Leslie Albert, Faith Formation

Leslie Albert's children began attending Cross Schools in 2006.  In 2009, as a volunteer, she spearheaded the building of the Cross Schools Library then served as librarian for two years.  She joined Cross Schools as a part of the Faith Formation program in 2016 as an assistant.  Today, she is a teacher of children from Preschool through High School and the coordinator of ministry and outreach events. 

Mrs. Albert holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance Degree from the University of Florida. She held positions in event planning for the Savannah Economic Development Authority, recruiting and corporate development for the Career Management Center at Vanderbilt University MBA School, and Membership Services Director at Belfair Plantation. These roles, combined with her desire to inspire others to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord, have prepared her for this new position  

Mrs. Albert and her husband, Gerrit, have three children.  Contact Mrs. Albert at l.albert@crossschools.org.  


Michelle Bueso, Fourth Grade

Michelle Bueso earned a Masters' Degree in Elementary Education from Dowling College in Oakdale, New York and began her teaching career at Central Islip Early Childhood Center in New York in 1999. She has been at Cross Schools since moving to Bluffton in 2005. She is strong in her Christian faith; therefore spiritual, as well as academic and social growth of children is important to her. She believes that each child is a gift and their individual learning styles should be taken into consideration. Ms. Bueso runs a structured classroom where differentiated teaching styles are utilized daily. Contact Ms. Bueso at m.bueso@crossschools.org.

Taylor Drake, Kindergarten

Taylor Drake was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina. She has over seven years of experience in Early Childhood Education and this is her third year at Cross Schools. She has her bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina and is currently working on furthering her education and completing her Masters Degree.

Ms. Drake believes in providing students with a positive and enthusiastic learning environment. She hopes to encourage compassion and to instill a strong love of learning. She is excited to continue her journey and be a part of the Cross family! Go Stingrays!  Contact Ms. Drake at t.drake@crossschools.org.

Sarah Epperson, Kindergarten

Sarah Epperson was born and raised on Hilton Head Island. She graduated from the University of South Carolina Beaufort with a degree in Early Childhood Education. Mrs. Epperson has more than five years teaching experience. 

Her goal as a teacher is to guide young children in their academics, encourage them to try new things, and help them develop a love for learning. Mrs. Epperson loves Cross Schools and feels so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful community. Contact Mrs. Epperson at s.epperson@crossschools.org.

Kathryn Gilmour, Assistant Teacher in Kindergarten

Kathryn Gilmour is originally from Alexandria, Virginia and moved to Bluffton in 2013. After graduating from Wake Forest University, Mrs. Gilmour taught second and fifth grade in the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system and also at Christ Church Preschool and Kindergarten in Charlotte.

Mrs. Gilmour believes that learning should be a positive experience for all children and that each child is truly special. She realizes that there is nothing more important than a faith-based education. As a graduate and "lifer" of a prominent Episcopal school, Mrs. Gilmour realizes the benefits, strengths and demands of a great education. The school spirit, academics, sports and faith make a child well-rounded. It is her privilege to help each child realize their potential and be a part of a great school community. Contact Mrs. Gilmour at k.gilmour@crossschools.org.  

Josh Hicks, Lego Lab, Lego Robotics, and MakerSpace Lab

Josh Hicks teaches in Maker Space, LEGO Lab, LEGO Robotics, and Honors Geometry. A graduate of Francis Marion University with a degree in Elementary Education, he has more than seventeen years of teaching experience in independent schools in South Carolina. He had the distinct honor of being chosen as the South Carolina Independent School Association's 2010 Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Mr. Hicks has two primary focuses in the classroom. First, learning is not in the problem or in the solution, but in the process between the two; this may differ from student to student as God has made us all unique. It is critical that we share these processes with each other so that we can enhance our understanding. Second, asking questions to help students develop a pattern of discovery. Even if it has been learned millions of times in the past, each time a student discovers a truth, it is a beautiful moment. Contact Mr. Hicks at j.hicks@crossschools.org.

Stefanie Laugen,  Assistant Teacher in First Grade

Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Stefanie Laugen relocated to Bluffton with her family in July of 2020. Mrs. Laugen graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with an emphasis in English. 

Mrs. Laugen has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 7th grade Language Arts in both public and private schools in Arizona, Michigan, and Texas over the last 14 years. She strives to help children be all that God created them to be while feeling encouraged, safe, and loved. Mrs. Laugen, her husband, and their three kids Emi, Ali, and Jackson feel very blessed to be a part of the Cross Schools family! Contact Mrs. Laugen at s.laugen@crossschools.org.  

Elisabeth Markle, Faith Formation

Elisabeth Markle has been part of the Cross Schools community since 2006. She has served in several different positions, beginning as a Church Office Coordinator and Liaison between the Church and school. From there, she transitioned to a Lead Preschool Teacher before moving into her current role with the Faith Formation program. This year, she is serving as the lead Bible teacher and weekly Chapel leader for both the Preschool through 6th grade.

