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Faculty & Staff

Leadership

Michael Heffernan

Director of Education,
Lower School

Upon returning from Peace Corps Ecuador in 1991, Michael began his education career at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor completing a master’s degree in education and in Detroit Public Schools as an elementary school teacher.  From 1991-1995, he taught in a two-way Spanish/English immersion school and studied Waldorf education with two area independent Waldorf schools.  Being dedicated to public education and excited with the prospect of bringing Waldorf education principles and methods to the public sector through the passing of charter school legislation in Arizona, Michael and his family enthusiastically relocated to Flagstaff with the purpose of assisting in opening the Waldorf-methods Pine Forest Charter School (PFCS).  From 1995-2000, he carried a class from 4th to 8th grade, teaching all subjects, as well as Spanish, games, music and health.  He also acted as faculty chairperson and served as a faculty member on the PFCS Governing Board.  After graduating his 8th grade class, Michael took a one year leave from teaching and worked with a local river rafting company as a guide and business manager.  He returned to formal teaching in the fall of 2001 as an educator in the Coconino County Juvenile Detention Center and Coconino County Jail.  Michael and his family moved to Tucson for a year and, while his wife completed her master’s in education, he worked in a grades 6-8 middle school with 1200+ students as an algebra and physical education teacher.  During that time, Michael completed his administrative coursework through the University of Phoenix and received his Arizona principal’s certificate.  In 2003, his family and he returned to Flagstaff and Pine Forest where he currently serves as the school’s principal and the executive director of the Pine Forest Education Association, Inc. 

Maggie Payne

Director of Education,
Upper School

Maggie was born and raised in Jefferson County, Colorado.  After graduating from CU Boulder with a degree in Physics, she spent 5 years in California on a soul searching quest. The first few years were spent doing hydrology research as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Northern California until she moved to Southern California where she began a midwifery apprenticeship.  

After moving back to Colorado to be near family as she started her own, Maggie found her way to Waldorf education through parenthood and the wish to find a holistic and meaningful education for her children.  In 2003, she joined a small group of parents who shared the same vision of starting a charter school in Coal Creek Canyon. Following much pedagogical research and school visits, this group wrote and presented the charter for Mountain Phoenix Community School to the Jeffco Board of Education in 2006. Astonishingly, the charter was approved and the school opened for the 2007-08 school year as a small 3-room, multi-aged classroom school in the mountains.  Since the beginning, Maggie has helped to midwife Mountain Phoenix through many different roles.  She has served as a governing board member and president, teacher, administrator and a parent. All the while, her commitment to public Waldorf education strengthened.  For a period of time, Maggie stepped away from the school as she attended the University of Denver earning a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and Certificate for Principal Licensure in 2016. She returned to Mountain Phoenix as an Assistant Director in 2017 and became the Director of Enrichment and Student Support in 2019.  In 2022 she earned a Certificate in Transdisciplinary Studies in Healing Education, an advanced Waldorf Education program offered through Antioch University.  Maggie is grateful every day to have found her life's work and to be a part of a community striving towards the Principles of Public Waldorf Education. 

Maggie has three children of her own who have attended Mountain Phoenix. She and her husband Matt, along with two of their children, live on a half-acre parcel in Wheat Ridge that they hope will soon become an urban permaculture farmstead. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, reading, weaving, camping and spending time in nature.

Kacel, Melissa (Verticle)

Melissa Kacel

Assistant Director of
Student Support Services

Melissa is a dedicated educator with a passion for Waldorf education and a commitment to whole-child development. With a master's degree in school leadership and experience as a former class teacher, she has been working in education for many years. Melissa has always had a deep love for teaching and knew from a young age that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of students. 

Melissa joined Mountain Phoenix many years ago when her daughter was in preschool, and she has come to cherish the school's creative and unique approach to education. As an administrator, Melissa is passionate about supporting the social-emotional and academic success of students, partnering closely with families to build healthy relationships that foster growth and development. 

Outside of work, Melissa treasures spending time with her family and enjoys exploring the great outdoors in the beautiful Colorado landscape. She is thrilled to be a part of the Mountain Phoenix community and is committed to helping students thrive in all aspects of their lives.

Wegs, Joy (Verticle)

Joy Wegs

Program Director of
Early Childhood Education

Meet Joy, the loving and devoted Program Director for Early Childhood at Mountain Phoenix. Joy's journey with the school began in 2011 when her first child was about to start grade one. From the moment she stepped foot on campus, Joy knew that she had found a community that she could call home.

With a deep love for young children and a passion for preserving the magic of childhood, Joy brings her experience and expertise to every aspect of her work at Mountain Phoenix. She holds a degree in Outdoor Recreation and Early Childhood, which has given her a unique perspective on how to create engaging and dynamic learning experiences for children of all ages.

As Auntie Joy, she is always ready to lend an ear, give a hug, or offer guidance to anyone who needs it. Her warmth and kindness are felt throughout the entire early childhood department, and her dedication to the children in her care is unwavering.

When Joy isn't at the school, you can find her on her next adventure with her family. She loves spending time outdoors, particularly on the beach, and shares her passion for nature with the children at Mountain Phoenix.

Joy has also committed herself to puppy rescue work and teaching yoga as a way to give back to her community. Her energy and enthusiasm for life are contagious, and she is truly an inspiration to all who know her.

Ortiz, Julie (Verticle)

Julie Ortiz

Assistant Director of
School Development

Updated Bio Coming Soon

Sassi, Brooke (Verticle)

Brooke Sassi

Lively Arts Homeschool Director

I have been involved in the public Waldorf movement for a decade, with my three children moving back and forth between homeschooling and "regular" school as our needs fluctuated through the years at Mountain Song Community School in Colorado Springs. I have many years as a Waldorf homeschooling parent under my belt and am happy to be a support to other families who have chosen this beautiful journey as well. 
My formal training is in education, having served several years as the reading interventionist at a rural K-12 school east of Colorado Springs, and providing dyslexia assessment and services to local students. I am currently completing my Ph.D. in education leadership at the University of Denver, and presently serve as the president of the Board of Directors at Mountain Song. 
In my free time, I love to dance, sing, garden, and look at the stars!

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Preschool - Grade 8