Meet the caring staff at Monarch Preschool.
Vanessa Collett — Director and Caterpillar Teacher
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 — Butterfly 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.
Lisa Rodriguez — Butterfly 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 — Butterfly 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!
Brittany Garrett — Butterfly Teacher
At this age, children are filled with such curiosity, wonder, and joy. They are constantly in the process of learning and we are able to scaffold them through their development and learn along with them. I believe in the hundred languages of children, in which children learn through a variety of ways. I am proud to be a part of the Monarch Preschool team and support your children with the tools to learn, develop, and express themselves successfully.
On a personal level, I started my education at Orange Coast College, where I received two Associate in Science degrees in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in Preschool and a Preschool Teacher certificate, as well. From there, I transferred to Cal State Fullerton where I recently graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Child and Adolescent Development with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. I previously worked at the OCC Children’s Center for three and a half years, working mostly with three year olds. During my free time, I enjoy hiking, paddle boarding, playing board games, and attending concerts. I am excited to continue my journey here at Monarch Preschool and I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be part of your children’s development.
Karen McArthur — Caterpillar/Chrysalis Teacher
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.”
– Dr. Seuss
I am so excited to be working with you and your children this year at Monarch Preschool. My teaching career has been blessed with working for over 15 years with children from 2 to 6 years of age. I worked for the Coastline Community College Parenting Program as lead teacher, as well, for many years. I attended the Orange Coast College Early Childhood Program and am currently working on my AA.
My family is incredibly important to me. My son, Cameron, is 26 and has just graduated from the OT program and has opened his own business. My daughter, Alyssa, is 23 and has graduated from USC. She is currently working in the Newport Mesa school district as an ABA .
In my spare time, I like to travel just about anywhere! I also love to go camping, cook, and take my dog, Courage, to the beach. I absolutely love the outdoors — it’s my happy place. I am truly looking forward to supporting your children and watching them grow.
Terri States — Caterpillar/Chrysalis Teacher
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
– Fred Rogers
Teaching is my passion and I love watching children learn through natural curiosity. There is nothing quite like the preschool age. The children are so curious and enthusiastic — and the joy of learning and play is written on their faces. It’s contagious. The outdoor classroom at Monarch Preschool is a magical place. Personally, I love being outside, and the growth and imagination it fosters in children is unlike any other school that I know.
Professionally, I have been teaching for over 14 years. I have my Bachelor of Arts in Speech Language Pathology and a California State Teaching Credential.
My three children are my world. One son is attending Cal State Long Beach, my other son is joining the U.S. Navy, and my daughter is 12 and loves acting. I go camping every summer and love traveling and seeing new places. After watching my sons play for many years, I have recently found joy in playing hockey, as well.
Irem Sepici — Caterpillar/Chrysalis Teacher
“Play is the work of childhood. The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.” – Jean Piaget
My journey with children started while I was enrolling my daughters in preschool. As a mom of three daughters (ages 16, 14, and 9), I realized how important those first years are. As I became deeply invested in their world, I decided to open my own preschool in my home country of Turkey. I am still one of the shareholders to this day.
When my family and I decided to move to California, I continued to follow my passion and enrolled in the Early Childhood Program at Orange Coast College. I have almost completed the Certificate Program of Early Childhood Education and Certificate Program of Early Childhood Administration, and am about to obtain my AA degree in the Early Childhood Program. I also have a BA in International Relations and Political Sciences.
Previously, I was a foreign trade expert and a director of my own preschool for 7 years. Most recently, I worked in the Harry and Grace Steele Children’s Center at Orange Coast College. Today, I feel so lucky to be here at Monarch Preschool with these gorgeous children, their amazing families, and the best team ever.
Laura Ledwith — Aide
I enrolled by older son in Monarch Preschool two years ago and have loved it ever since. Monarch’s philosophies, the staff, as well as the friends I have made along the way, have all helped shape me to be a better parent to my own children. I can now sit back, observe, and approach every situation as a new learning opportunity.
I am thrilled to be a part of the Monarch team. Just think of me as a helper bee, hygiene expert, and restroom attendant extraordinaire!
A little bit more about me: I went to Fresno State, obtained my Bachelors in Sociology, and would plan to further my education when the time is right. I am a wife to a college football coach, mother to two young boys who keep me busy and laughing everyday, and also a mom to two fur brothers (because why get one dog when you can have litter mates!)
Sami Riffenburg — Aide
I joined the Monarch Preschool community with my oldest son in 2015 and then continued on until my youngest son graduated in June 2019. It is an absolute joy to transition to a teacher’s aide and to remain a part of the Monarch family.
For me, the free creativity and adventurous spirit of Monarch children is inspiring. And since the very beginning, I have been a-okay with getting messy right alongside them.
I began working with children as a teen, babysitting family and friends. I worked summer horseback riding camps here in Huntington Beach before becoming a children's horseback riding instructor.
Anja Pellegrino — Substitute 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 outdoor classroom 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 substitute assistant teacher. 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