English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

The ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program is designed for international students who are serious about learning English in order to earn an American high school diploma or university degree.  Students with varying levels of English language proficiency are accepted into the program.  The curriculum includes language development using traditional classroom subjects (science, social studies, and math), oral language practice, and field trips.  American homestay is available as needed, and serves as an excellent avenue for language proficiency.  

Most international students need a full year of language study to achieve a level of English proficiency that makes it possible for them to be successful in mainstream classes. Our program has 3 levels of instruction. Level 1 is for students with minimal English proficiency. These students are not eligible for most high school credits. Level 2 is for students with intermediate language proficiency. These students may earn some high school credits.  Level 3 is for students with sufficient English language to allow them to transition into mainstream classes. Level 3 students are eligible to earn high school credits and will continue to receive ESOL support as needed. Transition between levels is made at semester's end, following student progress evaluation.

Our program is a fully accredited high school program. High school students who complete the first two years of high school at our academy (grades 9-10) are equipped to matriculate to other pretigious private schools in our area for the completion of high school and preparation for eventual university acceptance.  Many of our students attend prestigious universities in the United States. (See International Student under Admissions tab)

Marty ChedalavadaMS.Ed Speech Pathology & Audiology

Endorsements: NAD Professional Certificate, Spanish Jr Academy: Physical Education, Art, English

Biographical Information

Marty Chedalavada, or “Mrs. Ched,” hails from Venezuela, South America. She studied speech therapy and audiology in both her undergraduate and graduate programs at Howard University and Old Dominion University, respectively, working her way through school with a providential job at the National Institute of Health. Although she worked early on at the National Cancer Institute, she says she followed her children to school and moved into the education field.

At Tidewater Adventist Academy in Chesapeake, Virginia, Mrs. Ched taught several classes, as well as served as the registrar and athletic director. She holds certifications in Art, P.E., and Spanish. Currently, Mrs. Ched teaches Spanish to all grades at Atholton and art to grades seven and eight. She says one of her favorite teaching moments is when a student says, “I get it!”  If students don’t try hard enough, though, they will likely hear another of Mrs. Ched’s favorite sayings, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” 

Mrs. Ched and her family live an active life and manage to fit in several forms of recreation. Mrs. Ched runs, bikes, and coaches sports and gymnastics. For the last two and a half years she has started signing up for races, and has done three to four a year since then. She’s run several 5Ks, two 10Ks, three half-marathons, and one full marathon. Mrs. Ched also has some less demanding hobbies. She loves to sing, photograph all sorts of things, create pottery, and make all types of crafts. Her travels have taken her to Puerto Rico, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Someday she says she’d like to serve as a missionary “somewhere where there’s a real need, where even simple things you do for people are big.”  This dream hints at Mrs. Ched’s generosity and the big heart students learn she has.

Mark O'FfillMDiv Theology, BA Theology, Ordained

Endorsements: NAD Professional Certificate -- Elementary Education, Computer Applications, English, Religion, and Jr Academy Social Studies

Biographical Information

Pastor Mark O'Ffill has had two careers.  After finishing he divinity degree, Pastor Mark served as a youth pastor in California. He loves young people and wants to be where the kids are.  Realizing that during the week students are in school led him to return to school and complete requirements for a professional teaching certificate. Currently, he operates in both roles as chaplain and teacher.

Pastor Mark, as he is affectionately called, has been a youth pastor, teacher, and school administrator - but most importantly he loves to spend time with young people, helping them discover a forever friendship with Jesus Christ.  He loves to read biographies, short stories, and inspirational literature, especially by authors such as C.S. Lewis, Phillip Yancy, Rudyard Kipling, and Mark Twain.  

In his spare time Pastor Mark loves to travel and has been to 49 states in the US as well as Canada, Germany, Greece, Israel, and Jordan.  His favorite places include the Sea of Galilee, Israel; Ruins of Athens, Greece; Monument Valley, Everglades, and San Francisco.  He especially enjoys traveling with his family, a camera, a geocaching GPS and a rock hammer - though when visiting his favorite National Parks like Banff, Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Isle Royal, he "takes only pictures and leaves only footprints."  He often reminds his students that Christians should be the best examples of eco-consciousness. "After all," he says, "God put us in charge of the Garden of Eden and commanded that we take care of it!  We may have messed up Eden, but we CAN improve the world around us!"

Pastor Mark enjoys following a variety of sports, including Major League Baseball and  the NFL. His favorite professional teams are the Atlanta Braves and Indianapolis Colts, though he now has a soft-spot for the Denver Broncos, since "they have OUR quarterback."  Recreationally, volleyball, softball, flag football, and soccer are Pastor Mark's favorites. 

Pastor Mark states "I love teaching because it allows me the opportunity to engage the learner in both an academic and spiritual process.  As we become educated in how great persons of faith handled their lives and made their decisions in the past, we can become educated and impressed with how we too can experience a personal, living, giving relationship with God and how we can make a difference in our world."

