Faculty & Administration

Our outstanding educators bring their many years of learning, experience, travel, and community work into the classrooms. The faculty includes Ph.D.s in Biology and Chemistry, an M.F.A. in Media Art and Art History, the only CFA Charterholder teaching high school, and a history instructor who has studied at Oxford and traveled in over thirty-five countries.

Sara C. Johnson

Sara C. Johnson

Head of School
College Counseling

Sara C. Johnson was born in Louisville, KY and graduated with honors from Indiana State University where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Art degree with a double emphasis and a minor in art history. Ms. Johnson continued her studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she earned a Master of Fine Art degree. While living in Knoxville, Ms. Johnson taught at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Additionally, Ms. Johnson is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of Educational Leadership.  
Ms. Johnson has been at Charlottesville's Renaissance School since 2002 first as a teacher then as an administrator.  In 2009, Ms. Johnson was welcomed by the Board of Directors as Renaissance School's second Head of School.  
In February of 2020, Ms. Johnson was one of only 20 national and international candidates accepted to the annual Klingenstein Heads of Schools Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Ms. Johnson also developed Renaissance School's unique College Counseling program, which boasts an average of $235,000 per student in scholarships and awards. 
Outside of school, Ms. Johnson enjoys writing, reading, running, photography, and swimming.  Ms. Johnson is certified through USA Swimming and enjoys officiating swim meets.  Above all else, Ms. Johnson enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

Ti Ames

Ti Ames

History

Ti Ames (they/them/theirs) is a Charlottesville native who graduated from Tandem Friends School in 2013 and went on to Oberlin College,  where they received a double degree in Theater and Africana Studies with High Honors in 2019. 
Mx. A worked at The Village School for Girls where they taught both Public Speaking and Meditation & Mindfulness for the 2019-2020 school year. They love their work as a director and theater educator at both Live Arts Theater and the Jefferson African American Heritage Center’s Charlottesville Players Guild, a historically Black theater group. Additionally, Mx. A works as a vocal coach, both privately and at The Front Porch Roots Music School, and performs with several bands. 
As a Black, non-binary, and queer person, Mx. A’s approach to education aims to uplift, empower, and celebrate the work and lives of those who are disenfranchised and underrepresented in today’s society. They are very excited to introduce a new course at Renaissance this school year—African American History.

Emily Avakian

Emily Avakian

English

Emily Avakian is a Charlottesville native currently earning her Masters in Higher Education at the University of Virginia. She studied her undergraduate years at University of Montana focusing on Native American Studies and Sociology, as a Citizen of The Cherokee Nation she wanted to utilize her education to serve her Native community. While an undergraduate she conducted research on issues pertaining to diversity within higher education.
Outside of work and school, Emily serves on the board of directors for the ALMA nominated Farhang school located in Iran. The school provides an education to Afghan refugees living in Iran. For fun she enjoys playing guitar, dancing at powwows, and spending time with her family and their two cats. 

Richelle Claiborne

Richelle Claiborne

Office Manager
ASSISTANT TO THE HEAD

Richelle Claiborne is a Charlottesville native who has returned to the area to become a part of the Renaissance family. She originally left Charlottesville to enroll in Rutgers, The State University of NJ, from which she holds a B.A. in Sociology and Africana Studies. After Rutgers, she began a career in retail sales management. She returned to Charlottesville in 2000 to be closer to her family, during which time Mrs. Claiborne discovered her love for fundraising and donor relations at UVa while working in the Arts & Sciences Development Office and Health Systems Development for the UVa Children’s Hospital. A talented actor and soul, jazz and R&B singer, she has also performed on numerous stages up and down the east coast from Live Arts to The Apollo. Mrs. Claiborne brings to Renaissance School over 20 years of experience in building client and community relationships, performance art and sales. When she is not spending time with her husband and  daughter, Mrs. Claiborne's interests include reading, writing, music, acting, and cooking huge Sunday dinners for her family and friends.

Sally Duncan

Sally Duncan

History

Sally Duncan is originally from Michigan, growing up only 30 miles from where her ancestors settled on Potawatomi land. With an ancestral lineage that stretches back to the Mayflower, Jamestown, and William Penn, she continually grapples with the way land, history, and identity are intertwined. 
Her love of history inspired a move to Virginia in 2013, and after homeschooling her 5 kids for 15 years, she returned to college, earning her B.A. in American Studies from the University of Virginia in 2020, studying race and the cultural landscape. She is finishing her M.A. in American Religions at UVA, where her research focuses on the intersection of race, religion, and popular culture. She is both a Skinner Scholar and a member of the Raven Society.
Her first experience with civic engagement was being a board member of the Paw Paw District Library in Michigan, and currently she is a city council appointed member of the Historic Resources Committee. She has written and presented on the history of Charlottesville neighborhood associations, and in 2019 she spent the summer doing archival research for the Preservers of the Daughters of Zion Cemetery. 
Ms. Duncan lives at the base of Shenandoah National Park in Albemarle County, and in her spare time she enjoys cooking, catching up on tv shows, and hanging out on Twitter.

