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Three Ways to Give to Odyssey School:

Direct Online Gift

Please visit our Giving Page here and make a donation using the secure Paypal link.

Monthly Contribution

Consider making a recurring monthly donation. Even a little bit on a regular basis can go a long way to promote Odyssey’s mission. Click the Paypal button to find monthly donation options.

Check

Send to: Odyssey School, 90 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, NC 28801.

*Be in touch! Odyssey accepts gifts that are employer matched, from a family trust or endowment, and gifts of stock. Contact Kristin Harkey for more information: kharkey@odysseycommunity.org.

THANK YOU!



Dean Presson

Student Credit Recovery 

He / him

Dean joins Odyssey School to facilitate Credit Recovery for high school students to successfully complete a course of study if not completed during the regular term. 

Dean’s full career is in education with many years as a community college Adult Basic Education and GED instructor. Prior to moving to Asheville in 1988, Dean was a facilitator at the West Area Learning Center of Central Piedmont Community College, tasked with administering entrance exams; then, guiding adult students through college preparation in either reading, language arts or mathematics. After moving to Asheville, he taught for AB Tech as an ABE and GED instructor at the Craggy and Buncombe Correctional Center throughout the 1990s.

In the fall of 1999 until 2006, he worked for Asheville City Schools teaching at the Metro School Program which later became part of Randolph Learning Center. While there, he was honored with a Teacher of the Year award and earned tenure in NC Public Schools. Then, Dean taught for a new credit recovery and long-term suspension program in Asheville called the New Day School. He was the sole teacher in a program that accommodated tuition-free adjudicated, long-term suspended students and after school credit recovery students. Long-term suspended Middle Schools students were able to earn passing grades, and high school students earned credit recovery through the software program. During the summer, Dean ran credit recovery, for all core subjects, summer school sessions using the credit recovery software at the New Day Program.  

Dean was NC licensed and certified in middle and high school language arts, social studies and math. From 2008- 2021, he  taught mostly 11th  grade English and occasional math classes at Buncombe County School’s Community High School in Swannanoa. There, he retired from public schools with twenty years of service. Since then, he has been a part-time GED instructor at the Western Correctional Center for Women in Swannanoa, a program under AB Tech. He is grateful to join the Odyssey School community.


Kitty Russell

Registrar & Assistant in Admissions

She / her

Kitty grew up in Washington, DC, went to college and graduate school at University of South Carolina – Columbia in International Studies with a geographic focus of Africa. She possesses a Master’s degree in International Studies with concentrations in Comparative Politics and Gender and Development. She performed dissertation research on rural African women’s political participation. She has had many jobs from pizza delivery to baker to bookseller to working for a non-profit on Gender Equity issues to Technical Support Manager to Montessori teacher. At Odyssey, Kitty brings it all together as the Registrar and in support of the Admissions program.

Kitty loves to travel and explore historic and natural locales. She has at least set foot in 49 states. Alaska is the last hold out! Kitty lived in northern California for 20 years. She’s also lived in Oregon, New York City, Canterbury, England, and Pinyin, a small village in NW Province of Cameroon. When it was time to leave the west coast in 2018, Kitty and her son moved to Black Mountain where she has family roots in the Asheville area. Her father was born on Flint Street in downtown Asheville and she still has extended family in the area. Kitty loves western NC for its exquisite natural beauty, friendly people, and the pervasiveness of live music.

Kitty likes to stay active so she can keep up with her son who is now an Odyssey 6th grader. In the winter, she dreams about skiing in the West. Other times, you will find her in her basement pedaling her Peloton bike to nowhere, hiking, kayaking, biking, shooting baskets with her son, and trying to find her balance on a One Wheel. In her downtime, she enjoys fiber arts, cooking, following the news, watching British crime dramas and Jeopardy, poking around in her yard, and tending to her many cats. She really wants a goat or a burro.  

 


Roz Sweeney

Before Care Coordinator & 1 / 2 Assistant

She / her

After bouncing around from place to place for a while, Roz settled in Asheville to complete her education and be close to family. In her free time she enjoys painting, rock climbing, and reading in a cozy corner.

Roz is currently in her senior year at the University of North Carolina Asheville working towards a Bachelors degree in art history and on track to graduate this spring! She hopes to receive a Masters in Education with the intention of becoming a full-time teacher.

With her background in outdoor education, she has a deep appreciation for hands on and naturalistic learning, not afraid to make messes and have fun! As an artist, it’s important to inspire students to be creative, imaginative, and expressive in everything they do.


Melissa Knowles

High School Math Teacher (she / her)

Melissa Knowles joins Odyssey this year as High School Math teacher.  She has been teaching and tutoring high school and college math for the last nine years.  Melissa graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a B.A. in Biology and has been in the Asheville area for almost twenty years.  She prizes an ability to develop problem-solving skills in the math classroom so as to tackle “real world” applications. She believes that every math student can be successful with the right guidance and encouragement. Outside of the classroom you can find Melissa gardening, bird watching, nature journaling, and cooking.


Maggie Braswell

3rd & 4th Grade Homeroom (she / her) 
 
Maggie is excited to join the Odyssey community in 2023! She is passionate about education and knew she wanted to be a teacher in high school. After graduating from University of North Carolina- Wilmington with a Bachelor’s in English Literature, she earned her Master’s in Educating Non-Native English Speakers from Seattle University.
 
Maggie has been a middle school English teacher in Henderson County Public Schools for the past six years. As she transitions to working with a new age group, she brings with her a unique perspective: understanding foundational skills students need to master in order to be successful as they progress academically while simultaneously prioritizing joy, creativity, and curiosity. Maggie is a lifelong learner and has many hobbies: listening to podcasts, cooking vegan meals, writing poems or journaling, watching movies with her big orange cat, and rummaging through thrift stores.

