Little Star has a dedicated professional staff that includes teachers who have been here since the beginning, staff who have been employed for more than 20 years and alumni who are now staff – and are sending their own children to Little Star!

 

Leadership

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Dani Reynaud
Executive Director

Dani grew up in the Methow Valley and was a member of Little Star's inaugural class of 1982, where she experienced the feeling of doing meaningful work for the first time. After graduating from Liberty Bell High School in Winthrop, Dani spent 15 years away from the Methow traveling, attending school, working in the film industry and non-profit sector, and falling in love with her husband, Ray. Dani returned to her beloved hometown to raise her two boys and to lead the school that ignited the spark in her years ago. Dani is passionate about early childhood education and the Montessori Method of supporting children's natural curiosity and creativity. “It is a dream come true for me to be back in the Methow, working at Little Star with the most talented and passionate staff, and watching my boys blossom through their own experiences at this special school.” Dani holds a bachelor's degree in comparative literature and a master's degree in public administration, both from the University of Washington. Prior to returning to the Methow Valley, Dani served as the Director of Development at Seattle Girls' School for five years. Dani enjoys playing in the outdoors and has developed a new love for West African Dance. 

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Brad Halm
Associate Director

Brad has a passion for values-based leadership and brings a wealth of financial and organizational management skills to Little Star. After co-founding and managing his own urban farming/edible landscaping business (The Seattle Urban Farm Company) for 8 years, he moved to the Methow Valley in 2015 with his wife, Erika. They are overjoyed that their daughter Aurora can attend Little Star along with Dad! In his free time, Brad loves rock climbing, skiing, playing the guitar and trying to convince Aurora to help him weed their vegetable garden. He is also the co-author of two books: Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard and High-Yield Vegetable Gardening.

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Geva McAdow
Programs Director, Winthrop

Geva joined the Little Star team in 2014 and was in the classroom as a lead afternoon teacher for two years before transitioning into an administrative position. In 2018, Geva became the Programs Director for our Winthrop campus. As a mother of two young boys (James, born in 2016 and Tommy, born in 2018), she has a passion for the infant and toddler age group and is immersed in that world both as a Mama and as Programs Director! Geva is qualified with her Child Development Associate credential, specializing in Infant and Toddler (birth to 3 years). Originally from New Zealand, Geva has been involved in childcare and education for over a decade, working in both the US and New Zealand as a nanny, early childhood teacher and manager for a childcare recruitment agency. Geva is full of energy and excitement, and in her own words, "Little Star is my family and second home." She loves yoga, the outdoors, good food and good conversation.

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Laurel Carlton
Programs Director, Twisp

Laurel joined Little Star in 2017 as the program supervisor for the new Little Star South Collaborative in Twisp. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Idaho, and has held a range of educational and teaching-based jobs including as an early childhood educator/teacher for Early Head Start, a child and family programs coordinator at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, and lead infant teacher for Starbucks' corporate childcare program. Laurel and her husband, Eric, live in Twisp and have two young children, Kate and James, who attend Little Star.

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Erin Clark
Office Manager

Erin is a graduate of Washington State University and has a B.A. in Hospitality Business Management. She has worked in the hospitality industry here in the Methow Valley at Sun Mountain Lodge, and then switched course a bit to take on the role of Office Manager at Winthrop Physical Therapy and Fitness. Hailing originally from Bellingham, Washington, Erin moved to the Methow Valley in 2009 with the intention of spending one season. Like many of those who call the Methow home, Erin never left. She bought a home several years ago with her partner Jake, where they reside with their daughter Briar. Erin’s interests include hiking, biking, riding her horse, board games and working on her fishing skills. Erin brings a high level of organization to the Little Star office and will be the point person for all billing questions and changes. 

Winthrop teaching staff

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Michelle Shaffer
Early Childhood Teacher, Rainbow Room

Michelle has been at Little Star since 2001 and has taught at every level. She has four children – all of whom attended Little Star and graduated from the kindergarten classroom. Michelle loves to be part of this vibrant, creative and supportive community of teachers, parents and children. She is extremely honored to be a part of a school that follows and supports children’s interests and builds up their self esteem.

