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.

Jackie Stetson: Class Teacher, Program Director

Ms. 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.  

 

Ms. 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.

Ms. 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.  

 

Ms. 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.  

Julia Hassler, Class Teacher, Middle School Science, Handwork

Ms. 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.

 
Ms. 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. 


Ms. 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.

 

 Ms. Julie completed the Explorations Course offered through Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy in 2019 and is looking began working toward her Masters in Waldorf Education at Antioch University in summer 2019.

Carrie Zarka Dooley, Class Teacher

Ms. 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.   In 2012, Ms. Carrie joined the board of The Playgarden by the Sea, a Waldorf inspired preschool and her leadership ensured organic foods to be part of their curriculum. She has been a faithful board member for 8 years, advocating for the school to develop outdoor programing 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 a Sixth 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 circle that ignited Spring River School and the Northeast Florida Anthroposophical Study Group, The Sophia Circle.  Ms. Carrie helped create a bond with the Center for Anthroposophy and brought to our community their premiere teacher training program.  Currently, she is finishing her Master’s in Waldorf Education at Antioch University and is overjoyed to join the Spring River teaching staff to carry our students on a journey that instills a long life of learning.

Sierra Humphreys: Class Teacher, Music

Ms. 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. 


Ms. Sierra  teaches Music Enrichment, and is our first grade class teacher. She has previously 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.

 

Ms. 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 green house for the town of Ranikhet.

 

Ms. 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.

Whitney Jeffreys, Class Teacher

Ms. Whitney holds a degree in Early Childhood Education and led a Waldorf inspired kindergarten program for 6 years at a Duval County Charter School. Creating and implementing a curriculum that followed standards while using a Waldorf inspired approach. During that time Whitney attended many professional development trainings including The Public Waldorf Teacher training at the AWSNA Annual Conference in 2015 and 2017 at Rudolf Steiner College and attended the Kentahten Institute for Waldorf Education in 2014. She was also mentored by Dr. Mary Goral and looks forward to her continued learning of Waldorf Education. Whitney is drawn to Waldorf education as it is inline with her own personal beliefs and philosophy as to how education should be presented to children; working holistically through the head, heart and hands. She prides herself when it comes to being part of a child’s educational journey and supporting them in their love of learning, growth and new experiences. She is very excited about joining the unique and special community of Spring River School.

 

Whitney grew up locally at the beaches and is married to her husband, Dane. They have a daughter and are expecting a baby boy in the Fall. As a family, they enjoy going to the beach, camping, bike rides, traveling and spending time with friends. Whitney loves live music, cooking, decorating, days spent with her family and learning about natural remedies and nutrition.

Katherine Lester, School Administrator

Katherine has grown up in the Jacksonville Waldorf community and we are delighted she has chosen to work with Spring River.  As a little girl, she was in one of the original playgroups that formed the foundation of The Playgarden (formerly the Jacksonville Waldorf Initiative and Seaside Playgarden) and her mother, Chis Lester, was one of the founding board members.  Katherine kept her Waldorf connections alive as a summer camp counselor for the Seaside Playgarden when she was in high school, and as an extended-day teacher at the Seaside Charter School for two years. While in college, Katherine also worked as a substitute teacher and teacher’s assistant in The Playgarden’s forest kindergarten and early childhood programs. Katherine interned with the administrative staff of the Playgarden and Spring River School, was a graduate assistant at Hicks Honors College at UNF, and volunteered on several Board committees.
 
     This month, Katherine will graduate with a Master’s Degree in Public Education from the University of North Florida with a self-created focus in Education Administration. Katherine has also completed courses from the Explorations program (formerly Foundations) offered by the Center for Anthroposophy, and continued on to complete a Waldorf School Administration and Governance course through Antioch University’s summer renewal offering.  Katherine will be obtaining her LifeWays of North America early childhood certification in the fall of 2020 and is the local coordinator for the Center for Anthroposophy’s “Building Bridges to Waldorf Teacher Training” certification. 
 
     Katherine lives in Atlantic Beach with her dog, Maybel, and they love to adventure around the local parks and beach. Katherine also is an avid camper, enjoys the beaches and  riverways of Northeast Florida, and cooking, reading, and handwork. She is incredibly passionate about Waldorf and outdoor education. Working with children in an environment that supports their growth as a human being fills her with hope for the future.

Michelle Carter: Living Science, Forest School, Summer Camp

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

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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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