Meet our caring Staff

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Jen Gelhar – Owner and Director

Education: Attended U of W-River Falls
Joined LBLC: 1998
Welcome to Little Beginnings Learning Center! I am the owner and director of Little Beginnings. I have an educational background in Elementary Education and Early Childhood. Owned and operated since 1999, by myself and my husband, Wade, we have a desire to create an environment where children will feel loved, and where parents will know that their child is receiving the best care possible. In addition, we provide a Christian atmosphere where children will grow and know the love of God. With two children of my own, Hannah & Austin, I know the importance of creating a family oriented center where we encourage participation and involvement in any and all activities held here at the center. Besides loving working here at Little Beginnings, I enjoy running, horseback riding, gardening, camping, hiking, and traveling.

Email Jen
Wade Gelhar – Owner and Director of Operations

Education: Associates of Arts, Inver Hills
Joined LBLC: 1998/2017
Welcome! My Bio is coming soon!

Email Wade
Annie Zastera – Office Assistant and Curriculum Coordinator

Education: BA in Psychology, Concordia University
Joined LBLC: 2013
Hello! My name is Annie Zastera. My husband, Dustin, and I have two sons. Thomas was born in 2010 and Peter was born in 2008. They both attend school at Pinecrest Elementary and get to spend summers at Little Beginnings. My husband and I both grew up in Cottage Grove. We moved to Hastings just after we were married. I have my B.A. in psychology from Concordia University. I’ve been involved in child care in various settings for many years. I worked at a preschool for a year and at an elementary school with children with special needs for seven years. I’ve worked at summer camps and done PCA work for multiple years as well. Big or small, children are a blessing to teach and nurture. In my spare time, I love to make crafts, collect chickens, and play with my boys. In the summers we spend our weekends up north at a cabin or go camping. We have a little dog named Zoey who thinks she’s the queen bee of our house. No matter what we’re doing, we enjoy spending time together as a family.

Email Annie
Jenn Jacobsen – Ant Room Lead Teacher

Education: BS in Early Childhood Education, UW-Stout
Joined LBLC: 2016
Hello! My name is Jenn Jacobsen and I am the lead teacher for the Ant Room. I am so excited to get to know your children and family. I graduated with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from UW-Stout. My husband and I currently live in Stillwater, MN and we are expecting our first child this summer. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy crafting, coaching, blogging, and reading. Working with children is a passion of mine, especially infants! I’m looking forward to providing a safe and welcoming environment for your children, and watching them grow here at Little Beginnings!

Becky Freeman – Ant Room Experienced Aide

Education:
Joined LBLC: 2006
My name is Ms. Becky and I have been with Little Beginnings since September of 2006. I work with the infants in the Ant Room. I have two grown daughters, four granddaughters, and one grandson. I also worked as a nurses aide and TMA at Augustana Health Care Center for eleven years. I loved working with geriatrics, and now I love working with babies.
I assure you, your little ones are in a loving and caring environment with the best care available (other then your own of course). Thanks for giving us that responsibility every day! I love my job!

Amy McGuire – Ant Room Teacher & Floater

Education: Attending Bemidji State for a BA in Elementary Education; AS in Human Services, Inver Hills Community College
Joined LBLC: 2015
I am Amy McGuire. I have lived in Hastings since 1997, and grew up in Cottage Grove (go Park!) I have two amazing girls one born in 1997 (Julia) and the other in 2001 (Jenna). I have been working in the Hastings school district since 2011 as a Title One paraprofessional. I absolutely love working with students from Kindergarten to Fourth grade who just need a little extra piece of the puzzle in Language Arts and Mathematics. Before working at Pinecrest, I was at a small catholic school in Vermillion for six years. I worked in the Kindergarten room and then eventually school wide. I have my A.S. degree in Human Services from Inver Hills community college and just recently decided to go back to school to obtain my B.A. in Elementary Education. My girls keep me pretty busy including my eighty pound German Shepherd “Charming”. I also have an amazing group of friends who share my love of reading, scrapbooking, wine tasting and hiking. I look forward to getting to know you all and to continue to grow in my relationship with your children.

