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Lower School Faculty

Lower School Office

Susan Montgomery
Head of Lower School

B.A. Psychology and Elementary Education, University of North Carolina at Asheville
M.A. School Administration 

Lower School Principal Susan Montgomery joined the ACA family many years ago when she and her husband enrolled their children at ACA. She later joined the faculty as a fourth grade teacher. A love of learning and a desire to inspire that same love in students led Mrs. Montgomery to study education. Originally from Coral Springs, FL, Mrs. Montgomery enjoys the beach and spending time outdoors. She treasures Psalm 139 for its description of how God knows his children intimately and that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. 


Kate Lunberry
LS Administrative Assistant

B.A. Psychology, Houghton College

Kate Lunberry began working at ACA in 2010. Mrs. Lunberry was born in Kijabe, Kenya. She feels privileged to serve ACA families and the Lord. Mrs. Lunberry enjoys the unique opportunity to serve alongside her husband, Mr. Trent Lunberry, a fourth grade teacher.


Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten

Christy Lowder

B.A. Literature and Education, University of North Carolina at Asheville

Mrs. Lowder is dedicated to partnering with Christian parents to help their children grow in the knowledge of God, His world, and His redemptive plan for His creation through His Son, Jesus. She believes her role as an educator gives her the opportunity to impact the next generation as they learn about God’s sovereign power and love.


Terrie Gerolimatos

Mrs. Gerolimatos is a part of Christian education because it offers students a way to nurture their love for the Lord while strengthening their knowledge of all core subjects. She enjoys the freedom she has to daily speak Biblical truths into the lives of her students and to encourage them to examine what they are learning in the light of eternity.


Savannnah Mathis


Tere Tritt

B.A. Elementary Education, Mars Hill College

ACA alumna, Tere Tritt, joined the ACA faculty in 1995. A native to Western North Carolina, Mrs. Tritt studied education locally at Mars Hill College. Mrs. Tritt is also certified in Orton-Gillingham. Isaiah 40:31 is her favorite verse because it offers hope for the future.


Cheryl Forester
Teacher's Aide/Aftercare Coordinator

The mother of several ACA graduates, Mrs. Forester has worked in the lower school since 2003. Though ACA strives for excellence in all areas, she most appreciates that Jesus is central in all. She has long loved working with children. 


Jenny Hite
Teacher's Aide

B.S. Nursing, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Jenny Hite believes that since children spend the majority of their days at school, school should be a place where Truth is taught. Mrs. Hite hopes that the children she works with feel loved and accepted for who they are and that they grow in who God has created them to be. Mrs. Hite attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and studied nursing. She treasures Philippians 4:8 because it helps her refocus on what is true and good.


First Grade

Melody Dowdy

B.A. Elementary Education & Early Childhood Development/Psychology, Houston Baptist University

Mrs. Dowdy believes her experience as Christian school student from preschool through college has helped her build a firm foundation. She considers herself a servant leader with a passion for God’s word. Mrs. Dowdy encourages her students to foster a lifelong pursuit of Jesus Christ, a love of learning, and a desire to make God known to others.


Susan Herzog

After coaching volleyball and serving as a teacher’s aide, Mrs. Herzog returned to teaching full-time in 2017. For Mrs. Herzog, teaching at ACA is a family affair.  She and her husband Jeff, who teaches upper school mathematics, have three children who attend ACA. Prior to settling in Asheville, Mrs. Herzog and her husband were educators in China. Helping her students gain confidence and make new connections is one of her favorite aspects of being a lower school teacher.


Taylor Bell
Teacher's Aide

B.A. Psychology, Covenant College
M.A. School Psychology, Western Carolina University

For ACA alumna Taylor Bell, Christian education holds a special and influential place in her life. Mrs. Bell views Christian education as an amazing opportunity to learn in an environment that not only teaches academics and God’s word, but also that every one of us is a sinner saved by grace. Ms. Bell earned her B.A. in psychology from Covenant College. She also holds a master’s degree in school psychology from Western Carolina University.


