Our teachers and staff members put the life, kindness and warmth into the heart of Bend Forest School. Each one of them dedicates their time to meeting each and every child in our program where they are to insure they are thoroughly and lovingly supported. We are so very grateful for every individual introduced below and acknowledge that Bend Forest School's mission and vision would never be possible without each one of them.
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 a 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, young-at-heart husband Lucas and doodle, Huckleberry.
RACHEL KELLEY (she/her/hers)
BFS Teacher since 6/2019
Rachel grew up in Flagstaff Arizona and spent the majority of her childhood playing in the vast ponderosa pine forest surrounding her hometown. Having been given freedom to explore the natural world as a child 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 and caring for the environment sparked her desire to become an educator.
Rachel received her BA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Concordia University in 2012. Having spent the past decade in the education field Rachel has had the chance to work into various educational environments, always finding her work with young children and their families to be the most joyful and meaningful of all. Rachel firmly believes that when children are given the opportunity to explore their surroundings and interests in a way that fosters freedom and creativity they grow a deeper connection to their education as well as the land and its inhabitants. With hopes of being an educator who encourages and provides children with this opportunity Rachel aims to provide the children in our program with the early life lessons that will foster a lifelong love of learning and the natural world.
Rachel is headed into her 4th school year with Bend Forest School and is thrilled to have the opportunity to teach and work in a school where she finally feels that she will be the educator she always dreamt of becoming as a child. When not outside exploring the forest with her students you can find her hiking, backpacking or riding bikes with her husband Josh and their daughter Olivia.
JASON GOCKEL (he/him/his)
3-5's Forest Kindergarten Teacher & Teacher Mentor
BFS Teacher since 6/2019
Jason developed a love and appreciation for 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, and wilderness skills while also being responsible for the physical and emotional safety of the group.
Jason strongly believes that those who spend time in, and connect with nature will gain a deeper connection to 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
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. She 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 re-wild 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 kindergarteners 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)
Lead Kindergarten Teacher & BFS Librarian
BFS Teacher since 6/2021
Stefany was born and raised in Bend, OR. 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. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from OSU-Cascades where she studied kinesiology, psychology, and early childhood development and education, and 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.
STACY WILHELMSEN (she/her/hers)
Primary Curriculum Developer
BFS Staff Member since 9/2022
Stacy received her BA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Oregon State and her Masters in Teaching from Lewis and Clark in 2010. Her experience in education began in the preschool setting as the director of a preschool in San Diego, CA. She has spent the last decade as an Elementary School teacher in public schools, grades 1-3, most recently in the Bend-La Pine School District. Stacy is the mom of twin boys, Henry and Sawyer, currently enrolled in the 4th grade and a daughter, Sloane, in the Kindergarten class. The Forest School model is something Stacy has been passionate about since Graduate School after being introduced to Richard Louv’s work, Last Child in the Woods. Emergent curriculum is something she has incorporated into her teaching style even in the public school setting.
Stacy is "thrilled to be working alongside such a wonderful primary team to develop a curriculum that best supports the Bend Forest School model - a dream position!"
CHRISTINA SALVADOR (she/her/hers)
Bend Forest School Foundation Founder & Director
Christina is a mom, writer and nonprofit coordinator. After graduating from Baylor University, she started her career in the nonprofit realm as a project manager for a collaborative on poverty and hunger. During this time she wore several hats, but most enjoyed being given the opportunity to develop and facilitate a photojournalistic advocacy project for single mothers living below the poverty line to document barriers they faced systematically in their everyday lives. She loves researching and strategizing, especially when done to build something that benefits and supports others, so nonprofit work is an area she feels intrinsically connected to.
Christina and her partner, Anthony, moved to Bend in 2018, seeking an opportunity to raise their two children in a place with ample ways to engage with, and fall in love with nature and being outside. Her family was fortunate to discover Bend Forest School in the first year they moved to Bend. Her oldest has been in the program since 2018 and her youngest was able to start in 2021.
Christina was eager to help when BFS founder, Rae, approached her for input on building an accessibility program for Bend Forest School and was happy to spearhead the project that led to the founding of Bend Forest School Foundation. She now heads up the foundation and is "immensely grateful for the opportunity to work alongside such kind, well-intended individuals to make the BFS program accessible to ALL families within our community." When not working, Christina can be found exploring outdoors and all throughout Oregon with her family, tending to her many houseplants or diving deeply into learning something new that's sparked her interest.
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 a bachelors from OSU in Human Development Family Science in Early Childhood Development with a focus is in early childhood development and education and has several 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 Bend Forest School. The opportunity to combine her love of the outdoors and early childhood education for Claire, "couldn’t be a better fit".
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.
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 her to tell them a story, the story's setting often takes place in the woods outside of her childhood home in Ohio where she spent countless hours engaged in all types of play with her brother and neighbors. Lauren believes that this early emergence in nature is so important for child development, so it comes as no surprise that she continues to foster and encourage this environment in her family life with her husband and three children. Living on the outskirts of town allows her family to reap the benefits being immersed in nature has to offer.