Ashley Potter – Ant Room Aide

Education: Attending Dakota County Technical College for Early Childhood Education
Joined LBLC: 2016
Hello! My name is Ashley Potter and I am an aide in the Ant Room. I am SO thankful for the opportunity to work with your children! Before working at Little Beginnings, I was actually a Little Beginnings mom. My son, Landon, started in the Ladybug Room and is currently working his way through the program! I have spent the past few years working in the travel industry, but after realizing my love for teaching and children outweighed my love for travel, I completely changed career paths. Now I am blessed to be spending my days watching your kids learn and grow! I am also working towards my degree in Early Childhood Education. I currently live with my boyfriend, Austin, and our son, Landon. During our free time we like to spend time on the boat, go camping, hang out with friends and family, and spend time in the pool during the summer. I also enjoy spending time with my twin sister. Thank you for letting me be a part of your sweet children’s lives!

Sarah Jensen – Bumblebee Room Lead Teacher

Education: BA in Early Childhood Education, U of M
Joined LBLC: 1999/2016
I am Sarah Jensen, lead teacher for the Bees Room. I have worked here at Little Beginnings for many years, primarily as a lead toddler teacher, then a floater, and now in the Bees Room. I love spending time with your children and sharing my love for learning and nature with them!
My husband, John, and I have two children… Ashlyn (2005) and Landan (2010). We live just outside of Hastings and love to go fishing and camping as a family every summer. We also do a lot of soccer; both children play for Hastings traveling soccer teams. Ashlyn loves soccer and art. Landan loves hiking and the outdoors, soccer and gymnastics. I love everything outdoors, like camping, kayaking, hiking and exploring. That has led me to my new love of woodworking. I feel my best when I am designing or creating something new for someone.

Stephanie Harper – Bumblebee Room Assistant Teacher

Education: Child Development Certificate, Century College
Joined LBLC: 2007
Hi, My name is Stephanie Harper. I started working at Little Beginnings in January of 2007. I enjoy working with kids and received my certificate of completion in Child Development from Century College. I live in Cottage Grove with my mom. My dad lives in Maplewood and I go stay with him once a week. I have a younger brother named Eric. He lives in Texas. In my spare time I like hanging out with family and friends, going on fun vacations, reading, and going to the movies.
 

Cinthia Geerdes – Bumblebee Room Aide & Floater

Education: BA in Economic, Peru
Joined LBLC: 2017
Bio coming soon!
 
 
 
 
 

Kourtnie Whelan – Floating Aide

Education:
Joined LBLC: 2017
Hi! My name is Kourtnie and I am so excited to be a part of the LBLC team. My husband, Tracy, and I live in Hastings. I have one son, Tanner, who attends Pine Harbor Christian Academy. I grew up in Hastings and was raised in my mother’s in-home licensed daycare. I worked as a PCA for children with disabilities for five years and in a preschool setting for one year. I love kids of all ages and can’t wait to get to know yours.

Kristy Lind – Hopper Room Lead Teacher

Education: BS in Elementary Ed & Communication Disorders, U of W-River Falls
Joined LBLC: 2017
Hi! My name is Ms Kristy and I am the Lead Hopper Teacher. I have been working in childcare settings for a few years, and I am very excited to start a new chapter here at Little Beginnings. Before working in childcare, I had been a waitress, a nanny, and I even managed a campground. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, boxing, reading, and drinking lots of coffee.
Throughout my life, I have dedicated a lot of my time to taking care of children and I enjoy every minute of it. I love hands on activities and projects, especially the messy ones. I also enjoy being outside teaching and exploring nature. I love to travel, which helps me bring a multi-cultural aspect into the classroom with toys and pictures from around the world.
I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and building relationships with your children.

