Meet the Lake Hills Staff for 2017- 2018 School Year!

Natalie

Owner
I grew up in Minsk, Belarus and moved to the US with my family when I was 8. Although I didn't have many Russian-speaking friends, I retained my Russian language by speaking with my family. My husband actually learned Russian in school so he wouldn't feel left out at family functions. I didn't realize how important the Russian language was to me until I had my two children and wanted them to speak it. While my education and background are in finance and fashion, I am so happy to trade it in for spending time with kids and being part of their preschool experience.

I came up with the concept of Birch Tree Academy when I realized how important both academic and social development was for my own children. After I was not able to find that combination in any schools I visited, I decided to create it. I really wanted a community of families that value education and a place where kids can feel welcome and make life-long friends. I was so excited when I realized other parents were looking for the same thing, and our preschool was born!

Although my main job is handling daily operations, I love getting to know all of the kids and playing with them during their outside breaks.

In my free time I like read, swim, take long walks with my kids and experiment with cooking.

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Camila

Director, Lake Hills
I was born in Los Angeles to Peruvian Parents; it wasn’t long until they moved back to their motherland. Living in Peru, Spanish was my first language. After attending primary school, my family and I moved to the United States. One of my biggest challenges moving was learning a new language. I wanted to become fluent in English, but also retain my first language and the culture that goes with it. We moved to Washington, where I finished the rest of my schooling.

I started nannying after graduating from high school. This experience lead me to my passion in early childhood education. I have five years of experience as a lead teacher for both toddler and preschool age groups. I also have experience teaching in Spanish. I am currently enrolled at Bellevue College. My dream is to transfer to University of Washington after I graduate.

Rezeda

Operations Director
I was born in Kazan, Russia and have lived in the Seattle for the past 4 years. I have a bachelor's degree in Finance and 5 years' banking experience. My son attends Birch Tree and I am so excited to have the opportunity to work in this fun and dynamic place. I enjoy working with kids and families, and am always happy to help with school related inquiries.

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Darya

Office Manager, Lake Hills
I was born and raised in Belarus. I graduated from the Belarusian University of Culture and Arts in Management and Culture. Two and a half years ago my husband and I moved to the United States. Before moving to the United States, I worked as an editor for Italian magazines for about 4 years. I have a big family and I have been surrounded by children all my life and helped to raise my brothers and nieces and nephews. After moving to the United States, my work was always connected with children: I worked as an animator at kids events and as a nanny. I enjoy working with children, I like to see them happy and help them explore the world around them.

In my free time, I like to play the piano, read books, cook, hike and travel. I am happy to be part of a wonderful team here at Birch Tree Academy!

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Supriya

Ducklings Class
Co-Teacher

I grew up in India. My mom was a preschool teacher, and it was from watching her that I gained my inspiration to follow suit. I have a Bachelor’s degree and Certification in Early Childhood Education. For 5 years I worked as a preschool teacher in India before I moved to St. Louis, Missouri. I moved to Washington State with my husband and two daughters.

I worked as a lead preschool teacher in Missouri for 3 years before I moved. In my spare time I love to watch movies, sing, read books, draw and crochet.

I’m excited to work in the one year old class! The one’s class is the best age; I get cute faces, hugs, and absolute unconditional love every single day.

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Olya

Ducklings Class
Co-Teacher
I was born in Ukraine. After graduating from high school I studied to be a hairdresser-stylist, but because of my love of learning, if just wasn’t fulfilling. I then began to study psychology. When I was 18, I came across children who needed help. They were orphans. For 6 years I was actively engaged in Ukraine with such children of different ages, from 0 to 25 years old. We did children’s camps, holidays throughout the year, organizing vacation trips, counseling, assisted in the adoption process, and general care and nuture.
Working at the orphanage was such a great experience for me! Six months ago, my family and I came to live in the United States. And I was sure that working with children was my calling. I am so happy to continue working with wonderful children here at Birch Tree Academy!

Every child is an individual who needs recognition, love and care. When receiving the proper care, children grow up confident and form a strong character and self-confidence. I want every child to have a good childhood because they are our future!

