Ms. Lydia Newman – Lead Teacher 3-5 year old class

Ms. Lydia will be the lead teacher for the 3.5-5 year old class for the 2021-22 school year. Lydia has over 20 years of early childhood teaching experience in formal and informal settings. Her early childhood career began as a nature camp leader in New York City and then later in Owings Mills, Maryland. Lydia spent 12 years teaching at the Maryland Science Center, and ultimately managing their Kids Room, an exhibit for children up to age eight. In addition, Lydia has eight years of experience as a preschool teacher. In recent years, Lydia developed a preschool after-school science program here in Atlanta.

From her 2- and 6-year-old nieces to her students, Lydia always aims to learn and grow with children as we observe, question, predict, experiment, and draw conclusions together. Lydia is passionate about getting to know each student, creating relationships with them, and using children’s individual preferences to guide them to think scientifically and to observe and question the world around them. Lydia leads a rich program which illuminates the exciting intersection between science, art, nature and the children’s unique interests.

She enjoys spending time with her nieces, traveling to natural wonders with her family, crossword puzzles, yoga, and taking long nature walks. While snow is something she misses most from up North, she loves being able to take a nice long nature walk during all seasons down here in the South. Lydia enjoys nature because like children, it is consistently changing and always beautiful.

Ms. Cassi Beach- Lead Teacher 5-8 year old class

Ms. Cassi will be the lead teacher for the 5-8 year old class for the 2021-22 school year. Cassi is a Certified Georgia Educator. She is a graduate of Georgia State University with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education accompanied by an ESOL endorsement. She has spent over half of her life dedicated to working with children. She has been formally trained in IMSE Orton Gillingham, R.E.A.P. and Eureka Math. She has also attended training with the Alliance Theatre, South Carolina American Montessori Society, Zoo Atlanta, and Georgia Aquarium. She brings her love of learning into her teaching. She strives to elevate children to their best selves by teaching them to consider their self awareness and social emotional skills. She has been trained in Conscious Discipline and utilizes Becky Bailey’s methods to create community among her students. She believes that when students practice mindfulness and connectedness, they learn on a deeper level. Outside of school she enjoys going on adventures with her husband of 12 years and their two children (ages 7 and 9), spending time with extended family, watching live music, caring for her chickens, practicing yoga, gardening, and cooking.

Ms. Nadia Liggett – Co-Teacher 2-3.5 year old class

Nadia has spent the majority of her career working in the field of alternative education and has a special love for early childhood. She believes that the magic and beauty of the world is highlighted by the perspective of the newest little explorers. Nadia holds a B.A. in ECE from Metropolitan State University, Denver, has Montessori Primary training from Kennesaw State University, and has worked to create an emerging and cutting edge ECE STEAM curriculum used in part by several Metro Atlanta non profit organizations. Nadia has worked in all aspects of education including; teacher, director, coop, parent, operations and development. In her spare time she likes spending time with her husband making art and bird watching with her son in East Lake.

Ms. Melissa Wood – Co-Director & Co-Teacher

Ms. Melissa will be co-directing and co-teaching all classes for the 2021-2022 school year. She is originally from Michigan and moved to Atlanta in 2007.  In 2012 she decided to go back to school for a career change and obtained a Masters in Early Childhood degree from Walden University.  She has experience working with children from 1 year to Kindergarten in private and charter school settings in Atlanta. She also enjoys volunteering with different organizations that support children in need such as Wellroot, Paint Love, Urban Perform, and Hands On Atlanta.  While teaching, she loves to incorporate open-ended materials for sensory exploration and hands-on experiences. In addition, utilizing nature to support learning different concepts and student understanding is a passion of hers. For 3 years she served as the Education Director for the non-profit Scraplanta. During this time she taught groups of children the importance of creative reuse and how kids can have a part in helping to protect the environment.  Outside of school, you can find Ms. Melissa exploring with her 6-year-old daughter, her husband, and dog Porter.  They enjoy hiking, camping, traveling, gardening, reading, and anything outside.

Ms. Deb Long – Founder, Director, Teacher

Deborah (Deb) Long founded Little Forest Preschool in fall of 2017. It’s doors officially opened in Fall 2018.

“For almost 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with children in various settings. The most meaningful, powerful and life changing experiences I have had with children occured when working in nature. After graduating from the University of Florida in 1999, where I majored in sociology and minored in education and women’s studies, I worked as a counselor and teacher at Eckerd Youth Alternatives in Inverness, Florida. This outdoor residential therapy program provided girls (10-17 years old) who were struggling with behavior challenges opportunities for growth and recovery while living completely immersed nature. We built the structures we slept in by chopping down trees, sinking poles and securing tarps for roofs, which was our only barrier from the elements. We went on extended backpacking and river/canoe trips, and truly experienced outdoor survival. I saw the lives of girls transform through the process as they were loved, cared for and supported in this environment.

After leaving Eckerd in 2005, I ventured to Atlanta and accepted an opportunity to teach kindergarten using Outward Bound’s Expeditionary Learning model at Amana Academy. After teaching there for 2 years I went back to school at Georgia State University to obtain my Masters in Social Work.

After my daughter, Emerson, was born in 2009, and then my son, Elias, was born in 2010, I co-founded New Morning Community Preschool. I co-owned, co-directed, and taught at this cooperative preschool, that all of my children attended with me, until 2017, when we learned that our rental space was under contract to be sold to a developer. In the wake of deciding to close the school, I held great consideration for my youngest daughter Estelle who was born in 2013. With one more year left before she would enter Kindergarten, I decided to open Little Forest Preschool, which allows me to combine nature immersion with education, exposing our youngest learners to the beauty of being outdoors.

Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand the amazing positive impact being outside has on mental, physical and emotional wellness. These opportunities have also fostered in me a deeper love and appreciation of the natural world and belief that it is the very best setting to nurture a love of learning.”

Read a profile on Deb in Voyage ATL magazine: Meet Deborah (Deb) Long of Little Forest Preschool in North Druid Hills Historic District