Director, Design and Sciences
Susan Dunn earned her doctorate in science education from the University of Northern Colorado, administrative certification and a graduate degree in elementary education from Portland State University, and undergraduate degrees in fine arts and elementary education from Western Washington University. As a classroom teacher and elementary principal, Susan has worked with children from 3 to 14 years. She has worked extensively with teachers as a Director of Staff Development/Curriculum/Evaluation, and with undergraduates and graduates as a university/college faculty member. Her work with children is based on a background in cognitive development and a passion for deep learning that draws together childhood and the development of skills needed in a future we cannot yet know. Susan’s work reveals a respect for collaborative inquiry, reasoned risk-taking, and reflection.
Sally Wells earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education and a graduate degree in Curriculum/Instruction, both from the University of Oregon. As a classroom teacher, her work with children ages 5 to 11 is centered on inquiry, capitalizing on the child’s natural curiosity, and empowering the learner in decision-making processes and reflection. Sally’s love of literacy is illustrated daily in her engagement with the writing process as she collaborates with youngsters to consume and produce text. Her passion for the rich tradition of oral story-telling and children’s literature are gifts to each child inspired to stretch the imagination, extending access to ideas and information.
Making Learning Visible
Will Parnell holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Portland State University with an emphasis in the educational approaches found in Reggio Emilia, Italy’s municipal preprimary schools and infant-toddler centers. Will loves to work in applied research that moves schools to higher ground where children can teach adults how to learn with them as active co-learners. Will works with schools to openly express their values through documentation, collaboration, and reflection on deep inquiry work. He believes in living with enduring questions through a cycle of inquiry; a cycle where we question, explore, reflect, make learning visible, and question so more. Enduring questions stay with us over our lives, where we come to understand our own answers more deeply over time. Will’s current research centers on l’ateliers or studios where children can represent their thinking visibly, aided by their creative expression. He is writing and publishing many manuscripts on children and teachers’ experiences in the early childhood studio–a place where children’s many expressive languages demonstrate their human potential.
Dean of Scholars
After a detour through a career editing films, television, and other assorted media, Adam returned to a long-standing interest in education. A lifelong exposure to an assortment of classroom environments and models brought him to study the varied approaches of Portland schools. He came to Renaissance at the end of the school’s second year as a volunteer through the M A T program at Lewis & Clark College, and has continued to be a part of the school’s growth and spirit. Adam’s true passion at Renaissance is embedded in the school’s ability to find ways of harmonizing different areas of study. He believes that by finding creative marriages of ideas, children challenge conventions, create insight, and determine how to shape their own learning. When not engrossed in the school, Adam holds emeritus status at a local yarn shop, where he can be found knitting and weaving. He also enjoys photographing and charting muddy paths in order to plot warm weather motorcycle group rides.
Head Teacher, Upper School
Jenifer Millan earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Portland State University, teaching license and Masters degree from Southern Oregon University and undergraduate degree in Human Development and Family Sciences from Oregon State University. As a classroom teacher, Jen has worked with children from 4 to 12 years and her passion for science and the arts is centered on inquiry and the child’s natural curiosity to ask questions and seek answers through discovery and reflection. Jen’s graduate studies at Portland State University introduced her to the educational approaches of the municipal pre-primary schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Through these experiences, she developed a passion for documentation and the ways of living the teaching and learning process. Jen’s work with documentation centers on reflection and critical questioning and the ways the work of children and teachers allows for continual growth, reflective practice and insight into explorations, interactions, considerations and experiences. In her free time, Jen enjoys ballet and running.
Head Teacher, Lower School
Before joining the Renaissance family, Leah received her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. One of the many aspects that attracted Leah to this community is the child-driven curriculum. The design of the school allows Leah to build lessons based on the interests, needs, and strengths of the children. Leah believes that this aproach leads to a more personalized and meaningful academic experience. Through this process, Leah has found herself embracing her own role as a scholar, exploring and learning alongside the children. They inspire her each day to ask more questions and try new things. Recently, the children inspired Leah to begin her first crochet piece – a baby blanket for her niece. Leah is an avid runner and spends a great deal of her spare time training for or participating in races.