Bethany Farris

Bethany Farris

Dean of Academics
MATH, SCIENCE, & SENIOR THESIS

Bethany Farris, CFA, obtained her Bachelor of Science in Applied and Computational Mathematical Sciences with an Emphasis in Economics with College Honors, and a Minor in Spanish, from the University of Washington in 2000. She is a Seattle native and enjoyed living and working in the UK, Spain, New Zealand, and Peru, as well as around the US, before moving to Charlottesville in 2010. Ms. Farris was a NASA researcher before serving global institutional investors and corporations with Mercer Investment Consulting and Moss Adams Advisory Services. This experience led to the development of the unique RS Business program, which has included invitations to pitch at the Darden School iLab and attend the annual CFA Conference, the first ever high school to be so invited. 
Ms. Farris joined Renaissance School in 2014 as a member of the Mathematics Faculty, and has also taught Business, Fundraising, Physics, and Senior Thesis before becoming Dean of Academics in 2020. 
She has been actively involved in the arts scene in Charlottesville, including being on the WriterHouse Board, presenting at the Virginia Festival of the Book, fundraising for local theater and film, casting for film and television, and acquiring student art. Ms. Farris and her husband enjoy camping at our National Parks with their dogs, and cultivating heritage Virginia apples in Augusta County.

Rick France

Rick France

French

Patrick L. France (Rick) joined Renaissance School in 2017 with 48 years in Virginia independent school education as a teacher and administrator.
Mr. France, originally from Rochester, New York, earned an A.B. from Transylvania University (French), an M.A. from Middlebury College (French), and Certificate programs at the Université d’Avignon in France and the University of Virginia (Academic Leadership). While Mr. France served in a variety of roles in his three previous schools, he continuously taught French.
​In the classroom Mr. France believes that all students can learn additional languages, no matter what their learning style might be. His classes emphasize excellent pronunciation and the development of proficiency with the French language.

Sarah Goodbar

Sarah Goodbar

English

Sarah Goodbar grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts. In 1998, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Languages and Literature from Bard College. Her senior thesis was a study of the narrative method of Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo. After graduating, she lived in Times Square for a summer while attending “Latin Bootcamp” at the Latin/Greek Institute of CUNY.  She worked at Smith College and studied Shakespeare and Virgil at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst before entering the English PhD program at the University of Virginia. She moved to Charlottesville intending to specialize in the classical tradition in 18th-century poetry. At UVA, Ms. Goodbar taught academic and professional writing using the Little Red SchoolHouse method and did coursework in Old English, Victorian poetics, American Transcendentalism, bibliographic studies, creative writing, and more. In 2002, Ms. Goodbar decided to leave the doctoral program with her Master’s, taking her oral examination in English Romanticism. In the ensuing years, Ms. Goodbar has taught language arts, literature, and writing in local public and private schools, done coursework in education through the Curry School, been involved in Chinese martial arts and lion dance through her family’s kung fu school, and worked as a high-school librarian. At Renaissance School, Ms. Goodbar enjoys teaching young adults about the English language, world literature, imperialism, philosophy, and logic. She lives in Greene County with her family and several cute but uncooperative pets.

Dhara Goradia

Dhara Goradia

Music

Bassist, composer and band leader Dhara Goradia grew up in Charlottesville, VA, where she learned jazz at her junior high school, starting on piano and electric bass before eventually dedicating herself to the upright bass at the age of 16. She played for the award winning Albemarle High School Jazz Ensemble, was named the All-Star Rhythm Section Player at the Chantilly Jazz Festival, and was awarded the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award upon graduating. She went on to play for the University of Virginia Jazz Ensemble and several small jazz combos, studying under the direction of John D’earth, and appeared in performances with Kurt Rosenwinkel, Terence Blanchard, Dave Liebman, Branford Marsalis, and Ritchie Cole.  In 2011, Ms. Goradia attended Berklee College of Music on a scholarship, where she gained the invaluable experience of focusing on her musical development related to performance and composition, while also nurturing a passion for what she feels is one of the most powerful aspects of music—collaboration with her incredibly talented peers from across the globe.
Ms. Goradia has extensive experience in several genres, and has spent time touring with bands in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and all over Virginia. She also played with the Charlottesville University Symphony Orchestra, and various chamber groups in central Virginia.  Ms. Goradia also leads local world/jazz/fusion band Quiet Fire and west coast trio Emerald Flame and can be found performing in many diverse projects around Central Virginia. In addition to a busy life as a professional musician, Ms. Goradia also holds a formal degree in Architecture and is currently working as an architect.

