Heads of School

Clay Kaufman and Jilly Darefsky serve jointly as Heads of School
Jilly Darefsky, Head of School, a member of Siena’s founding team, is a highly experienced educator and school leader.  Recognized as an Outstanding Teacher of Dyslexic Students, she has dedicated her career to working with students with language-based learning differences. Having undertaken roles of director, secretary and vice-president on the Board of the D.C. Capital Area Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, she now serves on their Advisory Board and is also a Board member of the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center. Ms. Darefsky earned a B.A., with honors, in English Literature with Psychology from the University of Surrey, a Diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties/ Dyslexia from Hornsby International Dyslexia Centre and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from Canterbury Christ Church University College. Furthermore, she holds a Master's in Specific Learning Difficulties from Middlesex University.

Clay Kaufman, Head of School, has been an educator in the Washington, D.C. area for over 20 years. In a long career at The Field School he served in a variety of capacities, including teacher, math department chair, college counselor, director of admission, accreditation chair, and community liaison and design committee member during the school's move to a new campus in 2002. As a teacher, he has implemented hands-on, experiential learning and developed integrated curricula in the humanities and math/science, and has experience working with students with learning disabilities. Mr. Kaufman has been selected for a variety of leadership roles, including: the E.E. Ford Fellowship for private school leadership; the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program in Ankara, Turkey; and the National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Scholars program. He holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University, and a Master's from Georgetown University.


Bekah Atkinson, director of admissions, has worked in schools serving students with language-based learning differences for over eighteen years. She was previously director of admissions and registrar at the Pershing and Chelsea Schools in Silver Spring, where she oversaw all aspects of enrollment, recruitment, assessment, retention, and financial aid. She also served in a variety of administrative leadership roles at Grace Episcopal Day School and The Gow School in South Wales, NY. In addition to supporting admissions functions, her roles at these schools included: directing and managing summer school programs; directing extended day, after-school and enrichment programs; and supporting business office functions. She jointly supports both the D.C. Capitol Area branch of the International Dyslexia Association and WISER (Washington Independent Services for Educational Resources) by serving as a board member. Ms. Atkinson also has extensive experience in athletics, having coached and/or participated in high school and collegiate soccer, lacrosse, swimming and diving programs. Ms. Atkinson holds a B.S. in health sciences/leadership studies from Marietta College.

Simon Kanter, director of technology,  joins us from Sheridan School, where he was a Technology Coordinator focused on systems administration, maintenance, and classroom technology integration. Before that, he managed the fully student-run help desk at Grinnell College, from which he received a B.A. in Religious Studies. In between, Simon has interned in tech departments in the legal and financial sectors.   

Amy Walker, business manager, has worked in financial and administrative fields for over 25 years. In addition to her duties at Siena, Ms. Walker is the business manager at Richard Williams Architects in Washington, D.C. Ms. Walker previously worked in client services for Ingalls, Quinn & Johnson, Chiat/Day and Anderson & Lembke. Additionally, she served as treasurer of parent associations for 5 different schools, public and private, over a span of 15 years. Currently she serves on the boards of the Maryland Independent School Consortium and the Timber Bay Shores Association. She has served as treasurer on the board of the Edgemoor Club. Ms. Walker holds a B.A. in history from Dickinson College.

Vickie Pierce, office manager, previously worked at the Potomac School where she served as the Admission Services Coordinator. Prior to working at the Potomac School, she worked as the Executive Assistant to the Head of School at the National Child Research Center for nine years. In addition to working in private schools, she also worked in a few prestigious law firms which spanned over 17+ years as a Word Processing Manager at Wiley Rein and as a legal secretary at Sidley Austin located in the D.C. Metropolitan area. Ms. Pierce has an extensive background in administrative, secretarial and office management duties. She attended Yorktowne Business Institute in College Park, Maryland where she received a Certificate in Data Processing.

Holly Rothrock, counselor, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). She received her MSW from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. She most recently helped develop a social/emotional curriculum for an inquiry based education technology company. Before that, Mrs. Rothrock worked in a therapeutic group home for teens as the home’s clinical therapist, and served as an advocate for the residents’ educational experience. While living overseas in Estonia, she developed an after school program focused on social skill enrichment. Mrs. Rothrock is a certified yoga instructor and has recently taught yoga and mindfulness at the high school and elementary school level. She is dedicated to a holistic approach to educating our students.

