2020-21 Preschool Staff

Kaitlin Erpestad

Preschool Director/Co-lead Teacher, T/TH AM and PM

I grew up exploring the parks, lake shore, and green spaces of Duluth and learning to ski on the ski trails of Hartley Park. I earned a BA in Social Studies Education and a MN teaching license for K-6 elementary and 5-8 social studies from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. I then had the pleasure of living in the country of Finland for three years where I taught preschool for 3-7 year old Finnish and international children and explored the Finnish woods with my husband, Matti. I returned to MN and completed a naturalist training program at Wolf Ridge ELC and earned a Master’s degree in Environmental Education from UMD. I love to be active outside in all seasons with my twin boys and baby girl and, when life as a busy mom allows, to get out on the trails of Duluth to bike, ski, and run, to paddle on the Lake and enjoy time on the beaches, to drink a hot cup of coffee, and to eat chocolate!

Maria Hopkins

Assistant Preschool Director & Co-lead Teacher, M/W/F AM and T/TH AM

Growing up in South Dakota, I always enjoyed being outdoors and exploring my surrounding environment, which is why I chose to study biology as an undergraduate in Minnesota. After college, I began to pursue outdoor education, which sparked my interest and passion for teaching children and engaging them with nature. In December 2011, I earned my M.Ed. and K-6 teaching license, with a focus in environmental education, from Antioch University New England.  After receiving my degree, I worked for a Nature Explore Classroom in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. After living in New England for several years, I began to really miss the Midwest, so my husband and I decided to move to Duluth! I have loved being here and working as a teacher at Hartley Nature Preschool. When I’m not taking children out into the woods of Hartley, I enjoy snuggling with my daughter, hiking, camping, cooking, and eating ice cream!

Marina Reese

Assistant Teacher, M/W/F AM and T/TH PM

My childhood consisted of constant outdoor play and the Duluth community has only stoked the fire for this way of life. During my Psychology and Cognitive Science programs at UMD, I found myself working as a guide for the University and an intern here at Hartley and have since then graduated and continued to teach alongside this wonderful family. When I am not at Hartley you can find me climbing around the North Shore, surfing Lake Superior, and searching for my next adventure. I look forward to another year filled with laughter, joy, and memories in the making with all of your wonderful preschoolers!

Becca Bell

Co-lead Teacher, M/W Full Day and Fri. AM Class

Returning to Hartley, returning home. After working two years (2016-2018) at Hartley Nature Preschool, I took a year to expand my horizons. I spent the 2018-2019 school year just north of San Francisco, California. As a lead teacher for a preschool through the Parks & Recreation Department, I got to experience a different climate – both environmentally and professionally. Though the amount of sunshine is hard to beat, Minnesota’s natural world will always be home. It is this renewed sense of understanding and love for the Midwest I want to bring to the students of Hartley. When not working, I can be found roaming the trails with my beloved dog, Juni, or visiting my two nephews Chicago. I look forward to spending another year exploring our marvelous Minnesota home with your preschooler!

Jen Buseman

Co-lead Teacher, M/W Full Day and Fri. AM Class

I grew up in Southwestern Minnesota enjoying spending as much time as possible in the water and canoeing on the Minnesota River. Moving to Duluth allowed me to explore and learn about the natural world and led me to pursue a career in teaching. I earned a degree in Outdoor Education from UMD and recently became licensed in Elementary Education. I am excited and honored to be a part of the Hartley Preschool team! This is going to be a fantastic year!


Caitlin Neff

Co-lead Teacher, T/TH Full Day

I have always loved exploring the natural world and learning as much as I can about it! It wasn’t until I attended the University of Minnesota Duluth that I realized how much I enjoy teaching about our natural world and introducing children to its many wonders, which is why I obtained a degree in Outdoor Education. Before joining the Hartley Preschool family, I worked at Wolf Ridge ELC, Deep Portage Learning Center, and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Last year I earned my K-6 Teaching License and Masters of Education from the College of St. Scholastica. When I am not at Hartley you can find me exploring the woods with my husband and our dogs, mountain biking, cross country skiing, and creating things in the kitchen.

Emma Richtman

Co-lead Teacher, T/TH Full Day

As a native Minnesotan, I’ve spent much of my life enjoying and exploring ‘The Land of 10,000 Lakes’. I hold a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from the U of MN Twin Cities, and a MN teaching license for K-6 elementary from The College of St. Scholastica. In 2015, my husband and I moved to Duluth, into our forever family home, which we are slowly remodeling. As a family, we love adventuring outdoors with our young daughter and yellow lab. When time allows, I love bird watching, agate picking, hiking, cycling, camping, cooking, boating, hangin’ with my chickens, jammin’ on my uke, and singing children’s folk tunes. I could not be happier at Hartley and I look forward to creating many great memories with your children!

Carley Cohen

Lead Teacher, M/W PM

I grew up hiking, running, skiing and playing on the trails of Chester Bowl here in Duluth. The time I spent there as a child and young adult, teaching ski lessons and working as a camp counselor, led me to pursue my degrees in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education at Winona State University, Winona MN. It was during college that I found my love for adventure. I studied abroad in Italy and completed my student teaching on the island of St. Lucia.  I got my start teaching briefly in Minnesota then moved on to teach in California, Rhode Island and Hawaii as my husband continued his service in the US Navy. After seven years and many adventures my husband and I decided to return home to Duluth to raise our family and give our time to the community we love so much. We enjoy being outside in all seasons and look forward to the what each new day brings. I am excited and honored to join the wonderful Hartley family and looking forward to seeing you on the trail!

Autumn Finch

Assistant Teacher, M/W PM

I’m a student at UMD studying Elementary and Special Education, a major I switched to after discovering my love of teaching as a Hartley intern! I love to be outside, especially running, dog sledding, and enjoying Lake Superior. If I’m not in the classroom or playing outside, I love to read and knit. I grew up exploring Hartley park and I’m so excited to explore even more with the preschoolers!