Faculty & Staff
Yuba River Charter School
Faculty and Staff Biographies
Doris Rainville was born in Rhode Island in 1951. She was an only child who loved to play in the woods. Her family moved to Southern California when she was ten years old. After high school she attended Cypress College, majoring in Drama. She married in her early twenties and had two children, Joshua and Celestial. Since children have been a main focus in her life, she studied early childhood education courses at Ohlone College. She was introduced to Waldorf education while living in Oregon in 1979. Shortly after, she moved to Fair Oaks to study at the Rudolf Steiner College. Doris then had three more children, Grace, Anna and Christopher.
Raising her children as a single mother, creative effort was put forth in developing ways of supporting her children while staying home raising them. She developed a doll business and provided full-time childcare. Using her training as a massage therapist also became a part of her work at home.
When Christopher started kindergarten, she became a kindergarten assistant in a Waldorf home kindergarten. In 1993-1995 she worked at Live Oak Waldorf School in their kindergarten. She did the Kindergarten training at Rudolf Steiner College and has a B.A. in Liberal Studies.
Caroline Wilson (Assistant)
Baruch Simon was born in Detroit, Michigan were he attended Upland Hills, a private arts-based-eco school run on renewable technology. Surrounded by music and the arts since birth, Baruch began studying piano at the age of 8 and continued his study of music including instrumental, choral and percussive genres. Baruch earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Oakland University in Rochester, MI in 2001.
After undergraduate school, Baruch chose to travel throughout the country working on organic farms through a work exchange program called Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Serendipic circumstances led him to explore the Waldorf programs while working at a farm in Carmichael, Ca. The intrigue in Waldorf education led Baruch to his first teaching position in the Waldorf kindergarten. After a year of teaching, he decided to pursue a graduate degree, which focused on Waldorf Education at Antioch New England Graduate School in Keene, NH. Upon graduating he earned a Master’s Degree in Education, a Waldorf Teaching Certificate and a New Hampshire State teaching credential.
Baruch joined the Yuba River Charter School faculty in 2007 teaching third grade to the class of 2013. Baruch now teaches Rose Kindergarten and is thrilled to be working in the Yuba River Community. He’s currently transferring his NH credential by earning a California Clear Credential through the North Coast Beginning Teacher Support Association.
Leslie Schwartz (Assistant)
Sweet Pea and Honey Dew Kindergarten (Coop Home Study Program)
Suzanne Scirpo was raised in a small farming community in North-Western Pennsylvania. She moved west to Colorado where her interest in Theatre began. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with an emphasis in Dance Lighting. After Santa Cruz she headed to New York City, working for Dance Theatre of Harlem and other dance and theatre company’s. Suzanne’s two children brought her to Waldorf Education and eventually to Yuba River Charter School in 1998. Suzanne’s passion for Waldorf Education inspired her to further her education. She completed her California state credential, Foundation Studies and is currently enrolled in Year Two of her Early Childhood Training. She is currently the Sweet Pea and Honey Dew Kindergarten Teacher.
Kevin Barnum upon becoming a father, awakened in himself a deep interest to educate and spend time with children. The lessons learned from caring for his first born child soon led Kevin to pursue working with children more intimately. He started a program with his wife, Kayla, called Quail Trotters, which sought to connect young children and their parents to nature in meaningful ways. It was during this experience that an acquaintance suggested to Kevin that he consider a career teaching in the classroom, which sparked Kevin’s interest in formal education.
Kevin knew he wanted to teach in a setting that honored and encouraged an appreciation for nature, and set out in search for an educational model that he found truly thoughtful and considerate of children’s needs. Only having heard briefly about Waldorf education in the past, Kevin became curious decided to travel to Fair Oaks and attend an open house event at Rudolf Steiner College, where he participated in a lecture where students were discussing freedom and what it meant to be truly free. Impressed to see an educational philosophy that first trained and encouraged teachers to think about the nature of freedom as a foundational course of study, Kevin decided to enroll in a Waldorf teacher training program that Fall. He has been very devoted to Waldorf education ever since, and is currently continuing his education at Rudolf Steiner college.
To supplement his Waldorf teaching certificate, Kevin also earned his California teaching credential from National University. During his time at National, Kevin was able to student teach both at Yuba River Charter School as well as at another public school in the area. Kevin is committed to providing free access to Waldorf education for the public, and is very much looking forward to embarking upon a new career at YRCS.
