Teaching Team & Staff
Attic teachers—like Attic kids—are creative, curious, passionate learners. Our dynamic team of educators includes experts and professionals from across the academic disciplines, and they all have chosen to devote their time, love, and energy to teaching at The Attic because of our constructivist teaching philosophy, our vibrant community, and the freedom we give all teachers and learners to think and grow.
Our unique approach to education makes it possible for teachers to develop a meaningful bond with each learner, and that too makes The Attic a special place to teach.
Born and raised in Seattle, Jessie attended Seattle Public Schools but gained her love of learning for learning’s sake when she attended a Montessori school during pre-school and kindergarten. Jessie graduated from Central Washington University with a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy with an emphasis on non-profit and government accounting, then went on to get her CPA license. She worked in public accounting for over 14 years specializing in small business and biotech. Wanting to get back to more soulful aligned accounting work she worked at a local Waldorf School before joining The Attic. She has always had a deep interest in the nonprofit world and education so working at The Attic is the perfect marriage of those interests. In her free time Jessie creates stained glass, reupholsters furniture, crochets, takes horseback riding lessons and spends time with her husband and two rescued English Bull Terriers.
Kristen has enjoyed teaching at the Attic since 2009. She is the mother of two Attic students and an Attic alumnus, and she greatly values being part of a community where children are trusted and celebrated. She graduated with a BA in elementary education from Washington State University with a minor in early childhood education. From her earliest teaching days, Kristen was interested in child-centered teaching methods, and after teaching first and second grades, she was lucky to teach in a multi-age program in the public school system.
After becoming a mom, Kristen threw herself into learning all about parenting, and her trust in kids and views on education grew even stronger. During the years she stayed home with her kids, Kristen taught natural childbirth classes and assisted at births as a doula. While homeschooling her first child, Kristen spent many days and nights dreaming of the school she would like to start for her kids before she found The Attic! The Attic’s philosophy was like a dream come true, and being part of the teaching team is a perfect fit.
Hui Chen grew up in the Sichuan Province of China. She has a BS in computer science from WuHan University in China. Curious about the cultural and language diversity of the world, Hui moved to the multicultural city of Montreal, where she learned basic French and received a diploma in English Culture and Literature from the University of Montreal. While in Montreal, she started teaching Mandarin to friends who were interested in learning Chinese language and culture. Through this experience, she realized her passion for learning languages had led her to a career in teaching, a career focusing on sharing her passion with others.
Hui has been working at The Attic Learning Community since 2008, with the exception of a few years she took off to take care of her newborn baby. Hui loves teaching, and she is happy to be at The Attic Learning Community to continue sharing her passion for languages and culture with her students. Currently, Hui is pursuing a Master of Education degree at the University of Washington.
Cole has been a part of The Attic Learning Community since year one. He joined the Field & Forest teaching team in 2018. Now an Attic alumni, he is a musician, fiber artist, and aspiring author. He lives on a farm and enjoys spending time caring for his alpacas, tending to his garden and numerous houseplants, and training his dog. Cole has appreciation and curiosity for the natural world and all that it holds. He looks forward to sharing his knowledge with the kids at Budding Naturalists and learning alongside them through outdoor exploration.
Efrain joined The Attic in December 2019. He grew up in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, and has over 15 years of teaching experience. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Math Teaching from the University of Puerto Rico. He started as a Spanish teacher in an elementary school in Puerto Rico while he worked on his Master’s Degree in Math Teaching. After completing his Master’s, he began teaching math in the Puerto Rico Department of Education. Efrain enjoys the teaching-learning process, motivating students, and feels satisfied when this process is successfully completed. Efrain moved to Seattle after hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. Outside of The Attic, he spends time helping students through Spanish and Math tutoring.
Emily Dietrich joins The Attic community this year as a literacy teacher in the high school program. She was drawn to The Attic’s philosophy and commitment to be an anti-racist community. As a lifelong lover of literature, Emily relishes the opportunity to explore, discuss, analyze and learn about well-known—and more obscure, too!—texts with Attic learners. An experienced writer and writing teacher, Emily believes in words’ power of expression, influence, and connection. She is excited to experience open-mic night and interest projects.
