FUMCN would like to extend a hearty welcome to our new head teacher, Ms. Susan Sowder!
Ms. Susan is happy to be back at FUMCN after a three year sabbatical in South Africa. Originally a FUMCN parent with 4 children attending, she began the FUMCN Young Fives program in 2006. This program featured small classes, hands-on learning and field trips throughout the community. In 2017, Ms. Susan taught kindergarten in South Africa, finishing as the Team Leader for the kindergarten program. Upon returning to the US, she is happy to be back at FUMCN, this time in the role of Lead Teacher. With a Masters in Education, and a focus on science, Ms. Susan brings a love of the natural world to the classroom. This is evident in the former enrichment program, Science Fridays, that explored topics such as rocks, bubbles and pillbugs. Ms. Susan has been teaching for over 18 years, in a variety of places: Africa, Alaska, Detroit and Ann Arbor. She loves including a diversity of cultures and experiences in the classroom, as well as her personal life. In addition to traveling, Ms. Susan enjoys running, hiking, camping and has learned to crochet during the pandemic.
Assistant Teacher-Mary Page
Ms. Mary has been teaching at FUMCN since 2008. She attended CMU for her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her studies focused on psychology and child development. Ms. Mary was employed as a school psychologist for 12 years prior to starting her own family and becoming involved at FUMCN. She believes a play-based, child-directed learning approach is most suitable for preschools. She enjoys creating an environment that fosters creativity, independence and a joy of learning. One of her favorite things about FUMCN is the partnership between the families and teachers and the community this creates. Ms. Mary’s two daughters attended FUMCN. She loves dogs and likes to hike, bike, golf, kayak, and read.
Assistant Teacher – Lisa Hirsch
Ms. Lisa has been an assistant teacher with FUMCN since 2010. Prior to staying home full time with her 3 children, Ms. Lisa worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist for over 10 years. Most recently, she worked with children on the autism spectrum and with other developmental or neurological disabilities. She continues to be particularly interested in social communication and the development of literacy skills (pre-reading) in young children. All 3 of Ms. Lisa’s children attended FUMCN with her youngest participating in the Young Fives program prior to her becoming a teacher here. The strong emphasis on learning through play and discovery, as well as the community atmosphere of FUMCN, in Ms. Lisa’s opinion, make it an ideal place to work. When she is not working, Ms. Lisa enjoys walking, reading, cooking, camping and being with her family and friends.
Assistant Teacher- Melissa Svastisalee
Ms. Melissa has been an assistant teacher with FUMCN for 14 years. She attended Michigan for graduate school with a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. Ms. Melissa holds a Michigan Elementary Education Teaching Certificate with an English as a Second Language Endorsement. She taught toddler play classes at Ann Arbor Lamaze and Becoming Big Brother Big Sister classes at Mott’s Children’s Hospital. Melissa believes early childhood development and play based learning go hand in hand with intentional exploration. As a past FUMCN parent she is a strong proponent of the co-op community where “it takes a village” to raise a child. When not spending time with young children, Melissa enjoys playing flute, hiking, yoga, kayaking, baking, and walking with her dog, Lily. Melissa lives in Dexter with her husband Chris and their children, Lauren and Colin.