Meet the Spring River Administration

Carrie Zarka Dooley

Program Director

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Carrie has been a leader of the Jacksonville Community’s Organic and Waldorf School movement since 2008. With a background in Holistic Nutrition and a B.A. in Sociology, Carrie founded Shakti Life Kitchen a local Organic Plant-based food company.  Carrie worked for European Street Cafe, a family business, for three decades.

 

In 2012, Carrie joined the board of The Playgarden and her leadership ensured organic foods were part of their curriculum. She was a faithful board member for 8 years, advocating for the school to develop outdoor programming and supporting the teaching staff through fundraising and community outreach. Carrie's commitment to Waldorf Education blossomed as she watched her daughter thrive in this natural and integrated education.  

Carrie’s passion grew further for Waldorf Education while homeschooling her daughter Zophia (now an 8th grader at Spring River) from grades one through four. She attended Sunbridge Institute to support her homeschooling efforts.  During this journey, she was a part of the group of parents that ignited Spring River School and the Northeast Florida Anthroposophical Study Group, The Sophia Circle.  

 

Carrie helped create a bond with the Center for Anthroposophy and was an integral force in bringing Explorations and other Waldorf workshops to our community.  She has been trained in CPR/First aid with an emphasis on urban wilderness first aid and completed an American Red Cross Lifeguarding course in the summer of 2020. 

Carrie has a teaching certificate in Waldorf Education from Antioch University and is currently working on her Master’s project that focuses on outdoor education. Her knowledge of the Waldorf curriculum allows her to support the College of Teachers who are responsible for hiring and mentoring teachers, developing programming, and overseeing the curriculum.  Carrie is overjoyed to join the Spring River administrative staff to support the whole community of students, teachers, and families. 

Laura Turbay

Enrollment Administrator & Spanish Program Director

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Laura has devoted her life to serving others in different settings. Growing up in her native Colombia, she learned from her archaeologist Mother to respect culture, to love nature, and to foster curiosity.

 

Laura initially studied Business and specialized in Finance and Marketing; but in 2018, when she moved from Colombia to Jacksonville, she decided to pursue her life-long dream of working in children’s education.  Laura completed the Spanish teacher certification program with the University of West Florida, the year in which she started working in education. While teaching in traditional schools, Laura increasingly realized the importance of instilling more hands-on, nature-based experience in the education of young children. In her search for alternative educational approaches, she fell in love with Spring River and the Waldorf method.

 

Laura joined our school in 2021 as a Spanish Teacher and Administrative Assistant, before moving to her current role as Enrollment Administrator.  She has been trained in CPR/First Aid with an emphasis on Urban Wilderness First Aid and is currently completing the Waldorf Leadership Development program through the Center for Anthroposophy.  

 

Along with her Enrollment Administrator Duties, Laura is also Director for the Spring River Spanish Program including overseeingcurriculum and lesson planning.  

 

Laura is married to Juan and has two wonderful children, Pablo and Helena. Laura loves to spend time outdoors with her family and her dog; she enjoys biking, horseback riding, and going to the beach.

Meet The Spring River College of Teachers and Faculty

Our teachers are the heart of Spring River, and have been chosen because they are proven educators devoted to an arts-infused, whole-child curriculum that honors the natural world and the developmental phases of childhood.  
 
Some of our teachers are also homeschooling their own children, or have done so in the past, and can prove to be a helpful resource for families new to homeschooling. Many of our teachers have backgrounds as public school educators who have chosen a new path with a focus on Waldorf and Outdoor Education.  If you are interesting in becoming a teacher or joining the staff of Spring River, please apply through our Employment Opportunities page.

"Where is the book in which the teacher can read about what teaching is?  The children themselves are this book.  We should not learn to teach out of any book other than the one lying open before us and consisting of the children themselves."

- Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf Education

Sierra Humphreys

Kindergarten Class Teacher

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Sierra is a Jacksonville Florida native and was one of the first students at The Playgarden, a local Waldorf Kindergarten, twenty years ago. She was brought up homeschooled with Waldorf pedagogy by her mother, who was one of the founding members of the first anthroposophical study groups in our area. Sierra speaks fondly of her childhood and is overjoyed to have the opportunity to share her love of Waldorf education with our community. Sierra has been teaching at Spring River since 2018.


