wallowtail's faculty and staff are inspired, talented, and devoted educators with a firm belief in the sanctity of childhood. They are tireless advocates for an education that honors the natural world, the arts, and the strengthening of spirit that is possible through a curriculum working with the developmental stages of youth. Every adult called to work at Swallowtail has a unique story of their own; be they musician, athlete, artist, or healer— all bring the wisdom of their lives into the classroom. Swallowtail's strength resides with the people who shape her community. Here are their stories . . .
Mrs. Sacha - Early Childhood Instructor
Growing up in a big family in Santa Monica, California my life was filled with love and plenty of family time. I spent my childhood outside exploring and playing with my siblings. We were often digging in the soil, playing games with our neighbors and climbing our apricot, orange, lemon and fir trees. Living blocks from the beach I spent a lot of time swimming in the ocean and basking in the warmth of the golden sun. If I wasn't running barefoot I'd be seen riding my roller skates, baking, beading, camping, surfing, dancing, singing or socializing.
Sunrise and sunset I'd sit in awe watching the ocean's glorious horizon. I enjoyed caring and learning from a very diverse circle of community. I was fortunate to be able to travel and live in Hawaii, to the Fijian Islands, throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Germany, the Netherlands, and the Cook Islands.
My great grandmother, grandfather, mother and uncle were all educators so my educational path started when I was very young. I began volunteering with special needs children, worked as a nanny, teen counselor, daycare provider, and am a mother of four young adults. In 2000, I became a Waldorf Early Childhood and Grades teacher at the AWSNA accredited Eugene Waldorf Teacher Training Program and have been training teachers since 2005. I am thankful to have completed my Associates Degree at PCC. I am a George Fox student majoring in Organizational Management and Leadership. I believe a great teacher is also a great student learning something new every day!
Swallowtail has always had a special place in my heart! In 2002 I first visited our school and loved the hometown country feel. I come from a family of farmers. We had a little farm daycare program in Canby for many years. We love spending time with our family on our Century Farm in Stayton, OR. There's no place better to raise a child than in the countryside!
I enjoy caring for people, being with my family and friends, singing, baking, cooking, canning, caring for my flower, herb and vegetable gardens, swimming, wake boarding, tandem bike riding with my husband, going to the gym with my son, skating with my youngest son, crafting, sewing by hand, embroidering, playing, traveling, getting massages, relaxing with my doggie and loving life!
Ms. Erica - Early Childhood Assistant
I grew up in a small town on the Arizona/Mexico border and my siblings and I played outdoors from sun up 'til sundown in the warm Arizona sunshine. We practically lived in the trees at our mom's house and when we weren't outdoors; our talented mother taught us many wonderful skills; crocheting, sewing, needlepoint and baking, among others. At our dad's house we were allowed to explore the abandoned railroad cars nearby and even discovered a double-decker bus that led to countless hours of play! We also enjoyed a lot of camping and fishing, horseback riding, mountain climbing, swimming and always had a garden to tend (no simple task in the harsh desert climate). It was a carefree and cherished time I will never forget!
Once I had children of my own, I realized how precious those times were and I longed to give my children memories they would treasure as well. I came to believe that when children are rushed into growing up, they miss the gift of childhood. This began a stirring in my heart that fanned into a passion for teaching young children. I earned my Associate's degree in Early Childhood Education and Family Studies while employed for three years with a federal preschool program. But there seemed to be a gap between what I was learning and what I saw in our classrooms and I felt there must be something more I could do for children.
Then, through a wonderful opportunity, I was granted permission to serve as a student teacher at Swallowtail School during my final term of college. The moment I walked into the Early Childhood classroom at Swallowtail, I felt my heart leap for joy; this is what I envisioned a young child's environment should be! It is a magical and nurturing environment in which children can bask in the joy of childhood while maintaining a balance of learning through play and art with social and environmental awareness. I look forward to beginning my journey toward attaining my certification as a Waldorf Teacher at the Micha-el Institute and growing as an educator of young children.
