The Teachers at Tulip Tree Preschool and Elm House
Sarah Luella Baker, Owner and Director
The world needs educational systems that honor both the individual and the collective, and that teach us how to cooperate, collaborate, and love one another. Tulip Tree has grown in the past six years from this initial vision, into a community where children feel seen, families feel included, and teachers feel inspired to learn alongside children.
For over two decades, I have been a teacher, co-learner, director, and artist in many different educational settings. Before opening Tulip Tree in 2010, I worked in private and public schools in Portland, the Bay Area, and Salt Lake City. I am a life-long learner, and continuing education is very important to me. As I embrace my role of mentor to teachers, I continue to learn about best practices of teaching through attending conferences, workshops, and educational offerings on a regular basis; as well as developing trainings and presentations based on our work at TTPS. In fall of 2016, I traveled with other Tulip Tree educators to the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy to see first-hand the wonder of their early learning environments.
I have an MFA and a BFA in performing arts. My background in fine arts profoundly impacts the work that I do as an educator. Exposure to the arts throughout a child’s educational journey is paramount to leading a life full of creativity, fostering collaborative prowess, developing an understanding of difference, and being open and willing to accept change as a positive force. My arts background has greatly influenced my ability to remain flexible, and to be a creative problem-solver. I owe much gratitude to my incredible artistic mentors, who taught me about growth, change, passion, and difference.
During my early teaching years, I became aware of the constructivist theory of learning. Since then, I have combined my arts background with the approaches of Social Constructivism and Reggio Emilia, and most recently the Anti-Bias Approach to Early Childhood Education. I have been witness to children making connections and forming knowledge; teachers learning alongside children and celebrating their fulfillments; and families connecting to each other and discovering new ways of viewing their children and themselves . The experience continues to be incredibly motivating- full of magic, surprise, and surrender. I look forward to a long calling of being with children and their families, and with other teachers who care deeply about children and our impact as educators on the world.
[Download my complete resume in PDF form, here.]
Alisha Hughes- Morning Teacher and House Provider, 5th year at TTPS
As a teacher, I am very passionate about working with children. Coming from a family where I am the oldest of 6 siblings, I have been caring for them for as long as I can remember. I strongly believe in the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, because it supports my view that children are learning and growing at every moment through play, exploration, and experimentation.
It is amazing to see children light up when they make a connection, or discover something new. I enjoy giving children opportunities to learn in many different ways, helping their ideas come to fruition, watching their projects take on lives of their own, and supporting them with love and care.
Previously, I worked at Helen Gordon Child Development Center for 3 years, mostly with children aged 3-5. In 2012 I graduated from Portland State University, where I focused on early childhood education, Women’s Studies, and many different media within the fine arts. I have learned so much from working with children, and will continue to do so through their endless amounts of wisdom.
Amber Gallagher – Afternoon Teacher and Morning Support Teacher, 2nd year at TTPS
I have always had a passion for teaching. I began my first teaching job as a teenager, instructing dog training classes. It wasn’t long before I realized that teaching the children in my clients’ families was my favorite part of the job. Majoring in Early Education and Family Studies at PCC has taught me what an incredible and crucial time the first 5-6 years are in a child’s life. It has since been a passion of mine to create an environment where children feel safe and supported, so they can explore and thrive in the classroom.
I have worked in Early Childhood classrooms with infants up to age 5 since 2013. During those years, I have been lucky enough to experience many different teaching styles and classroom philosophies. I feel as though Reggio Emilia and the RIE philosophies stand out, because the main focus centers in on respect: for the child, the environment, and the community. It’s important to me that each child is supported in a way that respects and acknowledges their individuality, while also challenging them to learn and grow.
One of my main areas of interest in teaching young children is to help them explore nature. There is so much potential and growth to take from being outside. I believe that teaching children to love and care for nature sets groundwork for them to learn other important life skills such as empathy, independence, and critical thinking.
I am often amazed at how skillful, capable, and wise children can be. They teach me that I am also actively learning with them every day.
Katee Foxx – Morning Teacher, 1st year at TTPS
Growing up as the oldest sibling in a large family, I had a lot of experience from a young age with child-rearing. I pursued babysitting and camp counseling in my teen years, but did not know at the time that I would be a teacher. I wanted to study environmental sciences and philosophy and obtained a BA from Humboldt State University in Religious Studies. It was when I had a daughter of my own that I started delving deeply into researching many educational philosophies for early learning and discovered a passion.
I spent 4 years teaching at the Early Childhood Center at The Berkeley School in Berkeley, CA. I was a lead teacher, directed their after-school program, assisted with administrative work, and lead the outdoor studies. I have taken courses through UC Santa Cruz LifeLab, YMCA Wilderness Leadership Corps training, Montessori Teacher Training, and participated in professional development through The Edible Schoolyard, and Stanford’s Bing Lab School. I have also participated in an intensive anti-bias curriculum training though the national SEED program. In my free time I like to garden, hike, bake, dance, sing, play my ukulele, and explore the world with my partner and my daughter.
Nora Stoelting – Food and Garden Coordinator and Afternoon Teacher, 1st year at TTPS
I am continually amazed by how excited children are about the natural world when they can see themselves as active participants in it. I spent my two years prior to Tulip Tree as the School Garden Coordinator at Trillium Charter School where I facilitated garden classes rooted in community building and experiential learning. Working at a constructivist school, I was exposed to how crucial it is for children to learn through creating, leading, and connecting. Prior to my time at Trillium, I have worked as an Environmental Educator at Tanglewood 4H Camp in Maine and have a B.A. in Environmental Studies from St. Michael’s College. Though I grew up in a big city, some of my most pivotal moments as a child were through shared experiences in nature. I look forward to be facilitating similar moments with children at Tulip Tree.
Garden based education is a beautiful concept because it instills a sense of pride amongst young people. Food is typically something children are given, but when they can be a part of the process of producing food, they feel responsible for and connected to what is nourishing their bodies. I am passionate about the intersections between social justice, food, art, and environmental issues. I look forward to exploring these connections with your children and growing a bountiful garden we can all be proud of.
ELM HOUSE Teachers
Lainie Morse – Elm House Provider and Co-Director, 2nd year at Elm House
Working with small children is a great source of inspiration for me. I have spent over a decade caring for and learning with children, including my own. Before coming to Tulip Tree, I owned and directed Caterpillar Care, a state certified in-home learning environment for young children in NE Portland. We started small, and as I built my business around relationships, it quickly grew. In three year’s time, I served over 20 families and found that working with small children is truly my calling.
In the year 2000, I moved to Portland from Reno, NV. I spent my formative years singing in choirs and making art. In 2010, I graduated from PSU with a Bachelor of Science in the Humanities. Through the process of attaining that degree, I studied Early Childhood Education, Human Development, Fine Art, Psychology, Sociology, and Human Geography.
The first two years of a child’s life are critical in developing trust. These years will shape how they connect with people for the rest of their life. I believe in the importance of respectful communication and positive discipline with children, maintaining clear, consistent, and loving boundaries. I am inspired by the RIE philosophies of Janet Lansbury and Magda Gerber, combined with the attachment style caregiving of Dr. Sears, and the educational philosophies of Reggio Emilia. Consistent, educational, and open dialog with parents is important in my work.
In my free time, I enjoy crafting with my 4th grade daughter, going on hikes in the gorge with my partner, playing guitar, running, and going to yoga.
Mage Baltes – Wobbler Teacher, 2nd year at Elm House
As I join you on this journey of education, I am bringing with me a collection of experiences that inform my teaching practices. My academic background includes traditional media in Fine Arts, Art history, Graphic Design as well as Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. I am in my first year of Portland State University’s Masters in Early Childhood: Inclusive Ed and Curriculum & Instruction. I bring my training of nearly 8 years at the Helen Gordon Center as a student teacher. Additionally, I bring my own childhood experiences from a daycare, preschool and after-school child development center in Palm Springs, CA, where I grew up.
All of these experiences inspire me as an educator to make decisions based on values of social justice, and to see art as both individual language and cultural expression. I believe that by embracing and exploring our differences, we can create vibrant communities with endless opportunities for growth.
I am thrilled to join the community at Tulip Tree and to have the opportunity to learn from the children, families, and my fellow educators through our passionate inquiries.
Megan Milligan – Lead Teacher, 1st year at Elm House
My first experience with alternative education was in high school where I attended Nebraska’s first public Arts and Humanities Focus Program. There I remember being given the freedom and responsibility to follow my interests which included film photography, Spanish, sustainable farming and social justice activism. I remember a sense of being “built up” by my teachers there, being heard and respected and given many opportunities to learn through hands on experience. This shaped my future and goals in studying Educational Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I graduated with a BA in 2005. I also completed my Montessori teaching credential here in Portland, Oregon from Montessori North West for ages 3-6. And I hold a credential from the Montessori Teacher Training Center of SF Bay, for ages 0-3.
