Durham Staff

IMG_6156Paula Malek

Paula comes from a long line of educators. Her mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather were all teachers. She grew up in Pennsylvania and received a BS in Elementary Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has taught Kindergarten, pre-Kindergarten, and served as the coordinator of a program for preschoolers with special needs.

Paula moved to Chapel Hill in 1990 and began graduate school at University of North Carolina. While studying for her masters degree in early childhood, she supervised student teachers in a variety of educational settings. Additionally, she participated in several research projects in the area of cost and quality of early childhood programs.

After the birth of her fourth child she made the decision to stay home and live and learn with her growing family. Now Paula is thrilled to channel her energy, enthusiasm, and passion for working with young children at Our PlayHouse. In her free time Paula enjoys baking, running marathons, quilting, watching the Steelers, and spending time with her family.

IMG_4928Anne Mullins 

German native Anne discovered her love for working with young children early on. Following a volunteer role at a preschool in West Virginia, she returned to Germany, where she studied social work and received a master’s degree in Counseling. Anne’s studies focused on children and their families, working with at-risk children in Munich.

A strong belief that children can learn the best when their interests are met guides Anne’s educational philosophy. Aiding children in developing fluency in their hundred languages underpins Anne’s appreciation for Reggio Emilia. Developing children’s curiosity and exploration of Durham’s natural environment is one of her teaching goals.

Last year she and her husband moved to North Carolina and they fell in love with Durham. In her spare time, she can be found working on her house, spending time with her husband and training her dog Layla to be a therapy dog.

IMG_4912Wendy Turner

Wendy received a BA in sociology from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. The highlight of her college experience was the year spent studying abroad in Avignon, France. She discovered her love of working with young children during her first job as a counselor at a French immersion camp in Napa Valley, California. She continued teaching in a variety of settings in the Bay Area, Boston, and North Carolina before moving back to her roots in Maine.
In Maine, Wendy worked as a developmental therapist and found her passion for teaching preschool age children. She continued in the Early Childhood field as the director at a preschool in Bar Harbor, Maine. At the University of Maine in 2003, while taking Master’s level classes, she was introduced to the Project Approach, emergent curriculum, and Reggio Emilia philosophies and has been drawn to them ever since. Wanting to escape the long winters in Maine, Wendy relocated to Raleigh in 2009 where she has been teaching children ages 2-4 at a private preschool.

In her free time, Wendy enjoys creative arts and nature explorations with her 7-year-old daughter, visiting local parks, museums, and events, and taking family trips to the beach.

IMG_4942Christina Taylor 

Christina is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has lived here for nearly a decade. Her time at UNC sharpened her enthusiasm for working with children, and she pursued childcare and volunteer opportunities in Chapel Hill in addition to her studies. After completing her degree in education, this former Montessori student was thrilled to become a Montessori teacher. Although she worked children from 18 months to 6-years old, she most enjoyed the explosive growth she observed with two year olds. Christina is delighted to embrace Reggio Emilia philosophies and be a part of a program in which children can simply be children.
Away from the classroom, Christina volunteers with a local animal rescue organization and loves to exercise, spend time with her family, and enjoy a good football game with friends.

jordan Jordan Jones

Jordan is excited to be back in her native North Carolina after five years in chilly Vermont, where she attended Middlebury College and majored in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in costume design. Through her experiences as a nanny and camp counselor, Jordan discovered a love of working with young children; additionally, as a graduate of ten years of Montessori education, she feels deeply in tune with the child-centric focus and experiential learning style of Reggio Emilia educational philosophy.

She is a fan of art-based learning, dancing in the rain, kid-friendly science projects and making up silly songs. While she has worked with children of many ages, Jordan particularly enjoys the challenges and delights of early childhood education and is thrilled to be joining the OPH community. When not in the classroom, Jordan can be found sketching, painting, cuddling her cat Oryx, or reading voraciously.

IMG_4875Sally Stark-Dreifus 
After eleven years of living in Brooklyn, NY, Sally is thrilled to return to her native Durham. While in New York, Sally attended Bank Street School of Education earning a double masters in Infant and Family Development/Early Intervention and Early Childhood General and Special Education. Prior to moving to New York, Sally graduated from Clark University in Massachusetts with a degree in Sociology.  In addition to ten years as a preschool teacher at multiple NYC independent schools, Sally enjoyed several years as a Summer Camp Director and Admissions Associate.
When not working, Sally enjoys spending time with her family, the outdoors, cooking, yoga, spinning, and reading. She is also delighted her two year old daughter will be joining OPH this fall!

IMG_4894Amy Smith

Durham native Amy spent several years traveling after receiving her BA in Psychology. Amy worked mostly in residential settings with both children and the elderly and and found her passion working in Early Childhood Education. Reggio’s freedom to learn and explore led her to appreciate the educational effect of the environment and the empowering ability of children to pursue their own interests.

Amy’s love of singing, running, jumping, laughing and playing in rain puddles grew during two years in a Reggio environment. Anything can be made into a song and learning is much more fun that way! When not at school Amy enjoys hanging with her husband, dog, and daughter.
josh RodgersJosh Rodgers

Josh Rodgers has been involved with early childhood education since 2001. He has served as a floater for early childhood programs, taught pre-k and Kindergarten for six years, and served as both an after-school and camp program director.  He continues to be a camp director for Congressional Camps’ 3-5-year old program since 2007.

