Meet Our Staff

  • Program Director - Zarahi Menendez
  • Center Manager - Lea Gambino
  • Assistant Director - Barbara Bednarz
  • Managing Director - Dulce Pauta

Zarahi Menendez za
I had the tremendous opportunity to establish Kiddieland ECE as of March 2012. Our Mission is to give children a solid foundation to build upon for their future academic success with a more than exceptional care and learning. I have a B.A. in Early Childhood Education from Northeastern Illinois University and have also completed numerous courses in the field including administrative certification from the Illinois State Board of Education.Based on 15 years of experience in education, I have developed strong, informed opinions on the purpose of education and have learned a wide variety of means to deliver the service. On a more personal note, as a mother of three young boys, I am also driven to provide the best education for my children and the children of other like-minded parents.

Lea Gambino
I am honored to be working at Kiddieland ECE since August of 2015. I am a mother of 3 wonderful children of my own and completed my Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential in June 2017. I absolutely love working with children watching them blossom into adults. I had the pleasure to help raise triplet girls from the age of 0-3 years old. I also help coach both my boys’ little league teams and love to be involved anything kids.

Barbara Bednarz
I joined the staff at Kiddieland ECE as Assistant Director in October 2017. I have been in the Early Childhood Education field for nineteen years, starting as a Pre-Kindergarten Teacher and working my way up to Administration. I have three grown daughters and one granddaughter. I graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and attended Oakton College for ECE classes. In teaching young children, I have learned to be flexible, patient, nurturing, and encouraging. Always keep a smile on your face, love in your heart, and a great sense of humor. I believe that reading is the key to learning – reading opens up creativity, exploration, interaction, and discovery. If a child can read, they can do anything!

DPDulce Pauta
I joined the Kiddieland ECE family in February 2013. During my time here, I have worked in every classroom and loved every minute. I have completed my Associate's in Arts with a focus on Early Childhood Education. I am currently pursuing my Bachelor's degree in Business Management at National Louis University. I am always amazed in the moments I spend with children and feel so lucky to watch their growth and development on a daily basis. Working alongside with this wonderful staff, we strive to work as a team to provide high quality care and education.

  • Lead Teacher - Kassandra Hernandez
  • Teacher - Iris Tolentino
  • Co-Teacher - Idali Godinez

Kassandra Hernandez
I began working at Kiddieland Educational Center of Excellence in August 2015. I come from big family with lots of younger relatives, so caring for children has always been a big part of my life. My care, love, and attention helped me realize that teaching is what I am passionate about. I received my Child Development Associate (CDA) in August 2017 and am taking additional classes in pursuit of earning my associate. I am excited to work with the children to help them learn and watch them grow in our care. I am also looking forward to getting to know the parents and reach their full expectation, as they trust us with the care and growth of their children.

Iris Tolentino
I began working at Kiddieland ECE in November 2015. I have four years of experience working with children. In my years of teaching, one of my favorite things about it is that children can teach us as much as we teach them. I have worked with children ages 2-12 years old. I am currently attending St. Augustine College for Early Childhood Education. I'm dedicated to the Social and Emotional development of each child; I am here to give each child the best care and love that they all deserve.

Idali Godinez
I began working with Kiddieland ECE in October 2017. I have been working with kids my entire life being the oldest out of five, and occasionally babysitting children from the ages of 5-13. All my service learning hours throughout high school I did while volunteering in a kindergarten and first grade classroom. I’m passionate about children, how they learn, how they have fun, how they see life, you learn a lot from them just as they do from us. I’m currently in school at Northeastern Illinois University, studying Social Work in which I hope to work with children in the future.

  • Lead Teacher - Nydia Rivera
  • Co-Teacher - Cynthia Acosta
  • Co-Teacher - Suela Sulo
  • Co-Teacher - Jasmine Lezama

Nydia Rivera
I joined the Kiddieland ECE family in April of 2016. I am married and have a 10 year old daughter. I completed my Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential in June of 2017 and am currently attending St. Augustine College to complete my Associates degree in Early Childhood Education. I have 4 years experience with children ages infants-12 years of age. I have also worked with children from my church and for the World Vision community. Working with children is a true passion of mine. My goal as a lead teacher is to work with children in helping them grow not only physically, but emotionally, as well as socially. I am extremely honored to lead the Primary Preschool classroom and getting to know the children and their families.

