Meet Our Teachers

Our teachers are the heart of Spring River, and have been chosen by the Spring River Committee because they are proven educators with a devotion 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. Some of our teachers have backgrounds in public school education and have chosen a new path with a focus on Waldorf Education and/or certification. Others have created their own stand alone course offerings which they have molded to fit into the Enrichment Class model of Spring River.

Julia Hassler: Class Teacher, Handwork

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 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 water color 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.

 

 Julie completed the Explorations Course offered through Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy in 2019 and is looking forward to beginning her Masters in Waldorf Education at Antioch University in summer 2019.

Jackie Stetson: Class Teacher, Administration

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.  

 

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 but not limited to 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 will be attending Waldorf Teacher training for Literacy Grades 1-3 this summer 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.  

 

Jackie is married to her husband, Mike, and has 3 beautiful children.  Her most 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.  

Sierra Humphreys: Class Teacher, Music

Sierra is a Jacksonville Florida native and was one of the first students at the Playgarden twenty years ago. She was brought up homeschooled with Waldorf pedagogy by her mother, who was one of the founding members of the 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  teaches Music Enrichment, and is a first grade class teacher. She has assisted in the class with 1-2 grade, STEM, and Gym/Mindfulness. She has been studying music for nearly 20 years, playing professionally for over 10 years.

 

She 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 green house for the town of Ranikhet.

 

Sierra recently completed the Explorations course offered by Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy, and will be traveling to New England this summer for the Renewal program in Waldorf education grade one, offered by Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy.

Caitlin Flynn Baiata: Art

Caitlin Flynn Baiata received her Master’s in Art Education from Pratt Institute. She has worked in many different settings, from Art Museums to Inner City, her youngest student is 9 months and her most SENIOR is 82. She believes it is never too early or late to begin the creative process. When Caitlin moved to Florida via NYC she began teaching private art classes and later created ARTworks-Jax. ARTworks is a company that provides private and group art instruction for all. ARTworks also donates community outreach classes to low income areas of Jacksonville. Caitlin also created and taught a first-grade curriculum inspired by Waldorf Education. Here, she fell in love with the Waldorf pedagogy, and is eager to implement her love of Waldorf with Spring River.


Caitlin’s personal work is inspired by light, people, and life. Caitlin creates figurative collage works with strong impasto brushstrokes, vibrant colors and patterns, depicting memories of moments frozen in time. She exhibited throughout NYC, and as far as Santiago, Chile. She continues to paint and exhibit in Jacksonville, FL. To view Caitlin’s personal art: www.caitlinflynn.com

Michelle Carter: Science Enrichment, Forest School, Summer Camp, Circus Arts

Michelle grew up in rural Ohio exploring and playing in the woods that surrounded her childhood home. She has a lifelong passion for the outdoors and exploring nature and gravitated towards more education in science. Michelle received her Bachelors of Science in both Biology and Chemistry from Wilmington College and Masters of Science in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She is currently a freelance chemist. Since being Introduced to The Playgarden and Waldorf education in 2014, she has been a constant member on their Board of Directors, has been a substitute TA for their programs including being a forest TA one day a week in the fall of 2017. She also teaches a STEM class for Spring River and volunteers with Duval County Special Olympics Surfing Program as a surf coach. 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. Over the course for the 2018/2019 school year she completed the Explorations program administered by the Center for Anthroposophy and hosted by The Playgarden/Spring River. In May of 2019 she attended the Reaching Nature Connection Conference held by the Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers and School of Integrated Living and is excited to be connecting students with the local environment through place based nature education

Carrie Lee Ferguson: Movement & Creative Writing

Carrie Lee Ferguson holds a masters degree in education and is a former public school teacher.  Introduced to Waldorf education in the late 1990’s, she has been a part of bringing this healing education to the community as a volunteer, parent and writer.  Carrie is co-author of A Child’s Way: Slowing Down for Goodness Sake, a lovely little book which opens our hearts to the ways in which children help us to reach our potential.
 

Writing and speaking for social change, she is an activist for childhood, global maternal health, community building and education.  Also a trained doula and BOLD Method Certified Birth Facilitator, she uses this wisdom for supporting the emergent within herself and within the world.  A lover of words and sounds, Carrie thoroughly enjoys being in the flow of speech and movement with the children, and connecting mind and heart strengthening activities.

Aine Healey-Richardson: Dramatic Arts

Aine is a native of Ireland with a long history of working with children (including her twenty-five nieces and nephews). She grew up in an Oral Tradition – both her parents were Storytellers with a passion for poetry and her immediate and extended family are deeply involved in Theatre in Ireland. Aine spent fourteen years living and working in London where she trained as an Occupational Therapist in Community Mental Health. As part of that training, she originally studied Therapeutic Drama which she put into practice with adults in Mental Health for over ten years. Part of the purpose of that work was to help people increase self-confidence in all aspects of communication, and to use creative drama techniques to explore and express emotions. This is still part of the focus of her work with Children. She was also part of a Community Theatre Group in London, gaining experience on and off stage.

