Staff Bios

Beth Ruppe, Director
Beth has a Bachelor of Science in Consumer and Family Sciences from Purdue University, a Master of Arts in Teaching/ Early Childhood Education (ECE) from National-Louis University, and a Master of School Leadership from Concordia University, Chicago. Beth is licensed to teach early childhood by the State of Illinois and also holds an Illinois school administrator license. Beth came to Total Child in June of 2013 after being a principal for two years and a preschool teacher for 18 years. Beth believes that the early childhood years are incredibly important and are pivotal in how a child views self and the world. She considers herself extraordinarily lucky to work with the talented Total Child staff.

Room 21 – Morning 2/3's and Just Two's
Mary Korte, Teacher
Mary has been teaching in various schools for several years and joined Total Child in September 2013. Mary has a BA in Elementary Education and an MA in Counseling. Mary began her teaching career as a 2nd grade teacher, then taught kindergarten, and most currently, pre-school aged children. In addition to her work as a teacher, Mary has been a developmental play therapist. Mary says, "It is my privilege to observe their experiments, witness their curiosity as they attempt something for the first time and then applaud them as they exclaim, 'I did it!'"

Miranda Wood, Assistant Teacher and Program Administrative Assistant
Miranda Wood returned to Total Child in April 2018. She previously was a floating assistant and Room 23 assistant teacher in 2014 and 2015. Miranda has also worked with children as a summer camp counselor for 4 summers and as a nanny for 2 years. Miranda earned a BA in Music and is working toward a Masters in Sustainability and Management. Miranda feels lucky to work with young children because they “just make your day brighter.”

Room 22 – Full Day 3's
Joanne Albergo, Teacher
Joanne has a B.A. in Elementary Education from Long Island University and an M.A. Degree in Early Childhood Education from Adelphi University. Joanne has been at Total Child since August of 2011, has six years of previous early childhood teaching experience and holds an Illinois early childhood teaching certificate. Joanne loves the honesty of children and their untainted pure outlook on the world.

Karlyn Rawlinson, Teacher
Karlyn earned a B.A. in Early Childhood Education from Columbia College and has an early childhood teacher's license. Karlyn has experience working with children in various Chicago Public Schools, and visited Reggio Emilia, Italy to explore their beautiful, soulful, innovative approach to education. In 2014, she began studying the Project Approach with Judy Harris Helm through the Kohl Children's Museum. This year, she will serve as a mentor teacher to other childcare providers for the museum's "Introduction to Project Approach-Building a Foundation" program. Karlyn joined the Total Child staff in January 2013.

Greg Dodds, Morning Assistant
Greg has a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Master of Arts, from Emerson College.  He also received a Master of Arts in Theater Studies from UC-Santa Barbara, where he studied the play theory teachings of Viola Spolin and Neva Boyd at Chicago’s Hull House. Greg earned a teaching credential from Mt. St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles in 2001. Greg came to Total Child in October 2015 with over ten years of classroom teaching on both coasts.

Room 23 – Full Day 2's
Emily Eaton, Teacher
Emily received her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education with an endorsement in Special Education from UIC. She also has her Type 04 certification from the State of Illinois. Emily has experience working with children in CPS as well as in private learning centers. Her unique background as a performer has given her a tremendous wealth of understanding for children's play: a place for imagination, reflection, exploration, and cooperation. She is thrilled to be a part of a school that supports these ideals. Emily joined the Total Child community in August of 2014.

Nora Gonzalez, Teacher
Nora has an Associate’s degree in Child Development from Harry S. Truman College, and is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Kendall College. Nora has worked with infants, toddler and preschoolers for nine years, and has eight years of previous experiences as a nanny. Nora has a strong background working with diverse families and children. In 2012, she was invited to participate in a Webcast “Connecting with Families” in Washington DC for the Office of Head Start. In addition, Nora is a bilingual teachers and has participated in several events translating for Spanish speaking families in the community. Nora believes that, “children are born to learn and explore the world through play, and by developing strong relationships with caregivers and peers.”

JaShawnte Poellnitz, Assistant Teacher
Shawnte, as she is known at Total Child, joined the community as an assistant in January 2018. Shawnte has experience as a nanny for 3 years, caring for children, newborn through age eight. Shawnte also worked for the Chicago Park District summer camps and afterschool programs for 6 years. She graduated from Lane Tech High School in Chicago and has some coursework toward a nursing degree. Shawnte loves working with young children because “There is something new every day. Something to show you; something they have learned. They are always growing and changing.”

Room 25 – Morning 3/4’s
Jessica de L'Annee de Betrancourt, Teacher
Jessica has BA in Elementary Education from Elmhurst College and Type 03 teaching license. Jessica has worked with children as a teacher both in the US and abroad, in addition to having experience as an ABA therapist, tutor and nanny. Jessica joined the Total Child staff in October 2013. She loves teaching preschool because, “It’s a new adventure every day!  Watching the children make new discoveries about the world around them and themselves, and seeing them grow cognitively, socially, and emotionally is extremely rewarding.”

