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 am also completing my degree in Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling from Naropa University. I am so grateful to be able to grow and shift in my own position here at Patchwork, as we each find our own unique niche, while also modeling life-long learning!

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

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 6 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. My kids, Amelia and Logan are in the Aftercare program and spend their summers here at Patchwork.

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.

Cassie Swick – Co-Director & Curriculum Coordinator

Hello, My name is Cassie and I am Assistant Director here at Patchwork!  I am originally from Centennial, Colorado and received my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO in 2011.  Since then, I have been teaching Preschool and Kindergarten in Oregon and Colorado and am beginning my 6th year here at Patchwork.  When I’m not teaching, you can find me with my husband and dog, hiking, backpacking, camping, snowboarding, gardening, watching movies, listening to music and spending time with friends and family. This year my husband, Jason and I are expecting our fist child in September! I love what I do and I am looking forward to another play-filled year with my Patchwork community!

“Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself” -John Dewey

Being part of the Patchwork Community has helped me learn to come as I am, and know that is enough, to ask for help and to be okay feeling all the feeling! I love watching our students grow into themselves and find their voices, I am grateful for all the families at Patchwork that have enriched my life and I am beyond lucky to work with all the amazing teachers here at Patchwork.

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.


Jammie Speyer – Kinder Teacher

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!

Claire Bruno – Preschool Program Director

I graduated from the University of Arizona in 2015 with degrees in English and Creative Writing. My love for literature has fostered an investigative curiosity and an ever-evolving attention for detail.  This past year I participated in The Boulder Journey School’s Teacher Education Program and now have a Master’s Degree in Learning, Developmental, and Family Sciences with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. 
In my spare time I enjoy rearranging my room and seeking the thrill of a good find at the thrift store. My favorite poet is Frank O’Hara and I love exploring the library on a snowy day. I believe that empathy and kindness can stretch beyond immediate obstacles in order to make a better world. This year I plan to help foster our ideals of freedom, responsibility, and compassion within Patchwork’s next generation. #blacklivesmatter

Zoey Helgesen – Toddler Program Director

My interest in education was first awakened by a course I took during my undergraduate career which gave me the opportunity to partner with high school students in bringing various social justice and community service projects to life. Soon after, I landed a job in recreational therapy and switched gears, becoming impassioned and humbled working to help folks with disabilities increase their independence within the larger community. When I started looking for more in terms of working hours, I applied to a few positions teaching preschool, just to see what would happen. When I got a job offer, I took it, leaping into something a little different. Ending up as an early childhood teacher was a coincidence, but I’ve since become empowered to continue my learning through a Master’s in Infant and Early Childhood Development which I’m currently working towards. I am beyond excited that my career path over the past few years has led me to find The Patchwork School, whose philosophy on early learning beautifully matches up with my own. I can’t wait to fully immerse myself into this new community.

Hannah Johnson – Kinder 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.

Jason Swick – Support and School Aged Teacher

Originally from Denver, Colorado, I began working with young children at an early age. I gained experience working in various childcare facilities and summer programs for multiple years. This is where I developed a passion for both education and counseling.

I graduated from Fort Lewis College in beautiful Durango, Colorado, with a bachelors degree in Elementary Education, and K-6 teacher licensure. Eager to combine his knowledge of teaching, with my strong interest in counseling and the outdoors, I moved to Oregon to work for Dragonfly Transitions. Dragonfly is a transitional mental health program for young adults, seeking assistance with life skills, emotional stability, substance abuse, and other related treatment issues. I worked as a mentor assisting clients with setting goals, facilitating daily routines, and by supporting each individuals therapeutic process. I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to learn and grow as a professional, while working hands-on with young adults. After two years of working in the mental health field, I was eager to get back to working with children in an educational setting.

Abbigail Van Sweringen – Preschool Teacher

Growing up all over the country has taught me many things, one of the most important being the similarities between communities. I have a deep appreciation for the ways in which Patchwork has built their own community, and am excited to be apart of something so whole and welcoming. 

I graduated from UNLV with a bachelors degree in Anthropology. This degree along with additional early education courses has allowed me to see childhood through a unique lens. With this knowledge I encourage children to move their bodies in ways alternative to traditional classroom settings, as well as use their minds in ways our ancesters may have. I believe the freedom to move and explore our environment around us can be one of the best way to facilitate learning and growth. 

When I’m not in the classroom you can find me cooking/eating, moving my body, socializing, and exploring every corner of this earth. 

Max Hitchcock- Preschool Teacher

Hello there! My name is Max and my pronouns are they/them/theirs. Though I am not new to Patchwork, I am a new addition to the teaching team in the Preschool for the upcoming school year! I just graduated with my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Transpersonal Art Therapy over at Naropa University. It was through this program that I first found Patchwork in the Spring of 2019 as a practicum student and they have not been able to get rid of me since!

From the start I fell in love with the community and the embodied philosophies of socio-emotional and democratic education. As a trained Synergetic Play Therapist I thoroughly enjoy exploring the intersection of developing emotional literacy and communication skills within a classroom setting through play. I feel that I have gained a deeper insight into my own emotional universe throughout my time here at Patchwork and I look forward to helping the kiddos explore the universe inside of them and out. 

When I am not working you can find me hiking, camping, reading, playing with my cat Tomato. I whole-heartedly believe that life is a life-long process, that we cannot (nor do we have to) do it alone, and that the key element to learning is play. It is my honor to join the preschool team for this upcoming school year as I slowly move towards licensure as an art and play therapist. I look forward to getting to know each of you more as we work together over the course of this year!

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

Samantha Blankenship – Substitute

Growing up in Colorado, I discovered my passion for the outdoors and helping others at a young age. I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2018 with degrees in Psychology, Leadership and Public Health and in the upcoming years I aspire to further my education in the field of Social Work. During my final semester at CU I was placed at The Patchwork School for a practicum in my leadership studies course and I became entranced by the philosophies Patchwork is founded on. I am a firm believer that teaching is a two-way street in which I will learn as much from my students as they will from me and I cannot wait to learn every day I am with them. I love to read books of any genre and in my free time I can be found exploring the mountains with my fur baby and loved ones.

Jodi Goldstein – Substitute

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.