In past years, Sierra taught Music Enrichment and was a co-teacher for Spring River's combined K/1 class. She has previously been a teaching assistant in 1st and 2nd grade, STEM, and Gym/Mindfulness. She has been studying music for nearly 20 years, and playing professionally for over 10 years. 

 

Sierra has a heart for culture, backcountry trekking, music, international relations, animals, insects, plants, fossils, holistic medicine, tree climbing, and healing through nature, music, and art. Sierra spent a semester traveling in India, where she studied wilderness first aid, botany, language, yoga, and white-water rafting. One highlight of her adventure was helping build a greenhouse for the town of Ranikhet. 

 

Sierra recently completed the Explorations course offered by Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education Grade One offered by Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy.  She has been trained in CPR/First aid with an emphasis on urban wilderness first aid and completed an American Red Cross Lifeguarding course in the fall of 2018.

Sierra is furthering her studies through the esteemed Sophia's Hearth Early Childhood Education and Certification program, a three-year, 500-hour intensive recognized by WECAN (Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America.)

Katie Fair

 School Year 2022 - 2023

First Grade Class Teacher

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Katie grew up knowing she wanted to be a teacher (like her mom) and taking every opportunity to spend time with young children. As a teenager, she taught summer camps in Pensacola and volunteered overseas at understaffed orphanages. Through college at Florida State University, she worked with middle and high school students, leading youth trips and mentoring young adults. She graduated in 2005 with a B.S. in both Communication and Literature and moved to Jacksonville with her husband, Luke, where they were delighted to find an almost immediately close community of other new-married friends who were also outwardly minded and adventurous. 

     In Jacksonville, Katie worked as a community development director for three years before realizing that she wanted to give her full attention to children. She transitioned to teaching through Florida State College of Jacksonville’s Teacher Certification Program, earning a professional teaching certificate in Early Childhood Education (Pre-Kindergarten- 3rd Grade), Exceptional Student Education (K-12),  and English Education (6-12). In 2007, she began teaching a self-contained class of 5-year-olds with Autism at Abess Park Elementary in Duval County. Through the patient guidance of experienced teachers and a site coach dedicated to helping students thrive, Katie learned the value of loving and appreciating each student, adapting to their ever-changing needs, and honoring them as individuals. By the end of three years, many of her students had successfully joined regular education classrooms, and with a new baby at home, Katie decided to step away from teaching. 

     When that first baby turned five, Katie and Luke were delighted to find Seaside Charter School and learn about Waldorf Education. Katie fell in love with the “head, heart, hands” model, and decided that if she were to go back to teaching, she would want it to allow for such a holistic approach; preserving childhood, encouraging the imagination, and spending a majority of the time out of doors. In 2020, amidst Covid complications, Katie embarked on homeschooling, which brought about too many learning experiences to list here. The following year, Stevie, now the oldest of five daughters, would join Ms. Julia’s middle school class at Spring River, discovering the beautiful community that we now affectionately call “our people.” 

     Katie lives with her husband, Luke, and their five daughters here in Atlantic Beach, where she enjoys singing, playing the piano, surfing, reading, playing volleyball, creating things, and climbing trees with her daughters. 

Elizabeth Zettler

 School Year 2022 - 2023

Second Grade Class Teacher

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Elizabeth is incredibly honored and excited to join the Spring River community! For the last few years, while teaching in grades 2 to 4, Elizabeth has taken any opportunity she can to further her understanding of Waldorf teaching practices, learning through her students, trainings, workshops, and personal study. She has been mentored by Dr. Mary Goral, attended trainings through the Alliance for Public Waldorf and Kentahten Institute, and she is currently enrolled in the Explorations course through the Center for Anthroposophy. 

 

Elizabeth is married to Paul and they recently welcomed a baby, Olive, into their family. Being compassionate animal lovers they also have four cats and a dog, all rescues or former “neighbor cats”. Elizabeth’s hobbies include, going on adventures with her family, spending time with friends, and anything handwork related. 

 

Before joining Spring River, Elizabeth completed a Bachelor and Masters of Music in Vocal Performance with a focus in operatic singing in both, as well as an MBA. She spent her time after college performing, teaching through her private studio, and working for a music non profit, but eventually decided to make the move into elementary education. After teaching music for kindergarten through 8th grade for many years in “traditional” schools, a frustration with the current education climate lead her to finding and beginning to study Waldorf-inspired teaching and Rudolf Steiner. She has spent the last 5 years teaching with Waldorf influences in her classroom. 

