Stephen Karmol, MiT – Executive Director
Stephen was fortunate enough to begin teaching at Wild Lilac ten years ago, drawn by our school’s unwavering respect for children and childhood. Now, in his fifth year as Executive Director, he is passionate about sustaining our school’s guiding values while expanding our mission.
As an administrator, Stephen is dedicated to fostering an inclusive learning community that welcomes and honors all of its children, families, and teachers. Stephen supports Wild Lilac to provide:
- unconditional acceptance, care, and respect for all children and families;
- inspiring environments alive with possibilities for children to play, explore, build relationships, and create together;
- nurturing guidance practices that cultivate children’s social and emotional growth through a constructive, empowering approach to conflict resolution;
- a staff of highly skilled, philosophically-rooted teachers who are passionate about supporting children’s learning, connecting with families, and building a shared learning community.
In addition to serving Wild Lilac, Stephen is also the co-president of the Portland Metropolitan Chapter and co-secretary of the state Governing Council of the Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children. As a Certified Master Trainer, Stephen provides professional development workshops through Childcare Resource & Referral of Multnomah County as well as in other settings throughout Oregon and Washington.
Lindsey Walsh, MS – Associate Director
Entering her seventh year at Wild Lilac, Lindsey is thrilled to continue her role as Associate Director. Lindsey was born and raised in Reno, Nevada where she studied at the University of Nevada, Reno and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies with an emphasis on Child and Infant Development. Lindsey also holds a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Early Childhood Education from Portland State University.
Lindsey has worked with infants, toddlers, and their families for the last eleven years. In July 2015 she traveled to Italy with 3 other Wild Lilac educators to participate in a study tour of the schools of Reggio Emilia. During this experience, she was able to reflect upon her own practice as well as develop a deeper understanding of quality care and education for young children.
Lindsey believes that young children should be free to learn and explore through play, inquiry and investigation. As a teacher, she fosters this learning by creating a welcoming, engaging, and nurturing environment, expanding curriculum based on children’s interests, and treating all children with respect and dignity.
In her free time, Lindsey enjoys gardening, reading, cooking, camping, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
Jenn Lindell, Event Coordinator
Jenn was a teacher at Wild Lilac from 2016-2018 when she started with the Bluebell class. After seeing those children up through their Tulip and Daffodil years, Jenn transitioned into admin work as the school’s Event Coordinator! This will be her second year in the position. She is excited about getting to host more wonderful family and community events and thrilled that she gets to remain connected to the wonderful children and families of Wild Lilac. If you’re interested in volunteering to support Wild Lilac in any way, she would love to hear from you. If you see her in the office or around the school, please stop and say hi!
Breanna Williams, Teacher
Breanna is so excited to start a new year in the Bluebell classroom, her second as co-lead teacher at Wild Lilac. She first came to the center as a practicum student in the Tulip classroom in 2016. She was captivated by the free spirits and powerful minds of the young toddlers and knew that this was a program she could get behind. Her passion for young children is primarily focused on infants and toddlers. Their young and malleable minds deserve so much attention and the milestones they achieve in their first couple of years are so important to future success.
She graduated from Mt. Hood Community College in June of 2017 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She believes that teachers are lifelong learners and surrounding yourself with other passionate teachers and supportive families is so inspiring. The Wild Lilac community has so much to offer young children and she is looking forward to taking every opportunity she has to embark on happy and healthy adventures with Wild Lilac’s youngest kiddos!
Breanna strives to continuously celebrate and empower the individual differences and passions of all children. Unconditional care and respect to children is a core value that she associates with high self-esteem, creativity, and kindness. She firmly believes that creating strong relationships with the entire family will promote a child’s best chances for success in discovering their capabilities as empowered, independent explorers in their own great big world.
Sanoe Kaaumoana-Kaliloa, Teacher
Sanoe was born on the beautiful island of Kauai, and began calling Oregon home shortly after. She started her journey at Wild Lilac as a practicum student from the Mt. Hood Community College Early Childhood Education Program in 2016. Shortly after she became a substitute teacher and has worked in a number of classrooms since, focusing on infant-toddler care and education. This is her second year returning as a co-lead teacher.
