Leadership Team

Jennifer Adams, M.Ed., CAS School Psychology: Founding Director

We often say that The Little School is the insides of Jennifer’s brain dumped out into the world. Indeed, TLS owes its forward thinking (and forever evolving) mission to this woman with a strong vision and profound belief in every child’s one-of-a-kind capabilities. Jennifer was born into a family of educators; her father was a superintendent in the public schools and her mother was a head of The Summit School, an independent school in Winston-Salem serving Pre-K through ninth grade. These early years living and attending Summit heavily influenced her pedagogic approach for a unique child centered education; one where creative thinking and problem solving reigned king. Indeed, her earliest jobs were spent as a camp counselor, a preschool teacher, and a middle school teacher for children with learning and emotional disabilities.

Jennifer earned her undergraduate degree from Colorado State University. Jennifer headed to the other side of the country to The University of Delaware where she completed her Masters in Education with a concentration in children with disabilities, as well as a Specialist Level degree in School Psychology. She returned to North Carolina and began working as a School Psychologist in the Alamance Burlington School System. She set out to find the perfect school for her children- one where EVERY child is invited to play. A school where children were encouraged to explore, to think for themselves, to get muddy, and to be uniquely themselves. It simply did not exist. Never content to sit still or settle, Jennifer decided to build that school in 2006, and we are grateful she did.

Mary Swanson: Founder & Owner

After 26 years at AAA, Mary left her job in 2005 to become the very first teacher at The Little School. The rest, as they say, is history. Mary makes it happen. If it weren’t for Mary, we may all be sitting around the kitchen table dreaming about this magical school. From its inception, Mary has been cheering on the children at TLS, combing consignment sales for the best deals on dump trucks, crooning karaoke over muffins, and spreading the TLS joy. Simply put, she is the lighthouse of reason in a sea of dreamers.

Mary was born the oldest of four siblings, spending much of her life here in Durham, NC. She is the proud Aunt to nine and lives to dote on her ever-growing list of great-nieces and nephews. Dubbed “The Queen”,  wherever she goes, she leaves a lasting impression. You can find her most mornings at Coffee World, sharing doughnut holes and an iced latte with her dog Sweetie. (she also has a mermaid sweater she has promised to give to her whoever writes the best bio).

Jennie Ogden: School Director 

Since she was a small child, Jennie knew she wanted to be a teacher. Initially drawn to deaf education, Jennie was compelled to make high-quality education accessible to all, despite any learning differences. After earning her degree in Elementary Education, Jennie worked as a kindergarten teacher in Durham Public Schools. She came to a place in her career where her pedagogic dreams were not matching with her reality. In search of a new way of teaching, she found TLS in 2010 and quickly discovered the joy she was searching for. In her seven years at TLS Jennie has worked with nearly every age, in every building, and even taught at our Duke campus. Along with being a TLS teacher and mentor, she has also served in the role of TLS parent to her two children, Jaci-Ann and Gregory. In her spare time (ha!) she is a member of Hillsborough Elementary School’s PTA, and has a side business baking cupcakes with her Mom. She can make her hair into a reindeer, is a walking Pinterest board, and perhaps most importantly, makes a mean buffalo chicken dip (but I call the next batch). A deeply reflective leader, Jennie is the first to tell you that she learns as much from her misses as she does from her wins. She is also meticulously organized, dedicated to early years education, wildly creative and so in love with our schools and our community.

(super) Jessica Larson: Communication Director

Jessica’s most formative days were spent as a camper and teacher at Valley Mill, a nature-based summer camp outside of Washington DC. This all-girls camp encouraged girls to get muddy, shoot a bow and arrow, roll a kayak, and be as silly and loud and you dared to be. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Chicago and was fortunate enough to work in Chicago’s leading arts institutions such as The Rhona Hoffman Gallery, and The Illinois Arts Council. While working for a Children Theatre company, she began to explore Arts-in-Education with at-risk youth in Chicago’s inner city. This experience sparked within her a clear understanding that we cannot progress as an equitable society without prioritizing high-quality education for ALL of our children. Jessica originally joined TLS as a parent in 2008, and soon after was invited to be a classroom teacher. In her years at TLS, she has served as Team lead, Program assistant, School Director, and Communications Director.  At The Little School, she has been able to weave her love of nature, democracy in education and expression through art together in one unique setting.

 

Bonnie Cady: Business Manager 

Born in Connecticut, Bonnie spent much of her childhood in the suburbs of NYC. One night over tacos with friends, Bonnie made the decision to move to Washington D.C. It was there that she earned her degree in Information Systems and Organizational Management, as well as where she met her husband, Scott. The two are parents to their son Joe, and eventually settled here in North Carolina.  A self described French Canadian-Lithiuanuan-Sagitarian-recovering Vegetarian, Bonnie has worked in nonprofits for over 20 years. Tasked with organizing this bunch, she has brought her quirkiness and love of quickbooks to The Little School, where she has fit right into the menagerie!