Meet our Faculty & Staff
Swallowtail'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.
Early Childhood Teachers
Daisy kindergarten Teacher
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I feel extremely fortunate to call Oregon my home. My childhood was spent climbing trees, making forts in the woods, playing in my neighborhood, imagining and creating anew each day. When I was young, I promised myself to always remain a child at heart.
Being an artist my entire life has had a great influence on my path. I graduated with a degree in Fine Art, with a multimedia design emphasis, from the University of Oregon. After college, I ventured to Maui seeking creative inspiration and cultural immersion. I worked there for many years as a photographer and graphic designer, but my heart always pulled me in the direction of working with children.
My enthusiasm for Waldorf education led me to become involved at the Haleakala Waldorf School, located in Kula, Maui. I began to realize my passion was calling me to become a Waldorf Kindergarten teacher, so I happily moved back to Eugene to complete my Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Training. My training in Eugene was incredible and life changing; and has led me to where I am today.
In my free time, I love doing anything creative or outdoors. I especially delight in celebrating and honoring the changing seasons and festivals. Reading, crafting, gardening, nature walks, swimming, doing yoga, spending time with my family, and traveling to Maui are activities I do as often as I can. I'm also a music enthusiast and a bit of a foodie.
I feel so honored and joyful to be a part of the Swallowtail School community. The vision this school carries resonates in my heart and soul. I am deeply inspired to be on this journey of learning and growing together with my fellow colleagues, parents, and children.
Butterfly Kindergarten Teacher
I grew up in Nebraska and, as a child, always loved traveling to the mountains of Colorado and to the west coast. I knew even then that I wanted to live in a place where I could be surrounded by the dynamic beauty of the oceans and mountains.
In 1999, I graduated with a BA in Psychology. Shortly thereafter, I began working with children, those with special needs in particular. In all of the school or structured settings I observed, I felt there was something profound that was lacking in the relationship between the teachers or caregivers and their students. Upon moving to Hillsboro in the fall of 2001, my eyes were opened when I came to assist in a 1st-3rd grade classroom at Swallowtail School. There, I witnessed how the love between a teacher and their students can, and should, be the driving force in education. This was my first breath of Waldorf education, and I knew then that it was the path I wanted to travel.
I have been both a lead teacher in the Grades and in the Kindergarten, taught a parent-child class at Swallowtail, and offered Waldorf-inspired childcare in my home while my own children were very young. I now happily return to my home in the Swallowtail community as the lead teacher in the Butterfly Kindergarten classroom.
Sunflower Preschool Teacher
I discovered Waldorf Education while looking for the best ways to raise and educate my own children. I was born in New York and raised and educated in Boston. My introduction to Waldorf Education was when I enrolled my oldest son, Joey, in the Cape Ann Waldorf School in 1998 as a preschooler. In 2000, I moved to Eugene, Oregon with my three children to begin my Waldorf teacher training. I spent three years teaching at the Corvallis Waldorf School, both in Early Childhood and Grade 4. I hold a Waldorf Teaching Certificate for Early Child and Grades teaching.
Butterfly Kindergarten Assistant
I moved to Oregon at age eleven, after spending my early childhood in a small town in upstate New York. Since arriving in the Pacific Northwest I take every opportunity to explore the beautiful beaches, majestic mountains and endless hiking trails the area has to offer. In my spare time I also enjoy practicing yoga, playing my trumpet and ukulele, studying herbal medicine and spending time with my partner and our growing family of rescue animals.
In 2009, I graduated from Portland State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts and Letters. During my time in college I became enchanted with the field of Early Childhood Education, and began teaching at an arts based preschool in Bethany Village. I was introduced to Waldorf Education while working as a nanny for a local family. I was especially taken with the Early Childhood program, where hushed voices, handwork, imaginative play and a nurturing atmosphere set the perfect stage for young minds, bodies and souls to flourish.
