Becca Hackett-Levy- Head Teacher Sparrows/Director
Becca Hackett-Levy is the Director and Head Teacher of Northeast LA Forest Wonderschool. Becca was born in Portland, ME and grew up doing theater, playing in the mud, and making messes with paint. She holds a BA from Emerson College in Boston, and a Masters in the Science of Education in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College in New York City. Prior to moving to Los Angeles with her husband and baby boy, Becca taught preschool at Plymouth Church School in Brooklyn Heights and North Williamsburg YM-YWHA in Williamsburg Brooklyn. During her time in New York, Becca had the joy of working with The Other Side Intercultural Theater which seeks to connect girls from around the world through drama exchange. As part of her ongoing professional development, Becca attended the Reaching Nature Connection Conference at The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers in Santa Barbara and yearly attends the In Bloom: Promising Practices in Nature-Based Early Childhood Education conference. Becca continues to work with Antioch University to advance her professional development in Forest Kindergarten methodology.
When not teaching, Becca loves to craft. She also loves to bake, find new hikes with her son and husband, and go swimming in anything deep enough to make a splash!
Michael Fontanesi- Teacher, Sparrows
Michael Fontanesi is originally from Orange, California, but moved to LA to attend Occidental College. There, he found a passion for teaching after working with preschool students at the Occidental Child Development Center. Upon graduating with a degree in Cognitive Science: Emphasis in Psychology, Michael began working as an instructional assistant for special needs students. Michael is currently pursuing a Master's in Special Needs Early Childhood Education and is excited to deepen his experience in education with Northeast LA Forest School. When not teaching Michael enjoys watching Anaheim Ducks hockey and eating pizza from Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock (especially with sun dried tomatoes, basil, and fried eggplant!).
Kendall Markham Shechter- Teacher, Sparrows
Kendall Markham Shechter has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of California Santa Barbara and has spent the past few years studying Child Development and Studio Arts through Los Angeles City College. Born in New Jersey but growing up in Texas and California, Kendall was homeschooled until the age of 14. Being homeschooled allowed ample time for exploration of nature, painting, and creating. Kendall’s childhood formed the foundation of her passion for Human Development and Psychology, and her time at UCSB studying Psychology fed her passion for Child Development and Early Childhood Education. During her time at UCSB Kendall had the opportunity to work with School Psychologist Shane R. Jimerson PhD as part of his Power of Play program. As a member of Dr. Jimerson’s team, Kendall worked with others to facilitate games on the play yard to promote and aid children in prosocial behavior at the local Isla Vista Elementary School. Following graduation from UCSB in 2015, Kendall moved to Santa Cruz and earned a certification as a yoga instructor through the Mount Madonna Center. She ultimately began working with Campus Kids Connection Inc. as a Teacher at one of their after school programs in Soquel, and worked at Little Acorns Montessori as an Associate Infant Teacher. After moving to Los Angeles in the summer of 2017 Kendall took a break from being an educator to invest time in her other passion, the Studio Arts, and studied a variety of mediums. Again in 2018 Kendall returned to the field of Early Childhood Education, it is her true passion to work with others to achieve a high quality of life and aid children in their learning experiences and efforts. Through her studies she sees play, as the foundation for a joy of learning, and social and emotional intelligence, as a strong start for healthy, happy adults. When Kendall is not at the Forest School you might find her hiking with her husband,Adam and dog, Karma, doing some yoga or weight lifting, or making a mess in her studio. In the future Kendall wishes to further her education in Early Childhood Education and Child Development, and pursue a career as a School Psychologist or Child and Family Therapist.
Noel Diamond- Teacher, Sparrows
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” This quote from writer Roald Dahl encapsulates Noel’s perspective on teaching and life in general. As a young adult, Noel had an abundant career in fashion and art, working as a stylist, store manager, and curator. Her love for beautiful aesthetic is still deep within her yet, is now expressed in what she feels is her souls purpose. Her love for children and nature was always there, deeply rooted. After going back to college and being inspired by her Child Development course and Professor, she committed to teaching. Noel has been working as an Assistant Teacher for 2 years now as she ploughs through her studies. She has volunteered at Descanso Gardens Therapeutic Gardening, an Equestrian Therapy program, worked at a Reggio-Emilia style school, and observed at many extraordinary lab schools throughout the Southern California area. She feels all her experiences have led her to this moment.
Forest school Is the place she is most excited about! “Nature is the best everything! We have all heard this, but to see it in action and see it through the lens of a teacher working with young children, it is really a dream. The learning opportunities, physically, mentally, and emotionally are just endless and natural which makes for the most real life learning. Thus, planting a seed much deeper than a conventional school environment with preplanned and thematic curriculum.” Noel feels very fortunate to have met Becca along her path to mentor her in the Forest School world. “NELAFS is a sanctuary in every sense of the word.”
When Noel is not exploring with her forest friends and attending classes, she can most likely be found reading graphic novels, tending to her plant babies, cultivating her meditation practice, hiking in the mountains with her dog Nile, going to live shows, visiting with loved ones and traveling the world! Noel is on the path to becoming a School Librarian where she plans to change the face of traditional library settings… a forest library perhaps? “Anything is possible, once you find that spark of magic.”