Lower Core Teachers

Lower Core is comprised of Pre-Kindergarten through Kindergarten/First Grade.

In the Lower Core, Walden's contract system or Independent Work Time is based on the concept that even very young children are able to plan and carry out learning activities. For example, their writing workshops are guided by paper choice, and their math workshops by strategy selection. By helping children become responsible for their own choice of appropriate materials, for use of time and space, and for the completion of self-chosen tasks, Walden Lower Core teachers support the development of the children's confidence and competence.

Lower Core Lead Teachers

Joe Braxton: K/1 Lead Teacher

I am committed to creating a caring and compassionate classroom environment where every child succeeds. Each child's unique academic, emotional, and social potential will be recognized and nurtured. Differences will be celebrated while students are encouraged to connect with one another through community building exercises, cooperative learning, and parental involvement in the classroom.

I value self-respect, respect for others, tolerance, and my own personal growth. Every day I work hard to foster hope in every child, no matter what the individual circumstances. I do my best to instill these core values in all of my students, while encouraging each child to work to the best of their ability. My students and I create hopes and dreams for our school year which align with the Walden Agreements and help cultivate personal integration of these values.

I believe in equity in education and in every child's ability to succeed. I believe that school should do more than feed the brain, it should also nourish the heart. I believe that parents should play an integral part in their child's education, and that every child's education should in some way involve the surrounding community.

Everyday, both inside and outside the classroom, I strive to be a role model for my students. I try to be culturally aware and show my students the same respect I expect them to show me. I will be patient, and work with my students prior knowledge and previous experience whenever possible. I will be clear and consistent in my expectations for my students, and the expectations they should have for me.

Joe Braxton
K/1 Lead Teacher


Kristin Quiros: Pre-K Lead Teacher

In her book, Playing for Keeps, author Susan J. Oliver continues, "Many functional skills like literacy and arithmetic can be learned either through play or through instruction – the issue is the amount of stress on the child. However, many coping skills like compassion, self-regulation, self-confidence, the habit of active engagement, and the motivation to learn and be literate cannot be instructed. They can only be learned through self-directed experience (i.e. play)."

I believe when working with children, one needs to be passionate about creating confident, caring, competent, creative, and independent human beings. I try to help children develop a feeling of self-awareness and respect for themselves, others, and the world around them; recognizing and accepting the unique differences and similarities between themselves and others.

I feel this can be achieved when children are listened to, cared for, and respected.

I feel creating a relationship of respect with each student and their family, is the most important thing for any teacher. So much more comes into the relationship once respect is there. The learner knows he or she will be treated fairly, they can trust their teacher to listen to them, they will feel safe and know support and guidance is there.

This can be very empowering to a person. When a child or adult feels powerful, they have the confidence and desire to explore, experiment, create, and challenge themselves, which is all part of the learning process.

Kristin Quiros
Pre-K Lead Teacher

Tina Riddle: Preschool Director, Pre-K Lead Teacher

My classroom provides a rich learning environment that encourages the children's innate curiosity and natural wonder.

I recognize that children learn through hands-on experiences and provide continuous opportunities for multi-sensory exploration, experimentation, and discovery.

The preschool is a safe and secure learning environment, where children feel comfortable to plan and initiate exploration.

My educational plan encourages children to be actively involved in the learning process, to experience a variety of activities appropriate to their level and rate of development, and to provide opportunities to pursue their own interests in the context of life in the community.

The preschooler’s inclination towards investigation is supported by means of active involvement with activities and people. These activities engage the children so they investigate, question, reason, and make predictions to further their thinking and problem solving skills.

This educational approach fosters the student’s feelings of accomplishment and self-reliance, instilling in them the confidence to take the risks that lead to continued growth.

Tina Riddle
Preschool Director and Pre-K Lead Teacher

Nathalie Griffiths: K/1 Lead Teacher


I feel very fortunate to have a career that I feel passionate about. It is a joy to work with young children and help instill in them a sense of confidence and a love for learning. I enjoy getting to know each child that I work with and learning about what makes them the unique individual that they are!

I believe in Walden’s mission and philosophy, making it a wonderful and special place to work with our students and families.

I aim to model integrity, compassion, empathy, and understanding, as I continuously learn from the collective wisdom of our community.

I have a Masters of Arts in Education, Bachelors of Arts in Economics, and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential.

I also enjoy learning languages, baking, and traveling!

Lower Core Associate Teachers

Sophia Hamilton, K/1 Associate Teacher

I have worked in many capacities at Walden over the years. Before coming to Walden, I studied Screenwriting at Shih Hsin School of Journalism in Taipei and trained at the National Taiwan Normal University's Department of Chinese as a Second Language. Before I moved to the States, I worked in Hua Yu Publishing Company as a Event Planning Supervisor for the publication, “This Month In Taiwan.”

I am also a dance instructor and devote my spare time to Chinese classical and folk dance.

Tracie Lopez: Pre-K Associate Teacher

I have been lucky to have been a part of the Walden community for the last 15 years. I originally came to Walden as a Village teacher and have been an Associate Teacher in the Pre-K for the last 11 years. As busy as our days can be sometimes, I find great comfort being at Walden. It really is my home away from home.

Outside of my life here at Walden, I cherish every moment that I get to spend with my family, especially my time playing with my daughter. I love visiting any place that is by the ocean. I enjoy sharing my passions with my daughter, which include being at the beach, singing, reading, and taking nature walks.

Trina Townes: Pre-K Associate Teacher

Walden is my home. When I started at Walden in September 1987, I had no idea what I was in for. How was I to know that this would be the place life would take me? I began working in the Village, finished high school, attended PCC, and later, UCLA Extension. I soon knew that working with children was my passion.

I have assisted in every grade and learned so much from the amazing teachers with whom I have had the pleasure to share a classroom. My six children have all attended Walden, and I enjoy remembering and sharing why they loved it, too! Throughout the years, I have worn many hats and taught many children some of my outside interests like sign language, yoga, poetry, mindfulness, cooking, and dance. I enjoy bringing the many different parts of myself to work to share with my students and friends. I believe that I make a difference here and will continue to learn and grow.