Katie Rowan, marketing and communications associate, graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in English literature. While at Wesleyan, she tutored elementary school students in a subsidized housing community and led a weekly American Sign Language course for second grade students at a public elementary school in Middletown, CT. Prior to The Siena School, Ms. Rowan worked as a litigation paralegal for a mid-sized law firm in Boston, MA.

Katie Colasacco, marketing and communications associate, graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in English literature.  While at Wesleyan, she tutored elementary school students in a subsidized housing community and led a weekly American Sign Language course for second grade students at a public elementary school in Middletown, CT.  Prior to The Siena School, Caitlin worked as a litigation paralegal for a mid-sized law firm in Boston, MA.

Katie Colasacco, marketing and communications associate, graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in English literature.  While at Wesleyan, she tutored elementary school students in a subsidized housing community and led a weekly American Sign Language course for second grade students at a public elementary school in Middletown, CT.  Prior to The Siena School, Caitlin worked as a litigation paralegal for a mid-sized law firm in Boston, MA.



Claire Alexa, elementary teacher and after school instructor, is a recent graduate from the University of Dayton and holds a BS Degree in Early Childhood Education. She has past experiences student teaching a third grade classroom, along with teaching involvements from Pre-K through 5th grade classrooms.  Previously, Miss Alexa has worked at Our Lady of Good Counsel's Camp, serving campers ages 5-14 years old, as the Camp Manager assisting with the oversight of concessions, as well as directing, coordinating and scheduling their after care programs.  

Elizabeth Augustine, reading teacher, was previously a reading teacher for students with language-based learning disabilities. Prior to teaching, she was a programmer with AT&T Corporation and an import/export coordinator for a Japanese trading company. Ms. Augustine holds a B.A. in English literature from Rutgers College and a certificate in computer programming from The Chubb Institute. 

David Bonner, middle and high school science teacher, holds a B.S. in Biology cum laude and a Master's Degree in Science Education, both from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. He has worked in a variety of public and private schools in Georgia, North Carolina, and the D.C. area for over fourteen years, teaching and developing curricula for Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, and International Baccalaureate Physics. Prior to joining The Siena School, he also served as Librarian, Director of Technology, and JV Tennis coach at The Field School in Northwest D.C., where he was actively engaged in multicultural work. Mr. Bonner was awarded the Presidential Award and a degree from the professional culinary program at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg. 

Carolyn Bottelier, elementary and middle school science teacher, is a Washington, D.C. native and graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. There, she was awarded the Filene Music Scholarship for vocal performance and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music with honors. Since then she has taught various subjects at Murch Elementary, Maret School, and Horizons Greater Washington. Carolyn is currently working towards a M.Ed in Elementary Science Education through Lesley University. During the summer, she spends 6 weeks in Florida teaching marine and environmental science courses for high school students. Ms. Bottelier has also coached varsity volleyball for the past 4 years after playing competitively at both a high school and collegiate level.  

Marian Carpenter, high school humanities, coordinator of auxiliary programs and college counseling, earned a B.A. from Bates College where she studied English, Creative Writing, and History. Bates College awarded her the 2007 John Tagliabue Prize for Creative Writing. After graduating from Bates she began her teaching career at the Woodhall School where she taught History and English to students with a wide range of learning differences. While at the Woodhall School she also served as co-director for many of the school’s theater productions, coach of the outdoor education program, dorm parent, and faculty advisor to the student literary magazine and yearbook. Mrs. Carpenter recently earned a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland after producing a book-length manuscript of original poems. As part of her Master’s program, she taught An Introduction to Academic Writing, a required course for all freshmen at the University of Maryland.

Jennifer Chambers, math and science department chair and environmental education coordinator, is a small business owner, author, and has 19 years of environmental and special education experience. Prior to starting her own environmental education business, Hiking Along, LLC., in 2004, she taught middle school social studies at the Chelsea School. She created Hiking Along to lead children on D.C.-area hikes to engage them in the science that surrounds the trails. In addition, she was an environmental educator with the Audubon Naturalist Society's GreenKids program and created the Student Trail Stewards program in partnership between Northwood High School and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. As an activist, she is State Advocate for Leave No Trace and Board Chair of American Hiking Society. In 2013 and 2014, she authored two books: a children's book, Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, and a hiking guidebook, Best Hikes with Kids: Washington, D.C., The Beltway & Beyond. Jennifer holds a BA in Political Science from the University of South Carolina, an MA in American/Women Studies from SUNY Buffalo and a MEd in Special Education from the University of Maryland.

