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Meet the Teachers

Annandale, VA campus



Carolyn Balch

Carolyn Balch started her career as a high school physics teacher and taught in NJ and Kenya before entering the field of museum education. She spent ten years at the Smithsonian Institution, where she wrote science education materials and ran teacher workshops. She left the workforce when her children were born. Later, her family helped start a school, and she taught there for five years as the middle school science teacher. Now she writes full-time, as the author of Engaging Science Labs. When not working on some type of science experiment, you can find Carolyn engaged in some type of handwork—her newest hobby is shoemaking,

Janine Buser

Janine Buser is passionate about guiding children to reach their full potential as individuals, students, and in their love of the Lord. She is a graduate of Georgetown University with a first career in government affairs. After homeschooling for 20 years, she found a new calling in early childhood education. When not on campus, Janine relishes her role as "Nina" to her (future Boots & Roots) grandbabies.

Maggie Dean

Maggie Dean has a passion for developing things. Whether that's friendships, gardens, dreams, or students, she loves coming alongside people to be curious about discovering God's narrative in the stories He writes with our lives. After graduating from Christopher Newport University (BS Biology/Spanish minor), she has spent 10 years in youth ministry and teaching but has found that she is particularly passionate about middle school aged students. Some of her other delights include unstructured time to rest, pray, write, bike, or cook.

Tess Quinn

Tess graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor's in Social Work. She has a passion for building relationships and a desire to see all of God's creation flourish--plants, streams, students. She has worked with refugees from all over the world and most recently has served as the community minister at her church. When not at work, you can find her baking sourdough, knitting, curling up with a good book, or looking for the best spot to watch the sunset with her husband.

Laura Ryba

Laura loves supporting the individualized needs of students to help them reach their full potential in academics, social-emotional skills, and spiritual well-being. She served as a special education teacher and Administrator in both the private and public school sector. Laura and her family served as missionaries in Chicago for seven years where they supported those who were marginalized and in need of the love of Jesus. Currently, she serves as the Next Generation Pastor at Calvary Church in Annandale, VA, where she is walking in her calling to lead the children's and youth ministry. She loves spending time with her family, playing games, being active outside, and doing ministry together.

Dinah Steele

Dinah Steele has an undergraduate degree both in Art and Music from Covenant College, as well as a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from Northcentral University. She has taught children ages 2-9 years in many different learning settings and has found her sweet spot teaching K/1 and Boots & Roots with Redemptive Education. Dinah finds delight in watching her students live into the people that God has created them to be. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys watercolor painting, gardening, making home herbal remedies and spending time with her family.

Kristen Tamulonis

Kristen Tamulonis is excited to teach the 2nd and 3rd graders at Scent of Water this year! She loves teaching phonics, reading books with her class, and giving students lots of opportunities to create and imagine. Kristen has taught Kindergarten, first grade, and preschool for the past twelve years and has a Master’s Degree in Integrated Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary/Early Childhood Education. In addition to teaching, she enjoys directing children’s musicals, reading, spending time outside, and volunteering at church and summer camps.

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"Even as our thinking shapes our speech, so does our speaking shape our thought. We explicitly model for our children how to make our voices convey respect, how to answer the question, 'Can you say that in a more gracious way?' What we say matters. How we say it matters."

-- Amy Imbody, MEd, Founder and President of the Center for Redemptive Education, from her book, Wind from the Sea: Essays in Redemptive Education.



Mrs. Buser continues to wow us with her teaching! She is creative, enthusiastic, and thoughtful. It is evident how invested she is in each of her students.

Candace Steele

Children made in God's image

Dinah Steele has been a blessing for our girls as they’ve progressed up through K-1. She cares about them as students but more importantly as children made in God’s image. She is also very insightful work suggestions for where our daughter can grow in her learning. Thank you for the hard work and dedication over multiple years!

Joel Rogers

Attuned to my child

The teachers (Ms. Steele, Ms. Tamulonis, and Mrs. Atkinson) are attuned to my child’s strengths and attentive to his needs.

Abigail Westbrook

Friendly and patient

Kristen Tamulonis is very friendly, patient and knowledgeable. Very informative emails at the end of the week.

Scent of Water parent

My son loves school with his teacher

My son's teacher is amazing in everyday and he loves school with her.

Scent of Water parent

Just the best

I think Dinah Steele is just the best, and I wish my child could have her for another year. She is so competent, communicative, creative, and loving.

Danielle Hitchens

Our son is thriving

Mrs. Buser is fantastic. I like the size of the campus. Our son loves Mrs. Buser and tells stories about her once he gets home. My wife and I enjoy the weekly update and pictures, which our son explains to us thoroughly. We are extremely impressed with Mrs. Buser and her way with the kids. Our son is thriving.

Winston Steele

Teacher understands stress of deployment

I love that our son's teacher treats him like she treats her own children. She looks out for his well-being and genuinely cares about him. She understands that his dad has been deployed all year and understands the stress and pressure that puts in a family.

Melissa Wacker

Intentional and loving

Ms. Buser is a fabulous teacher. Very intentional and loving.

Boots and Roots parent

Great job of communicating

Ms. Steele has done a great job of communicating with us the needs of our student and listening to and responding to our concerns.

Scent of Water parent

Lit a motivating spark

Our daughter is coming to an end of our two years in Ms. Steele's class. I can NOT say enough positive things about Ms. Steele. She has lit a motivating spark for our daughter through her dynamic lessons, songs, and sweet student/teacher relationship. I have found it easy and delightful to partner with her in educating our daughhter. I would be heartbroken to leave Ms. Steele, but I don't have to be because my son starts K/1 next year! I am SO grateful for Ms. Steele.

Emily Basham

I want to be a student in her class

I can't say enough good things about having Ms. Steele as our daughter's K/1 teacher. She is great with the children and her communication with me has been regular and clear. I want to be a student in her class. We are SO thankful for Ms. Steele!

Emily Basham

Thriving academically for the first time

Both our children are inspired by their teachers' hunger to learn and excitement to teach. Strong teachers. Flexible approach. Both of my kids are outside-the-box learners and this year in particular they have really started to thrive academically for the first time thanks to these teachers and the flexible model that allows them to learn in so many different ways.

Scent of Water parent

I adore this teacher

I just really adore Ms. Steele.

Boots and Roots parent

Doesn't get better than this teacher

I learn from Ms. Steele every opportunity I get. It doesn’t get better than her. Absolute tops.

Boots and Roots parent

Understanding and dedicated

Kristen Tamulonis has been a great teacher. She’s had good pointers for our daughter and seems to understand where she is strong and needs growth. Thank you for your dedication and hard work!

Joel Rogers

Cannot think of a better teacher

I love that each Thursday our son's teacher posts photos and a journal entry detailing the events of the week. It is the highlight of my week to see pictures of my son in his school element and read what did and learned. She is very consistent and very detailed. I could not think of a better teacher for my son. Mrs. Buser has wildly exceeded my expectations and set the bar very high.

Candace Steele

Listening and responding

Mrs. Buser has been a wonderful teacher. I appreciate how engaged she is listening and responding to students.

Boots & Roots parent

Helps me understand how my children learn

Appreciate the long, detailed emails so I can understand better what/how my children learn.

Scent of Water parent


Laura Ryba, MEd

Campus Coordinator

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