When I am not teaching, I love spending time with my husband and my two children. I am amazed at how my children are growing up so quickly! I also serve as a volunteer at my church in their children's program and I make jewelry, experiment with scrapbooking, and am working on learning to sew again!
Ms. Alyssa - Early Childhood Assistant
I grew up right here in the Portland area and attended many schools before my mom found Waldorf education for me and my younger siblings. I remember trying to convince my mom to let me stay home from school nearly every day before I attended Portland Waldorf School. Once I experienced Waldorf education, my mom could hardly keep me home from school - even when I was sick! I wanted to go to school every day because I realized that I loved to learn and that it could be so much fun.
I came to Swallowtail School as the Extended Care provider while I was still in my senior year of High School. My brother and sister attended Swallowtail and my mom works here as the Handwork and Extra Lesson teacher. Swallowtail feels like a second family to me and I love the sense of community we experience with our students and families.
I recently started working as an assistant in the Early Childhood classroom, in addition to my job as the Extended Care provider. I attended a Kindergarten training last summer at the Rudolf Steiner College and look forward to learning even more from all the amazing teachers here at Swallowtail.
Outside of Swallowtail, I love everything that can be done in the great outdoors! My husband Greg and I like to garden, ride bikes, go hiking and take our dog, Odin for walks. I also volunteer at the animal shelter here in Hillsboro.
Mr. Ron - Grades Instructor
I was born in New York but spent my childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. My father took us camping once a month, rain or shine, and I loved to be the in mountains and forests. Some of my favorite memories include camping and hiking through the Sierras or lush Redwood forests near the coast. I earned a BA in history from Pacific University in Forest Grove. After sampling many professions including sales, cooking, and warehouse management, I settled into a high tech career in systems administration and network engineering, where I stayed for fifteen years.
I first discovered Waldorf education when my son began school. It was obvious from watching him grow that this education met him in many ways. He attended Waldorf Schools from Kindergarten through high school and graduated from the Seattle Waldorf High School this year. He will be a freshman at University of Portland in the fall. Looking for a career change, I completed the Foundation Year of training in 2004 at the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training in Marin, California. Then I moved to Whidbey Island, Washington and completed my Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher training at Sound Circle Center in Seattle. I have eight years of experience working with children in Waldorf schools.
Swallowtail School seems a very special place and I find myself very much at home here. I look forward to moving into the Grades and embarking upon this new journey with Swallowtail School.
I am an avid woodworker and enjoy using traditional hand tools. Helping a friend build a custom home has been one of my more interesting accomplishments. I am also a striving banjo player and long to find time to grow this musical talent.
Mr. Kris - Grades Instructor
I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska under wonderfully expansive skies. A great deal of my childhood was spent at an automotive shop where I was free to get really dirty and tinker with different objects. I always enjoyed getting to use my hands to explore both the mechanical and natural world.
After college I came to Portland and worked for a time as an educator at a school for students with emotional and social challenges. During this time my wife shared with me stories about a Waldorf-inspired school called Swallowtail School where she was serving as an assistant in the classroom. Swallowtail seemed a place where teachers were afforded great freedom, and it was a desire for that freedom that led me to obtain my Waldorf training from the Micha-el Institute in Portland, Oregon. As a Waldorf teacher I hope to serve children body, soul, and spirit.
Outside of school I enjoy hiking, camping, and spending time with my two wonderful children. I also love riding bikes and fiddling around with different musical instruments.
Mr. Justin - Grades Instructor
I grew up in the mighty mid-western state of Michigan. I then moved to Chicago and went on to earn degrees in Elementary Education and Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago. After graduating I spent time traveling in the United States, Canada, and Europe playing music professionally. In 2011 I graduated from a three-year intensive Waldorf teacher-training program at the Micha-el Institute in Portland, Oregon. I have taught children of all ages, from preschool through eighth grade, in both public and private settings, although I feel I have found my calling as a Waldorf teacher.
