Northland Early Education Center (NEEC) 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. NEEC’s incomparable team consists of five therapists, twelve lead teachers, 24 assistant teachers, a kitchen manager and assistant, and six 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 itself on having one the most highly qualified teaching personnel teams in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Lead teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in early education, special education, or a related field. Many assistant teachers also hold a bachelor’s degree and/or have or are working toward an associate degree in early education. NEEC’s five therapists, who specialize in physical and occupational therapy, speech and language pathology and special instruction and applied behavioral analysis, 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 required to complete 12 hours of approved training annually. 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, Conscious Discipline training, Project Construct training, and teamwork seminars. In addition, NEEC holds teacher’s meetings, therapy meetings, and staff 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 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


Tammy Dodd – Director of Programs

Tammy started at Northland Early Education Center in 2008. In 2017, she was promoted to Lead Teacher while working on earning her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. In February 2021 she was promoted to the position of Assistant Program Director. In May of 2023, Tammy earned her bachelor’s degree from Park University and then in December of 2023, Tammy was promoted again to Director of Programs.

Tammy loves working in the Early Childhood Education field; it is her passion! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends.

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

Email Tammy


 Lauren Pitnick – Assistant Program Director

Lauren has worked at NEEC since February 2014. She started as an assistant teacher in a toddler room and was promoted to lead teacher in the Green room in January 2017. From there, she moved into the Lead teacher role in the Brown room, a 2-year-old classroom, in January of 2023. Lauren completed her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education at Park University in December of 2022. Lauren started as the Assistant Program Director in January of 2024. Lauren and her husband have a son and a daughter who also attended NEEC.

Email Lauren


Natasha Lehman – Director of Development

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). Natasha was one of 50 recipients throughout the nation of the Terri Lynn Lockoff Child Care Foundation award in 2015.From the Brown room, she transitioned with another group of students to the Orange room (3 to 5 year old classroom), where she stayed until being promoted to NEEC’s, Program Director in December of 2017.

In December of 2023, Natasha accepted the position of Director of Development to continue sharing her passion for the mission and vision of NEEC through fundraising and community outreach.

In her free time, Natasha enjoys spending time with her husband, Ben and two children, Garrett an Georgia.

Email Natasha


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.

As Office Manager, Cindy is responsible for tuition deduction, greeting families, and other clerical duties.

Email Cindy


Mary Shurtz – Office Assistant

Mary Shurtz began her position as Office Assistant in May of 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.

As Office Assistant, Mary is responsible for the CACFood Program, maintaining staff files, and other clerical duties.

Email Mary


Lead Teachers

Paula Morrow

Infant Room / Birth to 12 Months – Pink Room

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


Laurie Scott

Infant Room / Birth to 12 Months – Purple Room

Laurie Scott has worked in early childhood as a lead teacher in various age groups for over 20 years. She started as Lead Teacher in the Purple room in October of 2021. Laurie loves seeing the infants move through their developmental stages of growth.

Laurie and her husband wed in April of 2023, and she enjoys spending time with her family, reading books, watching cooking shows, and going to the movies.


Amy Croghan

1 Year Old Room – Red Room

Amy started working at NEEC in 2006. She has been the lead teacher in the Red room for her entire NEEC career. Amy has her bachelor’s degree in music therapy from the University of Kansas and enjoys incorporating music into lesson plans and daily tasks. She is married and has a handsome son and beautiful daughter who have both attended school at NEEC. She enjoys watching young children absorb all the information around them and the relationships they form at such a young age.


Tara Barnes

1 Year Old Room – Yellow Room

Tara has been working in Education for 25 years.  She has a B.A in History and a B.S. in Geology as well as a Masters in Ecology and Environmental Education.  Through the years, Tara has had the opportunity to learn and grow in the field of education.  She started as a simple swim instructor and went on to be a backcountry environmental instructor.

Through her experience with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) she became proficient, eventually excelling at creating and writing educational programs that adhered to state curriculum standards. In the past 10 years, Tara has turned her passion of teaching in the direction of the field of ESL; first with a TEFL certificate and later with an extensive course for the IDELT (International Diploma in English Language Teaching) from the BridgeTEFL program.

The past 5 year, Tara has had the opportunity to expand her skills into the realm of early childhood education.  She enjoys crafting, hiking, kayaking, reading, and playing with her dog Bilbo.


Kitana Vaughn

2 Year Old Room – Brown Room

Kitana started at NEEC as an assistant teacher in the Yellow room, a toddler room, in June of 2o22. In January of 2023, Kitana moved to the Brown room, a 2-year-old classroom as an assistant teacher. Kitana is currently taking college courses toward her business administration degree and started as the Brown room lead teacher in January of 2024. Kitana enjoys seeing the children in her classroom meet new milestones!




2 Year Old Room – Teal Room



Kayla Horton

2 Year Old Room – Green Room

Kayla has worked in early education since 2020, where she started off in a preschool room. She has worked in the education field since graduating from the University of Central Missouri in 2017 with a Bachelors in Elementary Education. Kayla has worked with kids from the ages of 6 months to 16 years old and spent 1 year in a self-contained special education classroom. She spends her free time reading and relaxing with her husband and daughter.


Jami Schwermer

3 to 5 Year Old Room – Blue Room

Jami Schwermer, is the lead teacher in the Blue room. She has four kids; three girls and a boy. Her and her husband recently became Grandparents! She has been in early childhood education for 20 years and is completing her degree at Park University. In her free time, she likes to garden, read, and to spend time with her family.