I have worked with young children in many different capacities over the past ten years, and each experience has taught me something vital. I worked for many years as a nanny in California, and witnessed the span of development for 3 children under the age of 6. The bulk of my experience in schools is in Montessori environments where I worked for nearly 10 years with hundreds of families. Most recently I worked at a progressive Montessori School in south west Portland for 5 years. I am a life long learner and have familiarity with Reggio and RIE philosophy and practices too, and I am excited to learn more about it through my work at Elm House.
I believe in the notion of “following the child” that is, making observations about children’s interests and developing curriculum that will support them. I also am excited about the potential that each individual child has, and I wish to serve as a guide towards information, fun, exploration and to help them find connections between themselves, the natural environment and each other. I have a passion for food and cooking, sustainability, the natural world and song and I love sharing these interests with children.
Outside of school you might find me searching for the next best vegan restaurant, riding bikes my with my partner, Ryan, hiking a mountain with my rescued dog, Ellie, or perusing travel books at the library.
Laurie Nadeau – Support Teacher, 1st year at Elm House (2nd in our school community)
I adore the Reggio Emilia approach, journeying along with children in exploration and wonder of our world, relationships, and different modes of expression. I am thrilled to be back in the Tulip Tree community, bringing my own enthusiasm for learning, and respectful regard for children as individuals to an even younger cohort.
I arrived in Portland in 2008 as a children’s book-focused artist following the Etsy movement, and anticipating the birth of twin nephews here in town. Little did I know that would take me on a 6+ year adventure of co-parenting, attachment parenting, Autism awareness, advocacy, and immersion into the Autism community with its many concerns.
As my nephews grew older and our family more complex, I began to want to educate myself in childcare beyond my direct experience. The daughter of a Preschool teacher, the routine and ethos of early childhood education is deeply ingrained in me. I left my small-business marketing job and found a temporary position in a play-based preschool called Runabouts in outer SE PDX. Runabouts and Tulip Tree are both strongly steeped in social justice, an element of education that was entirely new and very exciting to me!
From there I came to Tulip Tree for the 2014-2015 year, where my interests in special needs/special rights inclusion deepened. My own neurodiversity (I have Sensory Processing Disorder) informs my relating to the world in many ways: I ask a lot of clarifying questions, I am watchful, I have a strong sense of empathy, and I am curious about the way different people sense and relate to the world. My struggles with feeling overwhelmed and sensitivity didn’t have a name for much of my life. I bring a desire to be a compassionate advocate for all in my daily experience, and use my playfulness, creativity, and years of mindfulness meditation practice to ground myself in my work.
I love learning about language development, anti-bias education, permaculture, art process, and therapeutic storytelling. In my off hours, I can be found studying herbalism, enjoying nature, hanging out with my family, running my art business, engaging in activism, or searching for Pokemon around town with my now 8 year old nephews!
Karin Cravotta – Teacher, 1st year at Elm House
Alumni Teachers and Contributors
Laura spent six years at TTPS, and was instrumental in developing our rhythms and curriculum approach, especially the anti-bias branch of our learning. We miss you Laura!
Teaching and learning alongside children is my heart work. I have the privilege of being in my sixth year of teaching at Tulip Tree. Previously, I worked in the Nursery School at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.
I have taught young people in a variety of other settings, including: a small independent school, an environmental science summer camp, a public school reading program, a community center, a cycling non-profit, an arts and craft college, and a Waldorf school.
I have a Masters in Teaching from The Evergreen State College, and an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies. I am actively involved in an Early Childhood Educator and Social Justice workgroup, and offer my time and support to Rethinking Schools.
When I am not teaching I can be found riding my bicycle, reading, cooking, camping, hiking, building pinatas, and writing letters.
Becky spent six years at TTPS, first as a parent, and then as a teacher. We love you Becky!
Some of my earliest memories are of helping my parents in the garden and the kitchen. I was fortunate to grow up in a family that knew how to grow food, prepare it well and enjoyed spending time at the table together. I am a strong believer in the value of preserving food cultures that support health and build community. I am also an advocate for food justice and access to healthy food for all children.
I have a B.S. in Bioethics from Bates College, and an M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Humboldt State University. Alongside my work as a researcher, I found a role as an environmental educator. I love sharing the joy of inquiry and discovery with children. Even here in the city there are so many amazing opportunities for children to experience the natural world. My children have been at Tulip Tree Preschool since its first year in operation. I have seen first hand the incredible growth that they experienced through the love, support and gentle challenges provided at this preschool. I feel so lucky to be part of the Tulip Tree community, and I am excited to begin this new partnership.