M. Ed., Early Childhood Education, Birth-Fifth Grade (UGA)
B.S., Early Childhood Education Birth-Fifth Grade (UGA)
As I reflect on where I am today, I have to acknowledge where I have been, and the great influences I’ve had throughout my career. I was one of the lucky ones that never struggled with my choice of careers. Growing up in Savannah, GA, as the middle child of five, I knew that whatever I did had to revolve around young children. I became fascinated by their way of thinking, creativity, and approach to life, not to mention their energy! I met my husband as a student at the University of Georgia, and after graduating, I taught for several years in a public school there. We later moved to Charlotte, and I was a teacher for many years in several different preschools, and also taught in an elementary school. During these years, my approach to learning continued to evolve. I was greatly influenced by dedicated mentors that promoted recognition of collaborative learning, and the importance of a deeper level of knowledge. My husband’s job took us to Kentucky, where I became the Assistant Head of School, at a Reggio-inspired preschool. I held this position for six years, after which we relocated to Greenville, SC. There, I had the privilege to teach in a well-established Reggio program. Now, I am thrilled to be back home, where we so enjoy being with our two grown children and two precious grandchildren.
Let me personally say that the Reggio-inspired approach has affected me in so many ways. I’ve learned that there are many answers out there, and quite a few paths to get to those solutions. This carry-over of the spirit of collaboration in my life adds to a strong sense of community. Since nature is such an element in this philosophy, it has created a lifelong love and appreciation of our world.
We take our role in the lives of these young children very seriously, and with much reflection on how to further support them, as well as their families. If you are already a part of Laurelwood Community Preschool, or are considering it for your little one, please know that your thoughts and ideas are important to us, and we would appreciate hearing from you.
M.A., Teaching in Early Childhood Education, Birth - Kindergarten
B.A., Child and Family Community Services, Birth - Kindergarten
I’m Kathleen O'Connell, the Director of Education for Laurelwood Community Preschool. My hometown is Chicago, Illinois, and I'm the youngest of three siblings. Throughout my childhood I enjoyed playing games that involved teaching and caring for others and always had a strong inclination to be nurturing toward others. During my childhood I also struggled with school. I always had the desire to learn, but I never felt like concepts were being taught to me in a way that I truly understood. Thankfully, I have an incredibly supportive family who did whatever they could to encourage and inspire me. When applying for college and contemplating degrees to pursue, it was obvious - I needed to use my past educational experiences to better education for young children so they are given every chance to thrive.
I attended Michigan State University where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Child and Family Community Services, focusing on Early Childhood Education, Birth - Kindergarten. Throughout my time at MSU, I worked in the university's laboratory program as an Administrative Assistant and Assistant Teacher. I also completed my student teaching at this program. After graduating in 2011, I was hired as a Lead Teacher at Lansing Community College's laboratory program, Early Learning Children's Community (Early LCC). This is where I was introduced to the Reggio Emilia Approach and was able to work with incredibly inspirational teachers who mentored me in this beautiful, forward-thinking approach to early childhood education.
In 2013, I moved to Charlotte and enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for my North Carolina teaching license (Birth - Kindergarten), which I completed in December of 2014. I also became a nanny for a family in Charlotte in August 2013 and worked with them until recently.They have become my family in Charlotte, and it's been an honor to watch the children flourish into amazing people. In June 2015, I began my Master of Arts in Teaching in Early Childhood Education, Birth - Kindergarten, and graduated in May 2016. When I found the opportunity at Laurelwood Community Preschool to bring the Reggio Emilia Approach to the Charlotte area, I knew I had to be a part of this journey. I truly believe the Reggio Emilia Approach respects young children while developing imagination and critical thinking skills necessary for further learning through collaboration of children, parents and teachers.
As the Director of Education for Laurelwood, I will work our teaching staff, you and your child to provide a quality learning environment to help your child reach his/her creative and intellectual potential. I am looking forward to going on this journey with you and your family!
