Staff at La Escuelita Arcoiris have lived and worked all around the globe and bring to our team a wide range of education, experience, and expertise. We are united by our love of language, respect for nature and our dedication to remaining curious!
Keep reading to learn some fun facts about our dedicated team.
Leila was born in Barinas, Venezuela. She received her BA in Education from UNELLEZ, spent years studying child psychology and philosophy at the Universidad Santa María, and has been working with children for over 17 years. Leila enjoys helping students use their surroundings and communication skills to investigate and navigate the world around them. She particularly values how La Escuelita prioritizes their students taking time to work through their present emotions. When asked why she chose a career in child development, she said, “My years of study as an educator have served as a foundation for my continued interest in behavioral psychology. I value the opportunity we have as teachers to observe and interpret our students' varied communication styles -through movement, speech, and feeling. I believe every moment in our lives provides the opportunity to experience something new and different, leaving us with endless opportunities to learn with children.” In her free time Leila loves to exercise outdoors and lift weights. She loves spending time with her son, sharing memories together.
Leila Ballout - Educator
Lorenza is originally from Acarigua, Venezuela. She moved to the United States in 2003. Lorenza has a Bachelor’s degree in Preschool Education from Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador in Venezuela and has been a Preschool teacher for over 20 years. When asked what makes preschool education special for her, she said, "Working with children has been the most beautiful journey of my life. Having the opportunity to be involved in the most crucial years of my student's lives, supporting their physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development, is a gift and also a great responsibility. We as teachers provide our students with the necessary tools and guidance for them to reach their full potential in a healthy environment." Lorenza is the mother of a 33-year-old boy whom she feels super proud to see as an accomplished Telecommunications Engineer. She says that no matter his age, to her he'll always be Mama's little boy. In her free time here in Pittsburgh, Lorenza enjoys dancing, walking in the park and going to the Opera and Ballet.
Lorenza Medina - Educator
Harlen was born in Usulután, El Salvador. She has been working all her life with children and was excited to learn about La Escuelita Arcoiris' focus on continuing education and personal growth in the field. We are proud to share that she completed her Child Development Associates (CDA) Degree in 2022. Harlen's favorite part of the day is reading a story in Circulo. A very animated and enthusiastic reader, she loves bringing the Spanish words to life, introducing students to new vocabulary, and encouraging their love for reading. Harlen values creating connection and fostering a sense of security in the classroom, saying "Each day we get to learn what our students are interested in together. I am often with our youngest students and every day we are introducing the world to them, little by little. It means so much to help them navigate this age of discovery." Harlen spends her free time with her own teenage daughter who loves shopping and Chipotle. They watch movies, work on art projects together, and go for runs.
Harlen Rodriguez - Educator
Fabian was born in Cuernavaca, Mor, Mexico. He made Pittsburgh home in 2001. A long time photography student, Fabian has studied photography in Mexico and Pittsburgh with Pittsburgh Filmmakers. In addition to a lifelong passion for the arts, Fabian has been a dedicated Educator at La Escuelita since 2009. Fabian was drawn to the program's focus on arts, nature, and language and has stayed with us all these years driven by his talent for creating a nurturing, encouraging sense community for students. Fabian's favorite time of the day at school is when he has the opportunity to listen to the kids during free play, as they pretend and discover the world around them in Spanish. He says, "Seeing firsthand the product of an immersive curriculum, seeing them sharing ideas with each other in Spanish, watching them grow, immersed in the language and witnessing these "Ah ha!" moments where they are really learning together." Fabian's second favorite time is experiencing the change of seasons with students during daily walks. Fabian surrounds himself with music in his free time- especially punk and alternative from the 70's, 80's, & 90's. He also loves to build all kinds of stuff! (La Escuelita is so lucky to benefit from this for over a decade!) He likes to stay busy. But at the end of the day, what he enjoys most is sitting down to dinner with his wife and 2 teenage kids (dogs at feet: Oso and Sunny) to enjoy a meal and talk about the day using the "Rose, Thorn, Bud Retrospective".
