Teachers & Staff
Staff Picture

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 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 at Shenandoah Middle Museums Magnet school infusing the creative arts into the core curriculum. Most recently Mrs. Cruz was the Interim Director of Education the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville working with young children in the Art Fusion arts enrichment classes and teaching young visitors how to engage in exhibitions. “I love exploring and learning with children. They have amazing curiosity and their thirst for knowledge develops naturally through creative play and wonder." You may find her creating felt puppets for story time or climbing a tree picking mulberries in The Playgarden. She has completed her LifeWays Early Childhood Education Training through LifeWays of North America and currently enjoying Waldorf Administration Training through The Center for Anthroposophy at Antioch University.

Staff Picture

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.

Staff Picture

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.

Staff Picture

Leah Henderson

Dragonfly Forest Teacher

Miss Leah is our Dragonfly Forest 2 day teacher and will also be enjoying more forest fun with Miss Anna as the Dragonfly forest assistant. This is her second year leading as last year she served as our Dragonfly program teacher, Monday through Wednesday. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology with minors in Chemistry, Computer Science and Studio Art. She carries a Masters of Arts in Teaching, Secondary Science Education. Miss Leah has began working at the Playgarden in 2017 as a Teacher's Assistant in our forest program. She is excited to get back into nature. She loves welcoming children to our seasonal camps as the Lead Counselor. She has years of experience building children's imaginations by leading children's classes in engineering. She is passionate about encouraging children to build a genuine desire to learn, and helping children express empathy, kindness and love towards everyone they meet. She is finishing up her last session of LifeWays Certification and already putting to work all she has learned during her training year.

Staff Picture

Kalie Nacca

Hummingbird Teacher

Miss Kalie is our 2-day Hummingbird Teacher. She holds her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She was a full-time nanny in Asheville for 3 years where she discovered her passion for working with children. With a background in the performing arts and vocal music, Ms. Kalie loves to incorporate movement and music into her day at The Playgarden. As former museum educator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Ms. Kalie taught art classes and facilitated museum tours. She completed her LifeWays Certification in 2020 bringing gentle reverence to her teaching. She is ecstatic to cultivate a creative space at The Playgarden where children are led by their imagination.

Staff Picture

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
Staff Picture

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.

Teacher Angels