Christina Bell

 School Year 2022 - 2023

Third Grade Class Teacher

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Christina moved to Jacksonville in late elementary school and came to love beautiful, humid Florida after growing up riding horses in the hills of North Georgia. She graduated from UNF with her bachelors in English and minor in education. She has always been passionate about education, serving as a middle school youth leader for 10 years, teaching English remotely to elementary aged children in Beijing, China, practicing as a personal trainer, and most recently teaching middle school English in a local public school!

 

Christina has fallen in love with Waldorf education, learning through her own children's experiences and her desire to incorporate the whole child (head, heart, and hands) in education for each child. 

Jackie Stetson

 School Year 2022-2023

Fourth Grade Class Teacher

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Jackie was introduced and fell in love with Waldorf education while studying psychology and volunteering for a school garden program over 15 years ago.  She is inspired by the Waldorf pedagogy because it focuses on developmentally appropriate learning, while teaching the whole child- head, hands, and heart.  She has been a class teacher at Spring River since 2019.

 

Jackie holds a degree from the University of Florida with a BS in Psychology and a Minor in Education and was an elementary school teacher for Duval County Public Schools from 2007-2018, working in grades K-6. Some of the highlights of those years was as team leader for Third Grade and considerable work as a "Various Exceptionalities Teacher," meeting the individual needs of students including their IEP goals.  Jackie has a long history of working closely with administrative leadership, and of developing trusting relationships with parents and students.

Jackie completed the Explorations course offered by Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy in 2019, and attended Waldorf Teacher training for Literacy, Grades 1-3  in Summer 2019 at the Renewal Courses offered through Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy in New Hampshire. Other Waldorf training includes Public Waldorf Teacher training at the AWSNA Annual Conference in 2015 and 2017 at Rudolf Steiner College, and attendance at the Kentahten Institute for Waldorf Education in 2014.  She has been trained in CPR/First aid with an emphasis on urban wilderness first aid and completed an American Red Cross Lifeguarding course in the summer of 2020.

 

Jackie is married to Mike and has 3 beautiful children.  Her favorite thing to do is spend time with her family outside.  She loves to camp, go to the beach, hike, and enjoys music festivals.  Jackie also enjoys learning about alternative medicine and nutrition, creating things, and practicing yoga. 

Julie Holt

 School Year 2022 -2023

Fifth/Sixth Grade Combined Class Teacher

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Julie was first introduced to Waldorf Education when she joined a playgroup 17 years ago with her then 2-year-old son led by Julia Hassler, now Spring River's middle school teacher. 

 

Julie immediately fell in love with the Waldorf pedagogy and the way that children learn with their hearts, hands, and heads. Julie began homeschooling her son from k - 7th grade following a Waldorf rhythm. In addition to homeschooling her own son, she helped to create Waldorf Homeschool co-ops and handwork workshops. 

 

Upon returning to work, Homeschooling gave her a foundation to become an early childhood teacher for 4 years from 2016 - 2020. During this time, her love of teaching and of the Waldorf education grew even stronger. 

 

This past July, Julie and her 12-year-old daughter relocated back to her hometown of Jacksonville, Florida after living in Washington for the past 9 years. While in Washington she started her own farm raising chickens and goats and planting a large vegetable garden. She enjoys knitting, felting, painting, woodworking, and all types of handwork. Julie is very honored and excited to be a teacher at Spring River. Her previous experiences along with her love of the outdoors make teaching at Spring River a perfect fit.

Julia Hassler

School Year 2022-2023

Seventh/Eighth Grade Combined Class Teacher

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Julia is a trailblazer for Waldorf Education in Jacksonville.  She has worked to bring Waldorf to the beaches community beginning in 1994 when she first learned about this amazing form of education. The creative aspect of Waldorf education, coupled with her love for nature, is a perfect fit for educating homeschooled children. Julia has been a class and handwork teacher at Spring River since 2017.

 
Julia both participated in and led Waldorf mixed-age programs from 1997 to present day: from being one of the founders of The Playgarden, leading early childhood and parent/child classes, and teaching at various homeschool co-ops including middle school classes in physics and chemistry using a Waldorf curriculum.  Julia also homeschooled her own child from 1st through 8th grade.  Her daughter transitioned into public school beautifully earning A/B honor roll at Fletcher High. 


