Acting Head of Schools
Paul is a retired Human Resources Executive who lives in Portland. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Maine at Orono and for six years worked for U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe. He worked out of state for over 30 years for Safeco Insurance and the The Horace Mann Companies in a variety of roles, including Chief Customer Officer and Information Technology. He has volunteered with and served on the Board of Directors of United Way of Central Illinois, and currently serves as Board President of the Munjoy Heights Condo Association.
Chief Financial Officer
Erin Larson, MSA, CMA. Erin joined Wayfinder in 2015, and oversees all aspects of the finance and operations functions of the organization. Previously, Erin worked in consulting at a regional public accounting firm delivering accounting, financial management, and business management services to a range of non-profit and for-profit clients. Earlier in her career, Erin was a financial analyst for a Fortune 500 manufacturing company and a firm administrator for a litigation firm. Erin holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Summa Cum Laude, from University of Southern Maine, and a Master of Science in Accountancy, High Distinction, from Bentley University. She is a Certified Management Accountant.Born and raised in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Erin feels at home at the farm. Erin is an active volunteer for a local animal rescue organization. She enjoys exploring the outdoors with her dogs, spending time with friends and family, reading, relaxing at the beach, and generally taking in all that Maine has to offer. Erin is thrilled to have the opportunity to merge her expertise with the mission and heart of Wayfinder Schools.
Martha Kempe – Passages Program Director
Martha joined Wayfinder Schools in 2004. Prior to moving to Maine, Martha was Director of Grants and Contracts at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She completed a certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from the University of Maine Orono. She holds a bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the University of Oregon and a master’s in Expressive Therapies from the University of Louisville. Her varied life experiences include directing residential services for mentally disabled adults, coordinating educational programs at Slater Mill Historic Site, coordinating apprenticeships at the Swain School of Design, assisting grantees at the National Endowment for the Arts, and teaching reading to elementary school children. She loves seeing the creative process in action and the way it sheds light on our lives and souls. Martha’s two daughters and husband keep her guessing. Give her good books, dear friends or family scattered across the U.S. and she is happy. If not, she is content to hike Maine, explore new places or bask near any body of water…really, any body of water.
Dana Fadel – Passages Teacher, Southern Maine
Dana graduated from Earlham College in 2006 with a degree in African and African American Studies. She has traveled to both East and West Africa studying–among other things–textiles and the HIV/Aids epidemic. She moved to Portland in 2009 to pursue a weaving internship, where she solidified her love for teaching in a one-on-one setting. In tandem with her passion for textiles, she has maintained a strong commitment to working with people who are in need of adequate information about their health and well-being. Dana has served as a facilitator for women’s groups, an advocate for sexual assault victims, and as a sex and sexuality educator. Dana was the Health Coordinator on the Residential side of Wayfinder Schools for 2 years, as well as teaching a sex ed class called “Not Yer Momma’s Sex Ed,” a role she will continue to keep while in working with Passages.
Erica Gates – Passages Teacher, Midcoast
Erica was born and raised in Maine. She attended the University of Maine and has spent many years working with teens in the counseling and education fields as a therapist, classroom teacher, guidance counselor, coach, swimming instructor, and raft guide. Erica has been a teacher for several years but can’t express how excited she is to be working with the staff and students at Wayfinder Schools. Erica feels this teaching opportunity will give her the opportunity to build a relationship with her students that will allow her to watch each of them grow and succeed. In her free time, Erica enjoys kayaking, hiking, skiing, sewing, and spending time with her family. One of her favorite quotes is: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~ Dr. Seuss
Fern Hilyard – Passages Teacher, Washington County
Fern has a passion for education and especially enjoys the challenge of helping students discover what motivates them. She’s worked with people of all ages and abilities in a variety of settings. During the last 15 years she has pursued teaching special and gifted students, art, writing and recently spent a summer volunteering in London working with mentally ill adults in a therapeutic horticulture facility. Fern grew up in the Philadelphia area and moved to Maine with her husband in 1986 to raise their three children plus a small assortment of backyard pets. In addition to her work in education, Fern’s been a graphic designer, copy editor, dog walker, plant sitter, home-schooler, set designer, prep cook, museum docent, research assistant, school secretary and mask maker. Fern likes to knit and read and write and if you see her doodling at a meeting, it doesn’t mean she’s not paying attention.
Joy Knowlton – Passages Teacher, Midcoast
Joy came to Wayfinder Schools as a Passages teacher in the fall of 2013. Over the last twenty years, she has been a middle school teacher, a Special Education Tech., a GED instructor and a member of the staff of Restorative Justice of Midcoast Maine. Looking back at this varied blend of educational roles, she considers the opportunity to work with young parents in a one on one setting as a natural extension of these prior experiences. Joy is inspired by the courage and determination of her students, and is excited to be working with them as they work on Core Skills and their Passages. She hopes that some day –soon– every Maine student will be offered a blended curriculum of life skills and traditional subjects. Joy moved to Maine in 1978 to spend the summer in Bar Harbor, stayed through the winter, and eventually enrolled in College of the Atlantic. After graduating with a BA in Human Ecology, she has lived in many areas along the coast, finally settling in the Damariscotta region in the late eighties. Joy has three grown children, an older dog and a puppy, and lives in Bristol where she loves to garden, sail, swim, hike and enjoy the beauty of the area. When forced indoors, she cooks, reads, writes, and sings… while keeping up with the housework.
