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.
BRT Bonnie Bairley is excited to be joining the Gretchen’s House Oak Valley team! She previously was a teaching artist with Hosh Kids in Brooklyn, NY facilitating after school theater, dance, and yoga. Bonnie holds a BFA in Acting from the Michigan State University Honors College, with minors in Dance and Arts & Cultural Management. She also has been a Yoga Alliance certified instructor for four years; teaching regularly in the Chelsea area. Bonnie loves to be outside hiking, running, dancing, or singing. She regularly plays guitar, writes songs, and sings in her church’s praise team. Bonnie is inspired by children, animals, nature, and the beauty she finds in life. She values making each day filled with joy, gratitude, and adventure.
BRT Amanda Sugai
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.”..

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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 Melissa Fry comes from a big family with many siblings, which inspired her to work with children.  She has an Associates degree from Monroe County Community College and hopes to be pursuing a Bachelors at EMU soon.  Melissa spends most of her time hiking with her dogs, and traveling.  She is an avid book reader and concert goer.
Teacher Catia Medoro was born in Italy and moved to the United States in 1997. She has a background in Chemistry and is currently working towards credentials in Early Childhood Education.  Catia has 4 children and 5 grandchildren.  She spends most of her free time playing and enjoying time with them. catia-medoro
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 Jessie Smith has 5 years of experience working in Early Childhood Education.  She began working in a Montessori Preschool in Arizona.  Her family moved to Ann Arbor 4 years ago and is currently attending school to obtain a degree in Early Childhood Education. In Jessie’s spare time she enjoys cooking and baking.
Teacher Rawan Nasser has a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from the University of Jordan and is currently working on a Master’s degree in Learning Disabilities at Eastern Michigan University.  Rawan has always held a passion for becoming an educational resource for children.  She says that “watching children learn and grow makes me feel blessed and cheerful.”  Prior to coming to GH, Rawan worked with a diverse range of students aged between preschool and 4th grade.
Teacher Michele West was born in northern Wisconsin but has lived in Michigan for over 18 years. She has a B.S. in Psychology from Wayne State and has worked with children since she was a teenager – as a babysitter, a nanny, in daycare, and caring for her own three children!  She loves spending time with her family, especially outdoors, and if she has any free time to herself, she prefers to read sci-fi/fantasy books, binge her favorite tv shows, and dabble in sewing, embroidery, and watercolor when she feels crafty.
Afternoon Teacher Ashley Lisi graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the Spring of 2015 with a BS in Literature, Language and Writing.  In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing, singing, dancing and playing outside, especially in the garden.  In spending time with little ones dear to her, she’s decided to make child care her career.  Ashley is interested in pursuing a CDA at Washtenaw County.
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 Ashley Hoover is currently enrolled in the Child Care Professional program at Washtenaw Community College. She will graduate with her Associate’s degree in May 2019. Afterwards, Ashley plans to attend Eastern Michigan University and attain her Bachelor’s degree in either Speech Pathology or Children and Families. Ashley has had experience working in a child care setting since December of 2013 and she is excited to be a part of the Gretchen’s House team! In her free time she enjoys relaxing in the sun and working out.
Teacher Joanna Depa has been working with children for almost 2 years.  She is currently earning her degree in Early Childhood Education.  She loves working with children, reading and being able to get out and enjoy nature.  Joanna looks forward to working with you and your family.
Teacher Rikki-Lynn Robinson is originally from Onsted MI. She is the oldest of 8 children in her family. Rikki is currently pursuing an Early Childhood Associate’s degree from Owens Community College. She has experience as a ski and snowboarding instructor at Mt. Brighton. In her free time, Rikki enjoys painting, going to the lake and spending time outdoors. We are excited to welcome her to Gretchen’s House Oak Valley!
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 Emily Robert  has been working with school age children for most of her life. She has always had a heart for young ones and she is excited to now share her love at Gretchen’s House. She is working toward getting her CDA. Emily enjoys being outside in the warm weather and playing goofy games with the children. She is excited to watch them learn and grow.
PM Preschool teacher Sarah Brinker has a Bachelor’s degree in Social work with a concentration in Children and Family from Eastern Michigan University. She has experience with children as an after-school activities coordinator, in-home child care, and as a children’s social group facilitator. In her spare time, Sarah volunteers at a children’s art center, spends time outside at parks & gardens, writes and does yoga. Sarah also enjoys hosting family & friends. Sarah Brinker

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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
Afternoon Preschool Teacher Erika Silva-Corona 
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.
Afternoon Preschool Teacher Erika Silva-Corona 
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 8year 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!
Afternoon Teacher Caprice DelSignore

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