Rachael Allen, Director
Rachael is a native Pacific Northwesterner who spent her youth overseas and in Baltimore before settling back in Portland in 2005. Coming from a legacy of educators and youth advocates, she brings passion for education that empowers people. As a director of the Village Free School, Rachael explores the balance between freedom, accountability, and authenticity with students of all ages in a self-directed, non-coercive environment that operates democratically. Her love of music has been a palpable guide and constant companion all her life, providing many opportunities to be involved in music communities personally and professionally: most recently as a board member of the local non-profit Friends of Noise. Rachael is a voracious reader, avid people watcher, and adventure enthusiast.
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 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.
Rachel grew up on a citrus and avocado farm in Southern California where she first developed her love of the natural world. After graduating from college in Maine, she moved to rural Paraguay where she served in the Peace Corps for over two years (and where she happened to meet her husband, Karl, also a volunteer at VFS :) She has worked for urban agriculture and youth development nonprofits for the past five years, and is now a Certified Arborist. She loves the earth sciences (especially trees!), sewing, crafting, hiking, picnicking, and woodworking. She is passionate about the self-directed education philosophy that VFS employs - she believes that students have the right to learn what they want, when they want. She's so excited to be a part of the VFS community!
Kathy Crisp, 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 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.
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.
Karl grew up in Northern California. He's worked as a software engineer for more than a decade, and loves geeking out about technology. He has a wide array of interests and hobbies, most involving physical movement! Snowboarding, mountain biking, gymnastics, diving, juggling, unicycling, table tennis, slacklining, and beyond. He's also interested in strategy games (especially Go), photography, and film-making. Karl is an avid traveler and has visited more than 30 countries. He's fluent in Spanish, and... getting there in German.
Jessica Graves, 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.
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.
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.
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