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 served on The Island School Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2016, including one year as Board Chair.
Amanda graduated from the University of Notre Dame, earned her master's degree in Teaching from Seattle University, and received her administrative credentials from the University of Washington's Danforth 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 BS 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 back 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 has a BA in English from the University of Washington and a JD 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, Administrative Assistant & Registrar
Taya holds a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and worked for many years as a marriage and family therapist. Most recently, Taya gained administration experience as the data manager for One Call for All and as a volunteer administrative assistant at Island Cooperative Preschool. She has been a committed volunteer for several organizations, including Raising Resilience and the Dispute Resolution Center of Kitsap County. Taya and her husband Porter have one son, Finn. They enjoy spending time together working on projects at home, camping and hiking, and going to places like the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. Taya truly loves being around children and creating a warm, supportive place for them to learn.
Classroom Teachers and Specialists
CINDY BRICKLEY, Kindergarten Teacher
Cindy Brickley has 39 years of teaching experience (21 of which were at The Island School as the first grade teacher). She understands the needs of kindergarten and first grade children from team-teaching K/1 learning buddy projects and demonstrates leadership by bringing the Responsive Classroom and Wired for Reading to our classrooms. Cindy has been one of the most passionate voices for reminding us that every decision at this school is based upon what is best for the children. Cindy’s unbridled enthusiasm for learning is one of the many gifts she brings to The Island School every day.
Cindy loves to make things and enjoys both quilting and sewing. She is happiest when the people around her are happy and enjoys the creative aspects of teaching. She has wanted to be a teacher ever since she was spanked as a child for being left-handed. She never wants a child to be treated as she was. The Island School is a place where she can be herself and teach with people who can also be themselves.
ALETA SCHUELKE, First Grade Teacher
Aleta holds a master’s degree 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 15 years. She was selected for The Sun newspaper Teacher Spotlight in 2017. 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.
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 20 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’s degree in History and a master’s degree 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 Teacher
Lana taught sixth grade math and science and seventh grade health for five years and then worked as an assistant kindergarten teacher for three years, all at TOPS School in Seattle. Before becoming a school teacher, she taught environmental education at Seattle Audubon Nature Camp, The North Cascades Institute, and the Student Conservation Association. When she moved to Bainbridge, Lana was a guest teacher at The Island School and also volunteered weekly during math time in the fifth grade classroom for a year. Lana is a regular volunteer at The Healing Center, co-facilitating grief groups for children ages 3-9. She returned to teaching after taking time to raise her two children, who are now in middle and high school.
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 newest member, a pup named Fern. One of her greatest joys is the fact that her children make her laugh on a regular basis.
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’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Spanish. Shortly after completing her Bachelor’s degree, Shannon continued her education by completing a Master’s 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 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!
KATEY RISSI, Art Teacher, Extended Day Coordinator
Katey brings experience directing the arts and educational programs at The Boys and Girls Club, and working directly with youth ages 5-14. She is a visual artist, working in a variety of mediums including printmaking, collage, photography, and illustration. In addition to her artmaking practice, she teaches art and ecology workshops to children and adults. She is an avid gardener, forager, and folk ecologist. She lives in an intentional community here on the island, and loves to take care of her chickens, ducks, and neighborhood goats.
Katey believes in giving youth agency and creative freedom, and creates projects that are inquiry-based and open-ended. She loves employing zero waste and creative reuse into projects with kids, and is passionate about nurturing a love for the outdoors and the environment. She loves the intersections of science, art, activism, and social emotional learning.
GEORGE SHANNON, Librarian, Teaching Assistant
George Shannon is our school librarian, teaching assistant and a beloved author who has published more than 40 books, including 30 popular picture books. He has taught a number of writing workshops, is a professional storyteller and received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. George not only has his B.S. degree in Education and Library Science, he also has his M.S.L.S. degree in Children’s Literature and Children’s Services. He previously worked as a children’s librarian at an elementary school and at a public library in Kentucky. We love to share that he was also selected as an Island Treasure in 2012.
George grew up in a farming village of 1500 people and his father was the principal of the high school; thus, he has always been surrounded by teachers and teaching. He enjoys reading, theater, laughing with friends and “the quiet,” when he can find it.
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.
DREW KELLER, PE Teacher
Drew teaches physical education to all grades at our school. An independent tutor on the island for several years, as well as here at The Island School, Drew has a degree in Early Childhood Development. He continues to coach a variety of sports teams and was voted Coach of the Year in 2015 by Bainbridge Island FC. A “Renaissance man,” Drew is skilled at drawing, playing guitar, designing and constructing, as well as playing the full range of sports (soccer, water polo, lacrosse, skiing, etc.)
Drew and Mike Derzon have collaborated on such projects as a really sophisticated Rube Goldberg machine and a race track for student-designed “box cars” at our Science Fair. Running and playing, enjoying nature and building and creating are some of the activities that make Drew the happiest. His mom is a teacher and his dad always coached his teams, so teaching has always been “in his blood.” He loves teaching because it’s fun, and it allows Drew to share, learn, and grow along with the kids.
ROBIN MILLER, Social Emotional Learning and Special Services Coordinator
Robin has more than 20 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 BS 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 and has received special training in applied behavior analysis.
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, Spanish Teacher, Teaching Assistant
Consistently kind, positive and enthusiastic, Jessie is on our K/1 Team and is 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 with a degree in Cultural Anthropology and 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
MATTHEW REIMER, Extended Day 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 four years ago. The community's bond has made him feel like he's found a home.
DEE BENNETT, Maintenance Specialist
Dee provides ongoing building maintenance and daily cleaning services for the school. She is a parent of a current Island School student and three 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.