FOREST FRIENDS TEACHER BIOS
Kelly McMenimen - Lead teacher / Director
Kelly McMenimen is a naturalist and a poet, a singer and an activist, but most of all she is a gifted educator and facilitator of connection and development. Her love of both nature and human culture has led her on a beautiful and circuitous journey through life. She is deeply tuned in to the natural world, having spent much of her childhood roaming and climbing trees in the San Juan national forest of Colorado, with her brother, her trusty dog and sometimes even her most adventurous cat! In her college years she was a camp counselor and a raft guide in the summers. She has always renewed herself by going into the woods, the mountains, the ocean, or a river. At the same time, she has ascended to the peaks of human culture and seen beautiful views from there as well: She has performed in acclaimed theatre productions, written and edited for an award-winning regional magazine, and performed as a jazz singer with highly-talented musicians in Brazil and the Bay area. Her lifelong interest in human consciousness and cultural healing led her on a journey that included a year at Esalen Institute and several years in graduate school at CIIS, where she earned a master’s degree in Comparative Philosophy and Religion.
All along the way, she has worked and developed as a teacher. First she spent years teaching English to adults from around the world. Then while she was in graduate school she taught in Marin public schools. After having a child, she dedicated herself soley to mothering for several years. She views her role as a mother as her most important job, and she is incredibly proud of her amazing 10-year-old son. But as he grew older, life asked her to share her gifts with the larger world again. Her natural teaching talent was recognized when she was helping in her son’s pre-school and there she was mentored as a Waldorf early childhood teacher by master teacher Lesley Grant. Kelly was then left in charge of the pre-school while the Ms. Grant took a sabbatical. This experience expanded her teaching skills, as well as her understanding of child development and the role of the teacher in early childhood. She subsequently spent several years assisting in Waldorf classrooms at various grade levels, including kindergarten. She is currently in a Waldorf Teacher Training program, studying Rudolf Steiner’s insights into how to facilitate human development at all stages in a truly balanced and balancing way.
Meanwhile, she saw the two threads of her love for the world--nature and culture--meeting in a beautiful way in the world of permaculture. So she embarked on a study of permaculture design at Regenerative Design Institute and eventually started teaching permaculture to adults in the summers. Since then, she integrates permaculture principles and awareness into all of her teaching. She also had the opportunity to spend a year immersed in Jon Young’s Regenerative Design and Nature Awareness program, where she fully realized the immediate value of her personal connection to the natural world. She came to understand that she has a real gift for creating experiences that help others come home to their natural connection to and love for Mother Earth. So she started offering her own nature connection programs for children in 2011.
Looking to expand her community of like-minded colleagues, she happily came to work at Vilda in 2015, where she became the lead teacher and director of the early childhood nature connection programs. She is constantly blown away by the power and magic of teaching in collaboration with the natural world. She has come to believe that there is no better classroom for early childhood than an enchanting forest glade where a wide diversity of species can participate in every aspect of the educational experience. She has been living with the inspiration for a full-fledged outdoor kindergarten where children are enriched by culture and nature at the same time, and is overjoyed to now midwife it into being.
Kelly is grateful for all the amazing teachers she has been mentored by in her life, including Joanna Macy, Brian Swimme, Charlene Spretnak, Jean Houston, Penny Livingston, Jon Young and more. She is especially grateful for the opportunities she has had to learn from several indigenous elders and she considers these deeply-rooted wisdom keepers to be some of her most important teachers, along with the forest itself.
RUBY PINYUH-DEROVAN - Teacher
Ruby grew up exploring the hills and coastline of California, spending every spare moment outside; looking under rocks, tangled in tree branches, and jumping in creeks. She attended twelve years of Waldorf-inspired school, where art, music, nature and genuine human connection were deeply valued. At age fifteen, Ruby found herself co-leading a nature-based girl’s group in Fairfax, and working with the homeless community. Inspired by working with young people in the out-doors and connecting with people through music and art, Ruby graduated high-school early and began a Waldorf Teacher Training. Since then, Ruby has worked as an outdoor educator, a Waldorf kindergarten teacher, a farmer, a shoe-maker, a muralist, and has continued to work deeply with girls and young women in nature. She is currently finishing her Waldorf Teacher Training, has completed a UC California Naturalist training course, and is a Wilderness First Responder. She continues to explore and learn from nature on a daily basis. Ruby can be found singing in trees, surfing in the ocean at dawn, playing fiddle anywhere and everywhere, and thoroughly enjoying life.