Early Childhood Development


Meet The Gardner School’s 2018 Teachers of the Year

Early Childhood Development | January 29, 2019

As we set the course for 2019, we move ahead with the foundation of a successful 2018 behind us. Much of that success is credited to the talented and enthusiastic teachers who create positive learning environments each day for our students and their families. The great Martin Luther King, Jr. is attributed with saying, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” At The Gardner School, we believe that the work our teachers put forth each day is not only great in big ways for our classrooms at large, but the smaller daily individual interactions they create with students have a lifelong impact on their educational, social, and emotional journeys to Kindergarten and beyond.

It’s the time of year in which we’re excited to announce our 2018 Teacher of the Year recipients at each of our schools. All honorees were nominated and chosen by their teacher peers after being selected as a Teacher of the Month at their school earlier in the year. Congratulations to these outstanding TGS teachers. We appreciate you!

Indrani Das

Blue Ash: Indrani Das

Role at TGS: Pre-K Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: August 2017

Fun Facts: Indrani has a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Education, both from Nagpur University. She also received a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. After a teacher vote and feedback, Indrani’s peers all agree that she is very dedicated to her work, strives daily to help each child grow and learn, has a loving personality, and is highly respected by TGS Blue Ash parents.


Lindsey Tinsley

Brentwood: Lindsey Tinsley

Role at TGS: Discovery B Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: October 2015

Fun Facts: Lindsey has a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential and is currently seeking her degree in Early Childhood Education through the TECTA program. Lindsey does an amazing job managing her classroom, creating a classroom “wow” factor, teaching young toddlers sign language, and has great rapport with families. Lindsey also does amazing sensory projects with her students in the classroom, and she even created new science bottles for the entire TGS Brentwood school year.


Marlene Arrez

Bucktown: Marlene Arrez

Role at TGS: Discovery C Assistant Teacher

Started at TGS: January 2017

Fun Facts: Marlene Arrez is from Chicago and is currently studying in Penn Foster College’s Early Childhood Education program. She believes that the early years in a toddler’s life are important, as students not only need a safe, loving, and fun environment in which to learn, but they also need someone in whom they can trust and use as a positive role model. Marlene has developed solid relationships with parents which have led to open communication and trust. She wants parents to feel comfortable leaving their children in her care and to be a great support system for their entire family.


Faith Sorenson

Dublin: Faith Sorenson

Roles at TGS: Infants Lead Teacher and Director of Curriculum for Creative Curriculum

Started at TGS: May 2015

Fun Facts: Faith Sorenson is a huge asset to TGS Dublin. She has established herself as a caring teacher who has a warm heart and demeanor to help new parents feel at ease as they begin their journey in childcare. Faith earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Family Studies from Purdue University, and she majored in Human Development and Family Studies and minored in Psychology, concentrating on Child and Family Services. Faith takes an active interest in families, co-workers, and TGS at large to support everyone the best she can. She has taken on extra responsibilities and maintains a positive relationship with her peers as she acts as a mentor.  Faith is always supportive of all things TGS and is flexible in helping co-workers and school leaders.


Annika Senjem

Eagan: Annika Senjem

Role at TGS: Fascination B Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: September 2017

Fun Facts: Annika Senjem completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and Family Studies at MNSU, Mankato. Annika is a warm, engaging, and reliable teacher who supports the whole family whenever their children enroll at TGS Eagan. She does a wonderful job helping the infants reach milestones and prepare for the toddler classroom.


Jaclyn Blomme

Edina: Jaclyn Blomme

Role at TGS: Twos Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: September 2017

Fun Facts: Jaclyn Blomme has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. She has experience as a Special Education Paraprofessional, as well as an Assistant Teacher for Pre-K. Jaclyn is always smiling, and her colleagues chose her for this honor because she is dependable, energetic, warm, and welcoming to the children and parents of TGS Edina.


Kanika Nair

Franklin: Kanika Nair

Role at TGS: Imagination B Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: September 2016

Fun Facts: Kanika Nair obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Pearl Academy in New Delhi, India. Take one step into her classroom, and you know immediately that she is a special teacher. Kanika’s creativity is matched equally by her love for our students and a passion to see them succeed. Kanika works hard with her co-workers to create a fun and exciting learning environment for her students, and her commitment to the success of her students is evident in her relationships with parents, always striving for the best. Kanika’s positive attitude brightens the day for everyone she encounters, and we are so grateful she is part of the TGS Franklin team.


