Meet the Director


Dani Reynaud

Executive Director

Dani grew up in the Methow Valley and was a member of Little Star's inaugural class of 1982 where she experienced the feeling of doing meaningful work for the first time. After graduating from Liberty Bell High School in Winthrop, Dani spent 15 years away from the Methow traveling, attending school, working in the film industry and non-profit sector, and falling in love with her husband, Ray. Dani returned to her beloved hometown to raise her two boys and to lead the school that ignited the spark in her years ago. Dani is passionate about early childhood education and the Montessori Method of supporting children's natural curiosity and creativity. "It is a dream come true for me to be back in the Methow, working at Little Star with the most talented and passionate staff, and watching my boys blossom through their own experiences at this special school." Dani holds a bachelor's degree in comparative literature and a master's degree in public administration, both from the University of Washington. Prior to returning to the Methow Valley, Dani served as the Director of Development at Seattle Girls' School for five years. Dani enjoys playing in the outdoors and has developed a new love for West African Dance. 



Rayma Hayes

Founder & Fairy Godmother

Rayma  grew up in Galveston, Texas, attended Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and travelled extensively before marrying John Hayes in Spain. It was in Spain that she was introduced to the Montessori Method and philosophy through friends who needed preschool for their 3-year-old daughter, Mercedes. With two Montessori books and a few hand made materials, Rayma and Mercedes held school under a jasmine tree for more than a year. Later, Rayma returned to the US to receive her Montessori Certification at Houston Montessori Center. She moved to the Methow Valley in 1974 and founded Little Star Montessori School in 1982. Her greatest joy was being with the children at Little Star. She felt privileged to be able to spend time in each classroom and get to know each child personally.   


Trudi Garing

Financial Manager

Trudi moved to the Methow Valley with her husband Dick in 1982. They planned to stay for just the winter but never left. Trudi became part of Little Star when both her children attended the school. She went from parent, to part time art teacher, to preschool teacher for many years before becoming the Office Administrator in 2004. Like the Methow, Little Star has a hold on her. "Little Star is a valuable part of our community and I feel very lucky to be part of this school," Trudi says. For fun, Trudi enjoys hiking and skiing.


Geva McAdow

Programs Manager

Geva joined the Little Star team in 2014 and worked as a lead afternoon teacher for two years. In 2016, Geva and her husband Bill welcomed their first child, James, into the world and Geva moved into an administration position in the office. Originally from New Zealand, Geva has been involved in childcare and education for over a decade, working in both the US and New Zealand as a nanny, early childhood teacher and manager for a childcare recruitment agency. Geva is full of energy and excitement, and in her own words, "Little Star is my family and second home." She loves yoga, the outdoors, good food and good conversation. 


Michelle Shaffer

Early Childhood Teacher

Michelle has been at Little Star since 2001 and has taught at every level. She has four children -- all of whom attended Little Star and graduated from the kindergarten classroom. Michelle loves to be part of this vibrant, creative and supportive community of teachers, parents and children. She is extremely honored to be a part of a school that follows and supports children’s interests and builds up their self esteem.


Mariah Clements

Early Childhood Teacher

Born and raised in the Methow Valley, Mariah had her first experience with the Montessori Method at age two, when she began at Little Star. After graduating from Liberty Bell High School, she continued her education at Linfield College, working towards a bachelor’s degree in education, but soon realized that the “conventional” way of teaching conflicted with her beliefs in the capabilities of children. She transferred to Montessori Northwest, where she graduated in June 2013 with an Association Montessori International: Primary Guide Certification (An International Diploma to teach children 2.5-6 years). She spent 3 years working as a Primary Guide, most recently in Ensenada, Mexico. Mariah is excited to come back to Little Star where she first explored the joys of learning, and is thankful that her daughter will be able to experience Little Star's holistic learning. Mariah enjoys spending time with her family, especially outdoors. She also enjoys cooking and baking, yoga, and gardening. 


Celeste Roberts

Early Childhood Teacher

Celeste has 20 years of experience teaching with children in both public and private school settings. Her love for experiential and outdoor education led to her join Little Star in 2006, where she began substitute teaching. She enjoys creating opportunities for children to explore and express themselves as they connect to others and our planet. Celeste likes skiing, bicycling, and gardening. She has a bachelor's degree in special and elementary education, with minors in science and math.


Kim Claussen

Early Childhood Teacher

Kim joined the Little Star family in 1992, and is thankful every day for this loving community of families and teachers. In addition to teaching in our preschool, she leads Parenting with Positive Discipline classes locally. Kim's interests and passions include canoeing, quilting, laughing with friends, cooking, and walking the hills of the Methow Valley. She has two adult children, both of whom graduated from Little Star. 



Zanna Gable

Early Childhood Teacher

Zanna’s involvement with Little Star School began in 1983 when she was one of Rayma’s little stars, followed by teaching summer camps, toddler, afternoon program and as a substitute teacher. Zanna believes every child should be empowered through education and treated with respect. She is delighted to be a Little Star teacher and looks forward to having the privilege of learning and growing with your children. She lives in Winthrop with her husband Michael and their two sons and two dogs. She enjoys being outdoors, gardening, teaching yoga and spending time with her family.   


