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 14th year at Chai. I’ve always been drawn to the little ones and their wonder and excitement for the world around them. I spent many years teaching preschoolers and for the past seven years have directed the Chai Jewish Preschool. Together with the wonderful families and children, we have created a school where each child is cherished and loved. I look forward to another wonderful year together as we watch our children grow and flourish.

Lisa Becker, Assistant Director

My name is Lisa Becker and I am thrilled to be working at Chai as the Assistant Director.  Early childhood is a truly magical time filled with exploration, discovery, growth and a desire to learn that I am honored to be apart of. I hold a bachelor's degree in Child and Adolescent Development. I have spent many years inside the classroom as a teacher, as well as a curriculum coordinator, assistant director and program supervisor. I am proud mother to Taylor (8 years), Collin (6 years) and Johnny (4 years). I am so thankful that my youngest was a student at Chai. He developed a love of learning  that was nurtured by his high quality and warm teachers that I am confident will follow him into his school years and beyond. I am looking forward to a wonderful school year that celebrates learning and growth!

Two/Three Year Old Class

My name is Rhonda Gamblin and I am so happy to be returning for my 8th year as a part of the teaching team here at Chai Preschool. My first experience with preschool was with my mother who was a preschool teacher. She would allow me to go to work with her and I could see firsthand the amazing work she did at school and how much the children loved her. I was inspired by her dedication to become a preschool teacher. I have been a teacher, Asst. Director, and a Director, and I am still so excited about the development of children. I have been teaching for over 20 years and I have taught ages 18 months to 5 years. I really look forward to teaching in the Toddler class. This is such a critical time in a child’s life and I am more than happy to be a small part of all the wonderful changes that will take place. My hope is to form a partnership with the families, develop a relationship with each individual child, and provide long, loving memories that will extend into the lives of each child. So, let’s have a wonderful, fun-filled, exciting, exploratory year!

Hi! My name is Lindsay Swanson and I am so excited to be apart of the Chai Preschool community! This is my first year teaching and I couldn’t be happier to begin this new chapter.  From a young age I knew that I was passionate in 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 apart of the children’s learning experience here at Chai Preschool!

Three/Four Year Old Class

Hello, my name is Lilach and I am very excited to be beginning my 12th year at Chai!  I have a bachelor’s degree in Art and I taught art both here and in Israel. Then I discovered early childhood education and I fell in love. I adore spending time with the children, watching them discover the world around them. I enrolled in Early Childhood Education courses, and am now a qualified preschool teacher. I am looking forward to spending another year with your wonderful children.

My name is Akemi Hamada, and this will be my second year at Chai Preschool! I love working with children and have been nannying and teaching children for five years. I’m currently pursuing a degree in early childhood education because I feel that these early years in a child's life are so important. 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 learn and grow with the students in such a positive encouraging environment!

My name is Yehudis, and I am so excited to be a Judaic intern at Chai Preschool. I have heard so many great things about it, most recently from my sister Shaina who taught at Chai last year.  I just finished a teachers program in Israel where I earned my teachers degree. I got a chance to work with many children of all ages. It was amazing to see how each child has their own way of learning and understanding the world around them.

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 at Chai!

Four/Five Year Old Classes

Helen Luis: I feel fortunate to work with children and families and I love being part of the preschool experience.  I considered obtaining an elementary credential, but fell in love with early childhood education and never looked back.  I have spent the past 25 years working in early childhood education in various capacities and this will be my 12th school year at Chai!  I am happy to be part of this unique and wonderful school. After seven years working with Esty on the administrative side of Chai, I was lucky to be able to go 'back to my roots' and teach in the Pre-K class last year.  It was a most amazing experience and I'm really looking forward to another year in the Pre-K. This summer I started working towards obtaining my Master's degree in Early Childhood Inclusive Education. I am a firm believer that learning never ends and it's never too late to pursue a goal!

My name is Evelyn Mira and  have been teaching toddlers and preschoolers for 12 years. I have an associate teaching permit and am continuing my education to achieve my AA degree in early education. I love working with children and watching them grow and learn. I look forward to my 7th year at Chai Preschool  and meeting the children and families.

My name is Rivky Spalter and I’ve been teaching children for 8 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 4th year at Chai Preschool. I received my teaching certificate from Beit Chana in Tzfat. I love being with children: observing, interacting and playing with them. I’m 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 Dana Sorkin. I'm looking forward to start my first year at Chai Preschool. For the past 3 years I've taught at several preschools in Israel, mostly specialized content about health and nutrition, yet full of play and imagination. During my off hours I was a Pilates instructor. I'm hoping to bring these subjects, healthy food and active childhood, to Chai Preschool, along with a little Hebrew content, in the most colorful way. I enjoy the honesty of kids, the directness that makes them jump head first into their next adventure. And I love their laughter!

Goldie Fridman: I just returned from living in Israel where I attended a Teacher's Seminary in Tzfat, Israel. I had the opportunity to teach children, which I have always enjoyed. I am fascinated by the many techniques and ways we can educate guide and cultivate in a classroom, especially in a class of young children. Their ability to grasp and understand at such a tender age is so refreshing to me and I love witnessing their rapid growth. I am really looking forward to being a Judaic intern at Chai, as I have heard much about the care it has for both parent and child.


Hello my name is Madeline, and it has been a pleasure working at Chai Preschool as a substitute teacher for the past six 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.

My name is Yoshiko Oehlerking. This will be my sixth year at Chai Preschool and I am very excited! I have completed my ECE units and have 3 years of preschool teaching experience. I enjoy working with children. I believe every child possesses the highest potential within them and, as a teacher, I want to support and help them to unlock their possibilities. They always amaze me with their natural ability and I learn so much from them. I’d like to grow as a teacher together with children. I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan and moved to the US almost 20 years ago. I am the mother of three children who helped inspire me to become a preschool teacher. I am looking forward to meeting you and your child here at Chai Preschool!