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UNF Preschool

Our Team

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UNF Preschool Teachers and Staff

Headshot of Dr. Gigi Morales David

Director

Dr. Gigi Morales David

g.david@unf.edu

Dr. G is a bilingual Jacksonville native who brings a creative perspective combined with over 30 years of educational experiences including: Preschool & Elementary Teacher, Head of School, Director of Education for HS and EHS, Curriculum Designer, Program Evaluator, Education Consultant and University Professor. She is a published children’s author and has designed a variety of supplemental curriculum and educational resources for teaching children ages 2-12. Her educational background includes a bachelors’ degree in Elementary Education, specialist degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Florida and a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Florida. She has presented at the local, state and national level including multiple times at NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children and NTI (National Training Institute.  Her presentations include School Museum Exhibitions; Promoting Preschool Friendships; ABC Literacy: Art, Books, Community. Her dissertation research received the Mulkeen award for practice centered inquiry. She has co-authored research articles published in Creativity Research Journal, Early Childhood Development and Care, Journal of Research in Childhood Education. Prior to starting her new role as Director of UNF Preschool, she was the Director of Reggio Inspired Learning at Friendship Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC.

Favorite book to read aloud: Giraffe’s Can’t Dance by Giles Andrae

Headshot of Latoya on Picture Day

Program Coordinator

Latoya Luczyszyn

Ms. Latoya has been working at UNF Preschool for 10 years. She loves working with children and their families. She started as a part time teaching assistant and is now the Preschool Coordinator. She has her FCCPC and Director’s credential. Latoya graduated for UNF with her bachelor’s in sociology with a minor is ASL and chemistry.

Latoya was born and raised in Jacksonville and is happily married. Some of her favorite things to do is go to church, hang out with friends, and go to the movies. She enjoys working with children and traveling the world. She is excited to be a part of this team and grow with UNF Preschool.

Favorite Children’s Book: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Headshot of Tasha Felder

Manatees Lead Teacher

Tasha Felder, C.D.A.

Ms. Tasha Felder has been teaching preschool aged children for 17 years. She loves teaching children, especially the little ones. Tasha is a VPK teacher here at the UNF Preschool. She enjoys working with this age group because the children are so eager to have new learning experiences. She likes to watch their excitement about learning how to do something new for the first time or making connections, it makes her day. She loves to dance and do yoga and loves even more that she gets to share her passions with the children. Having the children come up with their own projects has been so much fun for Ms. Tasha.

Ms. Tasha is the only child of two retired Navy parents. She has lived in Jacksonville most of her life but was born in Hawaii and lived in Europe for 6 Years. Tasha is excited to learn and grow with the Manatees! She feels very privileged working with the amazing team of teachers and staff at the UNF Preschool. She has a National C.D.A. and is currently taking classes in Early Childhood Management with a concentration in Elementary Education.

Headshot of Melissa Leone

Manatees Assistant Teacher

Melissa Leone, C.D.A.

Mrs. Melissa began her career in childcare in 2011 by working with children ranging in age from six weeks old to sixth grade. My primary focus has been with preschool age children. Beyond holding a National CDA since 2012, she plans to continue taking certification courses and trainings. She loves to integrate her knowledge of animals and nature into everyday experiences. Mrs. Melissa especially enjoys showing the children safe creatures to interact with such as frogs, lizards and insects.

On the weekends she enjoys spending time with her husband and their two teenage sons.

Favorite Children’s Book: Only a Tree Knows How To Be A Tree by Mary Murphy

Headshot of Maria Beattie

Cardinals Lead Teacher

Maria Beattie, BS in Elementary Education

Maria graduated from the University of Vermont with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a concentration in Anthropology. She has her Pre-K/Primary teaching certification from the state of Florida. She is currently getting her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Early Childhood Education Leadership. She creates a classroom environment where learning is interactive and hands-on. She believes in meeting each individual child where they are at and addressing their individual needs, while also challenging them to the next level of learning. 

