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

Patricia Dewitte-Kuyl

Head Administrator & Enrollment Director

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, Administrative Group, Enrollment Group, Care Streams Group, the College, Finance Committee, AWSNA Liaison, and is a member of the Board of Trustees

Sue McKenzie

Business & Facilities Director

Bio Coming Soon…

Sue serves on the Administrative Group, Enrollment Group, Personnel Committee, the College, Campus Expansion Committee (ad hoc), and the Finance Committee.

Lydia Pidlusky

Office Manager

Since graduating from SUNY New Paltz with a BA in jazz vocal performance, Lydia Pidlusky has worked many years in administration, using her knack for computers and technology. Lydia first came to Mountain Laurel School while in college as a volunteer assistant for the Kindergarten in 1999. Later on, although primarily working in the school office, Lydia has expertly worn multiple hats; teaching chorus, substituting for lead teachers in all grades, assisting in special subjects, in the Kindergarten during afternoon naptime, in facilities management and interior painting, and contributing her singing and clarinet skills to the Community Chorus and Community Orchestra respectively. Lydia has worked in several industries throughout the region, most recently as DJ and Operations Manager at a local independent radio station. Her talents extend to the performing arts as a vocalist, actress, writer and director, performing regularly throughout the region.

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

Nancy Hoose

Sunflower Garden Parent & Child Program Lead Facilitator

Nancy Hoosehas been teaching in Waldorf settings with children aged birth to 6 years since 2008. Nancy worked under the mentorship of Wendy Weinrich at Mountaintop School in their mixed age kindergarten in both morning and afternoon programs before leading the school’s first toddler program, The Little Ones. Along with her love of children, she loves baking, handwork, singing and puppetry. Nancy is certified in Early Childhood having attended the Alkion Center, a branch of the Hawthorne Valley Association with a focus on birth to three years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Stockton State College. Nancy’s hobbies include swimming, hiking, yoga and snowboarding/skiing with her family. Nancy and her husband Randy’s children are Stella, class of 2018 alumni and Asher enrolled at Mountain Laurel Waldorf School.

Veronica Kent

Starflower 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.

Veronica serves on the Executive Committee.

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.

Meagan Lara Shapiro

Morning Glory Kindergarten Lead Teacher

Meagan has been a teacher for the past 23 years, working with children of all ages.
She discovered the Waldorf pedagogy through her son, Matan, who attended the Mountain Laurel Waldorf School for 10 years. In 2017, as he was preparing to leave, Meagan found that she wanted to stay; and so began her work as an After-School and Substitute teacher. Since then, Meagan has learned so much and come to love, even more, the vision and integrity of MLWS. She is excited to step into the shoes of Lead Kindergarten teacher and begin the Waldorf teacher training at the Alkion Center. Meagan looks forward to cultivating healthy relationships, community, and kinship with Nature within the garden of the classroom.

Leslie Arouh

Starflower Nursery 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.

Akashlina (Kashi) Ahmed

Starflower Nursery AM/PM Assistant

Akashlina (or Kashi) was born and raised in New York City by Bangladeshi immigrants. She grew up in a very culturally active home and has been involved in Bangladeshi performing arts since childhood as a student and educator of fine art, dance, music and Bangla language. She has worked with children of all ages, but primarily those in early childhood as a teaching assistant and nanny.

With a background in media arts, Kashi went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in psychology from CUNY John Jay College and is currently attending graduate school (remotely) at University at Buffalo for Counseling.

In her free time, Kashi enjoys many outdoor sports and activities, attending concerts, creating art projects in various mediums, and cooking. She, her husband, their cat and dog made their home in New Paltz in the early Spring of 2021. Kashi cherishes her role as assistant Nursery teacher at Mountain Laurel and finds tremendous joy caring for the children.

Daniela Arizmendi

Morning Glory Kindergarten PM Assistant and Aftercare Facilitator

Daniela Arizmendi graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BA in Social Justice Education. This interdisciplinary program, pulling from the arts and social sciences has shaped her holistic approach to education. Expressive arts and child psychology courses taught her the importance of play and somatic learning. Daniela is a caring and passionate educator with over 6 years of childcare and classroom experience who feels deeply committed to providing an inclusive and creative space for embodied learning of the mind, body and spirit. Through her research on Waldorf education, specifically the Nursery / Kindergarten curriculum, Daniela feels deeply aligned with the philosophy and is eager to contribute to Mountain Laurel School’s mission.