 

Since 2005, Aine has taught classes at The Ponte Vedra Cultural Centre, Players By The Sea Theatre, The Cathedral Arts Foundation at The Carver Centre, Discovery Montessori School, Tides Montessori School, Beaches Episcopal School and Atlantic Beach Elementary School.  In 2008 Aine started 'The First Act' and in 2010 The First Act formed a collaboration with The Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre (ABET.) Aine very happily taught classes on their behalf until 2016.

 

In Oct 2016 The First Act was awarded a contract with The City of Atlantic Beach to provide the Children's Program at The Adele Grage Theatre. Aine runs classes and Summer Camps there and also provides some free drama classes at The Jordan Centre in Atlantic Beach which is an after school activity run in conjunction with the City of AB and Beaches Habitat for Humanity. Aine also works with individual children and adults to help them prepare for auditions, presentations and speeches. Aine is part of a Beaches Writers Group and has performed readings of her original works throughout the Beaches area and is a published poet.

 

"I am fascinated with stories and all the ways there are to tell them. Children are natural storytellers and I believe that they benefit enormously and get great satisfaction from this work. It is wonderful to see so many of my students go on to receive further training in theatre, but for all my students, I believe it helps to develop their communications skills and to gain increased empathy and understanding of others. And to appreciate live theatre. It's so much fun for them – you can see it in their eyes.”

Kim Kelly: F.A.C.E., PE Challenge, Cyber Civics, and Mindfulness

Kim Kelly is a certified school counselor who has her M.S. and Ed.S. degrees in Counseling and Human Systems from Florida State University.  She has twelve years of school counseling experience at the elementary and middle school levels and is a member of the American School Counselor Association.  In the school setting, she has enjoyed working with children to provide brief individual counseling, small groups, and classroom guidance. Kim’s professional interests include providing the homeschool population with enrichment opportunities designed to strengthen children’s social/emotional development and resiliency skills.  The mother of two energetic children, she also enjoys running, spending time enjoying nature, photography, playing with her family, and climbing the walls at her family’s rock gym.

Linda Minke: Music

Linda's Suzuki teacher-training, symphonic playing, and Waldorf knowledge combined with over 40 years teaching experience enable her to nurture students of all ages and abilities. Linda is one of the founding parents of the Playgarden.  Linda is currently completing the Explorations course offered by Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy.   

Hilary Case: Middle School Math

Hilary Case was introduced to the Playgarden by Juliann Gaus-Graesser in 2004 when nursing her baby girl at the Jacksonville Zoo.  Soon after, she was a parent in playgroups and the preschool.  This Waldorf experience reinforced her instinct for patience, encouragement, and allowing children to be children.

 

Hilary received her Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Clemson University.  She then used her engineering degree at Texas Instruments where she supervised the fabrication plant and worldwide shipping of silicon wafers that go inside of computer chips, automobiles, etc.  While at Texas Instruments, Hilary volunteered her time with several middle school aged organizations such as Junior Achievement, Expanding Your Horizons, and Science Fair judging.  As her children entered their middle school years, she was reminded how connected she felt to this age while leading middle school bible study at church, teaching middle school math classes, leading a Girl Scout troop, and tutoring middle school math.

 

Hilary’s basis for instruction is relating math problems to the student’s world, finding patterns in the math, and guiding them to discover the “why.”  Building confidence in her students is core to everything she does.  Confidence encourages the student to keep trying and succeed.  Middle School Math is also the foundation for all future math and for so much that could happen in their future...if they have the confidence to try and keep trying.

Lindsay Strohecker

Lindsay is a Certified Children's Yoga Instructor and lover of all things yoga. Her interest in positive lessons for children began when she received her degree in Psychology with a focus on Childhood Development from UNF.  Shortly after graduating, Lindsay became the Managing Director of the Old Florida Museum in St. Augustine where she developed hands-on Educational programs connecting children to our local, state and natural history.  As her family grew so did her personal yoga journey.  Lindsay experienced the endless benefits of practicing yoga with her own children.  Grounded in the values of positive creative love and strengthening the connection of our hearts, minds and body, the desire to teach Yoga to others grew.  As a result, Lindsay has been teaching yoga to children in our community, at festivals and in North Florida backyards for several years.  Outside of yoga. Lindsay and her husband love playing with their three young children at the beach and in the wilderness. 

www.wildchildkidsyoga.com
https://facebook.com/Wild-Child-Kids-Yoga

Yvette Angelique Hyater-Adams, MA-TLA is a writer, teaching artist, and narrative practitioner in applied behavioral science. Yvette runs Narratives for Change and is a storytelling facilitator creating pathways for women and girls to name and unpack barriers, explore her experiences through creative writing, and advocate for herself and others as cultural activism. Yvette has a long history in teaching creative and expressive writing to adults, high school, and middle school youth that creates personal and social change.

