Faculty and Staff Bios

Laura Bice:  Director of International Education and Elementary 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, elementary, and middle 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 has completed beginning Russian coursework at VCU and beginning Spanish at the University of South Carolina.

Spanish Faculty

Mara Dovis: Elementary Spanish Immersion, K-1, 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 Middle School 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 Simpson, Early Elementary Spanish

    Magdiel Simpson 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).

Abril Garcia: Early Elementary Spanish

    Abril Garcia is a native Spanish speaker from Mexico.  She graduated cum Laude with a degree in Foreign Language from Virginia Commonwealth University and completed the VCU Spanish-English Translation and Interpretation certification program.  

In addition to Spanish Immersion teaching experience with Communikids Pre-school, Abril is a freelance translator and certified court interpreter.


Julia "Kitsie" Helo: Spanish Subsitute Teacher

    Kitsie grew up in Richmond and holds a fine arts degree with a major in Spanish and a minor in French from King College in Bristol, Tennessee.  After graduating she lived in Mexico and taught elementary students English, then later lived two years in Japan, where she taught high schoolers and three to five year olds.

    Later Kitsie attended Regis University of Denver, Colorado and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  She specialized in the NICU.  Having lived for twelve years in Colorado she and her husband, love to snow ski, bike, and hike trails.

        Kitsie is the mother of three children who attend Heartwood Grove School.  She regularly travels with her family to visit relatives in Colombia, South America

French Faculty

Veronique Zara: Advanced Middle School French Teacher

    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 Bice: Early and Intermediate Elementary FrenchSee above under Director

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.

        Ms. Allamuradova has two young children with whom she shares her passion of languages and travel.

Shannon Griffin: 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.

Ariel Maloof, 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 Guatemala and 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 teacher our German Nature course.  In her free time, Ariel is an unarmed security guard at music festivals.  She enjoys gardening and soap and candle making.

Margaret Lau: Afternoon Kindergarten Teacher

        Mrs. Lau has been working in the field of early childhood for fourteen years, most recently working as an after school counselor at the Shady Grove YMCA, and as a reading teacher at Heartwood Grove School.  Margaret spent six of her eleven years at Epiphany Lutheran Pre-School as a half-day 4/5-year-old teacher. She also worked in Epiphany’s after-school enrichment program.

        She worked in the fields of finance and accounting in England and Hong Kong before changing professions to the field of early childhood. Margaret 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. 

Susana Mulcahey:  Teacher Administrator, Elementary French Teacher, and Culinary Instructor 

        Ms. Mulcahey, originally from New York, has over seventeen years experience teaching and counseling children and youth. She holds a BA in French and Portuguese (Cum Laude) from the University of Connecticut where she studied abroad at  The Université de Haute Normandie, Mont St. Aignan France  and The University of Lisbon, Lisbon Portugal.  Ms. Mulcahey also speaks Italian and holds a master's degree in special education. 

        She has taught in a variety of educational settings which have included Reggio Emilia, Montessori, ESL and foreign language instruction settings.

        Working in a NAEYC- accredited early education center, she was observed during instructional time, leading to the center earning a five- star rating.

        Susana also loves reading, swimming, boating, biking, and cooking. She is a professional chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.  

Coach Dee Hayes - Fencing
        Dee Hayes, a native of Cuba, has fenced in the Olympics and in two Pan-american Games representing her native Cuba.  She teaches at Richmond Fencing Club, has provided coaching for two seasons of Character Works productions of "Peter Pan" and "Pirates of the Caribbean", and has provided lessons and classes for the William and Mary Men's and Women's Epee Teams, resulting in several individual and team championships.
        Dee started fencing at nine years old at Barbodos Heroes, a national sports school in Havana.  She studied foil and epee under Coaches Ichi, Margarita Rodriquez, Jorge Valdez, Orlando Durruty, and Manuel Ortiz, all world renowned and ranked icons.  After graduating  from the University of Sports "Manuel Fajardo" in Havana, she taught at the National Academy in Havana.  During her five year tenure, Dee monitored 72 athletes between the ages of 7 and 21 and promoted an innumerable amount of students to higher techniques schools and the Cuban National Team of Fencing.
    She placed first in epee in the 2011 VA Division Championships and first in foil and third in epee in the 2009 VA Division Championships, where she was a silver medalist in the Women's Epee Team event.  In Cuba, Dee was the captain of the Women's Team of Havana, three-time winner of the Cuban National Tournament (age divisions 13-14 and 15-16), and champion of both the Tournament Games of the Youth and the Nationals Tournament of Teams. Dee placed second in the Holy Cross Tournament of the North and third in both the National Games Tournament and the Games of Peace.
    Additionally Dee has experience with children with disabilities, as well as with ESL students.

Charles Bice, Finance Manager

         Charles has worked in Finance in Switzerland, Eastern Europe, and the US since he graduated with a Master’s degree in International Business Studies, French track from USC in 1991. He worked for 17 years in Finance and Operations Management for Altira.

        Charles also holds a BA in both Economics and English from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has lived in London and Brussels, and six years in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.