Our Staff

The people who make us who we are

LPP hires Bachelor and Master Degreed Educators who are nurturing, experienced, and who also possess strong personal commitments to the education of young children. Our multi-step interview process helps to ensure that the best possible teachers join our team.

On a daily basis, teachers create opportunities for discovery and learning in engaging environments where children feel safe, secure, and confident. LPP requires that all teachers possess a Bachelor or Masters Degree in Education or closely related field. Our goal is to provide an environment where teachers are valued and provided for in a way that echoes the value we place on their education and expertise. We are proud of the fact that many of our teachers have been with LPP upwards of 5 years. At LPP, all teachers receive additional hours of professional development training each year. Teachers attend professional workshops, conferences, and seminars designed to further early childhood education knowledge and skills, and to keep connected and current with best practices and research in the field.

LPP takes pride in the consistency of our staffing as well as in the environment as a whole. Children thrive in our program where teachers and children are not moved about from room to room. Having three teachers in every classroom allows for transitions to be conducted as smoothly as possible throughout the day, and ensures that all children’s needs are met both individually and as members of the group. Teachers are hired specifically for their expertise with various age groups and strong commitments are made to provide the best possible resources for teachers and the classrooms.
Directors and Education Directors at each location are actively engaged and connected to the day-to-day happenings in the classroom. Directors and Education directors work in partnership to uphold the schools philosophy, maintain NAEYC learning standards, and ensure that all aspects of the program run smoothly. All members of the administrative team are hired from within, as we feel strongly that this enables us to have a focused and intimate understanding of all aspects of LPP.

Ashley Gagnon

Director, LPP Belden

M.S. Early Childhood Education / Bilingual ESL Certification, Erikson Institute
B.S. Elementary Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.A. Spanish, University of Wisconsin-Madison
LPP since 2016

Gabrielle Houska

Education Director, LPP Belden

B.A. Elementary Education, Language Arts Minor, University of Michigan
LPP since 2017

Alison Burkhart

Community Resource Director

B.S. Early Childhood Education, Bowling Green State University
LPP since 2010

Megan Barrymore

Education Director, LPP Germania

M.A. Education; Special Education Specialization, Ashford University
LPP since 2006

Laura Bailey

Director, LPP Webster

B.S. Education Studies, Simpson College
National Director Credential, McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership
LPP since 2002

Amanda Jensen

Education Director, LPP Webster

B.S. Elementary Education, Reading & Literacy Minor, Cardinal Stritch University
LPP since 2011

Sharon Hickey-Kozek

Founder & Owner, LPP Belden, Germania & Webster

B.S. Early Childhood Education, Bowling Green State University
Founder of LPP 1994

Rebecca Bellonci

Toddler Lead Teacher

B.A. Psychology, University of California
AMI 3-6 Montessori Diploma, Northern California Montessori Teacher Training Center
Certified Positive Discipline Classroom Educator

Erin Peisert

Toddler Lead Teacher

MFA Art Practice, School of Visual Arts
B.A. Theatre, Columbia College Chicago

Veronica Van

Toddler Full-Time Assistant

B.A. Psychology (concentration in human services), DePaul University

Sydney Johnson

Twos Lead Teacher

B.S. Human Development and Family Science, Illinois State University

Toi Wells

Twos Lead Teacher

M.Ed. Instructional Leadership, University of Illinois at Chicago

Maricruz Alfaro Esquivel

Twos Lead Teacher

B.A Teaching English as a Second Language, Universidad Fidelitas

Kaleen Kortz

Threes Lead Teacher

B.S. Elementary Education, Marquette University
B.A. Communication Studies, Marquette University

Rachel Flaig

Threes Lead Teacher

B.S. Early Childhood & Special Education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Cynthia Almazan

Threes Assistant Teacher

B.A. Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago

Sean Kirwan

Pre-K Lead Teacher

B.S. Psychology, Illinois State University
Registered Behavior Technician

Carrie Rich

Pre-K Lead Teacher

Professional Educator License with Learning Behavior Specialist & Early Childhood Education Endorsements, Erikson Institute
B.A. Biopsychology, University of Michigan

Celia Shmyr

Pre-K Assistant Teacher

B.A. Communications, Michigan State University

Rachel Frields

2’s Lead Teacher

M.Ed. Early Childhood Education, DePaul University
LPP since 2018

Jillian Wagner

2’s Lead Teacher

B.A. Child Development & Elementary Education, Michigan State University
LPP since 2017

Jessica Hoyos

2’s Assistant Teacher

M.S. Marriage Family Therapy-In Progress, Northeastern Illinois University
LPP since 2020

Kelly Dicken

3’s Lead Teacher

B.S. Speech Language and Hearing Pathology, Southern Illinois University
LPP since 2014

