I was born and raised in Troy, NY across the Hudson River from the state capitol of Albany. After completing a journalism degree in college I moved out west to try something different, experimenting with good-government lobbying, environmental restoration work and a few other things, eventually resulting in an opportunity to run the Youth Tree Corps program for Friends of Trees. Up until that point I had always avoided working with youth, I knew I didn’t want to be part of an authoritarian system, and hadn’t realized that there were other ways of teaching. When I approached teaching from a collaborative standpoint on my first day, the adjudicated youth responded in an amazing way.
What followed was an incredible, fun and powerful summer that helped me to understand what I wanted to do with my life. Over the next four years I learned more my education philosophy through working as an instructional assistant in the Reynolds School District, an environmental educator in Maine, a Youth Conservation Corps crew leader on Mount Hood, a ropes course facilitator on Orcas Island and a garden program coordinator in Guatemala. Though these were all dramatically different experiences they helped continue to inform my perspective on the power of collaboration and democracy when working with people.
My travels eventually led to an alternative school in Hood River where I set out to bring a Democratic Education model to a school that served adjudicated youth. In five years at the school I moved from teacher to administrator and incorporated a school-wide program that embraced democracy and real world experiences including a magazine written, edited and published by our students a garden program that actually fed our students and foster parents, and a collaborative council of staff and students that made important school-wide decisions and policy.
I completed my Master’s Thesis through Prescott College documenting my work at the Klahre House. I concluded my thesis by asking what Democratic Education would look like in a larger school model? Now, at Trillium, I am thrilled at the opportunity to collaborate with the Trillium community to find the answer to that question.
During my education journey I’ve come to love and respect the work of Paolo Freire, Myles Horton, Debra Meier, Nanci Atwell, Michael Apple and Alfie Kohn. I believe to educate Democratically is always to emphasize working with people, rather than simply doing something to them. This approach has guided and continues to guide my actions and belief in my career in education.
When I am not working I love to get back out to the Gorge for long hikes, ride my bike around Portland, cook and eat great food and fiddle around on my bass guitar.
Head of Lower School
I started teaching in Oregon thirty years ago. Between then and now, I’ve taught every age student, pre-K through adults. I’ve worked in a variety of settings, public and private, including teaching bilingual students K-5, and nearly a decade as the founding artistic director of a large community theatre program serving pre-K through adults. For the last thirteen years before coming to Trillium I was a professor, teaching courses in diversity inclusion, trust culture development, resilience training, effective listening and theatre improvisation. During this time I also provided consulting and training in diversity inclusion and trust culture development for a wide variety of organizations. I’m finishing a doctorate in Educational Leadership; my dissertation explores the balance of structure and freedom in contructivist democratic education. My Masters degree is in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a thesis exploring Improvisation; my Bachelor’s degree is in Communication Studies and Bilingual Education. I’m a white woman in a biracial marriage. Our family is large, close-knit, ranging in age from 18 months to 95 years, and happily, all living in the Portland area. I’m a playwright, poet and playful improviser.
As an educator for thirty years I’ve found that constructivist, democratic education requires educators to provide opportunities for students to be compassionate, respectful and creative collaborators so that they can construct new knowledge that builds on their current understanding. In order for every student to have a voice, every student must also give voice to each other. They must listen in order to understand and speak to be understood, so that they can build on each others’ ideas as they construct new understanding. We help them do this when we as educators are compassionate, respectful and creative collaborators—we must listen in order to understand and speak to be understood. We must identify and remove obstacles that prevent access to learning, including obstacles that differ across race, culture, learning style and preference, and needs. We must seek to understand every child’s nature and interests. These are some of their truths. The meaning of educate, from the Greek, is to lead out, or draw out. It does not mean to put in. Constructivist democratic classrooms enable students to develop ethically in synch with their own natures.
I have a commitment to integrity and cultural humility. I seek to model respect, inclusion and hospitality in every encounter, and every act, to the best of my ability, especially when I am feeling challenged. I seek to learn beyond my assumptions. It is not enough to believe in collaborative, student-centered, emergent learning. These values must be enacted. I remind myself to remain critically aware, as much as possible, of my own biases and assumptions, and to make sure my behavior is in synch with my teaching philosophy. I listen for discovery rather than to prove what I think. I don’t expect to be perfect, but I do expect to do my best, make mistakes with grace, and grow continuously as a co-learner at Trillium.
Co-Head of Upper School
Jennifer is thrilled to be joining the Trillium community as both the High School Language Arts teacher and co-Head of Upper School. She grew up on the Stanford University campus in northern California and eagerly moved to New York City when she was eighteen, where she designed her own major in philosophy and social justice at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU. It was at Gallatin that she realized that genuine learning is messy, personal, political, liberating, and grounded in community—and she began to fantasize about facilitating this experience for youth.
Jennifer got her Masters in Teaching from Lewis and Clark and is grateful to have learned from and with young people in a wide range of democratic and constructivist schools afterwards, including Deep Creek Middle School on the island of Eleuthera in The Bahamas, The Woolman Semester School in the middle of the woods in northern California, and MetWest High School in downtown Oakland. As a social justice educator, Jennifer hopes to live and teach resistance and dreaming simultaneously, with reality as a firm foundation to stand upon while imagining, reaching towards, and believing that another world is possible.
