About Our Staff


The adult’s role in children’s journey is to support and facilitate their growth and development. To assume this role, to teach young children, is a great privilege and responsibility. Teaching is a mission - a valued and time-honored Jewish tradition. We look for teachers who are passionate and will offer a nurturing experience for the children. Our teachers have a deep understanding of children and the way they think, and have the desire to create meaningful relationships with the children. All our teachers believe in the importance of seeing each child as an individual. Our teachers plan and adapt the curriculum and the environment to meet the needs of each child.

According to the Reggio Emilia approach, the teacher sees herself as a learner – alongside the children - open to new thoughts and ideas. The teacher listens carefully to the children, observes and documents their work, and provokes and stimulates their thinking. As teachers, we are committed to strengthening and enriching our knowledge of young children by continuing our own education.

Our teachers are teachers who encourage our children to reflect, to be independent, to explore, to cooperate, to negotiate, to wonder, to love and to laugh.

Esty Marcus

Esty Marcus, Director

Early Childhood has always been my passion. I have a Masters Degree in Education, have been involved in Education for 20 years and am pleased to be returning for my 16th year at Chai. I’ve always been drawn to young children and their sense of wonder and excitement for the world around them. I was a teacher for 10 years and for the past 16 years I have directed the Chai Jewish Preschool. Together with the wonderful teachers, families and children, we have created a school where each child is respected and cherished.  I look forward to another wonderful year together as we watch our children grow and flourish.

Molly Garcia, Office Manager

Hi I am Molly! I have worked in schools for around 7 years now. Over this time I have become passionate about working around children and providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for children to learn in. Last year I had the awesome opportunity of working as a preschool teacher in the Tzedakah Shakers class. I loved my time working in the classroom but felt that working in the office was more relevant to my future career goals. I am so fortunate to be a part of Chai Preschool and have the opportunity to work with all the awesome parents and children that are involved with Chai. I am looking forward to a great school year!

Two/Three Year Old Class

My name is Rivky Spalter and I've been teaching children for 11 years. I've taught children between the ages of 18 months to 5 years of age in preschools in New York and Toronto and currently starting my 7th year at Chai Preschool. I love being with children: observing, interacting and playing with them. I am inspired by the way that young children are intrigued and filled with wonder by the everyday world. They are incredible little people who have the potential to change the world, and my hope is to help nurture within them the confidence, skills and compassion to do so. I am looking forward to another wonderful year with the children of learning, discovery and growth.

My name is Maggie Ruiz and I am so excited to meet you if I haven’t already met you!. I have been around children my entire life as I am one of 13 siblings. I started my childhood education journey nearly 30 years ago, and I have spent 14 years running my infant home care. I loved the time I spent with my MemoRuiz infants, watching them grow and learn so much.  I am looking forward to my 3rd year at  Chai, and working with all the wonderful staff to continue making your child’s days memorable so they can carry beautiful memories with them.

Hi I’m Marissa! I’m very passionate about working with young children. Most recently, I have been working as a behavior specialist with children with special needs.  I enjoy seeing children achieve their highest potential and build on their character development. I look forward to seeing the students' creativity develop. I’m excited to be a part of the Chai team.  I can’t wait to connect with the students and empower their thinking to the best of their abilities.

Extended day in the Torah Tots: My name is Evelyn Mira. I have been teaching toddlers and preschoolers for 13 years and this is my 10th year at Chai. I love working with children and watching them grow and learn. These early years are so important, and our primary focus for this age group is to support their social and emotional development. I am looking forward to welcoming your children to our Torah Tots class. 

Three/Four Year Old Class

Hello! My name is Lilach. I was born and raised in Israel and came to America to pursue my art degree. It happened for a reason that I discovered my love for early childhood education and my appreciation to the Chai community. I have been a teacher at our school for 15 years and I cannot imagine it differently. Coming to preschool and spending time with the Children, getting to know them, listening to their interest and curiosity is why I choose to be a teacher. 

My name is Evelyn Mira. I have been teaching toddlers and preschoolers for 13 years and this is my 10th year at Chai. I love working with children and watching them grow and learn. These early years are so important, and our primary focus for this age group is to support their social and emotional development. I am looking forward to continuing with our Torah Tots from last year, now Mitzvah Movers!

Hello Chai preschool parents, I am Miri Sagy. I am very excited to join the Chai Preschool teaching team. I have been a preschool teacher for the last 10 years, working with children ages 2-5 years old. I love working with children and observing how young minds see the world around them and learn. Young children are filled with curiosity, wonder, imagination, creativity and as a teacher I love helping them learn skills that will help them grow into confident, caring and independent individuals. Teaching young children has been a passion of mine for many years and I’m so excited to be experiencing it at Chai preschool and becoming a part of the Chai wonderful community!  I live in the bay area with my husband and 2 children. My youngest daughter went to Chai preschool for her three years of preschool and had a wonderful time here. I have a B.A in International Business and took my ECE classes at Canada and Skyline colleges. I am looking forward to a wonderful journey of learning and growing with your children, and excited to meet you all in this coming school year.

Four/Five Year Old Classes

My name is Akemi Hamada, and this will be my fifth year at Chai Preschool! I love working with children and have been working with them for over 10 years. I believe in providing each child with the utmost care and respect, and through fostering and supporting each one they are able to open up to their unlimited potential.  I am so excited to continue to learn and grow with the students in such a positive and encouraging environment!

My name is Lindsay Swanson and I am so excited to be a part of the Chai Preschool community! This is my 3rd year teaching and I could not be happier to continue this chapter.  From a young age I knew that I was passionate about working with children. I started as a babysitter for family friends and neighbors at a young age, which has turned into part time nannying for the past several years. I have also had almost 10 years of experience working as a camp counselor for children at various summer camps, and this past summer I had the opportunity to be a camp counselor and volunteer at a camp for children with special needs, which was an extremely inspirational and rewarding experience! I am looking forward  to being a part of your childrens' learning experience here at Chai Preschool!

Enrichment/Subsitute Teachers

Hello my name is Madeline Flanagan, and it has been a pleasure working at Chai Preschool as a substitute teacher for the past eight years.  I taught kindergarten and pre-kindergarten many years ago before I had my first child and have enjoyed the opportunity to continue teaching. I have three children, my youngest having gone to Chai for her three years of preschool. Working with Chai Preschool teachers, as a teacher, has been inspiring.  Chai Preschool teachers are a caring and dedicated team. Working with the children and learning from them keeps teaching exciting and new and I am looking forward to another year working here. I will be continuing to serve as a substitute in all the classes, as needed.

Afternoon-Gardening Teacher 

Greetings, my name is Marion van Heteren. I have been a teacher at Chai since 2013. Previous to coming to Chai, I spent 5 years teaching at several schools in Palo Alto and Portola Valley. I took my Early Childhood classes at Canada College, and  have a site supervisor permit, I also have a BS in History from Humboldt State University. I am certified as a Master Gardener in San Mateo and San Francisco counties, I love gardening with the children.