Children’s House Lead, Hummingbird Room
Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, I spent my summers during high school working with preschoolers and lifeguarding at a day camp. Summers while I was in college, I worked at a farm and wilderness overnight camp in the mountains of Western North Carolina. I graduated from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana with a BA in biology in 1998.
After a brief stint owning a catering business in East Tennessee, I embarked on AMI elementary Montessori training and a masters degree in education at Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola College in Maryland.
In the summer of 2001, my husband and I moved to Denver, Colorado. While living in Colorado, I guided an upper elementary class at a public charter Montessori school in Littleton and a lower elementary class at a private AMI Montessori school in Boulder.
In June of 2006, I moved to Prineville, Oregon with my ten-day-old baby to join my husband. Recognizing a shortage of high quality educational options for young children in Crook County, Oregon, I completed AMI primary Montessori training at The Montessori Institute Northwest in Portland, Oregon.
In the fall of 2010, Meadowlark Montessori Children’s House was born in the basement of my family home with three students. By the following school year, MMCH had grown to over 20 students, an AMI trained co-guide and a part-time assistant in a designated commercial schoolhouse.
In the winter of 2014, my family moved to The Dalles. In the fall of 2015, my younger son, Finn, joined Little Oak Children’s House. This fall my older son, Leo, is joining the elementary class, and I am very excited to become the guide of the Hummingbird Room!
Assistant, Hummingbird Room
I grew up in rural North Dakota where summers were spent at the lake and roaming through the Badlands, exploring nature as much as possible. Fishing, tubing, nature walks and camping were our regular activities. I knew from an early age that and I had a special connection with wildlife. In 8th grade I was certain I would study zoology at Colorado State University. I spent six years gaining in state residency and working while attending University. Shortly after receiving my BSc in Zollogy, I moved abroad to South Africa where my love of travel and learning about the greater human family was cultivated.
I attended postgraduate school at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Here I studied wildlife management and rural community involvement with ecotourism. The majority of our coursework took place in the bush. I developed an intimate relationship with the flora and fauna of Africa. I trained and ride elephants and guided study abroad veterinarian science groups on study abroad safaris with an organization called Ecolife.
When I returned to America, I resided in Colorado. I joined a public school district as a paraprofessional, working with severe needs children. During the school year, I facilitated a program of exchange between my classroom and the classroom in the village where I worked in South Africa. We collected donations and made beautiful representations of our life in Colorado to share with our friends abroad. My mother flew with me to Africa with 600 pounds of donations and gifts to share with a similar aged class in the Pheeha community in the village of Thaklang. This experience in cross cultural exchange inspired me to develop a more global perspective of education. This is where my love for Montessori was born.
I met my husband in Colorado and we quickly agreed that the Pacific Northwest would be our home. After much searching, we settled in Hood River where I soon discovered Little Oak Montessori. In 2009 I was hired as a classroom assistant just as the school was experiencing it’s first phase of growth. I spent four years assisting and teaching. During this time I received my elementary education certification at the Montessori Institute of Northern Texas.
From 2012- 2015 we started our own family. My two children are enrolled at Little Oak Montessori School in the Dragonfly classroom. I am excited to re-enter the workforce with the same position that started my relationship with Little Oak.
In my spare time, I enjoy making a variety of purposeful crafts. I enjoy sewing, weaving, herbalism and perma culture. We live on 10 acres in Houston, Washington and spend a great deal of our time outside working the land and with our animals.
Jillian Maeve Schneider
Children’s House Lead, Dragonfly Room
I come from a long line of educators, artists and storytellers. My great grandmother and her three sisters were teachers, my grandmother was a professor of English and my mother first taught German and later child-birthing classes as a nurse midwife. Growing up as a military brat afforded me the opportunity to hear and share unbelievable stories, to experience life in many places and to adapt easily to changing environments. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education and a Master of Education in Scientific Pedagogy, I work to promote a love of learning with a strong emphasis on curiosity, resilience, and peace. My teaching style focuses on creative problem solving, self-discovery and experiences in empathy.
I first discovered Montessori while working as a Teaching Artist with the Children's Museum of the Arts in Soho, New York, New York. I was amazed by the compassionate communication and the divergent, enthusiastic creativity I witnessed and began researching Montessori education with fervor. I decided to move to the Northwest to train at Montessori Northwest in 2009, and had the pleasure of training with Eleanor and Jenna!
In my free time, I study permaculture, horticulture and expressive arts. My husband Adam and I dream of creating an art farm homestead for workshops, classes and retreats. When I'm not in the classroom or tending the land, I work as an illustrator. I am currently illustrating two coloring books and a poem written by my grandmother. I enjoy sharing my artwork with the children and am thrilled by their feedback and ideas. I believe in sharing all my life's passions and work with the children. I'm so happy to join the Little Oak community as Guide in the Dragonfly Room!