Julia holds a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in mathematics.  She attended Sunbridge Institute every summer for nearly eight years receiving Waldorf certification for the programs Preparing for Grade 1 through Preparing for Grade 8 which covered all grade specific main lesson subjects as well as watercolor painting, movement, games, singing, form drawing, handwork, and anthroposophical study.  Julie has attended many Waldorf workshops and is a leader in the Spring River community as she continues the journey of Waldorf education for our children. 

 

Julia completed the Explorations Course offered through Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy in 2019 and is currently working toward her Master Degree in Waldorf Education at Antioch University.  She has been trained in CPR/First aid with an emphasis on urban wilderness first aid and completed an American Red Cross Lifeguarding course in the summer of 2020.

Kira Mauro

Handwork Teacher

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Kira Mauro holds an MA in Linguistics from the University of Arizona. She is a dedicated community gardener and currently serves on the board of the nonprofit Dig Local Network, working with the Beaches-area gardens and farmer’s markets.

 

Kira has come to love the Waldorf community and educational path after seeing each of her children thrive in the reverent embrace of a philosophy that acknowledges and encourages their whole selves and incorporates the natural environment, art and music into all aspects of the curriculum. Her own handwork journey began at a young age, playing at sewing the discarded fabric scraps given by her grandmother, a professional seamstress. She enjoys fiber and fabric arts of all kinds and of late has focused on embroidery and costume for historic re-creation. She looks forward to sharing the joys of handwork with the families of Spring River.

 

Kira and her family moved to Atlantic Beach in 2007. She enjoys being outdoors as much as possible and can often be found paddleboarding on the ocean, pitchforking compost in the community garden, or walking the trails in our state parks- sometimes in historic costume! She and her spouse are raising three children, all of whom have participated in Waldorf programs. Her youngest child is now at the Playgarden.

Linda Minke

Music Teacher

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One of the founders of the Jacksonville Waldorf Initiative, which later became The Playgarden, Inc.,  Linda Minke has been playing and teaching music in the Jacksonville area since 1993.  

Linda started playing viola and then cello in the public school system in Rochester, Michigan, after having studied piano and singing in children's choirs. Linda earned two bachelor's degrees in Music Performance and Music Education from Northern Michigan University. Linda also obtained a Master's Degree in Music Performance, with extra training in Suzuki Pedagogy, from Memphis State University.

Linda is a professional cellist who also plays violin, viola, Celtic harp, piano, ukulele, recorder, melodica, and various drums. She has played assistant principal cello with Memphis Symphony for 10 years, section cello with the Peninsula Music Festival in Wisconsin since 1983, part-time cello with the Jacksonville Symphony since 1993, and with the Bold City Contemporary Ensemble since 2015.

 

Linda is the cellist with the Magnolia String Quartet which plays mostly at weddings in the Jacksonville area. She has recently joined the local Renaissance group called "RareSong" in which she plays the Celtic harp. She also plays fiddle, harp, and washboard with The Walker Family Band and is a chief facilitator for the Florida Fiddle Fest, held each year in the Jacksonville beaches area since 2012.

Linda believes that everyone has music in them and is dedicated to helping people find the joy that it brings.  


Ashlyn Tiberio

Forest School Lead Teacher

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Ashlyn is happy to be a part of the Spring River community! She grew up in Western New York, exploring the forests and nature all around her. She is a lover of the arts - was a dancer for most of her childhood and spends a lot of time drawing and painting. She spent her teenage/young adult years traveling all over seeking adventures through hiking, snowboarding, and experiencing different cultures.

She has experience as an elementary school TA before her college years. Through frustration with the public school system, and at 18 years old looking for an inspiring new adventure, she decided to switch gears and move to New York City to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Fashion Business Management and a minor in Italian Language Studies. During this time, she did a semester in Rome, Italy at the American University of Rome. While there, she studied Foreign Business and Italian Culture. She traveled all over Europe and the U.K. experiencing as many cultures as possible. During and after college she gained a lot of experience in the Fashion Industry through internships, part-time and full-time jobs.

Ashlyn recently moved to Jacksonville seeking a fresh, nature-oriented lifestyle for her and her new family! She is passionate about homeschooling and holding space for children to expand their passions, gifts, and imagination. She is inspired by the Waldorf method because it incorporates the whole child.

