Skip to main content

A team of educators, including a supervising teacher and two or three assistant teachers, teach in each classroom at the preschool and infant/toddler levels. Rotating assistants support each of the levels and student workers supplement the staffing. To the greatest extent possible, children continue with a familiar teacher for their years in each level.

The teachers at Fort Hill are certified by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. Many teachers also hold Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Teacher licenses to teach young children. The diverse backgrounds of the teaching staff contribute to the quality of the program. Teachers have experience and education in many fields, including fine arts, photography, music, English, textiles, studio art, languages, psychology and education.

Meet the Teachers & Supervising Teachers

Fort Hill teachers and supervising teachers make up the professional staff of each CECE classroom. The teachers are extraordinarily dedicated and bring many skills and much knowledge to their work.

Sameen Ali, Teacher

Matthew Anderson, Supervising Teacher

Zulema Baker, Teacher  Zulema comes to Fort Hill with a wealth of experience from working as a preschool teacher in the Attleboro, MA school system for five years, where she also worked with kindergarten children in the before and after program as a lead teacher. Zulema spent ten years teaching preschool at the Attleboro YMCA and twenty one years teaching wellness and fitness classes for children and adults. She holds Preschool and Infant Toddler Teacher Certification from the Department of Early Education and Care. Zulema joined Fort Hill in August 2019.

Lindsay Baldyga, Teacher

Mark Bové, Teacher  Mark joined Fort Hill in 2001 and works as both a preschool and infant toddler teacher. Over the years, Mark has worked in every Fort Hill classroom. He earned his associate’s degree in early childhood education at Greenfield Community College in 2002.

Phyllis Carleen, Supervising Teacher

Malka Coburn, Supervising Teacher, Infant/Toddler Level Coordinator  Malka graduated from Smith College with a bachelor's degree in education & child study and psychology and a certification to teach elementary education. Malka worked in a child care center on Long Island for a year before attending Smith. While at Smith she participated in multiple research projects in elementary classrooms and worked as a student worker at Fort Hill for two years.  She came to work at Fort Hill as an Infant Toddler Teacher in 2013 and became a Supervising Teacher in 2016.

Rachel Connally, Supervising Teacher  Rachel graduated from Smith College in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in education and child studies and a minor in Spanish. She started working at Fort Hill as a student worker in the North Room and joined the teaching staff as a full-time classroom teacher in May of 2019. Rachel then moved into an Infant-Toddler Supervising teacher role in August of 2022. She previously interned and did research at the Orfalea Family Children's Center in Santa Barbara California and La Escuela Laguna Verde in Valparaiso Chile. 

Sabrina deKastrozza, Supervising Teacher  Sabrina earned her associate’s degree in early childhood education from Holyoke Community College, and her bachelor’s degree in child psychology from Bay Path University in May 2019. Before starting at Fort Hill, Sabrina worked as a teacher at Young World Child Care Center for three years, where she worked with preschool-aged children as well as kindergarten students in the before and after school program. Sabrina joined the Fort Hill teaching team in February 2019.

Kaitlan Doherty, Teacher

Kiara Griffin, Teacher

Paige Holmes, Teacher

Sarah Kunhardt-Horton, Teacher

Martha Murphy, Teacher  Martha earned her bachelor's degree in education in Medellin, Colombia and her master's degree in education administration in Bogota, Colombia. She taught in early childhood schools in Colombia for 15 years before joining Fort Hill in 2006. Martha has been a rotating teacher and a teacher on infant, toddler, and preschool teaching teams. Martha joined Fort Hill in 2006.

Jami Prusak, Supervising Teacher  Jami graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2018, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with a minor in education. During her time at UMass, she was a student worker at the Center for Early Education and Care in both preschool and toddler classrooms. She is an EEC certified infant/toddler and preschool teacher. Jami joined the Fort Hill team as a rotating teacher in August 2018 and has since become a full-time classroom teacher.

Crystal Rae, Teacher  Crystal joined Fort Hill in 2018. She works as an infant-toddler teacher. Crystal earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Rivier College and a master of science degree in child development from Wheelock College. Early in her career, she was an assistant director and director at early childhood education centers. Crystal also taught in public education for 10 years. In addition, she has worked as an educational coach and has created and developed professional development for educators. Most recently she was a toddler-preschool support teacher and art studio teacher.

Thea Stark, Teacher  Thea earned her bachelor’s in fine arts from SUNY New Paltz where she majored in photography and minored in biology.  She then took a nanny position for half a year after graduation, where she discovered her passion for working with young children and went on to take classes to earn her CDA credential from Tompkins Cortland Community College in NY.  She taught at a nursery school in Ithaca, NY for two years before moving to Northampton, and has been working at Fort Hill since November of 2002. Thea started as a rotating assistant, then as a classroom teacher and moved into a supervising teacher role in the summer of 2013.

