Biographies of Board Officers, Directors and Staff

Sue B. Albaugh – Executive Director

Sue graduated from Longwood College with a B.S. in Education and obtained her M.Ed. in Administration & Supervision from Virginia Commonwealth University. She began her career as a classroom teacher in Henrico County, worked as a gifted  resource teacher in Hanover, and retired as the Instructional Specialist for Gifted Education in Chesterfield County Public Schools. She currently teaches endorsement courses in gifted education as an adjunct instructor for the University of Richmond. Sue has been referring students to Jacob’s Ladder and visiting camp for over a decade. She is honored to serve Jacob’s Ladder in this capacity, working hand-in-hand with Aubrey Hall and staff to grow the future together. Sue is married to John and has two adult daughters Megan and Kelsey, son-in-law Jake, and grandson Henry.

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and the shadows will fall behind you.”     ~ Walt Whitman

W. Aubrey Hall – Founder and Executive Director Emeritus

Aubrey graduated from the University of Richmond with a BA degree in Education and began his career as a music coordinator and athletic coach in the Culpeper School system, later working as the a biology teacher and Athletic Director at Christchurch School in Christchurch, VA. After leaving Christchurch, he worked for seven years with Delmarva Properties as the Director of Marketing and Sales. In the late 1980’s, Aubrey went on a summer mission trip to the Eastern Shore. It was there – working with the children of migrant farm workers – that he recognized that bright, at-risk students were often overlooked by traditional gifted programs. In 1991, he started Jacob’s Ladder to provide gifted, at-risk students the opportunity to reach their full potential, and provide these students the support they would need year-round to excel.

Peg Davis – Board Chair

Peg is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and holds a masters degree from the University of Virginia in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in gifted education. She spent 33 years in education and had direct contact or responsibility for gifted learners for 29 of those years. On the subject of gifted education she is firm in the belief that gifted students deserve an equal opportunity for an appropriate education just as much as those with special needs.

Often the gifted are asked ‘to just act normal’ (as one parent repeatedly told her daughter), ‘to quit trying to be so smart,’ or ‘to get in the real world.’  The general population does not understand that the gifted see life from an entirely different perspective. They have an acute sense of justice, and an ability to assimilate a vast store of information from different fields, and a vision of the ‘whole’ while others see ‘parts.’

Although she feels that she received a strong liberal arts education at William and Mary, her own education did not really come together until later in life. One of the “unintended consequences” of her four years at William and Mary was the understanding that because she had received so much, she had a responsibility to give something of herself back to society. Peg states “my professional career and the opportunity to be a part of Jacob’s Ladder are among the most challenging and fulfilling ways I have tried to make our world a bit better than I found it.”

Joanne Ruffa – Middle School Advocacy and Summer Camp Director

Joanne grew up in Petersburg,Virginia, and after high school attended Madison College ( now JMU), then Virginia Commonwealth University for a graduate degree in counselor education. She worked for 30 years in Essex County as an elementary teacher, then a Visiting teacher (school social worker), a middle school counselor, and high school tennis coach. Joanne retired from public education and began working with Jacob’s Ladder. She has been with the program for 15 years, first as the counselor-in-residence and serving since 2013 as Summer Camp Director.

When not working with JL, Joanne enjoys travel, gardening, most water sports, and the thrill of seeing Climbers grow and develop into kind, successful adults.

Palmer Castrodale – High School Advocate and Summer Activities/RA Director

Palmer grew up near Tappahannock, Virginia. She attended the University of Virginia for both her BA in History and French, and M.Ed. in School Counseling. Remaining in Charlottesville after her time at UVA, she worked as a school counselor in Buckingham County Public Schools for five years. Palmer began working with Jacob’s Ladder in 2006 as an RA, and in 2014 transitioned to Summer Activities Director. She has just joined the year-round team in the new position of High School Advocate.

High School Advocate

The position of High School Advocate (HSA) is an exciting new component for the Jacob’s Ladder Advocacy Program. In addition to receiving support during their middle school years, graduates of the summer camp will receive year-round support and mentoring by the High School Advocate. The HSA will visit all students and work with them to create plans for their future. The individual advising sessions will involve selecting courses, connecting students with area resources, and creating a timeline with important dates in the college/financial aid process.  As part of this Advocacy Program, there will be additional opportunities for enrichment for the high school Climbers. For example, the HSA will organize gatherings by region and age group to visit colleges, learn about summer opportunities, and more. This is an exciting opportunity to provide more support for our Climbers as they grow!

Nicole Pearson – Academic & Performing Arts Programs Director

Nicole attended Belmont University in Nashville, TN where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music and an emphasis in Musical Theater.  She is the Academic Director for the Jacob’s Ladder Summer Enrichment Program.  Nicole also enjoys bringing her passion for musical theater to camp.  She directs a musical each July and loves watching the climbers grow in confidence through this process.

During the school year Nicole wears many “hats”.  She teaches private voice lessons, musical theater classes for CharacterWorks, Kindermusik music classes for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and performs every chance she gets. The very best “hat” is being wife to an incredibly supportive husband and mama to a spirited one year old!