Michelle Belanger, M.Ed. Program Coordinator
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, and our son Oliver, two dogs and 6 chickens. I volunteer in dog rescue and enjoy reading, kayaking and camping in my free time.
PUBLIC PRE-K (Portland 4 year olds)
Kaylen Beary, Lead Pre-K Teacher
I moved from New Hampshire to Maine in 2016 and immediately started working in Early Childhood Education. I graduated from the University of New Hampshire, where I majored in Human Development adn Family Studies, specializing in Child Development. I am extremely passionate about working and learning with young children and I am so excited that I am able to do so at YFO! I am also passionate about using the classroom environment as the "third teacher", which fosters independence and allows children to be actively involved in their education.
In my spare time, I enjoy reading, hiking, picnics and traveling. I studied abroad in the south of France in 2014 and I had the opportunity to travel to several other European countries while I was there! I also enjoy spending my free time with close friends and family.
Annzarh Valantino, Educational Technician Pre-K
I am from Sudan. I have come to the U.S. and directly to Maine in December 2004. I live with my two daughters and son - Nadi, Nunga and Emeka. We all love to sing. We also sing at church and sometimes I sing in African community events. I graduated with an associate's degree in Early Childhood Education in 2011 and have been at YFO ever since then. I am blessed to work for such a wonderful place, with such awesome people and in such a diverse community. They say "it takes a village" - I want to be a part of that village.
PRESCHOOL (3.5 to 5 year olds)
Evelyne Kanku, Co- Teacher; Preschool
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.
Lauren Gabriel, Co-Teacher; Preschool
I started at YFO in June 2017, but my adventures in early childhood education started over 20 years ago. I got a job as a mother's helper when I was 12 years old and have continued to work with children in a variety of settings ever since. I've been a babysitter, coach, tutor, camp counselor, live-in nanny and preschool teacher. In 2006 I went over seas to get my TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification and have since lived and taught in the Czech Republic, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
I live at Higgins Beach with my husband, Miguelo and our son, Kelvin. I am a co-lead teacher in the preschool room and my favorite activities to do with young students are arts and crafts, playing outdoors, science experiments and reading.
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.
Beth Ashley, Lead Teacher; Toddlers
I grew up in Stroudwater, canoeing and ice skating on the Stroudwater River. I attended Portland schools; Hall, Lincoln and Deering. After high school I studied literature and painting/printmaking in undergraduate college. Then I moved to Boston, where I lived for 10 years and attended art school at Mass College of Art to further my studies in intaglio printmaking and painting. I met my husband and we moved to Brooklyn, NY where we stayed for 12 years, had our son, Chester, and did the "NY thing". I earned a masters degree in art education from Brooklyn College and after a brief stint teaching art, found my way to early childhood. I taught in a Waldorf-inspired parent co-op for 4 years, ahen led Tinkergarten classes for 2 years in Prospect Park and DUMBO. Our family decided to do the "leave NY thing" and returned to Maine where we've settled in happily. I'm very happy to be continuing my work with young children here at YFO! My teaching interests include a strong connection with nature and lots of opportunities for open ended, sometimes messy, play in the outdoors.
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!
Irthel Tshinyama Teacher's Aide; Infants, Toddlers, Waddlers
TYKES (2.5 - 3.5 year olds)
Fred Dobson, Lead Teacher; Tykes
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.
Caleb Greenawalt, Teacher's Aide; Tykes, Preschool, Pre-K
I moved to Portland in 2015 after getting a bachelor's degree in Critical Theory and Social Justice. I think I want ot teach middle or high school social studies some day, but I'm not sure. I love working with kids and I live for those moments when I can literally witness a child learning something new, growing up, or making a friend. I can still remember many of my own preschool teachers today and my best friend from when I was four is still one of my closest friends; I'm grateful for the opportunity to help crate that familiar safe, nurturing and exciting environment here. every ay YFO shows me the hidden genius of youth and lets me smile when I think about the future.
Some things I enjoy are reading, drinking tea, cooking vegan food, playing games and showing family, friends and preschoolers the amazing things that Portland has to offer. I go everywhere on my bike, so if you spot me on it you should wave; I promise I'll wave back.
Morgan Harper Lead Teacher; Infants
I grew up on Long Island and have steadily moved myself up the Eastern seaboard and settled in Maine. I went to college in Rhode Island where I earned my BS is Marketing. I worked corporately for a market research firm while also babysitting on the side for my neighbor's son. I learned from him how fulfilling and fun it is to explore the world with a child. After two years I decided to make the leap and change careers. I got my first job in early education in 2012 and I've never looked back! i moved to Portland in 2015 with my partner Nathan and shortly after we had our daughter Penelope. Watching her grow has quickly taken over all my other hobbies; but when I have time I enjoy reading, crafting (I'll try almost any DIY), cooking, baking and exploring new places.
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.
Estella Nyapir, Building support
I came to YFO as an intern at Portland Arts and Technology High School in the fall of 2016. I am working on getting my child development associate (CDA) credential in their early childhood program. Now I work at YFO in the afternoons after school and during the summer. I love being with the children, laughing with them and playing.
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.