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RAE ALBERG (she/her/hers)
Founder & Director
BFS Est 12/2017

Rae is an educator, mother, and lover of all things colorful, creative, muddy and green. She has over 20 years of experience in the early childhood field, many spent working, thinking, dreaming and planning a program that supports the whole child.

 

Being inspired by Richard Louvs, “The Last child in the Woods,” and learning about the first Forest Kindergarten in the states, Rae was inspired to take steps to open a Forest School in Bend.

 

Rae has an Masters Degree and Oregon Teaching License in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education as well as a graduate certificate in Infant Toddler Mental Health from Portland State University. In 2016, Rae became a Certified Forest Kindergarten Teacher through CedarSong Nature School’s Teacher Training program. In addition, Rae is a certified yoga teacher and is certified in Wilderness First aid and CPR. 

When not tromping around the woods with a group of children, Rae spends her time gardening, running and chasing her six-year-old son Loren, four-year-old daughter Birdie, and her young-at-heart husband Lucas.

LAUREN VAN COUTREN (she/her/hers)
 Primary Grades Curriculum Creator & Program Lead & Teacher
BFS Teacher since 9/2018

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Lauren has always felt at home in nature. Growing up in the woods of Maine, she spent most days outside, exploring the natural world around her.  Lauren feels that these childhood experiences contributed to her passion to provide children with experiences to heal and grow in nature. 

 

After graduating with a BA in Therapeutic Recreation, Lauren found herself working with adolescents in a Psychiatric hospital. She led groups to teach her patients healthy ways to cope with stress and build confidence. This work was deeply important, but Lauren knew there was something missing. This feeling led her to Bend in 2006 to work for a Wilderness Therapy program. The missing piece was nature. It was here that she witnessed her students grow in lasting and life-changing ways. Lauren was no stranger to this transformation for herself. She was challenged in ways that ultimately built confidence and instilled personal growth. 

 

After several years, Lauren desired more education and earned a MA in Early Childhood Education. Lauren’s most recent educational experience has been as a elementary teacher in the Bend La Pine School District. For 6 years, Lauren has worked as a 3rd grade and Kindergarten teacher. Working at LaPine and Rosland Elementary schools in LaPine, Lauren was able to utilize abundant nature opportunities right in the schools’ backyard. 

 

When Lauren isn’t at Bend Forest School along with her 7 year old daughter, Leona, she is most likely outside exploring with Leona, working on her yoga teacher training studies, and spending quality time with her husband. 

RACHEL KELLEY (she/her/hers)
Preschool Program Coordinator & Teacher
BFS Teacher since 6/2019

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Rachel grew up in a small town in Northern Arizona and spent a large majority of her childhood playing in the vast ponderosa pine forest surrounding her hometown. She feels fortunate to have had parents and teachers who put a high priority on getting her outside to learn all about the place they called home. Having been given freedom to explore the natural world around her hometown Rachel gained an irreplaceable respect and love for the outdoors at a very young age. Her early experiences exploring Northern Arizona combined with the emphasis in learning about her environment sparked her desire to become an educator. 
 
In 2012 Rachel graduated from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon where she received her BA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Her work in the education field has taken her into various work environments from teaching in a traditional classroom to working as a nanny with young children and their families. Rachel firmly believes that when children are given the opportunity to explore their surroundings in a way that fosters freedom and creativity they grow a deeper connection to the land and its inhabitants. With hopes of being an educator and mother who encourages and provides children with this opportunity Rachel aims to give the children she spends time with the early life lessons that will foster a lifelong love for nature. 
 
Rachel is thrilled to have the opportunity to teach at Bend Forest School, a place where she finally feels that she will be able to be the educator she dreamt of becoming as a child. When she is not outside exploring in the forest with a group of kiddos you will likely find her hiking, backpacking or riding bikes her husband Josh and their daughter Olivia.

JASON GOCKEL (he/him/his) 
3-5's Forest Kindergarten Teacher 
BFS Teacher since 6/2019

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Jason developed a love and appreciation of the natural world at a very young age. Most of his childhood and adolescent years were spent exploring the forests outside his home in southern Ohio. While studying Economics at Miami University, Jason attended a wilderness backpacking program in northern Montana where he learned the true power of spending time in the outdoors.

 

Knowing that teaching and learning in a wilderness setting was his passion, he moved to Bend in 2013 to work for a wilderness therapy program. For the past 6 years, Jason has been teaching young adolescents a wide variety of therapeutic tools / concepts, mindfulness practices, & wilderness skills while also being responsible for the physical and emotional safety of the group. 