A.A., Early Childhood Education
Working with young children is more than a profession for me. It is my passion! My name is Elizabeth Romero, and I was born and raised in New York City. Growing up, my mom was an admissions director for a local college and later became an educator. I saw the shift in her mood as she became a preschool teacher. There was much more joy in her stories when asked about her day. I was always excited to help with preparation for the following school day. Teacher supplies made me and still make me very happy! Most importantly, I wanted to be that “teacher” who impacted a child’s life with positive school memories.
For the past 14 years, I have had the honor of working with and alongside children in a private Reggio-inspired school. I earned my Associates degree in Early Childhood Education from the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City. I have worked with children from infancy through second grade, and each day is better than the one before it. The Reggio approach is one I hold dear to my heart. Giving children the tools to explore their world and be a part of their very own learning is beautiful to watch and document.
In November of 2016, after the birth of my daughter Emelia, my family and I were ready for a new environment that would provide us with much more space for our growing family. In June, we moved to South Carolina and closed on our first home! I knew that I wanted to continue my role as a preschool educator and searched for a place that would value children. I have found that place at Laurelwood. The curiosity, love and joy of learning that children bring with them each day provides me with all the tools I need to build on their foundation of endless possibilities. I am excited to continue my journey as an educator and the studio facilitator here at Laurelwood Community Preschool. I look forward to collaborating with fellow educators, families, children and the community.
B.S., Child Development
I am Kristen Leggiero, an educator at Laurelwood Community Preschool. I have lived in the Carolinas for twenty years and began working with children in 2001. I began as a volunteer at an art studio for children called Noah’s Art and quickly discovered that I was passionate about pursuing an education and career in educating and inspiring children. I currently live in South Carolina with my husband and our one-year-old daughter. Being a mom has been the most rewarding and amazing experience.
I attended Appalachian State University where I received my Bachelor of Science in Child Development with a concentration in Psychology. I was introduced to the Reggio Emilia Approach while studying at ASU, and its philosophy fascinated and inspired me. I was inspired by the confidence and capability of children as young as two years old. They were responsibly using items made out of glass and using adult screwdrivers to investigate the internal workings of an old computer! Laurelwood is my first opportunity to work in a Reggio Emilia teaching environment, and I couldn’t be more excited. My past employments have involved teaching art to children ages two through ten, being a preschool educator for two-year-olds in a Child Development Center, working as a family assistant for a family with three special needs children, and working with an award-winning author whose subject is Asperger syndrome. Each of these opportunities has provided continuing education, immeasurable experiences and lasting relationships.
I pride myself in working closely with children and their families to ensure their child’s greatest potential is achieved. I am excited to work with each family at Laurelwood as we embark on this new and exciting journey.
Two Years of General Studies at Florida State University
Currently persuing Early Childhood Education Studies at CPCC
I am Jami Hedin. My teaching experience includes two years as an assistant teacher in a preschool environment. I absolutely love teaching in the classroom. There is no greater joy to me than watching a child learn and grow. I attended Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where I majored in Fashion Merchandising.
While in college, I met my husband, and we've been married for twenty-three years. We have four children ranging in age from eight to eighteen. All of my children are unique and different, and this has taught me to be a very tolerant, loving and patient person. My husband and I parent each one of our children differently. I’ve learned that you cannot use a "blanket approach" when it comes to children. You have to find the method that works for each one. This strategy has carried over with me into the classroom. I believe that when you know and understand a child, you will help the child reach his/her maximum potential. Helping a child become a lifelong learner and fostering a love of school is something that will carry over throughout his/her life. The Reggio Approach seeks to do this through inquiry-based project work emerging from the students own interests and is very appealing to me. It goes along with the idea that life is unpredictable, and there are no set outcomes.
I firmly believe that parents are their children’s first teacher. That is all my children knew until I enrolled them in school. I wanted their preschool experience to be an extension of our home and what I was teaching them. I specifically looked for schools that would spark their particular interests, help them learn to problem solve, and to think outside of the box all within a loving but fun environment. Laurelwood Community Preschool does this. Maximizing children’s potential, helping them become life-long learners, and fostering their growth physically, mentally, and emotionally is what I've been called to do in this amazing Laurelwood Community Preschool setting.
