“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”                      –Parker Palmer


Paul Freedman, Head of School, Intermediate grades teacher 

Paul is the lead teacher in the intermediate grades and Salmonberry’s Head of School.  He has taught at Salmonberry since its inception. He is the parent of two young adult children, Quinn and Emma.  Paul started his teaching career 25 years ago in public elementary schools in California and Oregon.  He began his journey towards holistic education after moving to Orcas Island in 2001.  Paul is a nationally recognized advocate and passionate proponent of educational alternatives.  He is a widely published author in the field of education and has served as a contributing editor of Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, the country’s leading holistic education peer-review scholarly journal. He is a well-respected speaker and has delivered dozens of talks and workshops at conferences internationally.  He currently serves as President of the SelfDesign Graduate Institute and is a founding co-Director of The Holistic Education Initiative.


Linda Henning, Primary grades teacher 

Linda is the lead teacher in the elementary program’s primary grades classroom. Linda has many years experience teaching preschool and primary grades in progressive schools in the Skagit/Snohomish area.  She was a founding teacher at both Summit Academy and the Stillwater School as well as a lead teacher at the Burlington little School.   She writes, “Teaching to the whole child takes a commitment each day to discover the many ways to meet the unique needs of each child. Teaching to the whole child requires stepping outside of the box and embracing the unconventional to find ways in which a child can shine and be the best he/she can be and to achieve all that is possible.


Paul Brahce, Multi-age Kindergarten teacher Kindergarten@salmonberryschool.org

Paul’s interest in education started in high school when he was part of a student/teacher study group that developed and launched an alternative high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This experience convinced Paul of the value of holistic, student-driven education and inspired him to become a teacher. He spent sixteen years teaching early childhood and primary level before moving into administration for several years. Two years ago, Paul returned to the classroom in a Reggio Emilia inspired school in Madison, Wisconsin. He is looking forward to teaching his favorite age in the kindergarten classroom at Salmonberry. Paul has two daughters living in Washington State, one on Orcas Island. He is an avid naturalist, always eager for a walk in the woods to learn about something new.  Other interests include folk music, writing, and Scandinavian mid-century design.


Kari Van Gelder, Intermediate grades teacher

 Kari has been deeply involved at Salmonberry since enrolling her daughter here in 2010. She officially joined the Salmonberry staff in the fall of 2015. She comes to teaching via a path less travelled, with a wealth of prior experience found through tutoring, homeschooling, classroom volunteering, independent study and keen observation. She is delighted to teach the intermediate grades class with Paul Freedman. In addition to sharing language arts and math with Paul, Kari carries both the science and art programs. Kari radiates a deep love for children and calls upon her own capacity for connection to draw the children towards their own self-discovery in academics, community and citizenship. 


Shannon Kezar, Kindergarten assistant teacher

Shannon grew up in the Texas hill country where she co-ran the local recreation department’s summer programming throughout high school and college and assisted with childcare for ages 3-6. After a stint of traveling, she enrolled at the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine in 2015 in Cedar Creek, Texas. Inspired by the plants of the Pacific Northwest, she moved to the island in 2016, interning at the Bullock’s Permaculture Homestead for the 2017 season. Shannon is passionate about outdoor education, sustainable agriculture and continuing to study the native flora and fauna that make this part of the country so vibrant. She is thrilled to be a part of the Salmonberry Kinder team- the children’s sense of wonder, enthusiasm and creativity are a constant inspiration.



Dani Dyer, Primary grades assistant teacher

After moving to Orcas Island by her sailboat Panacea in 2016, Dani joined the Salmonberry team. She earned a B.A in Sociology, minoring in Spanish, and later earned a Masters in Acupuncture. She founded Heal~Flow Acupuncture here on island and loves helping people heal. She has worked with children for most of her life as a tutor, outdoor school counselor, youth advocate, puppeteer for Kids on the Block and as “nanny Dani.” She loves to share qigong, juggling, reading and flow arts with the kids. She loves being part of this beautiful school and the work it is doing to make change in the world one kid at a time.


Colleen Stewart, Kindergarten Art teacher

Colleen found her way to Salmonberry in 2017 through teaching summer camp and returned in the school year as Kindergarten art specialist. She also explores art with elementary and middle school classes through Art for Orcas Kids and with a mixed-age homeschool class. Colleen keeps the garden for Farm to Classroom in the public school and is on the board of San Juan County Arts Council. Inspired by the patient wild art forms seen in nature, she hopes to allow students (and herself) to find authentic forms of expression and connection, to create culture, to know everyone as an artist, and to embrace art as lifelong nourishment.


Laura Black, Elementary Spanish teacher, Programs Administrator

Laura joined the Salmonberry staff in 2013 as a classroom assistant for the intermediate grades as well as the school’s Spanish Language Teacher.  Motherhood has prompted a shift in roles.  She continues to serve as our beloved Spanish teacher and now also acts as Program Administrator for the school, helping with student enrollment and accounts, among other critical tasks.  With a Master’s in Library Science, Laura previously worked as a middle school librarian in New Mexico where she was a certificated teacher and school librarian for almost a decade.


Tom Rawson, Elementary Music teacher

Tom was Salmonberry’s Primary Grades Teacher for two years before “retiring” into his current role as Salmonberry’s Music Teacher.  Tom brings more than twenty years of lead teaching experience at the primary grades in both alternative Seattle public schools as well as the progressive independent Little School in Belleveue, WA, where he also created a ukulele-based school-wide music program.  Tom is a master folk singer, song writer, recording artist and storyteller.  He continues to travel the world sharing his humor as well as his musicianship.