Staff Profile

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Dianna Barajas

” The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.” – Henry Ward Beecher

”The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Dianna has been working with young children since 2010. She completed her ECE certification through Cerritos College and is looking to further her education in the field of early childhood. In 2015 she began working as a substitute for Little Owl. Dianna believes that every child has the right to be heard and the right to express themselves. She believes that children can express their way of learning and thinking through many different ways. She also believes that every child has the right to a safe environment where they can feel safe and comfortable. Dianna is thankful to have the opportunity to learn something new every day as a teacher, she feels that every day we can learn something new or learn from our mistakes.

Outside of the classroom Dianna loves to spend time with her loved ones. Dianna believes in seeking adventures and enjoys working out. She likes to go hiking and signing up for mud races.

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Stephanie Boggs
Director of Social Media & Marketing

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” – Mother Teresa

Stephanie grew up in Southern California and graduated from the University of California Irvine with a BA in Studio Arts and Minor in Art History. Following graduation, she followed her passion for film and television by working at a post-production editorial boutique in Santa Monica. After a few years behind the computers, she decided she wanted to try her hand at the producing role. Instantly, she found her niche and began working as an editorial and visual effect producer and executive producer for several renowned, award winning post-production houses in the Los Angeles area.

After more than decade, with her family growing, Stephanie and her husband came to the decision that she would leave the bright lights and focus on their family and community. With a happy and full heart, Stephanie began volunteering at her children’s schools and joined the Executive Board of the PTA all while she continued to feed her passion for technology in social & digital media.

Currently, Stephanie can be found running around the wonderful communities of Bixby Knolls, Wrigley, Country Club Manor and Los Cerritos, and at her home away from home, Little Owl. She keeps the community updated with what is happening at Little Owl and spreads the word world-wide about Little Owl School being a leader in Early Childhood Education.

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Milly Camarena
Support Educator

“Children need the freedom to appreciate the infinite resources of their hands, their eyes and their ears, the resources of forms, materials, sounds and colors.” – Loris Malaguzzi

Milly has been in the field of childhood education since 2008. Her journey began after the birth of her niece and earning a BA in Art for the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos de Lima, Peru, where is is from. Continuing her education in the U.S., Milly pursued a Master Teacher certificate, earned an Early Childhood Education Teacher Certificate with a Special Education focus at Long Beach City College while still firmly rooted to her arts practice.

Milly discovered her combined passions for working with children and art while working at the L.B. City College Child Development Center and other local preschools. She as worked at Little Owl as a sub for 2 years prior to her gaining teacher status. She believes children are social beings who need a nurturing place to imagine, create and play. She has a deep appreciation for their honesty and spontaneity and enjoys using the arts as a tool to facilitate their process in a warm and encouraging environment. Recently Milly earned a Family Development credential through the University of Connecticut Center for Study of Culture, Health and Human Development. When not working, Milly loves to spend time with her friends and family, making art, dancing, riding her bike and cooking and eating good food.

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Natalie DeLeon
Support Educator

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder. 

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.  

I hope you dance…” -Lee Ann Womack 

Natalie was born and raised in Long Beach, California. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from California State University, Northridge in 2021. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Child and Adolescent Development with an emphasis in Early Childhood Development. She has also obtained her Associate of Science for Transfer in Early Childhood Education from Long Beach City College in 2019. She holds a Child Development Master Teacher permit through the state of California. She has experience working alongside children ages 2-5. She believes that children deserve support in all aspects of development, learning, exploring, and creating. This support is shown through the relationships that educators build with children. She is inspired by her past educators who supported her and advocated for her mental health from a young age.  

Natalie loves spending time with her big family; she is the youngest of 8 siblings. She also enjoys spending quality time with her friends. She loves painting, singing, swimming, and playing games in her free time.  She enjoys going on walks to enjoy the sunshine.  

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Melissa Dempsey

“Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” – Annette Funicello

Melissa was born and raised in Chico, California and recently moved to Long Beach for college. She transferred her junior year to finish her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies at Cal State Long Beach. She is also currently obtaining her Teaching Credentials at CSULB, in hopes to become an elementary school teacher.

Outside of work, Melissa enjoys spontaneous adventures with friends and family. She enjoys traveling and taking care of her large collection of plants in her apartment!

