Meet the Teachers
Sarah McMenamin, Ed.D.
Director of Early Childhood
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.
Ben started his professional career in the fashion/retail industry, but decided education was his calling. He accepted a position at in the GFS Kindergarten in 2007 while he earned his Master’s in Elementary Education from Temple University. He was raised Quaker, in a family of educators, and also attended Quaker school for elementary and high school, so when he first joined the GFS community in 2007, it was an easy transition. After completing his degree, Ben spent the last decade teaching at the kindergarten through fifth grade level in classrooms throughout the Philadelphia area, including independent, public, and charter schools, returning to work at GFS in the Early Childhood Program in September 2018.
Ben believes strongly in supporting the social-emotional growth and development of children. He strives to create a classroom community where students feel recognized, safe, valued, and confident that their voice is heard. He encourages students to feel comfortable with taking risks, to be flexible when events do not unfold as they envision, and to rise to any challenges that they may encounter. Ben is also passionate about helping students practice how to effectively process and communicate their feelings through the process of conflict resolution. In his time off, Ben enjoys spending time with his dog, relaxing in the Poconos, and sampling different cuisines from around the world.
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.
John Fuller is a Preschool teacher at the Center City location. John is a South Jersey native and a graduate of Moorestown Friends School. Shortly after receiving his B.A. in Music from the College of Santa Fe (NM), John began his career in Early Childhood Education by volunteering at a small Montessori preschool and working at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum. This was followed by work at schools in California, Oregon, and Virginia, and training as a Montessori Primary teacher. John received his M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from Loyola University in 2012 and for the past three years has been teaching at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center (SEEC) in Washington, D.C. In his spare time, John enjoys playing the guitar, listening to music, reading history, and going for drives in the country with his wife, Karen, and their three-year-old son, George.
Shannon came to GFS in the fall of 2017. Prior to that, she worked for Disney Cruise Line as a Youth Activities Counselor. Shannon was responsible for over 300 children on the ships while also traveling around the world. She was promoted to Service Excellence Trainer, where she trained and mentored all of the new Youth Activities counselors.
After four years, Shannon knew it was time to get back to her original passion for classroom teaching, and she joined GFS as an Assistant Teacher in Kindergarten. At the same time, she was accepted into Arcadia University’s Masters Program in Reading Education. While working at GFS these past two years Shannon has seen firsthand the benefits of a Quaker education and she is thrilled to join the Early Childhood team at Germantown Friends. Shannon’s undergraduate degree is from Arcadia University where she received a BA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education with a certification in English as a Second Language. Shannon enjoys traveling, geocaching, playing board games with her family, and visiting the ocean. While she grew up in Minnesota, Shannon really enjoys living in Pennsylvania and exploring the Philadelphia area.
Jessica received a B.A. from St. Lawrence University, with a major in Sociology and a minor in Sports Exercise and Science. She pursued post-graduate studies in elementary education at Caldwell University, and is looking forward to continuing her professional development in the field of education.
Jessica became familiar with the positive benefits of Quaker values at Friends School Haverford, where she taught in the PreK and Kindergarten programs. She values each child’s unique strengths, interests, and contributions to the school community and believes that children are capable and resilient when encouraged to make their own decisions.
Jessica has received extensive training in the Responsive Classroom approach that focuses on the relationship between academic success and social-emotional learning. She has found that using the RC language is beneficial for both students and teachers. Jessica has coordinated school-wide community outreach projects, such as supervising collections for a local food pantry and raising funds for charitable organizations. When not in her classroom, she enjoys coaching and playing soccer, camping in Maine, skiing, and long walks in the woods with her golden retriever, Jade.
Kydlan discovered her love of teaching while volunteering at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from McGill University, but after realizing how much she loved discussing sea stars and other creatures with young children, she knew education was the only field for her. Kydlan received a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from DePaul University and continued her teaching career both inside and outside of the classroom. This included teaching fifth grade at Francis W. Parker, a progressive independent school in Chicago, and educating students of all ages, writing curriculum and leading programs at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. Most recently, Kydlan spent two years teaching in the PreK classroom at the Chapin School in Princeton. During this time, she wrote a new inquiry-based curriculum for the program.
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.
Allegra joined the Early Childhood Program as an afternoon assistant in 2013, and currently teaches PreK. Originally from Brooklyn, Allegra and her family 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 ECP team and welcomes the adventure that each day brings. An avid reader and knitter, she also enjoys exploring Philadelphia with her family.
