Faculty and Staff

Scroll down to learn about each member of our all-star team at Connections:

Michele Kukler, Head of School, CSA Founding Faculty Member
Carolyn Roberts, Senior Teacher, Music, CSA Founding Faculty Member
Rebecca Richter, Senior Teacher, History, CSA Founding Faculty Member
Steve McInaney, Outdoor Education Coordinator, Science
Hanley Bradfield, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Yoga
Ivan Riobio, Economics and Math
Jahada Jones, Literature and Composition
Alex Berardi, Office Manager, Theater
Ginny Kilgore, Community Engagement and Theater
Jess Sibley, Occupational Therapist
Katherine Suzman-Schwartz, School Counselor
Kelsey Aughey, Communication Specialist
Heidi Sanders, Art, CSA Founding Faculty Member

Michele Kukler, Head of School
CSA Founding Faculty Member

Michele holds a master’s degree in youth development leadership from Clemson University and a bachelor’s in child and family development from the University of Georgia. Michele has ten years of experience teaching students, at every age from preschool to high school, in both public and private schools. She is a certified teacher in high school behavioral sciences and also teaches therapeutic yoga. Michele was instrumental in taking Connections from concept to reality and developing its innovative vision, curriculum, and instructional strategies. Michele is always thinking about the future of our little school with big dreams.

Carolyn Roberts, Senior Teacher, Music
CSA Founding Faculty Member

Carolyn graduated from Roanoke College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in human development and a minor in sociology. Carolyn formerly taught in Montessori and DIR/Floortime schools before joining the inaugural faculty at Connections. She has an extensive musical background in voice and piano and brings these gifts to her music classes and after school performing arts programs. The students say she has a “heart of gold” and a “gentle spirit,” and Carolyn says she is inspired each day by their perseverance and strength.

Rebecca Richter, Senior Teacher, History
CSA Founding Faculty Member

Rebecca graduated from Goucher College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in gender psychology and a minor in women’s studies. Rebecca helped open Connections with more than 15 years of experience in the DIR/Floortime community. As a former college athlete with extensive knowledge of adolescent and young adult development, Rebecca plays a key role in helping students build confidence, determination, and grit. The students say Rebecca is “carefully in tune with their needs,” and the teachers depend on her grounding presence.

Steve McInaney, Outdoor Education Coordinator, Science

Not all classrooms have four walls! As a former wilderness instructor and supervisor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, Steve challenges us to step outside our comfort zones and take risks. He has a lifetime of teaching experience, including science and math at the high school and middle school level, and he is also trained as a wilderness EMT and First Responder. Steve has a bachelor’s degree in physical science with a minor in environmental studies from the University of California. He received his Master of Education in educational leadership from Montana State University.

Hanley Bradfield, COTA, Yoga

Hanley is a lifelong learner who craves new challenges and experiences. As a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant and a Certified Yoga Instructor, Hanley creates opportunities for our students to develop self-awareness and strength. Her many areas of expertise include reflexology, meditation, and mindfulness. Hanley was formerly a personal care assistant for young adults with disabilities such as Aicardi Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, and Cerebral Palsy, and she continues to work in assisted living facilities in addition to her time at Connections. Hanley brings positive energy and enthusiasm to every room she enters!

Ivan Riobo, Economics and Math

Ivan started at Connections teaching robotics and STEM to our inaugural class of students. He is now our math and economics lead and continues to utilize innovative technology in his classes. Ivan has degrees in business, finance, management, economics, and computer science and is also fluent in five languages! He brings this wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom and challenges students to understand the real-world applications of math and science. The students describe him as “always patient and pushing boundaries.” His teaching is truly on the cutting edge!

Jahada Jones, Literature and Composition

Jahada holds a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies with a minor in linguistics from Kennesaw State University. Jahada completed her student teaching internship at Connections before joining the team full time as our literature teacher. Jahada says she is starting her career at Connections because she enjoys the peaceful and positive environment and the way the teachers support one another. Jahada loves how our students are genuinely eager to learn, and she listens to their individual voices and ideas as she plans her creative and purposeful curriculum. Students say she is “a believer in our ability” and “a beautiful spirit.”

Alex Berardi, Office Manager, Theater

Alex has volunteered at Connections since it opened and adds an extra dose of joy and laughter to our school days! Alex is a former teacher and Assistant Director of an after school and summer camp program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgia Gwinnett College. Most recently, Alex was an Event Marketing Assistant for Atlanta United, and she continues to work in their marketing department part time. In addition to her administrative work at Connections, Alex teaches theater and leads an afterschool program called “Content Creation Club,” where students produce original content for social media and other platforms. Alex has a huge heart and her smile will make you feel immediately welcome in our school!

Ginny Kilgore, Community Engagement, Theater

Ginny was one of our stellar substitute teachers before joining the team to teach theater classes and support community engagement outings. She majored in theater at the University of Tennessee and formally taught at Coralwood School and The Hirsch Academy. Ginny loves to work in collaborative environments and learn from students who think and see the world differently. She is inspired by their creativity and unique perspectives on life and love. Ginny strives to create strong and lasting relationships with each of our students, and the teachers benefit from her kind and calming nature.

Jess Sibley, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist

Jess graduated from New York University with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. In addition to being the occupational therapist at The Hirsch Academy, she started her own practice, Minds in Motion, in 2015. Jess works closely with her clients to help them gain more strength, coordination, and independence in daily living skills. Jess also specializes in supporting students with developing the purposeful motor skills they need to access alternative modes of communication. One Connections student says, “Jess can take credit for getting me so loved at school.”

Katherine Suzman-Schwartz, Ph.D., School Counselor

Katherine has been a licensed clinical psychologist since 1999. She began her graduate work at a school program for children with traumatic brain injuries and has continued to specialize in working with individuals, adolescents, and families who are dealing with physical health concerns and navigating life’s major transitions. Katherine takes an integrative approach to counseling pulling from a humanistic base and adding in family systems and cognitive behavioral theory. Katherine supports our school community by working with students on social emotional issues affecting their relationships and classroom participation as well as leading group lessons and discussions. She also supports parents and teachers in their journeys serving our students.

Kelsey Aughey, Communication Specialist

Kelsey has a gift for understanding whether or not our students are using reliable speech and if they need extra support to access their authentic voices. Kelsey coaches our teachers on alternative communication methods and instructional strategies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgia Southern University and owns a private practice, Outword, where she works with children and young adults in individual and group settings. Kelsey has traveled internationally and throughout the country to present at educational conferences and train educators on supporting students with communication, sensory, and motor differences.

Heidi Schaffner Sanders, Art
CSA Founding Faculty Member

Heidi holds a master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in life coaching and creative expression from Sophia University. She majored in studio art and psychology at the University of Vermont and has extensive experience in education, art, and yoga. Heidi has been an educator since 1999, beginning as an Americorps member with local literacy programs. She taught for nine years in Atlanta-area DIR schools, most recently at The Hirsch Academy, before helping open Connections. She is also a certified yoga instructor with additional training in special needs and yoga therapy. Heidi is currently on maternity leave, but she continues to send her abundant love and encouragement to our school family while away.

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