Debi Kaufman is our new Executive Director. Debi Kaufman is originally from Boston, Massachusetts. She moved out to California to attend The California Institute of the Arts where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. She spent a year abroad studying in Paris. Prior to entering the field of Early Childhood Development she was a graphic designer and Department Director.
An artist at heart, Debi found her true calling as an Early Childhood Educator. After becoming a mom, she got involved with her children’s preschool. Her involvement initiated a desire to help both parents and children and prompted her to go back to school where she studied Early Childhood Development and that action led her to be hired as the Director of the Studio City Co-op Preschool.
She has a rich background within developmental preschool environments, including experience at Adat Ari El’s Reggio Emilia Preschool as well as thirteen years at The Studio City Co-op Preschool, nine of those as its Director. During her tiime at SCCP, she was awarded “The Teacher of The Year Award” by The California Council of Parent Participation Nursery Schools. Debi has many years of experience and passion for play-based education, her involvement within, and assistance in building, community-rich environments.
Outside of early education, Debi also enjoys French, cooking, and spending time with her family – her husband and 2 children (a daughter who attends the new Charter High School VIP and a son who is studying business at The Questrom School at Boston University. Debi resides in Studio City with her family.
Joyce Rose has been a part of the Nurtury since 1991 and was the Director of the school for many years. In 2015, Joyce retired but continued to be a part of the Nurtury Board as the Church Liaison. She is a Los Angeles native and has raised five children here in the Valley. She received her Child Development education from Los Angeles Mission College. She has sat on countless boards and committees over the years and is or has been involved in the California Early Childhood Mentor Program, NAEYC, The Director’s Rap, The Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, and The Nurtury Board of Directors. She brings decades of knowledge in Early Childhood and is firmly dedicated to the developmental learning model and curriculum. She lives in Brentwood with her husband of 53 years, Bob Rose, and their dog Sophie. She enjoys her children and grandchildren and loves to travel the world! Although no longer serving at the Nurtury in an Official capacity, she is our “director emeritus,” and we often consult Joyce when we are in need of her sage advice!
Michelle Krehl is our Head Teacher and Assistant Director at The Nurtury. She moved to Los Angeles from Wisconsin in 1989. She began teaching here as a substitute and part time teacher in 2001 and moved on to teaching full time in 2002. She attended the Milwaukee School of Business, and received an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising and minored in Interior Design, and later attended L.A. Mission College, earning her preschool certificate after taking 38 child development units and 23 general ed units for an AA equivalent. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in Human Development at Pacific Oaks through a special cohort program. She was the Los Angeles County Preschool Teacher of the year in 2011, and has made media and TV appearances discussing the importance of quality Early Childhood Education. She is on the Advisory Committees for Child Development at Los Angeles Mission College and Los Angeles Valley College, and The Board of Directors at The Nurtury. She is a mentor teacher in the California Early Childhood Mentor Program where she oversees student teachers from local colleges and universities. She lives in Van Nuys with her longtime boyfriend Chet. She has two adult children. She is also a doggy mom to her two terrier mix rescues Mindy and Max, and a feisty little maltipoo named Sloane. She is a daily volunteer at Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation and was instrumental in having The Nurtury be the first U.S. school to be a part of #thecompassionproject, a program that helps share the importance of showing kindness to all living things. We have regular visits from adoptable dogs from #AHWF, rescued from Asian slaughterhouses, and the children and dogs socialize with each other, and the children learn how to approach dogs, how to pet them, and how to walk them on a leash. If Michelle was not a teacher she would be a dog trainer or have her own rescue.
Norma Montes is the “newest” member of the full time Nurtury staff. She began as a student teacher in 2013 and was hired as a full-time staff member in August 2014. She has completed 36 units of Child Development in addition to having a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish from UCLA. Prior to her employment at The Nurtury, Norma worked at the nurse’s office at Oxnard Elementary, and volunteered at other LAUSD programs. She likes to do crafting in her spare time, and she also speaks and reads Portuguese.
Cecilia Rivas was born in El Salvador and came to the United States as a teenager. She started at the The Nurtury in 2011 and did her student teaching here as well. She has A.A. Degrees in Child Development and in Special Education from Los Angeles Valley College. She is currently continuing her education at Cal State Northridge. She is fluent in Spanish. She lives in Valley Glen with her son Kevin, who also frequently volunteers at The Nurtury.
Sophia Flores has been a teacher at The Nurtury since 2004. She attended Los Angeles Mission College and has over 30 units of Child Development. She was named a Sherman Oaks Teacher of the Year in 2012. She loves to garden and often shares her beautiful roses with us on special occasions. She lives in Sylmar with her husband. She has three adult children and two grandchildren.
Tamara Karkotsyan immigrated to the United States from Armenia in 1988 with her family. Miss Tamara has worked at the Nurtury since 2002. She received her A.A. in Child Development from Los Angeles Valley College. She does much of the Nurtury cooking, bringing amazing flavors to our kitchen, and often providing food for Nurtury events. She also sewed many of our nap sheets by hand. She was named a Sherman Oaks Teacher of the Year in 2011. She lives in Northridge with her husband and son, and their dogs, Tsar and Cleo. She raises a variety of different types of chickens and usually takes our leftovers home to feed them!
Connie Briceno Maldonado came to The Nurtury in 2006, and is now our Art Studio Teacher and floater. She was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. as a young child. She and her husband Gilberto have two young sons, Angel and Aaron. Miss Connie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development from Pacific Oaks and an A.A. in Child Development from Los Angeles Mission College. In 2013 she was a Sherman Oaks Teacher of the Year. In her spare time, Miss Connie enjoys reading books by her favorite authors, Paolo Coehlo and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. She likes outdoor activities and spending time with her family.
Peyton “Poom” Jitsopha is our regular Substitute Teacher. He was born in Bangkok, Thailand and moved here in 2004. He did his semester of student teaching here at The Nurtury under Miss Michelle in the fall of 2012. He received his Associates Degree in Child Development from Los Angeles Valley College in 2012 and was on the Dean’s List. He holds a California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Child Development Permit. He brings a fun and lively energy here for the kids. He speaks Thai and English. He subs for us when we need an extra hand, and the children love to have Poom here!
Miss Oktya did her student teaching at The Nurtury in 2014, after which time she became a Nanny for a Nurtury family for over 4 years. She recently became our afternoon teacher, and has a kind nature and a soft spoken approach with children that makes everyone love her! She has her Associates’ Degree in Child Development from Valley College.