Dr. Susan Campbell Anderson’s experience with exceptional learning programs stretches back more than thirty years. As a member of the first graduating class of The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, she learned much both firsthand and from teachers and administrators about the intensive task of putting together from scratch a school for students with distinctive educational needs. She served both as a teacher and a resident advisor with Duke University’s Talent Identification Program. Later, she taught with Emory University’s Pre-College Program, aimed at giving prospective students with learning challenges a leg up before their official matriculation at Emory.
Susan holds degrees from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Oxford University, and Emory University. Originally a scholar of English Renaissance studies, her work has led her increasingly into the areas of science fiction, film and popular culture, and disability studies. She recently left her job as a professor at Spelman College, where she was recognized with the Vulcan Teaching Award, to devote more time to her children. In addition to her involvement with The Cloverleaf School, she now works as a curriculum and accreditation consultant.
Katherine McGee brings an array of experience to her position at The Cloverleaf School. After graduating from Kennesaw State University with a BS in psychology, she began teaching in the special needs community, specializing in phonics and social skills instruction. Eager to learn as much as possible to address the needs of her students, Katherine pursued training in Orton-Gillingham, Handwriting Without Tears, The Alert Program, and Yoga Kids. In 2008, Katherine became an Educational Director, working closely with other teachers to help them develop curriculum, classroom management skills, and multisensory instruction techniques.
Being a parent of a child with special needs, Katherine has always been passionate about parent support and education and has a knack for viewing things with a “fresh eye.” Stepping out of the classroom after having her second child in 2011, she took the opportunity to begin facilitating monthly community parent support groups and socials as a Community Outreach Coordinator. Katherine is very excited to combine her specialized education and skills set as the Administrative Director of The Cloverleaf School, where she will work with parents, teachers, and children to achieve the common goal of student success.
Emily Swindall is an Atlanta native. She received her B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Georgia State University where she was a part of the first dual certification cohort that concentrated on inclusive education. Emily graduated from GSU certified in Early Childhood and Special Education K-12. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Emily jumped right into her M.E. in Special Education which she completed from Grand Canyon University in 2010.
Emily enjoys cooking, spending time outdoors, watching documentaries, and exploring new places and cultures. Emily’s trips have taken her across Africa, to the Andes Mountains of Peru, through Scandinavia, and all around North America. Many of her trips have been focused around serving the local people. Some of her trips have included teaching students about AIDS, constructing clean stoves and chimneys, and teaching a preschool class to orphans displaced by civil war. Emily says, “Often, working alongside people is the greatest way to hear their stories and share experiences.” Her passion for learning about people, places, and diverse cultures has led to a love for teaching Social Studies where she can share her experiences with her students as they try to understand the complexity of societies across the globe. She’s always planning her next adventure!
Prior to teaching full-time, Emily was a social skills therapist, a preschool facilitator and a community access coach for kids with special needs. Working with families that have children of various ages (two to twenty) has given Emily perspective on the unique challenges that families face as their children grow.
Emily is passionate about equipping students with the tools and strategies they need to have success academically and socially, as she discusses in “Kids in Charge!” Emily loves teaching at The Cloverleaf School because she enjoys the opportunity to help students practice social skills throughout the day in a variety of settings as well as infusing movement and multi-sensory experiences into her lessons. Many of Emily’s lessons are project focused; this allows students the opportunity to explore the process, so that at the end they not only have gained knowledge but also an understanding of why “that makes sense.”
Jen spent most her life in and around the Atlanta area. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a BS in Early Childhood Education and a Minor in Spanish. Following her studies at UGA, she moved to New Zealand where she taught for a year in a progressive public charter school. There she was trained in student-directed and inquiry-based learning strategies, empowering students of all abilities to take ownership of their educational journeys. She has written about what these strategies can look like and how well they can work in one of her blog entries, entitled The “I Don’t Know” Zone.
In addition to the core subject areas of the NZ curriculum, she taught “Passions, Interests, and Needs” (PINs) workshops ranging from photography, to rock climbing, to Spanish, to writing remediation. Her teaching experiences in the US include HeadStart Preschool, elementary special education, 1:1 academic tutoring, and an internship at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, shadowing the Academic Coordinator to help students with brain injuries transition back into school. Jen is trained in Handwriting Without Tears, Singapore Math, Technology Bridges, S.M.A.R.T. literacy, Project WILD, and Handle With Care.
