Highlands Blog

Meet our ENCORE team!

Highlands School

Meet our ENCORE team!

Tynley Baker

Tynley has a B.S. in Elementary Education from Auburn University and a M.S. in Library and Information Studies from The University of Alabama. After teaching 2nd grade in Tuskegee, Tynley worked in several elementary schools as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of the Philippines where she helped a school community establish the first lending library in the province. Following that experience, Tynley pursued a degree in Library Studies, and was thrilled to join the Highlands School community following her graduation in 2005. Tynley has experienced the closeness of the Highlands community and the power of the K-8 educational model as a parent as well as a faculty member. Her only child Webb, Class of 2016, began his Highlands journey in the Family Center at three years old.
Tynley believes everyone is a capable learner with individual abilities and needs. In her role as Librarian Media Specialist, she treasures the opportunity to work with students, faculty, and staff members to foster their personal love of learning. By connecting each person with right on time resources, and by teaching the techniques to locate these resources independently, Tynley empowers learners to relish the challenges in their life-long educational journey. As schools and libraries across the world transform themselves in the 21st century, Tynley knows Highlands School will stand apart as a leader, and that the goal in the future will still be to help children and adults learn how to learn.

Kage Cavanah

It is Kage’s belief that a teacher must teach in a manner that makes kids want to learn. For each new unit, a new or revised way of teaching may be needed to reach all the students. Most of all a teacher must remember two things. Every child has his or her own identity, respect them for that. Secondly, a teacher must be a facilitator as much or maybe more than being a teacher. Kage is originally from northern Ohio and has been in Alabama since 1980. Kage is in his 21st year at Highlands. He taught 2nd grade for 3 years and 3rd grade for 5 years before going full time into an administrative role. In 2007 he became a PE teacher where he continues to teach. Kage loves the outdoors and spending time with his 2 adult sons and his wife.

Lanlan Cohn

Lanlan was born in Kunming, China. She has always loved learning about cultures and languages.  In college she chose to study teaching Chinese as a second language because she thought it would give her the opportunity to travel and share her culture and language with others. Lanlan went on to receive her masters in the same subject. She did her master’s degree thesis and her first three years teaching at a prestigious Thai government school in Bangkok. Lanlan married in 2014 and in 2015, moved to Birmingham where her husband is from. She thinks that technology is making the world a much smaller place. When she considers how beneficial learning a second language is for a child, it gives her a lot of motivation and passion to teach. Lanlan loves teaching Chinese and she is very happy to be at Highlands.

Robins Compere

Born and raised in Port-au-Prince Haiti, Robins moved to Miami, Florida in June 1996 where he resided for five years and took ESL courses at North Miami public high school. He then moved to Orlando, Florida where he worked on behalf of the youth at several Haitian churches in the Pine Hills area. In the spring of 2001, he relocated to Huntsville, Alabama and enrolled at Oakwood university as a theology and French student. During his studies at Oakwood, Robins went to France as an exchange student to complete his bachelor’s degree in French. He remained in Huntsville and completed a master’s degree in pastoral studies. In 2013, he matriculated at the university of Alabama and graduated in 2015 with a master’s degree in Romance languages with a concentration in French linguistics. It was a blessing for Monsieur Compere to have joined the Highlands School team in 2015 and to still be a proud member today. In 2016-2017 He started to provide early care in addition to teaching French to every grade level. His favorite aspect of Highlands’ culture is it exposes students to a higher degree of learning and community support. He likes working at Highlands because the students enjoy learning French, and the members of faculty/staff operate as a real family of professionals.

Shelby Etress

Shelby Etress is the art teacher here at Highlands School. This is her second year teaching at Highlands and fifth year teaching overall. She loves everything about the art room, especially watching the students create. She believes art allows kids to explore, make mistakes, learn and express themselves in ways beyond the regular classroom. You can often find her in art inspired outfits to get the students excited about learning. Shelby received her Fine Arts degree from Samford University and her Masters of Arts Education degree from UAB. She has lived all over the south but in the last three years Alabama has become her home. She and her husband, Josh, live in Bluff Park with their two boys Chamberlain (3) and ACE (1). They love to explore different parks and eat at new places on the weekends. In her free time, Shelby paints and sells her personal artwork through Instagram.

