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!

Laura Johnson – Bumblebee Room Lead Teacher

Education: BA in English & History, Simpson College
Joined LBLC: 2014
Hi, my name is Laura Johnson. I am the lead teacher of the Bumblebees. I have been married to my husband, Jef, for thirty-five+ years. We have two grown children. My son is working on his PhD in Philosophy. He is married and currently lives with his wife in Germany. My daughter is the mother of my two beautiful grandsons. She is married and is blessed to be a stay-at-home mom. I have a lot of hobbies, too many my husband says. A few of them include writing, reading, and gardening. I absolutely love my job. I adore the children in my care and find it very satisfying to watch them learn and grow. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. Thank you so much for allowing me to take care of your precious children.

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!
 
 
 
 
 

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.

Ashley Potter – Ladybug 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 Ladybug 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!

Amy McGuire – Ladybug 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 am lead teacher qualified and will mostly be assisting in the Ladybug Room. But- you may see me filling in here and there. We 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.

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.

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.

Mal McDowell – Teacher Qualified 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.

Sarah Jensen – Teacher Qualified Floater

Education: BA in Early Childhood Education, U of M
Joined LBLC: 2016
I am Sarah Jensen, a teacher-qualified floater or substitute. I have worked here at Little Beginnings for many years, primarily as a lead toddler teacher. Currently I am a stay-at-home mom and woodworker/crafter and I come in to work at LBLC as needed. 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.

Kim Allen – Teacher Qualified Floater

Education:
Joined LBLC: 2017
My name is Kim Allen and I live with my husband, Rick, and by Bichon dog, Gus. We have two grown children, Zachary and Autumn. Zach is in the Air Force Reserves and works construction for Minnesota Limited with his dad. Our daughter, Autumn, lives in a group home in Hudson.
We regularly volunteer for Walk-On, a horse therapy program for people with disabilities, and are helping to develop a new program called Horse for Heroes. My other hobbies include gardening, camping, fishing, boating, swimming, sewing, crafts, and traveling.
I have worked in a variety of educational settings, including early childhood programs and public school settings as a paraprofessional and teacher. Now I’m honored to be given the opportunity to not only care for your most “precious cargo” but to offer my support and knowledge as they begin their educational journey.

LaDon Lyon – Floating Aide

Education:
Joined LBLC: 2017
Bio coming soon!
 
 
 
 
 

Jessica Lemert – Floating Aide

Education:
Joined LBLC: 2017
Bio coming soon!