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Middle School Teacher Bios

Carolyn Caig – Lower Middle School Language Arts Teacher

I grew up in Russellville, Arkansas and attended Baylor University where I got my bachelor’s degree in education and my master’s degree in English literature.  I taught English at a women’s university in Shimonoseki, Japan for two years.  I then returned to the United States and took a teaching job at Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas.  There I taught developmental English, world literature, and writing.  After five years there, I married and moved back to Arkansas where I stayed home with my two boys, both graduates of The Anthony School. I returned to teaching in 2015, taking a job as an 11th grade AP English teacher at eStem High School for two years before joining The Anthony School as a middle school language arts teacher in 2017. 

 

I have taught a wide variety of grades, but there is something very special about middle school students. I teach 6th grade literature and 7th and 8th grade grammar and composition, and I love it.  I especially enjoy working with my students on the academic writing they will be asked to do when they enter high school. When I am not at work, I enjoy spending time with my family and dogs, watching movies, baking, and gardening.     

 

Deni Clark - Lower Middle School History Teacher

After graduating from Arkansas Tech University, I began my teaching career in 1987. Schools have certainly changed for the better over the years, and I’ve continued to learn, improve, and grow just like my students. I am excited to begin my 27th year of teaching and my 12th year at The Anthony School. I have taught many grades and subjects over the years, and even taken a few years away from teaching, but I’ve landed my dream job teaching US history to 5th and 6th graders at TAS. The history classes in our lower and upper middle schools use a project based learning approach that allows kids to investigate, research and create projects based on the units we study. Students enjoy collaborating on projects and learn so much from each other and the research-creation process. I am always amazed by their creativity and love for learning. 

 

Teaching is my passion, but I also love to travel and be outdoors camping, hiking, canoeing or working in my yard.  I am also a photo bug, crafty, and love to play cards and games. You could describe me as a dog and animal lover for sure. My black lab, Gunner, is my shadow and faithful companion, especially since the loss of my husband Mike in 2017. I have two adult, married children, Abby & Miles French and Preston & Shelby Clark who mean the world to me! I am blessed with a great family, good health, and a wonderful place to work. The Anthony School is an amazing place for kids to learn and grow, and I love being a part of it!  

 

Natalie Darnell - Lower Middle School Language Arts Teacher

As soon as I learned to read, I was in love. The Baby-sitters Club and Nancy Drew Mystery StoriesHarriet the SpyThe Diary of Anne Frank, the back of a Pert Plus shampoo bottle… no text was safe from my bespectacled eyes. I also loved to write, and this resulted in cringeworthy poems about mermaids or mundane short stories about the secret lives of Jupiter’s moons. 

 

I’ve never lost my passion for the written word, though, and it has served me well. I attended the University of Arkansas on a Chancellor’s Scholarship where I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Departmental Honors Program in English. While still in college, I had the privilege of receiving the Sturgis Study Abroad Scholarship and was able to study drama in England. As you might imagine, this experience only encouraged my love of language.

 

After teaching for several years, I paused my career in the classroom to focus on the craziness of motherhood.  Even then, I volunteered with local organizations and was able to pass the power of words onto others. I had the joy of tutoring a struggling adult reader so she could confidently read to her own child. I chaired a community project that focused on young readers in Little Rock with the goal that they be competent, grade-level readers by the end of third grade.


Being able to share my passion for the written word with children at The Anthony School  is such an honor. This is my eighth (and a half) year teaching English Language Arts. My three sons have attended TAS since Pre-K, my two nieces also attend TAS, and my husband, Dr. Scott Darnell, attended TAS in his youth. We absolutely love this school and are dedicated to the values that it upholds. 

 

Besides teaching, I spend my time trying to keep up with my very energetic sons (with my husband’s assistance, of course), attempting various artistic endeavors, reading mysteries and historical fiction, riding my bicycle, and sneaking naps in when possible (which is basically never).

 

Graeme Ellzey – Middle School Art Teacher

Ever since I can remember, art has been a part of my life. Having grown up with two artist parents and a home-based professional art studio in my backyard, much of my childhood was spent painting, drawing, and working with clay in my "creative playground." I have been surrounded and influenced by professional artists and teachers, and I value the importance of providing a safe space where children may freely explore and focus on the process of creating. 

 

Prior to teaching at The Anthony School, I offered after school art classes, summer art camps, and private art lessons for several years to 1st through 9th graders. This is something that I still thoroughly enjoy today. I am currently in my 10th year of teaching 3rd through 8th graders, and I am grateful each day to have the opportunity to share my enthusiasm and passion for the visual arts.

 

Outside of the classroom, I enjoy furthering my own artistic endeavors through working in my home studio and traveling to visit art museums. Over the years, I have expanded my own personal portfolio and accepted commissions. 

