The Connections Preschool Staff –

Each of us loves children and loves to teach. We also love to share with children that Jesus loves them and cares for them through our actions and words. Here is a little more about each of us.

Administration

  Carla Smith  – Preschool Director  Carla has served as director for two years. She was a three-year old teacher for 6 years and an assistant director for two years. Carla and her husband, Paul, graduated from NC State and have three adult children. Prior to Connections Preschool, Carla was a genetic counselor at UNC Hospitals and a stay home mom. She is passionate about supporting children in their education and has volunteered as PTA president at her children’s elementary school and high school and was on the Board of Directors for their charter school. Carla loves sports, spending time with family/friends and sharing essential oils.

Carla Smith – Preschool Director

Carla has served as director for two years. She was a three-year old teacher for 6 years and an assistant director for two years. Carla and her husband, Paul, graduated from NC State and have three adult children. Prior to Connections Preschool, Carla was a genetic counselor at UNC Hospitals and a stay home mom. She is passionate about supporting children in their education and has volunteered as PTA president at her children’s elementary school and high school and was on the Board of Directors for their charter school. Carla loves sports, spending time with family/friends and sharing essential oils.

  Katie Steiner  -  Preschool Coordinator  Katie started working at Connections Preschool in 2012. She began as a teacher’s assistant for the two- year old and three-year old classes and has assisted in the office for the past two years. She grew up in Minnesota and attended Normandale College where she received a degree in Accounting and Business. Katie and her husband, Dave, moved to Raleigh in 1999. They have one adult age child, two teenagers and one grandson. Katie loves to travel and spend time with her family. Katie is also a talented seamstress who creates some incredible bags and quilts.

Katie Steiner -  Preschool Coordinator

Katie started working at Connections Preschool in 2012. She began as a teacher’s assistant for the two- year old and three-year old classes and has assisted in the office for the past two years. She grew up in Minnesota and attended Normandale College where she received a degree in Accounting and Business. Katie and her husband, Dave, moved to Raleigh in 1999. They have one adult age child, two teenagers and one grandson. Katie loves to travel and spend time with her family. Katie is also a talented seamstress who creates some incredible bags and quilts.

 

Ones (Fish Class)

  Fahimeh Kalani  – Lead Teacher  Fahimeh’s first job in the United States was at Connections Preschool.  She began as a volunteer, then became a teacher’s assistant and has been the lead teacher for the one-year old class for two years. She was born and raised in the middle east.  Fahimeh graduated from college and opened her own daycare center in 2006 in Iran.  In 2013, she and her husband, Saeed, moved with their two daughters to Raleigh. She is passionate about teaching young children. Fahimeh enjoys shopping, baking cakes and desserts and spending time with her family.

Fahimeh Kalani – Lead Teacher

Fahimeh’s first job in the United States was at Connections Preschool.  She began as a volunteer, then became a teacher’s assistant and has been the lead teacher for the one-year old class for two years. She was born and raised in the middle east.  Fahimeh graduated from college and opened her own daycare center in 2006 in Iran.  In 2013, she and her husband, Saeed, moved with their two daughters to Raleigh. She is passionate about teaching young children. Fahimeh enjoys shopping, baking cakes and desserts and spending time with her family.

  Lauren Askew  – Teacher’s Assistant  Lauren is a past Connections Preschool parent and started as the one-year old teacher’s assistant in January 2018. She and her husband, Chuck, moved to Raleigh in 2008 to work at NC State and Meredith College doing campus ministry with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). They have three children. Lauren graduated from University of Rochester and earned a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Reformed Theological Seminary. Lauren enjoys meeting with college students, coaching soccer and driving her children to their various activities.

Lauren Askew – Teacher’s Assistant

Lauren is a past Connections Preschool parent and started as the one-year old teacher’s assistant in January 2018. She and her husband, Chuck, moved to Raleigh in 2008 to work at NC State and Meredith College doing campus ministry with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). They have three children. Lauren graduated from University of Rochester and earned a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Reformed Theological Seminary. Lauren enjoys meeting with college students, coaching soccer and driving her children to their various activities.

 
 

Twos (Frogs Class)

  Susan Gentry  – Lead Teacher  Susan was part of the committee who had the vision to start a preschool at Forest Hills Baptist Church. She grew up in Louisiana, loves her LSU Tigers and Cajun cooking. She is married to Bill and they have two teenage children. Susan taught in public schools for over twenty years in many different classroom environments and has a degree in special education. She has taught at Connections Preschool for eight years as both the four-year old lead teacher and two-year old lead teacher. Susan loves being outside, watching sports and traveling with her family.

