Our Team

Carnesha Banks, Director

Carnesha Banks has worked in the early education field for almost twenty years.  In 2015, she earned her Masters of Early Childhood Education. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology.

During her career she has held the positions of teacher, education coordinator, and assistant director. She has worked for Kindercare Learning centers, Bright Horizons Family Solutions at Johns Hopkins, and Catholic Charities Head Start program. She has supervised teaching staff and assisted with center re-accreditation.

Ms. Banks has worked in the early education field for almost twenty years.  In 2015, she earned her Masters of Early Childhood Education. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology.

She has been married for over 12 years to her college sweetheart. They have one daughter and one dog. She grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and she has lived in Miami, Baltimore, and now Carroll County. She enjoys reading novels—some of her favorite authors include Tayari Jones, Liane Moriarty, and Jodi Picoult. She also enjoys traveling. Her favorite places to visit are Thailand, New Orleans, and Seattle. Ms. Banks is excited to be joining the Highlandtown Preschool as our next director, and we are thrilled to welcome her to our community.

Callie Colgan, Teacher

Callie Colgan was the first member of our teaching staff here at the Highlandtown Preschool and has done so much to shape the adventurous, exploration-based, nature-focused aspect of our school.

She has a wealth of experience serving our community and providing educational opportunities to learners of all ages and abilities. During her 11 years in our community, Callie has served at the Patterson Park Audubon, Friends of Patterson Park and the Irvine Nature Center’s Nature Preschool and we are lucky to have her experience and creativity at our school.

Callie says that it was through her work as a teacher at the Nature Preschool where she found her true passion in working with our youngest learners. Callie holds a degree in Recreation Therapy from Ohio University, and is currently pursuing her Master of Education. She cultivates the notion that everyone should be able to play hard, learn in a way that best fits their learning style and enjoy pursuing anything and everything that they want.

Channel Freeman-Johnson, Teacher

Greetings! My name is Channel Freeman-Johnson, but all my friends call me “Nellie.” I’ve been caring for young children for 17 years. I received my formal training and education from Sojourner Douglass College. There I received my certification in Early Childhood Education.  I also hold a certification in Infant and Toddler Care. Currently I am studying Early Childhood Education Administration at Ashford University.

My 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 the pace that is right for each individual child. Earlier is not better.” It is my 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.

Melissa Parker, Teacher

Melissa Parker attended the College of Wooster in Ohio where she studied Spanish and political science. She graduated in 2009 from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, where she designed a major in Contemporary Latin American Culture and Politics. After moving to Washington, DC, she completed courses in TESL through Oxford Seminars at George Washington University.

She has experience working in media, educational television, documentary and independent film production, editing and transcription, environmental and nonprofit organizations and in education as a volunteer ESL and citizenship instructor, youth mentor and tutor, and most recently, as a preschool teacher for the bilingual, nature focused Highlandtown Preschool.

She leads a community women’s group called the Hampden Hive and enjoys singing and poetry. 

Nancy Pate, Aide

Nancy has always enjoyed being around preschoolers, and when her youngest child was 1, she started working part time in his preschool and loved it!

Nancy has continued to work in the Early Childhood Field as both a teacher and an administrator. She believes that non-profit, church based programs give a most positive experience for young children. The classroom experience in the first few years should provide a respectful, gentle, and fun play-based environment. 

Nancy moved to Baltimore from Charlotte, NC in December 2014. She has been with the Highlandtown Preschool since January 2019. We are grateful for her wisdom, patience, and love.

Pastor Mark Parker

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark Parker is 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.