Catherine M. Wallace
Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.
Catherine M. Wallace
Acorn Village Forest School
Acorns Preschool Program
Tracy received her BA in social science from the University of California, Irvine and finished up her masters in the Child Development department at California State University, Long Beach. She has completed her Waldorf teacher training through the Waldorf Institute of Southern California (WISC) and the Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training through the Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers. Through her continuing education and in the readings of several educational theorists such as Alfie Kohn, Bev Bos, Rudolph Steiner, and Thomas Gordon; Tracy has developed a philosophy for her teaching and her school that is not commonly found. She is married and has three sons. She moved to Los Olivos in July 2011 and soon after fell in love with the valley. She started Acorn Cottage/Village after her second child was born. When not at Village, she can be found swimming, watching her boys play baseball, hiking the trails in the valley, roaming the river, reading in her hammock, or gardening.
Substitute, Former Lead Teacher
Brenda was raised on the Central Coast of California, Mom ran a daycare for the better part of 35 years and Dad worked and continues to work in the agriculture business. The trials and tribulations of being raised in that child care environment would ultimately prove to be an invaluable apprenticeship. Guiding children would turn out to be a reoccurring theme in her life from early babysitting ventures, working at the YMCA as a teacher for the afterschool and summer programs, eventually becoming a Mom and then as an assistant teacher and lead teacher at the Acorn Village. As a teenager Brenda had grand dreams of traveling the world and living a life of luxury. Throughout her 20’s while traveling the world with her partner in crime Jimmy, she found herself living a version of her teenage dream. Even though the life of luxury was replaced with life on a “shoe string” the experiences were real, vivid and life altering. Some of these moments involved experiences with children that highlighted the bond between family, community and how a child interacts with its surroundings. Fast forward to having her own child, feeling overwhelmed and underprepared she became dedicated to reading, reflecting and listening to as much information as possible about those child development ideas that most aligned with her own inner instincts. She realized early on in parenthood that community was going to play a vital role in her child’s development. It was from within that search for a community that prioritized children’s needs that she found the Acorn Village. In her free time Brenda most enjoys creating art and spending time at the beach with her husband Jimmy, son Owen, who is a Sapling and their dog Lola.
Assitant Teacher, Acorn Preschool Program
Kristen was born and raised in Santa Ynez. She is delighted to work alongside Tracy and to be part of the Acorn Village community. She has pondered being involved in early childhood education for quite some time, but hadn’t pursued it due to not agreeing with the approach of the public school system. Since being involved with Acorn, she has been deeply inspired and moved to pursue a teaching path. Her ultimate dream is to become an Art Therapist as well as an Art Teacher. She is slowly but surely working towards getting her credentials for transfer at Santa Barbara City College. She has many different passions, which include swimming, surfing, dancing, cooking, hiking, exploring, traveling, and obviously art; she simply does not feel herself when she is not creating. She loves Acorn for so many things, and specifically for its nourishment of each child’s creativity and creative process. She also has her own art business which includes face-painting, henna, body art, murals/signs, as well as art lessons for kids.
Assitant Teacher, Sapling Kindergarten Program
Vanessa Ochoa was born and raised in Lompoc, California, and has always had a true passion for working with children. Vanessa grew up family-oriented and spent most of her youth years playing soccer, creating timeless memories. One of her best memories was traveling to Palm Beach, Florida, for nationals and taking the championship alongside all her close friends. After high school, Vanessa attended Allan Hancock College, where she received her Associates Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences in 2020. Following that, she transferred schools and attended the University of Massachusetts Global, where she graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, with a child psychology concentration. In her free time, she loves to hike, play pickleball, spend the day at the beach, cook, paint, and travel. Vanessa looks forward to working with the children through Acorn Village and helping them grow in a magical, fun environment!
Woodpeckers Preschool Program
Anna was born and raised in Santa Barbara County. Loving the outdoors and what our California central coast has to offer. Anna comes from a long line of musical family and educator’s. To which has inspired her musical air. With passion and empathy she’s volunteered for a number of band camps, student recitals, and concert events with Certain Sparks Music in Lompoc, CA. Anna’s good nature and adaptability is always appreciated to the environment that she’s in. She has embarked on this educational journey with Acorn Village, seeking to be apart and help flourish the children of this school. Being active and active listening are constant in her life and follow her wherever she goes. As the great Bob Dylan once said, “A song is anything that can walk by itself”. Namaste
Substitute Teacher, Former Assistant Teacher
Stephanie is from San Jose, California and moved to Buellton six years ago with her husband, who is from Vietnam originally. Together they have two kids, ages 2 and 4. Her daughter is an Acorn, and her son will soon be a Woodpecker. As a stay-at-home mom, when life temporarily led the family to Oklahoma, Stephanie personally Forest-schooled her children with the same songs, stories and curriculum as Acorn Village, with one million thanks to Teacher Tracy. She made certain to incorporate Vietnamese songs, customs and folktales into daily learning.
