Faculty and Staff

Julie Hansen, Director

Julie Hansen holds an M.A. in English from Middlebury College, with studies at Oxford College, and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley.

She is our school director, but her first love is teaching middle school. She continues to teach courses in English and history.

After graduation, Hansen taught English at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara for three years, during which she studied Spanish and traveled throughout Mexico. She combines literature and history for both American Studies and Global Studies in order to provoke discussions about what she calls “the big ideas.”  One of Ms. Hansen’s favorite quotes: “If you expect an answer to your question in your lifetime, you haven’t asked a big enough question (I.F. Stone).

Upon returning from Mexico, she taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at Madison Middle School in Seattle, Washington.  It was during these years that she discovered her affinity and passion for teaching young teenagers.

While in Seattle, Mrs. Hansen had the opportunity to move to Honolulu and teach at St. Andrews Priory School, an independent K-12 school for girls.  During her tenure there she facilitated the school’s accreditation self-study and participated as a visiting team member for the Punahou Academy’s accreditation process.  These experiences gave her a broad understanding of the elements involved in a sustaining a quality school.

Mrs. Hansen first came to Vermont when she enrolled in the Master’s program at The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.  She and her family moved to the state full time when she assumed the Directorship of The Thaddeus Stevens School.  During her first year with the School, she enrolled in a class on Vermont Education Law through UVM to brief herself on specific statewide issues.  She also made contact with receiving schools such as the St. Johnsbury Academy to identify their expectations for incoming students.  Hansen then fused what she had learned during her years of middle school teaching with the Vermont Frameworks in order to create an appropriate curriculum.

Under Mrs. Hansen’s guidance, Thaddeus Stevens School received approval from the Vermont State Board of Education for the 1999-2000 school year. After a review of that year’s student portfolios and the following year’s curriculum, the State Board granted Hansen and the School an additional five-year approval.

Mrs. Hansen guided the School’s addition of grades 3-5 with the idea of a strong alignment among the grades to ensure that the courses incorporate local and national standards.

She led the School through its initial accreditation granting process in 2011.  In 2012 the School was approved to offer kindergarten and grades 1 and 2.

In 2006 the Vermont Bar Association awarded Hansen as Civic Educator of the Year.


Leah Benedict
Art : Grades Four – Eight

Mrs. Benedict infuses the study of ancient civilizations with the conviction that art is a human endeavor that has accompanied the rise of civilizations to convey values, establish identity, and to provoke questions about those values and identities.

Mrs. Benedict studied Textile Design at SUNY Fashion Institute of Design.  She also studied classical painting with artists at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York.

Mrs. Benedict is a professional artist, curator, and art conservator. Her enthusiasm and love of great art encourages her students to believe that original creation is for everyone. Her personal mission as a teacher is to explore with students the concept of art as a cultural artifact, understanding the arts as a footprint of cultures past, present, and striding into the future. “As teachers building sustainable communities, we need to create connections among races, religions, countries, ethnic groups, professions, students, and teachers, building bridges, past, present and future. Teaching at the Thaddeus Stevens School is the opportunity to meet these goals through an inter-disciplinary approach to curriculum, preparing students for high school, college and responsible adult life.”

She holds a Bachelors Degree in Art from Johnson State College, Johnson, Vermont, and her paintings are in private collections as well as local and national galleries.

Mrs. Benedict has participated in graduate courses at the Shelburne Museum and Dartmouth College.  As a participant in teacher institutes, she has written curriculum for the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts, The Smithsonian, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.


Maria Dufresne
2016-2017: On Sabbatical
Dean Lower Elementary
Math: Grades One through Four

Maria Dufresne brings a global perspective to our school community.  A native of Scotland, she lived and worked in a number of countries before she moved to the United States in 1983. In 2007, the entire Thaddeus Stevens School student body traveled to the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier to watch Mrs. Dufresne and several hundred other people sworn in as citizens of the United States.

Mrs. Dufresne has been teaching elementary school for seven years. “I love the curiosity of the students, and I have fun watching them acquire and use their skills in the pursuit of satisfying that curiosity,” she says.

She holds a diploma from Central College of Commerce in Glasgow, Scotland and a BA from the University of Vermont.


Tom Forster
Science: Grades Five through Eight

Mr. Forster was raised in Baltimore, Maryland and has been living in Northern Vermont for the last 12 years.  Mr. Forster is married and has two children: Ethan (11) and Emma (9).  He has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from the College of Wooster (Ohio) and a Masters in Education from Portland State University (Oregon).  Mr. Forster has 15 years of teaching experience and has taught middle school science and math in area schools including Walden, Danville and St. Johnsbury School.