James Coleman, artist-in-residence, art teacher, has significant personal experience participating in and teaching the arts and athletics. He is an accomplished contemporary artist and has been featured in multiple solo and group exhibitions in and around Washington, D.C. Mr. Coleman has taught general art for grades 6 - 8 at The King's Academy. He is also an experienced athlete, having played many competitive team sports. Mr. Coleman previously worked as an assistant at the Speed Zone speed and agility clinics for kids. He holds a Bachelor of Liberal Studies from the University of Mary Washington in art history & studio art.

Peni Critchell, reading teacher, earned a B.A. in American Studies from the University of North Carolina and an M.A.T. from George Washington University. She is certified as an LD tutor through the Lab School of Washington. Ms. Critchell has worked in education in the metropolitan area for over 30 years; she began her career as a classroom teacher at Georgetown Day School and has most recently worked as a learning specialist at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School and as a tutor at the Lab School of Washington Summer Camp.

Amanda Davis, spanish teacher, has over 10 years of teaching experience as a Spanish, French and English teacher. She previously worked in the Montgomery County Public Schools. Ms. Davis holds a B.S. in education (English and Spanish) from the University of Kansas and an M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury College, Madrid campus. She received her French certification at Sorbonne University in Paris, France. Ms. Davis was a recipient of a foreign language fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Beth Fabijanic, humanities department chair, has taught language arts and drama to children of a variety of age ranges. In a prior position, Ms. Fabijanic served as a Family Advocate and her undergraduate degree fostered a specific skill set in the use of drama education to enhance literacy skills. Ms. Fabijanic holds a B.A. in Drama Studies, cum laude, from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Elementary Education from DePaul University.

Riley Fisher, elementary/middle school history teacher and after care instructor, holds a B.A in History and a Minor in Film Studies from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, PA. She recently received her teaching certification in Secondary History from Notre Dame of Maryland University. Her passion for History has taken her from jobs at the Smithsonian and the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to the classroom setting. For the past two years, she worked as an elementary school teaching assistant.  

Maya Furukawa, middle school English teacher, holds a double-B.A. in Creative Writing and Literary Studies from Beloit College and an M.S. in Secondary Education from Johns Hopkins University. Ms. Furukawa spent two years teaching high school special education English in Baltimore before discovering Siena. In her free time, Ms. Furukawa enjoys writing short stories, baking, and spending time with her two dogs.

Madeline Grimm, English and social studies teacherholds a B.A. in history, summa cum laude, from the College of William & Mary and a Master's in history from the University of Cambridge. Madeline was a camp counselor for four years and started a tutoring and mentoring organization for low-income children while attending William & Mary.    

Leslie Herrera, reading teacher, has been a reading teacher for over 11 years.  She currently holds Level I certification in the Wilson Language Academy and is certified as a Wilson Dyslexia Practitioner. Currently, Ms. Herrera is earning her Wilson Level II certification.  Ms. Herrera specializes in tutoring students with dyslexia, students with reading and writing challenges and ADHD.  Ms. Herrera loves to teach students and help them find success in reading and writing.  Ms. Herrera holds a Master of Science degree in Management from Lesley College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Bates College.  

Mike Holmes, athletic director, physical education teacher, and head varsity boys' basketball coach, has been with The Siena School for 9 years and has actively participated on different sports teams throughout his life. Mr. Holmes has over 15 years of experience teaching physical education to students with learning differences and has a wide range of coaching experience including football, basketball, and soccer. Mr. Holmes holds a B.A. in Political Science and History from West Virginia Wesleyan College and has completed special education training at American University.

John Lucas, dean of students and high school science teacher, is a practicing physician and experienced teacher. He taught elementary and high school science, English and photography in a program for high-potential dyslexic students at Landmark West School then 7th and 9th grade science at the Westlake School in California. Over three years he created the pre-K through 2nd grade science program at The River School in Washington, D.C.  From that experience he developed, with SRA/McGraw-Hill, the "Snapshots Simply Science" program (see He has served as staff physician at the University of Maryland Health Center and the Kaiser Permanente Frederick, MD office. Dr. Lucas is board certified in Family Medicine with an M.D. from Georgetown University and a B.A. in history from Hamilton College.

Edie Lyons, elementary teacher, is a native of the Washington, D.C. area. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Before coming to The Siena School she was a caregiver for elementary aged children, a camp counselor for more than ten years, and coached a variety of sports. She is very active in intramural sports and played collegiate lacrosse. While teaching a class called Project Discovery for an ESF camp, she was awarded The Master Teacher Award.

