PUBLIC PRE-K (4 year olds)
Michelle Belanger, M.Ed. Associate Director and Lead Pre-K Teacher
Hello, I was born and raised in Portland, Maine. I love that I get to work with such a smart, dedicated group of professionals. I have been in the Early Childhood field since 1998 and have worked my way through an Associate's degree at SMTC (yes, it was still SMTC then), a bachelor's degree from UMF and graduated with my Master's degree in Special Education with a concentration in Early Intervention, Birth through 5 from the University of Maine. I have been at YFO since January 2009. I live in Old Orchard Beach with my husband, two dogs and 7 chickens. I volunteer in dog rescue and enjoy reading, kayaking and camping in my free time.
Susan Ferrante, Educational Technician
I graduated from Andover College in 2001 with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Early Childhood Education. At the Opportunity Alliance I was fortunate to participate in a three year training of the OWL curriculum. I have been with YFO since March 2012 where I enjoy applying what I have learned, and working with children and families in partnership with a compe
tent and caring staff. Add to that our exceptional nutrition program, and our kids have everything they need for a strong and healthy beginning! I live in Portland with my husband David and our Bengal kittie, Wilma. We enjoy cooking, music, current events, and spending time with family and friends.
Matthew Stawarz-Danforth, Teacher Aide; Pre-K, Preschool and Tykes
PRESCHOOL (3.5 to 5 year olds)
Evelyne Kanku, Lead Teacher
I live in Portland with my wonderful husband, Thierry Kitoko and our three beautiful girls; Trevy, Ashley and Benny. I am from Democratic Republic of Congo. In my country I did five years of college in Administration and Commercial Sciences in option Pedagogy.
I have been in the United States since January 2010. When I first came to Maine I was a volunteer at The Opportunity Alliance at the Parkside Neighborhood after school program and the food pantry. I began working at YFO in March of 2012. I started as a floater before moving into a primary teaching position in the Tykes room.
Jammie Stevens, Teacher Aide; Pre-K, Preschool and Tykes
I have been in Portland since 2014 and grew up in the Bangor area, so Maine is my home. I have spent the better part of a decade working with children as a behavioral health professional (BHP), and now I'm ready to try something new and exciting! In my free time I love photography, hiking, exploring lighthouses, and spending time with my family. I'm very excited to become a part of YFO and for all the adventures to come.
TODDLERS (12mos. to 2.5 year olds)
Maralee Sheehan, Lead Teacher; Waddlers
I knew I wanted to be a teacher of young children since I was a young child myself. Starting in middle school I found every opportunity I could to work with and teach kiddos - from babysitting to volunteering at Sunday school. I love working with children because of their imagination and incredible wonder of the world. I graduated from Keene State College in 2011 having received my bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education and Psychology. I started my professional teaching career right back in the town where I grew up - Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
I started working at Youth and Family Outreach in January 2015. I adore the diversity of YFO and all of the ways the program works with the families and children. I am so very proud to be a teacher here!
In any spare time I have, I enjoy being outdoors (when it's warm), cooking, reading, art and photography. I also enjoy traveling. So far my favorite place I have traveled to has been Iceland. I have two cats named Ivy and Jaguar, and my mother and I share custody of our dog, Lark.
Annzarh (Eda) Valentino, Lead Teacher; Toddlers
I am from Sudan I have come to the United States and directly to Maine in December of 2004. I live with my two beloved daughters Nunga and Nadi here in Portland. All three of us love to sing. Nunga and I like to copy songs and see who will get the highest note. We also sing at church and sometimes I sing in African community events.
I graduated with an associates degree in Early Childhood Education in 2011. And I have been at YFO since January 2011. I am blessed to work in such a wonderful place, with such awesome people, and in such a diverse community. I love working with children because through them, I want to make the world a better place. They say "It takes a village to raise a child". I want to be a part of that village. I love putting the seeds of love,care and meeting the needs of children every day and watching them grow during their years here at YFO. The kids might never remember what we do or say every day, but we will certainly have an impact. That's why I am an Early Childhood Teacher.
