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.

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.

Dana Salerno, Middle School Math and Creative Writing

Dana has always enjoyed working with children but found her way into teaching as a second career. Dana worked in advertising sales and management in New York City.  After 9/11, she felt the need to make a change in order to contribute more to society and the greater good.  She applied and was accepted into the NYC Teaching Fellows program and began teaching the following September in a high need public school in the Bronx.  Teaching during the day and working towards her master’s degree in the evening, Dana found fulfillment in her new career.  She has a master’s degree in education and is a certified teacher in both Florida and New York State. In addition to homeschooling her children, Dana acts as a resource for new homeschool parents by offering guidance, tutoring students, and providing student assessments and homeschool portfolio evaluations. 

Kristen Papke: Kindergarten

Ms. Papke's education started at the University of West Florida with a BA in Elementary Education with Specialization in Early Childhood Education.  She spent 10 years teaching VPK and developing special bonds with both the children and families in the local beach community.  Her next adventure was joining a new Waldorf community where she was able to teach Kindergarten and loop up to the Second Grade with her students. She describes these years as some of her greatest years of teaching.  Ms. Papke then joined the administration team to help grow the vision of Waldorf in our community.  She has also had the pleasure of attending the Rudolf Steiner College & Alliance for Public Waldorf Education Conference.

 

Ms. Papke is a mother of two.  She enjoys spending hours outdoors, just walking the beach collecting shells or paddling the ocean on her board. She strongly believes that the heart of all teaching should be the joy and love of learning and the excitement of discovering the world and its wealth of wonders.  

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

Caitlin Flynn Baiata: Middle School 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

Kim Kelly: PE Challenge & Cyber Civics

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.

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.”

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.

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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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