Kyrie Berezuk

Mountain Rose Kindergarten PM Assistant and Aftercare Facilitator

Raised in the Hudson Valley, Kyrie Berezuk began her school experience as a student in a small Waldorf Nursery/Kindergarten. She then attended Mountain Laurel Waldorf School from 1st through 8th grade, graduating in the class of 2006. As a former competitive figure skater, she quickly discovered her passion for teaching children at her first job as an ice skating coach. Kyrie then went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. After graduating, she moved to Carbondale, Colorado, where she worked for a prominent ceramic artist as a studio and gallery assistant. Kyrie then made her way south, where she lived for a time in the small city of Lake Charles, Louisiana. There she worked as an assistant manager and art instructor at a community art studio, teaching a variety of artistic techniques and mediums to children ages 3 and up. While in Louisiana, she also held multiple positions at a private school, working as a PreK-3 teacher’s assistant, aftercare teacher, and PreK/Kindergarten summer camp counselor.

Kyrie moved back to the Hudson Valley at the end of 2020, where she has spent the last year and a half working as an artist. For many years, she has held onto the idea of one day returning to Mountain Laurel and rejoining the warm and nurturing community she knew as a child. She is very excited that day has arrived!

Amanda Chapin

Mountain Glory AM Assistant and PM Lead Teacher

Amanda has been working at an outdoor Waldorf kindergarten for the past 3 years. She loves watching the children explore nature and interact with their environment throughout the seasons. Amanda has also worked as a camp counselor with kindergarten age children for the past two summers. Amanda’s own son, who is attending the Mountain Laurelclass of 2031, has been her greatest teacher in life so far. Amanda has been working with children most of her adult life in many different capacities including as a ski instructor and a nurse. Amanda is a licensed nurse-midwife and worked delivering babies for over 10 years. She left her career to be a stay at home mom and found her way to teaching through a Waldorf program that she participated in with her son. She brings her love of all children and nature to her teaching. Amanda is excited to be joining the Mountain Laurel Waldorf Community and the Early Childhood program.

Aurora Gill

Mountain Rose Kindergarten AM Assistantt

Aurora Gill graduated from Mountain Laurel in 2019. Her life has been enriched by Waldorf education since she first attended parent-child classes at the Brooklyn Waldorf school, kindergarten at Mountaintop Waldorf school in Woodstock, and Taikura Steiner school in New Zealand. Aurora has loved the kindergarten for as long as she can remember, and feels that her Waldorf education has gifted her with knowledge in music, art, nature, theater, and language. Currently, Aurora is completing her associates degree at SUNY Ulster Community College. She enjoys studying Spanish, playing the guitar, and spending time with her brother and baby sister.

Grades Faculty

Preston Neel

First 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 17 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.

Rebecca Rew

1st Grade Assistant

Rebecca Rew holds a B.S in Conservation Biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and is a plant and animal enthusiast with experience in delivering outdoor programming focusing on ecology, phenology, and biodiversity. Most recently, Rebecca was a lead teacher at the Waldorf inspired school, Primrose Hill School, where she worked with students ages 3-12 in an outdoor classroom setting, teaching a variety of nature, farm and garden topics.

Takken Wish

Second Grade Teacher

Takken Wish has 15 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 Care Streams Group.

Tomoko Matsunaga

Third 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

Fourth 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 is Chair of the Pedagogical Meetings 

Ruth Lawson

Fifth 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 serves as AWSNA Liaison.

Theodor Lundin

Sixth Grade Teacher

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

Theo serves on the Board of Trustees and the DEIJ Mandate Group.

Marta Porras

Seventh Grade Teacher

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

John Evans

Eighth 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.

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 Care 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, the Campus Expansion Committee (ad hoc), and on the Board of Trustees.

Aaron Bernstein

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

Bio coming soon

Beatrice Chen

Mandarin Chinese Teacher

Beatrice Chen hails from Taiwan and grew up in a family with rich cultural traditions, such as Peking operas and many historical stories brought through singing and acting. She loves playing the Zheng, a 21-string pentatonic ancient Chinese instrument, during her spare time.

Beatrice graduated from National Cheng-Chi University with a B.A in Western Languages and Literature. She attended the Juniper Tree Puppetry & Storytelling Academy, and the Waldorf Institute of Southern California where she performed the Chinese Lullaby “Purple Bamboo Flute” as her Graduation Eurythmy Choreography.

Beatrice also completed the World Language Waldorf Training at Sunbridge College in Spring Valley, NY. She has worked many years as a translator, English and Chinese private instructor, and home schooling teacher. Beatrice is looking forward to deepening her connection with the children through her culture.

Marta Porras

Spanish Teacher

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

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.

Tricia McCloskey

Sculpture Teacher

Serves on the Care Streams Group and is Chair of the College Business Meetings.

Zachary Dolphin

Eurhythmy Teacher

Zachary Dolphin graduated from Eurythmy Spring Valley in 2017, and has since been a freelance eurythmy teacher in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, as well as an active member of the Eurythmy Spring Valley Ensemble, performing internationally and throughout the United States. He is currently enrolled in a Master of Education program in Educational Research with a focus on Eurythmy Education through the Rudolf Steiner University College in Oslo, Norway in partnership with Alanus University in Germany, and is creatively pursuing his ongoing question of how eurythmy can cultivate the foundations of free thinking and moral action.

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 Care Streams Group.