Passionate, expert teachers who believe that with the right support and encouragement, any student can excel
Ask any BASIS Independent student what makes their school different and they will tell you “the teachers.” The foundation of our culture and the success of our students lies in the hands of our faculty.
As educators, our goal is for students to always want “more.” Inspiring students comes easy when teachers are truly excited about their material and have deep expertise in their discipline, whether elementary pedagogy, musical theater, or astrophysics. Our teachers light a fire in the heart and mind of every student, helping them discover their passions and leaving an indelible mark on their scholastic experience.
Ms. Abey Learning Expert Teacher | Primary Program
Ms. Abey has previously taught grades PreK-Grade 2 in both public and private schools. Ms. Abey began her teacher career at BASIS Independent McLean six years ago when she was an Early Learning Teaching Fellow and is excited to continue being a Grade 2 Learning Expert Teacher this year. Her teaching philosophy embodies viewing all students as a whole, especially considering their social-emotional needs. She holds a B.S. in Therapeutic Recreation from George Mason University and is studying to receive her M.A. in Teaching Elementary Education from Liberty University. During her free time, Ms. Abey enjoys hiking with her Goldendoodle and Siberian Husky, cooking/baking, and watching reality TV with her wife.
Mr. Ahmad Subject Expert Teacher | Middle School
Mr. Ahmad has been with BASIS Independent McLean since 2021. He has prior experience teaching undergraduate general, organic, and biological chemistry. He also has a background in STEM tutoring, executive function coaching, and standardized test prep. Mr. Ahmad’s graduate research was in radiation oncology, with a focus on DNA damage signaling and induction of synthetic lethality in glioblastoma multiforme and other neoplasms. He has appeared as a co-author on a variety of publications, and his work was showcased during an annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). An article from his group was recently (2022) accepted for publication in Cellular & Molecular Life Sciences (CMLS). Mr. Ahmad has broad subject-matter expertise and employs a holistic approach to STEM education. He enjoys teaching cross-cutting concepts that bridge multiple fields, especially the medical and engineering applications of chemistry. He places high value on developing proficiency with laboratory techniques, safety, and troubleshooting for experimentation. He hopes his instruction will help students learn to love chemistry as much as he does.
Ms. Awadalla Subject Expert Teacher | Middle School
Ms. Awadalla came to the U.S. as Fulbright Scholar and had her intensive training in education pedagogy, technology, and NGSS at University of Nevada, Reno. Ms. Awadalla holds a Master’s Degree in Genetics from the University of Khartoum, Sudan, and a Bachelor’s degree in Science. She has been teaching science for more than 11 years. She enjoys teaching and practicing science, and connecting with her students. When Ms. Awadalla is not working, she likes cooking and gardening. She loves colors, nature, and different cultures. She is so excited to be part of the BIM family.
Ms. Baljee Subject Expert Teacher | Primary & Middle School
Ms. Baljee hails from a small town in the Himalayas in India. She shifted to the US almost seven years ago. She sees math as a way to explore nature, logic, and the world. Her goal is “to inspire, motivate and challenge her students to realize their full potential.” Ms. Baljee believes that Mathematics is a field that is really about ideas. Ideas that inform our existence, that permeate our universe and beyond, that can surprise and enthrall. She is intrigued by the way infinity is harnessed to deal with the finite; the way nature expresses the Fibonacci series. She says that the subject never ceases to amaze her. Math, she feels, deserves to be enjoyed for its own sake. Ms. Baljee prides herself on being able to use various learning techniques while teaching in class. She firmly believes that not all students learn in the same way and hence it is only appropriate to teach them in a way the individual students find benefitting. She loves presenting lessons in a wide variety of ways using music, cooperative learning, art activities, role play, multimedia, field trips, and other ways which are harmonious with each child’s unique mindset. She believes in the extensive use of manipulatives, jigsaw puzzles, mazes, and board games etc. which enable the students to develop their logical skills. In her twenty years of experience, she believes that knowledge gained via kinesthetic means is the best because it gives the students an opportunity to discover and allows them to comprehend their experience and learn better. Ms. Baljee is a professionally trained Bharatanatyam dancer—an ancient Indian dance form and she continues to share her passion for dance with the enthusiasts at BASIS Independent McLean.
