Faculty and Staff

Thaden School’s faculty has been carefully sourced from myriad locations around the world and represents a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences.

List of 40 items.

  • Clara Abbott

    Clara Abbott comes to Thaden from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in English with a certificate in gender and sexuality studies. Ms. Abbott previously worked as a summer teaching intern at Normandy 7th and 8th Grade Center in St. Louis and Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut.
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  • Kathi Applegate

    Executive Assistant to Head of School

    Kathi Applegate provides administrative support for the Founding Head of School and works closely with him on a variety of matters, including board governance, community relations, and event planning. She comes to Thaden from the Walmart Home Office with more than fifteen years of administrative experience.
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  • Hannah Bahn


    Hannah Bahn comes to Thaden from Pacific Ridge School in Southern California, where she taught history and service-learning. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and educational studies from Haverford College and a master’s degree in public service from the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas.
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  • Hallie Balcomb


    Hallie Balcomb comes to Thaden from the Saint James School in Maryland, where she has been teaching mathematics for the past three years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bates College and studied education and mathematics at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
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  • Rocio Behler


    Rocio Behler comes to Thaden from the University of Arkansas’s Opera Theater, where she worked as the ensemble’s collaborative pianist. She has performed as a piano soloist in Mexico, Germany, and the United States. Ms. Behler earned a bachelor’s degree in music as well as bachelor’s and master’s degree in German from the University of Arkansas.
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  • Kate Chambers

    Receptionist and Office Assistant

    As the Receptionist and Office Assistant, Kate Chambers oversees Thaden School’s front office and provides support to Thaden’s administrative staff. Ms. Chambers most recently served as a nanny for two young girls, after previously working in the front office at Old High Middle School for five years.
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  • Marcus Chang

    Director of Campus Life
    Health and Wellness

    As Director of Campus Life, Marcus Chang leads the ongoing development of Thaden’s co-curricular programs, including athletics and the signature programs (wheels, meals, and reels), and oversees all matters related to student life and community engagement. A native of San Francisco, Mr. Chang comes to Thaden with more than 26 years of experience in independent school education.
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  • Pam Chrisco

    School Nurse

    Pam Chrisco attends to the daily medical needs of Thaden students on campus, trains faculty and administrative staff in CPR and other emergency protocols, and otherwise supports the development of the school’s health and wellness programs. A native of Ontario, Ms. Chrisco holds a master's degree in nursing from Vanderbilt University.
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  • Robert Conn

    Latin and Classics

    Robert Conn comes to Thaden with seven years of Latin teaching experience, most recently at Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy in Bentonville. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harding University and a master’s degree in classical archaeology from Florida State University. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in classical civilizations from the University of Florida.
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  • James Covington

    Mathematics and English

    James Covington was a Sturgis Fellow at the University of Arkansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in classics and German with minors in philosophy and mathematics. He will soon complete his doctorate in religion at the University of Chicago, where he also earned a master’s degree and a certificate in the Craft of Teaching.
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  • Michael Crum

    Cycle Education

    Michael Crum has devoted his career to the art and science of bicycle design for the past fifteen years. While studying photography, painting, and metalsmithing at Memphis College of Art, he founded Magnolia Cycles, a custom frame and bicycle company and taught classes for young learners in bicycle maintenance, cycling safety, and bicycle frame building. Most recently, he practiced his craft as a Master Mechanic at Phat Tire Bike Shop in Bentonville.
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  • Richard Drew

    Cycle Education Specialist

    Riding and racing bikes since the age of five, and a professional mountain bike rider since 2013, Richard Drew has turned this passion into a successful career. With his brother Robert, he developed The Ride Series MTB Skills Clinics, now based in Bentonville, where their vast experience on two wheels is brought to the masses. At Thaden, Coach Drew will develop and implement a curriculum that will introduce students to the pump track and skills course, and will build community engagement programs that connect meaningfully into the Wheels Program.
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  • Mandi Fahey

    Admissions Manager

    As Admissions Manager, Mandi Fahey works closely with the senior leadership team to develop and oversee Thaden’s Office of Admission. Ms. Fahey comes to Thaden with 15 years of experience as an occupational therapist serving children and families in a variety of settings. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Purdue University and her master’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Indianapolis.
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  • Jennifer Whiteside Gandy

    Director of College Counseling

    Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Jenn comes to Thaden from Harvard College where she was a senior admissions officer for ten years, while also serving as a resident advisor for freshmen. Prior to joining the admissions office at Harvard, she taught biology and other science courses for middle and high students at an international school in China. Jenn holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in education policy and management, both from Harvard.
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  • Tara Harris

    Learning Specialist

    Tara Harris joins Thaden School with 12 years of experience supporting students and teachers, most recently as a reading/dyslexia interventionist and school-wide intervention team leader with the Siloam Springs School District. Ms. Harris earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Arkansas and a master’s degree in TESOL from Arkansas Tech University.
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  • Angela Head

