Robin Melcher, First Grade Teacher
Robin was born and raised in the Bay Area of California, the first of two girls. Her family loved the outdoors and whenever possible they would head into the Sierra Nevada foothills to camp, swim, sail and raft. Eventually her family decided they wanted to live in a more natural setting and to find a slower pace of life. Therefore, during her freshman year of high school they moved to Southern Oregon.
Robin then moved to Eugene to attend the University of Oregon where she received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies. The artistic and spiritual nature of Waldorf Education then led her to Eugene Waldorf Teacher Training, where she developed and strengthened her relationships with the arts, with community and with the inner life of the child. In 2005 she began her journey as a teacher at the Olympia Waldorf School in Olympia, Washington with a group of starry-eyed first graders. In 2013 they graduated, a group of strong-minded eighth graders. With a desire to travel, during a six-week sabbatical, she was able to spend time traveling around Chile from high up into the Andes to the tip of Patagonia. She then took over a sixth grade class which graduated in June 2016.
Robin has roots and family in Oregon and has always felt that her heart is here, especially in Eugene. She is looking forward to her time to come in Eugene.
Jelena Jaehnig, Second Grade Teacher
Jelena was born in Stuttgart, Germany and was later joined by two younger brothers. When she was four, her family moved to Denver, Colorado where her father worked as a Christian Community priest and her mother helped found and taught at the Denver Waldorf School. Jelena attended Waldorf schools through the eighth grade, first back at the original Waldorf School in Stuttgart and later at the Denver Waldorf School. After high school she attended colleges in Denver and Bochum, Germany, receiving a bachelors and masters degree in history from UC Colorado. It has been Jelena’s intention to become a Waldorf teacher since she was in first grade.
In 1993 she moved to Eugene to teach at the Eugene Waldorf School, and taught in the high school for three years before becoming a class teacher. After taking a class from first through eighth grade, Jelena spent a sabbatical year in Mexico volunteering at a Waldorf school. She is now very happy to be back in this community teaching another class.
Nadja Kranites, Third Grade Teacher
Nadja spent her childhood years surrounded by the beautiful and lush countryside of middle and southern Germany. After discovering her love for Waldorf education, she trained at the Freie Hochschule in Stuttgart, Germany, to become a Waldorf class teacher and high school arts teacher. During her four-year education, Nadja traveled to different places around the world and developed her artistic skills by sculpting in Italy and participating in numerous art exhibitions. In 2005, Nadja came to Florida, where she taught in several pioneering Waldorf schools and started a family with her husband Tom. Tom and Nadja’s son Aiden is currently a student at EWS. In her free time, Nadja loves spending time with her family and their family dog, painting, drawing, sculpting, reading, and exploring.
Erika Finstad , Fourth Grade Teacher
Erika was raised in Gettysburg, PA, and is the younger of two daughters. She moved to Minnesota to attend college, where she completed an undergraduate degree in the arts, with a concentration in music, and a graduate degree in elementary education.
Erika’s first full-time teaching job was in South India, where she taught middle school language arts and music, and traveled to many diverse corners of the country. Erika discovered Waldorf education when she returned to the States. She began her Teacher Education in Eugene a year later and completed the training in 1995. She completed her first cycle of teaching eight grades in 2004. Besides teaching, Erika loves to travel, to explore other cultures, and hike in the mountains.
Ian Stearns, Fifth Grade Teacher
Ian was born in Camarillo, California, where he spent the early part of his childhood with his parents, an older sister, and a lovely Old English sheepdog named Sweet Rosie McDuff. When he was in second grade he moved to a town on the Merrimac River in semi-rural Missouri. He lived there, enjoying the forests in summer and the hills in winter until his family moved back to California. After high school Ian went to college at UCSB where he majored in political science.
After college Ian hopped around a bit before landing in Eugene, where he has worn many hats: culinary student, care provider, baker, cook, husband and papa. He completed the Teacher Education Program in Eugene in 2003, and spent a year tutoring at the school before starting as a grades teacher. He loves teaching and studying anthroposophy, as well as painting models, reading, and playing games with his children in his spare time. He lives with his wife Cameron, their two sons William and Paul, their 100-pound lab, Angus.
Jeannie Schwanekamp, Sixth Grade Teacher
Jeannie grew up with her two older sisters under the wide blue skies of Encampment, Wyoming. On her family’s ranch, a great love for the natural world grew in her heart. When she met her first grade teacher, she knew that she too would become a teacher. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and classical literature from the University of Minnesota, where she met her husband Max. Their daughter Oona was born in the heart of the Midwestern winter.
The Schwanekamps moved to Eugene shortly afterward, and they took to their new home like blackberry brambles on a creek bank. Within a year of the move, their son Jera was born in the heat of the Eugene summer. Jeannie completed the Teacher Education Program in 2005. She feels blessed to serve the families of Eugene.
Marina Taylor, Seventh Grade Teacher
Marina was born and raised in southern Oregon. When it came time for her to begin first grade, her parents joined a pioneering Waldorf movement. Ashland High School came next, and the University of Oregon followed. She graduated with a double major in Art History and Political Science in 1996, and graduated from the Waldorf Teacher Education, Eugene in 2005. Marina worked in the school administration and taught handwork and art classes for seven years before joining the school as a full time class teacher in 2012. She and her husband Scott enjoy camping and hiking with their grown son, an alumni of EWS, playing soccer, gardening, and playing games with friends. Working in Waldorf education gives Marina a chance to be an active learner, to stay playful, and to help students find their place in the world.
David French, Eighth Grade Teacher
David was born and raised in Kansas City, near the start of the Oregon Trail. He studied psychology and French, and worked as a counselor and statistical consultant—but primarily taught college courses (at UO and Northern Arizona University). He earned his Waldorf teaching credentials in 2005. David married Caitlin Wallace during autumn in the Appalachians, and they have joyfully welcomed two daughters, Lia Grace and Ellen, to their family. David taught at the Charlottesville Waldorf School in Virginia before returning to Eugene. He spends lots of time singing, gardening and backpacking.