Megan Shea– Passages Teacher, Southern Maine
Megan happily joined Wayfinder Schools in 2014. She recently completed a Master’s in teaching from Simmons College and has Massachusetts and Maine licensure in 7-12 English Language Arts. Earning a B.A. in English from Messiah College and Temple University brought Megan closer with the fine state of Pennsylvania. She has also lived in Asheville, North Carolina and in New York’s Hudson Valley. A northeast native, Megan relishes her new life as a Mainer, and despite being from “away” feels that her Yankee sensibility fits seamlessly with her new state identity. In her various lives before Wayfinder, Megan has been a nanny (twice), a barista (four times), a blacksmith, a canoe instructor, and a sales representative. Working as a wilderness therapy guide in North Carolina and Vermont helped solidify Megan’s passion for facilitating interpersonal growth and spiritual formation, as well as exploring the role of the self within the community. Megan’s teaching experience includes a 7th grade classroom position in Philadelphia, a naturalist and outdoor educator at the Ashokan Center in Upstate NY, and a 15-week practicum at Boston Latin School. As a collector of observations, Megan keeps a journal in her “Mary Poppins” bag to record scenes and characters for her eventual novel. She also enjoys practicing yoga, baking muffins, and thrift store treasure hunting. Megan looks forward to this new journey working alongside Passages students and is grateful to have found meaningful work that combines her many interests.
Cindy Stevenson – Passages Teacher, Midcoast
Cindy joined Passages in 2013. She grew up in Auburn, Maine and received her Associates Degree in Dietetics from University of Maine at Farmington. After interning with Central Maine Medical Center, where she later became an employee, she decided to continue her education at the University of Maine Orono, where she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Family Life/Health Education. Cindy has worked in Residential Life at UMaine Orono, as a home economist for Hannaford, as a Licensed Chiropractic Assistant, and as a Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician. She has also served on the Board of Directors at The Eastport Health Center and has always been involved with her local schools, by volunteering in her children’s classrooms, fundraising, supporting Project Graduation, and by serving as PTO President. Cindy’s greatest teachers have been her own children, Thomas 20, Jacob 18, and Benjamin 14. She and her husband Andy also share their Waldoboro home with two beautiful Golden Retrievers and six cats. Gardening, cooking, walking, and reading are some of her favorite things, and Cindy is happiest when she’s feeding the crowds and her house is full of loud music and teenage banter.
Joseph Hufnagel – Director of Residential Programs
Since arriving at Wayfinder Schools in 2008, Joseph has truly appreciated the chance to bring people together and provide opportunities for brave, young adults to achieve personal goals, develop meaningful relationships, and positively affect the lives of others. With a BA in Political Science from Boston College and a MS in Environmental Education from Lesley University, Joseph obtained his teacher certification through Teach for America while living on the Texas-Mexico border. From Costa Rica to Nantucket, Texas to Boston, Joseph has held a variety of educational and administrative positions in multiple classroom settings. He has taught every grade, K-12, and while he has taught just about every subject, he remains consistently drawn to issues of social justice and diversity. With a true love of sports and team camaraderie, Joseph has coached basketball, soccer, football, and ice hockey. He has created several after-school programs and served as head of Upper School at the Nantucket New School. Joseph also has a distinct passion for experiential learning and has led groups of high school students on expeditions throughout the U.S. and Canada. When Joseph’s not working, he loves being outdoors and exploring the world with Amy and Zoe, his wife and daughter.
Cathy Ames-Cruz – Residential Living Skills Coordinator
Cathy has been working at Wayfinder Schools since 2000. Cathy was born in Camden, attended Camden Rockport High school, and later, studied English and Education at The University of Maine Augusta. Cathy has four children, and in 2009, she became a proud grandmother! Cathy loves working at Wayfinder Schools because she loves kids and believes everyone needs a chance in life. Cathy’s mission at Wayfinder is to help give kids the tools to be successful, and also to help make sure they are eating more than Raman Noodles when grow up! Cathy lives in West Rockport, and when she’s not at the school, she can be found cooking, baking, or camping and swimming in the outdoors.
Elisabeth Aroneau – Lead Teacher
Elisabeth landed at Wayfinder in 2014, shortly after returning to her beloved home state after many years away. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University, where she designed and taught undergraduate creative writing courses. Prior to graduate school, Elisabeth worked as a Youth Advisor for FEGS Health and Human Services in New York City. During her tenure at FEGS she supported a caseload of overage and under-credited high school students as they worked toward high school diplomas, post-secondary education, and career training. Elisabeth is deeply invested in alternative education, youth development, and student-centered learning. She is a committed teacher, passionate poet, and all around excited human who firmly believes in the innate desire to connect. On her very best days you will find her in her apartment that resembles a treehouse. She will be eating a block of fancy cheese and her gaze will be fixed on the crisp pages of an open book.
