Stephen Karmol, Executive Director
Stephen brings over a decade of experience as a teacher and administrator in a wide variety of educational settings to Wild Lilac.
His early experiences through AmeriCorps as support staff for kindergarten students who had recently immigrated to the United States ignited a passion for serving diverse children and families. He next spent several wonderful years as a kindergarten teacher at The Island School, a progressive elementary school on Bainbridge Island, Washington. There he developed a deep appreciation of an approach to education based on respect for children and their vast capabilities. After completing the Master in Teaching program at The Evergreen State College, Stephen was hired as a teacher at Wild Lilac, and Wild Lilac has felt like home ever since.
As the Executive Director, Stephen is dedicated to fostering an inclusive learning community that welcomes and honors all of its children, families, and teachers. Stephen believes Wild Lilac should 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.
While there are exciting new plans forming and changes taking place at our school, Stephen remains committed to the heart and vision of Wild Lilac—a program that honors all children, families, teachers.
Lindsey Walsh, MS – Enrollment Coordinator
Lindsey is thrilled to be working with the Wild Lilac team as Enrollment Coordinator. 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.
Jennifer Fox, Community Development Coordinator
Raised as a Navy child who moved frequently, Jennifer is content to have grown roots in Portland since 1996. She’s also happy to join the Wild Lilac team after 12 years as a stay-at-home parent. During those 12 years, she kept busy loving her three children, constructing her family’s home, leading parent support groups, starting a PTO, volunteering in her children’s classrooms, running school auctions, producing women’s events, and serving on the Wild Lilac Board of Directors. Jennifer values giving back, and since two of her children are Wild Lilac alums, she’s excited to help Wild Lilac fulfill its mission.
Prior to her years of volunteering and focusing on her family, Jennifer worked in public relations for Multnomah County Library and Sapling Corporation, an international financial services firm. She graduated summa cum laude from Washington State University with a BA in English and a minor in Business Administration.
Jennifer loves reading, hiking, planning parties, going on spiritual retreats, finding treasures in thrift stores, and hanging out with her family. She’s a stand for literacy and a strong advocate for women and girls.
Amanda McGraw, MS – Teacher
Amanda McGraw is entering her 4th year at Wild Lilac. She was a Bluebell teacher three years ago and is excited to have that experience again! Amanda completed a Bachelor’s degree in English in 2008, and March 2015 she received her Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction with specialization in Early Childhood Education, focusing on infant/toddler mental health. She completed an extensive action research project studying emotional literacy in young children, and it remains an important part of her daily work. Before landing at Wild Lilac, her journey has included working as the lead teacher in an in-home preschool program, a student teacher at Helen Gordon Child Development Center, a teacher in Washington state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), and as an interventionist and family support specialist at Family Stepping Stones Relief Nursery. She has also done volunteer work in the fields of foster care and adoption. Amanda will be beginning an MSW program this fall!
Amanda enjoys building trusting and respectful relationships with families and values honoring each child’s unique voice and spirit. She is passionate about integrating social justice and anti-bias work, with the aim of creating a learning community that supports all dimensions of human differences and empowers children to act against bias and unfairness. Amanda also whole-heartedly believes in the calming and healing power of the natural environment. She believes that before children can understand preserving our climate and natural resources, they must first cultivate a love and respect for those resources that comes from positive early outdoor experiences. Amanda lives with her husband and two goofy, loving dogs. She loves hiking and camping, going on road trips, sunshine, and getting lost in a great book.
Annie Kleffner, MS – Teacher
Annie is excited to begin her third year at Wild Lilac as a co-teacher in the Bluebell classroom. A native to the Portland area, Annie has enjoyed a varied career in education and has worked with children of all ages. After earning a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon, Annie was drawn to working with young children in exploring and protecting the natural world. In the past 12 years, Annie has lived in four states and has worked at a variety of environmental education centers, earned a Masters in Environmental Education from Antioch University New England, led gardening and cooking on rural farms, been a nanny for several families, and taught elementary students in a 1st-3rd grade classroom. Most recently, Annie operated a very small in-home childcare program and enjoyed spending each day with infants and young toddlers. She is inspired by the children, families and staff at Wild Lilac and is honored to have the opportunity to explore all that the school has to offer alongside her students!
