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Testimonials From Youth

I was a year into high school when Kelly became my mentor. I was dealing with some pretty devastating situations, and Kelly provided deep wisdom, and space for me to fully show up, even in all my mess. She taught the learned caution in me to love adventure again, to come alive in my body, spirit, and mind. Based on experiences, age, and societal norms, we spend much of our lives disconnected and compartmentalized inside ourselves. Kelly made space for us to gather all of our pieces back together and learn to listen, not just to our thoughts, but the entirety of our beings. I can not emphasize enough how crucial that was for me as a teen. 

Kelly shared honestly with us about her life and through her example, she invited me to do the same in my own life. I believe it has made me the person I am today. 

Whether it was playing music around a smoky campfire on the coast, stargazing in the dead of night on a weekend backpacking trip, or having tea as the rain hammered against the windows of her home, Kelly has never shied away from the whole of the human experience. There is no conversation I could come to her with that she would not dive into fully. The same goes with emotion. Kelly walks in such a balance of honesty and humor, it is impossible to walk away from her without a deep appreciation for both. I have so many memories of road trips with our circle group ending in hysterical laughter and expressions of joy.  And I have many memories of her leading important and hard conversations, where there was not a dry eye left. They are all equally precious to me. 

Kelly is designed to go to the depth. Time and time again I have seen her plunge into the messy, beautiful work of self discovery, leading those around her into the same journey, unafraid. She has such a patience for the process. She is dedicated to sustainable change, the kind that doesn't burn itself out, but lasts the distance. I could not be more blessed to be so greatly influenced and impacted by such a powerful, creative, and courageous woman! 

Indi Sage, 23 Years Old

During my adolescence, having the privilege to work with Kelly was one of the most beneficial and transformative experiences I've had. She held my hand through some very emotionally challenging points and created an environment that was open, accepting, relaxed, and intimate. Whether we took a walk with her dogs, sipped tea somewhere, or just enjoyed each other’s company in the comfort of her home, Kelly knew how to hold the space in a way where I felt completely validated and held. Everything about our time together felt so natural, which contributed to the empathetic and nurturing space. Kelly undoubtedly became one of the closest people to me in my life. 

Bianca Onesti, 21 Years Old

I've known Kelly for nine years.

I met her when I was 12 years old and had just moved to Ashland, OR. I had moved a lot as a kid but this one felt different, joining a new school and having to make new friends as an almost teen is really difficult. She welcomed me into her class with open arms and although there was an uncomfortability being in a new environment, she made it feel like home. 

One of the first memories I have of her was during one of our lessons in 8th grade. She was up in the front of the class, teaching us by heart and started crying due to the intensity of the subject. She didn't apologize, at that time I didn't see many adults cry freely. With our school lesson she taught me an even more important lesson of feeling safe in showing your emotions when they come up. 

Later on I joined a circle of other kids my age created by Kelly. She cultivated a safe space for me to truly be comfortable opening up around others. I learned how to share, listen, love, and be heard, all things which I take into my every day. She knew when to be grounded but wasn’t afraid to let go and be a kid with the rest of us. She taught us how to truly connect with one another and created friendships I still have today. 

The years following 8th grade we weaved in and out of eachothers lives, I knew if I needed it, she was someone that I could reach out to and ask for guidance. Having moved to Portland 2 years ago I had not been in much contact with Kelly. She occasionally reached a hand out but being in a new place I felt like a kid again, lost. I was unable to put that energy back out there and she knew and waited patiently.

This past summer I visited Ashland, now being an adult, going back to my hometown brings along many strange feelings. I was with my family eating downtown completely overwhelmed, when serendipitously Kelly appeared. Like magic we locked eyes and I started to cry. I didn't know how much I needed a hug from her at that very moment. We talked for hours the next day and it felt as though a new path opened up for me, I felt grounded again. 

What I am trying to say with all of these stories is that Kelly is a bright beautiful light. Her heart is open and loving. Her soul is deep and wise. She is gentle and kind but has an unexplainable strong piercing power to her. The way she holds space for you is truly irreplaceable.