  

Ashlyn is a full-time mom and works two days a week as The Forest School Lead Teacher.  She was the TA for the Spring River Forest School in prior years and embarked on further training through the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools. She has also attended a three-day Nature-Based Early Learning Conference through Natural Start Alliance. In addition, she has taken webinar classes through Antioch University such as Mindfulness for Educators and Supporting All Kinds of Minds, to further her teaching practices. She has also been trained in CPR/First Aid with an emphasis on urban wilderness first aid.

Helena Acosta

Spanish Teacher

Teaching Assistant, Fifth/Sixth Grade

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Helena Acosta holds her B.A. in Art History from the University of Los Andes in Venezuela and a Certification in art exhibition Management from Elisava Design School in Barcelona, Spain. She was an Independent art curator for 10 years developing projects around the world in places like New York, Tokyo, Barcelona, Mexico, and Cuba, among others. During this period, and as part of the exhibitions’ programs, she developed art and creativity classes for children and adults. Helena always regarded this educational component as one of the most fulfilling and favorite parts of her job. 

 

Her love for art, teaching, and traveling bloomed at a very young age. Her mother is an art teacher and her father is an anthropologist. At home, she learned with passion the importance of creativity and curiosity in the exploration of nature and cultures. Helena taught art classes at the University of Jose Maria Vargas and in Private Art Institutes in Caracas, Venezuela, and she has been invited to talk about art and activism at Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and Cervantes Institute Tokyo. In 2018, Helena experienced the most amazing gift in her life, she became a mother. From that moment her approach to teaching art took a different and most beautiful pathway, as she started to apply her passion for creation to her daily parenting dynamics. Helena quickly fell in love with the philosophy of Waldorf when she enrolled her daughter at The Playgarden and enthusiastically started to work as a TA at Spring River School bringing to the classroom her love for creativity and discovery, finding magic in everyday objects and nature. She is also the founder of a home-based art studio for children called Jax Little Art.

Sofia Villegas

Spanish Teacher

Teaching Assistant, First Grade

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The love for arts, nature, and children makes Sofia the perfect addition to Spring River School. Her passion for theater, music, and singing led her to study art education, dramatic arts, and contemporary dance. From a very young age, Sofia had the fortune of working in art academies, foundations, and schools as a Drama Teacher and Musical Director. Within her tenure, Sofia has produced plays with more than 200 participating students. More recently, Sofia has also developed her talent for handwork, mainly through crochet, sewing, and macrame. Sofia enjoys offering her fabulous creations in different local markets on weekends.

 

Sofia moved to Jacksonville after growing up in the beautiful Andes mountain range in Colombia. After arriving in the United States, she had the most beautiful surprise of her life: she was expecting Alegría, her beautiful daughter. From the beginning, she firmly decided to give Alegría the gift of an alternative education, one that was respectful of mind, body, and spirit;  and that was how she found the Waldorf pedagogy. Sofia feels very happy and grateful for being part of the Spring River School family. 

Katie Bennett

Teaching Assistant, Second Grade & Substitute Teacher

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Katie holds a degree in Education from UNF and taught in public school for 5 years until she decided to enjoy the gift of staying home with her 2 young children. While living in New Hampshire, she discovered and fell in love with Waldorf Education. She served as the main lesson teacher for a small homeschool group in New England for grades K/1 and Grade 4 before moving back home to Florida to be closer to family and ultimately finding this wonderful beachside community of Waldorf homeschoolers!

 

She is currently enrolled in the Waldorf Explorations class offered through the Center for Anthroposophy and is so incredibly honored to be a part of Spring River School!

 

She enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, going for walks with her dog, shelling, and crafting.

Gracie Castle

Teaching Assistant, Third Grade

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Gracie was born in Mission Viejo, CA and moved with her family to Olive Branch, MS, Santa Rosa Beach, FL, Scituate, MA, and has lived in Ponte Vedra Beach since her sophomore year of high school. Thus began her wanderlust!

