Vanessa Weiner photo Vanessa CL Weiner Vanessa’s first experience with yoga was a gift certificate from her husband for classes together in 2002. What she didn’t know is that it would bring her back to the centered feeling she had during her childhood as a gymnast when her dad taught her to meditate. A new mom when she and her husband took that first class, Vanessa found herself repeatedly called back to the mat to re-connect with her center. A few years later when her kids needed their own tools to find balance and centering, it became clear to Vanessa that she needed to become a teacher. Since that time, Vanessa has felt fortunate to study with some of the leading teachers in this field, which has guided the formation of ResilientKids. Her certifications include:

  • Mindful Education Institute/Mindful Schools’ year-long certification: Mindfulness with Youth
  • all three levels of Jennifer Cohen’s Little Flower Yoga teacher training; a 135-hour Yoga Alliance-certified program
  • Amy Saltzman’s Still Quiet Place training in facilitating mindfulness for kids
  • Rolf Gates’ 200-hour vinyasa yoga teacher training
  • Pre- and post-natal yoga through Leslie Lytle at OmMama
  • as well as numerous workshops and conferences on this topic

Vanessa has seen the benefits first-hand of teaching the principles of yoga and meditation to her own children. When her daughter’s teacher expressed thanks in the final school progress report for teaching meditation at home, and how much it helped in the classroom, Vanessa knew she wanted to dedicate her teaching to reaching out to as many kids as possible so that everyone can experience the benefit – the kids, their families, their teachers, and the school communities as a whole. Incorporating these tools into each day, kids are more grounded and experience less stress. Vanessa has been teaching yoga and mindfulness to thousands of children ages 3 to 18 both during and after school since 2009. With this experience, and seeing clear evidence that kids are stressed, Vanessa developed ResilientKidsTM as a way to offer kids tools for coping with whatever life may bring. She is the first in the state to formally integrate a curriculum-based approach to yoga and mindfulness within the school day.

Natasha Brooks-Sperduti

Natasha Brooks-Sperduti

In her first yoga class at age 11, Natasha experienced a deep peace in her body and mind. She spent the next 11 years knowing that despite life’s difficulties, peace was possible. When she returned to yoga at 23, she felt she was finally home. Today, Natasha finds the healing path of yoga to be a flexible and empowering way to improve and maintain her own physical and emotional well-being. She delights in bringing this tool, this gift, this deep wonderful wisdom to children and adults alike. Natasha has been a student of yoga for over 11 years, and a teacher for 5. She has over 300 hours of YA approved Teacher Training with Eileen Muir, and Sara Davidson, in both Iyengar and Anusara styles of yoga, as well as being certified in levels 1 – 3 of Little Flower’s Yoga & Mindfulness for kids program. Natasha joined ResilientKids in their second year of working with schools, and is finding joy each day connecting with her students and the growing group of instructors. Natasha is an artist. She approaches her art, her yoga and her life as a creative practice- an opportunity for recognizing essence, revealing truth, and making meaning.


Mary Beth Dziedzic

Mary Beth took her first yoga class in New York City back in 2002 and has been a devoted student ever since.  Yoga has taught Mary Beth how to find presence and peace, both on and off the mat, amidst all of life’s challenges.  As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, Mary Beth is passionate about sharing the gifts of yoga and mindfulness with others in hopes that it too will help them find balance and peace in their lives.

Kate_Bio pic

Kate Wicklund

Kate has been a special education teacher for the past fifteen years.  As a teacher and a mother of three, Kate has found yoga to be a source of inspiration and strength.  Kate is a 200 hour registered yoga teacher. In January 2012, Kate attended a yoga certification program through Karma Kids Yoga of New York City.  She attended this program with the end goal being a way in which to better educate her students and her own children in both academic and social realms. Kate believes that, through movement and breath, children can learn to handle the complex issues of daily life, such as dealing with bullies, and coping with the stresses of school and social life. With these certifications, Kate is embarking on a mission to share her experiences with individuals of all ages and levels.  Currently Kate teaches yoga to both adults and children.  She seeks to share this mindfulness and appreciation for life with practitioners of all ages.  Kate is excited to set off on this new journey as a member of the ResilientKids team.

Jon Cappodona PicJon Cappadona

Jon received his M.A. in Educational Psychology from the University of Connecticut’s National Research Center for Gifted and Talented Education.  Looking for a change of scenery and pace of living, Jon ended up living and working in a contemplative residential community in Big Sur, CA for many years before returning to the East Coast.  He has studied at UMass Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness and is qualified to teach their MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) program.  Jon is passionate about sharing mindfulness techniques and empowering kids to find their best selves.

Julie Shore picJulie Shore
Julie is an experienced and dedicated yoga practitioner with a passion for teaching. She began practicing yoga in elementary school and has first hand experience with the value of beginning a mindfulness practice at a young age. A California native, she has called Providence home since 2009, moving here after completing her BA at Bard College. She received her training from Eyes of the World Yoga Center and continues to deepen her studies as she builds her teaching practice. Yoga has been a source of strength and insight in Julie’s life. Her classes translate a technical knowledge of vinyasa asana, with underpinnings of yogic philosophy which point to developing mindfulness and compassionate awareness.


Holly Loew photoHolly Loew

Holly Loew has worked as a therapist with children of all ages in various school settings. She has a master’s degree in social work, and specializes in working with children with social, emotional and behavioral challenges. Holly is drawn to the fun nature of working with children and is inspired by their resilience.  Holly hopes to help kids to strengthen and tap into this resilience, enabling them to cope with the stresses they face in their day to day life. Holly finds ways to apply her mindfulness to her own life, including running on a daily basis and a developing yoga practice. Holly has completed the Mindful Life Schools Training Program.


Marisa DeCollibus

Marisa started taking yoga classes her freshmen year of High School, and now as a student at the University of Rhode Island, she continues to investigate yoga and mindfulness practices. For her High School senior project, she worked with ResilientKids to bring a mindfulness workshop to North Kingstown elementary school teachers. This lead her to complete the Radiant Child Yoga Immersion Program over the 2013 summer as well as additional training with Resilient Kids. Hoping to study how social and emotional learning strategies can be integrated into schools, as well as education policy, Marisa will continue to grow her understanding of mindfulness as a ResilientKids instructor. Besides yoga, she loves the ocean and competes on the URI Sailing Team. In general, people rival the ocean as her greatest love. 

Erin_Bio_Pic Erin Vinacco

Erin is an educator with over seven years of adult, community, and K-12 experience who has been practicing yoga and meditation for more than a decade.  As a student of yoga, she knew the benefits of mindfulness practice in her own life and after completing training in children’s yoga she immediately put those skills to use with her students with great results.  Since starting out as a teacher, she has gone on to teach elementary students in Costa Rica and adult immigrants learning English here in the US.  In every situation she has incorporated principals of mindfulness and yoga practices to improve focus, increase confidence and reduce stress both for herself and her students.  She completed her 200-hour Kripalu yoga teacher training as a way to combine her love for yoga and education.  She enjoys putting her creativity and playfulness to work teaching young students and is dedicated to continuing to work with diverse populations.  She recently completed a 40-hour training in Trauma Sensitive Yoga through the Trauma Center in Boston.  Erin is committed to educating and empowering youth from all backgrounds and of all abilities and is excited to bring yoga and mindfulness to more young people in Rhode Island.

Shannon Smith Picture

Shannon Smith

Shannon has been teaching Early Elementary (Nursery-2nd) students for 17 years. She has a degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education along with a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. Teaching is truly her passion and she is energized, motivated, and inspired by her students every day. Shannon believes that her mindfulness and yoga practice enhance and reinforce her personal beliefs about how we look at the world and how we treat and approach others.   Yoga entered Shannon’s world on a regular basis just 5 years ago and it has been life changing. She can only imagine what life would have been like had she found yoga at a younger age. It brings Shannon much joy to share her love for yoga with the students and she hopes to help them foster mindful behaviors and actions. We live in a world that is full of stress and even our youngest students can feel and have stress. Shannon has completed all three levels of Jennifer Cohen’s Little Flower Yoga teaching training, Amy Saltzman’s Still Quiet Place Mindfulness for Kids training, Mindful Schools Fundamentals and Curriculum training, and various workshops on Contemplative Teaching and Learning. Shannon is currently taking a leave from full time teaching to work for ResilientKids and to run her own tutoring business.

Robin Shapiro_bio Robin Shapiro

As a school guidance counselor in Richmond, Virginia, Robin enjoyed helping children build their confidence and self-esteem in her daily work. Giving children coping strategies and behavior management tools was a key aspect of her job and this is what initially drew her to ResilientKids after relocating with her family to Rhode Island in 2012. ResilientKids encompasses what Robin had been teaching her students in Va. with the addition of a new set of tools: yoga and mindfulness. Robin is inspired by how basic yoga techniques and mindfulness helps to diffuse and prevent unproductive situations as well as enhance the positive, healthy ones. Watching the successful collaboration between the students and the teachers has been an added bonus.  Robin enjoys her weekly yoga practice and seeing the benefits of her own mindfulness work. She has completed the Mindful Schools Training course and is thrilled to be a part of the ResilientKids team.

Jodi_CastalloJodi Castallo

Jodi has been exploring, teaching and practicing yoga for over 17 years. Her interest in teaching yoga and mindfulness to kids was sparked after her daughter was born, wanting to share this incredible experience with kids of all ages. Jodi is a graduate of the Yoga Life Institute’s 200-hour Classical Yoga Teacher Training and is certified through the Yoga Alliance. She is also a Certified Childlight Yoga Teacher Instructor and taught pre-school and elementary school children for two years in Maine. Prior to teaching children, she taught yoga to adults in the Portland, ME area- training with Richard Freeman, O2 Yoga, among others. She has continued to teach both children and adults here in Rhode Island. Mindfulness is another strong interest and she has completed the 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program along with many other workshops and retreats. It has helped her to become more present, more patient, and better able to accept things as they are. It is my joy and passion to share this journey with kids.

Roberta Goldsmith photo in glasses (2014-July)

Roberta Goldsmith

Roberta remembers wishing for world peace and harmony on her fifth birthday. Many years later, she received an M.A. in English/Education and briefly taught high school and college English. The next step on her not so straight career path came when she proudly became the postmaster of Harmony, RI, where she worked for 38 years. She has lived in Harmony for thirty years and operates a home based studio called, not surprisingly, Harmony Yoga. Roberta took her first yoga class in 1974. After that very first class, the teacher took her aside and told her she had put her feet on a path she would be on for the rest of her life. Of course she thought the teacher was completely crazy. Roberta used to wish her first class was the love at first sight affair many serious yogis gush about. She now believes her slow and tentative embrace of yoga helps her meet students wherever they are on their path. Roberta has been teaching for 10 years and has two 200 hour certifications, one from Kripalu and one from Integrative Yoga Therapy. She has attended numerous workshops and is grateful to many teachers, most notably Yoganand Michael Carroll. She enjoys reading anything even remotely about yoga – whether it’s the Bagavah Gita, a children’s book, or the exciting research documenting yoga’s benefits.

After retiring from the Postal Service in 2012, she went back to kindergarten as a volunteer tutor at Asa Messer School in Providence. She loved these little people so much that she wanted to marry two of her passions; yoga teaching and children. Thankfully, ResilientKids came along. Roberta suspects she may be ResilientKids newest employee and oldest teacher. She and her mature muscles are grateful to know that holding a “ perfect” Downward Dog is not mandatory to teach kids yoga. Her varied experiences as a volunteer and paid employee have given her some important insights. ANY group can have an expensively produced and beautifully crafted mission statement. However, when there’s a total disconnect between the dusty plaque on the wall and the true policies and daily treatment of people, organizations lose the hearts and minds of their best people. Roberta feels thankful that at 63 years young, she is getting the chance to experience what it’s like to work for a group that is doing EVERYTHING right.

If you’re on the road and see the license plate HRMONY, just toot. Roberta will be in the driver’s seat.

Lynn Almond Photo

Lynn Almond

Lynn took her first yoga class in 2004 and has been practicing and studying yoga ever since. She has participated in numerous yoga and meditation workshops and, during 2009, studied Ashtanga Yoga at the Yoga School of South County. More recently, she completed 2 yoga teacher trainings:

  • Pranotthan Yoga School, in the lineage of Swami Kripalu, at the 200 hour level
  • Little Flower Yoga: Children’s Yoga & Mindfulness, Levels 1, 2 & 3.
    Her classes reflect her kind, nurturing nature. When not on the mat, Lynn enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family and friends.

    Kate Hamilton Photo

    Kate Hamilton

    Kate worked as an elementary teacher and earned her MA in teaching K-6 before focussing on raising her three daughters. 15, 14, and 9, they are her greatest teachers. In addition to being a mother, she has spent time tutoring at Martin Luther King School in Providence, and volunteering with Hospice. Upon moving to RI 9 years ago, she discovered Synergy Yoga and has enjoyed incorporating a yoga practice into life. After her first class, she remembers thinking, “This is something I want to do for the rest of my life.” When it’s hard to fit in, however, walking and swimming in the ocean are also great ways to stay in the present moment and focus on the breath. Kate and her oldest daughter sometimes practice together, and recently spent several days at Kripalu. Alternative medicine, cooking/nutrition, and the mind-body connection are personal interests.
    Having been an anxious child at times herself, Kate is so grateful to have the opportunity to help kids develop lifelong tools to accept and learn to manage the feelings that come up inside them.

    Alex Zima Photo

    Alex Zima

    Alex believes that mindfulness techniques can be learned by anyone at any age. No special belief system or philosophy is required, just an open mind and a sense of adventure toward self-growth. He has over 10 years’ experience teaching mindfulness and yoga in professional, educational and fitness environments and a 15+ year personal mindfulness and yoga practice. Alex is especially committed to bringing mindfulness practices into the work-a-day world of everyday people.

    He holds a Masters degree in education, is a certified wellness coach and works for a Providence-based workplace fitness and wellness provider.