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

Melody Birdsong-Shubert, Mixed-Age Kindergarten teacher

Laura Esposito, Mixed-Age Kindergarten teacher

Molly MacDonald, Early Childhood 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 BHearth in Keene, NH.

Laura Muraco, Garden Gate teacher

Diana Stoycheva, Garden Gate teacher

Grade School Faculty

Bridget Brier, Class of 2016

Gabrielle Nembhard, Class of 2025

Gabrielle received her BS in Education with Special Education, Concentration in Math from SUNY Geneseo, which included student teaching in New York and abroad in Ghana. A Waldorf graduate herself, she spent four consecutive Summers as the assistant teacher in a Waldorf Summer Camp program for early childhood. Prior to teaching at RVWS, Gabrielle lived in Seattle, WA for several years, where she had many wonderful adventures, including teaching yoga and teaching in

grades K-8 at the Three Cedars Waldorf School. Gabrielle will complete her Waldorf Teacher Training at the Sunbridge Institute in 2018.  She is passionately committed to Waldorf education and anticipates teaching until she is so old that she no longer can. In her spare time, she loves to learn or try something new, read, swim, play games, converse, and spend time with her husband. Gabrielle has a special love for Jamaica, her husband’s home country.

Karen Atkinson, Class of 2024

 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

Genevieve Solomon, Class of 2020

Genevieve holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing.  Immediately following college graduation, Genevieve fell in love with Waldorf education and moved to San Diego for her grades training.  She accepted her first position after completing her certification at the Waldorf High School in Orange County, CA.  She continued to work in Waldorf Schools after moving back to NJ to grow her family.  She loves philosophy, literature, and comparative religion.  She loves to sing and write and to spend time in nature.  She is a seeker and a lover of truth.

“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained and he only holds the key to his own secret.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.”

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

Jessica Alfaro, Music teacher

Araceli Vargas, Spanish teacher

 

Sharon Ferguson,  4th – 8th grade fine arts; select middle school main lesson blocks 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.”

 

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.”

 

 

 

Emily P. Chang, 8th grade Math, After-school care and substitute

Emily was born and raised in New Jersey, educated in the public schools of Edison, starting with Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School as a kindergartner and graduating from John P. Stevens High School.  Her undergraduate alma mater, Syracuse University, awarded Ms. Chang a

Bachelor of Arts from the School of Arts and Sciences majoring in Psychology in 1998.  The degree allowed an expansive professional versatility from graduate studies in medicine, nonprofit program directorship, and various part-time experiences in many industries from food and retail to personal creative pursuits.  It is with great respect that Ms. Chang accepts the position at River Valley Waldorf School. In her words, “The trust and warmth of the community at the school resonates with a higher octave in my soul, and I feel honored to be contributing.  Best to all in the coming ten months!”

 

 

Josh Laker, Sports & Games and After-school program

 Ellyn Siftar, Woodworking teacher

Administration

Cindy Schretlen

Cindy Schretlen, Director of Admissions and School Life

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, Business Administrator

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.

 

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.”