Susan Gentry – Lead Teacher

Susan was part of the committee who had the vision to start a preschool at Forest Hills Baptist Church. She grew up in Louisiana, loves her LSU Tigers and Cajun cooking. She is married to Bill and they have two teenage children. Susan taught in public schools for over twenty years in many different classroom environments and has a degree in special education. She has taught at Connections Preschool for eight years as both the four-year old lead teacher and two-year old lead teacher. Susan loves being outside, watching sports and traveling with her family.

  Melodie Smith  – Teacher’s Assistant  Melodie is in her first year at Connections Preschool. She is a native of Knightdale, NC where she lives with her husband, Jerry, and their two adult children and one teenager. Melodie received her Bachelor of Arts in Accounting at NC State and Master of Arts Degree in Speech and Language Pathology from UNC-Greensboro. She is serves in the adult’s special needs class at Colonial Baptist Church.  Melodies’ interests include art, crafts, reading and participating in bible study. She is a wonderful addition to Connections Preschool.

Melodie Smith – Teacher’s Assistant

Melodie is in her first year at Connections Preschool. She is a native of Knightdale, NC where she lives with her husband, Jerry, and their two adult children and one teenager. Melodie received her Bachelor of Arts in Accounting at NC State and Master of Arts Degree in Speech and Language Pathology from UNC-Greensboro. She is serves in the adult’s special needs class at Colonial Baptist Church.  Melodies’ interests include art, crafts, reading and participating in bible study. She is a wonderful addition to Connections Preschool.

 

Threes (Bees Class)

  Stephanie Spencer  – Lead Teacher  Stephanie has been working at Connections Preschool since 2014. She started as a teacher’s assistant in the three-year old class and became the lead teacher in 2015. Stephanie graduated from Meredith College with a degree in Biology so she brings her love for science to the classroom. Stephanie and her husband, John Graham, have two children and are foster parents to a third child. She loves taking trips with the family and cheering on the Wolfpack together. Stephanie is also a gifted photographer who uses her talents to help with our preschool pictures each year.

Stephanie Spencer – Lead Teacher

Stephanie has been working at Connections Preschool since 2014. She started as a teacher’s assistant in the three-year old class and became the lead teacher in 2015. Stephanie graduated from Meredith College with a degree in Biology so she brings her love for science to the classroom. Stephanie and her husband, John Graham, have two children and are foster parents to a third child. She loves taking trips with the family and cheering on the Wolfpack together. Stephanie is also a gifted photographer who uses her talents to help with our preschool pictures each year.

  Shannon Bellamy  – Teacher’s Assistant  Shannon has been working at Connections Preschool for six years as a teacher’s assistant in the four-year old and three-year old classes. She grew up in Western NC and graduated from Peace College and NC State. Prior to joining Connections, she worked in the ceramic tile industry and was a stay home mom. Shannon and her husband, Kevin, have two adult children. Shannon’s hobbies include traveling, the great outdoors and art.  She loves to capture God’s beautiful creation on canvas through her painting with oils and watercolors and brings this passion into the preschool classroom.

Shannon Bellamy – Teacher’s Assistant

Shannon has been working at Connections Preschool for six years as a teacher’s assistant in the four-year old and three-year old classes. She grew up in Western NC and graduated from Peace College and NC State. Prior to joining Connections, she worked in the ceramic tile industry and was a stay home mom. Shannon and her husband, Kevin, have two adult children. Shannon’s hobbies include traveling, the great outdoors and art.  She loves to capture God’s beautiful creation on canvas through her painting with oils and watercolors and brings this passion into the preschool classroom.

 

Fours (Chameleons Class)

  Jen Christian  – Lead Teacher  Jen has been with Connections Preschool for two years. She started as a teacher’s assistant in the one-year old class and moved to the position of lead teacher for the four-year old class this year. Jen has degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and NCCU in communications and elementary education. Prior to joining Connections Preschool, she taught kindergarten in Wake County for seven years and then made the decision be a stay home mom with her two children. Her husband, Dave, is also an educator too. Jen enjoys reading and arguing over college sports with her NCSU alumni husband.

Jen Christian – Lead Teacher

Jen has been with Connections Preschool for two years. She started as a teacher’s assistant in the one-year old class and moved to the position of lead teacher for the four-year old class this year. Jen has degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and NCCU in communications and elementary education. Prior to joining Connections Preschool, she taught kindergarten in Wake County for seven years and then made the decision be a stay home mom with her two children. Her husband, Dave, is also an educator too. Jen enjoys reading and arguing over college sports with her NCSU alumni husband.

