Who We Are

Educators
Leadership

Amanda Collis

Mountain River School Educator

I grew up in a small town right outside of Albany, NY.  I went to a one-room school house for Kindergarten, First and Second Grade.  This is where I fell in love with school and knew that I wanted to be a teacher.  I used to wear my mom’s high heels and recruit the neighborhood kids to be in my “class”.  I’ve traded the high heels for hiking boots and while my idea of what it means to be a good teacher have changed since I was little, my passion for teaching has only grown.

I graduated from the University of Vermont in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Communication Sciences. While at UVM I was a four year starter on the softball team and was voted captain my senior year. While softball has taken me across the country, I always come back to the Northeast.  

Before joining Mountain River School I worked at a private preschool for twelve years and served as both teacher and director.  I am excited to be back in the classroom full time as I love learning alongside my students in the great outdoors.  I am excited to take full advantage of all the outdoor learning space that surrounds Mountain River School.  I love bringing the community into meet with the children, whether it be a visit from Peace Pups (a local dog sledding organization) during the Iditarod, an experienced yoga instructor, or a composting expert.  

I currently live in Bolton with my husband, Bob, and our dog Tyrus.  We all love to be outside, whether it be hiking, snow shoeing or running in preparation for my eighth half marathon in October.  When I’m not outside, I love to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen.  

I am thrilled to be part of the Mountain River School teaching staff and I am looking forward to continuing to get to know the school community!

 

 

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Matt Mitchell

Mountain River School Educator

I grew up east of Boston, in a suburb most notable for its gigantic mall and home to Heisman Trophy-winning Natick High School alum, Doug Flutie.  My neighborhood was a short bike ride away from my childhood elementary school, as well as adjacent to the local town forest, a hundred-acre preserve, which encompassed a vegetative pond.  Much of my childhood was spent outside in these spaces, whether imitating the Boston sports stars who adorned the walls of my childhood bedroom or bushwhacking through the woods, trying to elude a seeker during a neighborhood-wide game of tag.
 
My first exposure to teaching, therefore, was through sports.  Beginning in high school and continuing throughout college, I coached many seasons of youth recreational soccer, basketball and baseball, several teams of which were coached alongside my father.  Coaching ignited a sense of purpose for me; I was able to make meaningful connections with the players.  Also overlapping some of those coaching seasons, were many summers working at a YMCA day camp.  Working at Camp Chickami enriched and deepened my understanding of how play is connected to learning; it also taught me how important nature was in helping me to thrive, both as a child and an adult.  These experiences guided and shaped my pursuit of education studies while at Skidmore College.  It was there that I developed the pillars of my pedagogy.  Though I had a clear picture of my career ambitions, my zest for adventure momentarily interrupted me from pursuing them.
In the fall after graduation, my childhood best friend and I, set out to conquer the Appalachian Trail.  We ended up completing a large section from Massachusetts to Virginia in two and half months despite no prior backpacking experience. Though the encroachment of winter and lack of funds eventually ended our trek, it became a defining experience for me both personally and professionally.  The lessons I learned on the Trail were like nothing I had ever experienced; I became hooked on travel, outdoor recreation, and the natural world.  These have helped to define my lifestyle and shaped my academic and professional decisions going forward.

Since the Trail, I have taught in both public and independent schools, most recently as a fifth grade teacher at the Grammar School in Putney, Vermont.  Prior to the Grammar School, I taught fourth to sixth grade math and science, as well as eighth and ninth grade ceramics for many years at a junior boarding school in Lake Placid, New York, called the North Country School.  I left that position to pursue a Masters in outdoor education and environmental sciences at Cortland University.  My studies and research in school gardening there, along with my many summers of traveling domestically and internationally by foot, bike, and kayak have inspired and infused my teaching.

I am excited to be joining the Mountain River School community.  I believe MRS’ mission, educators, and geographic location create an ideal learning environment.  When not in the classroom, I enjoy being in the woods, waist deep in snow on my skis, in the company of my dogs.

 

 

Jack Kiernan

Mountain River School Educator

Growing up on a farm in New London, NH I was surrounded by lakes and mountains.  I have fond memories of chasing pigs, training working steers, hunting for crayfish.  We made hay in the summer and skied in the winter.  In the spring I would do my homework in the sugarhouse, surrounded by the rising steam and heat from the arch.  One could surmise, I had a sweet childhood.

Proctor Academy is where I “learned to live and lived to learn!”  During my four years at this school,  the value of solid “book” education and importance of supportive nurturing community was instilled in me. Keeping night watch on a 130 foot schooner during my Ocean Classroom semester or soloing for 3 days in the desert during Mountain Classroom were just two of the many Proctor experiences that changed my life.  

During my college years, I started playing more golf.  After graduating , I went to work in that industry, living in Key Largo, FL and Medinah, Illinois. Teaching golf lessons was one of my duties.  While in the golf business, I began to see the disconnect from nature that technology was having on kids. I wanted to provide children with the experiential learning and connection to nature and community that my teachers and mentors gave to me.

Not having any formal teacher training, I moved back to NH where I formed an outdoor education program for 6 to 14 year old’s, called 3rd Planet. I was devoted to giving kids an avenue to help them build interpersonal and life skills through play-based adventure. Within weeks this summer program was flourishing and continued as a year round after-school program.

