Julia Heron Braccini
Children’s House Lead, Dragonfly Room
Originally from Northern California I moved with my family to Southern Washington when my children were in grade school. When my children were small I was a stay at home parent, but as they entered school I also went to school and eventually earned a BA in Environmental Studies from Sonoma State University and a certificate in herbal medicine from Sage Mountain.
Upon moving to Washington I opened a small herb store and eventually went to work for Dr. Jill Stansbury, ND. It was during this time that I discovered a love of teaching that had been lingering with me since my own children were young. I earned a Masters in teaching from Washington State University Vancouver and also a certificate in composting, recycling and vermiculture from the Clark County Extension.
After teaching in a public school classroom for two years I felt there was a better way for children to learn. I took my Montessori training at the Atlanta Montessori Institute and earned a diploma from the Association Montessori Internationale. I moved to Colorado where I have happily worked as a lead Primary guide until deciding it was time to come home to Washington.
Working with the children, families and staff at Little Oak Montessori is an honor and a privilege. Young children are amazing in their capacity to learn and grow, to show compassion and joy for the world around them, and it is such a pleasure to help guide them on their journey.
Assistant, Dragonfly Room
I grew up in the small town of Pontotoc in Northern Mississippi. My family and I finally moved to Oregon in 2004 after vacationing in Hood River every summer for 14 years. It was the beauty of Oregon and my adventurous nature that has kept me here, 11 years later.
I attended Oregon State University where I studied Early Childhood Education. I got a job as an assistant teacher at a Discovery School in Salem, OR where I was first introduced to the Montessori philosophy. I moved back to Hood River and worked 3 years as an assistant teacher in a pre-school/kindergarten classroom before becoming a nanny.
I enjoy many outdoor activities that the PNW offers, as well as softball. I have been playing competitively for 20 years, and was fortunate to meet my amazing fiancé playing softball. We continue to play and travel together. Currently we reside in Washougal, WA with our dog, Sammy, and 6 acres of land to explore.
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.
I was raised in Michigan where I grew up taking trips to the Northern parts of the state gaining a lifelong appreciation of nature. While in college I spent some time in the Smoky Mountains. It was there where I learned of my passion for the outdoors, leading me to eventually to the Columbia River Gorge.
Making my way back to the Midwest, I finished college getting a BA in Graphic Design. Following graduation I found employment in the newspaper business. In 2000 I moved to Oregon where I decided I wanted to step away from the computer and do something more hands on. I began working for a local artist making pottery and traveling the country selling it.
In 2006 many life changes began to unfold. I met my wonderful husband, Chris. In 2008 we got married and later that year learned we were expecting. Our beautiful baby girl Amalie was born in 2009.
Now having a school aged daughter myself, I am more aware of the needs of young children and the vital role their education takes in shaping them. I feel very fortunate to be a part of Little Oak Montessori and look forward to the many positive experiences that lie ahead.
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 and Office Assistant
In 2014, shortly after getting married, I moved from the small town of Loomis, California to Hood River where my husband is from. We live on 11 acres with our dog Pete, and are in the process of building a house. In our spare time, my husband and I love being outdoors: hiking, kayaking, swimming, fishing, camping, and cross country skiing.
Before getting married and moving to Hood River, I attended Sierra College in California and was working on my degree in Early Childhood Education. In my time there I learned about Montessori education and thought it was simply amazing. I knew I wanted to be a part of a Montessori school if I ever had the opportunity. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be here at Little Oak.
I am originally from New Jersey where I was raised with my two younger sisters. Our childhood was spent riding bikes until the street lights came on, camping and hiking in New England, and dressing up in costumes to dance to our favorite songs.
After high school, I spent a gap year abroad doing community service projects and outdoor adventure expeditions. This opened my eyes up to the beauty and hardships of the world and motivated me to work with young children.
I returned to study and graduate from Prescott College with a double major in Elementary Education and Human Development. Following college, I found my way to Portland where I worked in education and received my Postpartum Doula certification at Birthingway Midwifery School.
I am excited to now call the gorge home and be a part of Little Oak School.
Afterschool Program Coordinator
I was first introduced to Montessori when I was three years old at Sun Garden Montessori in West Linn, Oregon. It was there that I found a passion for learning through the Montessori method, which I’ve applied throughout the rest of my educational career. I loved being outside and exploring the natural world around me, always bringing home critters and art pieces I crafted from the woods. My parents were whitewater raft guides in Idaho while I was growing up, and my family and I spent many days on the beautiful and scenic Snake River exploring Hells Canyon and all that it had to offer. It was there, connecting with the beauty of nature and being on some of the greatest rivers in the nation, that I began to recognize my love and passion for the outdoor adventure.
I graduated high school in 2010 in Washougal, Washington and ventured on to a new place as I began my freshman year at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. I started school with the intentions of grasping more knowledge of children’s education and figuring out my place in the world amongst the 1700 students that were doing the same. Looking back at an adventurous life I had started as a child, I decided to take a quick break from school to go back and do something that I was truly passionate about, and that was being on the water, rafting. I ended up spending four wonderful summers surrounded with people who shared the same love for the outdoors as myself, raft guiding on the Deschutes, Rogue, White Salmon and Clackamas rivers. During this time, I rediscovered the small, gem of a town, White Salmon and decided that I wanted to settle down into something that I had always had a passion for, and that was teaching children.
My passion and love for adventure has lead me to Little Oak Montessori, and I feel that the position as an after school programs coordinator will be a perfect fit for me as I can grow and learn with the children at this school, as well as apply what I have learned as a young Montessori child and an outdoor enthusiast. I am excited to start this new journey working as the After School Programs Coordinator at Little Oak!
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.
Suzanne Trickey (President), Eden McGrew (Secretary), Jim Miller (Treasurer), Jeff Stageberg, Nashira Reisch, Cathy Newman, Lucy Mason and Naomi Bull (Head of School).