Just Right Academy has nineteen full-time teaching staff, one part-time teacher, a speech-language pathologist, an after-school director and assistant, and a part-time administrator.
Linda McDonough, JRA Director, 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 the chair of Cedardell, Inc, a nonprofit that serves young adults with mental illness. She is the mother of two daughters, neither of whom fit well into public schools. Just Right Academy is the culmination of years of working to find just the right school for her students and her own children. This is her seventh year at JRA.
Marion Houser, assistant director and teacher, 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 Independence Academy and math, and she provides teacher support. This is her seventh year at JRA.
Claudia Kaplan, administrator, was raised mostly in Ohio and is the daughter of a Methodist minister. She graduated in 1974 from Earlham College in Richmond, IN, with a major in French Literature. Claudia came to us after six years as administrator/bookkeeper at Rainbow Soccer, but has worked a variety of jobs over the years, most memorably as a trainer with Sondra Ray’s Loving Relationships Training (LRT), as a Breathwork practitioner, and as a birth doula—which she still does now and again because she loves it. Claudia has also been singing all her life, in living rooms, coffeehouses, churches, and with choirs ranging from 10 to 200 voices, and she has released one CD. She has traveled a large part of the world, living in six states and four other countries before settling in NC in 1993 with her husband Simon. She and Simon have two children through adoption, a daughter from China and a son born in Chapel Hill. This is her seventh year at JRA.
Sarah Flanary graduated from Union College, Schenectady, NY, in 1988 with a BA in Modern Languages. The following year she was an au pair for a family with two young boys in southern France. From 1990-1997 she taught at Charlotte Country Day Middle School as a French/Spanish instructor, and was also a coach and student advisor. In 2004, her family moved to Vero Beach, FL where she was hired as a French/Spanish teacher, as well as a freshman advisor at Indian River Charter High School. For JRA’s first two years, as a parent volunteer she tutored several JRA students after she took the Augustine Literacy Project training. In 2012 she became a full time employee, teaching language arts in our middle and high school classrooms. While at JRA, she organized and participated in Bal-A-Vis-X training, attended Nancie Atwell Writer’s Workshop seminar, and participated in Michele Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking seminar with her colleagues. This is her sixth year at JRA.
Behm Williams, middle school teacher, grew up in the Chapel Hill area and graduated from the Carolina Friends School in 2007. Behm attended college at Louisiana State University where he studied Sociology and English. In 2011 Behm returned back to his native North Carolina to further his education, and began working at Just Right Academy. Behm is trained in Bal-a-vis-x, a movement system that uses rhythmic patterns and visual tracking to promote internal rhythm and balance. Behm teaches social studies in the middle and high school grades. He has also taken the Augustine Literacy Project and TEACCH trainings. This is his sixth year at JRA.
Dustin Britt, middle school teacher, grew up in Knightdale, NC, and graduated from William G. Enloe High School in 2003. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2009, where he earned a B.S. in Deaf Education, with a minor in Anthropology. He then began working as an high school exceptional children’s teacher in Franklin County Schools in 2010, where he taught English, Social Studies, Occupational Studies, and Math in resource and inclusion classrooms. He stayed there until 2014. He then taught middle and high school English and Social Studies, and served as the Exceptional Children’s Director at the state’s first charter school designed for students with disabilities: Dynamic Community Charter School. While there, he completed his M.A.Ed. in Special Education, with a concentration in Learning Disabilities, from East Carolina University. He began teaching at Just Right Academy in the fall of 2016. Dustin is a trained actor, singer, playwright, and pianist, and has been working in the Triangle theatre community for almost twenty years. This is his first year at JRA.
Caitlin Fuller, upper elementary co-teacher, grew up in Apex, North Carolina. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Sociology. She has 10+ years experience working with children through YMCA camp, nannying, and as a preschool teacher. She has taken the Augustine Literacy Project and TEACCH trainings. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time outside. This is Caitlin’s second year at JRA.
