Staff

Tess Golden-Orr
Executive Director, Co-Founder

Tess was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest where camping, hiking and fishing were important to her family and gave her a deep sense of reverence for our natural world.  Her passion for nature and travel moved her to sunnier weather.  She studied at Bodymind College in San Diego and began a career as a holistic health practitioner with a focus on bodywork.  Then on to Hawaii where she joined her husband in the photography business, and Tess continues the business to this day.   She is a proud mother of two elementary aged children.  Once a preschool teacher and a nanny, she enjoys holding nurturing space for children to play.  Tess has a love for the outdoors and is passionate about our role in caring for our ecosystem.  She is Forest School Canada Trained. She joined Camp Roots in 2015 and previously organized 100% outdoor nature programs to inspire other families to cultivate love and stewardship of our environment. She believes that fostering a relationship of enjoyment & respect for nature with kids is crucial for the health of our planet and people.

Erin Cole
Program Developer, Thimbleberries Educator, Co-Founder

Erin (she/her) has a Master's Degree in Teaching from Seattle University and 20 years of teaching experience in a variety of types of programs. From her first teaching job 2001 as a day camp naturalist at Discovery Park in Seattle, to Lead Teacher at Country Village Day Pre-School, to Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade teacher and reading specialist in the Kent School District and beyond, all of her work deepened and confirmed her belief that the best teaching and learning takes place outside. As a child she spent many happy summers attending outdoor and nature camps at local Seattle parks and many family vacations camping and backpacking around the PNW. 

 

Erin has a particular affinity for working with ages 1-3 and loves silly songs, puppets and picture books. She has two elementary aged children that she takes outside every day to roll around in the dirt and mud, which results in happy kids and lots of laundry. Erin is also a gardener and believes firmly in the therapeutic power of working outside and connecting physically with the earth.

Clare Kenny
Salmonberries Lead Educator (M/T/W/Th)
Huckleberries Lead Educator (Fridays)

Clare was raised in Portland, Maine and grew up roaming the forests, mountains, and coastlines of her home state, leading her to develop a deep-seated love of the outdoors early on in her life. In pursuit of higher education, she moved to Montreal and earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from McGill University in 2018. Shortly thereafter, her desire for new experiences brought her to the west coast, first to British Columbia and then to Seattle, where she was enchanted by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

 

Clare loves working with kids and enjoys engaging with them in a variety of different activities and levels of thought. She has worked in professional childcare for close to 10 years and has worked with many families with children of all ages and backgrounds, including children with learning and developmental disabilities. She always aims to cultivate a comfortable and safe environment for those in her care and is mindful in her efforts to form loving and individualized relationships with each child. In addition to childcare, she has a background in outdoor leadership, through work as a sea kayak guide and through her experience organizing and leading hiking trips for other students during her university years.

 

Clare, herself, is the product of alternative, nature-based education and firmly believes in its benefits. She hopes to help children nurture a direct and respectful relationship with nature for their own wellbeing and for the betterment of planet earth. 

Kyra Ballas
Program Coordinator
Salmonberries Lead Educator (Fridays)
Huckleberries Educator (Thursdays)
Blackberries Educator (Wednesdays)

Kyra grew up in the Pacific Northwest where rainy skies, towering forests, and muddy trails sparked her curiosity and appreciation for the natural world. She has her degree from Western Washington University in Environmental Studies, where she discovered a love for teaching and connecting people to nature. She has worked for multiple organizations, providing outreach and outdoor science education to people of all ages and backgrounds. She was a park and outreach technician for Whatcom County Parks and Recreation, and an outdoor science instructor at Oregon Museum of Science in the John Day Fossil Beds, where she led wilderness field studies for K-12 students. Most recently she was a naturalist/educator for Klamath Outdoor Science School where she taught rural, indigenous, and latinx students about the unique ecology and cultural history of the Klamath Basin. In her free time she loves to backpack with her dog and to geek out about fossils and birds. She is excited to continue to inspire youth to get outdoors and learn about their local ecosystems and community with Heartwood.

Kristin Klopfenstein
Huckleberries Lead Educator (M/T/W/Th)

Kristin was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest where there was no such thing as bad weather. Hiking and outdoor sports were important to her family and living within walking distance of Saint Edward State Park made for easy daily trail access. Being outdoors brought her peace, joy, calm, healing, and grounding to weather all the storms in life through elementary school, homeschooling, college and beyond to present. Kristin attended Seattle Pacific University where she received her B.A. in Language Arts, Elementary Teaching Certification and later on a Masters in Teacher Leadership. The university offered training in Wild and Project Learning Tree on a beautiful remote island in the San Juan's. It was here that doors opened for opportunities to be part of outdoor education programs for 5th graders at several private schools and a love for teaching outdoors was born. Kristin has taught 3yr olds through 8th graders in a variety of settings for over 15 years from traditional classroom education to private tutoring to online and outdoors. She has taught preschool aged children through Tinkgarten, hike it baby, and subbed at Heartwood the past few years. Being outdoors and fostering a love for the outdoors are at the forefront of her heart. She is the proud mother of one very active outdoor loving daughter. They spend their homeschooling days outside almost daily, camping, backpacking, learning, exploring, and hiking. When they are not outdoors they enjoy cuddling up on the couch reading books with their Husky dog and cats. 

Jake Kreuzer
Wildings Lead Educator

Jake was born and raised in southwest Michigan, spending a childhood roaming woods, studying animal books, and attending a local nature center camp every summer. He graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor's of Science in Natural Resource Management in 2013, briefly working in environmental restoration before following his passion of environmental and outdoor education.

