Specialist Teacher Profiles

Mary Ellen Bray, Library Specialist

Mary Ellen began working at Virginia Chance School as a preschool assistant. She loved working in the classroom with the children and realized her calling was toward younger-aged children.  After five years as a Preschool Teacher, in 2006 she became the Library Specialist for Virginia Chance School Specialist. She is married and has three children. Macgill, Henry and John are Virginia Chance graduates. She also has three stepdaughters. Animals are certainly welcome at her home, with two family dogs, 1 cat, and 1 lizard, Spike, who frequently visits our school! Her hobbies include painting and gardening: she loves digging in dirt, caring for her plants and rose bushes, and splashing colors on a canvas.

Eric Stevens, Science Specialist

Eric Stevens was born in Iowa, grew up in southern Indiana, and has lived in Louisville for 30 years. Along the way he developed a love of the outdoors, gardening and teaching. He comes from a family of teachers and earned a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Louisville. After teaching K/1 for 15 years at Virginia Chance (and gardening with children for the past 14) he took on the role of Science Specialist for the entire school to follow his long and abiding interest in this area of study. Eric loves inspiring young scientists from age two through fifth grade!

Sarah Cummins, Environmental Teacher, and Environmental Projects Coordinator

Sarah Cummins teaches environmental education to our students and faculty, as well as guiding students in peer-to-peer and student-to-faculty environmental education. She is also the Learning Greenhouse Manager. Her recent projects have addressed such environmental topics as: habitat restoration, water conservation, waste reduction, and energy education and conservation.  Sarah leads our Green Team and has led several teams of students in completing environmental projects for our School and the local community, many winning state and national recognition.  Most recently under her leadership, our Green Team students’ work earned them the 2017 Elementary School of the Year in Kentucky and the National Elementary School of the Year by the National Energy Education Development for their Energy Projects and Portfolio. The students won a trip to the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Conference in Washington, D.C. and received their award there.  Sarah was also named the 2014 Kentucky Environmental Education Council’s Teacher of the Year. Sarah graduated from the University of Arizona, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Anthropology and Psychology.  She completed post baccalaureate coursework at UC Davis and traveled to Kenya to conduct dissertation research in field biology and animal behavior while managing a field research station. During her undergraduate and graduate school career, Sarah worked as a preschool and middle school biology teacher at non-public schools focusing on Special Education. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, cooking, and kayaking.

Amy Fowler, Physical Education & Preschool Movement Specialist

Amy Fowler received her Doctoral degree in Leadership Education from Spalding University in May 2000. She also holds a Master in Education from the University of Buffalo and a Bachelor of Arts from Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. She previously worked as an educator for Hospice Buffalo before moving to Louisville to work in the Advancement Office at Saint Xavier High School. After the birth of her son Jacob, Amy chose to become a full-time parent but still taught piano lessons in her home and coached the girls tennis team for Louisville Collegiate School. Amy began working at Virginia Chance School in 2005 as the Director of Communications and remained in that position until 2013 when she became the Physical Education Specialist.

Amy’s passion for sports, heath and wellness, and working with children started from a young age. She loves all sports but if asked to choose, tennis would be her favorite. She played tennis during her time as an undergraduate and was a teaching professional at a club in New York for many years. She doesn’t consider her job at VCS as work, but as an opportunity to share her passion for being healthy and active.

Amy was first a parent at Virginia Chance School before becoming a staff member. Her son Jacob started in the Five-Day Three’s and graduated from the program in 2012. It was the school’s hands-on approach to learning that drew Amy and her family to VCS. She wanted a program that would challenge her son academically but also foster his emotional, social and moral growth. Amy believes that our program helped her son become a problem solver who is willing to take risks and also has compassion for others around him.

When she is not at school, Amy loves to stay active. She enjoys playing tennis, backyard football and basketball, biking, hiking and gardening. She also sits on the board of Falls City Soccer Club and is the Parent Administrator for the Kentucky Country Day boy’s high school soccer program.

Donna Hampton, Music Specialist

I have a music education degree from Transylvania University, with a Master’s and Rank I from the University of Louisville.  I am also certified in all three levels of training in Orff/Schulwerk from the University of Kentucky.  I am still mystified how this can be my 41st year of teaching, as I continue to learn new things every day!  I taught many years in Oldham County schools, and was chosen my school’s Teacher of the Year twice.

