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Professional ​

Brenda Sutter started Laurel Tree for her own kids twenty-four 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 looks forward to welcoming her grandson to the Forest Kindergarten program this year. Her favorite things are traveling, theater, and novels.  This year she will be teaching European History and English for high school,  English and World History in middle school, and Theater for the Laurel Tree Wild Project.  She's also Lead Teacher on the Administrative Team.

Josh Nikolauson has been working at Laurel Tree his entire professional teaching career, 14 years.  He knew at an early age that working with youth should be a part of his future when he started working with a puppet troupe teaching social skills to elementary grades.  His spare time is spent leading a Boy Scout troop in McKinleyville and helping coach local sports.  Josh enjoys spending down time with his family exploring the beauty and bounty of the North Coast.  He has two boys, 10 and 13, that both attend Laurel Tree in the middle school.
For the 2017-2018 school year, Josh will be teaching science to first through sixth graders (orange-blue groupers).  Life Sciences will be the focus this year with the following main topics discovered:
Josh will also be co-leading the Forest Adventure Class with Homer Read in the afternoons.  Josh and Homer will lead mixed age groups into the community exploring the rivers, dunes, forest, and marsh lands.
Sam was raised in Ludington, Michigan and has lived in Arcata for ten years. Since childhood he has wanted to be a teacher like so many in his family. He has a BA in English with a teaching emphasis from HSU and a K-8 multiple subject credential through Cal State Teach. This year he is teaching 4-5th grade English and Edible Education. He is also a co-leader of our backpacking club with Violet Hales.  Information on up coming trips and pictures from past trips can be found on the website below.
Michelle has taught art as Laurel Tree's artist-in-residence for 12 years. She has a degree in Studio Art from Humboldt State University with a minor in Art History, along with more than two decades of experience as a professional artist. When she is not teaching, she spends every spare minute in her studio sewing, drawing, journaling, sculpting, book-making, and painting. Michelle will be teaching the Elemental Art Studio as part of our Laurel Tree Wild program as well as supporting Laurel Tree's English curriculum as the school librarian.
Katherine Mather is a 2007 Laurel Tree alumni and is excited to be back both as an aide and as a parent in Laurel Tree’s Forest Kindergarten program. Katherine graduated from Southern Oregon University in 2014 with a degree in English and Education and has recently moved back to Humboldt County with her husband Trevor and their two children, Arden and Eleanor. In her down time Katherine enjoys exploring the great outdoors with her family, discovering new recipes and playing in the garden. Katherine feels truly fortunate to have this opportunity to learn alongside her students in such a beautiful area.
Homer did his student teaching at Laurel Tree in 2009 while attending H.S.U. for his Elementary and Secondary Credentialing. He taught Directed Drawing lessons and a wide variety of Friday Art electives for both Primary and Secondary classes. He was also a one on one and classroom aid before Joining the Administrative team full time in 2014. Currently, he is teaching High school P.E. and Forest adventure classes this year as well as working on reading instruction with a small primary group. Homer is an avid disc sports competitor and has taught, coached, and ran events since he began playing at Feather River Community College. 
Amber began her Laurel Tree career in 1999 as a French tutor.  Since then, she has worn many hats at the school including classroom aide, "lunch lady", and currently as a primary teacher.  She received her K-8 multiple subject teaching credential in 2006 from Cal State Teach while at Laurel Tree.  This year she is looking forward to co-teaching Edible Education in the afternoons and primary Social Studies in the morning.

Catherine is thrilled to continue to be a part of the Laurel Tree community! This year, she will work part-time as an interventionist and resource support, along with the Community Classes program within LT Wild.

Originally from Arizona, Catherine discovered her passion for working with children at 16 years old employed at an afterschool program. She went on to receive her degree in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona, then continued in the field as an elementary school teacher in Tucson. She has worked at Laurel Tree since January 2016.

She enjoys music and the arts, exploring different environments, and learning all things new! She and her family have loved living in Humboldt the past five years, experiencing its nature, people, and history. She feels at home and in awe of its isolated, wild, natural beauty and self-reliant, proactive and freethinking people. 

Using her own passion for learning, Catherine aspires to inspire children on their journey of learning and development. She sees her role as one of respectful guidance. She finds this opportunity to support maturation the whole child in their a true gift. Catherine and is honored to be part of children's quest for knowledge, understanding, confidence, social connections and independence. She is proud to work alongside Laurel Tree's other enthusiastic and dedicated staff and looks forward to building stronger relationships with families!


Max Garrison is in his fourth year teaching at Laurel Tree. He has four years of experience as a special education teacher, and ten years of classroom experience. Outside of school, he is interested in spending time with his family (Wife + 2 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 Max will teach a Math group. As a special education teacher, he will also be monitoring and aiding his caseload of students' work towards 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 received her BA from 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 for the upcoming school year and will be teaching high school English and History with a focus on Southeast Asia, middle school Wit & Wisdom English, and working with the high school students to meet resource goals and in college readiness.

Gwen loves hanging out with her two young kids, playing games with her husband, drawing, cooking and walkabouts.  She is excited for her daughter to continue in Laurel Tree's Forest Kindergarten program. She loves being part of the Laurel Tree community where the focus is the student as a whole person.

Colby Dobson earned his BA at University of California Santa Barbara and his teaching credential at Long Beach State. He has lived in Humboldt County for nine years working in the education field.  He is thrilled to have found a home for the last few years at Laurel Tree as the secondary math teacher and the parent of a student in the Forest Kindergarten program.  In his spare time, he enjoys working in the garden, building things, playing games of all types, and tinkering with 3D printers.  This year he will be teaching middle school and high school math as well as two high school elective class Robotics and Music Production.

Becca Schuler 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. She also teaches Home Economics/Culinary Arts and Design classes for high school electives.

Becca lives in Arcata with her menagerie and fills her time with gardening, building, cooking, puzzles, and her family.

Violet Hales has been working in the field of education for the past twenty years.  She received her Bachelors of Arts in Education and Community Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz and her teaching credential at Humboldt State University.  She has dedicated herself to learning different educational approaches through professional development trainings in diverse topics.  Some of these include: Restorative Justice Practices, Mindfulness for Educators, Waldorf Teacher training, Phono-Graphix Reading Specialist training, Permaculture for Educators, Wilderness First Aid and Autism intervention specialization.

Violet has worked in various capacities in K-12 charter schools, with a focus on academic and behavior intervention.  She worked for eleven years as a reading specialist at a Waldorf-inspired charter school.  She has been employed as the Specialized Academic Instructor at Laurel Tree Charter School for the past five years. She has provided direct intervention services for students and performed special education administrative duties.  She is one of the lead instructors for multi-day backpacking trips, which take place three times per school year.  This year she will be spearheading the forest kindergarten program, one of the first of its kind in Humboldt County. She will also be continuing special education administrative duties and academic support for students on her caseload. Violet has a passion for innovative education that meets the individual needs of children and encourages students to develop a love for learning, a commitment to social equality and a reverence for the natural world. 

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