Faculty and Staff

Early Childhood Faculty

Kathy Bernhardt, Mixed-Age Kindergarten teacherKathy Bernhardt

When Kathy was raising her two small children, she discovered the new school across the river from her home—River Valley Waldorf School. While her children were still young, she began her three-year Waldorf Early Childhood training at Sunbridge Institute, receiving her Waldorf teacher certificate in 2001. She began teaching at RVWS in 2002 and has been leading the nursery program for the last ten years. Kathy’s two children traveled from kindergarten through eighth grade at River Valley, graduating in 2010 and 2012. Kathy enjoys spending time with her friends and family, cooking, gardening and enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing.

“I love that Waldorf education strives to allow children to grow up slowly and respects each developmental stage of childhood through a pedagogically appropriate curriculum. Children are allowed to explore and experience the natural world and a sense of reverence is instilled in every aspect of the curriculum.”

Rebecca West, Mixed-Age Kindergarten teacher

Rebecca WestRebecca has been studying child development and working with children for 14 years in various settings. Her first classroom experiences were in public elementary schools during her time as an Early Childhood / Elementary Education major at Muhlenberg and Cedar Crest College. Upon realizing that the public school realm was not best suited for her ideas and long- term goals, she began working as a Conservation Educator and Wildlife Rehabilitator at the Lehigh Valley Zoo. The experience of working with children in an outdoor and experiential setting was a profound experience which eventually led to her discovery of Waldorf education.

After the birth of her son in 2009, Rebecca founded a home care program, The Rosebud Playgarden, which she ran out of her Bethlehem residence for four years. Rebecca began her Waldorf journey at Sunbridge Institute in 2012 after completing introductory courses in Eurythmy and Early Childhood Education. She is heavily involved in the arts and natural parenting community and serves as the Director of Youth Ministries at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem, PA. In addition to working with young children, Rebecca enjoys baking, poetry, live music, gardening and any artistic activity. She hopes to one day author books for parents of young children.

“I am grateful and proud to be a part of an educational movement which reveres the unique development of every child and seeks to protect the wonder, joy and profound sanctity of childhood.”

Shana Rameriz, Early Childhood TeacherShana Ramirez

Shana has been working with young children in many capacities for several years. After earning an AFA from Montgomery County Community College while working in a preschool class, Shana was inspired by the wonder and joy the children experienced whenever they were introduced to the arts. Her passion for caring for children grew even more when she was introduced to Waldorf Education, and soon after had the opportunity to assist in a nursery kindergarten class at RVWS in 2012. Shana has deepened her knowledge of child development and Waldorf Education through attending WECAN conferences and workshops at the Sunbridge Institute. She is also completing a 2 year Early Childhood training at Sophia’s Hearth Family Center in New Hampshire. In addition to leading the Acorn Room, Shana finds joy in hiking, reading, spending time with her husband and pets, and her work as a fiber artist.

“Through Waldorf education in early childhood, we are able to lay the foundation for future academics with a deep respect for each child’s individuality and development. When a young child is given the space and freedom to explore the world around them in a safe and nurturing environment, countless possibilities unfold. I am so grateful to be a part of a school movement where children are able to experience childhood fully and as a result, truly thrive.”

Molly MacDonald, Garden Gate Teacher  Molly Mac Donald  

Molly is the oldest of seven children and has been working with children since those first days of babysitting the little ones.  She began her formal teaching working with young children with significant disabilities in 1992 and continued that work for eight years.  It was at this time that she was introduced to Waldorf education and began to look deeper and explore.  In search of Waldorf for her own young children, she started a parent child class with a friend and continued that work for two years.  She then taught Handwork for a year and found herself pulled to River Valley where she began assisting in the Kindergarten.  She is excited now, to be returning to parent-child work this year and has begun her Waldorf Early Childhood training at Sophia’s Hearth in Keene, NH.

Grade School Faculty

Karen Atkinson, Class of 2024Karen Atkinson

Karen is teaching first grade for the second time, at River Valley Waldorf School. Before joining our faculty, Karen taught at Monadnock Waldorf School, the Waldorf School of Princeton, and Green Meadow Waldorf School. Prior to moving into grades’ teaching, Karen was a Waldorf early childhood educator for many years. In addition to teaching, she has served as a mentor and consultant for over two decades.  Karen is the Leadership Council Representative for the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) in the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as formally serving as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Representative for the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN).  She received her undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts, with a focus in Education, from Vermont College and her Waldorf Teaching Certification in both Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Antioch New England Graduate School.

