Faculty & Staff
Maine Teachers & Faculty Serve Students, Families & Community
MeANS teachers and staff are some of the most committed, caring and engaged Maine teachers around. They work with very small class sizes, giving attention to individual students on campus and during home visits.
Alumni Affairs and Admin Support
Danni Best, Alumni Affairs and Admin Support
Arriving in Maine after a thirty year career of working with youth in Connecticut, Danni landed on the campus of Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in May of 2017. In her previous role as the Dean of Students, she was privileged to watch students grow and mature into amazing young people. Her philosophy on building relationships with students is crucial to establishing the culture at MEANS. In her downtime Danni can be found pickling and canning, practicing her fly casting and enjoying time with family and friends!
Mahlon Bickford, Threshold Teacher
Mahlon has been around the block a few times and has seen his share of days. He says his first job was shoveling manure on his parent’s farm as a teenager. His second job was working for the CIA as a student at American University in Washington, DC. After graduating from both, he went on to the National Archives and many other odd jobs – a law firm, bookseller, publisher, technical writer, and teacher, among others. He publishes a genealogical journal in his spare time and works on renovating an old house with his partner of 40 years. This is his 17th year in education.
9/10 Math Teacher
Kasey Carrier, 9/10 Math Teacher
Over the past four years, Kasey has shared her passion and enthusiasm for teaching math with high school students right here at MeANS! Her love for learning and pleasant personality really make her classroom a place to enjoy learning. In her free time, Kasey loves doing carpentry projects with her husband, making jewelry, and spending time with her children and pets. Also, you oftentimes will see her taking pictures to capture memories and enjoy the beauty of the world around her.
Jeff Chase, Agricultural Specialist
Jeffry is a Maine Native. After graduating from Unity College in 1994 with a BS in Wildlife, he worked in an array of environmental education settings throughout the state. For eight years, Jeffry was the Executive Director and Lead teacher at Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde. During this time, Jeffry developed and implemented marine science and aquaculture programs for middle and high school students. Through this work Jeffry was awarded the 2004 Maine Agriculture Teacher of the Year. In 2009 Jeffry returned to college to complete his MA in Education. Jeffry has been on staff at MeANS since its inception in 2011. Jeffry lives in Bowdoin, with his wife Carey, son Caleb and daughter Eva.
Caleb Christiansen Fletcher, Threshold Teacher
Caleb Christensen Fletcher has been an educator since 2015, and has been heard teaching from about a mile away. He has taught at Old Orchard Beach, Gardiner, and for the past 8 years he has been at Harpswell Coastal Academy. Caleb found his way to MeANs thanks to their threshold program due to their student centered approach, and their focus on compassionate education. He has a passion for gaming, improv, and being a general goofball. Caleb hopes that he is able to either impart some of that kindness into each of his lesson or at least get a smile for that 100th joke he tried to tell. He is incredibly excited to join the MeANS faculty this year, and is ready to nerd out about everything and anything.
Eric Ciborowski, IT Director
Bio to be added.
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Evan Coleman, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Over the past ten years, Evan has worked as a humanities & writing teacher, a soccer coach, a guide, and an instructional leader in Maine, Massachusetts, and California. In his free time, Evan can be found slappin’ the stand up bass, hiking with his partner, Anya, and their doodle, Moony, or writing short stories and recording podcasts. After serving as a teacher and instructional coach at High Tech High Media Arts in San Diego, California, Evan has been incredibly excited to return to Maine to infuse creativity and outdoor exploration into the project-based learning that takes place at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences every day.
Dean of Threshold
Rebecca Dennison, Dean of Threshold
As a native of Maine, Becky’s first formal educational experience was attending an Alternative Free School that her parents co-founded in the Western Mountains of Maine. Becky’s childhood was surrounded by the teachings of Paulo Freire, Paul Goodman, and John Holt. Now as Dean of the Threshold program at Maine Academy of Natural Science she feels that she has come full circle. Becky is passionate about student centered, project based, and relevant education for learners of all ages. Working with disenfranchised youth and adults who are preparing for post-secondary training, education and experience has been a focus for many years. Becky holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology from University of Maine at Farmington, and graduate degree in Social Work from University of New England. Finding ways to embrace and enjoy Maine’s many seasons keeps Becky bouncing from the Western mountains to the Downeast coastline.