Assistant, Dragonfly Room
My earliest school memories are of scrubbing pumpkins and working with the metal 'insects' at a Montessori Children's House nestled in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. After witnessing the remarkable transformation first hand, my parents did everything in their power to keep me in Montessori through middle school—a gift I am forever grateful to them for. Upon completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Denver in 2009, I decided to heed the call westward, moving to Portland and embarking on the adventure of becoming an educator by enrolling in a primary training course at the Montessori Institute Northwest.
After completing the training (alongside my friends and now colleagues, Eleanor and Jillian), I worked as an assistant under two seasoned guides at two different schools in Portland, gaining valuable experience and practice in the Montessori method. With a heart full of wanderlust, I then set off on a year of travel, observing and volunteering with a handful of Montessori programs across three continents. Upon my return to Portland, I settled into a Lead Guide position at West Hills Montessori, and completed a full 3 year cycle in the same classroom.
In recent years, my roots in the Rockies and my passion for homesteading have persuaded me to return to the woods. I'm ever so delighted to be joining the Little Oak community, and moving to a place where I can pursue my passions for permaculture and land-based living, while also working with children in the Montessori classroom.
In my time outside of work, I enjoy gardening, cooking, hiking, playing guitar, and being with my beloved family and friends!
I grew up in a tiny town in central Ohio, and then began my teaching career in Dayton, Ohio, where I taught physics, math and science for four years. From there I joined the Peace Corps in Nepal where I trained teachers and continued to teach math and science, first in a village school and then at the international school in Kathmandu.
After 5 years in Nepal, in 2002 my husband and I relocated to Afghanistan where I worked in teacher training as well as women’s literacy with UNICEF and other agencies. However, through a chance encounter with a very passionate Montessori teacher, the seeds of Montessori philosophy had been planted in my mind some years earlier, and so in 2004 I decided to study for my elementary Montessori certificate in Bergamo, Italy. This launched a new path for me into the world of Montessori education, and transformed my career as well as my outlook on life. I returned to Afghanistan and co-founded the House of Flowers orphanage as a Montessori environment, and after Afghanistan I worked on Montessori projects with schools in Nepal, Ethiopia and Lesotho.
In 2008 I returned to the US to teach a Montessori Elementary class in Connecticut. I also received my masters degree in Conscious Evolution from The Graduate Institute in Connecticut, focusing on Montessori education as an embodiment of the emerging worldview.
In 2013 I made the move to the Columbia Gorge in order to join the vibrant community of Little Oak Montessori. It is truly a joy to be a part of the growing elementary program with our 6-12 classroom. I love seeing how the philosophical principles of Montessori education serve both the children and society, and am endlessly amazed by the power of the human mind and heart as demonstrated by these children.
Assistant Guide, Elementary
Throughout my childhood I could be found outside in Northeast Ohio playing sports, hiking, backpacking, and learning as much as I could about the natural world. While outside of Ohio my family could be found exploring natural parks throughout the USA and Canada.
I attended Kent State University and received a degree in Economics, and Marketing. I also was able to take geography courses throughout my time at Kent State and enjoyed learning the role geography and economics had human history. During my time as KSU I worked as an Economics and Geography tutor and was able to share my love and knowledge of these subjects with others. This was the first time I can remember realizing I wanted to teach.
Upon graduation I began working in construction management and spent the next five years in Cleveland, Ohio, New York City and various small towns around California and Washington. I worked in a variety of roles but always enjoyed corporate education roles the most.
After working in New York City on Hurricane Sandy recovery, I spent a year traveling throughout Latin America and working with a small business development NGO in Guatemala. Somewhere in this process I realized I wanted change my career and become a Montessori Elementary teacher.
Over the last few years I have spent more time traveling, guiding in Alaska and Ski Instructing in Park City, Utah. In August 2018 I completed my AMI Montessori Elementary training as well as my Masters in Education from Loyola University.
I am excited to be moving to White Salmon and working with the Little Oak Staff. I look forward to working in a 6-12 classroom and bringing my knowledge and passion for learning with me to the classroom daily.
My Montessori journey started when I was four years old at Morning Star Montessori. I have fond memories of my guide Mrs. Silva and of the classroom. My favorite classroom material was the movable alphabet on small white tiles with blue, cursive letters.
Fast forward many years to Oregon State University where I earned my B.A. in interdisciplinary studies with a Spanish minor. While in college, I tutored groups of ESL children and native English speaking adults in Spanish. I also participated in two academic exchange programs – first in Alicante, Spain, then in Hilo on The Big Island of Hawaii. Following graduation, I lived and worked in Santa Barbara, CA prior to moving to St. John, USVI for a brief time.
Upon returning to Oregon, I settled in Southeast Portland and worked for 10 years at a law firm; first in human resources and finally in lawyer recruiting. I also enjoyed seven years mentoring in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. In 2007, I reconnected with a high school friend who later became my husband and we welcomed our first child in 2010.
As Portland natives growing up, my husband and I both spent time in the Gorge and loved it! As adults, we felt the strong community and values coupled with great recreation made this the perfect place to raise our family. So, in 2011 we relocated to White Salmon and I began working at Little Oak.
