Woodsong’s team of teachers
At Woodsong, the teacher to student ratio is 1:5, creating an intimate and intentional learning experience for all of the children at our forest school. We choose our teachers carefully. All of Woodsong’s teachers have advanced degrees, CPR/First Aid certifications and experience working with children. We also conduct background checks on all staff. We strive to find the right balance of naturalist knowledge and a caring disposition. It is important that Woodsong’s teachers are models of compassion, curiosity, and positivity for our students. We look for teachers who understand the developmental and emotional stages of young children. Our teaching philosophy offers students the freedom to explore and discover, but is balanced with teachers intuitively stepping into the learning process to spur children on to dig a little deeper into the mysteries of the natural world, themselves and their friends.
Founder, Executive Director
Bonnie has a deep appreciation for all living things, and also holds an equal passion for education. After finishing her master’s in education at Lee University, she taught middle and high school social studies for eight years. While teaching as a public educator, she sponsored several extra-curricular organizations, most of which had a focus on service learning. She took students on international trips and participated in a teacher exchange program from 2011-2013, teaching in Uganda and then hosting Ugandan educators here at home. Recently, she taught as an adjunct professor in the college of education at Lee University and worked as a university supervisor for student teachers. She is also a local yoga instructor at Studio 22 in downtown Cleveland.
Bonnie has a Level 3 Forest Kindergarten Master Teacher Certification endorsed by Southern Adventist University, which was attained through participating in Wauhatchie Forest School’s Teacher Training program with Dr. Jean Lomino, in Chattanooga, TN. In order to further her naturalist knowledge, Bonnie is enrolled in the Tennessee Naturalist Program through Audubon Acres.
As well as being teachers, both Bonnie and her husband, Chris, have been whitewater raft guides on the Ocoee River for the last 15 years. Together, they love hiking, fly-fishing, and camping with their two daughters.
Elizabeth's own love for the outdoors began when she was a child playing in the woods. She grew up riding horses, both in competition and on the trail, and has continued to ride as an adult as often as she can.
Elizabeth was born and raised in Cleveland and lived here until college when she attended Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Virginia. There she received a BS in Psychology and minored in Equine studies.
After college she realized she wanted to teach children and earned a M.Ed. in School Counseling from Liberty University. She then spent three years working as a Special Education Paraprofessional at the elementary level with Bradley County Schools before moving to Washington DC with her husband in March of 2016. While in DC, she taught at the Smithsonian's Early Enrichment Center (SEEC). SEEC is an early childhood demonstration school for infants through Kindergarten within the National Museums of Natural and American History. SEEC uses a play and object-based emergent curriculum to help children build strong connections with subject matter and the world around them.
She and her husband, Michael, had their first child, Wade, in October 2017. She loves spending time outdoors hiking and camping with her family. Recently they moved back to Cleveland. Now that Elizabeth has joined Woodsong's teaching team, she is beyond thrilled that the children in her hometown will have the opportunity to learn in the same way that they did at SEEC, through Woodsong's similar, natural approach.
Ellington’s love for the outdoors began during her childhood growing up in the mountains of Western North Carolina. As a homeschooled student, she had the opportunity to hike, camp, take nature classes, ride horses, and develop a love for the natural environment.
During high school, Ellington’s passion for educating children began to flourish. She took an Orton-Gillingham based literacy training to learn how to tutor children with learning differences in reading. Afterward, she committed to a yearlong volunteer opportunity to tutor a below-grade level student. Through Ellington’s literacy support and instruction, the student improved two grade levels in reading. Ellington grew up with dyslexia; therefore, it gives her meaning to continue to help children with similar difficulties as her own.
After high school, she pursued a degree in Elementary Education from Lee University. During her time there, Ellington had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand for a student teaching internship. While in New Zealand, she learned about the importance of providing free play for children, how to incorporate mindfulness in the classroom, and the important integration of the natural world in educational curriculum.
In December of 2018, she graduated from Lee University with Summa Cum Laude.
Ellington and her husband John David enjoy traveling and exploring the great outdoors. In her free time, she loves gardening, knitting, and cooking. Ellington has joined Woodsong as the full-day kindergarten teacher. She is thrilled at the possibilities of implementing all that she loves and has learned during her time at Lee and in New Zealand.
Sarah McMahon has been an avid outdoors woman since she was little. Having grown up in Appalachia, she has a deep love of these woods and all the critters in them. Sharing her love and enthusiasm with youngsters is passion and a pleasure.
After graduating from Tennessee Wesleyan College with a BS in Biology, Sarah and her husband moved to Florida where she got a Master’s in Ecology from the Florida Institute of Technology. For the next twelve years, she taught classes ranging from Microbiology to Environmental Science for community colleges in North Carolina. After the birth of her two kids, the family moved back to Tennessee. Sarah continues to teach at Cleveland State and Dalton State, but also volunteers as an Aquarium guide at the Tennessee Aquarium and at Crabtree Farms.
With two children, Sarah has been involved in their classrooms teaching science and bringing in critters for the classes to experience. Sarah’s husband, James Lewicki, is a Marital Family Therapist who also teaches Love & Logic classes for parents. Sarah incorporates her Love & Logic training into her teaching practices to balance a love of nature with emotional health.
Sarah is one of Woodsong’s Forest Homeschool Enrichment Educators. During her free time, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and going on adventures with her family!
Throughout her childhood, Monica grew to love the outdoors through backpacking, camping and hiking in New England. She was homeschooled and spent much of her education outdoors, learning to observe nature’s changes. As she connected more with her natural environment, she also developed her love for music.
Because her intense music studies began at such a young age, by high school Monica was performing in college orchestras, adult classical choruses and mentoring middle school choirs. She continued her education at Lee University in Cleveland, TN, receiving a teaching licensure and degree in Music Education with a vocal emphasis in 2019. Her mentors focused on the Orff Methodology, leading her to join the Orff Schulwerk Association. Because of this, she is passionate to see children dance, sing and play with music as they discover the beauties of natural sound in the natural world.
During college, she taught pre-k music at the Children’s Learning Center, music teaching interned at Broad St. United Methodist and student taught at Hopewell Elementary and East Hamilton Middle and High School. She also spent three summers in Asheville, NC, as a music teacher and camp counselor for The Odyssey Community School.
Monica Wright will serve Woodsong as one of the half-day forest kindergarten teachers, a forest homeschool enrichment educator, as well as the music teacher for all classes.
Along with her passion for education, Monica Wright enjoys performing in multiple local bands, rock climbing, practicing yoga, hiking and longboarding. She also loves creating food that heals and brings people together.
Evelyn was born and raised in Southern California, and as a child she enjoyed camping, hiking and exploring the ocean there. Evelyn is serving the Woodsong community as a volunteer Spanish teacher for the full day forest kindergarten program. Evelyn is fluent in English, Spanish, and French, but her first language was Spanish. Her parents are from Colombia and Mexico, and she’s had the opportunity to visit both places several times and enjoy the rich culture.
In 2008, Evelyn and her husband moved from California, where she worked in a facility with special needs children, to Singapore, where they lived for 4.5 years. In 2013, they moved to France where she immersed herself in the French culture and language. While living abroad she was an English language tutor.
Evelyn and her family made their way to Tennessee in 2018, where her husband Mathew was hired as a chemistry professor at Southern Adventist University. Together, they have three beautiful daughters.
Evelyn is delighted to share the gift of language with the children of Woodsong because she feels bilingualism is an incredible gift; it broadens mental development, thought patterns, and world perspective. Evelyn strongly believes in Woodsong’s mission to bring the wonder of nature to the forefront of child education.