Roots Academy Philosophy

Kids in their school years go through some of the most difficult physical and emotional times of their lives. They are full of confusion as they try to figure out who they are and how they fit in with the world.

Kids in their school years go through some of the most difficult physical and emotional times of their lives. They are full of confusion as they try to figure out who they are and how they fit in with the world.

It is during these delicate years that kids are the most impressionable and most easily influenced. They just want to be normal – which often means being like everyone else. Unfortunately, some teenagers can be cruel and their influence may not be the positive example that we want our children to follow. Often the social issues are so overwhelming that students have difficulty learning.

Creating a smaller environment eliminates a lot of the social pressures that distract students. At Roots Academy, we believe that by reducing the class size we can individualize education, create a challenging, engaging environment and greatly increase learning, both now and in the future.

At Roots Academy, the ratio is 10-15 students per teacher, with a school maximum of 24 students. We believe that this is the ideal size as it is large enough for positive socialization and collaboration with peers, yet small enough to give the teachers an opportunity to really know each child. By focusing on individual strengths, as well as the areas of concern, we can personalize learning based on the needs of each student and give immediate feedback to the student and parents.

Another advantage to the small class size is mobility. There is an abundance of hands-on, learning we can glean from our community and its members. We take every available opportunity to utilize these resources in order to engage the student and add value and relevance to the learning experience. When meaning is given to learning, interest, and retention are much greater. Kids see that learning is fun and that the opportunities to grow are all around them – not just something that happens at school.

A “root” by definition is the part of a plant that attaches it to the ground or to a support, conveying water and nourishment to the rest of the plant. We believe that roots also applies to our students and their education. School is the time to strengthen the roots by teaching the fundamentals of core subjects, study skills, personal confidence, and accountability. It is our desire at Roots Academy to be the support and nourishment that your child needs to flourish in their education for future growth.


Krysti Coursey

Teacher, Owner

Krysti has always dreamed of starting her own school and most of her life experiences have revolved around that dream. She grew up in Salem where she seized every opportunity to teach children. She taught Sunday school, pre-school, tutored, was a part of the big sister program and attended many outreach trips to Mexico to work with needy children.

After high school, she had two priorities- pursue a teaching degree and get out of the rain. These goals led her to sunny Southern California and Azusa Pacific University. Azusa was the sponsor of the Mexico outreach programs that Krysti enjoyed as a high school student. She immediately got a job in the office and attended many more outreaches as well as assisted in planning and running many of them. During the college years, Krysti also had the opportunity to be a nanny in New York City, which she views as one of the most daring, interesting and challenging experiences in her life.

Krysti married her husband after her Junior year in college and after graduation, they moved back to Salem and started their family. Although teaching was still a strong desire for Krysti, she felt that taking a few years to focus on her own family were more important. While staying home with her three children, Krysti volunteered in the schools, taught Sunday school, and did some substitute teaching. She also ran a successful, part-time interior decorating business.

As her children grew, Krysti began again preparing to teach. She returned to the classroom, taking some refresher courses, began substitute teaching once again, and later taught math at Crossler Middle School. While at Crossler, her students performed exceptionally well. One of her classes began the year with a 29% OAKS passing rate and finished the year with a 92% passing rate. 

Krysti accredits much of her teaching growth and knowledge to her subbing experience. She has learned so much by substituting in preschool through high school classrooms and observing different teaching styles. It is during this period of time that Krysti realized her passion for the struggles and needs of school students. ROOTS ACADEMY is the culmination of Krysti’s lifelong desire and preparation to teach.

Jessica Cavanaugh


Jessica Cavanaugh is excited about the opportunity to teach at Roots Academy. Although she grew up on the Southern Oregon Coast, she feels most at home in the Willamette Valley. She attended Western Oregon University where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting. There, on stage, she met her husband. After acting professionally for a year in Portland, Jessica decided to return to school and become a teacher. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching from Willamette University in 2009 and was a substitute teacher the following school year for the Salem/Keizer School District.

In 2010, Jessica was offered a job at North Bend High School in North Bend, Oregon. There she taught social studies, high school and middle school theatre, and journalism. She also ran the school newspaper, co-advised the Key Club, and for some crazy reason, organized the school’s prom. Her passion for teaching led to work with the district educational coaches to develop alternative state reading assessments and inventive formative assessments to enhance learning in the classroom.

Since the 2013 school year, she has been the language arts, social studies, and theatre teacher at Roots Academy. For Jessica, students and their success come first; she wouldn’t want it any other way.


Britni Nelson


Hello, I am Britni! I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, and went to college at BYU. There, I met my husband and had twin girls. Soon after, we moved closer to family in California where we lived for seven years. While there, I owned and operated a little private school (and had my son!) before settling down here in Salem six years ago. After subbing for many years, I made the leap to go back to teaching full-time. I have been with Roots Academy school since they started the elementary program in 2019, and I am so happy to be back in the classroom. I love traveling with my family, the arts, Disneyland, and wearing fun earrings!

Molly Nemecek


Molly Nemecek, born and raised in Salem, Oregon, is a graduate of Western Oregon University. There, she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with an endorsement in ESL (English as a Second Language). She spent most of her career teaching 1st grade until taking a break to be home with her own children. She continued to be involved in the education system through volunteering and substitute teaching at her children’s schools, both at the elementary and middle school level. When the opportunity came to join the Roots family, Molly was thrilled! She believes in the vision and purpose of a school like Roots (hands-on experiences, smaller class sizes, personalized learning, positive socialization,...) and has enjoyed being a part of developing the elementary program. 

Molly married her high school sweetheart (21+ years ago!) and they are raising 4 kids right here in Salem. They love the Pacific Northwest best but also love to spend time together traveling the U.S. and beyond, hiking, and going to the beach.  She takes care of the bookkeeping for her husband’s construction company and loves football, family, friends, fun, and food!

Steffany Sweet


Steffany Sweet is a recent graduate from George Fox University, who studied and received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Middle School Education, and is so excited to be at Roots Academy! She teaches math, science, and electives with the middle schoolers, and is pretty sure she has the best job in the world. She's passionate about hands-on, creative learning, and engaging students in new learning material.

Steffany is originally from Olympia, Washington, and decided to stay in Oregon after college, where she loves to spend as much time outside as possible. Her love for the outdoors and nature ties in closely with her passion for science, and her desire to be a lifelong learner. In her free time, she’s usually painting, hiking, or attempting to learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby. 

Steffany is so excited about being a part of this amazing school, and the opportunity to work in such a positive, encouraging environment that fosters such wonderful relationships and growth!