Meet Our Teachers and Staff

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

Staff tenure ranges from 1 year to 40+ years of teaching experience. The average tenure for staff is 15 years, contributing significantly to the continuity and stability of our programs. Likewise, our center has been led by a mere four directors in its 60+ 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 “Community”, your children are loved, well cared for and celebrated.


Lisa Adelmund, Executive Director, has extensive experience as a teacher and center director. Mrs. Adelmund has her Type 04 IL Teaching Certificate as well as a Master’s in Public Administration focusing on non-profit organizational management. Her undergraduate work was completed at Luther College in history, museum methods and secondary education. Mrs. Adelmund’s professional experience surrounds children from working as a nanny and in-home provider to directorships at for- profit and non-profit centers. In 2014, Mrs. Adelmund became Executive Director of “Community”.



Sofia Alvarez, Family Development Manager, joined the staff in the summer of 2009. Before joining “Community”, Mrs. Alvarez worked in higher education for over 10 years in both the Admission Office and Academic Services at North Central College and DePaul University, respectively. Sofia earned her BS from Millikin University and MS from Illinois Institute of Technology. She and her husband, Pablo, live in Highland Park along with their two daughters who are both Community alums.




Pam Carlson, Curriculum Coordinator, has been at “Community” since 2001. She graduated from the University of Texas with a BS in Education and an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction. Pam has many years of experience in the public school systems in Dallas and Austin, Texas and in Winnetka, Illinois. She and her husband, Bruce, have two grown daughters and live in the Ravinia area of Highland Park.




Kathy Gutnayer, Business Administration,  joined Community’s staff in 2008.  Kathy served on the parent board while her three children attended Community. Kathy has a degree from the University of Wisconsin and has years of volunteer experience in schools, sports organizations, and social advocacy concerns.







Blue Room Teachers

Lynn Darin received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Northeastern Illinois University and started at “Community” in 1994. During the spring of 2007 she studied in Reggio Emilia, Italy with other educators from across the U.S..






Paula Johnson began working at “Community” in 2013 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 and extensive volunteer experience in early childhood education and care through organizations such as Family Network and District 112.






Green Room Teachers

Karen Perez  worked at Bethany Early Childhood Learning Center for the past 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.




Cecilia Vasquez started teaching Community classes in 2014. She has many years of experience in home child care through the Highland Park/Highwood Home Child Care Association. She is also a certified practitioner for “Child Space”. Cecilia is currently taking classes to attain an Early Childhood Education certificate. She is a native Spanish speaker who grew up in Highland Park and lives in Waukegan.




Judy Carbajal joined community in August of 2018. She holds an associate degree with a concentration in early childhood development. She has over eighteen years of experience in private school child care, working with children between two and five years of age. She grew up in Highwood and is a graduate of Highland Park High School. She is also a “Community” alum and a native Spanish speaker.





Yellow Room Teachers

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 “Community” since 2000. Darcy is currently the lead teacher in the Yellow Room Preschool for All class.






 Ashley Servin is a graduate of Roosevelt University in Chicago and received a degree in Early Childhood Education. She has worked at “Community” since 2009. Her focus has been helping 3-5 year old become good people. She loves hockey, crafting and baking. She truly enjoys working at “Community” and spending time with her students.




Rocio Polio joined Community in 2016 after working at Safari Childcare for two years. She grew up in Highland Park and is a native Spanish speaker. While continuing work at Community she will be studying Early Childhood Education in the spring of 2017. Rocio is the mother of both current and former Community students.







Orange Room Teachers

Mary O’Day (teacher and co-director) is an experienced teacher and administrator who also has a background in occupational therapy. She has a BA from National-Louis University and has worked as a teacher and/or administrator  in several settings for the last 30 years.





Naomi Gomez grew up in Evanston and is a graduate of Evanston Township High School. She is a  native Spanish speaker and has been involved in childcare for the past 6 years. She is the mother of 1 and is looking forward to starting college in 2018. This is Naomi’s first year at HP Community.





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. He is excited to extend his skills to a younger crowd as he works with preschool and kindergarten students. Steve joined the staff is 2013.






Kindergarten Extended Care Program

Pam Carlson,  has been at “Community” since 2001. She graduated from the University of Texas with a BS in Education and an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction. Pam has many years of experience in the public school systems in Dallas and Austin, Texas and in Winnetka, Illinois. She and her husband, Bruce, have two grown daughters and live in the Ravinia area of Highland Park.