Sam McCormally, music teacher, has worked as an educator in a variety of settings. Sam has experience working with high school students on outdoors trips and elementary school students in after-school enrichment programs. Prior to The Siena School, Mr. McCormally worked for D.C. Public Schools in Early Stages, which identifies 3-5 year olds with learning disabilities. Mr. McCormally plays in a variety of bands and ensembles and composes music for film. He holds a B.A. in economics and math from Earlham College.

Joel Mercado, high school math teacher, joins us as a graduate of the local university in Takoma Park, Washington Adventist University. He received a B.S in Mathematics and was able to work as a professor for 2 years after graduating before joining Siena. Mr. Mercado enjoys staying active with cycling and soccer and will be assisting Siena's soccer team as coach.

Megan Noyes, associate dean of students and middle school history teacher, holds a B.A. degree in History and Political Science and a M.A.T. in Social Studies from The University of Pittsburgh. Ms. Noyes worked with students with reading disabilities through the Huntington Learning Center in Pennsylvania and taught 7th and 8th grade within the public school system. Ms. Noyes also has years of experience coaching elementary level co-ed basketball.

Erin Oakley, high school math teacher, holds a B.S. in Mathematics from UW-Madison and a Masters in Mathematics from University of Minnesota. Ms.Oakley spent a year teaching math in Minnesota before moving to the D.C. area. In her free time, Ms. Oakley enjoys reading, cooking, and practicing her German. Outside of school, Ms. Oakley is a Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellow, which helps her to continue to improve as a teacher.

Michael Pfeiffer, middle school math teacher, attended Florida International University in his home town of Miami, Florida where he earned a B.S. in Computer Science. He taught middle school vocational technology in Miami for two years prior to moving to Denver, Colorado. In Denver, Mr. Pfeiffer taught mathematics and a variety of computer science courses in middle school and high school for seven years. In addition to teaching math and technology, Mr. Pfeiffer has developed and taught a wide range of extracurricular music courses including guitar, percussions, and electronic composition and recording. As an active advocate of Nonviolence, Mr. Pfeiffer has organized, earned grants, and raised support for student-centered Nonviolence initiatives. Mr. Pfeiffer holds an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on secondary mathematics and second language acquisition from University of Denver.

Warren Phenegar, history teacher, earned a B.A. from Saint Peter’s College where he studied history and secondary education. After college, he served as an AmeriCorps volunteer and also has ten years of experience as a secondary social studies teacher. In his most recent teaching position, Mr. Phenegar designed several core and elective courses as well as creating and launching orientation and activities programs for Emerson Preparatory School in Washington, D.C. Prior to coming to Siena, he worked as a specialist with the American Institutes for Research and several state clients to design their online testing and educational materials.

Martha Silk, reading teacher, has been tutoring students with dyslexia, language-based learning differences, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and reading comprehension challenges for over 10 years. Ms. Silk has worked with students from age six through adult, and has special expertise in auditory processing issues, math, dysgraphic issues in print and cursive, strengthening working memory, reading comprehension, and directional language. Her extensive training includes coursework with William Stixrud & Associates, Stevenson Skills and ASDEC. Ms. Silk served as a resource teacher and tutor at St. Bernadette School and is a part-time instructor at Montgomery Community College. Ms. Silk is a highly active community volunteer serving organizations such as the University of Maryland Disabilities Support Services, Holy Cross Hospital, and Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. She is currently treasurer of the Learning Disabilities Association of Montgomery County. Ms. Silk holds a B.S. in mathematics from Spring Hill College.

Richard Sorrell Jr., facilities assistant and support staff, holds an Associates Degree from Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, VA, and is currently working towards finishing a B.S. in Psychology from Radford University, VA. Mr. Sorrell has been teaching self-defense and jui-jitsu to children for ten years. He has experience as a caregiver for newborns to elementary aged children. Mr. Sorrell also runs enrichment classes at Siena, in the areas of woodworking, pinewood derby and comics.

Katie Weida, high school english teacherjoins us from the Saint James School in Hagerstown, MD where she taught high school English, worked in the dorm, and coached soccer. Before that, she gained teaching experience as a middle school math teacher while earning her teaching certification from Penn State Harrisburg. Katie holds a B.A in English from Washington College.


Kristian Whipple, digital arts teacher, is experienced in outdoor, out-of-school and community-based education with a specific focus on expeditionary learning with students of varied backgrounds. He has recently managed and taught both youth and adults at New Community's ArtSpace in Washington, D.C., and works as a professional photographer. Mr. Whipple holds a B.A. in Art with a concentration in Photography from New England College and studied abroad in Quebec City and London.



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