Kimberlee Belcher-Badal, Director
With a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, six years spent teaching in a Montessori environment, and more than three years teaching and supervising student teachers, Kimberlee brings a wealth of professional experience and knowledge to the River Farm community that is hard to beat. Before moving to Alexandria with her family, Kimberlee spent 20 years studying, participating in, and theorizing about progressive schools that are shaping the future of education. She believes that River Farm is at the front edge of a unique educational movement that is desperately needed – guiding today’s students who will become compassionate and critical-thinking adult leaders, ready to take on the many issues facing our society. With her creative ideas concerning our school’s unique blend of emphasis on social-emotional and academic growth and her connections to a national network of people and organizations working on these same issues, Kimberlee is well positioned to help River Farm move to its next phase of development.
Kimberlee also comes to the director position with the insight of having first participated in the River Farm community as both a parent and a board member. With a child in each of the elementary classes at River Farm, she is invested in the school both personally and professionally. In her board role as VP of Educational Policy for the elementary program, Kimberlee went above and beyond – helping to improve and re-tool the Program of Study, working with the previous director to observe and advise teachers, helping teachers with curriculum materials and guidance, and even stepping into the classroom as substitute teacher.
Kimberlee holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Indiana with a focus on social justice education; a master’s in education with a focus on cultural studies; and a bachelor’s in early childhood education. She is credentialed in Montessori teaching methods from the American Montessori Association and holds a certificate in international art therapy. She currently lives in Alexandria with her husband, Mohammed, their two sons, and a grumpy cat.
Katie Derloshon, Middle School Teacher
We are excited to welcome Katie Derloshon back to the River Farm community after a year of graduate studies. During her year away, Katie earned her Master of Arts in teaching at The George Washington University with a focus in museum education. As part of her studies, Katie interned at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where she led early-childhood learning programs that served over 200 visitors, and developed more than three years' worth of curriculum for two separate programs for their early childhood programming. She is also currently a weekend museum educator at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and a museum teacher at Tudor Place Historic House and Gardens.
Prior to earning her master’s degree, Katie spent two years at the River Farm Cooperative School as our beloved Upper Elementary teacher. During that time, Katie helped River Farm develop much of the curriculum, field trip themes, and policies that continue to serve the school today.
Katie spent her undergrad years at Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education while also studying and completing research in astronomy/astrophysics. A research assistant for two different astronomy professors during that time, she helped contribute data to studies and presented at the 2009 Women in Science Conference in Bloomington, Indiana, and the AAS 2010 Meeting in Washington, D.C. Katie’s love for science often leads to exciting experiences in the classroom!
Outside of academics, Katie imparts her love of yoga, language, and travel to her students. Her practicum teaching experience in 2010 led her to Istanbul, Turkey, where she taught English to 4th and 5th grade students through the Global Gateway for Teachers program, and she has spent two volunteer stints working in an orphanage in Romania. For the past three years she has taught English to Chinese students of all ages via an online program, hosting several of these students when they made their first trips to the U.S. Katie has completed an RYS 200-hour yoga certificate and a Yoga 4 Classrooms training, and she is a Prison Yoga Project teacher currently working with an inmate population in Fairfax, Virginia. With her background in yoga, she helped River Farm establish its morning yoga practice, which has since become a time-honored school tradition. Welcome back, Katie!
Ricardo Padilla, Lower Elementary Teacher
Certified in the American Montessori Society (AMS) method, Ricardo is a veteran teacher with many years of classroom experience focused mostly on the lower elementary population. Growing up in the classroom with a father who was a preschool teacher at a private school in Manhattan, Ricardo worked as a teacher’s aide at another New York day school before heading to Phillips University, where he met his future wife, April, and earned a B.S. in business. After college, Ricardo and April settled in Texas, where Ricardo earned his AMS Montessori certificate and began interning at a Montessori school, working his way up to becoming lead teacher. Seeing children reach that "aha moment” proved to him that he was in the right place: Ricardo had found his true home in the classroom. Since then he has led many classes, with his first group of children now in college!
