Amy Smith has a degree in Psychology, which she earned from Guilford College. As a Durham native Amy has a deep love for the community and enjoys the emphasis the Reggio approach puts on those relationships. With over five years of Reggio Emilia experience, and with eight years as an educator, Amy uses her love of reading, singing, playing and connecting to create an environment that is both comforting and empowering to toddlers and preschoolers.
Sally is thrilled to be returning to OPH, after spending the past year at home with her second child. Sally is a Durham native but spent eleven years living in Brooklyn, NY. While in New York, Sally attended Bank Street School of Education obtaining a double masters in Infant and Family Development/Early Intervention and Early Childhood General and Special Education. Prior to moving to New York, Sally attended Clark University in Massachusetts, earning a degree in Sociology. Sally has ten years of experience working in the NYC independent school system as a preschool teacher, as well as several years as a Summer Camp Director and Admissions Associate.
When not working, you can often find Sally spending time outdoors with her family and dog, at a Zumba or Yoga class, or exploring the restaurant scene with her husband.
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 daughter, visiting local parks, museums, and events, and taking family trips to the beach.
Lisa is excited that her path has led to Our PlayHouse and the opportunity to spend her days with young children. For the last few years, she has been learning about Reggio Emilia-inspired education through her daughter and is eager to learn more. Lisa appreciates many things about the philosophy but especially the value of relationship.
Lisa grew up in a large and loving family, and moved every year or two throughout her childhood. She has a BS in Psychology and worked as a school administrator for over 30 years. Most recently, Lisa served as the Enrollment Director for the Chicago Waldorf School. Prior to that, she worked at the University of Michigan as a Student Development Program Director. Her years of working closely with students, parents and faculty have been transformative and have deepened her interests in the arts, social justice, alternative education, and sustainability.
Lisa loves spending time with her family and is passionate about exploring just about anything– she especially enjoys reading, traveling, hiking in the mountains, making art and finding unusual stones and pretty things.
Jesa 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.
Oriana Campanelli DeCelles is a licensed clinical social worker dedicated to family health and social justice. Originally from Rhode Island, Oriana lived in Cape Town, South Africa with her husband and two children for seven years before moving to Durham in 2016. Oriana holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from University of Vermont and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Smith College School for Social Work. Oriana began working as a substitute at Our PlayHouse Preschool in 2016 before joining the OPH staff for the 2017-18 school year.
For the past fifteen years, Oriana has worked with children in a variety of settings, including non-formal, sport-based education in the Dominican Republic, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Ethiopia, as well as school-based therapy, environmental education, and intensive home-based family therapy with parent training. Oriana is passionate about Reggio-inspired learning, and feels grateful to work with the wonderful community of OPH Durham.
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.
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.
Maddi is a mother to Ollie, 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.
Kaitlin grew up in Florida, where she attended the University of Florida and received her Bachelor’s in Psychology. She moved to Durham in September 2016 and began working for Our PlayHouse that October as a substitute. During the summer of 2017 she loved working full time as a camp teacher in Cedar House. Kaitlin loves watching the children be inspired in the classroom and has decided to continue her education in Early Childhood.
Kaitlin‘s hobbies include reading and brush calligraphy. She can also be found on the weekends relaxing with her partner and their dog, Stella.
Cindy is a Durham native with over 20 year in the field of Early Childhood Education. She has worked with children from infancy up to five years old in the preschool setting. Cindy joined Our PlayHouse Preschool in 2013 as a substitute. In 2016 she accepted a position as a classroom teacher in Sprout House.
In her spare time Cindy enjoys reading, decorating, walking, bingo, spending time with her family.
Liz Lenn, Director
Liz is a native of Lexington, Kentucky; which is where she attended the University of Kentucky and earned a BA in Psychology. Shortly after graduation, she moved to San Francisco where she worked for over a decade as a compliance and operations management professional in the financial services industry. In 2011, she and her family relocated to Chapel Hill. This cross country move granted Liz the opportunity to change careers and pursue her lifelong dream of working with young children.
Liz began working at Our PlayHouse Preschool Chapel Hill in early 2014 before joining the OPH staff full-time for the 2014-15 school year. Liz is passionate about the Reggio philosophy and loves the opportunity it provides her to wonder and inquire right along with the children. She values classroom relationships and believes in ongoing collaboration between children, teachers, parents and the broader community.
In her free time, Liz enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and two daughters. She also loves running the local trails, cooking, and traveling to new places.