Meet our teachers

Empowered Minds, formerly Yoga Kidz, started in 2008 as the brainchild of Charleston philanthropist Jerry Scheer and yoga instructor and occupational therapist, Leigh Crowder-Biearman. Gary Smith joined soon thereafter and developed the mindfulness program. Empowered Minds is supported by Homegrown Hospitality Group, local businesses and individuals, along with the generosity of volunteers who teach the students.

We need your help, either financial or by volunteering to teach, to keep growing and offering our services to more students and schools!


leigh round.jpg

Leigh Crowder-Biearman | Executive Director

As a pediatric occupational therapist Leigh has worked with children with a variety of special needs, in school, hospital and early intervention settings. She has a combined over 1,000 hours training in medical therapeutic yoga and hatha yoga, as well as several children’s yoga certifications and mindfulness in schools training. With her background working with schools, in 2008 Leigh had the opportunity to start the non-profit Yoga Kidz with support from the T-Bonz Foundation. Now as Empowered Minds, the program brings yoga to hundreds of students in Title I schools in both Charleston and Horry County School Districts.

Gary Smith | Mindfulness Director

Gary Smith, an author and journalist, began teaching yoga to schoolchildren in 2008, our program's first year. Several years later -- having attended several mindfulness retreats and wanting to develop a second track for the program to increase the likelihood that the practices of awareness and kindness would become ingrained -- he began teaching 15-minute mindfulness sessions and created a full year's curriculum that he and other Empowered Minds teachers use to teach weekly mindfulness classes.


Meet our other teachers:

 
 

Kimberly Markin

What makes you laugh out loud?
My hubbys impersonations
What is your favorite past time?
Anything outside in nature
Why do want/like teaching for Yoga Kidz?
I love being able to share something that has given me so much with others who may not be exposed to it otherwise
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Peace and balance

 

Jennifer Grove

What makes you laugh out loud?
Things that animals do that are cute
What is your favorite past time?
Cooking
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I love interacting with the children and the teachers, it is very satisfying to see those smiling faces
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Stress and relaxation

 

Jennifer Rogers

What makes you laugh out loud?
Funny movies
What is your favorite past time?
Walks on the beach
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I love practicing with children and experiencing the teachings of yoga through their eyes.
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
To center and grow.

 

Sue Doucher

What makes you laugh out loud?
puppies
What is your favorite past time?
hiking
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
because it's so important for children to learn about yoga & mindfulness
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
sanity & happiness

 

Chelsea Vurgason

What makes you laugh out loud?
funny dance moves
What is your favorite past time?
reading
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
to teach children how to use their breath and listen to their bodies!
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Connection and Clarity

 

Caroline BrennaN

What makes you laugh out loud?
My children's sense of humor!
What is your favorite past time?
My children's sense of humor!
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
This experience is expanding me and I feel grateful to be in service to others!
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Happiness and freedom

 

Liz King

What makes you laugh out loud?
When someone accidentally gets hurt- terrible i know
What is your favorite past time?
Sitting on the beach under and umbrella.
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I love teaching children good ways to move their bodies and techniques to calm their minds
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Centering and consciousness

 

Alex Seaman

What makes you laugh out loud?
Passing stinky gas in a room full of people!
What is your favorite past time?
Swimming in the ocean
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
Despite challenging me in ways I never dreamed that I could be challenged, Yoga Kidz has brought more joy, more laughter, and more inspiration to my life than any other work I have done. The children inspire me in ways I can barely explain, and their hearts are so huge and so wild – so rebellious, and sometimes defiant – that they encourage me to be stronger. In this way, I am honored to share the teachings that have transformed my life with the children that inspire me to keep going. In love and in union we dwell!
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Personal change 

 

Tammy Villacres

What makes you laugh out loud?
My daughters when they are rapping
What is your favorite past time?
Reading, yoga and spending time with friends and family
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I want to teach and inspire peace
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Calm and purpose

 

Amirah Kinlaw

What makes you laugh out loud?
Almost everything. I am pretty groofy at heart
What is your favorite past time?
spending time with my family,
Why do want/like teaching for Yoga Kidz?
Doing something I love while helping kiddos
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
inner growth

 

nicolette cerne

What makes you laugh out loud?
Almost anything, but especially my pug, Lucy.
What is your favorite past time?
I look to go to the gym and the movies.
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I look kids and yoga is a great way to teach them to be comfortable with being themselves.
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Inner Peace

anna walston

What makes you laugh out loud?
My Son
What is your favorite past time?
Sitting Outside
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I enjoy being able to share yoga and mindfulness with the students.
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Quiet Moments

 

katherinel Lasky

What makes you laugh out loud?
Cats being mischevious.
What is your favorite past time?
Spending time in the outdoors.
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
The children inspire me to view the world from a fresh perspective and in turn I love sharing tools to promote their physical and emotional health and well-being!
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Presence and Patience

 

Elizabeth perron

What makes you laugh out loud?
Amy Poehler
What is your favorite past time?
Hanging out with my family!
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I like teaching kids skills to calm their minds and bodies.
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Joyful Living

 

Jenifer Mahanes

What makes you laugh out loud?
I laugh out loud when I hear children laughing and enjoying life.
What is your favorite past time?
My favorite past time is teaching yoga and offering massage with kindness and compassion offering comfort to those in need. 
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I feel yoga offers many beautiful gifts to each student that I couldn't offer as a classroom teacher.
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Yoga brings me to a place of self acceptance(Love) and Peace

 

Judith Greenfarb

What makes you laugh out loud?
Life's spontaneous and unexpected moments of joy
What is your favorite past time?
Taking long walks on the beach
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
Theses children teach me so much more than I could ever teach them
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Peace and calm

 

Katie waites

What makes you laugh out loud?
When it snows in South Carolina - snow days make me giddy like a little girl :)
What is your favorite past time?
Yoga, Painting, Travel and Photography
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I want to bring peace and happiness thru mindfulness to a younger generation. I am an overachiever and type A and wish I had learned the powers of mindfulness as a child! Plus, I love kids - they also make me laugh out loud :)
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Peace Love

 

bobby jenrow

What makes you laugh out loud?
Fainting Goats!
What is your favorite past time?
Rock Climbing
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
Yoga Kidz teaches immensely important life skills, and I am excited to help introduce them to as many kids as possible.
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Personal development

 

lauren moore

What makes you laugh out loud?
Nights in with my friends
What is your favorite past time?
Paddle boarding, hiking, & yoga
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
I hope to share these practices that have been so special to me and to aid in cultivating some peace in the often chaotic work of today.
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Self Care

 

Joe vinciguerra

What makes you laugh out loud?
Comedy movie, stand up
What is your favorite past time?
Yoga and Paddleboarding
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
Teaching that peace and power are all within you.
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Being Kind!

 

Alex White

What makes you laugh out loud?
Surprises, the things children say
What is your favorite past time?
Reading and Yoga!
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
Yoga Kidz is such a pure experience for me. The authentic responses from the students, the look on their faces when they accomplish what they have been striving for; Yoga Kidz is a constant source of inspiration!
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
Introspection; Curiosity

 

Merideth Garrigan 

What makes you laugh out loud?
Children
What is your favorite past time?
Concerts
Why do want/like teaching for EM?
mindulness and breathing
Two words that describe why you practice yoga and mindfulness.
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