I highly recommend, if you are lucky enough to get the chance to spend time with Kelly to do so. I am so honored that I have had the opportunity to get to know her and be mentored by her.

Soph Hajje, 21 years old

Kelly was a pivotal influence in my life at a time when I needed it most. She helped me navigate the turbulence of adolescence with deep insight and unconditional care. Kelly's unique capacity to listen and offer keen inquiry both supported and challenged me. In working with her, I watched myself grow into a more aligned, connected, and empowered human — a being that I am proud to have become. Kelly is a humble leader whose mentorship is oriented around helping you discover your own inner wisdom. She facilitates remarkably safe spaces, radiates kindness, and nudges her mentees’ towards living in their highest potential. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with this phenomenal woman.

Kate Joss, 22 years old

Kelly, and the space she holds, were instrumental to my transitions from adolescent to teenager and again from teenager to young adult. With Kelly, I learned self-kindness, flexibility, and empathy. With her guidance, I dove deep into who I was and who I wanted to be. The skills I learned from and with her have served me time again throughout all hard transitions and decisions in my life. Those skills have helped me stay true to myself. I moved far away for college and studied very difficult coursework in my preparation for medical school. During that time, I utilized what Kelly taught me about being gentle with myself. I stayed in connection with how I was feeling in order to help me find my internal motivation, something I noticed not many of my classmates were able to do. “Growing up” is such a tumultuous time for many young people and having a trusted and non-judgmental adult like Kelly to confide in, work through issues with, and ask all of my questions was so valuable to me. I am forever grateful to Kelly. She is truly a trusted mentor and friend.

Maya Davis, 22 years old

Kelly Tisdel is one of the most incredible and in-depth women I have ever met. She guided me from 6th through 8th grade and supported me through some of the hardest times in my life. She faced every problem with such clarity and understanding. Approaching every difficult situation with so many answers and helpful tips. She carefully provided a steady presence for anyone needing guidance and truly created one of the most secure and safe environments I have ever existed in. She was always a grounding person in my life and continues to be even after I have graduated from the Siskiyou School. Anyone who gets the opportunity to know and be taught by Kelly Tisdel is an incredibly fortunate individual. I am so grateful for everything she has provided for me and can’t wait to continue growing with her help.

Savonne Moore, 15 years old

Kelly was a foundational piece of pivotal moments in my life. Coming into my adolescence,  I was supremely lucky to experience facilitated yet wild and humbling experiences in nature thanks in large part to Kelly. Kelly is a raw and unwavering force of compassion, wisdom, and guidance. She has helped me learn in a way I will never forget, namely, the importance of deep inquiry into ourselves and the people we care to learn about. Hand in hand with this is the call to hear what lies on the other side of the question and gaining the courage to accept, with grace, whatever the truth really is. Through many miles on trails and many nights around campfires deep in the backcountry, Kelly has helped me to learn these lessons. She is a skilled guide, facilitator, and true friend at the core of all that. My life is lucky for the time, laughs, and beautiful spaces I have gotten to share with Kelly Tisdel.

Kaj Pandey, 20 years old

Working with Kelly has been one of the greatest pleasures of my entire life. She poses such a rich and true understanding of life. She helped me to find the importance of my life in a way I hadn't before. I was lucky enough to have been taught by her for three beautiful years. The main thing I took away from this experience is a better understanding of myself and a friendship that is so dear to my heart.

Sophie French, 15 years old

From Parents and Colleagues

Kelly has been in our life for the past three years, first as my son's teacher and now my daughter's.  
Last year my son had the most challenging year of his life and Kelly went above and beyond as his teacher to understand and support him. We worked as a team and I always felt respected by her to make the hard choices a mother must make in uncharted territory. 
At my son's 8th grade graduation it was apparent that Kelly is more than a teacher to each student in her class. She is a mentor and an inspiration to them all. She engages their minds and hearts, and is someone they can aspire to be like. We are forever grateful to her.

