Some of Angela’s fondest childhood memories are of playing in the cornfields of her family’s farm in Northern Indiana and of long Minnesota summer days exploring the woods near her family’s cabin, always riding the stick horse that her grandfather made her. It is the emphasis on nurturing children’s creative and imaginative spirits through nature that drew her to Waldorf education.
Ms. Mejdrich holds bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Child Study and a master’s degree in Education, with a focus in Special Education. She is currently pursuing her administrative license through Hamline University and is looking forward to future training in Waldorf Administration and Leadership Development.
Ms. Mejdrich lives on 28 wooded acres outside of Duluth with her husband Eric, their children Gaines and Violet, her French Bulldog LouLou and her ornery cat Mango. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her family, playing with her dog, and reading.
Nancy Lewis, B.FA., Kindergarten Teacher
After spending a great deal of her childhood experiencing the outdoors, Mrs. Lewis graduated with a B.F.A. in Theater Design and Fine Arts and then attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis for graduate work in Art History, receiving an Art Education teaching certification for grades K-12. She began teaching Art in public and private schools in both Minnesota and South Dakota. When art programs began to be cut from the elementary schools, she received a grant to develop an art curriculum for classroom teachers and then led curriculum training in-services in public schools.
After her two daughters were born, she became interested in the Waldorf curriculum and home schooled them for several years while living in a permaculture community with organic gardens and straw bale retreat facilities. She then went on to get her Waldorf Teaching Certification in Eugene, OR, where she taught before returning to the Midwest.
Mrs. Lewis has chosen to teach at Spirit of the Lake because of the beauty of the curriculum, emphasis on the natural world and the freedom of the teachers. She especially appreciates the focus on the arts and rhythms of the year, which help to nourish the children so that they can mature into healthy, free adults. She is currently in training with Great Lakes Waldorf Institute under their Early Childhood Program.
Suzanna Didier, M.A., Grades Teacher
Suzanna feels most at home in the outdoors; the spirit of nature renews her. While she has taught at the preschool, elementary, and college levels, and co-founded a non-profit that provides afterschool enrichment programs to youth, Ms. Didier finds herself most inspired by the Waldorf approach to guiding children. Suzanna values a caring classroom community, teaching that engages the mind, body and spirit, and bringing lessons to the children that speak to their natural joy for learning and creating.
Ms. Didier lives on a tiny hobby farm with her husband and daughter, who is a former SLCS student. She holds a B.A. in Elementary Education and German, an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, and is pursuing her Waldorf teacher certification at the Great Lakes Waldorf Institute.
Elaine Schmid, M.Ed., Grades Teacher
Ms. Schmid spent her childhood years exploring the creeks, pastures, woods and gardens on her family's farm in East-Central Illinois. The freedom Elaine had to explore, imagine and create in the natural world and the beauty it brought into her life has inspired her to help our children find that same freedom.
Elaine moved to Duluth to pursue her Master's degree in Education, with emphasis in Environmental Education and Special Education, which she completed in September 2011. Elaine also holds a Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Great Lakes Waldorf Institute.
Elaine finds it important to bring a genuine love of learning to the classroom, a deep reverence for what the children are experiencing, and a great sense of awe and wonder for the world. She shares her home with her daughter Willow, her husband Erik, her energetic rescue-pup Quill, and the classroom bunny Tayser.
Ashley Hise, Grades Teacher
Ashley Hise grew up exploring the lakes and rivers of the Northwoods – thereby giving her a sense of adventure and a deep connection to the natural environment. She and her husband have a passion for mountain biking, kayaking and venturing out with their son, Taos. She studied Art Education at the University of Minnesota in Duluth, is a ceramic artist at the Duluth Art Institute, and Grades Teacher at Spirit of the Lake where she ispursuing her Waldorf teacher certification at the Great Lakes Waldorf Institute.
The Waldorf method especially rang true for her after studying educational psychology and working as a teaching assistant for several philosophy of education classes at the University of Minnesota. Ashley believes the Waldorf curriculum addresses the needs of the child in engaging a will to learn and create through movement, emotion, wonder, and the celebration of life.
At Spirit of the Lake, the sense of caring, responsibility, community and warmth allow the children to fully connect to each other and their teacher. As a teacher, her goals are to develop passionate interests and healthy life habits in her students.
Julie Bellehumeur, B.AS., Parent & Tot Instructor
Julie has over 18 years of experience working in the Early Childhood field, both as a teacher and as an administrator. She received her B.A. in Early Childhood Education from UMD and has worked with children and families in child care, ECFE, preschools and Head Start. Her roles as a teacher and parent have led Julie on a path of discovery, constantly revealing how her (and all of our) unique life experiences shape her relationships with children. We get to grow right along with our kids! Julie’s children attend Spirit of the Lake, and she is so grateful to be part of a community that nourishes children and families in such an amazing way.
Ms. Bellehumeur spent her childhood in Louisiana, and has called northern Minnesota her home for most of the past 20 years. In Duluth, she loves the opportunities for her children to splash in streams, hike amongst towering pines, catch tadpoles, skip rocks at the lake, go sledding and ski!
Ella Fox, KinderFarm Teaching Assistant
Ella grew up in the Twin Cities area, where she attended a Waldorf kindergarten and grade school along with her sister and brother. When she was 13, she moved with her family up to Duluth. After graduating high school in 2011, she attended Carleton College where she sang with an all-female a cappella group, practiced with the nordic ski team, and explored the liberal arts curriculum. When she graduated in 2015 majoring in Religious Studies and French, she knew she wanted to go off into the world, both to adventure and to teach. Last year, she worked on the French island of Corsica as an English language instructor and tutor for primary school children where she learned the power of patience, creativity, music, and positivity. During her time there, she was also able to finally solidify her fluency in French, travel across Europe, and make close friends with the other foreign language teachers.
