“Every afternoon at the end of the school day, my child is happy and excited, satisfied and enriched by the day’s activities. The depth of personal attention and skill that the teachers bring to the classroom follows us home each day.” —City Garden Parent
“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings, who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives.”
—Rudolf Steiner


City Garden School educates children in a method inspired by Waldorf education, which nurtures and develops the child’s senses, allows children to discover who they are, and supports each child’s creative capacities. We honor the development of each child by bringing age appropriate stories and multi-sensory materials in all subjects to them. We teach an intellectually rich curriculum that inspires creativity and self-discovery.

Waldorf Education

Waldorf education was founded by Rudolf Steiner almost 100 years ago and is currently one of the fastest growing school initiatives in the world. It has a holistic approach to education that looks at the growing child developmentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and then creates curriculum and experiences based upon these observations. The curriculum then nourishes the child in each stage of her development and allows for a natural unfolding of skills, academic knowledge, and thought. As a result, the child’s innate sense of wonder in learning is fostered, he finds great joy in school, and she remains intellectually curious throughout her educational career and into adulthood.


Our curriculum aims to help the child discover who he/she truly is, allowing them to explore multiple arts and modalities while feeding them with rich stories and experiences. We strive to give them a morally centered curriculum and to allow time for true learning to take place. In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, our students learn to draw, paint, play a flute or recorder, move in rhythm, sing, recite poetry, and perform dramatic plays. They create their own textbooks and have time to explore the outdoors. We believe all of this helps create balanced children, who will grow into responsible and contributing citizens. If you are interested in our curriculum, you can read directly from our teachers on our blog.


Nicole Knapp-Weber
Nicole Knapp-Weber
Founder and Director of City Garden School, Nicole Knapp-Weber has taught first, second, and third grade in the last six years. She is a certified middle school science teacher in the state of Missouri and has her Master of Arts in Teaching. Nicole received her B.A. in Biology and English from Furman University. She spent three years in AmeriCorps in West Virginia, North Carolina and Oregon, and was hired at her last placement in Portland, Oregon at Sunnyside Environmental School. There she taught, wrote curriculum, took students on field trips, and organized events and festivals. This work primed her in the many facets of school life and once she moved to Columbia, MO in 2005, inspired her to search for as meaningful a school. After her eldest daughter was born in 2005, Nicole took time to raise her two daughters. When searching for a preschool, she was introduced to the Waldorf philosophy through Garden Gate. She has been studying the art of Waldorf education ever since. She began teaching 1st and 2nd grade at Garden Gate in 2011, and with a core group of committed parents, founded City Garden School in 2013. She has completed a Waldorf Second Grade training with Eugene Schwartz as well as the online Waldorf Essential Conferences for First and Third Grade. She has attended a “Waldorf Without Walls” training held by Barbara Dewey for teachers and homeschoolers and “The Art of Teaching Mathematics” Training by Jamie York. She is excited to begin her seventh year of teaching with the 2017-2018 school year. Nicole enjoys spending time with her family, hiking and camping, and loves to work in various crafts. A native of Florida, she loves getting back to the ocean whenever she can.
Tory Kassabaum
Tory Kassabaum
In 2012, after graduating from Knox College with a degree in Environmental Studies, Tory moved from the flat Midwestern plains of Missouri and Illinois to the mountainous Pacific Northwest. She was excited to live and study in Washington where she could explore the mountains and ocean while pursuing a certificate in Environment, Education, and Community from Islandwood School and a masters degree in Education from the University of Washington.
While in Washington, she taught at a preschool inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy. This not only opened Tory’s eyes to just how beautiful, fun, and creative the art of teaching could be, but also allowed her to cultivate her skills as a leader in the classroom. She then moved on to teach preschool at Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center. There, she transformed their program to use curriculum involving more art, emotion, and free play.
While Tory enjoyed the beautiful landscape in Washington, Missouri will always be home. She has been interning with City Garden School since the fall of 2015, observing, studying, and teaching in first, second, third, and fourth grades, and plans to attend a Waldorf training this summer. She is overjoyed to be a part of the City Garden community and will be teaching third and fourth grade starting in the fall of 2016.
Sara Arriagada
Sarah Arriagada
Sarah moved to Columbia, MO in September 2017 after a five year stay in London, UK where she taught Art and French at the German School London while sustaining her own art practice. She has a Master’s Degree in Fine Art from the University of the Arts Berlin, Germany and a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy from the Berlin Weissensee School of Art. She has worked in many different settings with children and adults of different backgrounds and ways of life. Via the arts as well as teaching, she strives to create connections and encourage self-discovery while maintaining a peaceful and open heart. She is very excited to discover and immerse herself into the Waldorf philosophy and to learn more about its wholesome and engaging education methods at City Garden School, where she is supporting Ms. Kassabaum in grades 3, 4 and 5 and teaching German to all grades.
Ginna Salaman
Ginna Salamán
Ginna Salamán was born in 1984 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. She studied Journalism and Education at the University of Puerto Rico. In 2010, she earned a master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Sacred Heart. That same year, she moved to the United States where she developed her teaching and writing career. As a professional, she worked in several community newspapers and developed a career in nonprofit schools, where she taught Spanish and English as a Second Language. In 2011, Salamán published her first book of short stories Relevo de emociones sin ruta and in 2015 the novel Partitura en tiempo Al- Origin. In June of 2015, she moved to Columbia, Missouri and is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in Romance Languages ​​and Spanish Literature at the University of Missouri, where she also teaches elementary and intermediate Spanish. Her hobbies are listening to music, dancing, visiting art galleries, writing, reading, traveling, traveling and traveling.
Justin Wiles
Justin Wiles
Justin Wiles has always had a love for the natural world. Growing up in a rural farming community, it was second nature for him to have a deep connection with the land and its ecological intricacies. In his youth as an Eagle Scout, Justin worked at Camp Geiger near St. Joseph, Missouri, teaching nature classes and helping manage the camp’s Nature Lodge. It was this experience that inspired him to pursue a Forestry degree at the University of Missouri, where the program brings together elements of conservation, ecology, and botany from a multidisciplinary perspective. Since his daughter, Eloise (currently in fourth grade), has been a student at City Garden School, Justin has regularly volunteered on outdoor Fridays and field trips, and also taught at City Garden Summer Camp. Through witnessing the caring and nurturing of the whole child practiced at City Garden, and the benefits his children gained therein, he was inspired to become more deeply involved in the Waldorf style of teaching. Justin happily joined City Garden staff as the Cooperative Games Teacher this year and is also responsible for conducting the City Garden Outdoor Aftercare program. In addition to Eloise, Justin is also the father of Buel (first grader at City Garden) and Justus (age 4).

