Marion Houser grew up in a military family who lived all over the U.S. She graduated from Georgia Tech in 1988 with a BS in chemistry and a minor in biology. She worked five years as a developmental scientist at Burroughs-Welcome before taking time to stay home with her four daughters. Marion has volunteered extensively in the community. She worked with the Chapel Hill Service League at Christmas House, focusing on teens. She set up math and science labs at her children’s CHCCS schools and volunteered as a literacy tutor. In 2003 she took the Augustine Literacy Project training and has worked as a tutor and tutor trainer. She has also tutored teens as a consultant for Durham Schools, working primarily with students at Lakeview. In addition, she has taught Sunday School for many years and prepared and served meals at Chapel Hill’s Interfaith Council Community Kitchen. Mrs. Houser works with students in math, high school, and she provides teacher support.
Mackenzie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (BA in Linguistics ’17) and New York University (MA in Applied Psychology: Counseling ’21). Mackenzie is passionate about providing a comprehensive counseling program that nurtures students’ academic, social/emotional, and college/career development; encouraging students to become responsible citizens, and lifelong learners.Through leadership, collaboration, and advocacy with all stakeholders she will work to provide support to maximize students’ potential. Mackenzie has four years of teaching experience, all of which were spent teaching in our middle school classroom. In her free time Mackenzie can be found spending time outside with her dogs and listening to good music!
Administrative Office Manager
Student Support Team
Julia Newman studied psychology at Vassar College and completed her work study program at the college through the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, where she assisted in giving counsel and supervision to school aged children living under the care of the state of NY. She also interned as an assistant teacher in the Harborside Montessori school in her native town of Beverly, MA. She is also trained in Mindful Schools’ K-12 curriculum which engages students in the study of their personal experiences in order to promote a grounded sense of agency. She is certified in TEACCH’s intensive training for classroom teachers of students with autism and is thrilled to have found a home at Hope Creek Academy. She loves to explore RDU, yet is often found talking about her native Massachusetts, and may even share a few pics with you without much prompting at all.
Student Support Team
Taylor graduated from Appalachian State University in 2015 and began working at Hope Creek Academy in the Fall of 2016. Prior to his current position at HCA, Taylor served as a classroom teacher in the Upper Elementary class for five school years. Taylor is currently pursuing his master’s degree in school counseling while serving as a member of the Student Support Team at Hope Creek. In his free time he enjoys playing golf and listening to the Grateful Dead.
Ginny Brooks grew up in the Richmond, VA area. She received her Masters in Special Education from The College of William and Mary and has worked in self-contained classrooms and as a resource teacher in Virginia, Oregon, and North Carolina. Ginny has taught in both public and parochial schools in Durham and tutored in home settings and at Hill Learning Center. She supervised and taught a Montessori-based Sunday School curriculum at a local Episcopal church for 9 years. She received her Augustine Literacy Project training in 2010, and this is her eleventh year at Hope Creek. Ginny and her husband live in Durham and their children have flown the coop. During her free time, Ginny enjoys listening to music, visiting thrift stores, digging in the dirt, and thinking of new strategies to help students learn.
Robin Wallace grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. She has worked at universities (Carnegie-Mellon, Stanford) as an administrator, and in high tech in Silicon Valley. She earned her K-8 California teaching credentials through Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA in 2004. Having done her student teaching in the Palo Alto schools, she taught for two years in Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, CA. In 2006, she moved to North Carolina and had long and short- term substitute teaching positions before teaching 5th grade at Mary Scroggs Elementary School. She left classroom teaching in 2014. Robin trained with The Augustine Literacy Project in 2009, and was a Coach for several summers. She started tutoring with The Hill Learning Center in 2017, and worked as an HillRap Interventionist at Y. E. Smith Elementary and Eastway Elementary. In her spare time, she likes to cook, to read (anything Jane Austen), and to go for long walks.
Camille and her husband moved down to Durham from Massachusetts in 2018 for the awesome people and weather. She had worked 8 years in the Shrewsbury middle schools as a Reading Tutor. She is very happy to be working at Hope Creek Academy where she can continue her love of helping students become fluent readers. She has her certification in the Wilson Reading Program and an MBA from Seton Hall University.
Linda McDonough graduated from Western Carolina University in 1977 with a BA in English and minors in Reading and Education. She has taught at Waynesville Junior High, Ashe Central High School, and was chair of the English Department at The Patterson School, a private boarding school with a strong Orton-Gillingham program for dyslexics. For many years she worked as a private tutor, teaching reading, writing, and spelling to dyslexic children and teens. A particular interest has been children with autism and dyslexia. From 1992 to 2008, she served as the Director of Christian Education at the Church of the Holy Family (Episcopal). She is the founder of the Augustine Literacy Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, founded at Holy Family to serve low-income children with reading difficulties. She still serves as a tutor trainer and board member. For this work she was awarded the June Lyday Orton Award for service to dyslexics by the NC International Dyslexia Association branch. She has been a foster parent and transracial adoption trainer, and she presently works as a volunteer mental health advocate and is on the board for Josh’s Hope. Formerly director of HCA, Linda now works with high school students in language arts and history and primary children in math. This is her thirteenth year at HCA.
