Learning doesn’t end when class does.
The Oliverian faculty is a team of bright, engaged, and caring people who are inspired by and committed to our mission and students. Our teachers, counselors, dorm parents, and staff bring both strong educational backgrounds and rich real-world experience to Oliverian. Faculty members live on campus in order to develop a true community and vital connections with students. Living on site allows the faculty to have an impact that reaches far beyond the confines of the academic day. Some of the most important guidance, support, and learning takes place in the “in-between moments” that are a natural part of the Oliverian community.
Faculty and Staff Biographies
Bessa Axelrod, Art Teacher, was born and raised in Southern California. Freely admitting to a severe case of “wanderlust,” she has traveled widely throughout the United States. “My mother once complained that my frequent changes of address took up most of her address book, ranging far outside the pages allowed for A and B!” Her wanderings ultimately brought her to New England where she finally settled down in 1990.
Bessa earned her BS in art education from Plymouth State University and brings to Oliverian a passionate commitment to the Arts. Her broad expertise empowers our students to explore a wide variety of art methods and materials including drawing, painting, sculpture, pottery, art history, and culture. Bessa’s foremost goal is “to create a supportive environment for artistic growth, self-expression, and risk taking, and to help students develop an exceptional and individualized portfolio of artwork.”
Stephanie Claverie, Counselor, was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and came to our alternative boarding school by way of Baltimore, Maryland. This fall, Stephanie starts her fifth year at Oliverian, and she can’t believe how fast the years have gone by! She has traveled all over the world, including a visit to Machu Picchu, a frigid night in the ice hotel in Finland, and fishing for piranha in the Amazon. Northern New Hampshire seems just as exotic to this true southerner, but Stephanie feels at home here at the base of the White Mountains. Joining her at Oliverian are her two furry friends, Finn and Mikey.
After receiving her BA in history from Tulane University, Stephanie worked for two non-profits in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina hit, she moved up to Baltimore and worked as dormitory parent at a boarding school for three years. During this time, Stephanie completed her Masters of education in guidance and counseling from Loyola University, Maryland and fulfilled the requirements to become a national certified counselor. Stephanie’s counseling experience includes individual and group counseling, crisis counseling, and peer mediation all utilizing a variety of techniques and theories.
Phone: 603-989-5100 ext. 7040
Kelsie Coccia, Dorm Parent, hails from Marquette in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a graduate of Colby-Sawyer College with a BS in child development and a minor in education. At Oliverian, she will be focusing on supporting students with a variety of learning differences. Kelsie was an intern at Vermont Academy and taught at the Cardigan Mountain School summer session. Kelsie’s passion in guiding and helping youth was inspired by the support she received as a student from her mentors, a result that led her to pursue a career in the independent school environment.
Kelsie loves the outdoors and looks forward to sharing outdoor experiences with her students. An avid skier and former collegiate racer, she particularly enjoys spending time on the mountain in winter. She is excited to be part of the Oliverian family where she can support students as they face the challenges of learning and expose them simultaneously to the wonders of the outdoors.
John Doyle, Stewardship Teacher, grew up just north of Hanover, New Hampshire, on his family’s farm. Using only a horse-drawn plow, John made maple syrup, cut wood for heating the family home, hayed, raised livestock, hunted and trapped, and grew and sold vegetables. John attended Bridgeton Academy and later Hawthorn College, where he received his BA in history. After college, John spent thirteen years working in hotel and restaurant management at the Hanover Inn, six years building custom houses, and the past twelve years teaching building trades, agriculture, forestry, and wildlife science to 7th-12th graders. John has been a coverts cooperator for the state of New Hampshire since 1996, and is passionate about teaching students about wildlife conservation, forestry management, and beef cattle.
Phone: 603-989-5100 ext. 7012
Connor Fahey, Dean of Student Life, attended the University at Buffalo where he earned his BA in psychology and a BA in sociology. After graduation, Connor moved to northern New Hampshire to work with a wilderness therapy program for ten years. Connor earned his MS in community mental health counseling from Southern New Hampshire University during that time.