Sanoe earned her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education in 2017, with plans to further her education in the future. She has dedicated countless years to serving children and youth in numerous settings before and beyond Wild Lilac including babysitting, camp councilor and a leader at Vacation Bible School.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her pups, Daisy and Kekoa. Sanoe stays connected to her culture by dancing hula with her family. Lastly, she enjoys spontaneous adventures with anyone who is willing.
Kirsten Dukes, Support Teacher
Kirsten grew up in Napa and San Diego, California as the oldest of three sisters. Her sisters are 7 and 15 years younger than her so she grew up learning to care for younger children. Her first job working with children was as an after school art teacher in Oakland, California and has since worked as a 2nd and 3rd grade before school spanish teacher, a bilingual teacher at a Spanish/English school in Portland and been a part of the Wild Lilac community as an afternoon teacher and substitute teacher since 2017. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Community Development from Portland State University, a permaculture design certificate and yoga teacher training certification. She is looking forward to taking on a new role in the Bluebell classroom this year with her two co-teachers Breanna and Sanoe who she worked with previously in the Tulip classroom during the 2017-2018 school year.
Em Holland, Teacher
Amanda Bird, Teacher
Amanda grew up here in Portland. She remembers finger-painting, playing on a typewriter and dancing to “La Bamba” with other children in her preschool. In elementary school, Amanda was inspired by her third-grade teacher Mr. Browning because he treated his students as individuals. Amanda attended Riverdale High School in Southwest Portland where she was encouraged by her teachers to make art and music a part of life. Amanda graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2012 with a B.A. in Cultural Studies.
Amanda’s childcare career officially started when she became CPR certified at age eleven. Amanda became the neighborhood babysitter and always looked forward to her time with the kids, usually bringing craft projects, books or a game along. This evolved into working as a nanny where Amanda spent years splashing, dancing, reading, cooking, folding laundry and living in awe of the whimsy of childhood and family life. Once Amanda became an Early Head Start teacher in Vancouver, WA and entered the infant classroom, something clicked. She felt endlessly dedicated to the support and development of young children and their families. Her approach is patient, flexible and family-centered. Amanda is delighted to continue teaching in the Wild Lilac community as Tulip co-lead teacher this year.
When Amanda is not in the classroom, she is outside talking to her backyard chickens, growing vegetables and loving stand-up comedy.
Alyssa Waller, Support Teacher
Alyssa Waller was born and raised in Monterey Bay, California. Her formative years were spent as a student in a Waldorf charter school, a community her whole family worked within together.
In 2010, Alyssa moved to the beautiful high desert of Prescott, Arizona. She attended Prescott College, where she earned a BA in Cultural Education and Humanities, moonlighting as a backup singer and rhythm guitar player in a bluegrass band.
In 2012, for no other reason than adventure itself, Alyssa and her now husband Will, took off for Asheville, North Carolina. They lived in Asheville for the next six years. During that time, Alyssa worked in early childhood education, primarily at the Asheville Waldorf School, both as an Assistant Teacher and a Lead Teacher. There she found a familiar sense of home and purpose amongst the small, yet strong grassroots school community. During her time in North Carolina, she and her husband had the great privilege of care-taking a beautiful off-grid property in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is where her love of gardening, wood stoves and chicken-keeping blossomed.
In 2018, Alyssa, Will, and their kitties Lucy and Dub, made the difficult and important decision to move back out West in order to be closer to their aging and growing family. This will be her first year working at Wild Lilac, and she is absolutely thrilled to be apart of a strong and loving community once again.
Lesslie Villarreal, Teacher
Lesslie was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, in a busy home filled with 5 siblings and my mother. After high school, she left her hometown to study Elementary Education at Humboldt State University. While studying at Humboldt State, Lesslie began working as a teacher’s aide in the university’s children’s center. There she realized how much she loved spending time with children, as well as teaching. She continued to follow the path of Early Childhood Development by taking more courses and growing as a teacher.
Lesslie recently moved to Portland (this December!), in hopes to further gain experience in ECE, but to also pursue her career as an English as a Second/Foreign Language teacher in Elementary schools. She chose this specific area of education because her first language is Spanish, and she clearly remembers her experience as an ESL student — it wasn’t the greatest. But whether she is teaching younger children or in an elementary school, Lesslie wants to always be a reflective teacher and bring multicultural education into the classroom whenever possible!
When she is not teaching, Lesslie likes to cozy up in her pajamas and watch some of her favorite tv shows and movies. She also likes to dance, read, hoard makeup and exercise!
