“Miss Brenda” Zimmerman – Director
Miss Brenda has vast experience in Early Childhood Education with 23 years of experience in a variety of different preschool and church settings. She has spent the past 8 years as the first and only director of CLLC and has been instrumental in the development of the program and the culture. Miss Brenda gained her formal education through earning her Associates degree in Early Childhood Education and CDA in Infants and Toddlers and works hard to continue to educate herself by staying abreast of new developments in the field. She has a particular interest in research around brain development and social/emotional development in early childhood. Miss Brenda strives for continuous improvement at CLLC by implementing the most current best practices in early childhood education. To help make these ideas and concepts effective in CLLC, Miss Brenda works hand and hand with staff. She is very hands on in the classrooms and enjoys empowering teachers to help them make a breakthrough with a child. However, Miss Brenda’s true love is the children of CLLC. She always has time for a hug or to hear a story and is always ready to share funny stories with adults of how the kids have captured her heart.
One of her favorite stories is when a child approached her and said, “I love you Miss Brenda. I want to marry you!” To which Miss Brenda said, “Don’t you think you should ask my husband? He might not want me to get married again.” So the child agreed and they called her husband. Her husband, being the good sport he is, asked to speak to the child. So the child took the phone and listened for a while then said, “Okay, she can do that. Bye.” When the child hung up, he turned to Miss Brenda and said, “He said that it’s okay as long as I let you come home and cook him supper.”
“Miss Chris” Gurske – Lead Teacher, Assistant Director
Miss Chris received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and her Masters of Science in Leadership and Policy of Early Care and Education from Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts. Combined with her 19 years of experience in Early Childhood Education, Miss Chris aims to provide an environment that is both loving and provides children with many diverse experiences. Her experience include being a live-in Nanny as well as working at Radcliffe Child Care Center, which serves the facility and staff of Harvard University as a lead teacher, assistant director, and director. After relocating to Kansas, it was important for Miss Chris to have more contact with the children and the families through a lead teacher position at CLLC, which she has held for the past 5 years. As the Assistant Director, she enjoys being able to have the best of both worlds by keeping close connections to the children and families, helping to mentor new teachers, and assisting in the day-to-day function of CLLC. She hopes that as children graduate from CLLC, they will walk away feeling loved and that this was a special place for them to explore and gain new experiences.
Sometimes the best part of the day for Miss Chris is when she gets to sit back and observe the kids. One day during free choice play a little girl pipes up and says, “Whoever has a quiet center, raise your hand!” Now there is an Early Childhood Educator in the making.
“Miss Michelle” Saighman – Lead Teacher
Miss Michelle is one of the newest additions to the CLLC family and brings with her great skill, knowledge, and education. She has an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, a Bachelor’s degree in Human Service and a Masters in Social Work. Early on in her career, someone once asked her, “Are you just going to be a baby sitter for your whole life?” and her response was, “No! I am going to be an Early Childhood Educator.” She has a passion for providing the best early childhood experience to the children that she serves. Miss Michelle provides a strong emphasis on social and emotional development of the children in her room by utilizing resources like a feelings tent that allows children time to themselves as well as providing multiple modes of sensory input to help children learn to manage themselves. She also uses music and movement on a consistent basis to help children learn in multiple different ways to play to their strengths. In her personal life, Miss Michelle is also a Service Dog Foster Parent and is charged with socializing future service dogs. This also provides CLLC with a unique opportunity to provide an additional service to their children, as Miss Michelle brings her foster dog “Canty” into the center two days a week. Studies have been shown that animals provide children an effective way to help them learn and develop.
“Miss Karen” Kiefat – PM Lead Teacher
Miss Karen has worked with children for 15+ years and has a love for being around and connecting with children. She has a fantastic ability to connect with all children and make them feel special and loved. You might never know it by meeting her, but she is actually a bookkeeper and accountant by trade and has worked at her “real job” for 35 years. Miss Karen reports that it is a joy to be able to come to CLLC and spend time with the children. No matter what the stress of the day has been, once she walks through the doors, it all melts away. Miss Karen decided to come to work at CLLC after her daughter moved out of state. After going from attending activities for her daughter night after night to having nothing to do, she decided that she would take on a second job. Fortunately for CLLC, this has become more than just a job for her; she has become part of the family. Miss Karen makes a real impression on both the children and the parents by making a point to attend the children’s games and activities that they are involved in outside of CLLC, as well as making a point to give the children something special on their birthdays and for graduation. The real success for her is watching the children grow and change while they are at CLLC. She remembers one child who really struggled when he first started at the center. The child was not able to say more than a few words and was not potty trained, but when he graduated CLLC, the child was talking in full sentences and accident free. Another child she watched grow went from being teary-eyed all the time to walking in the doors of Kindergarten full of confidence.
“Miss Amanda” Stewart – PM Lead Teacher
“Miss Vicki” Gregory – Janitor/Substitute
Miss Vicki has been a part of CLLC for the past 7 years and brings with her a vast assortment of experience. She has received her certification in Child Development and an Associates in Early Childhood Education. Miss Vicki has been working with children for 33 years as a day care and preschool teacher and is currently an early childhood special education paraeducator at a local public school. She is also involved as a Sunday school teacher in her church. Although she steps in anytime she can as a substitute teacher at CLLC, her main role in the center is as the janitor. As a janitor, Miss Vicki is very interactive with the children. It is important for Miss Vicki to show the children that every job is important, and it takes people of all kinds and doing all jobs to make the world go round. In her interactions with the children, they learn that their actions and behaviors affect other people. Visitors to CLLC are often times reminded, by the children, to use only one paper towel after washing their hands. Helping Miss Vicki is often a reward for the children. Miss Vicki feels like this helps the children learn life skills, as well as encouraging them to take pride in keeping the center clean and running well. Miss Vicki feels proud of the work she does at CLLC when at the end of the day her helpers thank her for letting them help her, and she knows that the help they provided made them feel good about themselves.
“Miss Debbe” Freel – Office Assistant/Substitute
Miss Debbe is Miss Brenda’s right hand woman, helping keep the office organized and running smoothly. She has a Bachelor’s degree in elementary and early childhood education. She spent 21 years of her career as a Kindergarten Teacher and has a good knowledge base for what schools are looking for in the incoming Kindergarten class. She has also been instrumental in developing a preschool program as an Early Childhood Education Coordinator and has functioned as a director, so she has a good understanding of what it takes to run a center. Through all her experience mentioned above as well as her experience as a lead teacher and paraeducator, Miss Debbe brings a mountain of expertise and knowledge.