Preschool 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.
Preschool Team Teacher
Shirley has her degrees in Early Education and Birth to Kindergarten, and has years of experience working with children. When she’s not at Odyssey, she loves gardening, painting, reading, and writing poetry. “As part of the Odyssey family, I’m very excited by all the creativity and family-oriented environment.” She believes that children should be nurtured, and have every opportunity to explore, create, and self express.
Preschool Team Teacher & 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.
2nd-8th Grade Drama and PreK Teacher
Julia Christgau is an actor, musician and teaching artist born and raised in New York City. She began teaching part time to support a budding acting career and loved it so much that she decided to complete her BA in Early Childhood Development and Education. She quickly became drawn to the theater arts as a way to enhance learning and wrote her thesis on its positive influences in the classroom. Her drama class for 2nd-8th graders will use improvisation and imagination-based play to guide her students through the essential lessons and intrinsic magic that exist in the theatre. This year, she will also be working with the pre-school team as sub for those going on maternity leave. She’s thrilled to be a part the Odyssey Community and working with such bright and creative spirits!
Preschool Team Teacher
Lenny’s entry into the field of early childhood education came as no surprise to her or to those who know her well. She has always loved spending time with children and has worked with them in many capacities though out her adult life. Her deep passion for teaching did not come into focus however, until her studies in other areas lead her to it. Lenny received her degrees first in cultural anthropology, from Appalachian State University, and then in holistic midwifery a few years later. After working briefly in both areas, she decided to pursue her deepest joy- spending time with, encouraging, and supporting young children’s development.
In 2014 Lenny moved from Asheville to New York to study early childhood education at Bank Street College of Education and, upon graduating with her masters degree in the spring of 2016, she moved back home, full of enthusiasm and ready to serve the children and families of her community. Lenny spent her childhood immersed in the natural world and very much in awe of it. She has found that her ability to tap into and encourage children’s sense of wonder is one of her greatest tools as an early childhood educator and is something that brings her great joy and inspiration.
Outside of teaching children, Lenny’s greatest love is travel, and she has had the opportunity to live, work, and play all over the world, including teaching in both Fiji and New Zealand. Lenny also enjoys practicing yoga, reading, gardening, dancing, playing music, painting, being in nature, running, hiking, riding her bike, caring for animals, and spending time with her family.
Preschool Team Teacher
Derek Towle has worked in lived in Asheville for the better part of the past 14 years and has worked in human services for the past ten years. He’s spent the last handful of years working with homeless families and individuals. Derek has a two year old daughter named Maya who he enjoys taking out to the mountains every chance he gets.
Derek has B.A. in Literature with a concentration in creative writing from UNC-Asheville. He has four years of experience working with children in a variety of behavioral health settings. Odyssey felt like the right fit for Derek because he loves the boundless curiosity children possess. He cannot imagine a better way to spend his time than to facilitate their explorations.