Faculty & Staff

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Early Childhood Faculty

Melody Birdsong-Shubert (she/her)

Early Childhood Lead Teacher

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”  ― Maya Angelou                        

Melody joined River Valley Waldorf in 2015. She combines an anti-bias and anti-racist practice (ABAR) with Waldorf education to serve the early childhood and RVWS community where compassion and being an affirming and contributing community member is continually developed. Melody participated in a three-year long Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Training with Sunbridge Institute in NY. It was during this time that she internalized that Waldorf educators must be committed to responding with great intentionality as they embrace the responsibility to present an atmosphere of opportunity and truth where children and community may thrive. Melody, her partner, and their child are residents and caretakers of unceded northeastern woodlands with Lenni Lenape and other indigenous peoples. They are privileged to reside in a home that sits upon farmland at the base of the Appalachian mountains now known as Northampton County, PA. This family of three enjoys spending time with extended family members for weekly dinners, game nights, pool time, and the occasional fish fry. With a passion for the outdoors, they frequent the rolling rivers via canoe and the vast array of terrain when backpacking through remote mountains. Melody loves to try new things and has most recently taken up playing the ukulele and learning snowboarding. 

Rita Bittner

Early Childhood Support Teacher

“Waldorf education isn’t just about passing tests; it’s about nurturing a love for learning that resonates with the soul, weaving ancient history, music, art, and nature into a tapestry of knowledge. It’s an education that sparks curiosity, fosters depth, and cultivates a lifelong passion for exploration.” – Rita Bittner
Rita Bittner originates from New Jersey but has made Pennsylvania her home for over two decades, currently residing in Salisbury Township. Joining River Valley in December 2022, Rita brings a diverse educational background, holding a B.A. in Communication from Rutgers University’s Douglass College. Her journey into Waldorf education began through her son’s attendance at a Waldorf charter school, where she admired the curriculum’s depth in ancient history and its holistic approach integrating music, art, and nature, fostering a genuine love for learning rather than mere test preparation. Beyond education, she delves into various interests, including gardening, writing, and alternative therapies like massage therapy, reflexology, chi-gong, tai-chi, and yoga. Rita resonates deeply with River Valley’s independence in education, valuing the school’s freedom. Rita’s diverse experiences also encompass having her own business as a Medical Massage Therapist/Foot Reflexologist and achieving recognition for authoring her fantasy novel.

Susan Dils (she/her)

Early Childhood Support Teacher


Laura Esposito (she/her)

Early Childhood Support Teacher

 “I strongly believe in Waldorf Education as I have seen many children grow, thrive and become the best versions of themselves by being in such a nurturing environment with loving, dedicated teachers that take that journey alongside them.
Early childhood is an important foundation in the child’s journey where play, movement, work, and reverence not only pring joy to their daily life, but a sense of belonging, courage, creativity, emotional security and so many tools to build upon for the rest of their lives. Our little ones are like seeds sprouting from the earth for the first time, and the adults around them provide the proper space and nourishment so that later they may fully bloom and share their fruits with the world”  ~Laura Esposito

Laura joined River Valley in 2009 as an early childhood assistant. For ten years, she went on to enjoy many roles at our school including teaching middle school arts, kindergarten, games and movement, and drama, cooking, and crafts in our after school program. During a period of four years, she taught Kindergarten at Kimberton Waldorf School. She is now excited to be back with her RVWS family! Laura received her BFA in painting and Art K-12 teaching certification from Arcadia University, and her Early Childhood Waldorf certification from Sunbridge Institute. She has completed her Reiki 1 training and holds a second degree blackbelt in Aikido with hopes to begin a kid’s Aikido foundations class soon. Laura also loves to travel and experience new cultures, be in nature, hike, garden, craft, meditate, and do yoga. 

Jacqueline Foley (she/her)

Early Childhood Lead Teacher

“It’s amazing how each child blooms throughout the year. Watching the connection of mind, body, and soul blossom from the beginning of the school year until the last day is a remarkable experience for me.” ~ Jacqueline Foley

For Jacqueline, it’s the connection of spirit, soul, mind, and body of a Waldorf education that resonates with her. As part of the Early Childhood department, she focuses on honoring each child’s spirit by finding what ignites their curiosity and guiding them along the way. Jacqueline  received a B.F.A from Moore College of Art & Design and has been at River Valley Waldorf since 2016. Before River Valley, Jacqueline was a textile print designer for several companies including Fashion Bug, Lane Bryant, Graco Children’s Products, and Old Navy, designing the prints and patterns for fabrics as well as knit and woven. She also had her own business painting murals for children’s rooms. Born and raised outside Philadelphia, Jacqueline lives in Bucks County and is the mother of four daughters. In her spare time, she loves yoga, painting, reading, and riding her rusty old bike along the canal.

