Early Childhood

Michele Poplarchik
Fireweed Preschool

Susan Barnes
Co-faculty chair, Sunflower kindergarten

Education –Early Childhood Education Certificate, Michael Institute in Portland

Susan 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 assisted in several Parent Tot classes, before starting a play-group of her own and eventually leading a Parent Tot Classes at the school. She began her journey as a kindergarten assistant soon after here at AWS. She went  on to complete her teaching certificate in that field and is now the lead kindergarten teacher. Her eldest daughter, Isabeau, graduated from AWS in 2013, she then attended West High’s School through the Arts, graduating in 3 yrs, followed by 6 months traveling on her own through Europe. Her youngest daughter attended AWS through 6th grade and is currently enrolled in Honors classes at West High School. Both girls were introduced to skiing at AWS and continue to pursue their love of cross-country, Talya is on the West High’s Ski Team, as well as cross-country running and track and field. Susan and her husband Dean are alum parents in the school community, and have served on the Board, Finance, Marketing, Site, Enrollment, and Long Range Planning Committees. Dean was happily the ‘GreenMan’ for 11yrs at our annual May Faire.

Ashley Gose
Parent child teacher

I was born and raised in Alaska through the  early 1980’s and ’90s. I spent most of my time at our family cabin that my Father built. My days were spend with my two younger sisters and our beloved family dogs hauling wood, building tree forts and visiting our cabin neighbors. There I learned the importance of community, a hard work ethic, delayed gratification and a love for the great outdoors. Those four foundations have supported me into my adult life and have helped set me on the path I am on today. I always felt my personal experience with education was lacking in some way. It did not meet my needs or acknowledge what I had to offer outside of an academic standpoint. The first time I walked into a Waldorf kindergarten a decade ago I knew I had found home and I never looked back. Since that moment ten years ago, I have been building my knowledge of Waldorf education through my mentor and dear friend Franny Hall. Working with her the past six years as her assistant in her at home kindergarten has led me to Suzanne Downs puppet workshops, multiple Simplicity Parenting classes, book upon book on Waldorf education and finally to taking the Lifeways North America early childhood education course. Through my Lifeways training I have deepened my understanding of Steiners teachings, realized the importance of  the Domestic Arts and begun practicing meeting parents and children where they are at with open arms and an open heart. It has been my pleasure to take up the Parent Child class this fall, and put my training to work. I am supported by my loving husband Benjamin and our two children Harlin and Hank, whom continue to inspired me to pursue a whole child approach to education.


Kathleen Smith
Grade 1, Co-faculty Chair

Kathleen is a long-time Alaskan who brings 19 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 seven 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.

Meg Eggleston
Grade 2 & 3

Tomas Jensen
Grades 4 & 5

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

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. Every day has proved a chance to share in their discoveries, encourage their imagination and, sometimes, redirect their energy. He continues to be in awe at the support of the parents who have welcomed him into their lives.

In the limited time he has outside of school he spends his time with his growing family and outside in the myriad ways there are to enjoy the Alaskan wilderness.

Shannon Herda
Grades 6 & 7

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 3/4) and Sierra (class 3/4) were born here in Anchorage.  After realizing that the structured 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!

Maria Klein
Grade 8


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 co directs an adult orchestra:  Society of Strings with Kathryn Hoffer from the Anchorage symphony and teaches Orchestra at Anchorage Waldorf since 2003. 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 who are both accomplished musicians. Her husband is retired and in The Peace Corps in Tanzania until 2018.  She graduated from Mount Saint Mary’s College with a Bachelor Of Science in Nursing and a minor in music in 1977.   She studied bluegrass music at South Plains College in Levelland Texas in 1981/82.

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

Matt Unterberger

Mr. Unterberger has been working at AWS as a block teacher, movement teacher, and now as  a grade two 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 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 Service High School and Alaska Battle Cats during the school year and working at Kantishna Air Taxi/ Skylne Lodge in Denali National Park during the summers. He lives in Chugiak with his wife Ginger and children Gia (Grade 7), Aven (Grade 4), and Alice (future Kindergarten student).

Svetlana Burton

Education – Ph.D. in Linguistics (2003); Master’s Foreign Language Ed (English and German) (1996)

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, the Institute of the North, the Northern Forum, and U.S. Coast Guard.

However Svetlana´s first love has always been teaching. She is excited to be part of Anchorage Waldorf School community 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 four Pekingese. She likes to go hiking, mushroom-hunting, growing flowers and card-making.

Margaret Mackie

Margaret Mackie received a B.S. in Art Education from State University of New York at New Paltz in 2007. Margaret has been teaching art for more than eight years to children ages two through 18 in New York, Colorado, and Alaska. She has led elementary and middle school art camps at museums, and worked at Mountain Sage Community School in Colorado as a movement teacher. Additionally, Margaret worked as a preschool teacher at St. Mary’s Creative Playschool in Anchorage. Margaret is excited to be a part of AWS community and serve as the Handwork Teacher. She has a great love of wet felting and needle felting, which is put to good use in the handwork room. Margaret lives with her husband, Adam, and two children, Noah (8) and Hazel (6), in Anchorage. When she is not teaching she enjoys experiencing Alaska from camping to gardening to feeding her chickens to cross-county skiing.

