Movement Education :
Jennifer Cripps, B.S. in Psychology, is AWS’s Jill-of-all-trades. She has 14 years of Summer Camp and volunteer experience with the Girl Scouts of America, and was employed 8 years at the Children’s Hospital in Psychiatric Services before joining the AWS Faculty. Ms. Cripps is a now-famous Circus Arts facilitator and a Red Cross trained CPR and First Aid Instructor, as well as a Red Cross Life Guard, Swimming Instructor, and Ropes Course Facilitator. Ms. Cripps attended Spacial DynamicsTM training when she joined AWS as the Movement Education teacher in 2002; she received her certification in 2009. She has also worked in the administrative office of AWS and substitutes in the Grades classes.
Brianna Payne is currently working part-time along side Ms. Cripps in preparation to become the full-time Movement/Games teacher for the Fall. 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 Bennighoff 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 the fourth graders.
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 Elementary student at AWS.
Natalie Mixon, AWS's Spanish teacher, has a B.S. in Psychology from Florida International University and a M.Ed. in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Miami. She has 15 years of experience working with children and adolescents as a child and family therapist. She taught Spanish at the Elizabeth Perry Rushton and First United Methodist Child Development Centers before coming to AWS. She grew up speaking Spanish in a Cuban-American family in Miami, FL and attended elementary school at Coral Way Elementatry, one of the first 'Biliterate' elementary schools in the country. Natalie has one son who is an Elementary student at AWS.
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 which she now uses on her own baby, Stella Pearl Gurganus born in a thunderstorm in May of 2010. Sarah has always enjoyed her love of learning with children of all ages. See her listing under Music for more of Sarah's background.