Sheena Ifkovitch (she/her)

Garden Gate Lead Teacher

“I resonate with the school’s mission to ‘nurture the individual spirit of each child.’ In my work I see Waldorf Education as a healing art, one that is here to help remove any hindrances so that the child’s spirit may enter in full freedom into life.” – Sheena Ifkovitch  

Ms. Sheena stepped into the role of Garden Gate teacher at River Valley in the spring of 2023. Ms. Sheena operated a Waldorf-based early childhood homecare program for more than six years. Through this program, she cared for children and also offered caregivers opportunities to learn about respectful parenting and holistic living, and brought children and families into community with events and seasonal festivals. Ms. Sheena has served as the co-chair of the Eastern Regional Council of the Anthroposophical Society of America, and received her Early Childhood training from LifeWays North America in 2016. In her free time, Ms. Sheena pursues anthroposophical studies, spends time in nature, and works in fiber arts and herbalism. She also enjoys playing board and card games with her family.

Katlin Moore (she/her)

Early Childhood Lead Teacher

“My passion for Waldorf education centers around the desire to take the whole child and their development as a human being into account, coupled with a reverence for the natural world and plenty of time outside every day! As a musician, nature lover, and human being, I find River Valley’s mission to encompass a holistic education centering on social renewal, a kinship with nature and a full complement of the arts to be a perfect fit within myself.” ~ Katlin Moore                   

Ms. Katlin comes to River Valley with more than a decade of teaching experience. Most recently, she has been caring for children through a Waldorf home care program for young children which she started in 2022. Prior to that, she worked as a preschool teacher before spending eight years at Circle of Seasons Charter School. Ms. Katlin graduated magna cum laude from Elizabethtown College, with a degree in Elementary and Special Education. She has also received Waldorf Trainings from Sunbridge Institute, and has studied “Teaching Sensible Science” with Michael D’Aleo. She recently received a Graduate Certificate in Learning Design in Educational and Professional Settings from Lehigh University. Ms. Katlin plays the flute in the Pioneer Band of Allentown, is an avid hiker and bicyclist, enthusiast of health-full cooking and nutrition, and an enjoyer of books of all types but especially neuroscience, and non-fiction. 

Layla Plaza (she/her)

Early Childhood Support Teacher

“I love how a Waldorf school educates the whole child and instills a lifelong love of learning.” ~ Layla Plaza

Layla joined River Valley Waldorf in 2018 as an assistant kindergarten teacher and began co-teaching in 2021. We are thrilled to have her as a support teacher this year, so her talents can be enjoyed by even more students. She admires how the children at River Valley show so much passion in the work they do. Layla’s education background includes the hospitality industry, in hotel/restaurant management. After working in restaurants from farm-to-table to fine dining award winning restaurants in Austin, Texas, she relocated back to Pennsylvania with her husband and their baby. Shifting into the childcare profession, Layla worked at a daycare for two years before finding a home at River Valley Waldorf. She was born in Montreal and lives in Allentown, PA. When time allows, Layla enjoys playing the harp.


Annette Smith (she/her)

Early Childhood Lead Teacher

“I’d been taking classes at Sunbridge and at Circle of Seasons for a couple of years and fell in love with the Waldorf philosophy of learning, but it was the encouragement of my daughters who said, ‘Mom, you raised us ‘Waldorf’ you can do this!’, that gave me the strength I needed to start this new teaching career. I am very excited to continue this ongoing adventure at River Valley Waldorf School and I look forward to practicing and learning more each day about Waldorf education to be able to offer it to the children in my classroom.” – Annette Smith

Annette holds an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, and a Bachelor of Science Degree from Keystone College, La Plume, PA. Her Waldorf training includes the ECE week long program, and several week long sessions at Sunbridge Institute in New York State. Annette’s extensive resume includes Early Childhood teaching, assisting in a Head Start Classroom, and being a lead teacher. She piloted a classroom co-teaching to advance inclusionary practices for special needs children, went on to become a manager overseeing four Head Start sites, and then piloted a new position with the state of Pennsylvania to improve the quality of care and education of the EC community. This grew into an executive director position of a non-profit that she ran for 15 years. During this time, Annette went back to school and received her Bachelor of Science and a PA teaching certification for grades K-6. Moving closer to both of her daughter’s growing families, Annette began teaching kindergarten at Circle of Seasons Charter School. Annette’s passion for Waldorf is that children are allowed to be individuals, to grow and learn at their own pace, in their own way. Away from school, Annette loves gardening, spending time in nature fishing (not necessarily catching), creating art, and most importantly – spending time with her family.


Grade School Faculty

Katrina Keptner (she/her)

Grade 1 Class Teacher

“Waldorf education is a healing education. It gives each individual an opportunity to discover their unique forms of self-expression while uncovering the universal aspects of human nature. Using this method, children find their feet firmly planted on the earth. This security allows wonder, curiosity, and empathy to flourish.” ~Katrina Keptner

Originally from New Hampshire, Katrina currently lives in the Lehigh Valley. She previously lived in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and spent 11 years in New York City. Katrina received a Bachelor of Arts degree from NYU and earned her Master’s degree in Education with a certificate in Waldorf Education from Antioch University. Katrina taught for 10 years, mostly at a progressive charter school in Newark, NJ. She also worked at the Rudolf Steiner School in New York and took a class from first through fifth grade at Circle of Seasons, a public Waldorf-methods school.

Katrina loves that River Valley is committed to its mission of “nurturing the individual spirit of each child” along with the working principles of diversity and accessibility. She feels that every human has gifts to offer and they are only able to recognize their gifts and share them with others in a community that honors each individual and provides them with the support they need to meet their highest potential. Outside of teaching, Katrina is often out in nature or immersed in literature. She enjoys hiking and camping with her family, reading, and occasionally watching sports. In the winter, Katrina spends time baking, crafting, and enjoying seasonal celebrations. She also loves to travel. Katrina lives with her husband and son, plus one dog Bowser, and two cats, Jeb and Bluto.

Molly MacDonald (she/her)

Grade 2 Class Teacher

“I love how each teacher strives to meet the children in front of them. Each class and group of children has its own personality, energy, and needs, and the freedom that Waldorf Education gives us to meet that uniqueness is precious.” ~ Molly MacDonald 

Molly began her formal teaching while working with young children with significant disabilities in 1992 and continued that work for eight years. A graduate of Kutztown University, she earned her masters degree at Lehigh University, and received her Waldorf early-childhood training at Sophia’s Hearth in Keene, NH. She joined River Valley Waldorf in 2014. Molly embraces the deep understanding of individual child development that a Waldorf education provides through anthroposophical study. Recognizing each individual as a striving, spiritual being, she cites how this view gives the teachers rich support as they consider what to bring to their students and how to make it most meaningful for them in their journey through life. Molly grew up in New Jersey, and resides in Quakertown, PA. She loves to play with fibers of all sorts and in all different ways, and she also loves gardening, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Gabrielle Nembhard (she/her)

Grades 3 & 4 Class Teacher

“I love how Waldorf education is health-giving. It supports and maximizes children’s growth and development physically, emotionally, and mentally. Waldorf education supports children in unfolding their full potential, discovering who they are, and developing the skills and capacities they need to be successful at whatever they set their minds to.”   ~ Gabrielle Nembhard

Gabrielle’s passion for Waldorf education lies in how it supports children in discovering who they are as individuals, and reaching their full potential so they can find their unique paths through life. She loves how Waldorf education helps develop the capacities for freedom of thinking, strength of will, and warmth and openness for connection with others. She resonates most with the principles of independence in education, accessibility, and diversity at River Valley Waldorf School. A Waldorf graduate herself, Gabrielle received her B.S. in Education with Special Ed, and a Concentration in Math from SUNY Geneseo. She completed her Waldorf teacher training at Sunbridge Institute in 2019. Prior to teaching at River Valley, Gabrielle taught in grades K-8 at the Three Cedars Waldorf School in Seattle, WA, as well as at the Summer Camp at the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs. Gabrielle became a class teacher at River Valley Waldorf School in 2017 and began serving on the Board of Trustees in 2019. She lives in the Lehigh Valley and loves reading, knitting, practicing Iyengar yoga, spending time with her family, and going on adventures in nature.

Alyssa Baron (she/her)

Grade 5 Class Teacher

“I am extremely passionate about sharing my love and joy of learning with my students. It is my goal as an educator to promote this with my students so they always stay curious and have a passion for learning/understanding the world throughout their life.” ~Alyssa Baron  

Alyssa joined River Valley in spring of 2022, relocating to Upper Bucks County from Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from Parsons School of Design, and received her Waldorf training through summer professional development at the Center for Anthroposophy including: Preparing for Grade 4 and Making Math Meaningful: The Joy of Learning. She has been a teacher for over 10 years—most recently as a special education art therapist/teacher to grades K-12 at the Eton Academy in Birmingham, Michigan. The two River Valley principles that stand out the most to Alyssa are communication and accessibility. She finds it extremely important to be transparent, clear, and explicit whenever communicating— whether it be with an individual or the community at large. Accessibility is a value Alyssa holds close as well, citing that in order to for society to grow for the better, good education must be accessible to all no matter the socioeconomic background. Some of Alyssa’s interests include cooking, dance, drawing, painting, fashion design, music, and more. She also loves mythology, folklore, philosophy, urban planning/design, agriculture, and learning about different cultures.     

