Teachers & Staff
“The teachers are so deliberate and thoughtful in all of their actions with the children. I never have to worry about how my son's day is going.” —City Garden Parent
Head of School
Jordan Johnson graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a BSW in Social Work. She has obtained a teaching certificate in Elementary Education through the American Board, and graduated from The University of Missouri with a Master's degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.
Jordan taught fourth grade for four years. She also served as a student advocate, managing and documenting behavior and intervention plans. As a classroom teacher, Jordan has always been a proponent of arts and outdoor education. She loves that she now gets to work within the CGS community to expand our nature-based Waldorf approach to educating and nurturing children and make this style of learning accessible to more children.
Head Middle School Teacher
Born and raised in Florida, Nicole spent ample time outdoors all year round. She graduated from Furman University in South Carolina with a double major in Biology and English and earned her Masters of Arts in Teaching from Columbia College. She has a Missouri Teaching Certificate in Middle School Science. When her two daughters were little, Nicole found Waldorf education and steered her career path toward it. She helped establish City Garden School in 2013 with a group of parents who also wanted Waldorf education for their grade school children. In City Garden's first five years, she taught grades 1, 2, and 3 and served as the Director. She has attended numerous Waldorf trainings and workshops. In 2018, she left Columbia, and moved to Hawaii, where she taught grades 1 and 2 at the Honolulu Waldorf School and served as the Grades Faculty Chair. Nicole taught the first year of the CGS middle school enrichment program in 2020-2021 and helped as a teacher mentor.
Nicole loves the Waldorf curriculum for the way it teaches students to think creatively, expand their capacities and skills, build their social and emotional selves, and foster responsibility for others and the world. She loves that each lesson is meaningful and connects to an overall theme for the year. She also loves the outdoors and has been bringing children outside for over 18 years, seeing firsthand the joy, love, wisdom, and peace it brings to her students. When she's not teaching, Nicole likes to spend time with her family. She enjoys hiking, camping, reading, and swimming.
Dr. Rebecca Bruton
Middle School Math Teacher
Rebecca grew up in mid-Missouri and attended the University of Missouri where she earned a B.A. in mathematics education and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction. She taught high school math for four years before returning to MU. During her time at the University, Rebecca earned a Ph. D in mathematics education, taught mathematics methods courses to future teachers, worked on research focused on mathematics teacher knowledge, and supervised teaching interns. Rebecca holds a Missouri Teaching Certificate in middle school and high school mathematics.
Rebecca values problem-based and place-based learning that allows students to make connections with mathematics and offers applications to the world around them. She encourages student collaboration and discussion to help build a deeper understanding of mathematics. Rebecca is excited to join City Garden School as she believes in education that supports the individual student and meets the needs of the whole person. She hopes to foster a love of learning and nurture and develop knowledgeable stewards of our earth.
Rebecca loves spending time with her husband, Jake, and their children and pets. As a family, they enjoy traveling and experiencing nature through camping. Rebecca enjoys hiking, sewing, card games, paddle-boarding, tending to her yard, and learning about plants and birds.
4th grade teacher
Lauren has been working to change lives through education since she first began her teaching journey in 2011. She has since earned a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master of Art Education from the University of Missouri, Columbia. Before finding her City Garden home in 2019, Lauren taught many subjects and age groups in the United States, Nicaragua, and New Zealand. In her free time, Lauren delights in spending time with her family and deep, restorative immersion in the beauty of nature. She is also a passionate creator of medicine, music, and visual art.
Lauren is a dedicated advocate and facilitator of development for the whole child. Her primary goal is to educate children for the future of our Earth through the meaningful strengthening of intellect, discernment, willpower, and the wisdom of the heart. Through City Garden’s holistic educational philosophy, Lauren seeks to equip our children to bring about a more perfect world.