    Food Education

    Angela Head comes to Thaden from Fayetteville, her hometown, where she has grown and sold produce at the Downtown Springdale Farmers Market. Ms. Head holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from Middlebury College as well as a master’s degree in education from Dominican University in Illinois. She was also awarded a Blakemore Foundation grant to study Mandarin Chinese at National Taiwan University in Taipei.
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  • Lisa Herschbach

    Director of Finance and Operations

    As Director of Finance and Operations, Lisa Herschbach oversees operations, design and construction, and all budgetary and financial matters, including Thaden’s indexed tuition program and student enrollment. She also teaches history. With roots in Massachusetts and California, Dr. Herschbach comes to Thaden from Princeton University, where for ten years she served as Dean of Wilson College, one of Princeton’s six residential colleges.
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  • Ian Heung


    Ian Heung comes to Thaden with ten years of teaching experience in instrumental music education, most recently at the Athenian School in the San Francisco Bay area. In addition to teaching music, Mr. Heung has served as a technology integration specialist, community service coordinator, and varsity swimming coach. He has also instructed and competed in marching bands as well as wind, string, and jazz ensembles. Mr. Heung earned his bachelor’s in music from the University of California, Berkeley.
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  • Amy Jacobson

    Director of Institutional Advancement

    Thaden School is excited to welcome Amy Jacobson as our Director of Institutional Advancement. Ms. Jacobson served as director of Brown University’s West Coast program in Southern California. Prior to her time at Brown, Amy spent more than eight years in Cornell University’s Division of Alumni Affairs and Development as associate director of development for West Coast and Southwest programs, major gift officer for the School of Hotel Administration in Cornell’s New York City office, and associate director of regional programs for Cornell’s international alumni communities.
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  • Nate Kinast


    Nate Kinast comes to Thaden following two years as a math curriculum designer at IXL Learning in Raleigh, NC. Before that, he spent five years teaching middle and upper school math at independent schools in South Carolina and Missouri. Mr. Kinast earned his bachelor degree in mathematics and music from the University of Arkansas.
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  • Penny Lade

    Admissions and Advancement

    Assistant Penny Lade supports Thaden’s admissions and advancement directors. She comes to Thaden with more than 14 years of office experience, having most recently worked at a private school in California and Bentonville High School.
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  • Antonio Lee


    Antonio Lee comes to Thaden from the Er Xin Elementary School in Taiwan, where he served as Director of Bilingual Education. At the Dalton School in New York City, he served as the school’s first Director of Global Initiatives and taught Mandarin. He also served as Associate Director of Admissions at Trevor Day School (NY). Mr. Lee holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s degree in bilingual education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
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  • José Leonor

    Director of Middle School

    As Director of Middle School, José Leonor leads the ongoing development of Thaden’s curriculum and academic advising programs, and oversees the work of the faculty. He also teaches English, Spanish, and French. Raised in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Mr. Leonor comes to Thaden from The Bishop’s School in Southern California. Prior to that, Mr. Leonor was a member of the faculty during the founding years of Pacific Ridge School, also located in Southern California.
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  • Jennifer Marien

    History and Social Studies

    A native of Kansas City, Jennifer Marien comes to Thaden from The Blake School in Minneapolis, where she served as chair of the social studies department. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University (where she was a three-season varsity athlete), a master’s degree in United States history from Indiana University, and a doctorate in teaching and learning from Harvard University.
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  • Clayton Marsh

    Founding Head of School

    Clayton Marsh became Founding Head of School in January 2016 and is leading all aspects of its development. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Dr. Marsh previously served as Deputy Dean of the College at Princeton University, where he held major responsibilities related to the development of academic programs for undergraduate students and led University-wide initiatives to promote innovation in teaching and curriculum design.
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  • Sarah Mattingly-Benson

    Visual Arts

    Sarah Mattingly-Benson is a professional artist with more than ten years experience teaching art classes for youth. Raised in Central Arkansas, Ms. Benson finds much of her inspiration as an artist in the rural character and beauty of her home state as well as the wilderness of Alaska, where she lived as an AmeriCorps volunteer. Her works have been selected for many juried exhibitions, including the Arkansas Small Works on Paper Exhibit and the Delta Exhibition.
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  • Helene Mengert

    Theater Arts

    Helene Mengert brings nearly 20 years of experience in educational theatre to Thaden. For ten years she served as the Director of Performing Arts at Holy Spirit Preparatory School in Atlanta, where she founded the arts program for Holy Spirit’s new upper school. Most recently, she has been directing and teaching drama at Nextstage Theatre in Sun Valley, Idaho. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English with honors at Notre Dame and a master’s degree in English from the University of Georgia.
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  • Ed Motsinger