Connor is very passionate about working with adolescents and is very excited to continue at Oliverian for his third year! Connor finds it peaceful to return to the wilderness and beauty of New Hampshire. In his off time, Connor enjoys spending time outdoors engaging in various sports such as hiking and snowboarding. He also loves writing poetry and playing with his two dogs.
Phone: 603-989-5100 ext. 7008
Brian Gaffey, Dean of Student Life, brings an invigorating passion to Oliverian’s mission of helping young people find their place in the world. Part manager, part counselor, part activities coordinator, part mentor, and part parent, Brian combines the perfect combination of compassion and tough love to all students who pass through these doors.
Prior to Oliverian, as residential counselor and natural science educator at Mountain Valley Treatment Center, Brian worked with adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, and emotional disorders. At Mountain Valley, Brian was considered a “teen whisperer” and still has this strong ability to connect with even the most unreachable students. Prior to Mountain Valley, Brian worked as director of residential life at the Savannah River Challenge Program, a wilderness program located in rural southeast Georgia.
An outdoor and adventure enthusiast, Brian can most often be found exploring the local rivers and woods with his wife, Julie, and their four young children. Brian is also a dedicated volunteer firefighter and brings an enthusiasm for stewardship and service-learning to Oliverian students.
Julie Gaffey, Marketing and Admissions Coordinator, graduated from Georgia Southern University with a BA in English, and moved to San Francisco to ride the “dot.com wave,” working as marketing coordinator for an internet start-up. While she thrived in the fast-paced internet environment, Julie heard her true calling and returned to Georgia to work with struggling youth in the alligator-infested swamps. She remained in Georgia for over five years, working as counselor, teacher, and training director at a wilderness program for troubled teens.
After leaving the Deep South, Julie followed the northern path to be closer to family and discovered the Oliverian School tucked away in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. Oliverian’s mission deeply resonated with Julie, and she has been thrilled to fuse her marketing skills with her passion for working with struggling youth since her arrival here in 2007.
Julie has settled in the woods of New Hampshire with her husband, Brian, and their four young children. Julie greatly appreciates the landscape surrounding Oliverian as it provides the perfect environment for hiking, kayaking, canoeing, exploring rivers, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and hunting for wildlife with her trusty camera!
Phone: 603-989-5100 ext. 7104
Janice Hatch, Business Manager, has been serving the Oliverian Valley since 1997. In 2005, Janice became the business manager at Oliverian where she manages the finances, physical plant, human resources, and much more. She was born and raised in Vermont, and now resides in North Haverhill, New Hampshire, with her husband, Preston, and son, Scott. Janice’s oldest son, Brad, lives in the Midwest where he works for the Air Force and travels with his wife and two children. In her free time, Janice enjoys spending time with her two grandchildren, quilting, snowshoeing, camping, and travelling to Aruba! Janice is also very involved with volunteering and giving back to the local community through the fire department, little league baseball, and 4H events. Her friendly smile is always a welcome sight around the Oliverian campus!
Phone: 603-989-5100 ext. 7014
Abby Hood, Director of Academics, graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a BS in biology in 1999, after which she served as college laboratory instructor, sea turtle research technician, wildlife rehabilitator, and advisor and work crew leader at a therapeutic work community located on an organic farm. Abby then returned to school and received her MS in ecological planning from the University of Vermont. From geology to botany, soil science to ecology, and eventually honing in on the ecological effects of agriculture, Abby’s graduate work consisted of a broad, multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the natural systems of New England.
It was during the summers, rather than the school year, though, that Abby first identified her passion for teaching science to high school students. During one intensive week each summer, Abby taught field science to bright and motivated high school students at the Governor’s Institute of Vermont, science and technology program. She loved it, and the next thing she knew, she was applying for full time teaching jobs. Abby initially came to Oliverian to teach science, but has had many different roles in her seven years with the school. She loves Oliverian—its beautiful campus, dynamic faculty, and of course all the interesting and spirited students who inspire her to keep learning and growing. In her free time, Abby enjoys hiking, running, skiing, canoeing, playing with her dogs, and spending quality time with her husband and son.
