Faculty & Staff

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“The best teacher in the world is someone who loves what he or she does, and just loves it in front of you.” 

– Fred Rogers

Administrative Staff

Scott Barksdale, Head of School

Mel Christensen Fletcher

Interim Head of School

Some of Mel’s earliest childhood memories are set around HCA’s campus: from exploring the beach at Stover’s Point to finding an amazing Lisa Frank pencil at the playground behind the school.  Her family moved to Brunswick before she could start kindergarten in what was then the West Harpswell School, so as an adult, she was eager to secure a job at HCA and return to her roots.

She spent seven years as the Division 2/3 science teacher, prepared with a teaching degree in Secondary Education Earth and Space Science and a minor in English from the University of Maine at Farmington, as well as many years of experience volunteering, teaching, and serving as a board member at the Cathance River Education Alliance.  During that time, her classroom was often left vacant while students walked to the network of trails nearby to monitor forest inventory growth plots and vernal pools or relocated to the kitchen to hold a (scientifically-informed) cupcake baking competition. Mel’s corgi, Jesse, was in charge of keeping all the students in line on most of these adventures.

As Head of School, she is invested in making sure students are engaged in a purposeful and authentic education and is always excited to collaborate with students, staff, families, and community partners to carry out the mission and vision of HCA.

Email Mel
207-833-3229 Ext.102

Mae Applegate, Dean of Studies and Students

Amy Marx


Amy’s passion for experiential learning and project-based learning started over 24 years ago when she first learned about Expeditionary Learning schools and was the Director of Curriculum at an EL inspired school.  Since then, she has led schools in Massachusetts (Boston and Lynn), in North Haven, Maine, in India and in Thailand, and all these schools have been about supporting students to become passionate learners who can see how their learning and work can make the world a better place!

When she is not working with the teachers, parents and students in her schools, you will find her outside near the ocean with her husband and three kids or exploring waterfalls and hiking in a new country to explore!  Amy also loves to sing and do theater whenever she can sneak away from her family to perform with others.

Amy grew up in coastal Maine, and in the summers will always be found on Monhegan and North Haven islands.  When she left Maine, she got her BA from Yale University, but then quickly decided to travel far away from home to experience something completely new, so she taught in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She then returned to the Northeast to get her Masters of Education at Boston University, and then stayed and led schools in this area for 14 years.  Amy is thrilled to be joining the leadership team at Harpswell Coastal Academy, as this inspiring school continues its work to develop meaningful learning for students that connects to experts, authentic audiences and real purposes beyond the walls of the school!

Email Amy
207-833-3229 Ext.601

Ashley Hyde

Director of Business, Finance and Operations

As a child Ashley spent many summers with her Grandparents on Stover’s Point and has always loved and recognized Harpswell as a special place. She can even recall playing on the West Harpswell School playground, which is now the Harpswell Coastal Academy. Until recently, she was a resident of Ash Point Road and neighbor of the Academy—it would seem, different elements in her life continue to bring her back to Harpswell and all it has to offer. 

Ashley has lived most her life in Maine but has also had the pleasure of living in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Georgia. She is  a graduate of the University of Maine in Orono and has spent most of her career in the hospitality industry working as a General Manager for contracted services in university settings.

She is  excited to begin her career with the Harpswell Coastal Academy and to partner within the school community assisting with the continued development and success of the HCA mission. 

Ashley  enjoys spending time with her husband and 11-year-old daughter with their two dogs, Jack and Gigi.

Email Ashley
207-833-3229 Ext.604

Angie Arndt, Administrative Assistant

Angie Arndt

Administrative Assistant

Since completing her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Development, Angie has worked for 35 years as a teacher, facilitator, and administrator in a variety of settings and programs. As a Parent Educator she has taught Connection Parenting in the community at the Maine State Correctional Center and Center for Grieving Children in Portland. For the past ten years, Angie served as Administrator and then Dean of Students at the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine in Portland.

Angie moved to Maine 30 years ago (having cruised on a 32’ Westsail to Turkey and back) to be close to family on Orr’s Island. She loves spending time with her family, especially her granddaughter, sailing, gardening, reading, skiing, and taking long walks.

Email Angie
207-833-3229 Ext.602

Angie Arndt, Administrative Assistant

Bonnie Violette

Special Education Director

Bonnie is delighted to be joining HCA as the Special Education Director. She is passionate about including students with disabilities in all aspects of the curriculum while supporting their learning needs through small group instruction. She is a lifelong learner who enjoys staying current in educational research and instructional practices. She has served as a special education administrator for 25 years, including at Bath Public Schools, Portland Public Schools, Westbrook School Department and RSU5.  She graduated from Oberlin College and earned Masters’ Degrees from the University of Maine, University of Southern Maine, Thomas College, and a Doctorate in K-12 Leadership from New England College.  She believes that it’s important to continually learn, always keep trying, and never give up.

