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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.

The Amherst Preschool Three and Four's

Jenn Leeds


Jen 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 our time together outside hiking, gardening and getting dirty. Jen is also a Reiki Master and finds peace in meditation and water.

Mattea Schevey


Mattea joined the team at TAP in 2021 with more than 15 years of experience guiding young children. She is passionate about child led play, making messes and the power of being outdoors. 

Tea has an associates degree in fine arts and brings her love of art and the process of creativity into the classroom. She has completed many courses in Early Childhood Education and has developed a philosophy based on a whole child approach.

She lives in Manchester with her husband, daughter, dog, and cat.

The Amherst Preschool Pre-K Program

Kim Lafluer


Kim has joined The Amherst Preschool this winter as a long term substitute and assistant for our Pre-K program.  Kim has spent time in a Montessori classroom as an assistant and as a nanny for several families.

Ruthie joined The Amherst Preschool in 2012 and has enjoyed many roles. Being a teacher with the four year old children 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 27 years. They raised their three children in this community that they truly love.


Ruthie Gordon

The Amherst Preschool Kindergarten Leaders

Nichole DeDecker


Nikki joins the TAP team after 16 years as a first and second grade public school teacher. She started her career after receiving a bachelor degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Notre Dame College with teaching certificates in general special education and elementary education. In those years as an elementary teacher, she saw the greatest wonderment in her students when they had a connection to the outdoors. In recent years, this desire drove her to obtain her ME.d with a concentration in Mindfulness from Antioch University in order to better share that relationship to the natural world with her students. She has a volunteer partnership with the Francestown Elementary School where she has helped design and build their outdoor learning space and teaches during their outdoor learning days.

Nikki lives in Francestown with her husband Ryan and their two dogs, Charleigh and Vida. They have a great passion for all things outdoors.

Lindsy Faucher


This is Lindsy’s first year at TAP, 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 Leaders

Kat Kausch And Kirsten Hickman


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. 

Kirsten Hickman 

Kirsten joined JFFS in 2021 for our first year at the Educational Farm at Joppa Hill, after being a parent and substitute teacher at The Amherst Preschool.  She has a degree in early childhood and special education and after college taught in preschool and Montessori programs before deciding to combine her love of teaching and her love of animals and became Program Director and Instructor of Therapeutic Equestrian therapy for eight years

Kirsten has a love for all things animals, including those on her own little farm in Amherst where she lives with her husband, three boys, horses, dogs, sheep, cats and a mini donkey.

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