Meet the Bel Red Staff for the 2017- 2018 School Year!
Natalie Levy- Owner
I grew up in Minsk, Belarus and moved to the US with my family when I was 8. Although I didn't have many Russian-speaking friends, I retained my Russian language by speaking with my family. My husband actually learned Russian in school so he wouldn't feel left out at family functions. I didn't realize how important the Russian language was to me until I had my two children and wanted them to speak it. While my education and background are in finance and fashion, I am so happy to trade it in for spending time with kids and being part of their preschool experience.
I came up with the concept of Birch Tree Academy when I realized how important both academic and social development was for my own children. After I was not able to find that combination in any schools I visited, I decided to create it. I really wanted a community of families that value education and a place where kids can feel welcome and make life-long friends. I was so excited when I realized other parents were looking for the same thing, and our preschool was born!
Although my main job is handling daily operations, I love getting to know all of the kids and playing with them during their outside breaks.
In my free time I like read, swim, take long walks with my kids and experiment with cooking.
Tawnie Beirne, Director Bel Red
I was born and raised in Southern California, moved to Seattle about 9 years ago and have loved it since. My passion to work with children began at an early age, and I have started working with special needs children in High School. I have been in the Early Childhood Education field for the past 10 years and truly love it! Being able to make a difference in children's lives and being there when they experience their learning movements brings me such great joy. I completed my CDA and have taken many classes to help further my education and understanding of child development.
I have been working as a teacher at Birch Tree for the past 2 years and I am so excited to take on role of Director at Birch Tree Bel Red campus. I look forward to getting to know our families and kids in a whole new capacity!
Jasmine Dailida- Office Manager
I was born in Southern California (Woodland Hills), and raised in Northern California (Sacramento). As the eldest of four children, I knew from a young age that I wanted to be in education. I attended California State University Channel Islands where I received my Bachelor's Degree in Education and minor in Developmental Psychology. Immediately after receiving my Bachelor’s Degree, I attended New York University, where I received my Masters in Special and General Education.
Soon after, my husband and I relocated from New York to Seattle and I taught Upper Elementary (Special & General Education) for 2 years. After the birth of my son, I left the classroom and stayed home for sometime. My son is half Belorussian and we wanted to enroll him in a dual immersion program and Birch Tree had great reviews. During our school tour I was extremely impressed with the staff and program, and decided that I would like to attend Birch Tree as well!
I am so excited to be working with such wonderful staff, students and parents, all while watching my son thrive in this unique learning environment!
Nicoleta Mura- Hummingbirds Teacher
I was born and raised in Chisinau, Moldova but here I moved 2 years ago. I am very happy and blessed to work with the best people I’ve known . I enjoy the time with kids while believing strongly in having a healthy and positive structure in their environments. I'm always on the move so I love keeping up with what can seem as hectic, crazy, busy, insane days. That's what makes me love my job even more.
I love being part of the Birch Tree Academy and I am so excited to work with the Hummingbirds class!
Brittany Osmers- Hummingbirds Teacher
I was born and raised in Washington State. I love working with people who expand my knowledge in language, culture, and child development. I’ve always enjoyed working with children. In particular I enjoy their curiosity, energy, personality, and affection. During my time with the kids I believe in providing a healthy and positive environment.
I thoroughly enjoy working at Birch Tree Academy, each day is a new adventure!
Kristina Rahimova - Canaries Class Lead Teacher
I was born in the former Soviet Union and have lived in Washington state for the past sixteen years. I graduated from the Pedagogical Institute in the Soviet Union and obtained my Early Education Teaching Certicate from Bellevue College. I love teaching and I have over 15 years' teaching experience with both preschool and elementary school age children. Working with kids from diverse backgrounds and having an opportunity to make positive and lasting contributions in children's lives has been so rewarding, and has become my life's passion. I love being part of Birch Tree Academy and look forward to working with many of your kids.
Outside of my work I participate in numerous events at my church as well as am involved in local cultural events. I am a mother of two lovely and bright 20 and 14 year old boys.
Jenna Leenknecht – Canaries Class Co- Teacher
I was born and raised here in Washington State. My passion for working with children started as I am the youngest sibling of 5 kids. I am the aunt to 9 amazing nieces and nephews. As I grew up I realized that working with kids was my calling. I worked professionally teaching and helping kids grow into their little personalities for the last 7 years. Outside of work I like to spend time at the beach, the gym, and playing with my sweet puppies at home. I am so thankful to be a part of Birch Tree Academy and cannot wait to help your little ones grow.
Tanya Vashkevich- Sparrows Lead Teacher
I was born and raised in Minsk, Belarus. I have a bachelor’s degree in preschool education and psychology, and have more than 10 years’ experience teaching. Five years ago my family moved to the US.
Here in the US, I have tutored children in reading and writing in Russian, and worked as a part-teacher teacher at a childcare for both math and language development (in Russian).
When I’m not teaching, I enjoy reading, kayaking, cooking and knitting. I live in Sammamish with my husband and son.
Candice Uy- Sparrows Lead Teacher
Growing up in Mania, Philippines with a Chinese heritage allowed me to learn multiple languages that made me fluent in English, Mandarin Chinese, Tagalog and the Fookienese dialect.
My mom opened her own preschool 33 years ago (and counting!) and that has been my first exposure as to what being a great teacher should be. My very first job as a high school student was preparing preschoolers as they got ready to take the entrance tests at their chosen private schools. I have also taught Math to kids from Kindergarten to 5th grade. I know how important it is for children to be academically and socially prepared to take the next step into their formal schooling.
At one point in time, I decided that the Dental career was the path I was meant to take. I graduated from the University of the Philippines school of Dentistry and started on my dental career. Apparently it wasn't meant to be. I met my husband, got married and move to Seattle soon after. This gave me the opportunity to reflect on my real passions and explore my artistic side and educational calling. As I became a mom, I realized that my teaching background helped my children learn their foundations earlier than their peers. So I decided to go back to my teaching roots. I have had the opportunity to teach in a Montessori biligual preschool and a traditional bilingual preschool before coming to Birch Tree.
I am so excited to join this amazing school and work with the Sparrows children!
Tanya Polyakova- Sparrows Co-Teacher
I was born and raised in Belarus, Minsk. I graduated from the Academy of Physical Culture and Sports in 1996 as a teacher of PE and methodologist of medical physical culture. In the same year, I passed the exam and received a diploma from the British Association Teachers of Dance. I have been working with and teaching children for over 15 years. I’ve worked with students 3 years old and older in school settings and ballroom dance studios as both a PE and ballroom dance teacher.
My husband and I were champions of Belarus in ballroom dancing four times. Twice we have represented Belarus at the World Cup, also we were winners of the international competition. We just moved here from Minsk this year. I love to travel and I have visited more than 20 countries. My favorite city is St. Petersburg. I have a 10 year old daughter. We love to play volleyball together and she dreams of becoming a professional player someday.
I enjoy working with children and look forward to assisting in our preschool classroom and teaching the oldest children dance!
Yulia Rubtsova - Sparrow Class Co- Teacher
I was born in Kazan Zelendosk, and got to study in Russia and Uzbekistan. This was a wonderful experience working with people of various cultures, and it helped me significantly when my husband and I moved to Seattle. I graduated from Samarkand State Department of Biology and worked as a camp counselor for many years.
My favorite hobby is belly dancing. My team has particiapted in many competitions including the International Belly Dancing competition in Spain.
I am so excited to work with the Sparrows class at Birch Tree!
Stephanie Fisher- Blue Jays Teacher
Hello my name is Stephanie Fisher and I have been in Early Childhood since 1999. I started in a center in Everett and worked there for 12 years. Then I worked at Bothell Bright Horizons for 3 years as a lead Pre-K teacher. I came to Birch Tree Academy in August 2015 and currently have my CDA in Early Childhood Education. I enjoy working with children and watching them explore and grow through their world.
I spend my free time with my daughter and husband. We love to do outdoor activities such as hiking, soccer, camping, and ATV riding. I love finding new books to read while relaxing at home as well. We have a Yorkie at home as well that we love playing with and entertaining our newest addition Chloe, who is our new mini Australian Shepherd puppy.
Olga Khatko- Blue Jays Teacher
My name is Olga Khatko and I was born in Moscow, Russia. I graduated from Culture and Art University and got a masters degree in tourism management.
Three years ago my family moved to Seattle and loved it since the first day. I've never thought about myself as a teacher but a year ago I got a chance to volunteer at Birch Tree Academy and this experience changed my life. Recently I received certification from Moscow State University as a teacher of Russian language for bilingual kids and ready to share my knowledge with your amazing kids!
In my spare time I love rock climbing, swimming, playing guitar, traveling and hiking.
Tetania Penchuk- Blue Jays Afternoon Teacher
Marija Milosevic- Kindergarten Teacher
I am Serbia born but moved with my family to Canada at only 3 years of age. I spent most of my childhood between Toronto during the school year and Europe in the summers becoming fluent Serbian while immersed in the culture. I completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto in Psychology and then moved to Los Angeles where I completed the Teacher Credentialing Program and Masters of Education at Cal State, Northridge. My 15 years of teaching experience include Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, 6th Grade Language Arts and Middle School Math. My first love has always been teaching Kindergarten, surrounded by awe inspiring enthusiasm and tremendous growth and development of the young mind and its capacities. I encourage creativity and independence in my students and am rewarded in those moments when they shout out, “I did it all by myself!”