Photo Credit:  Peter Hellberg

Nadine Smith
Kindergarten Teacher

Nadine believes in creating a learning space where children feel safe, nurtured and inspired. As a kindergarten teacher she is passionate about creating a classroom both indoors and outdoors where children can freely express their ideas, find joy in their learning and connect themselves to a larger community and the natural world.

Nadine received a master's degree in Education from Lesley University in Massachusetts. Lesley is well known for its excellence in pre-K and elementary education, as well as its philosophy of education that promotes the value of artistic expression and the power of integrating arts into the curriculum and classroom. Nadine has been teaching in a variety of early elementary populations for more than 10 years, which has taught her that children learn best when given space to play and explore.

Both of Nadine’s children attend KapKa, and she is grateful for the leadership, compassion and love of learning they are gaining through their experience.


Julie Kosev
First- and Second-Grade Team Teacher

Julie joined KapKa’s teaching team after several years as the science specialist and a substitute teacher at the school. She is thrilled to be part of an educational community in which student-driven inquiry is celebrated and integrated into the curriculum.

Julie is highly skilled at tailoring instruction for different learners and encouraging high-level thinking through careful lesson design and questioning. She believes that goal setting and self-assessment play an important role for learners of all ages.

Julie taught middle school science in New York City and worked as an outreach educator and curriculum designer at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. These experiences taught her the creativity, persistence, collaboration and self-evaluation required in successful teaching.

Julie has an undergraduate degree in Biology and a master's degree in Teaching from Pacific University in Oregon. Her children both attended KapKa and she is grateful for the opportunity they had to take risks, develop leadership skills and discover the joy of learning.

“Her drive to make everyone successful at his or her level is contagious… Julie expects a lot from her students and gives of herself the same.” - Dr. Carlson, Principal


Stephanie Guity
First- and Second-Grade Team Teacher

Stephanie joined KapKa after several years of teaching pre-K in a Reggio-Emilia inspired school. In this setting she implemented a project-based teaching approach, conducted action-based research with children, and documented learning outcomes. She believes it is through this type education that children become joyful learners and flexible thinkers.

When you enter Stephanie’s classroom, you'll feel the the buzz of excitement and hear a quiet hum of kids working cooperatively. You'll see students interacting with a variety of materials and Stephanie guiding them through inquiry-based learning that drives the curriculum and inspires children's thinking. She recognizes the creative, curious and intellectual capacities of each child and challenges him or her to ask questions, take risks and grow as a learner.

Stephanie sees herself as a lifelong learner and eagerly collaborates with other professionals who share a progressive education mindset. She is an active participant in the Reggio Round Table, which brings together educators from the Seattle area for discussions about project-based work. She has traveled nationally to a variety of educational conferences to build her expertise. Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Western Washington University.


Erik Rosenkranz
Third- to Fifth-Grade Team Teacher

Erik is one of those teachers who people remember. Kids warm to his genuine curiosity about the world while parents trust his experience and vision. Erik has more than 15 years of experience teaching in public and Montessori private school settings in a variety of multi-aged learning environments. He is known to create a safe and nurturing community, one that encourages students, parents, and staff alike to become excited about their potential.

Erik helps each child to recognize their potential. He believes that once a learner’s passion is revealed, it can be leveraged — not only to the greater interest of the learner, but in the interest of the classroom, family, community, and ultimately the world at large.

Erik is passionate about woodworking and wire art. He is an NCAA Division Three Decathlon Champion as well as a two-time NCAA All American title-holder. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Science and Mathematics and a master's degree in Education.

“Erik is undoubtedly one of those rare individuals that have a true calling for teaching and a clear vision of how to achieve his goals regarding his students. It would not be unreasonable to refer to him as being an inspirational teacher; one that students, lucky enough to have him, will remember throughout their lives.” - Maria and Andrew Haslam, Parents of two former students


Nichole Stratton
Third- to Fifth-Grade Team Teacher

Nichole came to KapKa from Wisconsin, where she taught middle school Language Arts and served as an advisor to sixth grade students. In these roles she discovered the joy of helping students become passionate, skilled readers and reflective, ever-growing thinkers and change-makers. Nichole also completed part of her student teaching program in rural Uganda, where she learned the value of a close community, flexibility, and a strong connection with nature. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a minor in French.

Nichole is helping KapKa kids grow into people who respect one another and their surroundings, have a passion for learning, think critically, and share their wonderings. What Nichole values most about KapKa is how students are respected as intelligent, kind, and capable co-creators of learning. Nichole sees her role as guiding students along their journey to become the best possible versions of themselves: people who seek to understand and improve their world.

