2017-2018 Faculty & Staff

Doris Rainville
Lavender Kindergarten
Lead Teacher

Doris 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 Teacher

Bio to follow.

Natasha Vinson
Rose Kindergarten
Lead Teacher

Natasha Vinson has returned to our school, this time as lead teacher of Rose Kindergarten this year.  We are so pleased to have her back, and when the year settles we will be posting her biography…

yubariver.plsis.com lesli
 Lesli McCartney
Assistant Teacher

Lesli was raised in a small farming community in Michigan.  She graduated with a bachelor of science degree in Psychology from Western Michigan University.  In 1997 she moved to Pasadena, CA where she began her work serving children with special needs.

In 2005 she came with home schooling friends to Nevada City.  Work as a one on one aid in Leila Barber’s 5th grade class fueled Lesli’s interest in Waldorf education.  Lesli has been working with great love as the assistant in Rose K since 2010.  She is pursuing a Waldorf certification in early childhood education at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA.

Suzanne Scirpo
Sweet Pea & Honey Dew
Lead Teacher

Suzanne 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 University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in Theatre Arts and 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. After working at YRCS in various supportive roles she joined the faculty in 2009. She completed her Foundation Studies and  Early Childhood Training at the Rudolph Steiner College. She is currently the Sweet Pea and Honey Dew Kindergarten Teacher.

Erik Bell
Grade One
Lead Teacher

Erik 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.

Weeks -Andrea
Andrea Weeks
Grade One
Teacher Assistant

Andrea 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.

Cale Brandley
Grade Two 
Lead Teacher

Cale was born and raised in Berkeley, California.  On his ninth birthday, he received a saxophone as a gift, which helped to kindle a life-long enthusiasm for music.  As a young saxophonist, Cale had performed at festivals in Japan, Switzerland, Holland, and South Africa—all before his 21st birthday.  Cale received a liberal arts degree from New York University in Manhattan, where he augmented his study of music with courses in mythology and cosmology.  During this time he studied independently the craft of instrument making, and worked for a brief time as a woodworker’s assistant.  After working two years for a farmer in northern New Jersey, Cale returned home to Berkeley, and while working in that city’s sustainable food movement he heard the calling to pursue teaching as a life’s work.  Before moving to the Sierra Foothills, he had worked in the East Bay as a music teacher, a kindergarten assistant, and as a garden instructor.

Elli Hierman
Grade Two 
Teacher Assistant
RTI Specialist

Elli grew up in the Chicago area and received her Multi-Subject Credential and Master of Arts in Teaching degree in 1986.  She taught for 7 years in a suburb of Chicago before moving to Ananda Village in Nevada city with her husband in 1993.  At Ananda she worked for the Education for Life Foundation and taught a 3re/4th grade class.  Elli and husband Larry bought a little house in Grass Valley in 1998, soon after their first daughter was born.  Elli co0founded Sierra Madres and Padres, a local parenting organization, and was involved with the management of that group for a few years.  She took a break from teaching to stay home with her children while they were young.  Her daughters attended in-home Waldorf preschools, and Elli hosted one in her home.  In 2004 Elli and Larry became founding members of Nevada City Co-housing and had the joy of living there with their family from 2006-2011.  Elli served as the enthusiastic tour guide for the community.  Soon after receiving her California teaching credential, Elli joined the YRCS faculty as a co0teacher in 2007, the year her younger daughter began first grade.  She loves and respects her colleagues and has had the pleasure of helping several of them in grades 1-3.  She derives great joy from all the children she has had the pleasure to know and watch grow up at YRCS.

Claudia Moanna
Grade Three
Lead Teacher

Claudia 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.

 Jennifer Machado
Grade Three
Teacher Assistant

Jennifer Machado was born and raised in Grass Valley. After several years of world travel and earning a Master of International Policy Studies, Jennifer returned to Northern California to start her family. When her son was 4 she began looking for an appropriate pre-school and stumbled upon Waldorf inspired education. Jennifer has worked in the field of public and private education for more than 10 years, both as a teacher and as an administrator. She recently attended education classes at the Rudolf Steiner College and is currently being mentored by experienced Waldorf-trained instructors. Jennifer brings a unique combination of local history and connections as well as extensive international experience to Yuba River Charter School. 

Kevin Barnum
Grade Four
Lead Teacher

Kevin 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 entered his first year of teaching, he brought 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.