Lauren Davie, MS – Teacher
Lauren is thrilled to continue her career as an early childhood educator at Wild Lilac. A native to Northern California, she moved to Portland shortly after completing a BA in Music at Humboldt State University, where she also discovered her passion for toddlers as she earned a minor in Early Childhood Development. With her curiosity peaked by her child development classes, she went on to earn an MS in Early Childhood Curriculum for Inclusive Classrooms at Portland State University.
During her time at PSU, Lauren was introduced to the philosophy of Reggio Emilia and fell in love. She views children as powerful instigators of their own learning and sees her role in the classroom as that of a co-learner. She was also introduced to the practice of Anti-Bias education while at PSU and is eager to continue this work at Wild Lilac. As a teacher, Lauren believes that the foundation of a healthy classroom is respect. Respect for children, respect for co-teachers, respect for families, and respect for the environment.
When she’s not teaching, Lauren can be found playing music with her friends, hiking the local trails with her dog, working in her garden and practicing yoga.
Emily Breeden, Support Teacher
Emily grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with their fantastic mom and awesome little sisters. They’ve been assisting with and providing care for small children since they were in preschool themself, and they have always viewed loving and supporting those younger and more vulnerable as an important way to extend care into the community and make the world a better place. In addition to their oldest child responsibilities, Emily filled their adolescence with every camp counselling and volunteer classroom assistance opportunity they could find and took a strong interest in developmental psychology and the way communication and learning among toddlers and children gives us a unique insight into the behaviors and relationships that shape all of humanity.
In 2015, Emily found a new home in Southeast Portland, where they studied Computer Science and worked briefly as a developer at Reed College, while continuing their passion for education by leading Chemistry themed classes and activities for the Elementary after-school program, Science Matters. Emily intends to use their time at Wild Lilac to learn more about the different roles and opportunities within the preschool system while planning the next steps in their education.
In addition to the welcoming campus and never-ending supply of fresh produce, Emily was drawn to Wild Lilac by the respect, attention, and breadth of opportunities for self-directed play that the staff work hard to uphold for each child. They couldn’t be more excited to spend their first year at WL learning from and supporting their amazing lead teachers and nurturing the light inside of every Daffodil as they develop their personhood and forge their place in the world.
Aside from early childhood education, Emily’s interests lie in solving crossword puzzles, writing, climbing trees, and going camping with their partner, Chris, and his dog, Ellie.
Katie McGraw, Teacher
Katie was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon. She went on to attend the University of Oregon, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and a minor in special education. She started teaching at one of her University’s early childhood centers in the fall of 2014 and fell in love with being an early childhood educator. Since then Katie has gone on to volunteer in various classrooms, worked at a preschool, and nannied and babysat for many families over the years. She is very excited to continue in the Poppy classroom as co-lead teacher.
Katie has always had a strong respect and love for nature, animals, music and dramatic play. She strives to incorporate these loves into her teaching and share the joy with her students. She is passionate about creating welcoming, empathy-centered spaces and making sure all her students feel loved.
When she’s not in the classroom, she enjoys singing and playing guitar, exploring by foot, and connecting with friends and family over food and storytelling.
Lainy Morse, M.Ed. – Teacher
Lainy Morse was born and raised in Reno, Nevada. She moved to Portland, Oregon in 2002 and has been happy to call the Pacific Northwest home ever since! She is thrilled to join the Wild Lilac Community for the 2019/2020 school year and beyond.
Lainy came to childcare after the birth of her daughter in 2006. She was a nanny while her daughter was young, realizing the fleeting and precious nature of a child’s early years and not wanting to miss a thing. While working and raising a toddler, Lainy finished her undergrad from PSU in 2010 in Liberal Studies with concentrations on Social Sciences and Early Childhood Education. After graduating from PSU, Lainy owned and operated a certified in home program in Northeast Portland called Caterpillar Care. After Caterpillar Care, Lainy worked at two other preschools in leadership and teaching roles with children aged birth to 7.
In 2019, Lainy received her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from Concordia University.
Lainy loves crafting and making music with children and can’t wait to see what the students in the Poppy Classroom have to teach her. She is inspired by RIE and constructivist learning models and believes in positive discipline practices that are based in love, respect, and connection. Lainy trusts that through play, children are able to meet their developmental potential.
