Meet the Teachers
Sarah McMenamin, Ed.D.
Head of the Early Childhood Program
Sarah joined the GFS Preschool Program in 1998 and has taught in each classroom. She became head of the program in 2002, but still spends time interacting with the children in each age group and considers her classroom visits the highlight of her day. Sarah received her Master's in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas and her Doctorate in Educational and Organizational Research from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation research examined social class and socioeconomic status in an independent school setting. Sarah enjoys travel, reading and attending local cultural events and museums with her family.
Anna Burke received her BA in English, Art History and Classical Languages from Temple University in 2006. After her undergraduate studies, Anna cared for children as nanny in Center City and explored various artistic pursuits. She decided to merge her two loves of art and children and returned to school in 2011 to earn her Master’s degree in Creative Arts Therapies from Drexel University. In her thesis, Anna explored the connection between resiliency and creativity in children who experienced severe environmental challenges, such as homelessness. After completing her degree, Anna focused working with children both in community mental health and in private practice.
In the spring of 2017, Anna began working in the ECP at Germantown Friends School and immediately fell in love with teaching. The Quaker values used daily in the classroom to teach the important social emotional lessons of the this age aligned so well with her own values as a mental health professional that it was a seamless transition. Anna enjoys each day with the children, exploring their questions, facing challenges, and learning new things.
Porter began in the GFS Early Childhood Program as a long-term substitute in 2011 and officially joined the team in 2013, where she worked in the Infant/Toddler Class. When the classroom was phased out, she became the Floater teacher and worked with all the classrooms in the Early Childhood Program, where she enjoyed getting to know every child individually. In addition, Porter led the Late Day Program, where she created and implemented the afternoon curriculum.
Porter graduated from Northeastern University with a BA in Sociology, intending to pursue a career in social work. She took a detour and ended up in New York City working in the fashion industry, where her love of being creative was realized. Once Porter moved back to Philadelphia and became involved with the ECP through her daughter’s enrollment, she found many of the same creative qualities adaptable to early learning. Porter recently took a course on brain development in early childhood, and experiential learning serves as the foundation of her teaching philosophy. Porter is a proud member of the school-wide Quakerism Committee, and she plans to write an early childhood version of the the Quaker curriculum used throughout GFS. When she’s not teaching, Porter enjoys surfing, yoga, and making slime with her daughter, a student at GFS.
Liz began her teaching career as an elementary school teacher in Philadelphia and Baltimore. She joined the ECP as a part-time assistant and has done everything being a co-teacher in the baby room to a pre-Kindergarten teacher. In 2017, Liz became the floater teacher and Director of Late Day.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Emerson College and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Lesley College. In her time away from school, Liz enjoys attending concerts and story slams, sitting on beaches and reading memoirs.
Allegra joined the four-year-old classroom as an afternoon assistant in October 2013. Originally from Brooklyn, Allegra and her family recently relocated to Philadelphia after living in Dusseldorf, Germany, for six-and-a-half years, where she taught first grade in an international school.
Although Allegra has always enjoyed working with children, having worked through college at the campus day care center and babysitting in her spare time, she decided to pursue other interests post-college. She returned to school and earned her Master’s in Elementary Education from Hunter College, CUNY. Allegra is a vital part of the Preschool team and welcomes the adventure that each day brings. An avid reader and knitter, she also enjoys exploring Philadelphia with her family.
Becky began her journey in the Early Childhood Program in 2015 as a student teacher from Arcadia University, where she graduated with a BA in Early Elementary and Special Education. After her graduation, she worked in the ECP as a substitute before joining the Kindergarten team as an assistant for two years with Karen Rutledge. Becky brought current pedagogical theories and helped implement new methods that focused on individual learning strategies.
During that time, she has also worked in the Summer Program as the lead teacher/counselor in the Junior Explorers Camp, which gave her the wonderful opportunity of meeting and interacting with some of her future students. She loves to read and collects books of all kinds, and enjoys singing and listening to music. She also works in the children’s ministry in her church and leads her church choir.
Lindsay graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. As a graduate of a Quaker elementary school herself, she appreciates the Quaker values and philosophy on education, and has found they have had a positive impact on her own education, growth and development. Lindsay joined the Preschool in 2011, bringing six years of experience working with three- and four-year-olds to the program; her goal is to create and maintain an inviting, stimulating and organized learning environment for the children.
Lindsay is a trained leader in Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (S.E.E.D.), and as a facilitator lead a year-long workshop session to educate faculty and staff at her former school about multicultural pedagogy, curriculum and institutional change in their school. Lindsay is also a trained preschool yoga instructor.