Rachel started working at GFS as a Floater/Extended Day Teacher after relocating to Philadelphia in 2018. Rachel received a B.A. from Bloomsburg University, with a major in Elementary Education and a concentration in Mathematics. During her time at Bloomsburg University, she worked at the Campus Child Care Center working with age ranges from infant to preschool. This sparked her passion for Early Childhood Education. In 2010, Rachel earned her Master's in Early Childhood Education from California University of PA. Immediately following graduating with her Master’s, Rachel began working for Head Start. During this time, she worked with underprivileged and high-risk families from the city of Harrisburg. This job although daunting at times proved to be a rewarding experience as Rachel is from city of Harrisburg and could connect with families and students on many personal levels. During her four years at Head Start Rachel served many rules including teacher, social worker, and mentor to fellow colleagues.
In 2013, Rachel stopped working to have a hand’s on role in her son’s start of education in Kindergarten. During that time, she volunteered often at her son’s school for the next two years. This led to her applying for an opening at her son’s small private school in the downtown area of Harrisburg. Rachel became the Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher. She had the pleasure of teaching students for two consecutive years through this teaching program. During this time, she served as the journalism and yearbook advisor, committee member for creating the school’s new positive behavior philosophy, hiring committee member, and was a part of facilitating new student testing and orientation.
Five words that Rachel uses to describe her classroom is fun, happy, child-centered, active and inclusive.
She believes that Parents are their child's first and most important teacher. Therefore, their success is based greatly on collaborative efforts. Parental involvement is important and encouraged in her classroom.
Outside of the classroom Rachel enjoys spending time with her husband, children and family. During her free time, she loves to cook, bake, read, exercise, listen to music and watch movies.
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.
Michael is endlessly grateful to spend his days with the youngest community members at GFS where he began teaching in 2019. A graduate of Arcadia University, he received his Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and a certificate in Infant/Toddler Mental Health, as well as a Bachelor's Degree in Early Education and Social Justice. Michael has worked with children from the ages of 2 to 18, and is deeply devoted to working with and advocating for young children during some of the earliest and most critical times of their lives. He fell in love with Quaker Education while teaching at Abington Friends School, where he spent 4 years in the Lower School and Early Childhood divisions. Most recently, Michael spent three years working at the Parent Infant Center in University City. Identifying as a Friend himself, Michael is excited to return to a vibrant and active Quaker community. He is also passionate about teacher education. Michael has presented in and around the Philadelphia area about topics such racial and gender diversity, as well as how to value and implement high quality early childhood education strategies. Michael lives in West Philadelphia with his partner, Kristen and his cat, Bran. When not teaching, he enjoys cooking and baking vegan goodies, music, gardening, and skateboarding.
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.
In the fall of 2018, Carlie joined the Early Childhood Division at GFS as the Floater/Extended Day Teacher and Movement Specialist. She immediately fell in love with the students, the GFS community, and the daily use of Quaker values in the classroom. Carlie was thrilled to start as a full-time classroom teacher at the Center City Campus when a position became available in the fall of 2019. She attended Temple University where she received Bachelor’s Degrees in Public Relations and Spanish. Her love for learning Spanish and traveling the world developed when she was a student, and she wanted to share this gift with children, so she returned to Temple University to earn a Master’s Degree in Education. Carlie began her career teaching Spanish at Delaware Valley Charter High School. After noticing an increase in English language learners in need of support, she went back to school and earned her certification to teach English as a second language. This led her to Mastery Charter schools at Mann Elementary where she taught Spanish, ESL, social-emotional learning, and yoga. When she is not teaching, Carlie enjoys hiking, yoga, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.
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 Early Childhood Program in 2008, where she worked for two years in the Preschool before moving to the PreK. Marissa received a BFA in sculpture from Marywood University and a MS in Elementary Education from Brooklyn College. Marissa is passionate about Global Education and with Art Teacher, Lili Sharpless, was awarded the Class of '52 Grant to visit peaceful preschools in Israel and the West Bank. Marissa's previous teaching experience included 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 and seventh and eighth grade Language Arts Enrichment in a NYC Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) school. When not in the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Her two sons attend GFS.
Lili Sharpless, Art Teacher
Liliane (Lili) Sharpless has been working in the Early Childhood Program since 2011. Although she received her first 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. While she first returned in a general classroom role, Lili is an artist. As she gained skill and confidence as an educator, it became evident that she should combine her love of teaching and art, and she transitioned to Art Teacher. Her teaching practice focuses on helping children learn that creating art is a process. Children explore different media, techniques, and artists. Lili also teaches art in the Lower School and has recently embarked upon her second Master's degree—this time in Art Teaching. 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 over 100 years ago!
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.
Carlie Sweeney, Yoga Teacher
Carlie is a certified teacher in yoga for children. Yoga helps children to develop body awareness, balance, and strength. Additionally, yoga helps build concentration, increases confidence and positive self-image, and allows children to feel part of a healthy, non-competitive group. Carlie recognizes the many similarities between the yogic principles and Quaker values, which led her to join the GFS community. (For more information about Carlie, please see the "Teaching Support" tab.)
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.