When not in the classroom, Karen can be found hiking a nature trail.  She supports local and organic farms, and enjoys preparing health-giving meals in her kitchen.  Karen finds rest and renewal on the white, sandy beaches of Cape May, NJ.

“Waldorf Education receives each child, with love, on their path toward growth and independent human development.  It allows both the time and space for each individual to unfold and shine, at their own pace, while providing just the right amount of imagination, creativity and inspiration.”

Christina HummelChristina Hummel, Class of 2023

Christina Hummel knew when she was six years old that she wanted to be either a teacher or a doctor. Christina attended a Waldorf School in Germany from kindergarten through grade five and then a public school on a Greek island from grades six through twelve. As she began thinking about college applications and what she might like to be, it became clear which of her two dream professions she wanted to pursue. She wanted to be a teacher and specifically a Waldorf teacher. Having received her Certification in Early Childhood from Sunbridge Institute, Christina did her practicum at the Merriconeag Waldorf School. She joined River Valley in 1998 as one of its first two kindergarten teachers, moving into the grades in 2001 while pursuing her certification in Elementary Education from Antioch New England. Christina loves morning runs with her dog, getting together with friends, and learning a new language – though she has discovered it doesn’t come as easily as it once did.

“I wanted to be able to give children the wonderful gifts and experience my Waldorf education had given me. I love the notion of being with a class for eight years and truly knowing them—caring for them at each stage of their development and seeing them grow into adulthood. I love being their guide though the grades.”

Melanie NiemczuraMelanie Niemczura, Class of 2022

In the summer of 2009, Melanie, along with her two sons, arrived at River Valley Waldorf School to become one of our kindergarten lead teachers. Prior to joining the faculty at RVWS, Melanie taught for three years at Northern Lights, a Waldorf-initiative school in Lake Placid, NY. Melanie completed her Waldorf teacher training in Waldorf elementary and early childhood education at Antioch New England Graduate School in 2006 and also holds a BS from Pennsylvania State University. She enjoys dancing in any form—especially African Dance & Contra. Otherwise, her children and her chickens bring her her greatest joys.

“I love Waldorf Education as it respects the dignity of the young child, developmentally as well as individually. I also love working close to the earth and being outside in the weather every day.”

Rachel Howard, Class of 2021

Rachel joins the faculty of River Valley Waldorf School in the fall of 2016. Rachel comes to Waldorf education through her discovery and study of Waldorf since the birth of her son in 2012. A determined and passionate learner, Rachel has studied anthropology, linguistics, and is fluent in Spanish. Rachel received her BA in Linguistics from the University of Texas, teaching certificate from Pacific Oaks College Northwest, and MA in TESOL from La Universidad del Turabo in Puerto Rico. She has dedicated herself to the study of Steiner teachings and philosophy. As a creative person, Rachel enjoys knitting and crocheting, and has shared her passion with all of her students. A former teacher of ESL and 5th grade classroom teacher in Allentown public schools, Rachel is warmly welcomed as she makes River Valley Waldorf School her teaching home.

“You will not be good teachers if you focus on what you do and not who you are.” –Rudolf Steiner

Lisa M. Sweeney, Class of 2020

Prior to joining the faculty at RVWS in 2012, Lisa taught at the Tidewater Waldorf School in Eliot, Maine, at Susquehanna Waldorf School in Marietta, PA, in the Lebanon School District in Lebanon, PA, and at the Lancaster/Lebanon Intermediate Unit. Before coming to the classroom, Lisa was a development officer for various non-profit organizations and began her working career as an actress in NYC. She has studied Waldorf Education at Sunbridge Institute, The SteiLisa Sweeneyner Institute, Renewal courses in Wilton, NH, and at AWSWA Conferences. Lisa holds a Pennsylvania Private School Teaching Certificate, a B.A. from Kenyan College, an L.R.A.M. from The Royal Academy of Music,
and other certificates of professional study. Lisa’s life is greatly enriched by her beautiful daughter, Erin, by reading and studying the works of Rudolf Steiner, by caring for her cottage in historic Mt. Gretna, PA, and by visiting with family and her many dear friends.