Outside of school, Nichole enjoys reading, practicing yoga, playing frisbee, singing, taking pictures, spending time with friends, calling distant family members, and traveling. She is eagerly taking advantage of all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer by hiking, camping, kayaking, and skiing as much as possible!

Jamie Shilling
Music and Art Teacher

Jamie fans the creative flame in our children. She has been at KapKa since its foundation in the late 1980s. Drawn to create in transformative ways within community, she believes it is essential that children have their creative spirits acknowledged and be able to practice making their ideas visible. Art done by the children in Jamie’s program hangs framed in family homes for years to come.

Jamie facilitates collaboration between teachers and students to enrich the curriculum with visual arts and music. Many of the well-loved KapKa songs have been co-written by Jamie and our students.

Jamie finds deep joy in creative expression through vocal music and her own painting and drawing. She has a bachelor's degree Art and Education.

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Susan Sasnett
Mentor Teacher

From her long experience as parent and teacher at progressive schools, Susan, in her role as mentor teacher, is instrumental in helping all KapKa children, parents and teachers to collaborate and to find their voices in the classroom and in the KapKa community.

Susan was a founding parent of KapKa in 1989. She served the school in numerous roles including sewing instructor and substitute teacher before joining the teaching team in 2001. She received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington.

Susan is studying fabric art in an intensive program. She shares this passion for fabric arts with the community — many alumni kids continue to treasure creations they have sewn with Susan’s guidance.

Debbie Davis-Olson                                   Learning Specialist

Debbie comes to us after many years of working in the public schools. Her love for working with children and inspiring success is what brought her to KapKa. She works closely with our teachers and provides specialized individual and small-group instruction that helps students over learning hurdles and maximizes their success.

Debbie has a doctorate in Educational Psychology and has instructed aspiring reading specialists in graduate programs at Seattle University for 20 years. While working with adults is enjoyable and rewarding, Debbie's first and foremost love is working with children and helping them become competent, confident learners.

When she's not at KapKa, you'll find Debbie outdoors. A long-time Seattleite, she's rarely deterred by rain and loves hiking, biking, running and anything outside.

"Ms. Davis-Olson is a passionate, highly skilled instructor who has a gift for diagnosing students' areas of concern and developing individualized strategies for intervention."  - Barry Dorsey, former principal


Jennifer Mahan
Director of Operations

Jennifer Mahan has been part of the KapKa community for four years, both as a parent and a member of the KapKa board throughout that time. She also served as the school office manager before moving into her current role of administrator.

Prior to becoming a parent, Jennifer spent more than a decade in personnel management, administrative and business operations, and account and client services. After enrolling her daughter in a co-operative preschool eight years ago, she became closely involved in the leadership and operations of her children’s schools, leading her to discover her passion and excitement for progressive education and school administration. At KapKa, she has developed strong working relationships within the school community, and finds interacting with students, teachers and parents to be a deeply fulfilling experience.

Jennifer loves living in Seattle, and though she is very much a city person, she is happiest when spending time enjoying nature with her wife, Liz, and their two children, who are current KapKa students.


Balazs Dibuz
Director of Learning

Balazs Dibuz hails from Seattle where he earned his undergraduate degree in the Comparative History of Ideas at the University of Washington. After a number of years teaching English and American Literature in Szeged, Hungary, and starting a family that grew quickly to three children, Balazs earned a Masters in Comparative Literature at Indiana University, Bloomington. His thesis applied hermeneutics and reader response theory to the writings of Borges and Calvino.

Balazs entered upon a 17-year career in elementary education as a middle school language arts and social studies teacher at Quest Academy, a school for gifted children in Palatine, IL. He brought his love for world literature and history to his students in a highly differentiated, project-based learning environment that included many hands-on experiences in real-world settings. After growing into an administrative role as Director of Teaching and Learning at Quest, Balazs moved to the Ancona School in Hyde Park, where he held a similar position for six years.

At Ancona, Balazs oversaw the work of teachers from Pre-K to 8th grade, including curriculum revision, professional development, teacher evaluation, new teacher induction and the nuts and bolts of the day-to-day functioning of a small independent school. In addition, Balazs has developed curriculum for a variety of institutions and organizations, including the Office of the Mayor of Chicago and The McCormick-Tribune Freedom Museum. His newest project is the creation of an ecological design curriculum, along with tools and materials to support this. Balazs has worked with teachers in other capacities as well, notably as a member and chair of the Professional Services Committee of the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS). He has also traveled widely in order to study the educational programs and pedagogies of different cultures and nations.