Taylor Miller is a co-teacher in the upper elementary class. Taylor is originally from Charlotte and graduated from Appalachian State in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, concentrating in American politics. This is his first job as a teacher, but he has enjoyed working with students for some time. He volunteered the past five summers at Montreat Conference Center serving as a small group leader and advisor. He also assisted with his local scout troop and church youth choir as an adult. Taylor loves to play golf and hang with his dog, Bodie. This is his first year at JRA.
Lindsey Miller Head, primary teacher, grew up in Chapel Hill. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education from Appalachian State University. Upon graduating, she returned to her hometown and taught for four years as a middle grades E.C. teacher in the Chapel Hill Carrboro City School system. While at CHCCS, she taught in a self-contained classroom for students with intellectual disabilities and autism. During this time, she also volunteered with Special Olympics of Orange County. She has TEACCH and Augustine Literacy Project trainings as well as Bal-a-vis-x and Social Thinking. This is Lindsey’s fourth year at JRA.
Anne Bruce, primary teacher assistant, grew up in Richmond, Virginia. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.A. in Psychology, she moved to Bermuda to intern with Young Life. She lived in Bermuda for thirteen years before moving to Raleigh. She and her husband have two sons. She homeschooled her oldest son for three years before they discovered JRA. He is currently a student in the middle school class. Over the last twenty years she has worked with children in various ways, such as tutoring, volunteering with youth groups, coaching field hockey, and teaching Sunday school classes. She is Augustine Literacy trained. This is her second year working at Just Right Academy.
Jim White, primary teacher assistant, 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 last year as a substitute at JRA, he joined the teaching staff full-time.
CJ Barefoot, co-teacher in our Independence Academy, 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 has served as a one-on-one teacher as well as a consultant developing programming, assessing skills, and supervising a team of teachers for an in-home program. This is CJ’s third year at JRA.
Lisa Townsend, Supported Learning teacher, was raised in a military family and has lived in many places. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, with a degree in Business and German. All three of her sons have various disabilities, from attention deficit disorder to autism spectrum disorder to a couple of learning disabilities to a mental illness; one is a college graduate, one is due to graduate this December, and the youngest just left for college. 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 topics ranging from the basics of autism spectrum disorders to teenage issues to parental involvement). She has received training by the Augustine Literacy Project, TEACCH for classroom teachers, Bal-a-vis-x, Social Thinking (Michelle Garcia Winner), Pamela and Pete Wright (wrightslaw.com), and Partners in Policymaking, among others. She has also served on the Local Interagency Coordinating Committee for Chatham County. Lisa has volunteered with middle school youth for the past four years and has been on a committee to increase the understanding and awareness of mental illnesses in a local community. This is her second year at JRA.
Maria Dontas, teaching assistant in Supported Learning, 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 JRA. She sings in her church choir and enjoys movies, the theater, all animals, your kids, and life! This is her third year at JRA.
Molly McDonough, teacher assistant in the Supported Learning class, studies psychology at William Peace University. Ms. M is a trained ABA tutor. She is Augustine Literacy Project trained, has TEACCH training, and has worked for several summers as a counselor at Clapping Hands Farm Camp, under the tutelage of Louise Omato Kessel. She has also worked as a part time nanny. This is her third year at JRA. She is also after-school director and directs JRA’s camp program.
Jim Harrison, teacher assistant, earned his BA and MPA (public administration) from West Virginia University. He served four years in the U.S. Air Force. He has 30+ years in the radio broadcasting business, five years in health care, and five years in the restaurant business. He also has several years experience as a sports coach. He was a Guardian Ad Litem in Orange and Chatham Counties, and he has taken the Augustine Literacy Project training. He is the father of two, including one who spent two years at JRA. This is his fourth year on staff at JRA. Jim’s role involves keeping small problems small by focusing on prevention.
Ginny Brooks, reading teacher, 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 The Hill Center. She received her Augustine Literacy Project training in 2010 and continues to volunteer with her Augustine child. She has been supervising and teaching a Montessori-based Sunday School curriculum at a local Episcopal church for the past 9 years. She and her husband live in Durham, and her two children attend DSA and Guilford College. This is Ginny’s fourth year with JRA.