I feel fortunate to have found Swallowtail School as a place to set down roots as both a teacher and a student within this nurturing community.
Daisy Kindergarten Assistant
From the time I was four years old I have been immersed in Waldorf education. As a child I attended Swallowtail School from pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade. Waldorf education fostered a deep-rooted and steadfast love for nature, art, and the beauty of the world that I enjoy to this day.
As I grew older, my area of study incorporated child brain development, psychology, and a focus on children with special needs. I graduated from The University of Portland with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Neuroscience and an eagerness to give back to the community and enter into a teaching field. In 2014 I began work as a first grade Teaching Assistant at Cedarwood Waldorf School in Portland. I made the transition back to Swallowtail School to not only go back to my home roots, but to follow a calling to enter into a kindergarten teaching assistant position in 2016.
I am excited and thankful to be back in the Swallowtail community, and I am so eager to continue finding my own path in Waldorf education!
Lukas Schneider, Grade 1
The cold winters, the muddy spring weather, the hot humid summers and the dazzling fall colors were all the backdrop for my early life. I was educated from K-12 at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School in Upstate New York. Both my parents chose to dedicate their lives to agriculture, and therefore I spent most of my childhood outside on the 400-acre Biodynamic farm they managed. My brother and I explored as often as we could. Whether it was whole days spent fishing and swimming or summers spent milking the cows when we were older, Mother Nature was our guide. Upon graduation from Hawthorne Valley, I chose to attend Wheaton College near Cape Cod in Massachusetts where I studied music for the next four years. In 2010, after graduating from Wheaton and spending a summer working at a cooking camp for children on Hawthorne Valley Farm, I felt as if I had my fill of the East Coast and Portland called my name.
Over the next four years, I pursued being an active musician in the Portland music scene as a drummer. I became interested in recording, and sought out as much experience as I could at different studios in the area.
It was after experiencing the life of an active recording and gigging musician for these years that I felt the pull back to working with children through education. Because of my experience both at a Waldorf School for my primary and secondary education and at a more traditional four year college. After that I came to realize what a profound impact my Waldorf years had made on me. I had also always felt I would end up pursuing a career as a teacher and so I enrolled at the Micha-El Institute for Waldorf teacher training in Portland. Through the tip of a friend, my partner Kelly and I went to tour Swallowtail and inquire about the first grade position. We immediately both felt so welcomed by the staff, and felt such a connection to the school and farm that it seemed like an encounter with the weavers of fate! It was with excitement that I began this journey with a first grade class in 2016, and I feel great things are in store for the future of the Swallowtail community.
Ingrid Zahl-Thomas, grade 3
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.
Annette johnson, Grade 4
My early years were spent in Wellington, the windy capital city of New Zealand before moving to Napier on the East Coast. The outdoors was always a huge part of my life and the beach, rivers and mountains were never far away.
After graduating from high school, I worked at a local library while completing librarianship training. University beckoned, followed by Teacher's Training College as I embarked on a new career.
As is often the case, it was through my children that I discovered Waldorf education and I began the training when my youngest child entered first grade. Throughout my 20 years of teaching, I have worked with children ranging from grades one through twelve in both public and private schools. I love to learn with the children as new subjects are explored and material is approached in different and inspiring ways.
Waldorf teaching has inspired in me a love of art and painting, along with the desire to experiment with different artistic techniques. Another developing interest is woodwork, both small and large scale, as my husband and I continue work on building a cabin. I also enjoy studying nutrition, reading, gardening, being outdoors and exploring nature.
Swallowtail is an independent yet innovative Waldorf school with a bright and inspiring future, of which I am excited to be a part of.
KELLY marquis, Grade 5
I grew up on a beautiful hobby farm in the small town of Menomonie,Wisconsin. I spent warm days climbing apples trees, searching for strawberries and raspberries, baling hay, unsuccessfully refusing to weed the acre asparagus patch, playing in the woods, searching for new kittens, climbing the forbidden windmill ladder, and taking mud baths. My time outside exploring, playing, and working built physical strength and resiliency, pride in self-sufficiency, and really instilled a love for nature and farming.
