I grew up in the high desert of Central Oregon with a backyard of beauty; big, old rocks, the awesome Deschutes river, and twisted juniper. My parents were both teachers, and I was a kid that loved learning in and out of school. My observations and explorations of nature inspired my creative pursuits and in fourth grade I finally identified myself as an “artist”. In high school I focused on arts and theatre, and was simultaneously on track to become a pilot and an astronaut ( I know, what a contrast; but, I’m full of surprises).
I traveled to the Oregon valley to go to college. There I realized my attraction to studying the culture of community, social interaction and people. I frequented concerts, camp outs and classrooms. In 2000, I received a degree in Sociology with an emphasis in deviance and social “control” and also got married to Jacob, an amazing musician and best friend. I was often drawn to teaching and learning with kids; however, I was unsure; most likely because it was something my parents did (ah… rebellion). My interests in meaningful, authentic curricula, the possibilities of different kinds of learning experiences in public ed., and my plans to integrate my other passions, led me to grad school and then to the classrooms of Springfield, OR. I have had the opportunity to teach kindergarten, 3rd grade, 5th grade, intermediate blends, and serve as a TAG coordinator as well as a math and literacy specialist. I then took a leave to adventure, “muck around” and learn lots with my kids; Ruby and Miles.
We then relocated to Portland and I searched for schools that intrigued me. When I read “About Trillium” and the goals, I felt an instant connection with the school; most likely a result of our common interests in student choice, a cooperative classroom culture, and fostering both the individual’s and group’s learning process. As a teacher, I work to co-create a classroom community of problem solvers, where students feel safe and well-equipped to engage in meaningful discourse, independent and innovative thought, and worthwhile activities. I am a creative, curious and passionate learner and support those qualities in both the students and the teachers I work with. I promote a depth of sense making and self-awareness and because I think the asking of great questions propels great action, I use inquiry as a springboard for learning.
When not teaching, I am playing, creating and producing (printmaking and jewelry/metalsmith are my crafty interests at present), reading (mostly non-fiction and children’s picture books), and exploring Portland and beyond.
Who I am as a human being comes directly from growing up in the forests and fields of rural SW Washington. As a child I would walk off into the woods with my dog, Shadow, and sometimes my older brother, letting my parents know that we’d be back in time for lunch or dinner. We’d make tree forts, booby-traps, pick huckleberries, and skip rocks in the creek. Having that freedom to explore and develop a direct connection with the natural world lies deep in the core of my heart. The fact is I do enjoy hugging trees. At the same time, school was always important to me but what I studied never truly resonated with me. At first I thought I wanted to be some kind of scientist but deep down I knew that wasn’t true. After graduating from Clark Community College in 2001 I finally found a purpose for school and I decided to move to Canada to study hand-drawn animation. I did quite well. My student film took me to Annecy in France and Ottawa in Canada, and it was an amazing time but something still felt missing. The kind of work I could get in animation didn’t exactly appeal to me and so I chose serving pizza in Portland over storyboarding bad television. I wanted to do something meaningful with my life.
Over the following years my passion for drawing evolved to include my interest in books. In 2006 I received a Xeric Grant to self-publish my first comic book. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to have other people offer to publish my work for me. With those publishers I’ve put out an all-ages graphic novel, and two children’s books. (Currently my graphic novel is being translated into French, which needless to say, is a dream come true.) All this time that I’ve been drawing, of course, I have been pursuing teaching with even more passion and determination. In 2007 my future wife first planted the idea of becoming a teacher in my head. With that, I went back to school to finish my BS at Portland State University. There, I had my first in-class experience tutoring and observing at Sunnyside Environmental School. Eventually, I enrolled in graduate school at Lewis and Clark, steeping myself further in constructivist theory. While receiving my Masters in Teaching I spent a year student-teaching 5th grade at Buckman Arts Focus School, where I worked hard to integrate curricula and make student learning meaningful and relevant to all of our lives. At the same time I had the opportunity to observe and teach mini-lessons to K-2 graders who, at one time, looked so small to me.
The following year I accepted a position at Tumbleweed Infant House, LLC in SE Portland. Working with a diverse range of children from 2-4 years in age gave me a strong foundation in language development, and structuring learning around student interest. It was while teaching preschool that I fell in love with the teaching practices of Reggio Emilia, a teaching approach that emphasizes not only the student, but the environment and the community as well. Now I find myself in the extremely fortunate position, working at a Trillium Charter School where their philosophy is just the same. I can’t wait to find out what my students are interested in and to begin charting a path from there. I love the way Trillium encourages students to take ownership and responsibility over their lives, and with my ongoing experience as an author I know this will allow me to bring a unique knowledge and energy to my class. I expect to learn as much from my students as they do from each other and myself.
Growing up in sunny Southern California, I was fortunate to have parents who valued the importance of authentic, experiential learning (although I’m not sure if they would call it that)! My brother and I didn’t realize it then, but as we helped my dad work on his old red Thunderbird in the garage, prospected for sand crabs on the beaches of our coastal hometown, dug elaborate trench systems in the backyard and conducted (often ill-fated) baking experiments, we were actually constructing firsthand knowledge about physics, life and Earth science, math and chemistry. We also traveled quite a bit. Much of my childhood was spent traveling in Mexico (mostly Baja California) and Costa Rica as well as New Zealand, Fiji, and Australia. These experiences, coupled with an insatiable curiosity about the world and how it works, inform who I am as a person and the ideals of exploration and inquiry that I bring into the classroom.
I hold an Oregon State Multiple Subjects Teaching License (TSPC, OR) and a California Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential (CCTC, CA) as well as a Bachelor of Arts with a Writing / Poetry Concentration from The New School in New York, NY. Before becoming a general education teacher, I worked in K-5 special education in both private and public school settings. During this time, I partnered with some incredibly talented teachers to learn to differentiate for a wide variety of learners.
In addition to having served as a lead teacher in kindergarten, fifth grade, and mixed-age classrooms, I have tutored privately for over ten years and served as a volunteer writing tutor for 826 LA and a mentor for at-risk teenage girls in California. As a teacher and mentor, my highest priority is helping young people to connect to their own learning processes. I believe that a teacher’s job is to facilitate the development of robust core academic and critical thinking skills, to honor curiosity, and to empower students to actively participate in their communities. Learning can only occur when a student is involved and invested in his or her own educational process, and my job as a teacher is to inspire that investment by bridging the gap between core content and a student’s everyday world.
When I am not at Trillium with my awesome first and second-graders, I can be found hiking with my husband and our wily terrier mix, baking, dancing, reading, listening to the blues, or just embracing the beautiful gray days of Portland with a cup of strong, black coffee in hand.