I am a mother, teacher, teacher-mentor, certified TEACH through Love conscious parent-coach, certified Inner Child Process practitioner, progressive education consultant, and an international speaker. I am a trans youth ally, play-maker, emotional interpreter, and fierce advocate for children’s rights. I am the visionary, founder, and director of Downtown Community School Inc, a progressive learning environment and center for child advocacy that operated in Tucson, Arizona from 2010-2020. I am the creator of Rebel Shift Childhood. My diverse background and my experiences inform my work.
I grew up a misfit of sorts: rebellious by nature, an out-of-the-box thinker, outspoken, deeply creative, and proudly misunderstood. My parents were often perplexed by my ever-increasing needs and meltdowns. I attempted to fit in and follow their lead; I became an accomplished athlete and professional model and aspiring actress. Eventually, I found it challenging to trust myself while living someone else’s dream. I was imaginative, energetic, and curious, yet I was labeled dramatic, difficult, and impulsive. I resisted authority and questioned systems. I was easily bored in school and tested poorly, then diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia and learning disabled. Traditional education seemed meaningless and became more alienating than instructive for me. I was medicated and transferred from school to school. Despite popular consensus, I was certain that I had something valuable to offer. I desperately wanted to be treated as a viable contributor, but I was relegated by the adults in my life to the general ranks of “bad kids” and “rule-breakers.”
Upon entering high school and growing increasingly frustrated and resistant, I rapidly fell through the cracks of the standardized education system. In a short time, I recoiled and gave up completely, dropping out of high school. Determined to find an alternative path, I became focused on finding my passion and calling. I eventually completed my GED and went on to college – where I stayed for 11 years.
My unique learning style and negative experience in school have been intensely formative and have driven my interest in psychology, self-expression, social justice, philosophy, art, Buddhism, emotional intelligence, and alternative education, which has ultimately become my life’s work. I studied and pursued many creative practices, including music, performance art, visual art, fashion, welding, martial arts, dance, art history, theater, and jewelry making.
Through years of personal and academic study, therapy, and growth, I came to recognize myself as an uncommonly empathetic and uniquely equipped advocate for children. As an intuitive and highly sensitive-creative person, I am no stranger to adversity. As a trauma survivor, I have spent more than 30 years assessing my own behavior and learning to heal with help from traditional therapies and alternative modalities. Over the last 20 years, I have studied neuro-development in early childhood, abnormal behavior, inner child work, the mind-body connection, mindfulness, strength-based psychology, multiple intelligences, compassionate communication, and alternative and progressive education, both in college and with incredible mentors.
I have had the honor of working with children and their families for more than 20 years. I began as an assistant teacher at a Reggio Emilia -inspired preschool. Later I expanded into the public sector as a child and special needs advocate for state-run programs in Arizona. As a psychology student at the University of Arizona, I studied Early Childhood Development and Speech and Hearing Sciences, with an emphasis on autism and special needs. I worked for several years in homes with special needs children for the state of Arizona and for CPS with foster children and their families.
In 2009, I discovered TEACH through Love and I met its founder, Lori Petro. We became fast friends and colleagues. This experience changed my life and inspired me to start creating a school where children are encouraged to be themselves and celebrated as worthy contributors to our world and where caregivers receive the support they need to create sustainable relationships with the children they care for.
In 2010 I conceived of a brick-and-mortar school based on the TEACH through Love philosophy with the intention of sharing this transformative program with children, parents, and educators and creating a safe and engaging environment for children to be themselves. Downtown Community School was born: a place where children were supported to harness their intrinsic motivation, empowered to find their voices, developed compassionate communication skills, and gained the confidence to take developmentally appropriate risks. I brought my emphasis in supporting sensitive and misunderstood children and helping families and educators reframe behavioral challenges related to ADHD, anxiety, autism, sensory processing disorder, ODD, anxiety, trauma, and children in need of regulation and impulse support to Downtown Community School. This new and informed lens made DCS an incredible success and an invaluable resource and support center for children and their families.
I was nominated for the 2014 Champions for Children Congressional Award and I am the recipient of the 2017 Cecilia Avalos Parent Education Award. My mentors are Lori Petro and Robin Grille, and my strongest influences include the works of Bev Bos, Eckart Tolle, Alfie Kohn, Shefali Tsabary, Daniel Siegel, Bruce Perry, and Gabor Mate.
PLAY SELF EXPRESSION SUPPORT TRAUMA-SENSITIVE NEUROLOGICALLY SOUND
Downtown Community School was the first TEACH through Love -inspired school of its kind. I founded it in 2010 to promote the importance of meaningful exploration, connected relationships, open-ended play, self-expression, co-regulation, and healing as the foundation of learning. As a progressive learning environment for children and a support center for child advocacy, DCS helped both children and adults find emotional support and gain tools to sustain their lives. In addition to our early childhood education program, I offered adult workshops and courses promoting the importance of connected relationships and healing and sharing the powerful tools and practices I believe in, with the goal of strengthening our community through positive shifts in thinking – one child, family, and educator at a time.
Rebel Shift Childhood is an intentional extension of the important work of Downtown Community School: providing cutting-edge emotional and behavioral information, tools, and support for individuals in homes, in schools, and in communities.
Emotional intelligence, self-expression, and real engagement are essential for meaningful and relevant learning, yet they are often missing in homes and in both alternative and traditional education systems.
The courses, workshops, and support I provide are intensive and carefully developed to nurture greatly-needed tools in order to problem-solve, develop authentic communication, heal the past, and foster harmony within homes and communities.
Welcome to a paradigm-shifting conversation, where our work is to affect systemic and systematic change beginning with sustainable relationships. Our world needs connected relationships more than ever. Healing is not a destination, our work is ongoing, and with the right tools to navigate, we find it’s an incredible journey of self discovery. Together we can pave the way towards a new future.
DCS was my laboratory, where I supported children, parents, and teachers work and play through the messiness and joy of socio-emotional development. My ongoing studies and my life’s work have made me a champion for children and families.
As of May 2020, Downtown Community School has closed. The pandemic of 2020 has shifted our world. We need collective connection and healing more than ever. If you are in need of support or you are a like-minded collaborator, please contact me.
I am excited to be on this journey with you! This work has become my life’s work—thank you for joining me!