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Meet the Shomrei Preschool Family

Rachel Poggie, 2’s/Dubim Head Teacher
Morah Rachel adores working with 2-year olds, and she has taught at Shomrei for over 5 years. She holds an MA in Early Childhood Education from Wagner College, and is the proud mother of 2 children. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening and jazzercise!

Kathy Leslie, 2’s/Dubim Assistant Teacher and 3’s/Dagim Assistant Teacher
Morah Kathy loves working with the students at Shomrei. Kathy holds a BA in Psychology from Montclair State University and spent over 25 years in Human Resources, most recently serving as the Director of HR for a NY publishing company. An avid skier, Kathy adores her time on the slopes in Vermont. She also raised her 2 daughters in Montclair.

Natalie Dowd, 2’s Plus/Parparim Head Teacher
Morah Natalie is a dedicated early childhood teacher, with a background teaching preschoolers (especially handicapped children) in Trenton and Elizabeth for many years. She holds a teaching degree from Kean College in early childhood/elementary education, with a special education certification. In her free time, Natalie can be found rowing on the Passaic River with her husband and 3 kids! 

Aylah Winter, 2’s Plus/Parparim Assistant Teacher
Morah Aylah attended the University of Rhode Island and holds a MA in Human Develoment and Family Studies. She has worked for several non profit organizations, including American Jewish World Service and Hillel. One of her favorite places to relax is at the beach with her family.

Amy Polen, 2’s Plus/Parparim Assistant Teacher
Morah Amy has been delighting children at Shomrei for more than 5 years. A graduate of Lehigh University, with a BA in Art and Psychology, Amy can often be found making jewelry and mixed media assemblages (sculptures!) in her free time. She also loves spending time with her family, which includes her husband, daughter, and 2 sons.

Barbara Kunkes, 3’s/Dagim Head Teacher
Morah Barbara joined the Shomrei team in 2014, however she has taught preschool for over 15 years in Pine Brook. Barbara graduated with a BA in Art and Sociology from SUNY New Paltz. Previously, Barbara also served as the Art Director for many years at Willow Lake Day Camp. In her free time, Barbara loves to travel.

Dara Manheim, 3’s/ Dagim Assistant Teacher
Morah Dara joins Shomrei after 6 years of volunteering and working in preschools and elementary schools. Dara holds a BA in Sociology from Ithaca College. With 3 children of her own, Dara loves to be active with her family. She loves playing sports, swimming, and spending time with friends.

Janet Schwartz, 3’s/Tziporim Head Teacher
Morah Janet has taught at Shomrei Preschool for over 10 years, and she is famous for saying, “If you can’t have fun with 3 year olds, who can you have fun with?” Janet holds a BA in English and Elementary Education from Hunter College, in addition to her Teaching Certificate in Nursery-6th grade. Janet is adept with a needle and thread, and she is famous for her beautiful needlepoint and quilts!

Hanna Gutman, 3’s/Tziporim Assistant Teacher
Morah Hanna feels right at home at Shomrei, since all 3 of her granddaughters became a bat mitzvah in this community! She has worked at Shomrei for over 5 years, sharing her love of Hebrew and Israeli culture with her students.

Fran Nelson, Pre-K/Susim Head Teacher
Morah Fran joined Shomrei as the Pre-K teacher in 2014, with a wealth of experience, having taught in preschools in Millburn and South Orange for the past 12 years. She holds a BA from Brooklyn College in Early Childhood Education and a MAEd from Seton Hall University. Fran is also the mother of 4 children and loves singing, reading, and walking her dog.

Laura Monka, Pre-K/Susim Assistant Teacher
Morah Laura also joined our Shomrei team in 2014, and her passion for children is evident in her work. She is the mother to a beautiful daughter in our 2’s program, and she has spent the past 7 years working with children in early childhood settings. Laura holds a BA in Anthropology from Montclair State University, and she loves to read and write in her free time (and share this passion with her students, too!).

Heather Brown, Preschool Director
Morah Heather feels right at home as Shomrei’s Preschool Director. With an MAEd from the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, she has worked in a variety of Jewish education settings for over 10 years, both as a teacher and administrator. Most recently, she served as the Director of Young Family Programs at the JCC in Manhattan. With 2 young children of her own, Heather enjoys being outdoors with her family and loves hiking in the South Mountain Reservation.


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