Middle School and Upper School Math Teacher
Degree: B.A. Virginia Wesleyan University
Gabby loves working with children of all ages as they truly brighten her day, but she's especially fond of seeing the growth in concepts as middle schoolers move through the years. Teaching at Friends gives her an opportunity to share her love of math while also advocating for students' social and emotional development. Geometry, Algebra and problem solving are her favorite math concentrations and her goal at Friends School is to help change children's attitudes towards math by growing their confidence in the subject. Her students describe her as funny, crazy (in a good way!) and supportive.
Admission and Social Media Specialist
Degree: B.B.A. James Madison University
Tamra first joined the community as a parent to two littles; she quickly took her passion for serving local entrepreneurs into the education realm by helping to develop the fresh Friends brand. As a born and raised local who previously didn't know anything about the school, she and her husband, have truly bought in to sharing the best of Friends with the Virginia Beach community. By first meet and greet experiences with tours and applications all the way to the public eye through imagery, Tamra enjoys cultivating the Quaker values of SPICES through interactions in-person and on social media. With her business management background and entrepreneurship journeys, she brings a fresh enthusiasm each day to our campus.
Lead Extended Day Specialist
Degree: A.S in General Education, Tidewater Community College
Jeaneen joins VBFS as Lead Extended Day Specialist with 8 years of experience working with and caring for young children. She has a passion for learning and growth, especially enriching young minds through play and mindful experiences. She is deeply committed to providing a creative and engaging environment for children who love to play, learn, and make new friends!
Middle & Upper School Spanish Teacher
Degrees: Pursuing PHD in organizational leadership
M.A. Old Dominion University
B.A. Spanish Education Old Dominion University
Devin became a teacher so that she could share her love of language, culture, and travel! Her passion for culture permeates her classroom in her exuberant teaching style. She loves to dive into the history, celebrations, food and colloquialisms of other countries. Devin is often known for being the ""school mom,"" making connections with the students that far outlast the classroom. She loves teaching Middle and High School because students are able to appreciate the complexities of learning about new cultures and languages while also keeping her up to date with current trends, fashion and music! Devin believes in being a citizen of the world and makes it a priority to travel every chance she gets and stays up to date on social and political movements in many different countries.
Head of School
Degrees: Masters in Secondary Education from American University
B.A. Muhlenberg College
Mike brings twenty-five years of public and private school education experience to his position as the Head of School at Virginia Beach Friends School. Mike has held teaching and administration positions from coast to coast. Starting his career in Maryland with positions at Georgetown Preparatory School in residence life and Montgomery Blair High School as a 10th and 11th grade English teacher, Mike learned early on that regardless of a school's age, size, or reputation, it's all about the "fit." When the academic "fit" of a school matches a student's personality and goals, the sky's the limit. Mike's administration experiences range from the university level working as an NYU admissions counselor to being the founding admissions director at Stuart Hall High School in San Francisco, a member of Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco. Mike's introduction to Quaker education came in his role as the Dean of Students at Moses Brown School in Providence, RI. Most recently, Mike brings a passion for whole-child education developed during his time as the Assistant Head of School then Head of School at Quest Montessori School in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
Director of Development
Degrees: Masters in Business Administration, Old Dominion University
B.M. James Madison University
Virginia Beach native, Anna is mother to three young children, with her oldest son attending first grade at Friends School. She thrives in a fast-paced environment and with three little ones in tow, considers herself a problem solver and task master. After past corporate experience, owning a small business, and a stint as a stay at home mom, Anna eventually found herself in her element when leading the social and fundraising committee at Beach Day School. After a few years volunteering at Beach Day, she now puts her MBA with a background in marketing to use by planning fundraising events and focusing on the growth and development of Friends School. She is thrilled to be part of the Friends School community and of the success of her children’s education here. It’s an exciting time to be part of this organization and she can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Friends School!
Director of First Adventures at Friends and First and Second Grade Teacher Assistant
After spending many years in the legal field, Sarah left her career when her daughter, Zoe, who is enrolled at VBFS in the kindergarten program, was six months old. While being a stay-at-home mom, Sarah became Secretary of a local chapter "mom's club", and eventually was voted President. Her responsibilities were to seek out and plan fun and engaging events for children. Now with both of her children enrolled at Friends, Theo is enrolled in the Cottage program, she was hired to be the Director of First Adventure's at Friends, an infant through four year old grown up and me program. The program was planned to begin this past fall, but with the current pandemic, VBFS has to delay the inaugural year of the program until the Spring of 2021. Sarah was still very interested in helping out at the school as much as possible and excited to be in the 1st and 2nd grade classroom!