Annie is passionate about working with young children and considers the infant and toddler years supremely important … and magical! She believes that young children are naturally inquisitive and quite capable and that a teacher’s role is to offer a stimulating environment with open-ended materials and then provide plenty of time, space and freedom for children to explore and create. Family partnerships are also very important to Annie and she enjoys open communication with families to best meet the needs of each child.
Annie spends most of her free time her two sons, Theo (a Wild Lilac alum) and Boone, who is in the Daffodil classroom. She enjoys exploring natural areas with her family, gardening, cooking, reading, and getting together with friends.
Mikki Boyt, Teacher
Mikki was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She now lives right behind her childhood home in NE Portland. She went to Mt Hood Community College and received her Associates degree in Early Education and Child Development in spring of 2016. She is currently working towards her Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education through Southern Oregon University.
Mikki’s family includes her 4 year-old son Owen, her boyfriend Chris, a dog named Duke, a cat named Sasquatch, and four chickens.
Mikki’s passion for early childhood education bloomed after she had her son; her own curiosity grew as she watched him grow and develop before her eyes.
Victoria Johannigman, Teacher
Victoria is a 23 year-old Psychology student at Portland State University. She has been teaching young children in a classroom setting for over 4 years now, and has been loving every minute of it! It brings her such joy watching children learn and grow through play.
Victoria has four loving, wonderful cats, and is a pescatarian. She loves going camping, hiking, painting, drinking tea, playing and listening to music, dancing, rocks, and experiencing all the other wonderful things this world has to offer. She loves nature and is passionate about teaching the next generation how to take care of our world and ourselves, through compassion, care, recycling, gardening, and love for life. She looks forward to meeting all of you, and spending time with your great kiddos!
Gicela Salvador, Teacher
Gicela Salvador is from El Salvador and moved to Vancouver, Canada in 2008 to start her schooling. Since High school she knew that she wanted to work with children and to become a teacher. Gicela went through the Early Childhood Care and Education program at the Vancouver Community College for two years. She was very lucky to get a part-time job in the field while still in school at the University of British Columbia, where she worked as an Assistant Early childhood Educator in a multi-aged program.
While working with children from 18 months to 5 years old she discovered her interest in infant and toddler development, so she decided to go back to school to take a post basic in infants and toddlers. Gicela has worked with infants for the past two years and enjoys working and discovering new things with them. She moved to Portland, Oregon in late 2013. This is her fourth year as a teacher at Wild Lilac.
Gicela enjoys the beautiful state and all the nature. In her free time she loves to read, cook and go for walks, she also likes to travel and to discover new cultures and countries.
Melody Peek, Teacher
Melody began her time at Wild Lilac as a practicum student in the Bluebell classroom, and has been delighted to transition into a full-time teaching position in the Wild Lilac community. Melody graduated from the Early Childhood Development and Education program at Mt. Hood Community College and is now entering her second year as a teacher at Wild Lilac.
Melody’s early childhood career started when she was young. Since she was a little girl she dreamed of becoming a person who would care, love and support children. She stood in awe at the things children could do and learn. Lucky to have grown up being able to explore many different learning experiences, Melody aims provide the same to the children in her care, allowing them to learn on their own terms. She strives for children to be risky and daring in a safe and comfortable learning environment.
Melody was raised in the deep depths of a farm town. She currently lives in Estacada with her family which includes a sweetheart, a puppy, and two horses. In her free time she enjoys quality time with her horses, hiking, and going on roadtrips.