When it comes to a teaching philosophy, Ricardo believes that children with a strong educational and emotional foundation will grow up to become the next generation of engaged young adults who can effect meaningful change. A typical classroom with Ricardo as the guide is full of happy, independent children who are at their best while learning and playing in an organized environment. By offering children freedom within limitations, along with clear and positive behavioral expectations, a classroom begins running smoothly on its own – almost as if a teacher is not even there!
Today, Ricardo and April live in Bristow, VA with their two high-school aged children, Diego and Monet (named after their favorite artists), and their cats, Chubb and Fluff. The ability to be outside and explore nature is important to their family and was a driving force in Ricardo’s decision to become a part of the River Farm school. In his free time, you'll find Ricardo pursuing his dual passions of acting and slow pitch softball. Ricardo also enjoys hiking, yoga, guitar, and gardening.
Shamal Ratnayake, Upper Elementary Teacher
Shamal was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in a Buddhist monastery where he practiced meditation from the age of three. He arrived in Maryland as a teenager where he continued expanding on his passions for meditation, mindfulness, yoga practice, education, child development, art, and psychology.
Before joining the River Farm community, Shamal helped develop a pilot program for 5th graders in the Baltimore City Public School on Art, Mindfulness, and Peace-Building. In partnership with Beyond Conflict, an international peace-building organization, and the Holistic Life Foundation, this program brought together art history, studio art, conflict resolution, neuroscience, and contemplative practices to create a new framework for student social, emotional, and creative development.
He also guides clients as a meditation and breath-work therapist in recovery and rehabilitation of the mind and body through yogic breathing.
Shamal earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He brings more than seven years of experience teaching children in a variety of disciplines including creative writing, art, meditation, yoga, mindfulness and breath-work. Outside of the classroom and meditation, Shamal is also an accomplished illustrator and designer. He enjoys music, painting, photography, reading, and networking.
Raime Masket, Co-President
Raime Masket and his wife, Kate, joined the River Farm Cooperative in the Fall of 2015, where currently two of their three children are enrolled.
Raime has been a full-time dad for several years. Before that, he was Chair of the social-studies department in a public high school in Rochester, New York. He also was a professional development leader, a yearbook advisor, and a faculty advisor to the gay-straight alliance. After four years of dealing with outdated curricula and teaching to tests, he and Kate felt strongly that they wanted their children to have a different experience. They participated in two other cooperatives in the DC area before joining River Farm.
An avid traveler in his youth, Raime now spends as much time as he can bringing his children to the mid-Atlantic's beautiful places and instilling in them a love of exploring. He enjoys numerous outdoor activities, and is a fan of live music.
Kate Masket, Co-President
Kate Masket and her husband, Raime, have been members of the River Farm community since Fall of 2015. Their son and daughter are enrolled in the Lower Class and their toddler attends preschool nearby.
Kate is a practicing physician and researcher. As Kate and Raime were homeschooling their oldest child, she imagined an ideal school for her kids. When she visited River Farm, she was amazed to have found that place. Their kids' experience has only confirmed that this ideal is actually a reality. After two years of commuting almost an hour each way to River Farm, their family moved from Maryland to Virginia to be closer to this amazing opportunity .
Lindsey Vick, Admissions Chair
As River Farm's former president, Lindsey Vick brings both her institutional knowledge and her experience with managing large organizations to her role as admissions chair at River Farm Cooperative. Together with her husband, Mark, Lindsey owns and manages the Sunflower Healing and Wellness center, which provides a wide array of healing arts services for the entire family, including hypnotherapy, Reiki, HypnoBirthing, and doula services. Prior to founding her own company, Lindsey worked in management consulting for the North American Management firm for 12 years, where she was the director of housing and community development and managed a team of 100 employees.
The Vick family has been a part of the River Farm community since 2015, and they currently have a child in both the Upper Elementary and Middle School classes. The Vicks were drawn to the River Farm philosophy after experiencing several years in a public school setting with minimal outdoor time and parental involvement.
Lindsey holds a bachelor's in economics and urban studies from Wellesley College, was trained as a Birth Doula by Birth Arts International, and is a Certified Practitioner of HypnoBirthing.®