There are at least two teachers in every Early Learning Program classroom. Each Early Learning Teacher (ELT) owns a different content area—one focuses on Literacy, and the other focuses on Math/Science. Early Learning Program classrooms also share Early Learning Teaching Fellows (ELTF). The Early Learning Teachers are the primary teachers in the classroom whereas the Teaching Fellows play supporting roles to the Early Learning Teachers and often are in training to become a full teacher. For certain courses, a Subject Expert Teacher (SET) will push into the room to deliver content, and for others, an ELT or an ELTF will accompany students to an SET’s classroom.
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Mr. Bernal earned his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from the University of Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano. After graduation, he won a liquid container design competition for a nationally recognized food and drinks company.
He says he is fortunate that creativity sits well in every field and everywhere, and that is why he decided to come to the United States to become a teacher more than 15 years ago. Mr. Bernal completed his teacher preparation in Dallas, Texas, and taught mathematics and science in grades 2-4. During that time, he often traveled to various places and moved to Washington, DC in 2019.
“The innovative primary program at BASIS Independent McLean with its two-teacher model is something I had imagined in the past and now I see its benefits” he says. “With the support of dedicated LET’s I am enabled and inspired to transmit my creativity to my young engineering practitioners.”
Ms. Brown holds a Bachelor in Elementary Education and is pursuing her Master in Instructional Design. Previously, she worked in public schools for six years, of that, five years were at Fairfax County. She also has experience teaching dance and color guard to high school students.
Ms. Brown is thrilled to teach at BASIS Independent McLean to provide learners with a foundation and passion to love learning. She believes that everyone can love learning with the right support, guidance, and tools. She shares the same beliefs as BASIS Independent Schools, including creating the love of learning to create forever learners.
During Ms. Brown’s free time, she likes to spend time with her husband and son by exploring new places to eat. She also enjoys singing and dancing to her record collection. “There’s a song for everyone,” says Ms. Brown.
Ms. Chatpolarak has been an early childhood educator for 7 years. In addition, she had experience working with special education students in Prince William County. Ms. Chatpolarak has a bachelor’s degree in Business administration from Thailand and MBA from Ashland University. She has been working in the marketing field in Thailand for several years. After she came to the U.S., she switched her career to the education field where she found her passion.
Ms. Chatpolarak enjoys working with kids, especially the little ones. She’s been married and has 4 children; 2 boys and 2 girls. One of her hobbies is traveling with her family.
Most recently prior to joining BASIS Independent Mclean, Ms. Chen taught preschool at Bright Horizons and has a passion for Early Childhood Education. She enjoys working with children and loves to feed their curiosity to explore the world. Her goal at BASIS Independent Mclean is to protect children’s curiosity and imagination and to create a rich learning environment that addresses an individual’s interests and learning skills. In addition to her early childhood experience, Ms. Chen has taught college and middle school students. She is a career switcher, holding a Ph.D. in Journalism and Communication from Jinan University in Guangzhou, China.
In addition to joining us as a teacher, Ms. Chen is a BIM parent! Outside of work, Ms. Chen commits herself to the Chinese community by teaching Chinese on Sunday afternoons. During her leisure time, she enjoys biking, hiking, running, traveling, and spending quality time with her family.
Mr. Cotton holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Music from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, TX, and a Master of Music in Classical Guitar Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Prior to joining BASIS Independent McLean, he taught grades K-5 elementary music classes, guitar, ukulele, piano, and music appreciation to students of all ages. He believes music is the universal language and an essential part of a child’s well-rounded education. He looks forward to guiding students to discover their love of music.
George Mason University, B.A. in Integrative Studies, Concentration in Liberal arts for Education PreK-Grade 3
Before joining BASIS Independent McLean, Ms. Darby taught for more than 15 years in private school: “My background has taught me that each classroom embodies a community of diverse learners, which requires educators to incorporate multiple teaching methodologies.”
Her goal at BASIS Independent McLean is to leverage these methodologies to promote an environment in which students learn to be inquisitive and curious, utilizing logic and their senses as tools for navigating through life.
Ms. Darby chose BASIS Independent McLean because of the strong emphasis placed on creative thinking and problem solving, preparing students to excel and succeed across all academic areas: “Within my classroom walls every child will develop confidence, while learning to collaborate effectively with others. An engaging, fun, and supportive learning environment enables each child to grow and flourish, ultimately preparing them to be successful and caring members of society.”
