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Meet Our Staff

We believe that all of our students are capable of whatever they desire, our role is to guide them and to help them blossom into the most complete little human they can be.


Patrick Hilko

Director/Co-Lead Teacher (AM/PM)

My name is Patrick Hilko. I was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. I have a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. During the final year at Pitt, I was fortunate enough to spend a significant amount of time in The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  It was here that I rediscovered my love of the outdoors.  I hold a PA Teacher Certification Pre-K-4th grade and have taken a number of Early Childhood Education master’s level courses at Carlow University. During this time I worked as a bicycle messenger, which help fulfill my desire to be outside as much as possible.  Around this time I also began working at Shady Lane School with children ages 2-5.  As much I loved working with the children, I missed the outdoors!  In the spring of 2016 my soon to be father-in-law approached me about starting an all outdoor early childhood program.  In November of 2016, I attended the Cedarsong Nature School and completed The Cedarsong Way Forest Kindergarten Teacher Training Program. Nature has played a crucial roll in my life and I want to make sure that in today’s fast past world children are given the opportunity to slow down and be in nature and learn from all it has to offer!  


Marcela King

Co-Lead Teacher (PM)

I spent my childhood between a small town in Eastern PA and a much bigger but less developed town in South America.  In both places, I learned to lean towards the unstructured play situations for the best experiences.  We climbed any high place we could find, made whole towns in the woods, and always had the most fun creating it ourselves.  

Thus, when I began my career in Education, I found myself as a teacher trying to give these kind of opportunities to young children.  I got my degree in Elementary Education, and taught Kindergarten for two years in Savannah, Georgia before we moved to Pittsburgh. Once here, I worked at the Cyert Center, where I learned about the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Education.   This approach showed me how to really listen to children, and to follow their lead and not get distracted by "curriculum".  I also really learned to appreciate working with kids in the three to six year age range, as they are the most free and open.  I have also worked in traditional preschool programs, but The Wild Woods is a special place that I feel very lucky to be a part of.  I love really being able to let children lead their own experiences, and to see what happens as they interact with nature without any of the boundaries of "don't get too dirty"! It's wonderful to see their physical progress, as they learn that they can climb that "mountain", and that the task that might seem unsurmountable is possible, especially when they watch and learn from a peer.  Social interactions also feel much less forced here, as there is endless space for individual explorations, but children seek each other's company in very natural ways. 

I feel so fortunate to be working with your children this year- it's going to be a great one in the woods!


Bethany Dirlam

Co-Lead Teacher (PM)

Bethany was born and raised in Northeast Pennsylvania. Through her childhood, Bethany’s family enjoyed going for hikes, swimming in lakes, and traveling to explore new places. Traveling and hiking have remained two of Bethany’s passions, with the additions of running, reading, and playing with her puppy. During her undergraduate time at Bucknell University, Bethany had the privilege of spending two summers abroad, in Copenhagen, Denmark, studying childhood development. It was there that Bethany was first introduced to forest schools. Bethany watched with wide eyes as children, as young as three years old, climbed trees, worked with tools, and prepared their own food. She learned that Danes emphasize autonomy, socialization, and learning through experience as primary values of an early childhood education. These values have, in turn, influenced the way Bethany approaches her role as an educator. In the Wild Woods you may find Bethany cheering on a student as they try something that challenges them, facilitating conversations on friendship building or conflict resolution, or playing with the children and their swords (sticks), dentist tools (sticks), dog toys (sticks), or mixing spoons (sticks). Prior to joining the Wild Woods, Bethany worked as a full-time school psychologist at an elementary school near Houston, Texas. Bethany received her Masters in Education and Educational Specialist in School Psychology degrees from Temple University.  

Annie Fabish

Co-Lead Teacher (AM)

My name is Annie Fabish.  I grew up here in Hampton PA.  I traveled the country and ultimately decided to plant my roots and raise my family in the place I first called home.  My husband and I have 2 children, a dog and ad cat.  Growing up, my siblings and I were heavily immersed in nature.  Camping, fishing, building snow forts and exploring new trails; we were always outside.  I home-school my children with the mentality of "your soul needs the wild."  This will be my sons third year at The Wild Woods and my daughters first.  The Wild Woods allows children to slow down and BE.  I  witness the changes daily in each child as they grow confidence in themselves.  I am thrilled to be a part of this wonderful school and all the unique experiences it has to offer.

Rachel Anderson

Art Instructor

My name is Rachel Anderson, and I have been a parent at The Wild Woods for the past two years. This year I am excited to be joining my children one day a week teaching art projects to all of the children. I have a BA from Duquesne University in Professional Studies with an emphasis on Multimedia and Psychology, and a Masters from Duquesne in Early Childhood/ Elementary Education. I also have a Certificate of Photography from Pittsburgh Filmmakers. I currently have my teaching certification in PA for pre-k to grade 6. 

After an amazing student teaching experience at Shady Lane preschool in the East End, I accepted a position as an educator in the Young 3’s classroom. I worked as the Lead Educator for about nine years before I took time off to have my two children Finn, 5 and Astrid, 3. 

I am excited to meet your children and explore all the possibilities of art in nature. 

homer hug.jpg


Everyone's Best Friend

Homer is Mr. Pat's family dog. He is an almost 2 year old Vizsla who has tons of energy and loves to explore.  He is so happy to be a part of The Wild Woods where he gets to run and play all day long. He also serves as a pillow for the children when he gets tired.  He loves to give kisses and cheer the children up when they are feeling down.  Although he is a bigger dog, he is very gentle and great at helping the kids learn to be comfortable around dogs.

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