Colleen Smith, Director, Teacher
Born and raised in Yakima, Colleen’s favorite memories from childhood revolve around playing outside with her brothers. Now, with three children of her own, she is passionate about getting every child around the valley in the outdoors as much as possible.
In 2007 Colleen graduated from the University of Montana with a B.A. in Biology. Post college, she became a guide for Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures. It was here that she discovered her love for getting kids outside, learning in nature. Not only were the kids in the programs experiencing big adventures, but gaining confidence, developing relationships, and learning life-skills.
This love for teaching inspired her to enroll and complete a residency-based Master in Teaching degree program. Post graduation, she taught 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade math and science at public elementary schools around the Yakima Valley. In the fall of 2017, she graduated from Cedarsong Nature School’s Forest Kindergarten Teacher certification program.
Colleen lives in Yakima with her husband Patrick, daughter Caroline (12), son Luke (7), daughter Keira (3),dog Barley, and cat Hairy Pawter. Outside of Sol Shine, Colleen can be found adventuring with her kids, reading the latest book club read, SUPing the Yakima River, or skiing at White Pass.
Emily Gamache, Lead Teacher
Hello friends, I have been an early childhood educator since 2004. My journey began as a Montessori teacher for Children’s Hospital in Seattle. After lots of traveling and working as a homeschool teacher, I settled in Bellingham. It was my great honor to work at an incredible preschool there which encompassed multiple schooling philosophies. I spent ten years there, most of which was in the role of campus director.
I recently moved back to Yakima to be closer to my family. I was born and raised in Moxee. I’m very excited to finally be enjoying big family meals and play dates with my nieces. I love everything outdoors, especially the water - adventure is medicine for the soul. I am passionate about music and will take any chance I can get to spread joy through dancing. In the winter months I enjoy snowboarding and Scrabble tournaments. I have a deep thirst for knowledge and am very excited to learn alongside the families of Sol Shine
Danny Schuppe, Assistant Teacher
For Danny, the Yakima Area Arboretum feels like home. He spent a great deal of his childhood exploring and playing on the grounds (hey, that's what happens when your mom is the director).
After graduating from high school Danny, started working at the Arboretum's “Nature Day Camp”. Here, he discovered his love for working with children. This discovery lead to him working as a Para-educator in the Yakima School District.
Over the past few years of working at the arboretum Danny has found a real interest in insects. One of his goals is to catalog all of the insects that can be found on grounds. Many of the bugs he’s been able to identify are thanks to our very own preschoolers who turn out to be great bug finders.
When Danny isn’t at Sol Shine or searching for bugs, he’ll probably be camping, spending time with friends, hiking, or attempting to whittle something.
Jonna Flores, Substitute Teacher
After years spent traveling and living around the world, Jonna and her family have settled in Yakima, captivated by the beauty of Washington state as well as the limitless adventures it offers.
Although she has moved often, she has never lost her love of caring for children. This is evident as she is currently working towards a degree in Human Development with a focus on Early Childhood Education through Washington State University.
Some of her hobbies include spending time with family and friends, knitting up something cozy, reading a good book, and beating her partner at chess. Otherwise, she stays busy homeschooling her children (9, 11, and 14) and working on her own studies.