Ali Jung

3’s Lead Teacher

M.S. Early Childhood Education, DePaul University
LPP since 2016

Josefina Olivares

3′s & 4’s Lead Teacher

M.Ed. Early Childhood Education (In Progress), DePaul University
LPP since 2019

Natalie Kuligowski

3’s & 4’s Assistant Teacher

B.S. Human Development and Family Sciences, University of Missouri
LPP since 2018

Monique Gambino

Pre-K Lead Teacher

MSEd Early Childhood Education
LPP since 2016

Jill Hill

Pre-K Lead Teacher

MEd Early Childhood Administration, National Louis University
LPP since 2014

Tory Wolver

Kindergarten Lead Teacher

B.S. Elementary Education, University of Iowa
LPP since 2017

Liz Cho

Kindergarten Teacher

B.S. Elementary Education, University of Illinois at Chicago
LPP since 2020

Rachel Krupsky

3’s & 4’s Lead Teacher

M.Ed. Early Childhood Education, Lesley University
LPP since 2013

Sarah Gerali

Toddler Lead Teacher

M.A. Child Development, Infancy, Erikson Institute
LPP since 2020

Danielle Dietrich

Toddler Lead Teacher

B.S. Interdisciplinary Studies Human and Educational Resources, Illinois State University
LPP since 2020

Barbara Galan

Toddler Assistant Teacher

B.S. Psychology, Universidad Iberoamericana de Santo Domingo, DR
LPP since 2019

Cady Andersson

2’s Lead Teacher

B.S. Theater/Early Childhood Education Type 2 Certification, Illinois State University/Oakton Community College
LPP since 2020

Josh Rosen

2’s Lead Teacher

B.S. Early Childhood Education, Rasmussen College
LPP since 2020

Paris Maxwell

2’s Assistant Teacher

B.A. Psychology, Governors State University
LPP since 2020

Kate Hulley

2’s & 3’s Lead Teacher

M.S. in Early Childhood SPED, Vanderbilt University
LPP since 2019

Cassidy Durand

2’s & 3’s Lead Teacher

B.A. Psychology and Applied Behavioral Analysis, University of Rhode Island
LPP since 2019

Morgan Cutler

2’s & 3’s Assistant Teacher

B.S. Fine Arts and Dance
LPP since 2019

Monique Gambino

3’s & 4’s Lead Teacher

B.S. Social Work, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
LPP since 2016

Ashley Bailey

3’s & 4’s Lead Teacher

M.Ed. Elementary and Special Education, DePaul University
LPP since 2012

Wendy Jimenez

3’s & 4’s Assistant Teacher

B.S. Early Childhood Education, Universidad Federada de Costa Rica
LPP since 2017

Allison Leonard

Pre-K Lead Teacher

M.A. Education, North Park University
LPP since 2014

Simone Platt

Pre-K Lead Teacher

MEd. Early Education, National Louis University
LPP since 2013
About

Ashley Gagnon

Director, LPP Belden

I grew up in Wisconsin, where I attended UW-Madison (Go Badgers!) and studied elementary education and Spanish. When I moved to Chicago I began teaching at a preschool and fell in love with early childhood education. Through hands-on working experiences, I began to see how quickly children at this age develop and how important their early experiences are. I knew I wanted to continue learning and growing alongside my students, while providing them engaging lessons and opportunities to explore in a nurturing environment. I was thrilled to join LPP Germania in 2016. I was welcomed with open arms and kindness by children, families, and staff, and I knew I would be calling LPP my home! Teaching at LPP has been an extremely fulfilling experience. I was thrilled to transition to the Education Director role in September of 2018 at LPP Belden, and 2 years later I became Belden’s Director. I am honored to take on this new role, and grateful for all of the opportunities I have to work with inspirational teachers, wonderful families, and extraordinary children. I look forward to many more joyful days at LPP!
About

Gabrielle Houska

Education Director, LPP Belden

I was born and raised in Plymouth, Michigan, where after I took the short journey to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for college. At U of M, I transformed my love for children into a desire to inspire young minds in early childhood education. When I heard about the community that formed around LPP’s philosophies, I knew I wanted to join the team at Belden. I began at LPP Belden as a Two’s and Three’s assistant before teaching as a lead in the Pre-K classroom. It was thrilling to learn alongside my students as my lesson plans came to life. I then took on the role of Belden’s Education Director. I am inspired every day by the teachers’ innovativeness, attention to detail with every lesson they execute, as well as the astounding patience and exceptional care they provide each child. It is an honor to be a part of this community of people who prioritize every child’s best interest.
About

