About Our Educators & Staff

Our team of educators and staff is one of the key reasons First Presbyterian has been so successful at fostering capable learners. The entire school staff is committed to providing quality care for children. All our teachers come to the classroom prepared and excited to provide the loving care all children deserve, and encourage them to learn rather than teach at them.

Every teacher at the school has embraced the dynamic and evolving facets of the Reggio model. The staff is highly trained in the many aspects of childhood development and education. At a minimum, staff must have earned or must be working toward their Child Development Associate certification, and must complete 24 hours of continued training in early childhood education each year. Our teachers are observed and evaluated annually to encourage professional growth and development. Prior to employment we conduct a criminal history check and FBI fingerprint check to verify the background of each employee. We also require annual CPR & First Aid training, and a health assessment with negative TB test on file.

Teamwork is a foundation of the school’s philosophy, and that includes collaboration between staff members. When the teachers model collaborative behavior, the children emulate. This spirit of teamwork then becomes part of a child’s framework for relationships beyond school.

Our school is committed to maintaining a high adult to child ratio. Small, intimate classes with ample adult interaction means our students receive the attention they need for guided learning. Educators use “observation and documentation” to track each student’s understanding and achievements over time. This helps us monitor tangible development, and is a great resource for parents in understanding how their child is doing.

Meet Our Faculty & Staff

Elena Acosta

Elena Acosta

Elena Acosta received an award for athlete of the year, when she was only 14 years old, in recognition of her academics, and enthusiasm for sports and health. She gained her yoga teacher certification in May 2018, and has been a proponent of the practice since 2001. Elena graduated with a Bachelor of Health Education in 2003, and a Master of Public Health in 2005, from New Mexico State University. She has over ten years of experience managing health education programs, along the U.S. Mexico Border. She is a 2010 graduate of Leadership El Paso. She has served on a number of nonprofit boards, and is currently the 2019 chair elect of the CASFV Board of Directors.

JoAnne Bustamante

JoAnne Bustamante

JoAnne Bustamante was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She began working at the preschool in 2000, where she obtained her CDA in 2006. In 2013 she left the preschool and returned in 2019. JoAnne holds a special place in her heart for First Presbyterian Preschool, as she has three children who completed the program. Ms. JoAnne is committed to providing children with a loving and developmentally sound foundation for a lifetime of learning.

Teresita Calzadilla

Teresita Calzadilla

Teresita has been working here at First Presbyterian Preschool since September 2013.  She is certified as a community health worker, which allows her to work with disabled children, and is also a certified Iridologist. She is a bilingual teacher, and offers all of her lessons in both English and Spanish. She is honored to have a job that requires her to not only take care of children, but also help care for them with heart and mind and lead them along the path of education.

Desiree DeAngelo

Desiree DeAngelo

Desiree has over ten years of experience teaching Kindergarten. She holds a degree in Early Childhood Education from Texas State University, and spent 9 years teaching Kindergarten at Logan Elementary. She has had many connections to First Presbyterian Preschool over the years. Her brother attended the school and two aunts have taught here as well.

Adriana Pamela De La O

Adriana Pamela De La O

Adriana Pamela De La O was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. Her experience educating children began when she became a volunteer at her daughter’s Pre-K class at Head Start Region 19 in 2007. There she took a teacher course which helped her better assist the educators that requested her assistance. In January of 2019 she was given the opportunity to be a substitute teacher at First Presbyterian. There she had the chance to work with different age groups starting with the beautiful MMOs up to the preschoolers.

Erika Gamero

Erika Gamero

Erika Gamero was born and raised in Durango, México. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Universidad Autónoma España and a Bilingual Child Development Certification. She started working here as a language teacher in 2014. It is her goal to teach her students not only another language but the value of diversity and respect for other people’s backgrounds and cultures.

Tina Gladden

Tina Gladden

Tina is originally from California, and spent 6 years working at First Presbyterian Church Preschool in Monrovia, CA before moving to El Paso. She began here at First Presbyterian Preschool in August of 2012.  She has an Associates Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences and teacher certifications in Early Childhood Education from Citrus College in Glendale, CA. She is currently working on completing her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education. She looks forward to an amazing journey as your helper and as your child’s first teacher.