3rd grade teacher
Emily has always felt a call to care for others through teaching, and the holistic and integrated approach of Waldorf education piqued her interest several years ago. She holds a degree in Early Childhood Education from Rasmussen College and has been an educator for more than a decade. Emily has nurtured and taught children from infancy through high school in various settings before finding her way to City Garden in 2020. Emily led the school’s forest-based afterschool program at Camp Takimina and the summer camp program at Rock Bridge State Park. She is delighted to now fulfill her role as class teacher.
Emily strives to create a loving and nurturing environment for all students, encouraging the children in her care to use their intuition and individual talents to better the world. Having grown up exploring the woods and creek beds of mid-Missouri, Emily has a deep love and respect for the beautiful land where we hold our outdoor school. When she is not teaching, you can find Emily hiking and foraging in the woods, working in her garden, and spending time with her partner and their bunnies.
1st/2nd grade teacher
Drawn to the beauty, simplicity, and interconnectedness of Waldorf education, Neeley Current was City Garden School’s first Board President. Working with teachers, the board, and parents she was instrumental in transforming the vision of City Garden School into a fully operational organization. Now, as a grade teacher, she has been able to pursue her love of teaching by directly serving the children at the school.
Neeley earned a B.A. in German and Anthropology and a Master’s in Information Science and Learning Technologies from the University of Missouri. She worked for a decade at the University of Missouri College of Education, where she helped run a user-centered design lab and an educational research center. Prior to that, she was a librarian at Stephens College where she also studied dance, music, and film. She continues to learn dance & movement education from Nancy Stoy and most recently she studied storytelling from Dr. Eric Miller at the World Storytelling Institute.
Neeley loves dancing and restful time at home with her family.
Head Kindergarten Teacher
Molli is a skilled educator with almost a decade of experience as a public school teacher in Missouri and a drive to bring her talents to City Garden School’s kindergarten program! She has four years of experience in early childhood education, and as an educator, she strives to support her learners in developing a sense of community, independence, and empathy.
She loves being a part of the City Garden School Community because it allows her to marry her passion for education with her love for nature, animals, and the environment. She is looking forward to helping the kindergarten program grow and flourish!
Assistant Kindergarten Teacher
Ms. Frank has always been very fond of the outdoors. She started her time with City Garden as a summer camp teacher in 2021. While walking through the woods and playing in the creeks at Rock Bridge State Park, she knew that City Garden was the perfect fit.
Ms. Frank has a bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri, School of Natural Resources, with an emphasis on Natural Resource Management. She has worked as an Outreach and Education Coordinator at Prairie Fork Conservation Area, where she spent many sunny days teaching children about different aspects of the environment. She very much enjoys working with children and seeing the wonder of nature through their eyes. She has spent much of her career teaching and spending time with children of all ages.
Ms. Frank enjoys hiking, gardening, reading, and knitting. She loves to be outside with her two children, Olive and Ezra, and her husband Indi. They enjoy traveling and finding fun adventures together.
Student Support & Friday Games Teacher
Katy Shaffer began her work with City Garden School in December of 2021 stepping into the role of Interim Director.
Katy graduated from Columbia College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Minor in Elementary Education. She is a certified 1st through 6th grade teacher with Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She taught 5th grade at a private school in Columbia for 3 years before having her two babies. After becoming a mother, Katy began exploring alternative education opportunities. She started working at, a Peace in Nature Education preschool (Little PINE). Through the outdoor education experience, she was witness to its incredible effect on children. She is passionate about the success and scope of City Garden School and supporting the students and staff for years to come. Educating the whole child with a nature-based approach, an emphasis on the arts, nourishing relationships and self-regulation, and access to play is what Katy wishes for her children and yours. She is grateful to have found City Garden School when she did!
Outside of school, Katy enjoys spending time with her two young children and her husband, Josh. She enjoys reading with her kids, doing chalkboard art, and staying in touch with Mother Nature and the Moon.
