Columbia Academy Preschools and Elementary and Middle School feature only the most talented, educated, and committed educational professionals the state of Maryland has to offer.
Our tight network of support and continuing education programs make our staff not just one of the most qualified, but one of the most gratified and enthusiastic. Here you can get to know our professional faculty a little better. Feel free to look around, and as always, if you would like to meet in person, simply drop us a line and we can arrange a meeting.
Each of our staff members undergoes an extensive state and federal criminal background check and a thoroughly reviewed interview process before being considered for their position.
Meet Our Staff
My name is Britney Buchen and this is my second year at Columbia Academy. I am currently the third grade teacher at Columbia Academy. I received my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Liberal Arts and Technology from Stevenson University. I have not always lived in Maryland. I grew up in northern New Jersey but adapted quickly to the Maryland lifestyle. I am excited to be in a small classroom setting where I can connect with all the students and help to meet their individual needs!
I am originally from Jamaica, but I have lived here for over 30 years, and became a naturalized American citizen more than 20 years ago. I am married with two adult children. This is my 18th year at Columbia Academy, and each one has been full of excitement. It has been very rewarding to watch some of my kindergarteners become college students and maintain contact with them over the years. Another year is off to a wonderful start and I am happy to be a part of this great community.
Hi! My name is Laura Cleveland and I will be one of the Junior Kindergarten Teachers at Columbia Academy this year. I graduated from Western Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Elementary Education. I have taught Kindergarten for 9 years and first grade for 8 years. I am excited to be joining the Junior Kindergarten team.
My name is Mark Etzel and I joined the Columbia Academy team in the summer of 2013. I have worked as a second grade teacher, fifth grade teacher, college professor of education, instructor for the Howard County Office of Children’s Services, elementary school assistant principal, and now as the administrative head of Columbia Academy Elementary and Middle School. For the past 22 years I have enjoyed many opportunities to teach in the classroom and provide educational leadership to various schools in Maryland. I feel privileged and excited to be a part of the Columbia Academy organization!
Hello, my name is Kristin Hinrichs and I am the art teacher at Columbia Academy. I have a bachelor’s degree in Art History from Rollins College as well as graduate credits in Art Education. I currently hold two teaching certificates for art Pre-K through 12th grade; one in Florida and one in Maryland. Prior to Columbia Academy I taught art at a public elementary school in Orlando, Florida. My husband and I relocated to Maryland in 2013 and I really love all that the area has to offer. Before Maryland I lived in the Orlando area for 11 years and before that I lived in Cairo, Egypt for eight years. Art is truly my passion and I love teaching the students at Columbia Academy. It brings me joy to see what a child’s imagination and creativity can do!
I am happy to be starting my tenth year teaching middle school Language Arts and English at Columbia Academy and my 21st year of teaching. I began my career in Carroll County Public Schools teaching eighth grade Reading at Sykesville Middle School for three years and seventh and eighth grade Language Arts at Oklahoma Road Middle School for two years. While at those schools, I established and advised drama clubs and directed musicals and a talent show. I spent seven years teaching English and Drama at South Carroll High School and served as their drama director. I then spent the next three years working as a stay-at-home mom, raising my young son before joining the faculty of Columbia Academy, which I now call home!
Hello, my name is Dwight James. I’m very excited about joining Columbia Academy as the daily substitute teacher in support of an excellent teaching staff. I have a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a minor in Animal Science and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Oregon State University. I hold current Texas, Utah, and Maryland Elementary Teaching Credentials. In my 21 years as a public school teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to teach preschool through eighth grade. Two years ago my wife and I moved to Maryland from Utah, where I taught first and second grade for 14 years. Since our move, I taught first grade in Chevy Chase for a year and worked as a National Park Service Ranger at Catoctin Mountain Park. I am now very happy to become part of the Columbia Academy family!
