Stephanie Letizia - Director of South Church Preschool Stephanie has been directing our Preschool Program at South Church for 19 years. During this time, she has taught ages 3 through 5 and is presently teaching our 2-day, 3 year old class. She studied at Manchester Community College. Stephanie has designed a curriculum program that enhances both social and academic growth for our students. The program is inclusive of nurturing their early development through play and creativity. It is designed to empower their confidence and build the necessary skills they will need for their future kindergarten experience. The students do this within a caring developmentally appropriate environment. Stephanie owns and runs Summer Sprouts; a summer day camp for children ages 3 through 6. She is on her tenth year running the camp along with our Music Teacher, Kathye Flanagan.
Stephanie has worked at South Church Preschool since 2018. Her current role is Assistant Director. Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Queens College and a Master of Science in Childhood Education and Literacy Education from Long Island University NY. She has previously worked with children three to six years of age in a variety of childcare settings and schools both in NY and CT. Stephanie feels teaching preschool is so important because it is the ideal place to help children better understand and find their place within the world around them.
Heidi Gourley Heidi has been working at South Church since 2009. She previously spent six years as a head teacher and recently teamed with Stephanie Letiza to teach the 2-day program. Heidi's current role is Program Administrator. Prior to coming to South Church Heidi worked in Human Resources and Marketing for Patrons Mutual Insurance Company. She attended Central Connecticut State University where she studied Communications and Psychology. She earned her Child Development Associate certification at Manchester Community College.
Susan Vartenigian Susan is in her sixth year at South Church Preschool. She is one the head teachers for the pre-K program. Susan also provides ongoing science enrichment experiences for the four and five day classes. She has a Bachelors Degree from James Madison University in early childhood education and holds a Masters Degree in curriculum and instruction. Her background includes 10 years as a kindergarten teacher. Helping children to develop a love of learning and a curiosity of the world around them is one of her primary goals as a teacher. Sue has enhanced our Pre K program with her love and creativity for science enrichment and her skills as a teacher.
Larissa Nardi Larissa has been teaching at South Church Preschool for the past six years. She has her Masters Degree in Pedagogy and a background of more than fifteen years in Education. Larissa is a Head Teacher in the 4 day program and our Spanish Enrichment teacher in the Pre K. Her energy and spirit enhanced our program in every way.
Jennifer Ruchwa Jennifer has worked with children since 2002 and as a Pre-Kindergarten teacher for seven years. She has worked in a variety of early childhood education settings including, both state and privately funded nationally accredited programs, an enrichment after school program and a private art program. Jennifer incorporates her experience and love of art, through lessons focused on age appropriate activities surrounding the principles and elements of art. Jennifer received an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Manchester Community College, as well as a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Visual Arts and a Master of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from Eastern Connecticut State University. Prior to South Church Preschool Jennifer worked at the Child and Family Development Resource Center at Eastern Connecticut State University as a program assistant. Jennifer enjoys sharing her passion for art with her students.
Tracy Bancroft Tracy has been with South Church Preschool since 2015. She graduated from the University of Richmond and earned her Masters Degree in the Art of Teaching from Rhode Island College. She taught in Rhode Island and the New York City public school systems. In addition to her employment as a Head Teacher in our 2 day program Tracy continues as the office manager of her husband's insurance office. Tracy finds it very rewarding to help young children with their early development, and our center has benefited from her dedication and patience with our students.
Susan Thompson Susan is one of the longest running staff members at South Church Preschool. She has been working in our program for fifteen years. Sue began her career as a Program Assistant in many of our classes and has been the Assistant Teacher in our Pre K program for the past five years. Susan's current role is Head Teacher for the Pre-K program. She has an Associates Degree in paralegal and legal studies. She also has attended Early Childhood workshops and seminars consistently. Her experience working with our 3 to 5 year olds has been extremely valuable to us here at South Church.
Elizabeth Wegner Elizabeth has worked with children in various capacities for the past 22 years. During her undergraduate years, she worked in a child development research lab and also worked in both rural and city children's camps. Elizabeth received a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa. She then went on to receive a Masters of Education in Community Counseling from Loyola University. Elizabeth worked as a child and family therapist with Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago for over 9 years. She currently the gym teacher and the Social Services Consultant for our center. She has been helpful in designing activities that aid in coping with anxiety and school stress, as well as social development in students who attend our program. We are lucky to have her knowledge and passion in this very important component or early childhood education.
