Anne Stires, Founder/ Director, Forest Kindergarten Teacher (Roots Class)
Anne brings her academic training together with her love of life and the natural world at the school she founded, the Juniper Hill School, in Alna, Maine. There, along with like-minded colleagues, she shares her enthusiasm for learning through the lens of place. The Juniper Hill School’s “place” is her grandmother’s 1761 farm in Alna bordering the Sheepscot River. This farm has served as a consistent refuge and “garden of adventure” throughout Anne’s life. Now, it is where her students begin their immersion in the adventure of learning by studying the natural and human environments around them.
Anne has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and English from Hamilton College in New York and a master's degree in Education from Antioch University New England. An affinity for nature and environmental education always brought her back to Maine. While pursuing her education, she worked at local marine and environmental stewardship programs: the Darling Marine Center, Chewonki Foundation and Tanglewood Learning Center. Anne also directed a Place-Based Education program for 25 schools on the midcoast region of Maine for the Quebec-Laborador Foundation Marine Program. As a classroom teacher, she taught at Sheepscot Valley Children’s House in Wiscasset and Boothbay Region Elementary School before starting her ideal, hands-on learning “place”: Juniper Hill. Anne is a prolific speaker and advocate on the topic of nature-based education. Most recently, Anne wrote a chapter of the new book Redleaf Press on the topic: "Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning" by David Sobel (with Patti Ensel Bailie, Ken Finch, Erin K. Kenny, and Anne Stires). Juniper Hill School is also featured throughout the book. In addition to being the school founder and director, Anne teaches the Nature Immersion and Seeds classes.
Joni Lee, Early Childhood Teacher (Seeds/Nature Classes)
Joni came to Juniper Hill School as an intern in the spring of 2016 and was delighted to be asked back as a full member of the faculty for the following school year. Joni’s education background is rooted in the Midwest where she earned her bachelor's degree in Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Iowa. Since she has always been passionate about education, Joni originally planned on returning for her master's and then a doctorate to enable her to teach literature at the college level. However, after Winslow and Marin--her two lovely daughters--were born, teaching preschool aged children has become her true passion and delight. Joni recently completed her Waldorf Teaching Certificate and took courses in the Nature-Based Early Childhood Certificate Program at Antioch University New England Graduate School in Keene, NH. She is pursuing that Master's degree after all, just with a different focus.
Joni says, "I believe that children learn with their whole being: mind, body, and spirit. And I further believe the best environment for children to do this learning is outdoors, where they have mud on their hands and sunshine on their faces; where they can be fully present and engaged in the natural environment. Traditional education has become so cloistered, so detached from the natural state of childhood. My motivation as a teacher is to provide the very best environment for children to learn, play, and explore. I believe Juniper Hill School facilitates just that kind of environment for them to fully engage in their own education and that is why I am here!"
Christina Powell, Elementary Teacher (Sprouts Class)
Christina earned her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Wright State University and, after teaching for several years, recently began a master’s degree program in Montessori Education with Xavier University. Her teaching experience ranges from preschool to third grade in public, charter and independent schools. Christina recognizes that children learn differently and strives to provide a child-centered educational approach in an enriched, peaceful environment: one that supports imagination, exploration, and creativity. Christina is passionate about getting kids out in nature and nurturing their sense of wonder.
Mary Beth Owens, Arts Teacher
Our enormously talented art teacher, Mary Beth Owens, has had a naturalist's interest since childhood. She graduated from Keane University in New Jersey, with a degree in art education before beginning her prolific career as an author and illustrator of children's picture books. Mary Beth incorporates her passion for the natural world with her enthusiasm and interest in the artistic vision of the children she teaches. Mary Beth brings to Juniper Hill not just her experience teaching art in public and independent schools but her deep interest in the artistic vision of the children she teaches. For her, art education is firmly intertwined with her naturalist's eye, which makes her a perfect match to teach art in a Place-Based Educational setting. She shares her home and studio with two love birds in Walpole, Maine, within walking distance of the Damariscotta River. A comprehensive listing of her many beautiful books can be found here.
Susan Stires, Literacy Specialist
Susan Stires was a faculty member of the Graduate School of Education at Bank Street College, until 2013 when she retired. She taught writing, reading, language acquisition, and children’s literature courses; supervised teacher interns; and mentored students’ master theses. Prior to that, she was a lecturer in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she received her doctorate. She was also a literacy staff developer in New York City public schools, following 30 years of elementary teaching. She is the author of numerous chapters and articles on literacy education, as well as the editor of the book, With Promise.
Kariska Puchalski, Early Childhood Supporting Teacher
Kariska feels privileged to be part of the teaching faculty of Juniper Hill School as one of the early childhood supporting teachers. She loves to participate in a learning environment that is perceptive to each child's individual nature. She has been a lifelong learner despite the effects her own “formal” education and wishes she could have attended Juniper Hill School as a child! She brings her experience of ingenuity and self-reliance learned from living on houseboats and on an outercoast Maine island. Kariska has studied, collected and used medicinal plants for health and she helped to create a vibrant and thriving food cooperative for many years. Most importantly, she has spent the last 13 years enjoying the company of her grandchildren. She is deeply involved in their care and well being, with an emphasis on being outdoors for play and learning as much as possible.
Emily Diepenbrock, Early Childhood Supporting Teacher
Emily graduated from Bates College, where she studied psychology and education. While at Bates, Emily had the opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience through both the Lewiston public schools as well as several nature-based education programs. Since concluding her studies, Emily has further pursued her passion in education, specifically through the world of outdoor education with a program back home in Washington state and most recently with Outward Bound here in the mountains of Maine. Emily strongly believes her own personal learning was greatly heightened through hands on outdoor exploration, and finds motivation here. She is excited to continue sharing the wonders of nature with students in hopes of encouraging further curiosity and enthusiasm in learning.
Dot Lamson, Special Programs Teacher/Substitute Teacher
Dot comes to Juniper Hill after retiring from her job as Director of the Center for Environmental Education at the Chewonki Foundation where she has worked for 35 years. She has spent her life living and working in nature and has led dozens of wilderness trips, including Sea Kayaking, Canoeing and Winter Camping. She continues to work part time at Chewonki as their Girls Camp Program Director and adjunct wilderness trip leader. She is a certified Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard and Registered Maine Guide. She started her teaching career as the Elementary Ecology Specialist in Weymouth, MA public schools and spent summers working and teaching with the Youth Conservation Corps in Baxter State Park, Mount Blue State Park and Moosehorn Wildlife Refugee. She is a graduate from the University of Maine, Orono with a degree in Wildlife Management and minors in botany and education. Throughout her career Dot has served on the boards of the Maine Environmental Education Association, the New England Environmental Education Alliance, the Friends of Wilson Pond Land Trust and the Morris Farm. She is now excited to be spending her retirement sharing outdoor adventures with her beloved granddaughter and with the children of Juniper Hill.