There is nothing more satisfying, and professionally confirming, than having the parents of my students, and my students, take it upon themselves to promote my work! Over the past 20 years I’ve taught all grade levels, all subjects, in public and private schools, and all for one purpose: bringing fun and joy into children’s lives.

JOY Logo Version 2

Below are testimonials I’ve received from former students, parents and colleagues:


You are amazing!  We are so grateful for your hard work and perseverance.

I know these winter days are long and cold and it’s difficult to manage the comfort levels and moods of the children.  You have been able to manage it while maintaining your core value of “JOY”.

Willa has thrived under your watch, and we are fortunate to have her in JOY.

Stay warm and rested out there.  Spring will be here soon!

John & Bea

“I just want to say you are a wonderful breath of fresh air and full of positivity and knowledge. I’ve never been so proud to introduce an influence in Marleigh’s life like you and your adventure group.”

“Thanks for being you!”


9. Marleigh and her walking stick

“I first met Mary Russell in 2001, when I attended a physics class she was teaching to first through fifth graders in a one-room schoolhouse on Redlands Mesa. In order for them to understand the laws of force and motion, she was teaching them to inline skate. I was there as a journalist writing an article for the Delta County Independent about Ms. Russell’s innovative teaching strategy. My 10-year old daughter, who happened to be home sick that day, was with me and the next week, we enrolled her into Mary’s program. We’ve been friends and colleagues ever since.

Under the care and guidance of Mary, my daughter Katie renewed her love of learning and adventure, which is still present in her today. As a parent, I was also invited to be involved in my daughter’s education, teaching a journalism class at the school. The entire community became our classroom, and the classroom was our community. We explored the natural landscapes and wonders of Grand Mesa and the historic landmarks of the North Fork Valley. Mary created a curriculum that culminated in a trip to Salt Lake City and the 2002 Winter Games. She put the needs of her students above tests and grades and planned learning activities that embraced who they were and what they were passionate about learning and doing.

Thirteen years later, I hired Mary to teach for me, at my school in Carbondale, Waldkinder Adventure Preschool. She brought her love and knowledge of the outdoors, skill in putting the needs of her students first, and her experience connecting community with learning, to her work. Mary will always be reliable, dedicated, and committed to her students, their families, and employers. I entrusted her with the care and education of my daughter and the students at my preschool, knowing that she puts their well-being ahead of her own.”

Sincerely, Karen Kirsch Grey


“Mary Russell was a teacher for our son Emil at Commerce Children’s Center (CCC) in Boulder, CO, starting when Emil was 9 months old for about a year. We cannot say enough good things about Mary’s care and influence on Emil, her general positive effect on the classroom, and her all-around professionalism. We felt blessed to have her care for our son. Additionally, we are profoundly grateful for her support of us as first-time parents throughout that year and beyond. Her experience, integrity, and positive outlook made such a positive impact on us as we figured out how to help our children grow (and keep our lives together).

Since Emil’s time at CCC, we’ve gone through several arrangements for care for our children through moves and as the kids grow up. In our opinion, Mary is an early childhood educator of the highest order with a sincere joy and commensurate skill in her profession. Given the opportunity, we would not hesitate to trust her with our children again. We cherish her place in our lives.


Eric and Melinda Edwards

Edwards family in Boston

“I am writing to express my thoughts and experience with Mary Russell, a wonderful and compassionate human-being I have been blessed to have in my children’s lives for just a short amount of time.

Mary was my younger son’s (Jake’s) preschool teacher for the last year of his time at Active Louisville Kids (ALK) in Louisville, Colorado. The school itself focuses on play and being active outdoors, which I really believe is important in the early years of a child’s lives. Since I had previously had my older son enrolled in this school, I was familiar with the variety of teachers and curriculum that had this focus and had loved all the teachers there. When Mary arrived and started the “out-and-about” program, I was thrilled. The concept of taking the kids outside, rain or shine, and exploring and learning from the outdoor field trips was outstanding.

Every day Jake would come back home from preschool, he talked incessantly about his adventures, the bonds he made with his friends, and all the things he learned with “Miss Mary.” All his stories were positive, not one negative word was spoken about his experiences. He would show me everything he had learned when I was out with him and he was always so proud of how he could navigate nature and the outside world so smoothly. During this time that Mary was Jake’s teacher, I had almost daily interaction with her during drop-off and pick-up. I also went along with their out-and-abouts on multiple occasions, watching the kids’ interactions with each other and also with Mary. Mary was always compassionate, sincere, and upbeat.

When there were issues with kids’ behavior, she never raised her voice and always spoke in a loving, yet firm way, expressing her concerns without belittling. She spoke to the kids like they were adults and never talked down to them—something that I feel is sometimes missing with teachers/educators. In her interactions with other adults, including myself and her colleagues, she was a consummate professional. She communicated with respect and assertion, never condescension or attitude. Her written and oral discussions have always been calm and pleasant—I have never had any negative interaction with her and would be surprised if I had heard this to be the case.