Ann Schoenthaler-Ervin, School Psychologist
Dr. Schoenthaler-Ervin’s early career in education included teaching high school English and working with students struggling with reading and behavior problems. Honing in on school and clinical psychology, Ann went on to earn her doctorate from the University of Connecticut. Her work as a psychologist has spanned hospital, clinic, residential treatment, and public school settings. Ann’s interests include the assessment and treatment of Dyslexia, ADHD, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Schoenthaler-Ervin currently serves on the Maine Department of Education’s Advisory Committee for School Psychologists. In her spare time, Ann loves to hike, cross country ski, and spend time with her grandchildren. Ann enjoys being at MeANS because of the staff’s ability to build strong relationships with a diverse student body.
SE Math Teacher
Shawn Fanjoy, SE Math Teacher
Shawn graduated from Oxford HIlls High school in 2004 and then graduated from UMF 2008. For the next nine years, he worked as a teacher at Leavitt High school. While at Leavitt, he coached Freshmen football and JV basketball. He then went to Western Foothills Regional Program (WFRP) for 1 year, before he went to Spruce Mountain High school for 2 years. The last two years before starting at MEANS he worked at Gardiner Middle school as a Math teacher. He decided to apply for the Math position at MEANS because he thought it was a great idea to combine his two passions: being in nature and teaching. Currently, he lives in the town of Palermo. He lives with his wife, Alicia, and two boys, who are 14 and 10. Both of his boys are very active with sports and both enjoy being outside. In his free time, Shawn likes to hike, fish and coach basketball.
Sean Getchell, Custodian
Sean is the custodian here at MeANS. He loves almost all outdoor activities and is a “mild” thrill seeker. He is always willing to help anyone and truly enjoys the connections he has made with both students and staff, and is always looking for a new adventure.
Becky Grant-Widen, Threshold Teacher
Becky joined MeANS in 2022, after 20 years as a homeschool parent and grantwriting consultant for non-profits throughout Maine. The daughter of retired Maine educators, Becky attended the University of Maine at Farmington for community and school health education. She carved a niche for herself in the state by focusing on youth centric programs and youth advocacy in public health, working with teens and youth leaders from all over the state to provide training to teens on using their voices to create policy change. Becky is passionate about self-directed learning and giving young people agency in their education by using a project, strengths-based approach whenever possible. In her free time, Becky enjoys playing competitive volleyball, keeping extensive gardens, digging into her ancestry, traveling, and spending time with her husband Kurt and their three sons.
9/10 Science Teacher
Elise Gudde, 9/10 Science Teacher
Elise is from Caribou, Maine and first became interested in the natural sciences while conducting research on the food use of migratory forest songbirds in her undergraduate career. Elise recently graduated from the University of Maine Graduate School with an M.S. in Ecology and Environmental Sciences. There, her research focused on the effects that climate change has on Northern flying squirrel physiology and range shifts. Through her time in graduate school, Elise found her passion for science communication and began her first teaching position here at Means. Elise now lives in the Orono area and loves to bird-watch in her spare time.
Katrina Guptill, Nutrition Director
Katrina Guptill has several years of experience with the school nutrition program, assisting families in need and ensuring students receive wholesome, quality meals.Katrina came to Good Will-Hinckley as an administrative assistant in 2016 after spending eight years working in the main office for Windsor Elementary School. One of her duties included managing the financial side of the school’s nutrition program. She now splits her time as Good Will-Hinckley’s kitchen manager and in the accounts payable department. As kitchen manager, she supports the kitchen staff and takes care of the financial side of the program. Guptill is always available to assist the families of both the Glenn Stratton Learning Center (GSLC) and Maine Academy of Natural Sciences (MeANS) with any concerns or assistance they need. Katrina grew up in midcoast Maine and attended Lincoln Academy and Kennebec Valley Community College. She has served as a school board member for her children’s school and the treasurer for her local Boy Scout troop for many years. She now enjoys spending time cooking, flower gardening and traveling around the state to visit her 6 grandchildren who live in Castle Hill and Phillips.
Tad Hagner, Agricultural Assistant
Tad is an Americorps member working as an Agriculture Science Teacher at MeANS. They are originally from New Hampshire but have lived and worked all around Maine in the outdoor industry for the past two years. If they’re not in the greenhouse taking care of the plants, you can probably find them drinking coffee or on a hike somewhere.
