All About Orchard


All About Orchard

A day in the life

We begin each day with an all-school morning circle under the trees. This is our chance to share news and talk about the day ahead, as well as about upcoming events. Students take turns leading the circle. On music days, the music teacher leads a cooperative singing game.

Students (grades 1 to 6) then move through a four-period day, with each class separated by recess time. Kids move to different classrooms for each subject where they are instructed by specialty teachers in math, language arts or social studies, science or gardening, and the arts (circus arts, drama, music and art). Once a week, each grade is in charge of animal care, and on Fridays, students have leadership and Spanish in the morning and electives in the afternoon.  


On a typical day at Orchard, you might see children dropping marshmallows into various liquids as they learn about chemical reactions, visiting the school’s willow forest to practice survival skills after reading in language arts class about what it would be like to be stranded on an island, eating freshly-made waffles divided into different portions while learning about fractions in math class, walking on stilts across the meadow as they practice for a school play, or harvesting, then pounding and grinding acorns, as they learn about local Native American forbears.

At recess, the school grounds are abuzz -- children run barefooted across the grassy fields, they climb the enormous redwood tree with it’s ladder of limbs towering up into the sky, they fly paper airplanes, build stick forts beneath the willow trees, make nature mandalas with flowers and stones, dig trenches in the dirt, build mountains of sand, visit the chickens to collect eggs and truly have their fill of movement, freedom, and play so they are ready and eager to move back to deep focus when the bell rings for class time.


Kindergartners stay with their dedicated teacher in the kinder cottage for most of the day, exploring all of their subjects there (math, language arts, science, cooking, gardening, rest time, and handwork). Kindergartners do not have electives but they do go to the arts teachers for one period each day.




Orchard Staff

Orchard Staff


The Orchard Team

All of our teachers meet the highest academic and personal standards, and are dedicated to the ideals and principles under which Orchard School was founded. Our teaching style incorporates the main principles of the 21st Century thinking skills as outlined in the National Education Association:  Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Communication.



Principal, Mathematics, Leadership
Manila has been teaching at Orchard School for over 20 years. She was also the vice-principal and co-director from 1998 to 2014 and took over the principalship in 2015. Before coming to Orchard, she taught at Capitola Elementary School for six years. She holds a B.A. in photojournalism and a California State Teaching Credential from San Jose State University, where she graduated with distinction.  She completed the Marilyn Burns Math Institute, and is a member of both the California Mathematics Council and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. In her free time, Manila likes to read, bike, play sports, and spend time with family and friends.


valerie Cameron

Humanities Valerie is new to Orchard this year. She has spent the past six years teaching language arts and creative movement at local schools, and has over 20 years experience in various educational roles integrating performing arts into academics. Before becoming a classroom teacher, she taught and performed in San Francisco with Earth Circus, an environmental performing arts company. Valerie has a B.A. in Dance and Choreography from San Francisco State and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. She is a self-described environmental enthusiast who enjoys going to the beach, playing board games, reading, music, dance, the theatre, and hanging out with her husband, her 3 children and her 2 cats.


Erica Fiechter

Science                                   Erica joined the Orchard team in 2018 with nine years of classroom teaching experience in the Cupertino Union School District, and over 10 years experience in outdoor education working as a naturalist and program coordinator. Her teaching has taken her all over the world, from South America to Australia and Europe, as a volunteer elementary school teacher and a wilderness adventure leader. Erica has a B.A. in Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism, Parks and Protected Area Management from Colorado State University, a Single Subject Science Teaching Credential, and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. As well as teaching, Erica loves to crochet, paint, work with clay, and go on outdoor adventures with her husband and daughter.  