“As a Waldorf teacher, I enjoy the freedom to adapt the curriculum to the specific needs and abilities of my students which allows me to meet them where they are both emotionally and developmentally. I am also greatly attracted to the ancient practice of teaching through story and art.”

Annie Porter, Class of 2019, Pedagogical ChairAnnie's preference 2017

Annie Porter found Waldorf education twenty-five years ago as a parent, and was fortunate to be part of both the Hartsbrook and Princeton Waldorf School communities, as well as River Valley. Annie received her undergraduate degree in Art History from Smith College and went on to receive both her Waldorf teaching certification and her MA in education from Sunbridge Institute. Her three children are Waldorf graduates. She loves being outdoors, tending her garden and beehives, hiking and sailing off the coast of Maine. She loves a good book. She loves having time to write and she cares about local community development, and supporting the efforts of artists and farmers.

“I believe that Waldorf education functions as a social movement that meets the needs of today’s children, many of whom are growing up in a culture that pulls them out of their childhood. Children are often disconnected from real experiences of work, nature, and art. As a Waldorf teacher, I enjoy working every day to give children an experience of the tangible sensory world, and a sense of the dignity of the human being.”

Euclides Santiago, Class of 2017 & 2018Euclides new pic

Before arriving at River Valley Waldorf School, Euclides was a New York City photographer for 21 years, having received his BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology. After having been an active and enthusiastic parent at RVWS for six years, he began teaching Spanish and games classes in 2007, and received his Masters in Waldorf Education from Sunbridge in 2009. In addition to holding the middle school science program, Euclides, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, freely shares aspects of his culture with our students. His talent and skills as an artist are also put to excellent use by the sculptural arts curriculum in the middle school. Euclides enjoys spending time with his wife, his son, and his friends and spends a good amount of time fixing up their very old stone house.

“I love the idea of being able to go back to middle school and teach the sciences the way I wish I could have learned them. Waldorf students are allowed the opportunity to first experience the beauty and magic of science and only then are taught the concepts and formulas. Curiosity is alive at our school!”

Laura BirdsallLaura Birdsall, Middle School Coordinator

Laura holds a BA in English from Dickinson College and a MEPD (Masters in Education, Professional Development) from Cardinal Stretch University. She received her Waldorf teacher training through a program at Pine Hill Waldorf School, which later became the Antioch Waldorf Teacher Training Program that exists today. Laura has taught for 34 years as a class teacher, a middle school teacher, and in various teacher training centers around the country. Laura is keenly interested in issues of social justice. Accordingly, ten years ago she founded a non-profit program called Side by Side, PA, which is devoted to enriching the lives of under-served Phoenixville children by pairing them one-on-one with teen mentors. In this work, she draws on her experience as a Waldorf teacher at the Urban Waldorf School in Milwaukee creating curriculum and experiences that are both Waldorf- inspired and highly effective with the targeted population. Children and grandchildren, hiking and gardening fill her weekends and large chunks of the summer.

“I was first attracted to Waldorf Education when I was a young mother and felt, on the one hand, a strong desire to protect and preserve the magic of my daughters’ childhoods and, on the other, a strong conviction that this would be a gift for their lifetimes. Over the years, I have seen the benefits of Waldorf education in the lives of so many. The Waldorf approach is absolutely unique and wisdom-filled.”

Lynn VazquezLynn Vazquez, Educational Support Teacher

Lynn began teaching at RVWS in September of 2005. Prior to that she taught at a Waldorf initiative in Wilton, CT and served as a class teacher at the Vancouver Waldorf School in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Before receiving her certification in Waldorf Education, Lynn taught mathematics to seventh and eighth grade students in an inner city public school in New York State. She received her Bachelor of Arts in History and Mathematics from Binghamton University and her Master of Science in Remedial Education from Sunbridge College. Lynn has been teaching for the past 21 years and delights in learning. Recently she became certified as an Orton-Gillingham reading specialist and has taken several courses in preparation for HANDLE screener certification.

