OPEPO Teachers

The OPEPO Teacher is a facilitator of learning. In order for children to construct their own knowledge, they must have access to a wide variety of sources and experiences, including hands-on activities, museums, encyclopedias, the internet, films, resource people, field work, and trips into the community. OPEPO teachers encourage students to pursue individual interests and construct new understanding through an inquiry process based on personal experience, experimentation, and research.

Cherry Chenruk-Geelan

Cherry has been teaching literacy, science, and inquiry in OPEPO since 2014. She earned her BA in Ethnic Studies/Women’s Studies from the University of California, Riverside and began her career after graduating with her teaching certificate in 2003. In California, she taught first and second grade, as well as GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) enrichment classes. She received her Master’s in Education: Reading Curriculum and Instruction in 2006, and moved to Port Townsend in the summer of 2011. In 2017, she received her National Board certification in Literacy.

Cherry first came to OPEPO as a parent and has experienced, and fully supports, the cooperation that exists within a multi-age classroom setting. She believes that the social/emotional development of a child is just as important as their academic growth, and strives to encourage students to collaborate with each other (in work projects and play), to problem-solve using appropriate techniques, and to support and stand up for one another.

When Cherry is not teaching, she is spending time with her two daughters (both OPEPO students at one time), and often finds herself outside, where the woods or ocean are her favorite settings. She enjoys learning about native plants and animals, and participates in wild-crafting and hiking in her spare time. Music is also an integral part of her life, which is often incorporated into the school day in the OPEPO classroom. Cherry sings in several local chorales, as well as a music group that focuses on music from the British Isles. She loves and appreciates her time spent with her students, and values this multi-age program where they could grow with her for five years.

Heather Sanders

Heather was born and raised in Vermont. She went to college at Tufts University in Massachusetts where she majored in Early Childhood Education and Anthropology. After two years and a phenomenal Medical Anthropology class, she decided to leave Tufts and study alternative healing.

She completed an herbal apprenticeship program in Vermont and then moved to Washington to spend time with her dad. There she went to the Alexandar School of Natural Therapeutics and became a certified massage therapist. She spent the next 10 years practicing massage.

She moved to Jefferson County in 2001 and in 2002, decided to go The Evergreen State College to complete her bachelor’s degree. In 2005 she came full circle back to her original desire of becoming an elementary teacher and went back to school yet again for her teaching certificate and a Master’s of Science in Elementary Education from Old Dominion University.

Since 2004 she has been living in Quilcene with her husband, who is a musician, and her now ten year old son. They live “off the grid” on five acres of land that they homestead (if you can call leaving every day to go to work homesteading). She loves to garden, jog with her wolf dog, hike, travel, go camping, read, craft (fiber arts), sing when no one is listening, dance when no one’s watching, and is excitedly learning how to play the steel drums with her husband and son.

Heather taught in Quilcene for two years as a math specialist and student learning plan consultant, then for three years as a primary classroom teacher. In 2015 she took a job teaching kindergarten at Grant Street, moved to first grade the following year, and has been teaching math, science, and inquiry in OPEPO since 2019. She recently achieved National Board Certification in Early General Education. She thoroughly enjoys sharing her love of learning with the children in her classroom and is thrilled that what she calls work is also her joy and passion.

Teacher/Facilitator Responsibilities

By agreeing to teach OPEPO, teachers commit to:

  • Using a child-centered approach as the basis of learning and community decisions.
  • Providing activities that integrate areas of learner interest.
  • Assessing each child’s learning style, special interests, and level of development.
  • Working with parents and children to create and work toward academic and social/emotional goals.
  • Helping children follow through in meeting their goals with periodic self-evaluation.
  • Evaluating each child’s progress by maintaining a portfolio and writing an end-of-year summary.
  • Helping children develop the social skills needed to express their feelings in appropriate ways, be sensitive towards others’ feelings, negotiate and reach consensus, and to work successfully in a variety of groups.
  • Maintaining an environment conducive to learning by expecting students to take responsibility for care of materials and classroom.
  • Giving a monthly “classroom report” at the Parent Meeting.
  • Attending Parent Meetings and special committee meetings, where appropriate.

Accommodating diverse learning styles and interests also requires teachers to stimulate new areas of study within the scope of the district-mandated curriculum.