The goal of Natural Start Preschool’s teachers and staff is to create a warm, nurturing learning environment that offers children daily opportunities to explore nature and provides them with a unique, hands-on learning program designed to build a solid foundation for future school experiences. All of our teachers/staff are certified in First Aid and CPR and have passed a Washington State background check. To allow for optimal supervision and individualized attention, teacher-to-student ratios are 1:6 for the Junior Explorers class and 1:7 for the Explorers class.
Preschool Director and Co-Founder, Assistant Teacher
Stephanie is a Naturopathic Physician specializing in pediatrics and family medicine. She graduated from Seattle’s Bastyr University in 1998 and has spent the past 20+ years working with children and teaching families about health and nutrition. As one of the co-founders of Natural Start Preschool, Stephanie is passionate about fostering young children's learning and development through age-appropriate curriculum, outdoor exploration and play, and daily interactions with the natural world. She considers it an immense privilege to be able to experience each child's innate sense of wonder and curiosity come alive as they explore the forests and meadow surrounding our preschool, learn about insects and animals, plant seeds in the garden, and discover the other natural habitats of our preschool home. Stephanie lives in Bellevue (where she also grew up!) and is an avid hiker, gardener, and birdwatcher. She has a college-aged son with whom she loves traveling, playing football, and sharing a variety of outdoor adventures. In her spare time, she also enjoys reading, cooking healthy meals, spending time with family and friends, and going on long nature walks.
Lead Teacher, Explorers Class (M/W/F)
Jodi earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Advertising from Washington State University. While working in e-commerce for 6 years, she taught gymnastics to kids as her side job. She loved everything about working with kids, so she decided to go back to school and earn her Master’s Degree in teaching from Heritage University. As a certified elementary education teacher, Jodi has worked as an elementary school teacher, reading specialist, gymnastics teacher, and dance coach. This will be her fourth year teaching at Natural Start Preschool and she can’t wait to explore with all of her new students! She has a passion for learning and helping others learn, especially in nature. Jodi lives in Newcastle with her husband Wes, two boys, Etcher (9) and Helix (6), and their energetic dog, Hazy (3). She and her family love spending time traveling, camping, hiking, going to parks, and exploring the outdoors. Jodi also enjoys bird watching, baking, reading to the kids, checking out new coffee shops, and trying new educational activities.
Lead Teacher, Junior Explorers Class (M-F)
Mirsa received her Bachelor's Degree (Cum Laude) in Early Childhood Education at Trinity Lutheran College. This will be Mirsa’s seventh year at NSP and she is excited to continue fostering her preschoolers' connection to the outdoors through play and exploration. Mirsa loves spending time with children because of their curiosity and their unique perspective on the world. Because her father took their family out every week, Mirsa grew up exploring and playing in different natural environments that helped foster her love for nature. She currently lives in Bellevue with her husband and two children, Danny (age 11) and Ahri (age 6) with whom she enjoys playing and exploring the outdoors. Some of their favorite activities are watching the stars and clouds, rolling down hills, gardening, hiking, playing Roblox and Minecraft. When not playing, Mirsa enjoys reading, listening to rock, learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and knitting.
Lead Teacher, Explorers Class (T/Th)
Victoria has been proud to call the Pacific Northwest her home for the past 25 years. Originally from Michigan, Victoria obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Michigan State University and has teaching experience from preschool up through the middle school level. This is Victoria’s tenth year at NSP and she feels fortunate to be able to share the wonders of the outdoors with her preschoolers. Like her students, Victoria is always learning and has taken many courses and workshops over the years to keep her up to date with the latest practices as she continues building her “outdoor preschool repertoire.” She is excited to explore and share new activities with her students while facilitating a love and appreciation for nature. When she’s not teaching preschool, Victoria enjoys hiking, traveling, gardening, listening to live music, and strumming the guitar. Victoria lives in Issaquah with her husband David, teenage sons David and Dane, and rescue lab-mix Loki.
