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Teachers & Staff
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Laura Cruz

Executive Director

Our Executive Director is Ms. Laura Cruz. She is responsible for all administrative functions of the school and keeps our school home happy and bright. Ms. Laura served as a Dragonfly teacher for two years, enjoying outside play at The Playgarden, where she won our hearts with her caring disposition and grace with the children.

Laura Cruz graduated Magna Cum Laude from Florida State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education. She is a National Board Certificated educator who taught art for 10 years in Miami at Shenandoah Middle Museums Magnet school spearheading the magnet program curriculum and infusing the creative arts into the core curriculum. Mrs. Cruz was the Interim Director of Education at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville leading key community outreach programs including Voice of the People with SP Livingstone Elementary and Rainbow Artists for students on the Autistic Spectrum in Duval County Public Schools. Laura is celebrating her sixth year as The Playgarden Executive Director, building community in Early Childhood Education in Jacksonville Beach. She has completed her LifeWays Early Childhood Certificate through LifeWays North America and Waldorf Administration Training through The Center for Anthroposophy at Antioch University.

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Carol Wagner

Financial Controller

Ms. Carol worked in the administrative/accounting field in different businesses before taking time off to homeschool her children. During this time she had a strong pull towards working with children, teens & families. She became the director of a large nursery/preschool program and organized a youth program. In 2012, she joined The Playgarden as a teacher’s assistant with Ms. Adana & Ms. Lynn and then moved into the administrative position. After six years in this role, she grew into the Playgarden's head of finances as the Financial Controller. She keeps our garden organized and operating smoothly with her expertise. Her warm smile and generous heart bless The Playgarden's children, their families, and staff in many ways. Ms. Carol’s favorite thing about the Playgarden is being a part of the love and devotion poured into the lives of our children and their families in a home-like environment. She completed a Waldorf Administrative training through The Center for Anthroposophy in 2019.

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Adana Whyte

Butterfly & Hummingbird Teacher

Ms. Adana serves as a Pedagogical Chair for the College of Teachers and Senior Lead Teacher for the Butterfly & Hummingbird program. She holds a bachelor's degree in fine arts, has worked in a variety of early childhood settings with children with diverse learning styles and needs. Since joining The Playgarden faculty in 2011, Miss Adana completed LifeWays Early Childhood Education Training through LifeWays of North America in Lincolnville, Maine. She has completed numerous trainings including Explorations Training through The Center for Anthroposophy and is currently seeking her Masters of Waldorf Education with a transdisciplinary focus in Healing Education. She has been a LifeWays Mentor for many years and she had the distinguished pleasure to teach handwork courses for our recent year long LifeWays Certification training. Miss Adana brings her gentle natural warmth and love of fiber arts to our littlest ones in our Playgarden family.

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Crystal Collazo

Dragonfly Forest

Miss Crystal is our Dragonfly Forest 5 day teacher. She has been with The Playgarden in many capacities and classes over the past 6 years and we are excited for the years to come. She completed Explorations in 2018 through The Center for Anthroposophy bringing her Waldorf gentle style to the children in her care. She completed LifeWays Fundamentals and Cedar Song training in 2023.

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Miss Jen

Dragonfly Teacher

Miss Jen is our five day Dragonfly teacher lovingly guiding our 3-6 year old mixed age class.
Jen received her Bachelor of Arts from San Diego State University in Psychology. She comes with years of experience working with children in and out of the classroom. She received her LifeWays Teacher Certification in 2021 and has been bring her joyful teaching style and gentle spirit to all of the families here at The Playgarden.

mdescourouez@theplaygarden.org
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Miss Morgan

Hummingbird Teacher

We welcome Miss Morgan as our Hummingbird 3 day teacher in the Kinderhaus. This is Morgan's second year at The Playgarden, last year as the Dragonfly 3 day assistant. Her passion for early education and Waldorf philosophy led her to join the LifeWays Certification training that The Playgarden hosted in 2019-2020. Miss Morgan was manager and an essential member of the Bay&Bee team before joining The Playgarden. Morgan's kind heart and crafting skills have brought so much beauty to our sweet little school by the sea.

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Miss Jenna

Butterfly Teacher

Miss Jenna is our Butterfly Teacher for our sweet Thursday-Friday class. She taught our Ladybug Parent Child class for four years and was a Teacher's Angel for the Dragonfly before moving into this lovely role. She completed her LifeWays Fundamentals in 2022. She enjoys spending time in Atlantic Beach with her family, surfing and camping.

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Hunter Davis

Dragonfly Teacher

Miss Hunter brings her passion for teaching to our Dragonfly 2-day class at The Playgarden. Born and raised in North Florida, she wholeheartedly guides her students on a captivating journey of learning and growth. Her academic accomplishments include a Bachelor's of Social Work in 2019 and a Master's of Social Work in 2020, earned from The University of North Florida. With a rich background in Social Work and valuable experience in therapeutic settings for children and adolescents, Miss Hunter's profound interest in alternative and holistic approaches called her to this nurturing community. At The Playgarden, where cherished values include fostering relationships, resilience, and a deep love for nature, she finds herself truly grateful to serve as a dedicated steward to our enchanting school by the sea. In her spare time you can find Miss Hunter gardening, beekeeping, wandering in nature, and spending cherished time with her family. She is receiving the LifeWays Fundmentals training through gracious support of our nonprofit fundraising efforts.

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Angela Power

Hummingbird Teacher

Miss Angela joins us as our Monday-Tuesday Hummingbird teacher.
Being a teacher at The Playgarden has been a dream come true. She first joined as a mother and soon after became the teacher’s angel, mentored by the wise and wonderful Miss Adana. She brings her loving presence, kindness and tenderness to our classroom.
Angela completed her LifeWays Fundamentals course in 2022 and is delighted to be able to guide and care for the children this upcoming year. She looks forward to a wonderful year of seeing your children grow and transform into their own unique selves.

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Ira Hillin

Hummingbird Hybrid Teacher

Born and raised in Kyiv, Ukraine, I moved to Jacksonville Beach 13 years ago, where I have lived since. My husband and I have 3 kiddos: two boys almost 10-year-old, 7 year old and a daughter who is 4,5 (all of them Playgarden alumni or current student!). We had just recently added a new fur baby to our family, a silly black lab mix. As a family we love to spend time at the beach the most!

I graduated from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in 2010 with a degree in Philology. Back in my college years I used to work with young children as an English language tutor, and I am so happy to have revived my passion for teaching after years of being a stay-at-home mom. I discovered The Playgarden 7 years ago, when we were looking for the best preschool for our firstborn. I fell in love with the sweet nurturing environment, wonderful community, and best teachers ever. After volunteering here and there "just to fulfill my volunteer hours :) ", I have fallen even deeper in love with our school, and continued my Playgarden journey as a Parent Council president for 2 years before becoming a camp counselor, a Teacher’s Angel, and now a Lead teacher. This will be my third year working at the Playgarden, and a first year as a Lead teacher.

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