Amy Kopald, Kindergarten Class Teacher
Amy has worn many hats at Santa Cruz Waldorf School, having been a Kindergarten teacher, class teacher, Enrollment Manager, she is now back to her first love as Kindergarten teacher.

Gifted in music, art, storytelling and puppetry, Amy brings her joy of little children to the Kindergarten.


Joan Agostinelli,
Kindergarten Class Teacher

Joan knew she was going to be a kindergarten teacher as soon as she graduated from high school, and in her early 20s, she discovered Rudolf Steiner. Joan was involved in the homebirth community while regularly substituting in the Santa Cruz Waldorf School kindergarten. She went to the Rudolf Steiner College and graduated in 1994, completing her early childhood teacher training..

Joan has a passion for anthroposophical therapies, including eurythmy, the extra lesson, and the myriad ways in which Waldorf Education supports children on their path.

She completed a year-long puppetry training with Suzanne Down, a North American master puppeteer. Joan continues her studies in therapeutic puppeteering, using story as a tool for healing. Watching one of Joan's puppet shows is a treat enjoyed by the entire school at seasonal festivals.

Joan brings her love of puppetry, circle time, and nature to her classroom. She is in her 19th year of teaching kindergarten at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School.


Richard Corbal, Kindergarten Class Teacher

While living in Los Angeles and exploring various artistic careers, Richard and his wife, Erin, were blessed with the news of a new life joining their family. Considering the many changes a child would bring, Richard followed an impulse and became involved with the Waldorf Institute of Southern California's teacher training program. After a transformative year of training, Richard, Erin, and baby, Parker Jane, moved back to Santa Cruz, a community which strongly reflects their ideals. Richard resumed his teacher training at the Rudolf Steiner College and is currently working towards his master's degree in Waldorf Education. Upon relocation, Richard acquired a position at a Waldorf-inspired preschool on the Westside of town, where he co-taught for a year.

A three-week practice teaching stint brought Richard to Joan's kindergarten in the spring of 2010. Shortly after, he was hired as the new preschool teacher at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. Richard's class has grown into a full kindergarten.

In addition to being a husband, father, artist, UCSC graduate in visual arts, surfer, fledgling drummer, and a SCWS board member, Richard is committed to Anthrosoposophy. With Waldorf Education, he brings truth, beauty, reverence, and goodness to the development of the well-balanced child. Richard's daughter currently attends Ms. Casey's 2nd Grade.

Christopher Sblendorio 1st Grade Class Teacher

Christopher has taught and graduated four classes at the Great Barrington (MA) Waldorf School.

Choosing to now live in California, Christopher has brought his wit, wisdom and experience to SCWS.



Jodi Casey 2nd grade Class Teacher

Jodi has many years working in different capacities at various Waldorf Schools. After having her three children all attend and graduate from Waldorf Schools, she is now a Class Teacher at SCWS.



Ben Sibley, 3rd Grade Class Teacher

Ben holds an undergraduate degree in humanities, and has a master's degree in Waldorf Education from Sunbridge College in upstate New York. Before moving to Santa Cruz, he taught at the Minnesota Waldorf School where he graduated his first class, and taught woodworking to the upper grades students. This is Ben's fourth year at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. . 

Ben's wife, Aurore, is also a Waldorf teacher. Orion, their son, is in Ms. Casey's 2nd Grade. Ben and Aurore also have a little girl, Elena. Ben enjoys playing folk guitar; jazz drumming; taking long hikes in the woods; gardening, and reading history books.


Vanessa Bravo, 4th Grade Class Teacher

Vanessa Bravo came to Santa Cruz via San Diego; however, she has found her home in many places in the world. Born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, her travels began early. Her mother worked as a doctor for the Navy and the family moved frequently. Summers were always spent in the tropical warmth of Puerto Rico among many musical and artistic aunts, uncles, and cousins. Vanessa experienced life in Georgia, Spain, Illinois, and Virginia before graduating in 2000 from the University of Colorado at Boulder, CO, with a bachelor of science in biology. She worked as a field biologist studying sea turtles in Puerto Rico before realizing her true vocation as a Waldorf teacher.

Vanessa joined the Foundation Year at the Rudolf Steiner College in 2003 and completed her Waldorf Teacher Training in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2005. And in 2005, she was happy to join the Waldorf School of San Diego as the Spanish teacher for grades one through six. After the birth of her son, Vanessa began a licensed home daycare program that maintained the ideals presented in Waldorf Education incorporating many of the ideas gleaned from work with the LifeWays and RIE methods of early-childhood education. In 2010, Vanessa began the Extra Lesson/Remedial Teacher Training, utilizing the training's practicality and insights while teaching in her classroom.

