Our staff provides a warm and nurturing home-like environment where all children are safe and free to learn. All of our staff members meet the required New York State Office of Children and Family Services requirements, and are First Aid and CPR certified.


Dana McTiernan – Educational Director

With over 25 years experience in the field of Education, it has become my passion to instill a love of learning in all children and a desire for it to be contagious. Working as a teacher with children in preschool through middle school, both in private and public settings, I have had the opportunity to teach children of all ages and backgrounds. My journey began with a BA in Psychology and working with blind and visually impaired children. I obtained my Masters Degree in Education and received my New York State Teacher Certification. After several years teaching, I joined Church in the Highlands Early Childhood Center 14 years ago. As head teacher of the 3’s program and lead teacher for the afternoon enrichment classes, I have had the pleasure of working with dedicated teachers, staff and service providers who always put our children first. This school has certainly become a second home to me. Through a play based learning curriculum, I have witnessed our students receiving meaningful, robust educational experiences. The integrity and commitment to meeting every child’s needs is evident, and I am honored to lead as Educational Director.

 Joanie Bivas – Administrative Director

I have been a part of the Church in the Highlands Family for over nineteen years. I started as an assistant teacher in the 2’s and 3’s program, worked with the tiny tots and many summer camps. I was the assistant director before taking over as the administrative director. In my capacity as the administrative director my responsibilities include being a liaison between parents and teachers, scheduling tours for prospective families, fundraising, planning family events, and many other duties. I truly enjoy my job here simply because of the children, parents, and staff- they are great!



Dawn Bleckman 

I am very excited to be a part of the Church in the Highlands ECC family! I have been a head teacher for the 3 year old classroom since 2021. I have worked in preschools, summer camps and an after-school program for over 10 years as an assistant, co-teacher and head teacher. I currently have my Child Development Associate credential and I am almost done completing my Child Studies Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education. I have a love for learning and I have taken extensive training courses and workshops. I am looking forward to meeting my class and their families. I plan to have a fun, creative, musical, nurturing and engaging learning environment in our classroom. Through play-based innovative learning and socialization we will see the milestone year that encompasses age three as students learn and grow! I hope we can partner together to lay the loving foundation for success to serve our children throughout their lives! I cannot wait to begin our journey together! 

Christina Celentano

I am thrilled to be a part of Church in the Highlands Early Childhood Center! I have lived in White Plains for the past 19 years, raising my 3 children here. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Iona University. I worked in the NY City School system teaching kindergarten, 1st and 4th grade before staying home to raise my children. In 2021 I found a great home at CITH ECC, first as a teaching assistant in both the 3’s and 2’s classes. This year I am excited to be one of the 3’s lead teachers. Working with and teaching young children through fun activities and creative play is something I am passionate about. It is such a blessing to be able to share their early love of learning!

Joretta Crabbe

Church in the Highlands has been a part of my life for over 20 years, when my two children attended this wonderful preschool. I am very excited to be one of the Head Teachers in the 4’s classroom this year. I graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. After having children and working for many years in Human Resources at the American Red Cross, I had an opportunity to change my career and be more available for my own family by working as an instructor for the White Plains Recreation Department teaching Mommy and Me, Art and Fitness classes for children ages 18 month – 5 years old. I have been working for the Recreation Department for over 14 years. I truly love working with young children. Preschooler’s brighten my day and bring me such joy and happiness. I look forward to working with your children.

Dassy Quintana

I was born and raised in White Plains. I first began my career as a teaching assistant with Family Services of Westchester. I then began working at the Head Start UPK program in Port Chester for 5 years before joining CITH ECC. I currently hold my Child Development Associate credentials and am attending Westchester Community college to obtain my Early Childhood Education Degree. I am so happy to be a part of the Church in the Highlands staff as Lead Teacher for the 2 year old program, the afternoon 3/4’s teacher as well as the after care teacher from 3-5pm. Helping children and their families is the most rewarding job I can think of! Knowing that I can support children achieve their full potential, and improve their social emotional well being brings a huge smile to my face.


 Carmelina Demaria  

As a longtime resident of the White Plains community, who has raised a family here, I am happy to be a part of the CITH ECC. My husband and I are proud parents to 2 wonderful children. My son is a local police officer and my daughter is a Nursing student. Now that my children have grown I have developed a love and appreciation for preschool aged children. In 2017 I joined the ECC as a substitute teacher, then shortly after that began teaching gym classes. I love supporting the children by improving their gross motor development and enjoy their energy. It is a fun position that allows me to get to know all the children in the school. In 2023 I was offered a position as Teacher Assistant,I happily accepted it because I love to be a part of your children’s life and watching them grow. Working at Church in the Highlands is like working with a big loving family.

Anne Gonzalez

Church in the Highlands has been a part of my life for over 15 years. My four children attended this preschool, and then I began as a substitute before taking on the role of Teaching Assistant in the 3’s class. I graduated from Fordham University with a BS in Finance. After a brief career on Wall Street, I attended Fordham Law School. Once I had children, I found the career of a corporate attorney too demanding and I left the workforce to stay at home with my children. Working here at Church in the Highlands and working with preschool-aged children the past several years has brought great joy to my life. Seeing the world through their eyes is fascinating, and it is an honor for me to be a small part of their lives.

