Our teachers love children! They have many combined years of training and experience in early childhood education. Their focus is on teaching to the individual needs and talents of every child, and they find great joy in sharing their love of learning with the children and their parents.

Elise Aney (Threes Teacher and Art Specialist)

From the moment I walked through the doors of NDS, I felt welcome. Having always desired to work with children creatively, I could not imagine a more ideal setting. The sense of comfort and belonging among the staff and community is unparalleled to any working environment I have experienced.

I began my path at New Discovery in the fall of 2000 working with three year olds. With a background in and a love for the arts, I began exploring techniques to enhance the creativity in my students. Eventually, I began teaching art to the other classes as well.

In a community that embraces and possesses so many talents, there seem to be no bounds to what we can learn from both the children and each other. The opportunity to take outside classes and be a part of our informative curricula help me grow as an educator and find new ideas to offer. I am honored to be a part of this community. Being able to fulfill our philosophy and help foster kindness, confidence, and creative expression gives me a deep sense of gratification.

Sara Akers (Fours Teacher)

I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. There is something refreshing about surrounding yourself with young minds and the curiosity that comes with them. I love the challenge that each new question brings and the light bulb that lights up when the answer finally makes sense or is applied in real life. I have a BS in Elementary Education and an MA in Behavioral Analysis with an Emphasis in Autism. I started my teaching career in upper elementary grades and moved into lower grades, but have found a great connection with four and five year olds. I started at New Discovery in the fours and am currently a fives teacher.

I grew up in eastern Washington and have lived in Idaho and California. When I am not in the classroom I enjoy spending time with friends and family, reading a good book, strolling around Green Lake or taking a quick nap. I am fortunate to call New Discovery School home!

Audrey Bacon (Fives Teacher)

Audrey Bacon has 31 years of experience working with children working as a nanny and pre-school teacher. Back in 2006 Susan Gorman asked Audrey if she was interested in applying as a teacher at New Discovery and she took the offer and realized this is what she was meant to do. Audrey enjoys helping kids grow as people as they discover the world around them. She helps them manage their emotions and think through the challenges they encounter.

Audrey’s favorite activities include: running, gardening and animals. She lives with her husband in Seward Park.

Gwyn Benson (Fours Teacher)

It’s hard for me to remember a time when I wasn’t teaching or working with children.

I grew up in Cincinnati, OH where I played teacher in my backyard treehouse. I earned a BA in Communications at the University of Wisconsin and then went on to earn a Masters of Art in Teaching from the University of Puget Sound. After graduation I taught both first and second grade in the Mukilteo School District. After the birth of my first child I became a full-time mom and became an active parent in the North Seattle Co-op Preschool Program. Once my two boys where in elementary school I became a substitute teacher with the Seattle School District. After three years of working with the Seattle School District I joined the NDS community.

I love teaching four year olds and enjoy working with such a supportive community of teachers and parents.

Margaret Clarrissimeax (Fours Teacher)

I'm excited about being at NDS, where I'm surrounded by young children and their excitement, curiosity, humor, and insights. I love supporting their emergent interests, promoting their love of learning, helping them establish their independence, and stimulating their social and intellectual growth.

I have been teaching for 20 plus years. Most recently I taught third grade, and now I'm thrilled to be back in preschool. My teaching credential is from Pacific Oaks College for preschool through eighth grade.

My interest in education has taken me to a variety of places, from local co-ops to alternative public schools, private schools, and even Japan and France to teach ESL. I also learned about education funding and governance while working on the U.S. Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee in Washington, D.C.

Bret Ellerton (Executive Director and Music Specialist)

I began my work in the field of early childhood education in 1995 after graduating with a bachelor's degree in world religion from the University of Colorado. After moving to Austin, Texas, I gained my core training in the early childhood field, working in special needs inclusive environments as a classroom teacher, collaborating with teams of teachers and therapists. I have been a lifelong lover of music and the arts, and have brought my guitar and music skills directly into the classroom as a teaching tool and community builder.

After moving to Seattle in the year 2000, I had the good fortune to be hired as a classroom teacher and music specialist at New Discovery School. Founding Director Susan Gorman promoted me to the position of Program Manager in 2015 where I was primarily responsible for upholding and researching best practices in social and emotional learning while also attending to administrative duties and coordinating or leading parent/teacher educational opportunities. Upon the retirement of Mrs. Gorman, I worked as Assistant Director, classroom, and music teacher under Director Alissa Nasiatka until her departure from NDS in 2019.

A long time student of contemplative practice, I am certified as a mindfulness instructor and facilitator with Shambhala International and have helped integrate research based, secular, developmentally appropriate mindfulness aspects into the social and emotional curriculum at NDS. I'm a Washington state certified teacher trainer for the Department of Children Youth and Families, as well as a Talaris Institute 'Parenting Counts' trainer.

I am committed to the mission of New Discovery School to foster a warm community, while protecting play, loving relationships, and the arts as central components in early learning.

Kiersten Fisker-Andersen (Fours Teacher and Afternoon Program Teacher)

I've wanted to teach kids since I was a kid myself. I grew up in Lynnwood, Washington and moved to Florida with my immediate family when I graduated high school. I attended college down there and obtained a bachelors degree with a major in Elementary Education and a minor in Pre-Kindergarten and Primary Education.

I spent last year teaching 1st grade in Marysville, Washington and I'm so excited to be here at New Discovery School as a 4's Teacher and as an Aftercare Teacher.

When I'm not at school, I enjoy creative writing, art, reading and hiking.

Alex Grennan (Afternoon Lead)

I graduated with my BAS in Early Childhood Education from North Seattle College in 2019, and am so grateful to apply my education and learn daily from the New Discovery School community. I love using the environment and emerging interests to raise questions and gather information alongside children.

Before coming to NDS I spent 8 years teaching in a variety of early learning centers throughout Seattle, as well as teaching American Sign Language and leading summer camps. I enjoy exploring the outdoors, almost as much as I love books and all things library.

Carolyn Hanson (Fives Teacher)

I have ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher! I remember playing teacher in my basement, instructing imaginary students in math and reading. I moved onto babysitting, day camps and summer camps...with live children. I earned my BA in Elementary Education from the University of Montana, and soon landed a job in Meridian, Idaho teaching 6th grade Math, Science and Reading. I shared 60+ students with my teaching partner, and had a blast. I learned about NDS through my son John when he attended the Fives Class in 2009-10, and joined the teaching staff in the fall of 2010.

I can't imagine teaching without a partner. Partner teaching allows constant brainstorming, support and feedback, as well as lots of laughter. I believe my favorite aspect of teaching, besides the bright smiles, creative imaginations and fun explorations is the day to day problem solving. It is a thrill to problem- solve, on the spot, on how best to reach a child, reschedule an activity, or hang the solar system.

Teaching at New Discovery School facilitates all that makes teaching fun for me. We get to team teach for a vibrant community, which expects you to give your best at each moment. I wouldn't have it any other way!

Darcy Held (Fives Teacher)

I came to New Discovery as a parent. Thrilled with how my own children thrived and grew, I jumped at the chance to work in the 5's classroom when a position opened up in 2014.  I graduated from the University of Oregon with a General Science degree with an emphasis on Developmental Psychology.  After teaching preschool for several years in Eugene, I moved to Seattle. I soon discovered Pacific Oaks College, a place that I shared so many of the same teaching beliefs.  I completed my coursework for my Masters in Early Childhood Education and a Preschool-3rd grade teaching certificate.  I taught at Hutch Kids for over ten years. I worked with all age groups but found my love of working with 4-5 year olds while working at Hutch Kids.

Over the years every teacher evolves their teaching style and strategies for working with children each year. Each child brings something new to the classroom each and every day.  One of the exciting parts of working with young children is watching how the classroom evolves each day. As a teacher there is a careful dance of watching and guiding the child that is wonderful to be a part of. I am excited to be back in the classroom after taking some time off to send my own children off to elementary school.  It is an honor to be a part of the first chapter in your child's education. In my spare time I enjoy baking, cooking and going on adventures discovering new parts of Seattle with my family.  In the winter you can find our family up in the mountains skiing.

"Great teachers empathize with kids, respect them, and believe that each one has something special that can be built upon." – Dr. Ann Lieberman

Hope Koon (Threes Teacher)

I am so very thrilled to be teaching at New Discovery School. Preschool was one of my fondest memories growing up, and I have spent my adulthood chasing that same joy. When I was in preschool my mother taught in the classroom next to mine, and I remember writing her letters and delivering them to her classroom. The school was very community and family based. Memorable moments in preschool included playing with shaving cream, spending time outdoors, making friends and being encouraged to explore creatively.