Ms. Darby enjoys photography, reading, and traveling with her husband. She has a passion for the arts and believes every child is indeed an artist! “When a child’s creativity and passions are fostered, the sky is the limit!”
Ms. Darwiche joins BASIS Independent with seven years’ experience as a kindergarten teacher. Ms. Darwiche was the kindergarten teacher at First Steps Academy, McLean for six years, and most recently she helped run a kindergarten classroom newly created because of the pandemic at a private school in Arlington.
Ms. Darwiche has a B.S. in Architecture from the Lebanese University of Fine Arts, A.S. in Early Childhood Development from NOVA and an International Montessori Teaching Diploma from the NAMC.
Ms. Darwiche is excited to join BASIS Independent McLean because of her passion for working with children from diverse backgrounds, helping them feel honored in the class environment and learning from them about their unique experience, all while creating a classroom community that helps every child in the class learn and feel special.
Ms. Darwiche believes that creating a good relationship between the teacher and the student is key to helping the child advance academically as well as gain the important social and emotional skills. During her free time Ms. Darwiche enjoys reading, listening to music and photography.
Prior to moving into education, Mrs. Echandia spent 10 years in the law field. After moving from Colombia to Virginia, she decided to make a change into education in order to spend more time with her daughter. Since she started at BASIS Independent McLean she has discovered her passion for teaching children and says she couldn’t imagine going back to law. In addition to previously teaching Late Bird and Language and Literacy, she is also a proud BASIS Independent McLean parent. Ms. Echandia holds degrees from the Universidad del Rosario and Universidad Sergio Arboleda (Colombia).
Ms. Ensley is excited to join BASIS Independent McLean as a Kindergarten Fellow! She previously worked as a kindergarten and preschool assistant teacher at Temple Rodef Shalom Early Childhood Center. Her oldest daughter recently graduated from BIM, and her two younger children are part of the BIM classes of ‘24 and ‘28.
She enjoys running, skiing, reading, and watching hockey and gymnastics in her free time. Ms. Ensley holds a BA in International Affairs from George Washington University and a JD from the George Washington University Law School.
Syracuse University, BFA in Acting and Directing
Montclair State University, MAT in Early Childhood Education
Ms. Glanzer was a founding member of BASIS Independent Manhattan in 2017. There she taught music in the lower school and was the musical director for Drama Club productions. This is her 4th year at BASIS Independent McLean. She currently teaches Performing Arts to Toddlers through Grade 3. She is also the Director of the after-school Drama Club performances for Grades 4 and 5. Prior to teaching at BIM, she ran her own company doing musical parties for children all over New Jersey, was a music teaching artist for area preschools and camps, and has two children’s music CDs under the name “Miss Dylan,” one of which earned her a Parents Choice Award.
Dylan lives in VA with her husband of 29 years. Her son, Aaron, is the High School Computer Science teacher at BIM. Her daughter, Zimri, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and is living in NYC.
Dylan has a passion for teaching young people and wants to inspire confidence and cooperation through the performing arts. She loves reading, drinking coffee, and spending time with her husband and family.
Previously, Ms. Soylu Kucuk was a Leopard Cubs Instructor at The Langley School, where she planned, prepared, and delivered age-appropriate activities to children from infant to age 3. As a Turkish foreign language teacher for elementary school children, she taught students to not only learn the language, but promoted cross-cultural understanding. Ms. Kucuk holds a Business Administration degree from the University of Baltimore.
Ms. Mansur has worked with early childhood for over 10 years. She graduated from George Mason University with her B.S. in Psychology with a concentration in Educational Psychology. She is currently pursuing her M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction with a license in Early Childhood Education for Diverse Learners PreK-grade 3. Ms. Mansur is excited to join the BASIS Independent Mclean team and is ready to get to know the students! Ms. Mansur enjoys watching sports (Go Nats!) and likes to spend her time with family and friend
Academy of Fine Arts of Brera, Milan, Italy in Fine Arts
Originally from Milan, Italy, Ms. Mauri has lived in Milan and Perugia, as well as London and New York. In addition to her degree, she studied illustration at Chelsea College of Art, London, and painting and drawing at the Art Students League of New York, NY. She has exhibited her artwork in group shows in England, Italy and New York, NY.
