Early Childhood Faculty

Patricia Cornelius, Lead Kindergarten Teacher

Patricia is an experienced Waldorf early childhood teacher and school administrator with 20+ years of experience. She began her career in 1998 as an assistant kindergarten teacher at The Waldorf School of Philadelphia (WSP). In September 2003, she was hired as a lead teacher in a mixed-age early childhood program at WSP where she worked until January 2021. In addition to working in the kindergarten, Patricia held an administrative position at WSP as Faculty Chair from 2016-2020. She loves being with and supporting young children, especially through the Waldorf early childhood curriculum. She is the mother of six and now resides in Fairfield.

In addition to being a kindergarten teacher, Patricia is a certified yoga teacher who has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1992. In her personal time she enjoys reading, walking, cooking, gardening, handwork, yoga and meditation.

Erin Levi, Lead Early Childhood Teacher

Erin is brand new to Singing Cedars this year, but brings with her many years of caregiving experience. Growing up in Fairfield, she spent her school years babysitting and nannying for many families. While attending Maharishi International University, she continued caring for both young and elderly community members in her spare time. After graduating with a BA in Literature she moved to Chicago, and for nearly a decade she nannied for two incredible children who she is still close with to this day. She then became a certified Transcendental Meditation teacher, and taught TM at a high school in Chicago for two years with the David Lynch Foundation. Upon moving back to Fairfield in 2019 Erin taught 9-12th grade girls Consciousness, Connections, and Life Skills at Maharishi School, and was high school student council liaison, and co-activities director. From July 2020-July 2023, she ran Erin's Place; a small-group, in-home childcare. Aside from her passion for caregiving, Erin enjoys tennis, live music, comedy, camping and road trips. Her seven nieces and nephews all attended Waldorf schools for some time, and she has been keen to learn more about the rich traditions and nurturing rhythms of Waldorf education, and is thrilled to join Singing Cedars as Lead Teacher in the Lavender Class!

Virginia Van Auken, Early Childhood Assistant Teacher

Growing up, Virginia attended Maharishi School, and spent her time riding, caring for, and learning with her young horse, Mocha. Her love for helping people and animals in meaningful ways, being active outdoors in all weather, and simple fun runs deep. 

Virginia brings a well-versed background working with children as a licensed Speech Therapist for the past 13 years in local and surrounding school districts and in her own private practice. She holds an M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Northern Iowa, and a B.A. in Art and Psychology from Earlham College in Indiana.

Although not wearing the speech therapist hat now as much as before, with all three of her children attending Singing Cedars, Virginia also wanted to be at the school using her knowledge, skills, and creativity in both familiar and new ways to help support children in the new Early Childhood class!

In her personal time, Virginia especially enjoys outdoor physical activities such as gravel biking, running, nature walks near water, and Crossfit. She loves seasonal crafts and handmade decoration, small DIY and organizational projects, tracking “quotable quotes" from overheard dialogue (especially funny ones), word games, nature art, food art, music, photo and video documentation of life's simple joys and adventures, and writing.

Michelle Svenson, Early Childhood Assistant Teacher

Michelle moved to Fairfield from Austin, Texas to be near family.  She attended Maharishi International University, where she studied Elementary Education and Literature/Writing. After a brief stint in public school, she decided to immerse herself in Early Childhood work instead. She taught and directed Montessori programs for 8 years, working primarily with children from ages 1-6. During this time she became certified in Positive Discipline, which focuses deeply on developing each child’s unique sense of belonging and significance. 

In the fall of ‘23, she was delighted to join Singing Cedars along with her two children, Sol and Gaia. The strong sense of community, along with the beauty of Waldorf and Simplicity Parenting drew her in, and she is very happy to be growing in her understanding of Early Childhood through this new lens.

Grades  Program Faculty

Erin Adams, Grades 1 & 2 Teacher

Erin grew up in the town of Fairfield where her love for nature and art, including camping, hiking, swimming, watercolor, drawing, and crafting were strongly supported. After graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in elementary school education, she became a public school educator teaching art. Throughout the next 10 years Erin taught other areas of elementary education, including 4th and 5th grade and supporting fellow teachers with curriculum and instruction. As her own child grew closer to school age, Erin began exploring more holistic approaches to education. In her own words, she shares, “My family loves and values imagination, nature, and the arts and I wanted to be able to incorporate this into my daughter’s schooling and my own teaching. When I found Singing Cedars I knew that this was exactly the community I had been searching for.”

Madeline Starling, Grades 1 & 2 Assistant Teacher

Madeline fell in love with the atmosphere of Singing Cedars and its Waldorf philosophy six years ago, while her eldest daughter was enrolled; she's now thrilled to be in her second year, continuing to work under Erin Adams.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Madeline was fascinated by music and movement, studying voice, flute and piano, gymnastics and spending many enjoyable hours hiking, climbing and fishing in the outdoors.  At Rutgers University she was originally enrolled in a BS in Environmental Science, however she found herself more fascinated by linguistic, anthropological and creative courses.  After two years, she took a break from her university studies to find a more balanced form of education.  Along the way, she completed online courses in natural and holisitic medicine, a 600-hour program in massage therapy, and put two years of apprentice-work at organic and biodynamic farms around the country.  At the end of this sabbatical, after writing a song on her guitar in her yurt, she asked herself what she cared most about: at the top of her list, was children and the great potential they represent.

From there, Madeline finished her BA in Elementary Education at MIU.  Here in Fairfield she met her husband Chad and gave birth to their four beautiful children.  She has previous experience working with children in group movement classes, private music lessons, daycares and school after cares, teaching English online, working as a one-on-one paraprofessional in an elementary school, and teaching 3rd grade.

Martha Mullenneaux Sperry, Grades 3 & 4 Teacher

Martha is in her third year at Singing Cedars and is currently teaching the 3rd/4th Grades combination class.

With a background in art education, child development and wellness, her teaching experiences began many moons ago. In New York she taught in a private art school, a Montessori School and an outdoor summer camp, and upon moving to Fairfield began private classes in her home. Upon moving to Oregon her passion for teaching a nature-based program was fulfilled at a charter school on 40 acres. Having returned to the midwest, Martha is expressing her love of children by teaching at a school she would have been thrilled to attend. "It is very inspiring to give the children a beautiful balance of subjects in such a nurturing environment."

Administrative Staff

Jill Weber, School Administrator & Early Childhood Director

Jill completed her Waldorf teacher training in the Pacific Northwest, and proceeded to work in outdoor-based Waldorf early childhood programs for the following 10 years. As an outdoor educator, she has enjoyed living closely with the cycles of nature, both in western Oregon and in southeast Iowa, and seeing the changes that each season brings through the eyes of young children. 

As Early Childhood Director since 2019, Jill has worked to establish and maintain the school’s mixed-age kindergarten as a state-licensed child care center, a designation which allows many families to receive need-based scholarships each year. Most recently, she fills the role of School Administrator, and is pleased to be supporting the school community from a new vantage point, whilst hearing the joyful voices of children at play! She works closely with teaching staff, the board of directors, and the parent body, in service of providing a rich Waldorf-inspired education to the Fairfield community.