Peaceful Heart Teachers

Jess Matthiae

Hello!  I am the creator and owner of Peaceful Heart LLC.    I was born and raised here in Missoula and after a 10 year hiatus in Maine for college (and so much more) I was drawn back to this  beloved valley in 2011 and created Peaceful Heart in 2013.  I live in Missoula now along with my husband and two young children. 

I am a 500 hour certified yoga teacher, kids yoga teacher, craniosacral therapist and energy healer, (on my way to being) a certified Hand in Hand Parenting instructor, and an educator of 20 years in a large variety of settings.  I teach yoga, mindfulness and connection and feeling tools to adults, parents, educators and children of all ages.  Through these teachings, I focus on the emotional health of children and the overworked people who tend and teach them.  Through movement, breath, mindfulness, meditation, and other innovative systems of communication and emotional awareness, I believe children and their educators can thrive and enjoy each other more.  


The first seeds of my love for yoga and the inner workings (psychological, physical, emotional, energetic) of the human body began sprouting right around the same time I discovered my love for working with children - during my years at Bates College in Maine.    I majored in psychology and neuroscience, but it didn't quite give me the answers I was looking for.  Yoga, meditation and the language of "energy" offered me the way-ahead-of-our-time perspective that I was craving.  

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.  I first visited Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in 2007, intending to stay for a month in their volunteer program, and  it turned into nearly a year, where I learning the wide breadth  of yoga through community, dance, kirtan chanting, seva (selfless work) and authentic, heart-centered, intuitive based movement.   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, spanning Ayurveda, teaching diverse populations and Meditation to gain my 500 HR yoga teacher certificate.  

Alongside this formal training,  I've studied with Joe Barnett, learning about yin yoga and the unique anatomy of every person's bone structure. I lived and worked at a yoga retreat center in Peru,  along with hiking to the highest, spiritually profound, mountain peaks with some of the most powerful shamans of the region, with Jeffrey Wium (now, coincidentally, also a Missoula resident) as a guide.  

In 2011, I completed a 6 month training with the Green Path Herb School here in Missoula, led by Elaine Sheff, and studied for several years with Adrienne Elise, an educator and healer also here in Missoula,  learning hands on energy healing from a place of intuition, along with the art of reading and guiding energy.  Soon after, I began my training in CranioSacral Therapy with the Upledger Institute.   

I studied Non-Violent Communication and later Possibility Management (a powerful and enlightening, yet somewhat "out there",  perspective of the human being - feelings, relationship games we play, and creating possibility beyond what boxes us in to our unconscious behavior) as I was certain there was a better way to communicate and know one's self beyond what I saw in our culture.   Upon becoming a mother in 2017, I discovered Hand in Hand Parenting and was thrilled to see the unassuming depth that their tools can offer for kids and parents.  I embarked upon a 1 year certification program with them starting in 2022 and will hopefully be offering classes, support groups and seeing clients starting in the fall of 2023.  

Alongside all of this learning, I discovered my deep love and respect for children; especially the very young.  

Starting in 2001, during most of my years at college, for my work-study requirements, I began my journey into education by coordinating and teaching a literacy program at a local elementary school.  After and during college I was a nanny, a private tutor, a substitute teacher, a para-educator and a summer camp director for a working organic farm and an popular outdoor camp on the Blue Hill Peninsula in Maine for five summers.  I worked on a farm in Maine that was a group home for boys with extreme behavior and I took a job gathering data about literacy from preschool children in Head Start programs.  I filled in for a semester as a high school psychology teacher at a private school in Portland, ME, and back in Missoula I worked with Spectrum Science Museum as a science outreach educator.    

From 2011 - 2013 I helped create the preschool program at Roots Gymnastics, and fell in love with the preschool age.  I then more officially "married" my love of children with yoga and completed trainings with Yoga Kids and Street Yoga (empowering homeless youth).  

In 2013 I couldn't quiet the desire to create a yoga-based preschool, so at the last minute I walked into my current yoga studio space, loved it immediately, and began Peaceful Heart.  It's been our home since, even though the preschool got to wander for a few years during the covid-19 pandemic, so that the children could spend the majority of their time outside.  