Kindergarten Assistant Teacher
Pursuing A.S. degree in Elementary Education from Tidewater Community College
Sarah joins VBFS as the Kindergarten Assistant Teacher with three years of early childhood teaching experience from St. Gregory the Great School. She enjoys getting to know her students and finding their passions and abilities to enable them to focus on developing their gifts. Sarah instills the Quaker Principles into her teaching, specifically helping children find their "inner light", and their peers' "inner light" as well.
Degrees: Sociology from Old Dominion University
Virginia Certification Preschool - 4th grade
National Institute of Learning Development: Educational Therapist- Level 3 Trained
Susan is our on-site learning specialist working with children of all ages to provide educational support and skill-building. She provides one on one teaching as well as supports teachers in working with students who have learning differences. She loves discovering the unique qualities and needs of each child and identifying how they learn best. Witnessing each student's sense of joy that comes with understanding something that was previously challenging is the gift of sharing her expertise. Susan's teaching passions are word analysis, vocabulary development, writing skills and reading comprehension. Teaching and learning comes naturally to Susan as the eldest of 5 siblings, so stepping into a classroom truly feels like home.
Lead Extended Day Specialist
Degrees: Pursuing Bachelor's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Old Dominion University
Ilana joins VBFS as the Lead Extended Day Specialist for the 2020-2021 academic year. We are excited for Ilana to join our team, as she is an alumna of VBFS! Ilana has previously been employed as a Camp Counselor for Simon Family JCC and Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club. Ilana is thrilled to return to her high school alma mater! She always knew she would return to Friends, and is looking to begin in career when she graduates from Old Dominion University next year.
Degrees: B.E.D. University of Toledo
Graduate work at UVA
Sandra is a proactive, pioneering administrator who focuses on the staff and inspires the students. She worked as the Assistant Director and Director at a Montessori school locally for over 8 years and also a teacher at Baylake Pines for 29 years. Her wealth of knowledge in management, methodology and education is precise and plentiful. She is exactly the kind of Academic Dean VBFS needs as we continue to grow our programs.
Courtney is an avid reader and lover of books. Starting in Elementary school, she made the Library her home away from home. Now as the VBFS Librarian, she hopes to instill that same love and passion for reading in each and every Friends School student. Courtney has rebuilt the library program into a special class that aids students in learning the foundations of stories, and to develop the critical thinking skills needed to isolate and understand many different concepts. She hopes the library will forever be a safe place for students to explore and engage new thoughts and ideas.
Middle and Upper School History Teacher
Degrees: Associates Degree in Liberal Arts - New River Community College
Bachelors of Science in History and Political Science - Radford University
Master in United States History and Government - Ashland University
Danny Grondin is a lifelong resident of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Danny began his career at Friends School as a soccer coach and PE teacher well over a decade ago. His students describe him as passionate, dedicated, knowledgeable and caring. Throughout his time at Friends, Danny has taught classes in every division and served in a variety of leadership roles within the school community. However, Danny's real passion is teaching history and government in the upper school with a dedication to developing responsible and engaged global citizens. Danny is committed to the belief that our students are the future of the world and as such the ripple effect teachers create can be endless.
Master Gardener for Experiential Learning
Degree: B.S. Human Service & Counseling, minor in psychology, diversity studies focus, Old Dominion University
Pursuing Masters Degree in Sustainable Regional and Urban Planning, University of Florida
Rachel has worked in horticulture for over twenty years, beginning at the Norfolk Botanical Garden and presently as the Landscape Coordinator at Old Dominion University. A career horticulturist, she holds an AAS in Horticulture Design and Management, Certifications in Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional Level 1- Maintenance and Level 2- Design and Installation of conservation and resilient landscapes and completed a 100 hour Permaculture Design Certificate in September 2019. As a 500 hour RYT, Registered Yoga Teacher and Restorative Breathwork Facilitator she is able to introduce breath and body awareness into garden sessions. She loves the excitement and genuine love for the school community, curriculum and project-based learning approach to education here at Friends. Facilitating a relationship between students and the natural world, through the lens of gardening brings her great joy. She is passionate about nature's patterns, cycles and cultivating the understanding of reciprocity between plants and people.
