Dina Stillings, Creative Arts Specialist
Artist, Mother, and Teacher. Dina combines these three important roles to bring a unique voice to the Allen Creek community. Born in Arizona and raised in the Midwest, Dina attended the Art Institute of Chicago where she was awarded full Honorary Scholarships. Her career as a painter and art handler took her to NYC where she explored East Coast life. Travel throughout Europe and extended trips throughout India further enhanced her insight into the cultural beauty of this planet. With children of her own, Dina Stillings brings a deep understanding of the love and respect budding minds and hearts need to grow healthy and strong. Through continuation of her own work as an artist, she remains fresh and flexible to change, believing this nurturing of her own skills is inherent to passing on the gift of learning.
Gale Whittier-Ferguson, Teacher & Education Director (On Sabbatical 2017-2018)
Gale was one of the founding teachers of Allen Creek and has worked with children in a variety of settings for over 30 years. She holds an MA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York City. Gale and her husband have two grown children who continually delight and amaze them. Their family also includes 2 rambunctious dogs and a black and white cat. Gale likes to challenge herself physically through cycling, running and weight training; she loves to sing, listen to music, speak Spanish, quilt, read, and be outside.
Katie Chappell-Lakin, BA, BSW, MMT, Teacher
Katie comes to Allen Creek after several decades of working with children. Her most recent experience was in preschool administration, and her passion lies in being with the children in the classroom. Her interests and professional experiences include music therapy, music education, folk and traditional music, Kindermusik, fiber arts crafting, and outdoor education. Katie has a master's degree in music therapy, and coursework for a PhD in education, where her research focuses on how play-based learning affects motivation in the long-term. In addition to play, other early childhood education topics of interest include social-emotional learning, mindfulness, Reggio-Emilia philosophy, music, and the arts.
Lesley Kabza Criscenti, Imagining the Arts Teacher
Lesley's work with and interaction with children is highly regarded in the Ann Arbor community with her early education and preschool art classes with First Steps Washtenaw Ann Arbor and as a dance and creative movement teacher for Arts in Motion. "I feel a very strong connection to the world of the imagination and I have been privileged to have worked in the creative arts for many years." Lesley has a degree from the University of Michigan in Dance and Elementary Education and a M.A. from EMU in Creative Writing. She directed Blue Dragon Dance Theatre, a multi-age dance company receiving grants to work in the Michigan schools. She also directed the professional dance company Dance Focus, which performed in every single Ann Arbor school. "As the Creative Arts Specialist at Allen Creek Preschool I am enriched by the day to day interaction with your children, and I know my teaching style benefits from contact with other highly skilled professionals." Lesley also works under the name of Princess Whimsy – paint and poetry on wood and in fiber arts, creating one of a kind scarves with yarn and beads.
Lorna Rankin, Teacher
Lorna brings many years of experience to Allen Creek, as well as deep knowledge of fiber arts, medieval history, and creative ways children engage with classroom materials. She travels to pursue these passions and can be found around the country immersing herself in historical recreations and demonstrations.
Marcia Healey, M.S.Early Childhood Development, Teacher, Interim Educational Director
Marcia joined the Allen Creek teaching staff in 2010. Teaching is the beginning of a new chapter in her professional life. A software engineering position with Bell Northern Research brought her to Ann Arbor after graduation from Western Michigan University in 1985. She also held software development positions with the Ann Arbor companies once known as Medstat and Comshare before resigning to go off to graduate school. While her grandson attended preschool at Allen Creek (2006–2008), she was in graduate school at Erikson Institutein Chicago studying early childhood development. After graduating with a Masters in Early Childhood Education and Illinois Teaching Certification, she returned to her home in Ann Arbor and now holds Michigan Teaching Certification with an Early Childhood Endorsement (ZA). During graduate school she spent a year in a top notch Reggio Emilia (RE) inspired preschool. "The heart of the RE philosophy holds the image of the child as strong, capable, and with rich resources. This is a powerful vantage from which to explore the beliefs and practices one brings to education." She is happy to be working and learning with the Allen Creek community.
Suzanne Bayer, MA, Teacher
Suzanne returned to Allen Creek in 2017, having taught at the school earlier in her career. She brings to the school a Masters in Early Childhood Education and a wealth of experience teaching and nurturing children and families. Alongside teaching, Suzanne has compassionately worked for many years with children, families, and educators on grieving both as a professional development provider and as a volunteer with the local children’s bereavement support center, Ele’s Place. Suzanne created and maintains a children's grief support website and she visits schools and organizations to help adults find ways to bring hope back into the lives of bereaved children. When Suzanne isn't teaching, you'll find her traveling with her husband to spend time with their three grown children, reconnecting with cherished friends collected over a lifetime, or visiting Italy as often as possible. One of Suzanne's favorite things to do is to quilt hand-pieced treasures for loved ones and friends. Allen Creek is Suzanne's just right place to blend her love of fiber arts, teaching, and nurturing development in young children.
Kumiko Ito-Teitgen, Teacher
Kumiko Ito-Teitgen joined the Allen Creek teaching staff in 2016. She had 17 years of prior experience working with children before coming to Allen Creek. She holds a BS in Elementary Education with Early Childhood Education, Integrated Creative Arts, and Math and Science minors from Western Michigan University. Her most recent experience as a Studio Educator brought more interest in Reggio-Emilia philosophy, connecting children back to nature and the arts. When not working, she enjoys photography, gardening, collecting nature materials, walking/hiking in the woods and other outdoor activities, and spending time with her family.
Eliza Nuxoll, Teacher
Eliza returns to the teaching staff after four years as an Allen Creek parent and one year as a Transitional Toddler teacher in 2016-2017. Her passion for working with children is woven throughout her life and career. She has taught in a variety of settings, including a Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool in Missoula, Montana, a children’s theater in Málaga, Spain, and a weekly story hour in Ann Arbor. She holds a BA in Spanish Language and Literature from Dickinson College, and looks forward to continuing her education this year. Outside of the classroom, Eliza loves to discover and share new books, listen to live music, travel with friends, sew, and explore the outdoors with her family.
Andrea Horvath, Teacher
Andrea brings a wealth of knowledge to her role as preschool teacher. She is the mother of two children and has life-long passionate interest in the growth and development of kids. She believes deeply in the importance of play as a way to foster peer interaction, creativity and intellectual processing. Andrea graduated from the University of Michigan with BA in Communications. She worked for many years as an Assistant Director in the film business. More recently she has enjoyed working at Ann Arbor Open School as a nearly full-time substitute teacher. She feels extremely lucky to be in a field learning new and creative ways of understanding our world from adults and children with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Andrea enjoys dinner on the front porch, reading, gardening and dark chocolate.