Brianna Payne is the full-time Movement/Games teacher for the 2013-14 school year, after working part-time as the Movement Teacher last year. Having been an Extended Care teacher for the Grades, she brings much experience and knowledge to her new role. A former Crisis Center Counselor, Ms. Payne is unflappable and resourceful. She enjoys being a foodie and spending time on the farm.
Carole Bennighof graduated from Birmingham Southern College with a BA in music. Ms. Carole has taught piano for 20 years. A kindergarten teacher at AWS since 2006, Ms. Bennighof also teaches Music to 1st through 5th grade classes.
Sarah Gurganus has a degree in Music Education from the University of Montevallo with a concentration in vocal and choral music. She taught music at Calera and Shelby Elementary Schools. Sarah has been a lifelong musician, performing in many bluegrass bands, including the Colorado band Acoustic Ranch Party. She has also performed in other genres such as opera and jazz. She is the director of the Middle School Choral Group as well as the Handwork Teacher at Alabama Waldorf School.
Luke Lucas holds a B.A. in Music Performance and a Waldorf Teaching Certification for Grades 1-8. He consults on the Music Program in addition to teaching in the Grades.
Rita Meikson, AWS's Russian language teacher, lived her early life in Moscow, Russia. Ms. Meikson graduated from the Moscow Pedagogical University with a Master's degree in children's psychology and elementary education. She worked in Moscow for three years as an elementary school teacher, then for seven years as an instructor at the Moscow Teachers Institute. In 1992, Ms. Meikson moved to the USA with her husband, who had accepted a position as Math professor at UAB. After coming to America, she worked for seven years as a teacher at the ABC Child Development Center. Now, "Rita Grigorievna" (as only the students call her, practicing Russian tradition by calling Ms. Meikson by her father's name, Grigorievna) is the Russian language teacher at Alabama Waldorf School. In her classes, she not only teaches the language but also the culture. She uses many traditional Russian games, fairy tales, fables, and stories and poems written by the most esteemed Russian writers and poets. Ms. Meikson has three children, the youngest of whom is an AWS alum, focusing in Creative Writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts.
Victor Spezzini joins AWS's grades team as the Spanish Teacher for the 2013-14 school year. After graduating from UAB with a B.A. in Political Science, he worked as an interpreter and translator in the judicial system. Señor Spezzini's classroom experience includes working as a translator in alternative schools.
Sarah Gurganus loves all things Handwork! She began her Waldorf Handwork Certification in the summer of 2011 and specializes in knitting, quilting, and hand sewing. She also enjoys organic gardening, guitar, and traveling. She has extensive experience with one-on-one childcare as a nanny and has a daughter in the AWS Kindergarten. Sarah has always enjoyed her love of learning with children of all ages.
Sadhna Udharam was born and raised in Suriname, South America. She received a bachelor's degree from the Teaching Institute in Suriname and had plans to teach English to middle schoolers there. However, she moved to the United States with her new husband and started a family. Her love for teaching stayed with her, and in 2002, she was hired for AWS's Extended Care program. She worked in that program for 4 years, then taught in the nursery for 2 years. In the Fall of 2008, she was hired as a Kindergarten teacher. Sadhna brings a love of children and an earnest desire to learn more about the developmentally appropriate curriculum and Waldorf teaching methods. To that end, she is completing the Early Childhood Waldorf Certfication program in the Summer of 2011 at Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento, CA. "Ms. Sadhna" leads with gentle guidance and is genuinely interested in the spiritual, physical, and mental growth of children and invested in Alabama Waldorf School's mission to educate responsible world citizens. She enjoys singing and can often be heard serenading the "Beautiful Nappers" in the afternoons where she serves as an Early Extended Care teacher.
Carole Bennighoff graduated from Birmingham Southern College with a B.A. in Music. Ms. Carole has taught piano for 20 years and currently teaches 3rd Grade Music at AWS. She's been teaching Kindergarten at AWS since 2006. Ms. Carole takes pleasure in music, ballet, walking, animal rescue, stories and books. She is the mother of three children, one an AWS alum at Shades Valley High School's Visual Art program, and the other two AWS 7th graders.
Samantha Hall has been a parent at AWS since 2000. In 2001, she began leading the Morning Garden playgroup and joined the Nursery Team in January 2004. Ms. Samantha has been a childcare provider since 1982 and continues to enjoy learning and growing along with the Nursery children. She has a particular interest in healing work and hopes to pursue an education in homeopathy and anthroposophical healing. Ms. Samantha is the mother of three daughters, one AWS alum who is now at the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School and two AWS elementary students. Ms Samantha also serves AWS as the Chair of the College of Teachers which represents the pedagogical leadership of the school. She is excited to continue her work in the Kindergarten for the 2013-14 school year.