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Sandy Flores
Substitute Educator

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Sandy has been in the educational field since 2013. She started as an instructional assistant and after eight years, decided to go back to school. She is currently working towards getting her associates degree in early child development at Cerritos College.

Sandy has worked multiple roles throughout different districts. A few of these positions include instructional assistant working with special education, health clerk, and custodian. Soon she will start a new role as a teacher’s assistant in the Leap Program for the Downey Unified School District. Sandy has also been working towards getting her associates teacher permit and beyond. Not only is she attending Cerritos College, but she completed two years at Chafee Community College in Rancho Cucamonga where she studied photography. The goal of her photography is to empowered people and allow them to be seen as independent individuals.

Sandy dedicates her focus in education to her two nieces. She enjoys spending time with her family and considers herself a “foodie”- always looking for the next adventurous dish! Additionally, Sandy fluent in Spanish but speaks some Hindi and Vietnamese. On the weekends, when she’s not working, Sandy enjoys volunteering.

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Sean Forsha
Chef/ Food Educator

Sean joined Little Owl in January 2014. Native to Long Beach, he first started cooking professionally while working towards his BA in English and Mass Media Studies at the University of Oregon. After graduation and upon the suggestion of a respected chef, Sean decided to shift gears and move to San Francisco to attend the California Culinary Academy. He lived in San Francisco for over ten years, working in many different areas of the culinary industry including stints at the venerable Greens’ restaurant and writing for the San Francisco Chronicle Food Section. Most recently, Sean spent four years in New Zealand where, while teaching kids’ cooking classes through a small cafe, he found his true calling – combining his love of cooking with his desire to teach children about the wonders and necessities of wholesome, nutritious cooking and eating.

Upon return to Long Beach in 2012, Sean has done extensive work in the community to pursue this passion, frequently lending his talents to local events and organizations such as So Cal Harvest, Spring Street Farm, and The Growing Experience. He teamed with Long Beach Community Action Partnership in the summer of 2012 to prepare healthy, farm-to-table school lunches for the 100 middle school children at the Lindbergh WRAP with astonishing results. He was a featured chef at Kids in the Kitchen, a massive community event co-sponsored by the Long Beach Junior League and the Long Beach Health Department with the goal of introducing kids and their parents to easy, delicious and nutritious recipes. He finds true joy in educating children about the importance of being aware and making the making the smartest choices possible when eating. Sean is happy to call Long Beach home again, and thrilled by the opportunity to cook for the developing and discerning palates at Little Owl Preschool.

Sean enjoys spending his off time with his wife Katie (who is also a trained chef!) and sharing their combined passions for traveling, music, and, of course, cooking with their beautiful daughter Lillian.

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Julia Gondova Medeiros
Support Educator

“Our task, regarding creativity, is to help children climb their own mountains, as high as possible. No one can do more” – Loris Malaguzzi

Julia is originally from Slovakia and moved to the United States seven years ago. A few years ago, she realized that she is very passionate about working with children and so after working a successful career, she chose to change her life and pursue her passion. She truly believes children are capable, resilient and inquisitive humans that can flourish in a rich environment that nurtures them as it does at Little Owl. She has been very fortunate and happy to be a part of the Little Owl community that follows a Reggio Emilia philosophy, with which she is strongly aligned with.

She is currently enrolled at LBCC College and works towards completing her associate degree in Early Childhood Development. The more she learned, observed and practiced at different preschools, the more her passion for children has been fueled. Children unlock such joy and amazement within her heart. She feels fulfillment knowing that she can be a part of your growing child’s life and facilitate their growth, respect and curiosity for the world.

Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Pedro, and socializing with friends. She loves gardening, long walks in neighborhood parks and drinking espresso on their patio.

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Spencer Green

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

Spencer earned her B.S. degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration, with a concentration in Event Planning and Experience Management and a minor in Photography. Throughout her college career, she worked in food and event services, including Cal Poly Athletics’ Special Events and Cal Poly Inter Housing Council Events. These jobs allowed her to coordinate fun, safe, and engaging events for the Cal Poly community. What she loves most about event planning is the opportunity to create memorable experiences for people.

Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her friends/family, trying new food, traveling, baking, running, concert-going, and watching comedies and sports.

Spencer is excited to be a part of the Little Owl community and get to know each student!

