The Center for Inspired Education

MEET THE TEAM


Melissa Henry

Melissa Henry

Writing Coach
Executive Functioning Skills Coach

Melissa Henry has a 25-year history of inspiring young learners. She currently teaches English Language Acquisition at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. She is a certified instructor of English, a published writer, and a graduate of UC Berkeley. Melissa holds a North Carolina CORE and Employability Certificate in addition to her bachelor of arts degree in English. She also serves as an artist mentor with Asheville Writers in the Schools and Communities.

Prior to her time with the Center for Inspired Education, Melissa worked as a writing coach and an executive functioning coach, interacting with Asheville youth during UNCA’s creative writing summer camp, WriteNow. She also conducted creative writing workshops at Lenoir Rhyne’s WordFest. Melissa also has shared her music and poetry publicly in Asheville and has worked as a resident artist with the TAPAS collaborative arts program in Asheville City Schools.

Alicia Cardina

Alicia Cardina

Curriculum and Workshop Designer
Executive Functioning Skills Coach - Specializing in Elementary Students

Alicia Cardina was a classroom teacher in elementary schools for sixteen years in Asheville, the US Virgin Islands, and Guatemala. In addition to her work with the Center for Inspired Education, Alicia is a consulting teacher for the Center for Responsive Schools and trains teachers throughout the country in the Responsive Classroom approach. She received her Master of Education from Lesley University and undergraduate degrees in cognitive psychology and education from Hamilton College.

One of Alicia’s main areas of interest is compassionate communication and effective language for teachers and parents. She is excited to bring this into her work with children and families. She brings her love of nature, music, and creativity into her lessons that help children connect to their inner gifts and wisdom.

Melissa Henry

Milena Blanco

Executive Functioning Skills Coach

Milena was born in Havana, Cuba, an island like no other. She lived for 20 years in Chile. She coexists in a truly international family. Her mom and she are Cuban, and her two daughters, 13 and 23 are Chilean. Her "big" daughter just graduated from Political Science, Philosophy and Sociology at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. Milena loves the outdoors and meeting with friends. Although she loves to talk, she also loves listening.

Being a teacher has been her dream forever. Her mom said it was her favorite game as a child. Milena's language teaching experience ranges from pre-K to 12th Grade. Currently, she feels grateful to be teaching in lower school. This target age is the perfect soil to seed a new language and is very rewarding. She also teaches private classes to teenagers and young adults. She served as an administrator, Academic Director and IB Coordinator in an international school for 16 years in Chile, where she had the opportunity to work with teachers from more than 9 different countries. Her mind is wide open!

Milena studied English Language and Literature Education at Universidad de la Habana, Elementary School Education at Universidad Catolica del Norte, Chile and a Post Graduate program in Innovation and Creativity in Education at the same university. Currently, she is about to complete her Masters in the Teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language in the University Carlos Tercero de Madrid, a very prestigious European University. Milena is certified as an International Baccalaureate teacher and was a speaking examiner for the University of Cambridge in Chile. In summary, above all, she wants to share her language and culture. She believes this lays the foundation for humans to connect on a deeper level and co-create a more inclusive world!

Melissa Henry

Dan Chase

Math Tutor

Dan Chase has taught math at the middle school and high school levels for twenty years in Asheville-area public and independent schools. Dan attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, NC, completed his undergraduate degree at UNC Chapel Hill, and earned his Master of Arts in Teaching from Western Carolina University.

Dan’s teaching extends beyond the traditional classroom. He tutors high school students for the ACT and SAT tests. Additionally, he has decades of experience as an outdoor educator at several summer camps around the United States. Currently Dan works with fifth-grade students through the Muddy Sneakers outdoor science classroom program, and he runs his own nature hiking guide service that provides families with educational outdoor experiences.

Jessica Rivers

Jessica W. Rivers, Ph.D.

Executive Functioning Skills Coach - Specializing in Students and Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Jessica W. Rivers, Ph.D., received her doctorate in child and human development from the University of Georgia, her master’s degree in special education from UNC-Chapel Hill, and her undergraduate degree is in psychology from Oberlin College in Ohio. She has served as a teacher and preschool director, one-on-one therapist, and a consultant on a long-term research project investigating the incidence of autism spectrum disorder in children in the US. She has also created a business to support children with ASD in their homes and communities.

Jessica’s work in public and independent schools includes time in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, and London, England. Additionally, she has facilitated various trainings for teachers, school staff and families across the country. Jessica joins her wealth of experience with a commitment to building strong relationships with students and their families to the Center for Inspired Education.

Alicia Cardina

Jen Aly, M.S. 

Executive Functioning Skills Coach - Specializing in College Age Students and Young Adults

Jen Aly, M.S. has taught at the University of Tennessee, University of Hawai'i Maui, Academy of Art University San Francisco, and Tennessee Wesleyan University. Areas of instruction include English as a Second Language, Learning Skills, Creative Writing, Research, & Composition. She has also held educational roles in Academic Advising, Special Education, Art, bi-lingual education, & teacher training in the U.S. & abroad.

A Martha Beck Certified Life Coach since 2003, Jen also became a Best Year Yet Certified Coach in 2017. She has coached a wide variety of clients in organization, academics, business development, relationships, career transition, productivity, etc. She received her Master's degree in Education from the University of Tennessee and her undergraduate degree in English from Tennessee Wesleyan University.

Jen speaks intermediate Spanish and enjoys travel, improv, and the outdoors. She volunteers weekly for UNETE as a mentor & tutor for Latino youth.