Jennifer Sharp, a GFS grad from the Class of 1991, started her teaching career at Echo Hill Outdoor School in Worton, Maryland. When she returned to Philadelphia, she took a position at GFS as an assistant in Kindergarten West. During her years working in Kindergarten and as an assistant in 2nd grade at GFS, she worked with master teachers who mentored her in early childhood education.
Jen particularly focuses on how to connect learning and the appreciation of the natural world. When Jen moved to Kindergarten at Friends School Haverford, she established a community garden for the whole school. From there she went to teach 3- and 4-year-olds at the Big Backyard in Mt. Airy where she honed her skills with young learners. When Jen is not teaching, she is communing with dogs and working in any garden that needs help.
Jenny has a unique way of talking with children. She can speak to their concerns in a straightforward manner, freeing them up to express and discuss their feelings and observations. She never avoids questions children raise, and she finds out how much information a child has and what he or she need to know.
What does she like most about her work? “It’s fun! I can’t imagine not working with kids. I also like being part of the larger community here at GFS.” Jenny grew up in Germantown, and has volunteered at both the Philadelphia Zoo and the Academy of Natural Sciences. She is an expert baker and cake decorator and also does beautiful craft projects, interests that she shares with the children in the Preschool. Jenny enjoys photography and maintains an archive of the first 10 years of the Preschool. She is involved with the Penn Literacy Network and traveled to Ireland as part of a teacher exchange. Jenny studied for a dual major BA in English and Spanish in Rhode Island, and then returned to Philadelphia and began working at the Preschool in 1986. Her husband Patrick works at GFS as well, and her two daughters are graduates.
Marissa joined the Preschool in 2008, where she worked for two years in the three-year old classroom before moving to the four-year old classroom. Prior to joining the GFS Preschool team, Marissa was a volunteer and board member at the Big Back Yard Cooperative Nursery School in Mt. Airy, and before that, she was a research associate for The Yale Evaluation Study Team at The Yale Child Study Center. Marissa worked for many years at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, NY, where she taught first grade and was also the director of the Studio Arts Mini-Camps program during the summer. She has also taught seventh and eighth grade Language Arts Enrichment in a NYC Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) school.
Marissa received a BFA in sculpture and a MS in Elementary Education. Most recently, she has been pursuing certification as a literacy specialist. Marissa is committed to education and is always striving to become a better teacher. When not in the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Her two sons attend GFS.
Lili Sharpless, Art Teacher
In addition to her classroom teaching skills (see “Teaching Support”), Lili is also an artist and art lover. Her preferred medium is watercolor, which she exhibits locally. This year Lili combined her love of children and art to accept the role of Preschool Art Specialist. Her teaching practice focuses on helping Preschoolers learn that creating art is a process. Children will explore different media as they embark upon multi-week projects.
Victoria Spaeth, Music Teacher
Vicki is a professional musician and songwriter who sings and plays guitar, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, glockenspiel, piano and bass. Vicki is devoted to preschool age children and will be releasing her first children's CD during the late autumn of 2014. She has taught preschool music extensively throughout the Philadelphia area with a variety of highly esteemed organizations before bringing her own program to the Germantown Friends ECP in 2012. The Preschool has a special place in her heart since she attended from the age of 18 months until she entered the GFS Kindergarten. Vicki also teaches private guitar and ukulele lessons to all ages, as well as private general music lessons for children under the age of six. When not working with children or teaching, Vicki performs and writes all of the songs in her own band, Victoria Spaeth & The Spaeth Cadets.
Leah Finlay, Movement
Leah is a pediatric physical therapist. She joined the ECP in 2010. She holds an M.S. degree in Physical Therapy from Ithaca College and has supported children's on gross motor skills in schools, daycares and home settings. These skills include large muscle movements that help with body control, coordination and balance, such as running, jumping and hopping. She has extensive training in age-appropriate gross motor development and how it relates to overall social and academic development. Leah loves helping children gain experience, confidence and strength through movement. When Leah is not teaching movement classes, she provides school-based physical therapy services to children throughout the Philadelphia area.
Liliane (Lili) Sharpless has been working in the Preschool since 2011. While she received her Masters Degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality, Lili always had a place in her heart for Early Education and decided to follow her calling. She first returned as an Afternoon Assistant and quickly became one of the Preschool’s favorite morning substitute teachers as well. This year Lili is taking on the added role of Preschool Art Specialist. Lili has an easy going, relaxed manner which she brings to her interactions with the children, so they immediately feel comfortable around her. She is an avid documentarian (via photos) of Preschool daily life. Lili’s family is deeply connected with both GFS and the Germantown Monthly Meeting. In fact, her Great Grandmother Grace Waring was a Kindergarten teacher at Germantown Friends School 100 years ago!