Stephanie Munoz, Assistant Teacher
Stephanie is currently studying Early Childhood Development at Oakton Community College. She received her ECE certification in 2016 and is continuing her schooling to obtain a degree. Stephanie was a nanny before deciding to go to school and study Early Childhood Education. Stephanie loves getting to know each family and child. She believes that children are capable of anything with the right support, and says, “I also believe that each child will teach us the best way to teach them. I am still learning with them and look forward to what we can teach each other.” Stephanie joined Total Child in the summer of 2017 after doing some of her onsite coursework and substituting here.

Room 26 – Full Day 4’s
Isabel Cieplinski, Teacher
Isabel has a B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Colombia and has worked with preschool and kindergarten age children for many years. Isabel has been at Total Child since 2002!  We all love Isabel’s positive energy and willingness to do what is best for the children- even if it’s hard for her! Isabel loves children’s imaginations and listening to their stories.

Barb Clear, Teacher
Barb has a B.A in Elementary Education and Theatre from the State University of New York at New Paltz, an M.S. in Child Development from the Erikson Institute, Chicago and an M.F.A in Acting from Pennsylvania State University. Barb’s work in early childhood has been as a teacher and director, but she especially enjoys being in the classroom helping to support children’s discoveries. She is very proud to be one of five Chicago area teachers, pre-k through age 8, to receive Kohl-McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award in 2008. Barb also performs locally, most notably with Music Theatre Works (formerly Light Opera Works) right here in Evanston. Barb joined Total Child in August 2012.

Barbara Becker-Gold, Teacher
Barbara has a B.A. in English with a minor in psychology from Loyola University. She has taken many early childhood classes and plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education next year. She has been a teacher’s assistant in the Early Childhood Program of the Chicago Waldorf School, working with children from 2-6 years old, and most recently, an Associate Teacher in Room 23 at Total Child Preschool. She is an advocate of play-based education where children are given the space, time, and tools to discover the world. “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) Barbara has been teaching at Total Child since 2015.

Additional Staff
Courtney Hitson, Morning Floating Assistant Teacher
Originally hailing from Indiana, Courtney possesses bachelors' degrees in both psychology and English, and minors in literature and sociology.  She also holds a Master of Fine Arts in poetry. She continues to publish her essays, poems, and illustrations in various journals throughout the country. Courtney's worked with learners of all ages--infants to adults--and most recently taught undergraduates in subjects of composition, rhetoric, and ethnography.  

She continues to maintain an interest in both literature and psychology, specifically cognitive rhetoric, developmental psychology, and post-modern philosophy. Courtney is hopeful to eventually return to school to become a licensed therapist. Courtney enjoys working with very young learners, as it enables her to partake not only in student's cognitive development, but their emotional growth, as well. “Teaching empathy and compassion are inherent in a play-based curriculum and integral to the inner-workings of any preschool class.” Courtney enjoys fostering this brand of development, as it formulates the crux of student's interactions and identities.

William Gold, Afternoon Floating Assistant Teacher
William joined the Total Child staff in April of 2018. He has experience as a soccer coach for children ages three through five. William was also an assistant coach at Gordon Tech High School. William attended Northern Illinois University. William likes listening to the children’s conversations. He says, “I can learn a little bit more about myself because they are so true to themselves. Adult are not always like that.“ 

The Way We Learn

Our classroom is set up with the intention of the learning environment acting as the "third teacher." Domains of learning are always evident: science and knowledge of the physical world, literacy, art and symbolic representation, logic and mathematical thinking, building and dramatic play, etc. It is the "third teacher" acting as a provocateur that leads the children to investigate, explore, problem solve, theorize, and develop their own learning using their unique learning style. We all become researchers.

One of our favorite activities is making play-dough. The kiddos love getting their hands in the mix...literally!! They are involved in each step from pouring the ingredients to kneading the dough to choosing the scent. The best part of making the play-dough from scratch is that each time it is a new learning experience. Sometimes we add too much water and have soupy dough while other times it may be dry and crumbly. Making play-dough is a great way to explore new vocabulary words, work on problem solving skills, follow a multi-step direction, as well as making predictions and taking turns. The best part is getting messy!!!

An ongoing project that we do throughout the whole school year is our "Class Journal." At the end of each day, one child (on a rotating schedule) draws a picture and dictates a sentence about one activity we did at school that day. These pictures hang up on our wall for the duration of the week, and then they are added to our Class Journal binder, where students can look back through the pages. This serves as a concrete, child-created visual aid to discuss the concept of time- what did we do today? What happened yesterday? What did we do the day before? We always "ooh and ahh" over each child's completed journal page which helps build self-esteem for the artist. The children love looking back through the pages to find the ones they drew or remember different activities we've done!