Medora West Willmore, Ed.D., is a 2023 graduate of the Ed.D. program in Educational and Professional Practice at Antioch University.

Dr. West Willmore

Dissertation Committee:

Ashley Nielsen, PhD, Chairperson

David Sobel, Professor Emeritus, Committee Member

Cheryl Charles, PhD, Committee Member


holistic education, spirituality, spiritual intelligence, spiritual wellness, spiritually supportive pedagogy, natural intelligence, nature-based education, ecological identity, ecospirituality

Document Type


Publication Date



Action towards planetary well-being requires more than environmental awareness, acquisition of knowledge, or technological fixes; it necessitates a sacred connection, recognizing interdependence, and an ethic that maintains dignity for all non-human beings. It requires a shift in our ecological consciousness from the dominator and exploitative (I-it) view to the connected and participatory (I-thou) view which is best facilitated by an emerging paradigm called ecospirituality. For the next generation to adopt this paradigm, teachers must first adopt it. The research goal was to to transform teachers’ relationship with the natural world by enlisting ecospirituality as central in supporting teacher wellness, as an intervening variable for pro-environmental behaviors, and in developing robust ecological identities among teachers and correspondingly their students. The literature review focused on several intersecting but distinct theoretical approaches including; holistic learning theory, spiritual identity development, nature-based education, the indigenous worldview, and ecospirituality. For this dissertation, an immersive, spiritually enhanced, eco-curriculum called More than mindfulness: A teacher fellowship in ecospirituality was developed. It was then implemented in order to cultivate ecospiritual mindsets among the participants. The research sample drew from a 28 member, preschool-8th grade teaching faculty employed by a private, holistic school. The study was a convergent parallel mixed methods design and utilized a focus group technique where participant reflection was the source of qualitative data and pre and post surveys yield both quantitative and qualitative data. The research suggests that ecospirituality serves as a uniquely transformative paradigm for educators. The teacher fellowship changed the way the educators situate themselves in relation to the natural world as the data showed a significant increase in participant connectedness to nature. It provided them with an ecospiritual framework that bolstered their wellness as evidenced by a notable increase in spiritual wellness scores. It impacted their pedagogy by encouraging a more ecocentric approach in their teaching, as determined by the qualitative results. Suggestions for future research are included and the program modules are found in the appendices. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


ORCID No.: 0009-0000-4221-1568


West Willmore, Ed.D. is a 18-year, veteran educator and has worked in many alternative educational settings. For the last 15 years, she has been employed by Rainbow Community School (RCS), a holistic school in Asheville, North Carolina. She has served the school in various capacities including; lead teacher, Professional Development Coordinator, Marketing Coordinator, Curriculum Director and now as the Admissions and Development director. She also is the Development Director for the Institute for Humane Education.

West’s educational philosophy is anchored in holism. She feels that educating the whole human means honoring the interconnections between all learning dimensions – mental, social, emotional, spiritual, natural, creative, and physical. She believes that holistic learning principles have the capacity to support an individual’s health and well-being and can yield undeniable transformation. West draws specifically on spiritually supportive pedagogy and place-based and experiential practices to nurture learners’ deep connections to themselves, others, and the environment. She strongly believes that direct, authentic and meaningful experience is the primary stepping stone to understanding.

In addition to an Ed.D. from Antioch University, West has Master's of Education and holds B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Education, a school administration license, a Certificate of Non-Profit Management from Duke University, and a professional fundraising certificate from Boston University. West is also an award winning and published teacher and has presented on the topics of holistic education, nature-based practices, and spiritual education at various regional and national educational conferences.


Pilla, J., Willmore, W., & Owen, R. (2017). Teaching the whole child.

Willmore, W. (2022). Ecospirituality: A teacher’s path towards wholeness and wellness. Holistic Education Review.