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The NET: Central City

Neil Poynter, Principal

"I want every student to attempt things at school that are outside of their comfort zone and help them to imagine new possibilities for their future."
Mr. Neil, who is originally from Baton Rouge, lives in New Orleans with his two amazing daughters and his anxious dog, Buckley. As a high school student, Neil was very social and wasn't too interested in his academics. However, Mr. Neil realized he wanted to be an educator the first time he taught kids as a volunteer, which he considers the hardest and most rewarding thing he'd ever done. He began his career as a New York City Teaching Fellow in 2008.  He earned his Masters in Education with a specialty in Learning Disabilities from Hunter College and taught at The James Baldwin School in Manhattan, whose mission and advisory structures are similar to The NET.  Mr. Neil returned to Louisiana in the summer of 2011. Mr. Neil was an Advisor and the Academic Dean at The NET before becoming principal. Neil is proud to be a part of this mission, and honored to work alongside this staff and is responsible for coining the iconic phrase, "Swing the NET!". In his downtime, you can find Mr. Neil practicing French, playing guitar, and reading.
 Justin Ross-Hillard, Principal 
"I believe that people who know - do. I have always wanted to be one of the people who help others know so that they can decide what to do."
Originally born in Los Angeles, CA,  Mr. Justin's family moved to his father’s hometown of Detroit, MI. He grew up primarily in Flint, MI. He’s married to his best friend Amaris. Together they have three children, Justin, Payton, and Harper. Mr. Justin is very active in his church. He’s also a musician and vocalist. He loves music and sci-fi films. He really enjoys spending time with his family and traveling. He had a pretty amazing high school experience. He was pretty popular and well-known in his school. He was a member of the marching band and played the trumpet. He also sang in the school choir and earned Letters in Band and Quiz Bowl. In his senior year, he served as student body as Senior Class President.  He started out exclusively as a sacred educator in 2005, then moved to secular education in 2011 and has continued since then. One of Mr. Justin's expectations for students at The NET is that each student would come to know their worth and, upon discovering their value to themselves and the world, accept every opportunity given to raise that value so that see themselves and immeasurable in every aspect of their living and life.
Biography by NET student Azzan
Valerie Bodet, Co-Founder & Real World Learning Advisor
“Being with young people energizes me. I enjoy watching others learn and grow.”
Valerie Bodet

Ms. Valerie is a New Orleans native and co-founder of The NET, with over 20 years of experience in education. She has a Masters in Forestry and loves to teach outside. She first taught science as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gabon, Central Africa. She has worked with New Orleans’ youth in public schools as a classroom science teacher and in the outdoors as Director of the Louisiana Outdoors Outreach Program. Ms. Valerie says her expectations for all young students is that they learn how smart they are and learn to take positive risks while gaining confidence through those experiences. You can find her teaching outside all year or enjoying Jazz Fest in the springtime!

Biography by NET student Alexius

Lori Colgan, Special Education Coordinator

Ms. Lori is originally from New Orleans and has been a special education teacher and adolescent counselor in New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, and Virginia.  She has a Bachelor's of Education from Old Dominion University and a Master's Degree from Xavier University.  She is passionate about advocating for students who have unique ways of learning and understands that positive relationships at school are a critical component of student success. She loves to travel and has backpacked across countries around the world.  She loves how the staff at The NET are willing to go above and beyond to support students in earning their high school diplomas.

Ja'mecia Fall, Assistant Dean of Students
Ms. Ja'mecia is a New Orleans native who has always loved school and learning.  She holds an undergraduate degree from The University of New Orleans and a master's degree from Walden University.  She enjoys reading and hunting for unique items at thrift stores.  She loves how The NET meets each student where they are.
 Joelle Gentner, Seminar Teacher
"Be honest. Be kind. Work as hard as you can and try. That is all. But, that is really everything." 
Ms. Joelle, aka Ms. G, hails from The Chi and now calls Central City her "home sweet home." She has two amazing children, Lily and Sam, who she loves more than the stars in the sky. Because they all live far apart, she misses them very much.  Her New Orleans family is her crazy dog, Pi. Ms. G had a miserable high school experience. She wasn't a good test taker and often felt misunderstood. She decided to become a teacher when she saw that her own son was struggling in school. She knew there has to be a better way to work with students who weren't traditional learners. She has now been working in education for over fifteen years. As a teacher, she hopes to guide students to see their tremendous self-worth.
Bailey Griswold, Math Teacher
“I really like working with young people and wanted to make sure all students have the opportunity to get a good education.”
Ms. Bailey is from Platteville, Wisconsin. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and previously served as a City Year Corps Member in Jacksonville, FL.  She loves the way The NET views and values the young people of New Orleans and enjoys the small and supportive environment that fosters positive relationships, personal growth, and accountability. Ms. Bailey enjoys eating great food, reading, Netflix, and being with friends.
Biography by NET student Gerrick