As Kevin enters his first year of teaching, he brings his natural love of storytelling, an affinity for movement and game play, a creative sense of artistry, and a high regard for parent-teacher and student-teacher relationships to his classroom. Kevin loves to do yoga, spend time with his wife and two young children, hike, and tend to the garden.
Karen Geisler (co-teacher) started her 22 years of elementary school teaching in the public schools of Madison, Wisconsin.
During the third of her four years teaching there, Karen was introduced to Waldorf Education. When her fourth year of teaching ended, she moved to Fair Oaks, CA, to attend Rudolf Steiner College. After gaining a Waldorf teacher’s certification, Karen turned to several years of raising 5 children. Karen & her family moved to Grass Valley in 1981, and, in 1986 she began using her Waldorf training by teaching for seven years at Mariposa School. When the school closed its doors, she taught one year at Live Oak Waldorf School, and then 10 years as a class teacher at Yuba River Charter School. At the end of 10 years, Karen took a 2 year break and has come back to Yuba River as a co-teacher.
Alex Lieberman (health & safety aide)
Dan Martinez was born and raised in San Jose, California. Ever since his early childhood he has had a great interest in learning and outdoor adventuring. Dan began teaching at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School in 1987. Since then he has served as a teacher at Mariposa Waldorf School and Yuba River Charter School, and has operated his own landscaping business and a family storage business. His love of teaching brought him back to our community where he led the YRCS class of 2011 on its journey through grade five and now leads the class of 2016. Dan has his B.A. in Liberal Studies.
Andrea Weeks (co-teacher) was born in Jamaica and has lived in the United States since 1985. She was introduced to Waldorf education through the Miami International Waldorf School in Miami, Florida, and both her children have been Waldorf students since kindergarten. She has a Master’s degree in elementary education, and has been teaching at Yuba River Charter School since 2011. Prior to that, she was actively involved in the life of both Yuba River Charter School and Live Oak Waldorf School. Andrea and her family have lived in Northern California since 2004, when they left Florida and headed west in search of new adventures.
Erik Bell was born in the Sacramento Valley. His family, including his older sister, traveled, camped, skied and enjoyed time in the outdoors. Erik graduated from Humboldt State with a B.A. in Teacher Prep Multiple Subjects and minor in Art. During college he worked as a whitewater raft guide and spent the next decade challenging and developing his river skills. He formed a video company traveling around capturing tourists rafting trips and extreme video of himself and friends kayaking throughout North America and Mexico. Erik also taught Nordic skiing and helped develop a kids kayak program for Wolf Creek Wilderness. Erik started substitute teaching in 1997 and was a popular substitute in Nevada County for many years. Being familiar with Waldorf education Erik started as a substitute teacher for YRCS and became a class teacher and games teacher in 2006. With the opening of the Community Learning Center at YRCS through the Rudolf Steiner College, Erik formally completed his Waldorf teacher training graduating with his Waldorf Certificate in 2009. Erik was hired as the first grade teacher for the 2007-08 school year.
Elise Hierman (co-teacher)
Heather Grace Peery was born in Utah, but has lived in California since 1982. She attended Sacramento Waldorf School for two years in her early years. Her family moved to the Auburn area, which is where she primarily grew up. She is an alumnus of the first graduating class of 1989 at Live Oak Waldorf School in Applegate. Her mother also taught kindergarten there. She graduated from Bear River High School in 1993. Since then she graduated from Humboldt State in 1997 with a B.A. in Psychology, and a minor in Art. She also received her Multiple Subjects and Education Specialist Credentials from CSU, Chico in 2004, while raising a young son. She also got her Waldorf certification from Rudolf Steiner College in 2010. She taught special education as a resource teacher for three years before taking a 2nd grade class at YRCS in 2007. Heather and her son, Jedidiah, who is currently in 5th grade live in Penn Valley. In her spare time Heather likes to travel. She has been all over Europe twice. Some highlights included the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, and Chartres cathedral in France. She has also been to Mexico and Hawaii multiple times. She has traveled all throughout the southwest and New York City. She just returned from a 2 week trip to Ireland summer 2014. She enjoys taking many photos along the way.
Leila Barber has been teaching elementary school for 20 years. Leila and her husband Michael live in an old miner’s cabin built in 1880 in Nevada City. They raised two sons, Gabe & Jesse, who are now grown up. Leila loves to read, hike, sing, play guitar and spend time hanging out with her family. Leila graduated with her Waldorf Certificate the summer of 2009.