Sarah Gault earned her M.A.T. from Lewis and Clark College after working with children with emotional and behavioral needs in a residential setting for five years. Since earning her degree Sarah has taught all ages from 5-14 in public school settings, through tutoring, and here at Renaissance. As a teacher, Sarah loves planting the seed of an idea and watching it bloom as it cycles back around. Prior to her work as a teacher, Sarah studied neuroscience, chemistry, and biology and earned a B.S. in psychology. For fun, Sarah reads books with daughters Nora and Amaia.
Amelia is a Brazilian National and has taught internationally for over 18 years. She earned her Masters Degree in Education from Framingham University and is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Childhood. Amelia has a post-graduate work in Psychopedagogy, researching integrated aspects that impact learning –physiology, social economic conditions, psychology and pedagogy. She holds a degree in Speech Therapy from Brazil where she had her private practice. Amelia’s teaching philosophy is that learning must be fun, purposeful, and relevant. She believes that inquiry-base learning gives children ownership of their learning and builds bridges for future explorations. She has a passion for photography, outdoor activities, indoor rowing, cooking, fairy tales, and writing.
Sylvia Battram earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Theatre from Lewis & Clark College and her Masters Degree in Elementary Education from Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. She has worked with children ages 5-10 in various educational settings, including summer camps, after-school programs, and most recently in Portland Public School as a teaching intern. She is very excited to starting her first year as a classroom teacher at Renaissance. With a background in performing arts, Sylvia is an advocate for the arts in education and strives to encourage the natural thespian in every child. Having taught circus arts internationally, she is the co-founder of a new nonprofit, Circus Cascadia, an educational program that uses circus arts as tools for children to build self-confidence, take risks in a safe environment, and develop physical and mental stamina.
Kirsten comes to us from sunny California where she attended the University of California Santa Barbara and acquired a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. Kirsten attended Southern Orange County School of the Arts and studied dance, choreography, and performing arts before discovering her love of science. Being a music enthusiast, Kirsten has been playing instruments like the sitar, guitar, piano, and voice for many years. Studying musical theory, musicianship, ear-training, and sight singing means that Kirsten fills our learning space with her expertise and encourages children to explore their own interests in music and instruments. Kirsten worked as a director of two private learning institutions, harnessing over 7 years of previous experience as an educator. On her free time, Kirsten runs a small, sustainable jewelry and leather accessory company.
Michelle completed her bachelor and master degrees at Portland State University. This is Michelle’s third year working at Renaissance. Michelle’s first year with us was as a student teacher working alongside Sarah Gault and Jen Millan. She is grateful to have had such amazing mentor teachers to support her own learning. When not at school, Michelle can often be found spending time outside. Michelle grew up in Southern Oregon and holds a deep love for Oregon’s forests and oceans. In October, Michelle became a student once again, trying her hand at a new skill; playing the viola. The experience has been filled with moments of doubt, frustration, and incredible triumph.
Olivia Vavroch holds a dual Master’s degree in Elementary Education and Special Education from Lesley University. Outside of school, Olivia teaches classes and makes stained glass pieces at her stained glass studio, Vavroch Glass. Olivia practices and plays accordion and drums in her free time. Olivia also enjoys singing, playing in her garden, painting, and travel. Olivia’s keen eye for organization and spacial solutions makes her place at our school integral to our atelier and workshop spaces.
Mary (Jill) St. Louis
Jill holds a bachelor of arts degree in Art, with an emphasis in education from Southern Oregon University. Jill also holds a master’s degree in teaching: ECE/ELE from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. She Jill speaks French and helps to guide our learners in pursuing their own language interests and discipline. Jill’s special interests include the fine arts: sketching and drawing specifically. The cello has been a part of Jill’s life since she was ten years young. Jill has run several Hood to Coast relays and enjoys taking parts in marathons. Jill, her daughter, and partner enjoy music festivals and camping as a family.
Maggie Prebble comes to us with a unique and interesting background. Maggie holds a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from DePaul University and a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Cincinnati. Maggie spent two years living in Prague, teaching English, and collecting a basic understanding of Czech language. Her special interests include hiking Oregon trails and travel. Maggie has a passion for American history and completed a Congressional internship in Washington, DC for a representative from Kansas’ 2nd district. During her time giving tours of the Capitol Building, Maggie was inspired to pursue a career in education.
