Meet the Lake Hills Staff for 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.
Sherri Hubel- Director, Lake Hills
I was born and raised in southern California. I received my bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University in psychology and Spanish. Having always wanted to learn another language, I studied abroad in Mexico twice and later in Costa Rica. I have a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential from California, with an emphasis in cross-cultural language and academic development. I’ve taught kindergarten, 3rd and 6th grade, including 4 years at an international school in the Netherlands. While teaching abroad, I had many students arrive with no English, while many others spoke 3 languages fluently.
My passion lies in dual language acquisition and preserving a child’s mother tongue and culture! It’s so important to preserve your family’s heritage while also embracing the community around you. My own children speak solely Dutch with my husband, and having learned Spanish and Dutch as an adult, I have an empathetic heart for those learning a new language.
I am so excited to meet your family and spend time with your sweet kids!
Rezeda Alimova- Office Manager, Lake Hills
I was born in Kazan, Russia and have lived in the Seattle for the past 4 years. I have a bachelor's degree in Finance and 5 years' banking experience. My son attends Birch Tree and I am so excited to have the opportunity to work in this fun and dynamic place. I enjoy working with kids and families, and am always happy to help with school related inquiries.
Lillian Hill- Goslings (1-2 year old) Co-Teacher
I grew up near Davis California. Since then I have lived in eleven different states as well as Germany for a year.
I started working with kids in 2013 working with a children’s justice program in Utah. I realized then how easy it is to love kids and also how hard it was to watch them in some pretty tough situations. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Cognitive Science in 2016. Shortly after graduating I started working at my first preschool.
Teaching preschool has taught me that classroom management is based off of how well you know and love your students. My love and passion for this work is in a couple of areas. I love young children and listening to the funny things they say. I am always surprised and so proud of every milestone they cross. I am amazed by their capacity for love and learning.
My second love of preschool would be the parents of my students. I love knowing how much my students are my parents’ treasures. I love understanding that the children placed in my care are loved. It makes me honored to be a part of their every day.
Danielle Shaubah- Goslings (1-2 year old) Co- Teacher
I was born and raised in Florida, but in my life time I have lived in 9 different states, 2 territories and 2 countries (in Latin America). The main influence behind my gypsy lifestyle has been my deep desire to grow within the early childhood development field. I have been a member of various NGO and nonprofit organizations for the last ten years, City Year, Pro-world, and Southwest Conversation Corps (SCC) to name a few. These programs fostered my love for working with all age groups while giving me the tools I would need to thrive in a classroom setting. A huge part of my heart belongs to these amazing organizations.
On the academic front I am returning to college and while I might be confident in my English minor (I write poetry and children’s books in my spare time), when it comes to my major I am torn between behavior therapy and occupational therapy. Both have amazing qualities which makes it such a difficult decision for me to make.
In my free time I love to explore nature and be active, when I was in Florida I was huge on surfing, swimming, free diving and water skiing. Here I am dipping my toes into the winter versions of those activities; with a lot of HOT yoga, painting and jewelry making mixed in.
Viktoriia Starynets- Ducklings (1-2 year old) Co- Teacher
I was born in Ukraine, in Gorlovka city. I moved to America a year ago with my parents. I love everything that is connected with creativity - doing origami, singing, dancing, drawing and my favorite sports: hockey and basketball. I love working with children and have always helped my sister and friends take care of their children; now it has become my profession. I worked as a nanny and a tutor in a kindergarten with infants to age 5.
I am excited to work with the toddler at Birch Tree Academy and love the natural atmosphere and our wonderful team!
Supriya Jogdan- Ducklings (1-2 year old) Co- Teacher
I grew up in India. My mom was a preschool teacher, and it was from watching her that I gained my inspiration to follow suit. I have a Bachelor’s degree and Certification in Early Childhood Education. For 5 years I worked as a preschool teacher in India before I moved to St. Louis, Missouri. I moved to Washington State with my husband and two daughters.
I worked as a lead preschool teacher in Missouri for 3 years before I moved. In my spare time I love to watch movies, sing, read books, draw and crochet.
I’m excited to work in the one year old class! The one’s class is the best age; I get cute faces, hugs, and absolute unconditional love every single day.
Darya Puchkova- Hedgehogs (2-3 year old) Assistant Teacher
I was born and raised in Belarus. I graduated from the Belarusian University of Culture and Arts in Management and Culture. Two and a half years ago my husband and I moved to the United States. Before moving to the United States, I worked as an editor for Italian magazines for about 4 years. I have a big family and I have been surrounded by children all my life and helped to raise my brothers and nieces and nephews. After moving to the United States, my work was always connected with children: I worked as an animator at kids events and as a nanny. I enjoy working with children, I like to see them happy and help them explore the world around them.
In my free time, I like to play the piano, read books, cook, hike and travel. I am happy to be part of a wonderful team here at Birch Tree Academy!
Christine Pringle- Chipmunks (2-3 year old) Co-Teacher
I am a native of Washington and have lived in Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis. I have four children (all of their names begin with K!) and 8 grandchildren. In my space I love to travel with the love of my life, explore the outdoors, take walks and hikes, read and hang out with family and friends. I am a major foodie and love to cook and eat, especially sweets!
Prior to joining Birch Tree, I worked as an administrative assistant, nanny and preschool teacher. I love children and caring for them is one of my biggest passions. From watching them grow and conquer milestones, to helping them understand how things work, I work to create a safe, nurturing environment where children feel safe exploring and being themselves. It takes a caring hand and a patient heart to care for children and that is what I have been doing for 30 years. I am so excited that my path has led me to Birch Tree Academy and I look forward to making this my work “home” for a long time!
Anna Senchenko- Hedgehogs (2-3 year old) Co-Teacher
I was born in Ukraine and moved to the U.S. 2 years ago. Back home, I graduated in The Architecture Academy. I have worked as an architect part-time, as well as a nanny to several families. I have been at Birch Tree since the beginning of 2018. I love children helping them grow and develop. I enjoy doing art and projects with them.
In my free time, I like to get together with friends, drink coffee and travel. I have enjoyed my time with both students and staff here at Birch Tree and look forward to another great school year!
Cassandra Gallago-Hedgehogs (2-3 year old) Co-Teacher
I was born and raised in Washington. I have four siblings and I helped raise my two youngest sisters. I have alays wanted to become a maternity nurse, but once I started working with children my goal has changed to someday opening my own preschool. I have been working with kids for almost 3 years and I am so happy to get to do what I love every day! I especially love watching kids develop their interests and unique personalities. I believe that hands-on learning is very important and beneficial because it helps students better understand and learn the world around them, and am so excited to implement STEM curriculum at Birch Tree Academy.
In my free time I like to hang out with family and friends. I also love everything outdoors an traveling to different places.
Elyse Manns, Bunnies (2-3 year old) Class Lead Teacher
I was born in Multnomah, Oregon and moved to Seattle 22 years ago. After graduating high school I earned my Veterinarian Technicians license. I soon found that veterinary medicine was not a fulfilling passion for me, and I began searching for alternatives. I worked as a mechanic for Boeing, and taught soccer to kids ranging 4-15. During my time as a coach, I learned that I was teaching kids about more than soccer. I was teaching them how to regulate emotions, socialize, and build self-confidence. Watching the kids grow on and off the field gave me such joy! It was these experiences that lead me to pursue a career as a preschool teacher.
I earned my Early Childhood certificate through Washington State University. Afterwards, I worked in preschools and as a nanny. I've worked with children for 8 years and counting. I am also going to Highline Community College. I am taking courses for Child Development, Child Psychology, and Social Work.
In my spare time I enjoy reading, traveling, hiking, fishing, and playing soccer. I joined the Birch Tree Academy team in April of 2017. I am so excited to join the Lake Hills location in the Hedgehogs room! I am honored to be apart of the Birch Tree Family, and I look forward to spending time with all my students.
Julie Leingang- Bunnies (2-3 year old) Co-Teacher
I was born in Mississippi, moved to West Germany and eventually grew up in Spokane, Wa. I am a mom of 2 lovely girls, and a step-mom to to 2 more wonderful girls.
I have worked in customer service my whole life and hold myself to the highest standard. I got my work ethic from my father, who was an Air force pilot. Working in the financial industry for the past 15 years, I have wanted to do something more meaningful with my career. After searching for months I started volunteering at Birch Tree because my daughter attended the school, and soon got hired to be a full time assistant teacher. I am trilled to be part of such a fun, eclectic group of teachers and help make a difference in children’s lives every day!
In my free time I am the events chair for Talk It Up TV and I assist with women’s self -defence classes and work on my non-profit called HighHeeledGoGivers. If I can, I try to squeeze in a good book, see a live band, cook with my girls, dance or volunteer for a local charity. Being a former Mrs. Washington also allows me to help creative more awareness of local causes and non-profit organizations.
Daria Gorbenko, Raccoons (3-4 year old) Co- Teacher
I grew up in the southern rural region of Russia. Both of my parents were educators, and I graduated from Chelyabinsk State University. My husband and I moved to Washington State in 2010. Soon after I started working as a language instructor.
Before joining Birch Tree Academy, I organized a co-op preschool for my two kids and their friends. For me this was a great and enjoyable experience, and teaching became my passion. I decided to continue my career as a teacher in the field of early childhood education.
I especially enjoy working with preschool age children. I believe that teaching through play is the best way to prepare kids for their future years.
My hobbies include gardening, hiking, and studying foreign languages and diverse cultures. I love spending time with my family, traveling, and exploring new places.
Camila Arnaiz-Raccoons (3-4 Year Old) Co- Teacher
I was born in Los Angeles to Peruvian Parents; it wasn’t long until they moved back to their motherland. Living in Peru, Spanish was my first language. After attending primary school, my family and I moved to the United States. One of my biggest challenges moving was learning a new language. I wanted to become fluent in English, but also retain my first language and the culture that goes with it. We moved to Washington, where I finished the rest of my schooling.
