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 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.
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, 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.
Stefanie Van Deest–Teacher
As a modern hoop dance teacher and performer, yoga and meditation instructor, Certified Hanna Somatic Educator and 5 elements dance facilitator, Stefani has been working and playing with children, families, and adults of all ages for 10+ years. She is an independent contractor for District 81 teaching movement and mindfulness workshops for ages K-12 and has taught Art and P.E in Jamaican Primary schools through the Great Shape literacy project. She has taught for the Silver Spurs Youth Folk Dancers and teaches Kids yoga and ballet at the YMCA.
Stefani is looking forward to learning and growing with the Plum Tree Family.