Wauhatchie School

Team

To teach is to care.  

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Leadership

Director, Jean Lomino, Ph.D.

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Jean has been an educator for over 40 years and holds a Ph.D. in Leadership with an emphasis in Environmental Education. She spent many years as a classroom teacher for grades K-8, using outdoor education as the framework for her teaching.She was the Director of Education for the Chattanooga Nature Center, 2002-2005 and from 2005-2013 Executive Director. During her last two years in that position she managed the merger of Reflection Riding and the Chattanooga Nature Center, Jean received training from the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo and also attended Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program. She was a founding member of the board of directors for Ivy Academy, the first outdoor charter school in Hamilton County. Since 2000 Jean has been an adjunct professor for the graduate program in Outdoor Teacher Education at Southern Adventist University.  For the past three years she has also worked as an outdoor education consultant and teacher trainer and has been a presenter at city, state and regional conferences.

Jean attended Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training at Cedarsong Nature School, in Washington, one of the first Forest Kindergarten programs in the United States.  She has recently returned from a two-month assignment in Guangzhou, China as a Forest Kindergarten consultant for Lions Education at their No Boundaries Forest Kindergarten. She has also trained dozens of Forest Kindergarten teachers since 2015 and established the Southern Association of Forest Kindergarten Teachers.

 

Director of Admissions and Office Manager, Julie Lomino

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Julie is our Director of Admissions and Office Manager. She graduated in 2002, from Southern Adventist University with a B.S. in Family Studies.  After college, she moved to Atlanta and worked for a family with 3 boys for 13 years.  She moved back to Chattanooga in 2015 and became a nanny for three wonderful families here. She also spent time working as a preschool teacher at Good Shepherd School on Lookout Mountain.  Julie is a lover of the outdoors; you can find her hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family during her free time.  

 

Assistant Director, Megan Chaney

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Megan grew up in Fort Loramie, Ohio, a small farm town where she experienced the joy of playing in nature. She received her B.S. in Psychology as well as a minor in Human Development at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. During her time in Muncie, Megan worked at Janelle Kramer Daycares where here passion for child development took off. In addition to working hands on with the children, Megan began assisting with administrative work. She went on to pursue a Master's degree in Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she focused on outdoor education in early childhood. She completed her Master's thesis on parent and teacher perceptions of risky play.  Megan enjoys staying active and being outside. She loves Crossfit, hiking, relaxing in the sun, and visiting her family and friends that remain in Knoxville, Muncie, and Fort Loramie. 

 

Meet our teachers. 

MELANIE FERGUSON

Melanie Ferguson is our head preschool teacher in charge of the full-day Forest Kindergarten Program. She holds a Master’s degree in Special Education, teacher certification K-12 in Special Education, and a Bachelor’s degree in American Literature. Melanie was born in Austin, TX, but spent most of her childhood exploring her home state of South Carolina and enjoyed traveling often with her parents and sister. She joyfully served for two years as a teacher at Grant Park Cooperative Preschool in Atlanta and two wonderful years as a teacher at Highland Plaza United Methodist Preschool in Chattanooga. At both schools, she worked with children through the Reggio Emilia Approach to learning. Melanie co-founded Balance Studios, a unique art and yoga studio for children in Chattanooga. She has completed children's yoga teacher training with Cheryl Crawford of Grounded Yoga in Atlanta and Jackie Morrison of Yoga Kids in Jacksonville, FL. She has also completed Yoga Alliance 200-hour RYT teacher training with Jessica Jollie at Yoga Landing in Chattanooga. Melanie's son Max is in high school at Baylor School and her daughter, Ruby, is at Normal Park Upper School. She lives in North Chattanooga with her husband, Kenny, the two children and Layla The Dog.

 

Michelle Zegarra is an avid gardener whose family has deep connections to northwest Georgia. She is a native Spanish speaker, born in Peru.

Michelle worked at Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga for 15 years as a Certified Nursing Assistant and Clerk in the critical care units. Her love of the outdoors and simple play in nature, along with multiple artistic talents, make Michelle a natural caregiver for children. Michelle is a trained Forest Kindergarten facilitator and is in her third year of inspiring children in mindfulness and creativity

 

Kayla Mayeur 

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I was born and raised in Nashville and moved to Chattanooga to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I graduated with my Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education and Special Education with an endorsement to teach 4th-8th grade. I moved back to Nashville after college and taught intervention for grades K-5, but the mountains and the outdoors were calling. I married my now husband and we moved back to Chattanooga. Since moving back, I have taught 2nd grade in Hamilton County and preschool for children with special needs. I spent a majority of my childhood outside in nature and feel blessed to be able to guide children as they explore all that nature has to offer. When I'm not teaching, I enjoy climbing, hiking, camping and being outside as much as I can be. I also have a love for knitting and reading with my cat, Kitten on my lap.

 

Rosie Graber 

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Rosie is a mud-loving hiker, musician and teacher from St. Paul, Minnesota. She has spent the last two years teaching at a German international school in Portland, Oregon and has moved to Tennessee this year to work with the Wauhatchie School and be closer to her sisters. She is currently pursuing her master's in early childhood education and plays upright bass in a band when not teaching.

 

Rebecca Westbrook-Toker

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Rebecca grew up raising horses and teaching riding in the Red River Valley in North Texas. She left for the other side of the river to pursue a degree in Elementary Education with a focus in Special Education and a minor in Spanish from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. After graduation, Rebecca left for Western Honduras to serve as a Youth Development and Public Health Specialist with Peace Corps from 2007-2009. She then taught in a self-contained Autism classroom in Texas, got married and had a baby, cris-crossed the country, and finally fell in love with Chattanooga and settled in. Along the way, she began practicing Yoga, teaching adult running classes, teaching ESL, tutoring a variety of subjects, and becoming fascinated with the art and science of creating fermented foods. She says that teaching Forest School at Wauhatchie is, "better than the best job I could have ever imagined - I love teaching, I love kids, I love nature. Here I can bring everything to the table and teach in the best ways I know how."

 

Ike Grall

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Ike grew up playing in the forest with his three brothers in rural South Georgia. He served as an infantryman with the 82nd airborne division in Iraq and Afghanistan. After military service he attended a variety of traditional colleges before finding a home at Prescott College, an Arizona school famous for its experiential education philosophy. More recently Ike taught 6th, 7th and 8th grade language arts at Northeast middle school in Clarksville, Tennessee. This summer he moved with his wife and daughter to Chattanooga to be closer to family.

 

Justin Hupp

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Justin was born in Oklahoma City, raised in a military family, and lived throughout the east coast of the US and Germany, before eventually ending up in Knoxville Tennessee. While in high school in Knoxville, TN, he had his first significant wilderness experience and has been hooked ever since. After graduating from UTC in 2005, Justin went on a once in a lifetime adventure to hike the Appalachian Trail and eventually found a job as a field instructor with the wilderness therapy program, Second Nature Blue Ridge. That experience shaped his outlook on the healing aspects of nature and the importance of experiential education. After a few years with SNBR, he joined the team at Reflection Riding as an educator and assistant facilities manager. Along with adventure, Justin’s other passions include music and gardening. He has a 5-year-old son, which has been the greatest adventure of all. Watching, learning, and participating in his growth and developmental process has opened up a whole new world of perspective on the importance of how we influence and teach our younger generations.

 

Annie Marr

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Annie was born in raised in Chattanooga, TN. She attends The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and will graduate in May of 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Spanish. She has worked with children for the last six years as a daycare worker and babysitter. Annie grew up living on the Tennessee River and loves the outdoors. She enjoys camping with friends and family, fishing, kayaking, tubing, hiking and anything else that involves being outside. After graduation she plan to pursue a master’s degree in School Psychology and hopes to work in a Chattanooga school system in the future.

 

Maria Pougatcheva

Maria was raised in Moscow, Russia and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She has taught at a bilingual theatre arts camp and given private art lessons in Boston, MA. A lover of travel and discovery, she has spent time exploring both the east and west coast. Currently, she lives on and explores beautiful Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, TN. Her Russian upbringing taught her to celebrate every season and that childhood is best nurtured in the outdoors. Since having her daughter Rhea, she has desired to give her the same magical nature experiences, as well as to find an outlet for both of their spontaneous, creative brains. Having worked as a graphic design artist for several years, she has felt the constraints of technology and the exhaustion brought by the digital lifestyle. She has found a sanctuary and a new path for creative work at Wauhatchie School.

 

Diana Meadows

Biography coming soon!

 

Lin Burton

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Born and raised on Lake Superior in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Lin fostered a love of nature from day one. She was raised in a primitive campground with her grandmother, foraging for berries and wintergreen. She had a love for teaching and the outdoors and studied Outdoor Education at Northern Michigan University. Since graduation she has had many different jobs that encompassed a love of nature in some capacity. She worked at Tahquamenon Falls, MI as an Interpreter, Interlochen State Park, MI as a Naturalist and during that time also working for the Human Nature School, and substituting at the Greenspire Charter school. She moved to Tennessee in 2014 to hopefully work with inner city kids getting them into the forest. She was hired as a Seasonal Interpretive Ranger at Harrison Bay and was later hired as the Forest Kindergarten Assistant at Red Bank Elementary. She enjoys hiking, backpacking, swimming, biking and long walks on the beach, rock collecting, XC skiing, traveling, snowshoeing and hanging out with her family. When she isn’t in the forest or teaching she is working on her small business, Wanderlust and Wolf.