Bonnie and her husband, Carlton, live in Topsham with their shih tzu, Maggie. They enjoy hiking, walking, camping, and looking for new adventures all over Maine. She enjoys going to concerts, theater productions, and museums in out of the way places, or wherever she finds them.  She loves everything about Maine including opening of school in the fall, winter holidays, longer days of spring, outdoor music in the summer, gardens and wildlife in her back yard, and visiting Maine events throughout the year. They have three sons who live in Texas, South Carolina, and Maine.

Her life approach is well articulated in Barak Obama’s quote, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”  She is looking forward to new adventures at HCA.

Email Bonnie
207-833-3229 Ext.303

Student Support Team

Angelina Simmons, Division 1 Faculty, Health Educator & Health Aid

Angelina Simmons

Team Leader & Restorative Practices Coordinator

It was her deep desire to create a middle school with a strong sense of community, where every student felt valued and had the opportunity to grow, that led Angelina to become a member of HCA’s founding faculty in 2013. In addition to her ten years of teaching experience in the classroom and special education at Woodside Elementary, Angelina’s experience in crisis intervention and grief support sparked her passion for social-emotional learning and restorative practices in schools. Angelina is a certified Red Cross CPR/First Aid instructor and has trained extensively with Planned Parenthood, Maine Family Planning, and New Beginnings to hone her skills in teaching health to adolescents. Over the years, she has deeply enjoyed the challenges and opportunities unique to the creation and sustaining of an organization. Angelina has balanced various administrative elements of managing a charter school. She teaches Health and Sex Education, trains faculty in a range of skills, benchmarks and manages technology use, and instructs CPR/First Aid skills — all while cultivating a culture of community and social justice.

A native of Boothbay, Angelina graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication. She lives on Great Island in Harpswell with her husband, dog, cat, ferrets, and the odd snake. When Angelina isn’t at school, she enjoys camping, hiking, gardening, and dancing.

Email Angelina
207-833-3229 Ext. 107

Angelina Simmons, Division 1 Faculty, Health Educator & Health Aid

Robin Stidworthy

School Counselor

Robin discovered the beauty of the Maine coast while attending Bates College. After living for a short time in other places, she returned happily to Maine, finding that nothing compared to the beauty and sense of place that Maine offers.

She and her husband Rich built a house in Brunswick where they have raised two children and various kitties. While her children were young she was the Director of Arts Are Elementary, bringing artists to Brunswick’s elementary school children. Later, Robin earned her Master’s in School Counseling from USM and began her career as a School Counselor in the coastal village of Friendship, Maine. She comes to Harpswell Coastal Academy after eleven engaging years at Lewiston Middle School, just across the road from her former college. She is excited to join the HCA community and looks forward to working with the students who have chosen HCA as their school.

Robin enjoys walking, yoga, cycling and stand-up paddle boarding. Her happy place is lying on a granite rock by the ocean.

Email Robin
207-833-3229 x122

Division 1 (Middle School) Faculty

Cristine Bachor, Division 1 Humanities faculty

Brian Berger

Humanities – Grades 5/6

Brian (he/him) was born and raised in Augusta and is proud to be a life-long “Mainah”. He has been a landlubber his whole life, so he is excited beyond words to have the opportunity to live so close to one of his favorite places on Earth: the coast of Maine!

Brian took a long and unconventional route to teaching, though he always knew that his heart belongs in education. He did not immediately attend college after graduating high school, but he returned after a few years and earned an Associate’s degree from Kennebec Valley Community College in 2013. Then, he transferred to the University of Maine in Orono where he earned degrees in Secondary Education and French in 2018. In recent years, Brian’s teaching interests pivoted to civics and digital literacy, and he hopes to have many stimulating and productive conversations with students about bias in the media, critical thinking, and many other skills that are required for thriving in the 21st century.

When he’s not working or spending time with loved ones, Brian loves to read. His favorite genre is fantasy, but he also enjoys many other topics, too. He also loves sci-fi, especially Star Trek. Other passions include cooking and baking, travel, escape rooms, staying informed on current events, and games- especially cribbage!

Brian looks forward to engaging in experiential and project-based activities at HCA. He believes that students are partners in learning, education is a community effort, and a holistic view of students is essential to developing to the fullest potential. He can’t wait to meet his 5th and 6th graders and he looks forward to an inaugural year full of curiosity, development, learning, and fun!