Alison Burkhart

Community Resource Director, LPP Germania Director

I am originally from Painesville, Ohio. After graduating, I took a job in Bowling Green, Ohio as a preschool teacher at a small, chartered school that served children ages 3-Kindergarten. Soon, I was promoted to Assistant Director. After moving to Chicago in 2010, I accepted a position with LPP. I worked at the Germania location for three years prior to taking time off to be with my son Cohen. In 2014, I accepted a position in the Pre-K Classroom LPP Webster and in January 2015 I started my adventure as the Education Director. In 2018, I transitioned into the Community Resource Director role and in 2020 I moved into the Director Role at LPP Germania. I am happy to be working in such a fun and inspiring environment!
About

Megan Barrymore

Pre-K Lead Teacher

I grew up in Minnesota and love everything about the land of 10,000 lakes. I have lived in Chicago and worked at LPP since 2006. I enjoy the outdoors and my wife Mandolyn and I try to go camping as much as possible in our free time. Some of my other favorite activities include riding my bike, baking, playing dodgeball, and playing beach volleyball. I absolutely love working at LPP and have a blast learning, creating, and playing with my friends all day long.
About

Laura Bailey

Director, LPP Webster

Working with young children has always been a passion of mine. After graduating from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, I made the journey to the big city of Chicago! I have been fortunate to work with children in wonderful environments along the way. In 2002 I had the incredible opportunity to begin my career at LPP as a 2’s & 3’s Lead teacher. I knew instantly I had found my dream work place. Lincoln Park Preschool & Kindergarten is a magical school where young children are nurtured and encouraged to explore the world around them through appropriate practice and wonderful teacher facilitation. In 2004 I was promoted to the Belden Director role. Belden was my home away from home for 12 magnificent years. I am now honored to be the Director at LPP Webster. It is a privilege to be part of a school that always has the best interest for the children and families within its walls. It is also incredibly fulfilling to be a part of an organization that is constantly working to provide and support outside organizations within the city and around the world with quality education and resources. Lincoln Park Preschool & Kindergarten is a precious gift for children, parents and the community. I could not imagine being anywhere else!
About

Amanda Jensen

Education Director, LPP Webster

I am originally from Wisconsin. Along with receiving my degree, I met my husband in college and together we love exploring our great city of Chicago with our son and enjoying the rich culture that it provides. I began my LPP story at our Germania school in 2011. Since then I have had the pleasure of wearing many hats in the LPP world. I have taught in Germania’s Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms and in 2014 I moved over to our Belden location to serve as their education director until 2018. I now call LPP Webster my home, serving as their education director. My favorite part of this role is witnessing the magic that happens in every classroom. I am inspired by our talented teachers and warmed by our enthusiastic students. I look forward to living the next chapters of my LPP story.
About

Sharon Hickey-Kozek

Founder & Owner, LPP Belden, Germania & Webster

I believe that we are to be students of our children. When I was young, my mom would tell me I had a gift with children and how they responded to me, this sent me on a trajectory of wanting to be a teacher. While in school at BGSU I was fascinated by the development of a child’s brain and what happens before the age of 6. I loved what I was learning in my ECE classes and remember thinking that based on this research and knowledge of the development of a child’s brain, why do we start our children’s formal education at the age of 5? The vision was clear to me; I knew we were missing a profound opportunity to provide children with access to high quality early education in their early years, before the age of 5. After graduating, I taught for 8 years and then became Director of a preschool. Through some very God ordained circumstances, I knew I was being called to start my own school where I could impart my vision of how preschool education can further provide a foundation of character, curiosity and learning for children, teachers and families. LPP Belden was opened in 1994, LPP Germania in 1997 and LPP Webster in 2014. As an educator, I strongly believe that all early learning environments should be Nationally Accredited, which is a rigorous process in achieving the highest standards in early childhood education. LPP earned accreditation with the National Association for the Education of Young Children in 1999, and maintains that standing today. The impact of LPP is deep and wide reaching and I am humbled to be a part of the story. We believe that no matter the zip code you are born into, all children deserve access to high quality early education. We work hard to share the gifts, talents and resources of LPP and to work with organizations in underserved areas of Chicago and beyond our city, both globally and locally. I like to tell new young teachers in our schools that they stand on the backs of some powerful and innovative teachers and leaders who have added to the foundation and vision that you see and feel today in these schools. I am so grateful for every teacher and leader who has called LPP their home. They have all had an impact on our culture and have helped to write the story of LPP.
About

Rebecca Bellonci

Toddler Lead Teacher

Hi! I’m Rebecca! I’m so excited to join LPP Belden. I have a BA in Psychology from UC San Diego with an emphasis in Child Psychology. One of my professors mentioned Montessori Education, and I was immediately intrigued. I have worked in Montessori schools in California, North Carolina, Iowa, and Illinois as an assistant teacher, spanish teacher, PE teacher, lead teacher, education director, and preschool director. Hands down, teaching toddlers is my favorite job of all!!! I moved to Chicago in 2018 with my husband, Peter, and our daughter, Victoria (she’s now 16 and driving).  Outside of school, I love libraries and bookstores, reading, knitting, baking, cooking, eating, drinking tea, and anything active outside. I am always growing and learning, and I love supporting all the children by creating a loving community for every child where they can explore, create a love for learning, and feel a sense of belonging.

