Northland Early Education Center is committed to hiring dedicated, highly educated, and extremely qualified therapists, lead teachers and staff that continually work as one cohesive team to provide the highest, nationally-accredited early education and therapeutic services in Kansas City’s Northland. Our incomparable team consists of four therapists, nine lead teachers, 22 assistant teachers, and five administrative staff. Each of NEEC’s classrooms is staffed by one lead teacher and a minimum of two assistant teachers ensuring each classroom achieves lower than state-mandated student to teacher ratios.   NEEC prides its self on having one the most highly qualified teaching personnel teams in the Kansas City metropolitan area. NEEC lead teachers are required to have a Bachelor’s degree in early education or a related field. Many assistant teachers also hold a Bachelor’s degree and/or have or are working toward an Associate’s Degree in early education. NEEC’s four therapists who specialize in physical and occupational therapy, speech and language pathology and special instruction play a vital role in the Early Intervention Services program. Each therapist brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the NEEC program. NEEC’s therapists must meet all Missouri state licensing and certification requirements for practicing in the field and receive Missouri First Steps program approval.

All teachers and therapists are required to complete continuing education and training hours; lead teachers and assistant teachers are encouraged to complete 18 hours, with a minimum of 15 hours. NEEC’s annual budget allocates funds to send staff members to conferences and/or training’s that are off-site to assist with their continuing education. Some training opportunities frequented by the staff, include the NAEYC conference, CARF conference, training’s on behavior disorders and teamwork seminars. In addition, NEEC staff members hold monthly meetings to review and discuss policies, share information learned at training’s and to stay informed as a cohesive team. All staff members are committed to maintaining high quality standards for our early education program.



Brea Connett – Executive Director

Brea Connett, was named Executive Director in December 2017.   Her dedication and commitment to Northland Early Education Center’s mission has shown in her 17 years of service with the program.  She began her career at NEEC in 2000 working as an Assistant Teacher in the Blue Room (3 to 5 year old classroom) for over three years and as Lead Teacher in the Brown Room (2-year-old classroom) for four years after that.  In 2007, Brea was named the school’s Program Director, where she spent 10 years leading a large group of teachers and staff, ensuring that every classroom met accreditation and licensing standards, with quality and inclusion being the number one priority.  Brea will now lead NEEC in a new role as the Executive Director.

Brea was born and raised in Denison, Iowa and comes from a very large family with three biological brothers, two adopted brothers and two foster sisters. She moved to Kansas City in 2000 and earned her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis in child development and education from Park University. In 2009, she completed a Masters of Education in Educational, School and Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. In her spare time Brea enjoys spending time with her husband, Jeff, and four sons, Tanner, Jax, Lucian and Cannon.

As the Executive Director, Brea’s role is to oversee all operations of Northland Early Education Center, ensuring fiscal sustainability and organizational growth.

Email Brea

Natasha Lehman – Director of Programs

Natasha Lehman began as a lead teacher at Northland Early Education Center in February of 2004 after receiving her degree in Middle School and Education; English and Speech from Southwest Baptist University.  Her NEEC journey began as a Lead Teacher in the Green Room (1-year-old classroom) and transitioned with a group of students to the Yellow Room (2-year-old classroom) and then the Blue Room (3 to 5 year old classroom). When those children were ready for kindergarten, she moved to the Brown Room (2-year old classroom). From there, she transitioned with another group of students to the Orange room (3 to 5 year old classroom), where she stayed until recently being promoted to NEEC’s, Program Director in December of 2017.

Natasha was one of 50 recipients throughout the nation of the Terri Lynn Lockoff Child Care Foundation award in 2015. She serves on the Northland Early Education Council, was the 2017 NEEC Social Committee Chair and serves on other committees throughout NEEC. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Ben and two children, Garrett an Georgia.

As Program Director, Natasha ensures that all services are meeting accreditation and licensing standards and that families are satisfied with the quality of services they are receiving from NEEC.

Email Natasha

Tammy Dodd – Assistant Program Director

I started at Northland Early Education Center in 2008. In 2017, I was promoted to Lead Teacher while working on earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. In February 2021 I was promoted to the position of Assistant Program Drector. I love working in the Early Childhood Education field, it is my passion! In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with y family and friends.

Email Tammy

Sarah Arriaga – Director of Development & Communications

Email Sarah

Cindy Humbird – Office Manager

Cindy has been a part of NEEC’s team since May 1991. Cindy has two grown sons, Allan and Kevin and five grandchildren.

Email Cindy


Mary Shurtz – Office Assistant

Mary Shurtz began her position as Office Assistant in May 2014. Mary has three kids, four grandkids and two great grandkids. She has a daughter in Texas that will add to her grandkids in the future, when she finishes nursing school.