Marina Khomutov

Glenview-Northbrook: Marina Khomutov

Role at TGS: Toddler Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: March 2017

Fun Facts: Marina Khomutov has a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Kiev Pedagogical University in Kiev, Ukraine and has 24 years of experience as a classroom teacher, working with infants to children up to age 3. Marina is always willing to lend a helping hand with a smile on her face. She creates fun and exciting activities for all her children and is loved by her students and their families.



Mary Saad

Herndon: Mary Saad

Role at TGS: Infant Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: January 2017

Fun Facts: Mary Saad has a Bachelor of Arts in Agriculture Education, with over six years of experience in working with infants in preschool settings. Mary is a great asset to the TGS Herndon team. She brings great joy to her classroom each day and her dependability is one of the many things that make her stand out to her peers. Mary loves to work with infants and help them become more independent. She enjoys watching her infants overcome milestones, like crawling for the first time or taking their first steps. We appreciate all that you do for TGS Herndon!


Katie Brtis

Lincoln Park: Katie Brtis

Role at TGS: Discovery A Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: February 2018

Fun Facts: Starting out as the Assistant Teacher in the Discovery A classroom, Katie Brtis soon took on the role of Lead Teacher.  Katie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a concentration in Counseling from the University of Iowa, and previously worked in a home daycare center for four years. Katie’s class loves her smiling face and caring nature, and she’s known by colleagues for her positivity, enthusiasm, dedication, patience, teamwork, and professionalism.


Katie Hough

Louisville: Katie Hough

Role at TGS: Fascination A Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: October 2016

Fun Facts: Katie Hough has a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgetown University. She is a true team player and is always willing to help when needed. All the infant parents at TGS Louisville brag on her regularly, and they are always emotional when they must transition to the next room. Katie’s attitude brightens her classroom and creates an exciting, fun environment for the infants.


Molly Smyke

Midtown: Molly Smyke

Roles at TGS: Toddler Assistant Teacher/New Hire Trainer

Started at TGS: June 2016

Fun Facts: Molly graduated from Mississippi State University in 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Child Development. Molly shows up each day with open arms and an endless amount of love for her toddler students. As the New Hire Trainer, Molly also does an excellent job at welcoming new faces to the halls of TGS Midtown.


Maria Carioscia

Naperville: Maria Carioscia

Role at TGS: Kindergarten Teacher

Started at TGS: August 2014

Fun Facts: Maria Carioscia received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Illinois State University and has been teaching for over 20 years. Maria believes that with a caring attitude, patience, and encouragement, any child can reach overall success. Outside the walls of TGS, you can catch Maria and her daughter walking their dog, Macintosh, around the streets of Naperville.


Robin Moore

Nashville: Robin Moore

Role at TGS: Teacher Floater

Started at TGS: March 2016

Fun Facts: Robin Moore has served in several positions within TGS Nashville for the past 13 years. Currently, she is a teacher floater, serving in various classrooms when and where needed. Robin’s compassion, love, and dedication to TGS Nashville families and her colleagues is shown daily.



Ariel Smith

Oak Brook: Ariel Smith

Role at TGS: Imagination A Lead Teacher

Started at TGS: October 2014

Fun Facts: Ariel Smith’s performance at TGS Oak Brook is fantastic. Her hard work, personal dedication, and beautiful smile shines through in her work with three year olds and is among the many reasons her colleagues chose her for this honor.


Denise Orr

West Loop: Denise Orr

Role at TGS: Imagination B Assistant Teacher

Started at TGS: September 2017

Fun Facts: Denise Orr attended Harold Washington College and then worked in a preschool and as a nanny for a few families soon after. Denise was chosen for this honor because she is greatly passionate about her job, her students, and their families. Denise takes great pride in the fun and engaging activities she plans for her students each day, and she loves her students as if they were her own. She also has excellent rapport with parents. Typically, the students will not let their parents do some things for them at home because “Miss Denise will do it” (such as putting on a birthday crown or bows in their hair, etc.). Denise always arrives to work early and is always willing to help whenever a need arises.

Congratulations, TGS 2018 Teachers of the Year! Here’s to continued and new opportunities to create exciting and transformative learning experiences in 2019. Learn more about The Gardner School’s teachers and teaching philosophy by visiting our website today!