Dan Chase

Sarah Vallely

Executive Functioning Skills Coach - Specializing in Middle, High School and College Students
Mindfulness Coach for Parents and all ages
Math Tutor

Sarah Vallely is a former middle school and 9th-grade ELA and Math teacher. She also has experience in the school setting as a student advisor, supporting students to develop their executive functioning skills and emotional intelligence. She is also a 20-year veteran mindfulness teacher and the author of the book, "Sensational Meditation for Children."

Sarah Vallely also works with adults, individually and with couples, to heal from past trauma, reduce anxiety, and better their relationships. Sarah uses a variety of time-tested tools that help clients identify and process their emotions, communicate with compassion, calm their nervous system, and overcome negative self-talk. Sarah believes to heal through anxiety it is important to begin by identifying overthinking, nervous system activation, and trauma triggers.

Alicia Cardina

Sara Penninga

Executive Functioning Skills Coach

Teaching has delighted Sara for most of her adult life. She was a classroom teacher for grades 1-5 along with teaching middle and high school classes. Sara’s compassionate curiosity helps clients find and embrace their passions and purpose in the world. Sara values creating a deep connection with her students and clients to create effective academic, personal, and executive functioning goals. Her deep listening, observation, and understanding allow for the creation of goals that support students to move into empowered choices and actions.

Sara has also supported children and adults with physical and cognitive challenges for over 10 years. Because of her own struggles with dyslexia and learning to read, Sara has a unique way of supporting new readers.

Sara’s interests include interpersonal communication, personalized goal setting, creatively and consistently working towards goals set, supporting fine and large motor skill development, and empowering clients through the arts and nature connection.

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Brittany Young

Executive Functioning Skills Coach

Brittany Young is an impassioned educator who is rooted in the understanding that education is a vehicle for helping human beings remember and honor their true nature while also discovering their unique relationship to the world within and around them. She has been a Waldorf teacher and teen mentor for six years. She created a Rite of Passage teen girl’s camp in her previous hometown of Sedona, Arizona, and is intentional about continuing to help teens and parents to understand and harness the wisdom within these powerful development stages of child-to-adolescent-to-young adult.

Brittany has a Master’s degree from DePaul University in Social and Educational Foundations of Education. She spent many years traveling abroad and specifically traveled to and from India, which she considers to be a deeply formative stage in her life, helping her to build a spiritual relationship to service in joy. She loves to inspire the youth and young adults to meet life from an inspired and self-directed place.

Jessica Rivers

Kelly Dwoinen

Executive Functioning Skills Coach - Specializing in Elementary Students
Math Tutor

Kelly has been in education for over 27 years. Her experiences include: being an elementary classroom teacher in both public and private schools in North Carolina and Colorado for grades 1,2,3,5,6 and ELL, tutoring reading, math, and executive functioning skills for grades K-7, working as a health educator for the University of Colorado Health and Safe Kids UCHealth as the coordinator of a bike helmet safety program, and working with new parents to educate them on car seat safety.

After receiving her bachelor's degree from Colorado State University, Kelly went on to receive her Elementary Teaching License from the University of Colorado Boulder. As a teacher at Carolina Day’s Key School she was certified in Multisensory Math, as she was the 3rd grade math teacher there for six years. What she values most about teaching is the connections with students and their parents, and working to support students to believe in themselves, their gifts, and gain a deeper understanding as to how they best learn. Kelly has a deep love for nature, adventure, and travel.

Dan Chase

Ann Harris

Orton-Gillingham Tutor
Executive Functioning Skills Coach

Ann Harris has a 25-year career in education with such varied roles as principal, school founder, classroom teacher, outdoor educator with Outward Bound, researcher and head presenter at the National Conference for Experiential Education. She earned her Master of Arts in Educational Leadership at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and her Bachelor of Science degree in English Education from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

Ann’s professional professional recognitions include Freedom High School’s Teacher of the Year and a selective North Carolina Teaching Fellows scholarship. She brings her wide ranging experience with research and engagement in all aspects of education together with an emphasis on building genuine connections and strong relationships with her students and their families, personal resilience, creativity, and imagination.

Melissa Henry

Joanie Lamb

Director of the Center for Inspired Education
Executive Functioning Skills Coach

Joanie received her Master’s in Special Education (K-12) from Boston College, and her undergraduate degrees in Elementary Education, Special Education, and Philosophy from Boston College. She has taught students with learning differences, ADD/ADHD, on the Spectrum, behavioral challenges, and various types of developmental differences in public and private settings, including the Lab School of Washington, DC, the first school for students with learning differences in the nation. Two of her three boys have dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD and attended the Key School in Asheville, NC where she taught for several years and began the school’s Rites of Passage experience which still continues many years later. Besides being an experienced classroom teacher and tutor, Joanie has been a teacher trainer, educational diagnostician, educational therapist, and a special education department chairperson. She is trained in the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory reading approach. Joanie is also trained as a Presence-Based Life Coach which has enabled her to work more deeply with her clients and to include presencing and somatics, which have been vital to her own transformation.

After graduating from college, Joanie went to San Vito, Costa Rica, to “save the world”, starting a special education program at a high school in a community where students with developmental disabilities simply stayed home. What she discovered that year was that she had a 6 months of giving capacity. After 6 months, she was toast. Humbly she came to learn that to sustain service she needed to have her Divine Source fuel her endeavors and to add regular practices that helped keep her connected and inspired. This crucial turning point in her life is the foundation for the Center for Inspired Education.



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