Pre-Kindergarten Lead Teacher
Degree: A.S., Early Childhood Education, Tidewater Community College
Tanya loves the early childhood program because this is the time when students' personalities blossom and she truly enjoys seeing the "light bulb" go on when they catch on and learn something new. Her favorite subject to teach is math because it involves other disciplines such as phonics, the alphabet, sounds, and correct formation of letters and numbers. Tanya has numerous certifications in specific early childhood learning, such as; emergent drawing, pre-writing skills, foundation blocks and milestones, and sensory solutions. She is also certified in Creative Curriculum, which is the Pre-Kindergarten program at VBFS. She served as a Sunday School Director for almost 10 years, worked in the public school Pre-K program for 6 years and in a private daycare for 3 years. Her teaching began as a stay at home mother and then home schooled her oldest children. "As mothers we are all truly the first teachers our children have." Did we mention Tanya has 8 children? Two are teachers and one attends Friends School!
Assistant Head of School and Chief Financial Officer
Degrees: M.S. Wilmington University
B.S. Liberty University
Candice Jarden joined VBFS in July 2019. She has 11 years of independent school experience, of which 8 of them are specifically at Quaker schools. She has a passion for Quaker education and the play-based, experiential learning model at VBFS. Her daughter Charleston is enrolled at VBFS in the Kindergarten program. Candice initially had plans to begin a law career, but joined her first independent school in Maryland at The Salisbury School, and fell in love with the students, faculty and community! From there she went on to Cambridge Friends School in Cambridge, MA and has now planted roots in Virginia Beach when she joined Friends School. As the Assistant Head of School and Chief Financial Officer, Candice manages the finances, human resources, facilities and enrollment at Friends. She is an accomplished independent school administrator, guiding three schools through strategic planning and accreditation processes, along with detailed financial and enrollment management skills.
First/Second Grade Teacher
Degrees: B.A in Interdisciplinary Studies, concentration Pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade
Caitlin joins VBFS as the new 1st/2nd grade teacher. She joins Teacher Katie for the 2020-2021 academic year as Friends opened a second 1st/2nd grade classroom! Caitlin is a certified teacher for elementary education, Pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade. Previously the 1st grade teacher at Atlantic Shores Christian School, Caitlin is excited to come back to VBFS as she is an alumna of the school! She describes her time as a student at Friends as inspiring, shaping who she is today and guiding her with her moral compass. Integrity and community are the two Quaker principles that she specifically learned during her years as a student at Friends School. Caitlin strives to create an environment of love and security in the classroom so that students feel comfortable to take risks and make mistakes academically and socially. VBFS is excited to have Caitlin back where she started, and teaching the students the same Quaker principles she once learned.
Music Teacher - All Divisions
Degrees: M.M. Shenandoah Conservatory
B.M. Old Dominion University
Thomas is a resident composer of Virginia Beach, VA and in addition to teaching at Friends he teaches composition, theory, and other music subjects in ODU’s Community Music Division. Thomas has composed original music for high school bands, jazz bands, marching bands, and local ensembles; served as a guest conductor for local ensembles, a clinician for student ensembles, and served as a judge for solo festivals. He really enjoys working with all ages, each requiring different teaching approaches for their varied stages of development and knowledge. Thomas said "3rd and 4th graders are inquisitive and middle school students provide the most creative content and performance variety." We are very grateful to have such a talented and passionate composer and educator at our school.
Early and Lower School Spanish Teacher
Degree: B.A. Saint Joseph’s University
Maestra Kate became a teacher in order to share her love of speaking the Spanish language; knowing another language is empowering and broadens horizons tremendously. She loves seeing her students gain confidence in their abilities, from new songs to counting and identifying things about themselves and their world in Spanish. She also loves teaching about Hispanic culture and helping them connect with Spanish speaking countries in ways that are meaningful and relatable to them. Maestra's methods of teaching often involve student's full body participation in the learning, which makes her classroom active and fun and also imprints the new knowledge. From raising her own children to teaching Sunday School, every area of her life encompasess teaching and she wouldn't have it any other way.
Kindergarten Lead Teacher
Degrees: Penn State and Old Dominion University
Kate loves teaching Kindergartners! She came to Friends as a parent of a preschooler and fell in love with the school. After becoming a full time assistant she quickly found her passion for children, and returned to school for education. She hopes her students would describe her as "fun and a little nutty! But always willing to help them with anything." Kate is known for getting her hands dirty in the garden and walking around with snakes draped around her neck. In addition to caring for animals, she loves people too, coming to Friends with over 25 years in the service industry, where she really developed her people skills. Her childhood in Pennsylvania is where she developed her passion for nature. She loves cultivating that shared joy alongside children of all ages, gaining intrinsic rewards from each grade level.