I began teaching at Swallowtail in the fall of 2006. I worked for two years in the Early Childhood program before deciding to take a first grade class and to continue with them on a journey through the grades. Swallowtail has become an extremely important part of my life and is such a beautiful and unique school. I am pleased to be an employee and avid advocate of this wonderful institution.
When I am not at the school or busy preparing lessons I love to play music, work in my garden, play with my dogs, draw, paint, ride my bike around Portland, cook, build furniture, read, and spend time with my wife, friends, and family.
Ms. Ingrid - Grades Instructor
Having grown up in a family that highly values the arts, music and painting remain a great source of inspiration for my life. In college I chose to pursue painting, graduating from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Soon after that I immersed myself in exhibiting artwork in galleries around Oregon.
Years later, when raising my own children, I discovered Waldorf Education and instantly recognized the power of its three-fold approach to child development. I felt a strong calling towards this form of education and began my teacher training. From the initial opening of Swallowtail's doors in 1995, I worked in the classroom while continuing my studies of Waldorf pedagogy. Presently, I am joining my second class on a journey through the grades.
With the first children I worked with now enrolled in college, I am witnessing the impact that Waldorf education can make on a young life. An educational journey that slowly builds; enriched as it is with a creative curriculum timed to meet the needs of the developing child, connects both the children and the adults involved in the process to a wonder that will sustain and guide them all of their lives. Waldorf education helps children understand and strive for a life of purpose— a life that contributes to, and enhances, the society of which they are part.
Apart from teaching I continue to enjoy working in my painting studio, cultivating my family's 26 acres, and spending time in the splendors of nature.
Ms. Jean (maestra Juanita) - Spanish Instructor
It is a joy to share and awaken the Spanish language for the grade school students. The peoples of the United States, Mexico, Chile and Spain, who speak this musical language, have generously shared their language with me through my work and play. Sharing this with others is the best way I can express my gratitude.
I was introduced to Waldorf Education in 1985 and began studying the ideas of Rudolf Steiner in 1997. I continue to participate in ongoing studies of Rudolf Steiner's works and attend conferences annually in Waldorf Education. I am also a member of the Coalition of Foreign Language teachers in Oregon, COFLT.
My undergraduate studies conferred on me the degrees of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Services. I lived and worked in Santiago, Chile and have worked with Latin Americans in health care, civic and religious capacities in the States. I love to spend time with my husband and three daughters and enjoy gardening, yoga and cooking.
Ms. Renee - Handwork Instructor
I was born and raised in Colorado. This is where my love and enthusiasm for nature, animals, and physical outdoor movement began, and was nurtured. I earned a Bachelor of Psychology and a minor in Social Sciences at Boise State University. After college I worked for several agencies and institutions as a child therapist— positively touching the lives of children, adolescents, adults, and families. While raising my own three children, I happened upon the practice of Waldorf education and was so inspired by this way of schooling that I co-founded the Cedarwood Waldorf School in Portland, OR.
I have worked in Waldorf classrooms for the past 16 years, starting out with the preschool and kindergarten age groups. For the last 9 years, I have put my gifts to work as Handwork Teacher and Educational Support Therapist at Swallowtail School. I am a graduate of the three-year Extra Lesson Program at the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA and have completed intensive training at the Handle Institute in Seattle. I have a deep respect for the Waldorf curriculum; where teaching is not trying to fit the children into a mold, but instead enables the children to reveal their gifts and talents.
In my free time I enjoy biking, hiking, backpacking, and I'm an avid cross-country skier. I love exploring with my classroom kids, family members, the family dog (of course), and anyone else who matches my enthusiasm for the great outdoors!
Ms. Pam - Performing Arts and Music Instructor
I grew up all over the country, attending a wide variety of schools in several different states. I saw how varied schools could be, and was thus drawn towards teaching from a young age. After graduating from college, I taught many different ages, from pre-schoolers to high school students, and a wide variety of subjects, including music, drama, English, and history. I particularly enjoyed looking for the connections between subjects, and finding ways to fire students' imaginations through story, song, and hands-on projects.
After my own children were born, I looked for a school that would nurture their imagination via this kind of interdisciplinary learning. I looked for a school where the arts were an integral part of everyday learning and where a great respect and wonder for the natural world abounded. I also looked for teachers who found joy in the uniqueness of each child and let them grow at their own pace, with respect for diverse learning styles and gifts.
All four of my children have gone to Swallowtail; two have graduated and two are still attending. Our family lives in the country and we enjoy taking care of our animals and growing fruits and vegetables there. In my spare time, I enjoy making music, reading, researching, performing in community plays, and writing.
Ms. Sandy - Math Instructor
I was born in Pittsburg, but did much of my growing up in Indianapolis where I spent my summers and after school hours playing outdoors. My favorite pastimes were horseback riding and building forts in the nearby woods. The Indianapolis 500 race was the main event in Indianapolis and I am still a race fan. After my seventh grade year, my family moved to rural properties, first in New Jersey and then northwest of Chicago, where we able to care for our horses ourselves instead of boarding them. I rode every day in the forest preserve near our home. I loved being out in nature exploring the trails and watching the seasons unfold.
I first came to Portland to attend Reed College and it felt like I was coming home. I love the rain (most of the time) and was immediately enraptured with the scale and grandeur of the Oregon outdoors. After graduating with a degree in Biology, I worked for an environmental firm and then found my way into the high tech industry where I worked for a number of years as a software engineer and technical writer.
I first encountered Waldorf education when I was searching for a preschool for my oldest child. I loved the simplicity and rhythm of the Waldorf kindergarten classroom and the homey feel immediately put my son at ease. As I learned more about the Waldorf curriculum and the gentle unfolding of learning that occurs, I knew that this was the education I wanted for my children. My love of the curriculum led me to seek opportunities to be in the classroom first as a volunteer and later as a teacher. My family came to Swallowtail in 2001 and all three of my children attended Swallowtail.
During the past 19 years, I have taught parent-child classes, handwork, and middle school math and I have substituted in grades K-8. I have worked or volunteered at four different Waldorf and Waldorf-inspired schools and helped to found two of them. I feel very comfortable in my current role as the middle school math teacher at Swallowtail where I can combine my love of the beauty and elegance of mathematics with my love of Waldorf education.
In addition to my work at Swallowtail, I enjoy spending time with my husband and children. I enjoy hiking and camping, walking on the beach, genealogy, reading fiction and horseback riding.
Ms. Tina - Administrator
I grew up on a dairy farm in southwest Oregon. My strong beliefs about education came from my father, who served on the school board and always ensured that I made it to school, even if we had to cross flood waters on a tractor or boat.
After receiving my Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from the University of Oregon I taught physical education in both Oregon and Australian schools. Later, I went on to receive my Master of Education Policy, Governance, and Administration Degree from the University of Washington. I have served as an administrator for over fifteen years, and am exceedingly pleased to be a part of Swallowtail School.
I love contributing to a community of learners where everyone is valued and feels safe to practice new skills. I enjoy working with other people to get things done— it's a lot more fun and I believe that the end results are better if everyone in a community shares their ideas and contributes to the work. The strong community spirit at Swallowtail, in conjunction with an integrated learning model that values the natural environment, make it the ideal place for me to contribute my time and talents.
I have traveled extensively, including a sixteen-month tandem bicycle tour with my husband and two children that spanned five continents. I enjoy bicycling, walking, kayaking, gardening, building chicken coops, beekeeping, sewing, sketching with ink, and visiting the library.
Mrs. Cher - Administrator in Transition
After over 30 years of experience working in Waldorf Schools, joining Swallowtail feels like a welcome home coming.
