Support Staff


Oak Valley Director Karin Nowak joined Gretchen’s House in 2007. Karin graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and received her M.S. in Early Childhood Studies/Education, Administration, Management and Leadership from Walden University. She is also a certified HighScope Trainer. She recently has become involved in advocacy for the field of early childhood. Karin has worked in both public and private schools and owned her own center for 12 years. She has four children and six grandchildren. Karin enjoys spending time with her family, reading and attending sports events. Karin Nowak


Office Manager Heike Hampel has been with Gretchen’s House since 1997. She started as an afternoon teacher at Gretchen’s House-WISD before she came to Oak Valley. Heike is originally from Germany where she received her bachelor’s degree in Early Education. She also attended Washtenaw Community College for her Administrative Assistant Technology Certificate. Heike has two children and enjoys watching their soccer and hockey games, and other events.  In her spare time she also likes going on walks with her dog and spending time with family and friends.
Office Manager Kristin Murawski job shares with Heike Hampel and also works as a BRT.   Kristin received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Northwood University. She has been a substitute teacher for over 6 years and is currently working on her Early Childhood Education certification.  She enjoys golfing, gardening, going up north, and spending time with her family. Kristin has a passion for working with children and is excited to become a part of the Gretchen’s House.
Cook Emily Schinske has been with Gretchen’s House since December 2015. Starting as the Infant Support Teacher, she later transitioned to the Cook/Afternoon Teacher at our center on Mt. Pleasant. She received her associate’s degree in Elementary Education from Washtenaw Community College in 2011 and will complete a bachelor’s degree in Children and Families in Early Childhood Education from Eastern Michigan University in Spring 2018. In her spare time, she enjoys making jewelry out of polymer clay, cake decorating, going on walks with her husband, and playing with her two adorable cats. 20151214_100457
Overall GH BRT Amber Johnson “Hello my name Amber Johnson! I went to willow run schools and graduated with Continental academy. I come from a big family so I’ve always been around little kids. In my spare time I love to crochet and travel with my boyfriend, Andrew.”
BRT Sarah Kilts holds a B.A. degree in Cultural Anthropology from Ithaca College with a minor in Writing. She has studied and lived in Kenya, Uganda, India, Nepal and Tibet. She has spent over ten years working in Arts Education in both public and private settings. Sarah is trained in the early childhood music and movement program, Music Together. She was the Director and Registered Teacher of her own Music Together Center in Toronto, Canada for the last 7 years where she made music with thousands of students and their families. She and her hubby have two children and four sweet kitty cats!
BRT Jenna Church graduated in May 2017 from Jackson Community College with an Associates degree in Arts, in December 2019 she graduated from Liberty University with a Bachelors of Science in Early Childhood Education.  Jenna has worked with children for several years at her church as a Preschool teacher as well as the nursery.  In her spare time Jenna loves being outside and enjoys activities such as; fishing, gardening and taking walks.
BRT Caryn Wilson
BRT Melinda Stainbrook Hello! My name is Melinda, I originally grew up with my big family in Maumee, Ohio. I earned my degree in Early Childhood Education in 2019. I moved to Michigan for a better job opportunity and I am excited to meet everyone and to be at Gretchen’s House! I babysat throughout my life. Which made me want to become who I am today, a Teacher. I am a very loving and nurturing person. I have always had a passion for working with young kids. I hope to be that positive role model to them. Children like to explore and discover things on their own. That is why I believe children learn by doing, they learn through play.  I love being with my family, friends, and my boyfriend in my free time. I love coffee and country music! I enjoy being outdoors on nice days and watch movies on gloomy days. In my spare time, I try to read some good books.

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Kelly Lessard was the Lead Teacher in the Garden Infant/Toddler program before taking on the role as Assistant Director. She has been employed with Gretchen’s House since December of 2006. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University, majoring in Child Development with an emphasis on early childhood education. Kelly recently completed her Master’s Degree at Eastern Michigan University in Educational Psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family. Some of her interests include shopping, sports, and outdoor activities.
LAKE Infants and Toddlers
Lead Teacher Courtney Race started working for Gretchen’s House in 2017 at Dhu Varren as an infant/toddler teacher before making the move to Oak Valley. Courtney received her bachelor’s degree in 2015 from Central Michigan University in Early Child Development and American Sign Language. When she’s not at work, Courtney and her boyfriend are busy with their puppy, Milly.  Courtney enjoys mountain biking, working out and spending time with friends.
Teacher Lindsey Hayes graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Early childhood Education from Eastern Michigan University.  She has worked with children all of her adult life.  Lindsey enjoys traveling, playing board games and hanging out with friends.  Lindsey also recently returned from a year in Germany as a nanny!  
Teacher Kelsey Shannon graduated from Ferris State University in 2020 and is excited to begin her teaching career at Gretchen’s House! She has been passionate about teaching for as long as she can remember. She has experience with infants through sixth graders and is especially interested in the early childhood years. As a life-long learner she’s hopeful and excited to get her master’s degree in early childhood education. Her goal is to make a lifelong impact on children and families and help them grow, learn, and succeed in their own ways. Outside of work, Kelsey enjoys baking, crafting, and spending time with her family and friends.
Teacher Abby Harmon graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in both Early Childhood Education as well as Elementary Education. She has worked with children ever since she was basically a child herself. Abby has worked with them in a variety of ways from babysitting to working as a party leader to camp coordinator as well as working with them in a classroom setting. Abby has 5 years of teaching experience and is ready to make a difference in as many lives as possible.
LAKE Preschool
Lead Preschool Teacher Cassie Castro graduated in 2011 from Saline High School. She attended Madonna University where she played volleyball for 4 years and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development in December 2015. Previous to Gretchen’s House, Cassie worked at St. Mary’s Child Care Center as a preschool teacher. In her spare time Cassie enjoys coaching club volleyball, exercising and spending time with her family & friends. QkOCHdLb7AzXkjUxYQSV_mewOpsFLwYdTd2abQuTZSk
Preschool Teacher Joy Newton graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2006 with a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education with the three minors of Science, Early Education and Reading. Joy previously worked in a preschool classroom setting for 7 years. Some of Joy’s past times included reading stories of all kinds, traveling and listening to a variety of musical styles. Joy is also a big Michigan and Eastern Michigan fan! Joy Newton
Teacher Beth Music is excited to be at Gretchen’s House, and look forward to meeting you and your children. She recently moved to Ann Arbor from Louisville Kentucky where she taught preschool.  Beth graduated from Muskingum University with a degree in Religion/Philosophy, and has been working with and caring for children for nearly twenty years.  When she is not at work, Beth loves to read, run, watch baseball and hang out with her husband and their dog Sabo.  
Afternoon Teacher Sahar Kazi comes to Gretchen’s House with a Bachelor’s degree in Business. She was born in India and moved to the United States in 2008. She enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Sahar also loves spending time with her 5 year old. She is excited to be a part of our Gretchen’s House community.
Assistant Director Knar Pifer is a Michigan native and has been teaching since 2007. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. Currently, she is pursuing her Masters in Special Education: Moderate Disabilities. Knar has previously taught pre-school, 2nd grade and 5th grade. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, camping and playing board games with her husband and their families!
Garden Infant and Toddlers
Lead I/T Teacher Jade Teachey is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University, and has an educational background in elementary education, early childhood education, integrated science and early literacy.  Her practicum and student teaching placements have given her experience working with students at varying age and developmental levels.  She enjoys spending time with her husband Paul and her son Everett.  She is excited to be here at Gretchen’s House, and to have the opportunity to teach infants and toddlers.
Teacher Kristall Tedesco says that her passion is working with children and she is excited to be at Gretchen’s House!  She earned a a BA of Science at Eastern Michigan University in 2009.  She is a certified teacher for K-8 with an endorsement in Science, and has been a 4th grade teacher.  Kristall has also provided child care for families of children aged 6wks to 10yrs.
Teacher Alexa Gates has been working with children since February 2017.  She married her high school sweetheart in 2017 and is hoping to start a family of her own soon.  In her spare time she likes going on walks with her dog, and going to the lake.  Her goal is to get her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education.
Afternoon teacher Jasmine Beemon, started as a sub at GH in November 2017.  She has worked at Honey Creek Community School for the past 4.5 years in the after-school and summer camp programs with ages kindergarten through eighth grade.  Jasmine will be returning to Washtenaw Community College in the fall to earn an associates as a CCP (Child Care Professional). She attended Eastern Michigan University last year to major in Special Education with a specialty in Cognitive Impairments. In her spare time, she enjoys going to movies and hanging out with friends and family.  Jasmine has 3 dogs and 2 cats, and is extremely happy and excited to work in the preschool room.  Jasmine looks forward to meeting you all!
GARDEN Preschool
Lead Preschool Teacher Amy Kasvin attended Miami University, Oxford, OH where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Studies and minors in Nutrition and Child Studies.  Amy worked for two years as a preschool teacher in East Lansing and then as an Assistant Department Head of kids activities at Lifetime Fitness in Cincinnati, OH.  In her spare time, Amy enjoys dancing, skiing, traveling to see family and watching MSU football!  
Hello! My name is Brittany Pennington and I am about to begin my adventure here at Gretchen’s house in the Garden Preschool Room. Although I will be new to Gretchen house, I am not new to caring for children and child care. My love and experience with children began at my home with 7 younger siblings.  After I moved away for college I continued and began my studies of child development. I have my associates degree from Washtenaw Community College in Child Development and my Bachelors Degree from U of M in Child and Family Studies. I have been working in childcare since 2011. I have experience working with child care from infant to preschool age.  I moved to the Ann Arbor area in 2010 and shortly after, I met my now husband Eric. We have a active and curious 4 year old son, named Elliott that will also be attending Gretchen house.  As a family, we enjoy camping, biking, exploring new places, spending time with family and friends, and taking our puppy Layla for walks.  I can’t wait to meet your child  and  family!
Teacher Sara Harrington attended Kent State University in Kent, Ohio where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Education, minor in History, and a Certificate of Disability Studies and Community Inclusion. Sara has worked as a preschool teacher the last two years. In her spare time, Sara enjoys baking, hiking outdoors, spending time with my family, and gardening.
Afternoon teacher Valerie Duncan is excited to be starting her journey in early childhood development with Gretchen’s House. Valerie feels that having the opportunity to have a career where she can help teach and learn alongside all of your children is truly a blessing. She is eager to become part of such a fantastic team where she can utilize her strengths and passion for working with children. There is nothing more fulfilling and rewarding then being able to make a difference in a young child’s life.