Solomon Heifets, Threshold Teacher
Solomon Heifets earned his Master Degree in Education from the University of Massachusetts in 2013, and worked on campus as an English and Social Studies teacher at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences for 6 years. In 2022, he left to launch an Extended Learning Opportunities program at Belfast Area High School, but came back to MeANS in 2023 to teach in the Threshold program. He came to the Threshold program because of the unique opportunity to meet students where they are at and to build on their interests to develop a project-based individualized educational program. Sol’s favorite part about working at MeANS is the warm sense of community that exists here. When Solomon isn’t teaching, he enjoys life at 3 Level Farm with his partner, Danielle, and daughter, Clara, and runs a small business managing a herd of dairy goats and making artisanal cheeses.
Assistant Head of School
Patrick Henyan, Assistant Head of School
Pat Henyan will serve as the new Assistant Head of School at MeANS beginning the 2023 – 2024 academic year. Prior to his arrival, he spent 15 years as a classroom teacher in Waterville. He is excited to join a school and staff that is dedicated to making learning engaging for all students. He loves the emphasis that the MeANS teachers and learning community put on getting the students out of the classroom to experience the world around them and become active participants in their education. When he is not at school, he likes to spend time with his wife, Lizzie, and his three children. He can often be found tossing a wiffle ball around with friends, or catching a Carolina Panthers game on TV.
SE Ed Tech
Sonja Hersey, SE Ed Tech
Sonja has worked at MeANS since the fall of 2020. Before that, she worked in several positions at Good Will-Hinckley for 25 years. A Mainer all her life, Sonja enjoys spending time with family and friends, boat rides, fishing all year long, and having bonfires. She watches Jeopardy every day and is good at word puzzles. At MeANS, Sonja’s favorite activities have been learning the maple syrup process and beekeeping.
SE Threshold Teacher
Katie Hewett, SE Threshold Teacher
Katie is in her fourth year as a teacher at MeANS, and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Special Education. Prior to working at MeANs, Katie home schooled her own three children. Katie always says she wouldn’t want to teach anywhere else! She adores that our school focuses on relationships, projects, and outdoor learning. In fact, two of her own children attend the campus program. Katie loves connecting with students and finding what motivates them, what brings them joy, and how she can best help them feel successful in life. Katie has three children, four cats, and a dog at home. She loves fishing, hiking, and being outdoors in the fall.
Grace Hilmer, School Social Worker
An outdoor enthusiast, feral horse girl, and an advocate for mental health in young people (and all people), Grace has been focused on building emotional intelligence and self acceptance in youth since she was a young person herself. A graduate of UMF and Northeastern University, she has been working with young adults in various capacities for the last 15 years, and has been working at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences since 2014. In her ‘free’ time, you can find her riding horses, adventuring with her pups, or taking care of various other farm animals.
Ashley Hyde, Business Manager
Bio to be added.
Alexandra Karter, Ed Tech
Born and raised in Maine on a small family farm, Alex has found herself drawn to the ag-focused academics and project-based learning MeANS has to offer since 2015 when she joined MeANS as a student. She recognizes the importance of individuality within each student and a strong relational model. Alex got her BS in Child Development & Family Relations from the University of Maine at Orono with a minor of Psychology, Leadership, and Women/Gender/Sexuality Studies in 2021. After working with infants for many years, Alex finds her interests are leading her to connect and support young adults. In her time outside of the classroom, she spends it with her husband Sean, baby Henry, and doggo Cliff on their ever thriving and growing homestead.
Title I ELA Teacher
Isabelle King, Title I ELA Teacher
Isabelle is a recent graduate of the University of Maine Farmington where she double majored in English and Secondary Education with a concentration in poetry. Born to parents who met as Maine guides for kayaking, she was introduced to outdoor education from the start. Isabelle has found a passion in working to provide students often overlooked and underappreciated in traditional education environments with opportunities to learn and grow, with hands-on project based experiences, especially in the outdoors. Her favorite teaching moments have come when lessons get spontaneously taken in unexpected directions by curious students. Outside of the classroom you can find Isabelle with her nose buried in a book, writing poetry and fiction, or with her hands busy in a wide variety of artistic mediums. She stays connected to the outdoors in her free time by hiking and training for a triathlon with her family. You will often find her yellow lab Argo trailing behind her in the halls. Argo is a gentle spirit who loves nothing more than to greet students, and provide cuddles and decompression time.
