Head of School
I am amazed how the confluence of our collective journeys paves the way for our individual stories, and I’m grateful that my educational pathway has brought me to MRS. As our stories unfold, we experience the evolution of perspective, an expansion of awareness, and an interconnectedness of all things. And, as my journey continues to evolve, I am grateful to find myself back home in Vermont.
I first became acquainted with the Green Mountain State when I attended the University of Vermont. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Education in Special Education and began what is now nearly a two-decade-long career in education. In my free time, I enjoyed competitive bingo, collecting vintage records, and exploring Vermont in my VW bus. Since that time, I have worked in Vermont, California, and Maine as a special education teacher, behavioral specialist and consultant, ELA/social studies teacher, social skills/critical thinking facilitator and school administrator. My early career led me to the Westminster West School in Vermont, a two-room schoolhouse, which Mountain River School co-founder, Kary Bennett, attended as a child. Her beloved teacher, Claire Oglesby, became one of my first mentors!
Later, while living in coastal Maine, I received a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership from the University of Maine and pursued a teaching principalship. Additionally, I became certified as a Level I & II ChildLight Yoga Instructor and began participating in Parker Palmer’s, “Courage to Lead” and “Academy for Leaders” workshops in Washington, New Hampshire, and Maine, which focus on developing one’s inner capacity for truly authentic leadership. And, while I continue to live life with heart-centered focus and intention, I am constantly reminded of the beauty of the synchronicity which has brought me to Mountain River School. Even the name itself triggers meaning, as mountains and water have been catalysts for me for deep learning and personal evolution.
The book, Thinking Like a Mountain (Towards a Council of All Beings), has become a fixture in my office. Arne Ness’s deep ecology platform has inspired my teaching and the expansion of my own intrinsic values as they relate to our “earth family.” As a young child, I witnessed the intensity of an erupting Mount St. Helen’s and danced in the falling ash floating weightlessly around me. It was the first time that I remember thinking specifically about the perspective of the mountain and what it must be like to unleash such energy. Years later, Aldo Leopold’s essay rang true to me: “Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively…” How do we truly learn to listen? What does this look like? Byrd Baylor’s book, The Other Way to Listen, became another teaching tool for me as I explored some of these topics with students. Following the lead of my young son and husband, I decided to start hiking our local mountain barefoot. This served to slow down the hustle of busyness and experience listening objectively. On one particular solo barefoot hike, a man stopped me and asked what my trail name was. Without hesitation, I said, “Ruffed Grouse.” I didn’t actually have a trail name until that moment, but the significance resonated as it brought me back to my childhood and Indian Princesses, a Washington state YMCA-sponsored program, which is where my connection with mountains all began. The name Ruffed Grouse, chosen for me by my father, was my Indian Princess name. It was as if the mountain spoke to me on behalf of my father, who had passed away not long before that hike, and I was there to listen.
“Self-realization cannot develop far without sharing joys and sorrows with others...”
- Arne Ness, Ecology of Wisdom
Through my journey of self-realization, water also has played a significant role. The river, in all its earnest adventures and meanderings, finds a way to an ocean home. I have spent hours by the sea, scanning for beach glass and pottery, running after seabirds, kayaking into secret coves, and watching seals chasing after the ferryboats. I remember when I first saw a pair of sea otters lying on their backs in the glimmering, salty water, clacking away at their shells, loving each other; these guys emulated a life of happiness, which stayed with me. I often refer back to the playful otter when I need a reminder of how the energy of our surroundings impacts us so profoundly, and I hold on to this image of love whenever I find my own energy diminished by the perceived heaviness of the world. Inspired always by the genius of Wendell Berry, I am reminded of the continued importance water plays in my life. “...I come into the peace of wild things, who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water...for a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” And so it’s time to get barefoot, soak my feet in the water, and begin a hunt for heart-shape rocks! It doesn’t surprise me that MRS is located beside the West Branch of the Little River.
While many of us will intersect at MRS, the significance will be different for each of us. I can say wholeheartedly that I feel fortunate for being on this pathway and having been given the opportunity to join this community. I look forward to being a part of the continued growth and expansion of the school and for the many opportunities that will present themselves during our time here in Vermont.
I live in Stowe with my husband Dan and our four children. We are outdoor enthusiasts and can frequently be found at Family Bike Night in the summer or up at the Mountain in the winter.
After spending a handful of years working in public accounting firms, I made the shift to non-profit accounting and finance. I love working with numbers, figuring out where everything fits, and the particular intricacies that come with running a not-for-profit organization. I spent many of my early adult years volunteering with organizations such as Vermont Adaptive, Special Olympics and Kid Safe Collaborative which made it only natural for my professional focus to gravitate toward organizations that are focused on nurturing and improving the lives of the children in our communities.
Coming from a large extended family, I have a deep appreciation and love for community. Everyone has a part to play, a skill set they bring to the table, and the ability to make the collective stronger with their presence. This sense of community is what I love about the Mountain River School. I am a numbers person and my non-profit financial experience is what I bring with me. I am thrilled to be a part of this wonderful group of people and to have the opportunity to help build a lasting institution for generations of students to come.
Co-Founder/ Director of Admissions
I am a native Coloradoan and, true to my roots, definitely a “mountain girl.” The mountains are a place of peace, joy and rejuvenation for me. It is my love of the mountains and the outdoors where I have found some of my most joyful experiences as a child, partner and mother.
I graduated from Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado with a double major in Psychology and Sociology. In addition, I completed a year of graduate school in Clinical Social Work in New Mexico. It was during this year that I discovered a very strong drive to explore some more entrepreneurial passions.
These passions led me to buy a restaurant in Leadville, Colorado. In time, I also added a yoga studio and organic coffee and juice bar. The town of Leadville inspired me as it was a training mecca for ultra endurance athletes and was also famous for its “Race Across the Sky,” and the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike and Running races.
I have competed in a number of ultra races including The Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race,The Hemet Double Century Race and the Breckenridge Mountain Marathon which were all physically challenging and also great teachers in perseverance. It is this inherent love for the outdoors and my journeys as an entrepreneur that compelled and inspired me to help create a school where children can enjoy the outdoors while also developing a love and passion for learning.
My exposure to alternative education began when I was 4 years old and entered Kindergarten at Hilltop Montessori School in southern Vermont. I have such fond memories of my time at Montessori, where I learned through exploration and discovery. As a young adult, I was drawn back to Montessori programs as a camp counselor, art teacher and assistant teacher. My time with Montessori taught me the importance of a child’s sense of autonomy in his/her own learning process, and the importance of respecting a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.
My exploration of these components of human development continued when I attended graduate school at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. There, I studied Transpersonal Counseling Psychology and began to dive into what it meant to be whole and balanced as individuals and within systems. As an experiential, holistic program, Naropa taught me the importance of integrating one’s mind, body, and spirit within a supportive learning community.
Drawing from these experiences of alternative education, being a parent, and as a mental health professional, I felt compelled to start a school in our community that created the space for nurturing each child as a whole. With the goal of affording children the opportunity to be balanced individuals that celebrate their innate passion for learning through curiosity and creativity, while also instilling a deep love and respect for our planet.
I have spent over 20 years working with children, adolescents, and adults as an educator and counselor. I feel honored to bring this experience to the creation of the Mountain River School. It is exciting to offer this alternative program that is dedicated to providing a safe, supportive and compassionate environment for intellectual, social, emotional, physical, creative, artistic and spiritual growth that celebrates all of the dimensions of being human.
Board of Directors