Email Brian
207-833-3229 Ext.112

Whitney Conway, Division 2 Humanities faculty

Kim Bengtson

STEAM Grades 5/6

Kim is a graduate of Worcester State University with a BS in Elementary Education and Psychology. She comes to HCA with 8 years of classroom experience teaching 6th grade Math & Science to at-risk and ELLs students. Prior to that, she worked as an Instructional Assistant, Math Specialist, and Reading Teacher. Kim enjoys working side by side with her students as they navigate and explore the natural world. She strives to spark curiosity in her students and instill a love of learning. Kim creates an atmosphere where students are comfortable taking risks, celebrate mistakes as opportunities for learning, and are kind to one another. Whether students are looking to go to college, directly into a trade, or family business, education is the path to success. 

Born in Greenville and growing up in the Moosehead region instilled a love of nature and curiosity in Kim. Her father Harold “Doc” Blanchard was a Game Biologist for the state and she was fortunate to tag along with him to count bears, visit fish hatcheries, explore the lab at the office, or simply help build canoes in his shop. Her mother was a strong woman that taught her courage, strength, perseverance, and independence, she continues to pass those qualities on to her students. Mrs. Bengtson resides in Phippsburg with her husband and is very proud of her 3 grown sons. She shares her home with two cats and an English Setter rescue named Larsos who will be joining her classroom at HCA. In her spare time, she loves to cook for her family, sew, garden, and refinish furniture.  You can find her anywhere in nature, camping, hiking, swimming, sailing, or gliding across the water in a Blanchard canoe enjoying the peaceful nature of Maine.

Kim is delighted to have such a wonderful opportunity to start this new school year at HCA. She looks forward to working with the students and families to build a strong network that addresses the needs of our school and community as we navigate global issues.

Email Kim
207-833-3229 x 110

Joe Paine, Division 1 Humanities Faculty

Marion “MC” Cole

Division 1 Special Education 

MC was born in Santa Monica, California. She grew up primarily in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, Illinois, and finished high school in her family’s hometown of Clinton, Iowa. While in Clinton, MC lived with her grandmother, Sally, who taught first and second grade for four decades. Sally is the reason MC is a teacher today, but MC’s first love was performance. It was this love of theater that carried her through her high school years and into college. Upon graduating with a BA in Theater Arts from Cornell College, MC drove herself from Iowa to Snohomish, Washington to work on a small, independent farm. Having spent an overwhelming majority of her life as a city gal, MC leaped at the opportunity to haul hog feed, walk barefoot through real, actual dirt, and drag seemingly endless lengths of soaking hoses. After the farm, MC kicked the dirt out of her Birkenstocks and went back to Iowa to pursue theater and performance. While starring in, and directing various independent and professional productions, MC was asked to be a part of a series of classes for the Linn County Sheriff’s Office where she worked with armed officers on de-escalation techniques. Off-stage, MC continued her education, and in doing so her desire to become an educator crystallized. MC is now a certified substitute teacher and English as a foreign language instructor and is totally stoked to be part of the HCA community.

Email MC
207-833-3229 x 113

Joe Paine, Division 1 Humanities Faculty

Jennifer Sepanara

Ed Tech

Jennifer has had a variety of experience as an educator, both inside and outside the classroom: She has worked as a third- and fourth-grade teacher assistant at a public charter school; developed and led place-based environmental education programs for K-12 school groups and the general public with a conservation organization; led school field trips at Acadia National Park and a nature center in the Hudson Valley; facilitated experiential programs on sustainable agriculture, world hunger and poverty at an educational farm; and led kayak tours for adults and families at a wildlife refuge for four summers. She is passionate about science literacy, inquiry-based learning, and place-based education.

Aside from education, her background includes a variety field biology, conservation, and sustainable agriculture experience: She has banded birds in Maine and New Jersey; worked on a salt marsh study in southeast Massachusetts; surveyed marsh birds in midcoast Maine; contributed to shorebird protection and native plant conservation; and managed a commercial vegetable farm for three years.

Jennifer completed a bachelor’s degree at Bowdoin College, with majors in Environmental Studies and Latin American Studies and a minor in Biology. She is excited to return to the Maine coast, as this region played a prominent role in her own education. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, kayaking, growing vegetables, cooking vegetarian meals, and honing her skills as a birder, botanist and naturalist.

