Our experienced teachers give their hearts and souls to guide and encourage children through carefully planned activities that allow them to develop at their own ideal rate. Many of the tree house teachers and staff have been part of our school for ten years with many over 15 years. We offer a very stable environment and consistency for your children. Our teachers receive ongoing, extensive training, and all are certified in First Aid and CPR.
In addition to the changes in the classroom, the teachers have also had extensive training in ‘The Creative Curriculum’. All of our teachers have dedicated two of their days off to professional development. The Tree House sponsored a two-day seminar on the implementation of ‘The Creative Curriculum’ taught by a trained Creative Curriculum staff developer. It was a chance for the teachers to come together, share ideas and learn how to take what they already know and apply it to our new curriculum. The teachers not only learned about the curriculum, but they also learned more about current research on brain development and its implications on early childhood education. It was a great educational experience for all!
“It’s so important for each and every child to develop a love of learning from the very beginning. That’s our job – to make sure each child loves school.”
Jen has been the Director at The Tree House for since 2011. Prior to working at The Tree House, Jen worked as a Kindergarten teacher in the Parsippany School District and as a first grade teacher in Bernardsville. After having her first child, Jen began working as a professional developer in best literacy practices for the Children’s Literacy Initiative based in Philadelphia. In 2005, Jen took some time off to focus on raising her children. In 2008, when her oldest son, Carter, started attending The Tree House, Jen became active on The Tree House Board. This eventually led to her becoming the Director in 2011.
Over the past few years, Jen has focused on bringing the teachers together as a team. The school has begun using The Creative Curriculum which has reminded the staff of the importance of a play-based learning. It has also inspired the staff to teach the children to wonder about the world around them, ask questions and become actively engaged in their learning.
Jen is thankful for the dedication and hard work of all of her staff. She knows that it is the teachers who interact with the children each and every day and is grateful for the differences that they make in each child’s life. It is the work of the staff, the participation of the parents and the children who make The Tree House the special place that it is today.
“I love how funny they [her students] can be! Their innocence and enthusiasm are contagious.”
In 2013, Beth began her work at The Tree House. She is currently working with the 4 year olds with Lesley Borup. Beth’s enthusiasm for learning is contagious and she shares it with her students each day. Beth believes that a teacher should have a love for learning and a desire to pass on that love to the students. She strives to recognize each child’s gifts and challenges and works with each one to help him/her realize their potential.
Beth lives within walking distance of The Tree House. She and her husband, Gerard, have 4 children, ages 22 to 13. They recently celebrated 25 years of marriage. In addition to spending time with her family, Beth enjoys traveling, sailing, playing tennis, going to the beach and reading.
“The Tree House is a very warm place and our classroom is a very nurturing environment. It is a place where the parents can feel secure because their children feel happy and safe being here!”
A teacher of three year olds for 16 years, Moira Bontempi is known for being full of fun, experience, and as someone who welcomes an open relationship with the parents. Not only does Moira enjoy the joys experienced in her own classroom – she also revels in taking part in special activities which involve the entire school and classes of all ages. Moira currently teaches both the two year old and three year old classes.
Moira lives in Basking Ridge with her husband.
“I always want to make sure the children are having fun and that they want to come back every day! Children should enjoy being children!”
Lesley Borup has been teaching at The Tree House for nearly 19 years, mainly with the four year olds. She currently shares a classroom with Beth Altonji. Lesley believes that The Tree House is like a home away from home for the children. For this reason, she strives to create a warm and comfortable environment in her classroom where the children feel safe and loved, and where the parents feel welcomed. She believes in balance in the classroom and recognizes that there is a time for structure and a time for flexibility when it comes to playing and learning.
Lesley lives in Morristown with her husband, Scott. Her hobbies are cooking, exercising, reading, and working on projects around the house. She also loves to travel and see new places!
“Teachers should be loving and eager to share knowledge through patience, understanding and a commitment to each child.”
Keri Conkling is working with Phoebe Crane in the 2 ½ year old class. Keri’s first experience at Tree House was many years ago when her son attended the school. Her son’s special experience at Tree House is what led her back to the school after spending time at home to raise her two children. Keri is so excited to be working at Tree House.
