founder and lead teacher
A midwest native, I grew up romping in the deciduous forests around our family home and swimming along the shores of Lake Erie. In the fall of 1999, I attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education. Subsequent years were spent teaching in small democratic based elementary schools, working on farms and in bakeries, and traveling a fair bit around our country from Maine to Maui. In 2008, I found Portland and decided to stay. I first taught Kindergarden and then preschool at Trillium Public Charter School. After three years with Trillium I took a one year sabbatical and lived at Yasodhara Ashram in the Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia - studying yogic philosophy and practicing karma yoga. Upon returning to Portland, I taught preschool at Helen Gordon Child Development Center and simultaneously attended Portland State University to receive my Masters in Sustainability Leadership, Policy and Education.
It’s been my dream to open a preschool built on the foundation that play is at the core of childhood. Since the dream was conceived I’ve spent the better part of these past years preparing for this by learning skills and trades that allow me to feel capable of directing a preschool that I can proudly stand behind. One where children are encouraged to create their own theories of the world, spend time in the ecological environment around them and learn how to navigate conflict with compassion and awareness. One where families feel a part of a greater community. And one where teachers, families and children know they are held and supported by one another.
I am excited to join the Portland Play Project team! I come by way of Tulip Tree Preschool and Elm House: Reggio inspired, Constructivist and nature-based programs which serve preschool and toddler age. I am passionate about anti-bias education and inclusion, as well as modeling compassion, community, and using storytelling as a healing, unifying practice.
My background is in arts; I went to college in a small Boston school for children’s book illustration. My mother is a (retired) preschool teacher and my father was a goldsmith: I suppose I traverse both worlds. I continue to work as an artist under the name Clover Brown, and delight in children’s discovery of media, art and self-expression through art process. For many years I lived and worked in academic Boston/Cambridge. I was a bookseller in independent bookstores and specialized with a thorough knowledge of children's books and illustrators. This was also when I began self-study of interests in mindfulness, Buddhism, and Autism Spectrum research.
I came to Portland in 2008 after some time in NYC. I fell in love with Portland- the food culture, the urban gardens, the arts and wilderness here. I also fell head over heels for my just-born twin nephews, who arrived in August 2008 and are now 10! Our families spend much of our time together, we live door-to-door, and for many years in their early childhood I also lived with and cared for them. It was our closeness as a family, my caring for my nephews in their first 6 years, and our forays into the Autism community as a family which sparked my own interest in early childhood education.
This will be my 4th year as an ECE teacher. I really love getting creative with kids, the science and earth exploration that Reggio philosophy so keenly embraces, taking time to thoroughly explore even simple ideas. I also enjoy Reggio schools because I particularly enjoy documentation, and I look forward to connecting with our community of families both interpersonally and through our documentation work of the children’s rich discoveries. I adore nature, plants and holistic healing, music, seeing everything as a possible art project. I am an avid reader, a seasoned writer, an illustrator, herbal tinkerer, dedicated Auntie, voracious craftsperson, and an advocate for people with special rights- young and old. I bring my love of creative process and my appreciation for the sovereignty of each child to this inspiring learning environment.
Ella Rae Woodland
assistant teacher and aftercare program manager
I was born and raised in Albany, California (right next to Berkeley!). I earned my BS in Occupational Therapy from San Jose State University in 2013. My studies included many child and human development classes, psychology classes, and human biology classes. I spent 8+ years volunteering and interning with my mentor, a master OT in the Albany Unified School District. I have OT experience with children from preschool through high school in classroom, small group, and individual settings. Though I eventually decided not to pursue a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, what I learned during those years still serves me daily.
After graduating SJSU I spent four years working at a private school in Mill Valley, California. I started as the lunchtime preschool assistant and daycare teacher, and worked my way up to assistant preschool teacher. I was one of three teachers in a Montessori-inspired classroom of 3-6 year old children. I have always been particularly drawn to these ages and felt right at home teaching preschool.
I moved to Portland in September of 2017 to attend Portland State University, where I am earning a master’s degree in Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE), a small program in the Graduate School of Education (and the same program Meg was in!). I am learning about education, leadership, and policy—and so much more! My favorite classes so far have been Global Political Ecology, Urban Farm Education and Policy, and Ecological and Cultural Foundations of Learning.
I am passionate about early childhood education and the impact it can have on the entire trajectory of a child’s life. I am interested in shifting away from our current mainstream education system where children learn about the real world from inside four walls. I believe that learning happens by engaging with the world and using all of our senses. I strive to nurture children’s innate curiosity and wonder, to foster compassion for all life, and to support children as they navigate through the world. I bring a calm and grounded presence, a sense of humor, and an appreciation for the magic of preschool. PPP is a beautiful embodiment of the qualities that I value most. I am grateful to work in a school where I can practice my beliefs and continue to grow and learn from teachers, parents, and students.
I enjoy exploring the outdoors, reading, cooking, meaningful conversations, being silly, and making art of all kinds.
I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts. My childhood was full of laughter and wonder, and a burning enthusiasm for play was born at an early age!
After graduating high school, I ventured down a traditional path traveled by my family, becoming a student-athlete at a small business school in Massachusetts. However, shortly after my freshman year, my career was ended by a knee injury. Left to my studies, I quickly realized that the business world was not for me. I left school in search of a more self-directed education, one that allowed me the freedom to explore concepts that had always interested me - community, play, art, creativity, and resourcefulness.
Seeking a community of like-minded learners, I moved to Portland in 2016 to attend a radically alternative 2-year college called the Wayfinding Academy. At Wayfinding, I had the opportunity to create my own curriculum and stretch and grow through a variety of self-directed projects. I walked the Camino de Santiago, a 250+ mile pilgrimage through the hills and countryside of Northern Spain. I painted a multi-wall mural in Wayfinding’s function hall. I created a documentary highlighting the role that grief has played in fostering love and resilience in my family. I facilitated workshops on Bricolage - a French term that means “to create using whatever materials are at hand”. I crafted an independent study on reclaiming play as adults - seeing it not as a trivial, childlike quality, but as essential to healthy adult learning. And it is this passion for play that brings me to Portland Play Project.
I am fascinated by the role of play in every stage of life, from the wide-eyed wonder of young children, to the imagination and ingenuity of adults, to the vibrant, colorful wisdom of elders. I believe play is essential to who we are as healthy, thriving humans and I am so thrilled to work with Portland Play Project where I can share this enthusiasm with all of the children, families, and teachers.
I come from a small town in Southern California in an area watched over by the mountains. I have had a lifelong appreciation of forests and exploring new environments. My love for the natural world led me here to Portland where I am happily creating art and roaming through the trees.
I graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in Linguistics in 2016. I first started working with children as a speech therapy assistant during my time as an undergrad student. In 2017, I worked with children as a gymnastics coach and then as a nature preserve naturalist. Through these positions, I was able to guide children through experiences where they have explored their sense of self, their ability to grow, and their environment. I have loved being a part of this stage of self-exploration for them and I am inspired by the idea of understanding our world through physical and metal means. I aim to see the world through an array of perspectives and I encourage that in my work with children. I am enthralled to be a part of the Portland Play Project and I cannot wait to share the wonder and curiosity of life with this wonderful community.
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