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 connecting with younger people. This led her to pursue a Masters degree in teaching, then spend 12 years teaching early elementary. Lauren started her career in a 2nd grade classroom, but later felt called to 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 be a part of the Bend Forest School family, learning 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
Amy is a native Oregonian. Her fondest memories as a child are being outside, building forts, and experiencing the freedom to play and explore without interruption. As an early childhood educator, she longs to provide these same opportunities to children. She strives to encourage curiosity and confidence, and is a strong believer in allowing children’s minds to wonder outdoors whether it be through 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 within their chosen explorations in order to provide them with the necessary tools to flourish in and outside of the classroom. Amy believes that children are capable of amazing things, especially when empowered to be confident and independent. One of her favorite parts of teaching has always been observing how a child takes these tools and lessons and applies them to real life scenarios. She's happy and excited to witness the children's independence bloom and curiosity thicken as their growing minds learn and absorb new things.
ABBIE REXROAD (she/her/hers)
BFS Teacher since 12/2017
Abbie grew up in Kansas, spending the majority of her free time climbing trees and playing outside with her siblings until her parents called them in for dinner. She has always been curious and full of wonder and exploration. Being the oldest child, Abbie has helped care for children all her life which guided her focus towards teaching and working with children as a profession. During college, Abbie began working with children with Autism, which opened the door to many unique opportunities and further guided her path towards her degree. When pursuing teaching, Abbie didn't want to choose between Education or Special Education, as she had a vision of children learning with each other and from each other in the same environment. Instead, she found a degree that supported these ideas and later obtained her Bachelors in Human Development and Family Life from the University of Kansas with a concentration in Special Education. (Rock Chalk!)
Abbie is passionate about inclusion and recognizes that we all learn in our own unique ways. Over the past two decades, she has gathered years of experience working with children as a camp counselor, nanny, teacher, foster parent, yoga teacher, parent educator, home visitor, and most recently as an Inclusion Specialist for NeighborImpact. In this role, Abbie helped teachers make adjustments to their schedules, teaching styles, and environments to adapt to the needs of the children in their class and provide a more inclusive environment. This work truly lights her up! She also fuels this passion by traveling with Central Oregon Disability Support Network (CODSN) to provide Disability Awareness Trainings throughout Oregon.
Abbie loves teaching kids yoga and has been certified in YogaCalm for 8 years. She incorporates mindfulness and breathing techniques when working with littles as a way to help calm their bodies and minds and also as a tool to reset and process big emotions as they come up. Abbie is happiest when she is in nature and moved to Oregon in 2010 to become a river guide, where she was able to combine her passions by hosting yoga rafting trips and teaching kids camps on Oregon Rivers. When she is not at BFS, she is traveling, hiking, snowboarding, running, reading or relaxing. Although she grew up in Kansas, Abbie feels most at home in Oregon.
ABBY SIMPSON (she/her/hers)
BFS Teacher since 9/2021
Abby grew up in Southern Appalachia in the small town of Hendersonville, NC. As a child she played barefoot in the icy streams, built fairy houses after school and spent her weekends climbing trees. Being in nature has always been the place she has felt most at home. Her love for the outdoors grew deeper on a middle school backpacking trip. The peace, confidence and connection she felt within her community on that trip made experiential education her North Star for years to come.
She earned her undergrad in Health and Wellness Promotion from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Through a campus recreation program at UNCA, Abby led her first outdoor trip. During college, she earned her Wilderness First Responder Certification and worked five summers at an outdoor camp in a program for teens on trips in North Carolina, Colorado, Wyoming, California and Alaska.
Abby discovered her passion for early childhood education working for an Early Head Start program at the Verner Center for Early Learning. She witnessed how the outdoors ignited children’s curiosity, encouraged play and created an atmosphere of self-regulation.
Bend has been home for Abby for a short time, but her strong sense of place here is largely attributed to the beautiful community found at Bend Forest School. She believes that Bend Forest School is "a school that supports her core belief that the care and nurturing of young children is essential to learning how to live in a reciprocal and flourishing community", a virtue that Abby believes is the hallmark for a healthy and wholesome future for society. Few things rival her beloved hometown in the Blue Ridge mountains, however being on a journey with a group of preschoolers through Ponderosa Pines hoping to get another look at the Great Horned Owl is definitely one.
SHERIS PATTEN (she/her/hers)
Preschool Teacher/Primary Support/Wilderness Skills
BFS Teacher since 9/2021
When Sheris was young her parents couldn’t keep her indoors. She spent most days in a tree and pretend playing. Later on, her love for being outside deepened when she found outdoor sports - mountain biking, snowboarding, and rock climbing just to name a few favorites. Further into her adulthood, she also fell in love with exploring further into the natural landscapes of the US and later prioritized instilling the same passion into her own kids.
Sheris attended numerous college courses on culture, herbalism, the arts. She obtained her AA at COCC and Family Herbalist Certificate at the School of Natural Healing in Utah. She has been working with children for over two decades, but it wasn’t until working in wilderness therapy that she experienced firsthand the positive and healthy impact integrating nature into learning has in supporting children and their unique abilities.