Nell Halladay

Nell Halladay

Math & Science

Dr. Nell Halladay, “Doc Nell”, is originally from New Jersey where she lived for 39 years. She is a graduate from Glassboro State College with a B.S. in chemistry and also holds M.S. and Ph. D. degrees in chemistry from Seton Hall University. Following a postdoctoral position at City University of New York, Nell began a 12 year career as a pharmaceutical chemist. She switched gears in June of 2000, moved to Charlottesville, and attended the Virginia School of Massage. In 2001 Nell joined the teaching faculty at Renaissance School while earning her national certification as a massage therapist. Doc Nell opened her massage therapy business in February 2002 and loves doing massage. She also does message therapy as a volunteer for Hospice of the Piedmont and works on both patients as well as their caregivers. She taught introductory level chemistry classes at Seton Hall University and Piedmont Virginia Community College and tutored chemistry and math at both the high school and college level. Doc Nell enjoys reading, hiking, and gardening. She now lives in Gordonsville with her partner Walt and Abbey the cat.

Steve Haske

Steve Haske

Facilities & IT
Studio Art

Steve Haske is an artist, illustrator, designer and handyman. He was born and raised in Southern California and studied photography at Humboldt State University in Northern California, where he earned his B.A. in 2000. He went on to earn his Master's of Fine Arts in Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design then returned to Southern California  and began a career as a Designer and Art Director at a leading maker of beach cruisers and city bicycles. After seven years in the design field, Mr. Haske decided to hang up his wheels, move to Charlottesville, and pursue his passion of illustration and fine art full-time.
​Mr. Haske's illustrations and designs have been featured locally and nationally for such clients as WNRN, Pink Magazine, Charleston Magazine, Nest, The Guardian and others. Mr. Haske has also designed posters for artists and events such as Lockin, Light House Studio Youth Film Festival, Steve Miller, Lake Street Dive, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, The Can-Do Attitude and Richelle Claiborne. He has exhibited his fine art and doodles online and through local galleries such as Second Street Gallery and New City Arts. 
​Mr. Haske loves to explore Charlottesville and the surrounding area with his family. The history, natural beauty and unique cultural possibilities offer so many opportunities for drawing and painting, which is what he likes to do most.

Lady Keller

Lady Keller

Business Manager

Lady Keller is a native of Los Angeles, CA but considers herself a Virginian since raising her family and living on a working farm in White Hall, VA for over 20 years.  After graduating from high school in Middleburg, VA, Mrs. Keller then returned to her home state to attend the University of Southern California (the true USC) where she graduated in 1986 with a BS degree in Finance.
After college, the east coast beckoned her back.  Mrs. Keller began her career in Washington, DC working in the Finance/Treasury Departments on political campaigns, a Presidential Inaugural and then as a Political Appointee in the Office of the Secretary at The Department of Transportation where she discovered a passion for Governmental Affairs.  After a few years, her career then took her to work in the private sector for a Grassroots Lobbying firm and a Public Relations firm, as Media Director, where she loved riling up constituents in targeted Congressional Districts to fight unjust legislation.
After 10 years working (and fighting the traffic) in Washington, DC, Mrs. Keller and her husband decided to move to Charleston, SC where she worked as the Business Manager for an historic theatre, The Footlight Players.  After 4 years, she and her husband and two small children moved back to central Virginia to resume the management of the family farm, Mount Air Farm, in White Hall.  In 2007, Mrs. Keller assumed the position of Business Manager for a new school for boys, The Field School, and continued in that role until 2015.
Mrs. Keller spends her spare time reading (she considers herself a library junkie), running, practicing yoga, hiking in the woods, traveling, attending yoga festivals, dancing and spending as much time with her husband, four children and two dogs. Her future dreams involve hiking the Appalachian Trail and continuing to learn as much as possible about the world around us.