Email Mary

Lead Teachers

Paula Morrow

Infant Room / Birth to 12 Months – Pink Room

I have worked for NEEC since 1992, all of which has been in the Infant department, though my association with the school began 1 ½ years earlier as a parent when my youngest son began receiving therapy services. I graduated from Kansas City Board of Education Program of Practical Nursing in 1984.


Whitney Dooley

Infant Room / Birth to 12 Months – Purple Room

I worked here at NEEC from 2005 to 2012 in the Orange Room and then in the Gold Room where I got a chance to work in all the rooms, falling in love with the infant room.  I came back to NEEC in February of 2015 to help out in the Orange Room when I took on the position of lead teacher in the Purple Room in April.  I got married to my husband in October of 2014 and we had our first child in February of 2016.  I look forward to getting to know all the kids and their families.

Amy Croghan

1 Year Old Room – Red Room

I started working at NEEC in 2006. I have been the lead teacher in the Red Ladybugs room the entire time. I have my bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from the University of Kansas and enjoy incorporating music into lesson plans and daily tasks. I am married and have a handsome son and beautiful daughter who have both attended school at NEEC. I enjoy watching young children absorb all the information around them and the relationships they form at such a young age.

Lauren Pitnick

1 Year Old Room – Green Room

I have worked at NEEC since February 2014. I became the lead teacher in the green room in January 2017. I have worked in a preschool setting for ten years now. I am currently attending Park University to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. I am married and have a six year old son with special needs, and brand new baby girl. Teaching is my passion, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with your children and watch them grow each and everyday.

Jodi Carullo

2 Year Old Room – Brown Room

I have worked for NEEC since March 2012. I have my Masters Degree in Special Education and a Missouri Teaching Credential in Special Education. I have been in the field of education for over 18 years. I love working with 2-year-olds! They make such huge changes in the year that I have them!


Logan Willoughby

2 Year Old Room – Teal Room

While working on her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, Logan Willoughby began working at NEEC in the Orange, 3 to 5 year old room in March of 2016 and moved to the Blue room, the other 3 to 5 year old room in 2017. In February of 2018, Logan became the Lead Teacher in the Yellow 2 year old room.  She enjoys going to Chief’s games and having bonfires with her friends. She is excited and feels privileged to work with the children at NEEC.

Whitney Horn

2 Year Old Room – Yellow Room

My name is Whitney Horn, and I started working at Northland Early Education Center in March of 2014 as a lead in the Yellow Room. I worked in there until July of 2016. I briefly left NEEC to work with adults with disabilities.  I soon found that my passion was working with children and decided to come back to NEEC as the lead teacher in Orange Room in December of 2017! I received my bachelor’s Degree in Recreational Therapy from Northwest Missouri State University in 2013. I got married in November of 2017 and we are expecting our own little bundle of joy this September! I love spending my days learning and creating with the Silver Classroom!

Sara Steel

3 to 5 Year Old Room – Blue Room

I attended the University of Kansas for 4 years with my Bachelors in Applied Behavioral Science in 2018. I’ve worked at NEEC since September of 2017 but have a long history with the school itself. When I was younger I attended NEEC when it was still known as the lighthouse and knew that I eventually wanted to give back to the school that gave to me. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, going to sporting events, painting.

Allison Mack

3 to 5 Year Old Room – Orange Room

I have a BA in Early Childhood Education from the University of Missouri Kansas City. I worked with Head Start for 8 years, and joined the team at NEEC in August 2019. I have a 3 year old son who has been at NEEC since he was born. I enjoy reading, meditation, yoga, and long distance running.


Sarah Weaver

5 Year Old Room – Copper Room

Hi, my name is Sarah Weaver. I earned my degree in Special Education in 2014 from Missouri Western State University. I married my husband in 2018 and we have a little boy. We enjoy spending time together with our families and cheering on our KC Chiefs! I worked with children ages 3-5 with disabilities the last 6 years before I started at NEEC in June. I couldn’t be happier to join such an incredible team!

Jessica Paulsen

5 Year Old Room – Silver Room

Sarah Bruce

Site Director

Before/After/Summer School Program- Learn 4 Life
Ages Kindergarten to 13 (children with IEP)

Sarah started her career at Northland Early Education Center in September 1995 while she was still in high school.  She started out as an Assistant Teacher in a 2-year-old classroom. Sarah quickly realized that she had a passion and the patience to care for young children and started working toward her Early Childhood Degree.  For nearly 20 years, Sarah has been a Lead Teacher with the 2’s, 3-5’s and school-age children. Sarah is excited to bring her knowledge as a seasoned teacher and ensures that each child has a safe place where they can participate in learning to develop skills for autonomous living, so they can succeed at their highest level possible.  


