Staff

Kara Crespo – Director

Director - Kara Crespo

Kara joined the Learning Tree Preschool family as both a parent and a teacher in 2006 and was named Learning Tree’s Director in 2012. From 2006-2012, Kara taught the 3 year old class and developed and taught the 3 year-old enrichment program. Prior to joining Learning Tree, Kara taught the toddler and 3 year old classes as well as served as Assistant Director at the Goddard School in Hazlet. Kara loves spending time in all of the classrooms; and interacting with the Learning Tree families and their children continues to be an exceptional experience for her. Kara has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Elementary Education and Psychology from Georgian Court University.

Karen Ferrugiaro - Pre-K: Tues-Fri

Karen FerrugiaroKaren has been part of the Learning Tree family since 1994 and has taught the 4 year old Pre-K class for over 15 years. Karen is a graduate of Kean College of New Jersey (now Kean University) where she majored in Early Childhood Education. Prior to joining Learning Tree, Karen oversaw a toddler program for 10 years and spent two years teaching 3 year old pre-school classes. Karen loves working with young children and enjoys meeting the many families that choose to become a part of the Learning Tree experience.

Cathy Villani – Pre-K: Tues-Fri and Pre-K Afternoon Enrichment 

IMGP3527Cathy joined the Learning Tree Family as a parent in 2006. She was an active member of the school as a parent and a substitute teacher, as both of her older boys came through the school.  Prior to Learning Tree, Cathy taught preschool and ran a day camp for 3-5 year old children before becoming the Director of Yellow Duck Nursery School in Manalapan.  She has a Teaching Certificate in Elementary Education and a Master of Arts in Education from Monmouth University.  Cathy is beyond excited to join our staff as a Pre-K and Enrichment Teacher.  Cathy is enthusiastic about sharing in this important time in your child’s life.

Kelly Hegel – 3 Year Old Class: M/W/F and 3′s Enrichment

Kelly HegelKelly joined the Learning Tree family in 2009 as a mom.  Since then she has worked in all classrooms as a cooperating parent or as a substitute.  She currently teaches one of the Monday/Wednesday/Friday 3 year old classes.  Prior to Learning Tree, Kelly was an elementary school teacher in Middletown to 4th graders and Kindergarten students.  Kelly graduated from Georgian Court University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities and Elementary Education.  Kelly truly enjoys working with children and is dedicated to helping each child grow academically and socially.

Katie Rooney - 3 Year Old Class: M/W/F 

IMGP3515Katie joined the Learning Tree Community as a parent in 2010 when her oldest child started preschool.  She currently teaches one of the 3 Day 3 year old classes and continues to serve as an active member of the Parent Board.  Katie graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in Art and Graphic Design.  She later obtained dual teaching certifications in Art and Elementary Education and taught Art in St. Mary’s Elementary School in New Monmouth for 7 years.  Katie is committed to meeting the academic, emotional, and social needs of our youngest learners.  She appreciates the opportunity to work with young child as they begin their educational journey.

Heather Gourley-Thompson – Mom & Me and 2 1/2 Year Old Classes

Heather GourleyThompsonHeather joined Learning Tree as a mom and teacher in 2007.  In looking for preschool programs for her daughter, she fell in love with Learning Tree.   In addition to enrolling her daughter, she interviewed and accepted a position teaching a Mom & Me class. Prior to Learning Tree, Heather taught all subjects in the High Intensity Language Training program for 8 years in the Arlington Public Schools in Virginia.  Heather has a B.A. in Speech and Hearing Science and Spanish, as well as a Master’s degree in Secondary Education and Second Language Acquisition from The George Washington University.  She feels that Learning Tree has provided not only a great first school experience for both of her children but also a unique extended family and community experience.

Classroom Aides 

  • Betsie Cornell
  • Joann Delfino
  • Maria Fendrich
  • Nadine Schnoor
  • Tricia Simon
  • Tina Wolcott