Specialists & Support Faculty
Linda Handy, Ph.D., LPC. NCC, is a State of Maryland licensed Child and Adolescent therapist and a National Board Certified Counselor. She received post graduate advanced certification from Bowie State University (the oldest Historically Black College/University in Maryland and one of the ten oldest in the country) in family counseling. From 2001 to 2010, Dr. Handy taught in their Masters of Education programs in Special Education, Reading, Guidance and Counseling. She has certification in bereavement counseling from the American Academy of Bereavement. In 1989, she became a member of the American Psychological Society and the American Association for Counseling and Development. Upon receiving her graduate degree, Dr. Handy was elected a member of Sigma Phi Omega, a national Academic Honor Society for Counselors. She served for several years on the Counsel for Women and Girls in Independent Schools. Dr. Handy is dedicated as a therapist and educator to children and adolescents who learn differently, some who experience secondary social-emotional issues. Certified as a Forensic Interviewer of Children, she trained with the National Children’s Advocacy Center. She is a member of the American School Counselor Association and is a certified Catechist in the Archdiocese of Washington. Dr. Handy is a member of Leadership Montgomery, Class of 2005.
Dr. Handy was the youngest founding trustee of the McLean School of Maryland, a non-profit, co-educational school for bright students with diagnosed learning differences where she also served as Associate Director of Development, Director of Admission and Financial Aid and as Dean of Students. She is the Director of Guidance and Counseling at The Woods Academy. She has been the Head of School for two independent, nonprofit, schools for students in grades K – 12 with learning differences. Orton-Gillingham trained, Dr. Handy is also trained in Lindamood-Bell, LIPS and Visualizing and Verbalizing programs. She is a transcendental meditation practitioner and is on the advisory board for the Montgomery County Committee for Stress Free Schools. She has been a speaker at the National Conference for Children's Health and Education, the Learning Disabilities Association, the Association of Independent Maryland Schools, and the Committee for Stress Free Schools. Dr. Handy formed and directed a traveling children's chorus while Head of a Baltimore City independent school. She is a lyric soprano who trained at Brown University while a high school student in Providence, Rhode Island.
Linda Handy received a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland at College Park with a major in Counseling Psychology and a minor in Education. She has an M.A. degree from Hood College in Psychology, and has an ME.D. Equivalency from Bowie State University. She earned her doctorate from the Adler-Driekurs Institute/ Greenwich University in 1994, in the field of Counseling Psychology. Fellow Adlerian, Dr. Steven Maybell was her mentor and supervisor. Her dissertation is entitled “A School for Children Who Learn Differently - A Model.” Her research project is “Undiagnosed Learning Disabilities and their Impact on Adolescent Suicide.” This research work concludes that the fifth leading cause of suicide in adolescents is school failure and undiagnosed learning differences.
Other published writings by Linda Handy are "Adolescents with Social -Emotional Issues and the Family Systems Approach," “Choosing the Right Independent School for Your Child,” "A Message of Importance to the Parents of the LD Child," " Maximizing Your Child’s Academic Potential,” “On the Basis of Admission Testing,” "Traditional Testing for Admissions Is a Disservice to Many Children." “Children Setting Goals, “and "Living and Dying with Dignity." A sequel to the article" Social-Emotional Issues and the Family Systems Approach" was recently published in Reclaiming Children and Youth, Cultivating Resilience. In 2010, she wrote a manual entitled A Diamond in the Rough, a Parent’s Journey to Raising a Resilient Child.
Born at West Point NY, Mrs. Michelle Michlik grew up in a military family moving every three years both in the United States and overseas. Her family eventually put down permanent roots in Northern Virginia in 1988. Following graduation from Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, VA she attended Auburn University where she graduated with a BA in English and a BA in Theatre. Her first job after graduation she was teaching at The Lab School of Washington DC where she gained invaluable experience with learning disabilities, multi-sensory and project based learning and the importance of the arts in education. While working full time at The Lab School, Mrs. Michlik earned her Master's of Special Education at American University with a focus on learning disabilities. After fifteen years at The Lab School, Mrs. Michlik went on to work as the Arts Integration Specialist for The Auburn School's Fairfax campus. Most recently, Mrs. Michlik worked for Fairfax County Public Schools as a Learning Disabilities Specialist and then as the Lead Teacher of an enhanced autism classroom. Mrs. Michlik's 20 years of experience as a special educator have given her nuanced and informed understanding of learning differences, learning styles and how to best support the whole student for success.
She now calls Reston, VA home, having lived here 10 years with her husband, son and daughter. Aside from spending time with her husband and 2 kids, She has two dogs that she enjoys immensely. Hazel is a recently certified therapy dog with which she plans to begin volunteering with this year. With her other pup Walter she is working on agility training.
Ms. Claire O’Keeffe joined The Woods Academy in 2017 as an associate teacher. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in May of 2017 with a BA degree in Psychology and Spanish. Ms. O’Keeffe spent a semester aboard in Salamanca, Spain in an immersive Spanish learning program where she was able to gain first-hand experience with the language and culture. During her collegiate years, she worked with an after school mentoring program for at risk youth. She also worked at her school’s on-campus preschool, the Early Childhood Center, as a teacher’s aid.