Since then, our yoga-based preschool has offered many Missoula children the "peace breath" and "jiggle like jelly" and asked of them to courageously look inward, and to face social problem head on with clear communication and an open heart.  Miss Katie joined during the tumultuous 2020 school year where we created a small kindergarten class in my backyard, and Miss Tiahna joined as the preschool's assistant teacher in 2021.   Miss Celia is joining us for the 2023 school year to co-teach a Reggio Emilia-inspired program with Miss Katie.   Summer camps, adult and family yoga classes, Craniosacral therapy sessions, prenatal yoga and more have followed, and there will be more offerings as my explorations take me deeper into understanding and supporting children and their grown-ups. 

My perspective on preschool / How my classroom feels

My approach is rooted in watching and listening carefully to children, and focusing primarily on relationship and connection. From this fertile foundation, where all children feel seen and heard and respected, so much of the rest of it comes naturally.  

While I am teaching, I center myself and practice the art of mindfulness so that I can pay close attention to each child and their complex and unique makeup.  I pay attention carefully to the group dynamic and flow of needs of all, and respond accordingly. 

In my classroom we spend a good deal of our day with the nuances of being an individual, and being in community. Each seemingly minor conflict or big feeling, or getting ready for snack or to play outside, becomes our curriculum.  I trust that children can learn to be patient and articulate in complex communication and that they are naturally full of love for all and want to participate in community (including easily sharing!)   There are just things that get in the way of this natural state.  

My goal is to truly see and admire each child at their bright shining center, as is the ultimate goal of yoga to know this in ourselves and others.   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 autonomy 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.

My acquired approach to education has taken bits and pieces from many experiences and areas of study: Respect of the “spark” of childhood, a child's capabilities in the real world, and the moments of focused attention from the Montessori method; the preservation of the flowing, imaginative “child world” from the Waldorf method; the dedication of public school teachers in the most difficult situations; and most significantly, the stunning brightness and wisdom from all of the children I've had to the honor to work with 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” (a term in Kripalu yoga).  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 (“stay attuned to your inner guide") for students with more asana experience.  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. 

An introduction from Miss Katie!

Hello! I’m Katie Whorrall, the lead teacher at Peaceful Heart Preschool. I have been working in early childhood education for 8 years (this coming school year will be my 4th  with Peaceful Heart!), and I am continually delighted and amazed by the wisdom, humor, empathy, and competency that young children possess. I have been practicing yoga for 15 years, and am currently embarking on another 300 hour yoga teacher training to add to my current 200 hour certification.  I love that teaching at Peaceful Heart has allowed me to more fully synthesize my teaching practice with my yoga practice. I completed my Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education in 2022 through the Journey School at The University of Denver.  The program is grounded in the Reggio Emilia approach, as well as in social justice and culturally responsive teaching. The Reggio approach is rooted in holding a strong image of the child -- viewing children as competent, capable citizens from birth. There is a strong emphasis on honoring the “hundred languages of children” (i.e. infinite, diverse learning languages that children bring to the classroom) and on learning in community. In the Reggio approach, children and teachers are co-constructors of learning. We engage in long-term projects following the children’s inquiry, tackle real world problems that are relevant to the children’s lives, revisit documentation as a group to inform future learning, and build skills in advocacy along the way. I love the way that this approach honors children’s inquiry and theories as they make meaning about the world, and for me, there is a lot of crossover with the world of yoga. The Reggio approach, at its core, is about tuning into the child and to the group and engaging a pedagogy of listening. The same can be said about yoga. When we practice yoga and mindfulness, we are able to listen more deeply to our body, mind, and spirit, and we develop the ability to more fully tune in to those around us (both human and more-than-human). Preschool is all about practicing being in community and honoring our humanity together. With the foundations of deep listening, socially constructed learning, mindful movement, and profound empathy, preschoolers at Peaceful Heart are invited to become advocates for a more peaceful world.

Katie Whorrall

Katie has been teaching with Peaceful Heart since 2020.  She is the Program Director and a co-teacher in our "Wild Iris" class for the 2023-24 school year.  

Katie is an experienced Early Childhood Educator who loves collaborating, creating, learning, and laughing alongside her students. She has a BA in Art History and Curatorial Practice, a 200-hour yoga teacher certification, and a Master’s Degree in Innovative Early Childhood Education with an emphasis on the Reggio Emilia approach. Katie believes that young children are inherently capable, kind, and wise (and hilarious!). She loves helping her students explore and understand their feelings, express their unique personalities, and learn how to stand up for others.