Since moving back to Duluth, Ella knew she wanted to be a part of the Spirit of the Lake school, and is overjoyed now to be a part of the warm community of parents, children, teachers, and volunteers as the KinderFarm Assistant. It is deeply meaningful for her to help build a nourishing, caring, and imaginative environment for the children, as it reminds her of her own wonderful time in kindergarten. She especially enjoys spending time outdoors in the changing seasons, watching the children learn and explore new ideas, and the holistic, Waldorf-inspired rhythm of each day.
Brandon J. Smith, Music Instructor
Brandon graduated in 2016 from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a Bachelor of Music in K-12 Instrumental Music Education and is very eager to teach! His instrument focuses are percussion and brass, but is proficient and loves to play all instruments as well as sing.
Mr. Smith completed fieldwork for his degree in a variety of schools including: a K-8 private Catholic school, rural middle and high schools and has recently returned from student teaching at Danila Kumar International School in Ljubljana, Slovenia. His time in all of these schools has diversified his teaching to reach every child effectively. Brandon’s experience in Slovenia exposed him to a truly holistic approach to teaching and it was at Danila Kumar where he discovered the importance of educating the “whole child”.
Brandon is newly delving into the Waldorf music curriculum and appreciating the importance placed on music and the arts, which he has always believed vital to education and to life-long learning. He is coordinating with Grades teachers and private instructors to ensure an interconnected music education, incorporating music with all subjects students are learning.
Brandon is always actively playing music in various ensembles around town including: the Twin Ports Wind Orchestra, North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra, and on the sub-list for the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. He is also keeping up his chops on many instruments and teaching private lessons. When not playing and teaching, Brandon feels most at home in his backyard surrounded by Nature’s healing presence, or working with his hands on his hobbies of instrument repair and candle-making.
Dawn Bendiske, Handwork Instructor
Ms. Dawn says she has always been a "Crafty" person and enjoys all sorts of creative activities. After many years in community service as a social worker for Anoka County and as a small business owner of Anoka Fiber Works, she moved to Duluth to persue a slower pace and create a more artful life. She loves the natural beauty of the North Shore of Lake Superior and has found that it has helped her connect with her art even more.
Dawn is especially passionate about the Fiber Arts. She is the Outreach Coordinator for the Duluth Fiber Handcrafters Guild. Ms. Dawn brings a passion for teaching fiber arts to young students and a genuine interest in Waldorf learning and teaching.
John Finkle, Woodworking Instructor
John really enjoys working with wood, restoring old tools, and bicycles, and sharing his passion for traditional woodwork with others. He is currently building a Norwegian Faering with members of the Duluth community and is the woodworking instructor at The Spirit of the Lake Community School.
In the fall of 2017, he will be sharing an Artist Residency with Kirsten Aune at the Duluth Children’s Museum.
Amanda Manmohan, Strings Music Instructor
Born in Trinidad, Amanda Manmohanbegan playing the violin at the age of 17. At this time, she was enrolled at the University of the West Indies, where she completed a BSc in Psychology (Special) with a minor in Literatures in English in 2009. In 2014, she completed a BFA in Performing Arts, specializing in music, with violin as her main instrument, under the tutelage of Eleanor Ryan.
While in Trinidad, Amanda performed regularly at weddings and has played both bass guitar and violin with numerous rock, indie and pop groups. She was also in the first violin section of the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Trinidad and Tobago for several years. Amanda received scholarships to attend the Dartington International Summer School in 2012 and 2013, the British Isles Music Festival in 2013, and the Tuckamore Chamber Festival in 2015, where she took master classes with Richard Deakin, Priya Mitchell, Markus Daunert and members of the Ariel String Quartet. She was the violin teacher and co-director of the FCAM/CANAOE string program for five years, and she taught violin privately for six years, as well as at a primary school for two years.
She has a passion for working with children and with people with special needs, and has taught music classes at several schools for people with disabilities. She completed the Artist Diploma in Western Classical Music at the University of Trinidad and Tobago in 2016, where she took weekly solo lessons in preparation for her Masters auditions. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Music Education at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and she would eventually like to pursue a doctorate in the Psychology of Music Performance.
Lyndi Sakuray, Spanish Instructor
Señora Sakuray grew up in a rural neighborhood in South Range, Wisconsin, attending elementary and secondary schools in Superior. She holds a B.A. in International Political Economy with a double minor in Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of Puget Sound. Her love for learning about people, cultures, and languages other than her own began in kindergarten when she became fast friends with a classmate from Australia, serving as his, culture coach, best friend, and “interpreter” for the year his family spent in the United States. From then on, she took every opportunity to travel and develop international friendships. Her adventures include a 6-week homestay in Japan during high school, a semester studying abroad in Costa Rica, and teaching English in Japan for 5 years after graduating from college. She has backpacked between the parks and rainforests of Costa Rica, explored the urban ruins of post-revolutionary Managua, experienced Holy Week in Panama City, welcomed the new millennium at Machu Picchu, snorkeled in the coral reefs of Bali, and watched the sunrise from the summit of Mt. Fuji. She even had the opportunity work at the 2002 FIFA World Cup!
While teaching in Japan, Sra. Sakuray met her husband who is from Perú. They moved to the United States in 2003, and just a few weeks later welcomed their first child. As their family grew to include two more children, she began teaching Spanish and Japanese classes to students of all ages. Over the years her classes have expanded to include world culture, English as a Second Language, and even international cuisine. Sra. Sakuray is dedicated to promoting international understanding through cultural awareness. She loves sharing what she has learned from the many fascinating people she’s met and places she’s visited, and encourages others to go out and explore our big, beautiful world!