With a Bachelor’s Degree in English, substitute teaching certification and many years as a teacher of CCD at St. James, Keri brings many years of experience to her classroom. In addition, Keri co-authored the children’s book, A Glove of Their Own. Keri describes herself as a cheerleader and reinforce to people of all ages. Keri’s positive energy makes each day a fun and exciting one at The Tree House.
“I believe that children learn best in a nurturing, caring environment where they feel safe, happy and secure.”
Phoebe Crane has been working at The Tree House as an assistant and substitute since 2013. Currently, Phoebe works with the 2 ½ year olds and 3 year olds. Phoebe feels that the most important characteristic of The Tree House is that it provides an openly structured, well-organized atmosphere, which is always partnered with kindness and caring. It is this atmosphere that Phoebe tries to establish in her own classroom. Phoebe lives in Basking Ridge with her 11 year old daughter, 6 year old son and cat named Teddy. As a family, they enjoy spending time outdoors, going to the zoo, visiting family in upstate NY and going to the pool in the summer.
“I love the feeling of joy that is in every classroom. The children are genuinely happy to be here.”
Mary began working at The Tree House as a substitute teacher. Her love for working with children led her to work in a classroom position only 5 months later. Mary works with her sister, Lynn Wolf, in a 3 year old classroom. Each day, Mary looks forward to coming to work to laugh, have fun with the children and to help them learn. Mary believes that a teacher must follow the lead of the children in her classroom, changing to meet the needs of each child. Her favorite thing about working with this age group is the honest joy that they express when they learn something new.
Mary has been married to her husband Steve for 9 years. She has two sons, Adrian, 15 and Kieran, 14, who both go to Bernards High School and 4 step children, who live in Wayne, NJ. Mary and her family live in Bedminster with their rescued dog, Coco and Peanut, a cat.
“Every day is a new adventure and a new opportunity to see these little ones learn.”
Stephanie has been with The Tree House as a teacher for 2 years. Prior to that, Stephanie was a Tree House parent as both of her children attended The Tree House for 3 years. Stephanie works with Wendy Marchev in a 4 year old classroom. She holds a BA in Art Education for grades K-12 and enjoys bringing her art experience to the classroom. Stephanie is dedicated to her students and is grateful that she can share in the joy of laughing and learning together.
Stephanie and her husband, Tim, have 2 children, Sally and Charlie, and live in Basking Ridge. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys doing arts and crafts with her children, gardening, cooking and volunteering at her church.
“I think patience, creativity and a love for children are important qualities a teacher should have.”
Jeannie has been with The Tree House as a teacher for 2 years. Jeannie has many years of experience working with children, including 23 years of experience working with preschoolers. Jeannie is a very caring, loving person who enjoys children and seeing them learn. She believes in the importance of The Tree House’s child-centered curriculum as it encourages children to explore, discover and play. Her favorite part of teaching is seeing her students’ delight in learning new things and their general enthusiasm for life.
Jeannie resides in Warren with her husband. In her spare time, Jeannie likes to bake and sew quilts. She also loves to travel, see new place and try new foods. She has a beautiful new granddaughter who she loves to be with. She can’t wait to teach her things and do crafts with her!
“Our main goal as teachers is for the parents to drop off a happy child and to pick up a happy child.”
Megan Falduto has been teaching two and three year old classes at The Tree House for 17 years. She knows the importance of making the preschool years a great experience for the children so that they will enjoy going to school. “Each year is a preparation for the following year and each skill learned is a building block for a life skill.” Megan has been described by her longtime teaching colleague, Moira Bontempi as “very creative and artistic, loving, and always FUN!”
Megan lives in Basking Ridge with her husband, Doug, her three children and their two dogs. She loves to bake, go to the beach and spend time with her family!
“Working at The Tree House allows me the opportunity to teach children to love learning and themselves.”
Carolyn has been working at The Tree House since 2011. Currently, Carolyn works with Pat Maciej in the 2 1/2 year old classroom. Prior to her time at The Tree House, Carolyn volunteered with the SCEEP program at Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, taught Sunday School and was a teacher’s aide at Western PA School for the Blind. Carolyn loves her time with the children. Her hope is that all children will know how much she cares for them as she helps them to adjust to the classroom environment.
Carolyn lives in Bedminster, NJ where she was on the town council for 3 years. She formerly worked as a trial lawyer and a newspaper reporter. In her spare time, Carolyn enjoys reading and volunteering for public service activities. She also enjoys traveling, especially to New Zealand to see her grandchildren.
