Faculty and Staff Bios

Laura Brigham:  Head of School; Director of International Education and Teacher

        Laura holds a Master’s degree in International Business Studies, French track from USC and lived one year in Brussels, Belgium and four years in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. She has fostered a love of languages in her three children (whose libraries of 2000+books and video’s are as much in foreign languages as in English).  
        She has taught English to French speaking children and adults, and has taught preschool through high school French.
        Additional work with children includes being a boy scout merit badge counselor, planning and chaperoning various school field trips, and being a lead teacher at First Baptist Preschool.
        Laura has pursued additional language studies in German, Russian, and Spanish. Her German studies include coursework at VCU, Inlingua in Biel/Bienne Switzerland, Interlangue in Neuchâtel, Switzerland plus private tutoring. She completed beginning Russian coursework at VCU and beginning Spanish at the University of South Carolina with extended stays in Ecuador and Guatemala. 

Spanish Faculty

Mara Dovis: Elementary Spanish Immersion, K-5, and Art 

        Mara is a heritage Spanish speaker and has been educating children for the past 14 years. She previously taught ESL to the hispanic community in rural Virginia and Spanish in a Richmond Montessori school, as well as private lessons. 

        Mara holds a BFA in Communication Arts & Design from VCU with a double minor in Spanish and Latin American Studies. She was inducted into the Spanish Honor Society and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Mara has traveled in Mexico, Costa Rica, and throughout South America. Her parents were raised in Argentina and she still has extended family living near Buenos Aires with whom she hopes to visit again soon. Besides teaching children, Mara enjoys working as a freelance photographer and artist. She loves making sculptures in clay, gardening, and spending outdoor time with her family.

Maria Jenkins:  Advanced High School Level Spanish Immersion

    Maria Jenkins is a native Spanish speaker from Madrid, Spain with over 14 years of teaching experience.  She holds  an degree in art from the School of Arts in Madrid and a Certificate of Gemology from the University of Madrid.

    Since arriving in Richmond she has taught in Richmond City Public School and most recently at Elijah House Academy for four years. She has also led summer camps, taught adults, and homeschool classes.

    Maria enjoys making jewelry and is active in her church. She met her husband in Richmond.  They have been married for 15 years and have two beautiful daughters.

    "One thing I know for sure is that everyday when I get up, I go to a job that I absolutely love to do - teaching the culture, language, and history of the world in my native language, Spanish, and using interactive methods where the students are able to demonstrate their abilities and enjoy the process of learning.

     I am very excited about this new school year and getting to know each of my students and families!!!"

Magdiel Sampson, Elementary Spanish

    Magdiel Sampson is a native Spanish speaker from Guatemala.  She holds a degree in English as a Second Language from Mariano Galvez University and the American Guatemalan Institute.  She has extensive experience in early childhood education and has taught English as a second language to all ages in Guatemala.

    As a director of  Programs at Maximo Nivel, Antigua Guatemala, she ran the Spanish Immersion Program doing everything from arranging stays with host-families and hotels, managing Spanish class schedules, faculty training to teaching. 

    In the US Magdiel has taught Spanish in Northern Virginia, at Central Montessori School (Richmond), and at All Saints Catholic School (Richmond).

Paola Gomez Roberts: Early Elementary Spanish

    Paola is a native Spanish speaker from Colombia.  She graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in Psychology.

In addition to Spanish Immersion lead teaching experience with an Immersion Pre-school, Paola is a mother who also finds time to be on the National Bowling Team of Colombia.  

Ariel Maloof: Elementary Spanish Teacher

   See German Faculty

French Faculty

Veronique Zara: Advanced Middle and High School Level 

    Veronique Zara, a French native came to the United States as a university student.  She holds an M.A. and Ph.D in French from Pennsylvania State University.  Her areas of interest include medieval history and cross-cultural communication.  She has enjoyed teaching French for many years to students from a variety of backgrounds and ages, from young children to adult learners, both foreign language students and native speakers.

Laura Brigham: Early and Intermediate Elementary FrenchSee above under Director

Shannon Griffin: Elementary French, Social Studies /Humanities:(History, Model United Nations, World Religions, Geography, World Peace Games), and Yoga

        Shannon holds an MA in Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,  a BA in English from the University of Virginia, and is currently working on a second graduate degree from UVA in Religious studies. She is passionate about languages and has lived and studied in France for a year and in Israel for three years.  Shannon is tri-lingual in French, Hebrew, and English.  

    She enjoys travel, and has traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and India, alone as well as with her three daughters.  The family has enjoyed hosting exchange students from Austria, France and Montreal, Canada.

       Shannon teaches World History and Geography, World Religions,  Model United Nations, French, and as a certified yoga instructor, yoga in French.  She is excited to add the World Peace Games to her class repertoire this year.

Nilufar Allamuradova: Elementary and Intermediate French and Russian Teacher

        Nilufar, a native Russian and Uzbek speaker from Uzbekistan, is a graduate of The Uzbek State World Languages University with a B.A. in French Language Translation. Additionally, she has lived and studied in France, earning a Certificate in Political Science from the University of Toulouse.

German Faculty

Ariel Maloof: Middle and High School Level German through Nature and Environmental Science, Spanish

        Ariel Maloof is a double major graduate in German and International Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University.  In her youth she attended a Spanish Immersion school for six years and has backpacked through Central/South America from Guatemala to Colombia, living in Nicaragua volunteering for the Asociacion de Mujeres del Altiplano (AMA) and the Biosfera Reserve & Retreat.  Ariel has worked with children from two through middle school.  She has taught both Spanish and German at Heartwood Grove and is looking forward to teaching our German Nature course.  During her summer free time, Ariel is an unarmed security guard at music festivals.  She enjoys biking, gardening, cooking, and soap and candle making.


Margaret Lau: Elementary Language Arts 

        Mrs. Lau grew up in Hong Kong and London and speaks Cantonese and English.  She worked in the field of early childhood for fourteen years, as an after school counselor and a pre-school teacher before joining Heartwood Grove as a reading teacher, reading individually with students using a phonics based program.  Additionally, Margaret he has special training with the Orton Gillingham reading method.

        Margaret worked in the fields of finance and accounting in England and Hong Kong before changing professions to the field of early childhood. She attended the University of Northumbria, U.K. where she earned her professional certification in Cost and Management Accounting.

        “The most enjoyable moments for me are those when I experience how quickly children love to learn, and how important a teacher is in their lives. They are so accepting and trusting that it’s a constant reminder for me to be a good example to them.” 

Margaret is the proud mother of two college students, a son at Virginia Tech and a daughter at Harvard.  Her hobbies include handicrafts, reading, martial arts, traveling, and collecting teapots. 

William Bice: Music and Language Arts Teacher; Arabic Tutor; National Language Test Coordinator

William has a double major in Music and Russian from St. Olaf College, having graduated Magna Cum Laude.  Prior to enrolling in St. Olaf, he spent a gap year at Kazan Federal University, Kazan Russia through a State Department  NSLI-Y full scholarship.  He later spent twelve months in Amman, Jordan learning Arabic on a Defense Department Boren scholarship.  William Bice is a musician, (violist), who enjoys a variety of music genres, especially chamber music.  His main hobbies are languages, music, travel, and origami. Additionally, William was born in Switzerland and grew up as a French heritage speaker.