Our Team

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Annie Merrick, Director

Annie Merrick has been working in the early childhood field for 17 years. She has worked in every position, starting with afternoon assistant and ending with director.  She earned her BA in Sociology from UNCW and earned her 90 hour and 45 hour certificates. She is married to her husband Chris and lives in Canton with him, her very favorite dog, George, and their daughter, Emma! She loves cooking, watching soccer (go Liverpool!) and home projects.  She is looking forward to meeting all you and your kiddos.

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Channel Freeman-Johnson, Teacher

Channel (Nellie) Freeman-Johnson has been caring for young children for 20 years. Nellie believes strongly in “Intentional teaching.” Creating an explicit, purposeful
and deliberate classroom experience where every moment is a teachable one!
She received her formal training and education from Sojourner Douglass College. There, she received her certification in Early Childhood Education. She also holds a certification in Infant and Toddler Care. Currently she is studying Early Childhood
Education Administration at Kaplan University.
Her teaching style is inspired by the principles of Dr. Magda Gerber. Dr. Gerber states, “Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write and count. It is a small window of time to learn and develop at a pace that is right for each
individual child. Earlier is not better.” It is her greatest hope to foster an environment that is rooted in developmentally appropriate practices, where children are free to explore and investigate the beautiful world around them.
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Elizabeth Stamerra, Teacher

Elizabeth Stamerra is new to The Highlandtown Preschool as well as to Baltimore. After graduating with her B.M. in voice from Ithaca College, she moved to Baltimore and began teaching privately and soon moved to the classroom. She enjoys hiking, dancing, and studying new music. While a Pittsburgh native, Elizabeth enjoys the atmosphere and opportunities Baltimore has to offer.

Much of Elizabeth’s teaching technique grows from Maria Montessori’s wise words: “Play is the work of children.” She knows that when we allow children the freedom to express themselves with others, the lessons they learn are endless. In working with The Highlandtown Preschool staff, she always sees the value in patience, compassion, and team work.
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Courtney Schuscha, Teacher

Courtney Schuscha joined our staff in August 2021. She serves as one of the lead teachers for our two-year-old students. Courtney is currently studying elementary education, wrapping up her bachelor's degree. Along with her studies, she also has completed all her certifications needed for childcare. She enjoys singing, long walks, and spending time with her family and friends.

Ms. Courtney incorporates many different teaching strategies from many different educational theorists.  She often will especially include Piaget and Erikson into the mix. One of Miss Courtney’s favorite quotes does in fact come from Erikson. The quote is “You can see a child play, and it is so close to seeing an artist paint, for in play a child says things without uttering a word. You can see how he solves his problems. You can also see what’s wrong. Young children, especially have enormous creativity, and whatever’s in them rises to the surface in free play”. One of Miss Courtney’s favorite moments in the classroom is watching her students light up when they have learned something new or conquered a skill that they have been wanting to accomplish.

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Leanna Gutermuth, Teacher

Leanna Gutermuth, a native of Baltimore, is a teacher and mom to Ian (2) and Naomi (13). She loves to hang out at her house gardening, cooking, reading, watching TV and playing with her kids.  She has been teaching infants for five years and is excited to teach two year olds especially since her own son is two.  Her teaching philosophy is inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote, “Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.” Her future goal is to become a labor and delivery nurse because she is passionate about and just absolutely loves babies and young children. She is happy to be a part of the team that is establishing the new twos program at The Highlandtown Preschool.

Katie O'Hara, Teacher



Jessica Moore, Afternoon Teacher

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Unika Boston, Classroom Aide

Unika Boston is the aide in our downstairs 2 year old classroom. She is a native of Baltimore and has two rambunctious daughters that fill her life with joy. Currently, she is studying to become a certified teacher. She has a background working with special needs children and particularly those with autism and emotional challenges. She is passionate about positively impacting youth and looks forward to working with preschoolers here at Highlandtown Preschool.

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Ty'jai Smith, Classroom Aide

Ty’jai Smith grew up in East Baltimore and is a graduate of Baltimore Design High School where her pathway was architecture. She comes from a big family with 3 sisters and 1 brother and now is proud to say that she has one niece and nephew. She has been described by her family as a “natural” with children. She worked for three summers as a Youthworks counselor. In this position she planned activities for kindergarten age children, walkied to Patterson Park to take the kids to the pool, and read books at circle time. In her free time, Ty’jai enjoys watching hair styling, nail design and fashion design videos.

She is really excited to be at The Highlandtown Preschool because everyday she is learning something new.  She loves getting to know the kids and seeing their individual personalities.

Ty’jai is looking forward to growing in her role as an aide in the three year old classroom and hopes in the future to become a lead preschool teacher. Her caring demeanor is felt daily as the kids have grown to love her.

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Kristi Watson, Classroom Aide

Kristi Watson has a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education from Frostburg State University. After earning her degree she began teaching instrumental music in Essex and Dundalk. In addition to having her BS she has a masters degree in School Counseling from Loyola College. Prior to joining us, she spent 10 years working as a professional nanny. Kristi lives in Lake Walker with her partner and 11 year old daughter Ava. In her free time she enjoys playing piano and reading. I hope if you see her at the door, you will give her a big welcome!

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Pastor Mark Parker

Pastor Mark Parkeris a native of Baltimore City. He has served as pastor of Breath of God Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, since 2009. Breath of God has roots in Highlandtown going back to 1900, but is always looking to find new ways to serve our neighbors and share God’s love within our community. Mark and his family live in Highlandtown, and his daughter was one of the first students at the preschool.

Mark has been involved with young people and education in a variety of capacities since 2000. During college and graduate school those efforts included two mentoring programs, a high school leadership program, and running the summer camp at the Downtown Sailing Center. Here in Southeast Baltimore, Mark helped to launch a summer camp and after school program, supports our local public schools, and is involved with youth sports. He particularly appreciates our existing partnerships with our local schools, Soccer Without Borders, Soccer Shots, the Southeast Youth Collaborative,and the Refugee Youth Project.

Mark is dedicated to this mission of nurturing children, preparing them for success in school, supporting working families, and providing equitable and just access to education for children of all backgrounds.

See What We're All About

Bring your child for a visit to our preschool and meet our excellent staff