“My favorite part of teaching is watching a child who is shy blossom into a curious and interactive person.”
Bonnie has been with The Tree House as a teacher for 11 years. Bonnie works with Pat Maciej with a 3 year old class. Bonnie describes herself as friendly, energetic, caring individual who always wants to try and experience new things. Bonnie brings this enthusiasm to her classroom with her many different activities, experiments and creations. She has a love of children and a passion for teaching as well as an understanding of child development.
Bonnie is married with one step daughter and two sons. She recently moved from Morristown to Bernardsville and has lived in this area for most of her life. Her husband is a professional musician and she enjoys traveling with him to his many concert venues. In her spare time, Bonnie loves to hike, eat out, and go to movies and Broadway shows.
“Every student can learn. Just not on the same day or in the same way.” – George Evans
Carol Hipsher has been a teacher with the The Tree House for three years, having started her time with us as an enrichment teacher. Carol uses the children’s sense of touch, sight, sound, smell and taste to engage them in a multi-sensory learning environment. She takes the time to learn each child’s method of learning and incorporates that in to their everyday classroom experience.
Like her co-teacher of three years, Carol Torr, Carol Hipsher loves to use her sense of humor and horrible singing voice to make the children laugh every day in every way. Carol is a graduate of Albright College with a BA in Sociology and Social Work. She is currently pursuing a Child Development Associate credential.
Carol and her husband Jake are both Ridge High graduates and are raising their 13 year old son, Tate in Basking Ridge on Panera Bread leftovers and pizza. Their dog Mazy escapes from the yard every day.
“A teacher must figure out the personality and interest of each child and incorporate this knowledge into each day. One needs to be caring, compassionate, creative, organized and always joyful!”
Randi Kerzner joined the Tree House in 2011 as an afternoon supervisor and morning substitute. In 2012, Randi began teaching in the 4s program. Currently, Randi works with Ellen Kolomatis in the 4 Plus classroom. Randi holds a BA in Education and a Master’s Degree in Reading. Randi truly enjoys her time in the classroom. She believes that preschoolers are like sponges. She loves watching the growth in them from September until June.
Randi lives in Warren, NJ with her husband, Sandy her two Shihtzu dogs. She has two adult sons, David and Mitchell.
“The most important quality a teacher should possess is patience. We need to be sensitive and listen to each child’s needs.”
“My favorite thing about The Tree House is its sense of “family”. Its caring, warm and loving atmosphere is a place you can call home.”
“I am dedicated to the growth and development of each and every child under my care.”
Ellen Kolomatis joined the Tree House in 2001 as an assistant teacher in the 4-year old class with Lesley Borup. After earning her CDA and obtaining countless hours of professional development, Ellen is currently a lead teacher in the 4 Plus classroom with Randi Kerzner. Her classroom is a fun environment where learning is a positive experience. As a teacher, Ellen prides herself on her positive attitude, patience and her dedication to ensure that each child is learning to his/her best ability.
Ellen lives in Basking Ridge with her husband, Greg. They have two children, David and Daniel. David is a professional hockey player, now playing and living in Finland. Daniel is a senior at Merrimack College. In her spare time, Ellen enjoys researching new and exciting activities for her classroom. She also enjoys cooking and “skyping” with her children.
“If it isn’t in their hands, it isn’t in their brains.”
This is one teaching philosophy of Joanne Loya, a seasoned teacher of the two and a half & three year olds, with 26 years experience at The Tree House. Known for coming up with creative ideas, Joanne’s goal is to foster learning through fun activities where the children are encouraged to be proud of their own creations! Currently in “semi-retirement,” Joanne brings fun and enjoyment to the children in the afternoon program. Joanne truly enjoys interacting with the children and is very happy in her new found role at The Tree House.
Joanne has four grown children and is the proud grandmother of four grandchildren. She loves babysitting them, reading, walking and the beach.
“I love how close-knit we all are – staff, families, children. Everyone knows one another and would do anything for each other!”
Emily has been with The Tree House as the Office Manager for 5 years. Emily is a friendly and enthusiastic individual who works hard to help each family become a part of the school. She is responsible for managing student paperwork and documentation, assisting with communication with families and generally keeping the school running well each and every day!