  Laura Pemberton  – Teacher’s Assistant  Laura joined Connections Preschool in 2012 as the lead teacher for the one-year old class. She was the lead teacher for the four-year old class before moving to her current position as the teacher’s assistant for that class. She studied Commercial Art at Chowan College and Early Childhood Development at Wake Technical Community College. She taught preschool for 15 years prior to joining our staff. Laura and her husband, Tim, have been married for 23 years and have lots of cat babies. Laura enjoys oil painting, gardening, fabric design, sewing and is the owner and operator of Treehouse Drapery and Design.

Laura Pemberton – Teacher’s Assistant

Laura joined Connections Preschool in 2012 as the lead teacher for the one-year old class. She was the lead teacher for the four-year old class before moving to her current position as the teacher’s assistant for that class. She studied Commercial Art at Chowan College and Early Childhood Development at Wake Technical Community College. She taught preschool for 15 years prior to joining our staff. Laura and her husband, Tim, have been married for 23 years and have lots of cat babies. Laura enjoys oil painting, gardening, fabric design, sewing and is the owner and operator of Treehouse Drapery and Design.

 

Enrichment Program

  Debbie Johnson  – Cultural Arts Coordinator (Music) and Teacher’s Assistant (Bees Class)  Debbie has been teaching music at Connections Preschool since its inception in 2008. She was a vital part of the committee that started the preschool. In 2015, Debbie became the teacher’s assistant for the three-year old class and has continued teaching music. Debbie and her husband, Jeff, have one adult daughter and a teenage son. She loves sharing God’s love with His children through songs and movement. In her free time, Debbie enjoys singing, gardening and baking. She is an active member of the Forest Hill’s hand bell choir too.

Debbie Johnson – Cultural Arts Coordinator (Music) and Teacher’s Assistant (Bees Class)

Debbie has been teaching music at Connections Preschool since its inception in 2008. She was a vital part of the committee that started the preschool. In 2015, Debbie became the teacher’s assistant for the three-year old class and has continued teaching music. Debbie and her husband, Jeff, have one adult daughter and a teenage son. She loves sharing God’s love with His children through songs and movement. In her free time, Debbie enjoys singing, gardening and baking. She is an active member of the Forest Hill’s hand bell choir too.

  Tempe Chapman  – Literacy Teacher and Teacher’s Assistant (Fish Class)  Tempe has been part of Connections Preschool for five years as both a teacher’s assistant and lead teacher for the four-year old class. This is Tempe’s first year as our literacy teacher and one-year old teacher’s assistant. She graduated from Meredith College with a degree in Psychology and a K-6 teaching certification. Prior to choosing to stay home with her children, Tempe taught third grad at Oak Grove Elementary School. Tempe and her husband, Rick, have two teenagers and two dogs. She loves to read, walk her dogs and spend time with family and friends.

Tempe Chapman – Literacy Teacher and Teacher’s Assistant (Fish Class)

Tempe has been part of Connections Preschool for five years as both a teacher’s assistant and lead teacher for the four-year old class. This is Tempe’s first year as our literacy teacher and one-year old teacher’s assistant. She graduated from Meredith College with a degree in Psychology and a K-6 teaching certification. Prior to choosing to stay home with her children, Tempe taught third grad at Oak Grove Elementary School. Tempe and her husband, Rick, have two teenagers and two dogs. She loves to read, walk her dogs and spend time with family and friends.

  Kristi Flowers  – Creativity Resource Teacher (Out of the Box) and Teacher’s Assistant (Fish Class)  Kristi returned to Connections Preschool last year as our Out of the Box Teacher.  In the past, she was a teacher’s assistant for the four-year old class and a substitute teacher with the Wake County Public School System. Kristi moved to Raleigh during junior year of high school. She graduated from Rosemont College (outside of Philadelphia, PA) with a degree in English Literature. Kristi and her husband, Parker, are adjusting and enjoying being empty nesters with two college age children. She enjoys sporting events, traveling and the outdoors.

Kristi Flowers – Creativity Resource Teacher (Out of the Box) and Teacher’s Assistant (Fish Class)

Kristi returned to Connections Preschool last year as our Out of the Box Teacher.  In the past, she was a teacher’s assistant for the four-year old class and a substitute teacher with the Wake County Public School System. Kristi moved to Raleigh during junior year of high school. She graduated from Rosemont College (outside of Philadelphia, PA) with a degree in English Literature. Kristi and her husband, Parker, are adjusting and enjoying being empty nesters with two college age children. She enjoys sporting events, traveling and the outdoors.