Ms. Markle has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Eastern University. She also attended a private Christian school from grades 1st-12th and has multiple years’ experience with both college and youth Church ministry, giving her a strong Biblical worldview and foundation of faith-based education.

The Faith Formation program is above all relational, meaning that it is through relationships with the Lord and one another that we see, learn and experience the Christian life. These relationships are built by training students in God's Word, modeling a commitment to faith and discipleship, providing opportunities for missional service and helping them apply a Biblical worldview to all aspects of life. The Bible says that the children were passionately welcomed by Jesus (Matthew 19:14), and Ms. Markle prays that each Cross student will grow up to boldly declare, "You are the King and the Lord. You have always been my hope. I have trusted in you ever since I was young" (Psalm 71:5).   Contact Ms. Markle at e.markle@crossschools.org

Carolyn Marquez, Third Grade

Carolyn Marquez is originally from New Jersey and relocated with her family to Bluffton nine years ago. Mrs. Marquez graduated from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and Counseling. Her post-graduate work was completed at the College of Saint Elizabeth in New Jersey where she received her Early Childhood and Elementary certifications. She holds these two certifications in South Carolina as well.

Mrs. Marquez has taught in public and private schools and has been teaching for 17 years. As an educator, she encourages her students to embrace learning and always strive to do their best. She believes in creating a classroom environment where students feel safe, are comfortable to express their ideas, and where mutual respect and acceptance of each other is encouraged. Mrs. Marquez has taught at Cross Schools for nine years and she has loved working in a Christian environment where her two daughters, Reese and Olivia, can also attend.  Contact Mrs. Marquez at c.marquez@crossschools.org.  

Betsy O'Donnell, Kindergarten

Betsy O'Donnell was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio and graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education. Shortly after graduating, she moved to Chicago to pursue a teaching career.  She has over ten years of teaching experience and has has the privilege of teaching preschool, first, and second grades throughout her career.  
Ms. O'Donnell believes in fostering a positive classroom environment where children feel safe, loved, and accepted.  She strives to help children find their greatness by providing an enriching learning experience along with encouragement, support, and kindness.  Ms. O'Donnell is excited to be teaching Kindergarten after having a wonderful experience teaching Transitional Kindergarten last year.  Ms. O'Donnell feels extremely blessed to be a part of the Cross Schools community.  Contact her at b.odonnell@crossschools.org.  



Alexandra Otwell, Second Grade

Alexandra Otwell graduated from Catholic University with a degree in Elementary Education.  In college, Mrs. Otwell played both soccer and lacrosse. After college, she taught for D.C. public schools for seven years. In 2016, she moved to Bluffton with her family and taught in Beaufort County Schools for four years. Alix will be joined at Cross School with her two children, Riley and Greyson who will be in the preschool.

Mrs. Otwell is extremely excited to start her twelfth year teaching at Cross Schools!  She believes in creating a classroom where children feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. She also feels the importance of creating a community where children feel loved and valued.  She recognizes that each child has their own unique learning style and the importance of fostering those styles to create engaging lessons for all to access.  Contact Mrs. Otwell at a.otwell@CrossSchools.org.

Karen Penale, Spanish Immersion/ Environmental Learning

Karen Penale was born in Mexico City; Mexico. Her mother was Mexican, and her father was Irish American. At age five her family moved to Lockport, New York (Western New York) where she was raised along with her four brothers and sisters. Shortly after marrying her husband Joe, her career as a Social Worker in New York was put on hold for her to stay home to care for her daughters. After seven years, the Penale family moved to South Carolina where Mrs. Penale received her Master’s in Teaching Degree and was hired to teach at Hilton Head Island Elementary school. Her experience is extensive: two years teaching ESOL and Spanish, ten years teaching first grade, five years teaching Spanish Immersion (Science and Math) in first grade, and the last five years teaching fourth grade Spanish Immersion (Science and Math). Mrs. Penale completed the Master Naturalist Program offered through the Lowcountry Institute in conjunction with Clemson Extension in 2019.

Mrs. Penale heartfully loves nature and everything connected to teaching children to become stewards of our environment and our world. She loves to spread the love of all things natural to the curious, amazing young people. “These children are our future and they need to understand that they are able to make changes to protect all that God has created.” Connecting with nature is very easy and natural for children of every age. Contact Mrs. Penale at k.penale@CrossSchools.org.  

Barb Ready, Second Grade

Barb Ready was born and raised right in the middle of Missouri. She obtained her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Central Missouri. She holds certificates in K-8 as well as music, math, and language arts. She has a wide variety of teaching experience in public school, private school, homeschool, and homeschool co-ops.

Mrs. Ready believes children learn best when they feel safe, loved, and have a lot of fun! She understands everyone learns differently, so it is her goal to provide as many diverse learning experiences as possible. She strives to make sure every child knows God created them to be uniquely them and encourages them to celebrate that. She also teaches that we are created for community through many collaborative activities. Contact Mrs. Ready at b.ready@CrossSchools.org.

