4th & 5th Grade Teachers

Sara Tretter
4th & 5th Grade Teacher
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Sara’s Class Blog

I grew up in a big family (6 girls!) in New Hampshire, and went to college in New York City.  After graduating from the City College of New York with a BA in English, I became a New York City Teaching Fellow.  I taught 4th and 5th grades for 3 years in New York, then moved to Portland, where I found a job as a 4th grade teacher at Portland Jewish Academy.  After 3 great years at PJA, I spent a challenging year living and teaching in a small Yup’ik village in the Alaskan bush. When I arrived back in Portland in summer 2010, I was thrilled to find a position at Trillium.

I’ve worked with all kinds of kids in my 8 years of teaching: kids from the city, kids from the suburbs, and kids from a village so isolated you can only get there by bush plane; kids from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds; kids who speak English as their native language and kids who are just learning it; kids who read years beyond their grade level and kids who struggle to read at all. Each child is unique and wonderful, and yet there are some universal qualities shared by children everywhere that have captured my heart and engaged my intellect in every class I’ve taught: curiosity, compassion, and a natural tendency to question and push at the boundaries of the possible.

I love teaching, and my particular passion is in literacy education: I’m a voracious reader and an ambitious writer, and I find great joy in exploring and playing with the written word with my students. I recently completed my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction through Portland State, as well as an endorsement as a Reading Specialist through the Read Oregon program.

Trillium is a wonderful place to teach.  I feel challenged and inspired every day to facilitate learning experiences that are rigorous, engaging, and meaningful, yet at the same time I have the freedom to follow my students’ leads, to follow my own passions, and to let go of my need to control my kids or my classroom.  My students and I work together and learn together, and every day brings new ideas, challenges, and discoveries.

Lauren Kristensen
4th & 5th Grade Teacher
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Lauren’s Class Blog

It would be impossible for me to explain who I am without diving in head first and beginning by writing about my love of swimming. Growing up in Southern California I spent countless hours around the water and it seems as though from the moment I could walk, I found myself splashing around in the pool! Competitive swimming taught me how to push myself both physically and mentally, and my time in the pool showed me that success requires work and confidence in your ability to learn and make changes. There is no better feeling than realizing that your mind can overcome any limits you might have and I work every day to instill the value of practice in my students. Swimming holds a special place in my heart because coaching my local swim team was my first introduction to teaching and my experience as a collegiate swimmer at Claremont McKenna College (thank you Coach Charlie!) helped me develop a strong sense of teamwork. This year I am excited to embark on a journey with a new team and I couldn’t be happier to be at Trillium where team teaching and group thinking drive learning every day!

I come to Trillium with a strong background in behavioral therapy and an immense love for children diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. Before becoming a classroom teacher I discovered the joys of learning as the children I worked with taught me what it was to see and hear the world in a different way. As a behavioral therapist I spent three years working to develop speech and self-sufficiency in each of my children and the need I saw for teachers trained to work with special populations inspired me to become and educator. Moving to Oregon from sunny California to attend graduate school was a difficult transition, but the graduate program that I attended made every drop of rain worth it! During my two years at Marylhurst University I was able to attend graduate teaching classes in the evenings while working full time teaching kindergarten and first grade at the Arbor School of Arts and Sciences. Every day I was able to apply what I was studying at Marylhurst in my own classroom and since moving to Oregon, I have had the opportunity to spend the last three years bringing my passion for hands on learning to kindergarten, first grade, and fourth grade students.

Now to get personal! I am a California girl through and through and my students often hear me exclaim that it’s a “SUNGLASSES RECESS!” whenever a glimmer of sunshine might break through outside! In addition to my love of sunshine I also was born with a very strong sweet tooth and my cravings for frozen yogurt and rainbow sprinkles are legendary amongst my group of friends. My dog’s name is Venus and she is the sweetest Chiwennie you will ever meet. I spend my free time visiting the dog park, playing SET and hoping for sun…

Cami Touloukian
4th & 5th Grade Teacher
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Cami’s Class Blog

I was fortunate to grow up in a small city in Indiana where the local community was enriched by a university which drew people from all over the world. As an elementary student, my best friends were from Russia, Ethiopia, and Mongolia. Growing up around people from different cultures and walks of life taught me to see the beauty in each of our differences. I believe that each child in my classroom brings with them a special uniqueness that should be celebrated. I spend a lot of time getting to know my students and building a supportive classroom community where each student’s needs are met and their individuality is appreciated.

My teaching journey also began in Indiana, where I completed my M.S. in Elementary Education at Indiana University. During my time as a student I was given the opportunity to work in two multi-age classrooms and I taught at every age level ranging from preschool through sixth grade. Upon graduation, I taught fifth grade at the Lincoln Academy of Integrated Arts, a charter school in Davenport, IA. This experience gave me the chance to help students learn to connect through various forms of artistic expression. I found that incorporating the arts makes learning so much more meaningful and relevant to students’ lives. I love to incorporate music, visual arts, and drama into my daily teaching.

Unfortunately I realized that I couldn’t stay in Iowa forever… It is just too cold! So, my husband and I relocated to Pittsburgh, PA. (I know it is still cold there, but they have a great university). While living in Pittsburgh, I taught second grade at Winchester Thurston, a nationally recognized independent school. I was lucky to have the chance to teach with some amazing educators, who taught me a lot about what makes a school like Winchester so successful. I know that the teachers at Trillium are just as amazing and I am humbled to be joining the 3-4-5 team.

Other than teaching, I love to spend my time going to the dog park, practicing yoga, reading, and playing scrabble online with my mom and sister in Indiana. And, of course, you can’t live in Portland without enjoying hiking! I live with my brilliant husband and my little puppy, a golden retriever named Eleanor Rigby (“Elle” for short). I am a self confessed super organized/neat freak and have spent a lot of time in the classroom this summer cleaning and organizing (strangely because I think it is fun!) I cannot wait for the school year to begin, as teaching is probably my favorite hobby!