Meet Our Training Team

Ashley d'Ambrosi Masters

Ashley d'Ambrosi Masters.jpgAshley's life has revolved around working with children and their families.  After growing up in her mother's home care program, she obtained a degree in Art Education and taught in public schools.  During this time, she felt a strong pull towards early childhood education.  She went on to become a preschool teacher, Director of a large childcare center, student of Anthroposophy and Board member for two Waldorf school initiatives (in CO and NC).  Ashley worked at the Santa Fe Waldorf School, was the lead Waldorf early childhood teacher at Azalea Mountain School, led parent-tot classes and operated a home-based LifeWays summer playgroup.  Now homeschooling her two sons, Ashley continues to incorporate her LifeWays work into their daily lives.  She is thrilled to help bring the LifeWays training to western NC, a dream since she completed her training in 2010.  Ashley also enjoys traveling, gardening, hiking, handwork, and shooting slingshots with her husband and boys. In addition to serving on the Board, Ashley works as Student Services Director of the LifeWays Trainings in Asheville, North Carolina.

Cynthia Aldinger, Executive Director

Cynthia-grandkids-cropped.jpgCynthia founded LifeWays North America in 2001.  Author of the book Life is the Curriculum and co-author of the book Home Away From Home: LifeWays Care of Children and Families, Cynthia has lectured and presented internationally and is pedagogical director for trainings and seminars across the United States.  She served fourteen years on the board of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America.  A former Waldorf Kindergarten teacher, Cynthia received her Waldorf teaching certificate at Emerson College in Sussex, England.  A mother and grandmother, Cynthia’s passion is the preservation of the playful spirit of childhood and helping to create home-like environments that provide the comfort, security and activities found in a healthy home.

Marianne Alsop

marianne.jpgMarianne is the Director of the California Coast LifeWays Early Childhood Training. She has been involved in Waldorf education for over 40 years as a mother, early childhood teacher and facilitator of Waldorf parenting groups. She holds a B.A. in English and attended Emerson College in England, a center for Waldorf teacher training.  Much of Marianne’s focus and interest has been on all things early childhood. She was a co-founder of The Ark (Fair Oaks, CA) in 1977, one of the first Waldorf toy stores in North America. The growing interest in Waldorf education in this country led her to become the first Managing Editor of Renewal, A Journal for Waldorf Education. For 15 years Marianne developed and led parent support groups in the Sacramento, CA area and for 8 years she taught in the San Francisco Waldorf School Parenting program. She is also the Administrator of the Online Waldorf Library , a website for Waldorf educational resources.  She and her husband, Dave, have two Waldorf educated adult children and three adorable grandchildren.

Mary O'Connell, President

When her own children were young, Mary had a LifeWays home program with such a long waiting list that she decided a LifeWays center was necessary.  In 2002, she opened LifeWays Early Childhood Center in Milwaukee where she served as director for 13 years.

Mary has a business degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a student in the very first LifeWays training. She is a lead teacher and Training Coordinator for LifeWays North America and serves as Board President, and in 2010 co-authored Home Away From Home: LifeWays Care of Children and Families with Cynthia Aldinger.

Mary’s favorite thing about LifeWays is seeing both children and their caregivers thrive in a home-like environment that truly values and respects them.

Barbara Jimenez, Student Services, Miami

Barbara and her husband live in Miami with their two lively children, a 12-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter. After earning her Bachelors in Elementary Education and Masters in Reading Education, she began her career as a school teacher in the public-school setting and taught Kindergarten and First grade for eight years. She then became a stay-at-home mom for six years. In 2009, she founded a home-based early childhood program with a focus on nature, play, & social emotional development for the whole child. In May of 2017 she decided to close the program to pursue working with parents to help guide them to live and parent more consciously. When Barbara discovered LifeWays she resonated with the philosophy it teaches and recognized what a wonderful resource it is to support parents and caregivers on their journey. She looks forward to working with the program and learning more.

