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Ellen Grudzien


Ellen has been working in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years and has a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Springfield College. 


Her experience as an early childhood educator and a preschool director led her to open The Amherst Preschool in 2009 and expanding to operating and managing the Joppa Farm and Forest School in 2021.  Ellen believes children learn best in an environment where they are nurtured and respected and can experience long periods of time in nature.  She has designed the programs at Lets Grow Outside NH with the philosophy that children can be trusted to explore their environment while leading their own learning. Ellen also believes a child-led play focused environment supports all areas of growth and development.


Through her love of yoga, Ellen became a certified Child Light Yoga instructor in 2015. Ellen lives in Amherst with her husband where they have raised two children. She has served on The Amherst School Board and is actively involved in the community.

Supporting Roles

Hali Hartman

Operations Manager

Hali joined Let's Grow Outside NH in May of 2024 as our first manager of operations.  As we grow we are so excited to have her join our team to manage much of the daily operation tasks.  Her career experience managing in the restaurant industry has given her a multitude of transferable skills and the ability to shift focus quickly in an environment where every day is different!

Hali is originally from San Diego, California where she spent her childhood before relocating to Dallas, Texas.  Three years ago she took a leap of faith and moved to the New England area.  She's enjoying becoming familiar with the East Coast.  Hali lives with her partner Jack and their dog Murphy and cat Milton in Amherst.  

The Amherst Preschool Full Day Guides

Emily Grudzien

Director of Full Day Program

Emily holds an undergraduate degree from St. Lawrence University and a Master of Education in Teaching and Learning from University of Southern Maine. With a solid foundation in education, Emily began her teaching career as a middle school teacher in Maine, where she honed her skills and developed a deep commitment to student growth and development.


Her dedication to education extends to beyond the classroom, for the past few summers Emily has led wilderness/canoe trips as a trip leader for Camp Chewonki. Her role at Chewonki has allowed her to share her love for the outsoors and teach valuable skills in a hands-on environment. Additionally, Emily is certified as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), ensuring safety and well-being of her kids during their adventures.


Emily lives in Bedford with her boyfriend, Tom. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors, exploring new places and traveling. 

Kaitlyn Walmsley

Full Day Lead Guide

Bio coming soon...

Isabell Cullen

Full Day Associate Guide


Isabel (Izzy) joined The Amherst Preschool in the fall of 2023 as she began navigating her journey toward becoming an educator. 


While taking courses in early childhood education Izzy interned in a variety of classrooms serving children ages three to six years old.  Izzy has also acted as a substitute occasionally in the absence of a classroom teacher.  The children love her, and her presence has been so wonderful. 

Izzy grew up in Amherst where her family still lives. In her free time, she loves being outdoors, spending time with friends and family and often cares for children of families in the area.  

The Amherst Preschool Three and Four's

Stefanie Kovar

Preschool Lead Guide


Stefanie started part time as a floater at The Amherst Preschool in 2022 and is excited to join our team as a lead teacher this year.


She graduated from UVM in 2008 with a degree in Early Childhood Special Education and then spent 10 years living abroad in Prague. While in Prague, she worked as a preschool teacher in a bi-lingual setting following the children’s lead to encourage and support their development as well as enhance their English language skills.

Stefanie has lived in Amherst since summer 2022 with her Czech husband and three children. They enjoy traveling and exploring together.

Kayleigh Pearl

Preschool Lead Guide


Kayleigh joined The Amherst Preschool as a parent in 2022 and quickly came to love the program. She is excited to join the teaching team as a Leader at JFFS for fall of 2023!


She holds an associates degree in Early Childhood Education and has 15 years of experience working with young children. 


Kayleigh lives in Amherst with her husband and three kids (and two dogs, two goats, 25 chickens and a bunny!). They spend their time doing various outside activities, getting together with friends and family and love going up to the lake.

The Amherst Preschool Pre-K Program Guides

Ruthie Gordon

Pre-K Lead Guide

Ruthie joined The Amherst Preschool in 2012 and has enjoyed many roles. Being a teacher in the pre-k program has been one of her greatest joys.  Ruthie believes that watching the children explore and grow throughout the school year is perhaps the greatest reward of this profession. 

Ruthie holds a bachelor of arts in psychology and a master of education in guidance and counseling. 

Ruthie and her husband Joel have made Amherst their home for the past 32 years. They raised their three children in this community that they truly love.

Kim Lafluer

Pre-K Associate Guide


Kim joined the staff as an Associate teacher in the fall of 2023 after being a permanent substitute from January through May.  She is excited to continue to grow as a guide in the child led Pre-K classroom. 


Kim has an associate's degree from Manchester Community College, has experience in the Montessori model and has been a nanny for several families. 


She is a mom to two grown daughters and enjoys adventuring on the weekends.

The Amherst Preschool Kindergarten Guides

Jenn Leeds

Kindergarten Lead Guide

Jenn began her journey at The Amherst Preschool in 2020 and is excited to be part of a child led play environment rich in outdoor experiences. She has worked in Early Childhood for over 10 years and has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a Minor in Social Welfare. She graduated from Plymouth State University in 2009 and has been in the classroom ever since.

Jen lives in Peterborough with her two boys, Hunter and Forrest. They love to spend their time together outside hiking, gardening and getting dirty. Jen is also a Reiki Master and finds peace in meditation and water.

Lindsy Faucher

Kindergarten Associate Guide

Lindsy joined TAP in 2020, however she has been teaching in a preschool setting since 2011. She has a BA from Quinnipiac University and received her lead teacher certification from MCC. She believes children learn best while exploring the world around them. She loves to watch them use their natural curiosity to experiment and problem solve. She is excited to join the Amherst Preschool team and be a part of the Let’s Grow Outside NH movement.


Lindsy lives in Amherst with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys cooking, going to the beach, and spending time with loved ones.

Joppa Farm and Forest School Guides

Kat Kausch



Kat joined The Amherst Preschool in 2022 and has a tremendous appreciation for the natural world and a deep understanding of child led play. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology and a minor in Studio Art.


Prior to being a stay at home parent she has taught Environmental Science, Biology, and Marine Biology at the high school level and has shared her knowledge in Herbalism and Foraging with the community.

Kat lives in Amherst with her husband, two daughters, and dog.  They spend their time exploring the woods, hiking mountains, camping, and creating art. 

Amanda Poza


Bio coming soon...

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