NorthwoodArts Faculty

NHSAEF  Leadership

  • Leslie Burwell—Faculty Liaison
    Leslie is Northwood's visual arts instructor and the NHSAEF Faculty Liaison. Her children Rebecca and Daniel were active members of NorthwoodArts.
  • Gina Harrison—President
    A co-founder of NHSAEF, Gina is past president Chatham Arts Council and recently completed her term as a board member of ArtsNC. Her children, Kevin and Charlotte, were active members of NorthwoodArts.
  • Kym Thacker—Treasurer
    Kym has been in accounting/bookkeeping for over 25 years and also serves as CFO on the Board of Directors of Faithful Hears. She is married with 3 children and 3 grandchildren. Her daughter Holly is a 2015 NHS graduate.
  • Marcie Lorbacher—Board Member
  • Martha Danek—Board Member
  • Lori Carlin—Board Member









Leslie Burwell
(Visual Arts)


Leslie Burwell  received her bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in art and theatre at the University of South Carolina. Leslie taught theater at Zebulon Elementary Arts Magnet. She received her Arts Education Degree at Meredith College  in 1991.


She started teaching Visual Arts at Northwood in 2002. She is a National Board Certified teacher in Art for the young and adult learner. She served for six years as chair of the arts education department. She completed an Action Research Project as member of NC Governor's Teacher Network in 2015.  She was selected as Northwood's Teacher of the Year and Chatham County Teacher of the year for 2015 and 2016. She traveled to South Africa in 2016  as Go Global NC Borchardt Fund Awardee. This summer she attended the first Alumni trip with Go Global NC to Morocco.


She is the proud mom of two NHS Alumni !  Rebecca is a program director at Oberlin College in Ohio.  Daniel works in NYC in Compliance for Bank of America.  She spends free time with her husband Lee, traveling, hiking, and gardening.

Brett Cox
(Instrumental Music)


Brett Cox is the Band Director of the crowd-favorite “Marching Chargers," Symphonic Band, Cop, thencert Band, and Wind Ensemble at Northwood High School. This year marks the 4th year Northwood Bands are under his leadership. In that time, the Marching Chargers, Concert Band, and Wind Ensemble have earned multiple Superior ratings. Mr. Cox has been a music educator of some shape and sort for 8 years.


Mr. Cox attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he received a Bachelor of Music degree with a concentration in Music Education. While at UNC-CH, he studied trombone with Mike Kris and conducting with Tonu Kalam and Dr. Evan Feldman. The UNC Department of Music has invited the Northwood Wind Ensemble to perform at a concert this year with the UNC Symphonic Band at Memorial Hall - February 18, 2018.


In his spare time, Mr. Cox enjoys spending time with his wife of 2 years, Kerrin, and their Goldendoodle, Bella. He also dedicates time to serving in the band and leading a Life Group at the Point Church in Cary, NC. Mr. Cox is a member of: North Carolina Music Educators Association, Central District Bandmaster’s Association


Matthew Hanson
(Choral Music & Guitar)


This is Matthew Hanson's 6th year teaching choral music and guitar at Northwood. He graduated in 2012 from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he received both his Bachelor of Music Performance and Bachelor of Music Education degrees. Hanson is an active member of the National Association for Music Education  as well as the American Choral Director’s Association.


He serves as the faculty advisor for the Tri-M Music Honor Society,  music director/arranger for Northwood’s mixed a cappella group, Pitch Please, and as assistant band director for the Marching Chargers. He resides just outside of Asheboro with his wife, Rebekah, his daughter, Annabelle, and their dog, “Ellie.”




Todd Lawrence
(Technical Theatre)


Todd Lawrence begins his third year at Northwood, teaching Technical Theater. Todd has been working in professional, educational theater and the entertainment industry for over 20 years. He has taught at UNC-Chapel Hill and Virginia Commonwealth University. His secondary teaching includes The Collegiate School in Richmond, VA, The Bullis School in the DC metro area, West Rowan High School and as the Theater Manager at Carrboro High School.  He has worked at theaters such as Stages St. Louis, The Wayside Theatre in VA and The Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY. He received his BA from Catawba College and his MFA from UNC Chapel Hill. Todd lives in Bynum with his wife Rachel, two amazing kids, Cara and Calvin, two dogs, two cats and a bunch of chickens.

