Faculty & Staff

“Mountain Laurel is an inspiring and beautiful school. My two children have been happy there for nearly ten years and are inspired every day. I’m so appreciative to the dedicated faculty who know my children and help them reach their full potential to be who they are meant to be.” ~ Brandi Ascione (parent)

Business Operations and Administrative Offices

Susan Ramaty

Lead Administrator

Originally hailing from London, England, Susan lived and worked in Europe, Asia and N.Y.C prior to settling in the Hudson Valley. Susan has an impressive professional background with over 20 years of administrative, managerial, creative and business expertise in the fashion industry. A long-time friend of MLWS, she also brings an enthusiastic passion for Steiner education. Her affiliation dates back over a decade to when her two children first enrolled at the school. Susan studied a foundation course at Chelsea College of Art, London, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design from Central Saint Martins, London.

Susan serves as Chair on the Executive Committee, Facilities, Campus Expansion, Strategic Planning, Finance, Administration, and Personnel Groups and is a member of the Board of Trustees.

Patricia Dewitte-Kuyl

Enrollment Director/Executive Assistant

Patricia is a native from Belgium, raised as a francophone in Flanders. She received her B.A. in Oriental Philology and History from the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven and completed her M.A in Cultural Anthropology at Osaka University, with a full grant from the Japanese Department of Education. She married in Japan and worked as a freelance translator/interpreter in the French, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese and English languages for many years after she moved to America. Patricia has 3 children who took her on the wonderful journey of Waldorf Education at Mountain Laurel Waldorf School.

Patricia serves on the Executive Committee, Three Streams Group, Enrollment Group and Administrative Group.

Sue McKenzie

Business Manager

Bio Coming Soon…

Sue serves on the Administrative Group, Enrollment Group, Finance Group and DEIJ Group.

Jessica Young

Receptionist/Administrative Associate

Jessica graduated from the University at Buffalo with a B.A. in History and a minor in Art History. She has worked in an antique auction house, owned her own fair trade shop focusing on Native American and First Nations goods, and most recently was the lead administrator at a computer software company.
 
She has been a member of the New Paltz Historical Society and the New Paltz Historic Preservation Commission. Jessica enjoys gardening, kayaking, and hiking the beautiful Hudson Valley. She lives in the village with her children and many pets. Jessica is very excited to be part of the Mountain Laurel community.

Early Childhood Faculty

Leslie Arouh

Dandelion Nursery AM Assistant and PM Lead Teacher

Leslie has worked at Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in a variety of capacities since 2014; in sculpture, as a substitute teacher, in the kindergarten, and in the office. She has also led special textile workshops with the 5th-8th grades to enhance their studies of India and Africa. Leslie received her BA in Fine Arts from Rowan University with a concentration in Textiles and a minor in Dance. Her love of travel and ethnic fabrics has brought her around the world to study textile and folk art techniques. Originally working in the fashion industry in NYC as a textile designer and colorist, she then went on to produce her own successful line of batik clothing in Bali, Indonesia. After having children, Leslie discovered Waldorf education, which resonated strongly with her values and creative background. She found a natural ability and joy in teaching children, which she pursued as a teaching artist; working with children of all ages in a wide variety of settings, including the nursery and kindergarten at Mountaintop Waldorf School. She then went on to study at the Alkion Center at Hawthorne Valley, where she received her Waldorf Teacher Certification. Leslie loves to practice yoga and African dance, work in her garden, and share outdoor adventures with her family. She is very happy to be part of the Mountain Laurel community and the Early Childhood program!

Ariah Linville

Mountain Rose Kindergarten PM Lead Teacher

Ariah grew up in Santa Cruz, California, where she first fell in love with Waldorf through attending the festivals at her local Waldorf school. For the past decade, she has been basking in the seasons and history of the Hudson Valley. She lived and worked at the Omega Institute for many years and is now pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English. Ariah revels in the art in all things: she is a potter and a writer. She is also passionate about food and social justice.

Kahlia Pelligra

Mountain Rose Kindergarten Lead Teacher

Kahlia’s experience with Waldorf pedagogy began early on. She attended Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School and graduated from The Berkshire Waldorf High School. She was raised in an anthroposophical family on a small biodynamic farm. Kahlia has been teaching Waldorf inspired nature-based kindergarten for the past seven years. Kahlia received her early childhood certification from LifeWays North America and attended Sunbridge Institute for various Waldorf early childhood trainings. Kahlia is enthusiastic about nurturing kindness and compassion in the children’s social realm and inspiring wonder and love for the natural world around us. 

Her passion for Waldorf education began after graduating from the Berkshire Waldorf High School. That passion has steadily increased through her work as an early childhood educator, and especially since becoming a mother to her toddler son, Wylder. Kahlia is honored to be a part of the Mountain Laurel Waldorf school.

Kahlia serves on the Personnel Committee.