Kenny Kilfara

Kenny Kilfara

Performing Arts

Kenny Kilfara has been involved in one form of art or another since he was a wee lad and has never lost the love of creative exploration. As an educational professional, he seeks to help students discover the importance and joy of personal expression through art. A native of Atlanta, GA, Kenny graduated from the University of Georgia with a BA in Drama in 2001. In 2004 he received his MFA in Dramatic Media from UGA and was subsequently hired to teach there full-time. He briefly left education to work professionally as an actor and editor before realizing how passionate he feels about teaching. For the past 14 years, Mr. K (as his students often call him) taught theatre and film production in the northeast. Along with his wife and five-year-old twins, he moved to Charlottesville this summer.
Mr. Kilfara is also an award-winning filmmaker who has screened across the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, and Germany. He has guest-lectured in Germany and the United States in both classrooms and private venues. Additionally, Mr. Kilfara is, actually, the world’s leading expert on African American actor/activist, Canada Lee (1907-1952). He began researching the life and legacy of Mr. Lee in 2003, when he met and befriended Lee’s widow, Frances Lee Pearson. He helped Mrs. Pearson conduct research on her late husband at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. Mr. Kilfara interviewed Mrs. Pearson over the last three years of her life and subsequently interviewed numerous theatre and film scholars as well as friends of Mr. Lee. He has received several grants for his work related to Canada Lee, including a National Endowment for the Humanities research and development grant for the feature-length documentary he is executive producing, Canada Lee, Native Son.
Kenny continues to pursue acting, filmmaking and visual art when he is not preoccupied with being a teacher, father, friend or husband. He is excited to be living in Charlottesville and looks forward to exploring the many wonders it has to offer.

Joaquin Litzenberger

Joaquin Litzenberger

Spanish

Joaquin Litzenberger was born in Mexico and was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina and in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mr. Litzenberger completed his undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Spanish at the University of Virginia and recently received an M.A. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Pittsburgh. Mr. Litzenberger has a lifelong passion for teaching Spanish, particularly in the United States, which has a growingly bilingual population. His favorite author is Jorges Luis Borges, which he continues to study through original manuscripts. He is particularly drawn to Borges's philosophical experiments.
Outside of the classroom, Mr. Litzenberger enjoys spending time with his family, reading philosophy, and playing guitar, baseball, and chess. He looks forward to moving back to Charlottesville where he grew up, to share his experiences and meet the next generation of Spanish speakers in the United States.

Mack McLellan Jr.

Mack McLellan Jr.

Dean of Students, Diversity, & Inclusion
Civic Engagement

Mack McLellan Jr. is a Baltimore native who moved to Charlottesville in 2016.  Before moving to Charlottesville, Mr. McLellan earned a B.A. in Sociology from the University of MD, College Park in 2004 and a Master’s of Social Work degree from the University of Maryland, School of Social Work in 2012.  Mr. McLellan has combined his knowledge of Social Work, Yoga and Mindfulness to serve the citizens of Charlottesville in a multitude of ways.  
In 2018, Mr. McLellan created Simunye (Zulu for “We Are One”), a nonprofit organization that facilitates a series of programs geared toward academic achievement and success, as well as character building and increasing self-esteem.  Simunye programs include school and community Book Clubs for Children of Color and monthly Community Reading Events in Albemarle and Charlottesville neighborhoods.  Children are provided culturally competent books for both the Book Clubs and Community Reading Events for grade levels K-12.  
In 2019, he joined Common Ground Healing Arts as a meditation facilitator for the Meditation for People of Color group.  Mr. McLellan, along with three Women of Color, provided guided meditations every Sunday for BIPOC in Charlottesville until the pandemic.
During the summer of 2021, Mr. McLellan facilitated a Civic Engagement class through Renaissance School.  Five Renaissance students organized a well attended free concert for Charlottesville teens from various racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds that celebrated diversity and created youth unity.
Mr. McLellan is excited to continue supporting Renaissance students who want to make positive changes in their communities.

Anna Minutella

Anna Minutella

Sciences
MGA, MJ, MUN

Anna Minutella grew up on her family’s farm in Southwest Virginia.  She attended the University of Virginia where she earned a B.A. in both biology and psychology and spent much of her time doing research in children's language development and brain formation.
After graduation, Ms. Minutella moved to Baltimore, Maryland with her husband.  There, she taught middle school science, served as chair of the science department, and developed the curriculum for the school's fifth through eighth science program.  She and her husband moved back to the Charlottesville area in the summer of 2012 and she joined the Renaissance School faculty in 2013. 
Ms. Minutella obtained her Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018 and is pursuing licensure as a licensed clinical social worker. She is currently doing attachment-based therapy with children and their families and is part of a research team working to improve therapeutic methods.
Ms. Minutella's teaching philosophy is based on using a variety of perspectives and methods for each subject in order to truly involve the students in the material and ensure they gain a deeper understanding.  She wants her students to acquire the same appreciation for science that fuels her passion and excitement.