Emily lives in Basking Ridge with her husband, Jack, her two children, Will and Ellen and dog, Holly. Emily’s son, Will, has also worked at The Tree House in the summer for 2 years.
“My favorite thing about working at The Tree House is the staff and the community environment. We all work together to make the school the best that it can be.”
Wendy joined the Tree House in 2013. Wendy, a seasoned preschool teacher, has her Associates Degree in Nursery School Education and has been working with young children for most of her life. Currently, Wendy works with Stephanie Cutting in a 4 year old classroom. She loves nature and tries to incorporate it into her time with her students. One of Wendy’s favorite things about teaching is witnessing a child’s ability to use his/her imagination to entertain himself/herself with a simple twig in the grass or even a caterpillar walking along the sidewalk.
Wendy lives in New Vernon, NJ with her husband, who has been a fire fighter for 20 years. She has one son who lives in Seattle and works at Microsoft after graduating from college in 2013.
“My favorite thing about teaching preschoolers is their desire and excitement to learn. It brings so much joy to me to see their faces light up each time they come in to the classroom to see what’s new for the day.”
Kathy has been working at The Tree House since 1999. In her 16 years at The Tree House, Kathy has a special place in her heart for the many children who have passed through her class. Her classroom is a place in which her students can learn, play, feel safe and be happy. Currently, Kathy is a lead teacher in a 3 year old classroom with Jean Essenfeld. Kathy considers herself to be a very caring, nurturing, patient and understanding individual. She brings these attributes to the classroom in her daily interactions with the children, who are so very special to her.
Kathy lives with her husband and has two grown children. Her son, David, lives in Minneapolis and runs his own mortgage business. Her daughter, Jennifer, was recently married and lives in New Jersey. Jennifer works in the pharmaceutical industry. In her spare time, Kathy likes to travel, spend time with her husband as well as family and friends.
“Our environment is a very loving and accepting one.”
Carol Torr, who co-teaches the 4 Plus class with Carol Hipsher, has been a teacher at The Tree House for 18 years!! Carol is known for her kindness and compassionate heart for all those she encounters – parents, children and colleagues alike. Laughter can often be heard emanating from her classroom, and Carol believes it’s important to laugh often and have fun. A sense of humor is an essential tool in instilling the kids with a sense of self worth. So is the ability to admit mistakes: “We as teachers admit every mistake we make, so the children learn it’s ok to make mistakes, admit them, and grow from them”.
Carol lives in Basking Ridge with her husband, Mike. She has two grown children-Michael and Steven -and a cat and a dog! When she’s not at the Tree House, Carol is busy gardening, cooking and reading.
“The time spent at The Tree House is a basis for the rest of a child’s education. We want to foster good feelings as they proceed into any school situation.”
Lynn Wolf has been a teacher at The Tree House for 18 years, most of that time spent teaching the two and a half and three year olds. Flexibility is an essential part of Lynn’s teaching philosophy and Lynn knows that sometimes the best laid lesson plans may need to be altered to go along with the flow of the classroom. She and teaching partner (and her sister) Mary Critchfield are very aware of the queues they receive from the children themselves and lovingly adapt to make every day the best day ever!
Lynn has three children and resides in Bernardsville with her husband Darin, youngest daughter, dog Logan and former “member” of The Tree House, Nibbles the Guinea Pig. In her free time, Lynn is very involved with animals and horseback riding. The family pet, Ryan, a charming pit bull mix, is a rescue dog from one of the organizations of which Lynn is a devoted volunteer.
“The little ones are just so loving, they can’t wait to play and do their projects first thing in the morning. This is a good job for me.”
Debbie Zettlemoyer is a seasoned teacher, having taught at the Tree House since 1996!! While she adores the playful nature of the children in her care, Debbie also recognizes the importance of them being able to make their own simple decisions. The time in the 3s class, which she shares with Birgitta Breen, is filled with games and fun, warmth and love.
When Debbie is not in the classroom, she enjoys being a grandma to her wonderful grandchildren, Mya (13) and Andrew (17). As Debbie reflects on her years at The Tree House, she comments that she loves being with the children as they tend to keep her young at heart. She loves looking back at the children who have left The Tree House and gone on to high school and college. She hopes that she has made some difference in their lives.