A Culture of Caring For Each Other

As adults who are responsible for the care, well-being and education of young children, we believe that we first have to take responsibility for ourselves and our impact on the world.  If we want to have a culture of love and forgiveness (we often call this compassion) among the children at our school, we must first create such a culture among the adults.  So, to this end, we have a culture of caring among the staff at our school.  We model how we care about each other, how we have disagreements, how we can listen to and learn from our differences, and most importantly that teacher well-being is a top priority.

Life before Patchwork doesn’t make sense anymore. I have never felt so held and rallied around.

Patchwork teacher, 2019

Michele Beach – Co-Director & Social Emotional Support Coordinator

As one of the founders of The Patchwork School, I continue to be excited each year about all that I learn from this incredible community. Teaching in this environment with an emergent curriculum that is continuously evolving allows me to see the world through the children’s eyes, reminding me to stop and notice the wonder all around us. The other day, with the support of the Kinder students, I even got up the courage to hold a cockroach in my hands… I never know exactly what will arise each day! I also love that every person at Patchwork is valued in their wholeness, with whatever feelings and needs arise, as we continue to emphasize the importance of social/emotional wellness for students, staff and also parents.

Besides my 15+ years of experience working with children, I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Stanford University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Colorado, Denver (2007), as well as my Early Childhood Teaching License and my Director Qualification from the Colorado Department of Human Services. I also have a Master’s Degree in Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling from Naropa University and work as a Parent and Family Therapist at Louisville Family Center when I’m not at Patchwork. I am so grateful to be able to grow and shift in my own positions in the community, as we each find our own unique niche, while also modeling life-long learning!

Heather Craig – Co- Director & Administrative Coordinator

I am a Colorado native, originally from Glenwood Springs. I moved to Boulder in 1999 and have been here ever since. I have been part of the Patchwork community as a parent since 2011 and I am thrilled to have been part of the staff for the last 8 years! I have an associates of arts degree and have worked in different office environments. I was a CSR and Accounting Controller at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport and I worked at the Public Defenders Office in Golden.  I found Patchwork through my sister, Mitch, who was my daughter’s toddler teacher at the time. After staying home with my kids for 6 years I couldn’t imagine entering back into the working world anywhere but at Patchwork, a community that has supported my family in every way. Even though my kids have out grown Patchwork they still love coming back to this special place and see it as a second home. I am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow along with our students as they teach me something everyday!

I am grateful to be able to be part of this organization and have enjoyed watching the growth and magic of every child and family that has been a part of our community.

Jammie Speyer –Assistant Director & Classroom Support

I am a mother of three, a yoga teacher, and a forever student. Learning is my passion and my work at Patchwork provides opportunities for continued growth everyday. I couldn’t be more grateful to work alongside your children as they begin to explore their own relationship with learning, community, and the world around them. 
I have my BA in Communication and my MA in Sociology. If I could, I would go back to school and study Comparative Religion, Psychology, and maybe even try my hand at stand-up-comedy (for middle-ages moms, as that’s my comfort zone). I love to hike by myself and with my family, read self-help books, and eat the amazing food my talented partner cooks for me most nights. 
Being a teacher at Patchwork has been one of my favorite things. The beauty of Patchwork is that we are all completely accepted and held – in all of our complexity, messiness and imperfection. And at Patchwork we are seen, heard and appreciated for our inherent goodness. I love this for me, and I love this for your children!

I just wanted to thank you again for such a meaningful experience this past semester working at Patchwork.  I think my main takeaway has been the realization that the best way for me to show up for the children is to be my authentic self. Previously, I had this idea that there were certain emotions/experiences that, as a teacher, I had to hide from the children, partly in order to protect them, partly out of my own discomfort with sharing these parts of myself, and partly out of fear that this would make other adults (parents or other teachers) uncomfortable. By suppressing parts of myself that I worry are unacceptable or unlovable, I also, in both implicit and explicit ways, send the message to children that those same parts that reside in them are also unacceptable or unlovable. I can’t tell you how huge this epiphany has been both to my work and also my life!  I’ve also come to truly appreciate the importance of letting children have their experiences, not trying to avoid conflict or discomfort or sadness or anger, but instead allowing it all to be okay and valuable. It’s become clear to me that when adults attempt to orchestrate children’s experiences so as to avoid anything that might make the day challenging (for the child, as well as the adults) or when we swoop in and attempt to solve challenges or rush children through challenges, we ultimately steal their opportunity to process and work through their emotions/difficulties. The children attract or create these challenges in order to externalize something going on internally so that they can understand it better and move the energy, and when we arrest this process, we prevent them from completing a necessary component of their growth. They will then have to continue to experience the challenge until they find a way to complete the process. So ultimately, in our desire to protect children and prevent any discomfort, we are really prolonging their ability to move past something challenging. 