Email Jennifer
207-833-3229 x 131

Joe Paine, Division 1 Humanities Faculty

Elizabeth Davis

Ed Tech

Elizabeth comes to HCA with a long connection to the school’s origins as a part of the original group who met with the town about starting a charter school in the recently closed West Harpswell School. With her daughter in the inaugural class, she has watched HCA grow and develop over the past ten years and is thrilled to be stepping back into the classroom at this time to work directly with students. In 2003 she founded the Harpswell Community Nursery School which still operates in the Kellogg Church; the charter school seemed a natural next step.

 Born and raised in New York City, Elizabeth moved to Harpswell to sail the coast with her husband in their 28-foot wooden boat. They live just a mile from the school on a small family farm on Basin Cove where they raise ducks, chickens and geese and sell duck eggs. Their corgi, Java, is in charge most of the time (at least that’s what she will tell you.)

 Elizabeth studied English and the teaching of writing at Smith College and the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont before beginning her 15-year teaching career as a Department Head at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights. An active volunteer in the town, she has worked as an EMT, a chaplain for Fire and Rescue, and now delivers meals through Harpswell Aging at Home. When not on her kayak she can be found making quilts and knitting in her fiber arts studio. She believes in being the difference you want to see in the world.

Email Elizabeth
207-833-3229 x 132

Division 2 & 3 (High School) Faculty

Caleb Christensen Fletcher, Division 2 Math & Theater Faculty

Caleb Christensen Fletcher

Division 2 Math 

Before he came to HCA, Caleb was teaching at Old Orchard Beach High School and Gardiner Area High School as a math teacher for the masses. As a graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington with a degree in Secondary Education and Mathematics, Caleb’s passion for math and teaching was at the forefront of everything he did. He, however, was looking for a place that held values that were close to his heart. Community, compassion, and understanding all of these tenants drove Caleb to HCA where he has been a teacher since 2016.

Caleb’s love of mathematics, problem-solving, and film can be heard throughout the school. If he isn’t busy daydreaming about numbers, he can be found nose deep in a comic book, playing board games with his friends, or trying out new stand-up material which he is constantly wiggling into every class. Alongside his wife, who also happens to be a teacher here, Caleb is always ready for a new year and new opportunities to get one more student to enjoy mathematics even if his colleagues tell him that it’s a pipe dream.

Email Caleb
207-833-3229 Ext.123

Caleb Christensen Fletcher, Division 2 Math & Theater Faculty

Matt Organ

Division 2 Science

Before arriving at HCA, Matthew graduated the University of New England in Biddeford, ME with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Climate Change Studies. After graduating he began working at Nature’s Classroom, an outdoor education NPO that has served the New England School community for decades. After his time there, in Ocean Park, ME, he returned home to Long Island, NY, to complete a master’s program. He graduated Stony Brook University with a M.A.T. Earth Science. During and after his work for his master’s degree, he worked as an Earth Science teacher at Half Hollow Hills School District. 


Matthew is passionate about getting students involved in their own learning. Through his work as an outdoor educator and public-school teacher, there has been a focus on having student immerse themselves in the science. Goals for Matthew’s classroom are getting students thinking about the environment around them and to never stop asking questions. Besides learning, Matthew loves to travel to National Parks and other environmental destinations across the globe. Some examples are, The Amazon Rainforest, Costa Rica, and The Grand Tetons.

Email Matt
207-833-3229 Ext.124

Zach Gagnon, Division 2 faculty

Zach Gagnon

Division 2 faculty

After his campaign through the USM School of Music, Zach united with HCA in 2017 to continue his development as an educator. Many things pushed his quest forward from studying music education, working with children of all ages and abilities as the Program Manager at Oceanwood Camp & Conference Center, and a brief stint at Heidi’s House Childcare Center in Scarborough, Maine. His journey has now lead him here to teach music, technology, math, model U.N, wellness, and other subjects necessary to set HCA students on their quests. From reading Tolkien to running a mile, he is proud of the many facets he has been able to touch on with students.

Speaking of Tolkien, Zach currently resides in Winthrop with his wife Sarah, and corgi Arwen. As a family, they enjoy travel; having between them visited Croatia, Ireland, Canada, and various places around the United States. They also enjoy going to baseball games, enjoying the beauty of Maine, and of course, eating donuts (or donut-shaped dog treats.) The Gagnons also love being part of the HCA community, and can’t wait for another exciting year.