Diriki Guillory, Learning Lab Teacher & IT Manager 

“Be the best you can be and when that doesn’t work, become better than your expectations.”
Mr. Diriki grew up in New Orleans and graduated from O. Perry Walker High School.  He attended Sacramento State on a basketball scholarship and has lived in Israel, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, and Washington D.C.  He is proud to call New Orleans home and loves working at The NET. He enjoys collecting albino sea turtles and listening to soft rock.
biography by NET student Gerrick
Chelsea Hayes, Front Office and Attendance Manager
"Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn."  -- Benjamin Franklin 

Ms. Chelsea is a New Orleans native. Growing up in New Orleans East, Ms. Chelsea attended Marion Abramson Senior High School. Ms. Chelsea was involved in numerous activities including basketball, track and field, marching band playing clarinet and member of the majorette team. Ms. Chelsea then attended Butler Community College where she competed on a Track and Field scholarship and earned her AS in Nursing and then attending Louisiana Tech University graduating with her BA in Sociology. During her time at Louisiana Tech, Ms. Chelsea became one of the most decorated Track and Field athletes and the youngest to be inducted in La Tech's athletic Hall of Fame Class'19, and in 2012 she earned her spot on the 2012 USA Olympic team competing in the London Olympic Games. Being the first female Olympian to represent New Orleans, Louisiana. Ms. Chelsea traveled the world competing professionally in Track and Field for Nike. Ms. Chelsea loves working at the NET helping kids achieve many goals. Ms. Chelsea is currently pursuing her Masters in Business while being involved in the community and mentoring young girls.

Christie Kieschnick, Pupil Progression Coordinator 

“I used to play school all the time when I was little, and that just kind of stuck.¨

Ms. Christie is a native New Orleanian and has worked in education for over twenty years. She received a B.A. in Theatre Arts from St. Edward´s University and an M.C.D. in Speech-Language Pathology from LSU. In 2009, she started BeReal, an organization supporting youth aging out of foster care. Christie began only part-time at the NET to run a tiny “Next Steps” project for seniors. She has since grown the department into her full-time job that supports each NET senior and alum in living a successful life after high school. Christie loves to learn and teach and appreciates the dynamic energy of education. She works hard to encourage her students to treat school like it is a full-time job, and to always be working towards a goal. In her free time, Ms. Christie loves to watch movies, go see theatre performances, and read. She has been married to her husband, Kevin, for over twenty-five years, and has two daughters, one of whom is a NET alum!

biography by NET alum Renni

John Lacarbiere, Assistant Dean
"I want my students to be themselves and love themselves enough to do what's best for them and their families."
Mr. John is a New Orleans native and a graduate of John McDonough Senior High School. Mr. John enjoys connecting with people and helping others. He’s a full-time spoken word artist. In high school, he studied independently, made straight A’s, and he hung with the “cool” kids. He was popular. In retrospect, Mr. John realized his attitude towards school and his behavior wasn’t the best in a group setting because while he was making A’s, his behavior was distracting others. He had a lot of fun. He graduated as his class valedictorian. Since 2010, he's been working in education. He wants to be the change he wanted to see in education. Before coming to The NET, Mr. John was working at Whole Foods and substitute teaching part-time, while also traveling around the country performing. 
Biography by NET student Azzan
Kelley Leggins, Special Education Teacher
"Keep a 'growth mindset,' be goal oriented, remain humble and hungry for knowledge."
Mr. K, a New Orleans native with a wife and two young sons, is a special education teacher at the Central City campus. He collaborates with teachers across content areas to provide additional academic support for our students. He's focused, artistic, the oldest of four boys, and has been cutting hair since he was eleven, so it's no surprise he also has a side job as a barber. By appointment only. 
Erin Lierl, ELL and Special Education Teacher

Ms. Erin has taught English among Tibetan refugees in Thailand and Burmese refugees in India, as well as international university students, adult learners, and high school students in New Orleans. She holds a BA in political science and Latin American Studies from Loyola University New Orleans and an MA in Latin American Studies from Tulane University. She likes learning languages, reading, writing, and swimming in the ocean.

