The staff of Roots & Fruits is committed to providing high-quality education and extended child-care to children and their families. Roots & Fruits teachers attend professional development workshops, conferences, and seminars through the year to keep them aware of innovative and current information in the field of early childhood education. The staff strives to know each individual child so they can respond to specific needs and realize every child’s developmental potential. Roots & Fruits’ foundation is based on the value of partnership between the school, family, and community at large, to create a progressive, thriving, holistic program for our children.
Gina Forbes, Director
Roots and Fruits Preschool
The daughter of a teacher, Gina was born and raised in Southeastern Connecticut where she was surrounded by her younger sister and several younger cousins and neighbors. Since she was old enough, she was charged with babysitting and overseeing the young kids in her life or helping her mother set up classroom activities. While teaching and learning were integral parts of Gina’s entire life, she first fiercely pursued a BA in psychology at Simmons College in Boston and studied reproductive health. She became a doula in 2004 and spent almost 10 years working with families during the childbearing year in a variety of capacities- educating, supporting, and facilitating well-being for prenatal, birth, and the postpartum. In 2008, her son Chester was born and he has been her biggest teacher of how to appropriately and effectively support children and families as they develop over time. Gina’s interest in family well-being has expanded beyond the childbearing year and she is excited to be working with children in the 3-5 year old range. She received her Masters of Education in Early Childhood from Goddard College in Vermont and is a certified early childhood educator (birth through Grade 3) in the State of Maine.
Gina is excited to integrate her past experience in the birth world, drawing on her holistic roots, with her tools as an early childhood educator and experience working with non-profit organizations to lead Roots and Fruits Preschool in the field of progressive, peace-based and social justice education.
Michelle Riddle, Lead Teacher
My name is Michelle Riddle and this is my 25th year as a teacher, 18 in early childhood. I hold a bachelors degree in Health & Physical Education and a Masters degree in Teaching & Curriculum in Early Childhood. Within my teaching career I have taught infants through college students, but my first love is teaching pre-kindergarten.
Outside of teaching I enjoy hiking, fishing, gardening, going to the gym, reading, and cooking. I also enjoy sports, both playing and watching, and played women’s professional football for 9 seasons on a team in Washington DC.
My wife and I moved to Maine three years ago from northern Virginia and last year we bought a house in Auburn and are enjoying the Maine life!
Kaylin Cook, Lead Teacher
Kaylin is a visual artist, nature enthusiast and art educator. Born and raised in Maine, she finds inspiration in the natural landscapes within her home state, often bringing her paint and easel, camera or sketchbook with her on hiking trips. Kaylin is currently finishing up her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with a minor in Recreation Leadership at the University of Southern Maine. During her time at USM, she studied Art Education and gained invaluable teaching experiences with Side x Side teaching artists and USM ArtLab. In summer 2019, she interned at Engine gallery in Biddeford, lead and assistant teaching a few of their summer art camps.
Kaylin comes to Roots and Fruits eager to foster a positive, creative learning environment through her knowledge on the visual arts and art education. She views the arts as a vehicle for developing and sharing ideas about empathy, identity, peace, love, culture and community- ideas which she believes have the potential to enrich educational experiences for students of all ages.
Hayley Brennan, Assistant Teacher
Hayley Brennan always finds a place for her creative soul to shine whether it be through art, yoga, meditation, or being outside amidst trees or in vast open spaces. Raised on the coast of Maine in an old home atop the Androscoggin River, Hayley finds solace in all things that take her back to her roots.
In 2011, she earned a B.A. in Studio Art with a concentration in painting from the University of Southern Maine. During college, she fell in love with the healing power of yoga to aid with personal life battles and transitions. She completed a 200-hour Vinyasa/Hatha yoga teacher training through Frog Lotus Yoga in North Adams, MA. Hayley continued her spiritual journey and discovered the benefits of meditation and breathing practices through the Art of Living Foundation, a nonprofit organization that teaches tools for stress management. She has taken several courses on happiness, silence, meditation, and leadership development, and is inspired to help others thrive using the gifts that Mother Earth has to offer.