Shenayah Herschkowitz (she/her)

Grade 6 Class Teacher

“I am passionate about how Waldorf Education considers each child holistically, with the goal of meeting them where they are and nourishing their unique capabilities.   I love how the entire school is deeply invested in empowering students with a sense of wonder, confidence, and curiosity, which creates a lifelong love of learning.”  ~ Shenayah Herschkowitz           

Shenayah is originally from Flemington, NJ and relocated back to the area after living in Boston, Brooklyn, and Woodstock, NY. She began working at River Valley in January of 2022. Shenayah graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in English, and went on to Northeastern University’s American Sign Language-English Interpreting program. Shenayah has completed courses in Waldorf education at the Alkion Institute in Ghent, NY. In addition, she is completing her teacher training at Sunbridge Institute, and is also a registered yoga teacher.

Shenayah was introduced to River Valley in 2011, when she attended the Child & Caregiver Class with her daughter. She was impressed with how the teacher held the class with such loving intention, and how the children responded to the gentle rhythms of the morning. Since then, Waldorf has been both an anchor and a guide in parenting and educating her daughter. River Valley’s commitment to Diversity, Communication, and Independence in Education resonates with Shenayah and she is so happy to now be part of the faculty. Outside of school, Shenayah loves hiking with her family, reading, and doing yoga.

Molly Watson (she/her)

Grades 7 & 8 Class Teacher

“I love how Waldorf education looks at each student as an individual on their own unique journey.” ~ Molly Watson

Molly resonates with the importance of being in a community like River Valley Waldorf that values relationships and healthy communication. She loves the freedom in teaching that Waldorf teachers have, and appreciates how wonderful it is to be able to learn and grow alongside other community members. Molly has been part of the River Valley Waldorf community since 2005, beginning when her daughters were in the River Valley Garden Gate class. Molly holds a B.A. in French, a B.S. in Elementary Education, and a MEd. in TESOL from La Universidad del Turabo in Puerto Rico. She went to Penn State for her teacher training and has also participated in Waldorf trainings at Antioch and Sunbridge Institute. After living in New Zealand for four years, and a decade of public school experience, plus leadership roles in both private and charter schools, Molly began teaching at River Valley Waldorf in 2019. In addition, she has also served on the Board of Trustees and was Board President from July 2011 – February 2015. Molly grew up in Williams Township (Easton) and currently lives in Erwinna. She loves horses, yoga, and reading.

Sara Sweningsen (she/her)

Educational Support Coordinator & Educational Support Teacher

“I appreciate the way that Waldorf education weaves stories, art, song, crafting, and movement  into the teaching of rich lessons about botany, geography, and astronomy to physics, world mythologies, zoology, and more. Having attended a Waldorf school from kindergarten through grade 12, I carry fondest memories and deepest soul feelings for singing throughout the year, experienced with great reverence; celebrations of festivals; and working with both animals and with the earth, as we were lucky enough to have both a small school garden and a farm across from our school.” ~Sara Sweningsen

Originally from the Hudson Valley in New York, Sara is an experienced classroom teacher, a lifelong learner, and she attended Waldorf school from K-12. With over 10 years of teaching experience, she has taught at Primrose Hill School in Rhinebeck, NY (where she was also a founding grades teacher) and Jerusalem School, Beit Hanina, in East Jerusalem. Sara has taken summer classes at Sunbridge Institute, completed Waldorf teacher training at the Alkion Institute, and received her bachelor of political science from SUNY Albany. Sara has served on the governance committee and other committees at a developing Waldorf school. Outside of school, Sara has many interests. She enjoys backpacking, hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing, cooking, and doing research. Another passion of hers is music – listening, dancing, and singing – especially choral, rounds, and harmonies.

Esther Hiamang (she/her)

Math Skills Teacher

“Curiosity, which may or may not eventuate in something useful, is probably the outstanding characteristic of modern thinking” – Abraham Flexner

Esther’s passion for Waldorf education and its values is that it is child centered, nature driven, and allows for independence in education. Currently studying for a Bachelor of Science in mathematics at Temple University, Esther was a supplemental instructor for linear algebra at Raritan Valley Community College, as well as a tutor in college level mathematics, engineering, physics, and English. Additionally, she worked with students with special needs including autism and ADHD. During the heart of the pandemic, Esther founded and built a startup focusing on technology development for alternative health therapeutics and nonprofits. Prior to that time, she was Center Director at Sylvan Learning Center in Allentown, PA. Esther has spent time volunteering for the Spandana Foundation, including designing, managing, and directing their official Math Bee competition for students. Residing in Easton, PA, outside of work, Esther enjoys reading science fiction novels, and watching science fiction movies. 