Before getting his teaching degree Mr. Forster worked and lived out west for ten years.  During that time he worked for the National Park Service as a ranger naturalist and firefighter.  He spent his free time adventuring in some of the wildest places in North America including Alaska, Montana, Utah and Arizona.

After meeting his wife, Dr. Dana Kraus, in Oregon, they spent six months living and working in a small village in Rural Nepal.  Tom helped build a school and helped train a young Nepali teacher while Dana worked at a small rural hospital.  Living in Nepal was a life changing experience for them.

Mr. Forster is especially excited to teach science in an outdoor setting at Thaddeus Stevens School and has already been working with students to build trails and set up an outdoor classroom.  Mr. Forster is a big outdoor enthusiast and enjoys hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, camping and skiing.


Emma Hansen
English:  Grades Six
Global Studies: Grade Eight
Life Skills: Grades Six, Seven, and Eight (Girls)
Director of Rosie’s Girls at TSS

Ms. Hansen is a graduate of Thaddeus Stevens School, St. Johnsbury Academy, and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Vermont with a minor in Ethnic Studies. She has attended numerous writing conferences, was the first place winner of the Kenyon Young Writers competition as a high school student, and has edited several national and local literary publications.

Her first year of college was spent at Hunter College in Manhattan, New York, where she was identified as a rising scholar. She was an editor on the Olivetree Review, Hunter’s literary publication, and assisted with a Green Energy project to replace all lighting sources with CFLs. She realized that although she loved the energy and diversity of New York, she missed the small communities of Vermont. She transferred to the University of Vermont where she joined the Vermont Cynic, UVM’s newspaper. She was a member of the first Vermont Cynic video team, and produced weekly video and written pieces on nightlife in Burlington.

After graduation, she was the Communications Director for Attorney General William Sorrell during his 2012 re-election campaign. In 2016, she spearheaded the fundraising to purchase a license to host Rosie’s Girls, a program by Vermont Works for Women in Winooski, VT. After a highly successful first year, Ms. Hansen is determined to continue to host this camp for girls.

In her spare time, Ms. Hansen enjoys video games, horror movies, and hanging out with her dog, Josie, and her cat, Professor Chaos.


Jamie Robertson
Operations Manager
Japanese Language and Culture: Kindergarten through Eight

Jamie Robertson graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy in 2010 and then from Lyndon State College in 2015. His level of organization and attention to detail make him the point person for parents, students, and teachers. Beyond his teaching duties, he helps keep the School’s many aspects functioning well to making sure that school and community relations are strengthened. Mr. Robertson loves the outdoors and takes part in all four seasons of Vermont. He enjoys biking, hiking, running, skiing, and snowshoeing to name a few of the many hobbies that keep him busy outside of the school. Mr. Robertson lives in Lyndonville and is constantly striving to make our community better. He believes that the reason to do “goodworks” is that it is our inherent obligation, not just to ourselves but to those who live among us.


Heather LaValley
Assistant to the Montessori Preschool Director
Art: Kinder through Second
Physical Education: All School

Mrs. LaValley holds a degree in Physical Education Teacher Education from Lyndon State College.  Before coming to teach at Thaddeus Stevens School she worked in a large Children’s Center in both the preschool and afterschool programs.  Mrs. LaValley is committed to participating in her local community events, and this comes across in her classrooms.  In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.  She enjoys gardening, running, reading, and painting.


Seth Talcott
Humanities: Five and Six
Math: Five
All School: Computer Literacy

Mr. Talcott is a first year teacher at Thaddeus Stevens School and is excited for this endeavor.  Originally from Old Lyme, CT,  Mr. Talcott’s experience in teaching stems from his seven years as a summer camp counselor at Camp Hazen YMCA. After graduating from Lyndon State College in 2014 with a BFA in Animation and Illustration, he started working with a YMCA after school program in Glastonbury, CT where he served as the Head Teacher.

In 2016, he felt the strong need to return to Vermont.  He moved to Lyndonville and worked at the Burke Town School after school program. One year later, he is excited to work with children and developing their ability to succeed through teaching in this new environment. Mr. Talcott enjoys participating in outside activities, cooking, drawing, and watching movies.


Rebecca Rickert
Math: First through Four
Phonics: First and Second

Ms. Rickert graduated from Lyndon State College with a Bachelors in Environmental Science and a concentration in conservation, sustainability and mathematics. As a lifelong Vermonter and conservationist she plans to strongly continue community service at Thaddeus Stevens. With her, she has multiple Crested Geckos in her classroom that she finds students are very interested in learning about their life cycles, incorporating math by measuring growth as they age from hatchlings to adult, and studying their behaviors.


