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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 Sameen completed her bachelors in English Literature in Pakistan, where she started her journey in teaching. She worked at Hadley Elementary school as a long term substitute teacher for six months, and after discovering her interest and passion for teaching younger children, she continued to explore this and worked at All About Learning for five years, first as a preschool teacher for one year and then as a toddler teacher for four years. Sameen is teacher certified at the infant toddler and preschool levels by the Department of Early Education and Care. She is currently attending Greenfield Community College to acquire lead teacher certification for preschool. Sameen joined Fort Hill in the winter of 2023 as a preschool teacher..

Matthew Anderson, Supervising Teacher Matt has many years of experience as an early childhood professional, the majority of those as a Lead Teacher in Montessori programs. He holds graduate degrees in Education and Fine Arts, along with Montessori credentials and Lead Teacher certification through the Department of Early Education and Care. Matt enjoys the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching and greatly appreciates the Fort Hill community of teachers and families, which he joined in early 2023.

Connor Ardiff-Hart, Teacher  Connor earned his bachelor's in fine arts at UMass Amherst, where he majored in English and Classics, before taking on various jobs across the country, including editing Latin textbooks. It wasn't until moving back home to the valley in 2019 that he discovered his passion for working with children when he took on multiple roles at different Head Start programs in the area. After earning preschool-level Lead Teacher and Director credentials, Connor took a position floating between all Fort Hill classrooms in June 2023 before settling into the preschool program.

Lindsay Avery, Teacher  Lindsay found her passion for working with young children after graduating from high school, when she took a job at a summer camp thinking it would only be a summer job, and it turned into her career.  She then worked in the public schools as a paraprofessional in a kindergarten classroom helping English Language Learners, and eventually took a job working for an ABA center as a teacher in an inclusive preschool classroom for two years prior to joining the Fort Hill team in 2023. Lindsay earned her associates degree at Holyoke Community College in Early Childhood Education and is continuing her education towards her bachelor and master degrees.

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.

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.

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 before joining the teaching staff as a full-time classroom teacher. Rachel moved into an infant-toddler Supervising Teacher role in August of 2022. She previously interned and conducted research at the Orfalea Family Children's Center in Santa Barbara California and La Escuela Laguna Verde in Valparaíso 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  Kaitlan earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish at UMass Amherst in 2019, with a focus on teaching English to the Spanish speaking community in Northampton. She began her early education journey in 2020 and started teaching at Fort Hill in 2022. Kaitlan has been working mainly as an infant/toddler teacher at Fort Hill, and also loves teaching preschoolers when she is able to rotate among classrooms. 

Maddy Fischer, Teacher  Maddy graduated from Smith College in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in Gender Studies and a minor in Education and Child Studies. She loves working with children and has been doing so as a nanny since 2018. She worked as a student fellow in a kindergarten classroom in Holyoke and a teaching intern at Generation Teach in Denver in 2022. Maddy started at Fort Hill in August of 2023 as an infant/toddler teacher in the West Room.

Paige Holmes, Teacher  Paige graduated with a degree in English literature from Western CT State University. She received a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College in New York, where she also worked as a preschool Lead Teacher at the Bank Street School for Children. Paige taught Kindergarten and first grade in private schools in Connecticut, before moving to Massachusetts where she started working at Fort Hill in 2022.

Sarah Kunhardt-Horton, Teacher  Sarah graduated from The Colorado College in 1990 with a BA in studio art. While working at the Ethical Culture School at Fieldston Lower in Riverdale New York, she pursued a Masters of Science in Education at the Bank Street College of Education. She worked in the public schools in Chappaqua, New York and later taught as a head teacher to Pre-K children at the Rippowam Cisqua School in Bedford, New York. After stepping away from teaching to focus on raising her three children, she joined the team at Fort Hill working with pre-k children in the fall of 2022. 

