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The Earth Tortoise School

A Montessori Community for Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and their Families

The Earth Tortoise School Vision

Community is very important to us. We hope we have created a place for families that feels like an extension of their home, a network of support that begins during pregnancy and extends out until your child is ready to move into the larger world. We serve children from 3 months to 6 years of age. Infants and toddlers thrive on free exploration while developing a sense of self. Infants are just learning about their own bodies and developing the abilities they will need for all later learning. Toddlers are coming into their own. They are learning their place in the world, developing and refining their skills, and asserting their independence. Preschool aged children are looking outside of their immediate community to understand their larger world, refine the skills they developed in the previous years, and challenge themselves as they move from the concrete to the abstract. The classroom is the children's space - child-sized, beautiful, and completely accessible to their need for doing things on their own. It is a peaceful place that gives them the chance to choose what they want to work on within a routine that is predictable and limits that help them feel secure. Learning develops the whole child - physically, cognitively, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. There are no "right" answers but only more exciting questions. And we love to share their enthusiasm with them in an attitude of acceptance, patience, and love.


Our goals are:

* to provide child care from 3 months through 6 years of age with classrooms dedicated to the needs of each stage of development

* to support the whole child through a school experience that values art, music, nature and gardening, cooking, culture, personal contributions, a love of learning, and each child as a unique individual

* to support each child based on their individual needs, abilities, and goals regardless of race, gender, economic background, developmental level or learning differences.

* to support the family beginning at pregnancy - with resources for doulas, pre-natal massage and yoga, and help with preparing your home for a new baby,- and throughout early childhood - with parent groups, parent education, home-visits, family resources, and a community network

* to create a community meeting place with parent-child activities - children's yoga, music classes, a community garden are just some ideas

* to develop and maintain a staff that is vested in the early childhood education field - sees this time of life as the highly important in one’s development and in the development of a positive society, has a desire to strengthen self-esteem and help to provide a program that shelters independence and builds strong social structures – and is committed to furthering their education and making this field their life’s work.

* to support the staff, valuing them for their education, experience, and contribution, with health benefits, paid time off, continuing education assistance and by developing the school vision with their needs, ideas, and goals. 

The Loowit Teachers

Erin Tooze

(she/her)

Lead Infant Guide

After working for 10 years in early childhood education, from your typical childcare setting to substituting in special needs classrooms, I found Montessori! - realizing how it empowered the youngest of children. I quickly adopted a love for the Method and felt it was so much like the home I grew up in. My mother understood the importance of making me a part of our community and letting me grow in my own personal interests. I worked in a Montessori School as a lead guide for 4 ½ years, before finding the desire to open my own school in my neighborhood and community. The Earth Tortoise School spent a year in my home, before expanding its doors to a community of 16. And here we are today in a new space, being able to welcome even more!

Jessica Calabrese

(she/her)

Lead Infant Guide

I moved to Oregon in 2005 and quickly grew to love the Pacific Northwest. I approach each day as a new beginning loaded with possibilities. Every person and every child is unique and I embrace this variety. At fourteen, I enrolled in a Child Development class in high school and it wasn’t long until I realized working with children was my true calling. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work in several childcare settings, each one bringing something different to my growth as a teacher. I have been working at The Earth Tortoise School for 5 years now and itis the perfect fit for me. I am currently enrolled in the Heart and Hand Montessori Teacher Education Program to obtain my Montessori credential and I look forward to years of building relationships with our young children.

Chandler Torsch

(she/her)

Assistant Infant Guuide

Hello! My name is Chandler and I’m new to the PNW from Utah! I’m having a great time exploring the mountains, beaches, and trying all the delicious local food! I started working in a Montessori setting in 2019 and quickly fell in love while I watched how the children at all ages lead with curiosity and empathy. I’m looking forward to continuing my child development and psychology education at Clark College this fall as well as from the guides and children here at the Earth Tortoise School. I strive to be a life learner and a great friend to everyone I meet!

The Wyeast Teachers

Miranda Helm

(she/her)

Lead Toddler Guide

My decision to build a career around early education started back in high school when I began volunteering at David Douglas’s preschool on a whim. I thrive off the joyful energy of childhood and the intrinsic validation I get from working within a helping profession. Just a week after I graduated in 2013, I was hired as an aid in Earth Tortoise’s toddler room and settled into the Montessori pedagogy. In the following years, I juggled working at Earth Tortoise with volunteer trips abroad, completing the Heart and Hand Montessori Teacher Education Program, and finishing a bachelor’s degree in Child, Youth, and Family Studies at PSU. I’ve always had a love for learning and trying out new things. Now I’ve moved up into a co-lead position in the

toddler room and am working hard to blend my experience with my

education to set these kiddos up for happy, productive futures. 

