Our team of professionally-trained and highly-skilled educators is here to help your child grow and reach their potential. We believe in supporting and engaging the whole child, inside and out, in this critical stage of their development. Please learn more about our broader educational philosophies and values here, as well as our unprecedented teacher benefits. 

Current and prospective parents are encouraged to follow us on social media @growingwildforestschool on Instagram and Facebook. 

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Kathryn Long | Head Teacher

Kathryn is a co-founder of the Growing Wild Forest School and its parent organization, The Forest School Foundation. She is also a  proud member of the American Forest Kindgergarten Association. She is an empathetic and creative being who loves working with children and guiding them in the natural world.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and has over a decade of experience in early childhood education and care, including teaching in early learning centers, providing small-group childcare, and nannying.  She is certified EEC Level 8. Her continuing education has included the Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers, as well as Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia systems and the latest research on child psychology. Kathryn's purpose is to support all children's evolving sense of self and intrinsic belonging in the human community and natural world.

Mica Whitmire | Lead Teacher

Mica has worked with children and young adults for over ten years as a counselor, caregiver, facilitator, and teacher. He particularly likes helping young children be aware of their feelings, speak their needs in clear and kind ways, and using silliness, play, and roleplaying to work with deeper issues in a fun and productive way. He is a trained permaculturalist and gardener, musician, storyteller, poet, and performer, and is initiated with the Mankind Project of Asheville. He advocates for social, ecological, and economic justice in the world, and is dedicated to practicing a life where all beings are treated with respect, affection, and care.


Eliza apprentices herself to the beauty in nature, Earthly cycles and tending plants. She delights in sharing these passions with youth and is endlessly inspired by the way children connect in the forest. She believes that youth mentorship in nature is a vital part of reweaving a healthy and connected culture for tomorrow. In 2017-2018, she participated in Wild Leaders Immersion, a 9-month long nature connection, leadership and cultural transformation program with local leaders in nature and community-basedprogramming, including the directors of Forest Floor. She has a background in writing and herbalism, and she loves to sing, craft and tell old stories.


José Whelen |Lead Teacher

José has spent over five years teaching in forest kindergartens and nature connection programs with young children, from urban schools to rural homestead communities, and has a long interest in child-centered and playful approaches to education.  From building shelters to start starting fires, craft making and respectfully harvesting plants, José enjoys connecting to hand based, simple skills that help us remember our deep connection the the worlds in and around us. He has been a student of Buddhism for many years and deeply appreciates the magic of a well-told story. 

Amanda Islambouli| Assistant Teacher

Amanda has lived her life passionately devoted to children and humanitarian causes. She has a background of STEM education in diverse classrooms and of non-profit fundraising with global children and environmental non-profits. She delights in connecting children to nature and science, and in the general daily silliness of working with young children. Whether it is healthy living, cultivating a loving connection to all living beings, or using one's imagination, Amanda is always excited to instill lessons that may carry children forward into a holistically happy and healthy future. 

Jessie Thistlegrove | Assistant Teacher

Jessie is a devoted naturalist and parent of two.  She delights in bringing spontaneous teaching/learning experiences to life in the natural world, with her background in wilderness training, musical theatre, craft and childhood development.  Having graduated from New College of CA with a major in Art and Social Change and a minor in Ecopsychology, she has taught in an outdoor Montessori pre-school in Sebastopol, and as a kindergarten teacher in Thailand.   Her work and wishes are for young people to find balance, communication skills, and a sense of place, in order to spawn a thriving local community that values life, connection and healthy cycles.  



Lyric Antio | Assistant Teacher

Lyric was raised by the wild lakes, forests, and dunes of Northern Michigan. Her elementary school years were spent attending a place-based charter school nestled within 250 acres of woodlands, where some of her most foundational memories of learning occurred knee-deep in mud. Her connection to the land continued to grow into most vital part of her life. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Design from UNC Asheville, where she also led the Mindfulness Club; a vibrant community group that explored contemplative practices.  Lyric finds joy in all forms of teaching and mentorship, and has been fortunate to connect deeply with children through the lenses of curriculum-based environmental education, STEM education, piano teaching, and private childcare. 

Lyric is also an artist, ecologist, plant tender, and all around avid homesteader grateful to marvel with children at the beauty and abundance of life in Southern Appalachia. 

Katie Costanzo | Substitute Teacher

Katie aspires to live each day of her life embracing and nourishing the wild creature that she is. She has come a long way from the suburbs of long island NY, where she grew up playing in the ocean ~ seeking refuge in the beautiful south shore. She has adventured and lived in many different bioregions and ecosystems, delighting in all of the diverse plants and creatures she finds herself surrounded by from Big Island Hawaii, to Skagway Alaska to now Southern Appalachia. Katie got her BA in psychology and sociology going on to follow her passions in outdoor rec and education, electoral politics, community organizing, horticulture therapy, farming and birth work. She has studied to be a birth doula and has apprenticed at Wild Abundance earning her PDC and learning about regenerative gardening, natural building, herbalism, earth skills and more! She loves cultivating rich, reciprocal relationships with the natural world whether that's actively recreating and rock climbing or slowing down and narrowing her focus on little jelly fungus growing on decaying logs. She sees herself as a protector of the land and is always trying to weave in the work of dismantling oppressive and exploitative systems and culture. She finds the most meaning dwelling in the playful parts of existence, building deep connection with herself and her community, and working towards collective liberation for all beings. 

Kelly Gaskill | Substitute Teacher

Kelly is a lover of nature and comes alive when sharing in the fascination of the natural world with children. Much of her adult life has been spent interacting with and exploring the outdoors. Well versed in the natural world of the Appalachian Mountains, Kelly has a vast knowledge of local plants, crafting with natural material, wild foraging, wilderness awareness, and honoring the rhythms of nature. She has been the director of Mudpuppies Nature Program in Barnardsville, NC; which mentors young children in developing deep connection with the natural world, with the support of a loving compassionate learning community. She regularly works and plays with the kids’ program at regional Earth Skills Gatherings. She also teaches natural plant dyes, weaving and basket making to adults.

Eliza Rose Laubach | Lead Teacher

Grace Upshaw | Substitute Teacher

Grace is a passionate educator and mentor who has found deep joy and fulfillment in her nine years of working with children. Teaching in settings from traditional and Montessori classrooms to earthskills gatherings and nature-based programs of all kinds, she has taken every opportunity to hone her skills at supporting children to learn, grow, and thrive. A trained ecologist and musician, Grace holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Lees-McRae and is always ready to weave environmental education and music and movement into the school day. She believes in the power of nature connection to help humans of all ages to become more fully themselves as they learn to feel at home on the earth.

You can also get to know our teachers better on our YouTube channel!


Additional administrative and financial support is provided by The Forest School Foundation.

Meet the rest of our team here!

Want to join us as a Forest School Educator, or are you a parent who is curious about our employee benefits? Our new CAREERS page is coming soon! Until then, please Subscribe to our mailing list to stay in the know.