 

Jason strongly believes that those who spend time and connect with nature will gain a deeper connection with others and a deeper understanding of themselves. He has seen the power of nature assist in the improvement of many peoples’ emotional, mental, and physical health and believes that this development of well-being starts at a very young age. 

 

Jason is grateful to be part of an early childhood forest program that allows children to guide their own learning through the discovery and exploration of their own interests. When not at the forest school, Jason can be found exploring all of the beauty that Oregon has to offer.

LB GOSSETT (she/her/hers)
Kindergarten Program Lead & Teacher,
Development Coordinator & Lead Naturalist

BFS Teacher since 9/2020

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LB grew up on the banks of the Tennessee river in Chattanooga, TN and called the foothills of the Appalachians home until she was in her early 20s. She attended college in Knoxville, TN and received her BA in both French and English - Creative Writing. 

 

LB moved to France, after graduating, to teach English in the french public school system and also worked as an au pair. She spent 5 years abroad before returning to the US permanently to pursue a career in alternative early education models. While abroad, she was inspired to learn more about forest schools by a close friend and rewild woman Lucy O’Hagan of Wild Awake (Ireland). 

 

Moving to the PNW gave her the opportunity to work at a Montessori preschool and then for Trackers Earth as a lead educator for their summer program. She later attended the Tracker’s Earth Forest School Teacher Training program where she was introduced to more outdoor skills and immersed in different environmental education philosophies. The next year she was hired as co-lead for the Forest Kindergarten class. She spent the year growing an established unique outdoor curriculum for a class of 10 curious kinders five days a week.

 

Over the last 10 years of working with children (from ages 2 to 18) LB has seen how the curiosity of a child can open hidden doors to understanding. Nurturing and interweaving that curiosity with connection to the natural world is vital for the preservation of the wild spaces we cherish and want to preserve for generations to come.

STEFANY CUNNINGHAM (she/her/hers)
3-5's Forest Kindergarten Teacher
BFS Teacher since 6/2021

Stefany was born and raised in Bend, and when she is not reading, she can be found exploring Central Oregon’s trails, lakes, and mountains. She loves playing in the snow, being a mom, and spending time with family.

Stefany graduated with a Bachelor of Science from OSU-Cascades where she studied kinesiology, psychology, and early childhood development and education. She received a nature- based teaching certification from the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools in 2020 and has over five years of experience in the field of early childhood education.

Stefany values child-led, outdoor learning for the time and freedom it provides children to connect with nature and become self-determined learners. She believes outdoor learning fosters the development of foundational movement skills, creative problem-solving skills, the ability to ask effective questions, and the social-emotional skills necessary to build warm relationships with others.

In her free time, Stefany continuously works toward learning how to best support neurodivergent individual’s sensory, social-emotional, and learning needs. She values and respects learners of all abilities and neurotypes, and believes all children can become self-determined, life-long learners.

BAILEY RODGERS (she/her/hers)
3-5's Forest Kindergarten Teacher
BFS Teacher since 9/2021

Bailey first fostered her love for nature while wandering through Chapparal and Saguaro as a child in rural Arizona. Since then, her life has centered around experiencing the natural world through her love of plants, lichens, mosses and fungi. 

She began her formal education in early childhood studies and then became impassioned by herbalism. She completed an Associate of Occupational Studies in Western Herbalism from the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts and then the first-year herbalism apprenticeship program at Columbine School of Botanical Studies. Her love for outdoor education and field work developed through the study of wildcrafting etiquette and plant identification in the outdoor setting. These experiences inspired her to teach wildcrafting classes and to work for the forest service as a botany field technician in the Umpqua National Forest. 

After a few years she began to crave a scientific understanding for her observations of the natural world and decided to pursue a BS in Botany and Plant Pathology from Oregon State University. While earning her undergraduate degree she was blessed with an opportunity to teach school aged children in plant identification and survival skills at the Whole Earth Nature School. 

This experience renewed her desire to work in early childhood education. Witnessing her students’ heightened capacity for learning, expressing creativity, and building emotional skills in the outdoors has led her to believe that nature is our most powerful facilitator. Her belief is that when we give children the opportunity to wander, explore and take risks in the natural world we help to develop a foundation which builds deep rooted resiliency and confidence. Bailey is honored to join Bend Forest School and is thrilled to share the wonders and curiosities of nature with her students. When she is not teaching, she can often be found adventuring with her daughter and partner, botanizing, painting and playing guitar.  