Before School Program

Bryn Benson has worked in the field of early education for over 30 years as a preschool teacher, toddler teacher, a Director of before and after school childcare, and as a Coordinator for home child care providers. The coursework that she did at St. Paul College and the Center for Montessori Teacher Education led her to discover that children are her passion. In her free time she enjoys beach combing, walking her dogs, writing and being the Mom to one incredible son.





Teacher’s Assistant

Jessica Plotsky grew up in and graduated from Highland Park High School, Class of 1982. She received her BA from Columbia College in Chicago. After graduating college she spent several years in a Montessori school setting before moving to Wisconsin where she raised her children. Jessica worked at a summer camp for 10 years teaching horseback riding. During her school years she taught ceramics. Before coming to “Community” she was a caretaker for the elderly for 10 years.



Nita Patel attended Gujarat University, in Ahmadabad, India. In America she followed her passion for working with children and began her teaching career. Soon after, she took an ECE evaluation to and became a qualified early childhood teacher’s assistant. After 14 years of working at Bethany early childhood learning center, Nita is looking forward to sharing her experience and skills with students at “Community.”


Maria Tremulis joined Community in August of 2016. She has a degree in Nutrition from SUNY on Long Island, NY. Her experience with children comes from seven years of working with children ages 3 months to 10 years of age at the Deerfield Park District. She is from Deerfield where she raised her three adult children and is happy to be at Community so she can continue to work with children.




Lizzy Herrara was born and raised in Evanston and is a graduate of Evanston Township High School. She is currently enrolled at Oakton Community College studying for a degree in early childhood education with a minor in child psychology. She has been volunteering with children for 7 years at a childcare center in Evanston and at her local church daycare. She is also bilingual.



Fine Arts

Leslee Goldman has a BFA degree in Art Education and MA in Art Therapy. She has over 20 years of experience in a variety of contexts including home childcare, therapeutic day schools, and public schools. Leslee began at Community in 2014. She lives in Lincolnwood with her husband and as two grown children.





Carol Kenneally began teaching music at Community in 2004. Carol has an Elementary Education degree from Northern Illinois University. She has been involved in sharing and teaching children music since 1998. In addition to Community, she teaches Pre-K music at other preschools in the Chicago area, and is the worship leader at her church. She and her husband have enjoyed raising their four fantastic children, and look forward to their new chapter of being “empty nesters” soon!





Support Staff

Susan Chait joined Community in the fall of 2017 as our cook. She graduated from Oregon State University with a BS in Dietetics and Food Service Management She loves to teach children about food and nutrition, emphasizing the values of, so they can learn to make healthier food choices.  Her credentials include: IDPH Food Service Sanitation Certification and NSLP Menu Training in accordance with the requirements of the USDA.




Heather Lowery is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo with her BA and MA in Design with a minor in Early Childhood Education. Her two sons Max (19) and Aidan (16) attended the Orange Room and Blue Room where she participated as a room parent and on the board. From 2008-2014 she was the Art Teacher for HP Community. In 2014 she left Community to homeschool her youngest son. Now she is back at Community helping out in the office. In her free time she continues to be creative through her printmaking and abstract embroidery.



Rachel Magnani is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She also holds an associate’s degree in child care from Moraine Valley Community College.  Rachel is married to Joe and has two children, Joey (23) and Samantha (20).  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.



Janelli Soto is an alumni of HP Community and graduate of Deerfield High School. Her two boys also attended Community. She received a Bachelors in Business Management from DePaul University. After 15 years working in the retail industry she is now working part time at the offices of NSSD112 and HP Community.







Melanie Harris has been serving as a volunteer at “Community” for over ten years. She is committed to helping a school that has given so much to so many children (including two of her own). Melanie graduated from Hamilton College with a BA degree and continued on to receive a Masters of Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design. She furthered her education in childhood development at Lake Forest College and Northwestern University in their student-at-large programs. She can most often be found in the Blue Room assisting in a variety of ways.



Sandy Silverman graduated from Lake Forest College. She went on to National and received a Masters in Teaching. She is married to Pete and has two daughters. Everyone is close by Highland Park. After she retired from teaching she began substitute teaching at Highland Park Community. She has had such an incredible experience with the directors, teachers and children that she has stayed on for almost 21 years. She loves the warm and loving atmosphere for the children and teachers.


Copyright 2015. Highland Park Community