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Michaela Precourt
Early Childhood Teacher, Rainbow Room

Michaela attended Prescott College and graduated with honors with a degree in Adventure Education. After graduation, Michaela worked in adventure therapy, guiding, and outdoor education with a variety of age groups in countries such as China, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, as well as all over the USA. After a few years of traveling and working, Michaela decided to attend Antioch University’s graduate program to be part of teaching the next generation. She believes that fostering a joyful teaching environment engages students and allows them to become naturally curious about the world around them. Since graduating, she has worked as a teacher in various school programs and classrooms.  In her down time she gardens, crochets, skis, and plans remote arctic educational programs. 

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Paola Merrill
Early Childhood Teacher, Rainbow Room

Paola recently moved to Winthrop to be nearer to her family. The daughter of a Navy doctor, Paola has lived in multiple countries as a child, and began her degree at Ireland's University College of Dublin before graduating from Western Washington University. Majoring in English, she also studied Education and Art History. Paola worked in child care and as a weekend enrichment teacher in Naples, Italy. Before moving to Winthrop, she was a children’s bookseller, leading story times and attending children’s literature conferences and events. Raised bilingual, Paola enjoys reading Spanish poetry, playing her fiddle, painting, and writing. She is beyond excited to have the opportunity to work at Little Star and teach in an environment that aligns with her educational values.

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Kaileah Akker
Early Childhood Teacher, Rainbow Room

Kaileah grew up in the Tri-Cities and spent the last four years in Walla Walla earning a degree in Psychology and Math from Whitman College. She moved to Winthrop in June of 2018 for the passionate, close knit community she saw the valley to be while visiting family throughout her childhood. A coming home of sorts, she found richer community than she could’ve dreamed for. She decided to mentor by coaching junior high volleyball at Liberty Bell, and then basketball and club volleyball. She views children as the purest, most promising form of humanity and wants to nurture the open, empathetic development of tomorrow’s minds. In her free time, she plays pickleball and cherishes her time with the magnificent people she has found throughout the valley. Kaileah is beyond excited to be joining the Little Star team for the coming school year!

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Emily Plott
Early Childhood Teacher, Sky Room

Emily grew up in Santiago, Chile until she was 8 and attended a Montessori preschool there. This early childhood experience inspired her curiosity for the natural world and love for singing. Emily attended The Evergreen State College and graduated with a BS in Environmental Science. She has worked teaching kids in community garden projects, beach naturalist programs, aboard the schooner Adventuress, and in western Washington forests. Emily has worked as a labor and postpartum doula since her close friends started having babies 12 years ago, and has taught childbirth classes for the last 4 years. Before moving to the Methow Valley, Emily worked at a mostly outdoor Waldorf inspired preschool in Olympia.  Emily has two fabulously fiesty kids that keep her on her toes!

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Nick Hershenow
Early Childhood Teacher, Sky Room

Nick and his wife, Phoebe, moved to Twisp in January 2015. Their own children grew up grounded in a close-knit yet open community and that is one of the many things that drew them to the Methow and to Little Star.  Nick started coming in as a volunteer and quickly transitioned to working/playing as an afternoon enrichment teacher, Friday teacher and Spanish teacher. In lieu of a career Nick has had many different jobs, including: white water raft/wilderness guide in Costa Rica and California; Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire (Congo); founding director of a community gardens program in Salt Lake City; elementary school creative writing teacher; Forest Service field tech in central Idaho; mentor and social worker at a Honduran children’s home; health educator in Ecuador; land steward on Orcas Island; and writer (The Road Builder was published by Penguin/Putnam in 2001; he is working on completing a second novel).

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Celeste Roberts
Early Childhood Teacher, Sky Room

Celeste has 20 years of experience teaching with children in both public and private school settings. Her love for experiential and outdoor education led to her join Little Star in 2006, where she began substitute teaching. She enjoys creating opportunities for children to explore and express themselves as they connect to others and our planet. Celeste likes skiing, bicycling and gardening. She has a bachelor's degree in special and elementary education, with minors in science and math.

