Teacher Biographies

We are blessed to have a wonderful and highly qualified staff of teachers.

Cathy Backhaus

Cathy Backhaus graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a B.A. in Elementary Education K-8 and a minor in Elementary Art. In addition to her ten years teaching grades 3-6 in public and Christian schools in California, Nebraska, and Maryland, Cathy has many years of experience teaching Vacation Bible Schools, Sunday School, and various Bible studies. She counts it a blessing and privilege to have taught her five daughters at home from K-12. She has had the opportunity to be involved in several home school co-ops, teaching different subjects to grades K-12, and has worked closely with her husband, encouraging and teaching home schooling parents in two different home school umbrella schools. Cathy has been teaching homeschooled students since 1999 and has been at HCA since 2007. Having received Christ in high school, Cathy counts children as blessings from the Lord and desires to honor Him by loving and encouraging children in their learning, while assisting parents in their responsibility to teach and train up their children.

Kristin Bell

Kristin Bell graduated from Ashford University with her B.A. in Early Childhood Education. She also has a Montessori teaching credential for ages 3-6 years from the United Montessori Association. God has blessed Kristin's husband with a career in the US Navy for 13 years, and because of this, she has had the pleasure of teaching in many different states across the nation.  Kristin's teaching experience includes providing in-home childcare for the Navy, teaching at a preschool center, as a director and as administrator at a Montessori school, and many years serving in the children's ministry and nursery programs at church. For the past 4+ years, she has homeschooled her children, who are 9, 7, 4, and 2. Kristin's passions include spending time with her family, and loving and serving the Lord through teaching His little ones. It is her desire to one day run a Christian Montessori School.

Michelle Cabrera

Gilda Michelle Cabrera was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico but has lived in Southern Maryland since 2007.  She attended the School of Plastic Arts and Design of Puerto Rico (Escuela de Artes Plásticas y diseño de Puerto Rico) where she graduated with a Cum Laude BA in Painting and a minor in Sculpting. Michelle has been passionate about illustration, painting and art history for as long as she can remember and has over ten years of teaching experience.  She has taught art classes at all levels; from young children to adults.

Michelle Cabrera also has a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from The Johns Hopkins University. Her art has been exhibited at the Museum of the Americas in Doral FL, Escuela de Artes Plásticas de PR in San Juan PR, and El  Conservatorio de Música de PR,  Ave. Ponce de León PR.  She was a participant in the Sketchbook Project 2015. You can find her sketchbook here:


Brenda Cavallaro

Brenda Cavallaro received her B.A. in Modern Languages and Linguistics from the University of Maryland Baltimore County with Maryland certification in Secondary Education. After graduating, Brenda spent a year in Paris on a Fulbright teaching assistantship. When she returned to the U.S., Brenda was hired by the Baltimore City School system to teach Spanish. She pursued her Master of Arts degree in intercultural Communications from UMBC and graduated in 1992. Brenda taught Spanish and French in the Anne Arundel County from 1987-1995. In 1991 she received recognition for excellence in Foreign Language instruction from the Maryland Foreign Language Association. After moving to St. Mary’s county, Brenda taught Spanish to homeschoolers from 1999 – 2001. Brenda and her husband Tom have four sons they are currently homeschooling. Brenda’s desire is to equip students with a skill the Lord can use for His glory and to further His kingdom.

Lisa Everly


Lisa has been teaching Art at HCA since 2007. She loves seeing the creative abilities God has given children, and she is both excited and thankful for the privilege of teaching at HCA. God placed the desire to teach in her heart at a young age. She has been homeschooling since 2001 and was previously involved with two other co-ops. Lisa taught elementary school in Calvert County Public Schools for almost seven years after receiving a B.A. Degree in Education (grades K-8) from Fairmont State College in WV. She also currently teaches home hospital students through the public school system and runs a licensed daycare in her home part-time. God has given her and her husband, Todd, three children: Abbie, Ashley and Ethan. They live in Calvert County and attend Chesapeake Church and actively serve in the Nursery and in the Hospitality ministry.

Shannon Foster

FosterShannon grew up in the great state of Texas.  Her earliest memories include reciting scriptures and prayers with her father, who was a Methodist pastor (now retired after more than 50 years in the ministry).  She graduated from Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX with a BA in Theatre and English.  After graduation she married and began teaching high school English and theatre in the public school.  After eight years of teaching, her husband entered the Navy.  After a few years out of the classroom, she was called to homeschool her son.  She has now homeschooled all three of her children for eight years, in three different states, teaching in various co-ops and Sunday schools along the way.   She is excited to be in Maryland and looks forward to her second year teaching at the co-op.

Ricki Gemmel

GemmelRicki Gemmel holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders from Penn State University and a Master’s of Audiology from Florida State University.  After working several years as an audiologist for private practice physicians and at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, she decided to stay home to be with her children full time. She fell in love with homeschooling and has been doing so for the past six years.  The Gemmel family has lived in St. Mary’s County for sixteen years. They currently attend Leonardtown Baptist Church. Ricki has had an interest in sign language since she was a child. Being able to communicate in sign language opens the door to making relationships with a whole new community and culture of people. It is her belief that establishing meaningful relationships and reaching people for Christ is what life is all about. She is honored to give your children the opportunity to do just that through this beautiful language.

Carolyn Graessle

Carolyn Graessle has over 20 years of professional experience as a public school & HCA teacher, office manager and librarian.  She holds a B.A. in Mathematics/minor in history from San Diego State University, a Master of Library and Information Studies from UC Berkeley and completed the writing course offered by the Children’s Institute of Literature.  Her lifelong love of learning keeps her involved at Patuxent Presbyterian Church with Sunday School, VBS and small groups.  She and her husband Grant began homeschooling their three children in 2007.  Carolyn was raised in a Christian family and accepted Christ as her Savior at a young age.  She is humbled by the blessings of God in all seasons of life and strives to be thankful in all circumstances.  Carolyn is excited to teach this coming year at HCA and share her enthusiasm for learning.

Sherri Hastings


Sherri Hastings has a B.S. in Mathematics (minor in physics) from Carroll University and a Master of Statistics from the University of Florida. She has worked as a statistician at a chemical plant, has taught various undergraduate math classes, and has done statistical consulting work. The Navy brought the Hastings family to Southern Maryland in 1998. Over the years at SAYSF Bible Church, Sherri has played in three handbell choirs, coordinated VBS, been in charge of the nursery, and taught Sunday school for 15+ years. She doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Having homeschooled her two children since 2003, she graduated one in 2014 and the other will graduate in 2018. Sherri has taught a variety of science, history, math, and elective course at HCA since 2006 and CCT since 2014.


Linda Henry

Linda Henry is an veteran homeschooler of five boys, starting at the beginning of their formal educational days and continuing all the way through their high school graduations. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In March of her sophomore year, Linda put her faith in Jesus Christ. After graduating college, she was accepted to work as a staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ where she served in their music ministry for 7 years. Her faith in Christ is integral in her approach to teaching music not only as a means of worship but also as an opportunity to grow and develop character through its practice and its performance.

She has been teaching private flute, piccolo and piano lessons for about 25 years and is a member of the Music Teachers National Association, the Maryland State Music Teachers Association, the Music Teachers Association of Southern Maryland and the Music Teachers Association of Calvert County. She performs regularly with the COSMIC Symphony Orchestra, the COSMIC Flute Choir, and the Flute Choir of Southern Maryland.

Linda looks forward to working with HCA's instrumental students as she enjoys arranging music to accommodate whatever combination of instruments is available.

