Meet the Preschool Teachers

Anna Zielinski

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.

Emily Kerchoff

Assistant Preschool Director

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. Currently she is enrolled in an Early Childhood Education Administration and Supervision course. After seven years as a preschool teacher at NCNC, she is now our Assistant Preschool Director. She also just wrapped up her first year as Summer Camp Director. In her spare time, she enjoys jewelry-making, skiing, and hiking. Most of all she enjoys hitting the beach near her home in Lordship with her fiancé and two dogs.

Jessica Cree


Jessica Cree grew up in Stamford, and has taught in pre-school classrooms in New Canaan, Norwalk and Stamford for over 25 years. Jessica has a degree in Early Childhood Education, and received a teaching certification from The Eastern Region Association of forest and nature schools, with a focus on risky play in early childhood.
Jessica also works with young children at Steps Dance Studio in Stamford, and incorporates elements of nature whenever possible. At home, Jessica enjoys spending time with her husband Jon, and children Jocelyn and Jameson. She likes to read, cook, and dance.

Ann Dickson


Ann Dickson grew up in Darien and returned there with her husband to raise their two boys who are both graduates of Darien schools. Ann began teaching preschool when her youngest was in first grade. She holds a degree in English Literature from Wheaton College and a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College. Some of her favorite things are good books, baking, walking with friends, and hanging out at the beach.

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.

Jennifer Frederick


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, prior to coming to the New Canaan Nature Center as a Preschool Assistant and Summer Camp staff member. 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.

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.

Margaret Hughes


Margaret Hughes lives in Fairfield, CT with her husband and two children.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Manhattanville College and is a certified teacher in the State of Connecticut.  Margaret has enjoyed teaching in both general Ed and special Ed settings over the past 17 years.  She is returning to the NCNC 3’s program after some time teaching in the Fairfield public schools.  She is passionate about teaching early childhood, and especially enjoys working in a nature based, play based program such as NCNC. In her free time, Margaret enjoys traveling and entertaining friends and family.

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!

Courtney Pagano


Courtney Pagano lives in Norwalk, Connecticut with her husband and three daughters. She holds a degree in early childhood and elementary education and a Masters in literacy. Courtney enjoyed four years as a Kindergarten teacher at Bronx Charter School for Excellence and more recently, has worked with preschoolers in both classroom and play-group settings. Courtney enjoys reading, cooking and playing pickleball. As a native of Long Island’s south shore, she loves spending time outdoors with family and friends, especially at the beach.

Christine Bazata


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.

Michelle Rosen


Michelle Rosen grew up in Norwalk Ct. She has her degree in Early Childhood Education. She also Received a Teacher Certification from The Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools with a concentration on the benefits of Risky Play in Early Childhood. 🌿 Fun fact, She has a twin sister, and they were born on two different days and two different ways. She loves to cook, bake, and read.

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!

Angela Devita


Mary Victor


Mary Victor was born and raised in New Delhi, India. There, she completed her Masters Degree and worked as a teacher for 4 years before moving to the U.S. in 2007. Since then, she has been pursuing her passion for teaching. In the past 13 years, she has worked at All Saints Catholic school, Children’s Corner, and ELLI at Stepping Stones Museum For Children. She loves spending time with her family and playing sports like badminton, table tennis, and basketball with her husband, Victor, and sons, Jeffrey and Eric. She also loves to celebrate with her extended family of about 50 people!

Mary is excited to join the New Canaan Nature Center team as a Preschool Teacher and the Lead After School Program Facilitator.