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Layla

Goslings Class
Lead Teacher

I was born in Utah state, raised 8 years in Salmon Idaho a very, very small town. My favorite thing to do was go up to the mountain tops and spend the day with my brothers and father. This taught me to appreciate and care for our earth the right way, and to find beauty in everything.

I found my career path when I got my very first job at a daycare! I was so happy; I got to meet tons of kids and help them learn and develop in ways I didn’t know possible. After that I knew that I wanted to be a teacher in Early Childhood Development.

A year later I moved to Washington state with the love of my life and became a Lead Teacher in the career I want. I still go visit my family in Idaho once a year and I cherish it with my heart, but I’m always happy to come back home to my students.

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Renata

Chipmunks Class
Lead Teacher
I have been working with children and families for more than ten years. I’ve been a lead teacher, program creator, supervising teacher and site director, as well a dedicated volunteer for family programs in my community. I am excited to share my expertise at Birch Tree and find new ways to grow and learn here! As a certified Montessori educator, my attention to the children's environment and building healthy relationships are of highest priority and bring me the great joy! I love movement and nature. Within the classroom, I make free play and rest a priority for myself and the little ones in my care.
As a mother of two teens and a tween, I can't wait to share my new PNW home with my own children on school breaks. My family has spent the last thirteen years living near the Colorado River in rural, southern Nevada. As a California native, I grew up visiting my Italian grandmother in New York and was hugely influenced by her love of the city, the arts, travel and food. I am thrilled to be returning to an urban environment where I can still feel very connected to nature. When I’m not at school, you'll find me doing SUP yoga (often accompanied by my sweet mini poodle, Sugar), hiking, and enjoying delicious, healthy food and exciting new places with the people I love.

Elyse

Bunnies Class
Lead Teacher
I was born in Multnomah, Oregon and moved to Seattle 22 years ago. After graduating high school I earned my Veterinarian Technicians license. I soon found that veterinary medicine was not a fulfilling passion for me, and I began searching for alternatives. I worked as a mechanic for Boeing, and taught soccer to kids ranging 4-15. During my time as a coach, I learned that I was teaching kids about more than soccer. I was teaching them how to regulate emotions, socialize, and build self-confidence. Watching the kids grow on and off the field gave me such joy! It was these experiences that lead me to pursue a career as a preschool teacher.

I earned my Early Childhood certificate through Washington State University. Afterwards, I worked in preschools and as a nanny. I've worked with children for 8 years and counting. I am also going to Highline Community College. I am taking courses for Child Development, Child Psychology, and Social Work.

In my spare time I enjoy reading, traveling, hiking, fishing, and playing soccer. I joined the Birch Tree Academy team in April of 2017. I am so excited to join the Lake Hills location in the Hedgehogs room! I am honored to be apart of the Birch Tree Family, and I look forward to spending time with all my students.

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Julie

Bunnies Class
Co-Teacher
I was born in Mississippi, moved to West Germany and eventually grew up in Spokane, Wa. I am a mom of 2 lovely girls, and a step-mom to to 2 more wonderful girls.
I have worked in customer service my whole life and hold myself to the highest standard. I got my work ethic from my father, who was an Air force pilot. Working in the financial industry for the past 15 years, I have wanted to do something more meaningful with my career. After searching for months I started volunteering at Birch Tree because my daughter attended the school, and soon got hired to be a full time assistant teacher. I am trilled to be part of such a fun, eclectic group of teachers and help make a difference in children’s lives every day!
In my free time I am the events chair for Talk It Up TV and I assist with women’s self -defence classes and work on my non-profit called HighHeeledGoGivers. If I can, I try to squeeze in a good book, see a live band, cook with my girls, dance or volunteer for a local charity. Being a former Mrs. Washington also allows me to help creative more awareness of local causes and non-profit organizations.