Co-Head of Upper School
Jess is also known as Jessie to her family or Jessica Leigh Brooks when she’s in trouble or trying to act official. She was born in Chicago and raised in Ohio where she narrowly escaped in 2000. She took up sanctuary in the northeast at a small university called Alfred, in the town of Alfred right down the road from a place called Alfred Station. Apart from that it really was in the middle of nowhere, which was perfect for Jess’ favorite pastime of playing in wooded, rocky and water-like areas. Jess was known as Jessbrooks in those days. She became Czar of an outdoor organization called the Forrest People, started an activist group, became president of the ever so cool Math Club and sat on the Judicial Board. She also became the Astronomy TA somehow, although knows very little about the subject.
After Alfred, for some unknown reason, Jess traveled west with a college friend for the city of Portland. Then, as it turns out, Portland agreed with her and she’s been there since. Here she’s fallen in love, created a pottery studio, retreats to a bountiful garden and obtained a healthy bike collection. Her first job here was as a bike mechanic, before plummeting into the world of Math tutoring and education. She began taking Graduate Math Education classes at PSU in 2005. Also in 2005 she began working for Pacific Crest Community School as their Algebra 2 teacher and in 2006 she started working for Trillium Charter School. In 2010 she finally completed her masters program graduating with a MST degree.
Education, photography, and dance have been passions of mine for as long as I can remember. I studied dance for 13 years and my first teaching job was teaching tap, jazz, and ballet to three-eight year olds. Oregon State University is where I received my BS degree in Human Development and Family Science with an emphasis in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Continuing on with my education I receive my Master of Arts in Education.
Upon graduation, teaching positions were few and far between. I knew I wanted to stay in education and was lucky to find a job which allowed me to supervise before and after school programs in Portland and Hillsboro. My next opportunity led me to oversee the Education Service Area for a Head Start program serving over 800 children a year.
I love being a part of the Trillium community where education is collective and constructivist. A place where voices are heard and youth are actively involved learners. My goal is to help create a comfortable and inspiring learning environment for all. When I’m not at work you can find me taking lots of pictures, playing on the coast, hiking, cooking, reading, writing, and spending time with friends and family in and out of town.
I am a native Portlander. I attended Portland State University, majoring in business and psychology. I received an AS in paralegal studies at PCC in 2011. I lived in Lake Charles, LA for two years and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for two years. In PNG I worked for the YWCA buying and selling artifacts and handcrafts in the country’s only two gift stores that funded a vocational school for young women.My earlier career was in political campaign and nonprofit management and fundraising. My campaign work included governor races, senatorial fundraising, statewide ballot measures and presidential visits for Oregon candidates. I managed thirteen annual events for the March of Dimes at one point and was a member of the committee that raised the $35,000 seed money for the PPS Foundation. As a single mom, I purchased homes to rent, then live in and refurbish. I kept my hand in fundraising through nonprofit work and school auctions, chairing advertising and raffle committees. My daughter is going off to college soon and I am reclaiming my life. I love working with the staff and families at Trillium, watching us evolve into a sustainable model of democratic education.
I am originally from North Carolina, a real Southern Belle! I moved to Portland in 1993 with my husband Virgilio, who is from the Philippines. I have one child a daughter named Cipriana and a Lhasa Apso Dog named Charlie. I have worked in many service positions through the years, with my most recent being the Receptionist, Office Assistant with the Multnomah Education Service District here in Portland. I have also acquired my Associates Degree of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies and i worked for a Bankruptcy Firm in Portland for about 4 years. I was fortunate to work at Freightliner for a couple of years when my daughter was little and they provided the opportunity for me to return to school to obtain that Associates Degree. In my spare time i enjoy spending time with my family, camping, reading and volunteering with my church and the Thespians at Milwaukie High School. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve the families in this environment
My passion for computers and technology started at age 12 when I wrote my first computer program in my basement using a small portable computer I was able to take home from my middle school. It’s no surprise to me that I now find myself working in schools helping others learn and use the technology that I fell in love with as a child. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of my work is having the opportunity to be a resource to others by sharing this technological aspect of who I am.
I’ve been working with Trillium since February 2012 on a contract basis through my business as the people’s accountant (www.peoplesaccountant.com). I’ve been working in Accounting and Finance for over 15 years, with the last four years spent exclusively in the Portland non-profit community. Prior to joining the non-profit community, I spent time working with public schools in the State of Ohio and public corporations both in Ohio and here in Oregon.
I believe that every organization deserves and benefits from high-level financial analysis and professional accounting expertise. Additionally, I believe that timely and reliable financial information is a critical aspect of managing the scarce resources that exist in today’s educational and non-profit environments. My goal is to provide Trillium with that in-depth, high-level and reliable financial analysis and reporting that is critical for sound financial decision-making and ultimately the fulfillment of the organization’s mission.
I am excited to be working with the Trillium community and have been very impressed with the love and dedication folks have for the School as a whole. It’s clear that Trillium is an important part of this community and I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this collective effort.
When I don’t have my nose in a set of financial statements, you might find me on my bicycle, working in my yard, or cooking up a batch of home-brewed beer. My partner, Sarah, and I moved to Oregon from Columbus, Ohio in 2005 and are having a hard time picturing ourselves anywhere else.
My career has been focused on building maintenance in all its many forms. I have been at Trillium for going on 6 years. Prior to that I was a maintenance supervisor for many years. I have a daughter and a son and a wife that is an incredible cook that keeps us all very happy with home cooked meals everyday. I am an avid collector and gardener. Lately, I am especially proud of my kite collection. Trillium is in need of much support in the way of building and grounds maintenance and I appreciate the help I get from volunteers. If you’d like to help with working on the building, please catch up with me after school is out for the day, I work in the evenings.
Bio Coming Soon!