A chance remark to Debbie Houston led me to apply at Virginia Chance School eleven years ago.  I did not know a thing about progressive education and its benefits to children.  I quickly learned that I had stepped into a whole new world of learning, full of wonder and excitement!  I am very passionate about music, and the joy it can bring to our lives.  What a privilege to be able to help our students find their own ways to express themselves through song, dance, and play!  

My love of music extends into my life outside of school.  I play keyboard for my church and enjoy playing at our local nursing homes.  I have four children and nine grandchildren, with another due in December.  My entire family is musical, and whenever we are together, you will probably hear piano, guitar, drums, flute, and more!  We even argue over who gets to sing the most fun solo (five golden rings) when we sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas!”

Kathy Kopp, Resource Teacher

I grew up in Louisville, graduated from The University of Louisville with a Masters Degree in Education with a specialty in Reading and before that,  earned my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Louisville.  All three of my children had the wonderful opportunity to attend Chance and I can truthfully say, where you start matters!  My children thrived at Chance and kept the joy of learning with them for the rest of their school career.  All three of my children still talk about the “good ol’ days” at Chance and tease me about maybe it’s time for me to retire!  I have been here a long time.  Chance made an impact on my children, our family and me.   I love being able to pass that on to other families.  

My passion has always been working with children, especially the children who struggle to find themselves or need a little extra attention to help them get started.  What a blessing to me that I can do that at Virginia Chance School!  I taught Primary at VCS for over 30 years and loved that position.  When I was asked to take the position as Resource Teacher two years ago, I couldn’t believe my luck.  I had actually been mentally putting together a proposal for that very position but had not put it into writing.  Imagine my delight when I was offered the job!  This is my second year as the Resource Teacher and I love it!  The best part of my day is seeing a smile on a child’s face who can read for the first time or who feels success at a task that once seemed overwhelming.

   When I am not working at school, I love working in my yard, visiting my granddaughter, exploring the Parklands with my son on our walks, traveling and boating with my husband, cooking and spending time with my friends or just playing with my other best friend, Hannah, our eight year old German Shepherd.

Laura De St. Croix, Strings Specialist – Suzuki Violin

Laura De St. Croix is the newly appointed Suzuki Strings Specialist. Laura studied at the University of Minnesota for both her Doctorate (ABD) and Master’s in viola performance. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in viola performance from Texas Tech University. She has taken Suzuki pedagogy training through book 4 with Professor Mark Bjork at University of Minnesota, and Every Child Can course with Dr. Terry Durbin at the University of Louisville. Laura was so intrigued by music when she entered the 5th grade, and she is thrilled to introduce the violin to your Kindergartners. She believes that everyone can learn music, and getting early exposure can only help foster a love and appreciation of music. This Fall marks the start of her time at the Virginia Chance School! She was introduced to this school & position by Andrew Fleischman, a music colleague of hers, and parent of two Chance students! Laura keeps a busy musician schedule by performing with several orchestras across Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee as well as with NouLou Chamber Players, a chamber ensemble she co-founded. She lives with her two cats, Rosie and Oliver, and violist boyfriend Evan Vicic, who plays in the Louisville Orchestra! For fun, she likes to cook, ride her bike, practice yoga, walk in Cherokee Park, and go fishing with her boyfriend and brothers!

Matt Lane, Strings Specialist – Violin

In 2016, Matthew Lane completed an eleven year apprenticeship with Mark Edwards Violins in Louisville, Ky before opening Lane & Edwards Violins in St Matthews. With degrees in Anthropology and Violin Performance from Centre College (2006), Mr. Lane has maintained tandem employments as first violinist of the Concentus String Quartet (2006-present), director of various church music ministry programs (2006-2013), and director of satellite strings programs in the Oldham County Schools (2006-2015). In 2009, Lane was honored to complete the certification in the Sassmanshaus Early Start on the Violin seminar with Kurt Sassmanshaus of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Equipped with the Sassmanhaus approach and a lifetime of the loving quality of the Suzuki Violin School, Mr. Lane was pleased to bring a philosophy of joyful participation in string music to the Virginia Chance School in the fall of 2012. String music education finds a natural partner in VCS’s implementation of a holistic set of opportunities for its students, especially as a compliment to the excellent work of Mrs. Donna Hampton. Mr. Matt, as he is known by Chance students, is also the concertmaster of the Louisville Philharmonia Orchestra, and seeks to encourage parents, students, and people of all ages to enjoy the benefits of music both in and out of the classroom.