Originally from Los Angeles, Katie decided to call Missoula home in 2018 after years of dreaming of living in deeper harmony with nature. In her free time, she can be found practicing yoga, baking healthy vegan treats, walking in the woods, and knitting things for people she loves.

We are so excited to welcome Miss Celia to the Peaceful Heart Preschool team for the 2023 school year!  

Celia Manny

A little bit about Miss Celia...

I grew up exploring the creeks and forests of rural New York state. The relatively free range nature of my childhood in the lush splendor of the Hudson valley has shaped my passion for play-based early education with an emphasis on outdoor learning. After earning a BS in Nutrition Science from UC Davis and spending summers in Montana working seasonally on a guest ranch, I decided to brave the winters and make Missoula my home. In my nearly nine years of teaching in early childhood education, I have learned firsthand the value of inquiry-led learning and to value each child as a whole person who is capable and complex. I believe we can learn so much from and with children by sharing experiences that celebrate their deep capacity for wonder and the unique expressivity of each child. We all learn best when our basic needs are met; I enjoy building relationships and working with families in partnership to foster a safe, nurturing learning environment that can support each child and meet them where they are in their development and within their context so they can thrive and grow as stewards of their own learning. I am currently working toward a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education through CU Denver and feel invigorated and inspired, engrossed in a program that explores the Reggio Emilia Approach in depth and truly celebrates the wonders of childhood. Outside of school, I enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities including trail running, hunting, and skiing, and savor tapping into my more creative side through cooking and sewing. I feel passionate about working with future generations and thrilled to join the team at Peaceful Heart!

How Tiahna's yoga practice influences her teaching

I was introduced to yoga when I first moved to Missoula for college. I thought of yoga as a cool workout that had me feeling very peaceful after each class. In pursuit of that peace I have come to learn that yoga is so much more than a workout. The word yoga translates as “to yoke”, or to join, to be in union, align, etc. The peace that is often experienced is the body, mind, and breath aligning in Truth, which I like to think is Love. Asana (the “workout”) is great, but finding this peaceful union can be as simple as taking a few moments to focus on and feel your breath [or prana (life force)] move through you. In my own yoga practice, I have been working on shifting my perspective to become an ‘observer’ of my mind/body/life situation, which allows me to approach conflicts through a neutral lens and see things a little clearer. It’s easier said than done, which is why yoga is often referred to as a practice.

I bring my yoga practice with me everywhere, especially to preschool. One of my yoga Teachers said to me, “To teach is to learn”, which resonates with me so much. These tiny humans teach me how to be in the now and embrace the joy in the simplest things. As a community we take the time to breathe intentionally, perform asana, and meditate. These are great moments in our day that often help us to re-direct energy toward this peaceful alignment that yoga is all about. It is heart-warming to see how receptive and capable kids are of a yoga practice. We also use the elements of yoga to guide us through play and problem-solving. I encourage my students to tune into and talk about their own feelings as well as their peers’ feelings; having that ‘observer’ perspective in mind, we can look at and solve conflicts with loving, open hearts. The most important thing that I hope to teach my students is to acknowledge and honor the love and light within ourselves, as well as the love and light that resides in every being.

Tiahna Holtey

Miss Tiahna started working with Peaceful Heart in the fall of 2019. When the pandemic struck she went to work from home, teaching English as a second language online to young children in China. She will be an assistant teacher for the Sunflower Class for the 2023-24 school year. 

Tiahna is a gentle and kind soul, who loves connecting with people and the natural world. She has a BA in Psychology and a Minor's Study in Studio Art. Tiahna also has certifications for a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and a 30-hour Kid's Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher Training. Tiahna enjoys incorporating both adult and kid's yoga practices into her own journey of life. She loves the colorful and imaginative ways in which children view the world. She puts her whole heart into fully seeing and hearing her students. Her goal when working with kids is to guide them toward creative problem solving, healthy expression of feelings, and recognition of the Light within themselves and others.

Originally from South Dakota, Tiahna moved to Missoula in 2014 to pursue her college degree. She graduated from the University of Montana in 2018, and her love for the community and mountains was too great to leave. She now lives in the countryside with her loving partner and many pets (dog, goat, pig, cats, fish, squirrels!). With her free time she likes to explore the forest, tend her gardens, snuggle with her animals, and work in her home pottery studio.