Barbara Nardone, Student Services Connecticut

Barbara met Waldorf education almost 40 years ago and became the Kindergarten teacher at Meadowbrook Waldorf School in RI. Barbara has her BA in Child Study, a RI Early Childhood teaching certificate, has completed Foundation Studies and Level 1 Birth to Three training at Sophia’s Hearth. She is a preschool caregiver and early childhood education coordinator at Bloom Childcare in RI. Barbara first became interested in LifeWays about 20 years ago when she heard Cynthia speak at a WECAN conference. Life as the curriculum and learning through authentic, everyday experiences resonates strongly with her and is integral to her work with children. She enjoys her grandchildren, her kitties and walking on the beach. She also enjoys natural dyeing, making marionettes, telling stories and creating community festivals.

Bridget Scherer Schneider, Lead Teacher

Bridget received a PK-3 degree from the University of Wisconsin, which in turn led to many positions in mainstream daycares and schools, and ultimately seven years as an elementary teacher in Milwaukee. After the birth of her first child, she felt renewed energy for teaching when she became exposed to Waldorf Education. She dove in to the Great Lakes Waldorf teacher training program, did in-home childcare, found LifeWays and completed that training in 2011. She then became a kindergarten assistant at Prairie Hill Waldorf School, completed the Simplicity Parenting group leader training, and founded Mothering Arts Milwaukee mother-infant groups. The notion of “Life is the Curriculum” has become so completely woven into the everyday fabric of her life as a homemaking, homebirthing, homesteading, and homeschooling parent that she has been heard to say that the LifeWays training was the single most transformative experience of her life. She served as Student Services Director for the 2015-16 Wisconsin training and began taking on more roles as a teacher in the trainings both in Wisconsin and Alaska. She lives on a small homestead with her husband Michael, where they strive together to live simply, raise some animals, run a business, homeschool, and co-parent their five mutual children ranging in ages from 5 to 23.

Chinyelu Kunz, Student Services, Pennsylvania

Chinyelu has been teaching in the Parent-Child and Pre-School program at Kimberton Waldorf School since 2005 and is lead teacher at Kimberton’s Rosebud Garden, a LifeWays Representative Program. She has been involved in Waldorf education for nearly 22 years as a mother and early childhood teacher.  Chinyelu holds a BA in Interior Design and a Master's in Architecture as well as having completed the Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Training at Sunbridge Institute in Spring Valley, New York, and the LifeWays Early Childhood and Human Development Training.

Chinyelu works with LifeWays North America to develop healthy early childhood programs at Kimberton Waldorf School, as well as training programs for caregivers, parents, and parent educators.  She is very excited to help bring LifeWays training to Kimberton Waldorf School.  She is the proud mother of two Waldorf graduates and a 10th grade daughter who attends high school at Kimberton.

Dorothy Kulke, Student Services Director, Wisconsin

Dorothy has a BFA in Dance from UW Milwaukee, a MA in Education from Mount Mary College and has certificates to teach dance (K-12), regular education (1-8), Waldorf Education (1-8) and, most recently, completed the LifeWays training in 2016. Dorothy taught at Urban Waldorf as both a dance teacher and a class teacher for 5 years and in a traditional school for 5 years. She realized very quickly that the child’s education truly begins at birth and fell in love with the gentle and natural methods that LifeWays provided. Currently running a small in-home program, Seedlings to Sprouts, in Bay View/Milwaukee Dorothy cares for 5 children (2 of which are her own).

Eileen Katherine Foley, Student Services, New England

Eileen writes and publishes Waldorf-inspired childhood curriculum and courses through her blog and website, Little Acorn Learning. For over 15 years, Eileen has applied her love of nature-based learning and mindful caregiving, drawing from her experience as a mother, as owner and teacher of her prior home childcare program and as her role as Kindergarten Teacher at Housatonic Valley Waldorf School in Connecticut. In her spare time, Eileen enjoys backyard gardening, cooking, crochet, homesteading and spending time outdoors with her four daughters, pets and loved ones. She is sharing the role of Student Services Director for the New England LifeWays training, helping students through the registration process.

Faith Collins, Lead Teacher

With over a dozen years of working with children, Faith Collins has been an early childhood teacher, co-director of the Rainbow Bridge LifeWays Program, and taught adult classes for parents and daycare providers in the US, England and online. In 2013 she was a keynote speaker at the first LifeWays conference, "Creating a Joyful Life with Children."  She founded her organization, Joyful Toddlers, in 2010 and since then over 200 people have taken her popular six-week tele-class, Joyful Days with Toddlers & Preschoolers.