Assistant Teacher, Junior Explorers Class (M-F)
Liza was born in the Philippines and grew up in Seattle. While a stay-at-home mom raising 4 children, she received her AAS Allied Health, CMA, and CNA. She resides in Mercer Island with her husband and two teenagers in high school. Her family has a love for soccer, which all her children participated in and/or are presently playing. She enjoys spending time with family, traveling, exercising, listening to audiobooks, gardening, and taking long walks. This is Liza’s third year at Natural Start Preschool and she is thrilled to be part of the team and loves being able to connect with her students!
Assistant Teacher, Explorers Class (T/Th/F)
Sarah graduated from William Jewell College with a B.S. in Nursing. As a Pediatric RN, she has worked in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, summer camps, and as a traveling nurse in 7 states. She was an elementary school nurse at her children’s school for 2 years in Kansas. When her family moved to Washington in August of 2017, she felt ready for a new type of career adventure. Her life experiences and passion for working with children influenced the decision to be both a preschool teacher and stay-at-home mom. Growing up in Missouri, she loved camping and water skiing at the lake, helping in her mom’s classroom, and playing on the farm. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, crafting with paper and recycled materials, yoga, hiking, and making flower arrangements from her garden. When exploring nature, her favorite spots are the mountains, beach, lake, and forest, just to name a few! Sarah lives in Bellevue with her husband Scotty, two children Lillian (15) and Fisher (13), and cat Leonard.
Assistant Teacher, Explorers Class (M/W/F)
Hi! My name is Jennifer Bean, but you can call me Jen. I have three kids who all attended Natural Start Preschool – their current ages are 17, 15, and 10. My husband and I both grew up south of Bellevue and we love going to Whidbey Island and enjoying the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I’ve volunteered with children for many years, both at my church and with the Bellevue School District. I was a preschool teacher in college and also worked in the Pre-K program at Samena. I have 24 nieces and nephews, so I spend a lot of time around kids! I’m looking forward to getting to know all of your adorable children!
Assistant Teacher, Explorers Class (M/W/F)
Yuka grew up in Japan and moved to the Seattle area after earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. She worked for several IT companies in this area and did project management until she had her son, who is now 6 years old. As her son grew up, Yuka became involved in various children’s groups and activities and enjoyed organizing them as well. She volunteered at her son’s elementary school as a classroom and recess assistant from 2020-21. Yuka is passionate about working with young kids and enjoys learning about child development and early childhood education. While she was growing up in Japan, Yuka always played outside, and she chose to live in the Pacific Northwest because of this area’s beautiful nature. In her free time, Yuka enjoys hiking with her dog, doing yoga, swimming, cycling, camping and traveling, playing music, cooking, eating, and trying new things!
Assistant Teacher, Explorers Class (M-Th)
Paige is a college student working towards a degree in elementary/middle school education. She is currently at Bellevue College finishing an associate degree and absolutely loves working at Natural Start Preschool. She is a vegan who is passionate about science, the environment, and animals. She has always loved learning new things and exploring. She is especially interested in marine life, and the aquarium is one of her favorite places to visit. She loves reading, book collecting, baking, and spending time with her dog, Jetta. If she isn’t doing any of the previous, she is probably talking about Star Trek or growing her Star Trek collection.
Benny grew up in Bellevue and is a recent graduate of Sammamish High School, where he played football, baseball, and ran track. He has always loved the outdoors, and some of his favorite childhood memories are of running through the woods and climbing trees with his neighborhood friends. He enjoys exploring new places, swimming and cliff jumping in our local lakes and rivers, restoring old fishing boats, and spending time with friends and family. Benny has been part of the Natural Start Preschool family for the past 14 years (along with his mom, co-founder and preschool director Stephanie Hoener), and he loves being able to play and explore nature with all of our amazing NSP students!
Business Director and Co-Founder, Substitute Teacher
In addition to working with the preschool for the past decade, Kelly been a small business owner and worked for the federal government as an International Trade Specialist. She has a BA in Business Administration and has completed additional training in child development, child guidance and behavior, and health and safety. She is married with a daughter in college and a sweet dog. She loves watching her daughter play basketball, reading, playing Mah Jongg and being outside.
"Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives."
-Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth