Nancy Monson | Marianne Roller | Katie Murphy
Jola Gaik | Dorothy Shaeffer | Carrie Anne Wendt
Homestar’s staff combines teachers of all ages and experience to form a solid team of teachers and directors. Every week all the teachers meet to talk about the center’s policies, to go over rules and regulations, and to help each other develop skills in communication with parents, working with children and being solid co-workers. They also talk about and plan curriculum, work on enhancing the classroom, check in about all the children, and help each other through a feedback process. A few times a year a special staff dinner is held and teachers get together to talk about how their lifestyle can support their work as teachers, and how to find and create balance in their lives. There is a bond between the teachers that comes from working so closely together all week, and friendships between staff members contribute to the children feeling that caring and love are at the heart of Homestar.
Director of Running River School and Homestar
There has always been in me a desire to learn what life is all about. I had a constant longing to understand and to participate with others in the process of discovery. As a child I used to play school with my stuffed animals. I knew there were so many things they wanted to learn about, so I became their teacher. I also had a love of nature that kept me outside in every season, playing, exploring and making shelters and forts to hide in. I went to summer camp for ten years, which filled me with rich experiences of cooperative living, learning outdoor skills and developing a deeper appreciation for all of nature. Since being seven, I took my feelings and experiences and wrote stories, songs, poems, articles, and plays. I have been fortunate enough to bring all of my greatest interests together in the profession of teaching.
To me, being a teacher means learning how to love and understand all children, and supporting and nourishing their innate love of learning. This requires patience, calm, receptivity and work. Every person is born with the potential to develop capacities and special talents. These are the seeds. A teacher’s job is to learn what nutrients those seeds need: how much water, sunlight, soil, so that the seed can grow into the healthy plant it was meant to be. But the other side of the equation is the parents. A teacher is only one of the hands that guide the child. The parents are the other hand, and the strongest hand. For that reason, I have a passion for working with parents, so that we might become a stronger team and create a real community of learning and caring for all.
I realized early on that anything I might want to teach the children, I had to be developing in myself. I had to be the model. I observed how strongly young children imitate adults in every way: how they talk, move, eat, engage, dress and even their attitudes and emotional responses. This became a motivation beyond my own personal desire to grow and develop: I wanted to give children a sense of how precious life is and what incredible capacities we have as people. Instead of trying to change the children, I began to work on observing and changing myself. Slowly I have learned to bring my respect and love for living the process of life to teaching. This creates an indissoluable bond between myself and the children. If we are all engaged in learning together, then there is no longer the great divide between school and the rest of life: learning becomes what life is about. And, if we are forever learning, emotionally, physically and mentally, then perhaps we will come to understand how to take conscious responsibility for the protection and maintenance of this planet. To me, this is the meaning of the evolution of humanity.
Nancy's radio show "Parenting Solutions" can be heard on KGNU Community Radio (88.5 FM) on Tuesday mornings at 10:30.
Director of Homestar and Preschool Director
I adore children and am passionate about creating the very best foundation possible for them to grow into happy and productive human beings capable of loving, working, and contributing to the planet. In my over thirty years in education, I have worked with children ages 1–12 and adults of all ages. Each age group, in itself, is fascinating and offers its own excitements, challenges, and rewards. And each has made a rich and significant contribution to my growth as an educator. With this said, I find that the place my heart most resonates is with young children. The early childhood years are truly magical with visible changes manifesting almost daily. So much is being shaped and formed during these early years, and it all lays the groundwork for the rest of a child’s life. It is essential to get things right from the very beginning and I am dedicated and committed to making this happen for all of our children.
My formal education and teacher training was at Michigan State University where I obtained a degree in Elementary Education. After teaching the elementary grades for five years in the public schools, I helped to found Homestar in the late 1980s. I also served on the original Homestar Board of Directors. For many years after that I worked with adults, designing and teaching educational programs in corporate and small business settings. In addition, I taught in a private preschool before coming to Homestar and also taught swimming lessons to children for nine years.