    Campus Safety Officer

     Motsinger has more than 30 years experience as a law enforcement officer and is a former Captain of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division. He is a veteran of the United States Army where he served as a Military Police Officer and Military Police Investigator assigned to the Drug Suppression Team. He has served as a Field Training Officer, Detective, Hostage Negotiator, Instructor, Detective Sergeant, Internal Affairs Lieutenant and Captain

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  • Leah Myers


    Leah Myers oversees all of Thaden’s accounting and human resource operations, including payroll and benefits, financial reporting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and audit and compliance. She brings to Thaden a deep understanding of best accounting practices for non-profit organizations, honed during nearly a decade serving as Senior Staff Accountant and Accounting Manager at the Walton Family Foundation.
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  • Shelly O'Dell


    Shelly O'Dell comes to Thaden with over 15 years of experience in music and choral education, most recently at Washington Junior High School in Bentonville. Ms. O’Dell earned a bachelor's degree in music education and vocal performance from Carthage College in Wisconsin.
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  • Corey Petrick

    Film Education

    Corey Petrick comes to Thaden with 15 years of experience working as a film producer and director in Los Angeles. His documentary, Capturing Everest, won an Emmy. He holds a bachelor's degree in cinema studies from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and a master's degree in cinematography from America Film Institute in Los Angeles.
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  • Muhammad Ramadan

    History and Educational Technology

    Muhammad Ramadan comes to Thaden from Berkeley Preparatory School near Tampa, where he taught history and honors psychology while advancing school-wide initiatives to promote innovative uses of educational technology in the classroom. Prior to Berkeley, Mr. Ramadan taught at The Bishop’s School in Southern California and The Blake School in Minnesota. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and his master’s degree in social studies education from the University of Minnesota.
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  • Sam Slaton

    English and Cycle Education

    Sam Slaton brings to Thaden School five years of experience in bike advocacy and education, first with Bike New York and most recently with BikeNWA in Bentonville. He has also been a writer and editor with several publications, including Publishers Weekly and the Brooklyn Review. Mr. Slaton holds a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from the University of Arkansas as well as a master’s degree in poetry from Brooklyn College (CUNY), where he was a lecturer in English composition.
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  • Becky Smith

    Director of Upper School

    As Director of Upper School, Becky Smith works with the senior leadership team in the ongoing design and implementation of Thaden School’s educational programs and in the recruitment and management of its growing and diverse faculty. She comes to Thaden School with nearly 20 years of experience in independent school education. Ms. Smith earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brown University and a master’s degree in education and adolescent development from the University of Maryland.
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  • Breanne Svoboda

    Integrated Sciences

    Breanne Svoboda comes to Thaden from Oregon Health & Science University, where she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the field of neuroscience. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences as a Lechner Scholar at Texas A&M and her doctorate in biology and biomedical sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. While pursuing her research, Dr. Svoboda was active in the classroom, teaching biology at both the high school and college level.
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  • Mindy Thompson

    Program Manager

    Mindy Thompson works closely with the Director of Campus Life, Director of Upper School and Director of Middle School in coordinating and supporting the school’s educational programs, inside and outside of the classroom. She comes to Thaden from the Helen Walton Children’s Enrichment Center, where she most recently served as Human Resource Manager, and brings to her work at Thaden more than ten years of experience in childhood education and non-profit operations.
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  • Katy Turnbaugh

    Integrated Sciences

    Katy Turnbaugh comes to Thaden after six years at Eureka Springs High School. A recipient of many honors and awards, including the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Fellowship and a research grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, Ms. Turnbaugh earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Arkansas.
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  • Nina Vincent

    Director of Athletics and Wellness

    As Director of Athletics and Wellness, Nina Vincent coordinates Thaden School’s comprehensive athletic programs that foster school spirit and aid all students in developing their skills in several areas, athletic and otherwise. Coach Vincent comes to Thaden with nearly 20 years of experience as a teacher and coach in public and independent schools, most recently at Marantha High School in Pasadena. She received her bachelor’s degree in nuclear medicine from Manhattan College in New York.
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  • Meghan Ward

    Business Office Assistant

    Meghan Ward provides administrative support for the business office, particularly in the areas of human resources, payroll, and accounting. She brings to Thaden a background in nonprofit financial management, having served as Business Manager at the Four Corners School of Outdoor Education for four years. Most recently, she worked as Marketing Coordinator for NATCO Communications. Ms. Ward holds a bachelor of arts degree in media studies from Lake Forest College and a master’s degree in museum studies from Johns Hopkins University.
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  • Rob Whorton

    Director of Facilities

    Rob Whorton works closely with the Director of Finance of Operations in managing and maintaining Thaden’s buildings, grounds, and other aspects of its physical plant.
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Thaden School

| 410 SE Staggerwing Lane | Bentonville, AR 72712 |