Teachers and Staff

The staff at HP Community are experienced and highly qualified, degreed professionals in early childhood education and related fields. Educated and experienced staff is the core of HP Community’s programs. They attend, present, and actively participate in continuing education programs on an ongoing basis, including national early childhood conferences in order to improve their understanding of child development and best practices for early childhood education.

3 out of 4 of our classrooms are run by Illinois Public School State Certified pre-kindergarten teachers. The Preschool for All grant provides us with the opportunity to hire people who have studied and know preschool age children and their curriculum.

Staff tenure ranges from 1 year to 40+ years of teaching experience. The average tenure for staff is 13 years, contributing significantly to the continuity and stability of our programs. Likewise, our center has been led by a mere five directors in its 70+ year history, a strong testimony to its strong and consistent value structure over time.

The teachers and staff are nurturing professionals who are passionate about what they do. At HP Community, you children are loved, well cared for and celebrated.

Administrators

Robin Byster - (she/her/hers)

Executive Director
Robin joined HP Community in 2022 with over 25 years of experience in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in ECE. She has worked with children ages birth through third grade in classrooms and has years of experience in administration as well.

Paula Johnson - (she/her/hers)

Assistant Director
Paula Johnson, Assistant Director, began working at HP Community in 2011 after graduating two children from the program and serving as a volunteer and substitute teacher for several years. Paula has a degree from Michigan State University, completed Early Childhood Education classes at Kendall College and the College of Lake County and extensive volunteer experience in early childhood education and care through organizations such as Family Network and District 112.

School Social Worker

Nancy Bruski

Clinical Social Woker
Nancy Bruski is a clinical social worker with over 35 years of experience providing therapeutic services to young children and families, as well as teacher training, parent education, and mental health consulting. Her passion is to help parents and teachers become more psychologically sensitive to children. Nancy enhances parents’ and teachers’ skills through providing a philosophy of teaching/raising children, as well as providing specific intervention strategies that support the development of children’s social competence, responsibility, and self-esteem. She is a frequent presenter of workshops and consultation throughout the Chicago area and nationally. Parents and teachers often express their appreciation for her detailed and specific strategies that they can take back to their homes and classrooms and begin implementing right away.

Blue Room Teachers

Cecilia Vasquez - (she/her/hers)

Teacher
Cecilia Vasquez joined HP Community in 2014 with many years of experience in home childcare through the Highland Park/Highwood Home Child Care Association. She has a CDA and is certified in “Child Space”. She is a native Spanish speaker who grew up in Highland Park. Bilingual English Spanish.

Emily Mivshek - (she/her/hers)

Teacher
Emily joined HP Community in 2024 with over 10 years of experience teaching in early childhood education.

Stella Bernal

Assistant Teacher
Stella was born and raised in El Salvador. She has 3 children of her own and lives in Evanston. She has more than 20 years of experience working with young children in private nanny arrangements, Spanish tutoring and childcare. She has a college degree in education from El Salvador. Bilingual English Spanish.

Green Room Teachers

Karen Perez - (she/her/hers)

Teacher
Karen joined HP Community in 2016, after working at Bethany Early Childhood Learning Center for ten years with two-year-olds in a mixed age group setting. She graduated from Northeastern Illinois University and while at Northeastern IL University, volunteered at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Special Education program. She participated at Welles Therapeutic Recreation Group, interfacing with many special children and adults.

Jill Wywialowski - (she/her/hers)

Teacher
Jill Wywialowski joined HP Community in August of 2022. She is a recent graduate of University of Phoenix where she earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education . Prior to coming to HP Community, Jill worked for Palatine School District as an assistant in an all-special education school. Jill also has a background in recreation where she worked as an outdoor educator , and camp counselor for a variety of ages.

Noemi Bucio Jiménez (she, her, hers)

Teacher
Noemi joined HP Community in 2024 after years of experience working with children ages 2-5. She has an Associates in Applied Science for Child Development from Harry S Truman College in Chicago. She has worked for Head Start at Mary Crane Center and Swift Child Care. Bilingual: English/Spanish.

Yellow Room Teachers

Darcy Fitzsimmons - (she/her/hers)

Teacher
Darcy Fitzsimmons graduated from Tufts University in 2000 with a degree in Child Development and certification to teach Pre-K through 3rd grade. She has been at HP Community since 2000. Darcy is currently the lead teacher in the Yellow Room Preschool for All class. Bilingual English Spanish.

Jaimie Savorgino - (she/her/hers)

Teacher
Jaimie joined HP Community in 2021. While working as a teaching assistant at HP Community, Jaimie earned her Child Development Associate credential in 2022.

Norma Chavez - (she/her/hers)

Teacher
Norma joined HP Community as a student aid in 2020 while completing her BA in Early Childhood Education with Bilingual Bicultural and ESL endorsements at Northeastern Illinois University. After completing student teaching requirements, Norma returned to HP Community as a teacher. Bilingual English Spanish.

Orange Room Teachers

Mary O'Day - (she/her/hers)

Teacher
Mary O’Day has a background in pediatric Occupational Therapy. She has a BA in Child Development and Early Childhood Education from National-Louis University. She has worked as a teacher and/or administrator in various settings over the last 40 years. She continues to read and learn about new research & developments in Early Childhood. She and her husband have a grown married daughter and three wonderful grandchildren that live in Highland Park.

Steve Leverick - (he/him/his)

Teacher
Steve Leverick spent the first half of his 20-year teaching career teaching middle school and high school students with unique behavioral and emotional needs. Steve joined the staff in 2013 excited to extend his skills to a younger crowd as he works with preschool students.

Dagmara Krowka (she, her, hers)

Teacher
Dagmara joined HP Community after years of working in various early childhood programs, most recently with PDHP. She holds a degree in Cultural Studies (2004) and completed her AAS in Pre-School Education at Truman College (2022). She is passionate about Reggio approach and feels inspired by nature, art and creativity of DIY community. She also teaches Polish language and culture to kids ages 5 to 10 in extracurricular weekend classes. She is thrilled to be part of Orange Room this school year! Bilingual Polish/English.

Support Staff

Dominika Maysymiuk

Dominika Mysymiuk joined HP Community in 2020, Dominika works in the office, helping out in classrooms and the kitchen as needed. Bilingual English Polish.

Rachel Magnani

Rachel Magnani is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She also holds an associate degree in childcare from Moraine Valley Community College. Rachel is married to Joe and has two children, Joey and Samantha. She has been a part of Community since her own children attended. Rachel served on a parent board, was a substitute teacher, then a classroom teacher for 11 years. She is now working in the office.

Easton Genthner (he/him/his)

Floater, Assistant Teacher
Easton joined HP Community in 2024.

Elvia Cruz - (she/her/hers)

Kitchen Assistant
Elvia joined HP Community in 2022 as a kitchen assistant. When not in the kitchen, Elvia assists in our office as a Spanish translator and in the classrooms. Bilingual Spanish/English

Ruthie

Ruthie joined HP Community in 2021 as HP Community's Comfort Dog. She is here to offer emotional support to children and staff when needed. Her office is conveniently located inside the director's office.