With a B.S. in Anthropology from SFSU, Stephanie understands the importance of retaining one's parent culture and language to promote tolerance, curiosity and a respect of differences. Stephanie has experience with toddlers working in a daycare for several years. She has a love of languages, horseback riding, archaeology, sewing, and skywatching.
Lead Teacher, Sapling Kindergarten Program
Irvin was born in Santa Barbara and raised in the communities of Lompoc and Santa Ynez. After graduating from Whitworth University, where he studied business and French, he returned to his alma mater, Dunn School, as a modern language teacher. As a student, Dunn instilled in him a sense of stewardship toward Mother Nature through its outdoor education program; and later, as an educator, it helped him cement his passion for teaching. In the thirteen years since, he’s continued to teach languages, first, to prospective junior alpine Olympians in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and later, as he added ESL to his repertoire, to Chinese students in preparation for their academic endeavors in English speaking countries. Since his return back home, he’s worked as a private one-on-one tutor for LoyalTeach in Los Olivos, providing 360º academic support for underrepresented, low-income populations throughout the Central Coast, which he’ll continue supporting as he embarks on his journey as the Lead Kindergarten Teacher at Acorn Village. He’s excited to be back in our local backcountry and enthused to work with his young Saplings, where he hopes to instill a similar curiosity for the natural world as well as a passion for learning his own teachers allotted him. When Irvin isn’t busy with school and students, you’ll certainly find him on the soccer field, exploring the outdoors, and/or singing his butt off when he isn’t pulled by his other outlets like writing, painting, and mindfulness.
"With every breath, I plant the seeds of devotion, I am a farmer of the heart”. Rumi has forever been one of my favorite poets, with other lines such as, “What you seek is seeking you”, and “Love is the bridge between you and everything”. Integrity, kindness, love, and gratitude are the lenses I live through each day. By slowing down and being fully immersed in each moment, we are able to see the magic and serendipity all around us! As I was going to elementary school in Santa Maria, I had the opportunity to go to Rancho Alegre Outdoor School, here in the valley, for a few days! This truly changed my life. I knew right then; this was what I wanted to do “when I grew up!” Serendipity! I have always been a nature-baby, especially when it comes to water: dancing in the rain and swimming in any lake, river, or ocean I can! I am an artist of many mediums, with painting, jewelry, and sculpture being my go-to's! What a blessing it is to be a part of this community that values freedom, respect, and play! It is my ultimate honor to be a safe and encouraging light in our children’s lives and to show them unconditional love, kindness, and respect! I am elated to see the children meet different parts of themselves, bursting with even more courage, curiosity, creativity, and confidence! My heart is expanding doing exactly what we are meant to do: moving our bodies in all types of weather, conquering fears and challenges, playing barefoot, singing, eating colorful meals together, and being free, with Mother Nature holding us! What a gift! This is a dream come true!
Lead Teacher, Woodpeckers Preschool Program
Lexy was born in San Luis Obispo and raised throughout the central coast. Nature and music have always been a place of refuge and reverence for her. Raised by a single mother who was a firefighter turned nurse, caring for people has always come naturally to Lexy.
While studying sociology with a focus in social and behavioral sciences, Lexy began caregiving for adults with special needs. The connections built and progress made with her clients quickly sparked a curiosity in early intervention for her.
Lexy spent 6 years doing behavioral therapy for children with special needs and at-promise youths, as well as caring for teen girls in foster care. She is extremely passionate about helping children find their personal power and path towards their most independently fulfilling, happy, and healthy lives.
As a teen, Lexy was part of an outdoor outreach program that gave her the unbelievable opportunity to go on backpacking/river rafting/canyoneering trips, volunteer in the Hopi Nation while staying with a host family on the reservation, volunteer in a small Ecuadorian village while teaching in a nearby town, and countless learning opportunities. She is thrilled to be a part of a such an intentional program where she can give back some of the resilience, compassion, and wonder nature gave to her.
Lexy feels eternally gratefully for the opportunity to provide a safe and fun place for children to explore the world around them and the worlds inside of them.