Rachael Tani, Teacher  Rachael earned a bachelor's degree in Art Therapy from Emmanuel College in Boston in 2015.  She then worked as an art teacher at an art-based afterschool and summer camp program called The Community Art Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts for three years.  There she worked with ages 5 to 8 facilitating art projects including book-making, paper-mache, illustration, prop-making and costume design for the annual spring play.  Rachael joined Fort Hill in August of 2021.

Tori Torres, Supervising Teacher  Tori graduated from Smith College in 2017 with a double major in psychology and education and child study. She began working at Fort Hill the summer of her first year as a student worker, and also worked with Fort Hill as part of the De Villiers psychology lab conducting research on child development. Tori began working at Fort Hill as a teacher in August 2017.

Emma Van Scoy, Teacher

Nancy Wagner, Teacher  Nancy has been engaged in the field of early childhood education for her entire professional career. She began as a licensed family child care provider and came to Fort Hill in 2000 as an infant teacher. Nancy has worked with infants, toddlers and preschoolers in a variety of roles.  She currently teaches all the children at Fort Hill in her roles as a music teacher and a toddler teacher.

The Fort Hill studio teachers engage with all the children and teachers at Fort Hill. They bring specialized knowledge and skills to the program and are an integral part of the school. They work directly with children as both studio teachers and supervising teachers of the afternoon program. They also consult with the classroom supervising teachers to integrate the studio programs into the classroom curriculum.

Katie Fortier, Visual Arts Studio and Preschool Supervising Teacher  Katie graduated from Alfred University in 2014 where she studied Interdisciplinary Art and Art Education. Katie taught English as a Second Language in the Peace Corps and has studied and practiced as a Therapeutic Yoga and Children’s Yoga teacher. She has worked in preschool settings since 2016, including two years as a classroom Teacher at Fort Hill. Katie is currently the Visual Arts Teacher and the Preschool Program’s Afternoon Supervising Teacher.

Kass Melo, Music Studio Teacher 

The rotating teachers bring high quality to the program by providing familiar and consistent teaching when classroom teachers are absent due to vacation or illness and also join classroom teams to allow supervising teachers to work on special projects and meet with team members, other staff, and families. When not working in the classrooms, the rotating teachers assist with other school-wide projects. Rotating teachers bring special skills and knowledge  to the position as they know all of the children and teachers in the school and have often held a range of teaching positions at Fort Hill.

Debbie Harris, Teacher

Asa Parkhurst, Teacher

Balbir Singh, Teacher  Balbir earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the City University of New York and an Associate’s degree in textile design from the Fashion Institute of Technology.  Balbir holds a Director II certification from UMASS and has completed education course work at Greenfield Community College.  Balbir has worked as a teacher, a supervising teacher, and a rotating teacher in toddler and preschool classrooms since coming to Fort Hill in 1993.

The efforts of the Fort Hill teachers working together with the administrative team create the high quality early childhood program offered by the Center for Early Childhood Education. The administrative team has many years of experience with the program and are dedicated to building a strong community and high-quality early childhood program.

Laurie DeMello, Assistant Director  After an earlier career path studying biology at Union College and staying home to raise her children, Laurie entered the early childhood field when she joined Fort Hill in 2001. Laurie received a BA in Early Learning and Child Development from the University of Massachusetts and holds a Director II license from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. Laurie’s work has focused on children during the preschool years, working as a preschool supervising teacher since 2009, and the preschool level coordinator since 2012. Laurie moved into the interim Assistant Director role in December 2020.

Jen Godlesky, Director  Jen holds a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke and a Masters in Education from Smith College. She is certified at the Director II level through EEC, and licensed to teach both PreK-2 and 1-6 through DESE. She joined the CECE teaching staff in August 2002, and has been a Supervising Teacher across all age groups, from infancy through preschool. After three years in the assistant director role at Fort Hill, Jen moved into the director role in October of 2020.

Lori McKenna, Office Coordinator  Lori earned an Associate’s degree from Holyoke Community College and worked part-time as an office assistant in the medical field while raising her children. She joined the Fort Hill administrative team in 1999.

Professional Development

The Center for Early Childhood Education is committed to the ongoing professional development of teachers and the program closes monthly for full-day professional activities. On these days teachers: 

  • conduct staff meetings throughout the day and meet as a full staff, with classroom teams and within the level of preschool or infant/toddler to plan curriculum and collaborations, prepare and review documentation and plan for individual and classroom needs.
  • work together on the classroom environment.
  • engage in a professional activity. Shared learning is highly effective and supports the development of a learning community within the school. Teams are strengthened and collaborations develop. The professional activity may involve a school-wide initiative, may be facilitated by a staff member, or may involve outside consultation.