Heidi DecenaM.Ed. Instructional Leadership with Reading Emphasis, BA Liberal Studies

Endorsements: Elementary Education; Reading, English, ESOL, Jr. Academy: Bible, General Science, Math, Social Studies

Biographical Information

Heidi Decena was born and raised in Southern California and completed her high school education at Orangewood Adventist Academy (CA).  She completed a liberal studies degree at Pacific Union College after desiring to spend time in the rainier, greener parts of California. She enthusiastically pursued major elementary education after working as a day camp counselor at her home church in Orange County, California. Those summer days were filled with abounding energy, the smiles of 60 children, and too-many-to-count learning opportunities.  She couldn’t believe she was getting paid to do work that was tremendously rewarding.  After expressing the desire to lesson plan and create art and science lessons for the following year immediately after the summer program ended, she became the Day Camp Director and changed her major from Nutrition to elementary education with the goal of one day pursuing special education.

After graduating with her BA in 2002, she was asked to return to Pacific Union College as a recipient of the graduate assistant scholarship to pursue her Master’s degree in Instructional Leadership, which was completed in 2004.  After graduating, she stayed home to raise her two sons, Luke and Aidan, and provided in-home educational assistance to different students and their families until returning to the classroom in 2014.  

She has worked with students from a wide variety of ages, backgrounds and learning needs, from pre-k to assisting adult learners. She enjoys individualizing instruction to meet her students’ needs where they are at in their English learning, and helping students master the skills they need in order to continually achieve their academic goals.  

Her family has been fortunate to live in beautiful incredible places such as San Diego to the Napa Valley all thanks to the churches her husband, Jason,  has had the opportunity to serve in as associate pastor.  The Decena family was fortunate to add Maryland to that list when Jason started working at the New Hope Adventist Church in 2014. 


Mrs. Decena enjoys the beauty of all the seasons of Maryland and traveling to the many museums and historical sites that are nearby.   She enjoys cooking, gardening, listening to the many sounds of music that come from their residence, and she is even known for attempting to play the accordion herself.  Mrs. Decena appreciates learning about different cultures, meeting people and hearing people’s life stories.  She is excited to continually see the many surprises and adventures that God has waiting for all of us each day.

Jeremy VillanuevaMS Public History, BA History

Endorsements: History, Sociology, Jr. Academy Bible

Biographical Information

Jeremy Villanueva, or Mr. V, grew up in New Jersey with three brothers and a Doberman Pincher named Sable who ate as much as the boys did and enjoyed all their favorite activities—eating, sleeping, watching TV, wrestling, and playing with a ball.  Despite his busy schedule of childhood activities, Mr. V managed to finish elementary school a year early at his small church school where, despite adjustments, he somehow ended up in the same classroom every year from grade one to grade nine. 

While earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Rutger’s University, Mr. V led out in the youth department of his local church, organizing events, bringing kids to church, and leading out in meetings and activities.  Mr. V’s spare time was filled with sports; he took up indoor climbing and bowling with friends.  But mostly, he played volleyball and basketball, often driving all over New Jersey with friends to amateur league games.  

After graduating from Rutger’s, Mr. V worked in marketing research.  Several boring years into that job, Mr. V decided to earn his teaching certificate and go into education where he could make a difference in people’s lives - and not be so bored at work.  He earned his teaching certification at Washington Adventist University.  Before coming to Atholton, Mr. V worked with autistic youth and then did substitute teaching in Washington County schools. 

Joining the Atholton faculty once-and-for-all ended Mr. V’s worries about boredom at work.  Now his dream is to retire and become a competitive eater, but Mrs. V doesn’t think that’s a good idea.  In the meantime, Mr. V samples area restaurants, Mrs. V’s ethnic cooking attempts, and whatever other interesting food people offer him.  He also plays at least three different sports a week, usually taking Mrs. V with him, and is making progress in turning her into a Philadelphia sports fan like him. 

Beth VillanuevaBS Language Arts Education

Endorsements: English, Communication, ESL, Keyboard, Jr. Academy General Science

Biographical Information

Beth Villanueva attended Southern Adventist University and graduated from Union College with a Language Arts Education degree. She has worked at Atholton Adventist Academy for six years as our upper grade English teacher. She also has been instrumental in making it possible to have computer instruction available for our younger students.

Mrs. V grew up as a missionary kid and lived in Zimbabwe and the Philippines besides several U.S. states. This background has given her a love for travel, photography, and learning about history, culture, and people. She's had a few unique experiences along the way such as petting a wild Zebra, exploring ancient ruins on three continents and in Micronesia, and vacationing where tourists never go. She loves long U.S. road trips and keeps an atlas with every highway she's traveled on highlighted - only three more states and she'll have been to all 50.

When Mrs. V is not traveling around the world - which is sadly most of the time - she enjoys keeping active at home with whatever sport friends are playing.  She loves soccer and volleyball.  And now Mr. V has turned her into a hockey player and a wall climber as well.  Mrs. V also loves the outdoors and loves camping and hiking.  When she has to stay home, Mrs. V enjoys trying out new ethnic recipes and hosting friends and family.  If stuck home alone, she'll do crafts, a puzzle, or watch a documentary with Mr. V.  Mrs. V does not know what it is to be "bored."

"Teaching was the only career I could see myself enjoying for the rest of my life," she says. "Every day, every class, every year is a new adventure, a fresh challenge." But in a broader respect, she says, "What I love best about teaching are the conversations that we get to have about life's big questions and issues, the growth and new understandings that I see students gain as time goes by, and the friendships that teaching allows me to nurture."