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Alexis Kargas

“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” – Henri Matisse

Alexis was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her father was in the Navy and had the fortune of being able to grow up on both coasts of the United States. She grew up in San Francisco, Yorktown, and San Diego. Alexis initially attended Riverside Community College to study music performance and education. There she had the opportunities to travel the world, performing music and competing in drumming competitions. She went on to teach high school percussion at various schools around Southern and Northern California. In 2008, Alexis was selected to perform with an All-Female cast for a stage production that traveled all around Japan called Odyssey. When returning from this adventure Alexis knew that she wanted to pursue education in a different light. She then proceeded to attend Orange Coast College to major in Early Childhood Education.

Alexis started her preschool teaching career as a lead teacher for the PreK 3 classroom at St Anthony Elementary School in Downtown Long Beach. She later was hired at Long Beach City College as a Child Care Assistant and had the opportunity to work at both campuses for a little over 5 years. During her time there she graduated with her AA in Early Childhood Education and gained many mentors that helped mold her into the educator she is today.

Outside of her love of early childhood education, Alexis’ passions include performing with the Long Beach Community Band as their timpanist. For the past 10 years Alexis continues to coach percussion at Marina High School in Huntington Beach. She also loves going to Disneyland and Disney Cruises with her partner. She has a small dog named Lola. Alexis aspired of being a Little Owl educator for the past 6 years and is overjoyed to be part of this inspiring team.

Photo of Amanda Leone
Amanda Leone
Support Educator
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Jocelyn Ly

Jocelyn Ly grew up in Cambodia Town of Long Beach. She had a passion to serve in her community as a youth organizer and activist. Jocelyn is an alumni of a non-profit organization called Khmer Girls in Action (KGA). During her time there, she was a voice for youth in Long Beach and fought for student justice. Jocelyn has worked in the field with children for about three years. She has completed many hours of volunteer and internship working alongside children. Also, she has worked in a preschool classroom for over two years. Jocelyn’s interest of working with children sparked when she had a son of her own. She was curious on how children’s environments and genetics influence their development. Thus, she studied human and child development and acquired her bachelor’s at California State University of Long Beach (CSULB) in 2020. However, that was not enough for her, so she decided to further her studies of children and pursued a master’s program in Early Childhood Education at CSULB. She acquired her master’s degree in summer of 2022.

Jocelyn has a partner, son, two dogs, and a bunny. She loves traveling to different states and countries throughout the world. Jocelyn enjoys meditating, collecting crystals, and surrounding herself in nature because it brings her peace.

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Nicole Machuca
Support Educator

Nicole Machuca has over 10 years of experience working in childcare and early education, from working in after-school programs, preschool programs, working as a nanny, and even has spent some years volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club as their summer art instructor.

Nicole went to Los Angeles Harbor College for early childhood education. She hopes to further pursue her education in Child Development to one day be in an administration role. She also would like to get her degree in fine arts and art history.

A little bit about Nicole; she spends most of her time with her husband, daughters, and their dog enjoying various activities. She loves art, movies, yoga, listening to music, and hiking in the desert whenever she can get out of town. Nicole looks forward to getting to know all of the children and parents as time goes on and building a trusting relationship based on passion and appreciation of early child education.

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Grace McGlynn
Administrative Coordinator

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” – Aristotle

Grace graduated from CSULB with a BA in Early Childhood Education. She utilized her teaching skills at the CSULB Toddler Lab, Growing Years and the Child Development Program for the City of Carson. After being in the classroom, Grace spent the next 10 years working to improve child care environments by facilitating parent education workshops, working one on one with licensed family child care homes and developing violence prevention and character education materials for youth programs.

Grace is in awe of a child’s innate curiosity. She is inspired by their enthusiasm to learn, willingness to laugh, and excitement to explore.

Grace is happiest spending time with her husband and three sons. They enjoy traveling, camping, going to the beach, bike riding, reading, but most all – laughing together!

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Bernadette Nicholas

Bernadette was born and raised in Sacramento, CA. She came out to Long Beach to attend school at CSULB where she graduated with a BS in Computer Engineering and a double minor in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. She worked for several years in software development until she decided to follow her heart for education. For the next two years, she served as an afterschool program coordinator in Lynwood, CA. She loved the work but resigned after her son was born to stay home with him. While at home, she began taking child development courses at Long Beach City College and discovered a passion for child development and early childhood education. She returned to work part-time as an aide at the LBCC Child Development Center until she joined the Little Owl teaching team.

