Ms. Lydia Newman – Lead teacher

Ms. Lydia is the lead teacher for one of the 2 mixed age classes that will be operating in the spring of 2021. 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. Isabella Barbuto – Assistant Teacher

Isabella is the assistant teacher for one of the 2 mixed age classes that will be operating in the spring of 2021. Isabella hails from Red Hook, NY and is a senior at Agnes Scott College, majoring in English Creative Writing and minoring in Education. She is passionate about equitable education and learning about different pedagogies that practice this in their educational day to day structure. She has studied Forest Schools specifically in Scotland and how children learn through imagination and experience. She loves working outside and guiding children to figure things out together and individually. She has worked at The Waldorf School in Atlanta as an assistant teacher. She also has spent years working with children as a babysitter and a camp counselor at a camp called Bits of Broadway in her hometown where she participated in and taught improv for several years.

Ms. Yasmin Ajirniar – Substitute teacher

Yasmin studies chemistry and French at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Spring 2021). She has experience tutoring students in middle school and high school and has worked with undergraduate students for two semesters as an undergraduate teaching assistant. In addition, she enjoys being active and outdoors, and she spends her free time by being creative and artistic! Although she is not pursuing a profession in early childhood education, she is interested in childhood development and enjoys being with children of all ages.

Ms. Deb Long – Founder

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.”

Ms. Cassi Beach

Ms. Cassi will be the lead teacher for the Forest Friends class (5+ year olds) for the 2020-2021 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. Jaleesa Mobley

Ms. Jaleesa will be the lead teacher for the 2-4 year-old class for the 2020-2021 school year.

Jaleesa is an Early Childhood educator with over 5 years of experience working with ages 0-5.  She began her early childhood education career in 2013 and later received her Child Development Associate credential in 2018.  She loves to paint, draw, and create collages in her spare time.  She brings her abstract creative abilities to the LFP team.  She is passionate about allowing children the space needed to create, explore, and learn independently.  She utilizes this passion by creating a thought-provoking learning environment using invitations that allow for open ended exploration.  Her goal in life is to merge both her passion for art and early childhood education.