Meet Our Professional Team
Our staff is composed of well-trained and deeply caring professionals. All caregivers undergo extensive background checks, have CPR and First Aid certifications, and participate in on-going professional development.
The founding director of our program in 1990, