Kindergarten – Rachel Sherwin
Rachel grew up in Flint Michigan where she spent her days on her family’s patch of wilderness with her sisters painting on trees with the juice of black walnuts and napping under rolling clouds in grassy meadows. Her family spent summers exploring the natural beauty of the Great Lakes and welcomed the peace and coziness of snowy, midwest winters. She has always been deeply invested in self awareness and self betterment and attributes her desire to leave the world a better place as her pathway to teaching and justice.
She has a BA in Global Studies of the Arts and Humanities with a minor in Chicanx/Latinx Studies from Michigan State University where she also studied art history, French, womxn’s studies, and served as an Intercultural Aide in the dorms focusing on community building, inclusion, and crossing cultural difference. While at MSU she worked at the Refugee Development Center as a tutor and soccer coach for newcomers and also the Ingham County Youth Detention Center as a science teacher and community garden coordinator. Her experiences in undergrad helped further inform her life commitment to providing quality, holistic education to all children. She has a Master of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education from the University of Michigan. During her time at Michigan she was a Rackham Merit Fellow due to her commitment to make quality education more inclusive. She is excited for the opportunity for her commitment to justice to carry over to the private educational setting where she plans to engage young people in critical thinking, practicing empathy, and making connections across perceived differences.
Along with these experiences, she has served as a middle school science teacher and City Year Corps Member in Detroit Michigan as well as, most recently, serving as an outdoor preschool educator with Wild Primrose Preschool in Milwaukie. Rachel moved from Flint to Portland to live with her partner who works for OHSU. In her free time she loves to run, draw, cook healthy meals, sing loudly, dance awkwardly, hike and bike with friends and explore all that the PNW has to offer!
First Grade – Jessa Moody
Jessa studied Elementary Education at the University of Maine and Reading education at the University of South Florida. She has been teaching elementary aged students for the last 8 years. After spending some time abroad learning about new cultures, she came back to the U.S. to focus on teaching students about the natural world. Jessa loves fishing, hiking, crafting, reading and spending as much time as possible outdoors.
Second Grade – Kaiya Hatcher
Kaiya hails from California where she spent her childhood years split between the concrete jungle of Oakland and the forest near Lake Tahoe. In the city she would always seek connections to nature, playing in her mother’s garden with their chickens, going camping, and spending lots of time in local parks. But as soon as she was back in the forest she knew this was where she truly belongs.
In college Kaiya studied fiber arts and specialized in embroidery and natural dyes. She loves the slow methodical nature of both of these processes. Kaiya was particularly drawn to how natural dyes connected her to nature, giving her lots of opportunities to go outside foraging dye plants in the woods and harvest neighborhood weeds for her dye pot. She also appreciated how the dye process connected her to her food, using every part of her produce by saving food scraps to make beautiful colors.
After working in summer camps and after school programs for 6 years Kaiya got her MFA in curriculum and instruction from Bay Area Teacher Training Institute. During this time she began cultivating a strong foundation around social justice education and social emotional learning, both of which form the backbone of her teaching practice. She is particularly committed to modeling risk taking, dismantling the pressures of perfectionism and embracing the life long process of learning with her students. Kaiya still does natural dyes and loves to teach her students about plant chemistry through the magical alchemy of dying.
When not in the forest or making textiles Kaiya loves playing with her kitten Sochi, practicing yoga and mindfulness, making music and doing South Indian dance.
Third Grade – Brian Leonard
Brian grew up among the blue oaks and manzanitas of his family farm in Northern California. His childhood was spent getting lost, building forts out of sticks, and being mentored by a pride of house cats. Hmm, upon reflection that is mostly how he spends his time now as well.
Sandwiched between his childhood and the present, Brian took many exciting turns and advances in his journey toward the Portland Forest School. He studied geology at the University of Oregon, which cemented his love of physical science and took him to some of the most dynamic places on Earth. His creative writing fuels his joie de vivre and he has earned several local awards for screenwriting.
Brian’s studies in education at Concordia University expanded and honed his teaching skills and his experiences teaching middle school Integrated Science and high school Physics gave him an outlet to share his fascinations with young people. He also completed the Forest School Teacher Training adult program at Trackers and believes that nature can be the best teacher if you know how to listen to its lessons.
Brian is continually mesmerized by the rocks beneath his feet, the stars above his head, and all of the wonderful people living between.
