Rachael King, Program Director

Rachael is a native Pacific Northwesterner who traveled extensively in the United States and Europe before settling in Portland. Belonging to a family of educators and child advocates, Rachael's enthusiasm for a school that supports each person's needs started at an early age.

Through her work as a nanny, a volunteer, and the Program Director and Primary Instructor of the Pharmacy Technician Program at Carrington College, Rachael has been a part of interactive and creative learning environments for both children and adults. Rachael is happy to explore the balance between freedom, interests, accountability, and excitement for life with students.

Rachael is a voracious reader, and an avid people watcher. She hikes to waterfalls and catches as much good live music as she can manage. Leonard, Rachael's son, is the VFS resident toddler and a favorite playmate of many students.

 

Drake Riot, Advisor

Drake began spending time at school as a parent volunteer, but soon realized he'd found his second home.  Drake loves using game play as a way to teach skills and empower students to become experts and leaders.  He is known for his attachment to David Bowie. 

Mike Casey, Volunteer

Mike taught high school math for 34 years in Maine, New Hampshire, and Oregon. He's now retired and in addition to assisting with training and development at Landmark Worldwide, he has been volunteering at the Village Free School for 10 years.  He hosts a sourdough class in which students make bread and pancakes, and has fun empowering children to be with each other and build their mathematics skills and tools.

Justin Bendsneyder, Special Instructor

Justin is a longtime Portland resident and Northwest native. His true passion is teaching and sharing the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As an active coach and participant in the sport since 2007, his most rewarding moments are helping the new practitioner exceed beyond their prior thought capabilities. When not on mats he enjoys swinging from the monkey bars with his kids, going to the beach, and riding his bike around Mt. Tabor.

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Chrissy Dasco, Intern

Chrissy was born, raised, educated in Western Massachusetts. This past May she graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where she created her own concentration, receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Holistic Education as well as a certificate of Civic Engagement. Through the opportunity to create her own education she has found a passion for exploring and examining the social and emotional development of children, social justice and community creation, and the functions and operations of the education system at large. 

When she graduated from the UMass she set off on a six-month tour of the United States that included a month working as a counselor at Camp Stomping Ground in Deposit New York, an independent drive across the country (from NY to OR completed in four days), five weeks WWOOFing on an organic farm on Oahu, HI, and four weeks completing a yoga teacher training on the Big Island of Hawaii. 

Chrissy firmly believes that children are human beings deserving of the full rights of humanhood. And, she has faith that trusting children and nurturing their development with compassion and love is the greatest way to ensure the creation of a caring body of citizens. After several months of studying educational models that support such human development, Chrissy is excited to further develop her praxis on the matter by spending time as a Village Free School intern.  

When she is not geeking out about education system reform, Chrissy loves practicing yoga, going for long walks, dancing, experiencing live music, riding bicycles, listening to Arcade Fire, and eating organic peanut butter with a spoon. 

She also has many years of babysitting, volunteering, camp counseling, and nannying experience. 

Kathy Crisp, Program Director

Kathy is a New Hampshire native and veteran middle school teacher, with a varied background in teaching math, science, reading, and social studies.

Kathy initially came to Portland as an Americorps member working in Clark County, WA, on wetland restoration. She joined the Village Free School in 2010 and brings a love of people, a passion for life as revealed through the wonders of nature, and a commitment to children. She is grateful to spend her days in an environment that trusts children implicitly, and delights in the daily opportunities to help them discover and develop their own passions.

Kathy loves gardening, reading, camping, hiking, making art, and sharing time with friends and family. She believes in the intrinsic value of each person and in the power of community.

Noppawan Lerttharakul, Advisor

Noppawan came all the way from Thailand in 2015 to work at VFS. After earning a degree in English and Political Science, she helped design a democratic English camp for children in Northern Thailand. There she discovered her passion in education and child development. She is now pursuing a graduate degree in Leadership for Sustainability Education at PSU.

Noppawan believes in nurturing children in a multi-cultural environment and loves indulging herself in the diversity and richness of global cultures through traveling and reading. She traveled extensively in Asia and Europe. She also enjoys playing and teaching classical piano and going to concerts. Sharing these passions at VFS has been a gift.

Spencer Babcock, Intern

Spencer is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. He will be with us during our first term as a volunteer intern. He has worked with youth in a variety of ways, from helping teens backpack in the desert, to teaching art in a middle school classroom, to helping kids paint pictures of elephants at the zoo.

He has also helped businesses and nonprofits tell their stories through design and video to support them in their efforts to build community and promote their work. He is passionate to support efforts to help more kids have the opportunities to learn through natural curiosity.