Kate Jamis – Physical Therapy

Kate Jamis is Northland Early Education Center’s Physical Therapist. Kate graduated with a Master’s of Physical Therapy from Mizzou in 2008. She has 10 years of experience in pediatrics in Kansas City.  She has extensive specialized training in aquatic therapy and partial weight bearing treadmill training.  Kate has worked in private preschools, public schools, and outpatient clinics.  Kate’s passion is working with children, families, and teachers through early intervention.

Tina Kemp – Speech and Language Pathology

Tina Kemp is Northland Early Education Center’s Speech and Language Pathologist. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University and her Master’s Degree from Oklahoma State University. Tina has been providing speech and language pathology services for NEEC kids since April 2008. She lives in Parkville with her husband, two sons and daughter. Tina loves working with the kids and their families here at the center!

Brooke Boyd – Special Instruction

Brooke Boyd is Northland Early Education Center’s Special Instructor. Brooke received her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education and Rehabilitation from the University of Arizona her master’s degree from the University of Texas. She has her teacher certification in Early Childhood Education as well as Special Education, Cross Categorical (K-12). Special Instruction provides integration of skills from all areas of development into the child’s natural environment and daily routine. Brooke grew up in the northland and lives in Liberty with her husband, daughter and son.

Melissa White – Occupational Therapy

Melissa White is Northland Early Education Center’s Occupational Therapist.  Melissa obtained her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Rockhurst University. She has served the birth to three and school based population for nearly 10 years. Melissa has extensive continuing education in the area of feeding, sensory and reflex integration including Beckman Oral motor training, Pediatric Vital Stem certification to highlight a few. She is also a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association.  Melissa is a sincere, caring and skilled practitioner that brings a positive and fun approach to working with children and families.

Barb McKeown – Occupational Therapy

Barb McKeown is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. She has worked as a Therapy Assistant for 15 years. She graduated from Penn Valley Community College with an Associate’s Degree through the Occupational Therapy Assistant in 2004, , and was certified by through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy in the same year. Prior to earning her Associate’s Degree, Barb earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996 from Northeast Missouri State University. She is placing a focus on furthering her education with an emphasis on early intervention for autism, early intervention for social-emotional development and sensory motor play in early intervention.




Employment Opportunities

Northland Early Education Center will accept employment applications at any time; however, openings depend upon the school’s need. Please submit applications to the following address:

Northland Early Education Center  |  8630 North Oak Trafficway  |  Kansas City, MO 64155

CLICK HERE to apply online

For questions please contact us at 816-420-9005.

Northland Early Education Center is an Equal Opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, gender identity or expression, or any other basis protected by local, state, or federal law. This policy applies with regard to all aspects of one’s employment, including hiring, promotion, compensation, eligibility for benefits, and termination.


Board of Directors

Amy Francois


Amie Francois currently owns and operates Pediatric Smiles Dentistry alongside her husband, Dr. Ryan Francois.  They are thrilled to be serving children’s health needs in the Northland.  A native of Kansas City, Amie graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia and then attended graduate school at the University of California-Davis.  After graduating, she spent many years in both non-profit and higher education doing community outreach and fundraising for organizations such as the Crocker Art Museum and the University of California-San Francisco.  She is excited to bring these skills to the Fund Development Committee.

Amie and her husband live in Liberty with their two young sons, Evan and Ethan.  Seeing the positive effect of early childhood education on both of her children has made Amie a passionate advocate for such programs and she is excited to contribute her energy and expertise to the Northland Early Education Center.

StephanieWalkerSandy Walker

Vice President

Sandy Walker, PHR, SHRM-CP is the Vice President Human Resources for  Railcrew Xpress in Lenexa, KS. Her education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Management and Marketing from the University of Nebraska at  Kearney.   In addition to a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management.  Sandy has volunteered on the Board for Northland Early Education Center since 2003, where she served two terms as Board President. In addition, Sandy and her husband Chuck have two children, Sierra and Forrest.

Matt Lyons


Matt Lyons is a Senior Analyst in Investor Relations and Business Development at Cerner Corporation in North Kansas City.  He is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a Bachelor’s degree and dual emphasis in      Finance & Banking and Real Estate.  Employed at Cerner since college, Matt has held roles in consulting, early in his career, and now in Finance for over ten years.  Matt currently serves on the Finance committee for the Northland Early Education Center and supports the school’s mission any way he can.   A lifelong Northlander, Matt and his wife, Beth, currently reside in Platte City with their son, Miles, and two dogs, Auggie and Roxy.