Bernadette is currently pursuing an MA in Human Development at Pacific Oaks College. Professionally, her goal is to support both young children and the adults responsible for their care and education. She believes that by offering children nurturing environments infused with anti-racist, anti-bias, and social justice principals, we can affect meaningful change in our society.

In her down time, Bernadette enjoys activities that help her feel rested and rejuvenated. She loves being outside in the warmth of the sun. Relaxing at the beach or the park is a favorite pastime of hers. She also enjoys jogging, practicing yoga, and reading. Lately, she’s been exploring #ownvoice novels and looks forward to reading Happily Ever Afters by a member of the Little Owl community, Elise Bryant.

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Shara Parker
Support Educator

“Childhood is not preparation for life; childhood is life.” – John A.Taylor

Shara Parker is a natural teacher. Her innate ability to connect with children of all ages led her to create and manage multiple enrichment programs during her youth in Southern California. Inspired to continue her education and develop her skill-set, Shara moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2016 to obtain her BA in Human Development at Washington State University. While attending WSU, Shara simultaneously interned at The Gardner School of Arts and Sciences. This is where she honed her unique play-based teaching style and was quickly promoted to lead the entire pre-k program.

Shara strongly believes that freedom of choice supports children’s need to feel competent and independent, which then helps to build the confidence needed for future success. Always co-learning beside her students, she adapts her classroom environment based upon child-led exploration and community interest.   

Being bilingual and having a strong background in music gives Shara a unique skill set that enriches her students’ learning. She is also intentional about incorporating a culture of anti-biased teaching. 

Outside of work, Shara enjoys being around close friends and family, listening to jazz and learning about its history, and exploring the natural world around her! She also just loves to learn and grow as a person, and working with children has nurtured that curiosity.

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Sarah Quest
Support Educator

Sarah wanted to be a teacher when she was younger but fell in love with journalism and got a BA in Communications instead. After a career in retail, her store closed, and she decided to (finally) go back to school to become a teacher. Two years later, Sarah finished the last semester of her AA in Child Development with a focus on children with exceptionalities from Long Beach City College. She has obtained certificates in early literacy and infant/toddler education with plans to obtain a few more as well as an AA in Linguistics because she is naturally curious and seeks knowledge… which means she has something in common with the students of Little Owl!

Sarah believes, first and foremost, that children are capable learners worthy of respect. She also believes that children learn best through play and meaningful interactions with adults. Art should be messy. Learning should be fun. Appropriate risks provide learning opportunities. Teachers should be curious and involved in the learning process too.

When she is not working, Sarah enjoys crafting, attending sporting events, and exploring SoCal. She plants and tends milkweed to help migrating Monarch Butterflies. She and her husband have one rescue cat named Louis. Sarah has been vegan since October of 2016 and has a deep respect for all animals.

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Michelle Ramirez
Director of Program, Community Relations

“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace” – Confucius

Michelle has a passion for serving children and their families. She has been working in the field of early childhood education since 2005 and has experience with a variety of curricula and demographic groups. She began volunteer work with the children in her church during her teen years and has not left her passion since. Little Owl has been her “work home” since 2010 when she was hired on as a classroom teacher. She joined the administrative team in 2018 when she accepted the program coordinator role. Michelle holds two A.A. degrees from Cerritos College; one in General Studies and the other in Child Development. She also received a B. S. degree in Child Development from the University of La Verne in 2010. In 2014, Michelle earned her M.A. in Early Childhood Education from California State University, Long Beach.

Aside from her role at Little Owl, Michelle is part of the adjunct faculty team in the child development department at Cerritos College. She also participates in the Long Beach Early Childhood Education Committee which is a non-profit organization made up of local educators, advocates, and caregivers of children in their early childhood years. Additionally, Michelle wears her Little Owl administrator “hat” as part of the Cerritos College Child Development Advisory Board.