Specialty Subjects Faculty

Bridget Brier (she/her)

Handwork Teacher

“I love this pedagogy’s richness and experiential-based methods, and I love that our students are comfortable in so many art forms. I love that we sing every day and that music fills our hallways. I love our community, and it’s an incredible privilege to shepherd children through their childhood. I cry happy tears at every graduation because I am so darn proud of all the students – they all encounter challenges along their path, and to cheer them on and watch them find their way is an honor.” ~ Bridget Brier 

Bridget has been a community member and parent at the school since 2007 when she attended a parent/child class with her first child. Before joining the staff of River Valley,  Bridget taught writing courses and yoga and was a writer and editor for a local newspaper. She worked at Morning Glory Children from 2007-2012,  a Waldorf preschool and kindergarten in Doylestown, later absorbed by River Valley. She taught at the Horsham Quaker School in 2016 and Early Childhood at River Valley in 2017 before becoming an RVWS Class Teacher in 2018. She carried her combined class to the 3rd/4th grade and, in 2022, took up the role of Handwork teacher. Bridget received her undergraduate degree from Fordham University in New York City in 2002 and completed her Waldorf Grades Teacher Training at Sunbridge Institute in 2021. She is continuing her teacher education through Waldorf Handwork Educators. 

Bridget is the chair of the AARE (Advocates for Anti-Racism and Equity ) and seeks to weave that work in all she does. As a steward of unceded Leni Lenape land, Bridget aims to bring the values of sustainability and reciprocity into her everyday actions. She grew up in Bucks County and, after a brief stint as a city mouse, is deeply content to have returned to the country mouse life. Outside of the classroom, she can be found creating in some form or another (knitting, sewing, writing, cooking, and gardening), tucked into a good book, and counting her blessings for the daily life she shares with her kindhearted partner and three beautiful children (two of whom are now alums).

Katherine Brown (she/her)

Games and Movement Teacher

“I love how nature-based Waldorf education is. The outdoor classroom facilitates life-long learning through discovery, a feral imagination, and an easy curiosity about our world and its connectedness. I also appreciate that River Valley’s vision supports learning through all seasons of life. To me it means that no matter a person’s background they can continually develop themselves.” – Katherine Brown

After dabbling in outdoor education through college internships at Peace Valley Nature Center in Doylestown, PA and Bald Head Island, NC, Ms. Brown worked at Arrowhead Ranch Outdoor Science School where, as a teacher naturalist, she taught thousands of middle schoolers their science curriculum in the San Bernardino Mountains. Through her work at Arrowhead, she learned that song, dance, games, and spending time in nature were what put joy in learning and education. She has also taught at a camp in the Poconos as head of outdoor cooking, recreation, and head of the lake, and as a 6th grade classroom teacher at Holloman Air Force Base Middle School. Ms. Brown has a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Penn State University,  and holds a Secondary Science Teaching License from Drexel University. Katherine loves connecting with her husband and two children through intentional activities that facilitate play, learning, and growth. When she is not spending time with her family, you can find her reading, gardening, or caring for her animals.

Ivone Martinez (she/her)

Spanish Teacher

“River Valley is a caring community, embracing independence in education allowing more dynamic and flexible learning and teaching. Faculty and Staff work as a hive and everyone has an important role in the structure.” ~ Ivone Martinez

Ivone is passionate about how a Waldorf education embraces multiple disciplines that nurture children artistically, emotionally, and naturally – leading them to become independent and empathetic thinkers ready to brighten the world. Ivone graduated from the University of Barcelona and began teaching at River Valley Waldorf in 2019. Additional studies have included the Waldorf Spanish Teachers Association conferences, Curriculum Workshop for Waldorf Spanish Teachers, and The Art of Teaching Spanish – Sound Circle Center. Prior to joining River Valley Waldorf, Ivone taught Spanish at Buckingham Elementary School through Bucks County World Language Academy. Born in Barcelona Spain, Ivone lives in Doylestown, PA. She became a United States citizen in the summer of 2021. When away from school, Ivone loves traveling , hiking, dancing, theater, and cooking.