Monica Everett Frayne
Monica Everett began her journey at City Garden in 2019 as a Summer Camp teacher, where she spent many June days romping through Rockbridge State Park, skipping rocks with our adventurous crew of children. She went on to become a classroom teacher and is now the handwork teacher. Her passion for outdoor education stems from early childhood, which she spent roaming the forests and creeks of Indiana.
Monica has a degree in Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Missouri. She went on to study and later teach at The School of Forest Medicine, a forest-based herbalism school in Oregon. While traveling through North, Central, and South America she found herself immersed in nature communion, whether it was through organic and permaculture farming, wild harvesting herbs, teaching preschool, or supporting a summer camp at an off-grid education farm. Monica also has a background in dance and music and is a homebirth Midwife.
Monica is grateful to have found a home in Missouri and at City Garden. She loves exploring the world through the lens of wonder and beauty with the children. In her free time she is often studying, gardening, hiking, and making music or nature-based art.
Dr. Suzan Schuetz
Raised with the forests, rocks & rivers of southern Missouri, Suzan has long valued the benefits of involvement with the natural world and outdoor play. Having five sisters enriched her understanding of connection, as well as the need for personal space in the solitude of trees. Having parents who loved and lived cycles of the earth developed in her a bond to natural, native ways.
She earned her BS in psychological sciences from Columbia College and her Master’s and Doctoral degrees at the University of Oklahoma in Community Counseling & Counseling Psychology, respectively. Leading outdoor adventure therapy groups ignited a passion for facilitating group cohesion & personal growth through natural challenges. Suzan has taught and counseled people for 20+ years and is highly driven to share the outdoor world with others.
Joining City Garden School in 2021, Suzan found a magical matchup of her whole-person approach to learning, her belief in the natural world as a guide, and her emphasis on nurturing body, soul, and spirit with those same principles held by CGS. She is awed by children’s creativity and wonder and cultivates these through play.
Suzan can be found in & around compost piles, worm bins, or soap batches when not at CGS. She might also be in the wilderness on a camping/ hiking/tree climbing adventure, probably with her son, Elijah. Otherwise, she is taking nature photos, gardening, experiencing live music at a local venue, riding her motorcycle, or curling up with a book.
Pamela Martinez Aranda is originally from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Comparative Literature and Spanish from San Francisco State University. Having been involved in the teaching of bilingual education for almost 15 years, she has taught Spanish at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in Georgia and the American School of Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco, Mexico.
Additionally, she has taught English as a Foreign Language to elementary school students, college students, and migrant communities in California and Mexico. She has taught and tutored Spanish at San Francisco State University, MiraCosta College, and PS826 Valencia in California.
Pamela speaks Spanish, English, and French, and believes in the value of a multilingual and multicultural education for students' holistic development. She creates immersive language lessons to teach foreign languages in an interactive and fun way that enriches students' academics and daily lives.
Through City Garden’s Waldorf educational philosophy, she seeks to enrich students' souls, with a deeper affection for Spanish-speaking cultures and a better understanding of our world.
Mr. Frayne has worked with wood in one form or another for as long as he can remember: wooden spool tractors, rubber band and clothespin pea-flingers, walnut shell creatures and marble mazes led up to scrapwood go-carts, refinishing furniture, and building tree houses.
He learned a lot about tools and wood by watching and helping his Dad and Mr. Binnette, a Quebeqois master carpenter, build an addition on the family house — a project that stretched through almost all his years in grade school. Since then, Mr. Frayne has sharpened, refurbished, and up-cycled antique hand tools, remodeled three houses, and fashioned musical instruments, bookshelves, boxes, wooden spoons, jewelry, and knitting needles.
While he appreciates the value of a good electric drill driver for some jobs, most of the time, he prefers to use only his hands and old-fashioned non-electric hand tools. Learning to work with these noble tree and plant fibers in this most intimate and direct way means learning to listen and respond to what they have to teach us. This is a lifetime journey with many rewards. Mr. Frayne hopes to inspire in students an appreciation for their beauty and value, and to pass on some of the respect and gratitude he feels for these immeasurable gifts from the plant world!