Committed to the arts and teaching, she most recently worked as a graphic illustrator, art teacher, and special education needs teacher at The International School of Europe of Monza, Italy. She has also worked in printmaking and as a textile designer for two New York–based companies.
Ms. Mauri is enthusiastic about BASIS Independent McLean because it offers students and teachers a wonderfully stimulating environment where all students can be challenged to express their full potential. Her goal as a BASIS Independent McLean teacher is to embrace this challenge and offer her students an opportunity to develop their creativity, to express themselves, and become confident and balanced individuals able to tackle and solve a range of tasks from different perspectives.
She loves travelling and experiencing new cultures and lifestyles, as well as art, design, architecture, outdoors activities, yoga and, last but not least, spending time with her family. Among the most unusual thing Ms. Mauri has ever done was to be the bass player of a band, which she enjoyed enormously except for experiencing stage fright before each single concert.
Ms. Niciphor is excited to join BASIS Independent McLean as a PreK Teaching Fellow. She has years of experience working with young children who have a variety of learning abilities. Prior to joining the BIM team, Ms. Niciphor coordinated early intervention services for children from birth to age three.
Ms. Niciphor’s goal is to define each child’s unique learning style and help them reach their full potential. She believes that creative expression is a key to unlocking the love for learning! She holds a B.A. in Psychology with a focus in Childhood Studies from Christopher Newport University.
Outside of work, Ms. Niciphor continues her lifelong passion for dance and has experience in teaching, choreographing, and performing.
Ms. Ordonez was born and raised in Colombia, South America, where she got her degree in graphic design at Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogota. Some years after, life took her to start working as a teacher in the same school where she graduated, and that’s when 13 years ago, she started this amazing career and fell in love with kids. She taught IT, graphic design, and arts to elementary and high school students in private schools. She was lead teacher for grades 11 and 12 and was in charge of the school yearbook as a designer.
In 2015, she got married and moved to the United States. When her daughter was born, she started working in a daycare with the 2-year-old children; that way she could be closer to her daughter, too. After four years, she is now excited to be part of BASIS Independent McLean, where she can continue leaving a mark on children’s lives and train them with love and dedication for their future.
Ms. Ordonez loves to travel, watch movies with her husband and daughter, go to the beach, gather with friends and family, and listen to Latin music that reminds her of her country. She also loves to do art and crafts, lettering, and jewelry.
Before coming to Basis Independent McLean, Ms. Palmer had her own business for over 20 years. She taught movement, music and kids’ fitness classes at numerous schools in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. She is now really excited to be teaching Movement to the Toddler, Pre K-1 and Pre K-2 students at BIM!
Ms. Palmer has a B.S. degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Towson University. Her hobbies include walking, reading and traveling.
Previously, Ms. Petito worked as a teacher’s assistant for early learning students at a charter school. She took a break for a few years to work at a doctor’s office, however, she missed working with kids and is excited to be at BASIS Independent McLean. Ms. Petito holds a Bachelor of Law degree from Chongqing College (China) and an Associate Law degree from Chongqing Broadcast TV University (China).
Mr. Rother is embarking on his second year as a pre-K teaching fellow. Prior to joining Basis, he had spent 20 years working on Wall Street. He graduated from Fordham University with a BS in finance.
Mr. Rother has three wonderful adult children; two daughters 25 and 23 and a son aged 21. His passions include teaching Pre-K, enjoying time with friends and family, travel, pickleball, waterskiing, snowboarding, and relaxing in his hammock.
Ms. Sanders is a passionate and dedicated role model, who brings more than 13 years of experience, knowledge and expertise in early childhood education. Utilizing her Bachelor Degree in Computer Science from the University of Economics (Bulgaria) to dive in and use data on daily basis, she develops and foster rigorous, engaging and fun experience for the little ones. Originally from Bulgaria, she speaks, understands or reads four languages, loves spending time with family and friends, and playing volleyball.
Roberts Wesleyan College, B.A. in Communications
George Mason University, M.Ed. in Early Childhood Curriculum and Instruction
Mrs. Smith began her career in education on staff with Teach For America in the Las Vegas Valley region in 2007 before moving to Washington, D.C., as a corps member, where she taught Grade 2 and PreK-1 with DCPS. Mrs. Smith was part of the founding PreK-1 team at KIPP D.C.: Discover Academy in Anacostia, where she was the department chair (2013-2017) and the Teacher to Teacher award recipient (2016).
