Melissa Sheppard

Founder/Director. Melissa has her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Management and attended William Paterson University for Early Childhood Education.  She found her passion while working in daycare and preschool settings and obtained her CDA (Child Development Associate Credential).  After falling  in love with Waldorf education she and began her journey towards becoming a Waldorf Early Childhood Educator completing her Foundations Studies at The Waldorf School of Princeton and graduating from both LifeWays North America and the Sophia Institute with her ECE Teacher Certificate and Waldorf Education ECE Teacher Certification respectively.   Melissa planned to teach at the Waldorf School of Princeton but decided instead to bring nature-based education to the children in her area starting Star Child Nature School out of her home in 2017.  Melissa is a Second Level Nature Based Educator certified with the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS), a National Geographic Certified Teacher and is BLS CPR/First Aid certified.  She fully believes in the benefits of a nature immersive program and what it offers children physically and emotionally.  She founded Star Child Nature School to offer children a place they are respected, can embrace the fleeting years of childhood and connect to nature through imaginative and creative learning that develops the whole child.

Kelly DelPalazzo

Co-founder, Pre-K Class Teacher/Friday Homeschool Class Teacher.  Kelly joined Star Child in 2018.  She holds her Associates of Science in Nutrition and is a Certified Holistic Health Coach graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  Kelly is CDA (Child Development Associate Credentialed) and a First Level Nature Based Educator certified with the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS).  She is BLS CPR/First Aid certified.  A believer in the importance of the outdoors, nature and free creative play in the lives of young children, Kelly is a natural teacher bringing a nurturing and calm disposition and the ability to ask perfectly open-ended questions that promote thought, wonder and imagination.  Providing the scaffolding, her class is child-led allowing her students the space to discover, explore and create based on their interests.

Maren Peterson

1st/2nd Grade Teacher. Maren joined Star Child in 2021 and has been working with children for over 25 years. She has always loved the excitement and wonder that children exhibit when they are discovering their abilities. Maren has a bachelors in Early Childhood Education from Indiana University, Bloomington. While teaching, she took a special interest in teaching literacy and studied Orton-Gillingham at Fairleigh Dickinson University.   Maren enjoys spending time outdoors with her three boys ages 6,10, and 12. She also enjoys gardening, kayaking and swimming. Maren is BLS CPR/First Aide Certified.

Julia Lehman

1st/2nd Grade Teacher- Julia joined Star Child in 2022 and has been working with children in an educational capacity for over a decade. She recently graduated from Rutgers University with a Master’s degree in teaching, during which time she was a student teacher in a middle school art classroom. She has also served as a teacher’s aide, dance instructor, substitute teacher, after-school tutor, and ESL teacher. Julia also brings with her an undergraduate degree in Art. In addition to drawing, painting, and doing various fiber arts, Julia greatly enjoys reading, particularly science fiction. She is excited and grateful for this opportunity and considers herself a co-learner along with our children.

Katie Perez

Kindergarten Teacher.  Katie joined Star Child in 2022 and graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI with a degree in elementary education and a specialization in early childhood development. Her training was rooted in the Reggio Emilia approach to early teaching. That philosophy has absolutely formed who she is as a teacher (and as a mother). She believes that children have a multitude of languages to express their knowledge, and a multitude of methods to acquire that knowledge, not merely sponges to absorb information they are taught, but are instead wild adventurers seeking discovery by their own means. Katie feels it is her responsibility as a teacher to help guide that learning to be fruitful and fun. Believing our entire world is a classroom, and that learning opportunities abound in every setting she finds great joy, peace, and energy in being outside in nature and has always been compelled by the Nature School philosophy. In Reggio Emilia the outside is brought into the classroom, in Nature School you bring the classroom outside, perfectly aligning with who she is professionally, personally, and as a parent.

Katie has taught in inner-city Chicago, Michigan, Texas, Spain, and the Dominican Republic. Her experiences range from being a preschool and kindergarten teacher, a reading interventionist, an ESL teacher, an early childhood program director, and a freelance journalist. Katie has a passion for seeing and experiencing the world through nature and travel, and her professional goal is to help children discover their innate desire to become global citizens and leaders for the future. She has four children, ages 2, 6, 8, and 10, and has truly enjoyed homeschooling them for their early schooling journey. She is excited to join Star Child Nature School this year, and to have the opportunity to teach in a developmentally appropriate and whole-child focused setting.

Jalice Ferrer

Kindergarten Co-Teacher. Jalice is a mindfulness educator with a passion for teaching and connecting children to the natural world, especially through the eyes of the children. Jalice has her Associates Degree in Elementary Education and Liberal Arts from Rowan College of South Jersey. She is currently completing her dual bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and Writing Arts at Rowan University. Jalice taught in Woodbury for three years. She has teaching experience with preschool, general and special education. Jalice specializes in offering mindfulness through breathing, self-regulation and meditation. Her goal is to create a safe space for children to learn, discover and explore not only the world around them but the worlds with within them as well. Jalice is looking forward to teaching your bright leaders of the future and hopes to offer them a healing, nurturing Kindergarten experience. 

Hope Long

2 1/2-4 Year Old Class Teacher.   Hope joined Star Child in 2020 and graduated from Stockton University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies.  She has been mixing her interests for childcare and environmental education ever since. Hope was an environmental educator for Project H.E.A.L where she was able to foster a greater passion for educational and creative play. Hope's love for environmental education and ability to bring out the best in each child shines though in the soft-spoken way she communicates and educates. She is excited to bring all of her past experiences to Star Child and learn from both fellow teachers and the students as she connects the children to the natural world around them. Hope is CPR/First Aid certified.

Ces martin

2 1/2-4 Year Old Class Teacher, Spanish Teacher, Yoga Teacher.  Ces joined Star Child in 2020 and graduated Rider University with a Bachelor’s Degree majoring in Liberal Studies and minoring in Psychology, Ces comes to us with more than 20 years of experience working with children in varying degrees. She’s worked as a Teacher’s Assistant in daycare settings, a one-on-one Aide and eventually Program Coordinator for an inclusive recreation program for children with disabilities. Ces taught Spanish at Urban Promise summer programs for those ages 5-10 and co-led retreats for adolescents and young adults ages 11-19. Most recently she lead Spanish, Yoga, Art, Latin Dance, Junior Warriors (exercise/obstacle course training) and Music classes for children 3-10 years old. Ces is a First Level Nature Based Educator certified with the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS) and is most excited to use this training to further encourage, support and foster children’s instinctual connection and desire to explore and wonder in a natural setting. She is truly inspired and energized by teaching alongside children and does so in a fun and compassionate way. Ces is BLS CPR/First Aid certified

Allison Vogel

2 1/2-4 Year Old Class Teacher/Child & Caregiver Teacher.  Allison joined Star Child in 2021 and attended Rider University where she played Division 1 field hockey and focused her studies on early education and liberal arts. Her love for teaching young children began with coaching summer camps and helping guide elementary aged players both on and off the field. After taking time off from her studies to travel, she found a new love for teaching and connecting with children through the practice of yoga. In 2017, Allison completed her 200hr Yoga Teacher Training as well as 25 hours of focused study on teaching babies and children ages 0-5. Alongside her husband, she owned Zephyr Yoga studio in New Egypt where she fulfilled her passion in teaching kids yoga and meditation as well as co-facilitating a child and caregiver program called Growing Minds for young toddlers. Through the studio, they were able to offer children the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities, mindfulness and develop an early love for learning. As a mother of two toddlers, Allison has developed a deep passion for child-centered, nature-based education. She believes all children, and all humans, can thrive from spending more time immersed in nature and that children are natural learners when given the space and freedom to explore, connect with and observe their natural surroundings. Nature has proven to be the best classroom and playground for her own children as she strives to teach them about emotional and physical awareness. Allison plans to further her studies in Nature Based Education as well as continue to explore the field of conscious connection through connected play with children. She believes it is part of her life's purpose to offer any child she crosses paths with the space to feel seen, heard and loved.

Cassie Burns

2 ½-4 Year Old Class Teacher. Cassie joined Star Child in 2021 and attended Camden County College where her studies included early education and child psychology. After college, she worked as a Project Manager helping develop and maintain registration/data collection systems for late-stage clinical trials for a clinical research organization. She has also worked as a specialist at a conference planning organization, specializing in duties on both the planning and registration side of the business. In addition to her professional work, she has also volunteered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program having always felt an inherent ability to not only understand, but to also connect with children. After the birth of her first child, Cassie decided to take a break from her professional life and re-focus on her family. While exploring educational options for her son, she began doing research regarding different educational models and philosophies. The idea and benefits of play-based education really resonated with her and she began her search for schools that aligned with those values. In 2017, Cassie visited Star Child and instantly feel in love with Melissa’s teaching model and philosophies. With the discovery of nature-based education, Cassie began to implement these values and learning methods into her own life. Wanting to continue down this path and educate herself further to promote these values, she received her First Level Nature-Based Teacher Certification from the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS). Cassie will focus on providing a nurturing environment where children will feel comfortable expressing their true selves. While play-based learning will be an important part of her curriculum, she will also encourage your child to love and appreciate not only their own uniqueness, but also ensure they promote the same kindness towards others through their words and actions. Her students will also be taught to show love for the Earth and experience all the wonder and magic that nature has to offer. Cassie is BLS CPR/First Aid Certified.

