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.
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.
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. Andrea never tires of building on the foundation she already has to be the best she can be for the children she teaches.
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, all AWS elementary school students.
Valarie Campbell has been working with children in various capacities for many years, first as a social worker and recently as a substitute teacher at AWS. Ms. Valarie holds a B.A. from UAB and worked in substance abuse and drug prevention programs before having a child. Ms. Valarie has a first grader in the AWS Grades program.
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 began her Waldorf teaching certification training at Rudolf Steiner College the summer of 2012.
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 2nd 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 currently as a Class Teacher for Grade Three. Since the time she finished teaching Kindergarten, she has had a second child (who started in our Nursery 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.
Liudmila Self Edwards was a substitute teacher at AWS before coming on full-time as the Grade 1 teacher in 2010. and the Grade 7/8 teacher in 2011. She brings a multicultural approach to Alabama due to her Rumanian/Russian heritage and 8 years recently spent in London.· She has brought the richness of these experiences to AWS students! Ms. Self has a Master's degree in documentary film making (Video Production) and a B.A. in Russian and English Language. She currently teaches 4th grade and serves as a Grades representative on the College of Teachers.
Michelle Fievet Lucas, a class teacher in our Elementary 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 5 in 2012-13.
Melissa Downs graduated from Washington College with a B.A. degree in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies. While at Washington College, Ms. Downs earned several awards such as The Environmental Studies Award - given to the graduating major who shows the greatest promise for making significant contributions to solving the world’s environmental problems; The Erika and Henry Salloch Award - given to the college senior whose commitment and achievement have contributed to the understanding of other cultures; and The William Warner Writing Award - given to the college junior who shows promise in the field of environmental writing. She was also inducted into numerous honorary societies. Ms. Downs has worked at AWS since 2002, employed in nearly every possible capacity, and received her full Waldorf Grades certification in 2010. She loves plants, nature, writing and literature (particularly the Harry Potter series), and she dreams of having a small farm one day. She is currently teaching 6th grade in the Elementary School.
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 7th grade teacher in the Elementary 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! Ms. Powell enjoys music, art, gardening, learning, AND her new GRANDBABIES! She is member of Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary organization for outstanding educators. She is the Chair of the Care Group at AWS (operating under the auspices of the College of Teachers).
Extended Care hours are from 7:15-8:15 am and from 12:30-5:30pm.
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.
Lisa Brown helps with Preschool Extended Care and enjoys substitute teaching in that program as well.