Faculty Bios

Early Childhood


Diane VanDommelen – Lead Teacher, Pussywillow Kindergarten

Education - B.A. Brigham Young University, Advertising, research emphasis, with an English minor; Waldorf Handwork Teacher certificate, Sunbridge College
Not until she became a mother did Diane discover Waldorf education, a natural extension to her already-holistic lifestyle.  Her oldest son attended the Alan Howard Waldorf School in Toronto until the family moved to Anchorage in 1994 for her husband to begin teaching at UAA.  They were pleased to find another Waldorf school to join. Diane has taught kindergarten and handwork at the school, as well as homeschooled her three children using Waldorf methods in her off-the-grid cabin in Bird for the last 13 years.  She is excited to work again with little ones and to be part of the school community.
Handwork, backpacking, nature study and cooking fill her few free hours.


Susan Barnes
– Lead Teacher, Sunflower Kindergarten

Education –Early Childhood Education Diploma, Michael Institute in Portland

1Q01071Susan and her family came to the Anchorage Waldorf School through the Parent/Toddler Class when Susan’s  eldest daughter was three years old. They fell in love with the Waldorf program and with our community. Susan felt drawn to early childhood education and began as a kindergarten assistant here at AWS. She went  on to complete her degree in that field and is now the lead kindergarten teacher. Her eldest daughter, Isabeau, graduated from AWS in 2013 and is now enrolled in West High’s School through the Arts. She has  been a violist in the Anchorage Youth Symphony and her youngest, Talya, is also a musician, playing the cello.  Both girls were introduced to skiing at AWS and continue to pursue their love of cross-country skiing in Junior Nordic and West High’s Ski Team. Susan and her husband Dean are alum parents in the school community, and have served on Finance, Site, Enrollment, and Long Range Planning Committees. Dean has also happily been the ‘GreenMan’ at many a May Faire and is an enthusiastic member of the ‘WalDads’.





Grade School


Brandy Steinhilber – Grade 1 Teacher

Education - BA Foreign Language Ed, University of Kentucky; Waldorf Certificate, Waldorf Institute of Southern California

DSC00939 Brandy is originally from Kentucky where most of her family still lives.  She previously taught at AWS and  took a class from 1st through 3rd/4th grades.  This is the second year in a row that Brandy will be leading  our First Graders on the beginning of their academic journey. She loves to cook and grow flowers and enjoy  old British Mystery stories.





Tomas Jensen – Grade 2/3 Teacher

Education – B.A. in Economics, Carleton College; M.S. in Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Teaching Certificate, Alaska Pacific University; Waldorf Teacher-in-training, Michael Institute in Portland

1Q01125 Tomas has had a long and circuitous route to teaching. From the beginning he wanted to be a fireman, or an architect, then a forester, or a biologist. Finally, after college and graduate school, he settled in economics and  community development. It was this work that brought him to Alaska in 2006. He believes that a community’s children and its schools should be treated as a precious commodity. He was extremely fortunate  to land in AWS in 2013 among the thoughtful and amazing children in his class and is in wonder at the support  of the parents who have welcomed him into their lives.

Tomas’ s other interests include biking, skiing, hiking, rebuilding bikes, beekeeping, and vegetable raising.


Shenandoah (Shannon) Herda - Grade 4/5 Teacher

Education – Bachelor of Science – Zoology & Microbiology (Australia); Masters in Education – Secondary (USA); Foundation Studies, Center For Anthroposophy; Certificate in Waldorf Education, Antioch University (in progress)
 Shenandoah hails from the land down under originally.  Following her Science degree she travelled extensively  and landed in the USA where she met her husband Joe,  who brought her up to Alaska.  Her two children,  Bryce (class 2/3) and Sierra (class 2/3) were born here in Anchorage.  After realizing that the higher levels of  academia were not for her she jumped into teaching and began four wonderful years at Steller Secondary  School.  Her husband Joe, was able to give her five years back in Australia while he worked at the consulate and  now they are back in Alaska and overjoyed to be in a Waldorf School and even able to teach.  Shannon is excited  to be completing her Waldorf training at Antioch University in New Hampshire.
Shannon loves to read, trek/hike/bike and ski if any spare time appears!

Mira Starr – Grade 6 Teacher
Education – Bachelor of Arts in Education with a minor in Spanish, Pacific University; Master’s in Waldorf Education, Antioch University (in progress)


Mira grew up south of Denver, Colorado, where she learned at a young age that she had a passion for school and music. After falling in love with her 4th grade class and the teacher who led it, she was determined to be a teacher. She also occupied herself with learning a variety of instruments, including piano, cello, and harp. In high school, she participated in the Chamber Orchestra, where she spent three semesters as the first cellist, as well as working with the Forensics team and the Literary Magazine. In college, she added choir to her repertoire of musical activities, and continued the Spanish education she had begun in elementary school.

