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!
Brittany Osmers- Executive Assistant
I was born and raised in Washington State. I graduated from Washington State University with a degree in International Business. I worked as a Preschool Teacher, and I very excited to utilize my passion for working with kids and my Business background to help run Birch Tree operations, while also help with future expansion projects.
Cristina Burca- Hummingbirds Class Teacher
I was born in Moldova City, Chisinau. I received a nursing degree at the National College of Medicine and Pharmacy. Medicine became a large influence in my life. Through medicine I learned how to work with people in stressful environments, I learned empathy, and I learned the importance of making personal connections!
My husband and I recently moved to America and am really enjoying it here. I am a very open and honest person and sometimes have a hard time asking for help! I like to draw, organize and travel. I am very active and I like to play sports.
One thing I love about Birch Tree Academy is that it gives me the opportunity to teach children about the Russian language and share the Russian culture, country and holidays. I believe children are our future and it’s our responsibility to provide them with the best possible start by providing a loving, safe and creative environment.
Trish Merhab- Hummingbirds Class Teacher
I was born and raised in Spokane, Washington by my parents and older brother. Growing up having a Mother, Aunt and Uncle all in education as well as taking on Leadership/Counselor roles, I knew I wanted to work with kids.
I graduated from Washington State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and studied Child Development. During my educational years, I was also a Junior Counselor for 2 consecutive summers at a leadership camp. On the side, I would take part in volunteering at daycares near our lake cabin in Priest Lake. After graduation I went to live in Italy for almost 2 years in childcare then tutoring in English. Once I returned I continued childcare for another 2 years along with getting certified as a Behavioral Therapist for children with Autism.
I genuinely love getting to know new people, cultures and playing with children. I'm very accommodating and patient with others and embrace new situations. Since, I have worked with children in the past, I feel this is a perfect match at Birch Tree Academy. I am passionate about teaching, working with children, especially of culture and am thrilled to be a part of this wonderful staff!
Tanya Polyakova- Canaries Class Lead 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!
Alayna McNamara- Canaries Class Co-Teacher
I was born and raised in Minnesota. I then moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to pursue the next chapter in my life of being a preschool teacher and igniting my love of working with children. After living in Las Vegas for four years, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona to study at the Grand Canyon University.
This summer my boyfriend and I decided to move out of the desert and start a new adventure with our dog in Washington! I love exploring Seattle and all of the beautiful hiking trails and dog parks.
I am so excited to be working with kids again, where everyday is a new learning experience. I love the children and families and Birch Tree at and am so excited to be spend my days watching the tiny tots explore and grow!
Tanya Vashkevich- Sparrows Class 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 Class 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!
Tetania Penchuk- Sparrows Class Co-Teacher
Leah Johanessen- Sparrows Class Afternoon Teacher
I was born and raised here in Seattle with Norwegian roots, of which I am very proud. I spent 2 years living in Norway and fell in love with all cultures and people. I studied pre-nursing at BYU-Idaho and eventually would like to be a pediatric nurse. I have always had a passion for children and their curiosity, and being able to work at Birch Tree just confirms that!
In my spare time I love riding horses, skiing, hiking, swimming, spending time with friends, and making yummy food.
Stephanie Fisher- Blue Jays ClassTeacher
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 Class 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.
Alena Tskhondiya - Blue Jays Class Afternoon Teacher
I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. I moved to the Seattle area two years ago. I love living in such a beautiful area. Working with children and their families has been such a great opportunity for me.
Being able to make a difference in children’s lives and being there when they experience their first learning moments has brought me such great joy.
During my free time I enjoy selling and creating pearl jewelry, spending time with my husband, and enjoying the outdoors and all the scenery that Washington has to offer.
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!”