Colan is a co-teacher in the Primary classroom, where he teaches science. Colan is from Fayetteville, North Carolina. He earned his Associates Degree in Criminal Technology from Fayetteville Tech Community College, and then moved to Boone, NC, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Appalachian State University. After graduation, he worked for the Western Youth Network as a mentor for at-risk youth. When he is not working, Colan enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons, watching movies, go karting and shopping.
Kendall Isler is a Co-Teacher in Primary and he is from Atlanta, Georgia. Kendall graduated from Lee’s McRae College in May 2017, where he studied Sports Administration, while running track. He also played basketball and coached his final year of college as a student assistant. Prior to joining HCA, Kendall mentored kids with Down Syndrome and was an Account manager for C.B. Southern Group, Inc. This is his third year at HCA and he is extremely enthusiastic for this school year and humbled to be part of the team. During his free time he enjoys working out, playing basketball, cooking and dancing.
Ms. Nunke is a licensed K-5 NC teacher with a degree in elementary education from Guilford College ’19. They taught 2nd grade for Durham Public Schools from 2019-2021 before arriving at Hope Creek Academy. Ms. Nunke and their co-teachers work to provide their students with a caring and supportive classroom that promotes a love for academic and social learning.
Anna Lee Warasila
Anna Lee Warasila (Ms. Sila) is from the Chapel Hill/Durham area and graduated from UNC Asheville in 2016 where she earned a degree in Psychology. While attending UNCA, Anna Lee focused on educational psychology, development, and took teacher prep courses where she found her love for teaching students with disabilities. Since graduating, she has attended UNC at Greensboro to study specialized education with a focus on high incidence disabilities. Anna Lee has been working with students with disabilities in many capacities, but most recently in Durham Public Schools as a resource teacher. She enjoys working with students and families to create a wonderful community in the classroom that lets every child shine bright. She is thrilled to be working in a smaller setting at Hope Creek that provides the opportunity for each child to focus on their strengths and areas of need, safely, confidently, and in their own time. Anna Lee enjoys gardening, cooking, playing with her dog Theo, and traveling.
Upper Elementary Teacher
LaRhonda Leslie graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 2011 with a B.S. degree. She moved to the RDU area in 2014. She has worked with children from birth through fifth grade for over a decade in various capacities. She has received her master’s degree from NCCU. This is her second year at Hope Creek Academy.
Upper Elementary Teacher
Kristin Mertz is a co-teacher in the Upper Elementary classroom and she is from Michigan. Kristin graduated from Michigan State University in May of 2021 with a B.A. in Comparative Cultures and Politics and an additional degree specialization in Women’s and Gender Studies. She is thrilled to begin this new chapter of her life at Hope Creek Academy. In her free time, Kristin enjoys yoga, reading, skiing, and thrifting.
Middle School Teacher
Tonia grew up in Missouri before moving to Colorado for school. She earned her B.A. in International Studies at the University of Denver, and then spent the first two years of her career in Egypt and Denver focusing on ESL instruction and remediation. For the past two years, she’s been teaching English at a school in Zahle, Lebanon, working with Syrian refugee students there. She’s currently pursuing a Master’s of Arts in Teaching ESL at Meredith College. She’s new to the area, but loves the green spaces found all around the RDU area, and getting out to run and hike in them. This is her first year at Hope Creek Academy.
Middle School Teacher
Julie Hogue is a co-teacher in the Middle School class. She grew up in Durham and has always called the Research Triangle home. She studied English and Anthropology with a concentration in Women’s Studies and UNC-CH. Her first professional job was as a co-teacher in a TEACCH demonstration classroom. She received her special education degree from Appalachian State University. She taught in Wake County Public schools in a self-contained classroom for students with behavior and emotional disorders. She was recruited by Wright School where she was the Day Teacher Counselor for the elementary and then the middle-school aged group. She returned to Wake County in a newly created role to support special education teachers. She consulted with teachers, provided district wide staff development, and was a case manager for a small number of high needs students. She took a break from public school and earned her MSW from UNC-CH. Her concentration was Mental Health. She worked as a therapist providing outpatient services for adults and adolescents. She helped to design a day treatment program for Wake County School that was based on the principles of ReEducation. She served as the clinician for the program serving elementary and middle school students and their families. She left the Bridges Program to lead the Intensive Intervention Team, supervising a group of social workers, reading specialists and special education teachers serving the highest need students in Wake County. Julie left public education to stay home with her two sons. During that time she worked intermittently as a trainer providing clinical supervision. After her stint as a stay at home mom, she returned to the Wright School as a Liaison Teacher Counselor, helping students to transition into Wright School and then back home. She left Wright School and returned to Chapel Hill Public schools in order to be on the same calendar as her kids. She worked as an Elementary Resource teacher (Ephesus Elementary) and then as a Middle School Resource teacher (Phillips Middle). Julie retired from public education in the fall of 2020. She joined the team at Hope Creek Academy in the fall of 2021. In her free time she enjoys cooking, reading and scuba diving.
