First Pres Preschool & Pre-K Staff
Our staff consists of college graduates who are trained and experienced teachers in Early Childhood Education. Our teachers have specialized instruction in various areas including Child Development, Reading, Music, Art, Special Education, Elementary, and Secondary Education. All staff members are required to attend fifteen hours of continuing education annually which includes early childhood seminars, in-house speakers, and early childhood conferences. Staff members also log numerous hours every year observing other preschool classrooms, Kindergarten classrooms, and early education centers. Every staff member is CPR and infant certified.
There are two teachers in every classroom except the Pre-K. The Terrific Twos has a maximum of 14 students with two teachers. The Pre-K has a student-teacher ratio of twelve to one. All other classrooms have a maximum of 20 students with two teachers.
Chandra Gravit, Director
Chandra has been with First Pres Preschool since 2001. She spent six years teaching in the three year old program and three years teaching in the four year old program. For two years she taught in the four year old program and was one of the co-directors of the preschool overseeing the four year old program. In 2009 she moved into the role of full-time Director for the preschool.
Chandra received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. After graduating
she spent ten years in the business world, first as a Technical Writer and then as the Documentation Department Manager for a large medical claims processing software firm in Naperville.
In a desire to leave the corporate world and spend more time at home with her children, Chandra decided to pursue her passion of teaching young children. She returned to school in 1999 and earned her Early Childhood Education Teaching Certificate and Early Childhood Administration Certificate from the College of DuPage.
Chandra and her husband, Tim, have two boys who are both alumni of the preschool program. Kurt is a senior, and Kyle is a freshman at West Chicago High School. Kurt is an avid guitar player and artist. He enjoys skateboarding and snowboarding and is in the process of the applying to universities for engineering. Kyle is a member of the marching Band, a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do, and a member of the Vertical Endeavors rock climbing team. He enjoys reading and archery in his spare time. When Chandra’s not at the preschool, she enjoys hiking with her family and their two dogs, reading, playing the piano, and helping out at the high school or church.
Lisa Larson, Pre-K
Lisa Larson joined our staff three years ago. She taught for a year in the three year old program before launching the Pre-K program.
She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education with a double major in Psychology at North Park University in Chicago. After teaching kindergarten for seven years in Prospect Heights, Illinois, she had a wonderful opportunity to be home with her children.
Seven years ago Lisa and her husband Mark moved to Wheaton. Lisa grew up in Wheaton and is excited to have her children attend some of the same schools she did. Matt (15), Nic (12), and Natalie (9) keep them busy with homework, football games, dance, and gymnastics. Nic and Natalie are proud graduates of First Presbyterian Preschool.
Lisa is actively involved with the children’s schools and church programs. She and her mother created a
children’s manners class called Courteous Kids Club. She also enjoys reading and cooking.
Kathy Kyrilis, Four Year Old Teacher
Kathy Kyrilis has been teaching in the four year old program at First Pres Preschool since 1998. She received her Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University. After graduation she spent seven years teaching primary special education.
After taking time off to raise her family, Kathy returned to teaching. She taught early childhood classes for the Wheaton Park District before coming on staff at First Pres Preschool.
Kathy and her husband, Paul, have three children. Jenny, a speech pathologist, works for a local school district and resides in Wheaton. Jenny gave Kathy her first grandchild, Charlie, who was born in July 2010. Kate is a Nutrition Specialist who lives in Chicago. Mike, her youngest, graduated from the University of Iowa last year and currently resides and works in the Chicago area. All three of her children attended First Pres Preschool.
Kathy enjoys walking, spending time with friends, and traveling with her husband.
Sarah Leemans, Four Year Old Teacher
This is Sarah's first year teaching at First Pres Preschool after staying home to raise her three children for nine years. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education in the areas of French and English from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign and recently completed her credit hours in Early Education from the College of DuPage. Sarah will be a teacher in our four year old program as well as the teacher of our Foreign Language Enrichment program.
Sarah has several years of experience working in the Wheaton schools as a Before and After School Program Director, an elementary reading aide, and also as a substitute teacher for every level from preschool to high school. She has also tutored children of all ages in the areas of reading, math, and French.
Sarah and her husband, Mike, have three children; and she is looking forward to teaching at the preschool level at First Pres where Michael (9), Audrey (6), and Gabe (5) attended.
The Leemans family loves living in the Wheaton community and attending the fun family events around town! Michael enjoys piano, reading, science, and golf. Audrey loves dance, gymnastics, writing, and illustrating her own stories. Gabe loves soccer, tumbling, and taking care of animals, especially the family's two dogs.
Sarah is currently serving her second year as Vice-President on the PTA board of her children's elementary school and is also a Daisy Scout leader and the Battle of the Books coordinator. In her free time she loves to read, run, practice yoga, travel, and go on family trips to museums, parks, and zoos. Sarah and her family also love to swim, bike, visit Cantigny, and explore the Morton Arboretum.
Lisa Shine, Four Year Old Teacher
This is Lisa Shine’s fifth year teaching at First Pres Preschool. For the past four years, she has been a teacher in the Terrific Two’s program. She helped develop the curriculum for this program and was instrumental in the launching of this new classroom four years ago. This is her first year of teaching in the four year old program.
Lisa received her Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University with a major in Family Community Services and an emphasis in Child Development. She worked for the University of Illinois at Chicago in the field of developmental disabilities and for the American Heart Association in non-profit management.
Lisa and her husband, Tim, moved to Wheaton 16 years ago; and Lisa stayed home to raise their three daughters Emma (16), Julia (14), and Sarah (11). All three daughters attended the 3’s and 4’s programs at First Pres. Lisa has taught Sunday School and other Children’s Ministries at First Pres for the last 10 years. Because of her love for preschool-age children, Lisa jumped at the chance to teach this age group!
When Lisa is not teaching, she serves on the PTA board at her daughter's grade school, enjoys running and taking exercise classes, reading, and traveling. She spends most of her evenings driving her daughters to all their activities (her second profession is a taxi cab driver!)
Heidi Gagnon, Three Year Old Teacher
Heidi Gagnon has been teaching three year olds at First Pres Preschool since 2003. For three of those years she also taught in the Terrific Twos program, a program which she helped to launch.
Heidi earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois. She worked for IBM in Chicago before taking time off to raise her family.
It was at the University of Illinois where she met her husband, Bob, who is a financial planner. They have lived in Wheaton for twenty-six years and have four daughters. Jacqueline works for First Trust Advisors in Wheaton and is married to Matt Sinclair. Matt and Jacqueline gave Heidi her first grandchild, Charlotte Sinclair, three years ago; and she will be attending First Pres Preschool this year. Julie is married to Will Noble and teaches elementary school in Kentucky. Megan works for Gartner in Chicago and is enjoying all the city has to offer. Morgan is a freshman at Wheaton South. She is an alumnus of First Pres Preschool.
In her free time Heidi enjoys watching her granddaughter, walking her chocolate lab, Toblerone, working in her yard, biking, traveling, entertaining, attending sporting events, helping at church, and shopping at Costco. She is anxiously awaiting the arrival of two more grandchildren this year.
Melanee Burns, Three Year Old Teacher
Melanee Burns has been teaching in our three year old program at First Pres Preschool for six years. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Eastern Illinois University.
Melanee was a substitute teacher in Decatur, Illinois, before moving to the Wheaton area, where she was a teacher’s aide in the Glen Ellyn School District and then a three and four year old preschool teacher for the Glen Ellyn Park District Preschool. After taking time off to raise her family, Melanee returned to teaching preschool at First Pres after her youngest son started second grade.
Melanee and her husband, Brian, have three boys who are at completely different stages in life. Daniel is a graduate of Hope College in Michigan. He is the fourth generation to be working in the family business, CW Burns Co. Inc., a commercial plumbing and piping business. He recently became engaged and will be getting married in September 2012. Alex is a junior at DePaul University majoring in Arts & Digital Media with a double minor in Service Learning and Environmental Studies. Connor is a seventh grader at Edison Middle School. He enjoys lacrosse, fishing, and rollerblading. Alex and Connor are both alumni of First Pres Preschool.
Melanee enjoys spending as much time as possible in Green Lake, Wisconsin, with her family, where she loves to fish (ice fish in winter), ride her bike, and take long walks with her golden retrievers.
Sue O’Connell, Two Year Old Teacher
Sue is joining the staff at First Pres Preschool this year as a teacher in the Teriffic Twos program. Prior to joining our staff she taught in the three year old program for the Wheaton Park District.
Sue recieved her BA in Elementary Education and Learning Disabilities from Monmouth College. She earned her MS in Reading through Nothern Illinios University. Sue taught for fourteen years, eleven of them in Addison as a self-contained Learning Disabilities teacher. With the birth of her first child, she became a stay-at-home mom.
While at home Sue was active as a girl scout leader, Sunday School teacher, and part of the PTA board at her children's elementary school. Sue and her husband, Dan, have three children. Kelly is a seventh grader at Edison Middle School and enjoys playing the violin and baking with her mom. Sarah, a sixth grader at Edison, is a McNulty Irish Dancer and a violist. Danny is a fifth grader at Whittier Elementary School who likes sports and playing his cello.
In her spare time Sue enjoys reading, running, and spending time with her family. This summer Sue and Dan shared their love of nature with their children by vacationing at the Grand Canyon.
Laura Seymour, Two Year Old Teacher
This is Laura’s second year teaching; and she loves working directly with children after spending more than a decade working in administration for organizations that benefit children including: Children’s Memorial Hospital, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, The San Diego Center for Children, the Illinois Association of Park Districts, and the American Red
Laura received her undergraduate degree from Illinois State University with a major in public relations. She also acquired a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in non-profit management from the University of Illinois at Springfield. To prepare her for this new teaching opportunity, Laura recently received an Assistant Teaching Certificate in Early Childhood Education from the College of DuPage.
Laura has been a stay-at-home mom since she moved to Wheaton 13 years ago. She has also been active as a volunteer working with children at Whittier Elementary School and the LOGOs program at First Presbyterian.
Laura and her husband, Jay, have two boys. Justin is in middle school at Edison, and his passions are reading and playing sports – especially baseball and golf. Jack is entering fourth grade at Whittier; and he enjoys playing piano, performing in plays, and golf. Both Justin and Jack developed their love of school as students at First Pres
Preschool. When Laura is not spending time involved with her children’s activities, she loves reading, photography, and taking care of their dog, Lily.
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