 Maria Lepore

I am thrilled to have joined the ECC family and community this school year. I have always enjoyed working with children, from my early days babysitting and tutoring so much that I turned my passion into a career. Teaching is truly a calling, and I have loved every minute of it for the past two decades!
I obtained my BA in English Literature with a Minor in Early Childhood Education, then completed a Masters in Teaching of English, a NY State Professional Certification in 2004 and, that same year, began teaching ELA—English Language Arts— full-time at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx, where I remained for almost a decade. During those years, I also completed a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, while tutoring for both remedial and foreign-language classes, and advanced placement Literature and Language exams. Once that school began undergoing a formal restructuring, I left to join the English Department at a nearby middle school, P.S./M.S.194, where I remained for a few years, until I decided to pursue my next best role, becoming a mom! I got married and was blessed to start a family, which prompted me to step away from my thriving career to reinvent myself as a full-time parent of two incredible little girls, who are, by far, my greatest accomplishment. In reality, my professional experience has served all along as the perfect foundational ground for me to successfully tend to every building block of life as a full-time, stay-at-home parent and caregiver. Hence, I am very thankful to have joined ECC, the perfect program that allows me to daily merge my greatest loves: the classroom and parenting! I am delighted to be a part of your children’s lives and a member of a team of dedicated professionals.

 Jill Russo  

I was born and raised in White Plains and was married in the Church in the Highlands, so it has always been a very special place for me.  I had a former job in advertising until I had my own children and decided to be a stay at home mom. My children completed their education in the White Plains School district and when they were old enough, I went back to work at Pace University. Initially I joined the Church in the Highlands ECC team as a substitute teacher in 2015. I have had the pleasure of working with 2’s, 3’s and 4’s classes as an assistant teacher.  I am excited to be able to help our preschool students learn and grow!

Melissa Siegrist

I am so happy to be a part of the staff of the Church in the Highlands.  I started here as a volunteer, then a substitute, and am now a teacher’s assistant in the 4’s classroom. Both of my sons attended this preschool and each had such wonderful experiences here. I felt so lucky to have found such a nurturing, creative and fun environment. I am excited to now be working alongside this amazing group of teachers. I have a bachelor’s degree in English, and worked in both publishing and advertising before deciding to be a stay-at-home mom. I always said whenever I went back to work I wanted to do something I was passionate about, and that’s working with young children. I truly love being around them and watching them grow and learn.

Lucia Vogel 

I am originally from Italy but moved to White Plains in 1978. In Italy I worked as a teacher.  Once I came to the US, I got married and started a family. My husband and I enrolled my son Conner in 2003 for the 3’s class and then for the 4’s the following year here at the Church in the Highlands ECC. Once my son went off to kindergarten I began teaching again and started as a substitute teacher here at CITH ECC in 2005.  I have been with the Church in the Highlands ever since. I have had the opportunity to work with our preschoolers as a Teacher’s assistant in all classes including Tiny Tots, 2’s, 3’s and 4’s. I have worked at CITH ECC Camp every year and have also worked as the early drop off and late pick up teacher. I have developed wonderful relationships through the years with my fellow staff members and White Plains families. I have enjoyed every minute with your children and treat them as my own. We are one big loving family at Church in the Highlands Early Childhood Center.


Jennifer Arco

When asked about the start of my musical career, my parents often say that, ‘I sang before I talked and danced before I walked!’ I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by music, theater and a love for the arts. As a young child I performed in dance recitals at Carnegie Hall and performed selections from my father’s original children’s album on national television. I studied piano and guitar privately and graduated from Fordham University at Lincoln Center with a degree in Musical Theater. I have taught creative movement to young children both privately and at the Harkness Dance Center in New York City.
Originally from Manhattan, I moved to Westchester when I got married and have been living in White Plains. For over 10 years, I have enjoyed every moment of teaching my ‘Melody in Motion’ music & movement program here at The Church in The Highlands. The children’s enthusiasm and eagerness to sing and dance is truly an inspiration!

Mary Parravani

I have dedicated over 20years of service to the Church in the Highlands ECC and over 24years working in an educational setting. My career began in drafting and architectural design. After having 2 children of my own, I decided to start my own business teaching art classes for children of all ages. I have taught these classes in afterschool programs throughout Westchester County as well as The Neuberger Museum of Art. Proudly I began the Art Enrichment here at CITH ECC. Through the years I have worked in the Tiny Tot’s program, Head Teacher in the 2’s,, Teacher Assistant for the 3’s & 4’s classes as well as the Art Teacher during Camp here at Church in the Highlands ECC. Due to my passion for working with children I have completed extensive training courses and have earned credits toward my Child Development Associate (CDA).
After a medical leave of absence, I am excited to return this year as Head Teacher for the Art Enrichment Class, which allows the children to improve fine motor skills, while learning about Artists. I have also joined one of our 3’s classes as an Assistant Teacher. I genuinely love working with the children and the staff here!