 

My students’ artwork has been accepted and placed into highly competitive regional and state art exhibitions, including the Arkansas Arts Center’s Young Arkansas Artists Exhibition, central regional Arkansas Art Educators Exhibition, and the Curbside Couture Fashion Show at The Clinton Presidential Center. In addition, I have been published in one of the leading art educator magazines, Arts & Activities. 

 

I cannot wait to work alongside Anthony students and instill in them the same passion and excitement for art that I have experienced. It’s going to be a great year!

 

Jeremy Estell – Middle School French Teacher and Music Director

I grew up a country-boy in Sheridan, AR where I spent countless hours running cross-country, playing guitar, and fishing in my pond. I graduated from Hendrix College in 2000, and then sailed across the Atlantic in 2002 to find my new home in France.  After 10 years as an educator and musician, my family and I moved back to Arkansas, and I promptly began working at The Anthony School in 2012 as the French teacher.  In 2020 I began teaching PK3 through 5th grade music as well.  

 

I am the proud father of two little French-American monsters who love being goofballs and dancing on the couch. I still love to run, and I love hanging out with my wife and kids, our 2 cats (Jack and Zip-Zap), our Great Dane mix puppy, Oscar, and our 5 chickens (Ninja, Bubbles, Chex, Peanut and Cupcake). My job rocks because I get to have fun with middle-schoolers in French class, share my love of music with kiddos, and coach middle school cross-country and track.  I am also the tech director for the Middle School plays.  Needless to say, I stay busy!   (And life is good!!!)

 

Abby French - Lower Middle School Math Teacher

I’m thrilled to start my eighth year of teaching and my fifth year at TAS. I am beyond excited to teach math to these awesome kiddos. I fell in love with TAS after my mom, Deni Clark, started working here years ago. I love being on a team with my mom and three other amazing teachers. 

 

I grew up on a Fish Farm right outside of Little Rock. I attended schools through the Little Rock School District because my mom taught there. I received my degree at Henderson State University. 

 

I currently live in Benton with my husband, Miles, and our three dogs, Tucker, Copper, and Sam. Miles and Sam are one of Benton Police Department’s K9 teams. When I’m not at school, I love to play games, hike, hang out with my family, play with my dogs, and make crafts. 

 

Leslie Heister – Upper Middle School Language Arts Teacher

This is my sixth year teaching Language Arts at The Anthony School. Before I was a TAS teacher, I was a TAS parent. My husband and I fell in love with this school the moment we walked through the doors, and I can’t imagine teaching anywhere else. My daughters are in 4th grade and 1st grade, and I love going to school with them in the mornings and seeing them jump around on the playground from my classroom window. 

 

I grew up in West Virginia and graduated from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia.  I earned a BA in English, with a focus in Creative Writing and a minor in Theater from Vanderbilt University. After college, I moved to New York City and earned an Associate Degree from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After six years of pursuing an acting career, I decided to explore my other passion, teaching. I moved to Washington, D.C., married my college sweetheart, and earned a Master’s Degree in Teaching, with a focus in Secondary English from The American University. I taught 8th grade English at Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. for three years. I then stepped away from teaching for a few years to stay home with my children, during which time my husband and I made the decision to relocate to his hometown of Little Rock. We are so happy to have found The Anthony School and to be a part of this wonderful community.    

 

Adele Jackson – Upper Middle School Math Teacher

Welcome to Middle School math!  I am thrilled for the opportunity to continue building a math foundation for our students at The Anthony School!  I have been in the classroom since 2000 and have been teaching at TAS since 2010.  Although I have taught all subject matters in elementary school, my passion has always been math!  I am excited to create a love of learning in my middle school math students. I am a mom to Ellen (10th grade at MSM)  and William (7th grade)  who have attended TAS since PreK. Please always feel free to ask questions and reach out to me when needed. I love learning, teaching, and The Anthony School!

 

Linda Lopez – Middle School Spanish Teacher

Originally from Harlingen, Texas, I have been in Arkansas since December 1999.  I grew up speaking Spanish at home and English at school.  When I moved to Arkansas, I noticed there was a need for Spanish teachers, so that’s what I decided to study when I transferred to UALR.  I have been teaching for 18 years. The first three years of teaching, I taught 9th – 12th grade Spanish at Episcopal Collegiate School. There, I taught Spanish 3 – AP V: Spanish Literature. These last 15 years, I have been here at The Anthony School.  When I came to TAS in 2006, I taught every grade from kindergarten to 8th grade.  Now, I teach 3rd – 8th grade Spanish and love every minute of it!  Along with teaching, I also work part-time as an assistant librarian at McMath Library, and just graduated May 2021 with my Masters in Library and Information Studies from the University of Oklahoma.  BOOMER SOONER!