Outside of school, Vanessa enjoys snuggle time with her quickly-growing child, gardening, cooking, dancing ballet, and strumming her ukulele.


Susan Jones, 5th Grade Class Teacher

Susan Jones, teacher of the SCWS Class of 2006, is delighted to return to teach this year's third grade class. While at the SCWS, she audited the remedial training at Steiner College in a class with Esther Centers and Tako Kamura. Since leaving the SCWS, she and her husband, RH, took a sabbatical year at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, as students in the English Studies Program with Dr. Virginia Sease. On their return to the US, Susan worked at the East Bay Waldorf School as Lower School Coordinator, then Parent-Child and Nursery School Teacher, and as College Chair.

Prior to taking her first grade at the SCWS, Susan was a student at the Rudolf Steiner College, in the Goethean Studies program, where she met Steve Spitalny, who recruited her for the SCWS. The year at Steiner College was followed by 11 years in Atlanta, where she and RH were part of the founding of the Waldorf School of Atlanta; she was their first kindergarten and grades teacher. Before Atlanta, they spent years in the mountains of north Georgia, where they founded the Appalachian Mountain School, a Waldorf kindergarten; managed the Appalachian Studio Gallery, an artist and craftperson's cooperative; were partners in The Silversmiths, a jewelry design studio, and lived in a communal household. Before moving to the Appalachian Mountains, Susan completed her Waldorf Teacher Training at the Rudolf Steiner College, in its first teacher training year, with Rene Querido. Susan always wanted to be a teacher, and seeking the Waldorf Education, investigated many educational philosophies as a college student, graduating cum laude from NYU in education. She spent her girlhood in Maplewood, New Jersey, a short distance from New York City.

Susan enjoys gardening and cooking, storytelling, watercolor painting, and puppetry. She has a special interest in the healthy organization and functioning of Waldorf schools.


Scott Olmsted, 6th Grade Class Teacher
Scott received a B.A. degree in Human Biology from Stanford University and a Waldorf Teaching Certificate from Rudolf Steiner College.

Scott's journey with the Waldorf Education began when he was in high school. He researched different types of education and as a result, committed himself to starting a school with a unique philosophical foundation. Then he found Waldorf Education and thought, "This is better than the school I envisioned creating!"

Scott has been actively involved in Waldorf teaching for more than 20 years. During that time he served as a class teacher at the Live Oak Waldorf School near Auburn, CA, successfully carrying a class from first through eighth grades.

He also worked in teacher training programs at the Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training in San Francisco, and with the Sunbridge College in New York. For three years, Scott was on the executive management team at the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA).

Scott joined the Santa Cruz Waldorf School in 2006. His three children all attended Waldorf Schools.


Sunset Sky Nixon Richter, 7th Grade Class Teacher
Sunset Richter began the millennium by taking a first grade class at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School after completing a BA in Waldorf Education at the Rudolf Steiner College. She is originally from Indiana, where her favorite childhood activities included swimming in Lake Michigan; acting in community theater productions; playing folk music, and Irish step-dancing.

She first encountered Waldorf Education when working as an apprentice on an organic farm in Maine. While many groups of children visited this farm, Sunset was particularly impressed when the third grade from the local Waldorf school came to visit. This experience inspired her to pursue Waldorf teacher training..

Sunset lives in Felton with her husband, Brad, and enjoys hiking with her dog, "Salty". Sunset also plays in the Santa Cruz Bagpipe Band. Like many class teachers, she has a hard time choosing a favorite aspect of the wonderfully diverse Waldorf curriculum; however, she is particularly known for her wet-method watercolor painting classes, and the plays that she writes and directs with her students. Sunset loves being in nature, so if you come to the campus look for her in one of her two favorite places: the organic garden and the redwood grove!


Caitlin Stratton , 8th Grade Class Teacher
Caitlin comes to the Santa Cruz Waldorf School with glowing references, a great enthusiasm for this class, and a love for our wonderful community. She has a BA in history with a concentration in European history; she lived in the UK to complete her studies.

