Our People

Our Administration & Staff

bdonnelly@orchardfriends.org Beth has been working with kids with language and learning differences for 22 years. A trained Speech-Language Pathologist, she graduated from Rutgers University with a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Psychology. Beth went on for her Masters Degree in Speech-Language Pathology with minor focus in Audiology at New York University. She has worked in a wide variety of settings with a wide variety of populations, most recently in private practice which allowed her flexibility as a mother of four kids. This is Beth’s 5th year at Orchard Friends School, and she previously served as the school’s Director of Admissions.

kpentkowski@orchardfriends.org Karen moved to New Jersey from the Lake George, NY region about 30 years ago. She was the Business Manager for a local Engineering/Architectural firm for thirteen years before coming to OFS in 2001. A firm believer in volunteerism, she served on the Advisory Board for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for seven years where she chaired a sub-committee responsible for procuring donations and promotional items for over 5000 cyclists for the Annual MS 150 City to Shore Bike Tours. She was a board vice-president for a local shelter for battered woman and children; and the PTA Treasurer for several years at her children’s elementary school. As a mother who had two of her children struggle with learning difficulties in school she understands the needs and frustrations that other children and parents experience. Coupled with her management and fund raising experience she believes Orchard Friends School is the right place to be.

dtesler@orchardfriends.org Donna Tesler is a South Jersey native. She worked in the banking field before starting a family with her husband Dave. When their three children were in school all day she attended Harris School of Business and then worked for an engineering firm providing administrative support. Eventually the business closed and Donna began volunteering at OFS. When a position opened here at school, she was excited to join the OFS community full time where she provides administrative support, assists in fundraising efforts and many other things throughout the day. She finds it rewarding to witness obstacles overcome, and the growth each child makes here at school. She especially enjoys spending time with her 3 grandkids and likes to putter in her garden and travel.

Our Teachers and Faculty

(click the names to read more!)

Pam Dougherty, MEd - Special Education Teacher

pdougherty@orchardfriends.org

Pam Dougherty is from Cherry Hill, NJ and has lived in South Jersey all her life. She has been a teacher at OFS for 9 years. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Drexel University. Her Master’s Degree in Special Education, with a specialty in Autism, was also earned from Drexel University. She has attended many teacher training opportunities including Wilson’s Fundation, introduction to Orton Gillingham, and many others. In her spare time she loves spending time with her family, especially her 11 year old son, going to the beach, and running.

Becca Gutwirth, MEd - Special Education Teacher

bgutwirth@orchardfriends.org

Becca Gutwirth graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in Environmental Science. She graduated from Temple as an M.Ed in Sports and Recreation Administration. Becca joined Teach for America and taught middle school for two years in Paterson, NJ while obtaining her K-8 General Education and K-12 Biology certifications from William Paterson University. She continued teaching another 3 years in North Jersey, before taking some time off to raise her own children. During that time, she worked from home writing text books and state assessment tests in both math and science, and continuing her education to obtain her middle school math and science certifications. She spent several years as the Director of Education at Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge before returning to school at Rowan University to earn her certification in Special Education. Before coming to Orchard Friends, she was teaching high school inclusion and self-contained math and science in Cherry Hill. A lifelong learner, she is currently working towards her high school math certification. She lives in Medford with her husband and two high school age children.

Natalie J. Jensen, MS,OTR/L - Occupational Therapist

njensen@rehabconnection.org

Natalie Jean Jensen, a native of South Jersey, graduated from Elizabethtown College with her Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy. Occupational therapy had already been a recognized practice in her home as her brother received occupational therapy services from age 3. She then had the desire to become an occupational therapist after seeing the immense benefits and the positive changes her brother had made. She has practiced occupational therapy in several different settings including skilled nursing and rehabilitation, and is thrilled to be working for Rehab Connection in school based pediatrics. Natalie provides services in multiple school settings from elementary through high school. She is also involved in Rehab Connection’s Aqua Buddies program and volunteers frequently within the special needs community.

Kate Johnson - Special Education Teacher

kjohnson@orchardfriends.org

Kate Johnson, a lifelong resident of Riverton, has been teaching in a variety of settings since graduating from University of the Arts in 1990. Although her initial focus was primarily Art and Early Childhood Education, she quickly realized the benefits her students with learning differences reaped from an arts intensive curriculum. More recently, she attended Rutgers University to formalize her Special Education credentials and further study the intersection of special education and the arts. She is thrilled to have a home at Orchard Friends, where teachers are encouraged to think outside the box in an effort to serve the individual needs of each student. In her spare time, Kate works as a teaching artist, specializing in community mosaic projects. She also enjoys relaxing with a book or playing board games with her family and friends.