Melissa Gonzales

Melissa Gonzales

Melissa has been working here at First Presbyterian Preschool since October of 2015. Prior to that, she worked with different age groups in the El Paso School district. She is attending classes to earn her child development certification and is looking forward to bringing all that she learns into the classroom. She finds working with young kids to be a beautiful experience.

Yoke Wan Gunstream

Yoke Wan Gunstream

Yoke Wan Gunstream was born and raised in Malaysia and moved to El Paso in 1996. She has been teaching since 2010. She officially joined the staff at First Presbyterian Preschool in 2018. Yoke Wan loves to sing and play the guitar.

Melanie Hagel

Melanie Hagel

Melanie Hegel was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and moved to Juarez/El Paso to further her studies. She is a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Texas at El Paso. She started working at First Presbyterian Preschool in 2019. Her goal for the school year is to provide an atmosphere where children are allowed to progress daily in their development of social, cognitive, physical and language skills throughout the year.

Suzanna Hallmark

Suzanna Hallmark

Suzanna is our bookkeeper, and she’s been with First Presbyterian Preschool since February of 2015. She attended Trinity University in San Antonio, earning a degree in Asian Studies/Business, before going back to college later on to study accounting and earn her CPA license. She started working at First Presbyterian when her youngest son was in Kindergarten here. Her sons are all grown up now, but she still feels lucky to be a part of this amazing preschool.

Vanessa Johnson

Vanessa Johnson

Vanessa Johnson began her musical training in piano at age 3, and graduated from the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, Massachusetts wit a major in composition. She additionally studied music at New England Conservatory of Music and the University of Southern California, where she received her B.A. in International Relations and French. She also has a M.A. in Latin American and Border Studies from UTEP. A 2003 graduate of Leadership El Paso, Vanessa has served on numerous nonprofit boards in El Paso and the region.

Claudia Juarez

Claudia Juarez

Claudia has multiple years of teaching experience with an emphasis on Montessori and started here in 2014. She is certified as a Montessori guide by Children’s House (teaching children 3-6 years, Pre-K and Kinder). She completed her training in San Diego before earning her Masters in Education (major in Child Development ages 3-6) in Baltimore. Her main goal is to help children develop according to their individual needs, while providing appropriate learning opportunities to help their brains establish the proper connections during this age. Working at First Presbyterian Preschool has given her the opportunity to do what she likes the most – instructing little ones.

Dawn Kliebert

Dawn Kliebert

Ms. Kliebert has several years of previous experience in the administrative, management and financial fields.  She began working at First Presbyterian Preschool in March of 1999, gaining valuable experience about our program as the Administrative Assistant to the Director, as an alumni parent and as a Board member at the Preschool. 

Charlene Lievanos

Charlene Lievanos

Charlene Lievanos has been teaching here at First Presbyterian since August of 1999. She became the Assistant Director in August of 2019. She attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where she studied sociology. Charlene holds a CDA credential –a credential that helps promote the emotional, physical intellectual and social development of young children. She currently sits on the board of the PdNtxaeyc as secretary. She serves as an advocate for children and helps to train teachers and child care workers in the El Paso area. She believes that children are capable participants in the planning and implementing of all learning. She has lived in El Paso for over 20 years with her husband and has two grown children.

Heather Martinez

Heather Martinez

Heather Martinez was born and raised in Del Rio, Texas. She is new to El Paso, previously living in Germany, Colorado, and New York. Heather has been working in Early Childhood Education since 2011. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies and previously earned her CDA credential in infant and toddlers. She joined the team at First Presbyterian Preschool in 2019 and is thankful to be able to continue following her passion of working with young children.

Michelle Meredith

Michelle Meredith

Michelle has been teaching for over a decade, starting with teaching psychology to high school seniors at Loretto Academy. She then moved to Austin and spent ten years teaching at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Preschool. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso and has taken classes in Child Development at Austin Community College. It is her goal to guide each child to grow, learn, and explore in this new place.

Marisol Munoz

Marisol Munoz

Marisol Munoz is originally from Guanajuato, México, where she studied Early Childhood Education at Instituto America en Leon, Guanajuato. Marisol came to the preschool in 2007, where she was a Spanish teacher for Pre-K and Kindergarten. In 2010 she left and returned in 2017, to continue to teach Spanish, while working on obtaining her CDA in Early Childhood Education.

