Lia Lane Staff

Director:  Heather Ashton Black

I am honored and excited to be a part of Mixed Greens, a real-life dream come true, and a place of love, peace, and learning for children and grown-ups alike!  To learn more about me and our beginnings, please visit the Director tab in the About menu.

















Site Supervisor & Sprouts Teacher: J.J. Johnson

My name is J.J. and I am incredibly grateful to be a part of the Mixed Greens community! My love for working with children began in high school, when I started teaching dance classes to some aspiring ballerinas who, little did they know, were really the ones inspiring me. Motivated to continue down the path of teaching, I found myself in the Early Childhood Studies program at Sonoma State University.  I was quickly drawn to the professional field of Early Childhood, and am continually inspired by the individuals who make up this valuable community. Working in various classrooms throughout my time at SSU allowed my appreciation and passion to grow even more. After receiving my Bachelors in Early Childhood Studies in 2017, I spent a year teaching at My Gym Children’s Fitness Center here in Santa Rosa. I loved being able to help provide a place where children and families could play, learn, and grow together. I believe the value of play should take an active role in children’s learning and that education should emerge from children’s own interests.

When being introduced to Mixed Greens, I immediately knew I had found a community that shares my values and beliefs. It is important to me to create an environment where every child feels safe and supported. I believe it is only then that we can teach the whole child and help shape them to be life long learners. It is with so much joy that I get to be here at Mixed Greens and I am so excited to be a part of this wonderful family!











Flowers Teacher: Elizabeth Espinosa-Ouk (Lizzie)

Hi y’all! Hola amigos! My name is Lizzie and I am so very excited to continue growing with the Mixed Greens family as the Flowers teacher! I received my Child Development degree and teacher certificates at Santa Rosa Junior College and plan to further my education in the near future. During these past few years at Mixed Greens, I’ve learned to overcome challenging situations and lean on my colleagues for support. I have also learned an incredible amount from the tiny humans you share with us!

Kiddos have been running around and drooling on me for as long as I can remember. Being the oldest of four children has taught me a lot and has definitely contributed to my love for this work (and for children)! I worked as a professional nanny for a few years and have been babysitting for family members since middle school. It wasn’t until I changed my major a bunch of times that I knew how passionate I truly am about children and healthy development! I loved my childhood and I wish nothing more than to make sure all children love their childhood as well! That is why being a teacher means so much to me!

Here are some fun facts about me! 🙂 I enjoy being out in my garden while my doggy, Ryko, sun bathes! I spend my free time at home painting, reading, listening to Korean pop music, cooking, and snuggling up with Ryko. I can’t wait to dominate this school year with your kiddo! Nothing but fun paint messes, afternoon dance parties, and community love this year!








Seedlings Teacher: Mahagony Walker (Mo)

Greetings friends! Everyone knows me as Miss Mo but my grown up name is Mahagony. I’m a returning Mixed Greener (was part of the opening crew of Lia Lane) and am thrilled to be back in the fam! After an escape to So Cal a year ago and a maternity leave, the universe has brought me and my new son Amonte back this community to continue building connections with these awesome families. I have 8 years of experience working with tiny humans from infancy through school age, but early childhood is where my heart lies. 
My education thus far comes from Santa Rosa Junior College, and my love for children began with raising my niece. I enjoy being a positive influence in children’s lives and take pride in sharing my culture, values, and interests with them. I believe that all children are capable and competent enough to make responsible decisions for themselves, and my job as a teacher is to be there to facilitate, challenge, and expand on their thoughts while making sure they execute their plans safely and with fun, of course!
When I’m not with children, I spend my time working on my personal training and online accessory business. I also enjoy spending time with my boyfriend and his Chihuahua, doing anything outdoors. I love a good read, farmers markets, avocados, cold beer, local wine, and new beauty products. Thank you for reading, I’m really looking forward to learning more about all the new and returning families this upcoming school year, and until then I send big hugs, a lot of love, and positive vibes to all!





















Atelierista: Morgan Pizana

“Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.” – Pablo Picasso 

Hi everyone, my name is Morgan and I am overjoyed to be a part of the Mixed Greens family! I grew up in a big family that doubled in size when I turned 6 and my mother opened her in-home daycare. I believe that my love for teaching blossomed from there. From diapers to arts & crafts, I was my mom’s right hand lady and loved coming home from school to see my little buddies waiting for me!

When I was 15, I got my first job as a camp counselor with a nature based summer camp in Point Reyes Station. There, I learned how important artistic freedom, as well as building a connection to Mother Earth, is for little humans. 