April Axton Ruggiero, Teacher
April is entering her fourth year as an Afternoon Teacher at Wild Lilac. Her decision to work in Early Childhood Education stemmed from her desire to spend more quality time with her son Anthony, now 10 years old and entering 5th grade at Arleta School. April had been a Restaurant Manager, Sales Associate and a Food Service Professional for years, but when Anthony was a toddler, she discovered how fulfilling it is to work with children. She realized how much she truly enjoyed watching children discover the world around them and sharing in their sense of wonder as they learn and grow.
April is the daughter of a Forest Ranger mother and a Singer/Songwriter/Actor father. Her hobbies include singing, acting, reading and enjoying the outdoors. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that she loves exploring books, music and other creative endeavors with the children, as well as helping them find the magic in our school’s natural surroundings. The love, laughter and joyful delight that is a part of everyday life at Wild Lilac makes each moment spent with the children and their families truly special.
April is passionate about working together with her co-teachers and the families of this amazing community to help give the children the tools they need to thrive and grow into independent thinkers who can ultimately find happiness and success in the lives that they choose to live.
While she is well traveled and has lived in many different places throughout her life, April now resides in SE Portland with her son Anthony, dog Sierra and Bonnie the Bunny, whom they adopted from Wild Lilac at the end of the 2014/2015 school year.
“Joy to the world, all the boys and girls now; Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, Joy to you and me.”
“Joy to the World”, words and music by Hoyt Axton
Breanna Williams, Teacher
Breanna is so excited to join the Tulip team 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.
Abi Hall, Teacher, Health and Safety Coordinator
Abi grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado with her five sisters and one brother. She moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1996, first living in Bellingham, Washington then moving to Seattle to attend the University of Washington where she majored in Music Education and minored in Women’s Studies. She has called Portland home since 2001.
Abi has always had a strong interest in children, and especially infants and toddlers. When she decided to start a family of her own, she decided to go back to school and pursue knowledge of Early Childhood Education. In 2010, she completed an Associate’s Degree in Early Education and Family Studies from Portland Community College and has been an Infant/Toddler Teacher since earning her degree, first running a small RIE based program out of her home, then becoming a teacher at Wild Lilac in 2014.
Abi’s interest in young children has grown into a passion. She believes very strongly in the work that she does with young children. She believes that the attachments and care that she gives them has long-lasting effects on all developmental domains (cognitive, physical, social-emotional) and that these strong attachments early in life have a great impact on their ability to form strong attachments with others as they age. In the infant and toddler ages, there is a strong focus on social-emotional learning and especially problem solving. Abi is passionate about this work and believes that teaching children at a young age how to effectively and safely express their feelings and needs, to listen to the needs of others, and to work together to find a solution is the key to bringing about a more compassionate, peaceful future for our world.
Abi also has an immense love and wonder of nature and loves sharing this wonder with the children she works with. She hopes to give children a strong ecological identity to Wild Lilac, to encourage love and care of our wonderful outdoor spaces and the plants and animals we discover here so that as they grow and move through their larger world, they will continue to love and care for our Earth. Though she has many things to teach the children, Abi also learns and wonders with the children daily! She is so thankful for the things children have taught her over the years and truly values children not only as learners, but as teachers too!
Outside of her love of teaching, Abi loves to spend time with her two children Donovan, age 10 and Juniper, age 5. She loves gardening, reading (mostly Sci-Fi/Fantasy), playing board and card games, and hiking, camping, and backpacking through the amazing coasts, mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Jenn Lindell, Teacher
Jenn grew up in Seattle, WA before moving to Portland to attend Reed College. Jenn comes from a large and very spaced out family, ensuring that working with babies was a skill set she learned from age 11. A love of children blossomed into a love of education and Jenn made her first foray into teaching while working with a theatre camp in Edmonds, Washington. Since obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre from Reed, Jenn has sought out jobs that provide opportunities to work with children of all ages, but infants and toddlers have always held a special place in her soul.
