Shelley Welch,

Founder, Educator

Melissa Rakowitz,

Shelley is the founder of Wildflower School. She has worked with children since 1990 in a variety of roles, including teacher, tutor, nanny, and volunteer mentor. She received a MAT from Duke University and BA in English & Storytelling from Meredith College. 

In 2015, she was team lead for a group of five educators from various local schools who completed the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Learning Visible course. She loves working with children of all ages and has a special affinity for preschool children. 

Shelley is actively engaged in contributing to the creation a world-wide network of Reggio Emilia preschool educators and works to gather resources for those engaged in Reggio teaching. She is deeply interested in documenting, through photos and words, the learning of young children and making their thinking visible to themselves, their families and the community. She is also committed to creating a program which fully immerses families in the school environment. 

Shelley lives with her three boys in Chapel Hill and actively works to create community wherever she goes through organizations such as the Red Boot Coalition.

To learn more about Shelley's educational philosophy, visit TeachReggio. To learn what led Shelley to quit her last teaching job and develop Wildflower Learning Community Preschool and Kindergarten, visit "Invisible Child."

Melissa was born and raised in Stoney Point, New York. After spending 20 years in California, she’s happy to return to the East coast, where she bought her first home in Durham, North Carolina. Melissa attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she obtained her bachelor’s in Psychology with focus on developmental and criminal psychology.

Teaching at a much loved preschool in San Francisco, Melissa gained over ten years of experience in Early Childhood, including instructing music and yoga. A patient, whimsical, and playful teacher, Melissa values the rights of children to learn and play in an inclusive environment -- one that meets the needs of children with and without disabilities. She has also had specialized training in Conscious Discipline and the Reggio-Emilia approach.

Through her experience with musical and physical instruction, Melissa recognizes multiple intelligences present in children, especially the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence of young learners at play. She believes that a strong connection and open communication with families is crucial for early childhood education.

Out of the classroom, Melissa is also a musician who thoroughly enjoys connecting with audiences of all ages. In addition to being a certified yoga instructor and enthusiast, Melissa recently completed her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification. She enjoys healthy food, spending time in nature, and working on her home with her partner, Lewis.

Rachael Kovalchin,

Growing up, Rachael was always exploring the outdoor spaces and places around her home and neighborhood of Akron, Ohio with her sisters. Her joy and wonder for the outdoors inspired her to find ways to connect others with the world around them, leading her to study Early Childhood Education at Kent State University.


She obtained her teaching license and decided that there was much more she wanted to explore and learn about young children and advocating for their rights to authentic experiences within their education, so she continued her studies in Early Childhood Education focusing on Advocacy and Leadership within the field. She has recently graduated with her Master of Education in Early Childhood Education and has moved from Kent, Ohio to explore North Carolina with her partner, Brett.


Throughout graduate school, she explored research about rethinking what nature means within children’s learning, as well as the ways in which children make sense of place and participate with the nonhuman in their worlds. She practices a philosophy of kindness and care to oneself, each other and the environment. She firmly believes in embracing children for who they are and empowering them as capable and competent.


Her previous work experience in a Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool made her eager to continue working with families and young children using this educational philosophy to foster children’s interests, inquiries and sense of wonder.


Outside of her work with young children, she loves to go hammocking, practice yoga, drink peach tea, paint and serenade her cat with her ukulele.