During this enlightenment, I began taking an abundance of art classes at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa JC, and many local art seminars. I spent 4 summers with my small friends and eventually became the Assistant Director, where I was able to step behind the wheel and use my heart and values to ensure an unforgettable summer for my campers.

From water color fun, building flower crowns, foraging for treasures, and creating magical fairy gardens, there are no limits to what we can do to spark the artist in all of us!

When I’m not teaching (or have a paintbrush in my hand), I enjoy keeping my body moving with yoga, hiking, and kayaking! I also love creating memories with family, friends, and my sweet dog Clyde. I anticipate an amazing school year and am looking forward to starting this journey with all of you!



















Organic Gardening Teacher: Courtney Hunter

Hi there, I’m Courtney Hunter, the Organic Garden Teacher at the Farmstead campus for Mixed Greens. I’ve worked with preschool age children off and on for the past 18 years, while on my “off” time working many different farm/garden jobs. I spent a few years learning from a master gardener is Sebastopol at a small biodynamic farm, and here at Mixed Greens I get to fuse two passions together- gardening and early childhood education! I grew up here in Sonoma County and earned my AA in Early Childhood Education from our own SRJC back in 2008, and have loved teaching at different schools here in the North Bay and also in Seattle, where I lived for a few years. 

Childhood is such a brief magical time with so much to explore and experience, especially in our beautiful natural world. Being a part of a young child’s learning experience is truly a joy and learning lesson for all involved! Taking time to slow down and explore our curiosity about the natural environments, figure out how things work, and experiment with creative expression through art/movement/music/building/language are things that I love to encourage in children at any age (including us “grown ups”)!

Besides teaching, some of my other passions include tending to my own garden, studying herbalism and natural health, playing folk/rock music with my husband Skotty, hiking/exploring National Parks together, and volunteering in my community.  I look forward to meeting you all and continuing this learning journey together!










Assistant Teacher: Reina Espinosa-Ouk

Hi my name is Reina and I am ecstatic to be joining the team here at Mixed Greens! 

My experience working with children involves mainly babysitting. Being the second oldest among my siblings has contributed to my experience as well. (ps the oldest of my siblings is Miss Lizzie 😊

As for my educational background, I am currently studying at the Santa Rosa Junior College with a focus on Art/Art History. I have just recently finished up all my credits to earn an AA in Art. I have completed some coursework on Child Development as well and look forward to expanding that knowledge with more!

I enjoy drawing portraits, painting, and listening to music! I can’t wait to do all of those things with the Mixed Greens kids this school year! 











Assistant Teacher: Athena Rossi
Hello Mixed Greens Family!  My name is Athena Rossi and I am so excited to introduce myself as a new member of Mixed Greens. I started off here as a substitute teacher and fell in love with the students and environment. Throughout the years, I have been a part of caring for children as well as caregiving for development/elderly facilities and homes. As a lifelong empath, I strive to serve others. It is a passion of mine to rescue animals whenever I get the chance! This Summer, while on break, I co-ran a few children’s camps in Healdsburg. I am honored to join your children in their early development stages and help them to express their creativity and growth.













Assistant Teacher: Tyrrell Salath

Howdy folks! My name’s Tyrrell and I’m super duper excited to be a part of the community here at Mixed Greens. I’m currently enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College and working on getting my credentials. My experience working with children has been an adventure. Every party and event I’ve attended, children seem to gravitate towards me like how I seem to always gravitate towards the all-you-can-eat buffet tables. I also worked in another preschool two years ago, and worked for an after school program for an elementary school. Being around all the kids I’ve come across in my life has helped me gain a lot of knowledge and also feed my spark of passion to work with kids. One of my memorable moments working with kids was when one of the kids who was considered difficult by other staff members told me that I was his favorite teacher because I know how to talk to him, unlike everybody else. 

Some of my passions are singing, playing chess, and taking care of my frog. For me, singing is a way to express myself…especially when I’m happy. I enjoy playing chess because I tend to think a lot so I like to use my thinking brain on the board instead of getting lost in my thoughts. Frogs are my favorite animal. I feel they are a good representation on how people are. Frogs start off as eggs, hatch into tadpoles, then evolve into adult frogs that are capable of adapting into almost any environment they’re in, just like how people evolve and adapt from situations they are given or thrown into. I have a Pikachu Pacman frog named Jiraiya – aka Young Thunder. I’m so happy to continue being a part of the Mixed Greens family and getting to know every child as an individual and their families. See y’all soon!