Cynthia Acosta
I began working with Kiddieland ECE in February 2017. I have volunteered at The Boys and Girls Club for two years and realized how much I enjoy working with kids. The age groups I have experience with are newborns to pre-teens. I am the oldest of five children and have cared for others as my own. I am passionate about the development of children and can't wait to watch them grow every day.

Suela Sulo
I joined the Kiddieland ECE team in September 2017. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and also I'm currently taking Early Childhood Education courses. I have two kids and I have an immense love for every age group. I like to play, interact, nurture, and enjoy children’s happiness. I look forward to meeting each of you and working with your child.

Jasmine Lezama
I began working with Kiddieland ECE in October 2017. I have volunteered and worked at other daycares during the summers since high school, which has provided me the experience necessary to work with children from preschool to pre-teens. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and work with children ever since I was little and throughout the years my passion for them has grown. I am currently working on achieving my Child Development Associate (CDA). I am very excited to be working with the children of Kiddieland ECE along with their families to help them discover new things and help them grow into successful adults.

  • Lead Teacher - Sandra Guerrero
  • Co-Teacher - Taylor Cram
  • Co-Teacher - Vanessa Martinez

SGSandra Guerrero
In December 2014, I began working with the Little Explorers at Kiddieland ECE. I have worked with children over four years ranging from all different ages. I have recently graduated from City College of Chicago Truman College with my Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education and will continue to work towards my Bachelor’s Degree in the same field. I am eager to work with children in helping them grow not only physically, but emotionally, intellectually, as well as socially. I am very excited about working with the Preschool Preparatory children.

Taylor Cram
I began working at Kiddieland ECE in May 2016 as a Co-Teacher. I completed my Child Development Associate (CDA) in August 2017. I previously worked as a substitute teacher at L&L Pre-school Academy before I was welcomed to Kiddieland ECE. I worked with children from Ages 12 months to 6 years old. I also had the opportunity to volunteer and become a Kids Soccer Coach from ages 4 and up. I come from a big family with nieces/nephews and can say that working with children comes very natural to me. My goal is to get my Associates in Early Childhood Education. I'm very excited to be a part of Kiddieland ECE and am looking forward to not only building a relationship with your children but with parents as well.

Vanessa Martinez
I joined the Kiddieland ECE team in August of 2017. I am currently in the process of attaining my Bachelor’s in Social Work at Northeastern Illinois University, specifically in the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). My goal is to teach children how to be responsible, caring, and to educate them. My purpose is to be attentive to the child and provide the necessary help for areas they may need improvement. I look forward to meeting all the families.

  • Lead Teacher - Jasmin Ramirez
  • Co-Teacher - Angelina Le Cour
  • Co-Teacher - Karla Cervantes

Jasmin Ramirez
I began working for Kiddieland ECE in September 2016. I graduated from Wilbur Wright College with an Associate’s degree in arts and am currently finalizing my Bachelor's at Northeastern Illinois University. At Northeastern, I have taken numerous courses that have prepared me with the capability to work with children of various ages. I have experience in working with daycare centers and ensuring that they are current in policies and are providing high quality of care for their children. I see the classroom as a blank canvas with room to create masterpieces; therefore, I want to contribute to the future by guiding children towards the path of becoming intellectual thinkers and successful individuals.

Angelina Le Cour
I joined Kiddieland ECE in October 2016 after recently graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech & Hearing Sciences from the University of Iowa. It will be very exciting to work with your children building up their communication skills, behavioral and physical development. I love to encourage children to think for themselves and to create challenges to surpass to boost self-esteem and feel sense of accomplishment. By doing so, I give children the opportunity to learn new words by reading, writing, singing songs, and encouraging to use math skills such as counting. My experience includes working with younger children in the past that were family members, family friends’, and at a preschool during my last year of college. Children give me joy each and every day when I step in the room and begin a new challenge to explore. I cannot wait to learn more about each precious child, who they are as they grow to be incredible individuals in our society.

Karla Cervantes
I joined the Kiddieland ECE family in July of 2017. My experience working with children ranges from babysitting, conducting swim classes, and summer camps. I am going into my senior year at DePaul University and am currently majoring in Applied Health Science with a Biology concentration. I am so excited to jump on board into an environment full of children. This gives me the opportunity to teach children the age appropriate behaviors they should pick up in order to become amazing adults in the future.