Square Dancing & Handwriting Specialist
Degree: B.S. in Education and Psychology, Rhode Island College
1st & 2nd grade teacher
Degrees: M. Ed. K-12 Special Ed Regent University
B.S. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Katie's career in education has been diverse, from working as a special education teacher working with students with Autism and ADHD to teaching in a Montessori environment. She finds so much joy in working with students with different learning abilities and also enjoys the challenge of creating new methods of reaching each student in a unique ways to fit their needs. Katie believes in the importance of a specially designed and prepared environment, the power of a child’s “absorbent mind,” and the efficacy of hands-on learning. Committed to Social and Emotional Learning, Katie loves supporting students as their personalities and maturity develop in the elementary years. Her favorite thing about teaching the 1st and 2nd grade age group is that she gets to see a tremendous amount of growth, academically and personally, in a child from September to June.
K through 8 Science Teacher
Degrees: Master in Business Administration, Old Dominion University
Bachelor of Science, University of Maryland
Barbara is excited about the 2020-2021 academic year! She is transitioning from teaching upper school students at VBFS to teaching science for all of our kindergarten through eighth grade students. Barbara returned to VBFS in 2019 after teaching science from 2001-2006 at Friends. Barbara is a seasoned educator with over nineteen years of teaching science in independent schools across Hampton Roads.
Middle School English & History Teacher and Full School Drama Teacher
Degree: B.F.A. Emerson College
Megan Murphy graduated Cum Laude from Boston's Emerson College and holds Virginia teaching certifications for Pre-K through 3rd Grade and Middle School English. Prior to her arrival at Friends, Megan owned The Children's Academy for the Arts, a performing and creative arts academy for children. Megan was the recipient of both an ALLI and a Governor's Award for the Arts for her work with Hampton Roads children. Megan currently teaches history and English in the Middle School. She is also the school’s drama teacher. Over the years, she and her family have written and produced several musicals for Friends School students. Megan is an active leader at the school; she has coached the school forensics teams for more than ten years and headed numerous fundraisers on behalf of the Friends School community. For one fundraiser, Megan actually slept on the roof of the Early School building! In addition to her work in the classroom, Megan enjoys creating art and spending time with her family.
Department Chair of Visual Arts
Degrees: B.F.A. The University of the Arts Philadelphia Studied Abroad at: Illaboratorio per Affresco *Qualified professional technique certified by the Italian Government under Leonetto Tintori
With over 22 years of experience in teaching at MOCA (previously known as the Contemporary Art Center) and 12 years with us at Friends. James inspires students and adults with his amazing artistic skills and talent. He works with every age demographic and specifically enjoys the early childhood group, anticipating the discovery moment when they "get it", which makes all of the hard work worth it. Life drawing, independent film, classical arts and contemporary forms are a few of his favorite lessons to teach. His wealth of knowledge from studying abroad, to extensive field experience and on site experiences at places like the Philadelphia Zoo, glass blowing studios and outdoor adventures, help shape his passion towards art. Ultimately, he became a teacher because he loves sharing what was shared with him- a passion for creating.
Pre-Kindergarten Assistant Teacher
Degree: B.S. Speech and Language Pathology, Old Dominion University
VBFS is excited to have Lindsey join the Early School Program! Lindsey loves working with preschool aged children. She thrives in helping build a strong foundation for learning for our littlest students . It is such a joy for Lindsey to witness children learn new skills and explore interests in their early stages of education. Lindsey specializes in early childhood speech and language development. Lindsey has 8 years of experience with pre-kindergarten students. Before coming to Friends School, Lindsey was employed at the ODU Children's Learning and Research Center. Lindsey is thrilled to be at VBFS and enrolled her son Mason in the Cottage program.
Degrees: A.S, ECPI
Tonya joins the VBFS as our first ever full-time cleaning staff member! Tonya is excited to join Friends and her two sons are also enrolled in the 1st and 4th grade!
Lead Cottage Teacher
Degree: AS in Early Childhood Education Bryant and Stratton
Pursuing B.S in Early Childhood Education, Regent University
Tieshia comes to VBFS from Courthouse Montessori School where she was the lead Toddler Teacher for 18 years. She is certified in Infant, Toddler and Twos Montessori Teaching with the North American Montessori Center. Tieshia's Montessori background meshes perfectly with Friends education and the pedagogy of teaching to the whole child. Tieshia instantly and instinctually gravitates to the Quaker testimonies (S.P.I.C.E.S) and sees working in a classroom guided by these values as an extension of the Montessori philosophy, a philosophy that believes teachers act as guides who follow children. Her two sons are also students at VBFS.
