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Meet the Spring River Administrative Team

Tiffany Rhodin

School Administrator

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Tiffany comes to us as a parent-turned-staff from Tampa, Florida. Tiffany’s lifelong passion for natural Florida, for learning, and for serving her community resulted in her attainment of a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida in 2010. Since then, Tiffany’s expansive professional career has been motivated and driven by her desire to serve the children of her community.

For Hillsborough County Public Schools, Tiffany served as a teacher in the gifted program. She was a peer resource for classroom teachers with whom she spent much time collaborating and developing specific plans for students who needed to be intellectually challenged. Tiffany was able to work harmoniously with students, other teachers, and parents to develop and cultivate the whole child.

After the birth of her first son, Tiffany dedicated herself with this same passion to raising him, cherishing this incredibly special time between mother and child. It was during this time that Tiffany became an advocate for babywearing, so much so that she eventually owned and operated her own small business – Wearing is Caring – where she educated parents on the developmental benefits of child-wearing. Her second son arrived in 2015 which is also when her family relocated to Jacksonville.

It was in Jacksonville that Tiffany was drawn to the organizational ethics of IKEA where she spent time developing and implementing new programming in the Kids Club. Tiffany not only figuratively broadened her horizons by entering a new industry, but literally did so when she was selected to go to Vietnam to represent IKEA USA as part of the iWitness Program. She was chosen based on her love for cultures and her desire to serve children through community.

When her young sons became school age, she struggled with watching the challenges they faced and began the quest for an educational alternative for her vibrant and bright boys, culminating in their discovery of and enrollment here at Spring River School. With its intentional curriculum and thoughtful instruction, Tiffany has watched the Waldorf approach transform her child.

Tiffany spends her free time exploring the outdoors and relaxing at the beach with her husband and two sons. She is excited to continue her involvement with the beautiful community of Spring River School.

Sarah LoSchiavo

Pedagogical Administrator

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Sara LoSchiavo is delighted to join the Spring River community. She discovered Waldorf through a former student in the public school where she has taught for the last 9 years as a Montessori teacher of children ages 6-9.

 

Sara strongly believes in the mission of Spring River and is honored to dive in and help to further it. Her classroom focus has been building community and educating the whole child. She is passionate about working with children and adults to find joy and truth in life. Sara is currently enrolled in the Waldorf Building Bridges program.

Prior to teaching, Sara worked in Washington, D.C. in strategic nonprofit management. Her leadership style focuses on listening, observing, and relationship-building. She has a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and an Education degree from the Center for Guided Studies.

Sara is a certified yoga instructor and art teacher. She has traveled the world extensively and enjoys exploring different cultures and natural areas. She has brought all these experiences together in the classroom to center students with meditation and healing artwork. 

Sara has lived in Jacksonville for 15 years and loves to spend time in nature and with her family; husband Andy, and three amazing children, aged 18, 15, and 12. 

Laura Turbay

Enrollment Coordinator

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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 Coordinator.  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.)

Tara Moench

School Year 2023-24

First Grade  Class Teacher

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Tara is a Florida native. She studied Nutrition and Agriculture at Florida International University, followed by Education at Valencia College.

As her study of Education began, she found her roots in Waldorf Philosophy which branched out into a variety of fields. Starting with outdoor education, followed by a public school, a Reggio Emilia project-based school, and most recently, in a homeschool group. She offered a Waldorf- Inspired Cottage School from her home where the fruits of this form of education really bloomed.

Tara values a holistic learning environment that lets the spark of a child shine. Tales, myths, fables, history, and imagination seem to find their way into each subject. Her view of a teacher is that of a guide, guiding through new grounds of knowledge suitable for one’s age, with room to explore, wonder, and develop.

Interest outside of educating is that of learning herself. Local fauna, ethnic cooking, reading, creating, and simply walking. She looks forward to walking alongside the 1st-grade class this year and being a guide worthy of the children under her care.

Tara will be taking "Approaching Grade One" with the Center for Anthroposophy in Summer 2023.

Katie Fair

 School Year 2023-24

Second Grade Lead 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. 

Amanda Downie

 School Year 2023-24

Second Grade Associate Teacher

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Amanda holds a Bachelor's of Science in Health and Physical Education.  She was a Florida Certified Health and P.E. teacher for 7 years before having her children and starting her family in 2009.  After the birth of her first child, she decided to stay at home and care for her children. She has been a stay at home mother and homeschool parent for the past 14 years to her two girls.

 

Amanda  began her study and interest in Waldorf Education when her first daughter was just a toddler. After reading the book You Are Your Child's First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy she believed she had found her path in motherhood. She took up studying Waldorf Education in her free time and began homeschooling using Waldorf methods as her main philosophy on how she would educate her children. 

 

Amanda attended and received her Explorations into Waldorf Education certificate through Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy in 2019. She is currently enrolled in the Building Bridges Program at Antioch working towards her Waldorf Teaching Certificate and eventually her Master's. She is enrolled in a year long online Waldorf Handwork Teacher Training course that she will graduate from in the summer of 2024 giving her the opportunity to share her love for handwork.

