Meet our Instructors

All Park Ridge preschool staff members are certified in CPR, AED, and first aid. They also must maintain 15 hours of in-service in early childhood every year.

Molly Jacobsen

Molly has been with the Park Ridge Park District Preschool since 2013, and in 2016 took over the role as the preschool director. She received a bachelor's degree in Speech and Language Pathology in 2008 from Towson University in Maryland. Molly’s background includes experience working with military families, adults with developmental disabilities, homeless youth, as well as children. She is also an avid volunteer with numerous organizations around Park Ridge. Molly has a philosophy of helping children develop and learn through play, exploration, and social interaction.

Brooke Plofsky

Brooke Plofsky joined us in 2016 as our Assistant Supervisor for Preschool/Early Childhood. Most recently, Brooke comes from the Northbrook Park District where she worked as the Early Childhood Coordinator. Prior to parks and recreation, Brooke taught in the primary grades and then supervised college students at National Louis University’s College of Elementary Education. She is excited to get to know all the children and their families here in Park Ridge. Brooke is married and has two daughters, twin boys, and a sweet dog, Maggie Moo.

Marcy Calkins

Marcy is a lead teacher in our for the 3-year-old program. She holds a bachelor's degree from Dominican University and has been with the Park Ridge Park District Preschool Program since 2001. Marcy seeks to create a warm and welcoming environment for the children to learn and grow.

Laura Capellani

Laura is a lead teacher in our 4-year-old program. She has worked for the Park Ridge Park District Preschool Program since 1997. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education from Triton College and over 25 years of experience in the field working at various preschools and day care centers. She tries to make her classroom environment a place where children are free to socialize, learn and express themselves.

Lindsay Coker

Lindsay is so happy to be part of the Park Ridge Park District Team. She currently works as an assistant in our 2-year-old and 3-year-old programs. Lindsay earned a degree in psychology from The University of Tennessee. She is the proud mother of son and daughter who have helped harbor her career of young children. She is so excited to be working with this age group and hopes to make her classroom a fun, exciting, positive place to learn and grow.

Deborah Defenbaugh

Deb is an assistant in our the 3-year-old program. She also substitutes as a lead teacher when needed and teaches the art enrichment class on Thursday. She has been with the Park Ridge Park District Preschool Program since 2003. Deb studied Fine Arts at the Academy of Art in Chicago and holds an associate’s degree in Art - Liberal Arts. She has also achieved certification with honors in Early Childhood Education from Oakton Community College. Deb believes in providing a safe, nurturing environment where learning is fun.

Audra Ebling

Audra is an assistant in our 4-year-old program. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has two teenage sons and fond memories of their preschool years, where they learned and grew by leaps and bounds. This inspires her to help create a warm, nurturing classroom environment where students can look forward to expressing themselves, playing, exploring, and learning.

Mary Kay Hastings

Mary Kay is a lead teacher in our 4-year-old program. She previously taught Preschool for 11 years at Golf Maine Park District and St Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge. She recently earned her degree in Early Childhood Education. Ms. Mary Kay is a mother of six and grandmother of eight. She is so excited to be teaching. Not too many people can say they jump out of bed in the morning, excited to go to work. But, Mary Kay does!

Marta Judge

Marta Judge is a lead teacher in our 4-year-old program. She has 10 plus years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. She holds a teaching degree from a University in Poland and a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University. She believes that every child is unique and learns at his/her own pace. She strives to create a classroom environment with plenty of learning, exploration, and socialization. She is a mother of two boys and understands the importance of educating young children from both the parent and teacher’s perspective.

Sue Kachiroubis

Susan Kachiroubas joined the Preschool team in 2016 as an assistant in our 4-year-old program. Over the past 16 years, Sue has been fortunate enough to work with the children of Park Ridge in multiple capacities and areas. She was involved in the lunch program at Carpenter grammar school, taught catechism classes for five years at Saint Paul of the Cross, was a volunteer mom for Maine South Cheerleading, and is the mother of four honor roll student athletes at Maine South High school (two of which now attend Illinois State University). She loves mentoring or coaching children in various positive ways from improving the lunch program to teaching catechism in a fun way. 

Susan Kiem

Susan is a lead teacher in our 3-year-old program. She has worked for the Park Ridge Park District Preschool Program since 1999. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Susan strives to create a warm, secure, nurturing classroom with a strong emphasis on socialization skills, where the children learn that school is a fun and wonderful place.

Brandee Kopta-Tavano

Brandee is an assitant in our 3 and 4-year-old programs. She joined our team in 2017. Brandee holds a bachelor's degree in Pscychology from Northwestern University. Brandee and her husband, along with their son, all share a love of music. Brandee believes in providing structure, along with compassion, for her students so they are ready to learn and enjoy coming to school.

Katie Kornely

Katie works as an assistant in our 2-year-old program. She joined the preschool team in 2016. Katie has 3 sons who all attended preschool at the Park District. Katie has a degree in Accountancy from Northern Illinois University. Katie seeks to create a welcoming environment in the classroom, which will in turn instill a love of school in young children.

Shannon Lee

Ms. Shannon works as a lead teacher in our 3-year-old and 4-year-old programs. She joined our preschool team in 2016 and brings innovations and creativity to our staff. She recently graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor's degree in Human Development. Shannon strives to create and maintain a safe and stimulating classroom where the children are excited to learn and grow! 

Toni Lakowski

Toni has been with the preschool since 2013. She works as a lead teacher in our 4-year-old program. She was born and raised in Park Ridge. Toni holds a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from DePaul University. She is married with four young boys who are current participants of our preschool program. Toni brings the joy of teaching to her classroom, which carries over to her students and gives them a love of learning.

Jennifer Neswold

Jen joined the preschool staff in 2016. She is a lead teacher in our 3-year-old program. She has a degree in elementary education from the University of Iowa and a masters in reading instruction from Northeastern University. Her three children have attended the Park Ridge Park District Preschool. She continues the tradition of the program by creating a positive, fun, and safe learning environment for children to grow.

Carla Paestch

Carla joined the Park Ridge Park District as a Camp Site Coordinator in May 2015. That fall she became a member of the preschool team as a lead teacher for the 2-year-old program. Carla attended DePaul University, where she studied Early Childhood Education and Psychology. Both of her children attended the Park Ridge Park District Preschool. Carla looks forward to making preschool a fun and exciting experience for our program's 2-year-olds!

Beth Petrick

Beth is an assistant in our 4-year-old program. She is thrilled to be back at the Park Ridge Park District where she taught many early childhood classes in the past. Beth graduated from Loyola University, Chicago (and Rome!) with a B.A. in Fine Arts. Having chosen this play-based program for her three grown children to attend, she values the freedom of expression allowed in the classroom and enjoys nurturing each child's individual voice.

Laura Sclafani

Laura works as a lead teacher in our 2-year-old program and an assistant in our 4-year-old program. She joined the Park Ridge Park District Preschool in 2016. She earned a Masters Degree in Special Education from Roosevelt University, Schaumburg in 2003. Her two children attended the 3 and 4-year-old preschool at the Park District. Laura loves children and takes great pleasure in being a part of their developmental process both socially and academically.

Ann Tatlock

Ann is an assistant in our 3-year-old program and has also worked with the 2-year-olds. She has been with the Park Ridge Park District Preschool Program since 2002. She graduated from Mundelein College with a degree in Foods and Nutrition.