Seven Rivers
Where Children are Free to Learn

our team

Founders, Teachers, Facilitators

 
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Marsha Hogan

Founder & director

Teacher, entrepreneur, and mother, Marsha has spent the past twenty plus years in schools across the US and abroad creating, capturing, and scaling innovations in education.  A New England native, and former high school English teacher, Marsha moved to Charlottesville to pursue graduate studies at UVA.  Her dissertation study became the genesis of an education technology company called CaseNEX (now IO Education), which was incubated at The Darden Business School's Batten Institute, and was the first spin-off company from UVA in the Social Sciences. The original CaseNEX offering was an online platform created for teacher professional development and utilized case studies, or "slices of life" in real classrooms, and a facilitated, problem-solving approach as the primary vehicle for learning. Marsha led CaseNEX through several rounds of investment and fifteen years of growth and product diversification until it was purchased by a private equity group in 2015. This front row view of and participation in the performance-driven culture of traditional schooling as we know it, along with her youngest child's heart-wrenching rejection of it all, was a catalyst for Marsha to explore more fully and personally, and ultimately to try to create, something very different.  Seven Rivers Country Day School is a place where Marsha and her colleagues hope to implement the best of what they have seen and learned from their various experiences, while also cultivating an environment where we may all reimagine the conventional schooling practices that often do not benefit the child, the soul, the family.  Marsha and her husband are parents to six children ranging in age from 7 to 21 and live in Scottsville, VA, overlooking one of Albemarle County's seven rivers.

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Aaron Curtis

Assistant director & Lead teacher

Outside the bounds of the school day Aaron is Assistant Director at Seven Rivers, while inside he is better described as Liberal Arts Outfitter, Socratic Questioneer, and Child Wrangler. He has a B.A. in Creative Writing and Literature from Bard College, an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago, and is nearing completion of a Ph.D. in Religion and Literature at UChicago as well. He has taught students of all ages and backgrounds in a variety of subjects, from one-on-one tutoring in all levels of reading and math (getting elementary school students over the fractions wall, middle and junior high students through algebra and geometry, and college-bound students through the SAT and ACT) to college-level seminars in philosophy, literature, and academic writing with first year, graduate, and continuing education students. He was the founder and chief counselor of “Chaos Camp,” a summer camp in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago that enjoyed a ten year run. When not teaching, Aaron loves bounding down mountains, canoeing at night on a certain lake in the Adirondacks, sitting for hours in tree stands while the snow gathers, and exploring the woods with his wife Tina and their two boys, Wyeth and Sawyer. If Aaron were to name a single over-arching goal for his students, it would be to help nurture a confident sense of themselves as self-directed learners, athletes in both mind and body, able to “calmly front the morrow,” as Emerson put it, at ease in self-trust. Please feel free to contact him directly at aaron@sevenriversschool.org.   

 
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Julie Despres

Early Childhood education 

Julie is from the beautiful state of New Hampshire and it was there 22 years ago that her love for educating children through the natural world began. She graduated from Keene State College with a degree in Health Science and taught children's fitness for a year before moving to Virginia. For the last 10 years, she has owned and operated Natural Beginnings Preschool. The founding philosophy of this school emphasized giving children as much time as possible outdoors engaging in physical activity, allowing their ingenuity and knowledge of the world to be nourished by a natural classroom. Now that Julie’s youngest child is 5, they have together gone in search of a school that similarly prizes this kind of exploratory and experiential learning in the open air. Julie believes that children learn best when there are choices that interest them, multiple ways to explore the world around them and are allowed to learn freely throughout the day. At the same time, she strives to cultivate a learning environment enriched by routine and structure, and has found that striking the right balance between freedom and structure leads to confident, independent, curious children. She and her husband, Dan, an Alaskan woodworker who loves to create innovative indoor and outdoor classroom structures, have three children, ages 15, 13, and 5. They enjoy exploring Virginia’s secret swimming holes, camping, floating the rivers, and going to all the great festivals the area has to offer.

 
 
 
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Melissa Giacherio

Curriculum and instruction specialist

Melissa, a northern Virginia native, moved to Charlottesville with her husband fifteen years ago to pursue her Masters in Teaching from UVA. After spending several years in San Francisco working for start-ups and meeting her future husband, they moved back to the east coast to be closer to family. Melissa graduated from the Curry School and started working at Village School, a middle school for girls in downtown Charlottesville. For the last fourteen years, she has taught and administrated at Village School while pursuing her Education Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction from UVA. Melissa is passionate about mission driven curriculum development and using best teaching practices in the classroom. Seven Rivers is a beautiful mix of Melissa’s belief as a teacher and a parent that children thrive when they feel safe, loved, and challenged. She is excited to join the Seven Rivers team and help grow the experiential curriculum and use her experience with traditional academic subjects in non-conforming ways. Melissa and her husband, Paul, are parents to two boys ages two and four. When she is not teaching, Melissa can be found outside with her boys helping them find bugs and any other creatures that are slow enough to be caught and gently examined.

 
 
 
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Jordan Perry

Explorations in Sound and Music

Jordan Perry is an educator, composer, and performer based in Charlottesville.  He graduated from the Boyer College of Music at Temple University in 2011 where he earned a BA in classical guitar performance.  He has been an active music instructor for the last 9 years and currently runs a private guitar studio serving students in Charlottesville and the surrounding area.  From 2012 - 2014, Jordan worked with the Al Kamandjati Association in Ramallah, Palestine where he taught guitar and chamber music. Al Kamandjati is a Palestinian run youth music school whose primary mission is to bring music lessons to the young residents of the UNRWA refugee camps in the occupied West Bank.  In addition to his other teaching activities, Jordan currently serves as the regional education director for MIMA Music which uses improvisational processes to write and record songs with groups of area youth.  Jordan is also an active composer, performer, and band member most recently working with Charlottesville's New Boss and singer/songwriter Ned Oldham.  Last year, Jordan released a self titled LP of original guitar compositions and continues to write and record for the instrument.  When he's not playing or teaching music, Jordan is a host on WTJU 91.1 FM's World Turning radio program.

 
 
 
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Elizabeth Hale

Movement & Mindfulness

Elizabeth is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and holds Association Montessori International diplomas at the 3-6 and 6-12 levels. She has been teaching since 1997 and currently works with adolescents at Staunton Montessori School. She and her husband offer classes at Heartmoor Farm Education Centre in Fluvanna County. Sharing mindfulness through exercises in personal awareness is a passion of hers as well as volunteering with Richmond Peace Education Center and the Virginia Center for Restorative Justice.

 
 
 
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Gail Lovette

Program coordinator

Gail Lovette knew on the first day of first grade that she wanted to be a teacher and has been a passionate educator and educational advocate from that day forward. Gail spent the first half of her career teaching and leading diverse student bodies in urban Title 1 elementary schools in Northern Virginia. She taught third and fifth grade and was also an elementary and middle school administrator. Gail truly believes that knowledgeable and passionate teachers positively impact their students by providing them with a strong educational foundation that allows them to take risks and pursue interests. On a daily basis, Gail works alongside teachers to provide them with coaching, modeling, and iterative professional learning opportunities that will give them the tools to impact all of their students. Gail is a mother to three young readers who keep her on her toes. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from SUNY-Geneseo, an M.A. in Educational Leadership and Administration from the George Washington University, and a Ph.D. in Reading Education from the University of Virginia. Gail is a licensed Reading Specialist and also holds licensure in Elementary Education, English as a Second Language, and Administration and Supervision PK-12 in Virginia. She has over a decade of teaching and administrative experience along with extensive clinical experience working with struggling readers of all ages.