Substitute Teacher: Danielle Phillips

Hello friends! My name is Danielle and I’m so grateful to become a part of Mixed Greens! I am currently studying Child Development at the SRJC. I am working towards becoming a teacher, specifically in Early Childhood Education. I feel fulfilled and passionate about working with young children. I grew up with two siblings and grew up in an in-home daycare. I always enjoyed helping take care of the children younger than me. I am especially excited to be here, as I feel Mixed Greens aligns with my values and perspectives on how children should be able to grow and learn.
Some things that I enjoy in my free time are hiking and art of any kind, I find myself to be very creative. I feel that creativity is a great way to express yourself, and I highly encourage it! I also enjoy spending quality time at home with my friends and family, and my two kitties Floofin, and Junie!

Assistant Teacher: Susan Magnuson

Hi everyone, my name is Susan Magnuson and I’m excited to be on this journey with the Mixed Greens family. I’ve been working in daycare for more than 15 years, in addition to raising three of my own! A move from the South Bay to Santa Rosa a few years ago put me in Heather’s path and I’m so excited to learn from, and hopefully teach something new to, all the bright and curious children I’ve had the pleasure of working with!















Assistant Teacher: Taylor Izard
Hello everyone! My name is Taylor and I am so excited to be a part of the Mixed Greens Community! I am currently enrolled in classes at the Santa Rosa Junior College and working to obtain my assistant teaching certificate. My passion for working with kiddos and getting to teach began very early for me; I started babysitting at 12 and volunteered to help with the younger kids within my local community. Reading and writing are big passions of mine; I love all things creative; and getting to be outside is something I appreciate so much! I am so excited to be able to work here at Mixed Greens and I cant wait to get to know everyone in the Mixed Greens Community!! 












Assistant Teacher: Kathryn Haidinyak

Heyo!! My name is Kathryn and I’m so excited to be a part of the Mixed Greens family! I am currently a student right here at Sonoma state where I am part of the Hutchins program, which is helping me on my way to a elementary teaching degree and credential. Ever since I was 16 and had my first job working with kids, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. To make a child smile and show them the way in learning is so fulfilling. There is no better feeling then when you have been working with them for a long time and get to witness them achieve something new and exciting.  I live for that excitement about gaining new knowledge and knowing they did it themselves!












Substitute Teacher: Flor Martinez
Hello! My name is Flor. It means flower in Spanish and I am happy to share that I am bilingual and fluent in both languages. I am very excited to start my journey here as a Mixed Greens Substitute Teacher! I found an interest in working with children during my first year of community college, when I attended Napa Valley College and earned my general education, as well as a Child and Family Studies – Assitant Certificate. During my time there, I took many Child Development classes and worked alongside a mentor teacher for a semester. I am currently attending Sonoma State, planning to major in Early Childhood Studies with a concentration in Child Development. The concept of seeing and helping children learning to learn is such a fascinating process to be a part of and I am so happy to have this opportunity. I look forward to learning all the children’s names, personalities, and routines, and getting to know the wonderful staff too! 
A few fun facts about me: 
I am a BIG Spiderman fanatic!
I love going to concerts! (I’ve seen Olivia Rodrigo, Giveon, Sza, Shawn Mendes, so many more)
I went to Hawaii for the first time last summer!



Substitute Teacher: Katia Filatov

Hi there! My name is Katia and I’m so grateful to call myself a Mixed Greener! I’ve been a preschool teacher for the past five years, and it’s been an incredible journey of learning and self-discovery, for both me and the children. 

My passion for child development began when I was still a child—at 13 years old! Throughout the years I’ve worked with children in various ways. I’ve been a babysitter, nanny, tennis coach, camp counselor, after-school teacher, and most recently, a preschool teacher. I have a degree in Psychology from UC Davis, with an emphasis in social/emotional and child development. I love to read and stay up to date on new research in these areas! 

It is so fun and rewarding to be a part of your little ones’ lives and watch them grow. Early childhood is a very special and important part of life, both from developmental and creative perspectives. It is a time of wonder, magic, curiosity, exploration, and friendship. When I first visited Mixed Greens, I saw an environment that fostered all those wonderful traits of early childhood, and shared them between children, parents and families, teachers, and nature.

Outside of preschool, I enjoy crafting, writing, reading, and spending time with my loved ones. You can also find me hanging out with with my three guinea pigs: Nilla, Chai, and Toffee, who’ve been known to make special appearances at Mixed Greens! 

