Head Teaching Staff
Azure Akamay: Senior Teacher (2012 - present)
A 2012 graduate of the Arbor Center for Teaching program, where she was part of the Intermediate teaching team, Azure has become an integral part of the Senior staff. Her varied interests and her rich educational background inform her work with her students and colleagues daily. A rigorous thinker who is deeply committed to her students, Azure balances an engaged interest and utter delight in their ideas and questions with a warm demander’s stance, nudging them forward toward precision of language, logic, and thought.
(BA Religion, Reed College; MAT Arbor Center for Teaching/Marylhurst University)
Patricia Ballarché: Primary Design & Junior Design/Reading Teacher (1991 - present)
Arriving at Arbor at the start of the school’s third year, Patricia brought with her ten years of previous elementary teaching experience in Oregon and abroad (Luxembourg and Israel). After fifteen years as a head teacher in the Juniors, Patricia took her delight in integrating art in the classroom to crafting lessons in the Design Studio for Primaries and Juniors. Patricia also assists the Junior classrooms with literacy instruction.
(BA Education and BS Communication Disorders, University of Massachusetts at Amherst)
Becca Blaney: Intermediate Teacher (1994-1997; 2001; 2009 - present)
Having returned to Arbor after spending eight years as a Public Defender, Becca is relishing the non-adversarial nature of teaching Intermediate students. With a background not only in political science and law but also in languages (she is a student of Spanish and Mandarin), Becca brings unusual depth to her role. She has a clear understanding of where the Arbor curriculum is headed and is a wonderfully sympathetic observer of children and their advocate in the best possible way.
(BS School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; JD Northwestern School of Law, Lewis & Clark College)
Annmarie Chesebro: Arbor Center for Teaching, Director of Teacher Training (2000 - present)
Once a classroom teacher and an adjunct professor in Lewis & Clark College’s MAT program, Annmarie brings a uniquely balanced approach to the ACT program. With particular expertise in math, science, assessment, and preparation of Apprentices for their first teaching jobs, Annmarie leads the ACT program, mentoring our Apprentices, conducting weekly Seminars, and serving as liaison to other teacher training programs and Oregon’s licensure commission.
(BA summa cum laude Sociology/Anthropology, Amherst College; MAT, Lewis & Clark College; Initial Administrator License, Portland State University)
Nick DeBoer: Senior Teacher (2016 - present)
Nick joined family in the Northwest in the summer of 2016 after enjoying 10 years in Hawaii. While working toward his M.S in Tropical Conservation Biology at the University of Hawaii, he was granted a National Science Foundation Fellowship in which he partnered with local school teachers in the development and implementation of new science curriculum for the middle grades. Finding himself drawn to working with children, Nick joined the faculty at Punahou School in Honolulu, where he spent five years teaching 6th grade science and math. Delighted to have joined the Senior team at Arbor, you may also find Nick playing Ultimate Frisbee or exploring the neighborhood with his dog.
(BS Integrative Biology, University of Illinois; MS Tropical Conservation Biology, University of Hawaii; MA Teaching, Chaminade University)
Marc DeHart: Intermediate Teacher (2010-2012; 2014 - present)
Marc falls into the category of the ultimate Arbor student. He attended Arbor School for his elementary and middle school years and, after college and work at the Christie School, returned to join the Arbor Center for Teaching’s apprentice cohort for 2010-2012. Upon graduating from the ACT program, Marc taught in Portland schools and tutored students on the side. Marc has been commended by his colleagues for his empathy, humility, and ability to develop trusting and productive relationships with students. Marc’s long history with Arbor, combined with his inherent understanding of what it means for teachers to remain optimistic about students when things are challenging, makes him a logical and positive fit for the Arbor community.
