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Michael Luke


Michael grew up in Meridian Idaho and was immersed in sports and the great outdoors from an early age. His favorite memories include mowing his grandparent’s lawn in exchange for some cash, rootbeer, and stories of life in rural America. After playing football for a year at Santa Barbara City College, Michael got homesick and moved back to Idaho, fighting fires in the summer and chasing ducks in the winter. He soon stumbled upon an ad to work for the Minnesota and Iowa Conservation Corps, and in hindsight, is what compelled him into a future with cheerful expectation.

With some grant money from the Conservation Corps, he enrolled at a university on the prairie of southwest Minnesota and completed his bachelors degree in Environmental Science. To get through schooling, he worked as both a farmhand, a youth sports coach, and as a resource at a library/study center on campus. It was at this library, which catered toward education majors, that gave Michael an imagination for a career as a teacher. After internships at both Conservation districts and watershed districts, he applied as a paraprofessional at a local public school while also coaching their Junior High baseball team and serving lunches to students.

Gravitating back again to Idaho, Michael looked for a spot on the map that offered the best hiking, fly-fishing, and snowboarding opportunities, and moved promptly to the Wood River Valley after taking a job as a youth coordinator at the Wood River YMCA. Around this time Michael started a company called Luke2Nature premised off the broaden and build theory to make outdoor education exciting by means of treasure hunts, garden poetry, and children’s books on nature. After seeing an ad as a substitute teacher at Syringa Mountain School, he applied and was soon introduced to the high caliber teachers at Syringa, and the Waldorf teaching method. When the Farm and Garden position opened up, it appeared like a path was stretching out smooth before him, and he now feels so blessed to do work that provides meaningful outcomes in the beloved Wood River Valley. Michael has achieved a K-8th CSI-NTEP, Idaho Teacher Certification.

Kelly O’Neill


Kelly fell in love with the Wood River Valley years ago. She gave up her custom design and sewing business to become a teacher. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies from Boise State University. She continued her education by obtaining a teaching certification and an ENL (English as New Language) endorsement.

Her love of travel has taken her around the world but there is no place she loves more than Idaho, being in the mountains and on the rivers. She is an avid outdoors enthusiast and is passionate about skiing. In her free time, she loves to backcountry ski, dance, roam around the mountains and explore the rivers. In the summer you will find Kelly surfing waves and renting gear at Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade with her loving husband Damon and their cat Daisy.

Kelly is thrilled to be part of the Syringa Community. She is excited to share her love of teaching and the outdoors to make creative and curious learners.

Janessa Corrao-Bal

Janessa is so happy to be returning to Syringa this year as the 3rd-grade teacher. She fell in love with the school last year and is looking forward to her new role.

Janessa grew up here in the Wood River Valley and returned here after receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Vermont. Now, returning home with new experiences and skills, Janessa is passionate about making this community the best it can be. In her past year at Syringa Janessa has helped fundraise for school trips, organized ski days and free ski rentals for students, as well as lent a hand whenever needed. Janessa feels that Syringa is a blessing in this community and believes wholeheartedly in the tenets that we uphold at our school.

Janessa has achieved her K-8th CSI-NTEP, Idaho Teacher Certification as well as currently working towards a Master in Education!

Kori Paradis

Kori is excited to join Syringa Mountain School. She was born and raised in the Wood River Valley and enjoys all it has to offer. After college, she returned home and has been involved in education through schools and coaching ever since. Kori loves spending time with her daughter and family, being outside, and traveling. She is looking forward to jumping in and seeing what this year brings!

Kori holds her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration but soon figured out she wanted to be a teacher through previous roles in schools and coaching. She worked to achieve her teaching credential for the State of Idaho. Before Syringa, Kori taught in Shoshone and worked in the Blaine County School District.

Crystal Deckard

Crystal was raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies with a major in Environmental Education. Crystal knew she loved teaching and enjoyed doing it outdoors. She pursued her career as an Interpretive Naturalist for over 10 years.

