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AO Staff & Students
The Apple Orchard Team

The
Apple
Orchard
Team

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WORKING AT AO

One of the ways we support teachers is through a generous Teacher’s Fund. We offer financial assistance to teachers seeking their master’s degrees and other areas of interest that enhance a teacher’s classroom competency and well-being. For example, teachers in the past have pursued professional development in areas such as:

  • Yoga certification

  • Workshops focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • Education on Farms workshops

  • Reggio Emilia training in Boulder, CO

  • EEC certification classes

  • NAEYC Annual Conference

  • Travel to schools in Turkey, Thailand, Israel, and Egypt

We continually seek to support and build a diverse group of teachers who embrace a broad range of identifiers. A person who both views nature as a means to educate children, as well as one who holds the belief that an anti-racist education is an essential aspect of an excellent education would be a good fit for our community of teachers.

ADMINISTRATION

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Martina Albright

Director

After many years as a consulting psychologist to Apple Orchard, I assumed the Director role in 2015. I received my Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Harvard College and my MA and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from New York University. Before joining Apple Orchard full time, I worked at Massachusetts General Hospital in child psychiatry and began to shift my focus to early education and how to build foundational skills at this early age as a key way to foster healthy, happy lives. All three of my children attended Apple Orchard so I know the school as a parent, as well as an administrator. Passionate about the natural environment and all forms of play as the best educational backdrop for skill development in early educational experiences Apple Orchard is the perfect spot for me. I live with my husband and have three children and enjoy playing ice hockey, tennis, skiing and making raspberry jam with my family.

Diana (Dee) Bunstein

Business Director

Before joining Apple Orchard in 2002, I spent 12 years directing various childcare programs throughout Massachusetts. I wear several hats at Apple Orchard, my primary role is Business Office Director. I wake up each day looking forward to working on the farm and seeing the children exploring in nature. My degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Young Children with Special Needs from Fitchburg State College and a Masters in Early Intervention from Wheelock College. I live with my husband, two boys, both Apple Orchard alums, and our rescue dogs. We spend time with extended family, exploring outdoors, walking, swimming, and hiking. One of our favorite family places to visit is Martha’s Vineyard.

Diana Bunstein - AO Staff
Sherry Landry - AO Staff

Sherry Landry

Classroom Director

I hold a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Tufts University and Director II license from The Department of Early Education and Care. In 1982, I briefly substituted in the Sandwich Club program and in 1984 was hired as an Assistant Teacher. In 1986, I became a Class I Lead Teacher where I stayed until I moved into Administration in 2006. In my current role as Classroom Director, I oversee all age levels, teachers, and Sandwich Club.    Apple Orchard is a magical place that feels like a second home. It is a joy to expose children to nature in such a unique environment. I feel a deep responsibility to provide the best possible educational foundation for all the students. Both of my children, and more recently my grandson, attended Apple Orchard and return as often as they can. I live with my husband and enjoy taking long walks, knitting, and sewing.

Martin Familia

Business Office

I’ve been working in finance in different capacities since graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2009. Born in the Dominican Republic, I came to Boston at the age of two where I've resided ever since. I demonstrate a commitment to community with my involvement at different organizations including my former school Codman Academy Charter Public School, where I am an active member of Codman Academy’s Board of Trustees. I also hold financial literacy seminars for different groups of high school students, including current students as they prepare for life after high school

Martin Familia - AO Staff
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Diana Walcott

Admissions & Development Director

I hold a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Denison University and an EEC Teacher Certification. Following college, I knew I wanted to work with children so I began working at The Park School, both as an intern in the Pre-Kindergarten, as well as in Admissions. In 1993, I was hired at Apple Orchard to assist in Class I and to lead Sandwich Club. A year later I was given an opportunity to work in admissions and development and have been doing it ever since! This is my 30th year with Apple Orchard. In my free time I love reading, watching movies, and walking on the beach.

Derry Schwantner

Technologist

As a mom of three, I became a self-taught technology advocate to keep one step ahead of my kids, and thanks to them, celebrate over 25 years as an educator and a Creative in the field of technology. I spent five years with Apple as a Creative trainer, and for the last eight years and counting, working with families, schools and small businesses, opening doors to endless possibilities. Before all this, I was "the computer teacher" for six years, K through 3, introducing young children to a new world of "creativity in technology" in the Cohasset Public School system in Massachusetts. A highlight of each week is my time spent at the wonderful Apple Orchard School, working with teachers and staff and getting to know the amazing learners who walk through these magical doors. When I’m not looking at screens, I love creating art and videos, spending time with my dog and my kids and traveling to new cities and towns for concerts and Chargers games. ❤️⚡️🏈

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SPECIALISTS

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John Farrington

Music Coordinator

I graduated from UMass Boston with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I have been teaching at Apple Orchard since 1994 and my current role is Music Teacher. I love playing music with the children and I also play guitar and sing with my band, The Porter Squares. I enjoy photography, traveling, collecting musical instruments, and going for walks with my dog.