My name is Doug Jesse, and this is my first year as the Physical Education teacher at Columbia Academy. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development from Cornell University and two Master of Education degrees from Wagner College. I spent seven years as an NCAA wrestling coach before embarking on my teaching career. I have experience teaching fifth grade Math, Kindergarten, and Pre-K, as well as P.E. In addition to teaching at Columbia Academy, I am also entering my sixth season as the head wrestling coach at Glenelg Country School. I enjoy all types of sports and physical activity and am a huge fan of Ohio State, as well as pro sports teams from Pittsburgh. I am excited to work with the students of Columbia Academy!
Hi! My name is Sherida Kernslong and I am the school’s registrar. I was born in Tacoma, Washington and have lived in six different states over my lifetime. My last move landed me in Maryland back in 2006 where I finished my schooling, met and married my wonderful husband and had three awesome kids. From June 2009 to January 2017, I had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom which allowed me to devote endless hours to my family and community while furthering my education. While it was a great experience for me, I am more than happy (and ready) to start my new career at Columbia Academy. During my free time, I can be found enjoying a movie with my husband, cheering my oldest two kids at their basketball games, snuggling with my youngest, or lost in a book.
My name is Melinda Lefler and I teach fourth grade. This is my seventh year here at Columbia Academy. I was a substitute for Junior Kindergarten through eighth grade for a year before teaching third grade for several years. I received my bachelor’s in Elementary Education with a minor in Mathematics from Salisbury University. I have lived in Maryland my whole life, so I have grown up loving the Orioles and the Redskins. I try to find ways to incorporate technology into my many lessons and love working with the kids every day!
My name is Shelby McGinnis and this is my first year with Columbia Academy. I have a bachelor of science degree in Recreation Management with a concentration in Outdoor Experiential Education, as well as a minor in Psychology from Appalachian State University. Having spent most of my life in North Carolina, I am excited to being living in Maryland now and am eager to work with our excellent administrative team to bring the best extended care to your kiddos.
My name is Allison McLaughlin and I am the school’s library media specialist. This is my eighth year teaching elementary school, and my seventh year here at Columbia Academy. I received my bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Oklahoma State University and also hold a master’s degree in Instructional Technology and School Library Media from Towson University. I grew up in Oklahoma and moved to Maryland with my husband in 2010. I am an avid Indianapolis Colts and Oklahoma State fan, and I also enjoy baking and reading!
My name is Tim Miller and I am a six year plus employee. My duties include repair and maintenance of all buildings and playgrounds at all locations. I have been a hands-on fix-it guy since I can remember. I recently got married and live in Catonsville. I enjoy hanging out with my large family and riding motorcycles.
I’m Michelle Morin, and this is my twelfth year teaching first grade at Columbia Academy. I love working with young children and find each day exciting and rewarding. I am looking forward to a great year with my new students and their families. I have a bachelor’s degree in Family Studies with a concentration in Children and Family Services from Towson University. I am currently working to finish my Masters of Education in Reading at Towson University. During my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband, nieces, nephews, friends, and family. I also enjoy running, shopping, travel, and reading.
Hello, my name is Lucas Pereira and I am the Spanish Teacher at Columbia Academy. I was born and raised in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. I went to school in Takoma Park, Maryland at Washington Adventist University where I studied for my Bachelor of Science in Physical Education. I love learning about new cultures and new languages and am so excited to share that love with the students. I love soccer and my favorite teams include Barcelona and Chelsea. I hope to be hearing a lot of Spanish in the hallways of Columbia Academy very soon!
My name is Amanda Price, and this will be my first year teaching music at Columbia Academy. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, I have earned a Bachelor of Music concentrating on PK-12 Music Education, and hold current teaching certifications with the states of Maryland and Virginia. I taught elementary band, orchestra, and general music in Arlington County Public Schools for two years, and taught middle school choir in Howard County for one year. Music is an integral part of being human; we create it, we recreate it, we listen to it every day. We distinguish voices of different pitches and timbres over the phone. We sing in the shower. We beat out rhythms with our hands on the steering wheel as we sit in traffic. Music is important to us; Music Education is what helps us to realize that. My students will sing, dance, play instruments, study theory and history, and explore music through various projects and activities. I look forward to guiding every student on their journey here at Columbia Academy!