Kristen Oakes


Kristen Oakes found her love of dance during her time as a student here at Northwood High. Her teacher, Leah Wilhelm, inspired her to follow her heart and pursue a career in dance. Kristen graduated from Northwood and attended East Carolina University where she received a bachelor’s degree in Dance Education. This is her 6th year teaching at Northwood and she could not be happier to share her dream job with such an amazing and supportive arts department.

Kayla Sharp
(Theatre Arts)


This is Kayla Sharp’s 5th year at Northwood. She is a member of Appalachian Consortium of Theatre Teachers (ACTT) and North Carolina Theatre Arts Educators (NCTAE). She directed her first NHS production, James & the Giant Peach, in November of 2013. She is grateful to be working with such a supportive department and is glad to make Northwood her home. She is married to Warren Sharp. Her dog, Parker, serves as the comedy of her life.


Meagan Shirlen
(Visual Arts & Photography)


Meagan Shirlen received her Master of Arts in Teaching from UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate of Major in Multimedia Arts and Sciences/New Media from UNC-Asheville where she was honored with a Departmental Academic and Leadership Award for Excellence in Creativity. While living in Asheville, she was a photographic contributor to WNC Magazine and worked as a junior designer for Lark Crafts, a craft division of Sterling Publishing. From freelance photography to portrait studio work, Meagan has been loving and practicing the photographic arts since she took her first university photography course in 2002. In addition to photography and the multimedia arts, Meagan has studied drawing and art history at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has also recently enjoyed working with students with autism at both the Little River School and the Durham School of the Arts. This is her 2nd year teaching at Northwood!


As often as possible, Meagan loves to hit all manner of hiking trails, visit the mountains, scour the Internet for intriguing information, explore new places and museums, avidly consume speculative fiction of both written and film varieties, soak up the local culture, and most especially delight in quality time with her friends and family.

Leah Wilhelm


Leah Wilhelm was first inspired to start dancing at the age of 3 after seeing Big Bird in a tutu on Sesame Street. She later went to East Carolina University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Dance Education. This is Leah Wilhelm’s 12th year at Northwood, where she serves as faculty advisor for the National Honor Society for Dance Arts. Previously, she taught dance and art at Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane. She was also a founding member of the Carrboro Dance Company.  She is married to Matt Wilhelm, has an 9-year-old Minecraft maniac named Lincoln, and a super sassy 1 year old named Magnolia.


Arts education coursework, honor societies, competitions, concerts, extracurricular clubs, events and field trips provide comprehensive, standards-based learning experiences for NHS students. Northwood has offered classes in four arts disciplines (visual arts, music, theatre arts, and dance)  for more than 40 years.  An early National Endowment for the Arts grant brought dance to NHS in the 1970s. That visionary effort gives Northwood the distinction of being the oldest, comprehensive, public high school arts education program in North Carolina.


Northwood has chapters of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts, the International Thespian Society, the Tri-M International Music Honor Society, and the National Art Honor Society. In April 2018, NHS received the SupportMusic Merit Award from the NAMM Foundation as part of the National Best Communities for Music Education program. In 2013,  NHS received the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts School of Excellence Award. It is one of five schools in North Carolina to receive the honor for Outstanding Achievement in Arts Education and one of only two high schools. They also received the award in 2002.


NHS Arts Education Foundation supports and promotes the Northwood arts education program. Teacher grants provide resources for the ongoing work of the department, the Carlin Camp Fund supports students' summer arts activities, and annual college scholarships recognize graduates' achievements in the visual and performing arts. Since its inception in 2007, NHSAEF has presented more than $50,000 in scholarships and grants.


In addition to fundraising, NHSAEF members provide promotions assistance, advocacy efforts, and hospitality services at NHS arts events. They volunteer expertise and resources, assist faculty, and serve as consultants, chaperones, or mentors for students.

New members are welcome!!  Contact us to get involved.