 

Amanda brings with her deep care and respect for nature as well as an understanding of how to bring this to the children of our community. In her free time she enjoys knitting, walking outdoors in nature, cooking, and being with her two children, two dogs, and three cats at home.

Amanda is very excited to be bringing her love for Waldorf Education and the outdoors to the children in our community.  

Katie Bennett

 School Year 2023 - 2024

Third Grade Class Teacher

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Katie holds a degree in Education from UNF and taught in public school for 5 years. (Kindergarten, 4th grade, and 6th grade) Following her time in public education,  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 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!

 

Katie completed the Waldorf Grade 2 Renewal course at the Center for Anthroposophy in the summer of 2022, and will be continuing her approach to grades 3 and up and she loops.   She is a currently member of the Building Bridges to Waldorf Education cohort offered through the Center for Anthroposophy.  She has also completed Waldorf Explorations.  Katie is so incredibly honored to be a part of Spring River School!  

 

 "I have a deep love and respect for Waldorf Education and the quality of life and healing it can bring to children and their families."

 

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

Leah Henderson

 School Year 2023 - 2024

4th Grade Class Teacher

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Leah was first introduced to Waldorf Education when her daughter started at The Playgarden in 2017. She was soon enthralled and eventually became their Lead Forest Teacher. 

 

Through her professional development and experience at The Playgarden, Leah fell in love with the whole child approach to learning, understanding that the head, hands, and heart are all essential. This was a sentiment she had long ago discovered on her own journey through academia and as a professional in the field of education, and she was excited to see this sentiment echoed in the Waldorf community. As her daughter moved on from The Playgarden and into Spring River, Leah also wanted to follow the journey through the grades. 

 

Leah holds a Master’s degree in Teaching Secondary Science Education from the Univ. of Southern California and has a Florida Educator Certification in teaching Biology. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with minors in Chemistry, Computer Science, and Studio Art from the University of NC at Wilmington. She’s instructed Science and Engineering camps and programs for various organizations and schools. She is also a certified Lifeguarding/First Aid/CPR/AED Instructor and Water Safety Instructor.

 

Leah is currently completing Waldorf Teacher Training through the Center for Anthroposphy.  She is also holds a certification through the LifeWays of North America early childhood teacher training program. In 2022 Leah led a session on the “Benefits of Risky Play and Risk Assessment” for an ERAFRANS Teacher retreat. She led the same format in April 2023 at a workshop called "Nurturing the Roots.” She’s attended numerous workshops focused on outdoor schooling, learning in nature, and caring for the young child. She also is the recipient of the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) 2008 Woman of the Year Award.

 

Leah spends her free time listening to music, dancing, exploring the outdoors, reading, enjoying food, relaxing, and sharing space with her daughter, Cali.

Jackie Stetson

 School Year 2023-2024

5th Grade Lead 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.  Jackie is studying in the Building Bridges Waldorf Teacher Training Cohort for 2023-24.  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. 

Megs Lederer

 School Year 2023-2024

5th Grade Associate Class Teacher

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Children, learning and the great outdoors…Let’s go! This is the attitude Megs Lederer has embodied since her first day with Spring River in January of 2022. 

 

Megs fell in love with outdoor education long before having children as she learned more about herself and the world around her while trail running through the Sonoran Desert during her undergraduate studies. It was there she formed an instant connection to wild spaces. She regularly competed in trail races – running for hours through big mountains is still one of her great loves.  Her love deepened when she took eight months to explore the United States, camping and hiking her way through the National Forests and Parks from Arizona to Maine. 

 

When her children attended the PlayGarden, Megs became a regular substitute and connected instantly with the ways of Waldorf – approaching the child as a unique soul from a heart, hands and head perspective, learning through story telling, anchoring rhythms, soul-filling festivals and a deep sense of community. These are the pillars of our Spring River community that hold her and her family so tightly. 

 

Megs has a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Arizona and a Masters Degree from the University of Tennessee. Post college, she dug into her value of service while working for the Superior Court of Arizona, the Tennessee Institute for Public Service, and directing a national non-profit whose mission was to rehabilitate wounded veterans through sport. Megs is a member of the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools and attended various seminars to learn more about connecting, growing, and learning in the outdoors.  

 

Megs completed the Explorations course and is studying in the Building Bridges Waldorf Teacher Training Cohort for 2023-24 offered through Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy in New Hampshire. She has been trained in CPR/First aid with an emphasis on urban wilderness first aid. 

 

When Megs is not at school, her favorite activities include adventuring with her family, fishing, digging in the dirt, jumping waves, running and reading a good book. 

Cara Baxter-Downs

School Year 2023-24

6th/7th Grade Class Teacher

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Cara is a lifelong resident of Jacksonville Beach, Florida and graduate of Jacksonville University. 

 

In her 16 years as an educator, Cara has been privileged to work with students and teachers in a variety of K-8 settings, traditional and nontraditional.