Dana Buttler is a middle school intructor and also serves as our school literacy specialist. Dana has positively transformed our library system since joining the faculty. Dana is an accomplished school librarian and has served over 39 years in the teaching field, in various public and private institutions. Dana’s special interests include reading and writing fiction, reading and writing poetry, birding, gardening, hiking, walking, advocating for homeless, advocating for people with mental illness, and music, especially jazz. Dana’s love for language arts influences those around her, old and young, while her enthusiasm for reading and writing is infectious and inspiring. Come see the work Dana is doing to organize our collection of texts!
Amy is our receptionist extraordinaire. Often she is the first face to welcome our children and parents to school each day. Amy graduated from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington with an English writing undergraduate degree. Later Amy decided to get into education by certifying in TESOL. Amy used to be a dancer and still enjoys performing arts. Amy also enjoys hikes, boating, snowboarding — anything involving the outdoors. Amy’s favorite activity is playing with her little boy!
Hilary acts as our school nurse, utilizing her healthcare experience to enhance the safety and well-being of Ren families and children. Hilary sees our community as a privileged one. With our needs met, the community is poised to reach out into the greater Portland community and see how we can be change-makers, extending ourselves so we can grow together. Hilary holds a bachelor of science in nursing, a bachelor of fine art in graphic design, and a license in massage therapy. Being a part of a bilingual household, Hilary is working to expand her sense of the French language. Hilary’s personal interests include world traveling, hiking, gardening, French, cooking, and building community.
Charlie Muggins: School Constable
January 16, 2010 – present
Charlie meets Professor Diggory Galileo Farnsworth, School Constable-in-Training…
Faculty Professional Development
Recruitment, Retention, and Leadership
We have grown in attendance from ten to over 100 children, from two teachers to many. It began with ideologies founded and practiced by Susan and Sally and, in the beginning, it was just the two of them. Each year the core pedagogy has remained intact and strong, adjusting to accommodate an increasing number of learners and teachers. In order to maintain an ideal ratio of ten to twelve children for core instruction in literacy and numeracy, new faculty have been added. When we add a new member of the Ren family, we look primarily for adults who are eager, passionate “learners.” A variety of backgrounds assure that each teacher has a unique perspective and expertise from which to explore ideas and work with children. We seek to bring a diverse, collaborative group together to create an interconnectivity that strengthens the capacity of our whole community – -children and adults. To understand how this works beyond the surface, you are invited to look at how we conduct recruitment, coupled with ongoing support and long-term goals…
Who we are, and who we can become, are illustrated throughout our environment for teachers who consider joining us. Ren is recognized as a place where teaching is a deep engagement and act of creativity, as well as vigorous and mentally challenging. Being able to really know a group of children places the responsibility centrally on those relationships rather than on scripted curriculum. Instruction becomes intimate and responsive. Those elements require professionals with special interests, energies, and gifts.
When recruiting, faculty members conduct interviews, often over several days, as prospective faculty members visit and spend time with Ren teachers. New teachers are assigned roles as a morning teacher, specialist, or teaching assistant. If we are fortunate enough to hire before the prior school year is out, we offer a stipend to join the faculty in its work for several days, to become acquainted with the “Ren Way.” New faculty members also know what opportunities may lay ahead in extending their days to content time, exploratory classes, and special assignments. Some Ren teachers have multiple “lives” outside our school, and elect to join Renaissance as part-time faculty because of the professional excitement and atmosphere, while maintaining other personal obligations and interests.
In all hiring, we strive to find and nurture the right match for our children… for the vision… so that Ren retains full integrity.
Weekly, the faculty meet for mini-professional development lunches and every other Wednesday morning we have full faculty meetings to review and prepare for the administrative aspects of our work. In the fall, we hold a full week workshop for new and returning staff, prior to the school opening in September.
We initiate a three-year scaffold for all newly-hired teachers. During the first year, each new teacher is paired with an experienced team teacher. Planning, resourcing, and collaborative teaching allow the new member to absorb traditions and offer new insights and questions that keep us fresh and articulate. During that year, new professionals count on their side-kicks to learn about narrative reports, checklists, assessment, conferences, and newsletters. In the second year, teachers feel more grounded and begin to take on more responsibilities as a teammate and for school-wide aspects of our work. The third year, teachers may take on interns and leadership opportunities. We believe that such investment results in retention and reciprocal contribution!