At Cloverleaf, Jen is one of the founding teachers and is passionate about the school start-up process. She loves being a part of the ongoing “behind-the-scenes” organizational planning that is fundamental to building a school. In addition to her role as lead teacher, Jen also serves as the teacher representative board member on the Cloverleaf Board of Directors.
Outside the classroom she enjoys photography, traveling, rock climbing, yoga, crafty projects, live music, and spending time outdoors. Her dog Ari also accompanies her in the classroom daily as a certified Therapy Dog. They make a powerful duo, leading our kids on adventures and facilitating social skills development all along the way!
Jessie Leyden, Lead Teacher
An Atlanta native, Jessie attended Sarah Smith Elementary School, The Galloway School and Oglethorpe University, where she obtained a B.A. in Psychology and a double minor in Spanish and Studio Art in 2008. Jessie comes to us from The Howard School, where she worked in 8th grade and Kindergarten-1st grade. She is certified in Early Childhood Education, Behavioral Science for grades 6-12 and English as a Second Language for grades K-12.
Jessie has worked extensively with special needs children and adolescents, in and out of the classroom, and has used skills and techniques for connecting with students from all learning backgrounds and incorporating differentiation in the classroom. She has used her creative talents to invent original board games and class activities to incorporate art and hands-on learning in the classroom. Jessie has been trained in Singapore Math, The Hill Center’s Phonics Program and Darkness to Light’s Sexual Abuse Prevention. Jessie has taught Literacy using the Open Court system, handwriting using the Handwriting Without Tears method, and Literacy-based math using Singapore Math, Everyday Math, Dot Math and Math Their Way. Jessie enjoys getting involved in afterschool activities, and has also taught Introduction to Drawing courses and camps, Latin American Studies minimester courses for middle and high schoolers, and founded Pet Club Jr. for ages 5-8 years.
Jessie enjoys being outdoors and doing anything active, including hiking, camping, rock climbing, kickboxing and running. She is also fond of playing board games, reading, scrapbooking, singing, spending time with family, and traveling. Jessie has spent time in Mexico, England, France, Argentina, Puerto Rico and has been all across the United States. She spent six months in Chile for a study abroad program in 2007, and returned to the U.S. bilingual in Spanish.
Jessie is thrilled to be working at The Cloverleaf School and looks forward to assisting families and coworkers to help maintain consistency and stability for the students. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child” and Jessie believes that is key in helping to shape well-rounded individuals.
Kelly Polinsky, Lead Teacher
Jennifer Selzer, Lead Teacher
Jason Teufel is an Atlanta native, having grown up in Decatur, GA. He is an avid soccer player who discovered his passion for teaching as a youth soccer coach. He quickly made the connection between sports skills and social development. With this in mind, he founded and facilitated multiple sports programs around the city for children with special needs, one of which was highlighted on 11 Alive News at Sensations Therafun in 2011. These programs create a low-stress, high-success environment using sports skills to build children’s confidence and create team camaraderie. He continues to be a strong leader in the special needs community utilizing sports as a way to promote healthy living.
Jason is also an experienced hiker and camper and began working with Outdoor Rec. Adventures with founder, Chris Zelski , in creating small group-based outdoor programs for children with sensory-based special needs. The program is very successful at drawing a connection between children and the world around them while at the same time improving their physical, social, and emotional health. This success has recently drawn the attention of the producers at the Oprah Network and their program, “It Takes a Village.” Outdoor Rec. Adventures was asked to facilitate the Atlanta edition of this program which will air in September. Jason has found the work he does with Outdoor Rec. Adventures to be particularly rewarding as it weaves his passion for teaching with his love for nature.
For the past 7 years, Jason has worked with children with various types of neurological behavioral and spectrum disorders. In that time he has taken on many titles including Program Coordinator, Enrichment Teacher, Community Sports Coordinator, and Director of After School programming. He uses his training in the Alert Program and Dr. Stanley Greenspan’s DIR/Floortime Model in his teaching. He is looking forward to bringing his experience and enthusiasm to The Cloverleaf School, in his role as Aftercare Coordinator.