Anna Patterson

Early Childhood Teacher

After high school Anna spent time in Italy, France, Spain and Venezuela where she studied art and language. In 2004 she returned to her preschool -- Little Star -- as a teacher in the preschool classroom where she taught for 7 years before moving to the toddler classroom. She now has two children and has returned to the preschool classroom. Anna is passionate about the beauty and magic of this world and is delighted to share in that experience with the Little Star children. Anna enjoys art, playing, being outside, cooking and her family. Anna is a Liberty Bell High School Graduate of 1998, spent one year at the Lorenzo DiMedici Scuola DʼArte and is Montessori Certified.


Florence Sawyer

Toddler Teacher

Florence first walked into Little Star's welcoming arms in summer of 1998. New to the Methow Valley and building a house, she enrolled two-year-old Milo in the summer program. Milo and three other Sawyer-Holston children attended Little Star all the way through the kindergarten program. Florence came on board in 2000 and worked in the afternoon and preschool programs before finding her home with the toddlers. "Little Star has been a loving second home to my family for many years. I am grateful to be a part of this dynamic, nurturing community. It is an honor to be in a position to hold young families and their children in the same way that my family was held."



Rebecca Haase

Toddler Teacher

Rebecca has always been interested in working with young children and after returning home to the Methow Valley, she has been busy raising her own family. At Little Star, Rebecca enjoys getting to know all of the children and their families. She is excited to be a loving, nurturing and energetic part of Little Star -- and her daughter, Kaydin, might just follow in her footsteps! Rebecca attended Whatcom Community College and studied early childhood education.


Alison Darwood

Toddler Teacher

Alison has been working at Little Star since 2012 and loves supporting the children in their creative endeavors. Both of Alison's children, Rowan and Violet, attended Little Star, as did Alison as a little girl. She also graduated from Brenneke School of Massage in 1999 and has her own practice in Twisp at the North Glover Healing Center. Alison loves being a part of this amazing school and hopes to remain a part of it for many years to come.


Michelle Larsen

Toddler Teacher

Michelle’s connection to Little Star began in 2002 when her youngest son enrolled in the preschool class. She soon joined the Little Star Board of Directors where she developed a love and admiration for the school and its philosophy. While raising her three kids with her late husband John, Michelle stayed connected to the school, helping with auctions and various projects. Michelle joined the Little Star staff as an afternoon enrichment teacher in 2015, moving into a toddler teacher position in 2017. She feels privileged for the opportunity to help nurture our valley’s young children.  



Madison Jennings

Afternoon & Early Childhood Teacher

Madison grew up in the Methow Valley and attended Liberty Bell high school before going on to college- where she received her degree in special and early childhood education from Franciscan University. The community of the Methow has always had a special place in her heart, so she eagerly returned to be apart of it and give back. Madison is passionate about learning, awakening children's creativity, and sparking excitement for the world around them. Madison enjoys hiking, biking, photography, reading, and spending time with loved ones. 



Nick Hershenow

Afternoon & Early Childhood Teacher

Nick and his wife Phoebe moved to Twisp in January 2015. Their own children grew up grounded in a close-knit yet open community and that is one of the many things that drew them to the Methow and to Little Star.  Nick started coming in as a volunteer and quickly started working/playing as an afternoon enrichment teacher, Friday teacher, and Spanish teacher. In lieu of a career Nick has had many different jobs, including: white water raft/wilderness guide in Costa Rica and California; Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire (Congo); founding director of a community gardens program in Salt Lake City; elementary school creative writing teacher; Forest Service field tech in central Idaho; mentor and social worker at a Honduran children’s home; health educator in Ecuador; land steward on Orcas Island; and writer (The Road Builder was published by Penguin/Putnam in 2001; he is working on completing a second novel).


Sandy Welfelt

Afternoon & Early Childhood Teacher

Sandy often calls Little Star her "home away from home." She has taught at Little Star since the very beginning in 1982. Sandy feels honored to see children she once taught return as Little Star parents and staff. Sandy's passions include Nordic, alpine, and backcountry skiing, mountain biking, hiking, and horse packing in the neighboring wilderness.


Vanessa Levine

Afternoon & Early Childhood Teacher

Vanessa was born in Lima, Peru and moved to the Methow Valley in 2016. In Peru, she worked as a Montessori guide for 7 consecutive years. Vanessa loves the Montessori philosophy of teaching. "I've had the privilege of applying this extraordinary educational method with young children, adolescents, and young adults, through lecturing and providing workshops throughout my city for many years before arriving in the US." Vanessa teaches part time at Little Star and is thrilled to be returning to the classroom after taking some time off to raise her daughter, who is now a student at Little Star. "I love being a mother and a teacher, being an active witness of how little boys and girls get to discover this world, learning everything they can thanks to their inquisitive minds." Outside of teaching Vanessa enjoys cooking, dancing and playing with her daughter. Spanish is Vanessa's native tongue and she is working on her English, with help from the children who very much enjoy being the teachers! 


