Meet the caring staff at Monarch Preschool.
Vanessa Collett — Director
As a mother with kids in college, high school, and elementary school, I understand the significance of the people you choose to bring into your children’s lives and am honored to be one of those people. It is a gift in my life to work alongside families to give our children a healthy foundation for the people they will become and the bright futures ahead of them.
I earned my B.S. degree in Human and Family Development and spent time working in both public and Montessori schools, as well as working with teen moms. These varying and rewarding experiences have brought me full circle to this amazing little school where I continue to find joy, adventure, and purpose every day.
Savannah Rascon — Teacher
“Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner. Play is like the fertilizer for brain growth. It’s crazy not to use it.”
– Stuart Brown and Christopher Vaughan
Much like this quote suggests, play, especially free, child-led, unstructured play, is essential for children’s growth and development; it is not only important for cognitive development, but also for the development of every domain (cognitive, social, emotional, and physical). This is a statement that I feel very strongly about and strive to make possible for the children I work with. Further, I also feel very strongly about the importance of free play in the natural world, as nature has so many wonderful physical, mental, and emotional benefits for humans. This is why I feel so blessed to have found a place at Monarch Preschool, where not only is play at the foundation of the philosophy, but also where the importance of respect, creativity, outdoor exploration, and community is greatly exemplified. It is my goal to help bring those ideals to life at this school along with the amazing children, families, and staff that are already apart of this community.
On a more personal note, I have recently graduated from the Early Childhood Program at Orange Coast College, which is an excellent program that taught me so much about the importance of the first five years of life, as well as enabled me to fall in love with the power of play and the Reggio Emilia philosophy. While I was attending that community college, I also worked as a classroom aide at Harry and Grace Steele Children’s Center, where I was able to experience the joys of working with children firsthand. I have also been a substitute lead teacher at Coastal Children’s Learning Center. Currently, I am attending California State University of Fullerton, and during my free time I am usually working on homework, attempting to progress in my kickboxing skills, and spending time with the people and animals that I love.
Dalia Nute — Teacher
“If a child is to keep alive their inborn sense of wonder… they need the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with them the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”
– Rachel Carson
Just like Rachel Carson stated in this quote, children are born with a sense of wonder for the world around them. They need and crave interaction with the natural world and all within it. Children learn best when they can fully emerge themselves into experiences that create the foundation for lifelong learning and curiosity. My role as a teacher in the classroom is to learn, grow, and most importantly, play with the children; after all, play creates intelligence.
On a more personal level, I recently obtained my Preschool Teacher Certificate from Orange Coast College and my AA in Early Childhood Education. I will be transferring to Cal State University of Fullerton soon to further my studies in Early Childhood Education. I have worked with children of various ages, ranging from infants to older elementary. I am incredibly excited to be at Monarch Preschool to do what I love most! Some other things I enjoy are hiking, gardening, crafting, and spending time with animals.
Lisa Rodriguez — Teacher
I was raised with six younger siblings and seeing the world through a child's eyes is one of my greatest joys. Everything becomes a process of mental and physical mastery supplemented through their own excitement and curiosity. To witness their simple joys and resilience is an honor.
Not unlike the children here at Monarch Preschool, I am in the process of discovering myself. I’ve spent three years pursuing a degree in Environmental Biology at Cal Poly Pomona while using my free time leading educational kayaking tours and excavating fossils in a lab. I have recently begun exploring my other interests at OCC in the Child Development program. My view on early childhood learning has been revolutionized and working at Monarch takes my education a step further. Here, a culture of teachers learning to better support your child thrives. Children are understood according to their developmental capabilities, unique strengths, and temperament. My experiences and passions come together in this one place where nature, nurture, and play is central.
Robyn Beisswanger — Teacher
“Education begins the moment we see children as innately wise and capable beings. Only then can we play along in their world.”
– Vincent Gowmon
The first five years of a child’s life are very important because they are, as Gowmon states, innately wise and capable beings. I want to be someone who children can look up to, someone who can help them be learners for life. I feel that as a preschool teacher, I get the opportunity to be on a very powerful and influential journey with children and that I can help build a foundation for them to figure out what their passions are and how they can express those passions. At Monarch, I have found a home where each child will feel like they can be their most authentic self, where they feel at home, too, where they can fail, and succeed, and will be supported to do both by learning through play... both indoors and especially outdoors.
Throughout my life, I have worked with young children or have been drawn to organizations that benefit children in some way because of how they see the world through awe and wonder. Once I started my early childhood education classes at Orange Coast College, I realized right away that this was the career for me. I also received my bachelor’s degree in Recreation Administration from Chico State in 2017 and completed my Preschool Teaching Certificate in 2019. I enjoy spending time with my family, trying new recipes and foods, traveling near and far, crafting, and musicals!
Geanina Tira — Assistant Teacher
“Children are naturally creative. It is our job to give them the freedom, materials, and space to let their creativity blossom to its fullest potential.”
– Jean Van’t Hul
I have always believed that the way to a child’s mind is through natural exploration, play, and adventure; most importantly, getting messy and learning along the way! The foundation of their imagination continues to be enriched through the curiosity of the world around them in different materials and environments. This is all the more reason as to why I fell in love with Monarch Preschool’s foundation and am so grateful to be alongside many other creative teachers who strive in encouraging this way of thinking.
I am currently working on my associate preschool teacher certificate and art teaching degree. I have worked at Harry and Grace Steele Children’s Center with various ages, ranging from infants to preschool. Now more than ever, I have realized how passionate I am about the creative growth of children and the effect that art and play has on their cognitive and social development. I am also a photographer who loves capturing moments through all ages of life, exploring all forms of art, being outdoors, and spending time with animals and friends.
Anja Pellegrino — Assistant Teacher
I like to recount a very simple (and very telling) story about my first experience at Monarch Preschool. I took my daughter – then 2.5 years old – for a tour to see if it was the right fit for us. We had been exploring preschools for a couple of weeks. When I opened the gate to the yard for the first time, she ran full-force into the space and I heard her audible gasp: “Oh wow, this is so wonderful!” I knew we had found our home.
Today, my unique role at Monarch is one of passionate parent and assistant teacher in the 3-day class (and you’ll catch me as substitute assistant teacher in the 2-day class, as well). While I hold a BA in English from the University of California, Irvine, I am currently enrolled in the Childhood Development Education program at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. I have spent the past 20 years in the marketing industry and discovering my passion for early childhood development has, quite literally, completely changed my life. It is an absolute privilege to support your children in a warm, caring environment where their imaginations are free to soar. We hope you find your home here, too.
“When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.” – Fred Rogers