Bree Holland

Bree Holland has a B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature, as well as a M.A.Ed. in Spanish Education with an add-on certification in teaching English as a Second or Other Language from UAB. She has studied abroad in Mexico and Spain. Bree has been teaching for fifteen years, eight of them at Highlands School. Bree loves teaching at Highlands School, where community is cultivated among students, faculty, staff, administration, parents, board members, and the greater community. She believes that all children are capable learners with unique abilities and needs. All students deserve a safe, nurturing, and welcoming environment where they are able to celebrate their talents, take risks in learning opportunities, appreciate their own and other’s perspectives, and grow into self-motivated learners. She also believes classrooms are places where everyone teaches and everyone learns.
Bree believes learning another language is an integral part of a complete educational experience. She considers language learning, including Spanish, a lifelong endeavor and still considers herself a language learner. She enjoys reading, listening, and viewing various media in Spanish, especially on Instagram. Bree always enjoys learning new information about the Spanish language and culture, as well as about languages in general. She enjoys learning about other languages, including French, Mandarin, Italian, and more. Bree especially enjoys traveling to enhance her linguistic and cultural knowledge and has been to Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Canada, France, Italy, England, Morocco, and throughout the United States. 

Shara Kernan

Shara Kernan has a B.S in Psychology and an M.S. in Child Psychology. She has a certification in Orton-Gillingham and has training in several other reading programs including Lindamood-Bell and Wilson Reading. Additionally, she has expertise in numerous math programs. Prior to coming to Highlands, she worked at Brookwood Forest Elementary as the Academic Interventionist for eighteen years. For the last five years, she has served as Highlands’s Learning Specialist. She has extensive experience working with children who have learning differences as well asexpertise in teaching organizational skills, study strategies, time management, and test prep.
Mrs. Kernan believes that children bring their own unique set of interests, gifts, and needs to the classroom. When children experience a caring, encouraging, and trusting environment, their learning flourishes. Supportive, respectful student-teacher relationships have a profound positive impact on learning.  When students feel they are respected and valued, feelings of competence, well-being, and autonomy will thrive and perseverance will soar. Mrs. Kernan believes that magic happens in such classrooms. She loves working at Highlands because relationships truly matter!

Charlotte Leffel

Charlotte Leffel believes all children are musical, and that children need to sing and play music in order to develop as whole persons. Born and raised in Birmingham, Charlotte grew up immersed in music. Her mother was a church organist and choir director as well as a piano teacher, and Charlotte trained in piano and voice from a young age. She graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts with a piano major and a voice minor. She holds a B.A. in Music Technology from UAB, where she studied under the direction of Dr. Henry Panion, Grammy-award winner and composer/arranger for Stevie Wonder. Charlotte is a Nationally Certified Orff teacher through Samford University. 
Charlotte founded and for 15 years operated The Pink House, a music school for young children, and she led drum circles at Birmingham City Stages Children's Stage for five years. She served as music teacher at N.E. Miles Jewish Day School for 10 years. Charlotte sang as section leader and soloist in several area church choirs, and she studied with Nicholas Cleebury while singing in England. A lover of a wide range of musical styles, Charlotte has performed in bands playing jazz, rock, blues, and reggae, appearing around the region, Southeast, and Jamaica. She has performed often with her husband, Spencer, a drummer whom she met auditioning for a band. (She passed.) They have two sons, Gill (Highlands '20) and Fletcher, and two dogs. The family enjoys music, sports, and hanging out at the beach.

Erin Willams

Erin holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Exercise Science from Auburn University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Science in Physical Education from UAB. She played for the Auburn women’s soccer team. This is her 9th year teaching PE at Highlands where she enjoys interacting with students of all grade levels. She also helps with the Highlands cross country program and helps coordinate the Kids Mercedes Marathon.
During her time at Highlands, she has grown as an educator and has been supported and encouraged to learn new things and always better herself as a professional. Her goal as a teacher is to provide students of all abilities with a foundation of physical activity experiences that lead to active and healthy lifestyles. She hopes that her instructional approach allows for students to be successful in learning new skills and have fun being active! She enjoys spending time experiencing nature through hiking and camping with her husband and two boys. She also loves working out with her gym family at her CrossFit gym. 
Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.