Summer 2023 Staff

Meet the Staff for Summer 2023 at the Farm

Christine Burkhart
Owner, Director, Lead Teacher

My name is Chris and I am the proud owner of Building Connections! Dreams do come true and blessings abound! I have been working in various capacities with neurodiverse children and families for 27 years! I founded BC in 2017 and we have grown tremendously since then, impacting numerous children, families, schools, teachers in Wake and surrounding counties! I love singing, thrifting, traveling, working outside, going to the beach, cheering on my children in their passions, and spending quality time with family and friends! I have been married to my best friend, whose name is also Chris- for 22 years in November! We have 2 children, Jackson and Julia who both work for BC! We have 2 dogs, Magnolia and Lincoln and one cat whose name is of course, Kitty. My husband and I are both PIRATES, and our children are a TIGER and WOLFPACK! We are ok with that! I am honored to be able to serve and support your family this summer and I genuinely hope your child flourishes in our programs this summer!

Sarah Wetherington
Lead Teacher

Hi! My name is Sarah Wetherington and I am excited to be part of the Building Connections Team! I have eight years of experience in the classroom, serving as a preschool and kindergarten teacher. I began my career in Enterprise, AL where I taught for three years before moving to North Carolina. I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Early/Elementary Education from the University of Mobile in Mobile, Alabama. Since joining Building Connections in 2019, I have had the privilege to work with diverse learners ages 3-18 and their families serving as an itinerant teacher and a social skills coach. I enjoy helping families to connect with other resources and professionals in the community as making connections and building relationships is at the heart of what I do.  In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband Ryan and my fur-babies Bear and Tilly! I look forward to getting to know all of you – working closely with you and your child to make sure he/she is taking steps towards success!

photographed by The Lara Collective

photographed by The Lara Collective

Suzann Novak
Lead Teacher

Hello! My name is Suzann and I am thrilled to be a part of the Building Connections family. I have worked with Prek-teens since beginning with Building Connections in 2020. I graduated from Meredith College with a Bachelors of Science in Child Development in 2013. While attending Meredith College, I had the opportunity to work with children in many different settings. I worked with The Meredith Autism Program and taught Applied Behavior Analysis, along with the Child Development House on campus working with infancy through two years of age. Previously I taught at a Developmental Day Center in Wake County but most recently I taught and provided teacher support in a regular education private preschool,. I have a love for children that exudes my passion for helping children understand their feelings while communicating in an effective way. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband Joe and our two dogs, Gus and Kallie. I enjoy training my dogs, boating, cheering on the Wolfpack, hunting, fishing and spending time with my extended family. I look forward to working with your family and children!

Caroline Tatum-Carter
Lead Pre-K Teacher

I have worked at Project Enlightenment as a Teacher Parent Consultant for 22 years. I have a degree in speech and hearing science from UNC and a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. I live with my husband Tripp who is a special education teacher and we have two sons, Aiken and Luke. I love to be at the Outer Banks and I like to stand up paddle board. I love Hurricanes Hockey and coffee! I’m excited about being at Building Connections this summer.

Lyn Hernandez
Lead Teacher, SLP

My name is Lyn Hernandez, and this is my first year with Building Connections. I am a speech language pathologist with over 20 years’ experience, working with preschool through high school aged populations in various school systems. I am also fluent in Spanish!  I attended Brigham Young University and the University of Central Florida, where I completed my master’s degree in communicative disorders. I have three children (2 married) , a new granddaughter, as well as a goldendoodle named Henry. I enjoy traveling, the outdoors, sports, music, reading, cooking, running and eating. I am excited for this new adventure with Building Connections and your family!

Brett Reif
Lead Teacher

I am excited to be starting my second summer on staff at Building Connections. I have been in education for the past 15 years and I have taught every age group and in many different settings. I enjoy working with children with special needs and those that are otherwise marginalized. It is very rewarding when the light bulbs go off and a joy for learning is cultivated. I am licensed in special education adapted curriculum and general curriculum. I have a  B.S. in Psychology from Colorado Christian University, an M.S in Educational Psychology from Capella University, and an Ed. S. in Educational Leadership from Regent. When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my amazing wife, two little ones, and my dog. I am very much an outdoors person and I enjoy playing sports. Writing is a passion of mine and I am currently working on my 4th book. I look forward to working with you and your children this summer!

Jackson Burkhart
Lead Counselor, Facilities Manager

Hi! My name is Jackson Burkhart and I have been working with my mom for about 8 years! I am from Raleigh and I am a rising senior at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, majoring in Biology and also a  member of the soccer team! Soccer is one of my passions, as well as doing anything outdoors, with animals, going to concerts, traveling, and cooking! I enjoy being with kids and teens, watching them grow from the time they come to camp, to the time they leave! I have formed some awesome relationships with kids and families over the years and hope to do the same this year as well! This is going to be an amazing summer on the farm! 

