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)
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 on the Executive Committee, Administration, Finance and Site Groups and is a member of the Board of Trustees.
Enrollment Director/Executive Assistant
Patricia Dewitte-Kuyl is a native from Belgium, raised as a francophone in Flanders. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Oriental Philology and History from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, and her Master’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology from Osaka University, Japan. 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. She has 3 children through which she discovered Waldorf education. She has worked for 15 years at Mountain Laurel Waldorf School as a kindergarten assistant, administrative assistant, and office manager.
Patricia serves on the Administration and Enrollment groups.
Early Childhood Faculty
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!
Kindergarten Assistant and Aftercare Facilitator
Zoe has been working with children for the past 6 years in various settings. She received a bachelor’s degree from SUNY New Paltz in Early Childhood and Elementary Education in May of 2019. She was first introduced to Waldorf Education during the summer of 2017 while working at the Nature Place Day Camp on the Green Meadow Waldorf School campus. She quickly realized that this philosophy greatly aligned with her values and has continued to shape them since. Upon returning to New Paltz that Fall, she began conducting her fieldwork in Preston Neel’s class. Since then she’s had the privilege of working at Mountain Laurel Waldorf School as an aftercare teacher, a substitute teacher, a student teacher and now an assistant kindergarten teacher. She is beyond grateful for the opportunity to be able to work, learn, and grow in this community.
Second 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!”
Third Grade Teacher
Fourth 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 Personnel group.
Chieh de Jong
Fifth Grade Teacher
Chieh de Jong loves nurturing children to reach their full potential holistically, connect with their higher selves, and fulfill their destiny as human beings. Mrs. de Jong holds a Master of Science in Teaching degree from Pace University and attended as a NYC Teaching Fellow. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA, receiving an Exemplary Scholarly Achievement Award. Her journey as a Waldorf teacher began as a parent at the New Amsterdam School when her daughter was a baby. Her life came full circle when she became the Handwork Teacher there. She also graduated from the Applied Arts Program at the Fiber Craft Studio. As a musician, she has performed in downtown NYC and Brooklyn. Her band has opened for artists such as Beck and Thurston Moore. Chieh has exhibited her fine art at her solo art show in Manhattan. She has lived above the Arctic Circle in the Land of the Midnight Sun and has followed the annual animal migration across the Equator in Africa. Mrs. de Jong enjoys spending her free time with her family, her husband, daughter, cat, and fish, who inspire her to reach for the stars. Chieh is filled with gratitude for the opportunity to serve our school community and lead her class on an adventure in education.
Sixth 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 Three Streams Group.
Seventh 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 and Music group.
Eighth Grade Teacher
Takken Wish has 13 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 four daughters.
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.
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, Education Support and Music groups.
Games and Circus Arts Teacher
Richard Ferrono has owned and operated a gymnastics school for over 20 years. His areas of study have included Circus Arts (many disciplines), Parkour, and several martial arts. He is currently attending the Spacial Dynamics Institute in New York. His passions include physical arts, playing music, and spending time with his family and friends.
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 Executive Committee and Three Streams Group.
Serves on the Three Streams Group.
Doreen M. Kirschke
Doreen was born and raised in Leipzig Germany, receiving a Teaching Degree in Health Education, Movement Studies, Sports and Gymnastics from the Bode Schule in Munich, Germany certified through the Sport University Munich. In 1999 she traveled and settled in Warwick NY to learn and perfect her English. There she managed a Health and Gymnastics Facility and opened her own Holistic Health Practice. Through her daughter, she found Mountain Laurel Waldorf School in 2008. Here she has volunteered the past 3 years as German Teacher. After completing the World Language Teacher program at Sunbridge in 2018 Doreen teaches German Classes for 1st through 7th grade.
Marta has worked at Mountain Laurel as the Spanish Teacher for over 15 years.
Marta serves on the Three Streams group.
Originally from Poland, Cezary Ciagio was 10 years old when he was sent to a public ballet school in Warsaw. He studied there for nine years, followed by 10 years as a dancer with the Grand Theatre of Warsaw. In his early 20’s, Cezary developed an interest in anthroposophy and went to Hanover, Germany, to learn eurythmy. After five years of study, Cezary brought this art form to Poland, becoming the first Polish eurythmist since WWII. After several years teaching eurythmy in Poland’s public and private schools (including Waldorf), Cezary moved to the United States in the early 1990’s, working at Waldorf schools in Olympia, WA, and Keene, NH. He has also been a longtime adjunct faculty member at Antioch New England’s Waldorf Teacher Education program.
An active member of the Anthroposophical Society for the last 30 years, Cezary’s passions include magic and fencing. He owns a baseball card collection featuring 20,000 cards.
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 Education Support Group.