Board Members

Neeley Current - President
Neeley Current – President
Neeley Current is a committed supporter of education inspired by Waldorf. Since 2011, she has built awareness of the merits of this form of education in Columbia, Missouri. Neeley values simplicity, creativity and educational opportunities that impart meaning, beauty and purpose; elements found at City Garden School. Neeley earned a BA in Anthropology and German and a Master’s degree in Information Science from the University of Missouri. She works at the University of Missouri’s College of Education where she manages the Allen Institute and the IE Lab, a User Experience Lab.
Abram Wilks - Vice President
Abram Wilks – Vice President
Abram Wilks is a psychotherapist who has his License in Clinical Social Work and works full-time at Burrell Behavioral Health, an outpatient mental health clinic in Columbia. He is married and has two wonderful and spirited children that are part of the Garden Gate/City Garden educational communities. Abram and his wife, Sara, set out to find an educational system and community that aligned with their values and after some time searching, stumbled upon the Waldorf inspired education at City Garden and Garden Gate. Abram believes in the mind/body/soul connection and sees how our school nourishes these three core areas of life. He also strongly believes that if given a healthy environment and the right conditions, children will grow into happy and healthy adults who live valued and meaningful lives. He feels that City Garden school embodies these values that he holds close to his heart.
Karen Shortt-Stout - Secretary
Karen Shortt-Stout – Secretary
Karen Shortt-Stout, the Columbia Art League Education Director since 2014, received her Bachelor’s degree with emphasis in Fine Art and Art History, from Stephens College in 2009. Soon after, Karen’s personal interest in the Waldorf educational model and subsequent discovery of the Garden Gate/City Garden community, is ultimately what led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Art Education from the University of Missouri, Columbia, which she completed in the spring of 2015. As Education Director for CAL, Karen facilitates a monthly art program for the City Garden students, and now, as City Garden board member, she hopes to continue to strengthen the relationship between the two communities.
Kevin Gamble - Treasurer
Kevin Gamble – Treasurer
Kevin Gamble has been a supporter of and advocate for education based in Waldorf principles since his children started on this path several years ago. Kevin firmly believes in the Waldorf principles of nurturing development of the whole child, connecting the child to their learning through creativity and hands-on work, and fostering intrinsic motivation and curiosity. He has been delighted to see the effects of this approach in his children, and the joy they take in their learning. Kevin earned a degree in Art and a minor in French from the University of Missouri, and oversees philanthropy, community programs, and media for State Farm in Missouri & Kansas.
Learn more about our programs.