Our Amazing Staff


Kris Barker

Executive Director

Kris Barker holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development, with specializations in Early Childhood Education and Art Education from Pacific Oaks College. She taught in several different school environments throughout Los Angeles before moving to Whidbey Island in 2004 where she was the co-owner of a fair trade importing business. She joined The South Whidbey Children’s Center first in 2005 on the Board of Directors and then in 2011 as the Executive Director.

Kris believes that The South Whidbey Children’s Center holds a special place in all of our hearts- for its innovative and progressive work with young children and families. She is proud to be a part of the Center’s tradition of quality care, and incorporating new approaches in the Center’s work with children and families.

Caitlin Voss

Program Supervisor

Caitlin loves being surrounded by children at work. She says that their laughter keeps her young and a hug or snuggle from one of the children is all it takes to turn a bad day into a good one. Caitlin is passionate about the HighScope curriculum used at SWCC, believing that it embraces a way of teaching that is not as prevalent in our current fast-paced, technology-driven way of life. She appreciates that it allows teachers to build on what is happening in the moment. Caitlin has her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Alfred University in New York.  One of the things Caitlin enjoys most about SWCC is the incredible community of colleagues she has found here over the last 3 years.


Rose de Rothschild

Lead Teacher – Star

Rose grew up in Wyoming and especially enjoyed spending time in the Big Horn Mountains. She found herself drawn to early childhood education because she feels that it is the key to a better world and brighter tomorrow. Rose has been with SWCC for 4 years and enjoys kayaking, writing and painting in her spare time.

Tom Stepanski

Star Teacher

Tom grew up in Hacienda Heights, California and spent his childhood exploring in the hills and canyons that surrounded him. Tom was originally drawn to early childhood education because he wanted to help others and has certainly been rewarded as he truly enjoys helping the children in his classes to grow and learn. Tom holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreational Management and a specialization in Outdoor Education.

Kate Willis

Star Teacher

Kate is not only from Whidbey Island, she attended SWCC for preschool and is still friends with with her classmates today! Kate went into early childhood education because she feels that shaping young minds to be kind, compassionate and confident is important for our future.

Holly Lusk

Star Teacher

Holly grew up in Big Bear Lake, California.  She loved skiing and snowboarding as a child. Holly loves working with young children and hopes to make a positive impact on their lives.  When not at work she enjoys taking her own young children to the beach or lake to go swimming.

Jennifer Thompson

Lead Teacher – Honey Bears

Jennifer grew up in Texas, playing outside and always knowing that she wanted to be a teacher. When her son entered preschool, she began working there and fell in love with preschool education. Later she went on to graduate with her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Chapman University. Jennifer’s favorite part of her job is the bond she has built with the children and families over the last 6 years.

Leslie Breeden

Honey Bear Teacher

Leslie became a preschool teacher after finding that she enjoyed motherhood so much, she didn’t want to return to her corporate career but rather wanted a different way to spend her days. She has been with us for 14 years now and says that the relationships she has with her coworkers makes SWCC a wonderful place to be.

Ruth Newton

Honey Bear Teacher

Ruth spent her childhood on Whidbey Island, the child of a Navy family. She fondly remembers walks along Crescent Harbor Beach from her childhood.  As a mother and grandmother herself, Ruth is drawn to early childhood education out of a desire not only to help children learn and grow but to encourage and support families in their daily lives. Her favorite part of her job is listening to children share about their experiences and of course, the love and hugs that have been so readily shared with her over the last 8 years.


Andi Kopit

Honey Bear Teacher

Andi grew up in Huntington Beach, California, enjoying the beach and fishing. Andi was drawn to early childhood education out of a desire to make a positive impact in the community. In the past year at SWCC, she has loved to watch the children grow, question and learn from the natural world around them. Andi’s dream is to write science curriculum for children and recently completed her Master’s Degree in Entomology.  She is our resident bug expert!


Lalaina Valle

Lead Teacher – Sunflower

Lalaina has been with SWCC for 13 years and loves the smiles and hugs she gets from the children. She likes to work with the HighScope curriculum because it is focused around each child’s interests and a hands-on learning approach. Growing up in Washington, Lalaina says that she didn’t choose early childhood learning, it chose her. She has worked with children as long as she can remember and has loved it ever since. Currently, Lalaina is completing her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education.

Babe Parnell

Sunflower Teacher

Growing up in the Philippines, Babe was always a teacher when playing make-believe with her friends. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education in the Philippines, before meeting her husband while he was in the Peace Corps. They returned to Whidbey Island and Babe found her way to SWCC. That was 28 years ago! Babe’s favorite thing about teaching at SWCC is seeing the children grow and develop during their time there. She can recognize almost every student and often runs into them while shopping at the grocery store!

Krista Tompkins

Sunflower Teacher

Krista has lived on Whidbey Island since she was 11 years old. Krista loves to spend time with her two daughters, especially paddle boarding and enjoying time near any lake, river or beach. She truly enjoys the children and coworkers that she has bonded with at SWCC over the last 10 years. Krista holds a Child Development Associates Degree.

Simona Prael

Sunflower Teacher

Throughout her life, Simona has worked as a nanny in Canada, America and Switzerland. She decided to go into early childhood education to continue the work she so enjoyed with young children. Simona spends her free time with her two children and husband.  Her family often travels to Mexico and other great vacation spots.

Jeana Dominguez

Lead Teacher and Site Coordinator – School Age

After a first career as an elementary school teacher, Jeana decided she wanted to pursue early childhood education to work with children in a way that allowed for more creativity and freedom. Jeana’s favorite things about SWCC are the children, who keep her positive and the adults, who keep her laughing.  Jeana holds both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Education.

Anna Cavender

School Age Teacher

Anna has always loved children and had an interest in early childhood education. Anna grew up right here in Langley and she enjoys the bond she develops with the children at SWCC, watching them grow and learn. Over the last year at SWCC, she says she goes home happy every day!

Katherine Peterson

Kitchen and Break Teacher

After participating in the cooperative preschool with her sons, Katherine knew that early childhood education was the place for her. Over 23 years with SWCC, Katherine has enjoyed watching, growing and learning with hundreds of children.  In her free time she enjoys reading, walking and spending time with her family and pets.

Mari Zuardi

Floating Teacher-Spanish Teacher

Mari came to early childhood education from her desire to help children learn. Her favorite part of teaching at SWCC is teaching children Spanish, which she speaks fluently, as well as teaching games to help children learn through play.  Mari grew up in Brazil and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education.

Melody D'Amelio

Substitute Teacher

Sydney Spear

Substitute Teacher

Though Sydney is new to SWCC, her passion for early childhood education is rooted in the sense of purpose she feels when helping children grow through different stages of life. Sydney prefers the HighScope curriculum because she feels that hands on learning is essential at this stage of life to foster social, intellectual and physical growth. Originally from Oregon, Sydney spent part of her childhood in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and enjoys being active outdoors. Currently Sydney holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and is working towards her Master’s in Education.