Caroline Mackie - Special Education Teacher
Sharon Pearl - Speech Language Pathologist

spearl@orchardfriends.org

Sharon K. Pearl, M.A., CCC-SLP  has more than 30 years of experience serving children with speech, language, learning, oral motor (including Childhood Apraxia of Speech) and auditory processing disorders in private practice in the South Jersey area.  She has served as a consultant in both public and private schools in Camden County.  Sharon works closely with parents and teachers, empowering them to help their children, using the latest technologies. Language skills and learning go hand in hand.  Sharon’s language therapy addresses skills needed for academic success such as phonological awareness skills, listening skills, language based reasoning skills, reading readiness skills, oral and written narrative skills and executive function/organizational skills.  Working closely with teachers, often utilizing the student’s academic materials, supports the student’s educational process while simultaneously attaining speech therapy goals.Sharon received her training and education from Queens College, City University of New York for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She is a member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), New Jersey Speech-Language Hearing Association (NJSHA) and Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology.  Sharon is licensed in New Jersey and certified by the NJ Department of Education and ASHA.

Sue Silvestri, BA - Special Education Teacher
Sue was born in South Philadelphia and she was adopted at the age of 7. She grew up in Mt. Laurel and graduated from Lenape High School. She has a B.A. from Glassboro State College and also holds a certificate for Teacher of the Handicapped. Sue retired in 2006 after teaching Special Education for 32 years, mostly working with Junior and Senior High School students . Soon after retiring she was hired as a teaching assistant/aide by Orchard Friends School and she is presently working in the same position. She has a wonderful sense of humor and in her free time she enjoys sharing laughs with her family and friends. One thing that makes her exceptionally happy is to see positive change and growth, both socially and educationally, in the students at Orchard Friends School.
Cleveland “Sandy” Rea School Committee Clerk taught elementary school for 15 years including the final 8 of those years in Quaker Schools. He is a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers). He was licensed as a psychologist in New Jersey after completing a Ph.D. in School Psychology at Temple University. Before joining the School Committee of Orchard Friends in 2005, he served on the Board of Delaware Valley Friends School for nine years.

Connie received her B.A. in Sociology from Rutgers University in 1969, followed by a Masters of Science in Management in 1980 from Drexel University. She worked as a supervising administrator at the Camden County Board of Social Services for eight years. Connie serves on several Philadelphia Yearly and Quarterly Meeting committees. She is a member of Moorestown Monthly Meeting. Connie and her husband Bill have raised three children: Lauren, Jonathan and Andrew. Now retired, they enjoy spending time with their two grandchildren, Giada, age 3, and Jackson, age 2. Together they enjoy gardening, local travel and good food both out and at home.

Larue Evans’ 35 year career involved working with students and teachers from grades pre-K through to undergraduates at Rutgers College, Camden Campus. Larue spent 23 years at the Moorestown Friends School. While serving as director of the Lower School she helped the Lower School achieve the Blue Ribbon School of Excellence; awarded in Wash. D.C. by the United States Department of Education. Larue’s career continued for more than a decade in the Cherry Hill Public Schools in New Jersey –during which time, as a “Colleague Teacher” she mentored teachers on how to create and implement curriculum design based on developmental frameworks for mathematics and science.

Stan Filimon brings 25 years of business and financial experience to the Orchard Friends School board. Stan is the owner of Filimon Benefits Group in Moorestown, NJ. He was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Child Development Center for five years. Stan served in the United States Army from 1968-1971, serving in Vietnam from 1969-1970. Stan graduated from Drexel University with a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.

Mary Kinsey taught students with learning differences for over 25 years, most recently for the Cherry Hill Board of Education. She holds a BS and MS in Education from Syracuse University. When employed by Boston University, she worked with in-service special education teachers throughout New England. Previously, she has served as data researcher for a New York State Department of Education grant. Mary also worked in the publishing industry for 14 years. Since retiring from teaching in 2012, she has travelled to Turkey and New Zealand as an Ambassador with Friendship Force, which is currently active in 60 countries, promoting friendship and goodwill. As a result of its peace initiatives, the Friendship Force was nominated for The Nobel Peace Prize.
Janet Knowles brings an extensive background in business, serving as VP of Administration for Metrologic Instruments, Inc. for 25 years. During that time, she played a major part in the establishment of the Janet H. and C. Harry Knowles Foundation in 1999; focusing on the importance of science and mathematics teaching to our nation’s economic competitiveness.(KSTF.org) Janet also established the Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center at the Cooper Hospital in Camden, NJ.

Board Member & Co-founder of Orchard Friends School since 1997, Kiyo is an advocate for hands-on, life-long learning. Growing up on her family farm many of her activities have been agricultural or ecologically based including service projects for international hunger relief, 4-H, Our Shared Ground and work for California & NJ Agricultural Extension. Past & present committee and Board service work has been for Pendle Hill Study Center, Moorestown Monthly Meeting, and Haverford College Corporation. Her work has centered around Moorestown Friends School working at the MFS Thrift Shop and as a costumer for MFS theatrical productions. Education: University of CA, Davis, MS / Wilmington College-Ohio, BA

Mr. Riggins brings a background in business and government, currently serving as Strategy Director for Riggins Oil, Inc. – one of the largest privately held companies in New Jersey – where he is responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s strategic initiatives. Matt previously worked as a management consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, and served as Deputy Communications Director and Legislative Assistant to Congressman Rob Andrews in Washington DC. He received his MBA from Georgetown University and his undergraduate degree from Bucknell University.