Melissa Sheppard

Founder/Director/Pre-Kindergarten Teacher. 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.  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.

Allison Vogel

2-turning 3 Year Old Class 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.

Ces martin

2-turning 3 Year Old class Teacher.  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

Faith Twarowski

2-turning 3 Year Old Class Teacher/Child & Caregiver Co-Teacher.

Faith joined star child in 2022 and has been working with children as a nanny for many years. She has a love for nature and connecting with children of all ages. She is a mother of two, an aunt to 4, a plant mom, dog mom, and cat mom. She devotes her time to taking her kids outdoors and exploring no matter the weather. You’ll see her in the dirt, mud, and jumping in puddles right along side the children. Almost always she’s told she has a calming presence and connects to everyone. After completing her degree in Opthalmic Science and having her own little ones she realized her passion is to be a teacher. She’s enrolling in elementary education classes at Rowan this spring. If it’s summer time, you can find Faith and her kids at the beach or hiking. She’s passionate about holistic health care, arts and crafts, and podcasts. Faith cannot wait to finish her degree in education and teach full time.

Kelsey Robb

2-turning 3 Year Old Class Teacher.  Kelsey is originally from South Jersey and attended college at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. She achieved her BA in Psychology and Religion. Kelsey has spent the better part of the last 10 years working seasonally on organic farms moving about twice a year and getting to live in various places all over the country. She has always dreamt of finding a way to combine her two passions, working outdoors and education. Kelsey believes nature is our biggest teacher and can’t wait to thrive alongside her students spending days learning and embracing what it has to offer.  Kelsey also enjoy writing, swimming in the ocean, sewing and hiking with my dog Frankie. She was beyond thrilled when she found Star Child and couldn’t be more excited to join this community.

Cassie Burns

3-turning 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.

Michelle Douthitt

3-turning 4 Year Old Class Teacher. Michelle is a Jersey Girl through and through. She grew up in Burlington County and earned her BA in English/Creative Writing/Psychology from Rutgers University, meeting friends from and exploring all the tiny corners of this beautiful state along the way. When she isn’t teaching, Michelle is definitely outside somewhere- on a walk with her family, hiking with her dog, escaping down the shore or photographing weddings, families and special events all over NJ and PA. She is so excited to share her knowledge of the seasons, wildlife and plants that shape our beautiful home with a new group of little explorers at Star Child this year!

Corinne Cargen

Pre-Kindergarten 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.

Stephanie Sottolano

Pre-Kindergarten Class Teacher. 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.

Andrea Manka

5-10 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.

Jennifer Galati

5-10 Year Old Class Teacher. 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.

Jennifer Potts

5-10 Year Old 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!


Julie Moon

Substitute 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 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

Dr.Chelsea Rueda

Doctor of Occupational Therapy. Dr. Chelsea joined Star Child Nature School in 2022 as the staff Occupational Therapist. With the birth of her second child she will continue with Star Child as consultant.  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)!

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.