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The Earth Tortoise School Vision

The Loowit Teachers

Erin Tooze


Lead Infant Guide

After working for 10 years in early childhood education, from your typical childcare setting to substituting in special needs classrooms, I found Montessori! - realizing how it empowered the youngest of children. I quickly adopted a love for the Method and felt it was so much like the home I grew up in. My mother understood the importance of making me a part of our community and letting me grow in my own personal interests. I worked in a Montessori School as a lead guide for 4 ½ years, before finding the desire to open my own school in my neighborhood and community. The Earth Tortoise School spent a year in my home, before expanding its doors to a community of 16. And here we are today in a new space, being able to welcome even more!

Chelsea Pyne


Assistant Infant Guide

Hello! I first encountered Montessori when I was living and working in Germany. The family I nannied for had their kids in a Montessori Kindergarten. Wat​ching them go through that program showed me how much young children are really capable of. I knew then that I would like to work in a Montessori setting someday, and I am so excited that day is finally here !I started working with children just out of high school, first as a nanny for five years, then as an elementary school librarian for the last six years. I always knew that babies were the group I really loved working with, even though I had more opportunities to work with older children. I look forward to helping your children grow and learn, and building

relationships with them for years to come. 

Lourdes Grey


Assistant Infant Guide

I am originally from the California Bay Area where I attended college in Redwood City for Early Childhood Education. I then worked in a Montessori classroom for over 20 years. My family and I moved to Portland in 2022, when I joined The Earth Tortoise School. Though most of my experience was at the Primary level, I have really enjoyed learning about being with babies and toddlers. My three children, husband, and I enjoy hiking, listening to music, watching movies and spending time with our extended family. I am looking forward to being with your children and getting to know your family. 

Community is very important to us. We hope we have created a place for families that feels like an extension of their home, a network of support that begins during pregnancy and extends out until your child is ready to move into the larger world. We serve children from 3 months to 6 years of age. Infants and toddlers thrive on free exploration while developing a sense of self. Infants are just learning about their own bodies and developing the abilities they will need for all later learning. Toddlers are coming into their own. They are learning their place in the world, developing and refining their skills, and asserting their independence. Preschool aged children are looking outside of their immediate community to understand their larger world, refine the skills they developed in the previous years, and challenge themselves as they move from the concrete to the abstract. The classroom is the children's space - child-sized, beautiful, and completely accessible to their need for doing things on their own. It is a peaceful place that gives them the chance to choose what they want to work on within a routine that is predictable and limits that help them feel secure. Learning develops the whole child - physically, cognitively, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. There are no "right" answers but only more exciting questions. And we love to share their enthusiasm with them in an attitude of acceptance, patience, and love.


Our goals are:

* to provide child care from 3 months through 6 years of age with classrooms dedicated to the needs of each stage of development

* to support the whole child through a school experience that values art, music, nature and gardening, cooking, culture, personal contributions, a love of learning, and each child as a unique individual

* to support each child based on their individual needs, abilities, and goals regardless of race, gender, economic background, developmental level or learning differences.

* to support the family beginning at pregnancy - with resources for doulas, pre-natal massage and yoga, and help with preparing your home for a new baby,- and throughout early childhood - with parent groups, parent education, home-visits, family resources, and a community network

* to create a community meeting place with parent-child activities - children's yoga, music classes, a community garden are just some ideas

* to develop and maintain a staff that is vested in the early childhood education field - sees this time of life as the highly important in one’s development and in the development of a positive society, has a desire to strengthen self-esteem and help to provide a program that shelters independence and builds strong social structures – and is committed to furthering their education and making this field their life’s work.

* to support the staff, valuing them for their education, experience, and contribution, with health benefits, paid time off, continuing education assistance and by developing the school vision with their needs, ideas, and goals. 

The Wyeast Teachers

Miranda Helm


Lead Toddler Guide

My decision to build a career around early education started back in high school when I began volunteering at David Douglas’s preschool on a whim. I thrive off the joyful energy of childhood and the intrinsic validation I get from working within a helping profession. Just a week after I graduated in 2013, I was hired as an aid in Earth Tortoise’s toddler room and settled into the Montessori pedagogy. In the following years, I juggled working at Earth Tortoise with volunteer trips abroad, completing the Heart and Hand Montessori Teacher Education Program, and finishing a bachelor’s degree in Child, Youth, and Family Studies at PSU. I’ve always had a love for learning and trying out new things. Now I’ve moved up into a co-lead position in the

toddler room and am working hard to blend my experience with my education to set these kiddos

up for happy, productive futures. 