My freshman year of high school, my parents took us to Barcelona, Spain for six months and I experienced culture shock. My love of Spanish began on this trip and I carry fond memories of walking on the Rambla,talking to strangers using my Berlitz dictionary for every word while traveling the country with my family, and the friends I made at school there. Barcelona had such a strong impact on me, that I chose to return for my junior year as an exchange student and lived with a Spanish family for a year. I really owe my grammatical foundation and love for Spanish to this time in Spain.
I later attended Grinnell College and graduated with a major in Sociology. The foundation of Spanish supported me on an adventure to Costa Rica to manage an eco-adventure hotel. Along the way, I met my husband, Noah, while guiding white water in Colorado. Together we moved to Honduras where I taught 7th and 8th grade science, and most recently to Ecuador to consult for permaculture installation and conservation reserve project.
I found Waldorf during our time in Ecuador, while searching for a system of alternative education and felt intrigue with the philosophy. I also met some Waldorf graduates and was really impressed with the way they flowed through the world with creativity and grace. We moved to Portland so I could attend the Micha-el Institute, and have been here ever since. I love that art, music, and movement are part of my everyday life and feel that my wonderings are brought into sync under Steiner's philosophies.
Noah and I have three children who all attend Swallowtail School and Farm.
KRIS porto, Grade 6
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.
NANCY peirce, Grades 7/8
I grew up in Ohio and Michigan, surrounded by a large extended family. After a few years in San Francisco, in 1970 I moved to a homestead in the mountains of Northern California, married into a local logging family and began to raise my children on a very isolated homestead. I began teaching in our rural school district and taught in several different situations before discovering Waldorf Education and moving to Portland in 1992 to become a class teacher at the Portland Waldorf School.
My children loved living in a city and in a house with electricity for the first time and I fell in love with being a Waldorf class teacher. After graduating my third eighth grade class from PWS in June, 2014, and knowing I was just not ready to stop being a Waldorf teacher, I was delighted to learn that Swallowtail was looking for a class teacher. I look forward to the adventure to growing to be part of a new community, yet continuing with my passion for this education.
When not at school, I enjoy gardening, reading, hiking, biking and spending time with my two grown-up children and all my many former students who have kept me in their lives.
Jean jenck-mlynski (maestra Juanita),
lower grades spanish
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.
marcela steadham, upper grades spanish
The largest part of my childhood and early teens home was in Santiago Chile enjoying the big mountains skiing and the ocean windsurfing both less than 2 hours away from home. I attended a French school but spoke Spanish at home and elsewhere. Since my children started in the Waldorf School in 1992 in Bellingham, WA, I have been extremely interested in Waldorf philosophy and wanted to learn everything about it.
I was fortunate enough to be asked to be one of the language teachers at the school my children attended and haven't quit teaching since. My background is in architecture and design, but teaching is indeed my true calling and passion.
I enjoy the outdoors, reading, yoga and the arts.
Performing Arts & Music
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.
Sandy baldrige, advanced Math
I was born in Pittsburgh, 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.
sadie lifton, handwork teacher
I was introduced to Waldorf education at age 3, when I join the kindergarten at Portland Waldorf School. After graduating from PWHS in 2007, I went on to pursue Fine Art and Native American Studies at The Evergreen State College. I returned to PWS in 2009 to work in the Summer and Vacation Camp Program. During four solitary months spent knitting through my entire yarn stash in rural Montana, it became clear that Waldorf education – specifically handwork – is my life’s work. I began my teacher training at The Fiber Crafts Studio at the Threefold Educational Center in Spring Valley, New York and returned to PWS as a Handwork Assistant in 2013. After three years learning, planning, dreaming, and gaining confidence I found myself ready to step into a lead teacher role. Taking up the Handwork program at Swallowtail during such a transformative moment in the school’s story has been an amazing experience. I’m so excited to see the students astound themselves and the community with the skills they will gain and projects they can accomplish in the coming years!
