opinions, feelings and reactions matter; how we develop with these perspectives in coordination with our education can truly make a difference in the world and change lives. With this in mind, Stacie is excited about her new adventure with Odyssey.
With nearly seventeen years of teaching experience, Edie McDowell masterfully executes two critical roles at Odyssey. In addition being the 4th-5th grade lead teacher, she is also Odyssey’s K-8 Curriculum Specialist. Edie has helped start three other alternative private schools, but it is when she came to Odyssey that she began to realize her dream of creating an integral classroom within an integral community. Her passion is environmental history, and in her classroom, she enjoys facilitating learning in the awe-inspiring intersection between natural and cultural history.
In her role as Curriculum Specialist, Edie works with the K-8 teachers to support their development of Integral educational methodology and practice, philosophy, and reflection.Edie graduated from Mars Hill College with a B.A. in English, and she has completed all but her thesis towards an M.A. in English from Wake Forest University. She is currently working toward her Environmental Education certification from Brevard College and the Pisgah Forest Institute, as well as developing alternative curricular materials for the NC Department of Public Instruction, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Learn NC, a web-based educational resource for K-12 teachers.Last summer, she was accepted into and attended the 2011 Teacher Institute on Crosscurrents of American Art: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries at the National Gallery of Art.Edie’s hobbies include photography, running, dance, and weight training. In her spare time she writes children’s books, learns botanical illustration, and researches facts for another book to be set in Appalachia. Someday, she would love to travel.
4-5 Assistant Teacher
Daniel Manget, the assistant teacher for 4th and 5th grade, has found his home in Asheville and at Odyssey. His true passion is connecting kids to nature, and he strongly believes that understanding the interconnectedness of life is crucial for developing a sense of compassion and for fostering a healthy mental, physical, and spiritual self. “If you teach children,” says Daniel, “they may remember for a test, but if you enable them to discover on their own, they will continue to discover for life.”