Carmen Garcia


Assistant Toddler Guide

My name is Carmen Garcia. I was born and raised in Mexico where I was a babysitter for a few years. Since then I really enjoy being part of the development of children. My dream was always to be a preschool teacher. A few years ago when I came to live in Oregon, I had the opportunity to study in the Early Child Education field. I passed the child development associate national test (CDA), and I completed a year-long program for an Assistant Teacher certificate. I have been working with children for more than 7 years. When I worked for the first time in a Montessori School, I discovered that this is where I want to be learning and teaching. I am so excited to be working at The Earth Tortoise School. I want to continue being part of children’s learning and continue learning and growing with them.

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Maggy Yoeger


Assistant Toddler Guide

Hello! My  name is Maggy Bea. I am super excited to be joining the toddler classroom this year! I am new to the Montessori Method but have been teaching for 5 years. In 2019, I earned a Bachelor's in Biology Education and taught science in Texas until moving to Portland in 2021. Before Earth Tortoise, I taught preschool and elementary nature programs in parks throughout the city. I am passionate about providing care that encourages curiosity and agency. When I am not at work, I enjoy gardening, adventures with my dog Snow, family game nights, and quilting.

The Klickitat Teachers

Morgan Swor


Co-Lead Primary Guide

I began my Montessori journey four years ago when I joined a primary classroom as an assistant. I instantly fell in love. I am so excited to begin my teacher training this summer, and continue to learn alongside the children. Before I came to Montessori, I trained to be an ASL interpreter, I worked as a labor and postpartum doula, and I apprenticed as a home birth midwife. Although I am grateful for all the experiences, I have found my calling in Montessori work. I live in Portland with my husband Chris, my bonus son Ori (13), and our daughter Sahalie (1). We love to go see live music, play disc golf, camp, hike, and play in the water. I look forward to growing with the Earth Tortoise community

Michelle Junker


Co-Lead Primary Guide

I fell in love with Oregon in 2006 while attending a small study away program nestled in the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. In 2010 I discovered Montessori and fell in love with it the instant I stepped into a classroom. It really resonated with the experience I had during that semester in Oregon. I knew this was the kind of educational experience I wanted to share with children! I connected with a Montessori school in Southeast Portland and was lucky enough to work alongside an amazing mentor teacher 7 years! With the pandemic, I switched my focus to caring for and homeschooling my own two children but as things began to open up I knew I wanted to get back into the classroom and pursue my Montessori Primary training. My own daughter attended Earth Tortise from infancy through toddlerhood, and I am overjoyed to get to be a part of this lovely community of teachers, children, and their families!

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Kathryn (Kat) Yee


Assistant Primary Guide

Originally from Brisbane California, I moved to  Oregon in 2017 to attend Southern Oregon University where I pursued a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. In 2020 I stepped away from school to re-evaluate my goals and aspirations. It was that year that I spontaneously decided to switch paths and begun working with children. Since then I have discovered a deep love for teaching. In September of 2023 I made the move to Portland and have settled into a wonderful community and am very happy to be a part of the Earth Tortoise family! In my free time I love to make art and good food. Weather permitting, I enjoy leisurely walks with my dog, Kylo. On rainy days I like to bundle up and play board games with my roommates. 

Our Support Staff

Maya Rutkowski-Bowen



When I was nine years old my two sisters were born and I, of course, became their "little mama". Watching them play, interact, and grow definitely contributed to my interest in human behavior. I received my B.A. in Psychology and Child Development in 2000. I discovered Montessori as I was looking for my first professional experiences with children. I fell in love immediately. Here was an approach that values these first years of life and sees children as capable and intelligent. I received my Montessori Infant/Toddler accreditation in 2002. After 20 years I continue to love my relationships with the kids, the families, and the staff. These supportive relationships feed our soul and help us reach our fullest potential. I hope the Earth Tortoise School provides that sense of belonging to everyone here. 