Elizabeth Morgan, History Teacher
"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.“ Malcolm X
Ms. Elizabeth is originally from Tampa, FL, with a slight detour to Auburn University.  She has a couple of children, Hayden age 23 (USF Graduate) and Jacob age 20 (Go Navy).  She was a paralegal for a hunting company for 6 years but decided education was her true calling.  She has 15 years of teaching history and law classes decided to take a leap of faith professionally and personally and follow her heart and her dream of moving to New Orleans and teaching the best students in the country.
Nell Okula, Mental Health Counselor

Ms. Nell is from New York, where she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work from New York University before relocating to New Orleans for her Master's in Social Work at Tulane University.  Prior to joining The NET, she provided case management, education advocacy, and supportive services to court-involved youth and their families. In her free time she likes to read, sing, dance to Cajun music, and run.  She is excited by the positive energy at The NET.

Robin Perkins, Food Service Manager

“I wanted to work in the schools because I love people. I’m a people person.”

Ms. Robin is the Food Service Manager at The NET: Central City, making sure all our students are provided with nutritious and delicious meals every day. She’s been working with New Orleans Parish schools as a cook since 1992. Ms. Robin would like to visit Boston or Brooklyn on a getaway trip someday.

Biography by NET student Gerrick

Beverly Potashner, Student Support Coordinator

“I expect my students to try their best.”

Beverly Potashner

Before moving to New Orleans in 2016, Beverly Potashner taught in New Jersey for 15 years. She studied at Rider University in New Jersey for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Ms. Beverly loves working with the kids and staff at The NET, where everyone is very supportive and she always expects students to try their best. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her family, going on long walks, reading, and being with her two dong’s Jenna and Emerson. The person that made Ms.potashner want to become an educator was that she had an amazing guidance counselor that encouraged her to become an educator.

Biography by NET student JaNaria

Archana Sharma, ELA Teacher
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Yeats
Dr. Sharma was raised in Toronto, Canada. She has been living and raising her two daughters in a small town in coastal Mississippi. This city girl is happy to be New Orleans and excited for this next venture in her life. She has a bachelors, masters, and PhD in education, so clearly she loves learning! She wishes to share this love with all her students. She is an anti-racist educator using a social justice lens to engage her students. Her teaching style is Socratic which means learning through co-operative dialogue. Your voice, your questions, your awakening should be at the center of your educational journey.
Tim Spahn Sattler, Real World Learning Coordinator

“What happens here, stays here, but what’s learned is taken with us.¨

Mr. Tim was born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, California. He has been working in education for eight years, with a degree in Public Policy from USC. Tim chose to work in education after deciding that the best way to create systemic change was through supporting the transformative power of youth. Before joining the NET staff, Tim worked at YouthBuild Charter High School of California, and then RiseUp Community School in Denver. Mr. Tim connects students with the internships across the city, helping them ignite their passions, develop their dreams and learn valuable skills and experiences for the future. He works hard to teach the students of the NET to build their own destiny and to be willing to push themselves to achieve their goals. In his downtime, Mr. Tim loves to write. He enjoys sci-fi movies and TV shows and has a love for basketball. Mr. Tim is married to a “beautiful queen,” with whom he has two super-cute, but super-bad terriers. 
Biography by NET alum Renni
Jennie Wimbish, Science Teacher
"I am an avid believer in a free and appropriate education so I switched careers and became a teacher."
Ms. Jennie is originally from Clinton, MS but moved to New Orleans in 2004 upon graduating with a BA in history from the University of MS. Ms. Jennie realized she wanted to be an educator after she had her first child and started to research the quality of public schools in New Orleans. She decided to get her teaching certification in Chemistry through teachNOLA in 2012 and currently teaches biology and chemistry at the Central City campus.  At present, she is working on completing her Master’s in Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Ms. Jennie expects her students to perform to the best of their ability, to attend regularly, and to continue to grow in their education from wherever they are starting. She has three daughters and enjoys SEC football, fishing, and listening to music.
Biography by NET student Dawn