Jaime Panagiotacos
Teacher's Aide


Second Grade

Lou Ann Bishop

B.A. Physical Education and Art Education, Calvin College
M.Ed. Elementary Education, Western Carolina University

For Lou Ann Bishop, following the command to “train up a child in the way he should go” is an important daily task. “Growing” a child is formative in nature. For these reasons, Mrs. Bishop sees Christian education as a precious freedom, choice, and opportunity for parents to partner with educators who daily seek to teach and live truth. Swimming, enjoying food, gardening, playing the piano, and “grand-mothering” are some of the ways Mrs. Bishop spends her free time.


Tricia Portmess



Charity Franklin
Teacher's Aide

Wake Tech and Western Carolina University

Asheville native Charity Franklin became an educational aide for K4 in 2014. She holds degrees from Wake Tech and Western Carolina University. Her favorite verse is 2 Timothy 1:17 because of its message about trusting the power of the Lord. 


Jenny Newton
Teacher's Aide

B.A. Parks and Recreation Management and Outdoor Education, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Jenny Newton’s strong belief in Christian education and its value to society led her to serve at ACA in 2015. She finds joy in ACA’s family atmosphere. Mrs. Newton likes to hike, trail run, and bike in her spare time. She clings to the instructions in 2 Timothy 1:7 to live without fear and the reassurance that God is in control.


Third Grade

Emily Petrilla


Autumn Stanley

B.S. Elementary Education, Appalachian State University

After years spent praying about an opportunity to join the ACA community, Autumn Stanley and her family watched as the Lord opened the doors in 2014. Mrs. Stanley strives to make learning enjoyable for her students. It is her goal to them to have a life-long love of learning. In addition to her teaching degree, Mrs. Stanley has earned an Orton Gillingham Classroom Educator certification. She appreciates the simplicity of 1 Corinthians 13:13 and its message of loving others. 


Lauren Watson

B.S. Elementary Education, Appalachian State University

Lauren Watson began teaching third grade at ACA in 2015. She earned her degree nearby at Appalachian State University. Her favorite part about teaching is watching her students have fun while learning. Her favorite verse since childhood has been 2 Timothy 1:7.


Katy Ingle
Teacher's Aide

Katy Ingle began serving as a lower school teacher’s aide in 2015. Mrs. Ingle is the mother of an ACA graduate and a current student. Her husband serves in the upper school as Dean of Men. For Mrs. Ingle, ACA is truly about family.


Fourth Grade

Anna Bates

B.A. Elementary Education, Covenant College

Alumna Anna Bates returned to ACA to teach fifth grade in 2016.  She believes that teaching at ACA gives her the opportunity to teach in a way that honors children and the Lord. Her goal as an educator is to help children develop a life-long love of learning that excites and equips them to serve Christ.


Sarah Lowder

B.A. Elementary Education, Western Carolina University

Ms. Lowder, an ACA alumna, returned to her roots to help other students root themselves in Jesus and His word. Ms. Lowder believes the opportunity for students to intertwine their developing faith into school subjects gives them the privilege to shine Jesus’s light in a fallen world. She hopes her students continue to develop a love for learning and a deeper understanding of the Lord’s glory, grace, and love throughout their education.


Trent Lunberry

B.S. Elementary Education, Missouri Western State University

Mr. Lunberry joined the ACA Lower School faculty in 2010. He considers it an honor to teach fourth graders at ACA. Christian education gives him the opportunity to teach children about how God’s word impacts every facet of life. Mr. Lunberry enjoys traveling, scuba diving, fine art, and classical literature. 


Meredith Graham
Teacher's Aide

B.A. Religion, Converse College


Sarah Jackson
Teacher's Aide

B.S. Behavior Science, King University

Sarah Jackson has served as a lower school aide since 2014. Mrs. Jackson taught elementary school prior to leaving the classroom to start her family. She believes her role at ACA allows her to support teachers as they partner with families in the nurturing and training of students. Her favorite scripture is Revelation 21:2-6 because of God’s promise to make all things right. 


Fifth Grade

Debbie Cate

B.S. Elementary Education, Southeastern Bible College

Mrs. Cate has a long history with ACA. She began teaching at ACA in 1981. Although she left to teach at other schools, she returned again in 2015. She is motivated daily by the opportunity to teach children the truth of who God is and why we should glorify him in all things. She enjoys riding her horse and spending time at the beach in her spare time. 