Stephanie photo
Stephanie Ruff
Grade Four
Dan Martinez
Grade Five
Lead Teacher

Dan 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.

Jacquelynn Kolenko
Grade Six
Lead Teacher

Mrs. 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), Jacquelynn 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, Millennial Child Workshops, Waldorf Teacher Training Center-Toronto; ESL certificate in Italy-ACLE, and CalStateTeach Credentialing Program.

taj o'brien
Taj O’Brien
Grade Seven
Lead Teacher

For Taj, years of exploring the world, seeking truth, and dedicating himself to serving humanity culminated in the discovery of Waldorf Education. Born just outside Vancouver, BC, Canada, where most of his childhood was filled with playing hockey and baseball, as a young man he finished his B.A. in English & History at Vancouver Island University, and went on to pursue more experiences and passions involving music, nature, and foreign cultures. His journeys included hitch-hiking across North & Central America with his acoustic guitar, learning holistic healing ways from elders of several Native American tribes, and studying yoga and meditation in India. A moment of clarity happened while hiking through the Himalayas, practicing yoga with children of an old Tibetan village, days away from any modern road. The pure faces of children attempting movements and postures with him ignited a realization of his mission to teach.

            Taj arrived in Nevada City in 2009 to attend a Yoga Teacher Training program at a local studio, and met his future wife Stephanie at The Fix for Foodies, the organic raw food restaurant run by her and her Strong family. Married in 2012, he became full-time manager of The Fix, where the daily grind of business was met by commitment to health, consciousness, and family. Through living in this community, friendships developed with several members of the Yuba River Charter School, and his mission to teach led him to pursue further studies at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA, graduating with a Waldorf Teaching Certificate, and then a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from California State University. Taj has now volunteered and worked at schools and youth centers in India, Mexico, Quebec, California, and Hawaii, where he taught at ROOTS School and Haleakala Waldorf High School on the island of Maui. He began working at YRCS in 2016. From time to time, he performs around town songs inspired by his world adventures and inner reflections.

Kate Haight
Grade Eight
Lead Teacher

Bio to follow.

Home Study & Farm Program

Raelynn Noel
Educational Specialist
in the Home Study Program
Lead Teacher

Raelynn 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.

Amelia Pedini
Home Study Teacher Assistant

Originally hailing from the Greater Boston area, Amelia holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Philosophy and has sought to apply her academic background through inspired service whereever she goes. Her passion for sustainable farming, service, and youth education has led her to pursue work across the country and abroad. After serving two AmeriCorps service terms with City Year Philadelphia as a curriculum writer and as an elementary educator with Cooking with Kids in Santa Fe, she joined FoodCorps as a state wide program coordinator for FoodCorps New Mexico and  FoodCorps Hawaii, supporting the Farm to School and school garden efforts of two state wide service member cohorts. Additionally, she has spent several years traveling through Central America, where she became certified in Permaculture Design and Hatha Yoga in Guatemala, and served as a Volunteer Coordinator for an educational Agroforesty and Permaculture project in Nicaragua.

Most recently, she served as farm educator with Sierra Harvest’s Food Love Farm program, teaching local elementary students about small-scale, sustainable farming through educational field trips and summer camps. She also recently finished her first season with First Rain Farm as part of their part time farm crew in order to continue to deepen her working knowledge of organic production farming in Nevada County. 

Amelia believes that educating the next generations about real food  is part of a massive shift towards a more peaceful, just, and healthy world. Amelia returns to her roots as an educator, inspired by several personal and professional mentors who were Waldorf Teachers themselves. She aspires to deepen her knowledge and experience of this revolutionary educational philosophy through further training and certification. In her free time she loves to go hiking, relax at the river, practice yoga and dance, or learn something new in a book or a class. Amelia loves Nevada County for it’s wealth of culture, beautiful natural surroundings, and vibrant community.

Little Creek Nursery

Lisa Burk
Lisa Burk
Interim Little Creek Director and
Lead Teacher

Lisa Burk (Interim Little Creek Director and Lead Teacher for 2016-17 school year) is excited to be stepping in this fall as the Director/Lead Teacher at Little Creek Preschool while Connor is out on an extended maternity leave.  Lisa first found the Yuba River Charter School community while looking for a Waldorf school for her oldest son, Alex-now 23. Lisa lives in Nevada City with my husband, Bob, and two youngest children. Lisa also has 3 grown step-daughters who have blessed her with 6 grandchildren.  Lisa’s background is in Child Development where she has taught preschool for many years in private, public, and special education programs.  This year Lisa has been able to volunteer weekly both in kindergarten and Little Creek and substituted in Little Creek as well.  Lisa serves on the Parent Council and is Co-Chair of the Nutrition Committee. Lisa so happy to be joining the early childhood team at YRCS and says it feels like coming home!

Jess Devine
Teacher Assistant

Bio to follow.

Kidspace After-School Program

Adam Profile
Adam Trowbridge

My name is Adam Trowbridge.  I currently live at Ananda Village with my wife and 2 year-old son.  I was born in Minnesota and grew up near San Diego until I went to college at UC Berkeley.  After college I tried my hand at conquering the corporate world, only to realize (after four years of work) that I would never be cut out for a career in any part of corporate America.  I realized that I loved working with kids and decided to try my hand at being a teacher.  After four years working with young ones (mostly 4-6 y/o) I feel like I’ve found my calling in life.  I am enamored of the profound change we see in children during these years, and I have been very lucky to work in great preschools and elementary schools where children are given the tools and the love they need to thrive.  I sincerely enjoy working with the children and staff of YRCS.

Sandi Eyre
Sandi Eyre
Assistant Teacher

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.


Wayland Whitney
Advanced Violin/Cello

Wayland Whitney is in his second year as music specialist at YRCS. Wayland began conducting and teaching in 2009 after co-founding the Placer County Youth Orchestra in Roseville, CA. By 2015, he graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in Music Performance, having studied viola with Ellen Ruth Rose, piano with Lois Brandwynne, and conducting with Matilda Hofman and Jeffrey Thomas. In 2016, he left the PCYO to become music director and conductor of the Music in the Mountains Youth Orchestra in Nevada City, CA, as well as Music Specialist for YRCS. Wayland has performed professionally with ensembles across the greater Sacramento region, and is currently a member of the Auburn and Folsom Lake Symphonies. He also maintains a small studio of private violin, viola, and piano students. When he’s not in rehearsal, Wayland enjoys gardening, homemade pizza, and craft beer.

Jordan Thomas-Rose

Bio to follow

Jacob Aginsky
Music Theory

Jacob Aginsky started playing the piano at five years old. By the time he was eleven, he showed enough talent to be admitted into the San Francisco Conservatory. Within a few years, however, he had quit in search of a good jazz teacher. Since then he has studied with notables Randy Craig, Mark Levine, Herbie Hancock and Eddie Marshall, as well as going through the University of California at Santa Cruz and San Francisco State’s Music Performance program.  Jacob first started touring Europe in the mid 90s with his Pacific Blue Jazz Quintet. In ’95, he was invited to tour solo through Japan as a harlem-stride style pianist. He has produced many recordings, some of which have been wrestled from the hands of labels and are available to the public

Since the later half of the 90s, Jacob became more involved with the DJ community, exploring the boundaries between the contemporary rhythms of trip-hop, jungle and drum-and-bass and the spontaneity and improvisation of jazz. He has recorded with some of the finest turntablists, including DJ Quest and Cut Chemist. His live chill-out project Subnautic received much acclaim, and he continues to work alongside the wonderfully talented vocalist Gretchen Lieberum.

Jacob has taught music at San Francisco State and the Stanford Jazz Workshop.  Yuba River Charter School is very fortunate to have him as a parent and as a music theory specialist and afterschool Band Teacher for upper grades.


Ron Charles
Ron Charles
School Director

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
Susan Egan
Business Manager

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 offices for several mortgage banking institutions. After the birth of her first child Susan 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 YRCS. In her spare time Susan loves music, gardening, spending time with friends & family, and being outdoors. Both of her children attended YRCS.

Paula Barber
Curriculum Specialist

Paula 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. After realizing her dream of being such a treasured part of Yuba River Charter School’s outstanding teaching community, she has now transitioned into the leadership role of Curriculum Specialist.

Office Staff


MaryJane Huenergardt
Development Director

MaryJane Huenergardt was born in Los Angeles, and since then has lived in over two dozen places around the country and abroad. Her deepest family roots are in Kentucky, Georgia, and San Francisco. As she moved to Grass Valley with her family from Martinez in 2013, usually she just says she’s from the Bay Area when asked. She was educated at University of Michigan (BA ’99) and Belmont University (MBA ’02), and has a professional background in database-driven sales analysis and contracts management. She loves development because she gets to connect the neat parts of her past work with experience she’s gained through hobbies and volunteer pursuits. When she’s not focused on fundraising for YRCS, she is raising her three girls, spending time with her husband, organizing a YMCA in Western Nevada County, and upcycling.