Jeni Schrimsher


Jeni Schrimsher owns and operates Voyages by Jeni, a full-service travel agency with clients located across the US and Canada.  She was born and raised in the Northland and graduated from Missouri State University, but her passion for travel and a career in real estate investment trusts led her to Los Angeles, San Diego and New York City.  Jeni traveled extensively across the US, Europe and Asia, to manage strategic partnerships, serving on the boards of regional and international life science associations as well as research and non-profit institutions.  Jeni was thrilled to relocate back home to Kansas City in 2011, where she could start her own travel business and devote her spare time and energy to volunteering for institutions that benefit her hometown, like Northland Early Education Center, the Parkville Symphonic Band and Parkville Presbyterian Church.

Jeni joined the Northland Early Education Center Board in January 2018 after working on the annual Hangar Party committee for two years.  Her son Henry is a recent graduate of Northland Early Education Center, so Jeni has seen firsthand the positive effects of a quality early education from Northland Early Education Center and how the fully inclusive classroom environment has enriched both of their lives.

Jill Ashby

Jill Ashby brings a real passion for avocation for children and community  involvement to the Northland Early Education Center, where she serves on the  Fund Development and Hangar Party Planning Committees. She has worked for Deloitte for the past 16 years and is the Business Program Manager for the  CFO. Jill has spent many years volunteering with organizations like Children’s Mercy, Easter Seals and March of Dimes.

Jill and her husband, Denys, reside in Kansas City North with their son, Chase who is in elementary school and has benefited from early intervention services like those that Northland Early Education Center provides. Jill is a Northlander through and through and is very proud to be a part of Northland Early Education Center, supporting their mission to provide quality early education and therapy services for children who have special needs and typical needs.  Jill wanted to serve on the Board of Directors to continue advocating for all children.


Tammy Butler

Tammy is native of the Kansas City northland and has taught Elementary   school in the North Kansas City School District for 23 years. Tammy’s love  of children and her desire to help them reach their full potential  inspired her  career. Tammy graduated from UMKC with a BS in Elementary Education and completed her Masters in Education at Webster University. Tammy retired in 2013 with 27 years of teaching and loving hundreds of children.

LisaHurleyLisa Hurley

Elizabeth (Lisa) Hurley is an attorney practicing with the law firm of Fox, Partee and Nigro. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and from The University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law. After graduation, Lisa worked for Legal Aid of Western Missouri representing poor and indigent clients. Currently her focus is in the areas of municipal, traffic and criminal defense.

Lisa and her husband, Jeff, reside in Kansas City North with their two daughters, Kristen and Kaitlin. She also has a son, Nathan who is married with two children. Lisa spends her free time being involved in her girls’ school activities and watching her children’s sporting activities. She also is active in the Northland Race for Life, which does fundraising for cancer research and treatment.

MichelleMarriottMichelle Lyons Marriott

Michelle litigates patent, trademark, copyright, licensing, and trade secret issues for ERISE IP, P.A. She has handled cases at trial and on appeal, in state and federal courts and through \arbitration, representing both plaintiffs and defendants.

Michelle graduated summa cum laude with undergraduate degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from the University of Missouri. Michelle attended Vanderbilt University Law School, where she was the managing editor of the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, and was a justice on Vanderbilt’s Moot Court Board. After law school, Michelle served as a law clerk to the Honorable Duane Benton on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and on the Supreme Court of Missouri. She began her career in private practice as a litigator at Baker Botts LLP in Dallas, Texas.

Michelle’s recognition includes earning the designation of Rising Star from KC Business magazine in 2014. Michelle is active in the community, and has served on Northland Early Education Center’s board of directors since 2012.

Stephanie Wiley

Stephanie brings a real passion for financial literacy and community involvement to the Northland Early Education Center, where she serves on the Finance    Committee. She has worked for CommunityAmerica Credit Union for the past eight years and is currently the Regional Market Director for Wyandotte and Johnson county Kansas. Stephanie attended Missouri Western University earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and in 2008 completed her MBA. She also completed the prestigious Leadership Northland through the Northland Chamber in 2010 and Shawnee Leadership through the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce in 2014.

Stephanie is an avid volunteer for Wayside Waifs and Great Plains SPCA as a foster parent for dogs and cats. Having lived in the Northland her whole life, Stephanie is a Northlander through and through.  Northland Early Education Center’s mission to provide quality early education and therapy services for children who have special needs and typical needs is the reason she wanted to serve on the Board of Directors; Stephanie has a special bond with her younger brother who has special needs.

Kelly Zamboni

Kelly is a learning professional for a large bank in Kansas City. Kelly has more than 15 years of experience in the learning and development space. His professional background includes roles in media, instructional design, eLearning development, performance support and IT. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, hunting for antiques and physical fitness.