Jeremy Aron

Facilities

Animal Curriculum and Sportsjam

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Childhood Studies with a minor in Coaching from Plymouth State University and have a Masters in Elementary Education from Lesley University. I started at Apple Orchard in 2000 as an Assistant Teacher and briefly left to complete my masters degree returning as a Lead Teacher in 2007. I am passionate about all the animals on the farm, nature, sports, and teaching the children about all of these. Both at Apple Orchard and in the greater community, I run a program called Sportsjam, teaching young children about sports. I have over 20 years experience coaching soccer, basketball, tennis, and baseball with students ranging from age three to Division 3 men’s college soccer. In my free time, I enjoy being with my family and friends, and playing basketball and golf.

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CHICKEN COOP TEACHERS (2.9 YEAR OLDS)

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Laurie DePinho

Lead Teacher

At Apple Orchard since 1989, I was part of the original team that designed a program for our youngest students in the Chicken Coop (2.9-3.5 years). I am Director II Certified as well as Lead Teacher Certified for 0-8 years of age. My background includes economically diverse experiences. As a teacher I embrace awareness of differences. In our classroom we celebrate differences through books, projects, and everyday communication. I am a natural nurturer of children and their parents as they embark on this earliest stage of learning in a school setting. I work especially well with this age group because I am intuitive to their needs and believe my extensive experience has provided me with unparalleled expertise in these early developmental years. I love mud, worms and every sensory experience the farm offers. When not at Apple Orchard, I enjoy time with my family in New Hampshire.

Annika Tate

Teacher

I recently graduated from Gordon College with a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Psychology. I am excited to be a part of the Apple Orchard team as an Assistant Teacher. As a warm and caring educator, I strive to create and maintain an environment where students can grow and thrive while exploring the world around them. I come from a Danish family where most of my childhood was spent outdoors so I grew up knowing the importance of outdoor learning and play. I love traveling, cooking, playing tennis, and spending time with family and friends.

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CLASS I TEACHERS (3 YEAR 0LDS)

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Michelle Cusick

Lead Teacher

I graduated from Lesley University with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development. I am director I and II certified. I started working at Apple Orchard in 2000. It is hard to believe it has been that long! Every year, day, season and class fills me with love, joy and laughter! For me, working and teaching on the farm is pure bliss. I am very passionate about teaching young children about nature, the environment and all the beauty it holds! I am a 550 hour certified adult and kids yoga teacher. I incorporate breathing, visualizing, self-regulation, relaxation, self control and meditation into my daily teachings. I continually plant seeds of kindness, empathy, compassion, and self love. In my free time, you can find me on my yoga mat, meditating, hiking, reading, spending as much time outside with friends and family!

Julia McClain

Teacher

I am so excited to be returning for my second year of teaching here at AO. I am a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, where I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with minors in environmental and education studies. I grew up surrounded by Wisconsin’s natural beauty, which inspired my love of the outdoors. I can’t wait to see my students discover and explore the wonders of nature too! In my free time I enjoy dancing and listening to music, lifting and yoga, spending time with family and friends, and taking photos.

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Kacia Savage

Lead Teacher

I began working at Apple orchard in 2020 and have a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching.  I have worked with children of all ages and ability types, and especially love to foster learning through play, nature exploration, and tapping into their curiosities about the world around them.  I am looking forward to another fantastic year on the farm!

Kali Noneza

Teacher

I graduated from Boston College in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal and Social Justice. After working as a camp counselor and as a nanny, I’ve discovered how rewarding it is to play an active role in fostering a child’s growth and education through connections made with nature. As a teacher, I value promoting and cultivating a child’s curiosity as well as helping them to engage with each other and with the natural world around them. This will be my second year teaching at Apple Orchard and I feel extremely grateful to be part of a community that links the appreciation and exploration of nature as well as inclusivity with learning. In my free time I enjoy reading, drawing, going for hikes, and swimming in the ocean when the weather allows for it.

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Sara Ciriono - AO Staff

Sara Cirioni

Lead Teacher

I obtained an Elementary Education undergraduate degree from University of North Carolina, Wilmington and a Master's Degree from Northeastern University in Special Education. Over the past few years, my passion has centered around anti-racist education and how to incorporate it in a meaningful way at the Early Education level. Since 2020, I have facilitated AO staff monthly affinity meetings and designed an Anti-Bias/Anti- Racist curriculum guide, currently used across all classrooms. Through thoughtful conversations, practice, and a commitment to restorative justice, I strive to provide a loving and inclusive environment for all. On the farm you can find me digging for worms, racing down the Rolling Hills, or even splashing in a few muddy puddles with your children. In my free time, I enjoy taking walks with my dog, Taco, crafting (often with a lot of sequins and glitter), and reading.