Fabian Bautista - Educator
Carina was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She graduated as a Public Accountant at the University of Lomas de Zamora, Buenos Aires. She is studying English to better her langauge skills at Literacy Pittsburgh. Carina comes to us with an already established passion for early childhood education. She says, " I am interested in the learning style of La Escuelita Arcoiris since they allows for various learning modes through play and nature, amongst others, thus generating confidence and security for students in their environment through flexible adaptation." Carina loves dogs, nature and the smell of the garden. In her free time she likes to read, practice online yoga classes, and listen to music. She also likes hands-on creative activities like painting, interior decorating and creating various handicrafts; she also enjoys spending time with her husband David.
Carina Guerrero - Educator
María was born in Mexico City, Mexico. She has been caring for children her entire life and spent the last 7 years in Querétaro, Mexico working at a childcare center there. We are proud to announce that María completed her Child Development Associates (CDA) Degree through the PA Council for Professional Development in 2022. Her favorite part of Escuelita is connecting with students and dancing around and singing as a group during Circulo. María says she is proud to provide a sense of security for La Escuelita's preschoolers, as they begin to learn about the world outside of their home. She wanted to share, “La Escuelita offers a unique experience for students. Every day they are outside, appreciating the animals and plants and insects and developing a respect for them, the very same way you would for people and their things.” María enjoys taking walks, listening to music and traveling the world when she has free days outside of work.
María Vazquez - Educator
Diokarina was born in Maturin, Venezuela. She has received her bachelor's degree in Public Accounting and master's degree in Fiscal Management from the Universidad de Carabobo. After graduation she worked for many years as a university professor at her alma mater, an experience that allowed her love for teaching to flourish. Once she and her husband started a family, Diokarina came to appreciate the importance of early childhood education all the more and grew to become 100% involved in the educational development of children. For several years she worked as a preschool assistant, supporting the classroom teacher in different learning activities, helping students achieve their learning goals. Diokarina loves pets, she enjoyed them in her childhood and passed that love for pets on to her children. In her free time she likes to walk, play tennis, explore nature, camp, read, dance and sing. She loves performing as a contralto in her church choir. Both Diokarina and her family love sports, she has participated in several marathons.
Diokarina Cabeza - Educator
Fernanda was born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico. She grew up bilingual in both Spanish and English. Her Grandparents encouraged language education and she attended bilingual middle and secondary schools. She has been dedicated to working with children for the last decade now. Fernanda loves how children are honest, straight-forward and funny. When asked what brought her into the field of early childhood education, she said all her life she’s been driven to advocate for children and is passionate about helping them find their voices. She’s always has had a strong connection with kids and, as much as she’s drawn to working with them, they’ve always been drawn to her in return. She is eager to provide opportunities for children that she had imagined for herself growing up. Fernanda is an old soul and a big animal lover. She is passionate about animal rights. In her free time, she loves going for runs and walks with her dogs. She loves watching true crime documentaries and would love to someday travel to Japan.
Fernanda Vazquez - Educator
Jannina is Peruvian and Spanish is her native tongue. She studied Business Administration while in Peru and worked with children there for 7 years there prior to moving to the United States. Since then, she has worked with us here at La Escuelita Arcoiris for 13 years! Early in life Jannina realized that working with children was her passion. She sees strength in her ability to have patience and remain calm. She herself has a family with three children and says being a mother has enhanced her love for children. Her children are now adults so working here at La Escuelita is a fulfilling way to continue spending time with children. In her free time Jannina enjoys cooking, going to Zumba class, spending time with her family, visiting friends around the globe, and reading. But more than anything, she loves to traveling.