Trevor Gustafson

B.A. Elementary Education, Western Washington University

Trevor Gustafson came to Asheville from Bellingham, Washington in 2017. His degree is in language literacy and cultural studies from Western Washington University. Mr. Gustafson specialized in English as a second language and reading instruction. Mr. Gustafson believes that if the chief end of man is to know God and enjoy Him fully, no education can be complete without a knowledge of God’s intricate design and hand in all of life. He spends his spare time with his family hiking, kayaking, reading, and camping.


Amanda Montgomery


Molly Mason
Teacher's Aide

Spending time on campus for ten years as the mother of an ACA student led Mrs. Mason to join the lower school faculty in 2017. Working as a teacher’s assistant gives her the opportunity to take part in the early formation of ACA students, something she considers one of the most worthwhile experiences she has ever had.


Cathy Ryburn
Teacher's Aide

B.Ed. ESL, Secondary Education McGill University, Quebec, Canada
Certificate in Phys. Ed, University of Neuchatel, Switzerland
License in English Literature, University of Neuchatel, Switzerland

Mrs. Ryburn joined ACA in 2016 as a substitute teacher. A year later she accepted a position as teacher’s assistant for third grade. Her background is in English as a Second Language, which equipped her to serve children in developing nations. Even though she moved often as a child, she considers Neuchatel, Switzerland her hometown.


Deborah Brutt
K4-5th Music

B.A. Music Education, Grove City College

Deborah Brutt began teaching at ACA in 2014. Ms. Brutt’s hometown is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is glad to be a part of the ACA community as she helps children explore the world of music. 


Christa Hutzler

B.S. Elementary Education, Appalachian State University
M.L.S. Masters of Library Science, Appalachian State University

Christa Hutzler serves the ACA community as the media specialist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s degree in library science from Appalachian State University. Mrs. Hutzler believes in the importance of Christian education because it is built on essential truth which reflects God’s creativity and bountiful love. Her favorite verse is Exodus 34:6-7 because it reveals the Lord’s description of Himself: merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love.


Amanda McCoy

B.S. English, Western Carolina University
MLIS Information Studies, Florida State University

Amanda McCoy’s goal as a teacher is to her help her students prepare themselves to participate in society. She believes that a proper education teaches the whole child. This includes academics, social skills, and spiritual development. She strives to help her students learn to use technology with confidence. Mrs. McCoy’s favorite verse is Isaiah 40:31 because it reminds her that when we focus on our true purpose, the Lord will renew our strength and give us the ability to continue serving Him despite any obstacle we may face.


Alex Panagiotacos
5th Grade Band

B.S. Music, Clearwater Christian College
M. Ed. Music Education, University of Central Florida

The community of believers working together led Alex Panagiatacos to ACA in 2008. Mr. Panagiatacos enjoys fine arts education because the students’ gifts and talents are always on display for others to enjoy. He takes pleasure in seeing students achieve more than they thought was possible. Colossians 3:17 is important to him because it is a reminder that such gifts are from the Lord and believers are to use them for His glory. 


Christine Patete
LS Art

B.A. Art and Education, Minor in French, Calvin College

Formerly from Bowmanville, Ontario Canada, Mrs. Patete originally began teaching art at ACA in 1999. She later rejoined the faculty in 2005. Mrs. Patete has always loved school, which made her decision to become a teacher simple. In addition to her work in the classroom, Mrs. Patete has illustrated seven children’s books. Although she is a freelance illustrator, her favorite medium is clay.


Torri Render
PE, Sports Excel Director

B.S. Health and Physical Education (K-12), Health and Human Performance, Roanoke College

Coach Render joined the ACA faculty in 2011 to share her love of exercise through sports. She believes that being active is a lifestyle. Coach Render integrates the purpose mentioned in Romans 8:28 into her philosophy of teaching and coaching. She sees her role as integral to helping students discover their interests, gifts, and calling.


Karen Whitley
Band Assistant

B.A. Flute Performance, Music Education, Winthrop University
M. Ed. Music Education, Eastern Carolina University

Mrs. Whitley began serving ACA as an adjunct teacher for sectionals and private lessons in 2011. While in college, she discovered a love for teaching music. She decided to become a music educator because she enjoys teaching students the joy of music.