Director & Lead Teacher
As our Director, Penny is committed to helping children explore and learn in a hands-on environment. Nothing brings her more happiness than seeing the growth and evolution of her students. She sees these years as a special partnership with parents, expanding the child's community. Penny received her B.A. in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood. She has been working with young children for the past 36 years, trusting her instincts and following philosophies that honor childhood. She found her philosophical match teaching preschool and school-aged children at a local social constructivist school. Her time there solidified for her the value of play-based outdoor learning environments. A new vision for a backyard early childhood program was set in motion just as Covid-19 was beginning to shape the ECE landscape, challenging programs and providers to create opportunities and spaces where children could thrive. Penny is now more confident than ever in the mental and physical benefits of the outdoor classroom. She is excited to meet like-minded families and share in this special partnership
The first time Yiching set foot in an early childhood classroom, she knew she had found her calling and, for the past 20 years, she has been answering that call. Her journey in the ECE field began at the UCLA Infant Development Program, where she discovered her passion for working with young children and families. After several years of teaching, Yiching went back to school to earn her M.Ed. and Ph.D in Human Development and Psychology. As a graduate student, she contributed to several research projects and publications through her involvement at the Harvard Laboratory for Developmental Studies, the UCLA Center for Improving Child Care Quality and the UCLA Lab School. Now, as a professor at Santa Monica College, Yiching finds great joy in providing guidance to aspiring ECE teachers and is dedicated to advancing the ECE field through teaching, advocacy and leadership. At the Nest, Yiching looks forward to mentoring practicum students and facilitating Parent & Me classes. She is excited to provide a supportive experiential learning environment where children, students, teachers, and parents can learn and grow together.
Teacher & Artist
As an educator and mixed-media artist, Nerea is excited to share her passion for teaching and artistic expression with young children and families at Nest Community School. Nerea completed her certification in Early Childhood Studies at Santa Monica College and has taught in several social constructivist preschools. Along with her training and experience in early childhood education, Nerea's background as an artist gives her a keen sense of how children communicate in a "hundred languages" and how teachers can empower children with a wide array of rich materials to represent their feelings and ideas. She enjoys working with children and parents and strongly believes in the importance of community and collaboration.
Dara is drawn to creative environments where collaboration and community are highly valued and she is delighted to be part of the staff at Nest. She started her career in marketing, where she developed an understanding of people and put her strong organizational skills to work. She also put these skills to work as a busy mom of three (including a set of twins!), helping her children through school and up the ranks of the club soccer circuit. Dara discovered her calling as an educator when she started working as an assistant teacher at her children’s constructivist elementary school. During her time there, she developed and honed her ability to elicit ideas from young children around their thinking. Dara has a knack for encouraging children to bring their visions to life through extended project work. She is excited to be working with young children and their families in the great outdoors at Nest. Her patience and playful personality are a perfect fit for the joyful learning we try to cultivate here.
Gigi is passionate about yoga and teaching and we are thrilled for her passions to converge at Nest. Gigi first began teaching as a way to put herself through school while working on her communications degree. She accumulated a wide range of diverse experiences while teaching English in Mexico and China and she came away with one important awareness: Learning is a very personal thing and teaching must be tailored to the individual. She deeply respects the uniqueness of each child and believes in the importance of differentiated instruction to support children's learning and growth. Gigi received her yoga certification after moving to Los Angeles, fulfilling a lifelong passion for yoga that began when she was young. As our Yoga Teacher, she is excited for the opportunity to help our children develop awareness of their body through movement and breath.