While at RVWS Lynn has served as a class teacher and is currently enjoying her role as an educational support teacher, as she has always been interested in individual differences and the different learner. She believes that Waldorf education encourages children to celebrate their unique gifts and talents and teaches students to honor their peer’s differences.

“Inspired by many of my teachers, I believe that Waldorf education enthuses, inspires and elicits compassion for others. The curriculum addresses the needs of the child at each stage of development and uses an experiential and artistic approach to teaching academics in a collaborative learning environment.”

Specialty Subject Teachers

Carol Ann Diven, Music teacherCarol Diven

Carol, educated in England and a graduate of the Royal Academy of music in London, was working as a freelance oboist when she came across Waldorf education while looking for a school for her daughter. Several months later Carol and her family moved to Sacramento where Carol received her Diploma in Waldorf Education from Rudolf Steiner College. She subsequently obtained her MA at California State University in Sacramento. Carol has worked for the past 25 years as a Waldorf teacher in both charter and fully AWSNA accredited institutions, as well as several years at Rudolf Steiner College, where she was the director of the music department. Being a Waldorf teacher has given Carol a place to combine her deep love and affinity for music with the opportunity to bring her love and joy of music to the children and students she teaches. When not teaching Carol loves to play her oboe, take walks by the river, read, spend time with her family, and eat good ice cream!

“I love how the thread of the music curriculum through the grades so accurately and joyfully meets the children perfectly at their particular stage of development. From unison singing in the kindergarten to the production of a whole musical in the middle school, the children participate with joy and enthusiasm in every aspect of their music classes.”

Maria Workman, Spanish teacher

Maria joins the River Valley faculty in fall 2016 as Spanish Teacher. Maria is an experienced and dedicated teacher of Spanish, having taught K-8 Spanish and ESL in both public and independent schools. Maria is Waldorf educated; she attended the Pittsburgh Waldorf School Kindergarten through 3rd grade as part of its first class. She also attended Kimberton Waldorf School, and studied at the Waldorf School of Lima, Peru during her high-school study abroad. Maria graduated from West Chester University with a BA in Spanish, and also studied abroad in Seville, Spain. Maria is passionate about the cultures of Spanish speaking countries and working with children. In her free time, Maria enjoys gardening, crocheting and spending time with her young son.

“As a Waldorf student starting with preschool, I am looking forward to further Waldorf training and understanding the Waldorf approach in a more conscious way.”

Sharon Ferguson,  7th and 8th grade fine arts; select main lesson blocks for the 8th grade Sharon Ferguson 

Sharon earned her BA from Western Maryland College, with a dual major of Fine Arts Sculpture and Communications and a minor in French. After graduation, she continued with coursework in various fields and disciplines while working full time as a graphic designer in educational publishing. Sharon’s experience in visual art has seen her work in diverse fields, from researching and restoring original mosaic tile design in the New York City subway system to Graphic Designer at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, before the birth of her first child in 2001.

Sharon’s first experience with River Valley’s community was in the fall of 2002 in the parent-child classes and she has been involved in faculty work ever since being asked to assist the program the following year during the teacher’s maternity leave. In those 13 years, she has acted as Pre-K and Kindergarten Assistant, Aftercare lead teacher, Handwork Teacher, Seventh Grade Class Teacher, Grades Block Lesson Teacher and Fine Arts Teacher.

Sharon loves gardening, the fiber arts and knitting, reading novels and non-fiction about history and art, any creative endeavor with her two daughters, Hazel and Olive, and walks along the Delaware Canal with her basset hound Archibald.

“The arts are a tangible way to teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer, which I think is at the heart of critical thinking and what I love about Waldorf education.”

Melissa Goldstein, Gardening teacherMelissa Goldstein

Melissa Goldstein studied environmental science at Brookdale Community College and has taken additional coursework on permaculture and organic gardening practices with the New Jersey Organic Farming Association at Rutgers University. She has also been learning about biodynamic gardening and the Stella Natura. Melissa has a passion for gardening and years of experience as a professional gardener, in her own beautiful home-garden, and assisting Christine Boston in the RVWS garden. She is excited about continuing the educational and practical aspects of gardening with the children and families of River Valley, and we are happy she has chosen to share her skills and love of gardening with the RVWS community in this way.