Kimberly LeClair, Assistant Teacher; Toddlers
I have lived in Maine my whole life and raised my three daughters Nina, Natasha and Katie here. Now I'm lucky to help raise my three grandchildren; Seaghan, Ehtan and Averie. I have always enjoyed hearing children's laughter through their play. This has led me to work in the childcare field. As a child grows you see many different parts of their growing. Being at Youth and Family Outreach since 1999, I am happy to say I have had the pleasure of taking care of so many children! What a magical feeling to be a part of.
I am a lifelong learner and go to training to help keep up on the new ways to help teach the children. But I also believe the children teach us every day.
On my time off I enjoy summer days at the beach, spending time with my wonderful friends and family and the love I get from my tea-cup Yorkie, Gracie!
TYKES (2.5 - 3.5 year olds)
Fred Dobson, Lead Teacher
I am a third generation Portlander and the son of the LadyBug Lady. My first experience teaching was helping my mom with an environmental science program designed to teach the benefits of gardening without chemicals and using live ladybugs for pest control. I am stoked to be giving back to the world's future by providing quality care for youth sprinkled with a deep love of literacy. After graduating from Portland High in 2001, I ventured to Rhode Island to study literature, writing, culture and theatre through a Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at Roger Williams University. Some of my varied and fluid interests include penguins, cats, dogs, World Mythology and the Hero's Journey, witches, wizards, vegan food, bicycle life, merfolk, deep ecology, biophotons & DNA, and stories which feature characters working together for the common good. I am always looking to explore the fine yet fuzzy line between science and the arts. Throughout my life, many teachers had a great effect on me and I am beyond thrilled to thank them by offering my skills back to the next generation of youth in their time of growth and development.
Haley Barclay, Assistant Teacher; Infants
I was born and raised her win Maine. Out of high school I attended UMF where I majored in all sorts of things! I started out as an Early Childhood Education major and worked as an Assistive Technology Specialist; helping students, teachers and parents find the appropriate materials for their children to be in an inclusive classroom. After some time off I started at SMCC to pursue my first love of Early Childhood. It's so important to me that children have a safe, loving learning environment. My favorite part of working with children is being able to experience the development of their little personalities. I have been with YFO since December2013. I live in Portland with my husband Kyle, daughter Nora and our cat, Clara. We are expecting Nora's sibling in the fall (2015). I love singing, baking, singing while baking, reading and of course hanging out with my little goofball.
Ayan Majok, Teacher Aide; Infants, waddlers and toddlers
I was born in Sudan. I came to the United States in 1997. Have six children ranging in age from 8 months to 18 years. I have been working with infants at YFO since November of 2008. I love being with infants because there is so much growth in that first year and I love to be a part of that.
Dylan Roberts, Chef
I was born in Portland, although I've never actually lived here until recently. I've lived in Vermont, Connecticut, Seattle, Europe, Hawaii, but "… the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." T.S. Elliot. I'm Happy To Be Home
I have a degree in Philosophy from the University of Vermont, but like any good liberal arts student, I have been working in the restaurant industry for a decade I enjoy making bread and asking the big questions. I love cooking, gardening, reading and sarcasm. I have been with YFO since October 2014. I am delighted to have the opportunity to get out of restaurants and do my part in improving our food culture, one lunch at a time.
Camelia Babson-Haley, Director
That is my grown son, Jeremiah in the picture with me. He is the reason I am in the field of Early Childhood and have been since 1989. I was a young 20 year-old single mom of a 5-month old when I enrolled at the Community College of Southern Nevada. I earned my Associate's degree and worked in the lab school where Jeremiah was able to attend with me. In fact, he went everywhere with me! He went to the East Wilton Head Start, the Clifton Child Care Center in Atlanta and he spent most of his afternoons with me here at YFO when he was in elementary school. I finished my Bachelor's degree at UMF and I have been at YFO since March of 2000.
YFO is my home, my passion and I love every minute of my work here. I was drawn to YFO because I felt the desire to work with families that might have come from a similar background as myself. I was a young, single mom and I understood the difficulty of being poor in this world. I am now married to a wonderful teacher/musician and we live together in Portland. My favorite pass time is spending time with my family and watching my son grow as a singer and actor.