I started nannying after graduating from high school. This experience lead me to my passion in early childhood education. I have five years of experience as a lead teacher for both toddler and preschool age groups. I also have experience teaching in Spanish. I am currently enrolled at Bellevue College. My dream is to transfer to University of Washington after I graduate.
I love teaching at Birch Tree Academy in a bilingual program. I am able to use my own experience to help my students conquer a new language. My goal is to give children a positive outlook on learning that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I enjoy spending my time with my family, cooking, traveling, and attending concerts. I also love learning new languages!
Nadia Madalina, Raccoons (3-4 Year Old) Assistant Teacher
I was born in Ukraine and moved to America with my family when I was 8 years old. I have 4 years of banking experience and 1 year customer service at Nordstroms. After I got married, I nannied for a year before I gave birth to my son. I come from a big family of 11 siblings and 15 nieces and nephews, so I have been surrounded by kids and babies all my life and I absolutely love it! I believe that early child development is very important.
A year after my son was born, I started working for Birch Tree Academy and I am so happy and excited to be working here! I love watching these kids grow and learn new things that they are able to put into practice and get excited about. It is a privilege to work with these children and I love them as I do my own son, which I am so grateful is also attending here.
In my free time, I like to read, cook, explore new cafes, be outdoors, take long walks and spend as much time with my family and friends as I can.
Julie Miller, Foxes (3-4 year old) Class Lead Teacher
I am so excited to be the pre-school teacher this year! I have an early Childhood Education degree and have worked with young children for over 25 years. I enjoy providing many experiences for them to learn and explore the world they live in. It is important to me that kids feel loved and confident. I want all my students to feel positive about them and ensure they are ready to start pre-k. I also enjoy reading, camping and many outdoor activities with my 3 granddaughters.
Nalika Virachi- Foxes (3-4 year old) Class Assistant Teacher
I grew up in South Seattle. I recently graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Child Development, and a minor in Sociology. Through consistently caring for my younger sister and cousins growing up, teaching children has always been a passion of mine. After receiving my black belt in high school, my first official teaching position was leading youth martial arts classes after school. During my time at PLU, I worked in preschools and elementary schools and found that working in education is where I am happiest. My goal working in Early Childhood Education is to empower children of all backgrounds to build self confidence in a community that supports their learning and personal growth!
In my free time I enjoy reading, hiking, yoga, and traveling. I joined the Birch Tree Academy family in the spring of 2018, and I couldn’t be more excited to be teaching in the Foxes’ class this year! I look forward to a year full of learning and fun!
Natalia Romanova- Fawns (4-5 year old) Class Co-Teacher
I have two children and now my first grandbaby! I love kids! When first becoming a teacher in 1990 I knew I found my life’s passion. I’ve taught kids of all ages and including some high school grades. I love teaching as much as I love learning, and I have been teaching non-stop since obtaining my teaching certificate. I am fully dedicated to each child that I am privilaged to teach, and am honored to have been selected as Teacher Of The Year several times in Ukraine. I also lead language classes at a local church.
In my space time I enjoy reading, researching, knitting and gardening.
Josh Christmas- Fawns (4-5 year old) Class Co-Teacher
My name is Josh Christman, or you may have heard of me referred to as Mr. Josh. I have lived in north-west Washington pretty much my entire life and absolutely love it here! I studied at BCC then transferred to the University of Montana to study fine arts. I have worked with children preschool through sixth grade on and off for over 12 years now. My favorite thing about working with children is seeing the pride they get when they achieve personal milestones along with watching their personalities grow.
In my spare time I am in the mountains or on the rivers! I love to be outdoors and I spend all of my free time there. In the summertime you can find me in the mountains, I love to hike and backpack all over the cascades and Olympics as well as trail running. I also enjoy fly fishing along the local rivers for everything from trout to salmon. During the winter time all my free time will be on snow, I split board, snowboard and ski.
Jessica Sanders, Cubs (4-5 year old) Class Lead Teacher
Born and raised in Ballard, I am a Seattle native. I grew up loving the outdoors. I spent my summers backpacking, camping, and playing in the great North West!
I have 11 years of experience working with children. I’ve done everything from teaching Kindergarten Enrichment to running summer camps at the YMCA. I spent 3 summers teaching English to orphans at Samuel House Academy in Udaipur, India. I am actively involved in Children's Ministries at my Church, Westgate Chapel.
In my spare time I travel, snowboard, play video games, hike, and DJ for events such as weddings and concerts.
Joanna Sheppard, Assistant Teacher
I grew up in the Seattle area and am currently attending Bellevue College as a full-time student. I am interested in pursuing pediatric nursing or midwifery. Throughout high school I enjoyed working as a nanny.
I enjoy spending my free time with my friends and family. I also love to develop my skills in social media marketing and photography. I am excited to be a part of the Birch Tree community and expand my experience in Early Childhood Education!