Ms. Maria believes that social and emotional development at this age is crucial, and works to teach the children how to interact with others, problem solve, and regulate their emotions. She gives children strategies, skills, and support to deal with different social and emotional issues that arise. She supports children in learning to problem solve with their peers. Ms. Maria has created an environment where she can incorporate learning into all of the centers. Learning is always happening through play, so she is always thinking of different ways she can incorporate the learning goals into the play that the children are engaged in.

Favorite Children’s Book: The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems

Headshot of Julia Hensel

Cardinals Assistant Teacher

Julia Hensel

 Ms. Julia has been working with kids ranging from newborns to teenagers since 2010. She leads the children and youth ministry at her local church. In fact, she has four children of her own. In 2021 she took her passion further and started working in an accredited preschool. Since then, Julia has been able to apply her skills and experience, and is more than happy to join the UNF preschool family. Ms. Julia was born in the Ukraine and speaks both Russian and English.

In her free time she enjoys spending time with family in almost any outdoor settting, as well as traveling to visit her friends and family all across the globe.

Favorite Children's Book: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Headshot of Jessica Frederman

Bears Lead Teacher

Jessica Frederman

Jessica is a UNF Alumni who majored in Early Childhood Education obtaining Pre-K Primary Licensure while also minoring in Teaching English as a Second Language. Jessica has been studying Early Childhood Education since high school and loves to work with young children. She believes that young children deserve to have a high-quality education as our future generation. 

Jessica is originally from central Florida but has been living in Jacksonville for about five years now. She loves to read, cook, and play video games in her free time. She is planning to return to UNF to attend graduate school.

Headshot of Damiana on picture day

Bears Assistant Teacher

Damiana Cleary

Ms. Damiana is the assistant teacher in the bear's classroom and has been working in the bears for a year. Damiana graduated high school with her C.D.A. and 45 hours from The Deparment of Children and Families. She is continuing her education at UNF, majoring in Special Education with a concentration in Disabilities and a minor in A.S.L. She would love to integrate the knowledge from her A.S.L. courses into the classroom. Her goal is to graduate and apply to A.B.A master's programs because she wants to work with children, specifically with autism. Damiana enjoys reading and spending time with her family and cat Oliver. The first read-aloud Damiana ever did was Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes and has had a special place in her heart since.

Favorite Children's Book: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Headshot of Lauren on picture day

Dolphins Assistant Teacher

Lauren Cardenas

Lauren has worked with children from infants to middle schoolers for six years. She enjoys creating art and playing outside with her class. Her favorite thing about the age group she works with is all the funny stories they share with her. She has four siblings and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She also enjoys going to the beach and traveling out of town with family. She has lived in Jacksonville her entire life and is going to school to further her education.

Favorite Children's Book: "What's The Matter Habibi?"

Headshot of Louis Ashley

Part-Time Teaching Assistant

Louis Ashley, C.D.A.

Mr. Louis has been in the educational field for 11 years. He began as a substitute teacher for Grant County Schools in West Virginia. Since then he has taught Pre-K through 12th grade as well as special education before being recruited by the Head Start program in West Virginia. Mr. Louis has worked for a year as a teaching assistant, then 2 years as a lead teacher. He's now been a part of the UNF Preschool family for the last five years, three of which as assistant teacher in the Dolphin classroom. And now you'll see Mr. Louis in the role of substitute teacher here.

He has an AA Degree, C.D.A., and certificate in autism from Marshall University and currently attends UNF taking post baccalaureate classes in Special Education. Mr. Louis is married and has 2 sons, one of which has special needs. He is involved in the Brooks Rehab Adaptive Sports program, ARC of Jacksonville, and frequently volunteers at his son's school.

Favorite Children's Book: The Giving Tree Book by Shel Silverstein

Advisory Board

Objective

The objective of this organization shall be to advise the President on local policies and perform local oversight and operational guidance for the center. The board usually meets once a semester to address issues relating to fund raising, policies and procedures, operating calendar agenda and fee structure. The board supports the center in following its mission and purpose, makes recommendations for the director of the center and supports the director of the center in accomplishing goals and objectives.