Krissa T. Sutherland
Office Manager

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, straw bale, and passive solar homes. The call to join the YRCS staff came and Krissa jumped at the chance to work for the community of which her daughters were a part.  For fun she likes to be outdoors, paint, work with clay, cook, and play with her dogs.

Molly Smith
Molly Smith
Attendance Clerk

Molly Smith was born and raised in Nevada County, married to her (after) high school sweetheart, and was blessed with a daughter in 2009.  Molly quit her corporate job to be a stay at home mom.  Working part time as a manicurist, she desired a more consistent work schedule while her daughter was in school.  Molly says “When I was welcomed into YRCS, the outpouring of love and warmth made me feel I was exactly where I knew I belonged.”

Laurie Barnett
School Secretary

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.



Ashley Johnson
Enrollment Coordinator

Ashley was born and raised in Southern California but has called Northern California home for 17 years.  Her childhood was spent tagging along on her father’s work travels for NASA – from meandering the National Mall in D.C. to exploring satellite launch pads in the jungles of French Guyana.  Bit by the traveling bug, Ashley has visited 46 states and 30-odd countries…so far!  She enjoyed a 12 year career in the Senior Care Industry doing marketing, administration and 8 years as an Activity Director.  After the birth of her second child, Ashley decided to stay home with her two children, Jacob and Avonlea.  When Jacob was in preschool Ashley and her husband looked all over the country for the school and community where they wanted their children to grow up.  With a passion for public Waldorf education and roots in Nevada County, Yuba River Charter School was their first choice.  They moved to be closer and were overjoyed when he got a spot in Little Creek and then in Lavender Kindergarten.  He is now in 3rd grade while his little sister is in her second year of Kindergarten.  With both kids happily in school, Ashley is thrilled to serve YRCS as the Enrollment Coordinator.  She continues to love traveling, now with family in tow.  Last summer they all took an 8 country whirlwind tour of Europe!  When home, Ashley loves to craft and create – especially sewing, needle felting and Waldorf doll making.

Special Education Staff

Grace Medeiros

Bio to follow.

Jasmin Webster
Speech and Language Specialist


Jasmin Webster was born and raised in Liberty, Missouri.  She attended Kansas State University and obtained her  bachelor’s degree in Family Studies and Human Services.  Knowing she wanted to work with children, but unsure of what setting that might be in, Jasmin jumped around in different placements trying to find a good fit.  She worked in county run group homes in the Kansas city area, provided respite services for families, and eventually moved to Phoenix, Az to be closer to her sister and brother-in-law.  In Phoenix, Jasmin began working in the children’s behavioral health field as a case manager.  She realized she wanted to work more directly with children, and eventually found speech and language services.  She moved to Salt Lake City and attended the University of Utah to obtain her masters in Speech Language Pathology.  After graduating, she and her husband realized they wanted to be closer to family, so they moved to the Nevada County area in order to spend more time with her husband’s family.  Jasmin and her husband enjoy spending time outside by hiking, camping, traveling, and visiting family in Missouri. 

Specialist Staff

Karin Meadows
Movement Specialist/Office Assistant

Karin was born in California but grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  She obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, focusing on epistemology and metaphysics, with a minor in horticulture.  Her days were spent in study groups within the Peobody school of Philosophy and then caring for acres of greenhouse plants.  As a continuation of the search for who we are as humans, she trained at the Association Montessori Internationale and worked as a preschool teacher for four years with 3 to 6 year olds.

After a period of traveling, she settled in Grass Valley in 2004 and started a family.  Following her daughter to our school in 2011, Karin jumped in to studying Steiner’s insights in regards to human development and our human evolution.

Currently she is in the Spacial Dynamics Training, working as our Middle School Movement Specialist as well as Administrative Support Staff. Outside of school she enjoys painting, sewing, sketching, gardening, juggling, writing, and swimming in the ocean.

Catalina Bolanos
Spanish Specialist
I was born in Costa Rica, I graduated in Special Education from National University of Costa Rica. I moved to Berkeley from my home country a few years ago and then moved to Nevada City. 
I am so happy to be part of Yuba River Charter School. I really enjoy teaching Spanish and I love being part of this community. 
Deanna Ronningen
Handwork Specialist

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.