Avery Young
Early Childhood Teacher, Sky Room

Coming soon…

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Kim Claussen
Early Childhood Teacher, Forest Room

Kim joined the Little Star family in 1992, and is thankful every day for this loving community of families and teachers. In addition to teaching in our preschool, she leads Parenting with Positive Discipline classes locally. Kim's interests and passions include canoeing, quilting, laughing with friends, cooking and walking the hills of the Methow Valley. She has two adult children, both of whom graduated from Little Star. 

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Zanna Gable
Early Childhood Teacher, Forest Room

Zanna’s involvement with Little Star School began in 1983 when she was one of Rayma’s little stars, followed by teaching summer camps, toddler, afternoon program and as a substitute teacher. Zanna believes every child should be empowered through education and treated with respect. She is delighted to be a Little Star teacher and looks forward to having the privilege of learning and growing with your children. She lives in Winthrop with her husband, Michael, and their two sons and two dogs. She enjoys being outdoors, gardening, teaching yoga and spending time with her family.

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Mark Tesch
Early Childhood Teacher, Forest Room

Mark was born and raised in the Midwest, son of a Lutheran minister and maternity nurse. After high school, Mark travelled around the states, eventually hitchhiking into the Lake Chelan Valley to harvest apples in 1974. Mark returned to college at Pacific Lutheran University and received a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree in 1980, followed by a Primary Montessori Diploma from Spring Valley Montessori in cooperation with the University of Puget Sound. He taught for two years in Tacoma and two years in Minneapolis before changing careers, entering the field of construction and healthcare facility management.

Mark and his wife Michelle recently moved to Twisp to enjoy semi-retirement and all that the Methow Valley has to offer. He enjoys creative arts, song writing, community building and bragging about his three children and their families.

Keri Johnson
Early Childhood Teacher, Forest Room

Keri and her family moved to the Methow Valley from Olympia where Keri operated her own in-home preschool. Keri’s two children started at Little Star and she quickly started working as a substitute teacher before accepting a permanent part time position in the Forest Room. Keri enjoys spending time with her family and friends, cooking, and is looking forward to the completion of their building project and moving into their home in Winthrop.

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Arielle Pratt
Early Childhood Teacher, Meadow Room

Arielle grew up in Wenatchee and moved to Twisp in 2019. She completed her Early Childhood Education training through Wenatchee Valley College and has been working with children for seven years. Arielle (or Ari) was the program director for the before and after school program for the Eastmont School District and more recently she has worked for Head Start as a teacher assistant with the preschool age group. Ari loves traveling and spending time with friends and family. She is passionate about working with children and making a difference in their lives.

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Sarah Werneken 
Early Childhood Teacher, Meadow Room

Sarah moved to the Methow Valley in 2018 from the East Coast. She has worked with children of all ages and with varying abilities. Sarah worked at Little Star Twisp as the Lead Infant Teacher for one year before moving to our Winthrop campus and joining the EC teaching team. She is an avid horsewoman and loves the outdoors! 

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Rebecca Haase
Toddler Teacher, Luna Room

Rebecca has always been interested in working with young children and after returning home to the Methow Valley, she has been busy raising her own family. At Little Star, Rebecca enjoys getting to know all of the children and their families. She is excited to be a loving, nurturing and energetic part of Little Star – and her daughter, Kaydin, might just follow in her footsteps! Rebecca attended Whatcom Community College and studied early childhood education.

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Michelle Larsen
Toddler Teacher, Luna Room

Michelle’s connection to Little Star began in 2002 when her youngest son enrolled in the preschool class. She soon joined the Little Star Board of Directors where she developed a love and admiration for the school and its philosophy. While raising her three kids with her late husband John, Michelle stayed connected to the school, helping with auctions and various projects. Michelle joined the Little Star staff as an afternoon enrichment teacher in 2015, moving into a toddler teacher position in 2017. She feels privileged for the opportunity to help nurture our valley’s young children.

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Florence Sawyer
Toddler Teacher, Sol Room

Florence first walked into Little Star's welcoming arms in summer of 1998. New to the Methow Valley and building a house, she enrolled two-year-old Milo in the Summer Program. Milo and three other Sawyer-Holston children attended Little Star all the way through the Kindergarten Program. Florence came on board in 2000 and worked in the Afternoon and Preschool Programs before finding her home with the toddlers. “Little Star has been a loving second home to my family for many years. I am grateful to be a part of this dynamic, nurturing community. It is an honor to be in a position to hold young families and their children in the same way that my family was held.”

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Vanessa Levine
Toddler Teacher, Sol Room

Vanessa was born in Lima, Peru and moved to the Methow Valley in 2016. In Peru, she worked as a Montessori guide for seven consecutive years. Vanessa loves the Montessori philosophy of teaching. “I've had the privilege of applying this extraordinary educational method with young children, adolescents, and young adults, through lecturing and providing workshops throughout my city for many years before arriving in the US.” Vanessa joined Little Star in 2017 and has taught part time in both the early childhood and toddler programs before shifting into a full time position in Sol Room. “I love being a mother and a teacher, being an active witness of how little boys and girls get to discover this world, learning everything they can thanks to their inquisitive minds.” Outside of teaching Vanessa enjoys cooking, dancing and playing with her daughter. Spanish is Vanessa's native tongue and she is working on her English, with help from the children who very much enjoy being the teachers! 

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Kate Brien
Toddler Teacher, Sol Room

Kate grew up in rural and urban California with a blend of Montessori, public and alternative charter school experiences. After graduating from University of California Santa Cruz, where she studied Health Sciences, she moved to Washington and attended Seattle Midwifery School, graduating in 2009 with both her license in midwifery and a newborn. After a year of practice, she decided to take a break from midwifery to focus on raising her family. During the last nine years Kate has participated in her children's co-op preschool in Seattle as teacher-parent, board member and substitute teacher. Moving to the Methow with her family in 2015, she has enjoyed becoming a part of the community as a Little Star parent, volunteer at the Winthrop Library story time, Little Star substitute teacher and birth assistant at Methow Valley Midwifery. When not teaching you will likely run into Kate on the trails running or hiking, at the Winthrop library or hanging out with her three kids at after school activities.

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Nicole O’Driscoll
Infant Teacher, Gemini Room

Nicole has been with Little Star since the summer of 2007 in various capacities including summer camps, the afternoon program, lead preschool teacher and now infant teacher. She went to school in Boston to study early childhood education while working as a nanny and volunteering as a preschool teacher. Nicole enjoys spending time with her family and baking delicious goodies. Nicole is Montessori Certified.

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Signe Shaw
Infant Teacher, Gemini Room

Signe is a long-time valley resident and raised three of her four adult children here in the Methow, after retiring from a career in midwifery and childbirth education. She has shared families with Little Star and been a close friend of ours for years, and joined our team in a permanent capacity in 2018! Signe enjoys the outdoors, art, music and babies.  

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Janie McMillan
Infant Teacher, Gemini Room

Janie was raised in the Methow Valley and graduated from the Independent Learning Center. She comes from a large family with 12 siblings and has always helped with babysitting for family and friends. This natural confidence with children, especially babies, led Janie to apply to Little Star, where she quickly moved from being a part time infant teacher to our full time infant teacher. Janie loves her job at Little Star and loves all of “her babies”. Outside of Little Star, Janie coaches softball, enjoys going on adventures with her dogs, and spending time with her six nieces and nephews.

Megan Jepson
Montessori Mentor

Megan studied animal sciences and environmental education at the University of Vermont and has worked since to combine her passion for the outdoors and early childhood education. She’s taught young children at a farm school, volunteered and worked with schools abroad, run an in-home toddler care program, owns a Montessori materials company, and now joins the team at Little Star. Megan, her husband and their two girls recently relocated to the valley, and she’s excited to work with the Infant/Toddler and EC programs at Little Star—nurturing children’s innate curiosity and their joy and empowerment in the classroom. Montessori Certified in Infant/Toddler and Early Childhood, Megan is incredibly grateful for this opportunity and still remembers meeting the amazing Rayma Hayes years ago when she fell in love with the valley and the idea of working with the Little Star Community. A proud Mama of two girls, Megan enjoys playing in the river with her family, mountain biking and baking fruit tortes to share with friends.