Rebecca Mehta, Parent

My son is 21 now.  Kelly has been a part of his life since he was eight, from being a single subject Waldorf teacher when he was young, to his full time teacher in sixth and seventh grade, to his mentor and guide through Inner Guide Expeditions and Guide Council while he journeyed through adolescence.  And now, she will be coming back into his life to mentor him again as he launches into the next phase of his adulthood.  

I can’t begin to value in words what she has brought to his life as he has grown through the years, and what ease and comfort her presence in his life has brought to my mother’s heart, particularly on the long and rugged road through adolescence.  She is certainly an incredible teacher - in that role she is passionate, engaged, and she has a skill for eliciting lifelong curiosity and interest from her students.  But it is in her role as a mentor, as a seer, and a guide through the inner journey that she is in her most rare and powerful gifts, particularly with teens.  In our world now, they are in danger of losing themselves before they’ve even had a chance to find themselves.  

Kelly sees these kids - she sees what they’re moving through.  From decades of close and transformative relationships with teens, she actually understands, meets, empowers and normalizes the terrain they are walking.  Even as it changes moment by moment in this fast paced world.  She does this in a way that we as parents, with all the burdens and worries that parenthood can bring, simply cannot. Particularly at this time of life when our children need to differentiate from us. 

More importantly, she sees what and who they are, in a fundamental, essential way.  She brings them into a self-respect, a self-advocacy, and a deeper confidence that they can do this.  They can find a place in this life.  They HAVE a place in this life.  All the messaging they receive to the contrary isn’t real. When they experience truly being seen and understood, when they experience the emotional intimacy of a safe, wise, and relatable adult presence, they are being patterned for life to recognize and cultivate that same level of emotional intimacy in their relationships moving forward.  

And they let her in.  One of Kelly’s true gifts is establishing a real rapport with teens, in those places where they are most likely to feel ashamed, isolated, or shut down and misunderstood.  She opened places in my son that were in danger of closing for far too long.  It is hard as a mother to know, and to witness, the losses of innocence and heartbreaks that are inevitable for our children.  Kelly’s role in my son’s life was to keep his heart open, to help him unravel some of what the world had already tangled up in him.  Significantly, she has the skill to facilitate not only a one-on-one rapport but circles in which these teens can actually relate to each other as vulnerable, real human beings, rather than the empty caricatures and defensive, isolated postures that social media encourages.  

The gift that Kelly brings is that she can help our beautiful, complex, and emergent teenagers to unravel some things NOW, to be so recognized and heard in who they really are that they can navigate from a place of self-knowing rather than self-abandonment.  She can right their sails and set their compass straight, from the inside.  And she can help us, their well-intentioned but also learning-as-we-go parents, to understand how to best relate to them on their terms, in a way that increases their trust in us, their trust that we might actually understand and help them, listen to them and support them.  Without some mentorship and support ourselves, we often unintentionally further burden and complicate their already overwhelming task to become themselves in this too often bewildering world.  Kelly is a sensitively attuned and unparalleled genius at this journeywork with teens and the adults who love them.  We are so infinitely blessed to have her.

Jumana Sophia, Parent

I have had the honor of working with Kelly as a colleague for over 15 years.  
She is a brilliant, master teacher who has a profound gift of seeing and bringing to the forefront the gold in every child.  Her ability to bring out the best in even the most challenged students is an innate gift Kelly has.  Additionally, Kelly brings a wealth of experience in holding circles with children of all ages and creates safe space for peer communication, allowing those she works with to feel seen, heard, and accepted.  Kelly is a true mentor and has transformed the lives of the many students she has held.

Nina Gallwey,
Educational Support Teacher,
The Siskiyou School

 It is hard to put into words the amount of gratitude I have for Kelly.  She was a solid and stable anchor in our children’s lives, and for my daughter, for 3 years, from 6th– 8thgrade.  She came in at a time when the students were vulnerable and unsure of themselves.  She created an environment that grounded them while giving them wings to soar into their middle school years.  Immediately, I saw the students with shy personalities emerge, the struggling ones calmed, and the class bonded in a new way under her leadership. She is strong, wise, committed, passionate, energetic, thoughtful, generous, and has skillful strategies to solve even the toughest challenge. Kelly is a perfect balance of teacher, friend, and mentor. She changed the lives of these students for the better.  

