Ms. Melissa Westbrook

Ms. Melissa is the lead teacher of the Star class (2 year olds) for the 2019-20 school year.

Melissa is a career educator with experience working with students from preschool up through college. She studied English and Secondary Education at Vanderbilt and UGA for her undergraduate degree and completed her Master’s in English Education at Mercer University. With three young sons of her own, she has recently been focusing on younger students after twelve years of teaching middle and high school literature, drama, and journalism. She brings her love of creativity and storytelling with her, helping students to develop their imaginations and observation skills. Her playfulness and enthusiasm are among her greatest strengths as an educator, and she believes firmly in the power of story and role-playing in helping children develop empathy and social-emotional skills. Outside of school, she loves reading, writing, spending time with her husband, and taking her boys (aged 6, 4, and 1) puddle-hunting in their East Atlanta neighborhood and hiking nearby nature trails.

Ms. Jacqueline Dougherty

Ms. Jacqui is the lead teacher for the Rainbow class (3-5 year olds) for the 2019-2020 school year.

Jacqui has 8 years of experience working in early childhood education and has worked with youth programs doing bicycle repair, community gardening, adult/peer education and museum education. She is passionate about honoring children’s play, intelligence, and deepening our connections with plants and creatures. Drawing from her love of art and art history (B.A. FSU), she brings natural materials and aesthetic joy to the children daily in the form of invitations and open ended exploration. She enjoys experimenting with children to creatively utilize the resources in our surroundings in surprising and inspiring ways. She holds certifications in urban gardening, cycling instruction, and ASL I & II. Currently, she is taking courses at Tremont Institute at the Great Smoky Mountings National Park to complete a naturalist certification. As an adventurer and life long learner she enjoys hiking, biking, playing banjo and bass guitar, hanging out with her goats, chickens, plants, and best dog friend, Pageant.

Ms. Cassi Beach

Ms. Cassi will be the lead teacher for the Rainbow class (3-5 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. 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.”