Twisp teaching staff

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Elise Knight
Toddler Teacher, Treehouse Room

Elise is honored to be at Little Star as a teacher of our youngest children. Her 17-year-old son, Chase, attended Little Star and Elise is certain that his curiosity about the world was fueled by Little Star teachers. “Since that time, I have taken note of the deep spark of excitement I feel upon walking into a building full of children.” Elise started as an aide at Methow Valley Elementary School and moved on to the Toddler Program at Little Star. She enjoys sharing her love of sewing with kids in the after school program. Her other joys include growing food and flowers, running and hiking, witnessing the remarkable lives of teenagers and appreciating our incredible human and non-human valley life.

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Ananda Bajema
Toddler Teacher, Treehouse Room

Ananda grew up near Winthrop and has always enjoyed children, starting when her younger brother was born. She babysat as a teen and nannied for a few families. After earning her B.A. degree in Psychology from University of California at Santa Cruz, home of the Banana Slug, she pursued social work with infants to adults who were drug-affected, mentally disabled or troubled in California and Washington. Her heart led her home to the Methow, where she and her husband enjoy their two children (who both attended Little Star) and the stellar Valley. She loves adventures, art, dancing, singing and meeting new people. Ananda is thrilled to be back home and at Little Star with a wonderful team, supporting families and sweet children at their life's beginning. 

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Khristina Oestreich
Toddler Teacher, Treehouse Room

Khristina’s adventure in caring for children began when her younger brother was born. She went to school at Liberty Bell and during high school she worked as a regular babysitter. Khristina also worked as a nanny, coached 6th grade girls’ basketball and spent many hours with children of all ages in various capacities. Prior to working full-time in the Toddler program, Khristina volunteered and substitute taught at Little Star and was inspired by the environment and teaching methods. During Khristina’s free time she enjoys hiking, reading and spending time with her dog and family.

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Carolyn Bickford 
Toddler Teacher, Treehouse Room

Carolyn’s son Jed attended Little Star from 1982-86. Carolyn worked for Little Star during the early days when it was on Castle Avenue for 18 months while her son attended. She has taught Spanish at a Montessori school in Woodinville while she completed her Montessori certification. She has settled in Twisp in a house she built, and is happy to have found her place at Little Star. She enjoys having time to invest in the Methow Valley’s children. Seeing her son attend Little Star and watching him grow into a caring professional who reaches out to people worldwide confirms the value of Montessori school in the formative preschool years. Carolyn says that peace really is the world smiling and it is our children who bring those smiles out all over the world. 

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Haley Preciado
Infant Teacher, Birds Nest Room

Haley moved to the Methow Valley in 2015. Her first experience at Little Star was through an internship program through the Independent Learning Center (ILC) in 2016.  She loved the experience and realized that this was a career she wanted to pursue. Haley was hired in the fall of 2017 as an infant teacher for the new Little Star Twisp campus. Haley has found her “niche” with the young babies, where caring for them comes very naturally to her. Haley has a very strong nurturing nature, and has always had a passion for early childhood education. Haley graduated from the ILC in 2018 and is excited to be the Lead Infant Teacher for the Twisp program in 2019. 

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Krista Breckenridge
Infant Teacher, Birds Nest Room

Krista is a native of Skagit Valley where she graduated from Sedro-Woolley High School and continued her education through Skagit Valley College, graduating with her AA Degree in 2002. She moved to the Methow Valley in 2013 as a stay at home mother of 2 daughters, adding a 3rd daughter to the roster shortly there after. Krista has a passion for young babies and is thrilled to be part of the Little Star Twisp teaching team. She enjoys spending time with her family, cheering her girls on at their many sporting events, painting, and spending time in her garden and at the river.

 

 

 

Board of directors

Katharine Bill, board president
Teresa Castner, vice president
Sara Steele, secretary
Steve Hirsch, treasurer
Brett Kokes
Leverett Hubbard
Eric Godwin
Korrie Bourn
Ellie Thrasher
Benjamin Washam
LaTanya Ott
Michelle Shaffer-Bosco, staff representative

Advisory board members

Ardis Bynum
Laurel Canan
Fran Kaul
Ashley Lodato
Julie Palm
Mike Pruett
Eveline Wathen