The goal of Natural Start Preschool’s teachers and staff is to create a warm, nurturing learning environment that offers young 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. Our staff are certified in First Aid and CPR and have passed a Washington State background check. Our student/teacher ratios are typically 1:7 and never less than 1:10.
Stephanie Hoener, Preschool Director and Co-Founder, Classroom Teacher
Stephanie is a Naturopathic Physician specializing in pediatrics and family medicine. She graduated from Bastyr University in Seattle and has spent the past 20 years working with children and teaching families about good 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 wonderful 13-year-old son with whom she loves playing football, going to parks, traveling, and sharing a variety of outdoor adventures. In her spare time, she also enjoys reading, knitting, archery, cooking healthy meals, spending time with family and friends, and going on long nature walks.
Jenny Chandra, Lead Teacher (M/W/F), Explorers Classroom
Jenny is a certified Elementary Education teacher with a background in primary education. She has worked with children, as both a teacher and a nanny, for the past thirteen years. Jenny is passionate about age-appropriate teaching practices that meet children where they are. Reading stories, playing outside, and getting hugs are her favorite parts of teaching preschool. Jenny lives in Redmond with her husband Jon, son Henry (3), and her very lazy cat, Mazie (10). In her spare time she loves spending time with her family and friends, cooking, creating, and camping.
Victoria Remer, Lead Teacher (T/Th), Explorers Classroom
Victoria grew up in Michigan, where she developed an appreciation for the outdoors throughout the four seasons. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and has teaching experience from preschool up through the middle school level. This is Victoria’s sixth year at NSP and she feels fortunate to be able to share the wonders of the outdoors with her preschoolers. When she’s not teaching preschool, Victoria enjoys volunteering, hiking, traveling, gardening, and strumming the guitar. Victoria lives in Issaquah with her husband David, sons David and Dane, and rescue lab-mix Loki.
Hayley Martin, Lead Teacher (M/W/F), Junior Explorers Classroom
Hayley graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Elementary Education and has taught in a variety of settings, but she has found her true passion in being a preschool teacher. She believes that all children are natural-born scientists, conducting experiments to discover more about their world every day, and therefore her responsibility as a preschool teacher is to nurture that powerful curiosity. Aside from being a teacher, Hayley is also a recreational reader and traveler who enjoys going for nature walks and hikes, trying her hand at calligraphy, and browsing thrift stores for lost treasures. She currently lives in Bellevue with her husband and their three cats.
Mirsa Perez, Lead Teacher (T/Th) and Assistant Teacher (M/W/F), Junior Explorers Classroom
Mirsa received her Bachelor's Degree (Cum Laude) in Early Childhood Education at Trinity Lutheran College. Her work with young children has included volunteering at V.I.B.E.S., Lake Sammamish Foursquare Church preschool, Acorn Learning Center (an urban nature school), and Mary Queen of Peace. 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 6) and Ahri (13 months old) with whom she enjoys playing and exploring the outdoors. Some of their favorite activities are creating "mud kitchens", watching the stars and clouds, rolling down hills, gardening, looking for "beautiful" rocks, playing in the rain, and jumping in puddles! When not playing, Mirsa enjoys reading, singing, listening to rock, hiking, wrestling, skateboarding, plucking her violin, and knitting.
Sandra was born and raised in Bellevue. She has two children, Breanna (age 12) and Braeden (age 9). Sandra has worked with young children for many years and has completed coursework in Early Childhood Education. She is certified in First Aid and CPR. Sandra is passionate about health, nutrition, and leading a healthy lifestyle. Her favorite pastimes include music, running, hiking, CrossFit, swimming, biking, and playing outdoors with her children.
Kerry Hill, Assistant Teacher (M/W/F), Explorers Classroom
Kerry graduated from Brigham Young University with a B.S. in Home and Family Living, which provided her the opportunity to complete courses in child development and guidance. She has had the good fortune of serving children and youth in her church over the past six years as nursery leader, Sunday school teacher, and young women president. Since moving to Bellevue in 2012, Kerry and her husband have designed and remodeled two homes together. They are raising their two children Rylynn (8) and Seth (4) as bookworms, nature lovers, and construction workers. You'll often find Kerry together with her kids enjoying family and friends, paper crafting, hiking, singing, thrift shopping, reading, baking, and—of course—eating said baked goods!
Sarah Stevens, Assistant Teacher (T/Th), Explorers Classroom
Sarah graduated from William Jewell College with a B.S. in Nursing. As a Pediatric Nurse, 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, Sarah felt ready for a new type of career adventure. Her life experiences and passion for working with children have influenced the decision to be both a preschool teacher and stay-at-home mom. Growing up in Missouri, she loved spending summers at the lake, helping in her mom’s classroom, and playing outside on the farm. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, crafting with paper and recycled materials, hiking and camping. 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, two children Lillian (10) and Fisher (8), and guinea pig Smorey.
Meri McDougall, Assistant Teacher (M/W/F), Junior Explorers Classroom
Meri grew up in San Diego, CA and has two boys, ages 15 and 10. She and her family moved to Washington State a few years ago, where her husband is originally from. When Meri's now 15-year-old son was diagnosed with an intellectual disability at age 18 months, she began her journey of learning about child development. She has worked as an aide in both general and special education in several school districts and has worked with students from preschool age to high school. Meri's education consists of an AA in Liberal Arts and a BA in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Early Childhood Administration. Her favorite things to do are trying new foods, relaxing at home, and continuing to learn more about early childhood education. Being outdoors is important to Meri because it helps her to balance her mind and body. Meri says, "I love helping children grow and create because they also help me to grow and create".
Amy was raised on a farm in Nebraska and then attended the University of Minnesota. She graduated with a degree in Psychology with a focus in Child Psychology. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, Amy worked as a college enrollment trainer and manager at a university. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to spend time reading, playing, and exploring the great outdoors with preschoolers. She is a born nature lover and spends time hiking, backpacking, camping, and exploring our beautiful mountains with her family. She also enjoys running, reading, playing the piano, and spending time with family and friends.
Betsy, mother of former NSP student Calise, is a Registered Dietitian with over 20 years of experience working with children and families. She worked for Whole Foods Market for 15 years, where she taught healthy cooking classes and led store tours for local elementary schools. While attending graduate school at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, Betsy was the main cook for the on-campus preschool/daycare program. She cooked two nutritious meals and snacks per day for 60 children, in addition to preparing special meals for a child with cerebral palsy to meet his unique nutritional needs. She also modeled good eating habits and brought children into the kitchen to learn basic food safety and cooking skills. While working with the Dairy Association in Atlanta, Betsy worked closely with school nutrition and the Atlanta Falcons to implement the Fuel Up to Play 60 program in schools across Georgia and the Boys & Girls Clubs in Atlanta. She also appeared on the news, both locally and nationally, educating families about the importance of healthy eating. Betsy and her family moved to Bellevue in 2015 and love the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys reading, practicing Pilates, and making up songs for her 17-year-old cat, Merlin.
"Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives."