Eric Howard, MSW, Ed.D
Head of School
Dr. Eric Howard grew up in Europe and the Pacific and Southeastern United States as a child of a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. Eric moved to his wife Nycole’s hometown of Burnsville more than twenty years ago so that their two sons could have a small-town Western North Carolina childhood. The family enjoys hiking, fishing, arts and culture, and waking up each day with gratitude for each other, their friends and communities, and our beautiful mountains.
As Odyssey’s Head of School, Eric will help us continue and expand how we encourage all students to be citizens of conscience with an authentic sense of self. He is focused on ensuring we invest in our students and provide faculty with the resources they need so that Odyssey School, its students, families, faculty, and staff thrive.
Eric studied and practiced social work because he was drawn to its core competencies: engaging diversity and difference in practice and advancing human rights and social, environmental, and economic justice. He was already a seasoned social worker when he began applying his passion to the field of education.
Eric’s experience with pre-K-12 includes advanced social work practice and school administrative roles including serving as Director of Student Services for Asheville City Schools (ACS); Social Worker, Community Liaison, and Leadership Team for William Randolph School alternative school; and Site Administrator for ACS Preschool.
Eric is an advocate for equity and serves as an expert witness and consultant on bias, race equity, and inclusion. He enacted bias-reducing policies as statewide Director of Problem Solving Courts in Iowa and established Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court as a model during his time as its Coordinator. He consistently makes time for community service. His current and past board and commission service includes LEAF Global Arts, OpenDoors Asheville, Evergreen Community Charter School, and Our Voice.
Eric holds a Doctorate in Education, Leadership & Policy Analysis from East Tennessee State University, Johnson City; a Master of Social Work degree from the University of South Carolina, Columbia; a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Mars Hill College, Mars Hill, North Carolina; and an Associate of Science degree from Georgia Military College, Milledgeville.
Integral Education is deeply rooted in a collaboration of multiple perspectives. Odyssey School aims to echo this value, using Dynamic Governance to organize responsive circles throughout the organization. Our administration is supported by program directors in each of the four arms of the school: PreK, Elementary, Middle, and High School. This circle works in tandem with the administrative circle to guide programming, faculty, and families in our unique learning adventure.
Director of Finance
Prior to moving to Asheville, Jen was the office manager of the family funeral home business in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Other interests include travel, camping, music, herbalism, knitting and cooking.
A life-long North Carolinian, Carly grew up in Raleigh, surrounded by artists, inventors, craftspeople, and naturalists. She and her husband made Asheville their home in 2004. Carly is a true generalist, being involved in an array of experiences such as travel (Italy, Greece, Spain, Mexico, Canada, and much of the United States), clothing design, illustration, and flute performance. She sees everything as being connected, believing that an integral education is imperative for teaching the whole child and making meaning that lasts. She brings this foundational perspective to her work with Odyssey’s teachers, weaving together big ideas in education, curriculum, and life, as we teach our students how to think and how to grow into their authentic selves. As an administrator, Carly strives to help Odyssey families have experiences that allow them to feel connected across the community and to know that we are here in support of their children’s journey.
Being an educator from 2000 to 2021, Carly brings her experience as a gifted specialist for elementary and middle grades as well as her understanding and appreciation for differentiation into her role as Curriculum and Programming Director. She has experience teaching PreK through twelfth grades with extended time as a fourth-grade and third-grade classroom teacher. Additionally, Carly has taught reading skills, child development, clothing design, and music.
Carly holds her post-baccalaureate undergraduate degree in elementary education, retaining a concentration in design and a music minor. She earned her gifted education licensure on the master’s level and she continues to be an avid learner from thought leaders on issues, new developments, and best practices in education.
When she is not working with teachers and families or listening to education podcasts, Carly spends time with her daughter, Emaline, and her husband, Grant. You can find them laughing, hiking, reading, and creating works of art.
Director of Student Life
Anne Tomlanovich grew up in Michigan, earned a BS in Sociology from the University of Michigan, then moved to Oregon. An intended short stint there turned into 20 years, during which time Anne earned her Masters in School Counseling, and worked as a middle school counselor. Anne believes that love and belonging are the bedrock of learning, and that students, staff and families do their best work together when they feel a sense of safety and community. She centers student strengths and helps students access those strengths to work through hard times. Anne is skilled in supporting students as they grow in their ability to regulate their emotions, relate to their peers, and gain independence in their academic lives. As she begins her new role at Odyssey School, Anne’s greatest hope is to become an advocate for and an ally to all of her students, their families, and her colleagues.
In her spare time, Anne is a voracious reader, a music nerd, an avid vintage clothing shopper and loves hanging out with her family.