Gracie has had the good fortune to have traveled extensively with her family. She has been to 48 of the 50 states and traveled around Europe and the Americas. She took a gap year after high school and went to Costa Rica with an eco-tourism volunteer program, where she taught English to the elementary school students and organized the after-school sports program. This was a life changing experience for her. Through all of these experiences she developed an interest in learning about different cultures, their traditions, food, art, and languages. Her most favorite thing is meeting new people! This led her to major in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Spanish at Florida Atlantic University. While at FAU she studied abroad in Panama and participated in a summer program in Ecuador researching how the community used local plants. After Gracie graduated from college, she and her fiance, César traveled all over South America after saving up their money for 2 years. They hope to return to Colombia one day and start an educational farm with a bed and breakfast over-looking the ocean. 

Gracie enjoys playing volleyball, soccer, the beach, dancing with her friends, floating down the Ichetucknee, gardening, hiking, bird watching and anything that allows her to commune with people and nature! Gracie is inspired to find ways to live a more natural lifestyle, working with the planet rather than working against it. She is interested in learning about medicinal herbs and foods and exposing the younger generations to the joy of the outdoors. She is super excited to be joining Spring River School!

Rachel Coffey

Teaching Assistant, Seventh/Eighth

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Rachel Coffey is a California girl who has made Florida home for the past 11 years. 


As a mother of four, a self-proclaimed parenting revolutionary, a world changer, and an early childhood educator, she has been supporting children and their families in some capacity for over two decades.

 

She has worked for private preschools, Head Start, and as the Director and lead teacher for the Harvard Business School Preschool Co-Op. She is also an N-touch trained instructor and Community Postpartum Facilitator. She enjoys working with children of all ages, however, through coaching Spring River’s first Odyssey of the Mind team, she has fallen in love with supporting and working with our community’s middle schoolers. 

Things that bring her heart joy include tennis, salsa dancing, traveling, hiking, and reading. 

 

Meg Johnson

Teaching Assistant, Kindergarten

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Meg is a homeschool mom of 4 who moved to the Jacksonville area from Missouri in 2015. She worked as a Pediatric ER nurse until deciding to stay home and focus on what she cherishes most-her children.

 

Her family loves adventure and the outdoors and in 2020, sold their home in Orange Park to travel the country in their RV, exploring this beautiful country and countless National Parks.

 

After a year, they found their way back to Jacksonville where two of her children joined classes at Spring River School, while she and her youngest son joined the Dewdrops playgroup.

 

This year, Meg is excited to grow with the Spring River family as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Kindergarten class and leading the Dewdrops playgroup! 

Kathleen Mathis

Teaching Assistant, Forest School

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Walking hand in hand with her grandfather to the local grocer, smelling freshly baked bread, eating tomatoes from her grandmothers garden, running through a field of dandelions on the mountain, feeling the textures of fabrics in her grandmother's quilts, seeing painted art, crafting molded clay, and hearing the sounds of classical piano; THESE are only a few of the many beautiful memories from Kathleen's childhood. 

Her parents & grandparents taught her from a young age to love the earth between her toes; to respect it by leaving no trace, to use very little, and to be a conscious consumer of the world around her. 

Growing up in Wyoming & Colorado was truly idyllic! She and her dad  had an annual “father daughter” backpacking trip to the Grand Tetons Mts, they white water rafted the Colorado River, we went Spelunking in Rocky Mountain Caves, we went fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, canoeing, snowshoeing, skiing, cross country skiing, sledding, & minimalist backcountry camping under the stars. Kathleen grew up outside among the beautiful aspen trees, and the freshest mountain air. 

As a young adult, Kathleen spent a week in the Colorado Rockies learning basic outdoor survival skills; including building the shelter that she lived in for the week. 

She spent five years serving in the US Navy. While  home-ported in San Diego, CA, much of her time was spent cruising North to Canada and the American Northwest, South to the West coast of Mexico, touring much of the South Pacific Ocean, all the way to the Persian Gulf and back!  She has had the pleasure of visiting 5 continents, and many countries in between. 

Kathleen holds a Bachelors of Science in Communication from Arizona State University. Many of her classes included environmental science, anthropology, biology, sociology, as well as international studies. 

Nicole Newton (Nicky)

Teaching Assistant, Second Grade

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Nicky discovered Waldorf Education while looking for an alternative education method for her oldest son, Brayden. She was looking for something that would treat him as an individual rather than trying to put him in a box. She fell in love with the head-heart-hands approach and her children love to be outside, so she wanted something that integrated nature and learning, which lead to her discovering Spring River. 

