River Branch – Community School

397 Main Street, Suite 5
Waterbury VT 05676


As River Branch teachers we believe children are curious and competent. We follow their interests and ensure their voice is heard and valued. We encourage creativity and exploration in all of its messy forms. We utilize play and the natural world to teach skills that last a lifetime. We support risk taking and understand the value of failure on the road to success.

Clara Wootton - Executive Director

Clara has over ten years of experience as an early childhood educator and administrator. Her expertise lies in designing developmentally appropriate curriculum for young children, observing and mentoring teachers, facilitating meaningful communication with families, as well as utilizing systemic approaches to scheduling and planning. She is an experienced and dedicated outdoor educator who believes in the power of the natural world as “the third teacher.”

Clara holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Marlboro College, a Level IIIB Certificate and Step One Director Credential from Northern Lights, and a vast amount of coursework in childhood nutrition, infant and toddler development, children’s literature, curriculum design and supporting children with diverse abilities.

Kate Bourneuf - Assistant Director

Kate began her career as a teacher over ten years ago. She has worked in elementary schools, preschools and with toddlers! She is a knowledgeable and dedicated nature based educator. As a preschool teacher and as Assistant Director Kate’s passion for outdoor education can be felt throughout our program.

Kate has a Bachelor of Arts from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in English Communications and Writing, and took an additional semester for a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She is lead teacher certified through a national credentialing program, as well as certified in Teaching Strategies Gold, a developmental assessment tool.

Megan Macaulay

Megan is a state of Vermont licensed teacher and has been educating preschool aged children for over ten years. She began her teaching career right here at River Branch Community School. Wanting to increase her experience with children from diverse backgrounds, Megan then led the preschool affiliated with St. Michaels College in Colchester and then a preschool in Florida. Megan is a lifelong learner who continues to strive for new knowledge by enrolling in every professional development opportunity that she can.

Megan graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Professional Studies; Early Education from Johnson State College. She holds a Professional Educators License from the Agency of Education with a specific endorsement in Early Childhood Education. She also holds a Level IVB certificate from Northern Lights and is certified in Teaching Strategies Gold, a developmental assessment tool.

Cathy Casey

Cathy has over 26 years of experience as an early childhood educator, most of which has been with River Branch as she has been a pillar of the program since it was a part of Ben and Jerry’s Inc! She has been transformative in the growth, resilience and spirit of River Branch. Cathy has made forming connections with children and parents an exquisite art. She is dedicated to building relationships based on trust, empathy and open communication.

Cathy has a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from UVM and a level IV certificate from Northern Lights.

Ilana Scharoun

Ilana has over 11 years in the Human Services field. Ilana is a certified yoga teacher and brings her flexibility (literally and figuratively) to her work with children! She is kind, fun, empathetic and excited to learn alongside the children!

Ilana has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Northern Vermont University and is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from University of the Cumberlands. Before working at River Branch, Ilana was the Director of Home Intervention for Washington County Mental Health Services.

Crystal Dunphy

Crystal has well over 20 years of experience educating infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Crystal is a wealth of knowledge; her vast experience and her open nature make her an invaluable asset to the children and families in her care. Her patience, calm demeanor and her quick sense of humor make every classroom she enters brighter. 

Crystal has an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Community College of Vermont and is currently attending Northern Vermont University working towards her Bachelor’s Degree. 

Heather Maclay

Heather comes to us with a background as a Behavioral Interventionist working with teenagers. She is quick with a song, forever ready with a hug and a smile and is always prepared for whatever game the children have just invented. She is a deep well of patience and good humor that easily earns the trust of children and adults alike. Heather brings a love of animals, broad knowledge of building skills and an endless curiosity to her work as an educator. 

Heather holds an Associate’s in Science Degree in Animal Sciences from Becker College. 

Shelby Brice

Shelby is a passionate and creative early educator. You can often find her thinking up new materials to explore, carefully curating new art experiences and getting right into the thick of it with the children. Shelby shares her love of adventure and fun while also grounding them with a sense of community and teambuilding. 

Shelby holds a BFA in Film and Animation from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a Level I Certificate from Northern Lights.