South Mountain Nature School teachers 

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Mary Clair Sonneman, Director & Teacher

Mary Clair founded South Mountain Nature School in the fall of 2016 after earning her Cedarsong Forest Kindergarten Certification at Cedarsong Nature School on Vashon Island, WA. Mary Clair is committed to connecting children with nature, empowering children and teaching kindness for all living things. Mary Clair is a former high school English teacher with a background and keen interest in progressive education. She is a member of the Maplewood Green Team, The South Mountain Conservancy and the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Preschools. She loves to play in the forest with her three daughters and lives in Maplewood, NJ.

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Anneliese ScheRFEN, Teacher, Preschool class

Anneliese has been a preschool teacher for over seven years. She earned her Early Childhood Masters in Education from Hunter College in NYC. She also holds a BFA in Art History from Ohio University. She grew up playing at the Jersey Shore. She loves to hike and is always in pursuit of finding and identifying the latest mushrooms or wildflowers growing along the trails. Anneliese is thrilled to bring her knowledge and experience with young children together with her enthusiasm for all that the natural world has to offer. She is a mother of two girls and lives in Montclair. 

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Anna Maxwell, Teacher, PRESCHOOL CLASS & Caregiver & Child class 

Anna Maxwell holds a dual Masters of Teaching in Early Childhood Education and Childhood Education.  She has over 10 years of experience teaching kindergarten in the private and public school settings.  Anna's philosophy of education is rooted in the idea that children learn by doing and experiencing their natural environment.  Anna recently started a consulting business called Kids Live to Learn Consulting.  She specializes in supporting parents and educators refine their own teaching skills and foster a love of learning in young children. Anna lives in Maplewood with her husband and two daughters. 


Becky Gartman, Teacher, PRESCHOOL CLASS & Caregiver & Child class 

Becky Gartman has been working as a professional in the field for fourteen years - as a director, teacher, trainer, advocate, researcher, and writer. Becky holds an MA in Early Childhood and a BA in Elementary Ed. She is inspired by educational communities that celebrate young children and their natural curiosities, particularly when play, nature, and creativity are at the forefront of learning and building relationships. Becky grew up in the woods, ponds, and lakes of Michigan. Her forest adventures took new heights when she began using the forest school approach with her public school kindergarten students in Central Park five years ago. Becky lives in Maplewood and loves to explore, swim, paint, and sing.


Sam Fagundez, Assistant PRESCHOOL Teacher & Caregiver & Child class Leader

Sam is a student in Rutgers University’s School of Environmental and Biological Sciences where she majors in Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources and minors in Biology and Sustainability. After conducting research for most of her college career, Sam realized that what she loved most about research was breaking down ecological concepts into understandable material that everyone could have fun learning. Sam’s favorite things to do in the forest are identifying trees and catching frogs. She hopes to delve deeper into the field of ecological education, and continue working to incorporate the natural world into children’s lives after her graduation in Winter 2019. She lives in Maplewood with her lizard named Hiccup, and her snake named Charlie.