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 join the Church in the Highlands ECC family! I will be joining our 3 year old classroom as a head teacher. 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! 

Joretta Crabbe

Church in the Highlands has been a part of my life for over 18 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 so look forward to working with your children.

Dassy Quintana

I was born and raised in White Plains. I am a teacher assistant with Family Services of Westchester. I have been working in a Head Start UPK program for the past 5 years. I currently have my Child Development Associate credentials.  I am currently 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 this year as the after care teacher. Helping children and their families is the most rewarding job I can think of! Knowing that my job is to help kids achieve their full potential and to help them feel happier and better about themselves brings a huge smile to my face.

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 the past six 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!

 Jill Russo  

I was born and raised in White Plains and was married in the Church in the Highlands.  I had a former job in advertising until I had kids and decided to be a stay at home mom. Both of my children are enrolled in the White Plains School district, one at the middle school and one in the high school. I went back to work, after the kids grew older, at Pace University but over five years ago I joined the Church in the Highlands team as a substitute teacher. I am now happy to be working in the 3’s class as an assistant.  I am excited to be able to help the Church in the Highlands students grow and learn.

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. Back in Italy I worked as a teacher.  I started a family here and 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.  Now my son is a senior at White Plains High School and I have been with the Church in the Highlands ever since. I have worked in the past with the 2’s class and helped with Tiny Tots, I also did the cooking and art enrichment classes in the afternoon.  And I am happy now to have been Miss McTiernan’s assistant in the 3’s class for the last five years.

Anne Gonzalez

Church in the Highlands has been a part of my life for over 10 years. My four children attended this preschool, and I have been a substitute here for the past several years. 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. Substituting 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. I am very excited to be a teacher’s assistant in the 3’s class for another year working alongside Mrs. McTiernan and Miss Lucia.