Brittney Barth, Intern 2018

Andrea Atmore – Preschool Program Director

My teaching career began later in my life, and my passion and energy for Early Childhood Education grows exponentially with every passing year I work in the classroom. It began after bringing my own three children to their preschool, and I begged to work in their classroom for free. That school eventually hired me and so began my deepening understanding of the importance of our field. One of the first things I began to see is that my role was to nurture, rather than discipline; spark curiosity rather than instruct. I worked and furthered my education over time, and now proudly practice emergent curriculum and view children as social, competent, capable human beings who are inherently endowed with amazing intelligence. I believe children have the right to care and autonomy that supports and respects them for who they are at this precise moment.In 2020 I completed my Master’s Degree in Learning, Developmental, and Family Sciences through CU Denver, at Boulder Journey School, and received my Teacher License for ECE (ages 0-8).

My favorite teaching quotes:  

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ~John Dewey 

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~ William Butler Yeats

Hannah Johnson – Toddler Program Director

Hello Patchwork friends and families!  I earned my bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in the fine arts from Eastern Illinois University in 2011.  After a semester of student teaching 2nd grade, I was hired as the writing lab teacher for grades K-8 at La Causa Charter School in Milwaukee, WI.  Here, I had to learn quickly the art of preparing engaging lessons that met the needs of a wide range of students and strategic classroom management.  In the fall of 2014, I became a 5th grade classroom teacher.  It was with my 5th graders that I learned the most about non-violent communication, project based learning, parent communication, and the importance of the student/teacher relationship.  I accepted an associate teacher position at Chiaravalle Montessori School in 2016.  During the 2016 school year I studied Montessori education and gained experience in student observation, preparing the environment for the child, and utilizing Montessori materials. My career took a turn when I decided to move to Boulder to study Transpersonal Counseling at Naropa University.  I have spent a total of 1.5 years at Naropa, and am currently taking some time off to focus on being an excellent mom to my 3 year old son Finley and the most recent addition to our family-baby Larry!  One day I would love to combine therapy and education and to continue my work with children.  I value all learners and believe that children are wise, capable, and learn best through intrinsic motivation.  

My home is now in Lafayette where I live with my sons Finley and Larry, husband Andrew, and my dog Brutus.  When I’m not at Patchwork you can find me practicing yoga and spending quality time with my friends and family.

Jodi Macri – Kinder Program Director

I believe in nurturing children’s interests, and providing the love and respect they need to navigate their paths with confidence, self-direction, and empathy.

I grew up on Long Island, New York, and lived in a variety of locales, including NYC, the UK, NJ, PA, and Chicago, before finally making it to Colorado with my husband, son, and puppy (he’s 8 but still my puppy) in 2012.

My professional degrees include a Master’s Degree in Photography, a Bachelors of Fine Art in Photography, ECE courses through Front Range, and Continuing Education in Early Childhood Education.

Throughout my life, I have combined my love for teaching, photography, and art whenever I could.  From teaching art when I babysat as a teenager, to becoming a photography teacher’s assistant in college, and later, as a preschool teacher in NY, NJ and CO, I always found myself drawn to teaching through love, respect, and self-direction.

In addition to being an early childhood educator, I am also a small business owner.  I am the owner/photographer at Jodi Ellen Photography, specializing in lifestyle photography.  I encourage families to get messy, play, and enjoy each other’s individuality as I document their experiences.  My photography and teaching philosophies are very much intertwined.

Deyani Deydreaming- Preschool Teacher

Deyani came to Patchwork in 2020 and has been a teacher in both preschool and kinder. Deyani lives in Boulder with her cat, Om, and lived in many places including southern California, Seattle, China, and she spent a summer in the Dominican. Deyani loves working with children and is inspired by them everyday.

