Director (7th year at FTCNS)
Laura brings a background in educational leadership and teaching, along with five years of being an FTCNS parent and board member to her role as Director. In this role, she leads and supports our teaching staff, works with students, teachers, and families to ensure each child’s optimal development, and coordinates with various committees to facilitate the day-to-day operations and long term growth and improvement of the school. Before joining the FTCNS community, Laura worked as the PreK-12 Social Science Coordinator for the Champaign schools and as a teacher at New Trier High School. Laura holds both a Masters in the Art of Teaching and a Masters in Educational Organization and Leadership, and is certified to teach and serve as a principal in Illinois. Laura is passionate about putting creative play and problem solving and a focus on socio-emotional development at the center of early childhood education. She is also dedicated to supporting the continual growth and development of teachers so that they can give their best to children and find deep fulfillment in their professional lives.
Dandelions Teacher (7th year at FTCNS)
Dana has a BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Wyoming, and an MFA in Playwriting from Ohio University. She taught at La Petite Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she was named Teacher of the Year by parents and teachers three years in a row. In Chicago, Dana was a teacher in the after-school Pre-K program at The Francis Xavier Warde School in the West Loop. Growing up, her family owned a preschool where she worked after school and summers. She has always been around children and loves to see them discover their world. She has also taught performance and storytelling for young children, teens and adults at The Space Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, The Vet Art Project, and Mortar Theatre Company.
Willows & Dandelions Teacher (11th year at FTCNS)
Deadre completed her B.A. from National College of Education (National-Louis University), holds two Illinois teaching certificates (Elementary and Early Childhood Education), and has taught many Chicago children from age three through 8th grade. Her experiences include teaching music to the whole school, developing integrated curriculum themes, teaching literature-based reading and writing, and differentiating instruction in order to reach each child. After teaching Chicago Public School children for more than twenty years and then leading workshops for parents of children PreK through 3rd grade, Deadre is very happy to be part of this special community of families. She especially enjoys watching and supporting the natural process of literacy develop through play in young children. Deadre is the mother of two adult children, and a busy grandma to Chloe and Miles.
Maples Teacher (14th year at FTCNS)
Ellen completed her B.A. in Sociology in 1987, and began building a career path weaving education, social work and literacy into a 3-strand commitment to teaching psychosocial skill development. She previously taught preschool for approximately 12 years, spent 5 years as the director of a Montessori after school program, worked throughout college as a direct care provider at a residential facility for disabled girls, served as a science museum educator for approximately 3 years, performed as a storyteller, and led poetry writing workshops for children and families. Ellen has enjoyed the diversity of working with children of all ages – from infants through high-schoolers – and believes strongly in the mentoring role of adults in teaching children how to be true to themselves while belonging to and honoring their community and society. She also is a published poet who enjoys sharing work and dialoguing with other artists.
Junipers & Oaks Teacher (12th year at FTCNS)
Salena graduated from National-Louis University with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Psychology (March 2006). She began working at Families Together Cooperative Nursery School in June of 2006. Her experience in childcare centers, however, goes back about 10 years. Prior to graduation she spent six years as a lead teacher at The State of Illinois Child Development Center located in downtown Chicago. She is also the mother of a 17-year-old boy named Michael. Within the classroom she believes in building a nurturing community where all children feel safe and welcome. With her experience, she plans to provide a curriculum based on play that is meaningful and relevant to the lives of the children.
Junipers & Oaks Teacher (11th year at FTCNS)
Mary graduated from the University of Chicago in 2000 with an undergraduate degree in English and Italian literature. She had always been fascinated with how children learn, and this led her to find teaching jobs after college. She taught preschool for several years and then 3rd grade in a parochial school before returning to grad school at the Erikson Institute to get her Masters Degree and teaching certificate. She is especially interested in exploring math and science with young children, and she has significant experience in implementing story dictation/dramatization programs in the classroom. Mary really likes to get kids reflecting on their own thinking and learning! In her spare time, you can find her playing bluegrass music on her mandolin, singing, cooking, reading, and spending time with her husband and kids.
Willows, Maples & Dandelions Teacher (6th year at FTCNS)
Jill has come full circle in her career as an early childhood educator. She started teaching preschool at Families Together in 2002 when the school consisted of only two classes and she was pursuing her B.A. in Early Childhood Education at Northeastern Illinois University. After four years, she left FTCNS to pursue different experiences, including living abroad in Barcelona, Spain for six months to immerse herself in the Spanish language. When she returned, she continued her professional journey as a Master and Mentor Teacher at Christopher House. During this time, Jill continued her education, receiving an endorsement in English as a Second Language along with completing her M.A in Teacher Leadership at Roosevelt University. Throughout her journey, Jill has been greatly influenced by the the ideals and theories of the Reggio Emilia Approach. She is passionate about implementing emergent curriculum in the classroom and using different art media to extend children’s ideas and theories. Most recently Jill has been the studio arts teacher for a CPS preschool program in the Beverly neighborhood where she guided children through material art explorations to support their learning.
Lunch Bunch Teacher (3rd year at FTCNS)
Carey graduated from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in 2000 with a BA in English and a minor in music. Her love of working with children, and her work in educational publishing, led her to pursue a teaching career. In 2009, she graduated from the Erikson Institute with an MS in early childhood education and a Type 04 teaching certificate. She is also a certified Music Together instructor, and teaches private guitar lessons to children ages five and up. Carey loves helping children express themselves and build relationships through the arts. Outside school, she enjoys recording and performing music, writing, photography, and spending time with her husband and their dog.
Lunch Bunch Teacher (3rd year at FTCNS)
Molly graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1998 with a BS degree in Family Social Services, minoring in both Women’s Studies and Black Studies. After college she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia, teaching nutrition and promoting a healthy local-‐foods diet in schools and villages. She then spent twelve years working with families in emergency shelter and transitional housing programs in Chicago and Minneapolis, striving to help parents and children meet their physical and emotional needs and move out of crisis. More recently, Molly has enjoyed working with children at FTCNS as an assisting parent and summer camp teacher, and volunteering to provide Animal Assisted Therapy to seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Molly has particular interest and experience in building positive relationships and developing a healthy self-‐image, and she brings extensive experience in leading groups of children in hatha yoga, textile crafting, cooking and gardening. She loves engaging children through play and art, meaningful conversation and lunch!
Classroom Assistant & Lunch Bunch Teacher (3rd year at FTCNS)
Kirsten earned her B.A. in History and M.Ed in Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago. Before staying home to raise her three girls, she worked with international students and staff at both the International Office at Northwestern University and the Office of International Services at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Kirsten came to Families Together by way of her children, two of whom are alumni and one who is excited to be in her third year of preschool. Kirsten has enjoyed her responsibilities as a coop parent over the last 6 years and is thrilled to continue on staff at FTCNS.
Business Manager (16th year at FTCNS)
Kate manages the myriad of paperwork required for students, adult volunteers and staff as well as working on fundraising, marketing and HR. She also manages admissions/enrollment, summer camp registration, tuition payments, and accounts payable and receivable. Kate has a B.A. in French and her previous work experience includes volunteer coordinator and marketing/PR at Twin Cities Public Television, 1 year as an English tutor in Brazil, and 10 years in marketing for a healthcare company. Kate’s three girls (sophomore in college and 12th grade twins) attended Families Together so she comes to the position with experience as a co-op parent.