The mission of All Friends Nature School is to foster the development of the whole child – physical, cognitive, emotional and social – through use of a play, place, experiential and emergent curriculum. A natural environment offers the ideal setting wherein a child may grow and develop freely, with enthusiasm, confidence and excitement.
By fostering the development of self-regulation, self-direction, and self-reflection, we provide children with the educational foundation that will support them for the rest of their lives. We value the relationship between parents, teachers and our community and work to build these relationships so we can nurture the growth of children during this important developmental time.
About Our Teachers
Founder / Teacher
Susan, founder and lead teacher, grew up in a rural town in Virginia. From a young age she was grateful to have space to roam and explore. Some of her fondest memories were playing hide and seek in the forest, catching tadpoles and playing outside all day. Attending college in a mountain town led her to an even deeper appreciation of nature. This love of nature continued on into her adult life taking her on many traveling adventures and bringing her to California. The biggest adventure was becoming a parent to two amazing boys. Susan has been working with children and families for the last 13 years. Susan has a genuine appreciation for the outdoors and is passionate about teaching young people to have a meaningful connection to nature and the world around them. Susan is trained in “Growing Up Wild” an early childhood education program that builds on the children’s sense of wonder about the world around them. Susan also continued her education in Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training at the The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers.
Susan is an active board member of the California Association of Forest Schools (CAFS).
CHICKADEE CLASS – CO-TEACHER
Anna was brought up on the farmlands of Southeastern Wisconsin. Her joy of the outdoors and adventurous spirit were nurtured through forest exploration, lake swimming, hiking, biking, cross country skiing, and snowboarding. After she graduated high school, her love for education and the ocean led her to San Diego where she attended SDSU. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology along with an Early Childhood Education Credential. Her artistic way of living has taught her the beauty and magic that connecting with nature can bring. Her passion for teaching and appreciation for children are fueled by her adoration for the natural world. She delights in sharing this wonder with her students. Throughout the past five years as a preschool teacher Anna has worked with infants through age of 6 and equally loves them all. Along with teaching the little ones, she enjoys instructing yoga, painting classes, and surfing to all ages. She is grateful and excited to be a member of the team at All Friends Nature School where she feels free to blossom into the teacher she has always dreamed of becoming.
CHICKADEE CLASS – Support Teacher
Leilani Mendoza was born and raised in Southeast Idaho where she gained her passion for camping, hiking, fishing, kayaking and especially snowboarding. She has called San Diego home now for 11 years, and graduated from SDSU with her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sustainability and International Studies. During her time at SDSU she studied abroad in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Amazon Rainforest, Andeam Mountains and her most favorite Galapagos Islands. To fund these adventures, she has held various leadership roles for a local restaurant group for the past 9 years. During this time Leilani also did a two year internship at The Water Conservation Garden where she first felt the joy of teaching young minds as an Educational Tour Guide. While at home she enjoys gardening, raising butterflies and caring for her 4 fluffy chickens with the help of her fiance’ and puppy. Leilani is actively continuing her education in early childhood development, while holding a (part-time) position with CA Parks and Recreation. She is excited to continue learning, growing and exploring with the students at All Friends Nature School!
CHICKADEE CLASS – CO-TEACHER / LANGUAGE SUPPORT TEACHER
Natalia is an East Coast native, born and raised between the city and the Jersey shore. As the oldest of 6 siblings, she is no stranger to caring, nurturing, and leading little ones. Spending her childhood swimming in lagoons, exploring the woods, and climbing trees. Her endeavor to get a Bachelor’s in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences is what brought her to sunny San Diego. She has loved living in SD for almost 4 years now. Natalia is currently working on getting a minor in the field of Child and Family Development. Her heart lies within programs where children first experience the world around them. She has experience in working with pre-school, after-school care, and summer camp. Her recent volunteer position as a Language Facilitator fed my love for pre-school age kiddos and the power of early intervention. It is imperative to her that all students feel cared for, loved, and given the tools and language to explore and express themselves. She has also fulfilled her major’s language requirement in American Sign Language and hopes to reach a more inclusive world of communication by making basic sign accessible for our Deaf/Hard of Hearing friends. In her spare time she enjoys astrology, being a plant-mom, meditation, painting, and sitting in the sun. She is looking forward to sharing, listening, and raising the voices of students at All Friends!
Coyote Class – Lead Teacher
Kimberly Sabiston is originally from Long Island, NY. Kimberly grew up along the shores of the Great South Bay. Growing up, Kimberly and her family enjoyed weekend camping and boating trips to Fire Island, NY. This is where her father instilled his love and fascination with nature within his three daughters.
Kimberly then went on to study elementary education with a minor in biology at SUNY Cortland and then received her master’s degree in biology education at SUNY Stonybrook. While living in California for the past 5 years, Kimberly has become a certified California Master Naturalist through UC Davis Extension and studied Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training through Antioch University at Santa Barbara. Also, she has enjoyed taking many Life-Ways Waldorf Education online courses to continue her education journey.
Kimberly has taught forest school classes as summer courses at Francis Parker School for the past four summers and has been a classroom teacher for over ten years. Her true love is in sharing her passion and wonder of nature with her students and her son, Easton.
Coyote Class – Support Teacher
Laura (Miss Lola) was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She spent her childhood at the beach and hiking on trails in the surrounding mountains. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with a major in Environmental Studies and a minor in Urban Agriculture. During her time in the Bay Area, she deepened her connection to the natural world, exploring the breathtaking Northern California Coast. Most recently, she lived in Point Reyes National Seashore, in a rural surf town, north of San Francisco. There, she was deeply immersed in nature, spending her time connecting to the land and sea, growing food, and teaching about the importance of nature connection. She loves learning about botany and has been deep in the study of herbalism and California flora. She has worked as a botany and garden educator for 5 years, teaching gardening skills to all age ranges, from young children to adults. She recently moved to San Diego to be closer to her family. She plans to attend graduate school for a Masters of Science in Nutrition for Wellness and Health Coaching, to incorporate the importance of healthy eating into her curriculum. She has a passion for nature-based education and is so excited to be a part of All Friends Nature School!