Elm House


Sarah Lu

Owner 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 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.]


Megan Milligan

Teacher, 3rd 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.

Mage Baltes

Program Director and Teacher, 4th 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.

Laurie Nadeau

Teacher, 3rd year at Elm House

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!

Jackie Shen

Teacher, 1st year at Elm House

I have been working with children since 2010 as an Au Pair from China in Washington DC. I graduated from Indiana University with a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education in 2015. I was a part-time assistant teacher at the University affiliated preschool. After my graduation, I worked as a full-time assistant teacher at Bank Street Head Start in NYC. I got married in September of last year and moved back to Indiana to be with my husband, where I took up a full-time co-teacher position at a local Spanish immersion preschool.

I am a firm believer of progressive early interventions. I believe in cultivating a sense of community and creating a safe place for children to explore not only what they are good at but also to learn from their mistakes. I am constantly amazed by how much children have to offer when I am patient enough to be with them, listen to what they have to say and really get into the nitty-gritty of growing up in this day and age with them.

I feel very lucky to be teaching at Elm House.

Manuela Perez

Teacher, 1st year at Elm House