Marisol Paredes-Torres

(sbe/her)

Assistant Toddler Guide

I was born and raised in Oregon, and no matter how many places I travel to I still love living in the Pacific Northwest. I attended Oregon State University for my Bachelors degree in Human Development and Family Sciences. During this time, I started working at the local Montessori school and knew right away this was the environment I wanted to teach in. The accomplishments and independence of the children caught my attention. I eventually moved to Portland to complete my Primary Teacher Training from Montessori Northwest, as well as my Masters in Education from Loyola University, Maryland. I have worked in various positions in Montessori schools for the last 8 years and look forward to being a part of the Earth Tortoise community. In my free time I enjoy being outside, seeing live music, and dabbling in various crafts.

Lindsey Schoberth

(she/her)

Assistant Toddler Guide

I was born and raised in Southern California ehere I worked with children as a swim -safety specialist for 10 wonderful years. I was introduced to Montessori on 2013 and fell in love immediately! I began utilizing the philosophy in my work ad eventually began my formal studies in Early Childhood Education. In 2019 I made the decision use the Montessori principles at home with my new son and that sae year I found an opportunity to work in a classroom as an assistant. I fell even more deeply in love. My love for nature and desire to homestead  brought my family to Oregon in the Spring of 2022 where I found The Earth Tortoise School and the amazing group of Montessorians that came with it! I look forward to learning with this wonderful community and completing my teacher training in the next couple of years!

The Klickitat Teachers

Morgan Swor

(she/her)

Co-Lead Primary Guide

I began my Montessori journey four years ago when I joined a primary classroom as an assistant. I instantly fell in love. I am so excited to begin my teacher training this summer, and continue to learn alongside the children. Before I came to Montessori, I trained to be an ASL interpreter, I worked as a labor and postpartum doula, and I apprenticed as a home birth midwife. Although I am grateful for all the experiences, I have found my calling in Montessori work. I live in Portland with my husband Chris, my bonus son Ori (13), and our daughter Sahalie (1). We love to go see live music, play disc golf, camp, hike, and play in the water. I look forward to growing with the Earth Tortoise community

Beth Pratt-Russum

(they/she)

Co-Lead Primary Guide

I fell in love with Oregon in 2006 while attending a small study away program nestled in the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. In 2010 I discovered Montessori and fell in love with it the instant I stepped into a classroom. It really resonated with the experience I had during that semester in Oregon. I knew this was the kind of educational experience I wanted to share with children! I connected with a Montessori school in Southeast Portland and was lucky enough to work alongside an amazing mentor teacher 7 years! With the pandemic, I switched my focus to caring for and homeschooling my own two children but as things began to open up I knew I wanted to get back into the classroom and pursue my Montessori Primary training. My own daughter attended Earth Tortise from infancy through toddlerhood, and I am overjoyed to get to be a part of this lovely community of teachers, children, and their families!

Michelle Johnson

(she/her)

Assistant Primary Guide

I was born and raised in Oregon, and no matter how many places I travel to I still love living in the Pacific Northwest. I attended Oregon State University for my Bachelors degree in Human Development and Family Sciences. During this time, I started working at the local Montessori school and knew right away this was the environment I wanted to teach in. The accomplishments and independence of the children caught my attention. I eventually moved to Portland to complete my Primary Teacher Training from Montessori Northwest, as well as my Masters in Education from Loyola University, Maryland. I have worked in various positions in Montessori schools for the last 8 years and look forward to being a part of the Earth Tortoise community. In my free time I enjoy being outside, seeing live music, and dabbling in various crafts.

Our Support Staff

Maya Rutkowski-Bowen

(she/her)

Director

When I was nine years old my two sisters were born and I, of course, became their "little mama". Watching them play, interact, and grow definitely contributed to my interest in human behavior. I received my B.A. in Psychology and Child Development in 2000. I discovered Montessori as I was looking for my first professional experiences with children. I fell in love immediately. Here was an approach that values these first years of life and sees children as capable and intelligent. I received my Montessori Infant/Toddler accreditation in 2002. After 20 years I continue to love my relationships with the kids, the families, and the staff. These supportive relationships feed our soul and help us reach our fullest potential. I hope the Earth Tortoise School provides that sense of belonging to everyone here. 

Carmen Garcia

(she/her)

School Substitute/Classroom Support

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