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

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.

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!

Dear Families,

Thank you for considering our school — as a parent myself I understand how challenging it is to choose other people to care for, nurture and educate your child.  I helped found Patchwork first and foremost as a parent myself, wanting something for my children that I could not at first even describe.  I knew what I did not want — I did not want them to dread going to school or to spend their days looking out windows dreaming of something else.  I am now clear about what I do want — I want them to have the chance to learn through living life, obstacles and all. Patchwork has come so far since we began with just ten children in my basement.  We have multiple programs, many staff members, and have worked with hundreds of  families.  However the goal is still the same — to never stop learning.  If you are excited about supporting children as social and emotional beings, and thinking about learning in a whole new way, I urge you to come find out more, and share your ideas, as well!

Michele Beach, Co-Founder

Andrea Atmore – Kinder 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 the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~ William Butler Yeats

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

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

Paige Voltmer – Toddler Program Director

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. 

Halie Manzanares– Preschool Program Director

Hi! This will be my first year at The Patchwork School and I am so excited to get to know the community and learn alongside the children this year. I am a Colorado native and live in Westminster with my fiance, dog and two cats. I love to travel, spend time with family, and relax with a cup of coffee in hand! I have had a passion for teaching ever since I was a little girl and find so much joy in spending my days seeing the world through children’s eyes. Their curiosity, sense of freedom, and joy make each day so bright and different from the next. I started my teaching career at CSU and earned my Bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies with a concentration in ECE. I was inspired by the Reggio Emilia Philosophy and went on to teach and lead as an interim director at a few different schools in Denver. I then went on to get my Masters degree through the Boulder Journey School and CU Denver. This program reignited my passion for teaching and seeing children for all that they are, whole and capable, and the complexity of their learning through exploration, environment, and social emotional wellbeing. I then traveled to Denmark with my Fiance where we lived for 9 months and I taught at an international school there. It was the most meaningful experience of my teaching career and aligned seamlessly with my personal teaching philosophy as well as the core values of the Patchwork school. I can’t wait to start this next journey with all of you this year! 

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- Toddler 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- Toddler 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.

Kirsten Herman- Kinder Teacher

I am Kirsten and I am originally from Tucson, Arizona, which is where I learned to speak Spanish at a very young age. It is Tucson where I found my love for working with young minds and igniting their new found love of learning and education. In 2015 I received a Bachelors of Elementary Education in Literacy, Learning, and Leadership from the University of Arizona. I also received minors in both Gender Womens’ Studies and Vocal Performance; I use music in all aspects of my teaching pedagogy, so you will almost certainly catch me singing with the children. I started teaching preschool while I lived in Austin, Texas in 2017; I worked as a master educator for a substitute agency. In 2019, I moved from Texas to Boulder, Colorado, to pursue a full time teaching position at a private preschool. Since then I have been a lead ECT teacher in several different schools within Boulder County, where I have taught
and learned many different teaching philosophies and pedagogies. Through my years of full time teaching, I have learned that the two most important things that help me to be a successful educator are
kindness and understanding. All behavior is communication and even if a child is sometimes “speaking a different language,” it is my duty to be patient and try to learn that language. Outside of teaching, I love to be outdoors hiking, camping, and just enjoying this beautiful planet we live on. I also can be found performing at an open mic night or singing karaoke with a group of friends. At home, I can be found lighting a candle, listening to a vinyl, and snuggling with my three fur babies and my fiance Calum; I have two cats named Blackberry and Tino and a dog named Merlot. I genuinely love my career as an educator, and I also love the amazing life that I have outside of teaching. I look forward to bringing my positive energy, love for laughter, and compassion for all beings into the Patchwork school.

Haley Squires- Patchwork Legacy Project Director

Haley is a community educator, facilitator & writer, with a decade and a half of experience in education, libraries and nonprofits. She is passionate about democratic education, mental-health, justice and neurodiversity-affirming spaces. She wore many hats while at Patchwork School from 2007-2017 (Teacher, Program Director, and Board Member) and is back to help coordinate the Patchwork Legacy Project. The goal of the legacy project is to document our wonderful school’s history and approach in hopes of distributing it to a larger audience. When you see her in the space, please say hi!

Likes: reading, art, yoga & axolotls

Dislikes: the sound of styrofoam


  • BA Cultural Anthropology
  • Double Minor in Leadership Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies
  • MA in Education
  • MA in Library Science

Hannah Johnson – Support Staff & Kinder Teacher

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.

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.  

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


In partnership with Louisville Family Center, we also have some wonderful interns that are working on their Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degrees and act as extra support staff in the classroom. Check out this years’ intern bios:

Graham Prather

Kelly Bishop