Jenny Knox

Afternoon & Early Childhood Teacher

After many years of visiting her family here in the Methow Valley Jenny decided to make the permanent move in 2017 with her daughter. It was after becoming a mother that Jenny became passionate about education. "I respect children as individual, creative, and spiritual beings. I value a teaching curriculum that protects the education of the whole child which is why I like the Montessori Method. I am excited to learn more and grow here at Little Star." When Jenny is not at Little Star she enjoys playing outside, climbing and mountain biking, cooking, gardening, reading, and of course spending time with loved ones. 


Matt Armbrust

Art, Music and Drama Teacher

Matt is excited to be part of the Little Star family and to bring his vast experience teaching youngsters arts and music. Matt holds an Master of Fine Arts in ceramics and a Bachelor of Arts in music from Central Washington University (CWU). While attending CWU, Matt studied ceramics under Stephen Robison, and violin under Carrie Rehkopf and Heather Netz of the Kairosstring quartet. Matt is a co-owner of the Spartan Art Project, an experimental art space, and the owner of Methow Valley Clay Art Center. He is a resident of the Methow Arts Alliance, serves on the board of Cascadia Music as chair of their publicity committee, and on the board of Confluence Gallery and Art Center in Twisp, Washington.


Laurel Carlton

Little Star South Collaborative (LSSC) Program Supervisor

Laurel joined Little Star in 2017 as the program supervisor for the new Little Star South Collaborative in Twisp. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Idaho, and has held a range of educational and teaching-based jobs including as an early childhood educator/teacher for Early Head Start, a child and family programs coordinator at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, and lead infant teacher for Starbucks' corporate childcare program. Laurel and her husband Eric live in Twisp and have two young children, Kate and James, who attend Little Star.



Elise Knight

LSSC Toddler Teacher

Elise is honored to be at Little Star as a teacher of our youngest children. Her 17-year-old son, Chase, attended Little Star and Elise is certain that his curiosity about the world was fueled by Little Star teachers. "Since that time, I have taken note of the deep spark of excitement I feel upon walking into a building full of children." Two years ago, Elise became an aide at Methow Valley Elementary School and more recently at Little Star. She enjoys sharing her love of sewing with kids in the after school program. Her other joys include growing food and flowers, running and hiking, witnessing the remarkable lives of teenagers and appreciating our incredible human and non-human valley life. 

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Ananda Bajema

LSSC Toddler Teacher

Ananda grew up near Winthrop and has always enjoyed children, starting when her younger brother was born. She babysat as a teen and nannied for a few families. After earning her BA degree in Psychology from University of California at Santa Cruz, home of the Banana Slug, she pursued social work with infants to adults who were drug-affected, mentally disabled or troubled in California and Washington. Her heart led her home to the Methow, where she and her husband enjoy their two children (who both attended Little Star) and the stellar Valley. She loves adventures, art, dancing, singing, and meeting new people. Ananda is thrilled to be back home and at Little Star with a wonderful team, supporting families and sweet children at their life's beginning. 


Nancy Richards

LSSC Toddler & Infant Teacher

Starting at a young age Nancy worked with children, first with babysitting then sports coaching and now with Little Star.  Nancy graduated from Western Washington University with a recreation degree and has been living in the mountains ever since.  Knowing the mountains would always be home, Nancy, her husband and their dogs moved to the Methow and bought a house in Lost River in 2014.  She is passionate about skiing, climbing, being outdoors, and excited to be learning more about the Montessori philosophy. Nancy is delighted to join the Little Star team!


Nicole O’Driscoll

LSSC Infant Teacher

Nicole has been with Little Star since the summer of 2007 in various capacities including summer camps, the afternoon program, lead preschool teacher and now Lead Infant Teacher at Little Star South Collaborative (LSSC). She went to school in Boston to study early childhood education while working as a nanny and volunteering as a preschool teacher. Nicole enjoys spending time with her family and baking delicious goodies. Nicole is Montessori Certified.


Sammy Laskey

LSSC Infant Teacher

Sammy grew up in Twisp and graduated from Liberty Bell High School. After nearly 15 years away, she returned to the Methow with her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree with a specialization in Pediatrics. She loves nature, the outdoors, and kids, so Little Star was the perfect fit! Sammy will be working in the "Birds Nest" (infant classroom) on Fridays and on the days Sammy is not working at Little Star, she is working as a pediatric physical therapist for children with physical disabilities. "I am grateful to be part of such a kind, loving, and skilled group of educators and to have the opportunity to know such outstanding children and families."

Board of Directors

Amber McAuliffe, Board President

Teresa Castner, Vice President

Liz Walker, Secretary

Katharine Bill, Treasurer

Patsy Pattison

Leverett Hubbard

Eric Godwin

Sara Steele

Steve Hirsch

Michelle Shaffer-Bosco

Trudi Garing

Dani Reynaud


Advisory Board Members

Ardis Bynum

Laurel Canan

Fran Kaul

Ashley Lodato

Julie Palm

Mike Pruett

Eveline Wathen