Shannon O'Connell (she/her)

Fine Arts Teacher

“I love the idea and practice of nurturing the individual spirit of each student. It is so important for children to be seen for who they are as individuals.” ~ Shannon O’Connell

Shannon loves the joy of sharing her passion for art with children. She graduated summa cum laude from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University with a B.F.A. with a concentration in printmaking, and a minor in psychology. After graduating, she began working with children in the arts within home-school co-ops. Shannon started at River Valley Waldorf in 2018, first as a substitute, and continuing on to work in early childhood and to teach art within the middle school. Prior to River Valley, Shannon worked at the Schmidtberger Fine Art Gallery for four years and during her time there she ran a graphic narrative summer camp for children. Shannon resides in Frenchtown, NJ and in her spare time enjoys making art and comics. In her own words, Shannon loves the joy of sharing her passion for art with the children. “Art is so intertwined with the students’ curriculum throughout the years so when they enter Fine Arts they already have a deep love and respect for art. I am in the incredible position of nurturing that creativity and introducing them to new kinds of art. Seeing the children excited about new artistic techniques and materials is equally exciting for me as their teacher.”

Sarah Rasmussen (she/her)

Eurythmy Teacher

“My passion for Waldorf education is because it meets the children where they are, as whole human beings. I like that River Valley’s mission statement describes RVWS as a compassionate and courageous community. I think those two qualities—compassion and courage—summarize what we need to thrive in the world.” ~ Sarah Rasmussen

Originally from North Carolina, Ms. Rasmussen discovered Eurythmy through four years at Camphill Soltane, an inclusive community in Chester County. Following her time at Camphill, she received her diploma in Eurythmy from Eurythmy Spring Valley, from which she graduated in June, 2023.  She also holds a B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic. In her free time she enjoys baking, kayaking and reading science fiction. 


Benjamin Rogers-Petro (he/him)

Music Teacher

“I have nothing but fondness and deep appreciation for Waldorf education, and the friendships I made; life long bonds forged by common values. The hands-on, art-centric curriculum and the refuge from a technology-addled world is incredibly valuable to me, and I am grateful to have spent the formative years of my youth in such an environment. To me, Waldorf represents the preservation of innocence, creativity and natural beauty.” ~ Benjamin Rogers-Petro

Ben knew that music was his calling from a very young age. He attended the Waldorf School of Philadelphia from kindergarten through 8th grade. His parents taught there, and his mother is the music teacher to this day. Following in her footsteps and becoming a Waldorf music teacher is one of the reasons Ben was interested in joining River Valley Waldorf. Teaching came naturally to him and he gained an appreciation and understanding at many levels, including the importance of making a rough timeline for classes months in advance, as well as individual class preparation, both critical for efficient teaching and a coherent learning experience. Ben completed his Bachelor degree in Music Theory with a concentration in classical piano from Temple University in May of 2021. Before joining River Valley, Ben was a classroom instructor at Bryn Athyn Church School, where he created and taught a songwriting class for 7th and 8th grade and was also a substitute accompanist teacher for guitar, piano, choir, and 8th grade classroom.  

Ben continues to teach piano, guitar and violin for Mobile Music Philly, in the greater Philadelphia region, as well as providing private music lessons, occasional group lessons, recitals, and being a church musician and event musician. Ben has been a pianist/composer at the Bryn Athyn College Theater, and Temple University, and a tenor in the Bryn Athyn Cathedral Choir, at Temple University’s Singers & Concert Choir, and in the Montgomery County Community College Choir. In addition, Ben is a violin technician. Ben’s love of travel has also provided wonderful opportunities to share the joy of music with others. He played hymns at church camp in England, and violin at pubs in Ireland. In his own words, Ben says, “Music has been a language that creates connections wherever I go.” 


Eve Sheldon (they/them)

Music Teacher

“I feel Waldorf education really tries to see the child for who they are and who they are becoming. I want to be part of that, as well as bringing joy to the music department so kids feel a real ownership and happiness in making music.” ~ Eve Sheldon

Originally from a small rural town in southern Missouri with a population of 128, Eve now lives in Frenchtown, NJ. Eve has worked at River Valley in several musical capacities since 2016, including being the musical director for the middle school musical every year since then. They were the full-time music teacher for the 2017-2018 school year as well as the accompanist for eurythmy and the choirs for several years since 2016. In addition, since 2015, Eve has played in the parent band Moonshine & Millet for many fundraisers, as well as accompanying the River Valley Parent Choir. Eve received a B.A. in vocal performance from William Jewell college in 1989, attended the Waldorf music educators conference in Wisconsin in 2017, and was a professional internationally touring musician for 10 years with their band, The Wilders. 

Eve shared thoughts on the nature of inclusivity greatly valued at River Valley. “As a member of the trans community, I hope to be someone kids can look to and see someone who doesn’t fit into society’s ‘traditional’ roles, yet has found a way to thrive and succeed in this world. I also hope they will also see that gender identity is just a part of who you are, and that it doesn’t have to define your life, but rather enhance it.” Eve loves reading, driving, and playing music. They have had a close relationship to the school since their child enrolled there in 2013, sharing, “I’ve worked in many capacities and I’m just honored to be able to lend my help and skills and love for music to a school and students that I believe in.” 

Stacy Zink (she/her)

Woodworking and Gardening Teacher

“My passion for Waldorf Education comes from its philosophy that hands-on doing is as important as intellectual pursuits.  Through woodworking and gardening, children learn to nurture a reciprocal relationship with the natural world.  These gifts and responsibilities stay with them throughout their lives.” ~ Stacy Zink

Stacy was a handwork teacher at Threefold Village in Sunland, CA where she created the handwork curriculum for grades 1 – 5. Prior to that, she was president of The Garden Nursery School in Los Angeles. Stacy is also a textile artist and achieved master dyer level at a textile firm in Glenmoore, PA. She earned a BA in history, graduated summa cum laude from West Chester University, and is ready to take on being woodworking and gardening teacher after receiving Waldorf Practical Arts Training at the Waldorf Institute of Southern California.  

Administration & Staff


Jennifer Sherman (she/her)

Head of School

“I am passionate about Waldorf education because its foundation is the developing human being. Decisions about every aspect of the educational experience are guided by the needs of the growing child and the result is a human, living, breathing, and inspiring education.”

 ~ Jennifer Sherman

Jennifer has loved River Valley Waldorf for many years and is excited to officially be part of the community, joining as Head of School in the summer of 2021. A graduate of Moravian College in Bethlehem with a B.A. in music/vocal performance and a certification in Elementary Education, Jennifer continued her music studies in opera performance at Longy College Conservatory of Bard College. She attained professional development in Waldorf education through studies at the Sunbridge Institute, Gradalis, and Kentahten. Jennifer brings wide-ranging experience in education and leadership to her role as head of school. She has taught at multiple independent schools and public schools, and spent seven years at Circle of Seasons Charter School as Pedagogical Lead and later Assistant Principal, as well as class teacher. 

Jennifer grew up in Tunkhannock in northeastern Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Bethlehem and enjoys creative endeavors, especially singing, making music, baking, gardening, learning, hiking, as well as spending time with family and friends. Jennifer is thrilled to be part of River Valley’s striving to be a more diverse and accessible school to the families in the area. She is committed to identifying instances of inequality and interrupting those instances to build new systems that support the accessibility and sustainability of an independent Waldorf education for any family that chooses it for their child.   

Patrick Janssen (he/him)

Director of Operations

On sustainability: “Since I was appointed as Operations Administrator in January 2021, I have been part of a team that has worked to build sustainability into our administrative practices and daily operations, which will allow River Valley Waldorf to provide an excellent education for students for years to come.” ~ Patrick Janssen

Patrick has been part of the fabric of the River Valley Waldorf community since 2010 as a parent, and since 2018 as an employee. Patrick received his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Colorado State University (BS and MS degrees), and his PhD at University of Wisconsin. Patrick’s specific interest in Waldorf education focuses on the holistic approach to learning; as in the integration of arts in all subjects. He especially cites the focus on the social and ethical development of the child, via developmentally appropriate instruction and how Waldorf students learn organically, gradually, and naturally. Patrick grew up in Illinois, and lives in Bloomsbury, NJ. In his spare time, he enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including jogging, fishing, and yard work.

Melanie Niemczura (she/her)

Pedagogical Chair

“Be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars.”  ~ Max Ehrmann

After completing an eight year cycle through the grades and graduating the Class of 2022, Melanie is now the Pedagogical Chair at River Valley Waldorf. In this role, she dedicates her time to support the work of the faculty. Beyond her own early school years locally in Quakertown, PA, she went to Penn State, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture and on to Antioch New England Graduate School, where she received her Waldorf Certificate. Melanie has been a Waldorf parent since 2002 at the Malamalama Waldorf School in Hawaii and then as an early childhood teacher at both the Monadnock Waldorf School in Keene, New Hampshire and the Northern Lights School in Lake Placid, NY. She joined the early childhood faculty at River Valley Waldorf in 2010 with her two children, her sons who were then in 2nd and 4th grade. They are both now River Valley alums who went on to study electromechanical technology and computer engineering in college. Her professional background includes permaculture training and organic farming, working on farms in Europe, Southeast Asia, and Hawaii.  Melanie is passionate about the pillar of sustainability at River Valley Waldorf. Weaving a path from landscape architecture into permaculture into the good care of the young child in Waldorf education, her garden continued to grow in her care of students and now in serving the teachers as Pedagogical Chair. Some of Melanie’s many interests include growing/cooking whole local foods, dancing, cycling, walking in nature, and continually learning about science.

Alanna Crivellaro (she/her)

Enrollment Coordinator

“I believe in Waldorf education because it is guided by a unique and deep understanding of the development of children as human beings. I believe we are all on a journey of uncovering and fulfilling our own truths and Waldorf education inspires and supports children to do just exactly that.”

Alanna joins River Valley Waldorf with an extensive background. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Millersville University, completed the RIE foundations course, and holds a LifeWays Early Childhood certificate. Alanna has worked with Waldorf inspired programs in the Lehigh Valley since 2014 as a caregiver,  teacher, and owner, gaining experiences in the classroom and on the administration side, building meaningful relationships that have stayed  through the years.

Alanna most strongly resonates with River Valley’s vision to equip children with a life-long quest for learning. This has been a guiding force for Alanna. “Whether child or adult, as we develop ourselves and define our life’s purpose, we are presented with new experiences and opportunities to grow and learn,” she says. “As Enrollment Coordinator, I hope to deepen my knowledge of Waldorf education, connect and build relationships with the community, and warmly introduce and inspire others to join us on this journey.” Born and raised in Easton, PA, Alanna loves being surrounded by family and friends, and most importantly, being a mother. She also finds happiness in nature, crafting, and shopping locally.

Sarah Bahnke (she/her)

Business Manager

“My passion regarding Waldorf education is that children are taught as a whole and not just academically.”
Sarah joined River Valley Waldorf in April of 2022. With an associates degree in accounting, she brings over 15 years of experience working with non-profit charter schools in all aspects of accounting and finance. Originally from Michigan, Sarah now lives in Perkasie, Bucks County, PA. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, bike riding and taking her two puppies for long walks on the trails near her home. 

Allegra Ketchum (she/her)

Advancement Director

“My passion regarding Waldorf education is that it follows the children’s natural development and encourages them to fully realize their potential. Also, that it has a particular focus on building interpersonal skills and a deep connection to the rhythms of nature. River Valley’s focus on diversity and sustainability resonates deeply with me, and I am excited to support those principles through my advancement work.”            

Allegra brings over twenty years of experience in fundraising and leading non-profit organizations, in classical music, theater, and social justice, with her to River Valley Waldorf. She has spent her career dedicated to development and marketing work in the arts, first at Bargemusic and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City. Before joining River Valley, she was the Executive Director of the Montgomery Theater in Souderton, PA where she worked for 14 years. Originally from Boston, Allegra spent ten years living in New York City, and now resides in New Britain Township, PA. Allegra did her undergraduate work at NYU where she earned a BA in French literature, with a minor in math and computer science. During that time, she studied abroad in Paris and worked on a rural farm. This was some of the most gratifying work for Allegra and gave her a lifelong appreciation for and connection to the earth. She still grows as much as she can of her family’s produce each summer, keeps chickens, and bakes bread every weekend. In addition, Allegra loves cooking, playing music, gardening, running, and spending time with her children.  

Reinier Clabbers (he/him)

School Chef

Chef Reinier first came to River Valley when his step-daughter joined the first graduating class. His Opa was a restaurateur and ran his own cafeteria, leading to Chef Reinier’s interest in food beginning at a young age. He wrote his first recipe in 3rd grade and learned to cook at home and in cub scouts. Reinier’s career and past experience has included everything from being the Easton, PA “cheesemonger” to being a Rock-n-Roll caterer. His favorite foods to cook in the RVWS kitchen are milkshakes and french fries (all homemade), though he says that mac and cheese is the most popular dish. His son’s (an RVWS 2020 graduate) favorite meal is Banh Mi and it is now on the RVWS menu. Chef Reinier enjoys cooking different Asian recipes. His favorite meal he ever made at River Valley was the mythical sushi day in which he cooked an entire sushi meal for the school only to have school cancelled due to snow.

Daphne Pavlinsky (she/her)

Business Assistant

“Love starts when we push aside our ego and make room for someone else.”

~ Rudolf Steiner

 Joining River Valley Waldorf School in the spring of 2018, Daphne grew up just down the road in Upper Black Eddy and presently lives in Riegelsville. She went through all the grades as a student when River Valley Waldorf was known as Bridgeton School and remarks that it was very much like it is today; very welcoming and special, along with a sense of family. Daphne also appreciates how River Valley Waldorf utilizes the building and the grounds. Away from work, she loves flowers and gardening, the arts, and adventures — be it a walk out her back door to see a beautiful sunset, or a family trip to a new area to explore.         


Gail Capuano (she/her)


Jessica Harper (she/her)


1395 Bridgeton Hill Rd
Upper Black Eddy, PA 18972


or 610-982-5606

Contact River Valley

River Valley Waldorf School
1395 Bridgeton Hill Rd
Upper Black Eddy, PA 18972
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