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.
Danielle Vuksich — Teacher
Growing up in a small knit community really makes you understand the saying, “it takes a village”. I’ve always valued the importance of community and being as immersed in it as possible. Finding a home at Monarch Preschool has made that stand true in more ways than one. I discovered my passion for child growth early on in my education. As my studies through Orange Coast College’s Early Childhood Program continued, I was quickly inspired by the fact that children learn through their play and creativity. I am a firm believer in children immersing themselves in their environment and discovering the world all around them through an experience that is led completely by their own interests and goals. Monarch Preschool offers a place for children to learn through play and their environment in all of the best ways possible. It is driven by the saying “it takes a village”, and people who put their love for the children’s benefit before all else, and being a part of this community is something that I truly cherish.
In my free time I enjoy being in and around the water, discovering places I have never been before, watching new TV shows, and drinking iced coffee.
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 & 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.
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
Lisa Rodriguez — Assistant 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.