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 served as a national teacher fellow with Hope Street Group, conducting research with other fellows on teacher preparation programs. 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. Amanda currently serves as an Instructional Faculty member in the UCDS College for School Culture Graduate Program.
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 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, 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 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 high school and college.
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 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, Art Teacher
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.
GEORGE SHANNON, Librarian
George Shannon is our school librarian 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 holds a Bachelor of Science in Education and Library Science, he also has a Master of Science in Library Science 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.
HENRY GUTERSON, PE Teacher
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 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 and 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
KATHY SCHOTT, Reading Support Specialist and Morning Care Coordinator
Kathy taught Island School kindergartners for 39 years before retiring. After five years of retirement, traveling and spending time with family (and surviving COVID isolation), she has returned as our Reading Support Specialist and Morning Care Coordinator. Kathy says, “This school fills my heart with joy every day I'm here.”
BETSY GRIGGS, Kindergarten 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.
REBECCA MARCHAND, 1st/2nd/3rd 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, Extended Day Coordinator and 4th/5th 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.
MARGIE STORCH, Extended Day Assistant
Margie has been involved with The Island School for many years - first as a parent, then as a grandparent. She moved to the island from the Washington, DC area in 1978 and raised her two children here. Margie was an assistant teacher at Bainbridge Cooperative Nursery School for 21 years. Since then, she has been a nanny for various Island families. She enjoys traveling to Portland to see her grandchildren whenever she can. Life with children is important to Margie, and we feel lucky to have her experience and love of children in our after-school program.
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.