Claudia Moanna was born in Chicago and a few years later, she arrived in California to experience the 60’s as a young child both in Berkeley and Davis. She spent her middle and high school years in New Jersey where she looked for any moments she could to immerse herself in nature. After excursions to Atlantic beaches and hikes along the Appalachian Trail, she decided to follow memories of camping and hiking in the Sierras and gradually made her way back to California via Colorado and Washington State. Claudia now lives in Sierra County between the Middle and North forks of the Yuba River where she enjoys the natural world around her in all its wildness.
After 19 years of teaching in various capacities at Yuba River Charter School, Nevada City School of the Arts, Stepping Stones Preschool and Blue Oak Charter School in Chico, she has returned full circle to Yuba River Charter School here in Nevada City. With a B.A. in Humanities from New College of California and a multiple subjects teaching credential from CSU Chico, Claudia is currently involved in the Waldorf Teaching Certification Hybrid program at Rudolph Steiner College in Fair Oaks.
Paula Barber is the descendent of a long line of Nevada County natives. Her ancestors originally came to Cherokee (now Tyler) to grow vegetables for the miners in the 1850s.
Although born in Sacramento, California, at the age of nine Paula returned with her family to their native Nevada County. Paula graduated from Sierra College, with an A.A. in Social Science and from California State University with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. Paula graduated with her Waldorf Certificate from the Rudolf Steiner College in 2009. After marrying Steve Barber and having two sons, Samuel (Skippy) and Josiah, Paula returned to college to earn her teaching credential. Paula pinches herself, daily, as she realizes her dream of being part of Yuba River Charter School’s outstanding teaching community.
Jackie Kolenko’s roots are steeped in the Midwest, particularly the green pastures of Wisconsin, but it was her first visit to California in 1995, she realized that in her heart she was a California girl. That realization was put on hold as she pursued being a parent with her husband, Ray, to raise their son, EliJah. Amidst having the family farm life (a cow, goats, chickens, an organic veggie garden, yes, the whole bit), Jackie was blessed to have had the opportunity to teach at Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School in Viroqua, WI, taking her first class from Gr. 1 through 8, and her second class from Gr. 5-8. She also taught the following classes at the adjacent Waldorf High School, Youth Initiative: Art History, Jam Band, Life Skills, Tribal Belly Dance and Independent Study Italian. She also taught English to Italian students for 3 consecutive summers, 2007-2009. She has professional performance experience in dancing, acting and playing music. She is overjoyed to have been called to this beautiful community in California (finally) and to such a strong, leading school in the Waldorf Charter movement. Her institutional education is as follows: B.A. Fine Arts-Oshkosh, WI; The Foundation Studies of Waldorf Education-Sofia Institute; The Art of Teaching Gr.1-7-Rudolf Steiner College, Millenial Child Workshops, Waldorf Teacher Training Center-Toronto; ESL certificate in Italy-ACLE, and CalStateTeach Credentialing Program.
Home Study & Farm Program
Raelynn Noel (Educational Specialist in the Home Study Program) has lived in Nevada County most of her life. She earned an A.A. at Sierra College, a B.A. at Chico State in Liberal Studies and Environmental Education, and a Teaching Credential from Prescott College. In her credential program, she was able to focus on Waldorf education methods. She is enrolled in the Waldorf Teaching Certification Hybrid program at Rudolph Steiner College in Fair Oaks.
Previous to working at YRCS, Raelynn worked as specialist teacher in a home-study program for ten years and home schooled her son for three years using a Waldorf curriculum. She is very excited to be part of launching our school’s home study program and working as the third grade co-teacher. She has two boys in the school and enjoys spending time with her family outdoors, gardening and recreating.
Little Creek Nursery
Connor Riley (Director and Lead Teacher)
Indira Basnet (Assistant Teacher) was a teacher in her native country of Nepal. Indira comes from a small village where she walked several miles up and down the mountain to attend school daily. She was the first of her family to leave Nepal and come to the United States with her husband and daughter Riya. Indira started her work in education in the US as a preschool assistant for Marguerite Vulfs. She then had her second child, her son Raj. She later joined the Little Creek Nursery program as a preschool assistant and continues to further her studies in early childhood and Waldorf education.
Kidspace After- School Program
Diane West (Lead Teacher) is honored to be working as the Director of Yuba River Charter School After-School Program. After receiving her Bachelors Degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Chil Dev. & Teaching Credential at CSU Chico, she received a Masters Degree in Human Dev. at Pacific Oaks College. While finishing her schooling she worked as a Preschool Teacher and Director for 13 years and then recently taught Jr. K and Kindergarten for four years.