Administration & Staff
Cher levendosky, Administrator
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!
Brenda mccoy, 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.
MICHALINA MARKOWITZ, fINANCE MANAGER
I was born in Portland, and grew up in the Portland area and in Manzanita, on the Oregon Coast, where I graduated from high school. I attended the University of Oregon and Portland State University where I got a Bachelor's degree in Operations Management, and then went on for a Master's degree in Accounting. My family moved to Oregon from Northern California, where we had been at another Waldorf school. We really like the rural feel of Swallowtail, and enrolled in January 2014. In December of that year, I took the position of part-time Finance Manager. In my free time I enjoy road trips with the kids, baking, working part-time in my family's business, and watching my boys play football.
EMILY SAXTON, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
I hold a BA in History and an MA in Public Administration, but my interest in writing, excitement around measureable community engagement, and passion for school choice led me to positions in school fundraising. I worked at two charter schools in Portland, which helped guide me toward the blend of expertise, compassion, engagement and beauty that Waldorf makes possible. It’s great to be in a place where all families have made a deliberate decision to join the school community, and where students are able to learn so fully. In addition to working, I enjoy bike riding, reading, camping and exploration, gardening, and adventures with two small dogs and my wife.
Anna Ruby, Office Manager
I joined the Swallowtail office staff in January 2016 after staying at home with my two children for 8 years. All of the faculty and staff at this school are so wonderfully caring for each other and for the children - I couldn't have asked for a better transition back to the working world! My background is in broadcast journalism, which comes in handy for the days when I'm doing a lot of multi-tasking. It is a true joy to work at the school that my daughters attend.
Noah marquis, Farm Steward
I grew up on family farms in Michigan, and in the whitewater rivers of Colorado. During my youth, I was blessed with a loving family, who gave me a diverse exposure to many aspects of the human and natural worlds.
Throughout my entire life, I have had a deep connection with nature and all of its beautiful idiosyncrasies, with a particular love for moving water. This love led me to a career as an expedition river explorer for 14 years. When I stopped counting, I had over 75,000 river miles, on 260 different rivers, in 12 different countries. I spent years exploring and interacting with the agrarian cultures and landscapes that existed along the rivers I was lucky enough to be floating. These influences convinced me that I needed to start building my skills and knowledge to become a better steward of the land, and keeper of the trees, as well as an avid river man.
My first introduction to Steiner's Biodynamic method of agriculture occurred while working on Christchurch polytechnic's sustainable agriculture research farm in Guvnors' Bay, New Zealand, 1999. Since then, I have worked on a dozen different farms around the world. I am an ISA certified arborist, and most recently restored and transitioned a 2.5-acre blueberry u-pick from conventional to biodynamic practices.
Currently, I live on the Swallowtail Farm with my family, along with a ton of critters. We love the farm life and spend our days growing, preparing and preserving our food, looking after our animals, and playing about.
matt patterson, facilities manager
I grew up and attended school in nearby Hillsboro. I later went to college in Central Oregon to prepare for a career in firefighting, later working as a wild land firefighter seasonally. I ultimately moved back to Hillsboro to start a family, and had a 9 year career as a structural firefighter. I'm currently a jack-of-all-trades including industrial sewing and audiobook voice recording. I arrived at Swallowtail as a parent with my son in 2011, and have always been drawn to the artistic elements of Waldorf education. Over the years I have helped out with teaching specialty subjects at Swallowtail including woodworking and handwork, chaperoning fieldtrips, and general substitute teaching. I officially joined the staff as Facilities Manager in 2016. My other hobbies include canoeing, everything outdoors, and Native American studies. I also assist each year with Potlatch, attended by Waldorf 4th graders from across Oregon.