Our wonderful, NVC-trained teachers / facilitators are passionate about our students and our school, which creates a joyful and compassionate environment in which the children can feel connected and secure.
Our teachers are experienced preschool teachers who also hold advanced degrees and certificate in art, languages, education, linguistics, mathematics, nature, physical fitness, literature, art, science, child development and brain development, which bolsters the enriching environment for our children. We have an incredibly attentive ratio of 1 to 4, with a 1 to 6 maximum!
Linda Shannon, Founding Director/ Facilitator
Linda is the mother of 3 young children: Kian, Kaveh, and Laleh, and the wife of Kam. She is an avid gardener, a builder, a writer, an artist, she is bilingual in Japanese, and loves people. She graduated with honors from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and minors in Mathematics, Linguistics, and Japanese; she has been working with children and youth for over 15 years.
Linda has completed multiple sessions of coursework at the Center for Non-violent Education and Parenting, with founder and executive director Ruth Beaglehole. She has also completed studies directly under both Bev Bos and Marshall Rosenberg. She completed her studies in early childhood education at UCLA (University of Southern California, Los Angeles) Extension, and is currently in process of becoming a director mentor with the California Early Childhood Mentor Program.
Linda writes a blog that appears on various multinational websites, including that of the Center for Non Violent Communication. She has also served on UCLA Extension’s Education Department Early Childhood Education Advisory Committee, and is a life coach, working with children young and old to reach their highest potential and find fulfillment within their lives.
“Our motto really says it all: ‘People are people no matter how small.’ You have to come and visit to appreciate what this really means.”
Dawn Smith, Mentor Teacher/ Facilitator
Dawn is married to Glenn, and the mother of three beautiful girls: Millena, Laura, and Chelsea. Dawn holds a degree in Early Childhood Education, with a Supervisor designation. She has been working in education for the past 24 years. Like all of the PlaySchool teachers, Dawn has been trained in Non Violent Communication at the Center for Non Violent Education and Parenting in Echo Park. Additionally, she has 15 years of experience working for Redondo Beach Unified School District as a special education assistant. Dawn continues to substitute for Redondo Beach Unified School District and also Torrance Unified School district on her days off from PlaySchool.
“I believe we have as much to learn from children as we have to teach them and greatly enjoy the opportunity to work in such an amazing school with such creative people of all sizes.”
Katie Schluntz, Team Teacher/ Manager/ Facilitator
Katie has been working with kids since she was a freshman in high school. She loved helping out at the preschool her mom worked at and with her dad tutoring kids in 8th grade English. She continued through high school facilitating after-school programs and then in college working as a counselor for a college preparatory program.
After graduating with honors from Indiana University with a Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies and minors in Non-profit Management, Social Action and a Journalism Certificate, Katie worked as a nanny for multiple families and volunteered at St. Louis Children’s Hospital spending time playing with patients. Finally making her way to California two years ago, Katie has been working with preschool and young children in various capacities for the past 6 years, as a nanny, a tutor, and a teacher. She has also held the position of Development Coordinator for a non-profit bringing arts education to undeserved public schools and their communities. Katie’s passion continues to guide her career choices, and we are lucky she has landed at PlaySchool. ”I am so excited to be a part of this community and happy to be following in my parent’s footsteps!” Katie is currently working on her early childhood education certificate at UCLA extension.
Aimee Odle, Team Teacher/ Facilitator
Growing up with two younger siblings, and a preschool teaching Mama, Aimee Odle has been caring for children in the preschool and home environment ever since she can remember. Being raised with the philosophies that Riviera PlaySchool supports, as well as being completely unschooled until college, Aimee is a natural when it comes to facilitating child-led exploratory learning and play. Aimee just returned back to the South Bay after living in Olympia Washington for two years where she attended, and graduated from, The Evergreen State College. At Evergreen Aimee studied Education, Family Studies, and Psychology, with a major emphasis on alternative models of education and child-rearing. Over the past 8 years Aimee has worked in summer camps, schools, and daycare centers, and has been a babysitter and nanny for many many families. In her free time Aimee loves to do yoga, spent time at the beach, and practice photography.
Melody Elder, Educational Advisor and Parent and Faculty Support
Melody is the mother of an adult daughter, is a teacher and parent educator with over 35 years experience working with children and parents in nursery school, elementary school, and home-school settings. She has taught parenting classes for South Bay Adult School and the Center for Positive Parenting and works part-time teaching and directing at Manhattan Beach Nursery School. Melody maintains a private coaching practice in the South Bay where she facilitates parenting support groups as well as 1:1 coaching (www.awakenedheartparenting.com). She holds a Master’s Degree in Education and in Spiritual Psychology and is a credentialed teacher in Early Childhood, Elementary, and Special Education.
PARTNERSHIPS WITH UCLA and EL CAMINO COLLEGE
We are also proud that UCLA Extension and El Camino College early childhood education departments have chosen Riviera PlaySchool as a practicum site for their student teachers. On any given day you may also see a fabulous teacher in training out in the yard, lending an extra hand at playschool! Our fabulous teaching staff serves as mentors to aspiring Early Childhood educators, and in exchange they impart their passion, wisdom, and experience to playschool! Win-Win!
Jessica Schilling-Wiggley, Substitute Teacher/ Facilitator, and Parent Educator
Jessica has a MA in Special Education and has been an educator for 13 years. She has worked in a variety of teaching positions in both the public and private sector including: special education preschool teacher, home-hospital teacher, in-home autism behavior therapist, and part-time child development instructor at El Camino College. She currently works part-time as an autism behavioral consultant and tutor while she devotes herself full-time to raising and homeschooling her two sons Gavin (age 3 years) and Cole (age 3 months).
TASHA BUCHANAN, Substitute Teacher/ Facilitator
“I have been working with children for about 8 years, and have been at Riviera PlaySchool in various capacities for the last 3. I have been a nanny, a tutor, a preschool teacher, and now a substitute preschool teacher while I complete my studies in nursing. At Riviera PlaySchool, our primary focus is to help the children develop emotional intelligence and encourage them to express their needs to each other, and make successful connections with their community.
I think that the key to avoiding problems is building as much communication as possible with everyone concerned. I’ve seen a few situations where a child’s behavior starts changing at home and the family believes that he/she is getting this new attitude from school. The parents expressed their concerns, and this helped us be more aware and know what to look for while the children play. By talking frequently with parents AND children we are able to tackle different situations as a team. In the end, the biggest potential problems usually stem from a lack of communication.
Just listening and seeing what interests the kids also helps me keep current. Whatever they are drawn to out in the play yard, in the studio, or talk about, I make note of and see if we can turn those ideas into a learning experience or a teacher-led plan.
We encourage healthy development through listening and giving the kids a place to really explore. By being student-led we are encouraging creativity and critical thinking. If a child wants to try to make an airplane, we will do our best to provide the materials to do that. If she wants to paint the playhouse, great! what happens if we mix the green and the yellow?? If one wants to put toys in the water table, what sinks? which floats? Also, when we do set limits we check in with them and see if they have any ideas. By giving them a voice we are helping build confidence and independence. For an example, a few weeks I was having a hard time taking hikes with the kids. One child in particular would take off running every time we went out on the trail. Instead of throwing down the hammer and telling him he could not go on the hike anymore, I brought him to the side and told him that it was becoming a big problem and we needed to come up with a way to fix it. He said that if I yelled stop as soon as he started to run then he would stop right away… The next day it worked! I yelled stop and he came right back… and ran in circles!”