Amy Hayes, Kindergarten Teacher
After spending her childhood and teens in southern California, and summers on the shores of Puget Sound, Washington, Amy left home to get a degree in biology at Stanford University, and never returned. After graduation, she spent a year homeschooling and mushing dogs in McCarthy, where she fell in love with the snow, the seasons, and wildness of this amazing part of the earth. She has been in Alaska ever since!
Amy has lived in Anchorage and Talkeetna for the last 27 years. She lives with her husband, and has three children, two boys in college, and one young woman on the move, currently living in Australia. While raising her children, she worked as a massage therapist and yoga teacher, until getting her Early Childhood degree at UAA in 2015. She taught preschool in the Anchorage School District for seven years, growing to recognize the importance of social and emotional learning, time in nature, and the value of play in early childhood.
Her introduction to the Waldorf early childhood world began when her daughter attended the Anchorage Waldorf Preschool program with Miss Anne in 1999. Finding that she resonated with the Waldorf approach and philosophy, she took various workshops over the years offered by the Waldorf community, in addition to attending many seasonal festivals. Her love for this method of understanding and nurturing children, and connecting to the earth and seasons, has been growing ever since, and she is so grateful for the opportunity to become a member of the Winterberry community, and honored to be a part of these children’s lives.
Sandy Christenson, Grade One Teacher
Sandy Christenson was born in Massachusetts, and has spent her entire life living all over the United States and England. She attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she earned a B.A. in English and a. M.Ed. (Master of Education).
After graduation, Ms. Christenson worked at a small private school for adolescents with emotional disturbances. She then followed her dream of living in Wyoming, where she taught high school English in a very small and remote town. She decided to settle there permanently until she met her husband, Craig, who was on active duty in the Air Force. Her first move with the military was to Idaho. There, she taught sixth grade. Subsequent military moves brought her to Oklahoma and Texas, where she and her husband had their son, Lane, and daughter, Katie. One final military move brought them to Alaska. This great state captured the hearts of the entire family, and Craig retired from the Air Force so they could finally put down roots.
As Lane and Katie both reached school age, Ms. Christenson ventured back into teaching and pursued education to become a Highly Qualified Teacher in elementary education to add to her certifications in middle school and high school language arts. She spent the past two years as a substitute, including long-term assignments in fifth grade and kindergarten.
Ms. Christenson was first exposed to Waldorf education four years ago, and upon learning of Winterberry, picked this school as her ideal teaching assignment. She has happily handed over the day-to-day operations of her composting worm business to her husband.
Ms. Christenson, her husband, and their two children currently live with their dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, numerous chickens, several fish, and a few million composting worms. Lane currently attends school at Winterberry, and Katie hopes to attend in the near future. When he is not elbow-deep in worms, Dr. Christenson spends his free time mushing and dreams of one day entering the Iditarod. Together, the family enjoys hiking, backpacking, hunting, dip netting, crafting, reading, crafts, and games.
Elizabeth "Beth' Lowrance, Grade Two Teacher
Elizabeth “Beth” Lowrance was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania and moved to Dallas, Texas when she was one year old. Some of her favorite childhood memories are of community get-togethers and family outings. She had planned to become a teacher at the early age of 12.
After high school, she went to Stephen F. Austin University in the Piney Woods of east Texas. Her first teaching position was a fourth-grade class in the small town of Crockett, Texas. While teaching, she went to school at night and received a master’s degree in English as a Second Language (ESL).
She moved back to Dallas with 4 years of teaching experience and became an ESL teacher with Garland ISD. She married and started a family. Her husband’s sister lived in Anchorage, so the family made visits frequently. Alaska started to feel like home. Beth and family made their dream of living in Alaska come true in the summer of 2010.
Rachel, their daughter, started school at the Anchorage Waldorf School with her cousins. Beth volunteered and was involved in the Waldorf community, including parents’ meetings, class camping trips, lantern walks and helping with class plays. The more she learned about Waldorf pedagogy, the more she felt Waldorf education was at her core being. She fell in love with how Waldorf education taught the whole child. Winterberry was just starting out and she substitute taught at Anchorage Waldorf School and Winterberry while seeking a full-time teaching position.
She was hired by the Anchorage School District as an ESL teacher and spent the next ten years traveling to multiple ASD schools each week working with students and families from all over the world. She taught children immigrating from countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Korea, The Philippines, France, Russia, Mexico, Peru, and countless more. She met with parents and helped them get settled from refugee camps to permanent housing and taught non-English speaking children their first English words.