Josh believes in the importance of project-based learning, natural environment exposure, and managed-risk experiences that grow children’s independence and self-development. A former theater major,  he also delights in integrating children’s literature and music into the classroom’s learning atmosphere. He believes each child learns and grows uniquely, and supports independent education that focuses on children as individuals.

During his downtime, Josh enjoys reading, cooking, theater performances, and spending time with his partner, Kevin, and their dog Lily. With a large love for his family, he also travels back to the Northern Virginia/DC area regularly to visit his parents, young niece, and many siblings.

IMG_4858Caitlyn Case-Cohen 

Caitlyn grew up in Hillsborough in a family of teachers before moving to St. Paul, Minnesota to attend Macalester College. There she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and American Studies and began working in preschools. Inspired by the independence, creativity, and total joy of preschool-aged children, she moved to Colorado to complete the Montessori certification for ages 3-5 in Boulder. She has been working in Montessori classrooms for six years, most recently leading a classroom in downtown Denver.
Caitlyn loves fostering a classroom community that is full of creative expression, social and emotional learning, and empowerment for children to take care of themselves and each other. She loves the foundation her Montessori background has given her and is excited to delve into the project-based approach of Reggio-inspired education, which has inspired her since visiting Boulder Journey School last year. She is also excited to be back home near her family in North Carolina, along with her husband Kenneth and their cat Ghost. When she’s not at school, you can usually find her reading good novels, playing ukulele, or cooking delicious meals.

Jesa_0057aJesa Rae Richards

Jesa Rae is a visual artist with an inquiry-based, playful approach to art integrated education. She received her BFA from Columbia College Chicago, where her passion for arts education allowed her to delve into a wide variety of artistic mediums, study child development, and connect with the Reggio Emilia approach. Jesa Rae has worked with children for over fifteen years as a nanny, has partnered with social justice organizations to bring arts workshops to children in Chicago, and was a lead teacher and program director at a community arts center in Minneapolis.

Locally, she has worked as an arts educator with a number of organizations in Durham, including the Durham Arts Council, Durham Public Schools, and The Scrap Exchange. Though she enjoys working with students of all ages, her heart lies in early education, where play, art, and learning are interwoven with abundant magic.

When not in the classroom, Jesa Rae can be found in her vegetable garden, traveling or hiking with her partner and puppy, or in her studio working on a children’s book about a little girl who plants a magical garden in her bedroom with the sounds she collects from the city.

IMG_4880Carrie Becker

Carrie joins Our PlayHouse after teaching in Maryland for the past fifteen years. She worked in a variety settings focusing on early childhood and special education. Carrie also comes to Our PlayHouse with nearly a decade of curricular experience with the Reggio approach, including her own Reggio-inspired home childcare program, where she placed a high value on the messy side of learning and exploration.

Carrie is a certified special education teacher and most recently worked with students in an elementary school setting. Carrie has a true passion for early childhood education and following the children’s interests in a project-based classroom. She also enjoys facilitating sensory and nature-based learning opportunities. She shares her passion for early childhood education by teaching continuing education workshops to preschool and childcare teachers.

Carrie is currently pursuing her graduate degree in curriculum and instruction. Carrie spends her time outside of the classroom with her husband, daughter, and dog. She enjoys spending time outside, gardening, hiking and biking.

Juliana_0052aJuliana Fadl 

Juliana was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in the United Kingdom.  She came back to the states to study fashion design at SCAD in Georgia and transferred to complete her BA at Parsons in Paris.  After traveling around she found her roots here in Durham and discovered that teaching was a great interest in her life.

With three siblings Juliana has always surrounded herself with kids and has had a soft spot for helping them grow and learn.  She has worked at The Art Centre in Carborro with all ages and enjoyed bringing her creative and visual background into the classroom.  She loves to see children inspired to learn.

When Juliana’s not teaching she’s hula hooping, sewing or designing clothing, helping to care for the vegetable garden, cooking, and doing yoga.  She loves to travel, be in the great outdoors, and spend quality time with her fiancé and cat Zeamora.


oph-4Danielle Clark, Director

Danielle earned a Masters in Early Childhood and Special Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York and her Bachelors in Psychology from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She worked in private preschools in New York City and a public preschool in Falls Church City, Virginia. Danielle has extensive experience in child development, mentoring teachers and curricular development. She started at Our PlayHouse for as a parent in the Chapel Hill school.  Danielle also was a member of the Our PlayHouse board and served on the auction committee.

Danielle is inspired by the Reggio philosophy and loves the project-based approach to education. She is passionate about creating hands on learning environments for both her students and the staff to inquire and explore to further their understanding of the world. She believes early childhood education should be about wonder, creativity, imagination, and discovery.

When not at Our PlayHouse Danielle spends her time with her husband and their two children. They enjoy family trips to museums, local hikes, and trying new flavors at Maple View Farms. Danielle is thrilled to have her daughter join her as a member of the Our PlayHouse school community in Durham.


Maddi Sullivan, Assistant Director

Maddi is a mother to Ollie, 6, an educator, a doula, an artist and most of all a lifelong learner. Originally from New York and Florida she moved to Durham in October 2014 with her family after 16 years in the Pacific Northwest.

Maddi has 10 years of professional experience working within the field of science/outdoor education as a mentor, educator and program coordinator. She received a BS in Nutrition through Bastyr University in Seattle, and a graduate degree in Science Education through the University of Washington. In her free time you can find Maddi hiking along the Eno River, biking around town, working in her garden, or some other form of playing outside.

IMG_9719Danielle Sunde

Danielle lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and four boys. She is passionate about children being children. Danielle and her family enjoy food, books, and traveling as a family.