Julia Burkhart
Lead Counselor

Hi! My name is Julia Burkhart and I am a recent graduate of Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy and will be attending NC State University majoring in Animal Sciences! GO PACK! I love having the opportunity to work with so many amazing kids and families and I have been for so many years. Like Jackson, I have been working with my mom for many years and love forming strong connections with kids and their families! I love tumbling, traveling, anything with animals, shopping, and spending time with family and friends! I have witnessed the benefits of being on a farm and doing the work we do and it is truly magical to watch! I can’t wait to meet you!

Maddie Laber
Lead Counselor, Horse Leader

I’m Maddie Laber. I love horses and own two, and have been riding since I was little! I’m currently competing in eventing with my five year old quarter horse, Chip! I’ve been with Building Connections since 2020. I’ve been lucky enough to watch the amazing process of our growth to the farm. I currently attend Cardinal Gibbons high school, and am working to do horse therapy for kiddos (hippotherapy) in my future, similar to BC! I’m looking forward to sharing the same magical effects of horses that my horses give me to others at camp!

Hannah Davis
Lead Counselor

I have been with BC since 2019 and this will be my 5th summer! I am a rising senior at East Carolina University studying Birth-Kindergarten Education. I am hoping to work in special education once I graduate. I love forming relationships with kiddos at camp so I can’ wait to see all of our returning kids as well as form relationships with the new kiddos!

Whitney Wilson
Lead Counselor

Hello! My name is Whitney and this will be my third summer working for Building Connections! I am currently a rising senior attending Broughton High School. My original interest in being an educator as a career path influenced me to want to enhance my skills with younger children. I was drawn to Building Connections because they provide a structured environment to help teach leadership skills and nurture the curiosities of each camper. In my free time, I enjoy reading, taking bike rides, art, and baking with my siblings. I’m looking forward to these upcoming camps because I will be able to meet new kids and explore the farm!

Nia Stringfield

 My name is Nia Stringfield. I am a 10th grader at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy.  I am currently enrolled in the Nurse Aide program. I have  been with the Building Connections family for almost 4 years. In the future, I hope to become an occupational therapist. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, playing softball, doing art, playing viola, and spinning time with family and friends. Working with kids is a strong passion I have, and it brings me much enjoyment. I am looking forward to working, having fun, and building a relationship with each kid at camp this summer.

Regan Stringfield

I am Regan Stringfield and I like art/crafts.  Currently, I am in the 7th grade at Centennial Campus Middle School.  I have been a part of the Building Connections Family for more than 5 years.  I’m looking forward to seeing you all!

Ashley Pettruny
Lead Social Skills Teacher

My name is Ashley Pettruny. I am blessed to have my faith and my family! I married my high school sweetheart and we just celebrated our 30 year anniversary! We have three amazing children, Richie married to Allison, Michael engaged to Emily, and Kelly engaged to John. I am originally from Virginia Beach, VA. We have 10 chickens and 2 Kunekune pigs. We also have bees! I am a lifelong learner and love to read. I have a degree in Psychology from Christopher Newport University and teaching from Virginia Wesleyan. I am currently a special education teacher in Wake County.

Lucy Bertram
Lead Counselor, New Counselor Coach

My name is Lucy Bertram and I have worked at Building Connections for 4 years! I am a rising junior at Broughton High School and I want to pursuit a career in health and exercise science. Outside of working with kids, I enjoy playing softball and being outside with my family. We often paddle board or play frisbee. I can’t wait to see all the kids’ smiling faces this summer!

Cole Harpham

My name is Cole and I’m in 9th grade at Apex Friendship High School. I love to play basketball and I swam on a team for 9 years. I started attending the social skills groups in mid 2022. I’m looking forward to spending time with all the kids and animals. You guys will be surprised by how much fun this camp is going to be. We have all kinds of activities planned and just wait until you hug a goat.

JJ Seidel

Hi everyone! My name is Jared but most people call me JJ and this is my first year at BC. I enjoy playing soccer, discovering new music, and being outside as much as possible. I am a rising sophomore at Tulane University and am hoping to become a doctor someday. In my family, my mom is a pediatrician, my older sister works in marketing in New York City, and we have a small dog named Hazel who we love very much. What I’m most looking forward to at camp this year is making new friends and playing with all the little goats. I can’t wait for a great summer and to meet everyone!

Zoë Edge

I don’t have much experience with BC, but my brother has been going there for two years. Even though I’m new to camp I do have plenty of experience on the farm where I will mainly be taking care of the horses (Which I am very excited about).  Next year I will be entering middle school as a sixth grader at Ligon, and I am very hopeful about the new year! When I grow up I hope to be an entrepreneur and to run my own business like Mrs Chris. And I hope to be a valuable asset to the team (Plus I am so excited about starting the summer with Building Connections!!!).