Her spare time is spent with her husband, daughter, two cats, and pet rabbit. She loves cooking, sewing, knitting, playing guitar, yoga, biking, and hiking!
Tatayana Clark, Support Teacher
Bio coming soon!
Becky Burgess, Teacher
Becky grew up in Virginia where she learned to love community cooking, sharing stories, and looking at mountains. She got a degree in Wildlife Conservation and taught as a naturalist at White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware before happily stumbling into teaching preschool in Portland.
When left to her own devices, she can usually be found looking closely at trees, slowly reading through several books at once, or talking really loud and fast to her friends. She also organizes with the PDX Childcare Collective, an organization that supports community groups doing social and racial justice work by providing free childcare for meetings and events.
Becky loves early childhood education for many reasons, but is especially drawn to its broader social applications. Building healthy classrooms with children is the most fundamental way to build a healthy world, and our schools have tremendous potential to build communities that subvert damaging systems and norms. She’s happy and proud to be a part of Wild Lilac where building healthy communities with children is a goal shared by all.
Adriana Ornelas, Teacher
I have 3 children of my own: a 15 year old boy, a 4 year old boy, and a 3 year old girl. I am Mexican American, born in California, raised in Oregon. I am fluent in both English and Spanish, and I plan on introducing some Spanish to the class. I began working in early childhood education when my oldest was 3 and beginning his preschool experience. I began with the intention of learning more about working with children and ways to help my own child at home. I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to pursue early childhood education as a career, and began taking courses at Mt. Hood Community College soon after, while still working full time in the classroom. I will be taking my final course in the spring and will be graduating in June with an A.A. in ECE. Whoo hoo!
I currently have 13 years of ECE experience in different programs, with different philosophies, different teachers, and teaching styles. I have done every job there is to do in a preschool center from bus monitor, cook, classroom aid, assistant teacher, lead teacher, center support, and previously an assistant director for 2 years at a Montessori preschool. Throughout that time I have had the opportunity to learn new methods, gain new skills, new perspectives, and as I continue to grow as a person, a parent, and as an educator, I hope to continue to add more of these tools to my skill set.
My belief if that each child is unique, each child develops at their own pace, and that we as educators are here to encourage and support each child as they grow into their curiosity. I want both parents and children to feel comfortable, safe, and protected, when coming to school. If there is anything I can do to help with this please let me know. If you have any questions for me please feel free to reach out to me in the classroom or via email. I will be doing my best to introduce myself to those I have not yet met, and getting to know everyone better.
Lastly, I just want to express my excitement to be joining the Lupine classroom and teaching alongside Becky and Nikki!
Nikki Schulak, MS – Support Teacher
Nikki has worked as a teacher and/or administrator in zoos, botanical gardens, natural history museums, historic houses, traditional public schools, private schools, after-school programs, summer camps, and as a sometime homeschooling parent. She was a long time stay-at-home mom and ardent school volunteer. Nikki’s teaching philosophy is strongly rooted in humanistic and constructivist ideals; she believes people learn through experience, and from opportunities to reflect upon experience, both as individuals and in social settings. She is also a strong proponent of Multiple Intelligences theory. Nikki has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, and an MS in Museum Education from the Bank Street College of Education.
Nikki grew up on a small farm in Michigan where she raised goats and made cheese. She is not particularly melodic, but she sings loudly anyhow. She is an avid lover of children’s literature and storytelling. She is a comedy writer and publishes and performs her work around town. Her dog Calvin, a Chinese Crested Hairless mutt, is her most beloved friend. Nikki’s tattoos include a bumper car, an ampersand, and the chemical formula for prozac.
Her own children are adopted from Vietnam and are now teenagers. They attended PPS through middle school, at which point they each adamantly demanded to have a private Catholic education. Nikki’s older son is transgendered and presently attends UC Davis, where he double majors in dance and pre-med. Her younger son just got his driver’s license. He plays forward and wing for the Westside Timbers (U17s) and is a budding hair stylist. Nikki’s husband is an Associate Director of Technology at Reed College and tosses a mean pizza. Her bonus partner is a writer, a teacher, and an ethical landlord.
When you see Nikki, you might not think so, but she has participated in the World Naked Bike Ride four times. Huzzah! Nikki is delighted to enter her third year as a member of the Wild Lilac community.