Outside of Wild Lilac, Jenn is heavily involved with the Portland theatre scene in the evenings. She has a husband, as well as two cats that she loves like children, despite how much they tear up the furniture. Things that she would like very much to talk to you about include your children, cats (both her own and in general), musicals, Neil Gaiman novels, documentaries (especially true crime), the theatre she is working on at the moment, and whatever else might be on your mind.
Sanoe Leiohel 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. Shortly after that she became a substitute teacher and has worked in a number of classrooms since.
Sanoe has recently earned her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education with plans to further her Education in the future. She has dedicated countless years to serving children and youth in numerous settings such as 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.
Aimee Tenbrook, Teacher
This is Aimee’s third year at Wild Lilac CDC and she is thrilled to be working with Julia, Dancy, and Laura in the Poppy classroom.
Aimee grew up in Issaquah, Washington, where she spent most of her childhood playing outside in the Issaquah Creek. Being able to play outside instilled in her a passion for caring for our natural world. In 2009, she attended Western Washington University with the intention of obtaining her Bachelors in Biology, but soon discovered a calling to work with children and dived into studying Reggio Emilia practices.
After graduating with her Bachelors in Early Childhood Education, Aimee moved to Portland to deepen her understanding of Reggio Emilia and have found a home here at Wild Lilac. She is always in awe of children’s creativity, view of the world, and their innate search for knowledge. She believes all children have the right to an education, and regularly seek out ways for all children to come together and work together as a community. She is looking forward to growing and learning more with you and your children this year!
Julia Moore, Teacher
Julia is honored to begin her second year teaching as part of the wonderful Wild Lilac Child Development Community. She was born and raised in Montana, and has lived in Portland since the fall of 2009. She earned her associated in Early Childhood and Family Studies from Portland Community College in the fall of 2016.
She spent last year in two different classrooms. In the morning, she taught 4-and-5-year-olds in the Tiger Lily classroom. During the afternoons, she worked with the older infants and young toddlers in the Tulip classroom. She is looking forward to using the experience gained from these two classrooms in the Poppy room!
Julia believes in supporting every aspect of a child, by continuously learning about them as an individual. The classroom should reflect and encourage the natural curiosity of each child. She trusts that young children, if given proper respect and guidance, can successfully internalize an anti-bias outlook that will help them and their peers succeed and support one another in the future.
Teaching has been an incredible learning journey for Julia. The fulfillment she has gained from working with children causes a strong desire to become the best teacher and person that she can be. Julia’s goal is to help build within each child a love of learning that transcends the obstacles and expectations that cause so many of us to forget our hunger for knowledge
Dancy Gossett, Teacher
Dancy was raised in the suburbs of Arlington, Texas. In high school she was involved in Yearbook and the Ready, Set, Teach Program where she was a teacher assistant for one school year in a second grade classroom, went to various workshops, and participated in curriculum planning competitions for primary school age children. After graduation, Dancy moved to Troutdale with her partner. Oregon was a breath of fresh air and she was excited to get started in college to get her degree in Early Childhood Education.
After six months of practicum with Head Start, Dancy knew that she wanted to work with children under the age of five. There, she also found a passion for helping children and families that have been through the hardships of poverty, as well as assisting other marginalized groups. Dancy is a first generation college graduate, having received my Associates degree in Early Childhood Education and Development, she is currently working to obtain her Bachelor’s degree.
Between study sessions and explorations with children, she enjoys trips to the beach with her wife, reading memoirs, and catching up on shows that stopped running over ten years ago with her two cats.
This will be Dancy’s second school year here at Wild Lilac and she can’t wait to share it with this special group of educators. She is excited for the new school year and ready to start making connections with you and your children!
DaNae Toledo, Teacher
DaNae is a life long Oregonian, a mother of three and a nature lover. She values humor and curiosity, and works to see the world through a compassionate lens.
