PreK Director and Team Teacher
Courtney Fincher is the Director of the Odyssey Pre-Kindergarten program. She values the opportunity to nurture children through the rapid growth of early childhood. She believes it is never too early to instill the concepts of self knowing, communication, compassion, and community.
She strives to support the children in her care in developing self-confidence in balance with interdependence. It is her goal that children leaving her class will have a core understanding of themselves and the skills that will serve them in every aspect of life. Courtney values working in a school where children can experience the developmental spectrum from early childhood through high school.
Courtney holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of West Virginia and has extended her coursework in the field of Early Education. She carries her love of service, psychology, and healing arts into her relationships with the children. In harmony with the Odyssey vision, she sees a bright future for the children she teaches today, and looks forward to seeing what will happen as this special community grows.
Courtney is engaged with the Early Education Community in a variety of ways. She serves on The AB Tech advisory committee for their Early Education program, is a NEXT Emerging Leader participant, and a graduate of the Early Childcare Directors Institute. In 2015 she was awarded the National Recognition for Childcare Excellence.
PreK Team Teacher
T.K. holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in early-childhood education. She has been a teacher for the past 5 years and feels very fortunate to be able to facilitate so much learning and developing with children. She is looking forward to a great year ahead!
When she’s not working, she enjoys hiking and going on adventures in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She was born and raised in Asheville, but feels like there’s always a new trail or waterfall to explore! She also enjoys doing yoga to add some calmness and peace to her busy days.
PreK Team Teacher & After School Ceramics Instructor
Lydia Hearne teaches in the pre-kindergarten class at Odyssey and also offers middle and high school ceramics classes. She grew up in the mountains outside of Asheville, where she spent much of her childhood exploring nature, expressing her love of nature through art, and being with her family. She brings her passions for the natural world, for family, and for the beauty and creativity of childhood, to her work at Odyssey Community School. She says of her experience, “I loved my childhood, and I believe that every child deserves a happy, safe environment to explore their own sense of self, of creativity, and space to figure out how to interact with others in this life.”
Lydia attended Earlham College, in Indiana, where she received her BA in Fine Art, with a focus in Ceramics. She later completed Haywood Community College’s program in Professional Crafts. “It feels very natural for me to be here at Odyssey,” says Lydia, “and to be able to feed the two main passions in my life, having the opportunity to work with young children and also to work in clay, offering others the chance to explore such an amazing and captivating medium.
PreK Team Teacher
Ali graduated from Montana State University with a degree in liberal studies with a focus in child development and psychology, and she has been a preschool teacher for the past 17 years and has enjoyed every minute of it! During her 17 years of teaching, she has taught in both traditional and Reggio-inspired learning environments. She believes that children learn and express themselves best in an environment that supports their abilities, sees them as competent, and appreciates the way they look at the world. These characteristics are paramount to fostering innovation, confidence, and creativity in children. She strives to provide a classroom setting that allows for the development of the whole child. She sees value in encouraging children to immerse themselves in the creative experience, to experiment in their play, and to investigate the unknown. Her goal is for children to be eager to come to school, to encourage their curiosity, and to build confidence on their path to adulthood.
Ali moved to Asheville from Atlanta in the summer of 2018 with her husband, dog, and pet frog. She wanted to step away from the chaos of living in a major city in order to purse a more harmonious way of living. When she is not teaching, she loves to be outdoors, play with her dog, eat delicious food, and practice yoga.
PreK Team Teacher
Betsy Burnett is dedicated to practicing a nurturing, safe, and engaging approach to working with children. Betsy has worked in the social work field since her graduation from Warren Wilson College in 2011, and then went on to earn her Master of Social Work degree from Western Carolina University in 2016. She is now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate and Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist Associate. Betsy is also a registered yoga teacher and is excited to resume her teaching career with children’s yoga. She believes that introducing mind and body-centered practices to children can promote self-regulation skills as well as healthy social and emotional development for children.
Betsy’s experiences have taught her the value of compassion, inclusivity, and connection in fostering the most positive outcomes in early childhood development. Because of this, Betsy is passionate about cultivating a classroom environment for children where they feel safe to ask questions and explore their world with a sense of curiosity and wonder. She believes this promotes autonomy while also encouraging collaboration in community.
Betsy originally grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee and enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors with her partner and pug in her spare time. Betsy is thrilled to be joining the Odyssey community this year while working with such talented and passionate individuals.
Pana started her career in theater as an actress for ten years in New York and in ensemble theaters around the country, working with directors including Apollo Dukakis, Gene Hackman, Diane Paulus and Paul Sills. Her favorite roles include Puck in Midsummer night’s Dream, Nina in The Sea Gull and Alice in Alice in Wonderland. Pana then traveled for four years on three continents studying the use of ritual in different cultures. In 2004, she founded Circle of Stones Ritual Theater Ensemble, where she served as Producing Artistic Director for eleven years. The organization’s mission was to catalyze and inspire positive community transformations using the performing arts. For example, her award-winning production, The New Earth, performed at the Zoellner Arts Center, catalyzed the creation of Seven Generations, a green charter school in Emmaus, PA. In addition to teaching at Odyssey, Pana writes and directs plays for Under One Sky Village Foundation, a local non-profit serving and supporting youth in foster care.
Pana is delighted to be teaching high school drama at Odyssey!