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.
As a founding teacher, 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 believes 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. Samata has been teaching at Odyssey since our second year!
In the summer of 2014, Robin and her family packed up all of their belongings and moved to North Carolina in search of a more natural life.
Robin received her undergraduate degree from the University of Akron in Early Childhood Education, which included Pre-K through 3rd grade age students. After teaching for a few years, she took time off to be with her two daughters, Bella and Julia. While Robin was home with her two daughters, she finished her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on reading. When both of her children entered school, Robin returned to the classroom as a founding teacher for a new charter school in Los Angeles.
In Robin’s class, students become authors using the Writer’s Workshop method and are given freedom of choice using the Daily Five program. This program allows students to choose when and where they read, write, and study phonics each day, while helping them to develop self-awareness and inner regulation and is in keeping with the Essential Learning Skills and the Integral Process of Research and Reflection.
For Robin, the most exciting part of teaching at Odyssey is the way that students integrate their subject studies within broader thematic investigations. The class will do a unit on the Cherokee Nation, a unit on the French Broad River, incorporating the principals of water and history of Asheville, as well as a unit on business and industry, focusing on a local business in Asheville, broadening our learning community to far beyond the classroom walls on Zillicoa Street. Integrating the needs and wonders of our community and the individual learner is what Odyssey is all about!
“… the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting — no more — and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth.” Plutarch
Ellen Boyle is new to the Asheville area. She has two grown sons, Tyler and Grady, and lives in Fairview with her husband, Steve, and her loyal companion, Pearl (a terrier mix). The natural beauty, outdoor activities and cultural diversity of the region were the major draws for her relocation, and they haven’t disappointed. She loves it here!
Ellen has experience teaching students ranging from preschool through high school. The majority of her experience has been in a charter school where they used constructivist theory as well as multiple intelligence theory based on the work of Howard Gardner, typically in multi-age classrooms. Ellen believes that children are inherently curious and natural learners and her primary role as a teacher is to guide and support students in learning about themselves and the world around them. She has found that this helps create healthy and authentic relationships within the classroom culture which encourages cooperation and mutual respect. She is also committed to helping students experience the success and excitement of learning though hands-on activities, group projects and classroom discussions.
In her classroom, Ellen is most excited about facilitating student-driven service learning projects, establishing ongoing correspondence with international pen pals, and attending performances at the Diana Wortham Theatre. She is especially excited to have the opportunity to share some of her personal passions with her students such as reading, gardening, cooking, meditating, yoga, and arts & crafts.
Raised in West Hartford, Connecticut, Josh Finkler is honored to be a member of the Odyssey community, and he looks forward to teaching and learning with your children. Josh brings the strength of calm and music to our elementary classrooms and is loved by all!
He has previously worked as an Odyssey K-1 Teaching Assistant, Preschool Teacher, and as a Kindergarten Assistant at Jones Elementary. Prior to teaching, Josh worked for several years in mental health a CooperRiis and volunteered with AmeriCorps.
His education includes a B.A. In psychology from Warren Wilson College and a degree in music education from Appalachian State. Josh enjoys singing, mountain biking, learning new things, and communing with friends.