She has worked with kids in several different settings including schools, camps, parks, gardens, and homes, and has found that when you provide them with open space and natural surroundings, they're better regulated, and have more capacity to be creative and curious in their explorations. Sheris believes she has found her true calling - to get every kid outdoors and into the woods so they can see, hear, touch, smell and fully engage with the beautiful nature we call home.
SAVANNAH HORWOOD (she/her/hers)
BFS Teacher since 9/2022
Savannah grew up in Ventura, California, where she was fortunate to have attended two alternative schools, Orca and Oak Grove. Schooling never came easily to her until she attended these schools, which to her emphasized connection to the natural world and community. Her time there gave her the confidence, acceptance and encouragement to become the life long learner she is today. Her experiences shaped her goal as an educator to support students’ autonomy and confidence all while building a safe and trusting relationship.
Savannah began the studies of early childhood education in Santa Cruz, California at Cabrillo Community College. Following a love and passion for snowboarding and adventure sports, Savannah then moved to Big Sky, Montana and attended Montana State University. She earned a degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood. During this time Savannah became inspired by Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio and Forest schools style of learning. Following graduation, she received a lead kindergarten teaching position at Ophir Elementary in Big Sky, Montana. During these first years of teaching she wrote curriculum for the class incorporating parts of her philosophy of outdoors and community involvement, which aided the school in receiving their International Baccalaureate certification. Savannah found that being outside the four wall classroom more often allowed for more curiosity and deeper level of learning inspired by the students. Savannah then assisted at a Montessori-based school where she led the outdoor education program that took students skiing, hiking, and exploring the natural world. She also led mindfulness lessons with yoga, mediation, and movement.
Teaching at a Forest School has been a longtime goal of Savannah’s and she is delighted to be part of the Bend Forest School. She looks forward to nurturing students' natural curiosity of the world by encouraging them to question, explore and investigate. Savannah is new to Bend and looks forward to exploring the area’s forests, mountains and rivers with her dog, Arrow.
KRISTIN SADDLER (she/her/hers)
Assistant Kindergarten Teacher
BFS Teacher since 9/2022
Kristin spent most of her upbringing in Ohio, discovering her connection to nature through running and exploring nearby trails. She later unlocked a deep love for everything outdoors when she moved to West Virginia to become a whitewater guide and fanatic. She spent the next five years guiding raft trips in the summer and teaching little ones to ski during her winters in West Virginia and Colorado.
Venturing further west, Kristin moved to Bend to pursue a job in wilderness therapy, where she taught her students about emotional awareness, modeled grounding and coping skills and taught them how to use nature as a means of reconnection to self and others. Her experience as a wilderness therapy guide has inspired her to bring that deep level of empathy and compassion to her work at Bend Forest School.
Kristin believes one of the most important things she can do is help inspire a generation that will love and cherish our Earth. She believes that connection to nature is vital for understanding ourselves, and that nature can provide a supportive space to explore and build healthy relationships with others. Always curious and eager to learn, she values the importance of self-led learning and fostering independence through use of a wild playground. She is "very grateful to be a part of the Bend Forest School community and is excited to learn alongside her students in the beautiful Oregon wilderness."
ALI BLOXSOM (she/her/hers)
BFS Teacher since 9/2022
Ali grew up in the woods in New England where she frequently left the house after breakfast and didn’t return until dinner time. She spent most of her time reading, riding horses, and running around outside finding the best places to hide and make forts in the bushes. Ali has a BS in Mathematics with a concentration in Elementary Education from CCSU and went on to get certified to teach middle school. She taught middle school math before becoming a stay at home mom when she had her first child in 2017.
Ali became an avid proponent of alternative education after spending 6 years in the public school system, witnessing the effects of intense academic rigor on students, and started to raise her daughters with as much outdoor time as possible and as little screen and focused academic time as possible. She has always been a big believer in child-led experiences. She spent her daughters' toddler years following them around outside to see what they gravitated towards while answering and asking lots of questions. These experiences and close observations motivated her to learn about forest schools, as the approach felt like the perfect fit for her family and parenting philosophy. She learned of Bend Forest School long before moving to Bend in January of 2022. Becoming a teacher at BFS and having her children enrolled is "a dream come true" for Ali. In her free time you can find her knitting, reading, doing yoga, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and chasing her daughters and dog all around outside come rain, shine, or snow.
EMMA FISCHER (she/her/hers)
Primary and Spanish Teacher
BFS Teacher since 11/2022
Emma grew up spending ample time in the prairies and forests of Wisconsin. She spent her childhood experiencing different landscapes, making mud pies with her brothers, and helping her father with controlled prairie burns. All of that outside time in her critical developmental years has led to a deep appreciation of the natural world and our connectedness to it.
Emma received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse in Spanish Education and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Before joining BFS, she was a Spanish and English literary teacher to grades K-6.
When she is not teaching, Emma can be found painting, reading lots of fiction books, playing on the river, and spending time outside with her husband and dog.