Keith Hight

Keith has worked in theatre for over 40 years on all stage of theatre, local, regional, global. He has won 5 international awards for both acting and design. In college Keith was an Irene Ryan Nominee and a Barbizon winner, and he won the Best Actor at the North Carolina Regional Theatre Competition. Keith is a member of United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), National Association of Schools of Theatre, and Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE), Maryland Thespian Festival, Maryland Association Community College Performing Arts Council (MACCPAC), International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 15, and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.  Keith also sits on the national board for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. He sits on the national board for stage managers. Over the past 15 years, he has worked with U-2 and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, to name a few, but his favorites are DeGamo and Key, Steven Curtis Chapman, Micheal W Smith, recently Newsboys, and Toby Mac.  Keith says, "My faith is what I go by. I am nothing without God help and always being there. Everything I have is because of what he gives me daily".


Erin Kluever

I am the homeschooling mom of six wonderful children ranging in age from three to seventeen. We have been a homeschooling family from the start. One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is learning so many things right along with my children. After spending my childhood as a Navy Brat, I enlisted as a flight medic in the Army. Upon completing my enlistment, I went to Enterprise State Junior College and then to the University of South Alabama where I studied political communications.

I learned how to knit in the eighth grade while my father was stationed in Newfoundland, Canada. My friend Meghan taught me using pencils and yarn during study time in class. I have loved creating things with yarn ever since, and I especially enjoy sharing this art with others.

Growing up my family was religious, but in an impersonal way. When my first child was born, I began to sense how Jesus was working in my life in a very real way. My relationship with Him began to change and grow into a more personal and meaningful one. I am blessed to be able to seek His will, and ask for His grace and mercy as I try to honor and bring glory to Him each day.

Rebekah Kunz

Rebekah Kunz has been married to Jason for over 20 years and has 4 children ages 8-17.  Working as a home/hospital teacher for St. Mary’s County Public Schools part-time these past 16 years allowed her to be home with her children during the day. She currently also enjoys teaching for another homeschool co-op. Before her children were born, she taught middle school German and 2nd grade in both public and Christian school settings.  She graduated summa cum laude from Concordia University Wisconsin with a B.A. in Elementary Education, and went on to obtain her M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from the same university.  She holds a Wisconsin Teaching license for grades 1-9 and German. 

Rebekah’s favorite activities are singing on the worship team, scrapbooking , swimming, walks, the county fair, and she loves to travel whenever she can.  Although Rebekah was baptized as an infant and accepted Christ as her savior as a young child, she was baptized again in 2016 because she wanted to make a public declaration of her faith, and consciously choose to commit her life and will to Christ’s care and control.  After many years of serving in children’s ministry, VBS, and facilitating Bible studies, her passion now is volunteering to help the hurting find healing in Christ as a leader in the Celebrate Recovery ministry through her church these last 3 years.  She moved here from Wisconsin 19 years ago and lives in Callaway.

Rebekah Madren

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Shawnetta McCombs


Shawnetta McCombs graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Health Science and from Central Michigan University with a Master of Health Administration.   After serving on active duty in the Army, she resigned her commission and became a stay at home mom. 

She accepted Christ at the age of nine and has been actively involved in church since.  She has taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, participates in choir, is a member of the praise band, coordinates special music and taught children’s choir for eleven years.

Her passion is for playing and teaching music.  She has three children.  Between them they play the violin, guitar, piano, and flute so her house is full of music!  She has taught piano for 18 years and loved every minute of it.  She has a Christ centered approach to teaching piano, and views lessons as a mentoring opportunity to develop character as well.

Samuel McCombs

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Regina McKenna

I would like to introduce myself and thank you for the privilege of working with your children. My name is Regina McKenna AKA "Coach Reggi". HCA has been a wonderful part of my classes since  before they were officially HCA . I am an AFPA, Certified Children's Fitness Specialist and the owner of JumpBunch®, Sports and Fitness for Children. Southern Maryland has been my home since 1993. I have been blessed with three children of my own, ages 11, 14 and 30 . My ultimate goal is to provide the spirituality, confidence and knowledge to help give children the building blocks to a lifetime of health.