An Atlanta native, Trevor has always followed his dreams. Trevor set off to college dead set on a major in sculpture and a career in Special FX make-up for film. In 2007, he secured an internship with Toby Sells Creature Make-up FX shop as a sculptor. Hoping the knowledge of hair would aid him in his work with FX make-up, Trevor also worked as an assistant in a salon. From there, the fates intervened, and he took on an 18-month apprenticeship with Master Cosmetologist Clay Eaton, emerging a licensed cosmetologist. As luck would have it, being a new stylist he was often assigned kids’ cuts and youth clients. That was where Trevor first discovered his ability to communicate and work with children, and the rewards therein. It was also through the salon industry that Trevor was introduced to working with children with special needs. Each year, Trevor was a volunteer stylist for Day of Beauty, a non-profit charity event that provides free hair care to children with special needs and their teachers and caregivers.
Around the same time, Trevor left the Creature Shop to pursue a childhood dream: acting. Growing up, he would often dress as his favorite comic book or action hero and leap around the house “saving the day.” With a background in Martial Arts and plenty of experience in make-believe, it was only fitting that Trevor’s first on-screen appearances were as a stunt performer. To further develop his stunt work, Trevor began gymnastics training with In Flight Gymnastics in December of 2009. Two years later he stepped in as a coach, and he launched the Boys Acrobatics Program at In Flight. Through In Flight Gymnastics and the gym’s connections with Cirque Du Monde, Trevor -who is also trained in circus acrobatics- coached a summer Circus Camp at The Howard School in 2011, where he continues to work with In Flight Gymnastics to provide circus arts afterschool and summer programs. In 2013, In Flight Gymnastics hosted the City of Atlanta’s Camp Best Friends, and Trevor was one of the head coaches responsible for gymnastics education. He also has fairly extensive volunteer experience with day cares and Sunday school classes for children with special needs. Trevor holds certifications in CPR, First Aid, AED, Personal Fitness Training, and Cosmetology, and is an AAU Certified Youth Freestyle Gymnastics Coach. In addition to joining the Cloverleaf team, Trevor has recently begun working with The Welch Martial Arts Experience as a Youth Martial Arts instructor. Trevor still pursues his other dream of acting, co-owns his own independent film production company, and is the drummer and singer for a local blues-rock band.
Sarah was raised in Ohio and attended the University of Findlay. While attending Findlay, Sarah was a college swimmer, studied criminal justice and looked forward to attending law school after graduation. Just before graduation, Sarah started coaching as a part time gymnastics instructor and fell in love with teaching and coaching children. While coaching, Sarah decided to go back to school to become a certified teacher and work towards a Masters in Education. Sarah then moved to Georgia to teach in Atlanta’s special needs community. Sarah has been trained by the Orton- Gillingham Institute for Multi-Sensory Education and has a passion for teaching Language Arts to children with learning differences. She also coaches competitive compulsory gymnastics at the Atlanta Gymnastics Center in Decatur.
Sarah is a dedicated educator who is always looking for new ways to shape the learning experiences of children, and to find their interests to fuel their eagerness to learn. She believes deeply in empowering children by building their strengths and teaching them to self-advocate. As a result, she has spearheaded our use of Learner Profiles.
She is herself an avid reader with an intuitive sense of what reading materials will appeal to different children. Reading can shape our sense of the world around us and, indeed, ourselves, as she discusses in her blog entry, A Cloverleaf Book Review of There.
Perhaps the most remarkable quality Ms. Sarah possesses is her hope. Hope for our children’s futures and hope for positive changes in the educational community. This hope is reflected in her determination that all children be presented with the opportunity to learn and to be challenged. In short, to learn to love to learn.
Ari has been working with Cloverleaf kids since the school was founded in January 2012. She trained with Ms. Jen, her handler, while attending obedience school for her first year of life. She passed her Therapy Dog certification test shortly after her first birthday, affirming what we already knew here at Cloverleaf: Ari excels at working with kids! She is now also qualified to visit hospitals, assistive living and hospice facilities, libraries, schools, and other community centers for care where Therapy Dogs may be needed. Ari is a husky-shepherd mix, adopted by Ms. Jen in December 2011. Ari’s interests include chasing sticks on the playground, listening to students read aloud in the classroom, and playing with her fellow furry friends at the dog park.