About

Erin Peisert

Toddler Lead Teacher

I am an early childhood educator and an artist. I have traveled, lived, created, performed, and been a lead teacher for learners ages 2-K from Chicago to China. I have a BA in theater from Columbia and an MFA in Art Practice from School of Visual Arts, NYC. I bring a creative approach to my teaching and engage learning minds through imaginative means in music, physical movement, visual art, and dramatic play, always emphasizing process over product. It is a privilege to support children’s development and the relationships I build with preschoolers are among the most meaningful to me.

About

Veronica Van

Toddler Full-Time Assistant

My name is Veronica but most people call me Ver. I grew up in Skokie, Illinois, and attended DePaul University where I majored in Psychology with a concentration in human services. Throughout my college career, I’ve volunteered and worked with various populations and kids of all different ages from mentoring middle school boys in the Southside to interning at an occupational therapy clinic my senior year. After graduating with my Bachelors degree in 2020, I worked as a therapist assistant for a pediatric clinic with kids with autism for a year. The experience solidified my passion for working with children. I’m excited to be a part of the LPP team and look forward to what the next year brings! In my free time, I love trying new restaurants in the city and creating art through photography and writing.
About

Sydney Johnson

Twos Lead Teacher

Hi I’m Sydney Johnson! I graduated from Illinois State University with my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development & Family Science. I grew up in the Quad Cities, Illinois and moved to Chicago following graduation. During my time at ISU, I found my passion for teaching early childhood while being a clinical student in the ISU Child Care Center. My love for education flourished while interning alongside the education director at The Goddard School for Early Childhood Development in Saint Charles, Illinois. I have been a teacher for ages twos and threes for several years now and am excited to be a part of the team at Lincoln Park Preschool. I love bringing storytime to life and teaching through music. My positive mindset and bubbly energy are my ways of making a classroom warm and welcoming. In my free time, I enjoy reading a good book, my gym routine, and rock climbing. Whether it’s a bike ride along the lakefront, hiking, or a picnic in the park I spend most weekends soaking up the outdoors. I am ecstatic to make connections with my new classroom and families!

About

Toi Wells

Twos Lead Teacher

Hello, my name is Toi J Wells. I am a Chicago, IL native. I was born and raised in Chicago, IL. I have been working with early childhood students for about 6 years. I attended undergraduate college in Atlanta, GA at Clark Atlanta University and Georgia State University. I have such a passion for early childhood students, I decided to return back to school to pursue a master’s degree in education focusing on early childhood and special education. I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016 with a Masters in Instructional Leadership. I enjoy teaching literacy, math and science to young children. I am a published author that has been featured in an educational blog called Math at Home, presented by The University of Illinois at Chicago. Outside of school I am a mother of a three-year young daughter named Paige. I enjoy cooking new recipes, working out and spending quality time with my daughter. I have a white Shih Tzu dog named Bentley and I enjoy traveling. I am happy to be a part of LPP and look forward to my new journey as a Teacher with LPP.
About

Maricruz Alfaro Esquivel

Toddler Lead Teacher

Originally from Costa Rica, I taught English as a Second Language to adults. I moved to Chicago in 2015 and discovered how much I love working with young children. I have always loved to teach through games and music, as we all learn best when we are engaged. In my spare time, I like to travel, snuggle with my two chihuahuas, try new food, play video games, and follow professional women’s basketball.

About

Kaleen Kortz

Threes Lead Teacher

Hello! My name is Kaleen Kortz! I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After graduating high school, I attended college at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I double majored in Elementary Education and Communication Studies. During my time in Milwaukee, I taught for 5 years at a diverse array of schools. I spent my free time teaching Kindergarten summer school, nannying, tutoring and volunteering for Big Brothers / Big Sisters. I am eager to serve students and provide them with the tools necessary to succeed as well as to work alongside parents to raise future authors, doctors, engineers, teachers, and anything they are passionate about! They can do anything they set their little minds to!! I am SO excited to start a new adventure in Chicago at LPP! Outside of being in the classroom, I love to travel, volunteer, golf, bake sweet treats, and spend time at the lake!

About

Rachel Flaig

Threes Lead Teacher

Hello! My name is Rachel Flaig! I am from Exton, Pennsylvania. I graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2019 with a Bachelors of Science in Early Childhood and Special Education. After college, I was a substitute teacher for several districts, taught an extended school year program for elementary students with autism, and was a Lead Teacher in a Pre-K classroom. My passion for teaching came from the amazing teachers I had growing up; I look forward to being that role model in my students’ lives! In my free time I am very active. I love running, hiking, and traveling! I am beyond excited to begin my new journey at LPP Belden in Chicago and meet all of the new students and families!

About

Cynthia Almazan

Threes Assistant Teacher

My name is Cynthia, but most people call me Cindy. I am so excited to form part of the 3s & 4s room! Upon graduation, I’ve had the pleasure of working in preschool classrooms and as a newborn hearing screener in the childcare unit of a hospital. It was through these experiences that I’ve found my passion to educate and care for children. I am currently working towards returning to grad school to obtain my MEd in early childhood education with a concentration in special education. In my free time, I enjoy activities such as aerial yoga, rock climbing, taking trapeze classes and creating art!
About

Sean Kirwan

Pre-K Lead Teacher

I am originally from St. Louis and grew up in Macomb, IL. I first became interested in working with children through an undergraduate internship at The Autism Place (TAP) of IL while attending Illinois State University. During my time at TAP, I worked with 2-3 year olds with ASD and first learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy. After graduating, I relocated to Washington D.C. where I started working at Easter Seals as an ABA Therapist at their Early Childhood Development Center. After five wonderful years in D.C. my wife and I relocated back to the Midwest and Chicago in 2019. I started working at an Early Ed program in their Pre-K classroom and started as a Lead Teacher in 2020. I live in Ravenswood with my pup RiRi, enjoy rock climbing/bouldering, going to concerts, cooking, backpacking, making music and exploring the city via bicycle. I am excited to join the LPP Belden team and continue my passion of teaching and working with children!

About

Carrie Rich

Pre-K Lead Teacher

Hi there! My name is Carrie. I’m from St. Louis, where I grew up in an amazingly crazy family of 8! I received my Bachelor’s degree in biopsychology at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!!) and then moved to Chicago to earn my teaching license in special education. After two years working as a learning specialist in Chicago, I moved to Madrid to teach English while doing a ton of incredible travel! Since moving back, I’ve attended Erikson Institute to receive my early childhood teaching endorsement and have spent three years teaching children ages 2-5 . I am so passionate about working with this age group and strongly believe that children develop language, cognition, creativity, and social skills through teacher-supported play. I am so excited to continue this work at LPP Belden! Outside of school, I love to travel and explore new places, cook, and spend time with family and friends.

About

Celia Shmyr

Pre-K Assistant Teacher

My name is Celia, but most people call me Cece. I grew up in Plymouth, Michigan and attended Michigan State University for college. I graduated with a degree in communications and moved to Chicago in January of 2018 to pursue my first job with a large company at the Merchandise Mart. After two years with that company, I left the job in hopes of finding something that felt more fulfilling. This led me to LPP! I began working as a permanent substitute teacher at all three schools and have absolutely loved working with the different ages and getting to know the children and the amazing staff. In my free time, I love traveling home to Michigan to visit with my family and catching up with my 9 nieces and nephews who I absolutely adore!  I also love cooking and trying new restaurants in this amazing city. I am so excited to have found my way to the Pre-K Classroom and I look forward to an amazing year.

About

Rachel Frields

2’s Lead Teacher

I grew up in a small town near Evansville, Indiana. After graduating high school, I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology and psychology. It was during my time at IU, while working at one of the campus child care centers, that I discovered my love for early childhood education. I was amazed by the way the children figured out their world through play and exploration. Shortly after graduating, I moved to Chicago where I have continued to work with young children in various ways and completed my Masters program at DePaul. I have been a nanny, preschool teacher, and daycare administrator. My journey at LPP began at our Webster location in 2018. I am excited to now be working with our youngest students in the 2’s class at LPP Germania.
About

Jillian Wagner

2’s Lead Teacher

I grew up in East Lansing, MI where I then attended Michigan State University. While in college, my love for education grew and an interest in Early Childhood Education flourished. Post graduation I accepted a position as an educator for the Great Start Readiness Preschool Program, a Michigan state-funded program for at-risk children. I believe in a curriculum that reaches a vast range of learners and a group of educators that solidify the everyday learning experiences with passion and a nurturing environment. I love what LPP stands for and feel so lucky to be a part of this amazing learning community.
About

Jessica Hoyos

2’s Assistant Teacher

I was born and raised in Chicago, then later moved to Columbia, Mo to pursue an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Spanish. Working with children has always been important to me, therefore, almost every job I have had reflects that interest. The positions that have impacted me the most have been working as a behavioral support specialist in homes and working at a therapeutic clinic for autistic children. During my time as a behavioral support specialist I was able to hone in on my interests and began to pursue a masters degree in Marriage Family Therapy (MFT) at Northeastern Illinois University. I believe that promoting children’s education, growth, and development is not only important for a specific child but for the future as well. Outside of work you can find me playing with my dog Stella and exploring the many diverse and exciting locations that Chicago has to offer.
About

Kelly Dicken

3’s Lead Teacher

I was born and raised in Springfield, Illinois. I began teaching preschool in 2010. I instantly fell in love with watching my student’s language and communication develop. It has been such a rewarding career choice and I have loved getting to know so many wonderful students and families over the years. I met my husband in 8th grade and we got married in June of 2013. We have a beautiful golden retriever named Wrigley. In my free time you would find me taking a work out class, reading a book, or spending time with my family.
About

Ali Jung

3’s Lead Teacher

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and after graduating from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism, I moved to Chicago in 2013. I worked as a marketing and graphic design consultant for a local swim school and soon realized that the bright spots of my days were interacting with the families and children who came through the facility each day. When given the opportunity to work at LPP as the permanent substitute teacher in 2016, I jumped at the chance to explore my passion for kids more deeply. I loved helping and learning from each LPP classroom and child, and I was inspired to pursue my Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from DePaul University! In 2018, I joined the Kindergarten classroom as the assistant teacher where I gained invaluable experience and guidance. After graduating from my program at DePaul in 2019, I’m excited to transition to the Three’s Room and join their amazing team! In my free time you can find me reading with an iced chai latte in hand, or listening to a podcast, doing yoga, or exploring Chicago’s many wonderful restaurants with my fiancé, Steve, and dog, Penny!
About

Josefina Olivares

3′s & 4’s Lead Teacher

I am born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and moved to Carbondale, Illinois for my undergrad career. During my time there, I worked with children at a school and at the Boys and Girls Club. After graduation, I moved back to Chicago to pursue a Masters degree. Working with children of any age and watching their growth and development over time is so rewarding. When I interviewed at LPP, I instantly knew that teaching in the 3’s & 4’s classroom would be such a joy. Outside of work, you can find me trying new coffee shops and taking Polaroid pictures of everything I see.
About

Natalie Kuligowski

3’s & 4’s Assistant Teacher

I am originally from Buffalo, New York, but have lived in Naperville, Illinois for a little over 14 years. I recently graduated from the University of Missouri receiving my B.S in Human Development and Family Sciences with a focus on Child Development. I enjoy surrounding myself with children and watching their excitement as they learn and grow. Outside of working in a preschool setting, I have also spent time volunteering at a therapeutic riding center and teaching students English abroad in Thailand. These experiences opened my eyes to the different ways I can influence a child’s development as well as how they can influence mine! I In my free time you can find me spending time with my friends and family, working out and doing anything I can outdoors. I am very excited to be a part of the 3’s and 4’s classroom at LLP Germania.
About

Monique Gambino

Pre-K Lead Teacher

About

Jill Hill

Pre-K Lead Teacher

I am originally from Southern California. In 2012, I moved to Chicago and began pursuing my M.Ed. in Early Childhood Administration. Shortly after moving to Chicago, I found my home at LPP. From the moment I walked into LPP, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this welcoming, nurturing, and inspiring environment. I began my career at LPP in the Two’s and Three’s classroom at the Belden school in 2014. In 2018, I joined the teaching team at LPP Germania in the Three’s classroom and in 2020 I moved to Pre-K. I consider it such a wonderful privilege to be able to partner with families to help children grow and flourish during this magical time in their lives. I am so happy to have the opportunity to work in such a great environment with teachers and administrators who share my true passion for early childhood education.
About

Tory Wolver

Kindergarten Lead Teacher

I am originally from South Eastern Iowa and a Hawkeye fan at heart. While studying Elementary Education at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, I worked with toddlers and pre-school students at a play based school. Throughout my work and education experience, I saw how important it is to work alongside teachers and administrators who are supportive and share the same educational values and goals as I do. Through LPP, I have found this and am unbelievably thankful! I love exploring how each child learns differently and how positive relationships impact learning.
About

Liz Cho

Kindergarten Teacher

I grew up in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, and graduated with my B.A. in elementary education from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2006. My first teaching position was in CPS teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades on the North Side of Chicago for 6 years. After my time in CPS, I decided to become certified through the American Montessori Society in early childhood Montessori teaching and philosophy. I was an intern and assistant for a year at a Montessori school in Evanston and became a lead directress the following school year in a (3-6 year old) classroom at the Montessori Academy from 2015 to 2017. In 2017, I moved to Northern California and became a Museum educator and Outreach Coordinator at a local Children museum in Sacramento. In the summer of 2018, I transitioned back to Chicago and was fortunate to continue my work in museum education for the Nature Museum in Lincoln Park as an Education Programs Coordinator. These experiences over the last 10+ years have shaped my passion for education and experiential learning. In my free time I love traveling, cooking from scratch, creating pastel art, listening to records, and practicing mindfulness through meditation and yoga. I am very excited to grow with the team and be a part of the LPP family!
About

Rachel Krupsky

3’s & 4’s Lead Teacher

I am originally from Bethesda, MD just outside of Washington DC. I love teaching early childhood education because every day is different and being with young children is such a joy and privilege. We are continually busy; being immersed in new and engaging curriculum, moving and growing while developing strong social skills. Before deciding to become a teacher, I received a B.S. in Graphic Design with a minor in Art History from Hofstra University in NY. After working with children as an intern, I decided to move to Boston, MA to purse my dream of becoming a preschool teacher. In my free time I love exploring Chicago, going to the beach and to art/street festivals.
About

Sarah Gerali

Toddler Lead Teacher

I am originally from the suburbs of Chicago. When I was little, my family moved to Connecticut and I stayed there for college. I attended Fairfield University where I obtained my Bachelor’s in psychology and played Division 1 soccer. Wanting to be closer to family, I moved back to Chicago and eventually attended the Erikson Institute, where I received my master’s in Child Development and Infancy. Prior to achieving my master’s degree, I worked as a behavior therapist with children with Autism and most recently, as a lead teacher in an infant classroom. In my free time, I enjoy reading and being with my family. I am thrilled to be a part of the LPP-Webster staff!
About

Danielle Dietrich

Toddler Lead Teacher

I am originally from a northwest suburb of Chicago, Wauconda IL, but Chicago has been my home for 2 years now. My passion for working with children started young, ever since high school I have been working with children of all ages and abilities in various settings, from summer camps to classrooms. Most recently, I have taught in a toddler classroom, 2s classroom and a kindergarten classroom. In my free time I enjoy reading books, baking and enjoying all the wonderful food this city has to offer! I am thrilled to continue my passion of teaching young children at LPP, and looking forward to all the of the learning, laughing, and growing this year has to offer!
About

Barbara Galan

Toddler Assistant Teacher

I was born in Jersey City, NJ, but raised in the Dominican Republic. Chicago has been my home for 2 years now and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Shortly after graduating from High School, I started working as a Teacher Assistant for a small preschool, which is where I fell in love with teaching. Seeing the children grow not only physically but also cognitively, their hugs every morning and just being around them, brought me the greatest joy I have ever experienced, so I’ve been in the ECE field ever since. When I first interviewed for LPP, I instantly knew this was going to be the perfect place to continue to do what I love the most, which is teaching. I can’t put into words how excited I feel to be part of the Toddler Team and the LPP family! In my free time, I enjoy going out to eat, cooking, reading, traveling and watching baseball games!
About

Cady Andersson

2’s Lead Teacher

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, after earning a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre from Illinois State University, I set my sights on Chicago. In 2012, I took a “day job” as a nanny for a family in Evanston while pursuing acting roles. This changed my life forever. Quickly I realized that I was more passionate about working with children than I had ever been about acting. After that realization, I put myself back through school and earned a teaching certificate in Early Childhood Education through Oakton Community College. I love to read, laugh, and explore the outdoors. I also enjoy spending time serving the community and helping others. One of my favorite things to do with children is to help them discover and appreciate the wonders of the world around them–including and especially the wonderful things that make them exactly who they are.
About

Josh Rosen

2’s Lead Teacher

I’m originally from Cleveland Heights, Ohio and moved to Chicago for college. I originally went to school for music, a passion and career that afforded me many opportunities, including teaching music at a preschool. This helped me solidify a strong passion for early childhood education that has blossomed over the last eight years. After a few years as a working musician, I changed gears and went back to school to officially get my degree in Early Childhood Education and have since been putting my degree to good use as lead teacher in a two-year-old classroom. I absolutely LOVE working with two-year olds. A two-year-old classroom is always full of curiosity, risk-taking, discovery, and silliness, which makes it so much fun to be a part of. When I’m not working, I enjoy playing music, cooking, traveling, and going on adventures with my wife and two dogs! I’m so excited to be a part of the LPP team!
About

Paris Maxwell

2’s Assistant Teacher

I have enjoyed spending my early years in the Chicago Suburbs but I’ve always loved the city, so I recently moved downtown right before completing my BA in Psychology at Governors State University in 2019. Outside of teaching I enjoy going on adventures and committing time to personal projects, such as photography, writing & much more! I started my journey working with children in 2016. I’ve worked with kids in many capacities and ages ranging from infancy to school-aged. There is no reward greater than being able to aid in the development of a child and I’m thrilled to be another form of support for each kid. I am so excited about learning, growing, and most importantly, having fun with all the staff and my little friends.
About