Mary K. TillHandwork teacher

Mary K. has a bachelor’s degree in Biology. After working for years in research, she returned to school to pursue graduate coursework in elementary education. She has loved handwork and art for much of her life, therefore teaching the arts spoke deeply to her. In preparation for teaching Handwork at RVWS, she attended Sunbridge Institute and became certified in Applied Arts. Creating and the process of creating nurtures Mary K. on a deep level, whether it is drawing, painting, sculpting, or handwork. MeditationMary Kay Till is also a practice that she strives to keep at the center of her life.

“I love the Waldorf holistic approach to educating children with reverence and respect. I love that we educate the head, heart, and hands by infusing the entire academic curriculum with art. This reaches each child on a deeper level than could be done otherwise. I love being a part of a community of teachers and parents striving to nurture each child with understanding and love.”

Administration

Cindy Schretlen

Cindy Schretlen, Enrollment and Administrative Coordinator & Administrative Team

Cindy joined River Valley Waldorf School first as a parent in 2000, when her children were small. The more she learned about Waldorf education through workshops, speakers and volunteering at the school, the more deeply she came to value what it offers children and their families. Cindy has been serving as Admissions Coordinator since 2001 and is a past member of the College of Teachers.

Outside of RVWS, Cindy enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, yoga, spending time with family and dear friends, and is seriously considering getting back on her bicycle.

“I first bumped into Waldorf education when my oldest son was a toddler; the more I researched and read about it, the more it just made so much sense! I decided at that time if there was any way for my children to be educated in a Waldorf school – that was what I wanted. I was not disappointed. Introducing new families to Waldorf education remains one of my favorite things to do.”

 

Reeve Kelly, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator

Reeve’s professional background is entrepreneurial, providing business consulting for public schools. She first became interested in alternatives to the traditional educational model during her work at Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Rockland Maine. She received her BA in English Literature from Rutgers University. After graduating, she worked with public schools to manage the business side, and eventually co-founded a software start-up. Throughout that time, she sought a different experience for her own young children, eventually learning about Waldorf education and River Valley Waldorf School from a family friend. Enrolling her children at River Valley Waldorf School is the best decision she has made as a parent.

Stephanie Spencer, Development CoordinatorStephanie Spencer

Stephanie Spencer has a professional background in non-profit management and art education. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts from Beaver College, she gained experience in the non-profit sector at the Printmaking Council of New Jersey. As Director, Stephanie conducted special events, coordinated development activities, held speaking engagements, and managed all aspects of daily operations. She earned a Master of Education from Kutztown University and has held several positions teaching art in public and charter schools. Currently, she teaches part time at the Baum School of Art and the DaVinci Science Center. Stephanie is also a creative artist and her preferred media are ceramics, jewelry, fabric arts and printmaking. She also enjoys kayaking, caving, hiking, skiing, cooking and gardening. Stephanie is delighted to bring her diverse experience to the position of Development Coordinator at River Valley.

Lynne Allbaugh, Buildings and Grounds Coordinator

Charlene Chapman, Bookkeeper

Robbie Miller, Administrative AssistantRobbie Miller

Robbie grew up outside of Philadelphia and received a BA in journalism from New York University. She lived in New Mexico for many years during which time her sister was one of the founders of Golden Circle Kindergarten and, in fact, her niece and nephews were among its first kindergarteners. On a bulletin board in New Mexico, Robbie saw a notice for a watercolor painting class and when she went to the first class she found out that the teacher had studied painting at the Goetheanum. The teacher used Rudolf Steiner’s color exercises and the first three classes focused on the color yellow; the fourth class introduced golden yellow. Robbie felt right at home and thus began her journey with Waldorf Education and Anthroposophy. On frequent visits home she visited Golden Circle and after she moved back to Pennsylvania, was asked to join the River Valley Waldorf School Board of Trustees in 1999. Her relationship with the school has grown deeper as the years have progressed.

“When I went to the graduation of the Santa Fe Waldorf School and heard the teacher describe his relationship with his class and saw the students speak and perform, I was extremely moved by their confidence and self-awareness. I thought, if I had graduated from a Waldorf school what a different person I would have been at that age! That’s what convinced me of the value of Waldorf Education.”

Genevieve Solomon, Administrative Assistant