Liesl Gilman

Lead Teacher

After receiving a BS in Business and working for a year in corporate America, I realized children were my real passion and pivoted my career path. While working at The Park School, I earned an MS in Early Childhood Education and Child Development from Wheelock College. Over the course of 25 years, I taught numerous grade levels. I love sports and coached field hockey and lacrosse at Park and in my hometown to five to fourteen-year-olds. In addition to teaching, I have extensive experience working in Admissions. Beginning this fall, I am excited to observe and foster a four-year-old’s natural sense of wonder, particularly when it relates to our natural world. Being outdoors and experiencing nature is a gift, and I am thrilled to be part of this unique outdoor learning environment. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter, traveling, hiking, walking in the woods with my dogs, and catching up with friends around a fire pit.

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Veronica Kao

Assistant Teacher

I am so thrilled to be joining the AO community this school year! I recently graduated from Williams College where I earned B.A.’s in Music and Psychology. After specializing in developmental and educational psychology in college and teaching music at Fessenden Summer Camps, I knew I wanted to work in Early Childhood. I grew up in Brookline and am so excited to be back in the community. My life outside of teaching is mainly focused on music. You can find me playing my flute, composing new pieces, singing in choir, or just humming while cuddling with my two kitty cats. I love the outdoors and animals and am so excited to explore the natural world with the kiddos!

CLASS II TEACHERS (4 YEAR OLDS)

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Greta Poler

Lead Teacher

My path to teaching began with a degree in psychology and environmental studies from Amherst College. On a semester abroad in Copenhagen, I studied at a forest kindergarten and fell in love with nature and play-based education. Back in MA, I completed my masters degree from Lesley University while teaching through the Shady Hill School apprenticeship program. I joined Apple Orchard in the 2020-21 school year and am excited to return this fall. I am passionate about reflective, child led learning, and trusting and collaborating with children to challenge themselves and help develop social-emotional skills. I am often around the farm helping build stick houses, looking for frogs in the pond, or trying to climb up a tree with the class. In my free time, I love to read, hike, draw/paint, or go on walks with my dog. 

Sophie Flott

Teacher

I am thrilled to join the Apple Orchard team as an Assistant Teacher. While at Carthage College in Wisconsin, I studied Elementary Education, Spanish, and German. At the end of my bachelor’s program, I received a Fulbright grant to teach English in an elementary school in Germany for a year. I student taught at a bilingual (Spanish / English) elementary school, where my interest in cross-cultural educational experiences was deepened. I am a lifelong swimmer and played water polo in college. During my summers, I spent almost a decade teaching and coaching swimming to children of all ages. I have always loved teaching, being with children, and seeing the world through their eyes. In my free time I still love to swim and enjoy reading, doing craft projects, going on long walks, and exploring cities and parks.

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Delayne Austin

Lead Teacher

Having loved this community for many years as a parent of three AO alums, I was thrilled to join the teaching team last year! After graduating Harvard College and Harvard Law School, my love of working with children and families initially led me to a career as a child protection attorney. After taking an extended leave to raise my own children, I followed a life-long passion for school and young people into the classroom. I assisted for two years in a Boston Public School kindergarten before pursuing my Master’s of Education. While earning my degree at Lesley University, I taught pre-K and second grade at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge. In my free time you can find me exploring the mountains and beaches of New England with my husband and kids. I have always felt my best while doing something active in a beautiful place, and I am so excited to share that feeling with your children on the farm this year!

Christa Schmidt

Teacher

I hold a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and Sustainability and a social studies teaching license from Northern Michigan University. After graduating with my Bachelors, I knew I wanted to work with children so I became a Naturalist at Foothill Horizons Outdoor School in Sonora, California. My time at FHOS revealed the irreplaceable value that learning in nature has on students of any age. As a teacher, I love to experience the power of imagination and exploration alongside my students. I am thrilled to begin my second year teaching at Apple Orchard where I feel my love learning, nature, and animals come together. In my free time, I enjoy baking, weaving, and spending time with my cat, Miso.

