Meet our Team
SARAH SCHUMACHER, Program Director
I am honored to be part of the growing movement to reconnect families and young children to nature, and even more delighted to be part of a developing community committed to preserving the joy and wonder of childhood. As a mother, I continue to reflect daily on what it means for children to be living and growing in our modern world. As an educator, I am inspired by the nobility young children have for teaching us, as adults, how to play again – how to enjoy simple moments, live in the present, and experience the world with all of our senses.
I hold an MS in Developmental Neuroscience from Yale University and a Graduate Certificate in Infant Mental Health from the University of Washington. For the past 20 years I have been working as an Early Childhood Consultant in the Puget Sound area, educating families, preschools, childcares, public health, and social service agencies on the social and emotional needs of young children.
I enjoy gardening, bird-watching, and cooking for my family and friends and raising up my three children, Ella (age 6), Hudson (age 4), and Arlo (age 2.)
JOANN O’MEARA, Educator, Art Studio and Garden School
I was lucky to grow up spending time in two beautiful countries. In Ireland, some of my favorite childhood memories included climbing – either to the top of a very tall hill or a small mountain – I loved seeing how things looked from above! In France, I would spend my days on the beach drawing pictures in the sand, constructing shelters, and swimming until my hands were as wrinkly as prunes.
Since graduating from the National College of Art and Design with a BA in Fine Art, I have had the pleasure of teaching children from all over the world. Locally, I’ve worked at both the Bellevue Arts Museum as a summer art instructor and the Tahoma Children’s Museum as an art docent and teacher. What amazes me about the young students I have worked with is there ability to bring me, as their teacher, back to the moments where I saw the world for the first time. They find and notice infinite beauty in the smallest parts of nature. I want to protect that ability and inspire creativity for all children from their earliest beginnings.
BRAD DUPEA, Educator, Lake Wilderness Forest School
I am an outgoing and loving individual motivated by helping others to reach their potential. I first began trying to do this through coaching nine-year-olds in the game of soccer, weaving in the concepts of teamwork, dependability, discipline, listening, and physical activity into one. When I graduated from Linfield College with a BA in Athletic Training, I began working at Tacoma Public Schools where I educated athletes on prevention, treatment, and recovery from injuries while overseeing their safety at sporting events. Through Liberal Arts education and my Minor in Philosophy I also became passionate about spreading love and knowledge of the natural world and instilling a spirit of individuality and respect in our future generations.
As I feel it is important to remain a student in life, I admire children’s natural ability to live in the present moment; remaining curious, seeing the beauty in everything, never afraid to say what is on their mind. This beautiful awareness combined with the natural world and hands-on play provides a fertile environment for self-discovery. I am grateful to be part of a movement dedicated to providing children with outdoor experiences capable of molding them into responsible, active, loving citizens.
My interests include soccer, camping, snowboarding, meditation, reading, and Reiki.
MEGAN PYLE, Educator, Lake Wilderness Forest School
I absolutely love Washington and was lucky enough to grow up in Maple Valley. My childhood was spent riding horses, wading in ponds, and exploring the beautiful forests of the Pacific Northwest. I believe that discovering a connection with the Earth helps build connections to each other and to ourselves.
I graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a BA in Psychology and an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy. Since 2003, I have had the privilege of working as an early childhood educator for Educare, in Seattle, WA. My favorite part of being a teacher is experiencing the wonder and magic that children can bring to an ordinary day.
I live in my hometown of Maple Valley with my husband Chris, our daughter Charley (age 5), and our dogs and cats – two of each. In my spare time I love reading, photography, going to the beach, and playing games.
ERICA WITTGOW, Educator, The Mason Jar Farm School
Growing up in Puget Sound provided me a love of water and the outdoors. My family spent countless days on our boat, exploring our favorite marinas or discovering new coves. The freedom of wandering beaches, net in hand, set me on a lifelong path of enjoying both the quiet and adventurous moments nature offers us. Now that I am a mother, I seek to find ways to provide this open exploring to our son, Cooper (age 7.)
I hold a degree in Early Childhood Special Education and continue to advocate on behalf of children of all abilities. In my work, I hope to support all children in finding joy and connection to nature and each other.
MAYA WEST, Educator, Urban Eden Farm School
I spent countless hours playing outside in the dry countryside of Southern California growing up. Old oak trees and orchards were my castles. My closest companions were our family horses, dogs, cats, sheep, and rabbits as well as the native wildlife like lizards, roadrunners, snakes, and mice. I didn’t always appreciate a rural life growing up but after living in very urban centers like Seattle and Spokane I’ve realized how much my childhood spent in nature formed me. Nature is where I always return to find calm and peace. I want my own children to richly experience all that the natural and outdoor world can reveal to them. That desire has strongly influenced how we spend our time each day, the lifestyle choices that we make to sustain our natural environment, and the educational paths we are choose.