Upon being hired as a Little Owl educator, Michelle stated this disposition in her teaching philosophy; ” I believe that children are capable, confident, and unique individuals. The job of the child is to play, discover, and research the world around them. Because of the differing learning styles of children, I must take the challenge of finding multiple ways and multiple mediums that will help capture the many languages that speak to each individual. My role in facilitating the work of children is to observe children’s interest and develop ways to challenge and construct new ways of learning and exploring with the children. I am a source of knowledge, but also a co-researcher alongside the children.” In her role as program coordinator this statement still rings true, but now it is in the work that she does with the Little Owl teaching staff and community-at-large.

Outside of school, Michelle enjoys spending time with her friends and family. Her hobbies includes attempts at gardening, watching reruns of her favorite shows such as Golden Girls and I Love Lucy, and attending her favorite sporting events with her husband.

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Darryl Redick
Director of Program, Teaching & Learning

“What we have to do now is draw out the image of the child, draw the child out of desperate situations that many children find themselves in. If we redeem the child from these difficult situations, we redeem ourselves.” – Loris Malaguzzi

Darryl sat on a baseball field. Alone. It was the spring of 2004, the end of his college baseball career. He asked himself the question, “What will I do for the rest of my life?” The answer came. “Fully realize all that you are.” A couple of weeks away from earning his Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Physical Education, Darryl realized his purpose to develop his life’s narrative and help other human beings in their journey towards self-actualization.

Darryl studied the works of many great philosophers, theorists, and others who he believed were on the same path. He found inspiration and insights in the writings of Joseph Campbell, Hermann Hesse, John Dewy, Bruce Lee, Carl Jung, and Loris Malaguzzi.

The path that he had chosen eventually led him to working with children. He helped his sisters raise his five nieces during his teen years. But when he began working in early childhood education, he learned a truth.

In 2005 Darryl began working as a Teacher Assistant for Loyola Marymount University Children’s Center. There he met Payton, Danielle, Ian, Caleb, among other children, who changed the way he looked at life. He realized children are on the same journey towards self-discovery. Darryl guided children. He helped them learn how to learn. While doing so, he realized the children were also guiding him. Every interaction he has with a child, inspires Darryl to become a better version of him. Here is the Truth; teaching is not separated from learning.

Darryl knows he needs the help of other adults in his work with children. Since 2010, several times a year, he speaks to early childhood education students and other educators. He conducts trainings and workshops on various Child Development concepts.

Darryl’s life is learning and teaching. He continues to independently study ideas in Human Development. He shares his life with others through writing and speaking.

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Jennifer Rocha
Business Manager

“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” – Maya Angelou

Jennifer has been working in the field of finance/business operations since 1980, having worked most of those years for Accenture, Arthur Andersen, & Senn-Delaney Management Consultants. She graduated from Mills College with a degree in Computer Science. Prior to joining Little Owl, Jennifer was a homemaker raising her boys, and volunteering at their schools, PTA, & Baseball.

She is especially delighted to contribute at Little Owl, listening to the children play, while “balancing the books!”. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and playing with their dog McKenzie.

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Rosa Rodriguez

Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, can strengthen learning and how to learn.” – Loris Malaguzzi

Rosa obtained her B.A. from Cal State Long Beach in 2015. She Majored in English with the emphasis in Creative Writing and Minored in Children Development and Family Studies. She’s worked with children of all age ranges for the past seven years. Her favorite hobbies are reading, writing, creating art, and dancing. Rosa loves new adventures; she likes hiking, camping, and exploring beaches. She loves creating art with recycled items or nature based items.

Rosa’s life-goal is to open up her own bookstore one day. She comes from an artistic and creative family, which is why she wants a family oriented business. She wants to write children’s books along side with the help of her father being the illustrator. Rosa lives with her baby niece, they both enjoy one-on-one reading time with each other. The first book series will be inspired by the adventures and experiences they shared together this past year. Rosa is excited for the new chapter in her life.

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Vanessa Sanchez

“The story’s yours, go write it

Tomorrow’s undecided
Our days are counted on this planet
Never take a single breath for granted.”  – Josh Groban

Vanessa’s childhood inspired her to become an educator. From the teachers who encouraged her to visualize and carry through her possibilities to the gender stereotypes in her culture, Vanessa has always believed that children should have a space to express, investigate, question and be involved in their community. Vanessa has been working in the early childhood education scene for eleven years, creating friendships with fellow educators in her journey. Spending time with children has allowed Vanessa to reflect on herself and what she wants to leave behind on this planet. Children are teaching us just as much as they are learning.