Bobbie Garner O’Connor, MA: Creative Writing

Bobbie O’Connor has 40 plus years of experience as an advocate for social justice. Her education, work and volunteer history have fostered a deep commitment to creating change.  One of the many ways she is a change agent is through writing - a path where she can be of service to foster equality for all – standing in her own fullness by using her voice.

Maria La Moureaux: Integrated Spanish

Maria graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelor of Arts in High School Education with a major in History and a minor in Spanish. She has two years of graduated studies on Caribbean History in which she dedicated her thesis research on the agronomic growth of the sugar cane industry in two of the Islands that form the archipelago of the Greater Antilles (Puerto Rico and Cuba).

Maria is a certified Spanish/History teacher for K-12 in the state of Florida as well as AP Spanish teacher. She began her teaching career in Connecticut where she worked with low income children from ages 18 months to 4 years old, as well as a counselor for their families.  She has taught American History, Government and Economics for High School kids as well as Spanish for Elementary and High School in Florida.  She has worked for several years coordinating, planning and designing History and Spanish Curriculum for two schools. Maria's purpose is to stimulate and motivate the students to be life-long learners. If she can inspire and provoke in her students the desire to learn another culture and language, then she believes she is not only helping them to extend their mind in a new horizon, but that they will have enriched and diversified their own soul and inner life.  Knowing other cultures and languages will help to break and eliminate future cultural prejudices.

Maria loves nature and one of her family’s hobbies is camping and traveling.  She has 4 grown up children (all perfectly bilingual in Spanish and English) and since they were babies she introduced them to camping, to love nature and to love the wonderful diversity of cultures present in this world. It is a pleasure for Maria to be working with the children in Spring River.

 

"El amor comienza cuando dejamos de lado nuestro ego y hacemos espacio para otra persona".

Megan Ariano: Handwork & Dramatic Arts

Megan is a Northern Virginia native and spent most of her childhood in the small historic village of Waterford, VA. Most of her inspiration for life and parenting stems from her loving parents and upbringing in Waterford. Fond childhood memories include the love of arts, historic preservation, community, made-from-scratch shared meals, natural parenting, gardening, and being surrounded by nature. 

Megan was born into a large family of six siblings. Her parents had homebirths with most of their children; babywearing, breastfeeding and attachment parenting were commonplace in their home. From growing up in a large, loving family she grew an interest in working with children, and spent many summers as a nanny. Megan attended the Governor's School for the Arts and taught photography workshops for children. Before starting her family, Megan applied her creativity and love of handcraft by working in the dental field.

Megan met her Italian-born husband, Andy, in 2002, and in 2004, they married and moved to Jacksonville, FL. They built their first house in 2005, and there Megan's love of gardening truly blossomed. In 2007, they welcomed their first child, Massimo, into the world. Five years later, second son Teo was welcomed earthside. From the moment she had her first child, she knew that homeschooling was her choice for their family. Megan enjoys raising her boys with the same love and interests that were bestowed upon her as a child.

Jack Carter: Circus Arts

Jack Carter is an acrobat, teacher, hand balancer, calisthenics enthusiast and ACSM Certified Personal Trainer. His love of health, fitness and expression through movement has spawned a full time career teaching, training and performing partner acrobatics, teaching surf lessons, training athletes and providing personal training and coaching services in Jacksonville, Florida.  Jack attended 9 weeks of Pitch Catch School of Acrobatics in Asheville, NC, In 2016 which included advanced full time training in partner acrobatics hand-to-hand, trio, banquine, toss the flyer, ikarian pops, handstands and tumbling under Niko Douwes and a week of devising, character development and act creation.

 

When Jack is not basing or flying in a handstand he is likely surfing, skateboarding, playing soccer or strumming his ukulele at the beach. His volunteer work includes coaching the Duval County Special Olympics surf team to a war chest of hardware made of gold, silver and bronze. He also coaches the Northeast Florida Surf Warriors with the Florida Surfing Association and the Wounded Warrior Project, the Silent Surfers for the Florida School for the Blind, and the Surfers for Autism. Jack dreams of creating a community circus space to offer partner acrobatics and other performance arts to kids and adults as well as fostering growth in Jacksonville’s Acro community to include circus-style acrobatics.

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Spring River School is part of The Playgarden, Inc., which admits students of any race, color, national origin, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.  #CO4DU0093

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