Email Zach
207-833-3229 Ext.104

Whitney Conway, Division 2 Humanities faculty

Vernon Lickfeld

Division 2 Humanities

Vernon’s journey to HCA began outside of Philadelphia, PA where he was born and raised. After high school he attended Emerson College in Boston and earned a degree in writing for film and television but, more importantly, met his wife Julia, who brought him to her home in Maine. After spending a few years after undergrad in Philly, Vernon and Julia moved to Portland, where Vernon enrolled in the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program. There, he not only earned a Master’s in creative writing with a concentration in fiction, but also gained a passion for using his working hours making positive contributions to the Maine community through education. Vernon is thrilled to be at HCA where he can make an impact on the lives of young learners while teaching subjects he is most passionate about.

Outside of the school day, Vernon can be found playing video games, reading, writing, watching pro wrestling, helping his botanically-inclined wife with their garden, and lounging around with the family cat, Seed.

Email Vernon
207-833-3229x 125

Whitney Conway, Division 2 Humanities faculty

Shannon Els

Division 2/3 Special Education

Shannon was born and raised in Arlington, Virginia. Her mother is from Taiwan and her father has generational roots in Virginia. Each day, East met West which plays a major role in how she explores multiple perspectives, cultural identity, and learning practices.

After graduating with a BA in Sociology and Education, she jumped into a masters at Pepperdine University in Social Entrepreneurship and Change, diving into nutrition security and creative zero-waste models. With these themes in mind, she’s led school groups as an outdoor educator, resident counselor, and organized local engagement as a college academic and career advisor. Paired with a desire to dig deep into community activities led her to becoming Executive Director of ArtVan, a mobile nonprofit that brings Art Therapy directly to youth in neighborhoods across the Mid Coast.

When she’s not at HCA or ArtVan, she’s playing/coaching basketball in Bath, making paper, learning to grow mushrooms, and discovering new trails with her husband, Japhet, and dog, Roo.


Email Shannon
207-833-3229 x133

Whitney Conway, Division 2 Humanities faculty

Natalee Stotz

Community Based Learning Coordinator

Natalee grew up in the woods of Maine, living in Limington and spending summers at her family’s camp on Sebec Lake. She developed a love for the environment and history of our beautiful state. Time spent out of state, first earning a BS in Bible and Education from Cairn University in Pennsylvania and then teaching upper elementary and middle school in small private schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, deepened her love for Maine and provided valuable training and practice in experiential education. She returned home to Maine in 2011 to be near family and serve as Head of High School and Humanities teacher at Windham Christian Academy. Her desire to create engaging learning experiences led her to earn a Masters of Education in Problem-Based Learning and Critical Skills from Antioch University New England in 2018. In 2020, her love of being on the water and helping others get on the water inspired her to become a Registered Maine Guide. 

Natalee is excited to collaborate with students, faculty, and community members. She is always looking for opportunities to share her passions for experiential learning, the outdoors, and literacy, as well as opportunities to help others develop and share their own passions.

Outside of school, Natalee can be found buried in a book, snuggling her cat, skiing with her niece and nephews, wandering in the woods, or in her kayak.

Email Natalee
207-833-3229 x 134

Whitney Conway, Division 2 Humanities faculty

Melinda Turner

Division 2/3 – Educational Technician

Mindy comes to us from Wiscasset Middle High School where she was an Ed Tech 3 for 5 years. Prior to that,  she was an Instructional Paraprofessional at North Marion High School in Florida. It was there that she discovered her passion for working with students. She realized that the teenage years and High School are  some of the most difficult to navigate, and wants to be a positive influence on student’s academic lives.  When not at work, she enjoys reading, spending time with her son, mother, dog and gardening.

Email Mindy
207-833-3229 x 127

Whitney Conway, Division 2 Humanities faculty

Timothy McGarvey

Division 2/3 – Humanities

Timothy began falling in love with teaching as an Undergraduate at Trinity International University, where he was given the opportunity to teach an occasional Intro to Philosophy class alongside the professor. He furthered that passion by teaching on staff for a high school marching band. After getting a Masters in Philosophy at Duquesne University, he taught as a visiting instructor at a two year campus of Georgia State University. Immediately before coming to HCA, Timothy was studying and teaching philosophy at the University of South Florida. Desperate to get out of Florida, he and his wife moved up to Maine where they fell in love with the coastline and woods.

Timothy spends a lot of time working in his garden, taking care of his chickens, and playing with his two dogs and one cat. He can often be found outside, whether that is puttering around doing odd jobs on the homestead, exploring the Maine coast, or sailing at Mere Point. Timothy is excited to be part of the community here at HCA.

Email Timothy
207-833-3229 x 115

Operations Team

Lisa Truden-O'Connor

Lisa Truden-O'Connor

Operations Team

Tammy Johnson

Tammy Johnson

Operations Team

Nicole Walker

Nicole Walker

Nutrition Coordinator