Tamara Carella Tamara has been with South Church Preschool since the Spring of 2016. She started as a long-term substitute and is currently an Assistant Teacher in the 4-day program. Graduating from UConn with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, she has been working with school aged children for over 10 years in both public and private education. She has also worked in the corporate sector, with 15 years’ experience, in marketing and management. She integrates her professional and educational experience, creativity and organizational skills to help students develop a strong foundation for their educational journey. This is very rewarding to Tamara and she loves to see the student’s growth from the beginning to the end of the year. Tamara is a valued member of our staff and is excited to be part of our team at South Church Preschool. Tamara lives in Portland, CT with her husband and two children.
Lori Bigliazzi Lori received her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education from Northwestern CT Community College and did her student teaching with four year olds. She received her Bachelors Degree from UConn in Human Services. She is currently the Head Teacher in the 3-day program. She has 13 year old boy/ girl twins that currently attend Nayaug Elementary. They attended South Church for two years and have wonderful memories there. For the past two years she has been assistant coach for first through third grade cheerleaders for the Glastonbury Tomahawks. Previously she worked as a Para at Hebron Elementary School. During her free time she loves to visit with her family in Oregon where she grew up. We are so excited to have Lori on board at our center.
Kelly Tavano My name is Kelly Tavano and I am currently an assistant teacher in the Pre-K program. I'm married and have two wonderful daughters. I grew up in Florida and attended the University of South Florida. My professional background is in Orthodontics, where I worked with children and families as they had treatment that brought them smiles and self-confidence! It was my volunteer work that consistently led me to caring for young children. I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with little ones in elementary school while my own children attended, as well as teaching religious education in my church community. My philosophy is that each child is unique, therefore they learn and thrive at their own pace. I enjoy seeing the excitement and pride in each child's eyes as they discover new things and ideas. When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and our two labrador pups, Braley & Magic!
Mary Jo Ferraro Mary Jo has worked with children for over 15 years. She graduated with a degree in education from Plymouth State University and has worked in the private and public sector in special education as a tutor and life coach in a group home setting. When her children were young Mary Jo started a daycare out of her home. It was there where she began her introduction to South Church Preschool as she would drop and pick up many children of the children she watched at the school. Mary Jo started as a substitute teacher in the Pre-K program. She loves getting to see the social, emotional and educational growth a child experiences during the school year.
Angela Salonia Angela is currently an Assistant Teacher for the 3 day class. Angela received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Siena College. After graduation she worked at a Children's Mental Health Clinic in Syracuse, NY. Then she moved to Albany NY where she received her Master's and Licensure in Social Work. She worked for NYS Department of Children, Youth & Families for six years. Angela moved to Glastonbury five years ago and is excited to be joining the team.
Jennifer Bassi Jen has worked with children in various capacities for over 20 years, from camp counselor to first grade teacher and everything in between. Jen received her bachelor's degree from The College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass and her Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds CT state certification in elementary education and has over ten years classroom experience, having taught second grade in New York City and first grade in CT before taking a pause when her daughter was born. Both of her children attended South Church Preschool and had a fantastic experience. Jen is excited to work with the wonderful children of the South Church community.
Claudia Marcinczyk Claudia has been at South Church Preschool for four years. After substituting for 3 years. This year our beloved Claudia is our floating substitute and a favorite of all the children. She has her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Nursing from Boston University. Pediatrics was her specialty practicing in Boston, San Francisco and New Haven. She also has an MBA from UCONN in Health Care Administration. After a 30 year career as the CEO of VNA EAST, Claudia came back to her first love-working with children!!
Camilla Karimi Camilla is currently a program assistant in the 4-day program. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in visual communication, majoring in photography from the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography and specializes in working with children and families. She is a business owner, a mom and has more than 5 years of experience working with children ages 2 through 9 years. Camilla is passionate about giving children the space and encouragement to grow socially and emotionally. She believes that nurturing a child's positive sense of self helps them to discover what makes them unique, builds self-confidence and awakens their love for learning.
Mary Johnson Hello everyone! My name is Mrs. Johnson. I am the mother to 3 boys who are all alumni of South Church Preschool. The program here was instrumental to each of my son's academic foundations, as well as their social development. I've been working with children for 25 years in various capacities. The work is truly an amazing opportunity for me. I attended Manchester Community College and Central Connecticut State University. Since then, I have worked independently as an illustrator and have developed and implemented custom art programs for children ages 2-5. In addition, I was the director of a nursery school. These experiences allowed me to develop strengths with administrative duties, and years of working with children prepared me to assist in the classroom. My teaching style is creative, encouraging and nurturing. I believe that through creative play and the arts, your children will thrive and your children will receive an excellent academic and developmental foundation, enabling them to continue flourishing in their future.