Kristina Lunsford

3rd and 4th Grade Homeroom Teacher (they / them)

Kristina loves being from this area and calling these beautiful mountains their home. They believe learning should be exciting, inspiring and engaging for all students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Kristina utilize a classroom model that emphasizes both collaboration and independence, and they are passionate about teaching with a global mindset! Art is also a very important part of their life and they love to bring creativity into the classroom.

Kristina has a BA in psychology as well as a state teaching license from the University of North Carolina- Asheville. They have a certificate in LETRS (a professional course of studies in the science of reading). When they’re not at school, they love traveling, cooking, and swimming at the lake with their wonderful partner Erik and fur-baby, Ottie! Her family can also be found exploring the trails and waterfalls of this gorgeous place. Kristina is elated to bring their experience and love of learning into the Odyssey classroom!


Caroline Mercurio Spitzer

Photo of Caroline Mercurio Spitzer - Odyssey School Teacher

Yearbook & Design Teacher 

she/her

Caroline Mercurio Spitzer (she/her) has lived in Asheville since 2008 and is a lifetime creative, focusing on writing, art, and photography. In addition to teaching at Odyssey, she works as a professional residential photographer capturing images of vacation rentals and properties for sale. She has taught writing at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC, Vermont Community College, and Kennebec Valley Community College. Her poems have been published in the Asheville Poetry Review, Louisiana Literature, and Vermont Magazine, among others.

After completing a BA in English and Anthropology from Appalachian State University, she earned her MFA in Writing from Vermont College, then founded and served as the Managing Editor for Hunger Mountain, The Vermont College Journal of Arts & Letters. Caroline has designed and edited several projects, including the Stinehour Press Broadside Series and an anthology titled The Way We Knew It: Fiction from the First Twenty-Five Years of the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College (1981—2006).

As an artist, Caroline specializes in using hand-cut paper to create decoupage art, including quilt-pattern collages and keepsake upcycled boxes. She is also a partner in Totem Rocks & Landscaping. Caroline lives in East Asheville with her two sons, husband, and two dogs. In their spare time, her family enjoys camping, gem mining, attending concerts, and gardening.


Nica Rabinowitz

K-8th Art Teacher

She / her

Nica has been teaching art and helping people of all ages access their inherent creativity for more than 10 years. After receiving a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2023, Nica joined the Odyssey community ready to develop an integrated art curriculum for elementary and middle school learners to connect, cultivate, and create in kinship with the natural world.

A native-New Yorker, Nica graduated with a degree in Fashion Design with a focus on community-supported textiles from Parsons School of Design, and quickly discovered a love for art education. Nica brings with her many years of experience creating liberating learning environments and teaching children art in classrooms, museums, community gardens, farms, makerspaces, galleries, parks, and anywhere else creativity can flow. 

When she is not teaching, you can find Nica in the weeds, collaborating with plants, mushrooms, microbes, and fiber animals at the Fiberhouse Collective in Marshall, NC.


Claire Roboski

3 / 4 Homeroom Teacher, she / her

Claire Roboski (she/her) is a passionate teacher with a multidisciplinary background in education, psychology, holistic coaching, Ayurveda, and yoga. After receiving her BS from the University of Indiana at South Bend in education and psychology, Claire has taught children and adults for more than twelve years and in a myriad of settings: inner city, charter, independent schools, and studio classrooms. She has extensive qualifications in nonviolent conflict resolution and is a certified yoga instructor, with a focus on alleviating trauma and anxiety.                                                                       

Claire is passionate about making a positive impact on the lives of students, colleagues, clients, teammates, and the larger Asheville community. She fosters relationships across a wide variety of socioeconomic and multicultural backgrounds, and is interested in teaching/modeling empathy, gratitude, and resilience among all of her students, from pre-k through adults. She is detail-oriented, data driven, and always looking for ways to improve.

She grew up in Ohio and Virginia and she loves to travel abroad. When she is not working with students, you can find her teaching or attending a yoga class, at the gym lifting, at the combat club learning jiu jitsu, or curled up at home with her two cats and a good book.


Karina Byers

HS Spanish & College Readiness, She / Her 

Karina is a native Spanish speaker from Santiago, Chile. She has been living in North Carolina since 2009 and became a US citizen in 2016. She studied at Universidad Nacional Andrés Bello in Chile and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Karina taught elementary and middle school for 8 years in Santiago before moving to the United States. In addition to teaching, Karina also was a private tutor for students with academic support needs and was also involved with many social and community outreach programs in her native Chile. 

Since coming to the United States, Karina has continued her passion for Education by teaching the Spanish language and culture to students from ages 3 to 65 years old. She teaches private lessons and also taught in a middle school preparing students for advanced High School credits. Karina was also responsible for leading student trips each year to a bilingual school in Heredia, Costa Rica, sharing information and ideas with educational professionals from there.

In her free time, she loves spending time with her husband, two daughters, and dogs. Biking, hiking, exploring nature, dancing, cooking, and traveling are her favorite hobbies. 

“Fue el tiempo que pasaste con tu rosa lo que la hizo tan importante” El Principito.


Jen Stradling

Jen Stradling

Director of Finance

she/her
Originally from the mountains of South Carolina, Jen moved back to her Appalachian roots more than a decade ago when she and her husband enrolled their daughter at Odyssey and she began working in our office. She manages all aspects of the school’s business and operational needs and also recently served as Interim Executive Director.She works hard to take care of our faculty, enrolled families and students needs and does so with a smile. 

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.