11/12 Math Teacher
Jill Lee, 11/12 Math Teacher
Jill never believed herself to be a math person until high school, when her teacher in Algebra class helped everything click for her. Since then, she has led a far-reaching career exploring the art and science of education, the integration of graphic design and social justice, and the beauty of mathematics. She landed in Maine in 2010 to attend the College of the Atlantic and never left. She is excited to have arrived at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences where she engages students in math in the classroom, outdoors, and in the yurt. Jill is inspired every day by her students learning to think independently and collaboratively, growing their curiosity and creativity, and applying their math skills in more and more aspects of their lives.
SE ELA Teacher
Mary Littlefield, SE ELA Teacher
Mary has been a special education ELA teacher at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley for the past eight years. Prior to that, she taught Special Education in Maine and Virginia for 12 years. She is the former co-leader for the MeANS outdoor club, and in her free time, she enjoys leading adventures such as white water rafting, camping, skiing and hiking. She also enjoys kayaking, cross country skiing, biking and trail hiking, and is an avid knitter, enjoying spinning my own yarn.
Head of School
Matt Newberg, Head of School
Matt began his Outdoor Education career teaching at the Otter Lake Conservation School in 1990. He has remained in education ever since, working in public and private schools. He most recently spent the past 14 years in both classroom teaching and administration at Hyde School. MeANS has provided the perfect opportunity for Matt to support teaching and learning that is connected to our environment. He hopes to inspire students to engage with their education, prepare for the future, and take care of the planet in the process. He lives in Harpswell in a multi-generational home with his wife Brooke, son Vale, mother Peg, dog Beziko, while his daughter Dylan attends Savannah College of Art and Design. He enjoys playing music, surfing, hiking, skiing, working on the house, and spending time on the water with family and friends.
Erica O’Toole, Threshold Teacher
For 20 years an educator in various settings throughout New England. A graduate of the University of Southern Maine with a BA in psychology and minors in criminology and education, and a MA in forensics psychology from Castleton State College in Vermont. After working at Green Mountain College as an adjunct professor, she moved back home to Maine in 2004 and began her teaching career at The Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, Maine. In 2009, Erica moved to Massachusetts and aided in opening the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School. While there, she taught middle school math and science. Between 2012-2014, Erica taught chemistry and forensics to high school students in Winthrop, MA. Then from 2014-2019, she worked as the Lead Science Teacher at St. Mary’s High School in Lynn, MA, while simultaneously teaching Introduction to Psychology at Fisher College in Boston. Aside from teaching and learning, Erica also enjoys reading, skiing, and going on adventures with her pupper Brooklyn (a.k.a., Goosie).
Emanuel Parisier, Threshold Consultant
Starting his first school at 21, Emanuel has been a Maine educator since 1973. Following his work at the Community School, now Wayfinder school, he got his PhD in education and psychology at the University of Maine. In 2011, he was part of the team that designed and started MeANS. He also designed and continues to advise the Threshold program at MeANS.
11/12 ELA Teacher
Frank Parrinello, 11/12 ELA Teacher
Frank teaches ELA for 11/12 at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences. He is passionate about project-based learning, and does his very best to instill in his students a love of language and literature. Frank enjoys reading, writing, and thinking about exercising. Recently, he started teaching psychology through KVCC. His favorite books are Titus Groan and The Brothers Karamazov, and his favorite writers include William Shakepeare, Shirley Jackson, Philip Pullman, and Emily Bronte, among many others, and he would love to tell you all about them, whether you want to hear all about them or not.
School Psychology Intern
Hannah Perry, School Psychology Intern
Hannah Perry, M.A., is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Connecticut and will serve as a School Psychology Intern at MeANS for the 2023-2024 academic year. She was born and raised here in Maine, and is happy to be back in her home state. She loves the outdoors, and her happy place is Moosehead Lake. She spent two years working as a one-on-one behavioral health professional in Central Maine before entering graduate school. What Hannah loves most about MeANS is the emphasis on restorative practices and building positive relationships between students and staff. This year, she hopes to use her training to support students and faculty in achieving positive outcomes.
Marketing and Outreach Coordinator
Gwyn Petersen, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator
Gwyn is an Americorps VISTA member currently completing her term of service at MeANS. She is a second year graduate student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health pursing her MSPH in Health Education and Health Communications. When she isn’t hanging out on campus working on the website and social media presence of the school, she loves exploring the nearby trails and towns close to campus, or making the trek down to Portland to practice with the Portland Women’s Rugby Football Club. Gwyn also enjoys finding things to do on the water in Maine when she’s missing her home state of Florida. Her favorite part of MeANS is definitely the people, and she is incredibly excited to get to know everyone who comes to campus over the next year.