Kelle Lovett, Parent

Kelly Tisdel is a highly gifted teacher, educator, coach, and guide. It has been positively life-changing to have the opportunity to receive Kelly's guidance and counsel over the years. Kelly brings a rare clarity of insight, a wealth of resources, a lighthearted sense of humor, and an immense depth of wisdom to her work with families, children, and teens. Kelly's expertise, intelligence, and heart have made all the difference in my family's life! I am so grateful to Kelly for the essential work she brings to the world. So many families and people will benefit from her offerings.

Krista Holland, Parent

Kelly Tisdel is one of the brightest, most beautiful, brilliant lights I know. She’s also an extraordinary teacher, coach and mentor, whose gifts undoubtedly change the lives of anyone who has the chance to work with her. Kelly walks with grace, transmitting qualities of discerning clarity, insight, wise humor, and heart in ways that enliven and enlighten the world around her. 

For a long time, before I got to personally experience Kelly’s extraordinary gifts as a teacher and mentor, I admired her from a distance. I had what you might call teacher-envy. As a parent at the school where Kelly was a teacher, I got to witness from the sidelines Kelly’s soulful, artful, and skillful ways of blessing her students’ lives. At school events, I noticed the stunning rapport Kelly had established with her middle-schoolers, the way they each looked to her to mirror back their own beauty, intelligence, and competence. I watched the subtle and gracious ways she challenged her students to show up and shine, and I witnessed a laughter born of true safety and intimacy flowing amongst them. 

Fast forward a couple of years, and it had become undeniably clear that a standard high school education was no longer the best fit for my 16-year-old daughter, Arayla.

A passionate and dedicated equestrian, with an ambitious, entrepreneurial mind, Arayla had grown frustrated with the confines of high school. After careful deliberation, I decided to withdraw Arayla from public high school, and to design an alternative homeschool curriculum. Arayla and I also recognized that for the health and sanctity of our mother-daughter relationship, it would be best if I could delegate the teaching to someone else. Arayla and I approached Kelly and asked if she would consider holding the literature, social studies and writing components of Arayla’s junior year curriculum. Much to our delight, Kelly said yes! 

Not only was Arayla significantly lagging in her academic studies, but her basic confidence as a creative thinker had taken a serious hit. It was as though Arayla carried a wound in relation to her self-perception as a student, as a learner, and as a thinker. In these last four months, Kelly has taken the time to re-build my daughter’s trust and self-respect, diving into each tender layer of Arayla’s resistance, carefullly untangling her creative voice from the blocks mysteriously plaguing her. 

I’ve quietly witnessed, stunned with gratitude, as Arayla has begun to love learning again. As a parent, I feel I’ve hit the jackpot to have Kelly holding my daughter through this unique homeschooling path and teen passage. She somehow strikes the perfect balance between making it fun and enjoyable for Arayla, while appropriately challenging her to stretch into unfamiliar pathways of thought and expression.  

As they cross the tenuous bridge from childhood into young adulthood, teens embody such a wild complexity of needs. As their parents, we can use all the support we can get. It’s a rare soul indeed who carries the passion, patience, wisdom, and commitment needed to serve as a trustworthy guide and mentor for this particular life passage. Kelly is such a soul. Anyone who has the opportunity to work with her will be immeasurably blessed. 

Jesua Wight, Parent

Each stage and age of a child’s life brings unique challenges and joys to us as parents. Everyone warned me about the tween and teen years, but I had a superpower by my side - Kelly Tisdel. Kelly was my daughter’s Waldorf teacher from 5th-8th grade and partnered with us to navigate safely and with connection the budding teen years. Kelly meets real life with honesty, vulnerability, and strength and then brings the spark of imagination and curiosity out in the teen. My daughter examined relationships, school skills, and self regulation. Kelly’s support helped grow a thriving young adult.

We feel so blessed to have had this time with Kelly.

Jennifer Nidalmia, Parent

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