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Teaching Staff

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Professional ​

Brenda Sutter


Brenda started Laurel Tree for her own kids thirty years ago.  She got her teaching credential from Chico State University, her permaculture certification from Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, and her School Leadership Training from Charter School Development Center.   After raising her children at Laurel Tree, she's delighted to have her grandchildren there. Her favorite things are traveling, theater, and novels.  This year she will be teaching World History and English in upper high school and eighth grade, and Theater as part of the Spanish Class.  She and Josh share Lead Teacher roles on the Administrative Team.

Josh Nikolauson

Josh is passionate, enthusiastic, and an agent for growth.  Josh has been teaching at Laurel Tree since 2003.  During this time he has taught every primary grade and subject.  Currently, he is tapping into his vast experience of teaching the sciences to inspire the 4th-6th graders to be inquisitive learners in this ever-changing world.  Josh will also be helping the students to develop a deep sense of nature connection while also teaching the youth about the importance of physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  Josh can also be found in the background, helping to keep our amazing community at Laurel Tree running smoothly.  If you have a question or need a helping hand, he is the guy to find!  Some say that if you stay in one place long enough, he will come zipping by.

Violet Hales

Violet has been working in the field of education for the past twenty-five years.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Education and Community Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She holds two credentials from Cal Poly Humboldt, including an Education Specialist and Multiple Subjects with TK Authorization. She is also a certified Level 4 Forest School Practitioner. Violet has dedicated herself to learning different educational approaches through professional development training such as STEAM & Forest School Education, Restorative Justice Practices, Mindfulness for Educators, Waldorf Teacher training, Phono-Graphix Reading Specialist training, Permaculture for Educators, and Autism intervention specialization.
Violet has taught in various Tk-12th grade programs, including Waldorf and Montessori-inspired programs. In 2017 she created the Forest Kindergarten program at Laurel Tree, one of the first of its kind in CA. In addition to leading the outdoor education for TK-K, she is the Administrator and Specialized Academic Instructor for grades TK-6. Violet enjoys sharing nature-based crafting, storytelling, watercolor, weaving, and bushcraft skills with her students. She focuses on discovering new ways to help students access the joys of learning.


Catherine Bunz


Catherine has been with Laurel Tree since Jan. 2016. She is honored and grateful to continue here and is part of our Forest Kindergarten Program again this year. She has been a certified teacher since 2005, was a reading interventionist and primary classroom teacher in Arizona for 5 years, and before that spent 5 years running an after-school program. Her Bachelor of Education comes from the University of Arizona and she has a Cleared Multi-Subject K-8 credential in Arizona and California. She is certified as a Forest School practitioner from the University of San Diego, has a Structured English Immersion (SEI) Endorsement, and is completing her additional units in Early Ed/Child Development for TK through Cal Poly Humboldt. Catherine values the ability to work with students in a way that empowers the whole child, giving respect to their social-emotional growth and with regard to developmentally appropriate practices. She feels fortunate to help build a community of learners that build not only a relationship with one another but with their natural environment as well.

Catherine loves continuing to learn, listening to and making music, exploring all things new to her, and interacting with the natural world.


Rebecca Boatman

Rebecca teaches 1st grade at Laurel Tree. Her elementary teaching career has spanned 13 years within Arcata, Oakland, San Francisco, and the Sierra Nevada mountains. She holds an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of San Francisco and an Elementary Teaching Credential (during which she participated as an AmeriCorps TEAMS member), as well as a B.A. in Communications. Her academic passion is teaching early literacy with her most valuable learning being from her two-year work with Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. She has also studied for two years with the California Academy of Sciences Teacher Institute on Science and Sustainability and Stanford University’s National Board of Teacher Preparation program. She spent two years living on a remote five-square-mile island in American Samoa. In her personal life, Rebecca loves reading and doing art with her daughter, Clementine, as well as running, meditation, yoga, and travel.


Isabel Semler

Isabel will teach 2nd grade and ArtSEL (art and social-emotional learning). Isabel is from San Francisco and moved to Humboldt to train in theater at Dell’Arte International and get her teaching credential at CalPoly Humboldt. Prior to that she received a Fullbright Fellowship to teach English to teens and adults at the Universidad Federal do Parana in Curitiba, Brazil. She brings her infectious enthusiasm and her theater experience to cross-age collaboration with the high school group as well.


Amy McLoone

Amy is teaching third-grade. After many years teaching elementary school in Sonoma County, Amy returned to Humboldt County and shares her love of learning and the outdoors with the Laurel Tree community. She holds a California State Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, ELA Qualified from CSU Monterey Bay, and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Northern Arizona University. She completed her Master of Arts in Educational Therapy last year. She has received training in Universal Design for Learning, Multi-Tiered System of Supports, Restorative Practices, and Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Sight Words.

In addition to spending time with her adult daughters, Amy enjoys hiking, exploring new places, and reading. Amy will teach 3rd grade with an emphasis on collaborative literacy, developmental math, exploratory science, and outdoor education.


Dena Delaney 

Dena is an education specialist supporting exceptional learners in the primary grades 1st through 6th. She has a background beginning in Early Childhood Education from San Diego then completed her BA in Elementary Education from HSU. Two years ago, she joined the Laurel Tree staff while she obtained her teaching credential in Special Education from CalPoly Humboldt. Last year she obtained her regular education teaching credential, and this year she will co-teach English with Ali for 4th-6th grade. She enjoys animals of all kinds, travel, camping, hiking, beaches, and swimming in rivers with family and friends.


Noelle Lake

Noelle will be joining the 1st-3rd graders this year on Forest Fridays for deep nature connection and outdoor skills.  She became a certified Forest School technician through UC San Diego and has been a part of the Laurel Tree staff since 2018.  Noelle has 11 years of experience teaching preschool in Arcata and has been a camp counselor in Tahoe, Santa Cruz, Donner Lake, and Arcadia Maine teaching Wilderness First Aid, horseback riding, stained glass/mosaics, dance, weaving, farm care, and wilderness cooking.  She has also studied Art History and Studio Arts.


Amber Ryno

Amber has been happily employed at Laurel Tree since 1999. She received her teaching credential through CalState Teach in 2007. She is passionate about local food production and education and while not at school she helps run Woody Ryno Farms with her family. This year she is heading up the 2nd-8th grade Independent Study Program, working as the testing coordinator, serving as college support liaison, and working on grant writing and management. Several exciting grants are in the works this year including a native pollinator habitat-building project at our Murray site and a local food procurement and education project through  the California Department of Food and Agriculture


Ali Hale

Ali started her teaching career in San Diego 24 years ago and has been lucky to live and teach in many beautiful places before landing in Humboldt County.  She is currently the English and Social Studies teacher for the 4th-6th grades, and is a Special Education teacher with a passion for poetry, literature, and creative writing.


Maya Rossi

This year, Maya is teaching 4th-6th grade math, and Edible education. She is 130 years old and has been teaching at Laurel Tree for nineteen years. Her favorite things are graphing, sunshine, gardens, and rivers.


Becca Schuler

Becca earned her degree in Biology from Humboldt State where she continued on to earn her teaching credential. She enthusiastically joined Laurel Tree in 2012 and loves teaching high school and middle school science and math, and traveling with students. This year she will also teach middle school PE and Engineering as a high school elective. Becca lives in Arcata with her menagerie and fills her time with gardening, building, cooking, puzzles, and her family.


Max Garrison

Max is in his tenth year teaching at Laurel Tree as a special education teacher. Outside of school, he is interested in spending time with his wife and two kids. He also enjoys gardening, going for walks, and playing records on his turntables occasionally DJing in the community. 

Max is excited to be a part of the Laurel Tree staff. This year he will teach a math group. As a special education teacher, he will also be monitoring and supporting his caseload of students' work toward achieving the goals of their Individualized Education Plans. Max is happy to continue as a part of Laurel Tree's staff and community.


Gwendolyn Campbell

Gwen received her BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Cultural Anthropology and Education.  She received her teaching credential from Humboldt State and has been working for Laurel Tree since 2010.  She is excited about the upcoming school year and will be teaching middle and high school English and history.
Gwen loves hanging out with her two young kids, playing games with her family, drawing, cooking, and walkabouts.  Both of her children graduated from Laurel Tree’s Forest School program and are continuing to be awesome kids at LT. She loves being part of the Laurel Tree community where the focus is on student as a whole person.

Colby Dobson

Colby earned his BA at the University of California Santa Barbara and his teaching credential at Long Beach State. He has lived in Humboldt County for fourteen years working in the education field.  He is thrilled to have found a home at Laurel Tree as the secondary math teacher and the proud parent of two Laurel Tree students.  In his spare time, he enjoys working in the garden, building things, and playing games of all types.

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