angel virdenMrs. 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. I hope to continue the amazing legacy of the Fabulous Ronda McDonald by doing my best to help each student everyday. 

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 Ms. Renae Dowling, Teacher

I am the math teacher at New Leaf, and I am happy and pleased to be a part of this caring community.I attended the University of Florida and received a Master’s degree in Urban & RegionalPlanning. After a successful career at an engineering and landscape architecture firm, I decided to continue my education and pursue my real passion...teaching...about 15years ago. “Mathematics” was the first teaching certification I received; and to this day,math is my favorite subject to teach! If I had been allowed when I was a child, I wouldhave done math problems all day long in school! My teaching career has been varied, having taught both middle and high schoolstudents in public and private settings. Personally, I prefer teaching in private schools,like New Leaf, that have smaller class sizes and that offer individualized learning--meeting the students where they are/where their needs are. I want to help every childexperience success at school and feel good about themselves and theiraccomplishments, both big and small. At New Leaf School for Change, we care aboutthe whole child here: their academic, emotional, behavioral and social growth--not justtest scores! The small class size and “family” environment allows us to build closerrelationships as we teach and mentor students with the goal of better equipping andpreparing them for life during and after high school. I consider it an honor to be a part ofthis caring, compassionate and innovative school and this community of families thathave chosen to embrace a change in their child’s education. I look forward to getting toknow my students and their families as we go on this journey together!

 mcdonaldRonda 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.