Mrs. Sharon Pabon began teaching music at The Woods Academy in 2010. Since joining The Woods Academy, she has incorporated core curriculum themes into the music curriculum, founded and developed the extracurricular choir and orchestra programs, and instituted numerous performing opportunities for the students including Lower School lunch concerts, Mass prelude music performances, and the annual Instrumental Music Showcase. Before joining The Woods Academy, Mrs. Pabon worked as a freelance flutist and flute teacher in the DC/Baltimore area. She earned her Bachelor's degree in music from The Catholic University of America and a Master’s degree in music from at The Peabody Conservatory. Mrs. Pabon completed her Orff-Schulwerk music teacher certification in summer 2015, and she incorporates a combination of speech, singing, movement, and instruments in her preschool through grade eight music classes at The Woods Academy. She has a special place in her heart for sharing music through liturgical music ministry and elder-care music performances.
Mr. Tom Parker joined The Woods Academy Physical Education staff in 2006. Mr. Parker was born and raised in Upstate New York, just inside the Adirondacks. He attended and earned his Bachelor’s degree from State University of New York at Brockport in Western, N.Y. He moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 1999. He taught and coached at Browne Academy in Alexandria, VA for one year. After leaving Browne, he spent two years as the Sports Director at the JCC of Greater Washington; the sixth largest JCC in the country. While at the JCC, Mr. Parker developed and implemented sports classes, facilitated all of the youth and adult sports leagues and also served as the Delegation Head, representing the JCC at the International Maccabi Games. In 2001, he became a Physical Education teacher and coach at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. For the five years that Mr. Parker coached at Jewish Day, his Middle School softball teams compiled an overall record of 52-10 with two undefeated season. His Junior Varsity basketball teams went to the Championship Game four out of five years, winning three straight Championships.
Mr. Paris Person joined The Woods Academy in 2019 after working at Gonzaga College High School for a year as an Alumni Service Corp member. Mr. Person is a native Washingtonian and attended Gonzaga College High School. He received an undergraduate degree from Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, WV. Mr. Person also played college football at Alderson Broaddus University for 4 years.
Mrs. Katya Cunnane Pilong (1998) joined The Woods Academy faculty in 2007. She came to The Woods after teaching the fifth grade bilingual program and teaching ESL students ranging from PK-8th grade at Sacred Heart School in Washington DC. She holds a B.S. in French from the Catholic University of America and a M.Ed. from Marymount University in Elementary Education and is also certified as an elementary school teacher. Mrs. Pilong is a certified catechist in the Archdiocese of Washington, Hearts Aflame: Faith and Ministries Program. She is also certified in Phono- Graphix. Mrs. Pilong began her career at The Woods as a second grade teacher and now serves as the school's Media and Curriculum Specialist. She is also has her daughter in Montessori.
Mrs. Jane Pontius joined The Woods Academy after thirteen years as Head of School and ten years as a teacher at Christ Episcopal School, Rockville, MD. Mrs. Pontius guided the school through its first Capital Campaign along with the purchase of a $4.2 million adjacent office building and parking lot along with a successful AIMS re-accreditation. Mrs. Pontius was born in Boston, MA and raised in Southern California where she earned her teaching credential. She moved to the Washington, DC area where she worked in successively responsible positions at the Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress. She also was an adjunct professor of English at Montgomery College. She earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.
Mrs. Erin Jeffers Ricca joined The Woods Academy faculty in 1999. She is currently the school's Athletic Director and teaches Physical Education to students throughout the grades. During her years at The Woods she has enjoyed coaching the girls basketball and softball teams since 1999. While teaching first grade from 1999 to 2016, Mrs. Ricca was also a mentor teacher, First & Second Grade Team Leader, and a member of the AIMS Accreditation Steering Committee. Mrs. Ricca is a certified Catechist in the Archdiocese of Washington, Hearts Aflame: Faith and Ministries Program. She received her B.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Frostburg State University and has a Reading Specialist M.A. from Hood College.
Mrs. Danielle Papazian joined The Woods Academy in 2012 as an Extended Care Teacher. After having worked in the financial services industry for twelve years, Mrs. Papazian came to The Woods to pursue her lifelong passion for helping children develop academically and socially. Mrs. Papzian holds a B.S. in Business and a M.Ed. from Marymount University in Elementary Education and is certified as an elementary school teacher. Mrs. Papazian is also certified in STEM, Project Learning Tree, Project Wild, and NASA Solar Systems & Sun-Earth-Moon Relationships.
Mr. Eric Smith joined The Woods Academy in 2005 as a fifth grade Math and Science teacher. He was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Montgomery County Maryland. He earned a Bachelors Degree of Science in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. After completing his undergraduate degree he worked in the information technology field on a federal government contract. He later earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University. Before coming to The Woods Academy, Mr. Smith worked for Montgomery County Public Schools as a fifth grade teacher. In 2008, he became the Director of Technology at The Woods Academy.
Mrs. Charmaine Taverner, a Maryland State award-winning art teacher, serves as Director of Arts at The Woods Academy. Mrs. Taverner earned her Bachelor’s in Education at Johannesburg College of Education/Witwatersrand University in South Africa, her home country. Mrs. Taverner specialized in Special Education, Language, and the Arts in 1984. As a classroom teacher in South Africa, she taught first through fourth grades. Mrs. Taverner also served as Art Teacher to first through eighth grades in the South African after school program. Mrs. Taverner initiated and directed theater classes, which were awarded “Best Production” for three consecutive years. After immigrating to the United States, Mrs. Taverner continued her education towards Early Childhood teaching certification and simultaneously taught Pre-Kindergarten. Mrs. Taverner currently teaches art to students in grades Kindergarten through eighth grade at The Woods Academy. Mrs. Taverner instigated and established The Woods Academy’s Annual Arts Celebration. She has studied with well-known artists like Qiang Huang, Abbey Ryan, Hall Groat, and Trisha Adams.