I’ve worn many hats at this amazing school, working in the classrooms with our children and guides and also with our families on the administrative end. In my roles, I‘ve learned about the Montessori philosophy and curriculum and am constantly reminded what a wonderful approach it is for teaching children of all ages.
I feel my Montessori journey has come full circle as my son is now receiving a world class Montessori education here at Little Oak.
Jannie Schaffer Afternoon Office Assistant
I grew up a small town in Northern Indiana. After graduating high school, I moved to Manhattan pursuing a degree in digital marketing and public relations. Living in such a remarkable city, I developed an appreciation for diverse cultures, fashion, food, and most importantly...public transit. New York was the nexus of who and where I am today. There, I found my edges, evolved, refined, stepped out of myself and into myself - all supported by my firmly grounded Midwest roots.
Soon after graduating college, I began my career helping run a corporate marketing department for a large mobile electronics company. It was there that I began to understand the importance of a work-life balanced with passion and creativity - Taking those lessons with me, my husband and I set out on a seven month journey traveling through Costa Rica and Nicaragua soon after we were married.
After returning from our travels, we remodeled an old 1990 Catalina Coachmen and started heading West, unsure exactly where we would land but with our intentions set on a place we could call home. I can vividly remember driving towards Hood River surrounded on both side by orchards and winding into the most resounding view of Mount Hood, RV in haul. It felt magical - as if we were driving through a veil into another life. We landed in BZ Corner, WA, serendipitously with the connection of a man we had met traveling in Costa Rica.
Not long after settling in The Gorge, I began offering strategic planning and public relations services and have since grown into an office space in White Salmon. With intentions of further integrating into the community and exploring new opportunities, I am now joining Little Oak Montessori and am excited to witness the principles of Montessori education first-hand.
Kris Cronkright ASP Coordinator
I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Australia and then Europe with the People to People Student Ambassadors Program. After graduation, I moved to Kalamazoo to attend Western Michigan University. In 2005, I earned a Bachelors in Social Psychology, with an emphasis on childhood and adolescent socialization, as well as a Bachelors in Gender Studies. Shortly after graduation, I led a classroom of 4th and 5th graders in a literacy-based after school program for the Kalamazoo Public School System.
In 2007, I came to Hood River, Oregon to visit a friend and immediately fell in love with the surroundings. I knew right away this place was exactly what I needed. I flew back to MI, sold most of my belongings, packed my car with the rest and drove to Hood River. For several years, I lived and worked on a flower farm on Mt. Hood and was a barista at Dog River Coffee. It was there that I met my husband and ventured into a new life chapter of motherhood. I knew I wanted to give my son something more than a public school education and was thrilled to find there was a Montessori school in our area. My son is starting his first year at the elementary house and I have no doubts that this is the exact right place for him.
I am deeply honored to have been chosen for the after school coordinator position at Little Oak and will love every moment spent with these little learners. As a sociologist, I am always fascinated with the inner minds, behaviors, and interactions of children. One of my favorite things is listening to children talk about their experiences, especially to one another. They are so open to wonder and imagination, and their personalities are still so genuine. When I am not at Little Oak, I enjoy hiking, gardening, cooking, writing, reading, and being silly with my family.
Head of School
Originally from the tiny town of Curtain, Oregon, I spent much of my early years outside helping on the family farm, camping, hiking, skiing, and exploring the many aspects of nature. I was fortunate during that time to attend a small Montessori school where my natural curiosity for learning was supported and deeply encouraged, laying the foundation for my life-long love of learning.
I earned a BA in Elementary Education in 2008 from Central Washington University and spent the following year working in public schools before joining an environmental education organization in Leavenworth, Washington. It was during that time that my interest in working with non-profit educational programs began.
A year later I became involved with an art and nature based preschool program located on a 320 acre farm in Leavenworth where I was fortunate to be involved with the school in many capacities. I began in the classroom working with the children, creating teaching materials, developing curriculum, and facilitating an environment where children felt safe to explore their world and follow their unique interests. Later I moved into an administrative role and helped implement positive change to improve the program and grow the school.
Joining Little Oak has been a wonderful experience. I look forward to the path ahead and to continuing to foster excellence in our Children’s House and Elementary programs.
In my time away from school I enjoy sunshine, gardening, baking, and nature.
Board of Directors
The Little Oak Board is composed primarily of Little Oak parents. Board positions are volunteer positions with a suggested term of 2-3 years. The Board strives for a balance of representatives, both in terms of their own professional experience as well as with regard to the age/s of their child/ren. The purpose of the Board is to support the needs of the school and staff by working in coordination with the Head of School. Parents are invited to attend an open session at the commencement of each Board meeting, generally held at 5:30 P.M. on the 3rd Thursday of each month.
Lucy Mason (President), Jim Miller (Treasurer), Mendy Maccabee (Secretary), Nashira Reisch, Krista Cushman, and Naomi Bull (Head of School).