Meet Our Team

Each and every one of our employees represent the spirit of our school: dedicated to working with young children, committed to delivering the best early care and education program available in Volusia County, and acutely aware of how limitless God is in blessing our tireless efforts. We go to great lengths to identify loving hearts, strong work ethics, diverse experience, and skill sets that produce our well-rounded, talented, and complementary team.
Look over our employee spotlights. We want you to get to know our work family that cares so deeply for your children. Each of them share the traits of humility and a willingness to help out one another as we do this important work.

Administrative Staff

Emily Foess

Director

Sue Kahrs
Enrollment/Marketing & Communications

Mark Kahrs

Front Desk / Scheduling

Paula Zerillo

Librarian/Supplies

Dawn Haynes

Custodian

Sue is a member of Our Savior's and began working for the school 4 years ago, then shifted to the church administrator position. We are happy to have her back full-time with the school. Sue has always worn two hats as an executive assistant or worked in sales and marketing. Sue stands ready to serve her Lord and give attention to the needs of our Small Steps families.

Second career teacher & principal in a Lutheran School in Wisconsin for 12 years. Moved to Florida in 2001, taught Middle School Math in Orlando. Tutored Math students along with being a manager of a tutoring company in South Florida overseeing 47 tutors. Is a member of Our Savior's Lutheran Church, with his love for the Lord, he is excited to work in our school.

Paula is a member of Our Savior's and serves as our librarian. She worked for 9 years with all ages of children at the Palm Beach County Library, organizing story times during year round and summer sessions for infants through age 8. She is retired in 2011 from Volusia County Library System where she organized scheduling for 70+ volunteers & supervised training  when new programs were installed. BA with minor in Elementary Education. 

We are so fortunate to have Dawn Haynes as our custodian. Dawn worked for Flagler County Schools for 9 years, cleaning classrooms and cafeterias after school hours with deep cleaning during summers. Dawn loves working in a positive and uplifting environment like we have at Small Steps Academy. 

Emily is a member of Our Saviors and holds the longest teaching tenure at Small Steps, having started when the program was young in August of 2006. She is always smiling, happy, and directly involved with children and families. Her leadership style shows that Emily is a "forever-student," as she incorporates the teachings of early childhood experts like Jean Piaget, Reggio Emilia into her staff training.

Infant Program

Jessica Arnold

Samantha Lopez- Galindo

Carrie Anastasi

Elizabeth Reynoso

Jessica holds a formal staff credential after completing an AA degree at Daytona State College with an emphasis on early childhood education. She is friendly, caring, and adaptable to all ages of care, but particularly loves working with infants. All families notice her attention to detail.

Nicole joined us with a good bit of early childhood experience. She is from the state of Washington where she earned a Child Development Credential. Nicole owned her own home daycare for 12 years. She also worked for the public school system for a time, caring for special needs children.  She loves living with her husband near the beach. 

Carrie works for Small Steps part-time. She is a seasoned early childhood person with a passion for working with 4-year olds. She is certified to teach VPK but also loves working with nursery-aged children. In addition to VPK and child care classroom experience, Carrie was a substitute teacher at S. Daytona Elementary for 2 yrs. She has great patience and remains unruffled with children and adults. 

Elizabeth has years of experience in childcare and is fully certified with her DCF hours. Shes a mom of five who loves the little ones and the early stages of life. She is very friendly and energetic, her nurturing personality makes her a perfect fit with our youngest children here at Small Steps!

Toddler Ones Program

Toddler Twos Program

Savannah Rivera

Teresa Garcia

Breanne Lagg

Brittany Booth

Afre Lightbourne

Amy Hopkins

Nicole started as a preschool teacher in 2005. Her early childhood training in Palm Beach County is extensive. As a mother of two wonderful boys, she believes that with motherhood comes unconditional love and patience, which is important in a preschool setting. Nicole exhibits this love and patience every hour of every day with your children.

Mercedes is new to child care, yet, she is a great fit in our one-year-old classroom. She has a natural ability to do gentle guidance and the children love her. Mercedes enjoys studying early childhood education. She also has a deep passion for children battling with cancer, which we expect to propel her career. 

Emily is our newest addition to Small Steps! She is currently working here while pursuing a degree in Elementary Education at Daytona State College. She has a passion for working with children and wants to inspire the future and help children along the way! 

