Meet The Spring River College of Teachers and Faculty

Our teachers are the heart of Spring River, and have been chosen by the College of Teachers and 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. Many of our teachers have backgrounds in public school education and have chosen a new path with a focus on Waldorf Education and/or certification. If you are interesting in becoming a teacher or joining the staff of Spring River, please apply through our Employment Opportunities page.

Jackie Stetson

 School Year 2020 - 2021 

2nd grade Class Teacher

and Program & Pedagogical Director

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 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.  Jackie is  member of the College of Teachers, a group of teachers at the school who are responsible for hiring and mentoring of teachers, developing programming and overseeing the curriculum.

Julia Hassler

School Year 2020 - 2021

5th/6th grade Combined Class Teacher,  

Middle School Science, and 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. 


Julia completed the Explorations Course offered through Antioch University and the Center for Anthroposophy in 2019 and is currently working toward her Masters 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.

Julia is  member of the College of Teachers, a group of teachers at the school who are responsible for hiring and mentoring of teachers, developing programming and overseeing the curriculum.

Carrie Zarka Dooley

School Year 2020-2021

3rd/4th  Grade Combined Class Teacher


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, Carrie joined the board of The Playgarden by the Sea, and her leadership ensured organic foods to be part of their curriculum. She was 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 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 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  is  member of the College of Teachers, a group of teachers at the school who are responsible for hiring and mentoring of teachers, developing programming and overseeing the curriculum.

Currently, Carrie 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 life-long love of learning in the beautiful outdoors that she feels so connected to.

Sierra Humphreys

 School Year 2020 - 2021 

K/1st grade combined Co- Class Teacher,

Forest School Lead Teacher, and Music Teacher


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 co-teaches 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, 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.  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.

Katherine Lester

 School Year 2020 -2021

K/1st grade combined Class Teacher

(Winter and Spring Semester 2021)

and Forest School Teacher Assistant



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.
     Katherine graduated  with a Master’s Degree in Public Education from the University of North Florida with a self-created focus in Education Administration. She 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 obtained 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. 

Michelle Carter

 School Year 2020 - 2021 

Forest School Lead Teacher

and Enrollment Director


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 hard-working member on their Board of Directors, has been a substitute TA for their programs including being a forest TA in 2017.


Michelle has taught a STEM class for Spring River and has been a substitute teacher.  She also 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 

Laura Turbay

 School Year 2020 - 2021 

Spanish Teacher

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.

She initially studied Business and specialized in Finance and Marketing; but in 2018, when she moved from Colombia to Jacksonville, she decided to shift her career and pursue her life-long dream of working in children’s education.  She enrolled in University of West Florida to become a certified Spanish teacher, and she is currently finishing her internship at Mill Creek Middle School and working as a Substitute Teacher in other public and private schools.  

While working in traditional schools, Laura has 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. 

As a teacher of World Language, she believes children learn the most through experiences they enjoy, filled with culture and stories, music, art and games of all kinds.  A language is something to absorb, and not to memorize. 

Laura is married to Juan and has 2 wonderful children: Pablo (12) and Helena (5). Laura loves to spend time outdoors with her family and her dog Calao, she enjoys biking, hiking, horseback riding and going to the beach.

Codie Flanders

 School Year 2020 - 2021 

Substitute Teacher

Summer 2021 - Summer Camp Director

Codie is an experienced outdoor educator who has completed her Bachelors in Education and obtained a Florida Teaching License with a certification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language.


She started to develop her career through multiple years of teaching

internationally with a focus in alternative outdoor education. She has been a substitute teacher at Spring River and The Playgarden for the school year 2020-21.

Codie has held previous positions as a lead boarding school teacher/field guide at the

Academy at SOAR, a change agent at SailFuture Foster Homes, and Head

Preschool teacher at Tulum International School.

Codie holds certifications in Wilderness First Aid, Open Water Lifeguard Certification, and Trauma Crisis Certification.  She has a passion for self development through outdoor exposure and holistic practices and is excited to be part of the impact that the Waldorf method of teaching has on the community by developing well-rounded children through head, heart,

and hand practices. 

Whitney Jeffreys

 School Year 2020 - 2021 

K/1st grade combined Class Teacher


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 Dane. They have a daughter and a newborn. 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.

Whitney is currently on maternity leave, and we hope will be rejoining us in the near future.

"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

Many of the beautiful photos on our webpage and on social media were taken by our favorite local photographer Kim Kelly.  Learn more about Kim and her work at

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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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