Faculty & Staff

Jackie Hornbeck Wall, Head of School

Jackie believes in presuming competence, relationships as the foundation of thinking and learning, and school communities built on insight, creativity, knowledge, and commitment. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has served as a classroom teacher, resource specialist, DIR/Floortime therapist, and school administrator. Jackie has a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University in child study and language development and master’s degrees in Montessori Education from Loyola University of Maryland and mental health counseling from Mercer University. She lives in Decatur with her husband Kent and their children Jameson, Isak and Maya.

Michele Little Kukler, Instructional Coordinator, Literature Teacher

CSA Founding Faculty Member


Michele holds a degree in child and family development from the University of Georgia, and a master’s in youth development leadership from Clemson University. Michele was a First Honor Graduate from UGA and worked with a student organization serving the autism community of Northeast Georgia while in college. She came to Connections from The Hirsch Academy, where she received training in DIR/Floortime, supported neurodiverse learners, and taught children’s yoga. Michele is a graduate of the Accessing Community Through Spelling professional development program. Before Hirsch and Connections, Michele was a community- based educator in DeKalb County School District and taught in the full-inclusion program at Coralwood School.

Mary Jane Leach, Office Manager


Mary Jane’s abiding interest in sustainable communities has influenced her education, professional work and volunteer choices.  She has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Georgia State University and a Masters of Public Administration from Tennessee State University.  She has experience managing all aspects of nonprofit organizations. She spent three years as a charter school ‘practicum’ leader with 8th graders in Davidson, NC and two year working at the Wylde Center, where she led a weekly nature-based transition program for neurodiverse older teens. She serves on the boards of the City of Decatur Environmental Sustainability Board and Decatur Makers, and lives in Decatur with her family.  She loves the people and the learning environment at the Connections School!

Hanley Bradfield, COTA

Hanley is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant and Certified Yoga Instructor. She currently works as a COTA for a few SNF facilities PRN in the Atlanta area, coupled with teaching Yoga, Reflexology and Meditation classes and workshops during the evenings and weekends. She has experience as a Personal Care Assistant for young adults with a variety of disabilities including individuals with Aicardi Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy and is excited to finally focus working with adolescents and teens, a goal since first discovering Occupational Therapy. She also enjoys watching the rain or falcons football on the front porch, or spending time with her dog-child Salvador.

Gaelyn Hurd, Math Teacher


Gaelyn Hurd, our Math teacher, is a registered Dance/ Movement Therapist and long time high school math tutor, with a BA in Cognitive Science from the University of Georgia, and an MA in Somatic Counseling Psychology from Naropa University. She splits her work life among teaching at Connections and working as a therapist in private practice, as well as occasionally still tutoring students at the Paideia School and other high schools. She is so excited to be working with Connections students, learning each of their individual communication and learning styles, and integrating her love of math and her love of movement in creative ways.

Steve McInaney, SCOPE (Science Class Outdoor Practical Experience) Coordinator, Science Teacher

Steve received his M.Ed, in educational leadership from Montana State University in 2008, where he mentored aspiring teachers as an adjunct faculty member. He has taught high school biology in both public and private schools, utilizing fly fishing to excite students about applying relevant science, technology, engineering, and math, and to learn more about the places, environments, and ecology where fish are found. Steve has also been a Montessori middle school science and math teacher, a wilderness instructor and supervisor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, a professional river guide in Idaho on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, and is trained as a wilderness EMT and First Responder. In the summer, he operates a small business in Bozeman, Montana integrating the time-honored experience of fly fishing to rekindle heartfelt connections for families, friends, and businesses. Steve and his wife Nancy-Clair have two sons Will and Nicholas.

Rebecca Richter, DIR Coordinator, Teacher

CSA Founding Faculty Member

Rebecca Richter pic

Rebecca has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Goucher College, and more than 15 years of experience in the DIR/Floortime community as both an individual facilitator and a teacher. Her training includes formal DIR classes and participation in Floortime Atlanta and ICDL conferences. Rebecca has nine years of experience teaching high school students at The Community School. Rebecca comes to Connections from The Hirsch Academy, where she further expanded her skills with a variety of communication methods.

Carolyn Roberts, Music Teacher

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. She is a part of the Sociology National Honors Society and has an extensive musical background in voice and piano. After graduating college, Carolyn worked as a support teacher at a Montessori school in Salem, Virginia. She then moved back to Atlanta and worked as a teacher’s assistant at a DIR/Floortime school in Atlanta for three years. Carolyn is currently completing the Accessing Community Through Spelling professional development program.

Heidi Schaffner Sanders, Art and Yoga Teacher

CSA Founding Faculty Member

Heidi holds a master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in life coaching and creative expression from Sophia University, and has extensive experience in education, art and yoga. She majored in studio art and psychology at the University of Vermont. Heidi has been an educator since 1999, beginning as an Americorps member with local literacy programs. She was a lead teacher for nine years in Atlanta-area DIR schools, most recently coming from The Hirsch Academy. She is a certified yoga instructor with additional training in special needs and yoga therapy for students of all ages. Heidi serves as our art and yoga instructor, and is a founder of CSA.

Jess Sibley, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist

Jess graduated from New York University with a master’s degree in occupational therapy in 2011. In addition to being the occupational therapist at The Hirsch Academy, she started her own practice in 2015. She works closely with her clients to develop more strength, coordination and independence in daily living skills. She also studied under Soma Mukhopadhyay and Elizabeth Vosseller to learn more about methods to support students in communicating.

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