Kara Crespo – Director, 2 ½ Class Teacher
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 has her teaching certificate for Nursery School through 8th grade as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Psychology from Georgian Court University. When Kara isn’t at Learning Tree she enjoys being involved in her community and sons activities. Kara serves as a committee member, merit badge counselor and fundraising co-chair for Boy Scout Troop 32. She also loves to help out the Backpack Crew whenever she can.
“I loved the warm, family like feeling that I got when I first entered Learning Tree doors. Through the years, I’ve enjoyed watching so many of our most precious gifts, our children, learn & grow. I love being a part of their first educational journey. The most wonderful thing in the world is seeing the smiles on their faces, hearing their laughter & stories, and experiencing their amazement when they learn new things! Teaching truly is a work of heart.” - Miss Kara
Kathleen Darby – Pre-K Class/Enrichment Teacher
Kathleen joined the Learning Tree Staff in 2018 when a Pre-K teaching position opened up. She first heard about Learning Tree when her friend referred her because of our warm & loving environment. Kathleen’s youngest daughter attended our preschool. Prior to teaching at Learning Tree, Kathleen taught 1st grade, 2nd grade, and was an Interventionist for grades K-8. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and a Masters of Arts in Elementary Education and a Reading Specialist Certificate. Kathleen has made a wonderful addition to Learning Tree!
Kelly Hegel – Pre-K Teacher
Kelly joined the Learning Tree family in 2009 as a mom. Since then she has worked in all classrooms as a cooperating parent, substitute and as a 3′s and 3′s enrichment teacher. 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. When Kelly isn’t working she enjoys volunteering for the Middletown Soccer Club and Monmouth United Soccer Club for her daughter and son, who of course both attended Learning Tree.
“All students are individuals and everyone learns in their own unique way. I enjoy using multiple teaching methods in my classroom so each child can reach their potential.” - Miss Kelly
Heather Gourley-Thompson – 3′s Class/Enrichment Teacher
Heather joined Learning Tree 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. Outside of school, Heather is very involved in her hometown of Shrewsbury and currently serves as a board member on the Shrewsbury Board of Education.
“At Learning Tree, I’m able to see not just the child in isolation, but I get the opportunity to know the whole family. This to me, is so important because we are not just teaching ABC’s, we are helping raise young learners and this should be a team approach!” - Miss Heather
Betsie Cornell – Pre-K Class/Enrichment Aide
Betsie joined the Learning Tree staff as an aide in 2001. She was the 1st to be hired as an aide at our school! Betsie has an Associate’s degree from the International Fine Arts College in Miami, Florida. In her free time, Betsie enjoys being involved in various activities through her church for several years.
“I love my Learning Tree family – both staff and all the families and children I have come to know and work with over the years!” -Miss Betsie
Lauren Niro – Babysitter, Substitute Aide
Lauren just joined our staff in 2018. She first became a member of the Learning Tree family when her son James enrolled in the 2 1/2 class in 2016. Her daughter Siena also now attends Learning Tree. Lauren graduated from Monmouth University with a B.A. in Business/Marketing. While studying at college she was a nanny for a local family with 3 children. She knew that what she was most meant to do was to be a mother!
“There is no greater gift than being able to be a part of my children’s preschool experience. It brings me such joy to see the smiles on them and their classmates.” – Miss Lauren
Diana Scheffling - 2 ½ Class Aide, 3′s Class Aide
Diana first came to Learning Tree in 2015 after a friend recommended our school. After her daughter completed preschool last year she jumped at the chance when an aide position opened up for the 2018/19 school year. Prior to working at Learning Tree, Diana worked in both Middletown and Oceanport Schools after receiving her Masters in Early Childhood Education.
“I love that Learning Tree has such a strong parent/teacher communication and such a positive involvement of parents. It is so important for a child’s education. Together may we give our children the roots to grow and wings to fly.”
Tricia Simon - Mom & Me Teacher, Pre-K Class/Enrichment Aide
Tricia was hired as an aide at Learning Tree in 2008 after her children attended our preschool. She has an A.A. in Fine Arts and a B.F.A. in advertising design. Tricia enjoys being very involved in her community. She has served as an advisory board member for Middletown Parks & Rec., Parent Information committee representative for Middletown District, member of Facilities and Planning Ad-Hoc Committee for Middletown District, County Committee representative for the Rage Core Group, and various parent duties at River Plaza Elementary. We are so lucky to have Tricia working at our preschool. She is sure to be seen around Learning Tree any day of the week!
“I love Learning Tree because it is the only time during your children’s education that you can really be hands on! I cherish my own memories at Learning Tree with my own children. My favorite part of the day is listening to the children tell me about their experiences. I love seeing their excitement each day!” – Miss Tricia