 

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” - Nelson Mandela

 

Nicole Podesta – Upper Middle School Language Arts and Play Director

 

I have been teaching for over 20 years, and I have been lucky enough to have spent almost 18 of those years at The Anthony School. Both of my daughters attended PreK- 8th grade at TAS, and we are so proud to call this place ‘home’. 

 

While here, I have taught a variety of subjects including 7th and 8th grade Literature; 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Composition; Intro to Communication; Speech, Debate; Creative Writing; and Study Skills. In addition, I direct the middle school fall play and every elementary play. In 2019, I received the Freddie G. Fellowship Award for Excellence in Directing and spent a week in New York studying under Broadway directors, choreographers, and technical directors. This year, I am so excited to teach 7th and 8th grade Literature and Grammar (Language Arts). I feel bad for anyone who doesn’t get to do what I do every day. How very privileged I am to be part of this amazing community of students, teachers, and families. 

 

Chris McDaniel – Upper Middle School Science Teacher

I have been teaching at The Anthony School since 2002. I am a Little Rock native and a graduate of Catholic High School for Boys. I graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with my Bachelor’s in Biology in 1993, from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with my Master’s in Microbiology in 1996, and from the University of Central Arkansas with my Master’s in Physical Therapy in 1999. I have taught for a short time at the college level.

 

At The Anthony School, I teach 7th Grade Life Science and 8th Grade Physical Science. I won Little Rock Family Magazine’s Amazing Educator Award in 2014. Although I enjoy all areas of Science, my favorite areas are Cell and Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and Human Physiology. I am strongly committed to The Anthony School, to its Mission Statement, and to providing the best education for my students. I love being part of The Anthony School team!

 

Matt Spivey – Upper Middle School History Teacher

I have been an educator for 21 years, 13 of which have been at the Anthony School.  My children have attended TAS since they started school in PreK3 and are now in the 7th and 4th grades. My wife is also a teacher at TAS teaching Pre-K and Lower Elementary about World Cultures. Needless to say the Spivey family is fully immersed in the “Anthony life” and we love it.

 

While at TAS I have taught 6th – 8th grade Social Studies. I coach soccer in the spring and offer some after school guitar lessons to a few students when the school day ends.  Over the years in Social Studies we have developed a project based learning approach that allows kids to investigate, research and create projects based on the units we study.  It is remarkable to see the level of work and amount of creativity the students possess. I get to see it play out everyday, which makes this school a place where I love to work!

 

Amanda Taylor – Librarian & PE Instructor

“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” -Fran Lebowitz

 

I have been the librarian at The Anthony School since 2006. I received my Bachelor's degree from Centenary College of Louisiana. I moved to Little Rock in 1995, where I met my husband of 23 years. After moving to Little Rock, I was lucky enough to become friends with Stephanie Johnson, a former Anthony School faculty member who introduced me to the school. I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from University of Southern Mississippi. My husband, Shawn, and I have two daughters, both Anthony School graduates. Being a teacher/parent gives me a unique perspective on the benefits of an Anthony School education.

 

Young adult literature has taken off, and there are more wonderful authors and fabulous books for middle school students than ever before. One of my favorite parts of my job is selecting books for the students and then discussing with them what they are reading. 

 

In addition to being the school Librarian, I have taken on the additional role of PE Instructor. I am so excited for the opportunity to work with students on sportsmanship, fitness and health. I spent many years playing competitive tennis (including in college) and also taught tennis for a number of years. As a parent of two competitive athletes (one is a dual sport college athlete), I am familiar with many of the challenges that accompany such drive and desire. 

“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” -Brene Brown

 

Jeremy Teeter - Coding & Computer Programming Instructor

Professionally, I’ve lived many lives and those that know me well refer to me as a “renaissance man.” I’ve loved The Anthony School since our first visit in the summer of 2014.  I’ve served on the ParentCrew as carpool chair, PantherDads chair, vice-president, and president.  I’ve also served as a director on the Board of Trustees, but it’s with the most pride that I serve as a teacher in this fanTAStic community.  

I have two children currently attending TAS and cannot imagine a better environment in which they could grow up.  

 

My formal education is a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design/Drawing and a minor in Computer Science from the University of Central Arkansas.  I draw inspiration for my current efforts from over a decade of leveraging custom enterprise software in the printing industry, years of volunteering with educational programs including the EAST Initiative, and more recently providing functional data science expertise in the political arena. 

 

Ashton Winkelmeyer – Athletic Director, Facilities Manager, PE, and Coach

I have been in education for over a decade. Since graduating with my Bachelors in 2010, I’ve gone on to earn my Masters Degree in the Art of Teaching, a State of Arkansas Teaching Certificate, an English as a Second Language (ESL) Endorsement, a Technology Endorsement, and Levels F, E, and D of my National Soccer Coaching Certificate through United States Soccer. This is my 8th year at The Anthony School. I also work as a soccer coach for the Little Rock Rangers.