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India

Hedgehogs Class
Co-Teacher
I was born in the Bay Area, CA, but moved to Washington early enough that I consider myself a northwest native. I spent my childhood and teens volunteering with Girl Scouts and my local church, which helped me realize my lifelong passion for teaching young children about the world around them. I’ve taught as an assistant for two years, and I’m very excited to join the Birch Tree team as a lead 2-3s teacher this year. My goal as a teacher is to help children understand how they can impact the world, and what they are capable of— this means a lot of mess and noise in my classroom sometimes, but also a lot of smiles!
I’m currently taking courses at Bellevue College to earn a degree in Early Childhood Education, and hope to one day work towards a PhD in the field. I’m also leading a Girl Scout troop of 1st-graders this year. In my spare time I like to play Dungeons and Dragons or video games, snuggle up and read with my cat, and explore outdoors with my dog.

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Margarita

Hedgehogs Class
Co-Teacher
I’m from Siberia: Krasnoyarsk. I graduated from National Research Tomsk State University. I am a linguist and a teacher of foreign languages. In Russia I worked at a foreign language school, taught French in different groups for 2-3 year olds and for teenagers. It was a great experience and I realized that it’s my passion to work with young children.
I also have a hairdresser and make-up art stylist diploma; that’s my hobby. In my free time I like to read, study, hike and spend time with my family.

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Nalika

Raccoons Class
Co-Teacher
I was born and raised in Seattle. I graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with my Bachelor’s in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. Growing up caring for my younger sister and cousins, teaching children has always been a passion of mine. After receiving a black belt in high school, my first teaching position was leading youth martial arts classes after school. During my time at PLU, I worked in preschools, elementary schools, and even a child psychiatric hospital. This was where I found that working in education is where I was happiest. My goal working in Early Childhood Education is to empower children of all backgrounds to build self confidence in a community that supports their learning and personal growth!
In my free time I enjoy reading, hiking, yoga, and traveling. I joined the Birch Tree Academy family in the Spring of 2018, and I couldn’t be more excited to teach the Raccoons class this year! I look forward to a year full of fun and learning!

Daria

Raccoons Class
Co-Teacher
I grew up in the southern rural region of Russia. Both of my parents were educators, and I graduated from Chelyabinsk State University. My husband and I moved to Washington State in 2010. Soon after I started working as a language instructor.

Before joining Birch Tree Academy, I organized a co-op preschool for my two kids and their friends. For me this was a great and enjoyable experience, and teaching became my passion. I decided to continue my career as a teacher in the field of early childhood education.

I especially enjoy working with preschool age children. I believe that teaching through play is the best way to prepare kids for their future years.

My hobbies include gardening, hiking, and studying foreign languages and diverse cultures. I love spending time with my family, traveling, and exploring new places.

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Domenique

Foxes Class
Lead Teacher

I was born and raised in the inner city of Seattle. Yes, I am a diehard Seahawks fan!! GO HAWKS. Growing up, Portuguese was spoken around me, but was never taught to me. I felt disconnected from part of my culture because of this, and am now in my adult years starting to learn Portuguese, my paternal native tongue.

Ever since the 3rd grade I have said, “I’m going to be a teacher and then run my own school.” As a child I would force my relatives to “play school” and today they still tell me how much they actually appreciated it (now as adults of course, not so much when we were 9 and 5). So here I am in my 3rd year of teaching after 3 years of nannying. My family is more than big, being 1 of 13 siblings between both parents as well as 1 of 46 first cousins, I have been surrounded by many children constantly in my life. I have my associates in Early Childhood Education, and plan to continue my education, focusing around curriculum.
In my spare time, I give loves to my 7 year old Yorkshire Terrier Macchiato (Maki), spend time outdoors, spend loads of time with my family, and love listening to music.