We love Patchwork — A beautiful environment with supportive, caring, educated teachers and administrators who have implemented a Reggio/Free School curriculum very successfully.  This school is a real treasure where young children can thrive.


Kristen Mylander- Preschool Teacher

It has been a joy to be curious, question and create with children for over 30 years. A highlight of these experiences includes many years as a Special Education Paraprofessional working in inclusive classrooms for Denver Public Schools. In this role I specialized in facilitating social interactions and developing communication strategies for students with significant support needs who did not use spoken language. It has also been a pleasure to teach ceramics, multimedia and puppet workshops for various ages and abilities. Exploring nature, hiking the gorgeous trails of Colorado, sewing and sculpting are among my favorite activities. I live in North Boulder with my partner Tres and cat Oscar. I’m very happy to be continuing my journey with the The Patchwork School community. Every year brings new opportunities to grow, learn and enrich relationships alongside wonderful colleagues, students and families.

Carol Finer- Preschool Teacher

I was born and raised in Philadelphia in a loving family, with a younger brother and sister, and a father who was a revered teacher for 50 years into his 80s, and in whose footsteps I try hard to follow! As a family we spent a lot of time together outdoors, and I continue to love outdoor activities. I now live in Broomfield, CO to be with my daughter and son-in-law. I love to spend time with them, as well ski (my passion), hike, play pickle ball, do watercolor painting (as well as cut my own mats and do the framing), play the piano and read. 

My passion has always been working with children, starting at the age of 12 when I began babysitting, which led to working as a nanny when I was 15 and again when I was19. Professionally, I have two masters degrees, one from Teachers College, Columbia University in Special Education/Early Childhood Education, and the second from Arcadia University (outside Philadelphia) as a Reading Specialist. I taught in Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey before coming to Colorado, and I have worked in independent, Quaker and public schools, and inner city charter schools. I have had the privilege of working with children with amazing abilities as well as physical, intellectual, emotional, learning and reading challenges, all of whom had unique gifts and strengths, and who taught me a tremendous amount along the way.  

Early in my teaching career, I taught in a kindergarten class in which we used a Reggio Emilia curriculum. It was my first exposure to Reggio and I felt how right it was for the children. It was decades before I encountered another school that embraced the Reggio philosophy and that school is The Patchwork School! So after my first visit I knew it felt like a good fit for me because it’s the way children learn and develop most naturally. I am thrilled to be here and look forward to continuing to learn and grow along with the children.

Hydy Salazar- Preschool Teacher

Hello my name is Hydy Salazar, I am Colombian I am 39 years old, I have a daughter! Karol! She lives in Colombia! I worked in Colombia as a teacher in preschool and primary school, also with children in vulnerable conditions. I also volunteered with the FIDES Foundation, it is for children in conditions of cognitive and voluntary disability in some rural parts of Colombia. I appreciate nature and its infinite beauty, in this place, I love food together with my partner, friend and husband Cristian, I like music and literature.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in child pedagogy, from the Minuto de Dios University, in Colombia.  I studied technical dance expression, knowledge for the strengthening of new pedagogical tools for teaching and contribution to the integral formation of the human being.  experience in the formation, implementation and development of projects.  standards for the protection of children and young people, focus, reconstruction of personal, family and community life projects.  Receiver of daily experiences of people to manage their environment and develop new processes according to their needs.  I have virtues that exemplify and motivate being inspiring for good healthy habits.  love, respect and empathy for cultural diversity.

Randi Racenstein- Kinder Teacher

Hi, my name is Randi Racenstein.  I am in my 5th year of teaching preschool and am excited to be working at the Patchwork School.  I am originally from New York and have lived out in Colorado for over 10 1/2 years.  I have been married for 29 years to my husband, Dave, and have 19-year-old boy/girl twins, Cara and Matthew, who are both in their second year of college at CU Boulder along with a cute, energetic chihuahua-mix named Jellybean.  I had received my Masters in Social Work back in 1996 from Adelphi University in Garden City, NY.  I also studied with Master Life Coach, Rhonda Britten, and had received my Certification as a Life Coach / Trainer from her Fearless Living Institute in 2008.  In my leisure time, I enjoy spending quality time with my family, hiking, traveling, eating out, going to shows and movies, and listening to music.  I love being able to work in Early Childhood Education because I so much enjoy seeing children develop and grow, and being able to make a positive difference in their lives.

