Susan Dunn earned her doctorate in science education from the University of Northern Colorado, administrative certification and a graduate degree in elementary education from Portland State University, and undergraduate degrees in fine arts and elementary education from Western Washington University. As a classroom teacher and elementary principal, Susan has worked with children from 3 to 14 years. She has worked extensively with teachers as a Director of Staff Development/Curriculum/Evaluation, and with undergraduates and graduates as a university/college faculty member. Her work with children is based on a background in cognitive development and a passion for deep learning that draws together childhood and the development of skills needed in a future we cannot yet know. Susan’s work reveals a respect for collaborative inquiry, reasoned risk-taking, and reflection.
Sally Wells earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education and a graduate degree in Curriculum/Instruction, both from the University of Oregon. As a classroom teacher, her work with children ages 5 to 11 is centered on inquiry, capitalizing on the child’s natural curiosity, and empowering the learner in decision-making processes and reflection. Sally’s love of literacy is illustrated daily in her engagement with the writing process as she collaborates with youngsters to consume and produce text. Her passion for the rich tradition of oral story-telling and children’s literature are gifts to each child inspired to stretch the imagination, extending access to ideas and information.
Will Parnell holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Portland State University with an emphasis in the educational approaches found in Reggio Emilia, Italy's municipal preprimary schools and infant-toddler centers. Will loves to work in applied research that moves schools to higher ground where children can teach adults how to learn with them as active co-learners. Will works with schools to openly express their values through documentation, collaboration, and reflection on deep inquiry work. He believes in living with enduring questions through a cycle of inquiry; a cycle where we question, explore, reflect, make learning visible, and question so more. Enduring questions stay with us over our lives, where we come to understand our own answers more deeply over time. Will's current research centers on l'ateliers or studios where children can represent their thinking visibly, aided by their creative expression. He is writing and publishing many manuscripts on children and teachers' experiences in the early childhood studio--a place where children's many expressive languages demonstrate their human potential.
After a detour through a career editing films, television, and other assorted media, Adam returned to a long-standing interest in education. A lifelong exposure to an assortment of classroom environments and models brought him to study the varied approaches of Portland schools. He came to Renaissance at the end of the school’s second year as a volunteer through the MAT program at Lewis & Clark College, and has continued to be a part of the school’s growth and spirit. Adam’s true passion at Renaissance is embedded in the school’s ability to find ways of harmonizing different areas of study. He believes that by finding creative marriages of ideas, children challenge conventions, create insight, and determine how to shape their own learning. When not engrossed in the school, Adam holds emeritus status at a local yarn shop, where he can be found knitting and weaving. He also enjoys photographing and charting muddy paths in order to plot warm weather motorcycle group rides.
Jenifer Millan earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Portland State University, teaching license and Masters degree from Southern Oregon University and undergraduate degree in Human Development and Family Sciences from Oregon State University. As a classroom teacher, Jen has worked with children from 4 to 12 years and her passion for science and the arts is centered on inquiry and the child’s natural curiosity to ask questions and seek answers through discovery and reflection. Jen’s graduate studies at Portland State University introduced her to the educational approaches of the municipal pre-primary schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Through these experiences, she developed a passion for documentation and the ways of living the teaching and learning process. Jen’s work with documentation centers on reflection and critical questioning and the ways the work of children and teachers allows for continual growth, reflective practice and insight into explorations, interactions, considerations and experiences.
Sarah Gault earned her M.A.T. from Lewis and Clark College after working with children with emotional and behavioral needs in a residential setting for five years. Since earning her degree Sarah has taught all ages from 5-14 in public school settings, through tutoring, and here at Renaissance. As a teacher, Sarah loves planting the seed of an idea and watching it bloom as it cycles back around. Prior to her work as a teacher, Sarah studied neuroscience, chemistry, and biology and earned a B.S. in psychology. Her daughter Nora is often found scooting about the halls and rearranging the furniture.