Casey Magas, Teacher  Casey graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2022 with a dual degree in Social Thought and Political Economy and Spanish. After graduating, she worked in outdoor education at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment as a kindergarten summer camp counselor. She then joined the teaching team at the Montessori School of Northampton in the Fall of 2022. There she supported children in the preschool program and taught in the toddler after school program. She spent a summer teaching 9-12-year-olds outdoors at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary before joining the Fort Hill teaching team in 2023.

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 as an infant - toddler teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Rivier College and a master of Science degree in Child Development from Wheelock College, and completed post-graduate credits in Special Education and English as a Second Language. She is Director II and Lead Teacher certified for both infant/toddler and preschool age groups through the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. Crystal taught kindergarten-grade 3 and worked as a preschool teacher and education coach at Head Start in Massachusetts and California, and has created and developed professional development workshops for teachers. Before coming to Fort Hill she was a Reggio Emilia- inspired art studio teacher at Mount Holyoke’s early childhood education laboratory school. 

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 most directly with 5 year olds, but also with ages 5 to 8 facilitating art projects including book-making, paper-mache, illustration, prop-making and costume design. Rachael joined Fort Hill as a teacher 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  Emma graduated from Wellesley College in 2022 with a bachelor's degree in geosciences. After falling in love with the collaborative, hands-on nature of facilitating experiential education programs during a gap year, she completed education coursework in college and worked as a student teacher at the Wellesley College Child Study Center. She is an EEC certified infant/toddler and preschool teacher. Emma joined the Fort Hill team in November 2022.

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, before beginning her current position in the summer of 2021. Katie is currently the Visual Arts Teacher and the Preschool Program’s Afternoon Supervising Teacher. 

Kass Melo, Music Studio Teacher  Kassandra graduated Berklee College of Music in 2018 earning a bachelor of Fine Arts in both Songwriting and Vocal Performance. Kass has been a lifelong student of music and has a wealth of experience teaching private music lessons to young children, teens and adults. While living in Boston, she served as an artist mentor to young artists, a band leader, and music director at a school for young children. Kass has played in many bands and writes and performs her music in the Boston area and Western Mass. Kass joined the Fort Hill community as our Music Studio Teacher in early 2023.

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.

Balbir Singh, Rotating 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.

Ren Dominguez, Rotating Teacher  Ren Dominguez graduated from UMass Amherst in May 2023 with a dual degree in Special Education and Spanish. She brings experience working with children with and without disabilities as an arts camp counselor, tutor, teacher in a substantially separate public school setting, and now as a rotating teacher at Fort Hill. She joined the team in January 2024. 

Kaila Goldstein, Rotating Teacher  Kaila graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Critical Social Thought, where her studies included coursework in critical pedagogy and educational psychology. Prior to joining Fort Hill, Kaila worked with infant, toddler, and preschool aged children as a full-time nanny, and with children ages 3-7 in the nature play preschool and summer programs at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst, MA. Kaila joined Fort Hill in November of 2023.

Kristen LaValley, Substitute Rotating Teacher

Sarah Shimchick, Rotating teacher  Sarah graduated from Smith College with a degree in Psychology and is excited to have returned to the Smith Community as a rotating teacher at Fort Hill, beginning in October of 2023.  Sarah has a master’s in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, as well as a master’s in Education that she earned while a Corps Member with Teach for America in Phoenix, AZ.  Sarah has worked with a broad range of ages, from birth through high school, in both formalized academic settings as well as programs that are less structured. Sarah is excited to spend time with the infants, toddlers, and preschoolers at Fort Hill.

Marguerite Suozzo-Golé, Substitute Rotating Teacher  Marguerite graduated from Brown University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies and a focus on Climate Policy. She worked as a political organizer for several years before working at the Summer Festival for the Arts in Bar Harbor as a music and musical theater teacher in 2019. As a worker-owner at Riquezas del Campo cooperative farm in Hatfield, she worked with groups of children to teach them about growing food and caring for the land.  She has experience doing bilingual childcare for families in French and English, both in the U.S. and in France. She began as a rotating substitute teacher at Fort Hill in November of 2023.

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 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.