Diane grew up in Pasadena, CA and now lives in Grass Valley with her husband. She likes to spend time with her son, Brian and daughter Laura. Her two grandsons, and granddaughter are the light of her life. In her spare time Diane enjoys reading and taking long walks.
Sandi Eyre (Assistant Teacher) also known as “Grandma Sandi” has lived in Nevada County for over 50 years. She was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and moved to Grass Valley when she was 8 years old. Sandi has two adult children and five grandchildren with two of her grandchildren enrolled at YRCS. Before becoming a staff member, Sandi volunteered in kindergarten where her grandchild called her grandma all the time and that is how she got her nickname “Grandma Sandi”. Sandi made an agreement with her grandchild that she could call her grandma in order to make her happy and ever since both Sandi and her grandchildren have been happy to be at YRCS.
Patricia Montijo was born into a Mexican-American family and raised in California. She spent much of her younger years riding her bicycle through apricot orchards near her home. She is part of a huge extended family of over 200 cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and compadres. Patricia went to San Jose State University, majoring in art. She became certified in Montessori education and taught pre-school and first graders. Later she was introduced to Waldorf education. After getting her Waldorf certificate she became a class teacher at YRCS taking a third grade class through eighth grade. Currently Patricia works at YRCS teaching Spanish, painting, some main lesson blocks and does teacher mentoring in the upper grades.
Deanna Ronningen has lived in Penn Valley with her husband two daughters since 1999. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area until her family relocated to South Lake Tahoe where she completed her high school years. Deanna worked in office administration prior to joining YRCS in December 2002. Inspired by the Waldorf Curriculum and the faculty at YRCS, Deanna volunteered in her children’s handwork classes and found herself falling in love with craft work. She attends conferences at Rudolf Steiner College whenever possible, to grow as a crafter and teacher. Deanna loves teaching in school, after school and during the summer. For several years she has coached the YRCS Rapids Girls Volleyball team. In her off time, Deanna spends most of her time with her family. She loves to garden, make jewelry and hang out on the family’s boat.
Randi Soule has been teaching violin in Nevada County since 1983. She plays with the Music in the Mountains and In Concert Sierra orchestras. This is Randi’s 11th year of teaching strings class at YRCS.
Ron Charles moved to Nevada County and the Yuba River community in 2007 with his wife Cheri (then 8 months pregnant) from Mendocino County where he taught at River Oak Charter School – a Waldorf Methods school in Ukiah, CA, carrying a class grades 5 – 8. Ron and Cheri’s son, Cyrus was born just 1 week before the start of the 2007 school year. Ron started at Yuba River by taking the 8th grade class of 2007/08. Since being a part of the Yuba River Faculty, Ron has worked in each of the Middle School classrooms and has started a successful guitar program for 8th Grade students.
Before becoming a teacher, Ron spent several years traveling throughout the world, visiting and learning from many different cultures. Music has also been a big part of Ron’s life since he was young and he has continued to pursue his own musical education through playing guitar as well as mandolin, banjo, singing and song writing. Ron is also very interested in the visual arts specifically drawing with a variety of mediums.
Ron has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Berry College in Rome, GA and earned his California Teaching Credential as well as his Master’s of Education from National University in Sacramento, CA.
Susan Egan holds a BA in Business Management and completed the California State Board of Education approved Charter School Chief business Officer Training through the Charter Schools Development Center. Susan’s business background started with college recruiting of engineers for a large electronic company in the Bay Area. She later entered the field of mortgage banking, opening several offices for several mortgage banking institutions. After the birth of her first child she received a real estate broker’s license and ran her own office. Upon moving to Grass Valley, Susan worked as a loan officer for a local savings and loan for several years until the birth of our charter school, at which time she joined Yuba River Charter School. In her spare time Susan loves music, gardening, spending time with friends & family, and the outdoors. Both of her children attended YRCS.
Krissa T Sutherland was born in Pleasant Hill, CA where she was raised happily with her family of 6. Upon graduating from High School, she received a full scholarship to San Francisco Academy of Art. After attending the Academy for 2 semesters, she switched gears and trained to be a Computer Technician. In 1982 she moved to Grass Valley, proceeded to have four daughters and was lucky enough to be a stay at home mother for 7 years. She then worked as office manager for an alternative building company where she learned about insulated panels, insulated cement, rammed earth, strawbale, and passive solar homes. The call to join the YRCS staff came and Krissa jumped at the chance to work for the community her daughters were part of. For fun she likes to be outdoors, paint, work with clay, cook, and play with her dogs.
