Julie Liddle, Program Director
Julie brings twenty-five years of experience working with children to her role as Program Director at ERS. She worked as an art therapist in special education for almost a decade, and then specialized in early childhood art. For the next 16 years, Julie focused on creating and facilitating a parent/child art program and curriculum for toddlers and preschoolers, which she delivered in various preschool settings. This is what brought Julie to ERS at its inception, to serve as the school’s Atelierista (Art Director). She held this position for five years before taking on the broader role of Program Director. Julie is energized by the creativity of young children. She enjoys using techniques and materials that inspire children’s innate creativity as a means for creating connections, building relationships, and educating parents and teachers. Julie received a Master’s degree in Art Therapy from George Washington University and her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Cornell University. She lives with her husband and two teenage sons, and enjoys year-round campfires and cookouts in their backyard fire-ring, and harvesting and cooking the fruits of her husband’s vegetable gardening obsession. Like her grandmother, Julie swears by the healing power of fresh air, and she finds rejuvenation in daily walks with her only girl, a beagle-mix named Chessie.
Crystal Dufresne, Administrative Assistant/Bookkeeper
Crystal was born and raised in New York state. She married an Army Officer and a gentleman and then got to live in Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, and New Mexico; before moving back to Virginia for the third time. She has worked in banking, accounting, and administration for over 20 years, and even owned a fitness franchise while in New Mexico. She was also a preschool science and computer teacher, substitute, and Assistant Director. She has an adult daughter in Nashville, and a son and daughter-in-law near Denver. Besides visiting family, she enjoys traveling with friends, painting, and playing tennis.
Sarah Day, Lead Teacher
Sarah was a first grade teacher with an interest in special needs education prior to coming to the Eastern Ridge School. Her most memorable moment at our school so far has been observing a cicada emergence with the kids, one of whom surprised Sarah by filling her pocket with a handful of cicada shells! Sarah has a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science and her first career was as a Research Scientist studying the early detection of breast cancer. After taking a career break to travel around South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA, Sarah made the switch to education. She and her family moved to the United States in 2005 from the City of Nottingham in the UK, and Sarah completed the qualifications to become an elementary school teacher. Sarah has a passion for the theater and met her husband while performing the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, Carousel. They have two young boys who are rapidly losing their British accents, and a dog named Molly.
Jackie Robson, Lead Teacher
Jackie worked as a Montessori Assistant Teacher for several years before joining the Eastern Ridge School. She began her time here as an Assistant Teacher in the Acorns class, before moving on to her current role as a Lead Teacher in the Early Childhood program. She loves to sing and read with the children, and to experience and explore the natural world as much as possible. Jackie graduated from Southern New Hampshire University, where she studied English and creative writing. Her passion is writing fiction, and she hopes to eventually add ‘published author’ to her list of accomplishments. She also loves to travel; she has lived in both Germany and Japan, so she’s been lucky to experience a variety of lifestyles and cultures.
Maritza Rodriguez, Lead Teacher
Maritza was born in Mexico, where she studied architecture. She worked for 22 years in that field and then worked for two years as a math teacher in a public high school. She later taught art and design at a private Catholic school. She and her husband (of more than 30 years!) have lived in the U.S. since 2005. She started at Discovery Woods in 2008 and joined Eastern Ridge when it was founded in 2014. Maritza truly loves working with our youngest students, and is particularly inspired to collect forest artifacts like leaves, twigs, and rocks with the children to inspire painting and art. She also enjoys teaching them songs and stories in Spanish. She especially loves how her children explore and discover new things, and watching their faces when they finish a project that they’ve worked on for a long time. Maritza and her husband, Jorge, have two children and live in Sterling.
Sue Stone, Lead Teacher
Sue has been with ERS and its predecessor for more than 10 years. Prior to this, she spent six years as a team teacher in the three-year old classroom at the Beverly Hills Church Preschool (BHCP), a Reggio-inspired school in Alexandria, and one year at Frog Pond, a nature-inspired program also in Alexandria. Prior to that, she was a co-op parent at BHCP for nine years, where she was on the board and served as its president for last two years her children attended. She also taught at Emmanuel Lutheran as a kindergarten teacher. Sue holds a bachelor’s degree in special education from College of the Potomac and also studied at Lesley University in their early childhood program. Most of Sue’s interests are nature focused; she loves gardening, being outside, kayaking and trail walking. She also volunteers with Animal Allies, feeding, rescuing and setting up shelters for feral cats. Teaching runs in her family: her oldest daughter is an environmental science teacher at the relatively new middle and high school, Howard Gardner School in Alexandria. Sue has three children and one granddaughter.
Mary Van Dyke, Outdoor Resource Specialist
Mary was born in Greece, and her early childhood memories include days spent camping, building on beaches, hiking mountains, climbing olive trees, and picking fruits, herbs, and flowers. Mary encourages her students to explore and “dig in the dirt”, to ask questions, and to learn about nature and design. Mary practiced architectural design in the UK. After moving to the US, Mary volunteered with several Cooperative Extension programs: Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, and 4-H, with focus a on schoolyard gardening and urban agriculture. She has over ten years’ experience managing schoolyards in private and public schools. Mary started her company, Green STEM Learning, to promote garden-based education, and offer students real-world, outdoor problem-solving opportunities. Mary brings her love of culture, cuisine, and creativity to our Eastern Ridge School program. Mary lives, and plays flute, with her family and two cats in Arlington, VA.
Lisa Bowers, Assistant Teacher/Aftercare Lead Teacher
Lisa grew up in the Bronx, New York and came to live in the greater DC area in 2016. Lisa has a BA in Studio Art from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She is a visual artist and has shown her work in various cities including San Antonio, Houston, and Brooklyn. Lisa is also a yoga enthusiast and completed her 200 hour yoga teacher training this past summer. Lisa loves creating art and reading stories with the children. You will most likely find Lisa picking out art supplies for aftercare activities or foraging in the garden. Lisa loves that ERS encourages kids to get muddy and dirty. She is amazed by how quickly the children of ERS grow and is humbled to be a part of their educational experience.
Will Toothman, Assistant Teacher/Aftercare Assistant Teacher
Will hails from Alexandria, Virginia and is currently studying psychology through the University of Virginia online. Will attributes his love of children and progressive education to his own early experiences as a student at a Montessori school where children were placed in mixed aged groupings and encouraged to collaborate, and older children often looked out for and supported the younger ones. As a teen, he worked as a camp counselor, did lots of babysitting, and in more recent years has focused his attention on studying developmental psychology and early childhood education in addition to his other big interests: art, music, and science. Will says he likes working with children because it keeps him young, gives him fresh perspective, and because he loves their contagious laughter and sense of wonder.