I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
— John Steinbeck


Ashley Wright is a native Tennessean who moved to NC in 2012. She discovered her love for teaching children during her time at "FitCo Kids," a gym for 18 month to 14 year olds. After two years as a youth fitness instructor, Ashley moved to Boone in the winter of 2015. Not long after, she found Mountain Pathways Montessori School (though she feels we found her) and has been a part of our family ever since. She has a passion for music, songwriting, guitar, and percussion. On the weekends, Ashley performs in local band "Earleine."

Lauren Bateman comes to us from environmental education work in the Outer Banks, and a lifetime of helping in her mother’s in-home nursery program.



Sara Drum began working in the 3-6 class at MPS in 1999 after graduating from ASU with a BS in Psychology and a concentration in Child Development, as well as graduating from the Interdisciplinary Studies program offered through Watauga College at ASU. She received her Montessori Certification in her second year at MPS at The Center For Montessori Teacher Education in Raleigh NC. She took off two years in 2013 after the birth of her twin boys and has returned back to work in the Primary East classroom. Her sons are in the other 3-6 class with Ellen. She has seen Mountain Pathways go through a lot of changes over the last 17-plus years and she is always inspired by the constant dedication and love the teachers bring to Mountain Pathways. "It is so wonderful to be a part of such an amazing community and to share the Montessori Philosophy with the incredible children that I have the privilege to teach."



PRIMARY WEST (3-6 years)

Deborah Young graduated from Houghton College in 2005 with a BS in Accounting and Business Administration. She discovered her true passion for early childhood education after having children and watching them learn and grow. Deborah is currently pursuing Montessori Certification through CMTE/NC. When she's not studying, Deborah enjoys cooking, baking, creating tiny objects, and getting out in nature.




Brian Lynch brings Montessori experience and training in both 3-6 and 6-9 year old age groups.

Emmy Welsh graduated from Appalachian State University in May 2015 with a degree in Communication Studies and Sustainable Development, then moved out to Colorado where she worked with a nonprofit as a garden teacher in a rural elementary school. It was there that her passion for education bloomed, and she quickly found her way back to the Blue Ridge Mountains and is thrilled to begin this year at Mountain Pathways as the assistant in the 6-9 classroom. She spends time singing, thinking, playing outdoors and with plants & animals, and cooking up any and all wholesome foods that grow around us & nourish our beings.



Kristy Hackler is the upper elementary (9-12 year-olds) teacher at Mountain Pathways. Originally from the small, rural farming community of Stanley, North Carolina, Kristy attended North Carolina State University to pursue a degree in Landscape Horticulture. After graduation she traveled overseas and lived in Naples, Italy. With a mother and grandmother who were both teachers, Kristy serendipitously ended up assisting at a Montessori school at an international military base called AFSOUTH. It was there that she realized that she truly liked teaching and loved the students. She has been teaching Montessori for over ten years now and continues to discover, learn, and grow along with her students. “The love of learning is an infectious idea that permeates our days both inside and outside the classroom,” says Kristy. “Teaching at Mountain Pathways has been such an enriching and positive experience. I am looking forward to the continuance of watching children grow, learn, and become amazing people because of who they are and what we do.”

Emily Shack has been in Boone since 1997. She attended Appalachian State University and now has 3 children with her husband David. She has spent the almost 10 years involved in childhood education and is in the 9-12 year-old room assisting Mrs. Kristy again this year.


MPMS Assistant Director  Matt Alexander and Austin Venrick share the day in the middle school as Co-Teacher, with Matt teaching math and science in the morning and Austin taking over for English, Social Studies and more! 

Austin Venrick is a lifelong Mountaineer, with both of his parents attending Appalachian State.  He graduated from Appalachian State in 2012 with a degree in English Secondary Education and spent three and a half years teaching high school English in the North Carolina Public School System.  More recently, he has spent time at home raising his daughter. Austin has returned to Boone because his wife Heather has taken a job as a member of the clinical nursing faculty at Appalachian State.  He loves comic books, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and soccer. He is excited to take the next step in his educational career with Mountain Pathways.



Ellen Lewis took the role of Interim Director in the summer of 2018. The combination of her skill sets as a Montessori-trained lead teacher and business degree make her the right person to help lead the school into a prosperous new future.



Matt Alexander is the Assistant Director. He first started working at Mountain Pathways in 2007 after graduating from ASU with a degree in Sustainable Development. After working several years in the office and in the Upper Elementary he went away for a few years to study Calculus, Differential Equations, Physics and whole lot more. When he came back to MPS in 2016 he was excited to share his love of math and science with the middle school. In addition to teaching math and science, Matt also serves as the Assistant Director and Director of Summer Programs.



Interested in joining the staff at Mountain Pathways? Learn more.