Mira came to Alaska seeking adventure and new experiences. She spent a year teaching middle school in a village school, and came to Anchorage after finding this a little too adventurous. In coming to Anchorage, she came into contact with AWS and fell in love with the vibrancy and authenticity of the community.

Hobbies: music, hiking, indoor gardening, cooking, writing.

Kathleen Smith – Mentor Teacher and Grade 1 Teacher, 2016-2017


Kathleen is a long-time Alaskan who brings 18 years of Waldorf educational experience to the community and is very happy to be here. She received her Waldorf certification in 1997 from the Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento, California. She was awarded an Elementary Grades Diploma. She taught elementary education at the Davis Waldorf School in Davis, California and the Camellia Waldorf School in Sacramento before teaching in Anchorage for the last six years. Kathleen believes that being a teacher means accepting responsibility and being committed to helping children develop life’s capacities. She values the depth and complexity of gifts in children. She strives to be stimulating, resourceful, and supportive in helping children grow and develop to their fullest abilities.



Specialty Subjects

Mary Schallert – Orchestra & Strings Teacher

Mary Schallert Mary has been an active member of the Anchorage music community since 1977. She is the director of Alaska  City Folk Arts Camp and an organizer of many music ensembles with a focus in the folk realm. She is the director  for the Stellar school choir and teaches Orchestra at Anchorage Waldorf going into her 6th year. She has a very active private studio teaching multiple styles of music including fiddle and violin and has four CD recordings. She is the mother of two sons. Her oldest is a freshman at The University of British Columbia Vancouver and her  youngest is a Junior at Polaris K-12. Her husband works for Resource Data Inc.



Svetlana Burton – Russian

 Education – Ph.D. in Linguistics (Stavropol State University, Russia); Master’s in English and German (Taganrog Pedagogical University, Russia)

Svetlana’s teaching experience is diverse. In Russia, she was a Professor of English to Russian students. Since  moving to Alaska in 2003, she has worked for the University of Alaska Anchorage teaching Russian in the  Language Department, as well as English as a second language. In addition, she has taught Russian to young  children and adults through the Community Schools program and with the Anchorage Parks and Recreations program. She has also coordinated and taught Russian immersion programs for military personnel here in Alaska.

To complement her teaching experience, she has been working as a professional interpreter and translator providing services to the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, the Nanuuk Commission (Polar Bear Commission), the World Wildlife Federation, the EPA and U.S. Coast Guard.

However Svetlana´s first love has always been teaching. She is excited to be joining Anchorage Waldorf School this year as she enjoys working with children and loves to teach her native Russian. Svetlana brings not only her language, but an understanding of the Russian culture to her teaching at AWS.

She loves to spend her time outside of work with her extended family, her two sons, and her five Pekingese. She likes to go hiking, biking, mushroom-hunting, and skating.


Caitlin Douglass—Handwork/Woodwork

Education - Dip. Ed. (primary) Australian Catholic University (Sydney, Australia); Foundation Studies, Center For Anthroposophy

Caitlin DouglassCaitlin, originally from Australia, is enjoying the wonderful outdoor lifestyle of Alaska after three and a half years living in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has many years teaching experience in the elementary school, creative arts and teaching English as a second language. She is delighted to be embracing the role of handwork teacher, bringing her passion for Waldorf education and so many of her artistic loves to the children. Caitlin’s love for Waldorf education began at the wonderful school that her children attended in Australia, Linuwel Steiner School, East Maitland. She was actively involved in the school community and taught in the preschool prior to the family’s move to Indonesia. She loves to spend time with her husband, Paul and three lovely children, Reuben (15), Gabriel (14) and Angelique (8, grade 2/3) hiking, biking, skiing and exploring beautiful AK!

Matt Unterberger – Movement Education

Grade 1 skating
Mr. Unterberger has been working at AWS as a block teacher, class teacher, and now Movement teacher since 2006. He has worked as a teacher and coach for many years but is also an artist whose watercolor paintings, drawings, calligraphy, and chalk art creations are treasured by the AWS community and Alaskans across the state.

Mr. Unterberger grew up in Chicago, IL, and studied Fine Art at the Art Institute of Chicago and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He began working with children in 1991 as a camp counselor at Four Corners Rediscovery Camp for Native Youth in Crestone, CO. From 1992-1995, he was an art and English teacher in Ladakh, India, at t SECMOL (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh). From 1995-2002, he served as a high school art teacher and all grades substitute at Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder, CO, and received teacher training from master Waldorf teacher Rene Querido. From 2002 to 2006, he took a break from teaching to work in New York City in film and TV production.

2006 brought Mr. Unterberger here to Alaska, where he has enjoyed working at AWS and coaching wrestling with Alaska Battle Cats during the school year and working at Kantishna Air Taxi in Denali National Park during the summers. He lives in Chugiak with his wife Ginger and children Gia (Grade 6), Aven (Grade 3), and Alice (future Kindergarten student).