JoAn Strikes
Resource Specialist

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.

Catherine Placke
Resource Specialist

Catherine Placke began as a Resource Specialist with YRCS during the 2014/2015 school year.  Catherine obtained her MA in Special Education from Santa Clara University in 1996.  She also holds a BA in Child Development from San Jose State University.  Waldorf education is what inspired her to obtain her teaching credentials.  While working in the mental health field in the 1980’s, Catherine connected with the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, since then she has been a regular workshop attendee at the Rudolf Steiner College.  “I have found throughout my career, researched best practices in education and mental health, always leads to the pedagogy found in Waldorf education”

Catherine has taught language and culturally diverse students in San Juan Bautista, Hollister and San Bruno.  Primarily, her teaching has been in the area of special education.  Recently, for five years, Catherine taught a Child Development course at Capuchino High School in San Bruno, where she directed a preschool laboratory utilizing Waldorf inspired practices that were congruent with research in the field of early childhood education.

Catherine is the mother of Adam, a third grade student.  Together, they live in Lake of the Pines and are nearing their fifth year in Nevada County.  She treasures the opportunity to bring her two loves together, teaching special education at a Waldorf school.  Working at Yuba River Charter School is a dream come true for Catherine.

Juliet Lin
Special Education Aide

Juliet Lin received her BA in Psychology and Dance at Oberlin College and her MA in Dance/Movement Therapy at Antioch New England Graduate School.  Dance is her passion.  Juliet has performed in the Bay Area and locally with the dance theater groups Glass Bead Players and Shadow Cabinet.  She loves to work with children teaching creative movement and in the healing arts.  She strongly believes in the integration of body/mind/spirit for the whole child.  Juliet is the mother of Baraka in the third grade class.   She is so excited to be working at YRCS.

Jim Inman

Jim Inman, was born March 1948 in Greeley Colorado.  He worked and lived on different farms and ranches until graduating Highland High in Ault, Colorado in 1966.  Jim spent 4 years in the U.S. Air Force and had 2 years of armament and electronics training on the F105 fighter, bomber.  His tenure with the Air Force included spending 1 year in Vietnam and 1 final year in Warner Robbins, Georgia. In 1970 Jim moved to California and went to work for Robinson Enterprises developing their petroleum division. After 35 years he retired.

In 1972 Jim married Barbara and they have 2 children, James and Jeanna, and 4 grandchildren. Jim has worked for Yuba River Charter School for approximately 10 years as a maintenance person.

Jim is an avid softball player and has been playing slow pitch softball since 1972 in the local area.  He is also on a traveling tournament team that plays throughout the western United States.  He is the manager of a tournament team called The Penn Valley Grays.  Jim has played softball in the Huntsman’s World Senior Games the past 11 years.  He won 1 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze medals playing for different teams.

Gilbert Klassy

At the age of 18 years old Gil was a Combat Medic and Scuba Diver with the US Army from 1966 to 1969. Following is time in the Army he went on to work for Union Pacific and Amtrak railroad and eventually ended up in the movie industry for 30+ years. Gil eventually retired and moved up to Penn Valley after his parents passed away. Growing up, he always loved the Grass Valley area and considered it a home away from home. He started coming up here in the late 50s and early 60s and spent summers with his aunt and uncle. In February 2008 Gill lost his wife to cancer. Gil has one daughter name Samantha. This is Gil’s third year at Yuba River Charter School, he loves the staff, teachers and the school.

Rachel Umphress
RTI & Math Specialist

Rachel was born in Birmingham, Alabama and lived in Michigan briefly before arriving in California in 1987.  She graduated from Nevada Union High School in 1993. She has a background in Child Development, with an Associates Degree that she got in 1998.  She worked at Head Start for 12 years before continuing her education, obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts and a Teaching Credential from Humboldt State University in 2006.  Rachel has worked in various capacities in education for the last 10 years, taking time off to have two sons,  one starting first grade, and one starting kindergarten at YRCS in the 2017-18 school year.  Rachel is delighted with Waldorf education, and plans to pursue training.  Most recently, Rachel has worked as an Electives Specialist at Grizzly Hill School, where she was able to bring ceramics, art, drama, movement, handwork, and physical education.  She also draws from her experience as a world traveler.

Library Specialist