DaNae’s interest in child development began in high school while working with infants and young children in her school’s child development center. Being a special needs parent further piqued her interest in child development. DaNae went on to earn an Associate degree in Early Childhood Ed. from Chemeketa Community College, and then a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science with an emphasis on Child and Family Studies from Portland State University. She has worked as both a Head Start volunteer and teacher in a variety of settings including community action/school year, therapeutic/relief nursery and migrant/seasonal, with infants, toddlers and pre-k aged children.
DaNae has a passion for literacy, music and nature, and enjoys engaging in a variety of these activities with young children. She believes young children learn and develop optimally in an environment that offers plenty of opportunities to explore and engage autonomously. Also, she has a soft spot for messy play!
Gabe Boyer, M.Ed. – Teacher
Gabe grew up in the Snoqualmie valley outside Seattle. As a young person, he enjoyed science, stories, games and lots of forested fantasy play: building defenses for goblin invasions. As a teen, he moved to Seattle to study philosophy. After many odd jobs, he ended up tutoring in an elementary school, where he was inspired by the natural poetics and imagination of young people.
Shortly after he returned to school and finished a M.ED in Early Childhood Special Ed.. He became inspired about anti-bias education and critical pedagogy, settled into a pioneering Head Start, emphasizing dual language learning and multicultural, social justice education. He moved to Portland four years ago, set on working in a Reggio-inspired, justice orientated school. And now here he is, entering his fifth year at Wild Lilac.
On the weekends, you might find him exploring his neighborhood by bike, gaming with friends, backpacking, or sipping coffee over short fiction or graphic novels.
Dana Wedel, Teacher
Entering her fourth year teaching at Wild Lilac, Dana is delighted to be working with the preschool children in the Lupine Room. Born and raised in Kansas, she moved to Oregon in 2001, and now considers Portland home.
Dana has a degree in Elementary Education and has taught a variety of ages in both private and public school settings. She is passionate about teaching preschool because she considers early childhood to be an extremely important and magical age, when so much is blossoming socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. Dana is grateful to be a part of Wild Lilac, finding its community of children, families, and teachers truly inspiring.
Dana is the proud mother of Cy, who graduated from Wild Lilac this summer. In their free time, they enjoy reading books, baking, playing music, and exploring the beautiful parks and natural world of the Northwest together.
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.
Nikki Schulak, 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 become 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 (and that maybe this is one of her great interests). But when she’s not waxing philosophic she’s busy maintaining interests in things like reclaiming domestic skills as a form of resistance against corporatism, developing critical language around digital media (specifically online and video game communities), working toward a zero waste lifestyle, social justice for marginalized communities, and experimental theater and glitch art. She’s passionate about sharing these ideas with children as well as learning from them about how to constantly see the world as beautiful and exciting with fresh eyes.
Madison Christ, Teacher
Madison is very excited to begin her career in Early Childhood Education at Wild Lilac. She studied Philosophy and Writing at the European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin and Literature at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
She first joined the Wild Lilac team three years ago with a little experience in formal childcare and has found that she is very passionate about education and the importance of play in the lives of children and adults. She is interested in studying the variety of outlets children use to express emotions and how these strategies translate into communication between adults. She also likes to bring in her love of story-telling, photography and bees to further explore with the class!
During her free time, Madison likes to paint large portraits of birds, look-up information on honey bees, and research the personal lives or obituaries of her favorite writers.
Keely Wojciechowski, Teacher
Kirsten Dukes, Teacher
Kirsten Dukes is a Spanish teacher and Artist. She loves creating art with children and being inspired by their work. The process of guiding and assisting a child in a creative realm is what Kirsten loves most about teaching. She has been working in Education for over 10 years including after school/before school programs, bi-lingual pre-school, and theater workshops. She is studying at PSU majoring in Spanish and has plans to get a Master’s in Education. She hopes to enjoy story telling and collaborative play with the Iris classroom as well as outdoor discoveries and inquiries,music class, yoga/movement story telling, art time, imaginary play, as well as kitchen time.
Michelle Marino, Chef and Garden Coordinator
Michelle has been cooking for Wild Lilac for over eight 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 eight 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 barron 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. 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.