 
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Heather Linke

Heather grew up homeschooling in the woods of Maine. She spent her summers at Girl Scout camp, and traveling across the country on adventures primarily focused on the outdoors and history - like a wagon train traversing the North Dakota prairie, and following fur trade routes in Wisconsin. As a Gold Award recipient, her final project was implementing an outdoor day camp program for Special Olympians. Heather went on to study Theology, and spent time living in Far East Russia - where she ran camp programs for children in rural villages, youth detention centers, and inner-city parks. Since landing in Tennessee in 2001, Heather became the co-founder of one of Chattanooga’s largest inclusive homeschool support groups, and has taught classes in nature, history, and art. She’s also owned a Montessori school, and helped facilitate two Sudbury inspired tutorial groups. When not at Wauhatchie, Heather is the Camp Director and a Museum Educator at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. In her spare time she’s a textile artist and costumer, writer, musician, and all around creative and hobbity sort of person. She lives with her two nearly-grown daughters, bunch of beloved furry creatures, and lots of books.


Meet our Board of Directors 

 

Johnny Payne

President

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Johnny is passionate about Wauhatchie School because it presents the kind of learning environment he would have blossomed with as a child. Growing up with ADHD, the educational environment was more restrictive than inspiring. He had the pleasure of serving as a Volunteer, Teacher, Teacher Trainer, Development Coordinator, and currently Board President of Wauhatchie. In his free time he enjoys mountain biking, flyfishing, reading naturalist journals, and spending the time with his wife and son.

 

Richard Dubé

Vice President

Richard received an Associate of Science Degree in Forestry and Recreation and Wildlife Management. He has a BS in Business and Organizational Management and a Master’s Degree in Outdoor Teacher Education.   He has served as president of the Maine Arborists Association and was a member of the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council. He was Executive Director of the Chattanooga Audubon Society and taught science several years at Chattanooga School of Liberal Arts. Richard is also the author of three books: Natural Pattern Forms, Natural Stonescapes and Landscaping Makes Sense.Richard’s other pursuits include designing Japanese Gardens and consulting for Green Industry.

 

MEGHAN LAFFERRE

Secretary Treasurer

Meghan is an accountant working for a family office in Chattanooga. She moved from West Virginia 14 years ago to finish her degree and raise her daughter. Meghan is now Jean Lomino’s daughter-in-law and has a son, Cian, who will soon be three years old. Another son is due in August. Meghan enrolled Cian at Lookout Learning Center as an infant because she was impressed with Diana’s focus on providing a natural childcare setting that was hard to find elsewhere. Meghan says, “I am so looking forward to the expansion of those ideas at our new Wauhatchie School and all of the opportunities it brings to my family and to Chattanooga!”

 

Jean has been an educator for over 30 years and holds a Ph.D. in Leadership with an emphasis in Environmental Education. She was the Director of Education for the Chattanooga Nature Center, 2002-2005 and from 2005-2013 Executive Director. During her last two years in that position she managed the merger of Reflection Riding and the Chattanooga Nature Center, Jean received training from the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo and also attended Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program. She was a founding member of the board of directors for Ivy Academy, the first outdoor charter school in Hamilton County. Since 2000 Jean has been an adjunct professor for the graduate program in Outdoor Teacher Education at Southern Adventist University.

 

Carl holds a Ph.D. in Science Education. He was a classroom teacher for 20 years and since 1993 has been a professor at Southern Adventist University. He is the founder of the Outdoor Education Degree program at the university that includes a Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Leadership and a Master’s Degree in Outdoor Teacher Education. He is currently Dean of Graduate Studies. His pastimes include traveling, birding, photography and all things nature.

 
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Randi Schlosser

Randi has been an educator for the last 16 years in the elementary classroom. Graduating with a BS degree in Elementary Education, Randi has been fortunate to find a career that is also her passion. In addition to being a literacy teacher in the elementary classroom, Randi also serves as the Curriculum/Accreditation Coordinator and Literacy Coach for St. Peter’s Episcopal School. Serving as a board member for Wauhatchie was the perfect way to connect her love for education, being immersed in nature, and growing inquisitive lifelong learners. “Watching students at Wauhatchie reminds us that learning should be connected to the natural world around us. The students have the opportunity to grow from a curriculum that naturally integrates literacy, math, science, and history with the land and seasons around them. When you take the walls of a classroom away and replace it with the freedom and openness of the forest, learning naturally comes through exploration and inquiry. I feel so fortunate to be able to support Wauhatchie and its mission to connect future generations with nature.”  

 

Brian MicKles

Biography coming soon!

 

Community Partners 


Gilbert Elementary School

Gilbert Elementary School in nearby Lafayette, Georgia, is home to the first public school Forest Kindergarten program in the United States.

SAU Outdoor Teacher Education Master's Degree Program

Designed for outdoor professionals, youth workers, classroom teachers, and others who want to more effectively use God’s book of nature in teaching and programming.

Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center

Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center is an environmental learning hub that reconnects Chattanoogans with nature and serves as Wauhatchie School’s main site.