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.
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 2 day and 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, she 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.
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 Letizia to teach the 2-day program. Heidi's current role is Administrative Assistant for the program. Prior to coming to South Church, she worked for Patrons Mutual Insurance Company in their Human Resources and Marketing Department. Heidi attended Central Connecticut State University and Manchester Community College where she studied Communications and Psychology. In the Spring of 2010, Heidi completed her CDA Certification in Early Childhood. We feel blessed to have her as such an important part of our teaching staff. Her dedication to our students and program could not be more valuable to us.
Susan Thompson Susan is one of the longest running staff members at South Church Preschool. She has been working in our program for eleven 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 is a substitute 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.
Katherine Mark Katherine joined us in 2018 in the role of Assistant Teacher in the 4 year old program. She received her Bachelors Degree in Nutritional Science and minored in Women's Gender and Sexuality from the University of Connecticut. Katherine has been working with children for the past few years and is interested in pursuing her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education. We are so happy to have her be a part of our program.
Melissa Uriarte Melissa previously worked as a Program Assistant in our 4-day program and currently joins us as a substitute. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Central Connecticut State University. Melissa has been working with children for over fifteen years; her Mother has been a home daycare provider since Melissa was born. Being a part of young children’s care and education is not only second nature, but extremely important to her. Before coming to South Church Preschool, Melissa has worked as a preschool teacher, home daycare assistant, and an ABA therapist for an Autistic program. She has also been a substitute teacher in the Glastonbury School District. We are thrilled to have her on board and a part of our growing center.
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 an Assistant Teacher in the 2 day program. She has 8 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.
Laura Smith Laura joins South Church as one of the 4-day AM/PM Teachers. Laura grew up in Harwich, a small town on Cape Cod. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education from Westfield State University. Laura taught for the past four years on Cape Cod for the Head Start program. One of Laura's favorite aspects of teaching preschool is watching children succeed and become confident as they master new skills. Laura made the move to Connecticut this summer and resides in Hebron with her boyfriend. We are delighted to have Laura as part of our teaching staff.
Kelly Tavano My name is Kelly Tavano and I joined South Church Preschool as a substitute teacher in the pre-K room after 14 years as a stay-at-home mom. 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!