Brittany Watts – Hopper Room Teacher & Floater

Education: BA in Communications, Gustavus Adolphus College
Joined LBLC: 2017
Hello! My name is Brittany and I am the co-lead teacher for the Hoppers. I started with Little Beginnings in July 2017 as a float and am excited to have my own classroom with your kiddos! My husband, Nate, and I are both born and raised Hastings folks and still live here with our son, Boston, and two dogs, Buddy and Boomer. My dogs were our first two “babies” and you will get to know that I love them as much as my son! Boston is the light of our lives and joins us in the Ant Room at Little Beginnings. I graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2012 with a Communications Studies degree. I should have listened to my parents though, and went for an early education degree because I love working with kiddos and it is truly where my heart lies! I have worked as a family nanny for 3 years, a paraprofessional in the elementary school setting for 2 years, and at a different daycare center for 1 year.
When I’m not snuggling my sweet baby boy, I love to read, work out, and spend as much time with my family that I can! I love going to church in Woodbury and volunteer in their nursery anytime I get the chance. I am so excited to start this new chapter in my life and have the opportunity to work with your kiddos. They are in great hands at Little Beginnings and I am thrilled to be able to care for them and watch them grow!

Hannah Thomes – Ladybug Room Lead Teacher

Education: BS in Human Development & Family Studies, U of W-Stout
Joined LBLC: 2016
Hi! My name is Hannah Thomes and I am the lead toddler teacher in the Ladybug Room. I feel so blessed to be able to help your children grow and develop each day! I live in Prescott, WI with my husband, daughter, and our German shepherd. We love to spend time outside, enjoy cooking together, and spending time with friends and family. I love doing portrait photography, painting, antiquing, and drinking delicious coffee! I attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout and graduated with a bachelors degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Child Development. I have been working with kids most of my life as a nanny, daycare teacher, and Kids Club Supervisor for South Washington County. Thank you for allowing me to play a role in your child’s life!

Ashley Spicher – Ladybug Room Teacher

Education: BS in Anthropology & History, Iowa State University
Joined LBLC: 2014
Hello, I am Ashley Spicher, and I am the assistant teacher in the Ladybug Classroom. I started working at Little Beginnings in January 2014, shortly after moving to the Twin Cities area. I grew up in Central Iowa, and am a small town country gal at heart! I am an Iowa State University Graduate, with degrees in Anthropology and History, and I worked in a child care facility while studying there. I wanted to continue working with children in a mission setting after I graduated, so I spent one year working at an emergency shelter for at- risk teens before moving here with my husband. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, kayaking, running, painting, antiquing, reading, and traveling. I am very excited to be working with your children and showing them Christ’s love through me. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to speak with me! I look forward to meeting all of you and building positive relationships with you and your children.

Pimm Oesterreich – Ladybug Room Aide & Floater

Education:
Joined LBLC: 2017
Bio coming soon!
 
 
 
 
 

Karolyn Nelson – Caterpillar Room Lead Teacher

Education: BS in Early Childhood Education, U of M-Waseca
Joined LBLC: 2004
Hello, my name is Karolyn, I’m the lead Teacher in the Caterpillar Room. I want to start off thanking the parents for allowing me to play such an active part in the care of your child. They are precious to us all. I went to school at the U of M Waseca, majoring in Early Childhood. I met my husband in 1992, and married in 1994. We settled in Hastings in 1996, where we had our two boys Blake and Carter, and started working at Little Beginnings in August of 2004. My husband and I both enjoy playing cards, attending the latest movies, and spending time with family and friends. In the summer we are found at the pool or at the lake in southern Minnesota. In the winter we are out sledding or curled up in the house reading, playing board games, and card games.

Sandy Mayasich – Caterpillar Room Experienced Aide

Education:
Joined LBLC: 2012
Hi, my name is Sandra Mayasich. I have been at Little Beginnings since October of 2012. I am very excited to have the opportunity to interact with your children and see them grow at Little Beginnings. I currently live in Hastings, but came here from St. Cloud, MN. My husband (Mark) and I have 5 children between the two of us and we have 4 wonderful grandchildren. We also have a cat named Buddha who is very spoiled! In my spare time I love reading, movies, walking, words with friends, and most of all spending time with our families.

Tori Jurgens – Caterpillar Room Teacher & Floater

Education:
Joined LBLC: 2017
Bio coming soon!
 