Vanessa spends time cleaning beaches with the Sea Shepherd Beach Guardians, advocating for animal rights, participating in charity events, live music, attending soccer matches with her niece and nephew, and creating with paints, brushes and a camera. Vanessa enjoys family game nights and cuddles with her dog Lola, who doubles as her therapist.

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Valerie Sandoval

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart” – Winnie the Pooh

Valerie earned an AA degree in Social Sciences from Long Beach City College. She also earned a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and Family Studies from Cal State Long Beach and is currently working on her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Cal State Long Beach. She has been involved in early child education since she was 15 and has worked with all different age groups and found a great passion to be a part of children’s lives in order to help them grow in all aspects of their development.

During Valerie’s spare time she loves to read, bake, drink Starbucks coffee, watch Netflix, travel the world, and spend quality with her family.

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Dawn Velez

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” – Socrates

“You can’t fall if you don’t climb. But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground.” – Unknown (inspired by all the tree climbers at Little Owl)

Dawn has been working closely with children, teachers, and families in the field of early childhood development for twenty plus years. Previous to Little Owl, many years were spent as a preschool teacher at the child development center at California State University, Long Beach, where she also received her Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Development. She continued her education by receiving a Masters of Arts in Human Development at Pacific Oaks in Pasadena and teaching college courses at Long Beach City College. Little Owl has been her home since 2012.

Dawn’s passions include laughing with her two sons and husband, reading, and spending time outdoors hiking. Her favorite activities with children involve storytelling, reading and re-telling stories through children’s theater, photography and digital slideshows, and multi-media art such as 3-D art and recycled art projects. She is drawn to risk-taking activities such as facilitating wood working and construction, sewing and finger knitting, wrestling and tumbling, and dancing and acting (yes, these can be “risk-taking” activities to perform, let loose and to be yourself in front of other people).

Dawn strives to always have the spirit of a student. Dawn cherishes her work with children because it helps her remain curious. Children provide constant inspiration to open the mind and learn alongside them.

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Janet & Laurence Watt
Founders/ Owners/ CEO

Janet and Laurence Watt are the founders and owners of Little Owl School. Each respectively has also established and owned other successful companies such as Renew Landscape Management & King’s Road Miniatures (Laurence) and Architecture M (Janet).

Both Laurence and Janet are graduates of local universities. Janet began her college career at LBCC and continued to CSULB where she graduated with a BA in Interior Design and a Masters of Architecture from Cal State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Laurence attended LBCC where he and Janet met, then continued to Golden West Community College where he graduated with an Associates Degree in Arts & Spanish. Laurence then went on to earn a BS in Business Administration, Major Computer Information Systems from Cal State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Being involved in the community is very important to the Watt family. Besides running several businesses, Laurence and Janet make time to give back. Previously, Laurence served as a City of Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commissioner. He currently serves on the board of the St. Barnabas Finance Committee. Janet is a founding board member of the IVA PTSA, served on the PTA boards for Los Cerritos Elementary, Intellectual Virtues Academy & Hughes Middle School, Los Cerritos Green Team Chairperson (2015 National Green Ribbon Schools Award Winner), Member of the Loyola Mother’s Guild, St. Barnabas Facilities Committee as well as an Advisory at IVA. She has also served on the Fairfield YMCA Board, Board of Health and Human Services and Long Beach Ballet board.

Little Owl was built as a place where there is value in each child’s innate ability to create, learn and build meaningful relationships with others. Laurence and Janet believe that knowledge is much more than how many facts can be remembered; it is about how a child is able to work through problems, through persistence and open-mindedness. These skills reach far beyond the classroom and shape the type of person each child has the potential to become. This approach to thinking allows each child to stretch and perform to a level that will ultimately serve them as independent and creative thinkers that can work and contribute to their community and society as a whole.

Little Owl was created as a place for children, teachers, and families to enjoy their journey of discovery and to encourage respect and stewardship for the world we share. Laurence and Janet created Little Owl to be a place full of joy, learning, and growth- a small community within a large city.

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Shannon Weaver
Garden Educator

“Let Nature be your teacher.” – William Wordsworth

Shannon has a strong connection and love for the community of Long Beach. She completed her BA and Elementary Education credential at CSULB and strives to continue growing personally and professionally in the field of education.