As a teacher at Homestar, I am constantly blessed with the opportunity to interact with children. Working with young children is a growth process for all who are involved, not just the children. Being with children provides an excellent opportunity for personal growth and for the development of qualities such as creativity, patience, flexibility, understanding, and playfulness, to mention just a few. It’s exciting and rewarding to be part of such a dynamic process! In addition to my teaching responsibilities in the preschool at Homestar, I am also the Director. This role affords me the opportunity to engage many different tasks and larger projects. Homestar is a very people-oriented center where good communication, building strong relationships, education, and training are a priority. Consequently, a significant portion of my time goes toward this end. In addition, teacher training and development, fundraising, community outreach, family work days, parent teacher conferences, writing our monthly newsletter, and taking prospective parents on tours of the center are also priorities that need attention. The tasks are many and varied, yet no day is the same, and there never is a dull moment! Amidst all the activity, underneath it all, my guiding light is my commitment to serving the vision we have for our children, families and staff.
I feel grateful that my avocation is my vocation, and that every day I have the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of children, the wonder of play and the special-ness of now.
Co-Director and Director of the Infant Program
Hello, my name is Katie Murphy, and I am the infant program director and a toddler teacher at Homestar. After receiving my BFA from the University of Colorado, I knew that I wanted to incorporate my creative training with working with young children. My lifetime love of children, my need to express my creativity, and my desire to be outdoors led me to teaching at Homestar. The immediate warmth and joy one feels upon entering Homestar is what has kept me here ever since. I feel part of a greater family at Homestar with the support and excellent communication between the staff, parents and children. After teaching in the Toddler room for a couple of years I felt inspired to do more for Homestar. I felt that I had the insight to help Homestar be the best that it could be. Since then I have worked with the Infant program and the overall care of our school. Homestar is a wonderful place and I feel blessed to be a part of it.
Infant Lead Teacher
Preschool Teacher for the Explorers
After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Elementary Education, Dorothy began teaching second grade in Waterloo, Iowa. Through a series of transfesr from Minnesota to Texas and places in-between, she and her familly moved to Boulder in 1990. While waiting for her Colorado teaching certifcation, she worked in a preschool and enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of the younger set. As the saying goes, "The rest is history". She is Director-certified but prefers teaching and spending her time with the children rather than administration.
Dorothy and her husband have two daughters, both living in the Denver area, which is the major reason they plan to stay in Colorado. Dorothy loves to read (esp. mysteries), travel with her husband, do count cross stitch and recently began to quilt.
Dorothy is beginning her ninth year with the Homestar family.
Carrie Anne Wendt
Preschool Teacher for the Pioneers
Carrie Ann Wendt has been working with children since 1996. After graduating from college with a major in Forestry, she began working for the University of Pennsylvania in their arboretum. At the arboretum she had numerous opportunities to teach children as well as adults about plants, trees, and insects. She continued teaching the public about the importance of trees and how to care for them in her next job at Penn State Montgomery County Cooperative Extension in Pennsylvania. During her time at these two institutions she discovered that her favorite times during the day were when she was with children. So she entered the early child development world.
She spent three years as a discrete trial trainer (a specialized tutor) for a young boy with Pervasive Developmental Disorder It was such a profoundly rewarding experience for her that when the position ended she took a job with a preschool that specialized in children with special needs. Since then, she has worked at two preschools (including Homestar which she has worked at since 2002) and directed the Running River Summer Camp Program for five to nine year olds. In 2005, she volunteered in Southern Mexico at a Home for Abandoned Children.
Outside of work, her other passions are environmental issues and community. She has not owned a car since 2000 and her main form of transportation is her bike. She also lives in a cooperative housing situation where she shares a house, food, chores, and fun times with 13 housemates. For fun, she loves to dance, sing, drum, hike, backpack, play guitar, and learn about medicinal plants.