Mr. Bernal Subject Expert Teacher | Early Learning, Primary & Middle School
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Mr. Bernal earned his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from the University of Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano. After graduation, he won a liquid container design competition for a nationally recognized food and drinks company. He says he is fortunate that creativity sits well in every field and everywhere, and that is why he decided to come to the United States to become a teacher more than 15 years ago. Mr. Bernal completed his teacher preparation in Dallas, Texas, and taught mathematics and science in grades 2-4. During that time, he often traveled to various places and moved to Washington, DC in 2019. “The innovative primary program at BASIS Independent McLean with its two-teacher model is something I had imagined in the past and now I see its benefits” he says. “With the support of dedicated LET’s I am enabled and inspired to transmit my creativity to my young engineering practitioners.”
Mr. Biemesderfer Subject Expert Teacher | Middle & High School
Mr. Biemesderfer joined BASIS Independent McLean as part of our founding faculty in 2016. Previously, Mr. Biemesderfer was part of the founding faculty at BASIS DC, where he taught economics and served as coach to nationally qualifying middle and high school speech and debate teams. Prior to joining BASIS Curriculum Schools, Mr. Biemesderfer worked as a teaching assistant in the Economics Department at Georgetown University where he first caught a passion for showing students the power of economic reasoning, and as a research assistant in the Government Department. He holds a B.A. from Georgetown University in Economics with minors in Government and Psychology. When not coaching the debate team to victory, you can often find Mr. Biemesderfer spending his weekends biking along the Washington & Old Dominion and Capital Crescent recreational trails, discussing charity evaluation metrics, and teaching preschool Sunday School at his church.
Ms. Biron Teaching Fellow | Early Learning
Ms. Biron began her Pre-Kindergarten education practice at Country Day School, Great Falls, VA, in 2005 as a summer camp monitor. She fell in love with the job and served for the following years until 2008. After attending George Mason University for Visual Arts & Communication Studies of McLean, she worked as an assistant teacher between 2015-2022, teaching toddlers and primary classes. In 2022, Ms. Biron joined BASIS Independent McLean as a Fellow Teacher for Toddler Gamma Class. BIM provides such personal development and social support to the staff that it creates a pleasant teaching experience. When not in school, Ms. Biron enjoys walking, so she walks to work every day. She loves swimming, bowling, and watching movies. Her other passion is cooking, and she prepares special breakfasts on weekends. She also enjoys doing artwork and listening to Turkish music. She loves traveling to different places around the world with her parents and has a particular fondness for visiting Türkiye to see her family and friends. Ms. Biron describes herself as a funny, loving person who enjoys the hugs she receives from the children.
Ms. Bjerde Learning Expert Teacher | Primary Program
Ms. Bjerde was born and raised in Sweden until the age of 10 when her family moved to the USA and has since resided in McLean, VA. She received her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Master’s Degree in Education from George Mason University. Before coming to BIM, Ms. Bjerde spent 10 years teaching 3, 4, and 5 year olds at the Montessori School of McLean. She believes all children can learn and thrive when they are given the right support, encouragement, and positive environment. When Ms. Bjerde is not teaching she enjoys spending time with her family and golden retriever, Echo, discovering new places and beautiful nature!
Dr. Blaney Subject Expert Teacher | High School
Stockton University, B.A. in Political Science | University of Connecticut, M.A. in International Studies: Western Europe | London School of Economics and Political Science, M.A. in International History | London School of Economics and Political Science, PhD in International History Dr. Blaney began his career in academia: first as a teaching assistant while completing his PhD at the London School of Economics, and then as a postdoctoral fellow in the LSE’s Department of International History. He also temporarily served as a Lecturer at the University of Bristol. Alongside his teaching responsibilities, Dr. Blaney carried out original research, participated in numerous conferences across Europe, and published his work in both English and Spanish. Dr. Blaney had his first experience teaching at an independent school after he returned to the United States in 2011. At that moment, Dr. Blaney realized that education was his true passion; in mentoring young minds as they engage with the complexities of the past, present, and potential futures. In order to expand further his own understanding of such complexities, Dr. Blaney spent two years teaching in Asia. This experience only strengthened his conviction that the next generation needs an education which prepares them for our hyper-globalized and rapidly evolving world. As such, BASIS Independent McLean seemed like a perfect fit for him, and Dr. Blaney is very much looking forward to being an active member of the BIM community.When not at school, Dr. Blaney spends his time listening to music, traveling near and far with his amazing wife and their daughter (who will be in PreK-2 this year), and wondering which NFL team he will support now that Tom Brady has retired.