She attributes her passion for the arts, history, and learning about different cultures, to her lifelong association with the Waldorf Education. Ms. Stratton attended a Waldorf school, kindergarten through 8th grade, in the small town of Jamestown, CA, located in Gold Rush country. She feels blessed to call her former Waldorf teachers her mentors. She attended the Rudolf Steiner College where she completed the Teaching Credential Program.

Ms. Stratton is overjoyed to be teaching at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School, and is thankful to be in such a vibrant and welcoming community.


Ximena Sierra, Spanish Teacher
Ximena Sierra was born in Cali, Colombia, and was reared in both Brazil and Columbia. In 1996 she received her master's degree in electrical engineering from the State University of Campinas, Brazil. After working for years as an engineer in California, she decided to leave engineering to embark on a new career in teaching.

It was in Brazil that she first heard about Anthroposophy while attending a program called "Trabalho Biografico" developed by Founder Gudrun Burkhard. The extensive study and conscious exploration involved creating a personal biography in which she experienced her life connected to all of human evolution. She was assisted by several fundamental professionals: an Anthroposophical doctor, a nurse, a biodynamic gardener, a painting teacher, and a music teacher. This beautiful, nurturing experience led to an epiphany and a quantum shift in how she related to the world.

Upon returning from a summer visiting Brazil, Ximena visited the kindergarten at the San Francisco Waldorf School and as a result of her earlier work with Burkhard in Brazil, chose Waldorf Education. She pursued Waldorf Teacher Training and completed her certification in 2005 at the Rudolf Steiner College. Ximena ran her own Waldorf-inspired early childhood program for two years. .

To accommodate her daughter's interest in differing cultures, Ximena volunteers as the Arts and Crafts Coordinator for "Mensageiros da Cultura", a Bay Area cultural program for Brazilian children organized by Brazilian mothers.

Raised in Brazil and Colombia and immigrating to the US in 1996, Ximena's experience is that teaching a new language builds bridges from one culture to another, and accesses different thought processes which brings a richness to experiencing the world. In 2009, she joined the Santa Cruz Waldorf School as the Spanish language teacher for all eight grades.


Lydia Neilsen, Garden Teacher & Manager
Gardener, educator, soil builder, and earth lover, Lydia is an ideal garden teacher and garden manager of the one-acre biodynamic garden and small orchard at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. She brings permaculture to the children, the campus, and the community. Lydia teaches gardening to grades third through eighth, incorporating community work; free play; permaculture and biodynamic techniques for soil; plant and animal care, as well as an awareness of the cycles and seasons, and nature exploration and observation.

Lydia is co-designer of the Westside Permaculture House in Santa Cruz, a demonstration garden for the use of home-scale permaculture design. She and her family have been involved in programs with the Regenerative Design Institute (RDI) in Bolinas in Marin county, on topics in "Permaculture and Ecology of Leadership" for many years. In 2007, Lydia began teaching with Penny Livingston in the Four Seasons Design Course program, and is now the head facilitator and host for the Four Seasons Permaculture Design Course which is held monthly at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School. This course brings the greater community to the school; provides valuable training, and facilitates the implementation of permaculture techniques on the campus.

Owner of Dirt Dragon Designs, a permaculture and biodynamic consultation business, Lydia is adept at reading the potential in land, and building a resilient and vibrant habitat full of food and life using local and onsite resources.


Allen Hankla, Campus Maintenance
Allen joined the Santa Cruz Waldof School in 2011 and has been steadily making strides in bringing the campus to its potential.





Kerry Maloney, Handwork Teacher
Kerry is a native Californian who has long been inspired by the beauty and diversity of Northern California. She studied fine arts at Cabrillo College and earned her livelihood as a seamstress for many years.

She began working at the SCWS in 1984, first as a parent volunteer, and then in the Aftercare Program. She substituted as a classroom teacher, taught handwork classes, and became a full faculty member in 1994. Kerry enjoys teaching children and adults alike and is dedicated to bringing the joy of the creative process to her community. She credits her alternative upbringing with imbuing her with the inspiration, self-reliance, and ingenuity that she is so eager to share with her beloved students. Kerry has a depth and breadth of handwork knowledge and her skills and talents include the following: quilting; doll-making; hand-spinning; felting; silk painting; Hawaiian quilting, and paper crafts. She is also an avid knitter.

Kerry is the mother of four children, all of whom have attended the SCWS.