Dohnn Wood

Peter Karnowski

I grew up in New York in a community devoted to Rudolf Steiner’s work.  I attended Waldorf School for most of my education loving the handwork and arts it offered.  In my last years of high school I branched out to explore other education methods; however, none compared to my experiences in Waldorf.  After high school I moved to California to pursue woodworking as well as philosophy and psychology.

Rudolf Steiner’s work has been a focus of mine since high school when I woke up to the desire to know concrete spiritual truths.  I did not experience myself as a solely material being; yet how does one come to know clearly this soul world, and beyond this soul, the world of the Spirit?  These questions lead me further along my journey that eventually brought me to the American Eurythmy School where I trained for four years.

Many were surprised when I left woodworking to pursue a training in eurythmy, but to me they were closely related.  In woodworking we are working with the tangible world, yet we start with an idea.  For example, we start with the idea ‘table,’ and then with skills, tools, and materials bring it into being.  This process of a spiritual idea finding its way into manifestation in the physical world is essentially what eurythmy works with too.  

Eurythmy brings us in touch with the archetypal formative forces of the world.  In using these forces we are able to show a piece of music in movement and gesture that holds true to the music itself.  If we could imagine a choir of spiritual beings singing and speaking our world into existence we would see many varied sounds and tones shaping the formless void into clear living expressions.  In the realm of speech, we can take the sound ‘E’.  Where does this sound come from?  We find it in; tree, steeple, reach, see, etc.  There is an uprightness and straightness to ‘E’.  We feel ‘E’ when we reach up to the stars with one arm and down through the earth with the other and there in the center of this reaching we find ourselves.  All sounds can be worked with for they have different qualities and gestures, and in eurythmy we come into relationship with the vast cosmos in an active way.  

My wish is to offer children and adults an entrance to the true nature of the human being.

Mira Starr
Math, chorus, and recorder ensemble

Education– Bachelor’s of Arts in Education, minor in Spanish from Pacific University 2013 suma cum laude
Education– Master’s in Waldorf Education from 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 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 Camber 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

Administrative Staff

Have a question? We can help!

The Anchorage Waldorf School administrative staff is here to serve you. In order to better facilitate answering your questions and fulfilling your needs, please see our individual areas of responsibilities listed below:

Stacy Durych
Executive Director

  • Upholds the vision, purpose and core values of the school
  • Strengthens the school’s relationship to Waldorf education and underlying principles
  • Builds trust in the school community
  • Brings clarity to policies, processes, and communication
  • Fosters a culture of active participation and collaboration
  • Ensures the stability of the school by effectively administering the daily operations in the realms of facilities and infrastructure, finances, enrollment, development, fundraising, public relations, personnel and educational programs

Maggie Heide 
Enrollment Coordinator

Before moving to Alaska Maggie lived in Montana for 14 years and grew up in New Mexico.  She has a Bachelor of Science from the University of New Mexico in Botany, has a passion for animal rescue, and mountain biking. “We stumbled into Waldorf when looking for a preschool for our now 1st grader.  It’s been the best stumble we’ve ever made!”

Duties include:

  • Facilitates a smooth admissions process for new families
  • Conducts informational events: tours, open houses, Grandparents’ Day and others.
  • Fosters communication with alumni and hosts Alumni Night annually
  • Handles student record requests
  • Supports the Executive Director in promoting and articulating the AWS vision and purpose to the greater community

Wendy Turner
Administrative Assistant

Wendy grew up in the South, migrated west with a stop in Oregon for 14 years, picked up her husband at graduate school and moved north to Alaska in 2012. She calls Alaska home because when she visits other places, she can’t imagine herself anywhere but Anchorage.

She has a masters degree in architecture, an undergraduate degree in urban planning and has worked as a manager of a photographer’s studio, was an architectural coordinator for a glass company making big things,
bartended and it all started with babysitting as a pre-teen.

“Waldorf inspires me because I love to learn.  When my daughter was a toddler, I read Simplicity Parenting by Kim John-Payne, which really woke me up to who I wanted to be.  The message I got from it as a new mother, was to slow down! That toddler is now a 10 year-old in the fourth grade and we also have a boy in first grade.”

  • Answers general questions and/or directs to appropriate person, coordinates & directs information flow
  • If a student is ill or hurt, makes sure they get the care they need; notifies parent(s) if appropriate
  • Manages database & phone directory
  • Oversees and edits publication of the newsletter
  • Supports the Executive Director in the administrative realm

Laura Pannone
Finance Manager

  • Manages tuition contracts and oversees re-enrollment process
  • Manages fiscal budget, bank accounts, cash flow and insurance policies
  • Responsible for financial policies, payroll and reporting, and business reporting – Federal, State, non-profit, and AWSNA
  • Facilitates annual audit
  • Supports Budget/Finance, and Tuition Assistance Committees
  • Reviews accounts receivables, payables, reimbursements and check requests
  • Supports the Executive Director in establishing and enhancing the fiscal health of the school

Donna Levesque
 Pedagogical Director

Donna has served Waldorf school communities as a pedagogical dean, class teacher, specialty teacher, and board member. Her tenure includes taking a class from first through eighth grade, graduating three additional middle school classes, mentoring class and specialty teachers, conducting parent education workshops, training the core faculty of a public charter Waldorf school, and providing painting instruction for the Center for Anthroposophy’s Foundation Studies program as well as for Antioch University’s Building Bridges teacher training program.

Amanda German
Maintenance Coordinator

  • Maintains grounds and equipment
  • Keeps the school functioning