Our Educators

Preschool

Educators

Sarah Lu

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.

Caroline Patetta

Administrative and Support Coordinator

Working with young children has grown from a casual interest and hobby to my life’s work. Through the eyes of a child, the whole world is an invitation to play, build new relationships and strong connections, and a never-ending quest to find wonder. Finding absolute joy in the little things inspires my time with the children, and I feel honored to have grown, discovered, and built life-long relationships with many special small people over the years.

As far as work goes, I have spent the past fifteen years in early childhood education — first getting my feet wet as a part-time child care provider for several community institutions in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, then as a nanny for three awe-inspiring children, and — finally — as a toddler teacher and infant specialist at ChildRoots here in Portland. There, my talents and interests both in early childhood education and system development, graphic design, communications, and administration collided; and I’m delighted to bring that experience to Tulip Tree. I’ve studied anthropology, music education, visual communication and design, and early childhood extensively; and I love being able to bring my experiences to work each day in such a dynamic environment.

In my free time, you can find me running through the park with my chihuahua, Rooney; cooking — hopefully — delicious vegan food; making spreadsheets for the sheer joy of it; or watercolor painting and writing outside.

Alisha Hughes

Morning Teacher and House Provider, 6th 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, 3rd 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.

Katee Foxx

Morning Teacher, 2nd 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, 2nd 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.