B.S., Psychology, concentration in Child and Family Development
I am Michaela Robbins. I’m originally from Asheboro (home of the North Carolina Zoo), and I have two older siblings. I moved to Charlotte in 2014 to continue my education and fell in love with the city now making it my home.
My first interactions with young children began when I was fifteen-years-old in teaching gymnastics. I loved seeing the children’s reactions when they learned a new skill, and it made me feel like I was making a difference. It was at this time I knew I wanted to work with children as a career one day, but I wasn’t sure what path I would take. I was encouraged by my mom to take an education class where I would go to different preschools and volunteer throughout the day. The young children kept me on my toes. Watching them learn new skills truly amazed me, and this is when I knew I wanted to become an early childhood educator.
I am a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where I studied Psychology with a concentration in Child and Family Development. This is where I was introduced to the Reggio Emilia Approach, and it sparked an interest for me. Laurelwood is the perfect setting to put into practice what I have come to love and appreciate about Reggio. It is so important to me to be a compassionate educator and always encourage children throughout their education. I am excited to be a part of the Laurelwood community, and I will support you and your children as we learn together!
B.S., Elementary Education from George Peabody College of Education of Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee)
Additional training and Certification in Early Childhood Education from Queens University in Charlotte, NC
Graduate work in Early Childhood Education at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC
I come from a family of teachers, musicians and artists. My career has focused on teaching and directing programs for young children ages 3 through 8. Beginning in Project Head Start in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I have worked with children and families in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Indiana.
The mother of three grown children and grandmother of six, I can not remember a time when I was not in the company of teachers or children. Work experiences have included teaching and directing in: Head Start, public schools, private nursery schools and kindergartens, and as director and teacher of a Pre-K program (The Early Learning Center) that served as a laboratory school at Queens University. Leaving that position at the center closing, I opened an art studio for children (Today’s Child) in the Dilworth community of Charlotte, NC.
Leaving Charlotte, I moved with my husband to Pittsburgh, PA and then, to Indianapolis, IN. While in Indy, I taught fours before becoming director of a church preschool. Additional work has been in the field of teacher training and curriculum development. In this capacity, I have worked for Ivy Technical College (Indiana), Central Piedmont Community College (Charlotte, NC) and York Technical College (Rock Hill, SC). Training experience has included positions with Child Care Answers in Indy and Child Care Resource and Referral, Inc. in Charlotte, NC. I have co-authored and illustrated a curriculum book for teachers (First Time Circle Time) published by Simon and Schuster.
Art, music, and poetry writing are some of my hobbies. The Reggio Emilia approach is my passion. Currently, I am serving as the Creative Director of RE-CHARGE (Reggio Emilia Charlotte Area Group Engagement), a study group of the NC Southwest Association for the Education of Young Children. In addition, my role with Laurelwood is that of curriculum advisor.
B.S., Business Administration
Graduate work at Gardner-Webb University and the University of NC at Charlotte
I’m Angela Berger, owner, of Laurelwood Community Preschool. I’m a native North Carolinian from Shelby and now reside in beautiful, historic Waxhaw with my husband and two children. My life changed in 2009 when I had my precious twins, Hannah and Joshua, and so did my career interests. In 2014, I decided to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education to complement my degree in Business Administration. During my studies, the Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education captured my heart and mind. With the support of others in the early education field, I decided to open a Reggio-inspired preschool in Waxhaw.
The focus of Reggio Emilia revolves around the children as capable, competent learners, their parents as valued educators in the process and the community we all share that greatly influences our lives. Waxhaw is rich in its love for nature, an appreciation for the arts, and a feeling that the community history we have in Waxhaw is special and worth preserving. All of these elements are celebrated in the Reggio Approach making it the perfect choice for the community of Waxhaw and its neighboring towns.
I invite you to take your time examining the website to understand the values and philosophy of Reggio Emilia and encourage you to tour the center to see the difference that a Reggio-inspired education offers your child and family.
One last closing thought is an expression of gratitude for all of the families who choose to make Laurelwood Community Preschool their child’s home-away-from-home. As parents, your children are your world and allowing us to come along side of you in the education and care of your children during their most formative years is an honor and profound responsibility that drives everything we say and do at Laurelwood. Thank you, parents.