Jessica Calabrese


Administrative/Support staff

I moved to Oregon in 2005 and quickly grew to love the Pacific Northwest. I approach each day as a new beginning loaded with possibilities. Every person and every child is unique and I embrace this variety. At fourteen, I enrolled in a Child Development class in high school and it wasn’t long until I realized working with children was my true calling. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work in several childcare settings, each one bringing something different to my growth as a teacher. I have been working at The Earth Tortoise School for 7 years now and it is the perfect fit for me. I am currently enrolled in the Heart and Hand Montessori Teacher Education Program to obtain my Montessori credential and I look forward to years of building relationships with our young children.

Our Commitment to Anti-Racist/Anti-Biased Education

At The Earth Tortoise School, we recognize that our society is shaped by heteronormative, white-centric standards. We are committed to making changes towards eliminating the biases, prejudices, and injustices created by living in such a society. We strive to be a safe and welcoming community for people of all races, ethnicities, cultures, languages, gender expressions, sexual orientations, religions, family structures, and beliefs. In order to move ever closer to this goal, The Earth Tortoise School continually reflects upon our staff’s development, our ways of being with the children and families, the materials and experiences we provide for the children, and the policies and procedures we enact.


Our staff will take part in Anti Racist/Anti Bias professional development on an ongoing basis. This will be done through direct instruction at conferences, workshops, and seminars – consciously and deliberately chosen – as well as through continued reflection, assessment, and refinement of our approach -both guided and self-directed. Understanding the perspectives and experiences of others is a core value of The Earth Tortoise School and Montessori Education in general. As is the celebration of our differences and similarities. These values will guide our personal growth and how we approach our interactions with others. In all things, listening, thoughtfulness, respect, and appreciation are paramount. We are continuously learning about and looking for new, diverse, evolving experiences we can share with the children through new materials, books, conversations, celebrations, etc. We are mindful of the words we use and the actions we take. We reflect on both the intentions and the unconscious biases behind these words and actions as well as the direct impact they have on others, regardless of those intentions. And we are dedicated to growing The Earth Tortoise School with these goals in mind. Decisions and policies are made through a lens of equity, striving to take into account the individual experiences of everyone in our community while also moving everyone forward together.


We understand that this work is never done. Upholding justice and cultivating peace is a daily practice. We are committed to being mindful each day. At The Earth Tortoise School, we are lifelong learners. "The real preparation for education is a study of one's self. The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than a learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit."--Maria Montessori.



Our Commitment to Inclusion

The Earth Tortoise School is committed to creating an inclusive environment for all children and families. Through our work with the Multnomah Early Childhood Program (MESD) for almost 15 years (as well as with many private specialists) we have been learning, and continue to learn, how to best elevate our classrooms to “Follow the Child”, each and every child – a tenet of the Montessori approach to education.


In this work, we have learned how meaningful inclusion is for our whole community -supporting the development of mutual respect, the recognition of everyone’s strengths and challenges, and the importance of supporting one another in our growth. We are striving to support children with their individuals needs AND to normalize the use of tools to center one’s self as a way to end the stigma around neuro-differences, developmental differences, mobility differences, etc.


To this end, in addition to providing individual supports as may be specified in a child’s Individualized Family Services Plan, we have seen how making universal accommodations available to the whole class supports ALL the children with self-regulation and focus.  Lots of different tools are available in our classrooms - to all the children all the time. These include visual schedules, sound-canceling headphones, timers, wiggly seat cushions, sensory chews, additional railings, various types of seating, etc. Children can choose these at will.


These early years are a time when it is developmentally appropriate to explore various tools and strategies that help kids get through their day in a regulated manner so their brains are available for cognitive and social tasks.  When a new tool is introduced into a classroom, many kids want to try it.  That is perfectly fine.  It is the children who truly need/benefit from that tool who will continue to use it once the novelty has worn off.  It is important to understand that just because a tool, such as headphones, works well for a child, it does not mean there is a diagnosis that needs to be made.  As kids mature, they will find more socially appropriate ways to get their needs met. If, however, we feel a child would benefit from an Early Intervention evaluation, we will support and inform you through this process. It is important to remember that differences are natural and normal; if your child receives a diagnosis, it does not change who they have always been – it simply provides them with supports to meet their fullest potential; there are endless ways to be human and they are all valid and beautiful and important.

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