In college I spent a lot of time creating and performing in theater. It was my joy of performance and narrative that led me to getting my degree in Storytelling from Cornell College (the school in Iowa....we were first!). When I moved to Seattle I began working at a Montessori school. The materials and philosophy intrigued me so I went to get my training to be certified to teach in a Montessori classroom. I had a lot of fun teaching in a Montessori classroom, but I found myself relishing in the "non-Montessori" moments. The moments of loud laughter, imagination and unconventional creativity. I felt limited teaching within the boundaries of the method. That is what led me to New Discovery. Upon first walking into the school I was flooded with my own childhood memory of preschool. While New Discovery looks nothing like the school I attended, it embodies the same playful, respectful, and community based spirit I remember and loved. Plus there are stretchy hammocks here! In summary I am overjoyed to be teaching here and I feel really lucky and humbled by my opportunity. Three is such a fun age group to teach and I'm excited to continue collaborating with my awesome teaching partner!

Nicki Mason (Office Manager and ASL Teacher)

I began teaching American Sign Language at NDS in the fall of 2000, while working as the production manager for a large corporate gift company. After moving to a position as office manager for a plumbing company, I jumped at an offer to join NDS as the full time administrative assistant to the director, while still teaching ASL one day a week. Over the years I have taught ASL to many age groups, but my favorite is the preschooler, with their eagerness to learn. I enjoy teaching them a new way to powerfully express themselves.

It has been a pleasure to be part of the NDS community; I love greeting everyone as they arrive, and enjoy helping to keep the school running smoothly. Whether I'm answering phones, applying Band-Aids, giving hugs, or even fixing the plumbing, it all seems like a labor of love, and not a job. When not at NDS, I enjoy dancing, gardening, travel, and hiking in the desert.

Paige Orthmeyer (Fours Teacher)

I have a BA from Willamette University, where I took introductory education classes. I joined New Discovery School in 1996, and have been learning on the job and taking classes and workshops since.

I love the joy and honesty of four year olds as they grow over the course of a year. I enjoy sharing new sensory experiences with the children, whether through a messy art exploration, or a cooking project.

I love having the opportunity to learn from the amazing teachers and families I have contact with every day. It is great to be able to work in such a generous and supportive community.

Kat Steinglass (Fours Teacher)

I have been working at New Discovery School since 2013. I earned my teaching certificate in 1999 and completed my Masters in Human Development in 2004 at Pacific Oaks College NW. Prior to working at NDS, I worked with toddlers and taught kindergarten through second graders.

I love going on nature walks, especially with kids. I also love birding, swimming, gardening, arts and crafts, and playing music.

I enjoy being in the moment with the four year olds, watching their imaginations unfold and finding ways to support their ideas. I love working at a school that values their play and recognizes all the learning that comes from it.

I am inspired by the kids, my co-workers and the community at NDS.

Finally, I love starting my day out at song circle!

Michelle Wicklund (Threes Teacher)

Seattle, born and raised, on the playground where I spend most of my days…

I have been with New Discovery school since 2013. Working with the Fives, Fours and now Threes class. Also working in the aftercare and summer programs. I was first drawn to NDS because of the strong sense of community. The school is not only a nurturing environment for the children but the staff as well. I’m so grateful for my place at NDS!

I was basically born into a preschool. My mother owned a licensed home preschool for over 20 years. I started helping out around the age of 4. My mother may have viewed my efforts as a co-teacher less helpful at that age. I have refined my practice since then. Before my time at NDS, I studied American Sign Language in high school and college. Still to this day ASL is one of my passions.

I spend my free time with my family, going to yoga with my daughter, relaxing with the fur babies at home and enjoying all Seattle has to offer!

Preschoolers are my people.

Hana Zuwan (Threes Teacher)

I studied air transportation management back home in Indonesia. When I came to the U.S. in 2005, I began teaching and loved it! I earned my Child Development Associate degree in 2009, and have continued taking additional early childhood education workshops. I joined the NDS staff in the fall of 2011.

I love teaching and spending my day with children, helping them to learn and explore every day to prepare them for the future. I also enjoy creating an environment for them in which they feel secure and loved while away from home.

I like sharing different cultural experiences through cooking, stories, and pictures. Throughout the day, I introduce the children to a little of the Spanish and Indonesian /Malay languages. I love coming to New Discovery School, because it's an amazing place where we are always learning from one another.