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.

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.


Michele Beach – Executive Director

As a parent myself I know how difficult it can be to decide where to send your child to school. In fact the first time my husband and I discussed possibilities for our son’s education I was shocked when he suggested we should consider home schooling. I had a wonderful experience in public schools and just assumed that my children would do the same, so I was surprised to hear that he thought the subject required some further research. Since that conversation I have learned a great deal about the current trends regarding standards-based education and how desperately our children need a hands-on approach.  I now understand how much children can learn by experiencing the world directly and through relationships with others. This knowledge, along with my teaching and parenting experiences, has helped me to believe that it is possible to create educational environments that invite children to be passionate about learning, while also cultivating social and emotional well-being. 

In terms of qualifications, 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 Directory Qualification from the Colorado Department of Human Services.

Michele Craig Leonard (Mitch) – Assistant Director

I received my BA in Sociology and Gerontology at Colorado State University in 2007.  I then got my Masters Degree in Educational Psychology from CU Denver and teaching certifications from The Friends School Teaching Program in Boulder.  I was grateful to be introduced to Patchwork, where all people regardless of age, are agents for change when they engage critically and compassionately with the world.  I have worked at Patchwork since 2009, and it has been by far the most rewarding and enriching experience of my life.  I love sharing in the discovery and delight of learning with children.  My two sons, Huxley and Thacher, also attend Patchwork and I cannot imagine a better place for them!

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

Cassie Swick – Kinder Program Director

I am more than thrilled to be a part of the Patchwork community!
I am originally from Centennial Colorado, where my love for education began shortly after my little brother was born when I was fifteen. I graduated from Fort Lewis College in 2011 with my degree in Elementary Education, and over two thousand hours of teaching experience. From there, my now husband, Jason and I, spent a summer as canoe guides at a camp in Ontario, Canada. We traveled on to southern Oregon, to a small town called Klamath Falls. I first began my early childhood experience at a private school in Klamath in a preschool classroom, and then continued to teach kindergarten at the same school. We moved back to Colorado, and then to Lafayette, in 2013, so Jason could begin his exciting new job at Patchwork, and I could begin teaching preschool at The Primrose School of Lafayette, where I gained two more years experience as a lead teacher. Outside of our passion for teaching, Jason and I enjoy spending time with our wonderful friends and family, hiking with our furry friend Leo, backpacking, camping, music and concerts, skiing, and tending to our garden.

I believe it is a teacher’s job to facilitate in the growth of their students with an open heart and mind, and I believe there is no better place, community, or school to do so! I look forward to meeting you at Patchwork!

Heather Craig – Communications & Finance

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 now be part of the staff! I have an associates of arts degree and I have worked in many different office environments. I have been a CSR and Accounting Controller at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport and I have 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. I stayed home with my kids for the 6 years and 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 daughter, Amelia is in the Aftercare program still, and my son, Logan is in Kinder.

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.

Jammie Speyer – Preschool Program Director

Jammie loves learning, exploring and growing and is thrilled to be a part of The Patchwork Team. She is the mother of three amazing children who are her greatest teachers. Jammie grounds herself in a strong yoga practice, and enjoys teaching prenatal and family yoga in her community. She loves hiking with her family, watching the History channel, and is a budding foodie. She has a BA in Communication and an MA is Sociology. Jammie lives near Boulder with her family.

Claire Bruno – Toddler Program Director

Growing up in Denver, I spent my childhood swimming in the deep end, playing “Little House on the Prairie”, and exploring every puddle and rabbit hole in City Park. My imagination is still strong and I get excited about bringing it to the classroom every day!  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.  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.

Jodi Goldstein – Preschool Teacher

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.

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.

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.

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.

Zoey Helgesen – Preschool Teacher

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.

“Is it utopian to propose that teachers be permitted and expected to learn too?” – Frances Hawkins

Caylen Eckman – Toddler Teacher

I am beyond excited to be joining the Patchwork Community! Early education is important to me because it is critical in providing the foundation for tiny humans to grow into happy healthy adults. I received my degree in Music Therapy from Colorado State University in 2015. I play cello, piano, guitar, ukulele, and vocals. Music has always been a wonderful form of expression and communication for myself and I love sharing music with others. For the last several years I have been focused on being a full-time single mom to my 3 year old daughter, who will also be joining the Patchwork School! Being a parent myself has reaffirmed my love of educating and the importance helping kids navigate their emotions.

I have always had a passion for working with children. As a child myself I would often organize all the neighborhood kids into big games of capture the flag or hide and seek.  My inner child is still very much alive and loves doing crafts, creating games, and exploring nature! Part of why I love working with kids is because I get to re-experience the thrills and excitement of things through their eyes.

Besides teaching and making music, I love cooking gluten-free and vegan food. Hiking and back-country camping. Climbing and rappelling. Gardening and composting. Environmental activism.

My daughter and I currently live in Superior with our sweet little doggo Zoey, and my 7 yr old bunny rabbit Mozie. I am excited to facilitate new relationships, learning, and growth for the upcoming generations! I can’t imagine a better place to work or to have my daughter attend and we are thrilled to become a part of this community.

Hannah Johnson – Kinder Teacher

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 two year old son, Finley.  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 Boulder where I live with my son Finley, husband Andrew, and my dog Brutus.  When I’m not at Patchwork or Naropa, you can find me practicing yoga, making jewelry, reading anything by Brene Brown, listening to podcasts, hiking, and spending quality time with my friends and family.  

Samantha Blankenship – Part-Time Preschool Teacher

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.

Jason Swick – Substitute Teacher

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

Jason 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 his strong interest in counseling and the outdoors, Jason 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. Jason worked as a mentor assisting clients with setting goals, facilitating daily routines, and by supporting each individuals therapeutic process. He is 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, Jason was eager to get back to working with children in an educational setting.

Jason has now been a part of The Patchwork community for many years.  He has worked in the K12 for multiple years and now has been the schools support teacher for two years, working in all programs supporting both students and staff at Patchwork.  He is now living in Boulder with his wife Cassie and is enjoying being close to family, friends, access to outdoors, and the Colorado lifestyle.