Veronica Kent

Mountain Dandelion Nursery Lead Teacher

Veronica Kent has been working with young children and parents for over 20 years. She first came to Mountain Laurel as the afternoon lead kindergarten teacher in 2009. In addition to running a home program, she has taught at New Amsterdam Waldorf School in NYC and Acorn Waldorf School in Accord, NY. She was trained in early childhood Waldorf pedagogy at Sophia’s Hearth in NH. In her free time, Veronica enjoys playing the harp, singing and practicing yoga.

Aaron Rudder

Mountain Rose Kindergarten AM/PM Assistant

Aaron is a musician, world traveler, outdoors and athletics enthusiast, and above all an educator. Aaron graduated Magna Cum Laude from SUNY New Paltz with a bachelor’s degree in early education (b – 6). He has been educating in one capacity or another for the last decade. He has taught introductory music lessons, led hiking/biking tours for Mohonk Mountain House, and has worked various teaching placements in schools around the area. Aaron joined Mountain Laurel School as an assistant in the kindergarten program in 2021 and was a lead counselor at our Summer Camp 2021, providing a nurturing, engaging, and most importantly fun atmosphere for our campers to play and learn.

Akashlina (Kashi) Ahmed

Mountain Dandelion Nursery AM/PM

Bio Coming Soon…

Grades Faculty

Takken Wish

First Grade Teacher

Takken Wish has 14 years of teaching experience, including work in Turkey, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Poland. He has a Waldorf Teaching Certificate from Antioch University, as well as a BA in English from the University of Kentucky, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Oregon State. Though much of his experience has been teaching children, he’s also taught at Orange County Community College and at the Orange County Jail. He loves writing, reading, traveling, and spending time with his wife and five daughters. Takken graduated his first 8th grade class in 2021.

Serves on the 3 Streams Group.

Tomoko Matsunaga

Second Grade Teacher

After moving from her native country of Japan, Tomoko found her passion for teaching while living with children at Concordia Language Village camp in Minnesota. With a degree in Elementary Education from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, she became a class teacher at a public school in Anchorage, AK where she taught for four years. During these years, Tomoko discovered Waldorf education and completed her Waldorf grades teacher training at the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, CA. Her love of traveling has led her to work with an NGO called Peace Boat, translating and traveling around the world twice, working to promote peace, human rights, and sustainability. She moved to the Hudson Valley five years ago and  for the past two years, she has been working at Bloom and Berry nursery school. Tomoko is excited to join the Mountain Laurel family with her four year old daughter.

Tomoko serves on the Personnel Committee.

Michele Turner

Third Grade Teacher

Michele Turner, a native Mainer with a passion for travel, left her seaside home as a young adult to embark on a journey, exploring various parts of the world while pursuing her studies. She received a B.A. in Communication with a concentration in B&W photography in Portland, Maine. In the 1980’s, Michele traveled as a photo documentary artist to Nicaragua and throughout Europe. She continued her work in the states, incorporating her love of nature and the wilderness by climbing the Grand Tetons while documenting NOLS founder Paul Petzolt’s last climb. She was accompanied by her late husband as well as their first child whom she carried on her back. Michele graduated from Antioch University of NE in 1998 with an M.Ed and Waldorf Certification. She has taught preschool through 12th grade in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, St. John USVI and recently in Tanzania. Michele has three adult children and has made her home here in New Paltz, where the mountains and river captivate her imagination. “It is an honor to teach beautiful children in such a wondrous place!”

Michele serves on the Executive Committee and DEIJ Group

Ruth Lawson

Fourth Grade Teacher

Ms. Lawson grew up in and around London, UK. She holds a BA in English Literature from Spelthorne College, Ashford, UK. She moved to the US in 1990. She traveled extensively and worked in the film and music industry in New York City for 15 years before moving to Woodstock, NY and discovering Waldorf education when her daughter was a baby.

Ms. Lawson worked at Mountaintop Waldorf School (a mixed-age kindergarten) and did her Waldorf Grades Teacher training at Alkion Center in Ghent, NY. She was the lead teacher of a Waldorf inspired homeschool co-op from 1st through 4th grade in Woodstock, NY from 2012 – 2016. She then returned to Mountaintop Waldorf School for a further 2 years before joining MLWS.

Ruth serves on the Personnel Group and is Chair of the Pedagogical Meetings.

Theodor Lundin

Fifth Grade Teacher

Theo has been teaching as a grades teacher in Waldorf Schools for twenty-five years here at Mountain Laurel and at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School.

Theo serves on the Board of Trustees.

Marta Porras

Sixth Grade Teacher

Marta has worked at Mountain Laurel as the Spanish Teacher for over 15 years.

Marta serves on the Three Streams group.

John Evans

Seventh Grade Teacher

John joined Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in 2007 as a long-term substitute for third grade. After taking his first class through the 8-year journey he is back for a second round! Before discovering Waldorf Education, John worked as a science teacher in another private school. He majored in biology before completing his teacher training at Sunbridge College. Both of his children attended Mountain Laurel.

John serves on the DEIJ Group.

Preston Neel

Eighth Grade Teacher

Mr. Neel was raised in Macon, GA, and Los Angeles. As a young adult, he lived and worked along the West Coast, in the Southwest and Colorado as a scrimshaw artist, laborer, carpenter, and sailboat crewman. He studied illustration for three years at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and has since worked as a children’s book illustrator and teacher. Mr. Neel came to New Paltz with his family in 2002, graduated from the Waldorf teacher training program at Sunbridge College and has been a grade teacher at Mountain Laurel Waldorf School for 12 years. Mr. Neel considers the diversity of his experience to be his greatest education, settling down, watching his two daughters grow, and cultivating a love of learning in children, has been the most fulfilling and meaningful adventure of all.

Preston serves on the Executive Committee.

Subject Faculty

Steve Bernstein

Chorus, Games and Recorder Ensemble

Steve Bernstein joined Mt. Laurel Waldorf School as a parent in 1999. Steve taught and performed music in various ensembles for 20 years before beginning his Waldorf musical journey by playing guitar and mandolin for the Early Childhood Program and school festivals. He transitioned into the classrooms supporting class teachers in music education and arranging music for plays and other events. In 2003, Steve accepted the directorship of the Mountain Laurel Recorder Ensemble, a performing after school group of 5th – 8th graders. He writes most of his 4-part arrangements for the ensemble and has published his first recorder book with Waldorf Publications. Since 2009, Steve has also been teaching chorus and has been the 4th and 5th grade games teacher since 2015.

Steve serves on the Three Streams and Music groups.

Mark Bernstein

Orchestra and Ensembles

Mark received his BFA in Music from Ramapo College of NJ and has been performing and teaching music throughout the NYC and Hudson Valley area for over 40 years. He has performed and recorded with such artists as Willie Nelson, The Oakridge Boys, Boots Randolph, Mel Tillis, and Allison Kraus. Playing with the jazz quartet, Avenues, Mark has shared the stage with Grover Washington, the Brecker Brothers, Dave Valentine, Kenny Rankin, and Bela Fleck; he toured nationally for five years with the 10-time Grammy Award winning Jimmy Sturr Orchestra. From 2000 to present Mark has directed the music program at Mountain Laurel Waldorf School. He is proud to say that, of his six children, three attended the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Spring Valley, NY—K through 12—and three are graduates of MLWS!

Mark serves on the Personnel and Music groups and serves on the Board of Trustees.

Aaron Bernstein

3rd Grade Strings & 4/5th Grade Orchestra Teacher

Bio coming soon

Marta Porras

Spanish Teacher

Marta has worked at Mountain Laurel as the Spanish Teacher for over 15 years.

Marta serves on the Three Streams group.

Donna Jensen

Handwork Teacher

Donna is the mother of two sons, Julian (MLWS class of 2008) and Jarrett (MLWS class of 2010). She is an avid traveler, dancer, gardener, and beach-comber.

Donna was born on Long Island, was an AFS exchange student to Turkey and has lived in Minnesota, NYC, New Hampshire, and Ohio. She moved to New Paltz to attend SUNY, receiving a bachelor of Science in Physics in 1985. Donna worked in business with her former husband at Ireland Corners Tire Center before finding her way to Mountain Laurel. She found her path to Waldorf teaching through her son, Julian. He was enrolled in the Nursery at Mountain Laurel in 1996. Three years later Donna was volunteering in Julian’s first grade handwork class and after that was asked to teach second and third grade Handwork. In addition to teaching lower grades handwork, she was also the afternoon Kindergarten Teacher. Donna attended Sunbridge College, receiving her Applied Arts Certificate in 2007.

Donna is so grateful for all the years (17 and counting) of teaching at Mountain Laurel. Being a part of this community has given her so much joy and fulfillment and offered so much opportunity for personal growth.

Donna serves on the Three Streams Group.

Tricia McCloskey

Sculpture Teacher

Serves on the Three Streams Group.

Zachary Dolphin

Eurhythmy Teacher

Bio Coming Soon…

Paola Tayvah

Discovery Room Teacher

Paola has worked as an educator and administrator within a variety of settings, including Waldorf-inspired  Kindergartens, a Montessori 2 – 7 class, and a  Hebrew middle school. She most recently was an educational support teacher at the Waldorf School of Princeton for 14 years. 

She has additional training in remedial work including language programs: Orton Gillingham, Wilson, Barton, Hochman, Keys to Literacy,  and Framing Your Thoughts as well as math programs: Building Math Minds and Right Start Math. 

MS Ed, Simmons College; B.A  Educational Psychology with a Thesis on the Waldorf Approach and Gifted Education, Skidmore College.  Associate Early Childhood; Center for Montessori Education,  Foundation studies and teacher training, Rudolf Steiner College.

Paola serves on the Three Streams Group.