Marisa Rivera, Music and Drama 

Marisa Rivera graduated from SUNY Fredonia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre this past May. She has always been drawn to the stage and has performed in community, regional, and collegiate theatre in New York State. Most recently she portrayed Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. She also led SUNY Fredonia’s only competing a cappella group, Premium Blend, to place third in the ICCA competition. After college, Ms. Rivera moved to Bluffton, South Carolina to join her family. She is a member of The Church of the Cross and sings in both the Chapel and Crosspoint services every Sunday. 

Ms. Rivera believes that music and drama are essential to creating well rounded, inspired students. Her desire is to share her love of God and worship with her new cross family. She is excited to see where the Lord leads her in this ministry! Contact Ms. Rivera at m.rivera@crossschools.org.

Ashley Sanders, Third Grade

Ashley Sanders is originally from Indiana and just recently moved to Bluffton in 2019 with her son and husband. Mrs. Sanders graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Social Work. After realizing her love for working with children, Mrs. Sanders earned her Teaching Certificate in Elementary Education. She began her career at Cross as a Teacher’s Assistant and is excited and honored to have her own classroom where she can watch her students grow. She recognizes that each student has an individual learning style and she strives to foster those learning styles by providing various forms of engagement throughout her classroom. She feels blessed to be part of an amazing Christian community and hopes to share these values with her students. Contact Mrs. Sanders at a.sanders@CrossSchools.org.

Jilly Stevens, Kindergarten

Jilly Stevens is originally from Ireland. She graduated from Leeds University with a BA (Hons) in Social Administration and a Post Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education. She has over twenty-five years of experience teaching children from PreK to Grade 5 in Ireland, England, New Zealand, and in the USA. Her most recent post being a Director of Early Education in a private school in New York.

Mrs. Stevens believes that learning should be conducted in a fun-filled, stimulating, hands-on learning environment where students feel happy and safe to learn. She believes in teaching the "whole child" knowing their strengths and weaknesses to help them fulfill their academic potential. Mrs. Stevens feels blessed to be part of the Kindergarten team at Cross Schools.  She can be contacted at j.stevens@CrossSchools.org.  

Kristin Thompson, Fourth Grade

Kristin Thompson has been an educator for over ninteen years in both independent and public schools. Mrs. Thompson has a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing from New Hampshire College and completed her graduate studies in Elementary Education at Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1999. She has a passion for the arts and is the Middle School Drama Coach. 

Mrs. Thompson believes that happy children learn best and teaches to all learning styles. Her love of drama and the arts positively affects her classroom. Throughout the school day you will see her students enjoying many hands-on learning experiences. She believes God instills each child with gifts, and nurtures each student to share this gift with others.  Contact Mrs. Thompson at k.thompson@crossschools.org.

Carrie Wilder, Assistant Teacher in Kindergarten

Carrie Wilder graduated from Elon College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.  She has many years teaching experience both in homeschooling her four children, and as an assistant teacher in Lower School.

Mrs. Wilder believes strongly in seeing each student as a child of God.  She feels it is necessary to approach each student as a whole person; intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.  Her desire is to be of great support to her lead teachers while inspiring and guiding each student through individual attention and patience.  Contact Mrs. Wilder at c.wilder@crossschools.org

Jenny Williamson, First Grade

Jenny Williamson earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from the University of South Florida. She has acquired over twenty years of experience in the classroom and has been part of the Cross Schools family since 2006. Ms. Williamson's three grown children also live in the Lowcountry. She is thrilled that her daughter, Kelly Williamson, is now working at Cross in the role of Director of Development. 

Ms. Williamson's goal is for every student to feel encouraged, capable, and enthusiastic about learning. She strives to recognize each child's individual strengths and areas of weakness. This allows them to develop and improve upon skills they have when entering the first grade. Students have an excellent balance of fun, laughter and academics. They are encouraged to support and help one another which develops an excellent team atmosphere. She encourages students to develop their own sense of self-discipline that fosters a favorable environment for education. Ms. Williamson's desire is to show Christ's love to each child and treasure the time she has with every student. Contact Mrs. Williamson at j.williamson@crossschools.org

Kira Winders, Physical Education

Kira Winders holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education from Appalachian State University and a Masters of Elementary Education from Liberty University. She loves being active and healthy and is extremely passionate in providing her students with the knowledge to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Mrs. Winders and her husband have four children. Her daughter and sons are thrilled to be a part of Cross Schools, and her youngest will join the Stingray family next year. It is her goal to combine her range of experience with the other teachers at Cross Schools and to present Health and Physical Education as an important, fun, and life-changing class.

Mrs. Winders has been involved in sports since she was young. She has years of experience coaching both basketball and softball. As a Physical Education teacher, she is passionate, devoted, and excited about the Cross Schools Athletic Program.

Mrs. Winders taught in North Carolina and Virginia before moving to South Carolina in 2013. She has enjoyed working at Cross since 2014. Mrs. Winders is very excited to be a part of Cross Schools faculty. Contact Mrs. Winders at k.winders@crossschools.org.