He loves traveling, mountains, and stretching his imagining with his five year old son.

Don Berg, Project Coach

Don is the founder of Schools of Conscience, which is on a mission to build the nurturing capacity of K-12 schools. He has over 20 years of experience leading children in self-directed educational settings. He volunteers with the Girl Scouts on their Teen Awards Team.

As a scientist, his research has been published by the peer-reviewed journals Other Education and The Journal Of The Experimental Analysis Of Behavior. The article in Other Education was a study of patterns of motivation that included VFS students as subjects.

For about a decade he has been involved in politics in Washington and Oregon. He is also self-employed as a bookkeeper specializing in campaign finance reporting for local political groups such as Portland Clean Air.

Jennifer Shiman, Special Instructor

Jennifer Shiman operates as a one-woman studio, Angry Alien Productions, and is the creator of the animated series “30-Second Bunnies Theatre.” Jennifer has produced and animated 88 short bunny episodes over the past ten years which have been licensed by multiple channels for broadcast and online. Shiman, a Chicago native, currently resides in Portland with her family. She develops, creates and produces creative content viewable across multiple media platforms. A lifelong comics and storytelling fan, she has taught comic art classes to students in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Jessica Graves, Program Director

Jessica is pretty certain she has the best job ever. An alumnus of the Albany Free School, democratic education has played a major role in her life. After years of working with youth in different capacities—as a nanny, in summer camps, and at residential facilities—Jessica arrived at the Village Free School in 2010. She strives to bring compassion, respect, and just the right amount of silliness to students' daily lives, and is proud to be part of a community in which parents and teachers work together to support children as they explore who they want to be.

Jessica was associate editor for the Turning Points; 35 Visionaries Tell Their Stories. She holds a B.A. in English from Hiram College and an M.F.A in Creative Nonfiction Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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Maia Laperle, Advisor

Maia relocated to Portland from Boston, where she managed and taught at a community led after school arts center and mentored adult artists with special needs. She is a visual and performance artist with a B.F.A from Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Maia graduated from the Sudbury Valley School and has had an interest in self-directed education and children's rights ever since. She enjoys chatting with, playing with, and witnessing the amazingness of the students at VFS, and is grateful to be able to share her interest in art and learning with the Village Free School community.

Jordan "Ruby" Welch, Advisor

Born and raised in Northern Colorado, Ruby received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Colorado State University and was a resident intern at the Geller Center for Spiritual Development. Since moving to Portland in 2012, Ruby has deepened their bond with dogs, theater, and the great outdoors.
 
Prior to coming to VFS, Ruby was selected by New Avenues for Youth to start up and manage a Ben & Jerry's pop-up cart at the Oregon Zoo, providing job training and experience for local teens.
 
Ruby's goal for volunteering has been to raise the leadership potential of youth by becoming diversity-inclusive, empathetic listeners. Ruby is grateful to VFS for encouraging play for learning and problem-solving ... and for being a really cool non-profit!

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Joslyn Janapol, Volunteer Instructor

Joslyn, originally from Los Angeles, California, has been practicing conflict resolution and mediation for 15 years. After graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a BA in Community Studies and Women Studies, she spent several years as a legal advocate for victims of domestic violence. 

In 2013, Joslyn earned her Masters of Science in Conflict Resolution at Portland State University, where the focus of her research was the disproportionate rates of exclusionary practices for students of color and the impact Restorative Justice in Schools has on interrupting the School-to-Prison-Pipeline. She currently teaches and practices Restorative Justice and Conflict Resolution with schools throughout Oregon.

Joslyn has remained an active parent in the VFS community since her children began attending in 2009. She is currently the Ombudsperson and teaching a course in Conflict Resolution to VFS students.

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Justine McConville, Intern

Justine is a native Floridian with a soft spot for the evergreens and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest. She moved to Portland in September 2016 in search of a school community that practices self-directed learning and feels honored to be a part of the Village Free School. She is amazed and inspired every day by the people who make VFS a place where children are trusted and their individuality is valued. She is happiest when traveling, singing, crafting, cooking, hiking, practicing yoga, playing games, and snuggling with her puppy, Scout. 

Before moving to Portland, she taught 2nd  and 3rd grade in Brooklyn, New York and spent a year living and teaching in Madrid. She holds a Master's Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languges from Teachers College, Columbia University and a Bachelor's in Psychology from the University of Florida. In all of her experiences studying and working with kids, she is most proud of the strong relationships that form while learning and playing together.

Statement of Non-discrimination

The Village Free School admits students of any race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. This public benefit corporation does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs, employment policies, election of officers, membership, or election to the Council