Extraordinary Educators who Love Learning

Our Faculty and Staff

Teaching at The Island School is as much a passion and a vocation as it is a profession.  Caring and accomplished educators model a love of lifelong learning.  Our teachers know each child deeply and devote tireless effort to meeting children’s “different needs and different speeds."  We stand in awe of the courage of our young learners and are honored to be part of their educational journey.


AMANDA WARD, Head of School

Amanda joined The Island School in 2019 as Head of School, describing this position as her “dream job.” Amanda loves the passion of Island School educators, the commitment of families to a values-focused education and the enthusiasm of children when provided the opportunity to learn in a safe and dynamic environment. Amanda understands the benefits of an Island School education as the parent of a child who attended the school and as an educator who worked with many Island School alums.

Prior to her current role, Amanda spent 20 years in public education in Kitsap County (18 years in the Bainbridge Island School District), serving in a variety of roles including classroom teacher, instructional coach, dean of students, new teacher support specialist, National Board facilitator and associate principal. In 2018, the Northwest Association of Independent Schools chose Amanda for its selective Pathways to Leadership program, which develops female leaders interested in independent school headship. She also served on The Island School Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2016, including one year as Board Chair.

Amanda conducted research about teacher preparation programs as a national teacher fellow with Hope Street Group. She presented this research at the National Board's National Conference in Washington, D.C. Amanda has also presented at local conferences about the positive impact of learning walks on both beginning and experienced teachers. Recently, Amanda served as an Instructional Faculty member in the UCDS College for School Culture Graduate Program. She is also a member of the NWAIS finance committee.

Amanda graduated from the University of Notre Dame, earned her Master in Teaching from Seattle University, and received her administrative credentials from the University of Washington's Danforth Leadership Program. When not at school, you can find Amanda jogging in the Grand Forest, spending time with her family, gardening in her yard or enjoying a yoga class.

MARCIA SHORT, Business Manager

Marcia joined The Island School as Business Manager in 2021. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from the University of Missouri and she brings over 20 years of accounting knowledge to The Island School. Marcia’s unique mix of business, not-for-profit and property management experience is a great fit for our school.

Marcia and her husband moved to Bainbridge Island in 2016 after raising their family in Renton. Marcia volunteered in her daughter’s school as a reading tutor and art docent, and she was a Girl Scout leader for over 10 years. She is very happy to be working in a setting with kids. Marcia loves exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest on her e-bike and is also a passionate quilter and knitter.

JOAN HENDERSON, Advancement Director

Joan is not only our Advancement Director; she is also the proud parent of two Island School alumni. Joan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Washington and a Juris Doctor from the UW School of Law. A long-time resident of Indianola, she co-edited the history book Indianola: A Community Memoir. She has served as an art docent, a coach and a Big Sister in King County and wrote a monthly local-interest column for the Indianola Breeze.

Joan joined The Island School community as a brand new kindergarten parent in 1998 and later subbed for our school, worked as an aide and taught as a classroom teacher, in addition to serving on our Board of Trustees. Joan eventually joined our staff to manage the Capital Campaign for Webster Hall and also worked as our part-time school librarian prior to moving into advancement full-time. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer, reading, cooking and sharing delicious meals with good friends.

TAYA HALL, Office Manager and Registrar

Taya holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and she worked for many years as a marriage and family therapist before deciding make a career change. She joined The Island School after gaining administration experience as the data manager at One Call for All and as a volunteer administrative assistant at Island Cooperative Preschool. Taya has also been a committed volunteer for several other local organizations, including Raising Resilience and the Dispute Resolution Center of Kitsap County. Taya and her husband have one son. She enjoys spending time with her family, working on projects at home, camping and hiking, and going to art and science museums. Taya feels grateful that she gets to help make The Island School run smoothly every day. She truly loves being around children and helping to create a warm, supportive place for them to learn.

Classroom Teachers and Specialists

Megan Cramer

MEGAN CRAMER, Kindergarten Teacher

Megan is a skilled and accomplished educator with many years of experience working with students ranging from preschool through high school. These experiences, along with her family ties, have brought Megan from her childhood home in Michigan to her current home in Washington.

Megan worked as an environmental educator in a variety of roles, and she also served as a program director and youth development specialist at Bainbridge Island Boys and Girls Club. After beginning a family of her own, she returned to school to pursue her teaching certificate through Western Washington University. During her studies she completed her practicum teaching requirement at The Island School, has served as a substitute teacher here and is the parent of two current students. Megan loves letting kids be kids. She observes their interests, strengths and needs, allowing these to guide her teaching focus. With her foundation in environmental education, allowing students time and space in our natural world will always be a priority.

Megan listens closely with children and connects with them. She possesses a joy in teaching. Her ability to balance giving kind assistance while cultivating independence serves her well in her role as kindergarten teacher.


ALETA SCHUELKE, First Grade Teacher

Aleta holds a Master of Arts in Education, loves being at The Island School and loves being a teacher. Aleta's twin sons are graduates of The Island School and she fell in love with the school through them. Her Island School history is long and varied: she was one of our favorite substitute teachers, was a third grade teaching assistant, taught our Extended Day Japanese class, led “Aleta Tuesdays” in Extended Day kindergarten and served as our Auction Coordinator. She has a degree in Japanese Language and lived in Japan for three years as a college student. In her spare time, Aleta enjoys knitting and weaving and hanging out with her many, many dogs.


URSULA PONTIERI, Second Grade Teacher

Ursula has taught at The Island School for more than 16 years. She taught in public school for several years prior to that. She is passionate about poetry, birds, the environment and social justice. Some of the projects she brings to her second graders are weekly poetry notebooks, the science of flight, bird identification, and community service—students grow seedlings to plant in the sensory garden at Owen’s Playground (a park for children of different abilities), and illustrate and sell the Kids Can Make a Difference calendars to benefit students on the sister island of Ometepe, Nicaragua. The Sun newspaper selected Ursula for its Teacher Spotlight in 2017.

Ursula respects young learners and their ideas, and encourages all of us to really listen to kids.  She enjoys camping and being outdoors, dancing and reading. What led her into teaching was the honesty and “unexpectedness” of children. One of her favorite experiences at The Island School was being lifted in a crane at the Science Fair as the crowd roared in anticipation of the egg drop.


CHRISTINE NEWKIRK, Third Grade Teacher

For the past 21 years, Christine has worked to create nurturing and intellectually stimulating classrooms for her students. She loves seeing her students deeply engaged in their work and especially loves it when the children beg to skip recess or lunch because they don’t want to stop what they’re doing! Christine holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Master in Teaching from the University of Puget Sound and has taught grades K through 6 in both public and private school settings. She has conducted a number of professional development workshops for teachers, including co-teaching at the University of Washington’s Summer Institute in Life Science. She was also a nominee for the Disney Teacher of the Year Award for Creativity in Teaching.

Before becoming a teacher, Christine spent her days riding horses and competing on the show jumping circuit in North America and Europe. These days Christine loves spending as much time as possible outdoors with her children, both graduates of The Island School.  She also loves getting lost in a good book, writing, knitting, quilting and gardening.


LANA FULLER, Fourth Grade Co-Teacher

Lana is in her sixth year of teaching fourth grade at The Island School. She has also taught sixth grade math and science and seventh grade health, and worked as an assistant kindergarten teacher for three years, all at TOPS public school in Seattle. Before becoming a school teacher, Lana taught environmental education at Seattle Audubon Nature Camp, The North Cascades Institute, and the Student Conservation Association.

Lana is passionate about sharing the wonder of the natural world (and the world in general) with those around her. She enjoys spending time with her family on adventures in the outdoors. She also loves taking walks on beaches and trails with her family’s dog, Fern. One of her greatest joys is the fact that her children – one in college and one in high school – make her laugh on a regular basis.



AMANDA MACE, Fourth Grade Co-Teacher & Reading Support Specialist

Amanda grew up in Indianola and attended local North Kitsap schools before attending Whitworth University, where she earned a BA in Elementary Education and Special Education with a minor in Reading. She has taught in the public schools in K-5 special education and taught multiple years in a first grade classroom. Amanda lives in Indianola with her husband and two sons, one who attends The Island School and the other who is in preschool. She loves to read, enjoy the beach, travel, and enjoy fun family activities.



SHANNON BOSS, Fifth Grade Teacher

Shannon has always surrounded herself with young learners. Growing up on the island, she was a well known local babysitter and avid softball player. She attended the University of Portland, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with a minor in Spanish. Shortly after completing her bachelor's degree, Shannon continued her education by completing a Master of Education with a focus in teaching English to speakers of other languages. She had her first classroom by the age of 22 and has been teaching students aged 1-80 ever since.

Shannon has traveled widely, including time studying abroad in Chile and a year living in Ecuador and teaching English. She has been invited to present at both international and state conferences, and more recently has been mentoring prospective teachers at the University of Washington. She loves teaching for many reasons, and looks for that moment when the light bulb goes on and a student masters a new skill. In 2021, Shannon was honored to be nominated in the Bainbridge Island Review's Best of Bainbridge special section as one of the best teachers on Bainbridge Island. Shannon feels beyond privileged to not only teach at, but also have her daughter attend The Island School!

