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.
Sarah teaches Monday-Friday from 3:00-5:00pm.
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.
Emily teachers Monday-Friday from 8:00am-3:00pm
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 has over 10 years of experience as a babysitter and nanny and 7 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!
Michelle teaches Monday-Friday from 8:00am-3:00pm
Jessi Byrd, Teacher
Jessi Byrd grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota where she came to love the outdoors, swimming in lakes, climbing rocks and snowboarding on the mountain. Snowboarding led her to the Rockies where she attended The University of Colorado at Denver and studied Behavioral science and Sociology. When not with the tadpoles/raccoons, Jessi is with her 2 intriguing children exploring family fun events in the area. Her philosophy is that each child is different, therefore, she believes in our little ones learning and thriving at their own pace. Jessi is so honored to be a part of the Woodland Wonders family and truly feels it’s such a wholesome environment for individuals to begin their fresh adventure in life with young and curious eyes at the Kreher Preserve!
Jessi teaches Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00am-1:00pm
Starlyn Teel, Teacher
Starlyn has enjoyed working with children as a babysitter, nanny, and teacher for the past 16 years. Some of her role models growing up were Pocahontas, Ms. Frizzle, Mary Poppins, and Mr. Rogers. She loves studying language for fun and has been teaching English as a Second Language since 2009. She attended Columbus State University and graduated with a B.S in Early Childhood Education. While in university she received her TESOL certification. Upon graduation she was a nanny and taught at Auburn Montessori School where she led creative project learning activities and partnered with the school’s Chinese language arts teacher. In 2015 she began working for Auburn University as a language consultant, working with university students and visiting scholars. Starlyn currently teachers ESL to students online and in person. Being a Woodland Wonders teacher is a dream come true! She is happily married and is the mother of three young children. Her hobbies are swimming, biking, running and art. Starlyn also leads the Nature Babies class Wednesday mornings at the preserve.
Starlyn teaches Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:00am-1:00pm
Amanda Prince, Teacher
Amanda Prince began preparing to be a nature educator as a preschooler herself. As a child, she attended preschool at High Meadows. Her earliest school memories are of pony rides, chicken coops, playhouses and trips in the forest with “Mother Nature.” While in middle school her dad joked that she had unlimited funds from being the most requested babysitter. As a high school student, she worked at a local daycare and realized she wanted a career working with children. In 2000 she arrived in Auburn earning a degree in Human Development and Family Studies where she spent as many hours as possible in the preschool lab, Auburn University Early Learning Center. God continued to lay out the path for her when she went on a fieldtrip with the lab school to AEEC (Auburn Early Education Center) and realized she would need a teaching degree to work at the kindergarten only school located in Auburn. So off to earn an Alternative Masters which would allow her to move from and assistant at AEEC to a classroom teacher. After marring and have her 1st child 10 years ago she left the classroom before Auburn City Schools re-structed the elementary schools. Then a phone call with an offer to interview for the assistant director at Auburn United Methodist Church preschool occurred while she was pregnant with her second child. There she realized the joy of working with the youngest children and “graduated” with her daughter. Her passion is helping students learn hands on in authentic ways through play. When she came across the listing for a nature educator it seemed like the perfect fit. Amanda describes her family as project people. They are restoring a 1972 airstream, and camp whenever they can find free time. The rest of her time is spent cutting grass, taking care of their home, driving Fischer (10) and Sadie (8) to activities, dating her husband Larry, and teaching exercise classes.
Amanda teaches Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9:00am-1:00pm
Kayla Wilson, Teacher and Naturalist
Kayla Wilson has been working at the preserve for over 6 years as an environmental educator, animal caretaker, and naturalist. She teaches many of the programs and field trips at the preserve. She graduated with her bachelors from Auburn in Organismal Biology: Conservation and Biodiversity, and her Master’s in Biology from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. During her masters she studied how Plethodon glutinosus (the Northern slimy salamander) utilizes cave habitats, especially regarding their nesting and development. Because of this, she believes salamanders are the most interesting, adorable, and charming animals in the world, and will hear no arguments otherwise. Caving, herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians), hiking, gaming, teaching, and exploring are her favorite activities. She is so excited to teach preschool this year and hopes to help the kids come home with a greater appreciation and understanding of nature in Alabama!
Kayla teaches Monday-Friday from 3:00pm-5:00pm.
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.”
Melanie teaches our special programs!