Admissions Director (and Interim Marketing & Development lead)
An accomplished development, marketing and fundraising professional, Kristin has more than fifteen years of nonprofit experience in raising private dollars from individuals, corporations, foundations and philanthropic organizations. She has effectively led board committees in public relations and fund development. As a parent a tour guide for admissions, Kristin showcases on a daily basis the commitment among Odyssey teachers to guide and support students in learning deeply about themselves and the world around them and she loves meeting new families.
After earning two degrees from College of Charleston, one in English Literature and the other in Sociology, Kristin helped to land nationally acclaimed educational exhibits with the Columbia Museum of Art (in South Carolina) and then later worked for the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum on Main Street. In 2008, she and her husband moved to Fairview where, during the recession years, she doubled membership, surpassed revenue goals, and secured legacy gifts for Conserving Carolina in Hendersonville. She has additional certification in fundraising and professional writing. When not at Odyssey, Kristin can be found on her porch, with her nose in a paperback of short stories, surrounded by her daughter, two dogs, and husband. She collects vinyl, fancies herself a birder and secretly memorizes poetry.
Administrative Advisor, Music Teacher
River brings to Odyssey his rich and extensive experience as a multi-percussionist, composer, and educator. Born in Montreal, Canada to Armenian-Egyptian parents, he received his Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School of Music Conservatory in 1989. For over 25 years, River has been performing internationally with such groups as the BBC Concert Orchestra, New Music Consort, Grammy and Oscar winning composer Tan Dun, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Tibetan Singing Bowl Ensemble, Talujon Percussion Quartet, Chuck Berry, and Ziggy Marley/Gipsy Kings project. His compositions have been commissioned and performed by chamber ensembles, universities, modern dance companies, and new music festivals throughout the U.S.
River has performed in concert halls in New York, Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo, Rome, Sydney, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Athens, Istanbul, London, and has recorded on over 150 albums and film soundtracks. In 1994, River sold all possessions, left civilization, and lived in a wildlife sanctuary in the Himalaya Mountains. This immersion in nature initiated intense research and experimentation into the physiological effect of sound on brainwave states.
In addition to working with Odyssey students in small, advanced classes and with older students on recording and album production, River also runs Asheville Rhythm and conducts rhythm and sound exploration workshops throughout the country. Visit him at www.ShareTheDrum.com.
Building & Grounds Manager, Fabrication Teacher
Clayton Hufford completed a B.F.A in Graphic Design from Bowling Green State University and an M.F.A. in Glass Sculpture from Rochester Institute of Technology. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Clayton taught glassblowing at a summer camp for high schoolers in Williamsburg, MA, and then moved to take classes and teach at Penland School of Crafts before finishing his masters. In his work at Odyssey, Clayton marries his training in art, design, and sculpture with his on-the-ground experience as a woodworker and renovator.
Registrar & Assistant to Admissions
Ellen Ricker grew up in the crisp mountains of central Vermont learning the value of self-sustainability and living close to the earth. Ellen would go on to receive her Bachelors in Business from Cazenovia College in New York, and then a Psychology degree from Norwich University in Vermont. As a life-long learner Ellen has also studied primary education and biology. During this time Ellen honed her skills through opportunities with the Vermont Commission on Women and The United States Department of Agriculture. These experiences gifted her with skills in office administration, human rights advocacy, and file and data management.
Ellen would take these skills with her when moving to Asheville in 2015. Here in Asheville she has worked in the healing arts, as well as the education sectors. Her dynamic skills and perspective are a gift to the Odyssey community! Whether it’s answering questions, facilitating ideas, or getting documents, Ellen is happy to assist you in any way possible. In her spare time Ellen enjoys spending time with her husband John and cat Opal, and of coarse playing among these ancient mountains.
Elizabeth (Liz) Lesley
Main Office Manager (she/her)
A native of Marshall, NC, Liz lives on the farm that has been in her family for four generations. After a childhood immersed in nature, Liz developed administrative and office management skills while in high school as a national delegate for Future Farmers of America, a premier youth organization committed to supporting students for careers in science, agriculture, and technology. Selected from sixteen counties from across western North Carolina counties, Liz worked on leadership and legislative topics as a member of the Regional Officer Team. She studied Environmental Science at Haywood Community College, and in November of 2021, she joined Odyssey’s faculty as an aftercare instructor. She worked in the main office during Odyssey’s eight weeks of summer camp and began as office manager this fall. When not with little kids, Liz pursues interests in the fields of sustainable agriculture and food production. She also loves to spend time snuggling with her cat and being out in the rain!