(BS Psychology, Oregon State University; MAT Arbor Center for Teaching/Marylhurst University)
Peter ffitch: Assistant Director of Programs (1996 - present)
Peter first came to Arbor as a parent, watching Brendan (‘02) and Taylor (‘04) thrive. He was drawn to teaching and learned his craft through 10 years of teaching in the Primaries. In 2006 Peter moved up with some of the Primaries to the Junior level. His training and work as a lawyer a professional competitive runner add further dimension to the multiple talents and skills that are apparent in his teaching and work within the school community. In the fall of 2017 Peter moved from the classroom to the office as Assistant Director of Programs.
(BA Political Science, University of Illinois; JD Northwestern School of Law; work toward graduate degree in elementary education at Portland State University)
Laura Frizzell: Music Teacher (1993 - present)
With experience as a piano teacher, choral director, and elementary music teacher, Laura has developed an incredibly rich approach to musical pursuits at Arbor. Her creative capacities are legendary, and each class and every community gathering is enhanced by the performances, large and small, that she educes from the children. From Beethoven to beatboxing to Bollywood, Laura leads the children in exploring a wide spectrum of music, dance, and song. She names finding music which dovetails with classroom themes as a particular delight. Working with faculty and children to create large-scale productions has been a collaborative and inspiring part of the job, and a gift to this community: “A Midsummer Night's Dream set in New Orleans? Cue the accordion, assemble the Second Line....let's go!” In addition to being a composer of works for the classroom and beyond, Laura is Past President of the Portland Orff-Schulwerk Association, and a local and national American Orff-Schulwerk Association conference presenter.
(BA Teaching Field in Music K-12, Portland State University; Orff-Schulwerk Music Education Certificate, University of Denver)
Laurel Glasmire: Junior Teacher (2016 - present)
A 2008 graduate of the Arbor Center for Teaching program, where she taught at the Junior level, Laurel returned to us after one year substitute teaching in Portland and seven years teaching 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades at a charter school based on Arbor’s structure and curriculum. Laurel loves developing engaging and creative curriculum and helping to build a strong school community. Her classroom reflects the joy that she takes in learning and teaching, and the value that she places on developing empathy, compassion, and an openness to new relationships and experiences. Laurel’s students are delighted to share in her love of history, dance, and music of all kinds.
(BA History, Lewis & Clark College; MAT Arbor Center for Teaching/Western Oregon University)
Robin Gunn: Junior Teacher (2003 - 2010, 2016 - present)
After beginning her career in Boston, teaching kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade at the Atrium School, Robin followed friends and family to Portland and joined the Arbor School faculty in 2003 as a teacher in the Primaries. In 2006, she moved to the Junior level, taking on the role of literacy specialist for both Junior classes, before rejoining the Primary class from 2008 - 2010. Returning to Arbor from family leave in 2016, Robin skillfully divided her time between the Primary and Junior programs before stepping fully into the position of Junior teacher in the fall of 2017. A skilled observer of children and a developer of lasting curriculum, the children know Robin for her warmth and for the delight that she takes in their work. An avid and lifelong sailor, on a breezy weekend you may well find Robin enjoying a sail with her family on the Columbia.
(BS Psychology, Business, Ithaca College; Masters of Science in Education, Wheelock College.
Kaiya Hatcher: Primary Teacher (2018 - present)
Kaiya came to us in the summer of 2018 from the Aurora School in Oakland CA. While earning her Masters and teaching credential at the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute, Kaiya was mentored by an Arbor Center for Teaching alum and her interest about Arbor was piqued. Upon moving to Portland, Kaiya introduced herself and we learned of her welcoming, responsive, and joyful approach to working with young children. She has a passion for being with children in the garden, teaching science while taking full pleasure in sharing the bounty of what the garden can produce. When she takes off her muddy boots, she can be found practicing and performing South Indian dance (a passion she will share with our Seniors), stitching an embroidery piece, or romping around in the forest.