Hannah joined The Attic in 2014. The only thing she loves more than learning is helping others rediscover their own love of learning. After receiving her BS in art education with an emphasis in English from Penn State in 2009, Hannah taught art briefly in the Pittsburgh Public Schools before moving to Ithaca, NY to explore Montessori education. In 2012 she journeyed to Seattle via Bainbridge Island, to complete her MEd through IslandWood and UW. Hannah appreciates teaching in a place that lets teachers build authentic community with kids.
Alison Farrell has been working at The Attic Learning Community since 2004 and has been an Attic parent since 2002. She was a member of The Attic Board of Directors from 2004 to 2019, serving as Secretary, Chair, and Member at Large. Alison loves math, science, games, puzzles and patterns of all sorts and enjoys sharing her interests with the students. She has a BS in biology from Western Washington University and a MS in biology from Central Washington University. She worked as a bacteriologist and as a chemist before deciding to leave the lab to explore her interest in teaching. Alison taught biology classes at Highline, Edmonds, and Shoreline Community Colleges.
When her younger child started school at The Attic, she jumped at the opportunity to teach a math class there and completed Math Learning Center and DAP classes in preparation. She has been teaching science, DAP, Opening Eyes, and Visual Math at The Attic ever since and loves teaching in such a child-centered, developmental environment. In her Assistant Program Director role, Alison supports the Directors with scheduling and strategic planning, maximizing student options, and ensuring a smooth connection between student groups. She and her husband are the parents of two Attic alumni.
Brian has been a Field & Forest Outdoor Program teacher since the program’s first year in 2011. With a lifelong love of nature acquired during a childhood in New Jersey spent mainly outdoors, and with an inherently playful outlook on life, it is Brian’s objective to bring the passion he has for discovery and learning to children of all ages in a fun and interactive way; and in doing so, to foster positive and lasting connections between people and our surroundings.
Brian has been a student of the Earth Mentor Program at the Wilderness Awareness School, has taught at their summer camps, and has an Associate of Arts degree from Brookdale Community College, where he studied marine science. His extensive experience as an outdoor educator also includes ten years as a supervisor, mentor, and teacher in his position as Program Coordinator at the New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium, where he worked with children aged kindergarten through high school. Brian’s background also includes many summers conducting outdoor summer camps, and years of teaching and leading multi-age indoor and outdoor programs with a local northwest wilderness program.
When not engaged in a creative project driven by his unfettered curiosity, you might also find Brian around campus playing in the dirt, or, as he calls it, “helping to maintain the facilities”.
Eleanor was born & raised in the U.K. but has spent most of her life living in the PNW. She received her B.A. in Film Studies & Production from Seattle University in 2018. Despite her area of study, Eleanor has always wanted to work in education, whether it be administration or teaching. Before transitioning to The Attic, she worked for after-school and enrichment art programs in Issaquah, where she fell in love with expanding a child’s educational experience. She was drawn to The Attic for its unique and inspiring approach to educating and mentoring kids in all stages of their educational development.
Jeanie Iida found her real self as a math teacher at The Attic in 2003 and has taught all levels from DAP to high school. Her past life includes: Graduating from the University of Washington cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, working for 12 years in hospital and lab design, continuing education through DAP workshops and Visual Math coursework from the Math Learning Center, serving for ten years in the public schools as a teacher of art and math, taking workshops with mathematician and author John Mighton, and completing recent study with Jo Boaler (Stanford University) in her cutting edge online course entitled How to Learn Math. For Jeanie, mathematics resides somewhere between a remarkable journey, opening the perfect gift, and eating bits of chocolate.