Now, in her fourth year at Roots and Fruits, Hayley continues to radiate a sense of joy and calmness in her teachings that put children at ease. She seeks to bring out the humorous, not-so-serious side in all her students so they can relax in the process of creative expression. Hayley enjoys yoga, dancing, hikes, dogs, painting, and learning new things. She hopes to inspire all to nurture the peaceful place within themselves so they can soar and blossom in the world leading with their hearts first.
Kris Partridge, Assistant Teacher
Hello! My name is Kristiane Partridge, Kris for short; or as the kiddos know me, Ms. Kris. I am an artist and a published author and you can always find me crafting and making things. After ten years of coaching (volleyball, softball, soccer, track and field, and swimming), two years of teaching assisting, two more years of tutoring, and being raised by grandparents and parents who are teachers, I decided to embrace my roots and fruits and step into a teaching role. I am a teacher and making a difference, even if it is small, makes me feel whole. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with your children and to be a part of the Roots and Fruits community.
Misty Vigue, Administrative Assistant
For Misty, there is nothing more wondrous and fascinating than the workings of a young child’s mind, and being a part of that molding process is something that she deeply values. Upon graduating with a degree in graphic design, she was hired as an educator with a focus in special education. She was awarded the opportunity to work alongside some of the most incredible kids, families and mentors for many years. This experience laid a solid foundation in the work she does today by exposing her to education and caring for multiple age groups and unique learning styles. Misty believes that by encouraging creativity at all ages, people become more open and accepting of others, all while learning to make their small part of the world a little better than how they found it. After many years of teaching, Misty was found in the arms of the community in the Parkside neighborhood of Portland, Maine. For years she worked at a neighborhood center that focused on strengthening individuals & families by offering educational and cultural opportunities to connect diverse neighbors and promote social and physical well-being. Finding great passion in this line of work was one of the greatest gifts that Misty has received. She believes that at a time when the world is experiencing an alarming increase in violence, fear and division amongst one another, it is imperative that all people are provided opportunities to engage and interact with people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. She believes that when people are committed to their own growth, there is hope for an inclusive and compassionate future for all of us.
And now, at an intersection where all the previous paths beautifully connect, she has found herself at One Tree Center in an administrative role with great vision to grow this mission even further and bring more people together in our wonderful community.
In addition to her love of nature, holistic practices, education and community building- she can be found gardening, poking around in antique shops, binge watching shows about space, listening to podcasts, writing to penpals, taking walks in the woods and consistently rearranging furniture in her home while putting tasks into song. Misty feels revived by the energy she gets from witty conversation, group action, community involvement and the creative power of many minds working together.
Aria Northrop, Substitute Assistant Teacher
Aria is a 24-year-old native Mainer. She graduated from the University of Southern Maine with her Bachelors in Social & Behavioral Science and is currently pursuing her Masters in Expressive Arts Therapy at Lesley University. She is passionate about writing, as well as connecting with children on an emotional level through expressive arts. She has been a Roots & Fruits assistant teacher since August 2018 and is looking forward to supporting the school in ways that show up this year, subbing and filling in as needed to support the Roots and Fruits Community.
Liz Trudel, Student Intern, USM Social Work Program
My name is Liz, and I am 21 years old. I’m from Massachusetts and am a rising senior at the University of Southern Maine (USM).
At USM, I am studying Social Work with a triple minor in Honors Leadership, Economics, and Education. On-campus, I am the Vice President and Financial Chair of the University Campus Activities Board, an orientation leader for new students, and an academic and transitional mentor of first-year students. I am passionate about traveling and learning new things about the world from different cultural, geographical, and linguistic perspectives. I am also very passionate about working with youth.
One of my favorite life-adventures was when I had the opportunity to work as an English language teacher/summer camp counselor in Europe during the summer of 2019. I worked in Italy and Austria with children ages 4-16. In this position, I had the chance to live with five different host families! Upon graduation in May 2020, I aspire to attend graduate school in Europe, where I will study International Relations. I want to join the Peace Corps and work with international organizations such as the United Nations, which strive to create a culturally inclusive and peaceful world. I am particularly passionate about international issues concerning children, education, food insecurity, immigration, and refugee asylum. I also hope to become an English as a Foreign Language Teacher abroad. Additionally, I would like to become a foster parent someday.
I am grateful and excited to intern at Roots and Fruits preschool this academic year!