 
 
 
 

Mal McDowell – Caterpillar Teacher & Floater

Education: Attending Dakota County Technical College for Dental Assisting
Joined LBLC: 2017
Hi guys! I’m Malerie McDowell. I am a qualified floating teacher here at Little Beginnings! I am so blessed to be able to watch your children grow and learn everyday. I graduated in 2014 from Hastings High School. From there I went to a few different schools to find out exactly what I wanted to do with my degree/career. I have always had an interest in a field with child development, but also in the health care field. So I tried classes for nursing, but that didn’t suit me. So, now I am at DCTC studying to become a Dental Assistant. I am going to hopefully be in an orthodontics office working on kids braces one day. In my free time I love to hang out with my family and friends, go shopping, and working out at the YMCA. I love going to tropical places, and I love to go four wheeling/mudding with my friends. I love to coach hockey, and be a part of the community. It’s great to be able to give back in some way, shape, or form.

Hannah McCullough – Firefly Room Lead Teacher

Education: AA in Liberal Arts, Inver Hills Community College
Joined LBLC: 2009
Hello Little Beginnings Families, My name is Hannah McCullough and I am the lead teacher in the Firefly Room. I have been working at Little Beginnings since Sept. of 2009, and I have enjoyed every minute. I consider it to be such a privilege to be entrusted with the care of your children! Although I have the responsibility to help your children grow and learn, sometimes I think I am the one who is learning and growing the most! In my free time, I love spending time with family, friends, and our many pets at the house. I love boating, hiking, music, art, sports and movies… too many interests and hobbies to make time for! I look forward to working with and caring for your children, if you have any questions or concerns, you know where to find me!

Blake Nelson – Firefly Room & Summer School-Age Teacher

Education: AA in Liberal Arts, Inver Hills Community College
Joined LBLC: 2010
My name is Blake Nelson and I am teacher qualified and work in many classrooms at LBLC. I’ve been working here since the fall of 2010. I want to take the time to thank all of you for letting me play such an important role in your child’s lives! I am currently attending school in Minneapolis with the final goal of an elementary education teacher. Working with children has been a passion of mine since I was a teenager. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family, outdoor activities, and spending time with my many animals at home! I am commonly filling in for lead/assistant teacher, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me!

Sam Perreault – Dragonfly Room Lead Teacher

Education: AA in Liberal Arts & Human Services, Inver Hills Community College
Joined LBLC: 2006
Hi! My name is Ms. Sam, the Dragonfly Room lead teacher. I began at Little Beginnings in 2006. I was born and raised in Hastings and I had my first child, Trenton, in January of 2009. My second son, Zachary was born in December of 2012. I attended Inver Hills Community College for four years and I earned an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts, as well as, an Associate’s Degree in Human Services. I married my husband, Joe, in January of 2012. My husband is a journeyman Boilermaker with Local Union 647. We enjoy boating in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter and just spending time with family. I enjoy working with children and witnessing the progress they make, nothing is more rewarding than being able to see a child learn a skill that you taught. I am happy to be here, working with you and your child. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not be afraid to ask.

Mary Mahoney – Dragonfly Room Experienced Aide

Education:
Joined LBLC: 1999
My name is Mary Mahoney. I’ve lived in Hastings for 26 years with my husband Terry and our three sons Ryan, Sean, and Danny. We also have two dogs Ceili and Gizmo. I’ve worked at Little Beginnings since 1999 and work in the Dragonfly Room as an experienced aide. I love spending time with my family. Some of my hobbies are reading, walking, and doing crafts. I love working with children because they’re amazing and they bring so much joy into my life with their laughter and and all the hugs they give. I love getting to know all the kids and watching all the changes they go through while they are at Little Beginnings.

Cassandra Martin – Floating Qualified Teacher

Education: BA in Reconciliation Studies, Bethel Universty
Joined LBLC: 2017
Bio coming soon!
 
 
 
 
 

LaDon Lyon – Floating Aide

Education:
Joined LBLC: 2017
My name is LaDon (Gramma Lyon). I started working as a sub at Little Beginnings in March of 2017.
I moved to Woodbury from Wausau, Wisconsin in 2015 to be near my grandsons, JD and Max.
Before I retired, I was the director/admin of Christian Assembly Child Care Center in Wausau for 20 years. I also had a family day care in my home for 3 years.
I love children and spending time with them. I especially like working in a christian center.
I have two grown children, a son in Minneapolis and a daughter in St Louis. I live with my Westie, Gracie, and my cat, Cookie.
I love to read, outdoor activities, cooking, and my greatest joy is spending time with JD and Max.