Mathematics, Administrative Assistant
Kenza started teaching at Orchard in 2009 but her first exposure to the school was in 2006 when she was looking for the perfect kindergarten for her son. She fell in love, instantly, with the grounds, the teachers, the food, the garden, the animals, the exploration -- it felt too good to be true. Kenza has a B.A. in History and Economics from Wellesley College, an Adult Teaching Credential in Parent Education, and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from CSUMB. She has worked in many capacities at Orchard including as a kindergarten teacher and an elective teacher. She has also taught parent education, positive discipline, creative movement, yoga and preschool in parent cooperatives and community centers, and first grade at an American school in Morocco, her homeland. She is fluent in French, Spanish, Arabic, and English. When she isn’t teaching, Kenza likes to play soccer and basketball, spend time with family here and abroad, read, and walk her dog.



Kindergarten, Leadership, Administrative Assistant
Rosy has been teaching at Orchard School since 2012. She has a B.A. in English Literature, with a minor in French, from Mills College where she graduated with honors, Phi Beta Kappa, and an M.A. in Communication from Stanford University. She fell in love with Orchard School initially as a parent, eventually leaving her career as an award-winning freelance reporter for National Public Radio and the Santa Cruz Sentinel to take the helm of the kindergarten program. She had worked with children her whole adult life, as a nanny, a teacher’s assistant, an elective teacher, and as an active parent in various classrooms for almost 15 years, but it did not become her primary focus until she found Orchard. Apart from teaching, her interests lie in spending time with her family and her cats, playing chess and Scrabble, reading, eating, cooking and traveling.



Kindergarten, Apothecary Class, Electives
Kathleen began as the kindergarten co-teacher in 2016. She had also been the art teacher in 1998 and the drama teacher in 1999. Her educational background includes training at the Waldorf institute of Southern California and the London School of Eurythmy, as well as certifications in storytelling and puppetry, and many classes in Early Childhood Education. Kathleen has worked with families in Santa Cruz in many capacities for over 40 years, including as a kindergarten teacher at the Santa Cruz Waldorf School, and as the founder and teacher of the Magic Garden, a home-based preschool that has since closed.  She performs personalized puppet shows in the community using dolls and props that she handcrafts, and also hosts nature-based craft and storytelling workshops for children and adults.


Marla Stone Lyons

Music                                              Marla joined Orchard School in 2018. She has decades of experience teaching music and theater arts to pre-K students through adults in public and private schools all over Santa Cruz and the South Bay, most recently at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View. She holds an M.A. (from Goddard College in Vermont) and a B.A. (from San Jose State University), both in Music, Theatre and Dance, and a preliminary teaching credential. Marla is a professional musician who directs and performs in three longtime local bands, most notably the eclectic Star La'Moan and the Kitchenettes, a band that predominately plays New Orleans music including blues, R&B, gypsy jazz and funk.                                                                                               



Circus Arts, Drama, Gardening
Rock has been teaching at Orchard School for 19 years, and running the school’s summer camp since 2003. He has performed locally and internationally for over three decades with artists including Tandy Beal, SoVoSo, The New Pickle Circus, Linda Arnold, and the Golden State Warriors. He received a Gail Rich award in 2003 honoring his work in the community. When he is not teaching, Rock performs as a clown at various events under the auspices of the entertainment business he owns and operates with his wife, who is also a clown. He is an avid gardener and bicyclist, and a lover of healthy food. 



Art, Leadership, Electives,
Valerie has been part of the Orchard community since 2010 when her daughter joined the kindergarten class. She began teaching art and movement electives in 2013, and in 2016, she took charge of the art program, as well as becoming one of the school’s chefs. She has trained as an artist in various mediums, from watercolor to quilting, for over 20 years, and is a certified holistic chef.  She is also a certified mentor for young girls coming of age. In her free time, Valerie enjoys African dance, traveling, yoga, playing squash and the ukulele, sewing and lithography.



Spanish (Grades 1-6)
Sherrie has been teaching at Orchard School since 2014. She has a B.A. in Latin American Studies and a Bilingual Teaching Credential, both from UCSC, and an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language from San Jose State. Sherrie has been teaching ESL at Cabrillo since 2001 and also privately tutors ESL students. She began her teaching career at Mintie White Elementary in Watsonville where she taught kindergarten.
Sherrie is a busy mom when she’s not teaching; some of her favorite activities with her family include surfing, camping, traveling, reading aloud to her children, watching their soccer games, playing games, and taking photos.