First/Second Grade Teacher Assistant
Degrees: MBA, Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary
BA in Art History, College of William and Mary
Barbara joins VBFS not only as the First/Second Grade Teacher Assistant, but also as a parent of her 5th grade VBFS student, Mason, and the yoga teacher for our last graduating senior class! Barbara has decades of experience around child development and teaching yoga to young students. She is a yoga certified teacher, certified in pre-natal yoga and Ayurvedic Wellness. Attending a local independent school in her youth, Barbara has been around independent schools her entire life and is excited to join VBFS and bring her skills to enhance the First/Second Grade curriculum.
3rd & 4th Grade Teacher
Degrees: M.S. Education, University of Miami Florida
Bachelors in Anthropology, Binghamton University
Dafna Sonnenthal is a career educator who has worked with children and adults in primary, secondary, and college level programs. She is a certified licensed educator for third through sixth grade, and for teaching English as a second language for pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. She has taught in inner-city public schools as well as at one of the nation's oldest private academies. A highlight of her early career was having Queen Elizabeth visit her classroom in Miami to showcase her English as a Second Language students and curriculum. Dafna has taught at the Virginia Beach Friends School for over a decade. Here she has enjoyed melding the high ideals of the Quaker social and spiritual framework with innovative methods for optimizing student appreciation and learning of today's subject matter. Beyond the classroom, Dafna loves the art of photography, and is always looking to capture compelling moments with families, children and surfers against the natural beauty in and around Virginia Beach. She and her husband live in Virginia Beach and currently have two Friends early-school alumni attending university.
Cottage Assistant Teacher
Maritza Sutyak joined VBFS in 2019 as the Extended Day Specialist and Kindergarten Assistant. For the 2020-2021 academic year, she has teamed up with her long-time friend and co-educator from Courthouse Montessori as the Cottage Assistant Teacher! Maritza has fourteen years of experience with infants to three years in a classroom setting as an assistant teacher. Previously, for five years, Maritza was a swim instructor teaching students ages one to twelve and coached volleyball for three years. She has numerous early childhood certifications in toddler development, cultural diversity, literacy play, and outdoor learning environments.
Guidance Counselor and College Advisor
Degrees: M.A. Sociology Old Dominion University
B.S. Speech Pathology and Audiology and Human Services Counseling, Old Dominion University
Dee has worked with children and young adults ages 5- 21 for more 20 years providing community-based services to ensure at risk families are able to acquire the necessary skills to keep the family unit intact. She has also worked with Hampton Roads Public schools to provide counseling and case management services to students who were at risk of losing their educational placement due to mental health and/or behavioral issues. Teacher Dee is a strong advocate of Social Emotional Education and believes strong social skills are essential to academic and life success. Her personal passions include attending spoken word performances and writing short stories and essays. Our student population is so fortunate to have her caring heart and knowledgeable insight.
Roberta is the best Office Manager around. She doesn't just work for one administrator, she works for multiple and she does so beautifully! Roberta has worn many hats at VBFS since 2011 - subbing as a teacher's assistant, school purchasing and helping the front office. She also assisted in the Business and Development Office. As a Friends School parent, her daughter Courtney graduated in 2015. She moved to Virginia Beach from New York; and worked 25 years for Lillian Vernon as a Supervisor, Manager of Quality Call handling, and 2 years as an accounting associate for an Apartment Community.
She has completed various classes for business leadership through Tidewater Community College and attended many workshops on leadership roles for women and telephone skills. In her spare time, Roberta enjoys cooking, inventing spice blends and travelling when she can. Mostly, her role as a mom to a law student is the most rewarding!
Athletic & Special Programs Director, PE Teacher
Degree: B.A. Old Dominion University
Jason has been with the VBFS community since 2009, where he started as the head coach of our girls' volleyball program. He transitioned to a full-time teaching capacity in the fall of 2014, and then into his role as an administrator in the fall of 2018. Jason most enjoys teaching the early childhood and elementary students. He is passionate about helping our younger students develop and cultivate a life-long passion for health and wellness while enjoying all of the social advantages that physical education has to offer. In his role as an administrator, Jason helps to facilitate and manage all athletic programs, the extended day program, summer camp program, non-athletic co-curricular activities, and coordinates all third-party rentals for the school.