From Katy Shaffer ~
My first day in the woods with City Garden students was a magical experience. I saw teachers laughing and playing with their students under a wintergreen canopy. I saw sticks become wands, and children carefully gathered around a campfire. I saw mesmerizing chalkboard art and special forest treasures collected by the teachers and students. I saw a student-made (and manned) rock quarry. Besides what I was seeing, I could feel the vibrant energy of the children from the tips of the trees through the breeze and smoke and around the hiking paths.
That day, I was awakened to just how powerful a compassionate, Waldorf-inspired, outdoor school is for children. I was a witness to nature immersion education and believe deeply that every child should get to experience learning this way. City Garden has figured out that by approaching education in this manner, we are cultivating a holistic experience for our future generation. The founders of CGS are still deeply involved in the mission of the school, serving as teachers and parents. Great effort, and donations of money and time, have been poured into the school by our staff, Board of Directors, family, and friends. The City Garden School community has been intentionally fostered and tended to grow in a responsible, compassionate, and generous manner. I am especially grateful to be with City Garden on the cusp of a very exciting and transformative time.
History of City Garden School
City Garden School is a 501c3 nonprofit independent school in Columbia, MO. City Garden School was incorporated first as an LLC by Nicole Knapp-Weber in June of 2013 and then as a non-profit organization, receiving 501c3 status in September 2014. We were founded by a small group of parents who wanted a school inspired by Waldorf education for their elementary students. When we first began, we had 12 students spanning grades 1-3 and one teacher who also acted as the Director. We had a small Board of Directors that met once a month and did much of the admin work as well. We rented two rooms in Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Columbia and we visited Peace Park for recess. Every Friday, parent drivers would help bring our students to a nature area in the county. We visited Three Creeks Conservation Area, Rockbridge State Park, Pinnacles, and local city parks as well. This Outdoor Friday program continued for many years. In our second year, we added a teacher and grade 4. We then had two classrooms, a combined 1st and 2nd grade and a combined 3rd and 4th grade, and around 15 to 16 students. We partnered with the University of Missouri’s Confucius Institute to bring a Mandarin teacher to City Garden for that year.
Since Waldorf education typically teaches foreign languages to their students, we continued to look for a language teacher. We had a German teacher and then a Spanish teacher. Eventually, we had a Spanish and German teacher and the German teacher also took on some teaching for the addition of a 5th grade. Still, our student body was under 20 students. In the next few years, City Garden remained steady at this rate. We added a homeschooling program for students to visit our classes 2-3 times a week, and many homeschooling families joined us. We also added a part-time Director who was not one of the class teachers.
With the onset of Covid 19, we met the education crisis with outdoor education. It was in the 2020-2021 school year that we first rented Camp Takimina from August to November and March to May, returning to our location at Calvary Episcopal Church in the deepest winter months. We saw a rapid increase in our student body, almost doubling to around 35-40 students. We also added a Middle School Enrichment Program outdoors on Wednesday and Friday mornings and filled this program with 20 students. We had three classrooms for 1st through 5th grade, an Aftercare program and teacher, a part-time Spanish teacher, and a part-time Director and Administrative Assistant. We stopped going on Outdoor Fridays because we were outdoors all week! We enjoyed the outdoors and saw how wonderful it was for our students, so we decided to keep the focus. However, we moved our indoor location to Karis Church, which afforded us a larger indoor location. In the 2021-2022 school year we added a fourth classroom.
In the 2022-2023 school year we are adding a kindergarten and a 6th grade, with the goal of becoming a K-8 by the 2024 - 2025 school year. The plan is to add an additional grade each of the next two school years. We have added a reading specialist, middle school math teacher, kindergarten teacher, and assistant kindergarten teacher. We will add woodworking in the spring as a compliment to the handwork classes that we already teach. Our school continues to grow and we are excited that nearly every class is filled to capacity for this school year.