Andrea Manka

2 1/2-4 Year Old Class Teacher. Andrea joined Star Child in 2022 and has a Bachelor's Degree from The College of New Jersey in Mathematics Education and a Master's Degree from the University of Houston in Curriculum and Instruction. Andrea has previously volunteered as a Forest School facilitator and as a daycare classroom assistant. Additionally, she has taught high-school mathematics as well as designed curriculum for a variety of courses. Andrea has over 15 years of experience working with students ranging in age from 2 years old through adulthood. In her off time, Andrea enjoys creative projects, hiking, reading and traveling. As an educator she has witnessed the benefits of time in nature on students' engagement and learning. Further, she looks forward to the opportunity to witness the children’s growth first hand. Andrea is BLS CPR/First Aid certified.

Bobby Grabowski

Pre-K Class Teacher. Bobby joined Star Child in 2020.  He is a free spirit who feels most grounded out in nature. Bobby attended Camden County College and Rutgers University majoring in Business Administration. He had been a part of Haddonfield Child Care from 2016-2020 as the Site Supervision/Assistant Teacher with up to 35 children ages K-5th grade as well as supervising between 4-7 childcare workers daily. Eight years ago, at Camp Creek Run, Bobby discovered how naturally working with children came to him which led to working in the Extended Day Kindergarten program of Haddonfield. Bobby is CPR/First Aid certified and has worked as a Head Counselor at Creek Run since 2014. He is ecstatic to merge his love of teaching with his passion for the outdoors teaching at Star Child

Corinne Cargen

Pre-K/2 1/2-5 Year Old Class Teacher. Corinne joined Star Child in 2021 as our Art Teacher.  She graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts from Camden County College. A lover of acrylic painting, plants, film photography, animals and crocheting, to Corinne, art lives within the veins and branches of our woods.  She is a believer of children connecting and exploring through outdoor play.  Corinne shows a natural ability to provide compassion and empathy to the children.  Learning and laughing with them is what she loves most.  Teaching her students to love and express kindness to everything around us and showing how to appreciate the beauty and importance of the nature world is her passion. Corinne is CPR/First Aid certified.

Sarah Birney

Pre-K Class Teacher. Sarah joined Star Child in 2020 and loves being surrounded by nature and being able to share her love and passion with children.  She has been caring for little ones since she was little herself lovingly tending to children of family, friends and in day care settings.  Sarah brings her inner child to Star Child and joyously connects with our students, you'll often see her playing right along side and always with a smile.  With a natural ability to understand how children may be feeling or thinking she brings compassion and respect to the classes she is with.  While not at Star Child Sarah enjoys kayaking, camping and dancing.  She is CPR/First Aid certified and plans to major in Early Childhood Education in the near future.

Stephanie Sottolano

Stephanie joined Star Child in 2022. Along with all of her accumulated knowledge as an herbalist, forager, gardener, multidisciplinary artist, and lover of holistic health, she also brings with her the credence that nature wants to heal us. Mom to four snails, two cats, a dog, and a home full of plants, Stephanie is a natural caretaker and aspiring strega nonna who won’t rest until the needs of everyone are provided for. A staunch believer in connecting with the inner child, she knows the power that lies in the curiosity of children and is perpetually chasing that sense of wonder that allows her to see the world the way kids do: with no judgment and endless empathy. Stephanie currently attends Rowan College at South Jersey, merging both early education and horticultural studies, and is CPR/First Aid certified.

Julie Moon

Friday Homeschool Class Teacher. Julie joined Star Child in 2020 and has been working with children for 22 years. She attended Camden County College and Rowan University earning her Associate's Degree in Elementary Education. Julie was a Teacher's Aide, Co-Teacher and Head Afternoon Supervisor at Joyful Noise Christian Preschool before staying home with her children following her desire to home educate them. While enjoying homeschooling her four children, she wanted to remain involved in the community and connect her children to others and became a Tinkergarten Instructor bringing parents and children together to explore nature simultaneously through her Tinkergarten program held at local parks. Julie has lead music classes for caregivers and children at The Artery in Medford and is on the board for the homeschooling co-op she runs for her church. Through her church she has taught mommy and me music classes, history, literature, nature and science to children 2-13 years old. She loves working with Kelly in the Pioneer program providing a framework for children to drive play-based learning and imaginative co-operation. Julie is a firm believer in the benefits of immersing children in nature and the connection to real life learning and problem solving outdoor education encourages. Julie is CPR/First Aid certified