  • Lead Teacher - Nicole Larrea
  • Teacher - Teresa Lopez

Nicole Larrea
I was given the opportunity to work at Kiddieland ECE in October 2017. I am currently a student at Kendall College working towards my B.A. in Early Childhood Education with endorsements in both English as a Second Language and Bilingual Education. To coincide with Kiddieland ECE Reggio based curriculum, I will be focusing on the strengths and individual capabilities of each student by getting to know them through interaction and communication. I am beyond excited to work with the Junior Scholars students. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your child’s learning process. My hope is to make a positive impact in the Junior Scholars classroom. I look forward to meeting and building relationships with each and every one of you!

Teresa Lopez
In August 2017, I had the great opportunity of becoming a part of Kiddieland ECE and since then have enjoyed every bit of it. I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in December 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Sociology with a minor in Psychology. As soon as my daughter was 3 months old I enrolled her at El Valor and became actively involved in bettering her education. In addition, I was given the opportunity there to become actively involved as a parent volunteer by participating in classrooms with children ages 0-3. As a result, I obtained valuable experience making me realize even more the fact that children are an important aspect of society for they are the ones I believe need the greatest care both physically, emotionally, and mentally. By being a part of Kiddieland ECE, I will be able to help educate and guide each child with plenty of care as they become successful growing individuals.

  • Lead Teacher - Alaina Colon
  • Co-Teacher - Lucero Fuentes- Dana Gurgul

SKTAlaina Colon
Joining the Kiddieland ECE family in September 2015 has been an amazing opportunity. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all the children in each of the classrooms and I must say their colorful personalities truly make this a wonderful experience. The one thing I have always known I’d like to do with my lie is to be a teacher and set a good example for the youth. I’m currently working on my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work because essentially making a difference in people’s lives is the most important aspect of a future career to me. I look forward to not only my future with Kiddieland ECE, but also, building solid relationships with the children while working in partnership with the parents and staff to aid the children’s development and watch them grow.

Lucero Fuentes
I began working at Kiddieland ECE in September 2017 as a Co-teacher. I am interesting in obtaining my Child Development Associate (CDA) in the near future. I have volunteered at child care sites and in CPS schools. It was in those moments, where I remembered the importance of positive role models in the life of a child. I have a genuine interest in the unique ways that children learn and behave. Nonetheless, I also love the challenge that comes along with children in a classroom environment. Every day spent in the classroom is different, so I know that flexibility is a key in the child’s life. My goal is to make a difference in the life of the children I work with, through consistent encouragement and support.

Dana Gurgul
I began working at Kiddieland ECE in July 2016. My love for working with kids started as soon as my nieces were born. I love working with children, and helping them learn. I am currently going to school to earn my Associates in Arts, and soon after I will be going for Early Childhood Education. I'm excited, and can't wait to teach the children new things every day.

  • Lead Teacher - TBA
TBA
  • Food Preparation - Gina Mayorga
  • Assistant Cook - Blanca Carmona
  • Transportation Manager - Alaina Colon
  • Cleaning Manager - Maria Odilia Herrera

GM2Gina Mayorga
I began working at Kiddieland ECE in August 2012 as the cook. I worked with children and teenagers at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of Cicero for 13 years and worked for District 99 in Goodwin School as a lunchroom supervisor for 4 years. I love teaching the children at our school. I love plants and taking long walks.

bcBlanca Carmona
I began working at Kiddieland ECE in April 2013. Prior to moving to Chicago, I worked at a Daycare Center in Mexico and enjoyed it immensely. I was so pleased to begin working at Kiddieland so I can continue doing the two things I love most: working with children and cooking.

SKTAlaina Colon
Joining the Kiddieland ECE family in September 2015 has been an amazing opportunity. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all the children in each of the classrooms and I must say their colorful personalities truly make this a wonderful experience. The one thing I have always known I’d like to do with my lie is to be a teacher and set a good example for the youth. I’m currently working on my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work because essentially making a difference in people’s lives is the most important aspect of a future career to me. I look forward to not only my future with Kiddieland ECE, but also, building solid relationships with the children while working in partnership with the parents and staff to aid the children’s development and watch them grow.

mohMaria Odilia Herrera
I began working at Kiddieland ECE in July 2014. I have previously worked in a child care center in Mexico as a kitchen assistant and cleaning manager. I love working with children and have two young children of my own. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in Kiddieland ECE and enjoy working with this wonderful staff.