Ms. Smith joined BASIS Independent McLean in 2017 and her deepest desire as an educator is to provide a joyful and learning-focused community for children so that they are empowered to be curious, motivated, and risk-takers. She believes that when students are held to high expectations they are able to access accelerated opportunities and develop as the change-agents of our future.
Ms. Smith has taught the PreK-2 Protons (2017-2020) and has now found her happy place in Kindergarten Nitrogen (2020-present). She considers it a great privilege to partner with families and enjoys the opportunity to teach the younger siblings and cousins of former students now that she is in her sixth year at BASIS Independent McLean.
In her free time, Ms. Smith loves to travel, host events, and cheer for the Washington Nationals (#natitude). She loves testing out her husband’s gourmet recipes, taking long walks with her Sheepadoodle, Olle, and being a mom to Elsa, a BIM Grade 4 student.
Previously, Ms. Tamang was a caregiver for a family with three children for almost a decade. She is very passionate about working with children and holds a bachelor of arts degree specializing in childcare development and psychology from Loreto College in India. She is fluent in Nepali and Hindi and is active with the Tamang Society of Greater Washington. Her hobbies include cooking, dancing, and community service.
Mr. Taylor previously worked as a teacher assistant in the physical education and math department at Marley Middle School. He holds a B.S. in kinesiology from Frostburg State University. While in college, he competed in football, earning 1st Team All-Conference and Honorable Mention All-Region awards representing the New Jersey Athletic Conference.
Since graduating, he spent the past three seasons coaching high school football. Before working in education, he was a sports performance coach and held a division I athletic internship with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Over the summers, he leads the multi-sports camp for a summer camp in Maryland.
His goal at BASIS Independent McLean is to connect with as many students as possible while engaging with them through physical education. He is also excited to add to our student-athletes athletics experience and continue to grow BASIS Independent McLean athletics
No stranger to the BASIS Curriculum Schools network, Ms. Tozzi joins BASIS Independent McLean from BASIS Scottsdale, one of the top-ranked high schools in the country, where she taught Mandarin to high school students. Ms. Tozzi holds a M.A. in Education, specializing in Elementary Education from New York University and a B.A. in English and Literature from National Taiwan University.
A native of Taiwan, Ms. Tozzi believes that language is the key that unlocks a culture, and is passionate about sharing the richness of Chinese language and culture with her students. One of the highlights of the year, which she and the students look forward to, is celebrating Chinese New Year – from sharing the traditional Lion Dance to eating Chinese dumplings, a special treat that also tastes great any time of the year!
Ms. Turner joined BASIS Independent McLean team in 2021 after serving as an Early Childhood Master Teacher for a pubic charter school in Washington, DC for over 14 years. During her tenure, she created amazing learning opportunities for students. Some of the tools that she utilized included coordinating demonstrations of learning, parent workshops and constructing centers that help develop student’s thoughts, ideas and activities that can expand on a child’s interest. Ms. Turner also served as the Early Childhood Team Leader, where she conducted team meetings, collaborated with lesson planning, reviewed data and organized school/classroom activities and events for students and families. She holds a B.S. in Human Ecology, concentration in Early Childhood, from University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.
Ms. Turner is excited to be a part of the BASIS Independent McLean team and looks forward to building a classroom environment that is engaging, fun and fosters a love for learning. She believes that every child learns at different paces and it is her responsibility as an educator to provide various opportunities in order to help her students learn and grow. “You can’t rush something you want to last forever!”
Ms. Turner lives with her husband and is a “BoyMom” of four awesome boys. During her leisure time, she enjoys event planning, traveling, and spending quality time with her family. Ms. Turner also collects candles, which provides her relaxation and comfort.
Ms. Vu has worked with children for several years at a daycare in Virginia. She holds a degree from Phan Dang Liu High School in Vietnam. Ms. Vu enjoys working with all children, but especially the younger ones! She hopes she can contribute to making BASIS Independent McLean a better place for everyone. When not at school, Ms. Vu also enjoys spending time with her family, which includes a son and a puppy named Oreo.
Ms. Zepeda is an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park studying Elementary Education. Prior to working here at BASIS Independent McLean, she was previously a Preschool Teacher at Mindbloom School in Washington, DC. Ms. Zepeda is excited to be working as a Monitor because she loves working with and learning alongside all students.