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meet the team

I feel honored to be supported by a team of passionate & trusted educators, parents and experts in the field of child development. They are invaluable resources I turn to and collaborate with when making choices that affect your child’s education and care.

photo 5Nicole  –  Lead Teacher & Director

Working with preschoolers brings me overwhelming joy and fulfillment.  It’s what I do best, what I love most and what I plan to devote a lifetime to.

I have spent the last 13 years working with children–as a preschool teacher for 9 and a volunteer at a therapeutic residential treatment facility during my years away from teaching.  Concerns and frustrations with overly structured early childhood environments initially led me away from the field of education.  I spent a few years pursuing other careers, all the while resisting the pull to return to teaching.  I was thrilled to discover the existence of forest & outdoor preschools as well as the Reggio Emilia approach and quickly returned to teaching, this time with a renewed sense of purpose, passion and focus. I enjoyed the privilege of being a teacher and assistant director at an amazing Reggio-inspired, nature preschool in Austin in the years preceding the opening of Woodland Schoolhouse. Since then, I’ve also returned to the classroom as a student to complete my certificate in Child Development and am continuing toward a degree in Early Childhood Education (my previous degrees being in Film and Business).

There is nowhere I feel more alive than under a leafy, green canopy with a rushing creek beneath my feet.  Nothing moves me more than rediscovering this world through the eyes of a child.  I am deeply passionate about children’s need for a connection with nature and the opportunity to explore their world, unhindered. Thank you for considering Woodland Schoolhouse!  I am immensely excited and humbled to be your child’s guide.

Amylia – Assistant Teacher

I am an educator at heart. I love connecting through inquiry and discovery. I feel so fortunate to spend my days guiding young children, nurturing their development and facilitating learning through play. Every day at Woodland Schoolhouse we follow our curiosity, build community, and explore nature.

As a young adult I moved to Austin and began working with toddlers at Childcraft School. Here I learned about play based and child centered approaches and the influences of Bev Bos and Reggio Emilia.  I discovered the magic of observing children’s processes and following their lead.  I witnessed deep engagement in outdoor nature and sensory play.

Later I worked as a children’s residential instructor at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. A new philosophy was being implemented called “Gentle Teaching” which focused on building trust and emotional learning through positive reinforcement.  This relationship-driven approach resonated with me, and I knew I wanted to work in programs with social emotional learning at their core.  These early work experiences began to shape my vision for education of the whole person.

My own passion for nature led me toward work connecting others with outdoor learning experiences.  I became a naturalist and outdoor guide, leading tours at Austin’s Wild Basin Preserve and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  It was a delight to lead classes of school children through a day of outdoor discovery.  As an environmental educator for the Wildflower Center, I designed curriculum for school field trips and trained volunteers.  I developed and implemented “Discovery Packs,” family educational backpacks that can be checked out and used to explore the center.

My interest in the global interactions between humans and nature led me to pursue a degree in geography at Texas State University, where I graduated summa cum laude.  I participated in research studying spatial processing in young children.  I engaged in geographic education outreach, and was a project mentor for geography teachers at the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education summer institute.  I continued to work as an environmental educator, guiding groups of children through wetlands and on glass-bottom boat tours at the San Marcos Springs Aquarena Center.

Serving as an educator for visiting groups was fun and rewarding.  However, I felt a call to the classroom once again. I missed the intimacy and community involved in watching each student develop and grow.  In the Spring of 2013 I became a preschool teacher at Discovery School, an outdoor intensive program.  One of my directors there was Nicole Haladyna.  She was an inspiring mentor. It was a joy to work, learn, and exchange best practice ideas with her.  When she left to form her own pre-school program, Woodland Schoolhouse, I knew it would be of the highest quality and integrity. I stayed in touch, observing and subbing at Woodland whenever possible. I became a full time teacher here in the fall of 2017.

This school is an amazing place to work and grow! The small student to teacher ratio allows us to form a close community where where each child’s progress, challenges and social emotional learning can be carefully observed and responded to. Our nature outings are not just hikes, but full immersion experiences where much time is dedicated to play, inquiry and exploration.  Long periods of uninterrupted play allow the children to dive deep into creativity and imagination.  The beautiful Reggio Emilia influenced classroom is a dynamic environment with diverse inspiring materials.

Thank you for entrusting me with the privilege of guiding your children.  I am a mom who loves music, nature, travel and science.  My educational motto is “No child left inside!”

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Ellana – Substitute & Music Teacher

IMG_5327I am humbled and honored to be a part of Nicole’s team in this incredibly nurturing environment for kids. I believe we can change the world with unconditionally loved little ones. The support, exposure and freedom they get during this developmentally sensitive period makes for more caring, curious and innovative adults. I am the product of an alternative preschool and elementary schoolhouse setting that created the foundation for my love of learning and love of life. I’ve worked extensively with children as an experienced nanny/babysitter, private voice instructor, Gymboree play and music teacher, director of children’s theatre and am currently with Armstrong Community Music School. I hold a BFA from Western Michigan University in music theatre performance and a Masters in Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago. My passion is on the stage; I have performed with Esther’s Follies for six years now and I am loving every minute of it. I sing, dance, act, play banjo and ukulele and assist the magician. I am Program Director for our first ever School of Comedy summer camps, teaching and sharing the joys of Esther’s unique style of musical comedy.

I cannot wait to meet your little human beings- to find out what excites them, to explore the world with them and share all the fascination of imagination, play, music, dance and arts of all kinds.

Elisha  – Advisor & Parent Educator

Elisha2Through warm relatedness, heart-based play, and body-mind strategies, I partner with young kids and families to nurture relationships, regulate the nervous system, and address the root cause of emotional and behavioral concerns, often employing elements of the natural world.   I am a certified kids yoga teacher and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate with a Master of Arts in Counseling from St. Edward’s University.

As a mental health professional, I believe that connection with the natural world is a vital part of health and well-being.  Fostering a child’s relationship with nature may be one of the most important things we can do to enhance his or her social and emotional development.  It is my belief that our brains and bodies are designed to receive important sensory input from the natural world necessary for growth and development.  Emerging research even shows that interaction with nature can have incredibly beneficial effects, and in some cases reduces or eliminates the need for medication.  My experience is that connection with nature can improve mood, emotion regulation, self-awareness, and self-worth.

In my role as a consultant and parent educator at Woodland Schoolhouse, I am honored to support your child’s most important relationships: child to self, child to parent, child to peer, child to teacher and child to nature.

For more information about me, please visit my website at http://austinresiliencecounseling.com/.
Elisha Bidwell, MA, LMFT Associate