STAFF

Meet the dedicated staff

at the Union Early

Childhood Education

Programs

Jennifer Keldahl

Director UCECP

Jennifer joined the UCECP in 2004.  Prior to her position at the UCECP, her journey included being a first grade teacher, an Assistant Principal and Preschool Program Director.

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Jennifer has a Master’s Degree from Loyola University in Education Administration with state endorsements enabling her to be a principal and superintendent.

I value four core components to early childhood education:

  • A well developed staff that values the power of childhood
  • A beautiful and stimulating school/classroom environment
  • A strong curriculum based in accountability and current research
  • Parent partnerships in education

Sue Nunamaker

Admin Coordinator & Pre-K Teacher

Ms. Nunamaker has been in the field of early childhood education since 1992.  Sue was the only early childhood education major in 2004 that received the Thaskala Award from Elmhurst College.

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Ms. Nunamaker has a Bachelor’s Degree in ECE from Elmhurst College and is certified to teach Kindergarten – 3rd grade.

I look forward to challenging this very special age group.

LEADERS IN THE FIELD OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Our director supports the faculty and families of the program, and oversees curriculum, instruction, and parish/community involvement. The faculty of the UCECP is comprised of highly educated teachers who exceed the DCFS standards for education. Our faculty stays abreast of research findings in early childhood by attending professional development courses throughout the year. This commitment allows us to apply the latest brain research and cutting edge practice to inspire, refresh and renew our methods.

The UCECP has offered professional development programs to educators across Illinois and faculty members have served as consultants to assist schools in curriculum development. Our faculty proudly develops and presents their work at various early childhood conferences both at the local and national levels. This level of commitment and loyalty is what sets the UCECP faculty apart from other programs.

Beth Bozeman

Mother Child Facilitator

Beth joined the ECP in 2002 and has taught in the Mother Toddler, Mother Child and Three’s Preschool programs and currently serves the UCECP as the Mother Child Facilitator. 

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“It is an honor to work with the UCECP. My life is enriched by the time spent with the families here.”

Cyndi Breslow

Cyndi joined the UCECP staff in 2016 as a part-time 4’s teacher. Cyndi also periodically substitutes in the early learning lab, 2’s, 3’s, mother-toddler and mother-child programs. She is a former UCECP parent herself, and has volunteered in her own children’s elementary school classrooms in a variety of capacities.

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Other volunteer school activities include fulfilling the roles of PTA President and Vice President at Prospect Elementary School in district 181. Cyndi is a member of UCH and has taught both Sunday School and Vacation Bible School in recent years.

“Working at UCECP brings such joy to my life seeing the smiles on the children’ faces every day. I love watching them learn and discover things.”

Gayle Bueser

Gayle has been with the UCECP since 1995. She has a Child Care Associate’s degree from Morianne Valley. Ms. Gayle has spent several years working with toddlers at the UCECP and her knowledge in the phases of development help support her work with toddlers. 

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“It is amazing to watch the children grow and develop from room to room. There are also some wonderful friendships built here for the children as well as the families.”

Raquel Cerda

I have been teaching preschool since I took dual credit child care classes in high school. After graduation I went to Eastern Illinois University where I minored in family and consumer sciences. When I left Eastern I was offered a job teaching pre-k 3&4 with Stickney Township.

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I stayed with the township for a few years before my husband and I decided to have another baby; after I had my son I realized I couldn’t stay away from teaching preschool and I found this amazing new preschool to call my ‘home’! I am so excited to be starting this year with a new group of little ones to teach!

Monica Chicarelli

Monica joined the UCECP program in the fall of 2016 as a substitute. She has 13 years of experience working with children. She loves being a part of an early childhood education program that helps spark a love for learning. This year she is greatly excited to be in the Mother Child Program.

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“My goal when teaching the children is to inspire them to be involved, ask questions, and grow a deep passion for learning.”

Allie Cook

Ms. Cook joined the UCECP team in 2009. Allie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Western Michigan University with endorsements in Science and English. She worked in the public school system as a K-5 substitute and para-educator, prior to joining the UCECP in the 3’s and 4’s programs.

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“Being a part of each student’s journey and watching how much they learn throughout a school year…that is my favorite part of being a teacher.”

Heather Gordon

Ms. Gordon joined the UCECP staff in 2015. She holds dual degrees in Elementary and Special Education from Vanderbilt University. Ms. Gordon has taught Early Childhood Special Ed in both Texas and Illinois. 

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In addition, Ms. Gordon worked as a Developmental Therapist for Early Intervention at Aspire Children’s Services.

“I enjoy celebrating the many milestones children reach as they develop and grow. Helping families connect with their children during these stages and appreciate the many facets of their children’s learning is rewarding.”

Desiree Gurrola

Ms. Gurrola joined UCECP in 2014. She has nearly thirty years of experience raising her own children, providing daycare from home as well as being an active parent with many school programs. 

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“Working my various positions at UCECP comes with different rewards everyday —whether it’s with our amazing teachers, the parents, or the wonderful inquisitive children — they make my heart smile!”

Amanda Grapenthien

I am so excited to be a part of the two-year-old program at UCECP. I have a BA degree in Organzational Communications from North Central College. Prior to being a stay at home mom to my four children, I was a therapeutic riding instructor for children with disabilities at the Hanson Center in Burr Ridge. I also helped run summer camps at the YMCA in Downers Grove.  

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” I’m looking forward to a fun year of exploring and learning.”

Kathryn Heine

Kathryn Heine has a masters degree in Elementary and Special Education from Long Island University (CW Post). During the course of her ten-year teaching career, Kathryn has worked in a variety of educational settings including an all girls private school and a school for students, learning disabilities and private tutoring.

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After enjoying a year in the Mother Child program with her son Brooks, Ms. Heine is thrilled to be part of the teaching team. This will be Kathryn’s first year teaching at UCECP.

” My favorite thing about teaching is engaging in creative and innovative play, it truly makes life more joyful!”

Jennifer Hickerson

Jen has been with the ECP for over 15 years. She holds a degree in Recreation and several years of experience with elementary school-aged children. Ms. Hickerson has been an important part of many different programs at the UCECP. 

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“I enjoy being a part of the discoveries my students make during their time in three’s preschool.”

Mary Juska

Mary has been with ECP on and off for over 13 years. “I am so excited to be back teaching the four year olds and looking forward to getting them ready for kindergarten.” 

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“When I’m not in the classroom with children I am taking care of my three grandchildren ages 7, 4 and 2.”

Carissa Kapcar

Carissa joined the UCECP as facilitator in 2017, and as a parent in 2005. She has a degree in communications and political science from Miami University and a professional background in group moderating and consumer insight in the marketing and advertising industry. 

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As a parent, she is busy raising three children, volunteering in their schools, coaching their teams, running their carpools and hosting their play dates. She also writes on the topic of parenthood, perinatal loss, food allergies, kids and travel, social activism and mindfulness for a number of publications, both online and in print. Her most favorite thing to do is to experience a place or experience through the eyes of her children and feel the wonder and newness of it all over again.

“They may forget what you said, but the’ll always remember how you made them feel”

Sara Kouldelka

Ms. Koudelka joined in the UCECP in 2012. Previously she had worked at the UCECP as a substitute teacher. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and has been working with children for 9 years. 

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“I love to see when a child makes a first connection with a concept and the way their face lights up is so rewarding.”

Jocelyn Mokhtarian

As a former UCECP parent with two children who went from Mother Toddler all the way to Kinderboost, I am thrilled to be returning as a teacher in the 3’s program.  

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After receiving my bachelor’s in communications from the University of Illinois, I graduated from North Central College with a teaching certificate in secondary education and taught middle school social studies in Winnetka before having children. I have stayed active volunteering in my children’s school, serving as PTO President at Prospect Elementary, organizing an after-school enrichment program and leading discussions with children through the Junior Great Books program.

I can’t wait to meet the children and look forward to nurturing and helping them develop their curiosity, independence, love of learning and academic and social skills.

Laura McBrien

Ms. McBrien has been in the field of early childhood education since 1999. She has a degree from Northeastern Illinois University and enjoys every second of working with young children. 

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“I enjoy watching the smiles on the children’s faces as they gain a sense of accomplishment.”

Paula O’Neil

Paula has been in the field of early childhood education since 1994. Ms. O’Neil has a degree from College of DuPage and is grateful every day for being able to enrich children’s lives. 

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“My favorite aspect of teaching is seeing children grow and develop through hands-on learning.”

Nicole Schaefer

2’s Program

Ms. Schaefer holds a degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in middle school Language Arts. She joined the Union Early Childhood Education Program excited to use her degree and passion to improve children’s lives. 

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“After teaching 3rd-6th grade for several years, I am excited to be working in the 2’s program at UCECP! I love the curiosity and genuine joy for learning that takes place at this age. The UCECP does such a wonderful job cultivating this love for learning and turning our children into life-long learners.”

Katie Szafarczyk

Ms. Szafarczyk is thrilled to join the Mother/Toddler team after participating in the program with all three of her children. She has a Bachelors Degree from Loyola University Chicago and brings with her years of childcare and volunteer experiences with many schools and local organizations.

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“I love watching the programs of UCECP spark a joy and passion for learning in the hearts of our young children.”

Laurel Usalis

Ms. Laurel joined UCECP in 2016. This will be her second year as the Toddler teacher in the Early Learning Lab. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in family and child studies with an emphasis on Family and Individual Development and a Master’s Degree in the Higher Education with an emphasis in Student Affairs from Northern Illinois University.

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She has worked with children for the past 15 years as a child care provider. One interesting fact about her is that she does photography in her spare time.

“I really love this amazing program does for our children and what they learn through play and different experiences. It is such an amazing way to learn and become the children of the future.”

Mary Beth Wegner

Ms. Wegner has been a member of the UCECP team since 2007. She brings a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood from Illinois State University. 

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“I enjoy offering them a variety of provocative materials that challenge their creativity and problem solving skills.”

Jen Zappas

My name is Jennifer Zappas and I am so excited to work with your children this year in 4’s Pre-Kindergarten at UCECP! As their teacher it is my goal to challenge their minds and to inspire them to be passionate about learning.

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I believe every child is special and has his or her own unique way of learning, so it is my job as their teacher to ensure that every child’s learning experience is enriched by being exposed to a variety of methods. I am so excited that UCECP has all of the tools available to do just this, as well as a great support foundation from parents and staff. I will also be relying on my Masters in Teaching, years of experience teaching at an elementary school level, as well as over 10 years of combined experience working with young children, to meet these goals this year! Welcome to 4’s Pre-Kindergarten and I cannot wait to meet your children and start working together to make this a wonderful and enriching year! 

CONTACT

jkeldahl@uchinsdale.org
(630) 323-3314

Hinsdale Preschool, Hinsdale Early Learning, Hinsdale Early Childhood Program, Hinsdale Union Church Preschool

UCECP: Union Church Hinsdale
137 S. Garfield Ave.
Hinsdale, IL 60521