Ali Neal

Ali Neal

Ali is a First Presbyterian Preschool graduate herself and currently works with our MMO students. She was born and raised right here in El Paso and is currently studying psychology at UTEP, with the ultimate goal of being a clinical child psychologist. She enjoys every moment working with children and learning about them. She finds working in our child-based learning environment inspiring, exhilarating, and enlightening.

Cece Neal

Cece Neal

Mrs. Neal has a B.A. in Preschool and Elementary Education from the University of Florida.  She has worked in the early childhood field since 1979.  Cece is the founding director of First Presbyterian Preschool.  Mrs. Neal is a member of The North American Reggio Emilia Alliance and on the Paso Del Norte Association for the Education of Young Children.  She is also a member of the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children and NAEYC and a member of the Southern Early Childhood Association.

Teresa Ramos

Teresa Ramos

Teresa has been working in this profession more than 30 years. She has an Associates degree in Child Development, and is a board member of the Paso del Norte National Association for the Education of Young Children. She’s been working at First Presbyterian Preschool since August of 2004, and enjoys serving as a mentor for new teachers and parents. She also works in the Sunday School program of First Presbyterian Church as the Childcare Coordinator, and assists in all their childcare related programs.

Olivia Romero

Olivia Romero

Olivia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Preschool Education and a major in Pedagogy. She has over 15 years of teaching experience, working with 3, 4, & 5 year olds. Born and raised in Cd. Juarez, she originally taught English as a second language and Spanish. She joined the First Presbyterian Preschool staff in 2012 as a language teacher. She is now co-teaching Spanish to our students. Her goals are to nurture the Spanish language in native speakers and motivate non-native speakers to acquire vocabulary in a fun and natural way. She strongly believes that teaching is an art and that the masterpiece is your little one.

Maria Elisa Sandoval

Maria Elisa Sandoval

Maria Elisa – who everyone calls Lila – is originally from El Paso. She has been with First Presbyterian Preschool since 2007. She studied education at UTEP and completed her studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, before moving to Michigan. She loves helping children develop socialization skills, directing them in finding acceptable means of expressing emotions, and emphasizing play as the most important way for kids to learn.

Marina Schlinke

Marina Schlinke

Marina has been working in early childhood education for more than 20 years and has been with First Presbyterian Preschool since August of 2012. She loves to work with 3 and 4 year olds and help them develop basic foundational skills on which they rely as they move forward, such as social skills, math, science, language, and literacy – disguised as fun and play. She wants every child to develop a love for learning and a positive outlook towards school.

Alma Seffert

Alma Seffert

Alma Seffert was born and raised here in El Paso, Texas. In 2001, she started teaching in the elementary school setting and has greatly enjoyed working in the field of education. Since 2016, she has been teaching here at First Presbyterian Preschool. Her teaching experiences have encouraged her to continue education and she has now obtained her Child Development Associates Certification.

Claudia Valdivia

Claudia Valdivia

Claudia was born in El Paso and raised in Juarez, and holds a degree in Child Development. She started teaching here at First Presbyterian Preschool in August of 2014. She loves working with kids and applying the most current practices in early childhood development. She believes that children are young individuals with needs and wants that need to be catered to and carefully nurtured. She strives to support her students as they leap forward in motor development, increase mental reasoning skills, explore language abilities, and blossom in social, emotional, and spiritual growth.

Brooke Witherite

Brooke Witherite

Brooke is originally from Pennsylvania where she studied music therapy at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. She moved to El Paso in June of 2017, where she is completing her degree as a music therapy intern at Richards Music Therapy Services. Volunteering with children’s programs at her home church and in schools within the community has been an important part of her life. Ms. Brooke is very passionate about teaching music and has provided private piano lessons to children of all ages since 2013. She understands how important it is to introduce music to children at a young age and will be teaching a variety of songs and beginner musical concepts to the students here. Her goals include providing age appropriate music education and music performance opportunities for the children of First Presbyterian Preschool, while implementing values of friendship, kindness, love, patience, and much more. She is very excited to begin teaching music here at First Presbyterian Preschool and is anticipating learning more about each and every one of the children who attend our school.

Be Inspired by a Different Way to Learn

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First Presbyterian Preschool

First Presbyterian Preschool

1340 Murchison Drive, El Paso, TX, USA