(BFA, California College of the Arts; Master of Arts, Curriculum and Instruction, Bay Area Teacher Training Institute)
Kit Abel Hawkins: Founder, Director (1989 - present)
Kit, who was associated for 18 years with Catlin Gabel School prior to the founding of Arbor School in 1989, specializes in work with 8-12 year olds. She taught, however, at several levels in the elementary years and also spent five years as a children’s librarian. In addition to teaching, Kit has served as the president of two non-profit organizations and as a trustee for Neskowin Valley School and Catlin Gabel School. Kit has trained and advised school founders and leaders through the School Leadership program of the Arbor Center for Teaching, and written a book about Arbor entitled The Idea of Arbor School.
(BA cum laude Philosophy, Oberlin College; MAT programs, Portland State University and Lewis and Clark College; Master of Music program, Lewis and Clark College; PhD Social Studies, Grinnell College)
Caroline Hurley: Senior Spanish Teacher (2004 - present)
Caroline brings a background in Spanish literature, culture, and history as well as linguistics, and is hard pressed to choose just one favorite among these topics. In her three-year Senior Spanish program she strives to bring each of her students as far along as is possible in the language in order to create avenues toward a more bilingual, bicultural society. She enjoys bringing her background in art and her love of singing and playing guitar to the Seniors as well.
(BA Spanish Literature, Phi Beta Kappa, Reed College; MAT, Spanish, Portland State University)
Andrew Manton: Intermediate Teacher (2015 - present)
Andrew came to us from the San Francisco Day School where he served as a middle-grades science teacher, Director of Outdoor Education, and coach. Prior to his years at San Francisco Day, Andrew led outdoor and environmental education groups through Naturalists at Large. Andrew’s enthusiasm for experiential education informs his science teaching at the Intermediate and Senior levels, and he has become an integral part of the Intermediate team. Andrew enjoys sharing his passions through after-school activities, from sports to maker-space classes, and most weekends you can find him climbing rocks or playing ultimate frisbee.
(BA Environmental Studies, Pitzer College)
Karli Merkens: Assistant in Senior Science (2016 - present)
After graduating from Arbor in 1995, and St. Mary’s and Earlham College thereafter, Karli filled her life with scientific adventures. Science internships took her to the Gulf of Mexico and the Massachusetts coast, she spent six months sailing aboard a research vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, and she spent two years researching ALS in New Hampshire. Her interests eventually led her to San Diego where she completed a PH.D. in Oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is currently conducting an acoustical study of whales in the Pacific and is delighted to return to Arbor as an assistant in Senior Science.
(BA Biology, Earlham College; Masters and Ph.D. Oceanography, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego)
Eliza Nelson: Intermediate Teacher (1996-2004; 2009 - present)
Eliza first developed her ideas about education as a researcher and writer at Yale University’s Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy. Deciding to trade policy for work in an actual classroom, she spent eight years honing her teaching skills at Arbor in the Intermediate class. After being away from Arbor to begin a family, Eliza returned full force to her home in the Intermediates. Her special ways of connecting with students through writing, her high and clear expectations, and her deep well-spring of warmth join the long list of reasons we are so glad she has returned to teaching.
(BA English, Wesleyan University)
Greg Neps: Senior Teacher (2001 - present)
Greg’s classes focus on building skills in math while developing a love for its workings through hands-on and real-world applications and games. He helps students use math as a tool for understanding and exploring the world. Previous experiences as a tutor and a K—8 math teacher (with responsibilities for science, P.E., and stagecraft) brought him to Arbor with a well-developed repertoire of approaches and engaging experiences. In addition to teaching math, he is the Senior Woodshop teacher, manages Arbor’s audio/video needs, and leads the Seniors through on-campus community service activities.
(BS Elementary Education, Western Illinois University)
Felicity Nunley: Primary Teacher (1996 - present)
Having taken her elementary training at the prestigious Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Felicity has a strong background in inter-disciplinary curriculum development, arts instruction, and early education. She has taught in mixed-age settings (K-3rd) at a small independent school, Chelan Valley School, and at Riverdale School in Dunthorpe. In 2006 she returned to the Primaries after a five-year stint as the Design Studio instructor for the Primary and Junior classes. She savors her days in the company of the Primaries, pointing them toward kindness, sharing their good humor, and being inspired by their ingenuity and creativity.
