The mother of a high school student in 2009, Karen Grey started Waldkinder, in part, because she wasn’t done “running with children.” Though her only child was preparing to fly, she knew that her days nurturing children were not over. With that desire and a diverse background in teaching, Karen developed a preschool program in line with the same child-rearing philosophy she used on her daughter Katie; take children outside, let them explore nature, don't hover and don't worry!
“Children have so much more capacity for navigating risk in nature than most people give them credit for!” says Karen of her educational philosophy.
As a Florida native, Karen grew up in the water. She was a lifeguard,
a SCUBA diver, and even had a brief but exciting stint as a whale trainer at Sea World until she realized she didn’t agree with keeping whales in captivity. She received her BS in psychology from
the University of Central Florida. After graduation, she spent a couple of years as a teacher at her high school alma mater in Orlando.
Karen moved to Ft. Collins, CO to pursue a master's degree at CSU in human development and family studies and worked briefly as a marriage and family counselor. Karen’s first stint as a preschool teacher was in a traditional preschool environment in Ft. Collins where she was aware that the confines of rooms in a center were not the ideal environment for preschool children.
“They don’t bounce off the walls if there are no walls,” Karen likes to say. “Once you take kids outside, they become calm and engaged. There is so much life to take in once they are outside! Everything to learn not only about nature but about how to be safe in it. Inside, the only risk is becoming bored.”
Rebecca was born in Michigan, where she learned to love nature roaming the forests and beaches. She attended Western Michigan University, studying Earth Science and
Environmental Resource Management. The North Woods of Minnesota beckoned her with a job as an educator at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.
While there, Rebecca attended University of Minnesota in Duluth where she obtained a certificate in Environmental Education. She has worked at a number of nature centers teaching children of all ages, including the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies here in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Rebecca and her husband Jason live in rural Emma with their two school-aged children who are encouraged to frolic freely in the forest! Rebecca has taught
preschool for 8 years, five with Waldkinder.
"I love being outside with the children. They are more calm and relaxed when they are in nature. So am I! We have time to explore, learn about ourselves and the environment and how to take care of both. Working the Waldkinder way, I have learned that children are so much more capable than we give them credit for. Instead of recoiling, they are excited to meet new challenges! And with love,
consistency and encouragement will rise to any occasion."
Kelly was raised in Mahtomedi, MN. You could always find her, playing in the mud, swimming in the lake or running around with all the neighbor-hood children playing street hockey, making up games, climbing trees and finding bird nests and bugs. She received her BS in Early Childhood Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2002. Once in CO, Kelly continued her education at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge and Carbondale receiving her Director’s Certification in 2012. She’s been teaching preschool for over 11 years, two years at Colorado Rocky Mountain Preschool and four of them at Waldkinder Adventure Preschool. Kelly and her partner Briar have a daughter, their forest child, Selah, who will be at Waldkinder soon.
“I am grateful to say I have found my teaching home. I love being outside with the children, giving them the freedom to explore in a safe environment, providing nurturing support for them to find their own limits in whatever adventure we happen upon. I strive to assist each child to be reflective and empathetic, where they can become aware of themselves and others. We do this everyday with songs, games, art, stories and adventuring into our neighborhood. I love my job!”
Ali was born and raised in the Roaring Fork Valley. She attended Mt. Sopris MontessoriSchool, Carbondale and Aspen Community School(s), Colorado Rocky Mountain School for high school, Mid-state Technical College in Wisconsin for undergraduate and is currently completing her degree in Early Childhood Education at Colorado Mountain College. During high school, Ali traveled around the world competing in whitewater kayak competitions, earning a spot on the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team three years in a row. After high school, Ali worked on the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol as an EMT for nine years, where she also initiated an Avalanche Search and Rescue Dog program. She has worked with numerous outdoor programs up and down the valley, from Blazing Adventures to Ute City Farms to the Pine Creek Cookhouse (driving the horse-drawn sleigh). Her love and knowledge of the outdoors (& understanding of safety) is infectious and inspiring.
“I have always been drawn to the philosophy and ideals of Waldkinder. Allowing children to take risks and to explore the environment in their own way is critical to healthy growth and development. Children need to play, interact with, discover and experience the world on their own, and when they are provided with the time to do so, children will become confident, capable, empathetic and respectful. I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work with children in a Waldkinder setting and I feel as if I have found my calling and my place as an early childhood educator.”