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 seven 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.
Overall GH BRT Amber Johnson Ballow attended Willow Run schools and graduated from Continental Academy.  She comes from a large family, which is where she found her love for children.  In her spare time, she enjoys crocheting and traveling with her husband, Andrew.
BRT Tchera Niyego
BRT Melissa Selva

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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 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 spent a year in Germany as a nanny.”  
Teacher Kelsey Shannon graduated from Ferris State University in 2020.  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.
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.
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 Kirby grew up in Michigan and recently moved back from Philadelphia. Kirby has lived in many places, including Derby England for school and Puerto Rico. Kirby spent a year managing a team in disaster relief where Kirby’s team received several awards from both the President and Congress. Kirby is almost finished with training to become a child music therapist and spends free time playing many different instruments, including the violin, guitar, drums, and piano.
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
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.
Teacher Wenonah Vredeveld
Teacher Malika Gunaratne was born in Sri Lanka and moved to the USA in 2001.  She has a bachelor’s degree in General Studies and has been working as a teacher in early childhood centers in Ann Arbor for 8 years.  In her spare time, Malika enjoys traveling, cooking, and gardening with her family.
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!  
 Brittany Pennington’s love for and experience with children began at home with her 7 younger siblings.  She earned her Associates degree in Child Development from Washtenaw Community College.  She then continued at the University of Michigan, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies. She has been working in the field of early childhood since 2011, working with children from infancy through preschool.  She moved to Ann Arbor in 2010.  She and her husband have an “active and curious” son, who attends Oak Valley.  As a family, they enjoy camping, biking, exploring new places, spending time with family, friends, and their dog, Layla.
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.

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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 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.
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.
Teacher Debbie Worden



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
Jennifer Smith has been teaching young children for over 20 years.  She has worked in multiple child care settings, form small centers to corporate child care centers.  She also ran a Family Home child care for 6 years.  Jennifer has a Bachelor’s degree in Children and Family from U of M Dearborn.  She also has her Associate’s degree in Child Development from Washtenaw Community College.  At home, she is busy with her son and their two cats.
Kori Hamby Vaunado has worked with children from infancy to preschool.  She always wanted to work with children, and to create a positive impact.  In May 2020, she graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Early Childhood Development and Learning. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends.”


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