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.
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 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.
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 sixth 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, travelling the world, and being with the people she loves. This will be her third year teaching at Plum Tree.
Sally Jablonsky – Teacher
Sally has been working and playing with children as a violin/fiddle teacher and art teacher in Spokane for the last eight years. She is a painter and illustrator and holds a BFA from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR. She also plays music with Milo Krims in their old-time music group, The Misty Mountain Pony Club. Sally grew up playing music with her parents, hiking around in the desert singing cowboy songs, and learning the old tunes from her extended family at festivals and camps.
Durgai Garrettson – Teacher
Durgai is a native of Washington D.C. After living in San Diego for ten years, she moved to Spokane in search of a quieter lifestyle. She spends her time working as an artist and homeschooling her three children. Her passions are education, reading, and anything that involves being outside. After being a Plum Tree mom for four years, she is looking forward to getting to know your children and staying involved in the Plum Tree community.
Mimi Escandon – Substitute Teacher
Mimi Escandon lives with her husband Gilbert and dog. Their two sons were raised in Spokane, where they attended Hutton School. She enjoys gardening and camping. Mimi has a BS in Gerontology from the University of Southern California and has worked with people at both ends of the age spectrum. She has been a case manager and a director of a senior citizens center. She has worked with children as a classroom aide and an instructional assistant for District 81, as a Sunday school instructor, and in an in-home preschool when raising her children.