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.
Nora Beitz currently teaches with Bonnie Hicks in a three-year-old class. She started as a substitute teacher when her children attended Tree House and enjoyed it so much that she stayed. Nora holds a teaching certificate and a MA in Education. She loves helping children to discover new things – whether an idea in a book or an insect on the playground. Nora aims to create an open, loving, and structured environment where children can strive to make meaningful connections.
Nora lives in Basking Ridge with her husband, two children, and her energetic dog named Rex. She enjoys reading, gardening, and traveling.
Donna is excited to be teaching at Tree House in the 4’s classroom with Stephanie Cutting. Prior to having children, she taught 1st Grade for nearly 10 years in the West Caldwell NJ school district. She remembers fondly her earliest experience as a student teacher in a preschool setting and is looking forward to applying her fun-loving, caring, and encouraging personality to support her students and foster their well-being, growth and love of learning.
Donna received her BA in Early Childhood Education from Kean University and is certified to teach Pre-K-8. While raising her children, she also enjoyed teaching CCD, leading classes at Baby Power/Forever Kids, and volunteering.
Donna has been married to her husband Steve for 24 years. They have two children, Kate and Chris. Kate is a junior at the University of Connecticut, studying Speech and Language Pathology. Chris is a sophomore at Governor Livingston High School and enjoys playing soccer. They share their home in Berkeley Heights with their lovable cockapoo Maggie.
In her spare time, Donna likes to spend time at the beach with her family. She also enjoys cooking and riding her bike.
“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 23 years, mainly with the four year olds. She currently shares a classroom with Laura Kelly and Eleanor Cignarella. 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!
“Tree House is a place you can call home. Children learn but most importantly they have fun in a nurturing environment.”
Eleanor Cignarella started at Tree House in 1999 as an Assistant Teacher in a 4 year old class. She then became head teacher and was the Assistant Director of the afterschool program. She left to have her twins, Francesca and Santino who attended Tree House from 2010 -2012. She continued to be a substitute from 2010. Currently, she is working with Lesley Borup in the 4s classroom. Tree House is a place that has made great memories and a place she has made lifelong friends.
“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.
“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 8 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 Donna Bond-Nelson 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.
“Children learn as they play. More importantly, in play, children learn how to learn.” – Fred Donaldson
Stephanie is embarking on her first year at The Tree House as a teacher in the 2 ½ year old classroom. Although new to The Tree House, she has previously taught in a variety of settings from a Sunday school classroom to a public elementary classroom in the city of Chicago. She holds a BS degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bucknell University. She believes that early childhood education is essential for instilling high self esteem in children and starts them down the path to be lifelong learners.
Stephanie and her husband Matthew returned to Basking Ridge after living in Chicago and Massachusetts. She is the proud mother of three children — Emma, Vanessa, and Steven. She enjoys exercising, cooking, and spending time at the beach.
“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 since 2003. Bonnie works with Nora Beitz in 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 since 2012, 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.
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.
“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.” ~ Dr. Temple Grandin
Laura Kelly enjoys working with the 4s with Lesley Borup and Eleanor Cignarella. Prior to The Tree House, Laura taught preschool students with and without special needs in the public schools. She is a certified teacher who holds a BA from Rutgers University and a Master’s in Early Childhood Special Education from Montclair State University.
Laura believes it is our responsibility as teachers to provide a positive and caring learning environment that teaches every student and addresses all learning styles.
Laura Kelly lives in Basking Ridge with her husband Dale, children Evan and Maddy and fluffy Himalayan cat Sophie Lu. In her spare time, Laura enjoys going to the beach, the pool and cooking.
“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 Shayne Parker. 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.
“I love that Tree House allows children to be children… to learn through play in a loving environment.”
Alisa Larner joined Tree House as a parent in 2009, as a substitute in 2015 and as a teacher in 2018. In addition, Alisa’s three children attended Tree House. With its creative environment and warm, loving teachers, Tree House was a wonderful place for them to learn and make new friends.
As a teacher, Alisa strives to create an environment where children feel safe and loved and can learn through play.
Alisa lives in Basking Ridge with her husband Kevin, their three children Ben, Abby and Caleb, a dog and 2 cats. When she’s not on a sports field or watching a dance recital, Alisa enjoys cooking, reading and spending time at the beach over the summer.
“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 Christina Rutz in a 3 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.
Jennine will be returning for her fourth year as a teacher with The Tree House. Prior to that, Jennine was a Tree House parent for her 3 children! She holds a BA in English and an MA in English Literature from Seton Hall University. Jennine also has an MA in Education pending from Georgian Court College. She taught 1st grade in Metuchen prior to having kids. In her spare time, Jennine teaches Barre classes. The Tree House children have the opportunity to enjoy Mrs. McCue’s knowledge of exercise and movement as she incorporates them in the classroom each day.
Jennine and her husband, Brian, have 3 children, Connor, Matt and Kate, and a spunky pup aptly named Scruffy. They live in Basking Ridge and love to vacation at the beach.
“I am committed to creating a caring, supportive classroom community that values the unique contributions of each child.”
Shayne Parker has been working at The Tree House as a substitute teacher since 2018. Shayne is excited to join Ellen Kolomatis for her 3rd year in the Four Plus classroom. She shares Ellen’s commitment to bringing a positive attitude, patience and dedication to the growth and development of each member of the Four Plus class.
Shayne has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from Rutgers University. She was the Director of Diversity and Inclusion and Work/Family Programs at Alcatel-Lucent. Prior to that she worked for a consulting firm that specialized in developing child care programs, including on-site child care centers, for many large corporations throughout the United States.
Shayne lives in Basking Ridge with her husband, four daughters (although three are attending college) and two dogs. Outside the classroom she enjoys spending time with her extended family, travelling, watching college football, gardening, skiing, and walking her dogs.
“It’s a joy for me to encourage children and to help set a positive foundation that they can build upon in the years to come.”
Christina was a substitute teacher at The Tree House for 2 years before becoming a classroom teacher 3 years ago. Before joining Tree House a teacher, Christina was a Tree House parent as her two sons attended The Tree House. Prior to having children, Christina was an elementary school teacher in New Jersey for 10 years. This year, she is working with Wendy Marchev in a 3-year-old classroom.
Christina and her husband Doug have two children, Jack and Alex, and live in Bernardsville. In her free time Christina enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering, baking and going to the beach.
“I LOVE coming to work each day! It’s such a fun and happy place to be! The children’s energy is contagious!”
Jayne van der Valk joined the Tree House in the Fall of 2017. She manages the day to day operations of the Tree House office. Her goal is to make each family feel welcome and appreciated when they walk through our doors.
Jayne has a degree in Business from Keene State College in New Hampshire. Prior to working at Tree House, she was the Director of Major Accounts at KB Toys, where she was able to indulge in her love of toys every day!
Jayne left KB Toys to pursue an even more exciting career – raising her two sons, Leo and Jason. Both of her sons attended Tree House where she learned to appreciate the warm and nurturing environment created by the staff and teachers. “My boys looked forward to coming to school each day; to seeing their friends and discovering what new adventures the teachers had in store for them!”
Jayne lives in Basking Ridge with her wonderful husband, Eric, two sons, and Harry Potter the wonder dog!
“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 more than 24 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 is so in tune with the children in her classroom, lovingly adapting to their needs to make every day the best day ever!
Lynn has three children and resides in Bernardsville with her husband Darin and youngest daughter. 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.