Nicky loves gardening, crafting, hand work, meditation, and photography. Being in nature brings her a sense of calm. Her family recently bought half an acre in Hilliard, FL to give her kids a chance to grow up with a small town feel with space to run and explore. Her family recently purchased chickens and has enjoyed watching them grow along with their other pets, 2 cats and a dog. 

Nicky is married to Brent and has three children, Brayden (11), Dexter(8), and Cambria (5). Nicky and her husband also previously fostered children and loved being able to give them a safe environment before heading home. 

Nicky is not only grateful for her kids to be able to experience Spring River, but also now having the opportunity to work here.

Rachelle Payne

Teaching Assistant,  Kindergarten

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Rachelle has a wildlife biology major but has always worked with children either as a nanny, in a preschool, or a in Montessori setting. She has always found a connection with animals, nature, and of course children. She became a part of the Waldorf community because she loves that it teaches individuality, spirituality, creativity, the value of relationships, and a love for nature. 

 

In her free time, she loves to read, journal, create stone jewelry, paint, embroider, be in the kitchen and play board games with her family. She and her family recently moved here from Washington state for the sunshine and new adventures. In the future, they hope to buy some property and have chickens, a big garden, and maybe even a cow for some fresh raw milk. 

 

Rachelle is married to Cory, her crush from junior high, and has 2 girls named Addilyn and Elise whom you will find at Spring River School on Thursdays and Fridays. 

 

She is very excited to be a part of this school and contribute to the love and light that is pouring into this community. 

Caroline Shank

Teaching Assistant, Seventh/Eighth Grade

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Caroline is an Indiana native who moved with her family to Jacksonville in 2012. She was first introduced to Waldorf education when her children were very young, through online communities and blogs, and was drawn to the focus on educating the whole child, and the creative, imaginative approach to learning. She has two children, Maia and Luna, and from the beginning has been determined to give them an education that truly meets their needs and fosters curiosity. When her children were entering Kindergarten and 3rd grade, she discovered the Playgarden and Spring River.  Since then she and her family have grown to love the rhythms and sense of community at Spring River. She especially appreciates the opportunity for her children to attend an outdoor school.

 

Caroline’s interests include spending time with her family outdoors, hiking, camping, reading, knitting, and traveling. She particularly enjoys international travel and opportunities to learn about other cultures and is grateful she has been able to spend time in several Latin American countries including Mexico, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic.  She is a lifelong lover of learning aboutnew things and sharing that knowledge with others. 

 

Caroline never envisioned herself as a traditional classroom teacher, yet has always been involved in education in some way. Over the years some of those ways have included as a tutor for children with dyslexia, as a doula and childbirth educator, and as a homeschool mom.  She has a BA in Philosophy with minors in Spanish and Communication Studies. She is currently enrolled in the Explorations program through the Center for Anthroposophy, and this past summer began the Waldorf High School Teacher Education Program through the Center for Anthroposophy. This school year she is excited about being a TA for the middle school class!

Alexandra Vargas

Teaching Assistant, Forest School

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Alexandra grew up in the deserts of Arizona and moved to Jacksonville after graduating high school where she began pursuing higher education. She always felt that there was an intimate connection between the human mind and the natural world, which prompted her studies in biology and psychology. After a few years, she decided to take a sabbatical, sold all of her belongings, and moved to Alaska, where she experienced deep healing through connecting with the untouched Alaskan wilderness. When winter arrived, she decided it was time to leave Alaska and embark on a journey across the world to Australia and New Zealand. 

 

Upon returning to the United States, Alexandra had a renewed perspective and decided to focus her studies on developmental psychology. She now attends the University of North Florida pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a focus on child psychology. She has plans to continue her education at UNF as a graduate student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program in the Fall of 2023. During her studies, Alexandra spent a semester interning at the behavioral health unit at Angel Kids Pediatrics, where she learned about psychological testing, family therapy, and providing resources for families. She is also the founder of Mindful Ospreys, a mindfulness-based club at UNF. Alexandra is a strong believer in the mind, body, and soul connection, and strives for a whole person/holistic approach. 

 

Alexandra spends her free time volunteering and engaging with her community. She has been involved with a Jacksonville non-profit called MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation for over a year now, where she volunteers as a mentor to a young boy. Alexandra enjoys hiking, practicing mindfulness, and practicing her spiritual gifts as a Reiki and Theta Healing practitioner.