Autumn Dobbins, Teacher
If asked to describe herself in so many phrases Autumn would say that the truth of any one person resists simplicity. When she’s not waxing philosophic she’s busy maintaining interests in things like reclaiming domestic skills as a form of resistance against capitalism, developing critical language around digital media, working toward a zero waste lifestyle, engaging in social justice for marginalized communities, and making experimental theater and glitch art. She’s passionate about sharing these ideas with children as well as having them teach her to slow down and appreciate the moment she’s in and the community she’s a part of.
Valarie Gaitan, Teacher
Valarie was born and raised in San Francisco. Her interest in young children started with the birth of her first child. Her fascination with watching him develop lead to a heart-connected understanding of child-led learning. This motivated her to become an involved and passionate unschooling mom to her children and community for 12 years. She and her family moved to the Portland area in 2009.
She recently graduated from Mt. Hood Community College with a degree in early childhood education. She also has a degree in visual arts. She enjoys the energy of young children, and guiding them towards expanding their knowledge of the world around them by developing trusting relationships and following their interests.
Valarie has been studying compassionate communication skills for 11 years and frequently demonstrates this in the classroom. She finds that acknowledgement and acceptance of emotions using compassionate communication can facilitate understanding, listening and problem solving. She believes that compassionate communication along with exploration and choice in a play based environment can empower young children to become self regulated and motivated to learn about and understand their world with greater ease.
Valarie is also interested in music, art, knitting, crocheting, cooking, gardening, nature, meditating and spending time with her three children and fiancé, Robert.
Hayley Mandel, Support Teacher
Hayley uses the gender pronouns they/them/theirs. They are so happy to be working in the Iris classroom as the Support Teacher! Hayley believes Wild Lilac has a beautifully strong community, and they can’t wait to become a part of it and are excited to meet all of you!
In addition to being a preschool teacher, Hayley is a creative nonfiction writer, former model, and lover of herbal medicine. They love getting out into nature and trying to identify plants! Hayley also organizes in the PDX Childcare Collective—a group that offers free childcare to social and racial justice groups in Portland.
Originally, Hayley is from New York City but has called Portland “home” for about three years now. In Spring 2019 they graduated from PSU with an English major and Writing minor. Hayley has a thirteen year old Tortoiseshell cat named Edith, whom they love very much.
Michelle Marino, Chef and Garden Coordinator
Michelle has been cooking for Wild Lilac for over ten years now. Having grown up in Northern New Jersey amidst a large Italian family, Michelle spent a great deal of time in the kitchen as a child, interacting with the aromas and textures of foods prepared by the many cooks in the family. Meals were long and celebratory, despite the occasion, and love and laughter was always in abundance. After moving to Portland almost ten years ago, working an odd job making bread and boiling bagels in the wee hours of morning, Michelle found the loving community of Wild Lilac.
Michelle was immediately drawn to the way children are given space and time to explore the world around them. It was evident that cooking for children was going to be so much more than just preparing meals, but in sharing the experience with individuals who are so eager to engage in the whole process. In recent years, Michelle has been interested in urban farming, eventually transforming a barren yard of her own into a haven for plants and flowers, for birds and insects. Michelle now supports Wild Lilac’s Kitchen and Learning Garden, where children can grow and nurture plants, and also experience and prepare foods in the Kitchen Studio, adjacent to our kitchen. Michelle believes strongly in the farm to table connection, and that inviting children to help grow their food can inspire them to go deeper, to develop trust, and to ultimately try and maybe even enjoy new foods.
In her time outside of school, Michelle likes: spending time in her garden with her partner and fellow plant lover Jesse; foraging for natural materials; pressing flowers; and visiting the ocean.
Elizabeth Schulte, Sous Chef
Elizabeth Schulte is a sixth-generation Oregonian, very tall, and happy to be the Sous Chef in the Wild Lilac kitchen for over five years. She enjoys working with chef Michelle to plan and prepare delicious and interesting food. She also is a county extension service Master Food Preserver and Master Composter, and is training to become a Master Gardener.
In her free time, she enjoys growing rare and exotic plants, hula-hooping, and thrift store shopping. Her favorite food is Indian, her favorite author is Margaret Atwood, and she enjoys community radio, amateur mycology, and the Oxford comma. She breeds heritage ducks and rabbits in her backyard. She lives with her botanist and spice trader partner Brian and their enormous pet cat Onion.