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Tess

Cubs Class
Lead Teacher

I grew up in a small town in Kansas, and moved to Washington when I was 15 years old. Since moving to Washington, I fell in love with everything this state has to offer— mountains, water, city and more. In my free time, you can find me all over Washington exploring my home. In high school I began assisting at a preschool, where I developed my love for early childhood education. From there I went to the University of Arizona, where I received my degree and certification in Early Childhood Education, with a focus on culturally responsive literature and curriculum. I also received my Sheltered English Instruction endorsement while in school.
This is my fifth year teaching Pre-K. This age has always been my passion and favorite age group. I love their curiosity, and the lightbulb moments the students have when they discover something new. My philosophy in the classroom is to facilitate the students’ natural curiosity, independence, and confidence. I believe early learners are all scientists, testing and investigating each day. I strive to create a community of learners that feel safe and comfortable in their environment. I can’t wait to see where our educational journey will take our class this year!

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Joanna

Cubs Class
Assistant Teacher
I grew up in the Seattle area and am currently attending Bellevue College as a full-time student. I am interested in pursuing pediatric nursing or midwifery. Throughout high school I enjoyed working as a nanny.

I enjoy spending my free time with my friends and family. I also love to develop my skills in social media marketing and photography. I am excited to be a part of the Birch Tree community and expand my experience in Early Childhood Education!

I grew up in Washington State as an only child. As a child, I enjoyed traveling around the world often. That is where my love for learning and language began. Later in life, I met and married my husband who grew up in Tanzania. Since marrying, we have traveled back and forth between the two countries. Currently, I am learning to speak Swahili through immersion.

I have received my bachelor’s degree in K-8 Interdisciplinary Studies. Followed by a masters in Curriculum and Instruction. I also have a certification in family childcare and early childhood education. I have taught third and sixth grade. As well as STEM, kindergarten and advanced level kindergarten. I love learning and seeing the wonder of a child as they play and learn in the classroom. This is my first year at Birch Tree Academy and I am thrilled to get to know the children and have a wonderful year.

In my free time, I enjoy traveling to exotic places. In the last two years my husband and I have traveled to six countries and hope to travel to many more.

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Olivia

Fawns Class
Co-Teacher
I grew up in Washington State as an only child. As a child, I enjoyed traveling around the world often. That is where my love for learning and language began. Later in life, I met and married my husband who grew up in Tanzania. Since marrying, we have traveled back and forth between the two countries. Currently, I am learning to speak Swahili through immersion.

I have received my bachelor’s degree in K-8 Interdisciplinary Studies. Followed by a masters in Curriculum and Instruction. I also have a certification in family childcare and early childhood education. I have taught third and sixth grade. As well as STEM, kindergarten and advanced level kindergarten. I love learning and seeing the wonder of a child as they play and learn in the classroom. This is my first year at Birch Tree Academy and I am thrilled to get to know the children and have a wonderful year.

In my free time, I enjoy traveling to exotic places. In the last two years my husband and I have traveled to six countries and hope to travel to many more.

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Nailya

Fawns Class
Co-Teacher
I was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, where I graduated from the State Pedagogical University with masters in Elementary school education.
After my graduation, my husband and I moved to Moscow, Russia, where I continued with my education in the field of Russian language and literature. After starting a family, I worked as an elementary and high school teacher, and later as a chief editor at a newspaper.
After 20 years of living in Moscow, my husband, two children and I immigrated to United States, where we found our permanent home in Bellevue, WA.

Working with kids brings a lot of satisfaction and joy to my life, especially when I see results from my work and smiles on children’s faces.
In my spare time, I enjoy reading, being with my family and my puppy. I like exploring new places and museums.

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Thomas

Kindergarten
Lead Teacher
My name is Thomas Lee and I am very happy to be a part of such a vibrant educational community and school. I am a graduate of UC Riverside and this is my 19th year of teaching. I have taught various grade levels, and seven years of Community Adult School in the evenings. I enjoy teaching very much and helping others become life-long learners. I grew up with strong educational values, knowing that if I work hard and continue to improve upon my skill sets, my potential as an individual is limitless. This is the belief that I try to instill in each of my students.

I hope that during my time here at Birch Tree Academy, I can help each student grow to love learning and that learning is fun and exciting. In my spare time, I enjoy playing and watching sports such as football, basketball, tennis, and soccer. I also enjoy writing songs and stories, and of course, spending time with my wonderful wife and four children.