I hold a BS in Food and Nutrition Science and I have worked as an educator and advocate for families, parents, and young children for the past several years. I live in Spokane with my husband, Ryan, and three children – Jack (7 years), Anne (5 years) and Lucy (3 years). My interests include hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, camping, wild foraging, cooking, and singing.
LINDA PETERS, Educator, The Mason Jar Farm School
I am super excited to be part of the team at Greenplay Northwest and teaching at the Mason Jar Farm School! My appreciation for the outdoors and nature started in Northern California where I grew up surrounded by delicious cherry tree orchards and playing outside with four curious siblings! My fond childhood memories include spending time in the giant walnut tree inhabiting our backyard. Climbing it was a major feat for a five year old and as the years passed it became my secret place with its wide branches and big leaves to shelter me.
Last year I relocated from the Big Island of Hawaii to Maple Valley and live with my sister, her daughter and her two active grandchildren! While living in Hawaii, I worked at the Malamalama Waldorf School after graduating from Rudolf Steiner College. Later I joined Environmental Management in Hawaii County for ten years working to help protect the beautiful island.
Since moving to the Seattle area, I have enjoyed working as a substitute in early education (preschool and kindergarten) at the Seattle Waldorf School. Currently, I am a volunteer child advocate with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA); working with vulnerable children. Being and working with children teaches me how to appreciate the simple things in life and truly is an honor and a privilege that I am grateful for!
For additional fun, I love to travel, hike, knit and discover new parks and outdoor places in my new beautiful home in the PNW!
EMILY EPPERSON, Educator, Lake Wilderness Forest School
Whenever I find myself with free time, I spend it in nature. There is a simple truth to life in the wild places of the world. Within it is a profound sense of peace, felt by synching with the pace and energy of the forest. Yet at the same time endless opportunities forcuriosity, adventure and discovery exist. Involving nature in my daily routine has provided a stable ground and effective resource that I believe everyone is capable of adding to their tool box, no matter the age. Enabling children to follow their curiosities, and find their own personal space and connection to the natural word is something I feel very passionate about.
I began my artistic journey as a child, inspired by family nature outings and stories that broadened my perspective. I went on to study Fine Arts at Cornish College of the Arts, majoring in painting and photography. During this time I also volunteered as an art instructor to grades 3 – 5, teaching creativity exercises and drawing techniques. Seeing kids take their own risks and explore the endless possibilities of their minds was amazing and rewarding. I value these forest school programs for giving children the freedom to do so.
I also enjoy studying herbalism and mycology, creating art, writing, exploring, foraging, horseback riding, and gardening.
HOPE HELMS, Educator, Urban Eden Farm School
I grew up in rural Wyoming, at the base of two mountains. I spent the long days of my childhood under the canopy of trees that surrounded a creek on our property. I was free to create my own space there, and I created an elaborate kingdom. I loved spending time with the horses that we shared our acres with, and I fell asleep each evening to the howls of coyotes. What I was given as a child in that place is one of my most treasured gifts.
I was lucky to find my passion for teaching at an early age, and I have spent over fifteen years working with young children (ages 2-6). I believe in an approach that encourages security, autonomy, and competence. I believe in a child’s ability to be the initiator of their own discoveries, and I believe a natural environment is the most ideal setting for this important work. I am currently pursuing a degree in education that will allow me to achieve my ultimate goal, to advocate for quality early childhood programs that meet the needs of the whole child.
As a grown-up, I live in Spokane Valley with my husband, two daughters (6 years and 3 years,) and two cats. We love exploring together as a family and spend as much time outdoors as we can. We love to camp, hike, bike and garden.
HALEY HILLS, Educator, Osceola Art Studio and Garden School
I grew up in the PNW on Vashon Island, surrounded by acres of trees, mossy lawns, and a pond to find frogs in. All of my childhood memories were created in nature, playing pretend under the evergreen trees and making mud pies in my sandbox. Growing up in an artistic community helped to nourish the creative spirit in me. I love photography, getting my hands messy in clay, and making intricate mandala designs with foraged plants.
I graduated from The Evergreen State College with my BA in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis on art. It was there that I really began to fall in love with teaching preschool aged children, as I worked at the campus children’s center along with my studies. I was immediately drawn to their curious minds and sense of wonder. Seeing the world from such fresh perspectives completely inspired me and I knew I had found the right field to pursue. Upon graduating, I accepted a teaching position at a preschool in West Seattle where the children made art from recycled and natural materials, helped to tend the garden beds, and learned through play. I worked (and learned) there for a few years before becoming a mother to my now 2 year old son. In early 2018, my partner and I moved our family to Enumclaw to be out of the city and closer to nature. We spend all of our time outside, playing in our garden, swimming in the lakes and rivers, and finding amazing campsites up rugged roads. I am so thrilled to begin another chapter in my teaching career at the Osceola Garden school and Art studio!