Phone: 603-989-5100 ext. 7010
Bill Kearney, Spanish Teacher, earned his MA in latin american literature at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He grew up on the coast south of Boston but has lived and traveled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America. Bill’s passion for the Spanish language is rooted in his curiosity toward the rich web of histories and cultures that it connects…including our own. Bill looks forward to sharing this passion, along with an insistence on personal growth and learning outside of one’s comfort zone, with the Oliverian community.
Bill has taught groups of forty five students at a Catholic all-girls school in Quito, Ecuador, worked with inner-city high school students to ensure college access, coached boys and girls youth basketball teams, taught Spanish to students of the University of Massachusetts and most recently taught ESL to professors and students of the Universidad de Oviedo in beautiful Oviedo, Spain.
His free time is spent on his bike, with a book, in a tent, in shoes or boots that allow him to arrive to higher altitudes, or digesting a large meal with a cup of Barry’s Irish Tea…or even all of these activities simultaneously. He lives in Haverhill, NH with his wife Siobhan and their Gaelic warrior gnomes, Maeve and Aoife.
Annah Kennett, School Nurse, grew up in Western Maine. She attended the University of Southern Maine, earning a BA in sociology. While working for planned parenthood after college, she was inspired to pursue a career in nursing, and enrolled at the University of New England, earning her ADN and RN credentials. Annah enjoys working in challenging environments, having gained professional experience through employment at a detoxification unit, community-based mental health program, and most recently a homeless health clinic.
Annah enjoys reading, camping, snowshoeing, vegan food, and spending time outside with her dog, Lu. She is excited to be joining the thoughtful and creative Oliverian community and looks forward to working with students to enhance health literacy on campus.
Phone: 603-989-5100 ext. 7006
Will Laughlin, Head of School / CEO, comes to Oliverian School with over twenty years’ of educational leadership experience in the US and abroad. Will’s professional adventures include serving as the president of an international university with campuses in Tokyo and Osaka, head of school for a therapeutic boarding school in North Carolina, and executive director for a group of five therapeutic schools in Idaho and California. He has also launched several companies, including a peanut-butter company that helps feed malnourished children and an adventure-based youth-development program Impossible2Possible. A fifth-generation native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Will stayed close to home for his education, earning degrees from U.C. Berkeley and Stanford University.
Will’s wife, Beth Laughlin, is a fellow Stanford graduate and therapeutic education professional. From their new base in New Hampshire, Beth continues her work as founder and partner of Second Nature 360, a transition and support program for adolescents who have recently completed treatment. She also serves as Will’s fearless crew chief for his ultra-distance running adventures, which include record-setting expedition runs across Costa Rica, Death Valley, and the Rocky Mountains.
Recent transplants from Boulder, Colorado, Will and Beth are enjoying New Hampshire’s “ridiculous” beauty with their adored dog, Liam.
Phone: 603-989-5100 ext. 7009
Mike Leonard, Humanities Teacher, was born and raised in Woodstock, Vermont. After years of living and working abroad, Mike has found his way back to New England and happily into the arms of The Oliverian School. While obtaining a BA in European Studies from New York University, he spent two semesters abroad which sparked his fascination with all things multicultural and tourism-related. He went on to complete an EU-sponsored MSc program in Sustainable Tourism Management, looking critically at the global tourism industry as a juggernaut of unsustainable practices and how best to effect change. Most recently, he was living and working in Reykjavík, Iceland, researching the effects of tourism in the Arctic during an era of climate change. Mike has lived and studied in 7 different countries and visited over 50, indicating that the world is truly his classroom.