Kourtney has worked in child care since 2009. As a professional, she is committed to the field and earned an Early Childhood Education degree. She enjoys teaching two-year-old children at Small Steps because they are curious and absorb knowledge so rapidly. She also appreciates partnering with parents. We hope you will get to know Kourtney. She is one of the most positive people around - full of kindness and vitality! 

Maria Elena is happy to work in a Christian school. She came to the US from Peru where she was a school teacher for 15 years. She earned a CNA and worked in a rehabilitation center for 3 years, but her heart remained with children. This prompted her to earn an Early Childhood Education degree, and graduate with high honors. Maria is energetic and perseveres. She is very good at redirecting behavior and never complains.

Amy has a full-time job at BJs, then heads to Small Steps to work a late afternoon shift, for which we are SO thankful. Her child care experience began in Virginia where she worked for 4 years. She enjoys younger children because it keeps her moving and thinking. Amy is quiet, but effective, with young children. She takes great delight in the big smiles kids have when they accomplish seemingly simple things.

Preschool 3's & 4's Program

Elva Carpenter

Samantha Owens

Elva came to us a few short weeks before the Virus outbreak. She has worked in the childcare field for a long time. She is spoken highly of and has a natural ability with kids. We are happy to bring her on staff. She will be assisting in the three year old program through the summer. You will find her polite ad kind. She would love to introduce herself to you the next time you pick up or drop off. We can't wait to see all the wonderful things she does as a three year old assistant.

Samantha Owens came to us about a year ago. She was a parent first, and then fell in love with teaching children. She changed careers to follow her passion. There is no doubt that she loves children. Samantha has a special gift for early childhood. We have watched her begin the transition from assistant to Teacher with great pride. She is going to do great things here at the center!

Jessica Janis

Kelsey Werner

Jessica, adopted the name "Janis" to differentiate her from other Jessicas, at the time she was hired. She had been in several age groups, but really found her niche in preschool. She's very creative, even-tempered, treats the children with respect and kindness. Janis loves the idea of making early childhood her career. She had her first year as Teacher in 2091-2020. She did an amazing job her first year. We know she will continue on her path of excellence!

Kelsey is working as an all around assistant at Small Steps. She has completed her AA degree at Daytona State and is working towards her degree in elementary education. She loves children and is excited to make impacts in their lives and education! You will see her smiling face all over campus as she cares for your little ones.

VPK Program

Sarah Howell

Sarah is a member of Our Saviors and accepted a Call in 2015 to teach VPK at Small Steps. She has a bachelor degree in Elementary Education with an specialization in early childhood. Sarah is also studying at UCF for her masters degree. Sarah is a disciplined teacher who is focused on each child's school readiness to ensure your child's success.

Maria Elena Hill

Maria Elena is happy to work in a Christian school. She came to the US from Peru where she was a school teacher for 15 years. She earned a CNA and worked in a rehabilitation center for 3 years, but her heart remained with children. This prompted her to earn an Early Childhood Education degree, and graduate with high honors. Maria is energetic and perseveres. She is very good at redirecting behavior and never complains.

Nancy Hopkins

Mary Johnson

Nancy is a Lutheran filled with joy and fun. She came  to Small Steps with vast teaching experience in Volusia County Public Schools. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary and Early  Childhood from UCF. Her teaching career includes one year in 5th grade, 6 years in 1st grade, 12 years in Pre-K Early Intervention, and 11 years in Kindergarten. Thank you, Nancy!

Mary has an Associate degree of Science and Occupational Therapy. She loves working with VPK-aged children and has been doing that with us since 2016. Mary is extremely imaginative and artistic. She can build a giraffe or any creature by re-purposing found materials in an innovative way.  Look for her art and other work in classroom!

Brianna Hilditch

Brianna Hilditch is going to Daytona State for Elementary education. She makes a great asistant in VPK aftercare. She was a great addition to the staff last year and we know she will continue to shine. 

Our Pastor

Pastor Jeff Heitsch graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Arts and completed his Masters of Divinity degree at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 1989. After serving a Lutheran parish in Cheyenne, WY for 19 years, Pastor Jeff served in Cameroon, Africa for 7 months before he left due to the political situation and arrived here at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in August, 2018.   

 

Pastor Jeff is married to Stephanie. They have three adult children and two grandchildren.

Pastor Jeff & Stephanie Heitsch

Small Steps Academy

1715 Taylor Road

Port Orange, FL 32128

(386) 756-7569

License # C07VO0195

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