Mrs. Angel Virden, Director
After spending nine years teaching in public school, I felt frustrated as I watched students struggle with curriculum that they were not ready academically to handle. When I started at New Leaf , I saw well-adjusted students being met where they were. I decided I wanted to be a part of this very special place. I have a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and have taught from first grade to twelfth grade. Having worked with such a range of ages, I have seen how different students react to different expectations. I have been the classroom teacher for numerous students with a variety of diagnoses and ability levels and watched their excitement at their successes and their frustration when faced with challenges they do not yet have the skills for. I have participated in numerous math and science workshops to hone my skills and am looking forward to utilizing my skills to enhance the amazing work being done at New Leaf School.
Ms. Grenville, Teacher
As I return for the eighth year to teach at NLS I reflect on the uniqueness of our school: meeting the needs of the whole child in an individualized format, building relationships with Being 101 skills, and supporting dynamic parent/staff exchange with our “We’re in this together” quarterly meetings.
From the moment I became a parent I felt an intense passion to see my own children realize their potential. This became the drive to develop a marriage between Montessori and Waldorf approaches to implement in my home-schooling (both personally and co-op). Co-owning and operating a Montessori Toddler school as well as countless volunteer hours in other local schools strengthened my innate skills to meet diverse needs compassionately.
Ms. Nygaard, Yoga Instructor, Teacher’s Aide
I am so excited and honored to be returning to New Leaf as a staff member after volunteering as a yoga instructor for many years. I enjoy assisting the students with their independent work as a Teacher’s Aide in the classroom then transitioning to the yoga mats for a fun and focused yoga practice that adds movement and release to their day.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Psychology. I am a retired Special Agent with the State of Florida and now find pleasure in teaching yoga classes for both adults and children. I have 14 years of yoga experience, almost 7 of them spent teaching after receiving my 200 RYT license. I also have additional training in pediatric yoga, classroom yoga and yoga for challenged children. Most importantly, I am the mother of four children and have learned that all children are so uniquely gifted and that those gifts, once discovered, can motivate and empower them for life.
I am hopeful that my skills and experience will encourage the students to use yoga as a healthy outlet for relieving both physical and emotional stress and gain self-control and peace.
Ronda McDonald, Founder
As the original creator of New Leaf, I am able to welcome students who might not be accepted at other schools. The staff and I focus our attention where each child uniquely needs it. For some the priority is in improving academic abilities, for others it is to strengthen essential social and emotional skills, all of which benefit our students for a lifetime. This approach has attracted the most enthusiastic and devoted teachers. The combination of admissions autonomy, genuinely individualized education for our deserving students, and first-class colleagues makes it a pleasure to come to school each day.
I received my B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of North Florida in 1982. At that time mastery-based education, error analysis, and whole language were being promoted. These core ideas are still solid and deeply benefit the students we see today. During my 35-year teaching career I have taught in public, private and home-school settings. I have risen from being a teacher’s aide to administering programs. Along the way I have taught every grade level and every major subject. This allows me to wisely direct our teachers in curriculum and methodology decisions. Most important in my preparation were the three children I was blessed to raise. Each was uniquely gifted and challenged. Because of our times of struggle, New Leaf was designed to embrace the whole family of the child who is our student, while uniquely meeting the student’s needs.