Hello! My name is Gaby Rivas. This is my second year at Columbia Academy EMS and I am currently teaching kindergarten. I spent the last year working as an instructional assistant alongside one of our wonderful Junior Kindergarten teachers, in addition to working as the daily substitute and summer camp teacher. Prior to coming to Columbia Academy, I worked as a Program Assistant at the Boys and Girls Club of Frederick County, where I was able to instruct and work closely alongside a diverse group of children ranging from the ages of 6-14. I am very proud and excited to be a part of the kindergarten and extended care program team at Columbia Academy and I look forward to a great school year!
Hello, my name is Linda Rossiter and I am thoroughly enjoying my sixth year teaching at Columbia Academy. Previously I had taught Kindergarten at a private, Catholic school in Howard County, preschool in Hanover and spent many years working in Washington, D.C., mainly involved in grassroots lobbying. I am now the Junior Kindergarten teacher in room 7! My most important career has been as mom to my two wonderful sons. I was born and raised in Maryland and have lived in Columbia since the early 90’s. My family always includes animals, especially dogs (yes, at least two!) In my free time I read (and am a frequent library visitor), work on home improvement projects, cook, play the piano and take photographs. I am lucky enough to have my extended family close by and we like getting together for steamed crabs and good conversation. I enjoy so many aspects of our diverse community and I LOVE living and working in Columbia. Teaching young children is so rewarding and everyday is a new adventure with my many best friends!
Hello, my name is Terry Russell. This is my first year teaching Junior Kindergarten at Columbia Academy. I am excited to be a part of such a wonderful team of educators. I have my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Ashford University where I graduated with honors. Before becoming a part of Columbia Academy, I taught for Cecil County Public schools and Cecil College. Teaching is my passion! I love coming to work and seeing the world through children's eyes. Every day is an adventure, and their love for learning keeps me motivated to be the best teacher I can be. In my free time I enjoy spending quality time with my family, reading, shopping and traveling. I am also a huge Baltimore Ravens fan! I look forward to a fun and rewarding year at Columbia Academy!
Hello, my name is Varsha Thomas, and this is my third year as a middle school Science teacher and my first year at Columbia Academy. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Teaching from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I was born and raised in Maryland and have always enjoyed living so close to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. I love to travel, attend baseball games, and spend time with friends and family. I teach with a passion for my subject so that my students develop a desire to become lifelong learners. My approach to teaching Science involves an inquiry-based, hands-on experience for students. I am excited to be part of the Columbia Academy community and look forward to a great year!
Hello, my name is Christina Torres and this is my ninth year teaching at Columbia Academy. My first year here I taught first grade and for the past eight years I have been teaching second grade. I received my bachelors in Elementary Education from Eastern University. This past summer, my husband and I welcomed our daughter the day before our wedding anniversary. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, taking my dogs to the park, horseback riding, and dancing! I am looking forward to a successful year in second grade and I am excited to get to know everyone.
This will be my seventh year at Columbia Academy, and my 21st year teaching first grade. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a certificate in Elementary Education from UMBC. I have two daughters, both of whom hold degrees in Education. In my free time, I enjoy reading, shopping, and spending time with friends. This year I am looking forward to working with my students as they learn, have fun, and experience new adventures.
Greetings! I am Bob Woodard. This is my second of many years at Columbia Academy as the middle school Math teacher. I am a Tennessee native (GO VOLS!) and I currently attend University of Maryland (GO TERPS!). I received my B.A. from Fisk University in 2001. I then received my Masters of Education in 2008. I have 11 years of teaching experience from Georgia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. I enjoy collecting maps, Jeopardy, and I love to travel.