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.
Valerie Bodet, Co-Founder & Real World Learning Advisor
“Being with young people energizes me. I enjoy watching others learn and grow.”
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
Bianca Briggs, Seminar Teacher
“My teachers helped me accept who I am, so if I can help a young person do the same, great!”
Ms. Bianca joined the NET after teaching in several New York City public schools. She holds an MSEd from Long Island University and was an NYC Teaching Fellow and NYC Writing Project Fellow. Growing up in Miami, Ms. Bianca was exposed to many different lifestyles and cultures, which had a profound impact on how she views the world. She encourages all her students to get out their comfort zones as often as possible and become global citizens. In addition to teaching, Ms. Bianca is a floral designer and brings her love of nature, quiet, and beauty to the classroom. She has become very fond of New Orleans culture and loves the social rides and second lines.
Biography by NET student JaNaria
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.
Kara Dorsey, Academic Dean
"I expect that students will take onus of their education, rise above the distractions of life, and work toward their goals."
Ms. Kara joined The NET at the start of the 2012-2013 school year as an advisor. Prior to joining The NET, she taught middle school English in St. Helena Parish. A graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University and of Concordia University-Portland with an MA in Ed. Leadership, her primary objective as an educator is to empower underserved youth to reach their maximum potential. As a Louisiana native and a mother of four beautiful daughters, she is passionate about teaching and learning to continually seek innovative, research-based methods to meet all her students' needs. Ms.Kara became an educator because she herself was blessed to have an excellent public education, and it wasn’t until high school that she realized everyone didn’t have that same opportunity. Since then, it has been her goal to play a role in allowing students to have a positive and meaningful educational experience.
Biography by NET student Troyneisha
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.
Temple Gowan, Seminar Teacher
"I want our students to be curious about the world so that they'll want to learn more about themselves and the people around them."
Ms. Temple grew up on a small farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, the birthplace of Oprah. She has been working as an educator for about eight years. She didn´t care much about academics in while high school. Instead, she put her energy into theater, choir, and band. But when she got to college, it all changed. She fell in love with learning and found all of her professors' lectures fascinating. It opened up a whole new world for her. She became an educator because she wanted to give other people the opportunity to have that experience as well. She feels as if it is the most challenging thing she has ever done and loves it. Before working at The NET, she taught English and journalism at a high school in Mississippi, where she also directed the annual school musical. She also taught writing and literature to college students at her alma mater, the University of Mississippi. During her free time, she likes to enjoy walking around the city when the weather is nice. She also likes reading, listening to podcasts, watching TV, trying out new restaurants, cooking at home, hanging out with her friends, and if she gets a chance, she´ll travel to new places. She lives in New Orleans with her cat, Mina, and her dog, Jezebel.
Biography by NET student Shante
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
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.
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.”
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
Justin Ross-Hillard, Dean of Students
"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
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