Gina Canter grew up in Folsom and graduated from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. After graduating from college, Gina made Arroyo Grande, CA her home. She moved to Grass Valley in August 2014, and loves the area. Gina has two children, Will, who is a freshman in high school; and Jillian, who is in 4th grade. Gina worked in the hospitality industry for several years, and as an office manager. During the last year, Gina went back to school to refresh her education and received a bookkeeping certificate.
Laurie Barnett was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was in the purchasing profession in Silicon Valley for 15 years before she got the opportunity to be a “stay at home mom” for her 4 children; a job which she cherished and was fortunate to have. However her “stay at home” job found her everywhere but home! She was active in many school, neighborhood, sports and charity organizations. Her positions ranged from volunteer, secretary, team mom, fund raiser chair, to (perhaps the most challenging job) Coach’s Wife!
After researching many locations, Laurie and her family moved to Nevada County in 2002. After the move, Laurie found herself once again involved in the same sort of activities. She was board president of the parent association at a local middle school, chaired the auction and corporate sponsorship at MOMs on the Mountains for several years and volunteered for other local non profits in Nevada County. She was employed at another local charter school for 4 years before landing at YRCS in 2011; a job which she refers to as her Dream Job, in a place that feels like home.
The characteristics that set YRCS apart from any other school (both public and private) that she has been associated with are: the clear school vision, strong leadership, phenomenal parental involvement and the dedication of the teachers. Any family who has experience at another school then comes to the Yuba River Charter community surely must appreciate the difference. It is a pleasure for her to come to work each day and she hopes it shows. Helping students, parents and teachers is very rewarding to her.
Laurie loves to read and is writing a book chronicling her journey from life in the Fast Lane (Silicon Valley) to life in the Just Right Lane (Nevada County). She and her husband Dan are proud dotting grandparents of two beautiful grandsons and love every minute of their time with their growing family.
Library/Play Ground Duty/Handwork Teacher Grades 4-8
Catherine Ardagh was born in France and has lived in several places including Canada, England, India and Indonesia. Catherine is the single mother of two wonderful boys, Abhi and Shuba. Her professional background includes pre-school teacher, massage/hypnotherapist and graphic design. Catherine is the librarian and handwork teacher for grades 4-8 here at Yuba River Charter School and in her spare time loves handwork, gardening, and spending quality time with her boys.
Jim Inman – Maintenance
JoAn Stikes grew up in Northern Michigan. JoAn attended Michigan State and began teaching first grade in Manister, Michigan. JoAn then moved to Atlanta, GA, where she took Montessori training. JoAn spent summers on her Uncle’s farm picking cherries, enjoying Lake Michigan and playing with cousins. Family vacations usually involved travel and often camping. Music was an integral part of JoAn’s childhood. As her mom, sisters and JoAn sang in a quartet, they all played piano and guitar and JoAn’s mom and dad loved to dance. In 1973, JoAn moved to Oakland with a girlfriend and by 1978, JoAn was married with two children; her son, Eric and her daughter, Lisa. JoAn’s family moved to Penn Valley in March of 1981 and bought their home. She has continued her education in this area by teaching in Mary Cabral’s school, Nevada City Elementary School, and with the Head Start program for eight years, while also getting her Masters degree in Special Education at Sacramento State. JoAn finds her work as a Resource Specialist very rewarding.
Speech and Language Specialist
Patti Howard was born in San Jose, California surrounded by close extended family. Both grandmothers were educators who encouraged her love of learning. The family kept close ties after moving to Fresno where she grew up with three congenial siblings digging forts in the sandy soil with neighborhood children, bicycling to the library, and singing in the church choir. She graduated with honors and attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. She and her husband lived in a crafts community in the wooded hills above Napa before moving to Nevada County in 1979 where they established a studio pottery and built their home off the grid near North Bloomfield. They have raised three fine and busy sons who played and adventured the local terrain above the South Yuba River in between school and sports activities. Family functions included hauling clay and wood, building projects, cooking, gardening, loading kilns and traveling the state to arts and crafts festivals. Patti was also an instructional aide at the local school for fifteen years. There, her passion was kindled for child development, particularly the flowering of language and communication skills. When the home nest emptied, she returned to college graduating in May 2010 from the Master’s Program in Speech Pathology and Audiology at the University of Nevada, Reno. She now enjoys a lively and fulfilling career assisting children with their communication skills in three charter school communities in Nevada County.
Paula De Silva
Special Education Aide