Faith received an MA with Distinction in Early Childhood Studies from Roehampton University, doing original research for her dissertation on toddlers’ involvement in adults’ household tasks.  She lives in Denver with her husband and daughter.  You can learn more about her work at

Kerry Francis, Student Services Director, Colorado

Kerry Francis was a teacher of young children in a variety of settings, including a Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool and a shelter for street children in Tanzania before she discovered Waldorf schools. She currently teaches the toddler class at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten. She completed the Lifeways training in 2016 and is currently finishing up her Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher training through Sound Circle Center. Kerry’s background is in psychology; she received her master’s degree from Naropa University for Transpersonal Counseling Psychology. She had a private psychotherapy practice before focusing more on caring for young children as well as opening a doula practice. Kerry has a keen interest for anything related to pregnancy, birth, and first three years of life. She has taken post-graduate trainings on attachment, embryology, child development, and early childhood education. She is currently an editor for the professional journal of the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health as well as for the yearly publication of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America.  In her spare time, Kerry helps to run a small biodynamic farm with her husband.

Laura Alvarado-Coady, Student Services, Arizona

Laura has been an early childhood and special education teacher in Arizona for 28 years. She has worked extensively in both traditional public schools and with Valley of the Sun Waldorf Education Association (d.b.a. Desert Marigold School) since it became a Charter School in 2002. Six of Laura’s children are attending or have graduated from Desert Marigold School, where Laura is currently an Educational Director, overseeing special education, early childhood programming and licensed programming. She holds numerous degrees, certifications and awards, including Waldorf Remedial Teacher Certification. Laura is delighted to be working with applicants as the LifeWays Student Services Director to bring the LifeWays Training to Phoenix.

Laura Cassidy, Lead Teacher

LauraCassidy.jpgLaura Cassidy taught in the Early Childhood Department of Prairie Hill Waldorf School in Pewaukee, WI, for 22 years, 8 of those as a lead kindergarten teacher. She founded the school's "WonderGarden" preschool and taught in the parent-child playgroup, assisted in grade one, and continues to teach calligraphy to sixth graders. She is a core faculty member of the Great Lakes Waldorf Institute for teacher training.

Laura has a B.A. in English, graduated from the very first LifeWays training with Cynthia Aldinger, and took the 3-Year Gradalis Early Childhood Therapeutic Education Course with Bonnie River, Nancy Blanning, and Lori Clark. She is the mother of three grown Waldorf alumni. Laura has a deep love and is inspired by the fairy tales, her work as a calligraphy artist, and the archetypal artist and healer: Mother Nature.

Neera Singh, Student Services, Oklahoma

Neera Singh is mother of two daughters 13 and 8 years old. She lives with her husband of 17 years in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Neera completed her Lifeways training in 2011 and as a result began her own outdoor Lifeways inspired program, Roots of Wonder, on a verdant 3 acres of urban forest and gardens adjacent to her house. Child of a sociologist father who immigrated from India, and an Irish-American activist mother who volunteered for Kennedy’s brand new Peace Corps in 1967 in Ghana, Neera has lived a life of constantly “crossing borders”. Her interests in conflict resolution, social justice, nonviolence theory and practice, antiracism and cross-cultural peace efforts have led her to homeschool her own children and dedicate herself to supporting families in building the healthy vibrant family culture they desire. Neera has worked as a Parent-Child group leader, lead Caregiver, Chef, and currently Director of Roots of Wonder for the past 6 years. Neera has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and Political Science from Whitman College, a secondary school teaching certificate, and a Master’s in Education from the University of Hawaii. In addition to her professional pursuits, Neera is an avid flower and vegetable gardener, animal-lover, and seeker of truth.

Rena Osmer, Lead Teacher

Rena-Osmer.jpgRena Osmer, M.A., has been passionate about Waldorf early childhood education since completing her training in 1985, and has taught children, parents, and teachers for many years. She is keenly interested in innovative ideas and new initiatives and has served the national development of Waldorf early childhood as WECAN Board Member, founding Board member of Sophia’s Hearth, and LifeWays North America Lead Teacher and Advisor.

Rena’s career began on the eastern seaboard in Wilton, NH at the Pine Hill Waldorf School and the Center For Anthroposophy and Antioch New England. On the west coast she worked for Rudolf Steiner College as Director of Early Childhood Education and the LifeWays Children’s Center.

In 2005, Rena moved to the Florida sub-tropics where she founded and currently teaches kindergarten at Sea Star Waldorf School, in Boca Raton. She continues to mentor Waldorf early childhood endeavors, and teaches at various LifeWays and Waldorf Early childhood training centers in the summer months.

Rosario Villasana, M.A., Lead Teacher

Rosario Villasana, M.A., Department Chair at City College of San Francisco, Lifeways Instructor, and Early Childhood Consultant.

RosarioShe directs the LifeWays en Español caregiver training program focusing on development of curriculum materials in Spanish, community programs and mentoring teachers. She has conducted training and staff development in Rudolf Steiner based education in China and Mexico as well as throughout the United States.  Rosario is the happy mother of two Waldorf graduates; a son, Eduardo and daughter, Lucia.

A frequent and sought after presenter at the most respected professional conferences, notably NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), the World Forum and the AERA (American Educational Research Association) as well as universities and colleges in the US, she has travelled internationally presenting in China, Greece, Mexico and Russia. Her primary focus is the Birth to 7 year old child and focus areas include; the Program for Infant/Toddler Caregivers, Rudolf Steiner Pedagogy, The Impact of Media on the Young Child, Environments for Children, Dance and Movement Education, Sensory Integration and Brain Development, and Resource Development for Spanish Trainers.

Sarah Riffle, Student Services, Sacramento

Sarah Michel Riffle has over 11 years of experience teaching in Waldorf Early Childhood Education. Upon graduating from Rudolf Steiner College in 2005, she volunteered and worked as an assistant in the Daisy Kindergarten at Cedar Springs Waldorf School. The following year she took a position at Golden Valley Charter School, where she served as the Waldorf Kindergarten Specialist in the Orange Blossom Kindergarten for 9 years. During the years 2015-2017, Sarah returned to school full time, acquiring RIE and LifeWays certifications, as well as a B.S. in Family Studies from CSUS, where she graduated with honors and recognition from the National Council on Family Relations. Currently she is the lead preschool teacher in the Pine Cone class at Live Oak Waldorf School. All three of her children attended and graduated from Waldorf schools. She is excited to engage the role of Student Services Director for the LifeWays, Sacramento training.

Shanah Ahmadi, Student Services, Oklahoma

Shanah completed her LifeWays training in 2007, the same year she began a home-based program named The Purple House. In 2010, The Purple House became a non-profit organization, which was renamed Rose Rock School. Rose Rock School became a LifeWays childcare center in 2015, when it relocated, outside of Shanah’s home, to a much larger property. Currently, Shanah is a lead caregiver and the administrator at Rose Rock.

Shanah loves getting to know the individual spirits of the people with which she works--children, parents, and colleagues. She cannot begin to count the ways that the many people she has worked with over the years have shaped her character and helped her to be a more loving, authentic, and dedicated human being. When Shanah is not at work, she enjoys biking, sewing, gardening, and having fun with friends and family.

Susan Silverio, Lead Teacher

Susan Silverio was the founding teacher of Ashwood Waldorf School in Rockport, Maine, providing the multi-age kindergarten for 20 years near her three-generation family homestead in Lincolnville where she is now the director of Spindlewood Waldorf Kindergarten and LifeWays Center, She holds a B.A in liberal arts and has worked as a social worker and in providing emergency shelter and transitional housing for women and children. Susan is an organic gardener and beekeeper and enjoys rowing and sailing small craft in all seasons.

“I believe firmly that in a child’s early years, the foundation is laid for his or her entire life: for their health and well-being, for their sense of relationship with other human beings and with all realms of nature. It is about giving the child the opportunity to play, to explore, to be outdoors, to experience the arts and the spoken word, living images, stories and music. It is about giving them something worthy of imitation, inwardly as well as outwardly. In this way a child finds a sense of inner authority.”