Jess Matthiae founded Peaceful Heart LLC in 2013. She is the sole owner, and the teacher of most of the classes. Recently we have been adding more guest teachers to the list of offerings at Peaceful Heart!
I was born in Missoula and lived here until I was 18. I went to Maine for college and stayed for 6 more years, living and growing. I returned in 2011 to make Missoula my home once again. During my years at Bates College in Maine, I earned a double major in Psychology (focus on Neuroscience) and Music (Bassoon performance.) My Psychology education opened my eyes to development theories, studies of creativity, the psychology of health, emotions and motivation, and, my favorite, the human brain. My love and study of music balanced my mental exploration in the world of Psychology by allowing my body a creative outlet.
During college, I spent three years coordinating a literacy program at a local elementary school. My passion for education blossomed as I watched children struggle – and excel. One summer I worked at a kids’ day camp and after graduating, I took the role of director at the same camp. The camp was on a working organic farm. Kids ages 4 to 14 explored nature by hiking in the woods, playing in the muck by the bay, tending the farm animals, and planting and maintaining the gardens. The following four summers I moved my exciting new career as director to a camp farther north in Maine, where kids learned the beauty of nature through hiking, planting, swimming, canoeing and just playing outside every day.
From the summer of 2011 through the Spring of 2013 I co-created and taught preschool at Roots Preschool, a movement based school at Bitterroot Gymnastics. The first year I co-taught a mixed age group from 2 - 5. That spring, after we split into two groups, and the following year I taught my own group of 4 and 5 year-olds. I created Peaceful Heart Preschool in the fall of 2013 and it is running strong.
I have been a nanny, a tutor and a babysitter in many different homes, learning how children function and excel in families. I spent almost a year with four boys in a group home on a farm, whose families were no longer available to them. I have worked closely with children in many public school settings as a substitute teacher, a para educator in multiple settings, a high school Psychology teacher and a science outreach educator through Spectrum at the University of Montana. I worked with the Garden City Montessori's preschool and I have studied Waldorf education by working with Waldorf teachers and their students to gather a larger perspective on education. I gathered data about literacy from preschool children in Head Start programs and for a class project in college I volunteered 50+ hours in a preschool dedicated to children with developmental disabilities.
I took my first yoga class in 2003 and cried with joy to learn that I had the innate wisdom to change how I felt, emotionally, energetically and physically. In 2007 I first went to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and lived there working in their volunteer program for almost a year. I returned in March of 2009 to complete my 200 HR yoga teacher training and in March of 2016 I graduated with 300 more hours to gain my 500 HR yoga teacher certificate. I discovered meditation alongside yoga, and later started learning even more the human ability to heal ourselves and live from a more centered place.
In 2012 I took a Kids Yoga Teacher Training through Yoga Kids in nearby Washington. We spent 4 days delving into the hilarious, beautiful world of kids yoga. I learned so many tools and continue to use them in my practice on a daily basis along with creating new ones all the times while I study the ways children respond to yoga.
In 2019, along with my colleague, Amy Friedman, we launched our first, very own, Kids Yoga Teacher Training! The second one is scheduled for this fall and we are so excited to continue to grow the program so more and more educators can incorporate yoga and mindfulness into their important work.
How I See Education
My approach to education is rooted in watching and listening carefully to the children in my care. My goals are: 1. To understand and respect, and help each child understand and respect, who they are through awareness of individual choices, strengths, emotions and reactions and; 2. To develop a genuine and unique relationship with each child. These goals help me maintain an unconditional positive regard toward each child around which I can base all teaching efforts. I see myself as a guide to work alongside each child, respecting the importance of all experiences, endeavors, failures, successes, joys and struggles. These experiences will always be around to teach the real lessons of life. It is my hope that my students will develop genuine self-confidence, social awareness, a feeling of ownership and a sense of responsibility around all choices and outcomes and will use these skills in all life endeavors. It is of more value to me how a child approaches his or her environment and relationships instead of what specific pieces of knowledge he or she can acquire, as memories can fade but a person's outlook on life will permeate everything else.
As a teacher, I am always involved in a conscious and honest evaluation of my effect in the classroom to assure it is healthy for all involved. I am aware of the class environment and how I approach each child so that our classroom maintains a sense of respect and allows a freedom of expression. I am aware of and take responsibility for my own choices and emotions as a model for positive growth and learning opportunities. My approach to teaching has been inspired by my experiences with mindfulness and yoga. I know that by taking a breath and calming my body, by making a loving connection with eye contact and by regaining my own sense of presence, I can initiate the most profound lessons and growth.
My classroom is organized in a way that is most successful for the individual group of children at any time. Many learning approaches, types of instruction and skills (needed for making art projects, writing, communicating with friends and creative expression, for example) are offered. Many opportunities and ways of presentation will be the most likely way to provide the right “ah-ha” moment. Through careful observation and with the help of each child, I will record their preferences, approaches, social tendencies, ways of communicating and what makes each of them come alive. With this information and collaboration with student and family, we can “see” a comprehensive picture of each child with which to celebrate individuality and create learning goals.
My acquired outlook on education has taken bits and pieces from many experiences and areas of study: Respect of the “spark” of childhood and the moments of focused attention from the Montessori method; the preservation of the flowing, imaginative “child world” from the Waldorf method; the availability to all of public schools; the unconditional love of parents I've seen with many years of childcare; the responsibility and joy of creating a fun, safe, meaningful environment from 5 years of directing summer camps and most influential, the unrestrained ability to love and light up any heart and the true excitement of having made a discovery from all the children who have inspired me.
How I See Yoga
I have always been driven to learn about the deepest reaches of myself – what it means to be a human. Yoga has been an incredible tool on this path. In my teaching, my passion lies in holding the space necessary for a person to safely surrender and explore through an individual, authentic yoga experience. Within this intention, I focus on a deeper awareness of the body and its habits through conscious alignment, I encourage strength and endurance through presence and grounding, and I invite mindful exploration of sensation and movement through “meditation in motion”. I like to offer classes that allow deep exploration and healing, which means that in general my classes are gentle enough for beginners and also create a challenge (“relax, stay attuned to the body") for students with more asana experience. I also like to lead invigorating and more advanced classes using pranayama and sustained postures. Most importantly, I like to emphasize that yoga's benefits are in the exploration and the intention – in the doing part of it - as opposed to the destination of a held posture. Other influences in my teaching come from my study of Psychology, Neuroscience, Anatomy and Physiology and my practice of Intuitive healing energy work, Reiki, Craniosacral Therapy and Ayurveda.