Kate Hulley

2’s & 3’s Lead Teacher

After growing up in a Chicago suburb, I returned to my birth-town of Evanston to attend Northwestern University. After graduating with a B.S. in Education and Social Policy, I studied Early Childhood Special Education at Vanderbilt University. During graduate school, I gained experience working with children of varying abilities and using a variety of support strategies in the classroom. After graduating with my Master’s degree and my Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification in 2017, I worked as a Head Start teacher in Nashville before returning to Chicago with my fiancé. After moving to Chicago, I worked at a therapeutic school as a BCBA and teacher to children diagnosed with disabilities. I then joined LPP in February of 2019 as a Lead Teacher in the 2’s & 3’s classroom! I love teaching and spending time with this curious and excited age group, working with families to support children’s success at school and home, and supporting children’s social-emotional development. In my free time, I enjoy hiking and being outside, cooking plant-based recipes, going to sports games (go ‘Cats!), and eating at all of Chicago’s amazing vegan restaurants.
About

Cassidy Durand

2’s & 3’s Lead Teacher

I’m originally from the East Coast and after graduating I moved to Chicago. In 2018 I started a job working at an educational non-profit and AmeriCorps program, called City Year. My passion for working in education started out in high school, where I volunteered in a kindergarten classroom. Since then, I have worked in various educational settings and with students throughout many age ranges and abilities. When I’m not working, I enjoy going on long bike rides with my boyfriend, exploring Chicago, cooking, and reading books! You can always find me at the local bookstore in my spare time. I am really excited to be a part of the LPP family!
About

Morgan Cutler

2’s & 3’s Assistant Teacher

I grew up in Vernon Hills, Illinois and graduated from Columbia College Chicago with my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. As my time in school progressed, I began to focus my studies on arts education and community engagement. During my last two years at Columbia, I was fortunate enough to work with Chicago Public Schools to create two new dance residency programs. These experiences really sparked my passion for education. I have also had the pleasure of working for Citadel Theatre’s education program for the past two years, where I helped young performers develop their own passion for the arts. In my free time you can find me teaching dance classes all across the Chicagoland area. I am very excited to be a part of the LPP team!
About

Monique Gambino

3’s & 4’s Lead Teacher

I grew up in Chicago, visiting museums, going on long bike rides along the lake, and figuring out how the train schedules work. I went to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and earned a double degree in Social Work and Spanish. Shortly after, I started working for DCFS as a Child Welfare Specialist until I began having a family. While I was raising my son Julien and my daughter Aria, I started my own business selling designer mid-century modern furniture to local dealers in the city. Working with kids is my passion, so while I maintained my business and raised my kids, I was assistant teacher for a CPS preschool and taught private Spanish lessons in Andersonville. I started working at LPP in March 2016 in the 3’s and 4’s classroom It is so much fun getting to know each child and watch them grow as individuals. Now, as a lead teacher in the 2’s & 3’s #2 at LPP Webster, I enjoy every moment of watching children learn through hands on activities and play. I’m excited to see what this year brings and I’m proud to be a part of the LPP community.
About

Ashley Bailey

3’s & 4’s Lead Teacher

I am a Chicago native with a BA in Psychology and a Masters in Special Education and Elementary Education from DePaul University. I came to LPP in 2012 as an assistant teacher in the 3’s & 4’s classroom at LPP Belden. I began my role as a lead teacher in the 3’s classroom at LPP Webster in September 2014. I am looking forward to all the fun and learning that this school year holds, not just for my students, but for me as well.
About

Wendy Jimenez

3’s & 4’s Assistant Teacher

I was born in Costa Rica, a beautiful tropical country in Central America, where I worked as a teacher for more than ten years. I moved to Chicago in the beginning of 2017, because love brought me here. I really admire the Chicago architecture and the cultural environment. I enjoy learning more and more about this majestic city. I love to teach as it allows me to be creative and have fun while I work. They say that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. I look forward to sharing my love for teaching Spanish with the students of LPP every day. Estoy segura nos vamos a divertir.
About

Allison Leonard

Pre-K Lead Teacher

Originally from northwest Indiana, I attended Purdue University to study Advertising & Communications. After moving to Chicago, I shifted careers and managed a custom frame shop for 9 years, before returning to school for my Early Childhood teaching certification. I attended North Park University, where I also obtained my Masters in Education. I taught my first year in a Skokie preschool, and then moved to Costa Rica to teach Kindergarten for three years. I started teaching at LPP in 2014 and feel at home here. I feel lucky to be working at such a well established and family centered school.
About

Simone Platt

Pre-K Lead Teacher

I grew up in Highland Park IL and graduated from Columbia College with a degree in Fiction Writing. After spending many years working in unfulfilling jobs, I decided to go back to school to pursue a Masters degree in Early Education, I graduated from National Louis in 2012, and have been a part of the LPP family since 2013 working as a lead teacher in the 2’s and 3’s Belden classroom. I am very excited to begin working with a new age group and hone my skills, knowledge and creativity in different ways. When I’m not teaching I love spending time with my family and friends.