Mike is thrilled to bring his love for geography, culture, literature, and the humanities to Oliverian. When not formally a student himself, his work has always led him back into the classroom. Mike worked for EF International Language Schools both in New York and San Francisco as an administrator and language teacher. He has previously taught Spanish at Killington Mountain School and held various long-term sub positions, ranging from Kindergarten to High School Pre-Calculus. Most recently, he was a lecturer at the University of Iceland in the Geography Department. As one who has had a very non-traditional academic journey himself, Mike knows he will fit right in teaching and learning at Oliverian.
Mike lives at the top of a hill across the river in Vermont with his husband, Kevin (a native of Ireland and a newly minted Green Card holder), and their five chickens. They are both overjoyed to be in the woods of the Northeast, hiking, jogging, swimming, farming and plotting their next adventure, all while reveling in everything else the mountains have to offer.
Barclay Mackinnon, Jr., Director of Admissions/Head Emeritus, has dedicated over thirteen years of his twenty-nine year career in the field of education to the Oliverian School. Along with his role as founding head, head emeritus and director of admissions, he has served Oliverian as a teacher, advisor, counselor, and coach. He describes the feeling he had when he began his first teaching job at Brunswick School in Greenwich, Connecticut, as a strong sense that he was “going home.” Barclay states that since entering the field of education, “it’s as though I’ve never had a bad day.”
Barclay received his BA from The City University of New York and his Master’s degree from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, California. He’s proud to say that his work at Oliverian has been the most richly rewarding professional experience of his career. “The Oliverian School ethos supports students who may be struggling to find their way, while giving them an opportunity to redefine who they are in a setting that will nourish and inspire them,” says Barclay. Barclay lives in Norwich, Vermont, and is the proud father of sons Ian, Max, and Ben, and stepchildren, Danny and Jenna.
Phone: 603-989-5100, ext. 7103
Alice Scheller Mainville, Dorm Parent, was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey. Having vacationed in New England as a child, it’s natural beauty drew her back to relocate after graduating high school. Her first stop was Boston where she lived while attending New England School of Art & Design and Emerson College.
After graduation, Alice left the city for small town life on Boston’s North Shore to raise her family. Her passion for shaping the lives of children extended beyond her home, first serving on the Amesbury Youth Advisory Council and then working in an alternative charter school for at-risk teens. It also lead to her earning a Master’s degree in school counseling. Being able to apply her education and experience at Oliverian is a dream come true. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, cycling, photography, cross-country skiing, and road trips.
Reed McFarland, Dorm Parent, comes to Oliverian from Niantic, Connecticut. Reed holds a BS in childhood studies, an M.Ed. in special education along with a New Hampshire special education certification for K-12; all of which he earned through Plymouth State University. Throughout Reed’s undergraduate schooling, he has taught in numerous public school classrooms, but during Reed’s fifth year Master’s program, he completed a year-long internship at the Oliverian School. During his internship, Reed worked as a student support specialist where he taught financial math class as well as an executive functioning class through New York University.
Reed feels that the Oliverian School is the perfect fit for his teaching and learning style as the school’s mission, ideals, and focus align with Reed’s beliefs and educational practices. Reed is extremely excited to return to Oliverian and plans to bring many great things to this school. Reed’s interests include road biking, mountain biking, and cyclocross. He also plays a wide array of instruments, but primarily focuses on guitar.
Aaron Rumsey, Director of Counseling, joins Oliverian from the Adirondack region of upstate New York where he was the primary therapist at a wilderness program. Aaron is a licensed mental health counselor who earned his undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology at the State University of New York at Potsdam. He worked at an inpatient substance abuse treatment center and a detoxification center before enrolling in a master’s program in mental health counseling. As a counselor and an adjunct instructor at SUNY Plattsburgh, Aaron enjoyed sharing his clinical knowledge, offering support, and bringing empathy and creativity to the adolescents he worked with.
Aaron is enthusiastic about continuing his work with Oliverian students and helping them find their path to success while building healthy and well rounded lives. Aaron and his family are excited to take in the White Mountains as much as they did the Adirondacks while searching for new adventures and lessons through nature.
