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Meet our Teachers
 
Erin Underwood
Erin Underwood

Nursery

Erin Underwood is a summa cum laude graduate of Birmingham-Southern College. She has served as Secretary, Vice-president, and President of the AWS Family Association. She has been a Nursery teacher since 2016 and also works in the Preschool Extended Care program. She is the mother of two AWS alumni. 

Holly Thompson
Holly Thompson

Nursery

College of Teachers Chair

Holly Thompson graduated from UAB with degrees in Psychology and Biology with an emphasis in child development. Since 2003, Ms. Holly has worked in the Kindergarten and Nursery, and as faculty representative on the Hiring Committee and the Board of Trustees. She currently serves as head of College of Teachers. She has two children; one is an AWS alumn, and the other is currently in the Grades program.

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Lisa Moyer

Nursery

Lisa's experience working with children includes her recent role as Youth Advocacy Coordinator at AIDS Alabama, and serving children ages 2-21 on the autism spectrum in summer and after-school programs as Therapeutic Support Staff for Elwyn in Pennsylvania. She holds a Masters in Public Health focused on Maternal and Child Health.

 

Lisa lives in Irondale with her son Moss (current AWS kindergartner) and wife Alice, and spends her time as an anti-detention activist, hiking, and walking her dog.

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Suze Mwenja

Nursery

Sadhna Udharam
Sadhna Udharam

Kindergarten

Sadhna Udharam was born and raised in Suriname, South America. She received a bachelor's degree from the Teaching Institute in Suriname. Her love for teaching motivated her to begin at AWS in 2002. She has worked in Extended Care, Nursery and Kindergarten. Ms. Sadhna completed her Early Childhood Waldorf Certification program in the Summer of 2013.

Andrea Holley
Andrea Holley

Kindergarten

Andrea Holley is a certified caregiver through the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources and the "Kid and Kin" Association. Ms. Andrea worked as a substitute and Extended Care teacher at AWS before becoming a full-time Kindergarten teacher in 2008.

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Arden McDonald

Kindergarten

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Carole Bennighof

Kindergarten

 
 
Michelle Lucas
Michelle Lucas

Grades Teacher

Michelle Lucas holds a Bachelors Degree in Social Work from the UAB and a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work from the UNC-Chapel Hill. Since 2002, she has worked in the Nursery, Kindergarten, and Grades programs at AWS. She completed her Waldorf Grades Certification training in 2012. She is the mother of two AWS alumni. Michelle is in the process of taking her second class through eight grades.

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Beth Blackwell

Grades Teacher

Beth is a Birmingham, AL native, who lives in the Crestwood area with her husband Matt and their 17 month old son, Burns. She holds Masters in Education / Collaborative Special Education and in Community/Agency Counseling from UAB, and a BS in Psychology from College of Charleston. 

Most recently, Beth taught special education at Homewood Middle School, prior to which she taught in the K-8 classrooms at Glenwood, Inc. where she implemented a Project Read literacy program, and developed appropriate lesson plans for students with a range of abilities, among other classroom responsibilities.

 

Beth enjoys reading, canoeing, and hanging out at Rojo. 

Jodie Bradley
Jodie Bradley

Grades Teacher

Jodie Bradley has served on the AWS faculty as an Early Childhood Teacher, a Therapeutic Classroom teacher, and now as a certified Waldorf Grades teacher. She has two children; her son is an AWS alum and her daughter is currently enrolled in the Grades program.

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Chez Knox

Grades Teacher

Chez Knox has worked as an instructor at Jefferson State Community College for the past six years, and in the Technology Services Department at Samford University. She has a Masters of Business Administration degree from Samford University. 

Emily Hoppe
Emily Hoppe

Music Teacher

Emily Hoppe joined the AWS faculty as a music teacher in 2013 and now teaches Music and Chorus. Ms. Hoppe is a graduate of Samford University’s Music and Theater Department and is Kodaly certified. She has worked as a music teacher and vocal coach, as well as a theater camp counselor at several area organizations, including Red Mountain Theater Company and Samford University. Ms. Hoppe is also a trained violinist and solo and ensemble vocalist.

Rita Meikson
Rita Meikson

Russian Teacher

Originally from Moscow, Russia, Ms. Meikson graduated from the Moscow Pedagogical University with a Master's degree in Children's Psychology and Elementary Education. She worked in Moscow for three years as an elementary school teacher, then for seven years as an instructor at the Moscow Teachers Institute. In 1992, Ms. Meikson moved to the USA with her husband, a Math professor at UAB. They have three children, the youngest of whom is an AWS alum currently at Yale University.

Sarah Gurganus
Sarah Langford

Handwork Teacher

Sarah Langford is a certified Waldorf Handwork Teacher, and specializes in knitting, quilting and hand-sewing. She also has a degree in Music Education from the University of Montevallo. A lifelong musician, she recently released her second album. She teaches Handwork for Grades 1 - 8 and also Middle School Music classes. She has two children at AWS.

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Laura Gadilhe

Movement Teacher

Laura has created and led yoga classes for kids and adults throughout the Birmingham area, including after-school yoga programs at Highlands School, Advent Episcopal School, and Villager Yoga, and yoga camps at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Advent Episcopal School, Art & Soul, and The Art House.

 

Prior to pursuing yoga instruction full-time, Laura was a lead preschool teacher at St. Rose Academy, and a lead kindergarten teacher at Chalkville Elementary.

 

When she is not babysitting, tutoring, or working on yoga lessons, Laura enjoys offering reiki, traveling, and playing with her dog Yogi Bear.

 
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Maria Antonia Garcia Espinosa

Spanish Teacher

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Melissa Downs

Gardening Teacher

Melissa Downs has served in many roles at AWS, including working as Trustee, enrollment coordinator, kindergarten and grades teacher, and having written the original AWS gardening curriculum. She spent 10 years working on farms and in greenhouses, both in the Birmingham area, and in Ohio, where she also has fond memories from growing up of exploring and having adventures on her grandparents' farm.

Melissa holds a BA in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies from Washington College in Maryland.

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Brad Daly

Extended Care Teacher