Elm House


Sarah-Luella Baker

Founder and Consulting 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 ten 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 emerging role of mentor to teachers, I continue to learn from the incredible early childhood teachers that I employ. 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 and creative visionary. 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 continue to teach me about growth, change, passion, and difference.  Currently my creative practice has led me to a study in the Alexander Technique with the Contemporary Alexander School. I also am immersed in creating multi-disciplinary performance work with a group of local artists- two of whom are parent alumni of the schools.

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 profound 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.]

Bee Portillo-Soria

Elm House Program Director and Teacher, 4th year at TTPS

Over the last 12 years I have worked with all ages of children in a variety of teaching styles. I have discovered that I am particularly fond of working with very young children. There is nothing more gratifying than helping young people sort out the tricky conundrum of being human. We long to be independent, but only when we know in our core that we are truly supported. We despise being uncomfortable, but yearn for the growth that lives just outside of comfort. Helping children navigate and hold all of these conflicting feelings at once isn’t simple, but it is what I feel like I am meant to do.

I formally began working with children at Camp Namanu in 2007 and I instantly knew I had found my heart’s work. It has been my full time profession ever since. I have taught at schools that use many different pedagogies that run the gamut from the precision of Montessori, to the freedom of Reggio Emilia. When I interact with children within the framework of Reggio-inspired learning, I find myself learning just as much as the children. I am constantly amazed by the insight and wisdom held within each child I learn alongside. I am also particularly grateful for the involvement of families and home culture that is a core tenet of Reggio Emilia and Tulip Tree. Children aren’t supposed to exist in vacuums, rather they are vibrant and vital parts of our larger communities and they should be afforded the space and the platform to engage with the adults around them as such.

On a personal note, I consider myself a life long learner and am fascinated with several new subjects. I am currently trying to educate myself about the plants native to the Pacific Northwest, kayaking, and more advanced embroidery techniques. I spend my free time reading, partaking in fiber arts, caring for my pets, hiking with my spouse, and expressing myself through my photography and painting.

Iternity Wright

Teacher, 2nd Year at TTPS

As far back as I can remember, I had a spoon or bottle in hand to feed one of many siblings. Though that didn’t allow for much of a “real” childhood, I found the positivity in that experience. I remember facing an extreme emotional hardship when I was about eleven years old. The adults who were in my life at that point made it bearable because they actually listened to my words, and thus the feelings that were between the lines. As I got older I continued to be surrounded by younger children. I realized as time went on that even though it wasn’t something I had to do, I was called to care for the little ones in every environment and opportunity I had. It was something that made me feel safe and at home.

During my younger high school years, despite having three baby siblings at home, I babysat for my parents’ friends all of the time. As I got into my later teens I became a nanny. I worked for one family for about 2 years while continuing to babysitting at any chance I got. During my college years I continued to nanny on summer vacations from college. I knew emotional learning was something that interested me. So I graduated with a BA in Psychology; however, even during that time I knew I wanted to have some focus on children.  So I took some child development classes as well.

I moved to Portland from California, where I had lived all my life. I was ready for a new career and a new city! I worked at a Montessori school and was very familiar with that school of learning. All of the children I nannied were Montessori taught, as were my three younger siblings. After a short time I realized, for many reasons, that I wanted my experience as a teacher and the experience of the students to be different. My hope is to form emotional, and meaningful relationships with the children. Relationships where the children will feel safe in communicating their feelings to me- whether they be sad, happy, excited. I’m also keen to form relationships with the parents in which they feel comfortable talking with me about their children. In my experience, home and school life are the two main environments within which a child experiences their younger years. Both are equally important!