 

The past six years were spent working with children of all ages and backgrounds on team building initiatives, backpacking and canoeing trips, and nature exploration. Jake's work led him from Massachusetts and New York City to southern California, before moving to Seattle last August to pursue his Master's of Education at UW. Jake believes in creating equitable, fun outdoor learning spaces, where students and families can explore and nurture their love and admiration for nature and wildlife, and working alongside them to acknowledge the importance of all living and more-than-living things around us

Rein Irving
Huckleberries/Blackberries Educator (M/T)
Blackberries Educator (W)

Rein grew up in the woods of New Brunswick, Canada. After her first backpacking trip at age 14 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, she knew outdoor exploration would play an important role in her life for creating friendships, facilitating growth, and igniting curiosity. 

 

While pursuing her B.A. in Physics at Scripps College, Rein explored Southern California’s forests and deserts, leading backpacking trips for the school and camping with her friends. During college, she set out on a mission to climb the highest mountain in each state. To date she has completed 15, including three of the highest (California, Washington, Colorado) and three of the lowest (Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin). 

 

A lifelong musician, Rein began teaching piano in middle school and continued through high school and college.   She believes in education based in curiosity, experimentation, and fun. She’s excited to continue working with children in an environment she loves, the beautiful outdoors of her new home in Seattle.  

 

Sylvia Zaretsky
Salmonberries Educator (T/Th/F)
After School Program Educator (W)

 

Sylvia grew up in the suburbs of Seattle where she learned to love rain and the feeling of mud under her shoes. She graduated from New York University with a Bachelor's of Science in English Education. After graduating, Sylvia worked as a middle school English teacher in Brooklyn, NY for six years and also earned her M. Ed degree during that time. 

 

While living in Brooklyn, Sylvia realized that the Pacific Northwest was truly the place for her. She missed the mountains, water, and trees that she had grown up with. Once happily back in the Seattle area, she wanted to continue educating children while simultaneously nurturing her love of nature. Sylvia believes in working beside children to foster an appreciation of the outdoors through play, knowledge, and empathy. 

Shamarye Bonner
Salmonberries Educator (M/W)
Huckleberries Educator (Th)
After School Program Educator (W)

 

Shamarye grew up on Anderson Island in the South Puget Sound with his 6 siblings. Growing up in a small community meant he spent much of his time babysitting his siblings and neighborhood kids. Living on a quiet, forested island he explored the forest, swam in lakes, and ran around barefoot all throughout the year. It didn't need to be warm and sunny in order to explore his lush surroundings. He also volunteered helping out in the nursery during church, helping take care of the younger kids and keeping them entertained.

For the past 8 years he has lived in Portland where he fostered his love of nature through exploration of the Oregon coast, Multnomah Falls, and the Columbia River. During his time in Portland he became an Uncle for the first time and absolutely loves being Uncle Sham and spending time with his little buddy. After spending a summer working at Heartwood's Wildwood South summer camp, he decided to move to Seattle with his purrfect cat. He is elated to be able to share his love and excitement for the natural world with children of different ages throughout all of the seasons.

Amanda Willis
Huckleberries Educator (M/T)
 

Bio Pending

 

Susan Collins
Huckleberries Educator 
 

Bio Pending

 

Amy Hersh
Substitute Educator, All Programs

Amy (she/they) grew up on the coast of Northern California and spent her childhood hiking with her family and developing a deep love of animals and the natural world. After falling in love with the beauty of the Seattle area, she attended the University of Washington and obtained a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies and minored in Human Rights. For nearly 10 years, Amy has engaged her strong sense of justice and leadership skills to advocate for people and the environment at a variety of nonprofits focused on water quality, green-job training, environmental education, restoring local greenspaces, and anti-bias education. Amy has led hundreds of young learners in invasive plant removal, native species planting, tool safety, and other vital restoration tasks at dozens of local parks in the Puget Sound Region. 

 

Amy is passionate about the intersections of mental health, social justice, and the environment. She is currently pursuing a Master's program at Antioch University Seattle in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a certificate in Ecopsychology from Lewis and Clark College. Amy hopes to create a culturally sensitive therapy practice which supports clients of all backgrounds in reconnecting with their local environment and finding balance in a turbulent and changing world. At Heartwood, Amy is excited to support her students in safe, engaging, and impactful exploration of the natural world and their relationships with each other.

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Abigail Nelson
Substitute Educator, All Programs

I grew up in Ferndale, Washington and was homeschooled along with my 6 brothers and sisters.  I had many opportunities to explore the wild spaces around us and endless time of playing with friends in our community. From a young age, I observed the nature connection and its therapeutic properties, as well as the importance of caring and nurturing both peoples and nature around me. In a surprise twist, my father joined the navy when I was 9, and from that point on I would continue to explore different cultures around the world. ​I believe in harmony and kindness.  That it's hard to hate up close.

That we all are obligated to lean in, learn about our environment around us, our community, our business owners, our neighbors. To be curious rather than enraged by differences, to be open to learning rather than fighting to be right. That being a steward of our green spaces is an expression of care for things that are alive and in return happily sustain us in our lives. I believe in generosity, in our time and resources. We sponsor children through Compassion and volunteer our time to fill needs in our community. My deepest desire for my students has firstly been that they know they belong, that their life is important and necessary, that they have an exciting and purposeful role to play in our class and in their personal world. I desire for my students to ask good questions and learn the answers through experience. I hope we all can learn from one another, that we are kind and thoughtful towards each other, that we learn that the nature around us is one of the greatest gifts of the PNW and that we celebrate it through knowledge, care, and of course FUN!