Ms. Brown Early Learning Teacher | Early Learning
Ms. Brown holds a Bachelor in Elementary Education and is pursuing her Master in Instructional Design. Previously, she worked in public schools for six years, of that, five years were at Fairfax County. She also has experience teaching dance and color guard to high school students. Ms. Brown is thrilled to teach for her third year at BASIS Independent McLean to provide learners with a foundation and passion to love learning. She believes that everyone can love learning with the right support, guidance, and tools. She shares the same beliefs as BASIS Independent Schools, including creating the love of learning to create forever learners. During Ms. Brown’s free time, she likes to spend time with her husband and son by exploring new places to eat. She also enjoys singing and dancing to her record collection. “There’s a song for everyone,” says Ms. Brown.
Mr. Bruggeman Subject Expert Teacher | Primary, Middle, & High School
Mr. Bruggeman is a DC area native. He graduated from Towson University with a BS in Sports Management. He has 20 years of experience in strength and conditioning, coaching, and business management. He started at BIM in spring of 2022. He is excited to further his role not only in Physical Education, but as Athletic Director, as well. He is looking forward to continued growth for our student-athletes this coming school and sports year. Outside of work, Mr. Bruggeman supports all DC area local professional sports teams. He enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and daughter, cooking, playing sports and traveling.
Ms. Butchy Subject Expert Teacher | Primary, Middle, & High School
Ms. Butchy has more than 10 years of experience teaching acting, playwriting, musical theatre, and other classes to students of all ages. She studied theatre, English, and music at Westminster College in her native Western Pennsylvania, and she earned her M.F.A. in theatre from Columbia University School of the Arts. While living in New York, she taught drama and directed student productions for grades K-12 at independent, charter, and public schools. Prior to joining BASIS Independent McLean, she was a theatre professor and director of student productions for six years in Queens. She also pursues her passion for theatre working on professional performances, including serving as a dramaturg for 16 New York Musical Festival productions, and she has written for American Theatre, Incite/Insight, and other publications. When not teaching, she can be found attending theatre, swimming, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Mr. Casalaspi Subject Expert Teacher | High School
Mr. Casalaspi earned his Bachelor’s in English from the University of Virginia and his Master’s in English from Harvard University, where he has been a Ph.D. student for the past six years, teaching Harvard undergraduates over the course of his doctoral studies. Mr. Casalaspi enjoys teaching English because he recognizes the all-important role language plays in shaping our experience of ourselves and the world around us. Outside of work, Mr. Casalaspi enjoys going to concerts, playing video games, and watching movies.
Ms. Chen Teaching Fellow | Early Learning
Most recently prior to joining BASIS Independent Mclean, Ms. Chen taught preschool at Bright Horizons and has a passion for Early Childhood Education. She enjoys working with children and loves to feed their curiosity to explore the world. Her goal at BASIS Independent Mclean is to protect children’s curiosity and imagination and to create a rich learning environment that addresses an individual’s interests and learning skills. In addition to her early childhood experience, Ms. Chen has taught college and middle school students. She is a career switcher, holding a Ph.D. in Journalism and Communication from Jinan University in Guangzhou, China. In addition to joining us as a teacher, Ms. Chen is a BIM parent! Outside of work, Ms. Chen commits herself to the Chinese community by teaching Chinese on Sunday afternoons. During her leisure time, she enjoys biking, hiking, running, traveling, and spending quality time with her family.
Ms. Chen Teaching Fellow | Early Learning
Ms. Chen holds a Bachelor and Master of Arts degree in Piano Performance from both Germany and USA and is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music. Prior to joining the Early Learning Team, she was an Adjunct Instructor and full-time staff pianist at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. Outside of school, Ms. Chen enjoys spending time with her family, listening to music, learning new languages, and traveling.
Ms. Cleveland Subject Expert Teacher | Middle & High School
George Washington University, B.A. in Classics, Archaeology | Florida State University, M.A. in Classical Archaeology | Ms. Cleveland is excited to join the BIM faculty teaching Latin and Classics this year. She is coming from South Lakes High School in Reston, where she taught for seven years. This will be her thirteenth year teaching Latin in the DC area. It is Ms. Cleveland’s belief that all students are capable of learning Latin and will benefit from doing so. Adopting methods based on language acquisition research, she hopes to deliver as much Latin as possible in a way that the students can understand and is fun and engaging to the class. Outside of school, Ms. Cleveland is interested in folktales from around the world, attending a weekly board game night, and spending time with her two sons, Jack (10) and Holden (8).