Jannina Agip - Educator
Mónica Zafra - Educator
Monica was born in Bucaramanga, Colombia and built her family in Maracay, Aragua State, Venezuela. Monica and her husband Enrique have a son named Victor whom she is very proud of. She and her family lived an hour from the beach and to get there she had to pass through a National Park called Henry Pittier, a mountainous place with diverse flora, fauna and rivers. This connection with nature was an important part of her daily routine, raising her family. Monica and her son have lived in Pittsburgh since 2019, they are happy to have chosen this city to start a new chapter in their lives. She loves the weather in Pittsburgh- she has discovered the wonder of spring and of autumn with its trees in shades of orange. Throughout her life, Monica has worked with children and, as a nature lover, Mónica felt an immediate connection to La Escuelita. She was inspired by the nature-based curriculum here. In her free time, Monica is a pastry lover. She studied confectionery and cake decoration in Venezuela and loves to prepare various desserts and share them with her family and friends. One of her favorite sports is swimming and when she sees a pool she feels like a fish in water.
Kenya was born in San Fernando, Apure, Venezuela. She comes from a family of primary and secondary school teachers. Kenya studied at the Francisco de Miranda National Experimental University in Falcon, Venezuela and holds a degree in Veterinary Medicine. In Venezuela, Kenya also worked with preschool and elementary students and moved to the United States to work with migrant children in El Paso, Texas. Kenya came to know of La Escuelita with the help of the JFCS (Jewish Family and Community Services) foundation. She says, "I look forward to coming in everyday to spend time with the children. They teach you about how important it is to remain curious and open-minded." Her love for nature and animals makes Kenya a great fit for our nature-based preschool program. Kenya moved to Pittsburgh to spend time with her younger brother and four nephews. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, meeting new people, listening to live music, and traveling with friends.
Kenya Solórzano - Educator
Gloris was born in Valencia, Venezuela. She arrived in the United States in July of 2021 and, along with her husband and two daughters, has made Pittsburgh home. She has her degree in Education, specializing in Special Education from the University of Carabobo, Venezuela and is currently studying English in Pittsburgh. While in Venezuela, Gloris worked for over 20 years with children in early childhood and elementary education. She has attended various seminars, conferences, workshops and conventions and taken various continuing education courses related to child development and early childhood stimulation (ECS). One of her favorite parts of the job is finding engaging ways to motivate children to discover the world around them, helping them to grow, develop and adapt. She likes working at La Escuelita Arcoiris because the program allows their students to grow and learn through direct contact with nature. Since she was little, Gloris has been a lover of animals and the environment. She loves exploring the outdoors with her family, watching movies, and going for walks around the city of Pittsburgh.
Gloris Malavé Caraballo - Educator
Karina Pérez Rosales - Educator
Karina is originally from Mexico City, Mexico. She moved to Pittsburgh in the summer of 2022 and is excited to learn more about the city. Karina is currently studying English as a Second Language and her main objective is to continue her studies at university, focusing on education and child psychology. She is looking forward to studying for her CDA with us here at La Escuelita. Karina's favorite part of the day at school is walking with students through the parks and chatting together about the different plants and animals that they see along the way. Ever since she was a child, Karina has always been curious about animals, plants and taking care of the environment. When she has time to relax with her friends and family, Karina loves keeping busy exercising, listening to music, reading,and spending time with her 3 younger brothers. She also enjoys traveling and learning about other cultures and cuisines.
Please check back to learn more about our new educators!
Coming Soon! - Educator
Please check back to learn more about our new educators!
Coming Soon! - Educator
We are always looking for new educators to join our growing community! Do you have a background in childcare? Does spending time outside, exploring nature leave you feeling energized? Are you a fluent Spanish speaker or are you going to school for or have a degree in Spanish? Reach out to our Directors here to begin the interview processes!
¡Siempre estamos buscando nuevos educadores para unirse a nuestra creciente comunidad! ¿Tiene experiencia en el cuidado de niños? ¿Pasar tiempo al aire libre, explorando la naturaleza, te deja lleno de energía? ¿Hablas español con fluidez o vas a ir a la escuela o tienes un título en español? ¡Comuníquese con nuestros directores aquí para comenzar el proceso de entrevista!
Your Name Here - Educator
Walkiria Preston - Director of Education
Walki's family is from Uruguay and Spanish was her home language growing up. She attended university at Point Park University and received a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education there. She went on to get a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from California University of PA. She has been a dedicated La Escuelita employee for over a decade, familiarizing herself with each of our four age groups. After gaining expertise as Director for two local childcare facilities, she returned to La Escuelita as Director of Education in 2021.
