This year, we have added our nature-based preschool where hands-on, experiential learning takes place. Our focus will be developing the foundation of early childhood academic skills that will make them prepared for kindergarten and beyond.   

Inside the Early Childhood Center, you will also find two teachers that are trained in environmental education and motivated to create an outdoor learning experience for our preschoolers.

Get to know our preschool teaching staff!

 

Erika Hinston, preschool teacherErika Hinston - Preschool teacher

Who inspired you or why did you choose to be a teacher?

Since I was a young adult, I always knew I wanted to go into teaching. I had a passion for kids and an even bigger desire to teach young children. When I entered into education, it felt like home and I knew this was the right path for me. I desired something bigger and wanted to make an impactful difference in the world, and teaching brought that. 

By being a preschool teacher, I am able to have the opportunity to teach little ones at such a crucial age. Children at this stage are just beginning to experience the world around them. I am beyond grateful for the chance to shape the foundation of young lives and watch them become successful little humans. This career is truly the most rewarding career I could have ever chosen for myself.

 

What are you most looking forward to this upcoming year?

I am so excited to be able to be apart of the growth of Nature Preschool. West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science is continually growing. With 62 acres that has five different ecosystems, our nature preschoolers will have endless learning opportunities. I can’t wait to give WMAES students and their families everything that nature preschool has to offer!

 

Who were some of the most influential teachers that you had growing up? What made them have an impact on your life?

Some of the most influential teachers in my life were the ones I worked closely with. Some of these teachers were mentors through college, professors passionate in early childhood, and close coworkers I had the pleasure of co-teaching with. They all shared a common passion, which was their love for their students and the desire to shape the world into a better place. 

They each had a part in inspiring me to become a teacher who loves, cares, and believes in their students. I have learned valuable teaching techniques that I will forever cherish as I grow further into my career.

 

What part of the mission at WMAES resonates most with you and your teaching style?

WMAES believes in teaching the whole child. When we teach the whole child, we’re teaching them to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. 

As a preschool teacher, I am helping set the foundation of the child for a lifetime. Teaching the whole child not only means helping them meet their needs academically, but also teaching them how to be confident, so they can speak up for themselves. 

I teach them generosity so they can share with their peers. I provide open-ended opportunities so they can create and explore. I teach them how to care so they can help others who are hurting. Seeing the child develop as a whole is truly the most rewarding growth to see as a teacher.

 

What was your journey to obtain your college degree? What school did you attend?

My journey to obtain my college degree was full of ups and downs. Through the years, I spent many hours studying and fulfilling my observation hours in many different classrooms. During these experiences, I began to create and form who I wanted to be as a teacher of my own. I attended Delta College where I earned my associate’s degree in Child Development and Ferris State University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education.

 

If you have previously taught, where did you teach and for how long?

I previously taught for a year at Chippewa Nature Center teaching 3’s and 4’s at their nature preschool. Working at Chippewa was an experience of a lifetime and where my passion for teaching in nature began!

What do you do outside of the classroom? What are your hobbies

Outside of the classroom, you’ll find me playing with my two dogs, checking out local coffee shops, hiking the dunes near Lake Michigan, hammocking, and going to thrift stores to DIY projects.

 

Natalie Reider – Preschool Naturalist Natalie Reider - Preschool Naturalist

Who inspired you or why did you choose to be a teacher? 

I would like to say that I always knew I was going to be a teacher when I grew up, but I didn’t! I went almost my entire life not knowing that I would become a teacher. 

I studied Environmental Studies and Sustainability in college and pursued a career in that for several years. However, in 2015, I visited my brother who was teaching kindergarten in South Dakota and my life changed. I saw the way he taught his class, had a change of heart and knew that I would become a teacher. I packed my things and moved to South Dakota shortly thereafter and began my career as a teacher.  

What are you most looking forward to this upcoming year?

I am deeply looking forward to witnessing the growth that this style of education will elicit, not only in our students, but in ourselves as teachers!

Who were some of the most influential teachers that you had growing up? What made them have an impact on your life?

I was fortunate to have many influential teachers in my life. Among them, Pam Lee shines the brightest. She taught me from 4th-6th grade at Ottawa Montessori Academy. Pam Lee ensured that her class was a place of rigor, student-led learning, and socio-emotional safety in equal parts. It was a place where I felt seen, heard, valued, challenged, and inspired to be a leader. I do my best to evoke these same qualities in the students that I am lucky enough to teach.

What part of the mission at WMAES most resonates with you and your teaching style?

I resonate completely with the WMAES mission. 

What was your journey to obtain your college degree? What school did you attend? 

I attended Northern Michigan University. I first studied Environmental Studies and Sustainability with a focus on Biology. After several years I brought what I learned from my career in sustainability and branched out into education.  

If you have previously taught, where did you teach and for how long?

I taught kindergarten at Rock Creek Grant School in Bullhead, South Dakota. I was there for two years.

What do you do outside of the classroom? What are your hobbies? 

Outside of the classroom you will find me hiking, gardening, rock climbing, backpacking, traveling, rehabilitating wild animals, and spending time with friends and family. I greatly value spending time in the outdoors, being with family, and traveling to hidden corners of the world to see new wildlife.