Alex Koch-Lead Overnight Staff & Ecology Teacher
Alexander M. Koch loves Maine. Born in Waterville, he has spent the bulk of his life living here exploring Maine’s forests, rivers, mountains, and coastline. Enthralled by the natural world at a young age, and inspired to learn as much as possible, he has continued to explore and study. He is a poet, historian, and naturalist. Alex currently lives in rural Waldo County, and couldn’t be happier. In his free time he is likely to be found rummaging through old barns and cellars for rusty tools, kicked back in the notch of a tree reading a book, or sprawled on the ground to get a better look at the apothecia of a lichen. He began working at Wayfinder Schools in 2013 and plans to continue doing so as long as he is able.
Oren Stevens – Residential Campus Director
Oren boils it down to active listening, heightened reflections, and permission. Beyond that, speak from the heart. Say, “I am sorry,” and mean it. Encourage failure and reward effort. Teach gratitude. Tell them ten thousand times, “You are not broken.” These are principles Oren’s for how to teach young adults to cultivate trust in their intuition and build the muscles of boundary setting so they can not only be productive members of society, but become the change makers that the world needs. When not at Wayfinder, Oren is an acting member of Portland Playback Theater, an improv troupe dedicated to honoring people’s stories on stage. As a tenor, he sings with the Blue Lobster Troupe Community Chorus. Oren also facilitates writing and storytelling with inmates at Maine Correctional Center through an organization called Guitar Doors and teaches high school poetry through L/A Arts.
Crysta Vaccaro – Creative Arts Coordinator
Crystal is overjoyed to be working at Wayfinder Schools and cherishes the moments she has spent in the presence of her fellow staff and the diverse mix of students. Crystal’s educational path has been varied and exciting. Her high school years were spent at the Meeting School, a coeducational Quaker boarding school run through the process of consensus. She then spent a year at Marlboro College studying theatre and photography. Various employment ensued after her first sojourn into academia, but she missed learning and decided to go back to school. She finally graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in History. Crystal resides in Portland, Maine with her three amazing cats. In her free time she plays roller derby for the Maine Roller Derby Port Authorities and also enjoys a good game of tennis.
Robert St. Laurent – Building Grounds Manager
Bob has been with Wayfinder Schools since they opened in New Gloucester and worked at Opportunity Farm for five years. Known as the “Jack of All Trades,” Bob fulfills a number of roles at the school. He is a mentor to the students, teaching them all aspects of his job. Prior to coming to Wayfinder Schools, Bob lived and worked in Florida. Bob has two sons, one in Lyman and one in York, and two grandsons. His passions, outside of his work, are buying and selling tractors, building anything and everything, and owning and showing antique cars, for which he has won several trophies. His nickname as a young boy was “The Old Car Kid,” starting with his first car, a ‘36 Plymouth, and his collection has continued to grow.
Britta Sturks— Admissions Coordinator
Britta was born and raised in Thomaston, Maine. Upon graduating from high school she attended the University of Maine where she earned her Bachelors in Social Science. While in school she worked full time with area alternative education and special education programs. In 2012 she graduated with a Master’s of Science in Leadership with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University. Prior to joining the Wayfinder Schools she worked at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute alongside some of the most prestigious individuals as part of the Bone Marrow Transplant team. Outside of work she can be found in many different situations; surrounded by lots of people enjoying each other’s company, relaxing by the beach alone, or taking spontaneous road trip to random destinations. She loves to travel, drink coffee and allow life to lead her to the next cool thing! She is an avid basketball player and looks forward to coaching area teams in the near future. After many years away, she feels extremely fortunate to be living back in the community where she was raised. She only hopes to provide these students with the same sense of community, rapport, and the devotion she had as they find their true capabilities and gifts during one of the toughest transition in their young adult lives. It is her goal to ensure that they have the skills they need to create their own truest version of themselves as we see them off at graduation.
Cynthia Ufkin – Executive Assistant/Office Manager
Cynthia joined Wayfinder Schools January 2012. She is the executive administrative assistant/office manager at the Opportunity Farm campus. Cynthia’s passion is children. Although she is in the office most of the time, you will see her at circle times with the kids, cooking dinner, doing dishes, taking walks and just about anything she can do to get to know the kids. Having come from the public school setting as assistant to the principal, substitute teacher, and just about every position you can imagine, she loves spending time with the kids and offering that little extra to get them through the day. When not at work, Cynthia enjoys being with her husband of 32 years and her five children. She loves camping, cooking, making wine and going to movies. After living in California for several years and touring the U.S. with the children in a RV for 13 months, she and her husband decided to move back to Maine, her home state, to raise her children and start a career.
Andrea Vassallo – Grants & Communications Manager
Andrea joined Wayfinder Schools in 2009. A native of Massachusetts, she summered in midcoast Maine for many years before finally moving here year-round in 1995. She holds a BA in Political Science from The University of Massachusetts and has spent her career in education and non-profit development. She lives in Damariscotta with her wonderful son and their cats and dog. When not at Wayfinder she can be found reading, working on a crossword and spending as much time as possible with friends and family along the Damariscotta River.