In 2012, she moved to Hailey, Idaho to live and raise her family. Looking for career and school options (for her daughter), she investigated more into the Mountain School and came when Syringa was just evolving! She became a key part of the foundation of Syringa Mountain School in 2014. She served as the Sustainability Committee chair. She designed the nature playscape and garden space. With the help of the students, she built the Farm and Garden program from the ground up. She created the curriculum to align with Waldorf methods and practices while matching the common core science standards. She taught at SMS as the Science Teacher for three years before giving First Grade a try. Crystal quickly realized her desire for teaching was stronger than ever. Being a classroom teacher provided more opportunities to build relationships and support students’ needs.

She has obtained an Idaho State Educator Certificate and continues to actively study education, Waldorf pedagogy, principles, and child development. Crystal is genuinely passionate about making a difference in each child’s life. She brings to her classroom a blend of experiential, project, and place-based learning, inspired Waldorf pedagogy, and outdoor education while meeting the state standards.

When she is not teaching, Crystal loves to hike, camp, boat, fish, soak in hot springs, and garden. She has two daughters, two stepsons and a loving husband. When they are all together you would consider them the “Deck-Land Bunch!” She says, “It takes a village to raise your kids. Syringa is that village and I am happy to be part of the community-family!”

Shawn Myers

Shawn was born and raised in the Wood River Valley and has a rich family history in this area dating back many generations. She was a Wood River High graduate and received her Elementary Education degree from Boise State University. After college, she did some teaching and some traveling and finally came back to the valley to raise a family. She has two sons that were raised here and are Wood River High graduates as well. Shawn loves all this valley has to offer and truly appreciates each season here. She is happiest in the mountains either exploring, running trails, hiking, camping, or skiing.  Shawn says she has found her dream job teaching at Syringa and feels blessed to be a part of such a dynamic community.

Pat Owen

Pat grew up in rural New England, just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. He then had the opportunity to become landlocked at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT. In Bozeman, he found his love for the mountains and culture of the Northern Rockies. After graduating with a degree in Geography, Pat spent a winter living deep in the Swiss Alps, immersing himself in the Swiss way of life. The following summer, he lived and worked on an organic sheep ranch in Montana. Here, he learned the values of sustainable land practices, but also the challenges of running a successful agricultural business. Soon after, he found himself in Jackson Hole, WY where he coached youth ski racing and guided ecology tours in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Thanks to his Geography studies and time spent in the field, Pat has an incredible talent to think and see the world through a holistic lens.

Pat spent a year teaching math and Human Ecology at The Sage School and has earned his K-8th Idaho Teaching License. Falling in love with the youth and recreation within the Wood River Valley, Pat enjoys immersing himself in the creative energy of Syringa Mountain School. A teacher at Syringa for 5 years, he believes that the best way to learn about your environment is by planting yourself right in the middle of it and observing using all five of your senses. Pat’s two step-daughters attend Syringa. When not teaching, Pat plants himself in the environment by backcountry skiing, camping, biking, and fly-fishing with his wife, Carter, and two step-daughters, Piper and Tallulah.

Ashley Mekeel

Ashley was born and raised in rural, northern Illinois. Ashley and her husband Keith felt drawn to move to the mountains of Idaho after a cross-country road trip in the summer of 2019. They have been living in the Wood River Valley since November of 2019. They have two puppy children who enjoy hiking adventures with Ashley.

Ashley holds a Bachelor’s of Music Education and a Master of Arts degree in Piano Performance from the University of Iowa. She holds a certified teaching license in the state of Idaho. Ashley currently runs a thriving piano studio in the Wood River Valley and enjoys collaborating with vocalists

Prior to teaching at Syringa, Ashley taught K-12 music in Shoshone, Idaho, piano at several music academies, also a community college back in Illinois. Ashley looks forward to watching her students grow as musicians.

Crystal Oliphant

Crystal is so excited to continue her work with the library program and Kindergarten at Syringa. Crystal has lived in Hailey for 17 years. She loves living in the mountains! Crystal and her husband Matt have three children Samuel, Sarah, and Mabel. 

Crystal has general studies, library science, and early childhood education degrees. She also has her Waldorf teacher certification for early childhood (preschool & kindergarten) and the grades (1-12th grade). Crystal has been teaching at Syringa since 2017. She started the library program in 2018 and continues to work to grow the program.

Crystal is passionate about encouraging all children to love reading. “Everyone is a reader…. Some just haven’t found their favorite book yet.”