All faculty members work collaboratively to write the ever-important narratives included in our Learner Profiles, the deeper descriptions of curriculum and individual children that detail more than mere checklists. Teachers are encouraged to take and lead professional development classes, pursue degrees that advance teaching and interest areas, and adopt leisure interests that support their own thirst for learning. Faculty members are awarded a stipend for selecting and studying new art forms, from learning to play the viola, calligraphy, forge work, and photography, to other fledgling studies! Each learning experience carries with it the revitalization of being a learner and offers new insights, resources, and expertise to the school.
Each faculty member selects a personal option for health and wellness enhancement, subsidized by a faculty fund; and every year, our faculty receive an increase in compensation to account for the cost of living and benefits.
We are proud of our efforts to increase faculty time, leadership opportunities, and ongoing professional development, providing incentives for recruitment and retention of a very special learning community.
Sudy’s life is the story of bridges…
His journey began with a true north star in his pocket as he ventured from his childhood home, from his Hungarian family in Romania.
He fell under the spell of the love of his life, “Julika,” and they married.
And they welcomed, with great joy, a son, Sabi, two years later.
He crossed life bridges, from son-child,
to elite soccer player and scholar,
to husband and father.
Politics in his native Romania tugged and pushed and challenged all that Sudy believed. His steadfast compass guided him to make a choice. He and Julia left the country for Germany where they performed menial labor for sustenance while waiting to reunite with Sabi and make a new life.
He believed in his choice; he believed in the strength of his family.
He created and traveled an unfamiliar bridge.
The family later crossed an even longer bridge, from Germany to New Jersey. Julia and Sudy took on jobs, while learning English; and Sudy, with his ever-powerful belief in opportunity and hard work, re-created his professional life, going back to school and becoming a physical education teacher.
Sudy believed in himself.
He believed he could make a difference in the lives of youngsters. He used movement as the medium: agility, flexibility, endurance, and self-control. He also knew that life lessons come through teamwork and growing confidence. He harnessed his love of sports and his skills in soccer to become a beloved coach who always credited the success of his teams to the diligence and skill of the athletes in his charge.
He believed in them.
Sudy crossed many bridges, from one culture to another, from one political system to another, from one profession to another, from the east coast of the US to the west coast. He brought with him the lessons and resolve of the past and built on the new opportunities he found. His pockets were full of stardust and dreams, of gratitude, and love. He scattered those gems wherever he went. And he was accompanied always by the people he loved most, Julia and Sabi, gathering new friends along the way.
Sudy was a pied piper, the head of the parade. He loved the children he served. He only wanted the best for them and sought every opportunity to be that for them. When he retired from public education, he continued to offer his gifts to schools as a guest teacher. To this school, Renaissance, he became a champion and adored teacher. Each day he joined us, he never came empty-handed.
He brought cards, mementos of our past and stories of shared experiences, bright bouquets of flowers, his broad smile, and treasures he knew would make us smile.
If he saw a need he would fill it without asking, and step back with a twinkle in his eyes waiting for us to find it.
He never failed to ask, “What can I do for you?”
Sudy was a man of “more.” He wanted more. He offered more. He gathered more courage, enthusiasm, encouragement, commitment, laughter, and appreciation by the armfuls. More and more. And if it wasn’t obviously there, he created it! And then he would hand it to us…. often so much that we would stagger under the sheer amount and weight of it, full to the brim, and have to pass it on to someone else to balance ourselves. And isn’t that delightful! One man gave so much love that we were compelled to follow his lead and do the same for others.
Sudy became a bridge-builder… He made the world stronger with the network of kindness he created.
Sudy was a bridge himself… By the date of his birth, we know he was made of oak, a tree that symbolizes wisdom and truth. Interestingly, oak people often pursue careers in law or teaching. And, as Sudy would decline to choose “or”, he brought majesty and integrity to both. He valued the magic of the word “and.” His life is a legacy to the power he attributed to that word.
Oak… it is an ancient symbol of family love and devotion, of strength, and protection. Sudy will be remembered as a natural leader, an optimist… strong-willed, passionate, responsible, joyful, and playful. Protective, nurturing, and generous. His branches were sturdy and supported all he loved.