Born a fourth-generation Southern Californian, I grew up with a perpetual sun-burned nose amidst an extended loving family. More academic than artistic or athletic, I excelled in schoolwork and was an avid Girl Scout with an enthusiasm for campfires, singing, crafts, and the natural and wild out-of-doors. In both school and scouting, my inclination toward organization and group work emerged. When I was a teen, I volunteered in my younger brother's kindergarten class and discovered my life-long fascination with child development.
I went on to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara and split my studies between Early Childhood Education and Philosophy, earning a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies.
After moving to Northern California, while working toward a public school teaching certificate, I was introduced to Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education at Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm. Once my own children began attending Summerfield, I embarked upon my journey as a Waldorf teacher and served for three years as Kindergarten Assistant while training in-house and at nearby Rudolf Steiner College. I was offered a Lead Kindergarten teaching position, and went on to teach Kindergarten at Summerfield for 12 years. Always active in parent advocacy and organizational matters, it was a natural progression to then take on the position of Administrator, a job I held for over six years. My work in this area was strengthened by the Waldorf School Administration and Community Development Course at Sunbridge College.
My family fared well through these years, rooted in the rich community that surrounds a Waldorf school, and my children were fortunate to be able to attend Kindergarten through High School.
The next chapter in my life's adventure included a move from Northern California to Nelson, BC, where we enjoyed winter snow and I consulted at the Nelson Waldorf School. I also taught Kindergarten as a year-long substitute at the nearby Sandpoint, Idaho Waldorf School - pleased to be back teaching, both in the classroom and working beside Waldorf colleagues. Not long afterward, both of our adult children and their spouses settled in Portland, and so began our plan to relocate to Oregon to be closer to them.
Once settled in Oregon, I was hired as High School Chair at the Portland Waldorf School, where I recently served for three years. Lately I have been having great fun with our two new grandchildren, working hard on a major house remodel, pursuing my passion for gardening, and imagining the next work community in which I could belong and serve. I am delighted to say this community happens to be right here at Swallowtail School!
Ms. Karmen - Office Manager
I grew up in the mid-west, where you can see for miles, in the beautiful state of Wisconsin. Living out in the country on boundless acres I love wide open spaces and being quiet in nature. I was taught at a young age about hard work and the rewards of growing a big garden. I went to private school for elementary, and attended a boarding academy for high school. I then moved to Texas to attend college and receive my degree in Office Administration.
After working a few years, I married and started a family. We moved to the Portland area in the spring of 2000. I heard about Waldorf Education from a good college friend. I looked for Waldorf Schools in the area and we found Swallowtail. Waldorf Education's foundation is based on bringing learning to the child in an imaginative way and that is what drew my family to Swallowtail. We enrolled our children in the fall of 2006, and I became the Lavender Garden Preschool Assistant. We have been with the school ever since, and I started working with the Administration Team in the spring of 2009.
In my extra time I am a parent and wife. I enjoy spending quality time with my husband, children, family and friends. I also like to crochet, scrapbook, play the piano, sing, garden, camp, swim, bike, fly, and be in nature.
Ms. Brenda - Enrollment Coordinator
I was raised by my Grandmother in sunny Southern California and later moved to Southern Oregon. I attended a small private Catholic school, and always had an appreciation for being part of a small and supportive community. After a college tour of the west coast, I completed a B.S. degree in Biology from Portland State University and an M.S. in Environmental Education from Southern Oregon University. My previous work experience includes environmental consulting, teaching, tourism and marketing.
As it does for many people, having a child changed everything for me! I discovered Waldorf education for my son when he was in preschool. The Waldorf philosophy complimented our lifestyle and was a great fit for my son's personality. He has been thriving here at Swallowtail School since 2010.
I spent six years as a stay-at-home mom before returning to work part-time. I was an active parent volunteer here at Swallowtail for three years prior to joining the administrative team as the Enrollment and Outreach Coordinator in 2013.
In my free time, I enjoy travel, baking, gardening, crafts, hiking, meditation, and playing board games.