Paige Voltmer – Toddler & Kinder Teacher

Hello! My name is Paige Voltmer and I am excited to say this is my first year teaching! I recently graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor’s in Speech Language Pathology. I have plans to attend graduate school in the future, but wanted some experience working with children before I pursued that part of my career. My goal is to become a Speech Language Pathologist who works with children, preferably in the school setting. I have worked with children for many years and have loved every minute of it. I am so inspired by their carefree outlooks and desires to learn. It feels so special to help facilitate their learning and development, and I am grateful to the Patchwork community for giving me the opportunity to do so. 

Outside of the classroom I love to get outdoors and in nature. I love to hike, climb, ski, camp, and travel as much as possible. Since I have recently moved to Colorado, I feel so lucky to live in a place that has endless opportunities for such things!

It’s nice to see the same faces year after year. I also really like that the teachers move up with the students each year to help ease transitions. That makes me as a parent and our child feel excited and at ease.  They are all so wonderful. I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for what they do every day and appreciate them all so much! The communication out of the office is always so helpful and friendly, even when my questions are surely beyond stupid some days 😉

Parent, 2019

Alex Zobel – Intern (in conjuction with Louisville Family Center)

I am currently completing my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of the Cumberlands. I have an eclectic approach in my therapy practice incorporating Synergetic Play Therapy, Gestalt therapy, somatic awareness and a Jungian lens among other modalities that I am learning and exploring. 

I enjoy working with people of all ages and backgrounds. I greatly value creating a space where clients can be their authentic selves and to support them as they grow and integrate. My focus in therapy is based on how effectively I can attune to the client and support their process of regulation and development.

I am from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I have had the joy of living in many different parts of the country. After completing my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Texas Christian University, I explored writing and studied music for many years. I have a background in music composition, journalism, creative arts, psychology and psychotherapy. I enjoy traveling, cooking, reading, time in nature and spending time with my family. 

Lillie Wacaster – Intern (in conjuction with Louisville Family Center)

All my life, I’ve been drawn to creativity, with passion for all kinds of art, crafts, and writing. When I was a teenager, I became interested in the idea of becoming a therapist as I cared deeply about others and the idea that we can make a difference in the world one person at a time. When I first heard about art therapy as a senior in high school, I knew right away that it was the perfect career for me. I have pursued that goal ever since, studying art and psychology in my undergraduate degree at Harding University. After graduating college in 2018, I decided to take some time off before pursuing my graduate degree and spent two years as a Montessori preschool teacher. My work with children has taught me so much about patience, kindness, and working with emotions.

In 2020 I decided it was time to move on with my goals of becoming an art therapist. In the same way that I knew art therapy was the perfect career for me, I knew that Naropa University was the perfect school, and I am grateful to be there receiving my Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an emphasis in Transpersonal Art Therapy. The relationship between art, mental health, mindfulness, and each of our connections to humanity and spirituality, is an obvious and inherent one to me, and I love being at a school where that is taught. Through doing practicum at Louisville Family Center and Patchwork School, I fell in love with the Synergetic play therapy model and have integrated it’s concepts into my work with art and mindfulness. I offer client-centered talk, play, art, and mindful therapy services with a particular interest in working with middle through high school students.

Sara Witkowski – Intern (in conjuction with Louisville Family Center)

Hi! I am Sara (she/her) and I am thrilled to be a part of the Louisville Family Center and Patchwork community. Before moving to Colorado, I completed my Bachelor’s degree at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA where I studied Modern Dance Performance. Eventually, I traveled abroad to study yoga where I learned to practice finding deeper connection in the mind, body, and spirit. Having spent nearly a decade working in childcare and with families, I found myself drawn to the way children relate and move through the world. This interest in human development paired with a passion for movement propelled my search for where to go next, professionally.

I am currently working towards my Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a focus on Somatic and Body Psychotherapy at Naropa University. As a counselor, I work from a client-centered and strengths-based perspective. I believe that by creating and maintaining a nurturing, supportive, and non-judgmental space, individuals can explore and express themselves in a way that feels aligned with their internal experience. I have recently completed my Practicum at The Patchwork School and I look forward to continuing my internship at the Louisville Family Center. Some other interests of mine include: practicing yoga, dancing, and exploring nearby trails with my dog, Ramona!