When asked why she chose to work with preschoolers, Walki responded, “It's amazing to be able to witness the transformation in a person within the first 6 years of their lives. Scaffolding students' learning by providing the right tools, support, and guidance is my favorite part of my role as an educator. I feel honored to be able to witness "Ah-ha moments", when something just clicks, and they become motivated to want to learn more about it!
In her free time, Walki most enjoys sitting outside on a breezy day, reading a book. Outside of work you'll find Walki's family exploring nature and hiking. She also enjoys spending time with friends and finding new places for food and cocktails in the ever-growing culinary scene here in Pittsburgh.
Ellen, our Director of Operations, learned Spanish while living in Mexico City, when she moved there right after college with her husband. Living and working as a resident for four years as the Special Projects Coordinator for a bilingual k-12 school gave her the opportunity to truly immerse herself in the language and culture. When they returned to Pittsburgh to raise their family, their children continued to benefit from that experience, growing up in a bilingual household.
Ellen received her degree from Edinboro University with a BA in Philosophy and Anthropology. Over the years her career choices have remained focused on working with children and youth. She made the permanent switch from classroom to administration 15 years ago and we are grateful for the order she provides to the controlled chaos that is early childhood education. Ellen is the second longest serving employee here at La Escuelita, having been part of our story for over 20 years!
In her free time, Ellen enjoys keeping up with her own three kids, weekend getaways, camping, and traveling to anywhere beachy. She loves outdoor concerts, music and dancing.
Ellen Tafel - Director of Operations
Megan is from Portland, Oregon. After graduating with a BFA in Theater from University of Montana, where she was inspired by her Spanish professors, she began traveling in Mexico and throughout Central and South America to become fluent in the language. Upon returning to Pittsburgh, in 1999 Megan founded La Escuelita Arcoiris. After 10 years, and in addition to leading La Escuelita, Megan chose to return to university and finish her degree in Early Childhood Education.
In her free time, Megan loves being on the water, from our local 3 rivers to camping on lakes and even the ocean. She plays an old-time fiddle and enjoys watching dancing feet move to her beat. She is passionate about the power of storytelling to make human connections and inspire empathy and perspective to help us confront problems.
When asked why she chose to found a preschool, Megan responded, "I love this fantastical phase of life from 0-5 years old. Before the logic seeps in, humans are innocent, spontaneous, curious investigators. They are natural dancers and musicians. I love to think that this spirit remains strong if celebrated and fomented throughout the early years.”
Megan Rooney - Founder & Creative Guide
Alana grew up in Pittsburgh where she earned a BA in Special Education, TESOL, and Spanish & Latin American History and Literature. She also studied for one year abroad at both the Universidad de Salamanca and the Universitat de València. Afterwards, she stayed on in Valencia, Spain to teach English as a Foreign Language for several years. Alana has 15 years experience as an ESL teacher and 20 years experience as a private nanny. Alana feels a strong connection to working in education, citing: “I find children to be particularly inspiring because they have not yet become destination-focused, giving them a chance to see beauty and truth in the world that can escape us as adults. Their perspective is refreshing and necessary. Making time to be present with our youngest members of society grounds us and provides clarity and joy.” In her free time Alana loves growing food, flowers, and plants. She is passionate about flavors and spends as much time as she can researching with fork in hand. When she isn’t in the garden or eating, she enjoys downtime with her partner and two fur babies. Traveling is how she unwinds.
Alana DeGregory - Administrative Coordinator
Teresa Lurati - AARP Volunteer
Teresa goes by Tere here at La Escuelita. She was born in Montevideo, Uruguay and learned Spanish as her first language. She loves children and has worked all her life as a nanny. She has also joyfully raised 2 of her own children and now happily enjoys chasing after both of her grandchildren. She requested to volunteer at La Escuelita because she loves being able to spend her day surrounded by kiddos. When she isn’t volunteering at La Escuelita, Tere enjoys cooking (especially homemade raviolis!), knitting, and decorating for every occasion!