Deborah Horvitz, reading teacher, utilizes Augustine Literacy Project training and Lindamood-Bell’s Visualize and Verbalize program. She first used the Orton-Gillingham reading program in the late 1970s in a program run by Massachusetts General Hospital, but located in Newport, RI. She began applying this method in her special needs classes in Medford, MA, where she taught for six years. For 27 years after that, she took on various administrative, public relations, and marketing communications roles for a variety of organizations in Boston, and then in the Triangle. These included serving as Director of Public Relations for a Harvard hospital, Director of Executive MBA Programs at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and Executive Director of the Durham Public Education Network. She returned to her first love, teaching special needs children, at Watts Montessori Magnet School in Durham. After six years there, she decided she would rather spend her time teaching children rather than doing all the paperwork required in public schools. Ms. Horvitz lives in Durham with her husband, David Stein. They have two sons, one working in New York City, and one in college in Connecticut. This is her third year at JRA.
Katie Reily, who works with our students on a contract basis, is a certified, licensed speech-language pathologist who has been in private practice for many years. She has worked in public and private school settings and is also a certified transdisciplinary therapeutic educator in the Waldorf school movement. She serves children with articulation, receptive/expressive language, and social communication challenges. She has completed the mentor training in Social Thinking with Michelle Garcia Winner. Since so many school challenges are influenced by poorly developed sensory systems, Katie includes regular exercises in her therapy sessions to help mature the senses, particularly balance, visual and auditory processing. Katie and her husband have four grown children. Katie loves getting to know the unique learners at Just Right as well as teaming up with teachers and parents to support the students’ strengths for classroom success. All students will receive her services as part of their tuition, sometimes in small groups, others individually, and still others through teacher consultations. This is her sixth year at JRA. For more information, see http://www.katiereily.com/.
Helen Grace Barefoot, part-time Supported Learning teacher and behavior consultant, graduated from Meredith College with a psychology degree. She trained in ABA and discrete trial teaching techniques at the Meredith Autism Program, providing early intervention services. After graduation, she continued to work with children with autism in home and community settings, providing consultation, programming, and parent/teacher training for a homeschool program as well as gaining experience in Verbal Behavior techniques providing 1:1 tutoring through the Carolina Center for Applied Behavior Analysis. This is her second year at JRA.
Katie Kilgo is the Assistant Director of the after-school program. Katie grew up in Pfafftown, where she graduated from Ronald Reagan High School. From there she attended North Carolina State University studying adolescent psychology. Currently she is attending Liberty University majoring in special education. She has 8 years experience working with special needs children. She is well versed in HELPS (Helping early literacy with practice strategies) and also the Spanish version Leamos para Avanzar. This is her first year at Just Right academy.
The Augustine Project
The Augustine Project, founded in 1994 by Linda McDonough at the Church of the Holy Family (Episcopal), provides tutors for low income children. The Augustine Project gives their tutors 70 hours of training in Orton-Gillingham techniques to teach reading, writing and spelling. Each tutor commits to tutoring a low-income child for at least 60 sessions. Though originally sponsored by the church, they provide secular instruction, and are now a 501(c)(3) organization.
Developmental Therapy Associates, Inc.
Developmental Therapy Associates, Inc, comes to JRA to work with individual students on a contract basis. Parents should contact them directly. We will provide a time and space for them to work. They are able to provide speech and occupational therapy services and take Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medicaid. We welcome Tiffany Thompson, SLP, and Jenny Bonano Walther, MS, OTR/L.
Art Therapy Institute
The Art Therapy Institute (ATI) is pleased to partner with Just Right Academy, offering weekly art therapy groups.The arts open up the creative doors in Just Right Academy’s programming, helping students learn how to identify and express their feelings.
Arts therapy fosters an environment where students’ strengths and different styles of learning are recognized and appreciated. ATI works with students to improve communication, social skills, emotion regulation, sensory regulation, sensory integration, as well as gross and fine motor skills. It is a positive way to gain mastery, relax, and have fun.