Staff

SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION

Berna Artis, Head of School

Berna holds a BA in English Language Teaching and an MA in Early Childhood Education. She has been dedicated to the field of education for more than 20 years, having held various roles and taught middle and high school students prior to her work in early childhood education. Berna is a strong advocate for equity in education and has served as a trainer, presenter, board member, and facilitator for various non-profit organizations, including the District of Columbia Association for the Education of Young Children (DCAEYC), and has taken part in a workgroup for NAEYC initiative “Power to the Profession”. She believes in lifelong learning and in cherishing each other’s experiences.

Brian Palazzolo, Operations Specialist

Brian is originally from the Boston area.  He has spent the past 4 years in DC getting his undergraduate degree at the George Washington University. In the last two years of his time in DC, he has worked in various capacities related to the Early Childhood Education field including his work with the Council for Professional Recognition.  Brian is passionate about social justice and education issues. He enjoys hiking and reading. 

Sabina Zeffler, Education Coordinator

Sabina is from the coastal town of Bremen, Germany, where she lived most of her life. She was born in Calcutta, India, where she spent her early childhood. She studied in Germany and received a degree in occupational therapy. She has worked with children with special needs, ages three to ten years old in private practice and in preschools. Sabina joined the School for Friends staff in Spring of 2003. She has earned her CDA credential. In her spare time, she loves to spend lots of time with her son Laurence and enjoys literature and yoga as well as art and painting.

RED PANDAS, 18 month olds

LaJuan Celey, Co-Teacher

LaJuan was born and raised in Washington, DC and attended DC public schools. After High School, she completed nearly two years of education at the University of the District of Columbia with a concentration in the nursing department. She worked at First Baptist Child Care Center for two years. LaJuan accepted the position at School for Friends in 1986. She would like to pursue further education in the teaching field. She has also participated in multiple workshops over the years and she received her CDA credential. LaJuan is married and is the proud mother of three children, Jamar, Daevon and Jacqueline.

LEATHERBACK TURTLES, Two Year Olds

Malori-Naomi Wallace Wyche, lead teacher

Malori-Naomi is an early childhood educator who has been teaching for the past 5 years. She has been in Washington, D.C since 2012 and has graduated from Howard University with a BA in Radio, Television and Film and Johns Hopkins University with MS in Education. Malori-Naomi is an Urban Teachers alumnae and believes in teaching the whole child — her goal in education is to work towards creating more equitable and joyful learning spaces.  She believes education is at its best when children are stimulated physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You can find her reading, binge-watching her favorite show, and planning dates for herself & her friends.

EUNICE O’BRIEN, CO-TEACHER

Eunice comes from La Paz-Bolivia, one of the highest cities in the world. She holds a CDA Certificate in addition to a Degree in General Accounting. She has worked for over 13 years in the Emergency Child Care Center at Fannie Mae, which served roughly about 735 children ranging from 6 months to 13 years old. Most of her experience has been with special needs children. Eunice is interested in Agriculture specifically in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES (TWO-YEAR-OLDS)

Jacqueline Whiting, Lead Teacher

Jackie was an assistant teacher in the Blue Room from 1984 to 1991. Between 1991 and 1993 she worked at Just Us Kids as a floater and as a teacher coordinator. She also was a certified childcare provider in her home for 11 months. She completed her Child Development Associate credential in 1991. She worked at First Baptist Church Child Care Center during the 1983-1984 school year. She holds a certification in childcare from the Logan Community School. She earned her AA Degree in early childhood education on May 13, 2006.

EAGLES (THREE TO FIVE-YEAR-OLDS)

Katie Gosselin Lead Teacher

Katie is from Downingtown, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Catholic University of America in May 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She loves children and spending time with them.  Katie worked with young children for the the last five summers as a camp counselor and Assistant Camp Director in Pennsylvania. As an educator, she believes in contributing to the development of a high-quality early learning program that provides unique educational opportunities for children. In her spare time, Katie loves to read and spend time with her family and friends. 

Elsy Blanco, Multi-Age Co-Teacher

Elsy was born in El Salvador. She came to the US at age fifteen and finished high school here. After that, she took English and Computer courses to polish her skills. In 2002, she took the 90-hour course in early childhood education. Two years later, she received her child development associate (CDA) bilingual credential. She started working with RCIS (Rock Creek International School) in 2001 as a bus driver, assistant teacher, and summer school Spanish teacher until 2007. Elsy has worked with young children at all ages. She is married and has two beautiful daughters, Emily and Valeria. She loves to spend time with her family. Her hobbies include fishing and reading a good book.

SEALIONS (THREE TO FIVE-YEAR-OLDS)

Makai Kellogg, Lead Teacher and Equity and Diversity Coordinator

Makai attended D.C. Public Schools until she began high school at Sidwell Friends School. Makai graduated from Trinity Washington University with a Masters of Art in Early Childhood Education in December 2010 after completing Trinity University’s undergraduate program with a B.A. in History. She completed her student teaching requirements in the Quaker House classroom. She is the Head of Nursery at Friends Meeting of Washington where she has been providing childcare for over a decade. Makai has a strong interest in international affairs, social justice, and anti-racism work. She also created and leads the Parents of Multiracial Children group at School for Friends and the school Equity and Diversity Coordinator.

TIGERS (THREE TO FIVE-YEAR-OLDS)

NATALIE SOWINSKA, LEAD TEACHER

Natalie is a native of Poland where she studied Early Childhood Development and 1st through 3rd-grade teaching at the Pedagogical University of Krakow, and transitioned to her professional assignment at Kangaroo Preschool, a local private charter school. She’s been helping families and working with children and special needs students for over a decade. She became a Certificated Instructor of Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) in 2018 and has been providing classes, coaching, and private consultation for parents, teachers, and individuals in the US and abroad. Natalie enjoys sightseeing around Washington DC, hiking, photography, and learning about different cultures.

L’erin Nelson, LEAD TEACHER

L’erin grew up in Clinton, Maryland. She has always had a passion for teaching young children. She began her journey into Early Childhood Education in high school where she took child growth and development classes. After high school, she attended the College of Southern Maryland where she obtained her Associates in Early Childhood Education. She has been working with infants and toddlers since 2015. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends.

Multi Age Co-Teacher

TARYANA WALLACE

Taryana grew up in Clinton, Maryland. She is currently pursuing an Associate degree in Business Management. She is grateful for the opportunity to help play a role in guiding the next generation of leaders and thinkers here at School For Friends. Taryana is enrolled in the CDA certificate program to continue to guide children and help them reach many milestones. Taryana enjoys music, spending time with her family, and reading.

Raena Miller

Raena has been working in the education field for 10 years. She has a CDA and an AA in Education with a concentration in preschool. Raena is currently a student at UDC working on her BA in Human Development. She hopes to open her own school one day. Until then she will continue to enjoy using her gifts to educate young children on their path to becoming productive citizens.  Raena loves spending time with family and friends. She enjoys cooking and traveling as she want to see the world!