Jennifer Potts

Monday Wednesday Homeschool Class Teacher. Jennifer joined Star Child in 2021 and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Photography.  She has operated a business since 2008 in the field. Making art and being around people will never get boring or outlived; however this may be the perfect timing to help guide the growth of our beautiful children, and allow them to bloom into their unique selves. Jennifer has a history of day care teaching (age 3-5), volunteering with young and old aged children/adults at Bancroft Neurohealth, and a few amazing years of babysitting three children daily. She has researched quite a bit about Waldorf education, and plans to enroll in some classes, workshops and certifications in these unique ways of teaching. Jennifer has interests in natural health, iridology, gardening, animals, nature, herbology, yoga, art and all things photography of course! She has always loved children, loves to get down to their level and really listen to what they have to say, and incorporating fun into learning!


Jennifer Galati

Jennifer joined Star Child in 2022. She holds a Masters Degree in Art and Education from Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Jennifer’s passion and respect for the outdoors was discovered after a month long backpacking trip as an adolescent and during her undergraduate studies at Ithaca College where she lived in beautiful Central New York. There she worked with many nature preserves and wildlife refuges to enhance classroom opportunities for her students. Jennifer’s art has always been inspired by nature and during her eleven year public school teaching position in Burlington County she heavily integrated math and science into the curriculum. She believes nature and art are both great vehicles for learning and is deeply passionate about facilitating experiential learning opportunities that weave curriculum content into a child’s innate expressivity. Jennifer disembarked from mainstream education in order to provide an alternative learning experience for her daughter. She currently resides in Salem County on a mini farm raising chickens and tending to her large-scale garden where she hopes to explore more aspects of homesteading with her family.

Dr.Chelsea Rueda

Doctor of Occupational Therapy. Dr. Chelsea joined Star Child Nature School in 2022 as the staff Occupational Therapist. She has her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Salve Regina University as well as both her Master’s and Clinical Doctorate (OTD) in Occupational Therapy from Shenandoah University. 

While completing her Master’s degree, she travelled to Nicaragua to provide occupational therapy services in conjunction with a multi-disciplinary team. She has experience in pediatric Occupational Therapy in both outpatient and inpatient clinical settings in addition to nature-based settings.                                                                                                     

Dr. Chelsea specializes in pediatrics and has vast experiences and knowledge of child development and approaches to successfully help children achieve optimal participation and engagement for skills and milestone achievement. Because of her love for the outdoors and the field of Occupational Therapy, her capstone project for her doctorate was “Occupational Therapy in a nature-based setting: A sensory and motor perspective.” She was fortunate to complete her doctorate while working with Star Child Nature School as she explored a better option for her young daughter to attend pre-school. Her fondest desire is to continue her exploration and research into the value of nature based Occupational Therapy and over the course of her daughter’s tenure in school, create and publish her findings to add to the depth and breadth of research in the emerging field.

Dr. Chelsea believes that nature provides the optimal sensory play experiences for a child to improve and develop including physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally, therefore resulting in a child’s independence.

In her free time, Dr. Chelsea loves to visit the mountains and the beach. She enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, traveling across the country, and the changing seasons that give us so much to embrace and appreciate. She is also fond of her backyard “victory” garden and hobby farm where she grows as much of her family’s own food as she can to preserve and cook healthy “farm-to-table” meals. You can often find her in Vermont or Maine, and occasionally on a beach in the Caribbean (where she was married a few years ago)!

Jenna Montrose

Teacher's Aid. Jenna joined Star Child in 2020.  She is a Seneca High School 2019 graduate and is currently a senior at Rowan University with a dual major in both Elementary Education and Literacy Studies. While enrolled in Seneca’s Child Development class she was a part of the onsite preschool program. Jenna was also involved in the school’s Community Service club and was a part of Holy Eucharist’s Youth Group. In 2018 she began teaching at the Church’s Vacation Bible School working with children of varying ages. Jenna enjoys photography and baking and is looking forward to gaining more experience teaching in our unconventional setting and meeting the needs of each of the children she works with.  Jenna will be working as a student teacher this year, while she will not be with us in the same capacity this year as she has in the past we wish her the best as she completes her studies and gets ready to graduate!

Tell me and I'll forget; Show me and I may remember; Involve me and I'll  understand

Star Child School LLC staff are CPR, AED and First Aid Certified.