Woodland Wonders Nature Preschool offers our students the best nature-based education possible with our highly-qualified teachers. Our teachers are passionate naturalists and dedicated educators, with strong backgrounds in natural resources and the outdoors and specializing in early-childhood education concepts and techniques.
Sarah Crim, Education Director and Teacher
Sarah has been dedicated to the environmental education of young children since 2009 when she co-founded Forest Friends, an award-winning preschool program offered at the Kreher Preserve & Nature Center. The program began after she searched for an experience for her own children that engaged them with the outdoor world. She has a B.S. and M.S. in Forestry from Auburn University and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education at Auburn. She became inspired to begin a nature preschool after observing a nature preschool campus in her hometown of Nashville, TN. She has attended numerous conferences and workshops on nature-based education including working with Claire Warden at the Journeys into Nature Workshop. Sarah is first-aid certified and has had over fifteen years of experience working in the forest and over six years of professional experience working with children. She has served as the Education Director for the Kreher Preserve & Nature Center since October of 2017.
Emily Howe, Teacher
Emily Howe is an Auburn University Graduate of the Early Childhood Education program. In the program she learned of the many benefits and joys of a child-led approach that is used at the Kreher Preserve with the Woodland Wonders program. The capacity students have to lead the way in learning amazes her. This leads to incredibly meaningful early experiences in learning when returned with tangible resources such as nature. She has taught in traditional settings, in summer enrichment programs, and served in underprivileged schools as a student at Auburn in Preschool, Kindergarten, 2nd, and 3rd grade. She grew up in a nature loving family spending the majority of her childhood outdoors, exploring and enjoying all of beauty that comes from being outside. One of her favorite quotes from Martin Luther states beautifully, “God is entirely and personally present in the wilderness, in the garden, in the field.” She believes this to be true and the wonder students show when faced with this energizes her teaching. Her experience as a nanny and babysitter over the past 13 years inspired her to pursue a career that partners with families and is fully engaged in childhood. She believes early childhood is an entirely unique and precious time in development and is honored to be a part if that process with each of her students and their families.
Melanie Brown, Teacher
Melanie Brown is a lifetime lover of learning, and nature. At an early age she could have been considered a “Martha Stewart” of mud pies and stick soup. She was guilty of taking eggs from the fridge to make the pies better. She now prefers to use eggs in cookies, but is an avid gardener so is really still playing in the yard all the time. As the mother of seven children she has been working with and raising children for the last 30 years. She has run a small in-home preschool/daycare business and served as Children’s Music Chorister in her church for many years. She has been teaching theater classes for Auburn Area Community Theater since 2008. In addition to teaching classes, she is AACT’s Children’s Education Coordinator and Children’s Director. In addition, she is the founder of AACT Academy Summer Camps. While theater education is not based in Biology, or Botany, she believes teaching children to learn through “play”, to cooperate, collaborate and to communicate with confidence are universal, essential skills to have. With her passion for teaching children, and love of nature she is looking forward to teaching at the Woodland Wonder Nature Preschool and using phrases such as, “I am liken some lichen”, and “Dirt is what gets on your clothes, but soil is where things grow.”
Amanda Thomas, Teacher
Amanda Thomas finds herself happiest when interacting with early learners and seeing the “old familiar” aspects of the world through their eyes. She began her career in education empowering high school students through social science education. For the past 15 years she has parented and volunteered with the local foster care system, eventually finding her way to the forest. She has interacted with the Kreher Preserve & Nature Center’s award winning Forest Friends program for the past 12 years as either a parent, supporter, or instructor.
The time is finally right to join these interests and teach within the Woodland Wonders Nature Preschool. Amanda’s specialties include silliness and empathizing with the day to day struggles of being a preschooler.
Michelle Simpson, Teacher
Michelle Simpson is an animal and nature enthusiast! She has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Butler University and loves the outdoors. When she is not working, she loves hiking, spending time with her two dogs, cooking, camping, and traveling. Michelle also works in the children’s section at the Opelika Public Library and has over 10 years of experience as a babysitter and nanny and 6 years as an environmental educator. She has worked in zoos and nature centers and is very passionate about connecting children with nature. She loves seeing a child’s curiosity spark and strives to build a foundation for life-long stewards of the environment! She is so excited to learn, play, and have fun with the Woodland Wonders Nature Preschool!