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 earned her Minnesota K-12 principal license from Hamline University and is currently undertaking Waldorf Administration and Leadership Development training.
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.
Leah Budnik, Early Childhood Teacher
Leah Budnik grew up wandering the forests and fields of Southeastern Wisconsin. There she learned to observe the natural world with endless curiosity. She holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Ms. Budnik believes in modeling and fostering safety, love, growth and creativity for and within her young learners.
Ms. Budnik and her husband moved to Duluth in fall of 2017 along with their dogs Clark and Henry and cat Lewis. They love experiencing all of the outdoor opportunities Duluth has to offer including hiking, climbing and canoeing.
Caitlin Spates, Early Childhood Teacher
Caitlin Spates recently moved to Duluth from Minneapolis, where she is grateful to be near Lake Superior. She grew up finding peace and complete joy exploring the woods in her backyard, climbing trees and swimming in lakes. It was during her time in the outdoors that her imagination and connection with her surroundings flourished.
Ms. Spates has worked alongside children in the field of occupational therapy for the last 9 years where she focused on childhood development through enriching play and environmental exploration.
Ms. Spates is very excited to blend this experience with the Waldorf methodology as the preschool teacher. She truly believes in the power of individualized play, expression and engagement to help children connect with themselves and others.
Perin Ellsworth-Heller, Early Childhood Teacher
Perin Ellsworth-Heller recently moved to Duluth to teach at Spirit of the Lake Community School’s summer camp. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio and is a graduate of Monadnock Waldorf High School in Keene, New Hampshire.
For almost as long as he can remember, Mr. Ellsworth-Heller has wanted to be an educator, believing that a warm, caring, structured education is essential to both the health of individuals and of society. He draws inspiration from the many wonderful teachers he has had over the years and strives to bring the same care and enthusiasm to his students. In his spare time he loves to write, play music, go for long, meandering walks and bake bread.
Nancy Lewis, Grades 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, 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, 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 son Jasper, 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.
Peter Drachman, Grades Teacher
Peter Drachman’s fondest childhood memories are of learning about nature in the mountains and fields of the Vermont farmland. Now in the Northland, he still loves to walk in the woods and by streams, often with a plant identification book and fishing rod in hand. He is also an avid woodworker and committed gardener, admirer of raptors, and enjoys cooking with his wife, Deb. He also enjoys being an uncle to nieces Rachel, Emily, Liza, and Nadia, and engaging with neighborhood wildlife.
Mr. Drachman has long been interested in reading, writing and the process of learning. He studied writing and literature at College of the Atlantic, a small alternative college in Maine with a focus on human ecology, and later obtained an M.A. in American and English literature. He found his calling in helping children figure out how to learn, working as a high school English teacher, a reading teacher, tutor in reading and math, and, since moving to Duluth, an assistant for students in special education in elementary and middle school.
Mr. Drachman first encountered the Waldorf approach when he visited a classroom at Spirit of the Lake, and was struck by the thought put into every aspect of the learning environment – the surroundings, objects and hands-on activities. Mr. Drachman is excited to be working at Spirit of the Lake, where he can bring his love of nature and handicrafts, along with his commitment and love of reading, writing, and the play of math, into the classroom.
Joshua Bailly, Grades Teacher
Joshua Bailly grew up on a farm in North Dakota living a "free range childhood" long before it had a name. He spent long days outside riding bike and ATV, doing chores and tagging along with grown-ups running machinery. The freedom that this farm life gave allowed Joshua and his brothers to learn the value of cooperation, troubleshoot problems and the opportunity to fail in low stakes situations.
Mr. Bailly moved to Duluth in 1999 for college and studied biology and sociology. The study of biology gave him insight into Mother Nature, and studying sociology gave him insight into human nature. Combining these two understandings led him to a strong sense of place on this earth. Family is important to Mr. Bailly and he loves spending time with his wife and two young children outside in all four seasons.
While studying childhood development as part of his teacher education and by watching his own children grow up, Mr. Bailly could clearly see the developmental steps children go through and how they could be used to help children learn. This view was a perfect fit for the Waldorf method of teaching. He is eager to add Waldorf certification to his recently attained B.A. in Science Education.
Julie Bellehumeur, 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!
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.
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!
Savannah Prairie, Handwork Instructor
Savannah Prairie grew up mostly in Northern Minnesota, and also a little in Alaska. She has a strong bond with the woods, which she calls her “happy place.”
Ms. Prairie has a special passion for fiber arts. While she mostly knits and sews, she loves all the fiber arts. Always curious trying new things, in recent years Ms. Prairie has been learning felting, spinning wool, and dyeing with natural fibers.
Ms. Prairie strongly believes that all souls are their own authentically. She was home schooled part of her life and did a lot of baking, cooking, and sewing with her mother. Ms. Prairie firmly believes that there are many ways in which people learn, which must be respected.
Ms. Prairie has a twelve-year-old who is her true joy and a wonderful supportive partner who likewise has passion for the fiber arts.