2017 Summer Camp Instructors

April Seiple is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a Masters in Early Childhood Education and in Curriculum and Instruction.  As a teacher with Giles County Schools for 15 years, she is a dedicated advocate for child development . April is absolutely obsessed with fabric, sewing, designing and creating. She enjoys dabbling in all areas of the arts, and loves learning new things! She lives in Giles with her husband and two small children. 

Kim Kirkbride does a little of everything.  Mostly she loves to be out in the woods, both with friends and solo--always with her canine pal Henny, of course.  She is passionate about preserving  the natural and cultural beauty of the mountains, and is really, really excited about year 2 of Mountain Makers.  

Chris Valluzzo has been a documentary and Television producer/director locally for the past 15 years.  While serving as video producer for Montgomery County Virginia Government, he taught several video production camps through the Parks and Recreation department.  He was the Producer and/or Director on the documentaries This Bridge (which is about coal mining in Montgomery County), Hokie Nation, Henry Reed Legacy, Why Old Time, Virginia Creepers and Hi There Horror Movie Fan.  He also was the director/producer for Song of The Mountains which aired nationwide on UNC PBS.  His hope is to grow the NYMC to a program that offers various tracks of study with in the world of film making.  This summer's course is the prerequisite class for all future classes.

Sarah Meade is a Roanoke native graduate of Radford University where she earned her degree in theatre. While she enjoys all aspects and styles of theatre, her true passion is to use the art-form to help kids feel confident on stage and in life! 

Co-founder of LoCo Arts and The Mayapple School, Tacie N. Jones holds a BFA in painting from George Mason University, a Virginia license to teach Visual Arts PREK-12, and a Masters of Research in Creative Practice from the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. Prior to graduate study, she taught middle and high school art at North Spring Academy in Leesburg, VA where she initiated from scratch a fine arts program, after-school clubs and activities, and Honors Art for students with exceptional interest in the subject. She currently teaches art in Floyd County Public Schools. Tacie endeavors to unearth a culture of understanding through creative methods that strengthen the individual and hence shape a spirited understanding of community.

Melissa West, see below. 


The Mayapple School Instructors

Melissa West is a founder of The Mayapple School and will act as teaching director. She holds a B.S. from Radford University for Interdisciplinary Studies and a Virginia teacher’s license for General Education, Pre-K through 6th grade. Previous experiences include teaching preschool at The Children’s Garden in Blacksburg, VA and as an environmental educator at Nature’s Classroom in Colebrook, CT. Her understanding of children’s educational needs has been greatly shaped by her own growth and the growth she has witnessed in others while participating in outdoor and hands-on projects.  Her role in the classroom is to cultivate children’s spirit of fun and adventure through facilitiation of creative challenges that expand children’s knowledge of the world around them


LoCo Arts After School Instructor

Melinda Ogle, born, raised and resident of Newport,  is mom to two students at Giles High School, Chayton (15) and Carolyn (13).  She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Joe, for 25 years.  Melinda received her degree in computer programming but quickly learned her love of working with people, especially children.  She has worked with Giles County Schools for the past 15 years as a substitute teacher and also in special education.  Melinda has been a Girl Scout Leader, Boy Scout Leader, PTA Vice-President and served on multiple school related committees.  Melinda enjoys creating with multiple mediums, gardening, kayaking, and spending time with her family.


Continuing and Past Instructors

Rachel Rugh received a BA in Dance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2008, and relocated to the Pacific Northwest a year later. While living in the Seattle area, she received her Montessori teaching certification, specializing in Montessori for infants and toddlers. She also taught creative movement and dance technique to children aged three to eighteen. Since moving to Blacksburg in 2013, she has been an instructor at Virginia Tech, Roanoke Ballet Theatre, the Center of Dance and Trillium Dance Collective (Lewisburg, WV). She is excited to be a part of the growing arts renaissance in the New River Valley.

Lynn Thorpe, licensed professional teacher of English and drama, has taught and directed plays in Carroll, Pulaski, and Montgomery Counties as well as Roanoke City and Radford. With performance experience in tap, singing and theater, Lynn especially enjoys giant street puppets and parading in the streets of Philadelphia on New Years Day as a Murray Comic Mummer.

Jackie Harder is a painter and graphic designer based in the Blacksburg-Christiansburg area. She holds a Master's in Urban and Regional Planning and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Virginia Tech. Her research is in community mural making and nonprofit governance and leadership. When not painting or studying, she is spending time with her fiancé on their sustainable farm, Den Hill Permaculture, located in Ellett Valley, VA.

Jane Goette has been a teacher and a writer in our community since she moved from New Orleans to Blacksburg in 1977. During sixteen years working in gifted education in Montgomery and Pulaski Counties, Jane designed and taught interdisciplinary units of study, K-12 and provided language arts workshops for teachers across grade levels with a focus on creative writing, poetry, public speaking and debate. She taught students of all ages and used personal experiences in classrooms to design curriculum intended to challenge and nurture students’ capacities for critical and creative thinking.

In Spring of 2004, Jane was a Resident Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She was an active member of the Virginia Wolves writer’s group for seventeen years. Jane has published poems and essays and completed a memoir about growing up on Louisiana’s historic River Road during the last days of segregation. Who Ya Mama and Daddy? is currently under review by two publishers.

Becca Imbur has been making handmade books for over 15 years. In addition to making books, she also enjoys gardening, reading, yoga and hiking. Recently, she has become obsessed with using natural found objects in her art. Becca currently lives in Blacksburg, Virginia with her daughter, River.

Katie Koch is a local Virginia artist and graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Her art is inspired by the mystery and magic in everyday life, and by the imaginative world of her favorite childhood stories. In theatre arts programs, she guides and assists groups in the creation of beautiful costumes and set.

Winema Lanoue, holds a BA in Theatre Arts from Virginia Tech. Winema was an assistant teacher in playwrighting for the Johns Hopkins Gifted and Talented Youth program and, after taking some years off to raise her own children, is looking forward to spending time with creative children to help foster their original playwrighting skills.

Barbara Tait is a long, tall Texan who relocated to Philadelphia in 2009 after graduating from the University of North Carolina Greensboro with a BA in dance and minors in English and psychology. She thinks all movement has communicative value, and this belief has led her to pursue collaborations with dancers and non-dancers alike.  Her community-based projects include a video performance piece set on patrons of the Free Library Hot Spot at Heavenly Hall in collaboration with Colleen Hooper.  In addition to her work as a dance artist, Barbara is a Digital Resource Specialist at the Free Library of Philadelphia and an Archives Associate for the Local Dance History Project at Philadelphia Dance Projects. She recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with her Masters in Library and Information Science. 

Elizabeth McCommon, professional actress, playwright, song writer and performer has had years of interaction with area school children, using theater techniques as learning tools. "Give Your Body A Break,"which she helped create, promoted good health in New River Valley Schools with the use of theater games.

Nicole McKitrick, a Giles County resident and Radford University graduate, is an experienced Montessori teacher. She enjoys working with children of all ages in community activities engaging in art, culinary practice, and nature. 

Gwynn Hamilton has a Bachelor's degree in art specializing in drawing and oil painting.  She earned a Master's degree in Arts Administration with an emphasis in museum education from the University of Oregon.  She has taught home school art classes and led museum education programs for all ages and levels of experience at the Frederic Remington Art Museum in New York.  Here in the New River Valley, she farms full time at Stonecrop Farm and substitute teaches in Giles County.