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Assistant Director Pam Preston graduated from Ferris State University after studying Early Childhood Education and completing her CDA.  Pam is the Program Director for the Forest Pod here at Gretchen’s House as well as the Head teacher for the Morning Preschool program.  In the summer months Pam coordinates the Summer Camp (Scamp) Program.  Pam enjoys scrap-booking, gardening, running and cheering the Notre Dame Football team in her spare time. Pam Preston
FOREST Preschool
Forest PS Lead Teacher Stephanie Lingo graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Elementary Education in May 2010. Stephanie started teaching at Gretchen’s House in August 2010 and is very excited to be a part of our team. In Stephanie’s spare time she enjoys water skiing, rollerblading and spending time with her family and dog. Lingo
Teacher Alison Robbins was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. (No, she is not an Ohio State fan but does avidly support the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals.) Before graduating from Central Michigan University in 2010 with her degree in Family Studies, she participated in the Disney College Program. There she fell even more in love with everything Disney. Alison earned her CDA in December of 2015.  In her spare time Alison enjoys reading, watching Super Hero movies and drinking coffee. Alison Clary
MEADOW Preschool
Lead Teacher Alyssa Hyde graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Michigan State University in 2012.  She completed her year-long student teaching internship to earn her Elementary Education Certificate with a focus on Child Development & Language Arts in 2012-2013. She has worked at several different child care centers throughout her years of pre-teaching and one year post-grad. She has worked at Gretchen’s House since August 2014.  Outside of work, she loves to read, watch musicals, and spend time with family and friends. She is also a very enthusiastic Spartan football and basketball fan and enjoys cheering for her teams! Alyssa Hammer
Teacher Ruth Brinkert grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She has been working with children for a very long time. Ruth has experience working at two other child care centers and working at a family camp in their children’s program for 7 summers. Ruth attends Bay Mills Community College for an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Her hobbies include boxing, watching Netflix, camping and scrapbooking. Ruth is excited to be a part of the Meadow team at Gretchen’s House and is looking forward to working with the children.  
Prior to joining Gretchen’s House, Marsha Tam  worked full-time with a nonprofit Christian organization where her focus was on mentoring college students and organizing events.  Marsha worked as am After School Childcare Teacher as well as a Lead Preschool/PreK Teacher role at other centers.  Marsha graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. English, with a concentration in Education and Communications. Currently, she is working to obtain a Preschool CDA credential.  In her spare time, Marsha loves to explore and get lost in parks, trails, and forests. She also loves event planning and has found herself taking on small jobs like wedding planning, event coordinating, and working as a registrar/administrator for small and large conferences.
FOREST Infants & Toddlers
Lead Teacher Heather Motta has a bachelor’s degree in Family Community Services from Michigan State University. Heather gained 6 years of experience working with infants and toddlers prior to joining the Gretchen’s House team in the summer of 2011. In her spare time she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and friends. Heather Riley
Hello, I am Jennifer Smith and I am proud to be an infant/toddler teacher here a Gretchen’s House. I am very excited to be a part of this wonderful team of educators. I love being around children, helping them learn and grow. I am also a Foster parent to an amazing 8 year boy.  I have been teaching young children over 20 + years in many different settings, I have worked in a couple of smaller childcare centers and in a couple of corporation childcare centers.  I ran a Family Home childcare in my home for 6 years. I had great experiences in all of them.  I have been a lead infant, toddler and preschool teacher. I have a Bachelor Degree in Children and Family of University of Michigan Dearborn and a Associate degree in Child Development from Washtenaw Community College as well as many trainings on infant and toddlers development and developmentally appropriate activity, especially with art and science exploration. I have 2 awesome cats who love to sit outside with me on my balcony bird watch. Fun little fact about me is that I am a twin, we do not like at all like. She is awesome!
Teacher Kori Hamby Vaunado  is excited about joining the Gretchen’s House team as the Infant/Toddler teacher. In the past four years, she has worked in the childcare field working with children from infancy to preschool. As a young child, she always wanted to work with children, creating a positive impact. In May 2020 I will graduate from Central Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development with Learning. In my spare time I enjoy traveling, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends.
Afternoon teacher Alicia Kauffman worked as a nurse in both pediatric emergency medicine and pediatric cardiothoracic ICU for 7 years.  Before coming to GH she took some time to stay at home with her two children while they were young.  Alicia likes being a part of a team and working with children.  She is excited to have the opportunity to become a part of our GH team and get to know all of you.  Alicia has experience addressing pediatric growth and development and maintaining clear, open communication with families.

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