Kristen Langlais
Science: First through Four
English: First and Second
Social Studies: First and Second
Music: First and Second

This is Mrs. Langlais’ first year teaching at TSS. She grew up in CT, spending time in the forest or with animals whenever she could, eventually graduating summa cum laude with a BS degree in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut. After teaching math for a year, she went on to study the potential effects of climate change on sugar maple tree distribution in the White Mountains and received a MS in Natural Resources from the University of New Hampshire.

Mrs. Langlais’ love of nature and science, as well as her love of education, music, and the arts, has been shared with others for almost two decades. She taught 4-12 math and science at several local independent schools in the NEK, was a licensed Kindermusik teacher when her daughters were young, taught cultural arts through the Revels North organization, and helped start a non-profit nature school called Field, Farm and Forest. In her spare time, Mrs. Langlais raises Icelandic and Navajo churro sheep for their wool and cares for a variety of rescue animals including 2 elderly dogs, 3 perky cats, and an old mule and mini horse. She dabbles in fiber arts, as well as the art of storytelling. She also enjoys hiking, gardening and learning about herbal and tree remedies. She lives in Burke with her husband, Matt, and their two daughters, Erin and Maggie.


Hanna White

Ms. White holds an Education degree with a concentration in Early Education and Psychology from Lyndon State College. Ms. White is dedicated to serving those who are less fortunate. While still in college, Ms White established a system at the Lyndon State Dining Hall that ensured that any untouched over-production of food was donated to H.O.P.E., an important local non-profit that provides assistance and help for families in dire need. Ms. White also traveled to Guatemala to assist an afterschool program. She collected over one hundred pounds of medical and educational supplies to donate to the program. Ms. White teaches the importance empathy and community service to her students. “It is so important to encourage children and foster an environment that focuses on making a positive impact on their community,” she says.


Gabrielle Mathewson
Montessori Preschool Director

Gabrielle Mathewson is a native of the Northeast Kingdom, having grown up in Sheffield. Ms. Mathewson graduated from Lyndon Institute and then continued on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Lyndon State College. She has taught preschool for two years, during which time she has attended numerous trainings that widened her study of teaching and knowledge of child development. Ms. Mathewson is enthusiastic about teaching at TSS because she is invested in the education of the children of the Northeast Kingdom. She understands and appreciates that TSS is a place that values not only the academic growth of a child, but also the personal growth of a child as a person. Ms. Mathewson is continuing her education with Montessori through trainings. She connects regularly with former Montessori Director Michele Ruggles to ensure a seamless transition from the Kingdom Montessori founding director. Ms. Mathewson enjoys long distance running and competed in cross-country running throughout her high school and college career. In her spare time, Ms. Mathewson is an avid reader and possesses a large collection of books.


Debi Smith
Recorder Instruction: Fourth Grade
Individual Instruction: Trumpet, Trombone, Grades 5-8

Ms. Smith plays in both the St. Johnsbury Town Band and the Lyndon State College Orchestra.  She brings years of study and performance to her instruction of the brass instruments.


Jon Snyder
Math:  Six through Eight

Mr. Snyder was born and raised in the Philadelphia area and has been living in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont since 2004.  He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Bucknell University, and has been teaching mathematics since 2005. Mr. Snyder most recently taught at The King George School, whose student population consisted mostly of children with behavioral and or learning disabilities. Of his time at King George he says, “It was a very challenging but rewarding time.  It is a great feeling to get a child to reestablish confidence and understanding in a subject he or she has given up in.  By emphasizing proper study skills and a certain amount of structure in daily activities I was eventually able to have the students understand that math does not have to be difficult.  Students have the power to make any problem as difficult or easy as they want it to be.”

Mr. Snyder has been married since 2002 and a father since December of 2005 (a daughter named Chloe).  He enjoys the outdoors, hiking, camping, snowboarding, and all other sports.  He played Division I basketball in college and participated in the NCAA basketball tournament in 1989.


Brittany Tinkham
Social Studies/Language Arts: Third and Fourth Grades

Ms. Tinkham holds a B.A. in Education from Lyndon State College. She is a graduate of Thaddeus Stevens School and St. Johnsbury Academy.  She attended the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque as a freshman and then returned the Northeast Kingdom to complete her studies. She brings great passion to her classroom engaging students fully in hands-on activities, plays, simulations, and lots of writing.  She is a member of the Vermont Geography Alliance.

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