Jon Silpayamanant, Strings Specialist- Cello

Jon Silpayamanant is a cellist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist with a BM in cello performance from DePauw University School of Music. A versatile musician, he has since tour and performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician with a number of ensembles and Grammy Award winning artists around the US, UK, and Canada. This will be Jon’s second year teaching cello at Virginia Chance School and he hopes to encourage a love of music and spontaneous music-making in all the young musicians. He discovered VCS when he subbed for the previous cello teacher, Gina Wingfield, as well as making special appearances as a Wookiee and Klingon playing her classes and the Arts Festival. An active educator, Silpayamanant is currently also Adjunct and Arts Institute Cello teacher and a Summer String Clinic coach at Indiana University Southeast. He frequently lectures and gives presentations on the arts; performing career opportunities; and workshops and clinics in improvisation and world music styles at colleges, high schools and other music organizations and festivals. Silpayamanant regularly leads sectionals in schools throughout the greater Louisville metropolitan area. When not performing, Jon works on research projects on the arts and other areas and is also a visual artist.

Laura Patterson, Art Specialist

I received my Master of Fine Arts Degree from Boston University in Art and Costume Design and my undergraduate degree from Louisville School of Art and Syracuse University in Art and Theatre Design.

I have been teaching art to students for over 25 years and have a strong passion for introducing children to the interactive world of art and creating an exciting environment that allows each child the opportunity to explore, wonder and create. I try to blend my love of nature as well as my background in theatre and mask design into many of my classroom projects.

I have been an Art and Kindergarten teacher for the past 20 years at a local private school. I am very excited to begin a new adventure as the Art Specialist at the Virginia Chance School this year. Additionally, I have been teaching summer Art classes at Walden Theatre (ages 5-12) for the past 15 years. In addition to teaching art, I have been a Costume Designer both at Walden Theatre and as the Resident Costume Designer for Actors Theatre of Louisville, in which I designed over 40 plays, including numerous productions in the Humana Festival of New American Plays.

I met my husband, Charlie Sexton in high school and we have been married for 30 years. He is the Artistic Director for Walden Theatre/CTC, and we have two sons Aaron and Ian, both of whom will be attending U of L in the fall. We spend a great deal of our free time outdoors, hiking, running and walking our dogs.

Michael Martin, Technology Specialist

Mike Martin has been committed to the field of education for almost three decades. He is a certified elementary & middle school teacher in both commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Kentucky, having taught preschool through middle-school levels.  In addition to his classroom teaching, Mike spent six years as the Educational Technology Development Coordinator for the Southeastern Regional Vision for Education (SERVE), a regional education laboratory funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI). During this tenure, he coordinated, conducted and provided consultation on numerous long-term collaborations with partner schools and state education agencies of the SouthEast Regional Technology in Education Consortium (SEIRTEC). Additionally, he has served numerous stints as an adjunct university teacher-educator of courses focusing on elementary mathematics and technology integration.  Finally, Mike has been locally involved in the Louisville and Virginia Chance communities since relocating here twelve years ago, including serving in  leadership roles with Chance School Board of Trustees, as a parent volunteer and coach with the YMCA, as tutor at the West End School, and as teacher in JCPS.  This is Mike’s fourth year as Director of Educational Technology at Virginia Chance School.

Claudia Rosas-Blanco, Spanish Specialist

Claudia Rosas-Blanco started teaching Spanish at Virginia Chance School seven years ago and was a threes teacher in the regular classroom and during our Summer Under the Trees Camp two years ago. We are excited to welcome Claudia back to Virginia Chance School. She was born in Mexico City, and she and her family had the opportunity to move to the USA eight years ago. Claudia graduated from Tollancingo University in Mexico in Architecture and has a certification from University of Cambridge as a Teacher in ESOL (English Speakers of Other Language). She loves the architecture of our school and enjoys teaching preschoolers and Spanish to friends at Virginia Chance School! In her free time, Claudia spends time with her husband and their 9 year old, Omar. She enjoys puzzles with her family, painting, sewing, cross stitch and she is a really good chef, specializing in Mexican food! She still misses her country, but now she adopts Louisville as her second home!