During Beth’s free time she enjoys working on the land, gardening, raising chickens, walking with her husband, traveling, reading and playing with their two rambunctious dogs.
Sarah Glaser, Grade Three Teacher
Sarah Glaser was born in Ft. Lewis Washington and moved frequently between stateside and overseas as a child while her father served in the US Army. During her own elementary years, she attended a variety of schools and classrooms across the U.S., Germany, and Japan. After graduating from Dimond High School, she enlisted in the US Air Force and served six years maintaining F-15 avionics systems and managing the deployment program for her squadron. She met her husband, Aaron, while in the Air Force and they have been happily married since 2005.
During her last two years on Active Duty she began taking night classes at UAA working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education; something she had felt drawn to since working as a mentor with struggling students at her last duty station. After the Air Force, Sarah attended UAA full-time and earned her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education in 2012. During that time, she was introduced to Waldorf Education while taking outdoor leadership courses and knew immediately she would pursue a career as a Waldorf teacher.
She feels very fortunate to be working as part of the Winterberry team to help educate students’ heads, hearts, and hands!
And…despite what other bio’s may say, she is the reigning champion of the 1st annual guacamole contest.
Bill Shea, Grade Four Teacher
Bill Shea was born in Oakland, CA, but grew up moving back and forth across the country because his dad was active duty in the Coast Guard. Moving coast to coast every few years gave him the opportunity explore, camp, and hike in most of the National Parks across the country and instilled in him a lifelong love of the beauty and peacefulness of nature and the outdoors.
After graduating from the University of Washington in 2002 with a BA in Developmental Psychology, Bill continued to teach preschool for the next 3 years at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He then moved to Denver to be an AmeriCorps volunteer as an elementary literacy tutor. He returned to the Pacific Northwest to get his Master in Teaching degree from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. Upon graduation in 2008, Bill moved to Anchorage to begin his teaching career. Bill’s mom grew up in Juneau, and his grandma grew up on the island of St. George. He has attended and taught at many Culture Camps as he learns more about his Unangax ancestors and is passing along that pride in his heritage to his 3 daughters, who all attend Winterberry! He is very happy to be a part of the warm and vibrant Winterberry family!
Tomas Jensen, Grade Five Teacher
Mr. Jensen has had a long and circuitous route to teaching and to Waldorf education. Early in his life, he had planned on being a fireman, or an architect, then a forester, or a biologist. His formative years were spent in a small town in Iowa and then left Iowa far behind to attend college in Minnesota. After graduating from Carleton College in 1999 with a degree in Economics he had the good sense to pursue a voluntary position with AmeriCorp in White Salmon, WA. With a new deep appreciation for mountains, skiing, civic responsibility, and the Northwest, he returned to the Midwest for a graduate degree in Applied Economics, focusing on community development. Just before he finished his program, he took an unplanned, but well-timed, spring ski trip to Alaska. He returned from the trip with a job offer and a reason to move back west. Working in a small firm that travelled around the state, Mr. Jensen learned first-hand the importance of community and the role schools play in that. Wanting a more proactive role affecting the world around him, he set down plans to start a career in education. Before beginning the teaching program at Alaska Pacific University, he and his soon-to-be wife, traveled around the Mediterranean and Norway, volunteering on farms and hiking. In 2013, he completed his teaching degree at APU. He found the Anchorage Waldorf School and a first grade class waiting for a teacher. During his seven years at AWS, he deepened his enjoyment of teaching, learning, and Waldorf education. Along the way, Mr. Jensen and his wife expanded their family to include three energetic children, the oldest ready to start Kindergarten this fall. In his limited free time, he cooks for his family, tries to keep their honeybees in a good mood, and makes sure to finish all his chores so he can go out and play. Mr. Jensen is excited to begin a new chapter and looks forward to meeting new families and continuing his learning here at Winterberry.
Molly Towner, Grade Six Teacher
Ms. Towner grew up in Boulder, Colorado and earned her undergraduate degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Colorado State University. She spent summers teaching outdoor education to children in Colorado and upstate New York. Ms. Towner moved to Alaska "for the summer" after college graduation and has lived here ever since. Her first years in Alaska were spent working summers in Denali Park and winters in Girdwood. Before having children, she spent 8 years in a dry cabin off the grid several miles out of town. While in Girdwood, she worked as a server/bartender in most of the local restaurants, owned and managed Girdwood Travel Service, and worked as a teaching assistant at Girdwood Elementary. Ms. Towner's move into Anchorage to attend graduate school coincided with the opening of Winterberry, and her children both attended Winterberry. She is now a proud parent of a college sophomore and high school senior. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and making music. Ms. Towner is currently teaching 3rd grade with her second group of wonderful Winterberry students.
