The NRGLC’s faculty and staff share a passion for learning and a dedication to their work, guided by a shared commitment to:
- Work together for the greater good of each child.
- Collaborate and work together as a community.
- Support each other to sustain our passion and involvement.
- Eagerly seek new ideas and experiences.
- Share our learning with one another.
Jenny Becksted-Smith, Center Director
Jenny came to us as our first paid Center Director in August 2015. She grew up in northern Colorado, where she also earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Natural Resources Management at Colorado State University. Upon graduating, she took her first trip abroad, to Southeast Asia, where she began a career in community development and non-profit management that had her working on the Thai-Burma border, across 8 states of Appalachia (based in Beckley, WV) and in Rajasthan, India. Jenny also spent a number of recent years working in high-level management of a local marketing company, where she continued to hone her communication, administration and management, strategic planning, critical thinking and leadership skills.
She brings those skills to our school as well as her passion for ensuring there is a viable educational alternative for her own son and the many children of Fayette County. When she’s not enthusiastically taking the NRGLC to the next level, she enjoys riding her road bike, being in the garden with her family, working to create functional local food systems, and thinking about ways to bring inspiration and hope to her community at large.
Children’s House (Ages 3-6)
Aimee Rist, Children’s House Co-Lead Guide
Aimee Rist fell in love with the Montessori teaching philosophy here in Fayetteville when her daughter entered the New River Gorge Learning Cooperative in 2011. Since then she has learned all she could about Montessori through books and online training.
A graduate of Central Connecticut State University and San Diego, California—based Alliant International University, Aimee first worked as an admissions representative speaking about college attendance in area high schools. Aimee decided teaching was her calling and went on to earn her Masters in Teaching for K-6. Aimee has worked in Fayette County teaching English as a second language. She served for several years as an adviser to NRGLC’s Children’s House before taking on the Co-Lead Guide role in 2015. Aimee loves spending time outside hiking, paddle boarding, and riding bikes with her two daughters, who attend NRGLC. She is also a trained yoga instructor.
Markus Bergvind, Children’s House Co-Lead Guide
Markus grew up in Sweden and attended college in Stockholm, where he studied biology and geology. He earned his Masters in Biology from the Department of Systems Ecology at Stockholm University. Before moving to the United States, Markus taught for more than 5 years in the Swedish public school system for ages 2 to 13 with a primary emphasis on ages 3 to 7. He finds many parallels between the Swedish system and Montessori, particularly the focus on the individual, its flexibility, and its emphasis on accommodating where the child is in his/her development.
Markus has a deep fascination with nature. “If it flies, runs, slithers, crawls or simply just grows, I want to know more about it, what it lives on, how it behaves, how it moves,” Markus says. “I always was (and still am) one of those kids that you find elbow deep in to the closest puddle catching tadpoles if you gave me the chance. I also do a lot of photography, especially of the things that slither, jump or fly. And I spend way too much time in my garden.” Markus joined NRGLC in the fall of 2015.
Lower and Upper Elementary Classroom, The Beehive (Ages 6-12)
Allison McQueen, Co-Lead Guide, Lower and Upper Elementary Classroom, The Beehive.
Allison (Schaeffer) McQueen grew up near Winterplace Ski Resort in Ghent, West Virginia, and earned a degree in Elementary Education at Concord College in Athens, WV. Her first decade of teaching was in Georgia, where she taught for 11 years at the Kindergarten, 3rd grade, and 5th grade levels. In that time, Allison was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2013 and a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) certification. She was also chosen to be a part of the Teacher Leader program for Coweta County, GA.
Allison became interested in Montessori education when she observed family members attend and graduate from Montessori programs in Atlanta. Now very happily back in West Virginia, Allison has joined NRGLC for her 12th year as an elementary instructor. She believes in the power of education and loves helping create thoughtful, aware children who will grow up to make our community and world a better place. When she is not at NRGLC you can find Allison hiking, skiing, rafting, and traveling.
Spencer Martel, Elementary Co-Lead Guide, Lower and Upper Elementary Classroom, The Beehive
Ever since a 2010 NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) trip to Alaska, Spencer has looked for opportunities to make her love of the outdoors a teaching platform. She has taught rock climbing, kayaking, SUP (stand up paddleboard) paddling, and facilitated groups on an outdoor challenge course. She has also taught as a substitute in Fayette County schools, which eventually led her to commit to classroom teaching as a career. Spencer attended Hilton Head Montessori School as a primary student and finds that it guided her to become a lifetime learner.
A graduate of the College of Charleston in South Carolina, Spencer plans to enroll in an AMS Montessori teacher training program in Charleston, South Carolina, this summer. In her off time, Spencer loves to paint, crochet, SUP on lakes and rivers, climb, and travel anywhere with waves to surf.