Phone: 603-989-5100, ext. 7017
Kelly Sweeney, Math Teacher, joined the Oliverian community in the fall of 2012. Kelly grew up in Ballston Spa, New York, and studied mathematics and inclusive education at Nazareth College. She received her MS degree in educational technology at The College of St. Rose. During college, she spent five months living and studying in Sydney, Australia, and student taught in Wales, UK, where she was enlightened with a different approach to teaching, and the opportunity to travel and explore Europe on the weekends.
Growing up outside of the Adirondacks, Kelly has developed an affinity for the great outdoors. She really enjoys a range of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, running, and biking. She completed her first triathlon last summer and has run several half marathons. She loves sports and played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse in high school, and continued playing soccer throughout college. Kelly became a teacher to influence the lives of children, and there’s no better place to do that than Oliverian. She feels that Oliverian is more than a school, but is a community where the students and staff all learn from one another and grow together. She’s excited to bring a fresh and innovative perspective to learning, and hopes to instill some of her passion for math into the students.
Dr. Peter Tice, Dean of Studies and Science Teacher, was a new addition to Oliverian in the 2011-2012 school year. Following university teaching as a graduate student and several years teaching in public school alternative and mainstream programs, he joined Oliverian to follow his passion for small-group, holistic education. Peter received his BS degree in geology from McGill University in 1995, and his MS and PhD degrees in magma crystallization dynamics and alkaline crystal chemistry from the University of New Orleans in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Peter lives in Haverhill, NH with his wife, Sherri, and their children, Justin, Calvin, and Emaline.
Peter was initially drawn to Oliverian because of its commitment to provide for individual students’ learning needs and interests while maintaining high academic standards. Peter believes that “students need to be challenged to become independent thinkers who use the information from their courses to develop their own analytical framework to consider the world and their place in it. In doing so, they become more active participants in their own lives and community. Cultivating students as independent thinkers commences with treating students as individuals; learning who they are and providing them with the means and support to blaze their own path.”
Outside of the classroom, Peter’s interests include horticulture, sustainable agriculture, woodworking and handicraft, wildlife observation, astronomy, mineral collecting, building scale railroad models, and railroad history.
Phone: 603-989-5100, ext. 7003
Julie Tracy-Prieboy, Counselor, joins Oliverian from West Virginia and a therapeutic boarding school where she was the equine therapy coordinator. Julie is a licensed social worker who attended Boston College, earning a BA in sociology, theology, and women’s studies. During her time in college, Julie volunteered and traveled extensively in the Appalachians, as well as Central and South America. Following her undergraduate experience, Julie joined an intentional community in West Virginia doing non-profit, low-income home repair. Following a few years exploring and volunteering in Appalachia, she returned to New England and worked as a chaplain at the University of New Hampshire where she earned Master’s degrees in outdoor education and social work, specializing in adventure therapy. For over ten years, Julie has worked within educational settings, social services, homeless outreach, low-income home repair, adult and teenager addiction work, family therapy, equine assisted psychotherapy, and adventure therapy.
Julie is delighted to join Oliverian as a counselor and remains truly interested about interactions between people, families, and academics. For Julie, it is critical to create space within a living-learning community for growth, exploration, and sometimes getting the process of discovery wrong. She shares that, “we all know that ‘growing up’ can be messy, but I work to provide a safe environment for young adults and families to authentically explore their relationship with themselves, the environment, their peers, and the larger community.” Outside of work, Julie can be found exploring her environment through activism work, growing things, hula hooping, doing some carpentry, hiking, kayaking, or spending time with her family. She looks to live a joy-filled life that is grounded through community, challenge, and the wholehearted pursuit of growth.
Phone: 603-989-5100, ext. 7028
Ben Travis, Executive Chef and Culinary Arts Instructor, graduated from Union College in 2009 earning an inter disciplinary BA in philosophy and in English, with a focus on naturalist writing and environmental ethics. Almost all of Ben’s postgraduate education has been experiential. Ben continues to manifest his own naturalist philosophy with the cultivation of an half-acre vegetable garden used to supply the family restaurant with fresh produce during the summer and early fall.