Jeremy Crawford, Grade Seven Teacher
Jeremy Crawford was born and raised in Anchorage, and attended public school (K-12) here. His parents were both teachers, his mother at the elementary level, and his father high school. Mr. Crawford attended the elder Mr. Crawford’s Philosophy class in high school, and learned a good lesson in ethics: having forgotten to complete the final essay of the course, he received a B grade, despite having a definite “in” with the teacher. Steeped in education, Mr. Crawford swore it off forever as a profession (especially Middle School), and left for college in Gunnison, Colorado (BA, Biology). There, influenced by sunny winters and the beauty of cross-country ski racing, he found that he loved his freedom, and found himself a good education in a rather bad school, skied his heart out, and found true love.
He and his wife, Devon, honeymooned on the Alaska Highway then settled into paradise (it really was, for them!): Fairbanks, AK, where Mr. Crawford studied creative writing at UAF (MFA, Creative Writing). He and his wife also learned a thing or two about the cold and the dark (for one thing, you get to see lots of Northern Lights!)
Despite his earlier decision to never go into teaching, it turns out that teaching really is in Mr. Crawford’s blood. Waldorf education in particular was always somewhere in his heart, even though he did not know it. When he was studying to be a teacher, he was always drawn to the ideas that Waldorf education rests upon—he just didn’t realize that there was really a place for him as a teacher! Still, he knew one thing: you can’t teach unless you have students, and you can’t do good in the world unless you try, so he went ahead and got his teaching certificate, hoping to change some of the things that he had learned about in his studies. Slowly, Mr. Crawford and Waldorf education snuck up on one another, until one spring afternoon in 2005, as he was teaching his second graders at Roger’s Park Elementary School, just down the road from here, in walked… Ms. Mall! She was the principal of a brand new school (so new, in fact, that it did not really even exist yet), and she was there to meet him, and see how he taught. And the rest, as they say, is history. Mr. Crawford has taught at Winterberry since the 2005-06 school year, and he is currently teaching the most fantastic group of sixth graders that could ever be dreamed up. He is looking forward to two more fantastic years with this class, and then plans to take up a first grade and go through the amazing journey one more time.
Mr. Crawford and his wife, Devon, have a son, North, who is a student at Winterberry.
Kim Spillane, Grade Eight Teacher
Kim Spillane was born and raised in a small town in Southwest Washington State where she lived with her mother, father, and her older and younger brothers. She spent her early years walking the fields between he
r childhood house and her grandparents’ home, riding ponies, playing in creeks, and helping to tend the family’s French Alpine dairy goat farm. Although Kim loved the small-town setting of her childhood, she dreamed of seeing the world. Kim graduated from Western Washington University with her Bachelor of Education Degree in 1996, and started her teaching career as a substitute teacher and afterschool care coordinator on San Juan Island off the coast of Washington. She then spent three years teaching on the Island of Saipan in Micronesia. Kim decided it was time to move closer to home, but didn’t want to give up her spirit of adventure. She moved to Kodiak Island in 2000 to teach in the Island’s logging camps and villages. There she had the chance to live remotely, surrounded by nature’s beauty, and learn from some of the most rugged and resilient people she’s met. After a few years, Kodiak Schools loaned Kim to the State, giving her the chance to enjoy some time in Fairbanks and mentor teachers new to the profession. She then returned to Kodiak, lived in town, met and married her husband James, finished her M.Ed. with an emphasis in Reading, had two sons, and continued to work and love Alaska’s Emerald Isle. However, during that same time, James’ career began to grow, and it was ready to be transplanted in Anchorage. Since their two sons were very young, they decided to make the move and for Kim to spend time at home raising their boys. As their first son approached school-age, Kim and James began to explore different schooling options for their children, when through friends, they learned about Winterberry’s Hybrid Program. The whole family loved the Hybrid Program and found a deepening appreciation of Waldorf Education. As time went on, and both boys were attending Winterberry, Kim was able to help with the Hybrid Program as a long-term substitute and then served as an aide in several Winterberry classrooms for two years. During that time, Kim attended Antioch University’s Waldorf Teacher Certification Program along with some of her wonderful Winterberry colleagues. The chance to continue working with these colleagues, the dedicated families, and the energetic and creative children of Winterberry fills Kim with excitement, honor, and hope!