 

Her certifications range from K-8 through high school Social Studies, ELA, and Earth Space Sciences.  She has worked as a classroom teacher, Reading Teacher, Science, Social Studies, and Math. Currently, Cara has been a global educator working with private families traveling internationally while ensuring the educational integrity of her client’s children. 

 

Her goal is to create academically engaging learning experiences through an environment that fosters creativity, curiosity, and compassion.  She is committed to sharing her passion for literacy, learning, and nature.  Cara was the 2010 Teacher of the Year (Mayport Coastal Sciences) recipient, Community Service Teacher of the Year (2010, 2018).  She will be taking two Waldorf middle school preparatory courses this summer through the Center for Anthroposophy and joining the Building Bridges cohort in the fall.

 

Cara is an avid hiker, runner, kayaker, nature enthusiast, and dog lover. Finally, she is a mother of two grown children who she loves dearly. 

Julia Hassler

School Year 2023-2024

8th Grade 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 One Teacher

Grades 5-8

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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, Grades 1-4

Teaching Assistant, K and 1st 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 is part of the Center for Anthroposphy's building Bridges to Waldorf Teacher Training Cohort for 2023-24.

 

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. 

Carolyn Cosma

Teaching Assistant, Forest School

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Carolyn grew up in rural Massachusetts on her family’s small homestead farm and especially enjoyed years of roaming the woods with her siblings, gardening and tending the Earth with her parents, and tending to their animals. Much of her time was spent outdoors hiking in the woods as well as at the beach and lake exploring all that the natural world had to offer. 

Carolyn knew she wanted to work with children and be a teacher at a young age. She began working at camps, daycares, and babysitting before receiving a degree in Elementary Education and Science in 2001. She taught for two years before deciding to shift into the field of social work where she was an art therapist and later ran residential programs and transitioned into administration, quality assurance, and training. She served as a caregiver for over ten years working with adult women with autism. 

Her passion has always been to teach, empower, and guide where called. She has studied multiple energy healing modalities for the past six years and loves coaching and offering spiritual guidance and healing through her personal business. 

Carolyn and her family decided to travel full time 2 years ago in their RV and have been all over the US and recently settled in Jacksonville. She loves homeschooling her 3rd grade child who now attends the Forest Program at Spring River. Waldorf education is in her heart with the approach of the whole child at the center and she is honored to be part of this beautiful and inspiring community. 

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. 

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. 

Adriana Amaya

Teaching Assistant, 2nd Grade

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Adriana Amaya is a dedicated mother and passionate educator. Originally from Colombia, she pursued a career in law, specializing in conflict solutions. However, when her daughter Sophia was born, her focus shifted toward children's education and communication.

 

Adriana discovered the power of homeschooling as a tool to provide her daughter with a unique and enriching educational experience.

 

To further enhance her knowledge, she took a course in intelligent development at the Doman Institutes. Equipped with these valuable tools, she embarked on a journey to help Sophia explore, and discover the world and herself.

As a Teacher Assistant (TA), Adriana's goal is to create a confident and joyful classroom environment for her students. She is committed to supporting the teacher and fostering a friendly atmosphere where everyone can thrive. It brings her great joy to make a positive impact on the lives of these students, ensuring they feel supported and empowered in their educational journey.

Alyssa Thorstenson

Teaching Assistant, 4th Grade

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Alyssa Thorstenson is a mother of three. Originally from New England, she moved around a bit due to her spouse being in the military and ended up here in beautiful Jacksonville.

 

Alyssa has always had a strong love for nature, the outdoors, and exploring new places. She decided to homeschool and found Spring River in 2022.  She quickly fell in love with and aligned with Waldorf and the focus on head, heart, and hands. 

 

This year, Alyssa is excited to join in the wonderful efforts as volunteer fundraising chair and assisting in 4th grade. She has been fully trained in CPR & First Aid. 

 

Alyssa is grateful to be a part of this beautiful community. 

April Langenburg

Teaching Assistant - Middle School

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April grew up as a city girl in Michigan. Convinced she would be a designer and live in NYC one day, she embarked on the journey through college at Wayne State University in Detroit. She acquired a Bachelor of art degree with a major in apparel design and merchandising. After visiting NYC on a class trip she decided that was "too much city" for her!

 

In 2010 she married Chad and they had their first of two daughters, Manhattan. April discovered the Waldorf method while searching for information about homeschooling. She fell in love with the idea of the method being grounded in art and music. She completed an online training and curriculum. Manhattan is now 13 and in 8th grade, and she loves video editing and writing.  April's other daughter, Sedona, is 7 and amazed by 1st grade and all things about play, music and building. April is a beach girl at heart and was glad to leave the child northern winters behind. 

 

April and her family originally relocated to South Florida in 2017, which is when she learned about Spring River. She fell in love with the school but thought “Jacksonville is so far”. She is sure that God expertly orchestrated their family's pathway here in 2020 and again in 2023. She would say it is meant to be! 

April is thrilled to join in community with so many amazing families to grow and learn within.

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