CLAIRE JOHNSON (she/her/hers)
3-5's Forest Kindergarten Teacher
BFS Teacher since 6/2021

Claire grew up on a rural farm in Southern Utah.  Surrounded by red slickrock canyons and juniper forests she spent more time outside than she did inside. The time Claire spent imagining and exploring in those spaces shaped her relationship with herself and nature. As a result, she believes that spending time outside and creating a bond with the natural world is an important part of a child’s development. 

 

Claire has many years of experience working with children in different settings. From running an after school care program, working at a montessori preschool and being a full time nanny she loves it all. Her curiosity around different educational philosophies led her to find Forest School. The opportunity to combine her love of the outdoors and early childhood education couldn’t be a better fit. Claire is currently finishing her bachelors at OSU and her focus is in early childhood development and education.

ELLIE KELLEY (she/her/hers)
1st/2nd Grade Teacher
BFS Teacher since 9/2021

My name is Ellie Kelley and I have been teaching since 2013. I started my teaching career at an early childhood level and obtained my bachelor's in Early Childhood Education from Eastern Oregon University. During my time in early childhood, I discovered an affinity for the Montessori curriculum, which is highly attuned to science and nature. I have used this to inform my teaching at all levels, which includes preschool up to Grade 4. 

 

I decided to try my hand at primary in 2018 and obtained my Master's in Teaching from OSU Cascades that same year. During my time there, I also decided to get my English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) endorsement, which aided me greatly the following year when my son and I traveled to teach abroad in Albania! I also taught, and coached in Ukraine before returning home to Central Oregon.

 

My teaching philosophy is very much centered on play-based authentic learning, as well as project-based exploration. Each day is an opportunity to open our minds to loving learning as a way to connect with the world and to each other.

 

As a native Oregonian, I have wanted my own son to be able to experience the wonder and joy that this beautiful place has to offer. I am very excited to be joining the Bend Forest School team this year! 

LAUREN ALLEN (she/her/hers)
Sunriver 3-5's Forest Kindergarten Teacher
BFS Sub and Teacher since 6/2019

When one of Lauren's children asks for a story, the settings is often in the woods outside her childhood home in Ohio. She spent countless hours engaged in all types of play with her brother and neighbors. Lauren believes that this immersion in nature is so important for child development. It is no surprise that she continues this tradition with her husband and three children. Living on the outskirts of town allows the family to reap the benefits being immersed in nature.

After earning a Bachelor's degree in biology, Lauren spent several years working for non-profit environmental groups. Backpacking, collecting data and trail building were wonderful experiences, but she missed the connection with young people. This led her to seek a Masters degree in teaching and spend the last 12 years teaching early elementary. Starting her career in a 2nd grade classroom, Lauren felt a calling for the younger grades and worked her way towards Kindergarten. Lauren appreciates all stages however she fell in love with the preschool and Kinder ages. Throughout her years of working with young children, Lauren learned to appreciate the necessity and joy of play. Through play, she discovered children's learning was deeper, more meaningful, and of course, more joyful.

Lauren's love for education and children has fueled her commitment to her profession, but many factors have lead her to take leave from the public schools. Lauren is very passionate about preserving and enriching early childhood experiences. She believes that building strong social and emotional skills at an early age has many benefits and has a positive effect on quality of life. Lauren knows that play is fundamental to healthy (and happy) growth, for children and adults. She is excited to join Bend Forest School to learn alongside children and adults in our amazing world.

AMY SEELY-FANCHER (she/her/hers)
Sunriver 3-5's Forest Kindergarten Teacher
BFS Teacher since 3/2020

Miss Amy is a native Oregonian.  Her fondest memories as a child are being outside, building forts, and the freedom to play and explore uninterrupted. As an early childhood educator, she longs to provide these same opportunities to children.  She will always strive to encourage curiosity and confidence within adolescence. She is a strong believer in allowing children’s minds to wonder outdoors; whether that be building tree forts, climbing a tree that may have been too scary yesterday, or discovering new types of wildlife!

 

With over 25 years of experience, Amy has learned to listen to and observe children in order to provide them with necessary tools to flourish in and outside of the classroom. Amy believes that children are capable of amazing things, especially when empowered to be confidently independent. This has always been one of her favorite parts of teaching, as she can observe how a child takes these tools and lessons and applies them to real life scenarios. She can see independence grow and curiosity thicken as a growing mind craves learning new things. Through Amy’s guidance, she will foster a child’s curiosity and gently encourage independence, confidence will be accompanied alongside.