Coach Shelly McCloskey will be your child’s teacher. She has been my employee since 2007 and has been teaching the PE classes at HCA for the last few years. Shelly has been an extraordinary employee and the children bond well with her. She is the mother of two boys.

Carrie Patterson

PattersonOwner of Yellow Door Art Studios and Professor of Art at St. Mary's College of Maryland, Carrie Patterson is excited to create a curriculum that introduces students to the fundamentals of art, and challenges students to learn traditional drawing and painting techniques. Carrie has a long history of working with homeschool students. Just after earning her BFA in painting from James Madison University, she moved to Asheville, NC and worked for her first homeschool coop at a church location. Since then she has held art workshops for family members who were homeschooled, created opportunities for homeschoolers within coops and also at her studio in Leonardtown. Ms. Patterson herself has experienced the value of art education outside of a traditional academic setting. She continued her own education after undergraduate school by participating in artist's residencies like the Vermont Studio Center, and The New York Studio School. She received her MFA in painting from The University of Pennsylvania. Everything she learned about the power of art and teaching she learned from artists who were also excellent teachers. Carrie has twenty years experience teaching art and has designed two courses for St.Mary's College of Maryland called Art for Educators and Community Arts. Both courses highlight her ability to create curriculum that teaches technical skills and art history while serving the whole child. Since 2008 she has supervised young teachers studying to teach all levels of art. In 2009 she founded Yellow Door Art Studios, a community art school that encourages a life long love of learning about art and offers a range of classes for artists of all ages.

Kelly Patton

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Sharon Shaner

Sharon Shaner has over 25 years of experience working with children and adults in a wide array of professional settings.  She graduated from Bob Jones University with a B.S. degree in Secondary Education.  She has studied Art, English and Music at college. Her teaching background includes private piano lessons, teaching special needs students in the public school setting, working as a home hospital teacher for St. Mary’s County Public Schools, teaching in homeschool co-ops and homeschooling her three children. Her technical background includes working as a technical support analyst in the development of engineering manuscripts and documents along with managing the security of a top secret facility. Sharon currently volunteers her time with her local church with the music department as the pianist for the choir, worship team bands, special occasions and special music. She has also volunteered with the Special Olympics program, as a Sunday school teacher, and as a VBS teacher.  At five years old, Sharon trusted Christ as her personal Savior.  In addition to teaching music classes, Sharon will be offering private piano lessons at HCA.

Mary Pat Stewart

StewartMary Pat Stewart graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Health Education and a MA in Counselor Education. She has held various positions earlier in her career as a Behavioral Specialist/Mental Health worker, and Health Educator. She left the work force to raise her 5 children and later to homeschool them. Her work experience includes working with special needs children (behavioral/mental health issues) as well as their parents and teachers.  Having received the Lord at a young age and then in her early 20’s made Him Lord of her life, she has continued to grow in her faith and serve Him faithfully. Her service includes years of teaching children and youth in Sunday school, VBS, AWANA, and Good News Club. She is thankful for the community of homeschool families in St Marys and is eager to support others in their endeavor to be successful. This will be her first year teaching at HCA and she is looking forward to making Math fun for your children and enriching their curriculum.

Sharon Wilkinson

WilkinsonSharon Wilkinson was born and raised in England. At the age of 13, she attended a local church outreach where she heard the Gospel for the first time and committed her life to Christ. She graduated University with a B.A. in History and Archaeology, and a Post Graduate Certificate of Education. Sharon taught K through second grade for four years in two English elementary schools before moving to the US with her husband, Colin. Since then, she has been active as a Sunday school & AWANA teacher for Kindergarten through middle school at SAYSF Bible Church, & now at Faith Bible Church. She has homeschooled her four children since 2005.  She is currently training to be an academic therapist with the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center, and is excited to implement the multi-sensory techniques she has learned in the Core Block and Junior Science classes this year.

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