Leah is thrilled to be back for a second year at Ren School. This year, she is the teacher for the Butterfly welcome group in addition to the content teacher for the Flutterby/Butterfly content group. Before joining the Renaissance family, Leah received her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. One of the many aspects that attracted Leah to this community is the child-driven curriculum. The design of the school allows Leah to build lessons based on the interests, needs, and strengths of the children. Leah believes that this aproach leads to a more personalized and meaningful academic experience. Through this process, Leah has found herself embracing her own role as a scholar, exploring and learning alongside the children. They inspire her each day to ask more questions and try new things. Recently, the children inspired Leah to begin her first crochet piece – a baby blanket for her niece. Leah is an avid runner and spends a great deal of her spare time training for or participating in races.
Brian Landever earned his Masters of Arts from The New School for Social Research in economics, where he focused on how community currencies can stimulate local economies and build cooperation. His Bachelors of Arts is from Antioch University in Self, Society, and Culture, which provided a blend of social sciences. Part of his academic career included leading research that observed the impact of meditation on youth in a mental health setting. Brian's work with youth continued as a program manager of development programs for children of refugee families arriving to Denver, and then continued as an educator at Accelerated Schools in Denver. Once familiar with their education style and curriculum, he traveled to Nicaragua to establish the same methods in a newly started private school in the capital, Managua. Overall, his experiences have given him the tools to encourage youth to develop confidence, and an appreciation for creative and logical thought. More about Brian can be learned by googling for his LinkedIn profile.
Amelia is a Brazilian National and has taught internationally for over 18 years. She earned her Masters Degree in Education from Framingham University and is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Childhood. Amelia has a post-graduate work in Psychopedagogy, researching integrated aspects that impact learning --physiology, social economic conditions, psychology and pedagogy. She holds a degree in Speech Therapy from Brazil where she had her private practice. Amelia’s teaching philosophy is that learning must be fun, purposeful, and relevant. She believes that inquiry-base learning gives children ownership of their learning and builds bridges for future explorations. She has a passion for photography, outdoor activities, indoor rowing, cooking, fairy tales, and writing.
Alicia Sparks earned her undergraduate degree in Child and Family Studies, a graduate degree in Elementary Education and a graduate certificate in Instructional Technology from Portland State University. She spent the last six years working with children in the classroom and after-school programs. This includes a year-long practicum in a Spanish immersion kindergarten, tutoring students in an after-school program, Operation EASY, working with students in the SMART program, and completing an internship. Alicia’s passion for teaching is most evident in her enthusiasm for child-centered learning and hands-on activities. She believes in the power of children investigating, discussing, exploring, and making connections between their work and the broader world.
Sylvia Walter-Caldera earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Theatre from Lewis & Clark College and her Masters Degree in Elementary Education from Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. She has worked with children ages 5-10 in various educational settings, including summer camps, after-school programs, and most recently in Portland Public School as a teaching intern. She is very excited to starting her first year as a classroom teacher at Renaissance. With a background in performing arts, Sylvia is an advocate for the arts in education and strives to encourage the natural thespian in every child. Having taught circus arts internationally, she is the co-founder of a new nonprofit, Circus Cascadia, an educational program that uses circus arts as tools for children to build self-confidence, take risks in a safe environment, and develop physical and mental stamina.
Scott McAlpine earned his Bachelor of Arts in Recreation and Environmental Studies from Western Washington University. He loves outdoor recreation and helping others enjoy the incredible opportunities that we have in the Pacific Northwest. His passion for the outdoors led him to the University of Idaho’s McCall Outdoor Science School where he studied and taught experiential outdoor education. Scott received a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Idaho. He is excited to be teaching the Fireflies at the Renaissance School.
Elizabeth Manley earned her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Marylhurst University. Her connection to Renaissance began early in her graduate career and she was immediately drawn to the school’s commitment to providing inquiry-based learning opportunities in a collaborative, supportive, and imaginative environment. Elizabeth believes everyone, young and old, can find magic in discovery and human connection, and she encourages children to unearth their own passions through reading, writing, and exploring their worlds with open and curious minds.
Meredith Verdoorn earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with a focus on disorders in childhood, from Trinity Western University in British Columbia. A native Portlander, she returned home where she has completed her MAT at Marylhurst University. She has spent ten years working with children ages 3 to 15 as nanny, educational assistant, art teacher, and Ren teacher. Meredith is building a tiny house with her husband and enjoys researching sustainable practices, camping, and gardening. Her passion lies in social justice, creativity, and exploration, all of which fuel her teaching practices.