When it was time for Jake to leave the program to go to Kindergarten, I think I was more upset and sadder than my son was. The “out-and-about” program was life-changing for Jake and having Mary no longer be a part of his/our lives on a regular basis was disheartening. On the few times that my boys needed school day-off camps, we would go back specifically to ALK just so we could see Mary and have them experience outdoor learning one more time. When I heard she was leaving ALK, I was sad that my boys would no longer have her pleasant demeanor and love for nature to learn from.

In short, Mary is a wonderful, optimistic, and loving teacher. I feel lucky to have had her in my sons’ lives and couldn’t ask for a better person to be a role model to my kids. I have nothing but positive things to say about Mary and if I could, I would have her in our lives on a daily basis. My sons and I wish nothing but the best for Mary’s future endeavors.”

Sincerely,  Le Nelson

Nelsons on the beach

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ms Mary Russell for approximately three years. She started out as a educator and childcare provider at my child’s preschool facility & has become a friend to our family. She has always been very professional, caring, knowledgeable in many fields on a regular basis. Mary has always been supportive and approachable for not only the children, but also the families and fellow coworkers. Her passion for connecting with the children and teaching them so much about the world in every day life lessons was a joy for my children.

I cannot speak more highly of Mary Russell as an educator and a friend.”

Mary Jannik

Georgia, Gianna in Ridgway.jpg

“My daughter Thea Vogel was under Mary’s care at the Commerce Children’s Center in Boulder, Colorado for perhaps a year and a half. Over that time I found Mary to be one ofthe most thoughtful teachers; the kind of teacher who makes a real difference in the children’s lives.

Mary is only one of a handful of people that my daughter has bonded with because she treated Thea as her own unique person, not as just another child to manage. Unlike many care givers and people generally speaking, I always found Mary very intentional in her interactions with all the kids in class and Thea in particular. She nurtured each child in the way that they needed to be nurtured; she always lobbied for the children to be outside as much as possible (something that Mary was passionate about and the research shows is important); and she tried to train her fellow educators out of using unproductive phrases like “be careful” and “don’t do that.”

I think it is on this last point that Mary really stood out from most other early childhood educators. She showed evidence of being a continuous learner, citing research about childhood development to me that helped me to prioritize the way I am raising my family to this day. She was particularly protective of the natural creativity and curiosity of the children under her care. When her colleagues sometimes saw a child’s behavior as a problem, Mary often saw it as an opportunity to bond with that child and help him/her explore their world and make sense out of it. Mary is one of the few early childhood educators who have really impressed me with her depth of insight and empathy and her respect for her profession and the children under her care. In every respect. Mary has earned my highest esteem.”

Sincerely, Jason Vogel

“Ms. Mary leads the children in her care on magical adventures. She teaches risk management, problem solving and confidence in her young learners. My son grew to tackle challenges instead of running and hiding from them. He became more independent in his self care and more confident making friends and solving conflicts on his own. Mary teaches with enthusiasm and shows such an interest in her children’s opinions and personalities that children feel valued and secure. Although she has moved from our area, my children still talk about her and how much they love and miss her. She is like Mary Poppins, bringing imagination, nature, community, and adventures into daily learning. Her experiences and education, along with her natural ability to understand children make her highly qualified for any position teaching and caring for children. Any family would be lucky to have a child in her care.”

Kristen Argow-Heaton, Owner and Director, Active Louisville Kids, Louisville, CO

“Mary, Thank you for a wonderful, magical year with Ella and her buddies. You are her best bud – she loved having you as her teacher! Thanks for venturing into this Waldkinder adventure with us – your generosity + creativity were greatly appreciated.”   Lots of Love, The Klingelhebers.


ELLA has a heart of gold!

“Mary, you have been such a wonderful addition to our lives. Kinley has had an amazing time with you. Thank you for everything!”

Love, Lisen, Todd, Kinley and Elleree


Kinley sings songs of joy!

“Mary, Not sure what we will do without you. Ashton will have so many memories from his Waldkinder days. We are so thankful for the love, energy, and commitment you have given Ashton.”

Love, Lynn, Steve and Ashton


Ashton catches snowflakes on our first day of snow, 2014.

“Attention Carbondale Parents!! Just sharing this info about a fabulous summer camp possibility and after school program for your kiddos. Miss Mary has been Dylan’s Waldkinder teacher this past year and she is beyond incredible. Kids love her and she leads the best adventures! You are the best & we love you!”                                                Donna Lambert Riley, May 2015


Dylan took it upon himself to make a natural gift for his mom  on mother’s day 2015.

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