Substitute Teacher: Cam West

Hello! My name is Cam, and I have had the privilege of teaching at all three MG campuses for several years. I resonate with the MG belief that students reach the goals of cognitive growth and educational development through child-interest based, teacher-facilitated projects, and that the potential for learning is stunted when the endpoint is formulated in advance. Over the years, this belief has become one of my core values as a teacher. I have supported children who have wanted to learn how to horseback ride before they could even ride a bike and other children as young as 5 years old who had the desire to learn how to solve Rubik’s cubes. With the strong belief of all our projects being child-interest based, we have had the opportunity to engage in so many creative fun activities like raising goats, hatching chicks, and even taming blue jays! I value building confidence through strong encouragement and support while creating an environment with developmentally appropriate activities that will facilitate critical thinking. I’m excited to see what’s to come next!




















Substitute Teacher : Cole Brady

Howdy! My name’s Cole Brady, and I’m very much looking forward to continuing my time at Camp Ever Greens and Mixed Greens! I’m currently working my way through college to become a music teacher/working musician. I have a passion for playing the drums, I’ve been playing them for about eight and a half years without an end in sight.  You may have seen me and my band playing at Mixed Greens Art from the Start! I have been babysitting 3 kids (10 and under) of a family friend for the past few years, and have spent a whole lot of time with them. Whenever I see them, we spend our time together doing anything outdoors. From playing tag to jumping on a trampoline… sometimes a music lesson sneaks in too; whatever we decide to do it’s guaranteed fun! My mom is an elementary school teacher, and from a young age I frequently helped her out in the classroom. It has sparked my interest in teaching and getting to know more about kids and how they see the world. In the future, I hope to combine my passion for music and education/creativity to enhance my skills for a career in teaching. I’m excited for another year at Camp Ever Greens & Mixed Greens…I have nothing but high hopes!



Substitute Teacher: Bridget Laugesen

Hi everyone! My name is Bridget and I’m so excited to be joining Mixed Greens! I’m currently attending Sonoma State as a Hutchins Liberal Studies major, with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. I’m from San Jose and this is my second year here at Sonoma and I love it here! Some of my favorite things are cats, reading, sunsets, painting, hiking, and the beach! I was a cheerleader all four years in high school and I coached kids gymnastics for a little bit too! I love being creative, spreading kindness, and making others laugh. I absolutely love working with kids and I’m so excited to get to know everyone here and make new friends! I cherish all of the connections I’ve made with children I’ve babysat/ worked with before and I can’t wait to make more <3





Substitute Teacher: Emily Sims (fresh off the PCT!)

Hi everyone, my name is Emily and I’m really excited to be a part of Mixed Greens! I’ve always loved playing with kids and I care so much about preserving our environment. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Theater from Cal Poly Pomona. I spent several years working at both Disneyland and Disneyworld, where I got to engage kids in storytelling and make-believe every day. I also volunteered at the Aquarium of the Pacific and taught kids about animals and ocean conservation. A few years ago, I spent 5 months hiking 1200 miles along the Appalachian trail, which inspired me to learn more about sustainability.  This October, I just returned from tackling the PCT!  I am certified as an EMT, and I’m currently studying Sustainability.
I’ve always loved kids. I babysat a lot in high school, and most of my jobs since then have involved some element of play. At Disney parks I liked making up games and stories. The aquarium was especially exciting because I got to teach them about animals, conservation, and watch them meet strange new animals.
During quarantine I’ve been learning to grow my own food, practicing yoga, and playing with my dog. I love hiking, biking, surfing and most anything outside! And as soon as it’s safe I’m excited to be able to travel around again, especially to South America and Africa to practice my Spanish and Swahili!  I look forward to meeting everyone and learning with your kids!









Family Connections Coordinator: Maria Freebairn-Smith

Hello, I am Maria and I am the proud mama of two beautiful sons that now stand taller than me and are fledged and giving their gifts into the world!  If you ask my friends and family, they will say I am joyfully impulsive, curious, honest and exuberant, just like preschoolers! They are “my people” and they are truly precious, each and every one of them.  I thrive when I can listen deeply and help guide young children, their families, and teachers. 

Professionally speaking, I am a preschool teacher, parenting coach/educator, and trained mediator with twenty years of experience working with families. I have a private practice helping parents and children move from conflict to connection. My graduate work was in Restorative Justice Practices and I am a trainer/facilitator for many schools across Sonoma County.  My undergraduate degree is in Psychology from Barnard College, Columbia University with advanced trainings in Early Childhood Education, conflict resolution, and creative expression.  

A good day is when I get to dance, sing, sit quietly in nature, and play with others or all of the above!  I look forward to getting to know your children and your families!  Look for me at Parent Ed nights and Mornings with Maria on the playgrounds at the schools throughout the year.  You can also feel free to check out my websites for more info on my services: