Our extraordinarily caring, dedicated, and involved faculty and teachers are committed to public Waldorf educational values and ongoing training.
Beckie Fosmo (Butterfly Kindergarten)
Beckie Fosmo is our Butterfly Kindergarten teacher. She is a certified Waldorf teacher and has been
with our school from the beginning. Ms. Beckie is originally from the state of Wisconsin but has made
the western Slope her home for more than 25 years now.
She has three beautiful children, all girls, the
two younger ones attend Juniper Ridge and the other is working on finishing her degree in engineering
at CMU. Ms. Beckie’s passion is spending time with her family, crafting and being outdoors. She has a genuine love for children and the Waldorf Curriculum. Every year, she looks forward to guiding all of her new students to becoming the most compassionate and imaginatively creative little human beings that
they can possibly be.
John Rizzo (Cottonwood Kindergarten)
This Jon Rizzo’s 8th year as a Waldorf Kindergarten Teacher. His hands on approach strives to revive lost arts though long walks in nature, woodworking, sewing, gardening, building forts, playing guitar and banjo, cooking, and baking.
His classroom at Juniper Ridge feels like living in a tree house as the children buzz about busy with their work. He is a master storyteller providing a rich imaginary landscape to nourish the hungry young minds. Mr. Rizzo also teaches woodworking and carving in the afternoon to the grade school students.
In his spare time he builds rustic furniture, restores and rides bicycles. He loves to camp, and hike with his daughter Kate.
Sarah Creighton (Rainbow Kindergarten)
Starting as a Kindergarten teacher’s aide in Autumn of 2015, Ms. Sarah eventually earned the lead teaching position for the Rainbow kindergarten. Ms. Sarah holds a degree from Colorado Mountain College in outdoor education. She has worked for the California State Parks System, Colorado Outward Bound, and Trailhead Wilderness School.
Her love of the outdoors naturally lent to her fostering such an education for her three children. She finds in Waldorf education an experiential learning consistent with her beliefs, that all children should experience the joys of nature. Studying Waldorf pedagogy at Gradalis Institute for Waldorf Education has allowed her fuller insight into the workings of an anthroposophical-based education. She will finish her Waldorf teacher training this summer. She embraces the humanistic approach of cultivating the whole child. Ms. Sarah loves gardening and enjoys her homestead farm in Fruita where she lives with her three children, chickens, rabbits, cat, and puppy.
Diana Soto (Butterfly Kinder Assistant)
This is Diana’s second year working as a Kinder Assistant and she loves it! She is originally from Mexico City but has been in the United States for 20 years. Four year ago, she moved back to Grand Junction and could not be happier. She loves raising her family here. Diana has two beautiful girls who attend Juniper Ridge in 5th and 7th grade. She enjoys hiking, swimming, crafting, cooking and spending as much time as possible with her family in the great outdoors. She feels extremely honored to be able to work at Juniper Ridge and be a part of the kids’ life.
Daniel Miles (Cottonwood Kinder Assistant)
Andrea Cronin (Rainbow Kinder Assistant)
Andrea Cronin is the Rainbow Garden Kindergarten Assistant. This is Andrea’s second year serving Ms. Claudia and the Rainbow Garden students and she couldn’t be more excited or grateful for such a joyful way to spend her days. She was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri and relocated to Grand Junction along with her husband and two dogs a year and a half ago. They’ve fallen in love with the diverse outdoor activities and community of this wonderful valley.
She and her husband love to hike and camp but when indoors Andrea loves to craft with recycled and vintage materials and explore new ways to express her creativity. Andrea received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology through Truman State University. She then applied her love of working with children and youth through directing a summer camp full time for many years and is now so excited to be working with Kindergartners at Juniper Ridge again. Positively impacting these young lives is a privilege and she can’t wait to begin another amazing year with the Juniper Ridge community.
Brandon Kohn (First Grade)
Brandon Kohn is one of our First grade teachers. After teaching the Rainbow Kindergarten last year, he moved up to continue the journey with his littles. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Brandon has been in Colorado for over 10 years and views it as his true home. He has a beautiful wife and child (age 3), and loves to spend as much time as possible exploring the world with them.
After a successful sales career with Liberty Mutual, Brandon went back to school to become a schoolteacher and share his love of learning. He graduated from Regis University in 2012 with a focus on Early Childhood Education and Literacy. After spending a few years working in different school districts across Colorado, he found his home at Juniper Ridge Community School. Brandon attended Waldorf teacher training in Utah this past summer and could not be more excited to begin this wonderful journey through the grades.
In his spare time, Brandon enjoys adventuring in the mountains, playing in the water, reading poetry and watching Pittsburgh Steeler football. Accompanied by his amazing family, Brandon is always open to new challenges and is excited to bring his unabashed enthusiasm to his students.
Brook Shaffer (First Grade)
Brook was born and raised in Colorado and it was at an early age that she knew she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. After many years of pursuing her teaching degree (which she received from Western Governor’s University in 2013) she finally found herself as a 3rd grade teacher at a local school last year. While she LOVED her students and their families, she never quite felt like she had found her home; her place to plant roots. After much research, Brook fell in love with Rudolf Steiner’s teaching philosophy and found herself here at Juniper Ridge. She is beyond excited to be here and looks forward to all of the adventures she’s sure there are to be had.
Brook is also a mom of three wonderful, energetic boys. All of her free time outside of the classroom is devoted to chasing them around Canyon View for sports games and practices. She also loves her dogs, hiking, fishing, and basically anything outdoors. She also loves creating little fairy gardens. She believes that there’s magic all around us (to those who are willing to seek it) and that it’s never too late to have a good day.