Linda has been teaching at Orchard School since 2009, although she had worked as the school’s substitute ceramics teacher for 18 years prior to this. She has a B.A. in Fine Arts from Chico State and began her art career as a watercolorist in Seattle. Her experience includes teaching ceramics classes to kids and adults for 10 years through the Capitola Parks and Recreation program. She also designed the ceramics program for the Scotts Valley Parks and Recreation program, and taught there for 5 years. Linda studied horticulture and floral design in college and ran her own floral business for a number of years. She also enjoys drawing, painting, photography, and weaving and other fiber arts.



Groundskeeper, Electives
Bear originally came to Orchard School as a parent when his son enrolled in kindergarten. He joined the staff in 2015. He has many years of experience in construction, carpentry, and property and land management, and an equally impressive resume as a musician and a business owner. He brings so many of these skills to bear (literally) in his work on the school grounds, with the students, and as co-caretaker of the school’s animals. On any given day you might find him building drums with his students, designing a new feeder for the alpacas, or pruning acacia trees. In his free time, Bear likes to spend time with his family, hike in the wilderness, play the drums, fly fish, and restore vintage cars.

Aubrie Headshot.jpg

Aubrie Polito

Reading Specialist Aubrie is passionate about teaching reading, and looks forward to bringing her experience to the students at Orchard School in this newly created position. She has varied experiences working with elementary students, including teaching kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade, and as a Reading Intervention teacher for English Language Learners. She has a B.S. in Sociology, with a minor in Urban Education from Santa Clara University, a M.A. in Education from Notre Dame de Namur University and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. When Aubrie is not working with children, you can find her teaching Pilates classes, doing Yoga and Pilates, walking at the beach, and spending time with her husband and son.


akiko Hino-Mitchell

Lunch Hut Chef

Akiko was born and raised near Tokyo, Japan. She began cooking while still in elementary school and feels so lucky to have been raised in an area where whole, fresh food was abundant and to have had a mother who was a very good traditional cook.  Since then, her travels have taken her to over 100 countries where she makes a point of finding farmer’s markets and learning local recipes. Akiko worked as a chef and baker at the Esalen Institute for over six years and specialized in making vegan, Asian and gluten-free dishes. She has studied nutrition and taught courses on raw and fermented foods. Akiko enjoys being in nature, hiking and visiting nearby organic farms, markets and apiaries.




Teacher’s Aide, Electives, Aftercare
Griffin attended Orchard School from 2001 to 2007. In the second grade, he served as Mayor of Roxaboxen, the imaginary town where some Orchard students lived for part of each day. After completing his high school education, he returned to Orchard in 2015 to head the after school program. He attends Cabrillo College with aspirations of transferring to a four-year university to get a B.S. in mechanical engineering. He has been employed as a backpacking camp counselor at Camp Unalayee and as a tour guide at the Mystery Spot. In 2016, he attended an outdoor education program located outside of Vejle, Denmark. 


Jared Wilson


Biography and photo coming soon


Jane Joel

Lunch Hut Chef, Teacher’s Aide Jane is new to Orchard as an employee this year but is very familiar with the school as she was an elementary student here in the nineties. She has spent most of her career working in the food industry, first as a catering assistant and then moving on to baking jobs. She graduated from the Culinary Institute of America Greystone with an A.O.S degree in hospitality management, during which time she was a cook in a renowned steak house in Napa Valley. In her free time, she enjoys painting with her daughter, gardening, cooking projects, learning about food and culture, and spending time her family.


Orchard School Board Members

Manila Bol -- Current principal, board member since 1999

Jody Johnson -- Former principal (1998-2015) and teacher (1989-2015), board member since 1998

Walt Allen -- Alumni parent, 2001-2007, board member since 2016

Moira Lanyi -- Alumni parent, 2007-2014, board member since 2016

Liza Morrell -- Alumni parent, 1999-2006, board member since 1998