(BA English, Vassar; MEd Lesley College/Shady Hill School)
Lori Pressman: Primary Teacher (1999 - present)
As she grew up in a family with a math/science teacher for a father, Lori has, in a sense, been involved in the world of teaching always. Her previous experiences include a multi-age intern teaching experience with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders, and two years of teaching at the 2nd grade level. Known in those positions for her devotion to individual children and for the creativity she shows with all the components of the classroom environment, Lori has demonstrated her exceptional teaching qualities throughout her years at Arbor.
(BA Sociology, Washington State University, Pullman; MAT Lewis & Clark College)
Kirsten Rian: Librarian and Senior Teacher (2014 - present)
Curator, artist, musician, author, editor, teacher, activist, and journalist, Kirsten is a rare polymath. Among other things, she runs creative and language workshops with refugees and immigrants, has created several anthologies working with multi-language classrooms at Portland elementary schools and around the world, worked with high schoolers as a Writer in the Schools, and has taught at Portland State and other area colleges and universities the past decade.
(BA English, Lewis & Clark College; MFA, Summa Cum Laude, Portland State University)
Linus Rollman: Senior Teacher & Senior Team Convener (2000 - present)
The study of anthropology and Reed’s rigorous and well-balanced program gave Linus a generalist’s tools for thinking about the world. He spent six years in the Intermediate classroom before moving to the Seniors. Having taught and documented Arbor’s three-year Senior Humanities program, as well as co-authoring the Arbor Algebra math series, Linus continues to teach Senior Writing and Design. A student of philosophy, the craft of writing, and the mysteries of mathematics, Linus is an enlivening force at Arbor.
(BA Anthropology, Reed College)
Kara Sisk: Intermediate and Senior Design (2018 - present)
Well known and beloved by many Arbor families through her work as the founder of Innerscape Art Center, Kara first came to Arbor as a mentor to an 8th grade student and it is the opportunity to be a mentor to children’s creative processes that brings her joy. Having worked in numerous independent and public schools, teaching young children and high schoolers, Kara lets her passion as an artist guide her teaching. Beyond the classroom, Kara continues to be inspired by her curiosity about how young people express themselves creatively throughout the world, including spending two summers teaching in Italy, and has given her time to support children at the Dougy Center and at Hopewell House.
(BFA Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland; Intensive studies: French Tapestry -- San Francisco Tapestry Workshop/Oregon College of Arts and Crafts; Puppets -- Puppets in Prague Studio; Lead Instructor, Children’s Healing Art Project, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital)
Elizabeth Thompson : Senior Teacher (2018 - present)
Elizabeth’s connection to Arbor runs deep. She was a student here, graduating in 2002. After attending Catlin Gabel H.S. and Whitman College, Elizabeth returned to Arbor as a Teacher Resident, working with Primaries and running reading groups in the Intermediate classroom. After receiving her MAT, Elizabeth went on to spend two years teaching 4th and 5th grade at the Cottonwood School, before joining the Senior team at Arbor in 2018. Beyond the classroom Elizabeth can be found singing in choir, digging in the garden, or rambling through the woods of the PNW examining mosses, mushrooms, and plants.
(BA, Whitman College; Master of Arts in Teaching, Marylhurst University/Arbor Center for Teaching)
Leigh Wood: Physical Education Teacher (2000 - present)
Between experiences cultivated both at school and at summer camp, Leigh came to us with a diverse background in academics and athletics, with a particular focus on fostering teamwork, understanding, cooperation, facilitation, and leadership. In her time here, she has devoted herself to building a P.E. program that relies on those core values as a foundation for both physical and character growth for students across the grades. Viewing P.E. through several lenses simultaneously, Leigh has created a dynamic program at Arbor that engages students actively, positively, and thoughtfully.
(BA cum laude English with Geology minor, Mount Holyoke College)