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About Us

Our Vision

Plum Tree School is in a house with a garden and plum trees in the back yard. Through the rhythms of everyday life we begin to know ourselves, our friends, and neighbors. We follow the seasons in our learning and exploration while focusing on each child’s unique unfolding. It’s a place where children, parents, and teachers come together to recapture childhood to foster a culture of health, an active engagement with life, and compassion for our fellow beings.


Our Program

Plum Tree School is a small, home-based care and education program for young children and their families. The essential focus of Plum Tree School is to nurture and sustain warm, consistent, and long-lasting relationships between children, parents, and teachers. It is our belief that all meaningful learning happens within the context of a loving and dependable relationship. Our practice and program structure support this foundational belief by:

  • Practicing Mindfulness activities throughout the day

  • Maintaining small groups that support relationship development: one teacher with six children

  • Offering regular family gathering experiences and seasonal celebrations to build a sense of community

  • Facilitating learning experiences that emerge through domestic and creative arts, whole-child curriculum, and exploration of the natural environment

  • Promoting consistent communication with each child's family through daily conversation, family gatherings, and conferences about their child's growth and learning


The Role of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is increasingly recognized as an essential educational tool. It develops attention, emotional and cognitive understanding, and bodily awareness and coordination, as well as interpersonal awareness and skills. Most importantly, by diminishing stress, anxiety, and hostility, mindfulness enhances our total well-being, confidence, peace, and joy.


Our Teachers

Melanie Luedders 

Melanie has lived in Spokane for 30 years with her three daughters and various animal friends. She is the Director of Plum Tree School as well as the Director of the Spokane Community Choir. She is an Adjunct Professor at Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, in their Integrated Teaching of the Arts program and Director of Plum Tree Center for Mindfulness. Melanie also enjoys teaching songs and dance to adults and children at music camps around the Northwest.


Phaedra Jarrett - Administrator/Teacher
Phaedra is a native of San Francisco where she developed her first passion, dancing. She was honored to have had a 15-year career as a professional ballet dancer. After the birth of her daughter, she returned to dance to head the children's department at the Academy of Dance and worked with children from the ages of 3 to 7. She first came to Plum Tree School as a substitute teacher and then joined the full-time staff the following year. This will be her ninth year as the school administrator as well as a teacher.


Heidi Montez – Teacher

Heidi has a naturally joyful, curious, and adventurous spirit. She has a dual BA/BS in Sustainability and Biology from Evergreen State College. She is passionate about working with young people and sharing her love of life with them. Heidi has been fortunate to work with children in a variety of capacities, contributing to her versatility as a teacher. Most of her experience has been with alternative/ holistic styles of education including Reggio-Emilia, Waldorf, mixed-aged, independent schools, and outdoor programs. Heidi is excited to bring her passions for music, nature connection, sustainability, and communication to Plum Tree.

On her own long-term journey to live a fulfilling and happy life, Heidi has been practicing mindfulness and meditation through yoga, and Mindful Self Compassion. She is delighted for the opportunity to foster mindfulness with the families at Plum Tree and continue her personal practice.

Heidi spends her free time growing organic food, foraging for wild edibles/ medicinals, cooking, singing, backpacking, practicing yoga, traveling the world, and being with the people she loves. This will be her third year teaching at Plum Tree.


Jayme Almanza - Teacher

A native to Spokane, Jayme has always carried a lust for exploration and travel and in her years growing up, this was all she could think about. Once she graduated from Lewis & Clark High School in 2005, Jayme immediately moved to Kona, HI to pursue her love of photography and adventure. That first experience of a new place, new tastes, and smells sent a pulse through Jayme, and from there she spent the better part of the next ten years moving around the country and traveling to different parts of the world until finally, she returned to her home town. Once settled back in Spokane she enrolled in and completed her RYT 200 Yoga Teacher training and certification.

Jayme has since been teaching yoga regularly and continues to learn about the human condition, our emotions, and how mindfulness truly impacts not only our mental wellness but our physical wellbeing.

Mery Smith–Teacher

Mery has been a Plum Tree Parent for many years. Her work with children besides being a mom, includes camp counselor and work as a youth group leader. She has studied early childhood development and completed the Circle of Security training. She and her husband are happily raising four young boys to be kind compassionate humans. Mery loves to read, sing, dance, and cook/eat!

Kelsey Bickel–Teacher

Kelsey grew up in central Washington where at a young age she began to develop a close connection to animals, plants, and the Earth. Those connections instilled in her a desire to learn and nurture. As a young adult, her eagerness to learn led her to travel and immerse herself in the knowledge of animal behavior, sustainable organic farming, herbalism, and alternative medicines, while also working as a nanny.


Her ever-increasing passion and love for things that grow, along with the joy she gets from working with children has brought her to Plum Tree. 

Outside of Plum Tree, Kelsey spends her time caring for her plants and animals, hiking, reading, and painting. She is looking forward to finding creative ways to nurture each child’s unique journey in the Plum Tree community.


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