Meet our teachers!
Our highly qualified educators hold degrees and represent a diverse background in early childhood education and the sciences. Our educators value learning and are provided with ongoing professional development opportunities to enhance leadership, support core competencies and integrate their knowledge of early childhood education/child development. All Nature Center Preschool educators have completed rigorous South Shore YMCA training including comprehensive Child Protection modules, CPR, and First Aid certification.
Jessica Hagen, Preschool Director
Jessica studied Psychology and Early Childhood education at Framingham State and holds her Director certification through the Department of Early Education and Care. She has been in the field of education for over 20 years and has been with the South Shore YMCA since 2013, joining the Nature Center Preschool in 2022. She is also the proud mom of 2 daughters.
- Kristin Achorn has 9 years of preschool experience and has been with the Nature Center Preschool since 2017. She has her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and obtained her Lead Teacher certification through the Department of Early Education and Care.
- Rachel Bond has a Bachelor’s degree in both Biology and Environmental Studies, with heavy concentration and certification in Holistic Health and Wellness from Lesley University. She holds her Teaching Certification from the Department of Early Education and Care, and is also our Lead Animal Specialist at the South Shore Natural Science Center, in charge and taking care of all the animals on site. Rachel has been a Nature Adventures Camp Counselor and Nature Center Preschool Teacher for 2 years now, but her time here goes way back as she is a Nature Center Preschool Alumni! Rachel is passionate about working with, educating, and involving children on nature conservation, use, advocacy, and responsibility, as well as more generally helping others to reconnect and reunite with the natural world that we are a part of.
- Michelle Coghlan is a substitute teacher who began working at NCP in 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has a working background in Social Work and Human Resources. Michelle is a mother of three children who enjoys spending time in nature while connecting and nurturing each child as an individual with their own special interests and strengths.
- Joan Gerhard holds a Bachelor’s degree and license in Occupational Therapy and Preschool Teacher certification from MA EEC. She has experience as a substitute teacher in a public school setting and had been involved with youth in leadership roles in Cub Scouts, BSA, and Girl Scouts, as well as youth soccer coaching for many years. She is currently in her 7th year teaching at NCP and continues to find joy and renewed awe in the inspiration of children and the wonders of nature through her discoveries and adventures with her classes.
- Laura Lally has an associate degree in Secretarial Arts Business Technology as well as EEC Preschool Teacher Certification. She chose to teach at NCP because of how unique it is, her love of nature, and the emergent curriculum that allows the children to explore/learn about nature in so many ways. She has taught in local preschools for 7+years and has been a teacher at Nature Center Preschool since 2017.
- Kiki Pion holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Early Care and Pre-K from Bridgewater State. She is Lead Teacher certified through the Department of Early Education and Care. She worked as a Pre-K teacher before becoming a full-time nanny for several years. Kiki has been a teacher at Nature Center Preschool since 2017.
- Christina Walsh holds a bachelor’s degree from Framingham State College. After a decade in the non-Profit sector, Christina returned to her first love of teaching in 2012 and has continued working with preschoolers since. She studied Early Childhood Education at Bates College and earned her lead teacher certification in 2019. Christina has been teaching at Nature Center Preschool since 2015 and was promoted to Senior Lead Teacher in 2022.
- Jill Zielinski holds a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Educational and Developmental Psychology, both from Boston College. She maintains Lead Teacher and Director certifications with the MA Department of Early Education and Care and brings a passion for lifelong learning and outdoor exploration into the classroom. She has over 20 years of teaching experience and has been a teacher at Nature Center Preschool since 2013.
- Chelsea Barclay received her EEC teacher certification in 2012 from Massasoit Community College. From then she worked with children ages infant-preschool for 6 years before being a stay-at-home mom for 3 years. Chelsea has a genuine appreciation of nature and loves seeing that appreciation grow with her students! Chelsea chose Nature Center Preschool because the school’s philosophy aligns with her values. Chelsea has been a teacher at Nature Center Preschool since 2021.
- Dylan Little has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bridgewater State University. He was introduced to the Science Center through Nature Adventures Camp in the summer of 2021. He has done two summers of camp, and this is his second year as a preschool teacher. Dylan is passionate about working with children and is seeking his Master’s in Early Education.
- Mary Beth Hines is a Massachusetts Early Education and Care certified Lead Teacher who taught at the Nature Center Preschool from 2014 to 2020. Mary Beth also substitute taught at Wilder Nursery school and Erdman Family Preschool. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, a mother of three children, and has held numerous volunteer positions with such organizations as her children’s School Boards, Horizons for Homeless Children, and as a Pet Therapy volunteer at Linden Ponds and South Shore Hospital.
- Liz Colantoni has a bachelor’s degree in Communications and English. Liz has worked in the education field for over 15 years. She is currently working towards her EEC lead teacher certification. Liz has a passion for teaching, learning, and exploring. When she is not in the classroom Liz can be found all over the south shore with her husband, three kids, and two dogs.
- Nikki Kingston is currently attending Bridgewater State University to receive her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Biology. She has been working with young children for many years and is passionate about environmental education. Nikki worked at the South Shore Natural Science Center for 4 years; first as a Senior Counselor, then a LIT Director and last year worked as Assistant Camp Director. She has been a teacher at Nature Center Preschool since 2022.
- Haley Durant is a substitute teacher at Nature Center Preschool who started working here in 2021. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from UMass Boston. She was excited to join the NCP team as it is the perfect combination of her passion for working with children and her love for spending as much of life as possible outdoors enjoying nature.
- Caroline Kourafas has been working at the nature preschool since 2022 as an assistant preschool teacher! She is originally from Hingham, MA, and attended the University of Maine Orono for her bachelor’s in child development and family interactions. She has a lot of experience working with kids of all ages as well as experience working with children with cognitive or developmental disabilities. Some of her interests are hiking, skiing, traveling, swimming, animals, and music.
- Kelsey Colligan, a South Shore native, is an individual with a keen sense of attentiveness to a child’s needs. With a deep love for the outdoors, Kelsey finds solace and inspiration in nature’s beauty. Her creative imagination knows no bounds, fueling a passion for artistic pursuits and innovative thinking. What fills Kelsey’s heart, even more, is the love she shares with her partner Nick, their faithful companion Rex, and indulging in a wide variety of delicious desserts. Through nurturing relationships and a zest for life’s sweet moments, Kelsey strives to create meaningful experiences and bring joy to those around her.