Meet Our Team

The Discovery School at Beechwood has a small team of passionate educators, all of whom are dedicated students of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. Our goal is to provide an environment where educators are valued for their outside-the-box thinking, creative ideas, and connection with the children and families.

Jessie Handron

Director and Educator

Jessie Handron has been an educator for 12 years, both at the preschool and elementary school level.  She earned a Bachelor of Science from Penn State University and her Master’s of Teaching from University of Virginia. After serving in the classroom as a teacher for 7 years, she began working as an instructional coach at the Environmental Charter School, focusing on grades K-3.  

As an educator, she believes that deeper learning occurs when we value the unique qualities of each child, and nurture their sense of wonder and curiosity. Providing opportunities for children to construct meaning together through play, inquiry, and exploration ignites the passion to learn and supports the development of critical skills and habits of mind.

Jessie enjoys spending time with her husband, CJ, and two children, Maggie and Charlie.  She loves playing outside, hosting backyard barbecues, and attending family-friendly events in Pittsburgh - especially Pirate games!   

Christina Hamilton


Christina Hamilton has been an educator for six years. She earned her Bachelor of Science from Western Washington and her Master’s of Teaching from Drexel University. After working in the field of environmental education for five years with the National Park Service, Audubon Society and The Ecology School instructing students K-12, she served in the classroom as an early childhood educator, and then gained more experience as a first grade educator at the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park.


As a lead teacher she is committed to facilitating holistic, positive development of lifelong learners in the early childhood classroom. In her work as an environmental educator she designed engaging learning environments, led teacher workshops in integrated curriculum development, and connected the classroom to the community through authentic, project based learning experiences. As a preschool and first grade teacher, Mrs. Hamilton instructs students with diverse learning styles through differentiated instruction, a growth mindset approach, developmentally appropriate practices, and multi-sensory supports that directly relate to the unique needs and interests of the individual child.  She currently holds her Instructional I Teaching Certification for Early Childhood Education (PreK-4).

Sage Herman

Educational Assistant

Sage received her degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Vermont.  She has worked in a variety of preschools and elementary classrooms in a multitude of places including: Peru, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Colorado, and California.  Sage is a newer transplant to the Pittsburgh area by way of The Bay Area, and has loved exploring all it has to offer with her daughter, Zoe, and 3 rescue pups.  She is a strong believer in high quality education and time in nature for all children, and feels especially grateful that Zoe spent two magical years at The Discovery School with Miss Christina.  When Sage is not exploring beautiful Beechwood Farms you can find her helping children choose books at the Sewickley Public Library where she also works part time.  She loves to read, spend time outdoors, play with her daughter, take the dogs for walks, cook and eat!  Sage is very much looking forward to forming connections with all of the children and their families this year.

Beth Smeiles

Educational Assistant

Beth Smeiles has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a minor in Elementary Education. Always planning to be a teacher, Beth completed her degree in Sociology to better understand issues of social justice. Once she began teaching preschool, Beth fell in love with early learning through play and never lost the wonder of getting to know her students and families' stories. Beth has also earned certification to write and facilitate professional development workshops for educators of young children through kindergarten in PA. She is passionate about including students with special needs in the classroom, inviting children to discover art materials through process art, and representing our human diversity in children’s literature.

The environment of Discovery School is what drew Beth to teach here. Some of Beth’s earliest memories include exploring through the woods behind her house and losing track of time in whatever little nook or bush or hide-away she could use for imagining. One of Beth’s favorite poems begins, “Little wild one, when you feel judged, measured, rushed or compared. Go out. Listen long under the sky and Mother Nature will sing to you of cycles, rhythms circle and spirals…” (-Nicolette Sowder)


Beth is mom to four children and recently moved to the Pittsburgh area from eastern PA. When not teaching or exploring her new city, Beth enjoys reading as many books as she can, trying new recipes, helping plants to grow in her garden, and making music with her violin.

Regina McLaughlin

Educational Assistant

Regina earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont.  After graduating, she returned to her home in California and taught in the public schools for Kindergarten through 8th grade. 


In 2006, she moved to Pittsburgh with her husband where they had their 3 children, Lily (9), Anna (6), and Charlie (3).  She has a passion for art and the outdoors and believes that children thrive in those environments.  Her love of kids and nature make her a wonderful fit for our school. 


As a teaching assistant, she is dedicated to encouraging children’s fondness of nature and play.  She believes that positive reinforcement and fostering creativity are keys to children’s happiness.

Beth Veldkamp

Educational Assistant

Beth has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from Erikson Institute, a nationally recognized graduate school in child development.  She also has a BA and earned Elementary and Special Education Professional Teaching Certificates from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  She has lived in several different states and countries. Beth and her husband Brad have been married for 10 years and have three children ages 7, 4 and 1.  Outdoor nature play, exploration, and learning are a family priority while hiking, camping, and stomping in the creek behind her home.


Beth has been investing in the lives of children in nature and in a variety of other settings with real experiences for over 17 years.  Beth began working outside in the woods with children just out of high school in Michigan at an overnight nature summer long camp in the woods with children entering 1st - 9th grade.   After that, Beth taught in both general and special education classrooms for several years. She was hired to teach in the Special Education classroom at the school where she was a student teacher while finishing up her teaching certificates.  Shortly after, her husband got accepted into a PhD program at Northwestern University and she moved to the Chicago area. In Chicago, Beth taught K - 2nd grade in a diverse urban setting in a mixed ability classroom at Daystar School where she arranged bi-weekly learning excursions into the city to cultivate knowledge about the resources through real experiences, including visits to museums, businesses, neighborhoods, libraries, and nature preserves.  Beth has also worked in Honduras teaching kindergarten students whose native language was Spanish. Additionally, Beth has experience working at The Gray Center, the home of Carol Gray and Social Stories where she led social skills lessons for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Prior to joining the team of educators at The Discovery School, Beth worked as a teacher at The Wild Woods Forest Kindergarten with children ages 3 - 6, starting out with the program in the first year.  


As a young child, Beth loved spending time in nature all throughout the year.  Now as an educator, she loves sharing her passion for nature with children in the beautiful classroom of the great outdoors.  Beth is excited to share her passion and love for children at The Discovery School by inviting children to explore the wonder of nature, grow in appreciation for it, and find their place in it.

Melissa Troutman

Educational Assistant and Office Manager

Melissa Troutman grew up in the Fox Chapel area and married her high school sweetheart, Scott.  She graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Marketing. Melissa has worked both as assistant to the director at Shadyside Presbyterian Preschool as well as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Merck.  However, her most rewarding job to date, is mom to her four children, Sam, Luke, Toby and Clara. Melissa enjoys time with her family, being outside, being active and is happiest surrounded by children. Melissa is thrilled to be joining the Discovery School team.

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614 Dorseyville Rd

Pittsburgh, PA 15238