Meet the Preschool Teachers

Anna Zielinski

Interim Preschool Director

Anna Zielinski has lived in New Canaan for ten years all the while working at the Nature Center.  She started here as a teacher and a naturalist and Camp Field Director then become the Assistant Preschool Director, and eventually the Summer Camp Director. While she’s stepped back from Summer programing, she’s continued to dedicate herself to the Preschool.  Early Education has always been Anna’s passion. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Dayton and has completed the coursework for the Connecticut Director Credential.

Throughout her time here, Anna has developed a deep love and understanding of the Preschool and of the Nature Center itself. Engaging with children in an outdoor environment and watching them bloom in the forest is the most rewarding and validating experience she’s ever had as an educator. She believes that through letting children play in the woods, we are promoting each child’s individual growth as well as creating a foundation of love and conservation for our environment.  Anna enjoys long hikes, yoga, gluten free baking, arts and crafts, and beekeeping.

Jane Piselli

Director of Summer Camp/Teacher

Jane Piselli graduated from Antioch University New England with a Master’s in Education as well as an Early Childhood, Special Education, and Elementary Teaching certification. They also have their certificate in Nature Based Preschool. Their passion is getting out of the classroom and exploring the outdoors. They believe that by providing kids with real experiences and time to explore the world around them and their own development as humans they will fall in love with the world and learning. Jane loves getting their hands and feet dirty and personally does their best learning while exploring and investigating, always asking questions. Jane loves to hike, bike, swim, and snowshoe. Jane is a NCNC Preschool Alumni and their family has a long history of working and participating in programing.

Christine Dinella


Christine Dinella grew up in Stamford, CT, and joined the New Canaan Nature Center Preschool in 1999. She had previously been a lead teacher at the Baby Cottage in Stamford, an educational assistant at Rogers Magnet School and the Summer Camp Director at the Wilton Riding Club. She is working toward her degree in Early Childhood Education at Norwalk Community College. She loves to be outside and enjoys cooking and baking with the children.

Mary Hayes


Mary Hayes was born and raised in Dobbs Ferry, New York. She graduated from Iona College with a B.A. in Psychology. Upon graduation she began teaching at Community Nursery School, working with two, three, and four year olds. Eventually, Mary, her husband and four boys settled in Darien. After the youngest started school, Mary wanted to go back to her most rewarding job, teaching. She joined St. Johns Preschool in Darien. After that, she began substitute teaching in the Darien Elementary Schools, while also working at Maureen Bloom’s Playdates program. Mary loves spending time with family and two dogs. Some of her favorite things are gardening, kayaking, cooking, and spending time at the beach.

Emily Kerchoff


Emily Kerchoff, a New Canaan native, grew up at the New Canaan Nature Center. She attended camps as a child, was on the trails often, and volunteered in animal care while at Saxe Middle School. She loves being part of the Nature Center where she has so many special memories. Previously, Emily taught as a Preschool Teacher at Family Centers in Greenwich and she has earned her 30-hour certificate in ECE at Norwalk Community College and is working towards her bachelors degree. She loves to explore the trails, often hikes with her Australian Shepherd rescue, and still remembers the Salamander Song.

Claire Jones


Claire Jones lives in New Canaan with her husband. Five years ago, with the encouragement of her 5 children (all former NCNC summer campers and preschool graduates), she started substitute teaching at the New Canaan Nature Center and was thrilled when she joined the teaching staff full time. She graduated cum laude with a degree in Communications from the University of Southern California, where she enjoyed working with early elementary children through the university’s community outreach teaching program. She has earned her certificate in Early Childhood Education from Norwalk Community College. Claire views the outdoors as the perfect environment for children to explore, learn and grow as individuals and as classmates. She integrates music and movement with imagination into every day!

Johana Romero


Johana Romero was born in Panama City, Panama. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Marketing. In 2007 she decided to come to the U.S. to continue her studies where she pursued a new career path in education and achieved an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education from The Norwalk Community College. Eventually, she would like to pursue a master’s in Education. She has realized that the most important part of teaching is engaging with the children and listening to what they want to share in the classroom. Johana likes to work with recycled materials and “props,” and strives to combine different approaches to learning where children can benefit. In her spare time, she likes to practice yoga, go to the gym, learn to cook new dishes, explore new places, and spend time outside with her son Julian who is 7 years old. They love going to the beach and enjoy the smell of the sea. She lives in Norwalk with her husband and son and is very excited to be part of the team at The New Canaan Nature Center.