Rebecca Larson


Rebecca has had eyes on The Island School since moving to Bainbridge in 2020. Her past position was as an art teacher at a private elementary school in the California Bay Area. She loves being a part of  the joy and freedom children experience during the creative process. Her favorite art forms are printmaking, painting and creating clay work with her students. Artistic inspiration comes to her from the natural world, and from children’s book illustrators like Maurice Sendak and Sophie Blackall.

Before becoming a teacher, Rebecca earned her B.F.A. in Graphic Design and worked at an ad agency in San Francisco. These days Rebecca enjoys spending time with her husband and four adult kids hiking, playing pickleball and just hanging out. She treasures the peace of time alone in a kayak or running on the many beautiful Island trails.



Kari has been nurturing young readers for more than two decades. She graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Special Education. She went on to receive a Master of Education in Early Literacy and a Library Media Endorsement from Seattle Pacific University. Kari taught elementary school in the Bellevue School District before moving back to her hometown of Bainbridge Island in 2010. Since then, she has been the program director and Pre-K teacher at Bainbridge Cooperative Nursery School.

Kari enjoys open water swimming, growing veggies and dahlias in her garden, volunteering with Arms Around Bainbridge, going on trips with her family, and listening to mysteries on Audible. She is also the proud parent of an Island School graduate!



MIKE DERZON, Music and More Teacher

Mike is our music teacher, Green Team leader, Rube Goldberg-inspired Science Fair guru and so much more. Mike has been an integral member of our teaching staff since 2002, and you’ll be amazed at his resourcefulness and drive. As a professional musician, and as an avid outdoors person, he brings his love of music and the natural world to all that he does, including his inspired leading of our weekly Monday Morning Sing.

In June of 2017, Kiwanis chose Mike as Bainbridge Island’s “Educator of the Year,” the first time a teacher from a private school had been given this award. In recognition of Mike’s stellar leadership on the Green Team for the past several years, he received the 2015 Partner in Environmental Education Award from the Kitsap County Commissioners as part of their 24th Annual Earth Day Awards. Additionally, Mike has accepted NWAIS’ invitation to share his expertise by serving on six accreditation teams over the years, one of the latest being for the Journeys School of Teton Science Schools in Jackson, WY.



Henry has been coaching and teaching children since 2005. He founded and currently runs a small youth recreation program on Bainbridge called Island HOOPS & more. Henry strives to provide an inclusive environment in which children have fun, improve as athletes, give their best effort, and work well with others. He believes the gym is a kind of classroom too, a place to help build character traits that will serve children well throughout their lives, not only in the world of sports but in the world at large.

Henry attended Bainbridge High School, went on to graduate from the University of Washington in 2008, and then traveled abroad for two years— particularly enjoying Spain and Nepal— before returning to Bainbridge. He enjoys day-hiking in the Olympics with his dad, hut-to-hut trekking, all-things basketball, and reading books.


ROBIN MILLER, Social Emotional Learning and Special Services Coordinator

Robin has more than 21 years of experience in supporting the needs of learners of all ages in the areas of social skills development and speech therapy. She received her Bachelor of Science in Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington and her Master of Arts in Speech and Hearing Sciences at Washington State University. (She still roots for the Huskies!) Robin has experience in medical, clinical and school settings.

In her role at The Island School, Robin gives proactive support by providing teachers with instructional strategies to meet the needs of varied learners, implementing a school-wide social emotional curriculum, offering small group support to students in order to further develop social skills and providing parent education to families. Robin likes to garden and is a DIY-er with lots of tools. She has two dogs, two cats and a fish named Larry. She hates canned fruit, loves chocolate chip cookies and is the parent of two Island School graduates.

Jessie Dameron

JESSIE DAMERON, Spanish Teacher and First Grade Teaching Assistant

Consistently kind, positive and enthusiastic, Jessie is a teaching assistant and our Spanish teacher. Jessie is an alumna of The Island School. She has previous experience working with youth in various settings, including working as a nanny in Bellingham and as a respite specialist in Family Support Services in the Bay Area. She is a graduate of WWU/Fairhaven College and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Spanish.

During high school, Jessie served as a community volunteer in Ometepe in spring of 1995 and then engaged in a Spanish Cultural Independent Study in Oaxaca and the Southern Coast of Mexico. She continued her Spanish independent studies in Baja and the Western Coast and NW Mexico in college and then completed a Spanish intensive study with Instituto Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico. Her daughters Maia and Lily are graduates of The Island School. Jessie enjoys spending time with Geoff and her girls, outdoors or at home, as well as with family and friends.