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CLASS III – KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS (5-6 YEAR OLDS)

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Heather Cedrone

Lead Teacher

Lesley University awarded me a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a minor in Reading. I hold an EEC Director I and II certification with training in Sheltered English Immersion, Orton Gillingham, and Michelle Garcia Winner's Social Thinking Assessment. I am a passionate and dedicated teacher who inspires confidence, curiosity, and creativity using a nature-based multi-sensory approach. My culturally responsive teaching celebrates diversity and counteracts bias by building relationships with my students to ensure they feel respected. Walking barefoot across grassy fields, searching for shark teeth at the shore, and cooking meals over a campfire with my family are some of my favorite hobbies.

Tom Mulherin

Assistant Teacher

I’m so excited to join the Apple Orchard community! I graduated from UMass Amherst in 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism, and have spent the last six years as a high school sports reporter at the Boston Herald. Many of my greatest experiences, though, have come in the ten years since I started working with children of all ages at Camp Sewataro in Sudbury. Leading activities, promoting growth, and teaching have been a pleasure, and I’ve made sure to serve in different roles to continue that for the last decade. Playing the guitar, singing, watching sports, and writing are some of my main passions, along with cooking and spending time with my parents and three siblings!

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Donna Johnson

Co-Lead Teacher

I have been working with young children for over 25 years and in 2015 I earned my degree in Early Childhood Education from Fisher College. I am licensed through EEC in Preschool, Toddler, and Director I and II. I have taught in a kindergarten classroom for the past 8 years and this opportunity to connect the outdoors and nature to children’s learning is a perfect setting for me. I am passionate about bringing anti-racist education and equality into my teaching. I am committed to sharing the importance of this with my students. My husband and I love to spend time with our three grown children and visit new places. I am so excited to work with your children and this amazing team of teachers!

Kate Buchholtz

Co-Lead Teacher

I am looking forward to entering my fifth year at Apple Orchard! I joined Apple Orchard in 2019 after receiving my M.ED from Lesley University. While studying at Lesley, I also completed a yearlong Associate Teacher Program at Belmont Day School (BDS). At BDS, I taught kindergarten and first grade. As an educator, I believe school should be created with children as I value and respect them as competent and capable citizens. I often look to educational practices that honor children as active participants in their learning. This summer, I attended a conference at the Boulder Journey School where I saw many of the Reggio Emilia concepts in practice. Similarly to the philosophy of the Boulder Journey School, as a teacher at Apple Orchard, I believe in supporting children’s social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development through a child-centric and play-based curriculum, which works so well with Apple Orchard’s emphasis on an outdoor environment. I can’t wait to start the 2023-2024 school year! Outside of the classroom, I love cycling, reading, cooking and long beach days!

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FLOATING TEACHERS & SANDWICH CLUB

Katie Sawatzky

Floating Teacher

I am excited to return to Apple Orchard this year as a floating teacher working with all classes. I have experience teaching each age group and love interacting with all eager learners at AO. My education background ranges from teaching 3rd grade in New York City, creating family education programs at DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, and teaching empowerment workshops in Newton and Brookline Public Schools. I hold a BA from Colby College and an MA degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Apple Orchard is a special place for my family as all three of my daughters are happy graduates. Thanks to their dynamic Apple Orchard experiences, they have developed a love of learning and respect for nature we value every day. I enjoy skiing with my family, spending time in Maine, and playing with our dog Winnie.

Katie Sawatzky - AO Staff
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Shah Peray Ahmadi

Floating Teacher

I arrived in the United States in 2022 with my family and come from Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. I feel very excited and grateful to be a teaching assistant at Apple Orchard. The thing I love most about Apple Orchard is the opportunity children have to learn in an open and natural setting. I am a proud mother to three young children and hope to continue my studies in education if the opportunity allows. My favorite hobbies are cooking, walking outdoors with my family, and watching movies.

Natalia van Bilderbeek

Floating Teacher

I am so excited to help teach children developmentally appropriate learning, and create an exciting environment for our students to learn, grow, and thrive. I have a MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy, a BA in Psychology, and experience leading groups of children in Boston’s top hospitals and learning centers. A fun fact about me is that I was born in The Netherlands, and lived in Europe for part of my life. Aside from teaching, I love farm-to-table cooking, celebrating, entertaining, and decorating for the holidays!

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Heeyoung Jeon-Jalloh

Floating Teacher

I recently graduated from Lesley University with a master’s in art education, and prior to that, I pursued my Bachelor's in Textile Fashion Design in South Korea – quite the global art adventure, right? Before joining the incredible team at Apple Orchard, I had the privilege of managing both online and in-person art classes for early childhood children. As an educator, my mission is to create an environment that fosters growth, learning, and adaptability while encouraging students to explore the world around them. Outside of the classroom, I love expressing my creativity through drawings, interior design, and painting. Catch me sometimes in local cafes around the city, soaking in inspiration and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.

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