Ambleside's Staff

Dean Peterson, Executive Director

With the encouragement of the ASI Board, ASI Founders Maryellen and Bill St. Cyr prayed for several years that the Lord would raise up an operational and strategic leader to enable them to transition away from running day-to-day operations into roles that emphasize writing, speaking, training and mentoring. Hence Dean's role, to partner with them to take ASI and its commitment to the Charlotte Mason model of education to the next level.

Dean and his wife Lyle live in Falls Church, Virginia. They have three grown children in their twenties, and their youngest started college this year. Professionally, Dean served as Chief of Staff for three different Members of Congress and later headed up the communications and advocacy efforts at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit addiction treatment provider. His hobbies, besides faith and family, are jogging, reading and relationships.

In his life, the greatest spiritual growth has come in times of crisis, and he believes deeply that the essence of our spiritual life is a close relationship with a personal God who is intimately interested in all aspects of our lives, especially our suffering. Despite these obviously trying times in our world, Dean is highly optimistic about the future and the life of our community and is working hard to ensure that ASI and our school continue to thrive and flourish.

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Bill St. Cyr, Founder, Director of Training

The unifying concern of Bill St. Cyr’s academic and professional life has been the process by which men and women grow to a maturity which reflects the person of Jesus. He holds a BA in political philosophy from Louisiana State University, an MA in historical theology and spirituality from Catholic University of America, and an MS/PhD in pastoral counseling from Loyola University Maryland. Bill has served as a youth minister, led a discipleship ministry on Capitol Hill, assisted the chaplain of the United States Senate, and spent thousands of hours counseling committed believers whose lives have been something less than love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. In 2000, Bill’s wife, Maryellen, founded Ambleside of Fredericksburg. Located in the Texas hill country, this school is dedicated to providing an education shaped by the principles of Jesus and the pedagogical insights of British educator, Charlotte Mason. Since 2001, Bill has partnered with Maryellen to foster a reformation in education.

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Maryellen St. Cyr, Founder, Director of Curriculum

A professional educator for more than 30 years, Maryellen St. Cyr has spent thousands of hours in the classroom and hundreds of hours observing other teachers. Possessing a passion for a congruent, life- giving method of education, she has become one of the foremost experts on the “common sense” education philosophy of 19th-century British educator, Charlotte Mason. Maryellen is a primary author of When Children Love to Learn and shares insights into education on our blog.

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Shannon Seiberlich, Community Relations and Homeschool Director

My path to ASI began when I decided to homeschool my children. Without any background or experience in education other than my own schooling, I sought to educate myself, so I could teach my children well. Teaching my children about Jesus and the Faith was a guiding principal, but it was equally important to me that my children were ‘well-educated.’ I desired a full and rich education for them. When I learned of Charlotte Mason and began reading her words, they rang true—they touched my spirit and piqued my imagination. Ultimately, they formed and educated me. I took them to heart and ‘considered’…

And first, let us consider where and what the little being is who is entrusted to the care of human parents. A tablet to be written upon? A twig to be bent? Wax to be moulded? Very likely; but he is much more––a being belonging to an altogether higher estate than ours; as it were, a prince committed to the fostering care of peasants. Hear Wordsworth's estimate of the child's estate:––and so on, through the whole of that great ode, which next after the Bible, shows the deepest insight into what is peculiar to the children in their nature and estate. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." "Except ye become as little children ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven." "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" "And He called a little child, and set him in the midst." Here is the Divine estimate of the child's estate. It is worthwhile for parents to ponder every utterance in the Gospels about these children, divesting themselves of the notion that these sayings belong, in the first place, to the grown up people who have become as little children. What these profound sayings are, and how much they may mean, it is beyond us to discuss here; only they appear to cover far more than Wordsworth claims for the children in his sublimest reach “Trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home.” (Home Education)

As Charlotte Mason gave me a beautiful vision for my children (and all children) in her ideas, I learned how important ideas are. Her ideas have given my life a philosophy and a way to put my faith into practice. It seems the ideas were always within. Charlotte Mason articulated them and brought them forth!

After having the great joy of teaching my children at home for eight years, the Ambleside School of Herndon, Virginia (now McLean) opened. It seemed good to have my children with a group of other like-minded students and families who were drawn to a Charlotte Mason education. It was the right time, and I was so excited that there was a Charlotte Mason school! So, I enrolled my children at the school and subsequently had the privilege of teaching there for ten years. I taught Art and 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 8th grades. Over those years, I also had the pleasure of directing several of the Shakespeare plays and helping with the student art for the annual ArtSpring fundraiser. At the same time, I began working on a variety of teacher support projects for ASI in my free time. As ASI started its homeschool mentor program, I also became a homeschool mentor. My children are now grown, and my work has moved from classroom teacher to training homeschool moms as the Director of the Homeschool Mentor Program. It is a miracle and wonder-full thing to be able to connect with and partner with mother-teachers from South Africa to Canada to California to Tennessee! As I was, these mothers are serious, faithful, and willing and eager to learn and grow. Through this work, we form lifelong friendships. One of my greatest joys is to receive photos from the moms of their children at work and play, or a beautifully written narration or science diagram. Success!

Prior to my work with Ambleside Schools International, I studied in the School of Journalism at the Pennsylvania State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising. After graduation, I worked in my field of study for several years, first as a Media Director and then as an Account Executive for a D.C. ad agency. ‘After hours’ I enjoy going on adventures and exploring the great, wide world, a photography hobby, writing, reading, collecting old books, and cycling . . . and hikes and dinners with my sons!

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Leslie Voorhees, Director of Member Schools

Leslie came to the writings of Charlotte Mason while in pursuit of a life-giving education for her own children. With over 23 years experience with Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education, she has served in many roles: Co-founder of Ambleside School in McLean, VA; board chair; classroom teacher; and now as Director of Member Schools for ASI. Prior to becoming a mom of three Ambleside students, she served as a regional director for Estee Lauder Companies, served on several boards including Young Life, and received her BS in Biology and Health from the University of Richmond. Her greatest delight is in spending time with her three grown children and two grandchildren, spread between Virginia, Colorado, and Arizona.

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Ben Christenson, Executive Assistant

Ben graduated from William & Mary in 2020 with a degree in English Literature. He learned of Ambleside’s unique approach through his family. One brother taught at Ambleside Skylark, another attended Ambleside McLean, and his mother served on the board at Ambleside McLean. He’s enjoying his chance to learn about the philosophy firsthand in the ASI office.

Ben also got married on June 6th, 2020. He and his wife have 3 dogs and 1 cat, a passion for reading, and love nothing more than a hard morning workout followed by a tasty brunch.

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