Teaching Assistants and Other Staff


BETSY GRIGGS, Kindergarten & Library Teaching Assistant

Seeking adventure and employment opportunities, Betsy has lived and worked all across the country, from as far east as Maine to up north in Alaska, teaching outdoor sports and skills such as kayaking, snowboarding, swimming, and backpacking. Betsy holds a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies with the emphasis on Outdoor Recreation Education from the University of Minnesota. She is energetic and patient, meeting students where they are on their learning journey while giving them plenty of time and space to think and explore.

Betsy has  called the Pacific Northwest home for almost two decades. She recently moved from Seattle to Poulsbo with her family (her husband, two children and a new puppy). Betsy enjoys traveling, gardening, biking, sewing, knitting, volunteering, and playing in the rain. As the Kindergarten Teaching Assistant at The Island School, she welcomes the opportunity to work with elementary students and help provide them with a rich educational experience.


KELLY JUNGNITZ, Second & Third Grade Teaching Assistant

Kelly arrived in Washington State in 2008 in search of fresh experiences after being born and raised in the southwest of England. She has a long history of working with children, both in the UK and the US, as a nanny and in a nursery setting. She has thoroughly enjoyed her time volunteering in the classrooms at The Island School as a parent of a current student, and is looking forward to continuing this journey as a teaching assistant helping students foster their love of learning. She enjoys gardening, cooking, being outdoors, and exploring new countries and cultures.

Rebecca Marchand square

REBECCA MARCHAND, Second & Third Grade Teaching Assistant

Rebecca’s career history includes 15 years as a Starbucks district manager, a US Navy ombudsman, a children’s piano teacher, and a search and rescue trainer. She was born and raised in Washington and has a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services. She and her spouse have three children, two of whom attend The Island School. She says: “I’ve always had a heart and a passion for nurturing lifelong learners, working with children, and building community.” Rebecca spends much of her free time backpacking, camping, hiking, exploring rivers, gardening and reading.


MATTHEW REIMER, Fourth & Fifth Grade Teaching Assistant

Matthew was born and raised in the Midwest. He found his passion for working with kids when he helped take care of his nieces and nephews from a young age. He finds joy in listening to others and loves to learn. His adventure westward included stops in Iowa, Denver, and finally Seattle, all while collecting skills and memories during his time in school and working throughout the hospitality field. Matthew's partner, an Island School alumnus, brought him to Bainbridge Island five years ago. The community's bond has made him feel like he's found a home.


WILLIE RICHARDS, Extended Day Coordinator

Willie grew up in Minneapolis, MN with a passion for the natural world, particularly birds, from a very young age. After receiving a BA in Environmental Studies from Saint Olaf College, he participated in a Graduate Naturalist training program at Wolf Ridge ELC on the north shore of Lake Superior. This was a transformative experience that strengthened his love of the natural world and instilled a strong sense of the importance of immersive educational experiences in the outdoors for students. His path within environmental education would eventually lead him to the Olympic Peninsula and a position as a Field Science Educator with Naturebridge on Lake Crescent. He was most passionate about developing programming that allowed students the opportunity to view the natural world as a teacher that offered valuable guidance in all aspects of life. After working as a fisheries biologist for the United States Geological Survey for several years, he is excited to have the opportunity to work with students again.

danielle gordon

DANIELLE GORDON, Extended Day Assistant & Morning Care Coordinator

As both a teacher and creative entrepreneur, Danielle’s work is nearly always centered on educating children. She has taught art to kids, tutored them in English while living abroad in France, and opened an art workshop in downtown Bainbridge. She has staff experience at other independent schools in the area.

In her previous life as a co-owner of an interactive design firm, she and her husband won numerous awards for their creative digital media in the early days of the internet. Danielle studied in Montreal at McGill University, and attended graduate school in San Diego. She is fluent in French, rusty in Spanish, and used to be able to speak fluent HTML code. She has just launched one child off to university in British Columbia and has a sophomore teen son. Danielle is an avid reader, knitter, art maker, exerciser, traveler and curious person.


DEE BENNETT, Maintenance Specialist

Dee provides ongoing building maintenance and daily cleaning services for the school. She is a parent of four alumni students. Dee's commitment to our school for the past 13 years, her pride in her work and her attention to detail make her an incredible asset, ensuring that our school is clean, tidy and welcoming.