John Huckestein has been teaching 2 1/2 to 4 year olds at Alabama Waldorf School since 1995 when it was The Redmont School in the Waldorf Tradition. He is happy to be working in the 3- to 6-year-old Kindergarten program for the 2013-14 school year. He is extensively trained in the Waldorf methods for the care and nurturing of the young child, including coursework in pastel drawing, the importance of play, and early childhood education. Mr. Huckestein also leads the Early Morning Care for the grades program. A favorite among children, "Mr. Huck" is known for his jocular manner and his storytelling ability. He also serves the school as a Preschool Representative for the College of Teachers.
Crystal Gibb joined AWS in 2011 as a substitute teacher and Extended Care teacher. She quickly fell in love with the curriculum, finished her degree at UAB in Linguistics and Italian Studies, and was hired to be the first grade teacher for 2012-13. She will teach a combined 1st/2nd grade in 2013-14. She will complete her second of three Waldorf teaching certification training summers at Rudolf Steiner College the summer of 2013.
Andrea Holley is a certified caregiver through the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources and the "Kid and Kin" Association. Her childcare experience started at Rainbow Daycare Center. Her teaching experience started at The Redmont School, now the Alabama Waldorf School. Andrea worked as a childcare provider for special events and as a substitute at AWS until she came on first as an Extended Care teacher and then full-time as a Kindergarten teacher in 2008. Since then, she's received training at regular AWS faculty workshops, attended workshops at the Linden Waldorf School in Tennessee and observed for a week in the Kindergarten at The Waldorf School of Atlanta. In 2013-14, Ms. Holley will serve as the 1st/2nd grade Aide. She never tires of building on the foundation she already has to be the best she can be for the children she teaches.
Lewis "Luke" Lucas joined·AWS in 2000 and has worked in the Nursery, Extended Care, and Summer programs, and as an Elementary Music Teacher and Class teacher. He holds a B.A. in Music Performance, and has received Waldorf training for Music. A certified Waldorf Grade 1-8 Teacher, he currently teaches 3rd grade and serves as the Grades representative for the College of Teachers.
Jodie Bradley has a wealth of Waldorf experience, having served on the AWS faculty formerly as an Early Childhood Teacher (2002-2005), a Therapeutic Classroom teacher (2010), and as the Class Teacher for the 3rd Grade in 2012-13 and for the combined 4th/5th grade class in 2013-14. Since the time she finished teaching Kindergarten, she has had a second child (who is enrolled in our preschool program this year), and homeschooled her older child using the Waldorf grades curriculum for 4th through 6th grade until he was accepted into the Creative Writing program at Alabama School of Fine Arts for Grade 7. She also Waldorf homeschooled her nephew for Grades 2-4 and her niece for Grades 6-7. Her niece was recently accepted at both ASFA and Shades Valley Visual Arts Academy; she chose the latter where she continues today.
Ms. Bradley has completed much of the training involving the philosophical basis of Waldorf education including two years of Foundation Studies plus Early Childhood; she is looking forward to continuing her studies toward Waldorf Grades Certification. She enjoys working with Master Waldorf Educator Eugene Schwartz and attending Waldorf and anthroposophic conferences. Ms. Bradley has also enjoyed a leadership role at AWS as a 3-year member of the Faculty Coordinating Committee (which preceded today's College of Teachers) from 2003-2005.
Michelle Fievet Lucas, a class teacher in our Grades Program, holds a Bachelors Degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She has been at Alabama Waldorf School since 2002. She worked as a Nursery teacher for four years, and a Kindergarten teacher for two years. She completed her Waldorf Grades Certification training at Rudolf Steiner College in 2012. She has formerly served on the College of Teachers and has acted as faculty representative to the Board of Trustees. She is the mother of two boys, both AWS alumni, and currently teaches Grade 6 in 2013-14.
Lynda Powell holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.S. in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Certification. She completed her Waldorf Grades Certification at Rudolf Steiner College in 2009. She has taught at Alabama Waldorf School since 1994 after more than a decade of teaching in public and other private schools. She served as kindergarten teacher for ten years, as Reading Support instructor for 3 years and is now enjoying looping up with her class as the 8th grade teacher in the Grades School. She is the proud mother of twin graduates from Birmingham Southern College and a daughter, who is an instructor at Jefferson State Community College and recently became a mom for the second time! Ms. Powell enjoys music, art, gardening, learning, and her grandchildren. She is member of Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary organization for outstanding educators.
Extended Care hours are from 7:15-8:15 am and from 12:30-5:30pm.
Ashley Dulaney graduated from Auburn University in 2001 with a degree in Elementary Education. She is Alabama-Certified to teach kindergarten through grade eight. Ms. Ashley came to the AWS Extended Care Program in 2004 and later became a Nursery school teacher. She is happy to be back on the Extended Care as the Team Lead for the 2013-14 school year. She enjoys working with all ages of AWS students and is also a proud mother of two girls at AWS. She also serves the school as Faculty Chairperson.
Brad Daly is a photojournalist and world traveler. He is delighted to anchor Grades Extended Care and direct the program for the older grades.
Brianna Payne is a Crisis Center Counselor who directs Extended Care for the younger grades.