Jay Pun

Jay Pun

Director of JEDI
Music

Jay Pun is a Charlottesville native who returned to the area in 2003 after graduating from Berklee College of Music (B.M. in Professional Music) in Boston. Jay's primary instrument is guitar and he regularly performs with violinist Morwenna Lasko as the duo “Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun.”  ​The duo has shared shows with a variety of great musicians including Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Julian Lage, Vusi Mahlasela, Dave Matthews Band, The Avett Brothers, Ralph Stanley, and have also played at many great venues and festivals such as The Kennedy Center, FloydFest, The Festy, Rockflies radio broadcast (Milan, Italy), Festival delle Colline, Musicastrada, and many others.  
Mr. Pun is our Director of JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diveristy, & Inclusion), a faculty committee that considers questions of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our classroom curriculum, summer reading, Ninth Week trips, interdisciplinary projects, and admissions. 
In 2014, Mr. Pun composed and scored original music with Morwenna for a film funded by NASA called “The Birth of a Star and Her Entourage” which is shown in planetariums across the world. In 2015 Mr. Pun and Morwenna also released their highly anticipated CD, “The Hollow” internationally, coupled with a tour all over Italy, including Charlottesville's sister city, Poggio a Caiano. 
Mr. Pun co-founded Fingerdance Studio with Morwenna, where they teach guitar, violin, viola, bass, songwriting, and music theory. Mr. Pun loves teaching music theory and performance at Renaissance School. In his other world, he helps run three restaurants with his family, Thai Cuisine & Noodle House, CHIMM, and CHIMM St. in Dairy Market. He also serves on the board of the Eko Ise Music Program Advisory Board at The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

Eric Swartzen- truber

Eric Swartzen- truber

Director of Admissions

A native of Princeton, New Jersey, Eric Swartzentruber brings to Renaissance a rich background of experience at various East Coast independent schools, all of them intentionally small. While holding his first position as admissions director, Mr. Swartzentruber received his BA in Liberal Studies with a concentration in humanities from Rider University. 'Later he travelled extensively throughout the US and twice circumnavigated the globe recruiting students from 27 countries. In 2015 he was one of two US school administrators, along with delegates from schools and Departments of Education in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, invited to represent Western high schools to Chinese school officials in Hangzhou and Suzhou.
Alongside his school work, Mr. Swartzentruber maintains a career in choral music. He has performed and recorded with many leading ensembles including Early Music New York, Vox Vocal Ensemble, American Boychoir, Chanticleer, Piffaro, Parthenia, and the New York Philharmonic.
With his wife, who is German by birth and a classicist by training, Mr. Swartzentruber shares a love of nature, hiking, cooking, language, sixteenth-century polyphony, current events, theology, art, and their two adult daughters, not necessarily in that order. 

Lou Tanner

Lou Tanner

History

Mr. Lou Tanner has been teaching History and Government at Renaissance School since its founding in 1999. After first receiving a B. A. from University of Virginia in 1975, he later studied Russian, European, and American History in graduate school. Along the way he took or audited courses in numerous other fields as well, including Ancient, Middle Eastern, and South and East Asian History. Within a somewhat narrow range he reads widely, with interests tending to history, travel writing, biography, current affairs, and non-fiction in general. With wife Stephanie, whom he met while backpacking in Australia light years ago, he enjoys traveling, gardening (mostly as an armchair hobby—it is her passion), reading, hiking, and birdwatching. In addition, he speaks Russian and French—though only passingly—and has a smattering of Spanish and Latin. Extensive travel in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia—where he also lived for almost five years—has only deepened an abiding conviction that the study of History is not only essential, it is also—dare it be said—fun.

Becky Wilbur

Becky Wilbur

Academic Dean Emeritus
Mathematics

Dr. Rebecca Wilbur grew up in the Midwest (Minnesota), went to college on the west coast (Stanford University, B.S. Biology), spent some time north of the border (Canadian Outward Bound Wilderness School Assistant Instructor), and went to graduate school on the east coast (Duke University, Ph.D. Botany).  Her main interests in biology are forest ecology, ecosystem function, and biodiversity of the Southern Appalachians. She has been a mentor, teacher, and researcher at UVA’s Mountain Lake Biological Station. Before coming to Renaissance School in 2006, she worked with the Environmental Education Center and Ivy Creek Foundation, helped teach science at the elementary school level, taught a non-majors biology class at UVA, tutored math and science at the Learning Center of Charlottesville, and coached many Odyssey of the Mind and Destination Imagination teams. She has taught both biology and mathematics at Renaissance School. In mathematics, she enjoys encouraging students to think logically and symbolically and to search for and identify patterns. In her spare time, she likes canoeing, swimming, music, cooking, hiking, and visiting her grandchildren.