Tara Sheridan


Tara Sheridan holds a NYS Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 6 Teacher Certification. After graduating from Villanova University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education, Tara moved to Arizona where she began her career teaching preschool in Tucson.  She completed her Master’s in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University, as well as a Certificate in Nature and Place-Based Education from Prescott College.  Tara continued to gain valuable experience teaching grades 4-8 in public and private elementary schools in New York City. Recently, Tara spent several seasons sharing her love for nature-based education through her role as a Tinkergarten leader, offering outdoor play-based classes to children and their caregivers in Fairfield County.  She currently lives in Bethel with her husband and 4 children. Together, they enjoy hiking in New York and Connecticut throughout the year and exploring the shores of Cape Cod during the summer. Tara is a firm believer in bare feet, muddy hands and splashing in rain puddles!

Whitney McCarthy


Whitney McCarthy lives in New Canaan with her husband, Ted, and three children who all attended the NCNC preschool. She has taught first and fifth graders in Westport public schools and two and three year olds in preschool. Working with children is a gift- their joy and enthusiasm is contagious- and allows Whitney to share her love of animals, gardening, the arts, literature and play every day. Whitney loves sailing and competes in races during the summer.

Lisa Socci


Lisa Socci is from Stamford where she lives with her husband and four children. She has been an early childhood educator since 1998. She studied Early Childhood Education at Norwalk Community College and is working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Studies. She enjoys working with children of all ages, spending time exploring the ever-changing gifts of nature. Her passions include her family, gardening and cooking. Every day brings a surprise when you keep your mind and your heart open!

Karen Haber


Karen Haber earned her Bachelors Degree in Visual Arts from SUNY New Paltz. She later returned to Mercy college to pursue graduate studies in Speech Pathology, which included a great deal of emphasis on early childhood coursework. Karen has been an early childhood educator since 2006, more often as a lead teacher in 3’s classrooms. She also held the position of Assistant Director at a large children’s daycare facility in Westchester (with enrollment of 125). Most recently she taught in a Primary Montessori school program (combined ages 4,5, and 6) at Whitby school in Greenwich Ct. Karen has always placed special attention on art with natural materials throughout her teaching. As art was her first love, she believes in the importance of artistic self-expression and creativity at any age. She feels that creating a warm, caring, and safe environment for children is most important, where learning will follow. She and her husband have a son and a daughter at home, in Somers, NY.

Lindsay Tucker


Lindsay Tucker joined the New Canaan Nature Center Preschool in 2016. She attended the College of William and Mary earning a degree in International Relations and Women’s Studies. She went onto pursue graduate studies in International Development and Global Health. Following her academic pursuits, Lindsay worked in Washington DC and New York City in corporate philanthropy. While living in New York City, Lindsay volunteered at an elementary school in Harlem for five years and began to teach early childhood parenting classes at the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) at Metropolitan Hospital. In 2015 she moved to New Canaan with her family and enrolled her youngest son at the New Canaan Nature Center. She watched her son and all of the other children at the Nature Center flourish in their outdoor classroom and knew that she wanted to be a part of other children’s experiences at the school. She is enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program at Norwalk Community College. She lives in New Canaan with her husband and their two very active boys

Jessica Cree


Jessica Cree grew up in Stamford. She has worked in preschool classrooms for 24 years. Jessica has her associate degree from Norwalk Community college in Early Childhood. She has taught four-year olds at Toddler Time in New Canaan, worked summers here at the Nature Center camp, and spent 8 years teaching 3s and 4s at Carousel Preschool in Norwalk, where she integrated gardening and nutrition into her curriculum. Jessica lives with her husband Jon, 7-year-old daughter Jocelyn and 5 year old son Jameson. She enjoys cooking, reading, and learning and sharing about health and nutrition.

Michelle Lesser


Michelle Lesser grew up in Great Neck, NY. She has been working with children for the past 10 years in the Stamford Public Schools and has spent the most recent three teaching the 4’s.  Michelle has her bachelors from SUNY Albany where she majored in art and education, with a minor in psychology.  Michelle lives with her husband, Zach, 15 year old daughter, Ava, and 11 year old son, Gabriel, as well as their two dogs, Bella and Casey. Michelle is an avid reader, loves to cook, play tennis, take yoga classes, hike, listen to music, and spend as much time as possible with her family, preferably outdoors!

Jennifer Frederick

Preschool Floater / Aide

Jennifer Frederick was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She lived there up until twenty years ago, when she decided to move to America. She is the mother of two children. She has been living in New Canaan for over 10 years and has over 15 years of experience working with children. She also worked at Oxygen Daycare for over 3 years. The energy and enthusiasm of children is what inspires her to continue wanting to interact with children. She loves to travel; cooking is her passion as well as watching soccer.