Sarah Beasley, Art Teacher



Renata Bratt, Cello Teacher

Cellist and composer/arranger Dr. Renata Bratt is the Kuumbwa Jazz Center Artist in Residence in Santa Cruz. She serves on the National Board for the American String Teachers Association. Dr. Bratt has a PhD in music from the University of California at San Diego; a master's degree in music performance from the California State University, Northridge, and a bachelor of arts degree from Pomona College. She writes instructional books for Mel Bay, and jazz, fiddle and rock string orchestra arrangements for both Alfred Publishing and String Letter Publishing.

She teaches national clinics and string workshops for children and adults, including the American String Teachers Association (ASTA); MENC and Suzuki institutes and conferences; the Rocky Mountain Cello Fest; New Directions Cello Festival; Alasdair Fraser's camps; the Mark O'Connor String Conference; Wintergrass, and the National Cello Institute. She is a past president of the Suzuki Music Association of California and the International Association for Jazz Education String Caucus.

Her CDs include Pacific Cello (music for meditation, massage, and savasana), A Slice of Summer (original music and arrangements), Great Big Taters (fiddle tunes on cellos) and Jazz Trio 2006 (chamber jazz).

She has shared the stage with luminaries such as Liz Carroll, Darol Anger, and Alasdair Fraser, and has played back-up with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, David Sanborn, Lyle Lovett, and Dionne Warwick, prompting Rolling Stone to dub her an "ace performer".


Polly Malan, Violin
Polly B. Malan played as the principal violist with the San Francisco Western Opera Theater, the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, and the Bayshore Lyric Opera. She has also played with the Skywalker Philharmonic; San Francisco Opera; San Francisco Chamber Orchestra; and the San Jose, Monterey, and Santa Cruz Symphonies. Performance of new music continues to be of keen interest and importance to her. Summer festivals currently include the Telluride Chamber Music Festival in Telluride, CO; Mendocino Music Festival, and the Astoria Music Festival in Astoria, OR.

Ms. Malan earned her BA in music and British history at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. She pursued graduate studies at the Northern Illinois University and at the University of California where her focus was performance practice of contemporary music.

Ms. Malan teaches violin, viola, and piano. It was under Ms. Malan's guidance that the Young Strings Program at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School was created.


Clint Walters, Movement/Games Teacher
Clint was born in Half Moon Bay where he attended the local public schools. He began his undergraduate studies at the College of San Mateo, and graduated from California State University, Chico, with a BA in history and a minor in physical education.

Clint then successfully completed a K-12 multi-subject credential program with an emphasis on middle and secondary education. He substituted in Half Moon Bay until he entered the Waldorf Teacher Training Program in Fair Oaks, CA, receiving his Waldorf teaching certificate.

In 1993, Clint began his journey at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School, taking a class from first through fifth grade. Clint then completed the five-year Spatial Dynamics Training in 1999 and became the movement and games teacher. For the next seven years he continued as the movement teacher. Clint then worked two years as a carpenter, returning to the SCWS from 2008-2010 to teach grades five and six. Clint is presently the movement teacher and games.

Clint says, "Movement has always given me great pleasure in my life and it is my intention to instill the joy of movement in children by teaching age-appropriate games and sports. I teach the children healthy and beneficial movement so that they may carry these lessons with them not just in childhood but through the rest of their lives.".

Clint's hobbies include tennis; jogging; hiking; weight lifting; dancing; playing harmonica, and building.


Thomas Nold Woodworking Teacher

Thomas was born and raised near Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1975 with a BA in art and a BS in education. He attended Northern Illinois University on scholarships for tennis and art. Following college he moved to California and settled in Santa Cruz in 1977. He began working at the Santa Cruz Juvenile Hall in 1978 and continued to work as a Deputized Peace Officer for the Santa Cruz Probation Department in many capacities until retiring in 2011.

Thomas began woodworking in the workshop of his father, an Industrial Arts teacher, in Euclid, Ohio. Thomas has designed and built furniture, housing structures, and musical instruments. It is his goal to pass along his and his father's joy for creating, from own's imagination, three- dimensional objects from wood.

Thomas is most proud of his four children ranging in ages from 15 to 28 years. He has enjoyed traveling to Malaysia, Galapagos Islands, the Amazon jungles and the European countries many times. He plays the acoustic bass professionally in the Monterey Bay area, as well as the occasional game of tennis. Thomas states, "I enjoy spending time with my amazing children."


Dexter Brightman, Aftercare Coordinator
A graduate of our very own Santa Cruz Waldorf School, Dexter has been working at the San Francisco Waldorf School with their Aftercare Program.