In true Attic fashion, Jeanie’s love and respect for kids and math has flourished within these walls in ways she never thought possible. It just goes to show you it’s never too late for a happy childhood! She was drawn to The Attic for its healthy, humane, creative, and intelligent mission to support children and learning. The Attic spoke to Jeanie’s heart and mind, and she continues to appreciate The Attic’s gifts of freedom, trust, and a safe and encouraging community in which to grow.
Cam joined The Attic in 2016 and teaches English, humanities, and social science classes to learners in the Middle and High School Programs. Cam was first drawn to The Attic’s capacity for seeing each child as they are, and for loving and supporting them in an environment that values their unique voices. He stays at The Attic because he feels support to be authentically himself with the kids, and empowered to nurture relationships of trust and learning. Cam has a BA in English literature from Seattle University. In addition to teaching at The Attic, he is a touring musician.
My name is Geena and this is my first year teaching at The Attic! I have four years of experience teaching in a Montessori school and thoroughly believe in fostering curiosity, independence, and creativity in the classroom and in life. I love animals and have 6 beautiful pets including a dog, cats, and fish. In my spare time I love to read, cook, hike, and spend as much time at the beach as possible.
Alison joined The Attic Learning Community as the Fundraising Coordinator in 2014. Her belief that public service is at the heart of healthy communities is what drew her into the non-profit sector. Alison grew her career in non-profit development while living in New Zealand for eight years. She held positions at the HELP Foundation, the Auckland SPCA, and the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. She specializes in revitalizing underperforming fundraising programs by reactivating donors, writing successful grant applications, building mutually beneficial relationships with major donors, introducing successful direct mail programs, and implementing large fundraising events.
Alison attended the University of Idaho, earning a BS in public communication and writing. She and her husband are the parents of two young children, one a Field and Forest learner. Alison is proud to work at The Attic and to be a part of reimagining what education can be for our children.
Michelle is thrilled to be joining The Attic Community as a science teacher. Originally from Maryland, Michelle has spent many hours swimming, canoeing, and camping around the Chesapeake Bay. She has also worked with a variety of organizations dedicated to improving the health of the Bay through organizing clean-ups and analyzing water and soil samples. These experiences shaped her belief that people must feel connected to a place in order to take action to preserve it. She decided to pursue her teaching degree so she could share her love of the outdoors and environmental stewardship with others. Michelle holds an M.Ed from the University of Washington in Seattle and a certificate from the IslandWood Graduate Program in Education for Environment and Community on Bainbridge Island.
Michelle comes to The Attic after spending the past 11 years teaching science to students from K-8th grade in charter and independent schools in New York City. She is excited to return to the northwest and be part of a community that values hands-on, inquiry-based learning experiences. In her free time, Michelle loves to hike and camp, paddle through salt marshes, curl up with a good book, and spend time with her family.
Freda was born, raised, and schooled in the city of Cork, Southern Ireland. After completing secondary school, she attended The Crawford Municipal school of Art, where she completed course work in metal design, art history, and charcoal sketching, before leaving Ireland to travel. She lived and worked in Europe (mainly Germany and Spain) for three years. Freda then returned to Ireland, where she worked for the next three years assisting in the field of occupational therapy for mentally and physically disabled youth until 1986. Freda has lived in the Seattle area since 1990. Over the years, she has traveled extensively, throughout Central and South America, the Greater Middle East, Asia, South East Asia and Australia, and she has worn many ‘noble’ hats to earn her keep along the way. Prior to joining Field & Forest, Freda worked as an assistant teacher at the Monarch Preschool in Seattle for ten years. She is the parent of an Attic alumna.
Dylan joined The Attic’s teaching team in 2016, teaching social studies part-time while finishing his Masters in Teaching degree at Northwest College. After finishing his degree, he began teaching full-time at The Attic in the fall of 2017, teaching Middle and High School Programs history and social science classes, as well as Middle Program mathematics. Dylan himself was a student at The Attic Learning Community from 1999 through his high school graduation in 2010. He then attended Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, graduating in 2014 with a degree in political science. He also enjoyed attending Quiet Heart Wilderness School outdoor programs throughout his youth, ultimately working as a lead youth camp counselor for the summer program for several years.