Additional Areas of training or certification that inform her approach: TEACCH training, Social Thinking, Play Therapy, Hill Reading and Writing Interventions, Restorative Practices, Reality Therapy, Restitution
Supported Learning Teacher
Lisa a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, with a degree in Business and German. All three of her adult sons have various disabilities, including attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, and a mental illness. Lisa has worked in regular education and special education classrooms in a variety of capacities: as a volunteer, as a substitute teacher, as a reading tutor, and as a teaching assistant. She was an autism specialist for the Autism Society of NC as well as a private consultant in the areas of special education, special education law, and Individualized Education Programs. As such, Lisa has presented at local, regional, and national conferences on topics related to autism spectrum disorders (from the basics to teenage issues to parental involvement). She has received training by the Augustine Literacy Project, TEACCH for classroom teachers, Lindamood-Bell (Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking; Talkies: Visualizing and Verbalizing for Oral Language Comprehension and Expression), Bal-A-Vis-X, and Social Thinking (Michelle Garcia Winner), among others. She has been a teacher at Hope Creek Academy since 2015.
Supported Learning Teacher
Maria began as a parent volunteer of the school in 2013. She enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to teach language arts in the high school/middle school classroom the following year. She jumped even higher when asked to team up with Mr. Williams in the middle school classroom for the 2015-2016 school year. In preparation for that year she trained with the Augustine Literacy Project. She has had some TEACCH training. Ms. Dontas speaks Spanish fluently and is learning Greek. She is a student of the world and since 1988 she has also attended The North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, Stonybrook University in Long Island, NY, and The New School in NYC, NY. She continues to take classes when time and her busy life will allow. She is married and has two children, one of whom attends HCA. She sings in her church choir and enjoys movies, the theater, all animals, your kids, and life!
Supported Learning Teacher
Katie Fain is a proud Durhamite, and has loved exploring the Triangle since coming back to Durham in 2017. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Wofford College and has since served individuals with disabilities in many capacities. Katie was a cabin counselor at Victory Junction Camp, the Family Care Coordinator at the Ronald McDonald House of Durham and Wake, and-spent the last three years as a teacher for Durham Public Schools in a separate setting classroom for students with autism. Katie is so excited to join the Hope Creek Academy team and meet all of your awesome kiddos! In her spare time, Katie loves to thrift, go to the beach, travel, spend time with her husband, and do anything related to dogs!
High School Teacher
Jim is a North Carolina native. He attended Western Carolina University with a major in Psychology and Sociology. He brings a variety of work experience including twenty plus years in retail management, eight years with Wake County Area Mental Health as a Teacher Parent Supervisor working with behaviorally disordered youth, two years as a Substance Abuse Counselor in the adolescent unit at Charter Northridge Hospital, and 15 years as a professional photographer. After working as a substitute at HCA, he joined the teaching staff full-time.
High School Teacher
Rob Hirtz earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in English and psychology, and his Master’s degree in Liberal Studies from Duke. After a brief career in advertising, Rob became involved with political campaigns as a campaign manager and consultant with several non-profit organizations, including the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as a consultant on mental health issues with Pennsylvania state government. During this time, Rob also worked as a political reporter and columnist for Philadelphia City Paper, and as a political commentator on Morning Edition for Philadelphia’s public radio station, WHYY. He then moved to Durham, where, after he and his wife Jenny authored a travel guide to North Carolina (The North Carolina Handbook), he became an editor with Duke University. After almost 20 years with Duke, Rob moved on to become a special education teacher with the Durham public school district, before joining Hope Creek Academy in 2019.
Independence Academy Teacher
CJ earned her BA in Psychology at Meredith College. CJ participated in the Meredith College Autism Program (M.A.P.) and received extensive training in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT), working with children aged 2-7 in school and home settings. After graduation she was offered a staff position at M.A.P. providing one-on-one teaching and assisting the behavioral consultants and director with training and supervising undergraduate student teachers in ABA and DTT techniques. While completing her Masters in Education for Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support at UNC-Chapel Hill, she continued to work with children with autism aged 5-9 in home and community settings, gaining training and experience using Verbal Behavior teaching techniques. She thoroughly enjoys eating tacos, watching soccer, and being a stellar human parent to her doggies.
Cat Raye Monroe
Independence Academy Teacher
Cat is a Georgia native happy to be here in North Carolina. . She received her BA in English with a minor in poetry writing from Kennesaw State University in 2014. During this time she also completed the Education certification program for secondary education. After spending a year teaching in a local highschool, Cat decided to combine her love of education with her love of theater. In addition to acting and directing, Cat helped develop and run several children’s theater programs. These programs focused on offering free acting and improv classes to kids with various levels of experience and previous knowledge. She has been teaching at HCA since 2021. In her free time Cat enjoys reading, cooking, playing board games with friends and hanging out with her dog.