Home   Elementary Teachers

Elementary Teachers


Our extraordinarily caring, dedicated, and involved faculty and teachers are committed to public Waldorf educational values and ongoing training.

Kindergarten Header

Alice Dussart (Yarrow Blossom Kindergarten)

Alice is a founding member of Juniper Ridge Community School and is beginning a new adventure as one of our Kindergarten teachers and as the school’s Social Care Coordinator.

She holds both a B.A. (from Colorado Mesa University) and a M.A. (from Rudolph Steiner College) in Elementary Education and is a trained Waldorf teacher.

In her down time, she loves to explore the great wide world with her family, play music with friends, and cook up a storm.

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 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 finished her Waldorf teacher training this past 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, cats, and puppy.






Diana Soto (Yarrow Blossom Kinder Assistant) 

This is Diana’s third 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 loves living in the valley. She loves raising her family here. Diana has two beautiful girls who attend Juniper Ridge in 6th and 8th 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.




 Misti Dawn (Cottonwood Kinder Assistant)

Misti Dawn has worked directly with children in different capacities for the last 7 years. This is her second school year with Juniper Ridge Community School.

She is a wife, mom of two girls, performing musician, as well as teaches music lessons on the side (ukulele, mandolin, guitar). Her passions also include swing and ballroom dancing, as well as training to be an aerialist.







Coming SoonSarah Miller (Rainbow Kinder Assistant)







First Grade header

Coming Soon

Britt Kuhns (First Grade)

Britt Kuhns has worked in education since 2004. She is currently teaching first grade at Juniper Ridge Community School. She is a mom of two girls, and a wife. Britt has lived in Grand Junction since 2005, and she is a Colorado Native. On her free time, Britt enjoys reading, hiking, listening to music and is always up for an adventure. She is happy, and she enjoys just being alive.


Coming Soon

Jessi Torfin (First Grade)








Coming Soon

Amy Nordquist (First Grade Assistant)

Amy Nordquist moved to the Western Slope of Colorado with her husband in 2005 from the Pacific NW where she grew up.  Over the last 20 years Amy has focused her work and continuing education on the farming, marketing, preparation, preservation of local organic produce and landscaping.  She adores cooking for all dietary needs, practicing herbalism, gardening & yoga.

Amy, her husband and young daughter are all passionate about nature and the outdoors.  They spend as much time as possible out hiking, camping & traveling to any adventure that presents itself with their two dogs. Amy is thrilled to be embarking on this new journey as our 1st grade teachers assistant.






Second grade header

Coming Soon

Natalie Pipe (First Grade)

Natalie was born and raised in Grand Junction, Colorado. Eager to see the world at 20 years old, she spent a year studying abroad in Mendoza, Argentina. While there, she taught English and computer skills to children and adults in a rural town, which helped her discover the joy of teaching. When she returned, she pursued her degree in Elementary Education at CMU and graduated in 2018.

What draws her to Waldorf education is how it nurtures the whole child. She loves that this education honors that creativity is more important than knowledge.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and cat, Handlebar. She loves riding her bike, listening to music, bluegrass festivals, camping, learning, drinking coffee, cooking, eating, shopping, and traveling.


Brook Shaffer (Second Grade)

Brook is a native to Colorado and considers the Grand Valley her home.  She grew up in the Valley, attended Fruita Monument High School and moved away after a year of college.  She obtained her teaching degree from Western Governors University in 2013.

This will be Brook’s third year of teaching and she couldn’t be happier to be here at JRCS teaching 2nd grade.  When she’s not in the classroom, she can be found spending time with my family. She loves to explore the great outdoors, SUP board, rescue animals, and chase her boys around to their sporting events.




third grade

Coming SoonCarlee Dietrich (Second Grade)

Carlee and her family have lived in Grand Junction since 2014.  She has two daughers both at Juniper Ridge Community School.  A Colorado native, Carlee started her elementary teaching career in Jefferson County in 1999. She also taught in Page, AZ (Lake Powell) for 9 years.   Once her youngest daughter Abby was born, Carlee spent her time as a stay at home mom, and working as an assistant at the Waldorf inspired kindergarten River Canyon School.

Her family enjoys biking, rafting, fishing, and being outdoors together.  Carlee was taught to knit by her daughter Madalyn after she learned in first grade, and enjoys handwork,reading,  singing, and playing her ukulele.


Blythe RuslingBlythe 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.

(Educational Assistant – 3rd grade)

Betsy has 2 students at Juniper Ridge. She enjoys exploring the world with them by going camping, hiking and traveling together during Christmas time. Her hobbies include beekeeping, watercolor painting, and canning and preserving home grown foods. She enjoys upholding native American traditions by attending native sweat lodges and similar ceremonies, drum circles, belly dancing. She enjoys supporting her local community by shopping, eating and dancing locally!




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.

Fourth Grade header

Coming Soon

Andrea Bethke (Fourth 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 (Fourth 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.


Fifth Grade header

JoZanJo-Zan Kirk (Fifth Grade)

Jo-Zan Kirk has been teaching for over 18 years and has taught Preschool-4th grade. Before Juniper Ridge, she taught at New Emerson, Lincoln Park and the Career Center High School.

She is married (just celebrated 29 years) with two grown daughters. She is a native Coloradoan and most of her extended family lives in Denver. She moved to the valley 2002 and loves it here! Her oldest daughter graduated from CMU with a degree in Studio Art. Her youngest daughter graduated from CSU with a degree in English.  She lives in Steamboat Springs with her husband.

Jo-Zan is very active in her church, loves to read, bake and do various crafts when she has time.

Mary Benepe-Sytsma (Fifth 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.