Dylan not only understands the importance of intrinsic motivation and trusting the child, he has lived it throughout his own education.
Rae Sandstrom has a MFA in Creative Writing and has taught art and writing therapy workshops across the UK and the PNW. They have been an educator for children ages 6 and up and love watching how children connect with nature and storytelling. Rae has also worked with persons of all ages with disabilities, mental health, and homelessness for nearly ten years.
Jeremy began teaching at The Attic in 2018, where he leads middle and high school science classes and teaches math to learners of all ages, as well as taking care of facilities. He has been part of The Attic community, however, since 2009, when he enrolled his daughter as an Attic learner. He was drawn to The Attic because of its student-driven teaching philosophy. Children learn through discovery and natural interests, and The Attic recognizes this and structures itself around their needs. Jeremy earned a BS in physics from the University of Washington. Prior to joining The Attic’s faculty, he was a software developer for nine years, working in office products and video games, and later a stay-at-home dad.
Elise Valsquier brings a love of simplicity, a keenness for life-long learning, and a strong belief in the wisdom of children to her role supporting The Attic’s outdoor programs for young children as the Director of Field & Forest Programs. Growing up a Northwest native, she spent much of her time in the outdoors living her motto: “If you got wet and dirty, it must have been fun!” Elise’s educational background covers a lifetime and many topics, including constructivist teaching methods, positive communication skills, child development and attachment, healthcare, mathematics, biology, ecology, primitive skills and tipi habitation, herbalism, writing, calligraphy, and equine management and massage.
She has been teaching at The Attic Learning Community since 2009. Teaching with this phenomenal community has given her a deep grounding in constructivist teaching and fluidity with the dance of supporting child-led learning. Elise feels that honoring our children, their passions, and their connection to the earth is the most powerful way to create a better world. As well as teaching at The Attic, Elise is the proud parent of an Attic graduate.
Since 2016, Norma has been on staff at The Attic as the Director of Chaos Abatement, overseeing facilities and operations. Prior to becoming staff, she was actively involved at The Attic as a parent volunteer. From 2002 to 2008, Norma was a Campaign Manager and Research Analyst for Children’s Home Society of Washington. In addition, she served as a board member on the Peter M. Putnam Foundation and Daxton’s Fish. She earned her BA and MA in political science from the University of Florida. Norma and her husband are elated that their son is an Attic student.
Erika joined The Attic as a parent in 2015. Before accepting the position of Interim Executive Director in July 2019, she volunteered extensively at The Attic in program support, fundraising, and as Board Secretary. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey (BA, 2003) and Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law (JD, 2007, cum laude). As an attorney, Erika has worked in both the private and nonprofit sectors. She has a background in litigation and business law and has always had a special interest in working with children. She served as a pro bono attorney for the Children’s Attorney Project, where she represented children in the foster care system, and as a family law attorney working with victims of domestic violence.
Erika is an advocate at heart, and her work at The Attic gives her the unique opportunity to combine her passion for the well-being of children with her business and legal expertise. She believes deeply in the mission of The Attic, having seen its impact on not only her own children, but on all the children who come through The Attic’s doors, and she is excited to support The Attic as Executive Director during a period of growth. In her spare time, Erika enjoys creative writing, reading, and spending time with her husband and three children.
Christine has worked at The Attic since 2016. Christine has over a decade’s worth of experience working with children in camp, childcare, and classroom settings. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Asian studies from Whitman College and a Master in Teaching from the University of Washington.
She is delighted to be working with Attic children and sharing her passion for books, languages, and movement exercises. She finds authenticity key to building trust with children, and she appreciates that at The Attic children and adults get to be completely themselves. She stays at The Attic because the loving, supportive environment here brings out the best in kids and adults alike. Christine speaks Mandarin and Taiwanese, is a certified Bikram and Yin yoga instructor, and is a calming presence wherever she goes.