Amanda Spencer

3 to 5 Year Old Room – Orange Room

Amanda Spencer is the mother to four beautiful children; one of which attends NEEC. She loves to garden in her spare time and enjoys bringing that love to her classroom. She is excited to make salsa, pickles, pesto, and focaccia bread with her harvest. She is very creative and has an avid reader. Amanda was an assistant teacher in the Orange room prior to taking on the role of Lead in April of 2024. Amanda is attending Park University to obtain her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.


Natalie Day

5 Year Old Room – Copper Room

Natalie Day is the Copper Room lead teacher. She is currently working towards her Early Childhood Education Degree, and has been working at NEEC since January of 2023. Natalie has 5 siblings ranging from age 2, to 32! Natalie is very excited to get to work with the Copper room children and families!


Charity Shinabarger

5 Year Old Room – Silver Room

Charity joined NEEC in August of 2020. She has a background in working with at-risk kids. She has three children of her own, a son and two daughters. She looks forward to getting to know the families and children she serves in her classroom.

Charity is attending Park University to obtain her degree in Early Childhood Education with a leadership concentration. She has a passion for inclusion and plans to make supporting that passion her lifelong goal. She will continue to work through her degree while leading the Silver Room.


Holly Julo

Site Director – Learn 4 Life – Before/After/Summer School Program

Ages Kindergarten through 5th grade (children with IEP)

Holly Julo has been the Site Director/Lead Teacher for L4L since 2022. She has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Special Education: Early Childhood and Learning Disabilities and has over 25 years of experience in the field of education. She has worked for NEEC as both a Lead and Teacher Assistant. Holly believes that finding a school like NEEC that has both a Mission and Vision Statement that strives for ALL students to reach their potential in a fully inclusive environment has helped her as a preschool teacher to touch and develop the lives of the students and families she serves.

Holly’s family has also been on the receiving end of special needs services for her youngest child, who is now a teenager, and her son would not be as successful today without the early intervention services from NEEC. Being part of a comprehensive team at NEEC allows for a thorough preschool education for all students.



Kate Jamis – Physical Therapy

Kate Jamis is Northland Early Education Center’s Physical Therapist. Kate graduated with a Master 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!


Jennifer Boller – Special Instruction/BCaBA

Jennifer Boller is Northland Early Education Center’s Special Instructor and BCaBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst Assistant).  Jennifer graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Park University and a Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavioral Analysis from the University of North Texas.  Jennifer has worked with young children in a variety of settings for over 30 years and has been a practicing Behavior Analyst Assistant for 9 years.  She has worked extensively with children with Autism over the past 13 years.  Jennifer loves working directly with kids and celebrating those breakthroughs, big or small.  She enjoys helping early learners make strides in communication and behavior.


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.



Northland Early Education Center Board of Directors


2024 Executive Slate


President – 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 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.

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.


Vice President – Valerie Clawson

Valerie Clawson is a Kansas City native and a graduate of UMKC. She has worked for one of the largest KC based companies for 17 years in several different roles and most recently in government operations.

She lives with her husband in Kansas city and their two children. Valerie is a dedicated mother of two, Lucas age 8 and Vivienne age 2. She is a fierce advocate for her own children’s healthcare needs. Through her own family’s journey, she has and continues to use First Steps and private therapy as well as school-based resources. She believes strongly in early intervention care and the amazing impact it has on a person’s life, which is why she is thrilled to be a part of NEEC.


Treasure – Michelle 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.


Secretary – Amie 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.

2024 Board Members


Everrett “Jake” Jacobs

Everett “Jake” Jacobs retired from The Developmental Disabilities Services of Jackson County – EITAS in December of 2022. Prior to his role as Executive Director at The Developmental Disabilities Services of Jackson County, Jake served as Executive Director of Pawnee Mental Health Services in Manhattan, Kansas, and Chief Operating Officer at Tri-County Mental Health Services. Jake has nearly 30 years of experience working for non-profits. He joined NEEC’s board in December of 2022 and currently serves on the finance board subcommittee. Jake and his wife live in the northland and continue to serve their community.


Joe Kamler

Joe Kamler works as a Project Manager for JE Dunn Construction Company in Kansas City. He has over 10 years of experience working with a variety of clients across the metro, including several non-profit and mission-driven organizations. Joe has a passion for building community in Kansas City, which goes beyond the brick and mortar buildings that he works on every day. Joe graduated from Missouri State University in Springfield, MO where he studied Construction Management. Joe lives in the Northland with his wife Jessi.


Jessica King

Jessica and her husband Chris live in Liberty with their two daughters, Kaylen and Clara, as well as their dog Scooter. After completing her undergraduate degree at Union University in Tennessee, Jessica completed her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Central Missouri. She is a dedicated Special Education teacher in Liberty Public Schools and has worked at the high school level for 16 years. Jessica takes on a leadership role at the Northland Job Olympics, a skills-based competition that hosts over 100 students annually to showcase vocational and interview skills to potential employers. In addition to her role in Job Olympics, she teaches a class for neurodiverse young adults with Authentic Connections, LLC focusing on life after high school surrounding all things “adulting.” Jessica is a passionate advocate for individuals with disabilities and hopes that everyone has the opportunity to live their own satisfying lives.


Biniam A Kebede

Biniam is a Kansas City based multidisciplinary designer. He earned his bachelor’s in Architecture/Environmental Design from University of Houston and his masters in Industrial Design & Product design from RISD (Rhode Island school of design)


Biniam is currently an independent consultant in Software and product design. Previously, Biniam was a Sr software product designer for Stratasys inc and Inventables Inc.


Biniam is a husband to Dr. Nina Assefa and a father to two boys, Mattaniah and Lukas.