Salmonberry Faculty

“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.


Paul Brahce

Multi-age Kindergarten Teacher

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.


Suzanne Hunt

Lead Primary Grades Teacher

Suzanne has been involved in teaching for more than 20 years primarily in poor, non-English speaking settings in both urban and rural environments. Her teaching career began when she was working as a dance therapist with emotionally handicapped children
(the current label at that time). Eventually disillusioned with the conventional approach to educating kids, Suzanne soon entered the Waldorf Teacher Training center in Toronto, Canada. Suzanne is feeling very grateful to be a part of Salmonberry’s community and the holistic education community as well. In addition to teaching, Suzanne loves to dance, choreograph, take walks in the woods with her dog from Africa, and rally for a better world.

kari van gelder

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.

kari van gelder

Mandy Troxel

Music Teacher

Mandy has been singing with Orcas Island families ever since she moved to the island in 2002. She has been a part of Salmonberry School since 2006, first as a parent of two daughters attending, and later stepping in wherever needed, often with a ukulele and a song to share. For the past four years she has been the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival’s resident “Pied Piper”, which has her singing in all of Orcas’s preschools. Mandy’s focus on music and children is first and foremost about fostering a joy for the art and more broadly about exercising the roles of music in community. While working with older students, she weaves threads of music history and appreciative listening, songwriting, rhythm and ukulele, all wound around the goal of celebrating each person’s unique voice.


Laura Black

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 is now Salmonberry’s Program Administrator for the school, acting as enrollment coordinator and head of summer programs, 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.


Tiffany Loney

Dance & Movement teacher
Tiffany has 20 years of teaching experience and BFA in dance/performance arts. She has come full circle, returning to Salmonberry as our Dance teacher is 2017, years after assisting Paul when the Salmonberry school first opened its doors. The children and the school back then made a strong impression on her, but soon after she and her family sailed a small boat around the globe. Fifteen years later she is back at Salmonberry with 2 daughters of her own. Tiffany’s perspective and insights have changed and the school has become more valuable to her. She has danced, studied and shared dance and movement awareness throughout her life. Dancing has taught her to be adaptable and to celebrate the continual changes happening around and within. Three things Tiffany loves about dance: 1) It’s experiential (mind /body connection), 2) It’s energizing and grounding, and 3) It’s team building and Fun!!!

Board of Trustees

Mindy Sonshine, Board Chair
Joel Watson, Vice Chair
Paul Freedman, Ex Officio
Jen Edington, Treasurer
Mandy Troxel, Secretary
Tina Whitman, Trustee
Miramonee Harrington, Trustee
Louis Prussack, Trustee