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.


Kim Clark, First Grade

Kim Clark was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She obtained her bachelor's degree in Child Development from Pennsylvania State University and her master's in Early Childhood Education from Ursuline College. She moved to Bluffton to begin her teaching career in 2016 and has been teaching first grade ever since! She and her daughter joined the Cross community in 2021. She feels immensely blessed to be a part of such a wonderful community! Mrs. Clark believes that "teachers who love teaching, teach children to love learning." Her favorite part of teaching is
when a child discovers their love of reading! Contact Mrs. Clark at k.clark@crossschools.org.


Melanie Delalio, Assistant Teacher in First Grade

Melanie DeLalio is from Waynesville, NC. She relocated to Bluffton with her family during the summer of 2021 with her husband (Michael), two children (Ethan and Erika), and dog (Bentley). She graduated from Western Carolina University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Special Education with a concentration in language arts. Before coming to Cross Schools, Mrs. DeLalio taught students with learning disabilities and severe disabilities for 8 years in the public school and was also a preschool director and three-year-old teacher for 4 years.

Mrs. DeLalio is excited about helping children learn in a safe and fun environment while showing the love of Jesus. 

Contact Mrs. Delalio at m.delalio@crossschools.org.

Pam Donahue, Fine Arts 

Pam Donahue has been teaching art at Cross Schools since 2008. She has a BA in Visual Arts from Austin Peay State University, magna cum laude, and an MA in Fine Arts from Indiana University. As an undergraduate, she focused on painting and drawing and also minored in French. 

As a graduate student, she majored in art history, focusing on early-19th century French painting. 

While studying, she received a fellowship to work in the IU Art Museum’s Education department. She went on in art education as Assistant Curator of Education at the Knoxville Museum of Art in Tennessee, then Manager of Family Programs at the Dallas Museum of Art. She began her teaching career in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, a K-8 charter school for highly gifted students. Upon moving to Bluffton, she began teaching both art and technology for Cross Schools. She has also taught Yearbook, Video Editing, and Public Speaking.

Pam’s teaching philosophy is threefold:

  1. Expose children to different art techniques to tap into different learning styles, creativity, and skills.
  2. Educate children on the impact of the history of art by introducing them to famous artists and their bodies of work which creates a new understanding and appreciation of art.
  3. Advance the level of intellect to make future adults who have a knowledge base of culture and arts education no matter what career path they may follow.

Pam and her husband have three children, Michael, Ryan, and Katie. In addition to art, she enjoys history, baking, and college football.

 

Contact Pam Donahue at p.donahue@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.


Jennie French, Assistant Teacher in Kindergarten

Mrs. French has a Bachelor of Arts in  Early Childhood Education and an MEd in Special Education. She spent several years in Early Intervention along with Pre-K and Second Grade. Before moving to Cross, she worked with adults with disabilities. Mrs. French and her husband have three boys and have lived in Bluffton since 2012, having lived in Dallas for the prior 16 years. 

She's excited about being part of the Cross family.  

Contact Mrs. French at j.french@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.


Devon Jones, First Grade

Devon Jones is originally from Georgia, relocating to Bluffton with her husband in 2021.  She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development and Family Science from the University of Georgia, where she was a member of the Georgettes Dance Team.  After graduating, she worked with a nonprofit organization providing accessible summer camp experiences to children and families who experience illnesses, disabilities, and life challenges.  Her time working at camp fostered her love of instruction and enrichment, prompting her to pursue and complete her Master of Arts of Teaching in Elementary Education at Piedmont University.  In addition to her camp experience, Mrs. Jones spent three years working as a first-grade Teacher’s Assistant in one of Georgia’s top public school systems.

 

Mrs. Jones believes that teaching encompasses a crucial blend of both imparting academic knowledge and helping students develop into the caring, empathetic, and unique individuals that God created them to be.  She strives to create a safe and nurturing environment in which students learn to celebrate and respect one another, both in and out of the classroom.  She truly feels blessed to be a part of the Cross Schools family. 

Contact Mrs. Jones at d.jones@crossschools.org.


Jana Leroux, Assistant Teacher in Kindergarten

Jana Leroux holds a B.A. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from The University of Louisiana Monroe, as well as a Master's Degree in Special Education from Louisiana State University.

She has enjoyed teaching in the classroom for more than 10 years in LA, GA, and Bluffton, SC. She has teaching experience in Kindergarten, third grade, early childhood, Elementary Education, traditional and self-contained classroom settings. Given her training for children with special needs, she has had the privilege of working with children from diverse backgrounds. Mrs. Leroux feels that these experiences have made her a better teacher, and she is able to relate to children on various levels in a unique way.  She loves working with children and making a positive impact on their lives. 

Mrs. Leroux and her husband, Derek, have 3 boys: Mitchell, Max, Moss. They were drawn to Okatie from Cumming, GA  six years ago.  Their oldest son, Mitchell, attended Cross for middle school, and Mrs. Leroux worked at Cross as a permanent substitute teacher at that time. More recently, she was a reading tutor for elementary students at Okatie Elementary.  She is returning to Cross with her twin boys, Max and Moss, and they are currently in the 6th grade. Mrs. Leroux and her family enjoy living in the Lowcountry and the lifestyle it offers. She is so excited to be part of the Cross Staff. Contact Mrs. Leroux at j.leroux@crossschools.org

 

Stefanie Laugen,  Assistant Teacher in Second, Third, and Fourth 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.  


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


Amber Williamson, Mixed Media

Amber Williamson graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She has continued her education by receiving her English to Speakers of Other Languages endorsement (ESOL), Reading Certification, Gifted and Talented Certification, and Instructional Coaching Certification from the University of Florida.


Mrs. Williamson has taught grades first through fifth and also worked as an instructional coach and literacy interventionist. This will be her 16th year in education and she loves spending her days facilitating the growth of little minds.


Mrs. Williamson met her husband performing in theater when they were 15 years old. They stayed best friends for 20 years and just got married last year. They have recently welcomed their daughter, Clara.


Mrs. Williamson is so excited to join Cross Schools. She is passionate about building relationships with her students and sharing her love of learning with them. She strives to make each child feel special and to recognize their unique gifts. She truly believes that children are a gift from God and feels honored to get to spend each of her days in their presence. She hopes she can show each of them that “You are loved beyond measure.” Romans 8:38-39

Contact Mrs. Williamson at a.williamson@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.