This led to my work as an educator at a small private school for a year before I decided to further my education and obtain my teaching certificate. Through my experiences I developed the understanding of the importance of literacy and math skills and was drawn to the Upper Valley Educators Institute, with the goal of learning to incorporate those skills in a nature-based setting. This yearlong program gave me the opportunity to be fully immersed in a teaching environment while working with a 5th grade class. My UVEI internship in 5th grade gave me the opportunity to implement numerous pedagogies that involve place-based and hands-on approaches in order to make all the content transferable to every students daily lives.

I’m looking forward to moving to the Green Mountain State. I love to hike, play in the dirt, run, kayak, and snowshoe. If I’m not out exploring, I enjoy cooking, doing yoga, reading, and brewing kombucha.

I am excited to be part of the Mountain River School community. I can’t wait to help bring nature and community to the forefront of education!
 

 

Jen Volansky

Arts Integration Educator

I live with my husband and two sons in Stowe, VT. In the winter we can be found at Trapp’s cabin eating a well-deserved bowl of soup, or on Mount Mansfield ripping it up in the woods (well my kids are the rippers). As soon as the snow melts, we are mountain biking or swimming in one of the local swimming holes.  You may also find me hiking with our dog, Poppy.

I am passionate about the outdoors, creating art, and teaching children. I have been teaching art for over 20 years and have variety of teaching experiences and curriculum development work that I am excited to incorporate into MRS curriculum.

My professional teaching career originated in an outdoor program called Nature's Classroom and I have creatively incorporated nature into my curriculum since.  A couple of my outdoor experiences with children include a variety of roles at Camp Thunderbird in Bemidji, MN and taking high school students backpacking in the Tetons and  Alaska while working at a program called Wilderness Adventure’s.  Special experiences include sharing a moon rising over the mountain on an early morning hike, whales breaching, saving  tadpoles from puddles, and reading aloud while in the lightning position on the side of a mountain.  

I believe integration is the key to in-depth learning experiences and is a holistic approach to teaching that is embedded in daily practice. “Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both.” Each child uses many different ways to express his or her creativity and show understanding.

Art brings communities together.  I have facilitated this in a few different ways.  I have expanded my role outside of the traditional classroom to include work on the Red Clover committee, Vermont's statewide picture book program, work on the development of art residencies at schools which welcomed local artists and created hands on learning experiences, community events,  and participation in in-depth art residencies at the Studio Center in Johnson Vt.

After growing up in St. Charles, IL, a western suburb of Chicago,  I graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Art and a K-12 degree in art education.  I began my art education career in Colorado teaching both Elementary school and Middle school in the Vail valley.  After moving to Vermont,  I continued to expand my knowledge and experience through workshops, conferences and course work at St. Michael’s and through other venues.  I had the opportunity to teach at both Georgia Elementary and Hardwick Elementary school.  My last 12 years have been spent teaching at Stowe Elementary school.  I am a practicing artist creating and showing work when I find the opportunities.

I have the perspective of parent, artist, educator and outdoor enthusiast and I look forward to continued work with the students at MRS to expand their experiences and knowledge through art. 
 

 

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Patricia Roeding

Teaching & Learning Specialist

My first school experience was at a private school in Kentucky set on acres of land perched high on a ridge above the Ohio River. In addition to the school, there was a working farm, nursing home, pond and convent. In the spring and fall, some classes were held outside over looking the river valley. We spent time at the farm immersed in the natural world. We formed relationships with residents of the nursing home, visiting them regularly. To this day I can still picture some of them! My first years in school were grounded in a sense of place, connected with nature, engaged in community and inspired with a sense of larger purpose and ethic of care for others and the world around me.

I loved being outdoors, climbing trees, hiking, biking, chasing fireflies and watching the clouds go by. My path as a self-directed learner was set about the age of twelve when I accidentally discovered Plato and the worlds of philosophy, theology and psychology opened up before me. Before starting my teacher training, I worked in a bookstore which gave me the opportunity to read every book on education in the store and then move on to what I could find at the library. My journey as a self-directed learner has fueled my perspective as an educator equipping children and adults on their own journeys of discovery, learning and meaning-making.

My teaching career began in special education. Teaching children wth learning and behavior disabilities started me on the path of holistic education. I relished the freedom to create a learning program for each child based on who they were and how they were growing. It’s also where I learned to create the social and emotional conditions for learning. 

Outside of schools, I developed a summer program focused based on peace, leadership and service for children and young people ages 5-18 at a retreat center on over 300 acres in Vermont. Programs were multi-age and were centered on nature and the arts. Many of the programs we co-developed and co-designed with youth.

My Master’s Degree is in Peace Education, and I’ve facilitated peace education and conflict-transformation work with children, youth and adults. Involvement from local to international levels has given me wonderful opportunities to work with people of varying cultures and life experiences. I’ve been a team member and coordinator in educational and social change initiatives and have facilitated workshops and retreats for parents and educators.

I love music, dancing and singing. Being outside, hiking and enjoying the beauty of nature make my heart happy. Time with friends over a delicious meal is one of my favorite things and a cup of black tea with milk and honey always makes me smile!

I’m happy to be part of the Mountain River School family, sharing my gifts and learning with and from the children, teachers and parents. There’s nothing better than being part of a community, learning and working together to create a positive future for our children and our world.

 

The Mountain River School, LTD. admits students of any race, color, national 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 and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.