9/10 ELA Teacher
Jim Poindexter, 9/10 ELA Teacher
Jim Poindexter has taught high school English in Maine and Vermont for over 16 years. He holds a B.A. in English and a Masters Degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. At MeANS, Jim teaches ELA 9 and 10. In addition, in his first year at the school his electives have included songwriting, social emotional learning, debate and rhetoric, and theater. Jim lives deep in the woods in the beautiful, tiny town of Cambridge, Maine.
Ana Rothschild, Threshold Teacher
Ana Rothschild grew up on a family farm in the mountains of western Maine. In addition to developing a strong interest in raising animals and growing things, she has always worked on writing, drawing, sculpting, and printmaking projects. She brings a lifelong passion for the natural world, and for literature and art, to her work at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences. She began teaching Humanities at MeANS in 2012, and helped to launch the Threshold program in 2017. She has spent the past six years working with students in their homes and communities across five counties, and loves helping them build on their interests and develop their skills and talents through interdisciplinary projects and hands-on learning. Ana shares her 1850 brick farmhouse in New Portland—which will never be fully renovated—with her partner, James, her English Mastiffs, Orion and Ursa, foster-fail Pittie, Dozer, rescue mastiff, Bagheera, and three cats. She loves reading, writing, making things, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and snowboarding, as well as cooking and eating delicious food.
11/12 Social Studies Teacher
Vinny Russell, 11/12 Social Studies Teacher
Vinny is the eleventh and twelfth grade social studies teacher at the Maine Academy of Natural Science, focusing on Civics and Government, Economics and US History. He holds a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Rivier University. Vinny’s circuitous career path has provided him with extensive experience teaching both inside and outside the classroom. His love of the outdoors and the world around him influences the lessons and the content that is explored in his social studies classroom. When not in the classroom, Vinny enjoys many hobbies, especially hiking and exploring the outdoors with his family. Vinny is from away and has lived in Wisconsin, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
Karin Schott, Threshold Teacher
Bio to be added.
11/12 Science Teacher
Rand Smith, 11/12 Science Teacher
Rand teaches Physics and Chemistry through exploration of everyday situations and phenomena. He grew up in the White Mountains and graduated from Keene State College with a BS in Biology. He has taught in a large public high school, a boarding school and was a commercial fisherman. Living near the ocean in the midcoast allows him to pursue numerous hobbies like kayaking, kite flying and striper fishing. He also enjoys tinkering on old things with engines. He has a wooden lapstrake boat, a vintage Italian scooter, an old British roadster and both of his teenage children drive antique European cars. During the summer he and his family spend time with their dogs ‘up to camp’; which is a timber frame cottage they built on an island of a remote lake east of Bangor. Being completely off the grid allows them to disconnect from the frenetic pace of the plugged-in world.
Paula Taylor, Transportation Director
Paula Taylor has been driving for about 20 years. She has driven semi trucks for about 10 years and school buses for about 10 years. She was also a CDL instructor and examiner for the state of Ohio. She works at MeANS because of the way the school helps and molds their students to be successful. The teaching of respect, responsibility and community is very meaningful to her. Everyone is willing to help where help is needed. She hopes that with the discussions had on the educational bus, life is a little easier to understand on the Why’s, Do’s , Don’t’s. She hopes the students know that people at MeANS care and are willing to do what they can. Paula enjoys working at MeANS because she gets to see the students grow and sprout into young adults. The other thing she likes about working here is the 3 day weekend most of the year. When not at school, Paula enjoys going camping a few times a year, and loves going to see her grandchildren out of state 1-2 times a year. Family is her most important thing in life.
Special Education Director
Bonnie Violette, Special Education Director
Bonnie has been a Special Education Director for 25 years in Maine school districts. She is a strong advocate of inclusive education for students with disabilities and will make every effort to ensure they are included in every aspect of programming at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, camping, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends.
9/10 Social Studies Teacher
Kelsi Walker, 9/10 Social Studies Teacher
Over the past four years Kelsi has been earning her teaching degree from the University of Maine at Farmington with a concentration in social studies. Growing up locally, she spends her time outside with her partner, Mason, and dog, “Miss Maisie Mutt,” fishing, exploring, spending time with friends, or reading. Kelsi joined the MeANS community in 2022 to combine her love for the outdoors and passion for teaching!