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Kindergarten and First Grade

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Jennifer Barnes
Mrs. Barnes Class Blog

Most of my childhood was spent in Mooresville, North Carolina, where I attended traditional, small-town schools. Even then, I dreamed of becoming a kindergarten teacher when I grew up! I graduated from Gardner-Webb University (with a Bachelors of Science in Early Childhood Education) and Campbell University (Master of Education.) I have had the pleasure of teaching for 26 years alongside children in kindergarten through third grade. Looping with kindergartners and first graders at CFI (since 1999) is my first love – just where I belong! In 2001, I received my National Board Certification as an Early Childhood Generalist and was recertified in 2011.
Besides being a teacher, I so appreciate being a daughter and sister, the wife of Eric, and the mother of Zach and Tiff, two adult children, who both came through CFI. My passions these days include traveling with my family, reading a great book, being active in my church, and volunteering at a very special children’s home in Honduras. One day I dream of hiking the Grand Canyon.

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Laura Dean

I was born and raised here in Columbia, South Carolina. I attended the University of South Carolina Honors College and graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Early Childhood Education with leadership distinction. I found a love for teaching through teaching dance at my home studio.  This experience and one as an Americorps Vista in Mississippi pushed me to pursue early childhood education. I love reading, exploring new places, and learning through action and inquiry. It is at the core of my own educational experiences and my teaching style. I love the passion for learning that characterizes the staff, ideals, and curriculum of CFI so I am very blessed to be here.  In my spare time I love reading, dance, and sitting outside with a good cup of coffee.

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Tiffany Palmatier

I was born and raised in Springfield, South Carolina where one could easily miss the wonders tucked within the trees, dirt roads, and fields. Yes, it’s that small. During my sophomore year of high school my basketball coach told me I was going to be a teacher. At the time I was very confused, but clearly, he was right. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! I am drawn to the brilliance young minds bring into the classroom.
I completed my undergraduate and graduate studies (both in Early Childhood Education) at the University of South Carolina. Prior to teaching at CFI, I taught first grade at a neighboring school in the district. When I’m away from school I enjoy spending time with my husband, Roger. We have a cute 9-year-old Chihuahua named, Lil’ Mama who is so spoiled! I also love reading critical literature, spending time outdoors, serving at my church, and savoring the simple things in life. We have friends and family all over, so we love traveling to see those we hold dear.

Susan Bolte

My name is Susan Bolte and I worked as a nurse for 23 years before returning to school to pursue my dream of teaching elementary school.  I graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Teaching from Columbia International University in 2008. I have been living, learning, and loving life in the K/1 loop at Center for Inquiry ever since.

My husband, Mark, is a professor at Columbia International University. He teaches in the Clinical Psychology program. My son, Scott, lives in Asheville, NC and is majoring in philosophy at UNCA. My younger son, Reese, attends CIU and is majoring in Intercultural Community Development. When I’m not working on school work, our family loves to spend time hiking, rock climbing, gardening, riding horses, reading books, and adventuring together.



Samantha Hardin
Kindergarten Assistant

Lisa Smith
Kindergarten Assistant

Lisa Smith is excited to be changing roles in the Center for Inquiry family! As a Center parent she has watched the kids cross the carpool drop off and start their mornings with heart felt greetings and warm hugs for eight years! She knew immediately this was a place she would love to work.
She and her husband, Jud, have four children, three of whom have attended CFI. When she learned about CFI she knew that this was a place where their kids could learn in a creative environment with people who enjoyed watching the children grow!
Lisa was raised right here in Northeast Columbia most of her life. She graduated with her husband from Richland Northeast High School in the days of disco music and big hair! “This area has changed a great deal. We have choices for our kids now that weren’t available too long ago. I am happy be in a place where tradition and history are important as we look to the future for our kids' education!