Before coming to Oliverian, Ben worked as operations manager and head chef at the Jonesville Store in Clifton Park, New York. Today, Ben owns and operates a gourmet food truck out of Saratoga Springs, NY during the summer months and has participated in events ranging from arts and music festivals, car shows and food truck contests, to weddings and graduation parties. Ben still works hard to maintain the garden in order to continue serving responsibly grown produce. It is safe to say Ben’s passion for a healthy environment and for cooking is ubiquitous all the way from the farm to the table and he is committed to sharing his knowledge with students and encourage an appetite for learning.
Phone: 603-989-5100, ext. 7018
Brett Wanner, Music Teacher, has had extensive experience as a performer, producer, and recording artist, and is still engaged in all three activities. When not immersed in the musical world, Brett enjoys an occasional soccer match. While he played soccer at a very competitive level in his youth, Brett now coaches others to their fullest potential. Brett lives in Lyme, New Hampshire with his wife. Marilyn, and two children, Addison and Lena.
Through his experiences and independent study, Brett is able to provide an interesting and unique perspective on the world of music at Oliverian. He is able to meet our students at their individual musical levels and provide them with opportunities for growth in varied areas ranging from songwriting, to music business, and recording arts. He wishes to provide our students with a music program that is engaging, challenging, fun, and focused on student compositions. Brett lives for those moments when “the creative spark ignites and gives birth to a work that was previously nonexistent.”
Kevin (Kev) Watkins, Science Teacher, grew up in Charlotte, NC, and came up to the granite state to attend Dartmouth College as an undergraduate. After majoring in environmental and evolutionary biology and receiving his teaching credential in 2004, he moved out to San Francisco and taught biology at a public charter school in East Oakland, CA. Kevin later became an environmental educator for a non-profit organization leading day-long canoe field trips into the wetlands of the San Francisco Bay, before returning to research at Emory University. While at Emory earning his Master’s degree in neuroscience, he studied social cognition in chimpanzees and the sensory neurons involved in pleasant pro-social touch between individuals.
Oliverian’s supportive and academically rigorous community nestled in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire immediately enchanted Kev. He relishes the opportunity to share his passion, energy, and excitement for the natural world with adolescents gaining comfort with their identities and recognizing their own strengths and abilities. As a science educator, he aims to inspire students capable to think critically, question scientifically, and weigh scientific information in their daily lives.
Kev is joined by his lovely wife and fellow Dartmouth alum, Laura, and their two friendly dogs, Darwin and Finley. They are all excited to contribute to the Oliverian community and enjoy all of the hiking, snowboarding, rock climbing, and canoeing opportunities the area affords.
Micah E. Weiss, Humanities Teacher, focused his college studies on his writing, staying up all-night drinking coffee, playing chess, and arguing about things he wouldn’t really understand until later in life (and some that still baffle him). Micah graduated from the City College of New York in 2006 with a degree in English literature, and not long after started his career as a teacher. He has spent the last eight years teaching in a public high school in the Bronx. In that time he taught a variety of subjects including English, global and US history, as well as several creative writing courses. In 2013 he earned an MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College. That institution’s tradition of professors and students building strong personal relationships together is something Micah hopes to incorporate into his practice as a teacher at Oliverian.
Micah is joined by his wife, Betsy, an artist who home-schools their three children, Alden, Eowyn, and Athena. Micah loves writing, reading canonical and fantasy literature, religious and medieval history, and transcendental philosophy. He follows politics a little too closely, and is very excited about the presidential election season in the coming years in New Hampshire. Micah can be found playing any number of strategy games and pen-and-paper RPGs, laughing at bad sci-fi movies with his wife, or alternatively wrestling and snuggling with any or all of his kids. He still enjoys staying up at night drinking coffee, playing chess, and arguing, though he admits his days of pulling all-nighters are long past him.