Meet Our Teachers & Staff

Rose Neal

ROSE NEAL (INTERIM DIRECTOR) — Rose has worked with children most of her life. After 18 years of working as a registered nurse, she changed careers to follow her dream of bringing spiritual principles into education and family life. In addition to nursing, she has a background in teaching both children and adults in community settings as well as running businesses related to health and healing. She has been with Living Wisdom School since 2007. Rose had the opportunity to work closely with Usha Dermond, the founder of LWS, for several years. This was the springboard to co-directing and teaching at the school today.

“I love that we teach and operate from the inside out. Children need to feel seen and heard and when they are, their creativity and joy is contagious.”

Michelle Mall


Michelle started at LWS in 2012 after moving here from Western Pennsylvania. Her interest in understanding other culture’s ways of living and thinking enticed her to obtain a degree in Anthropology. She has worked at non-profit organizations helping indigenous peoples around the world and has lived in Japan for three years teaching English to junior high school students. Michelle also has a deep desire to serve those who have mental and physical challenges and has worked at agencies serving those with special needs. Currently, she works in the office and assists teachers when needed in the classroom.

I love the sweetness of this school. It is wonderful to see the children of this world obtaining such a beautiful, dynamic, creative and loving education. It warms my heart that my daughter received this kind of education-centered in the heart. I am grateful for Living Wisdom School!

Melissa Heart

MELISSA HEART (KINDERGARTEN) — Melissa holds a BFA from the University of Oregon. She has been teaching with Living Wisdom School since 2008. In addition to Education for Life training, she has years of experience teaching in Head Start preschools and is a certified Ananda Yoga Teacher. Melissa’s calm presence and love of children radiates in her teaching and her enthusiasm for adventurous art projects is now well known at LWS.

“I love this school because it is a magnet for families that are truly dedicated to community and living balanced lifestyles.”

SAMANTHA KOVACKS (PRESCHOOL) — Samantha is finishing up a double major in History and Early Education from UCLA. With a love for the past and a passion for future generations, she brings fresh energy to the classroom. Having years of experience working with children, she finds inspiration in guiding her classroom in a fun, spiritual atmosphere. An avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast, Samantha encourages an emphasis on nature and compassion.  

Karen Bharati Busch

KAREN BHARATI BUSCH (EFL MENTOR) — The first teacher at Portland LWS, Bharati came with experience in regular and special education, preschool through high school, in rural and urban settings. She holds a Masters in Education from Western Oregon University. At LWS, she taught K-3rd for fifteen years. She is also a leading instructor with Education for Life teacher training.

“The concepts of Education for Life were a revelation and a delight. As a public school teacher, I put many of the ideas and techniques into practice with my students. Having the privilege of teaching in a school where these principles can be more fully embodied has been a joy!”

Trina Gardner

TRINA GARDNER (PRESCHOOL MENTOR) — Trina has been teaching and mentoring in the Living Wisdom preschool since 2004. She and her husband, Dan, have three children who have attended the Living Wisdom School; the entire family has been closely involved with all the classes and activities. In addition to her Education for Life training, Trina has experience teaching pre-K through high-school age children since 1990.

“LWS to me is the embodiment of LOVE, cultivating courage, compassion and connection within. Love in the way Brené Brown describes it in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, ‘We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.’ “

HELEN GORMAN (KINDERGARTEN MENTOR) — Helen was instrumental in the founding of the Living Wisdom School in 1997. She has been teaching kindergarten since 1998, and her two children attended LWS until their graduation. Helen is enthusiastic about teaching and continues to find new inspiration in each group of students. She is a graduate of Merkura in Wil, Switzerland. Helen’s Swiss heritage is an asset for everyone at the school. She is tri-lingual and loves to share her international experience with her students, introducing them to French and German through music and games.

“At LWS, we honor the individual child and bring out what he or she naturally brings to the world.  Happiness is a choice and our mission is to help children choose to face life in positive, uplifting ways. Not just the children are honored at LWS, so are the teachers. Teachers are free to teach and inspire children with their unique creativity, talents and interests.”