Mandy Rabe (Second Grade)
Mandy Rabe is new to Juniper Ridge this year and she is very excited to begin her journey teaching children in the Waldorf experience! This is Mandy’s second year teaching. She taught fifth grade last year at a different charter school, but felt that the passion for learning was just not there. After she graduated from Colorado State University in 2005 with a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology, she explored many careers and went back to school to take some classes in manufacturing and art. She’s been a jeweler’s apprentice, a trail builder, and a pharmacy technician but never found her niche. In the fall of 2013 she discovered that her passion lay in teaching. She went through an intensive teaching program at Colorado Mesa University and became certified in the summer of 2015. She believes that Juniper Ridge has something unique to offer students, teachers and parents alike, and that is a passion for learning that will get stronger with time.
Blythe Rusling (Second Grade)
Blythe Rusling is one of the handful of original teachers who began with Juniper Ridge Community School when it had it’s humble beginnings in Canyon View Church. She took a class from third through fifth grade and adopted a new first grade group last year. She is excited to journey all the way through fifth grade with this class.
Blythe is a long time public school teacher with a Waldorf certification who strongly believes in bringing the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education to the public where it belongs. She and her husband Craig Lombard moved to Fruita in 2008 from Gallup, NM. Like many of you, they made the migration for the plentiful outdoor activities that they love to partake in. Also, there is a lot more of one thing here that they were sorely lacking in their corner of New Mexico: WATER. Blythe was born in Grand Haven, Michigan, but moved to Prescott, Arizona at age six to follow her architect father’s dream of building a passive solar home. It was in this fabulous home nestled in huge granite boulders that she did most of her growing up. Blythe’s school career began in Fine Arts at Yavapai College, moved on to Creative Writing at NAU and finally settled on Early Childhood Education at UNM. Her teaching experience has run the gamut from first to fourth grades in Zuni, NM, providing preschool intervention at Head Starts throughout the Navajo Reservation and first grade in Gallup, NM, first grade at Clifton Elementary, multi-age at Glade Park Community School, and most recently, Gifted and Talented education at Wingate Elementary.
Blythe is the mother of three lovely dog children and lives in a tiny 1916 “Victorian Farmhouse” with a garden that you will often find her poking around in. Blythe has a penchant for moving rocks, planting stuff and creating things. She also has an insatiable curiosity for the world around her and loves the power of a good story.
Valerie Lowe (Second Grade Assistant)
Valerie is a proud Colorado native, born in Colorado Springs and raised on the Western Slope. In 2003, she married her beloved husband, who is a U.S. Navy Veteran. Their three children; Hannah, Gabrielle and Abel attend Juniper Ridge.
She spent many years in Customer Service before she became a stay at home mom and home educator for their children. In 2015, the family made the move to Juniper Ridge and have enjoyed the educational experience and close school community. Valerie found several ways to volunteer at the school and in 2016, joined the staff of JRCS as a First Grade Assistant.
Recreationally, Valerie loves to spend time in the Colorado outdoors, camping and hiking with her family. She also loves her Colorado Sports teams, playing board games, card games and many sporting activities. Kickboxing has made a major impact on her life and she plans to continue it’s use as a means of personal discipline and health.
Valerie and her family also spend time as pitbull advocates, and enjoy raising quality family pets and bringing forth awareness to the plight of so many animals in need of forever homes. Adopt don’t shop.
She has spent many years working with children, via sports and education and loves to see them grow and learn.
Andrea Bethke (Third Grade)
I come to Juniper Ridge after 22 years of teaching in private schools in California and Mexico. Culture and adventure are my passion; this is the reason I chose Colorado. I live to share my experiences through teaching as I learn and grow along the way.
Elizabeth Paroni (Third Grade)
Elizabeth Paroni has a Bachelors of Fine Art with an emphasis in art history and painting. Along with having a passion for art, Miss Paroni is a professional singer with High Desert Opera. Before finding Juniper Ridge, Miss Paroni worked as a Special Education Teacher with Mesa County School District 51 for 3 years with both High School students and Middle School students.
Jo-Zan Kirk (Fourth Grade)
Jo-Zan Kirk has been teaching for over 15 years and has taught Preschool, Kindergarten, first and second grade. In Junction she has taught at New Emerson, Lincoln Park and the Career Center High School.
She is married (just celebrated 25 years) with two grown daughters. She is a native Coloradoan and most of her extended family lives in Denver. She moved to the valley 12 years ago and loves it here! Her oldest daughter (age 23) graduated from CMU this past May with a degree in Studio Art. Her youngest daughter married her high school sweetheart in June and is finishing her degree online from Colorado State University. She will be graduating in December with a degree in English. She and her husband live in Chicago where he attends Northwestern working on his Doctorate Degree in Chemistry.
Jo-Zan is very active in her church, loves to read, bake and do various crafts when she has time. You may recognize her from the Grand Junction Farmers Market where she gets her summer kid fix by face painting.
Mary Benepe-Sytsma (Fourth Grade)
Mrs. Sytsma is excited about teaching third grade this year. Mary moved to the area one year ago from Naples, Florida where she lived with her husband, Dennis and two of her four children. Mrs. Sytsma has taught a variety of subjects and grades over the last 25 years.
When she’s not teaching, she enjoys performing in musical theater productions, traveling to visit friends and family, or just relaxing with a good book.
Judy Drake (Fifth Grade)
Judy Drake has been teaching for twenty five years in the Grand Valley. She and her husband have been married for twenty-five years and have a daughter who is attending Graduate school at Colorado State University. She also loves watching dance performances, especially ones her daughter has danced in. Judy at one time had a collection of over 5000 children’s books, and is passionate about sharing the love of reading. She is teaching the third grade and says she has the same excitement that she had as a first year teacher.