Fourth Grade- Tony Nguyen
Tony grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. Surrounded by cornfields, he was still able to break through the “maizes” and find nature in and around the Great Lake – Lake Erie, and the surrounding woods in the rural areas. Initially, Tony studied in Computer Science & Engineering at The Ohio State University. After venturing to Thailand to teach, he came back to the US to explore the combination of his love for the great outdoors, his newfound passion of teaching, and his education in technology, to innovate how new approaches can be used to discover new avenues of education. He believes in mastering the four elements – Water, Earth, Fire, and Air – to bring peace to not only the world, but also ourselves.
In his free time, you can find Tony training in MMA, as his biggest hero in life is Bruce Lee – “Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
Fifth Grade – Christine Fleener
Christine grew up in Illinois living an extremely midwestern existence running through cornfields and pouncing on fireflies. Her favorite bird song is the Red-Winged Blackbird because they sound like tiny robots. Herfavorite smells are prairie grasses and dry leaves. She studied Astronomy and Anthropology at the University of Illinois and earned her PhD in Comparative Human Development and Behavioral Biology at the University of Chicago. As an undergrad, she conducted research on stellar formation and on the ecology and evolution of reptiles, insects, and grass species. As a grad student, she lived in Puerto Rico researching a population of rhesus monkeys at the Cayo Santiago Biological Field Station and founded a nonprofit dog rescue there called Punta Santiago Dogs that has helped her community care for and relocate over 200 animals!
Christine also designs games, puzzles, and immersive experiences that motivate more intimate interactions with the environment and others and introduce different perspectives and approaches to problem solving. You can find her organizing local Puzzled Pint events on the second Tuesday of every month, portraying her bardic forest gnome Nyxel in various RPGs, playing sad songs on her violin, or wandering up the tallest mountains she can find. Qapla’!
Sixth & Seventh Grade – Michelle Cordell
Michelle was born and raised in Olympia, Washington exploring the woods and the rocky shore of the Puget Sound. Like the salmon who start their life here but venture far from home, Michelle has traveled far from home to learn and grow. She studied economics and Spanish at Colorado College and spent her summers kayak guiding in Southeast Alaska before spending four years in Thailand working as a field instructor, logistics manager, and curriculum developer for university and high school level programs that explored the relationship between culture and ecology. Like the salmon, Michelle came back home to the PNW in summer 2019 and began working for Trackers Earth as a Coordinator for summer in Vancouver and has spent the last year at Trackers Earth teaching homeschool, coordinating the outdoor leadership apprenticeship, and managing the Trackers Earth custom programs. This included planning field trips for schools and creating a unique five day Outdoor School program for a local middle school. Michelle has loved helping make it possible for kids to safely reconnect with others and the more than human world this summer for camp in Portland. When Michelle is not playing in the forest, on the water, or on snowy hilltops she can be found drawing, sewing, and making collages with fresh produce.
8th Grade – Ian Moore
Ian has been teaching with Trackers since 2012 and as a Forest School Teacher since 2018. Raised in the Rocky Mountains, he set out to work, teach, and educate in the informal outdoor setting provided by the wonders of the Pacific Northwest. Ian holds a BA in Environmental Science through Marylhurst University and has taught for many outdoor education programs.
Ian Abraham – Forest School Principal
Ian has been teaching within the Portland Metropolitan area since 1999. He holds an MA in Environment and Community through Antioch University and has taught for many outdoor education programs, including M.E.S.D. Outdoor School, Cascadia Wild, Wolftree Inc., Tryon Creek and the Oregon Zoo. He spent the last 13 years at Portland Audubon as an Environmental Educator, Camp Director, and the Youth Programs Manager.
His passions lie in the arts and science of bird language and wilderness living skills. Ian views the vision of Forest School as the present and future role model for academics wherein students learn Oregon core curriculum standards through immersive outdoor skills. He is excited to support the massive amount of talent that the Forest School teachers bring to each and every day while also supporting the parents that trust him, and the school, with their child’s academic experience.
Elaine Kinchen – Forest School Vice-Principal
Elaine spent her formative years both attending Star Trek conventions and living with a radical primitive skills community in the woods before receiving her degree in Cultural Anthropology with honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Elaine has been with Trackers since 2012 teaching and directing a variety of Trackers programs ranging from archery to ceramics to bookkeeping. She now divides her time between teaching art classes and administrative duties as the Vice Principal managing operational logistics. She loves watching students realize their own competency. Elaine is excited to be part of a program that connects people to the earth through hands-on experiences.