Shannon believes a child’s education should contain a collection of experiences that include the classroom, home and the community. She strives to help a child develop a relationship with the natural world that surrounds them.

Shannon cultivates a connection between the garden and the students. She believes children develop a love and respect for nature and are motivated to taste new fruits and vegetables by participating in the growing and harvesting process.

In addition to the maintaining the school and community gardens, Shannon facilitates a bi- monthly Pop-up Farmers Market to provide an authentic farmers market experience for the preschool families and community. The Little Owl market promotes eating locally grown produce.

In collaboration with the school chef, Shannon is also able to foster good nutritional habits by preparing food grown together in the garden.

Besides gardening and teaching, Shannon’s passions include watching her two sons grow, traveling with her husband, reading and practicing yoga.

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Olivia Wheeler
Support Educator

“Play is highest form of research”– Albert Einstein

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” – Amelia Earhart

Olivia earned her AS degree in Early Child Development from Long Beach City College in 2019 and is currently working towards her BA in Child Development & Family Studies at Cal State Long Beach. Olivia has worked as a summer camp counselor at both the Long Beach Playhouse and the YMCA in Lakewood. Olivia has always had a love for children and has wanted to be a preschool teacher for as long as she can remember. Olivia believes that children learn best when they have the opportunity to play and explore the world around them in an open-ended environment. Olivia believes that as an educator, she is there to be a researcher along with the children as she helps them learn and grow in their world. Olivia’s hobbies are walking, spending time with her family and friends, and reading.

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Linda Wilson
Executive Director Emeritus

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead

Linda truly believes this quote by anthropologist, Margaret Mead. It guides her dedication in supporting a program and place for children and adults to respectfully listen, learn and grow together.

Linda has been a part of the Long Beach area child care community for over 40 years. She has an educational background from Long Beach City College and CSULB in Early Childhood Education and Anthropology. She began her teaching career at Belmont Heights Methodist Preschool. She was the director and later owner of Young Adventurers. For 30 years, this well-known school-age enrichment program served thousands of children on the McGaugh Elementary School campus in Seal Beach. Linda still treasures the continuing friendships of her former staff and families.

Linda strongly believes in professional growth and the need to be a life-long learner. She has served on the local and regional boards of The National Association for the Education of Young Children, the largest advocacy group for early childhood education in the U.S. She held a variety of positions including Long Beach Chapter President, Public Policy Chair, Programs and Publication Chair. She was part of a Reggio Emilia Study group for 12 years which received grant money to promote the philosophy through educator conferences. This group studied the philosophy of the well-respected Reggio Emilia Municipal schools in Northern Italy. She has made two trips to Italy, one on a study tour to Reggio Emilia to further her understanding, excitement and respect for the philosophy. She is currently a member of NAREA and the City of Long Beach Early Childhood Education Committee.

Linda has been a frequent presenter at local and state conferences on a number of subjects including Appropriate Environments and Curriculum for Children, Diversity and Social Justice Issues, Children’s Literature and Literacy and Staff Development.

She enjoys travel and live music with her husband, bragging about her 2 grown children, reading, book clubs and good conversation with people of all ages.

Photo of Louann Wu
Louann Wu
Support Educator

Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives.” – Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth

The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.”Rabindranath Tagore

Louann has been an early childhood educator in the city of Long Beach for twenty plus years. While earning her AA in early development with a specialization in curriculum, Louann continues her education through her leadership in Girl Scouts and hobbies like, hiking, painting, and bee keeping.  

Louann’s passions include building relationships, relating to, and advocating for children of all ages. She believes that surrounding herself with young people, will bring her a long youthful life. She is a mother of three children of her own but welcomes the many teens in her neighborhood as their “second mother”. Louann’s favorite way to connect with children involve dancing, sewing, painting, digging in the dirt, singing songs, reading and storytelling. She enjoys opportunities to observe children’s behavior and conversations where she believes she will learn the most from them.  

 The planet is important to Louann, so she strives to make daily changes towards a healthier lifestyle. Louann enjoys spending time at her mountain home bird watching and having relaxing conversations on the patio. On most days you can find her in the garden where she feels most at peace, connecting with nature in a stress-free environment.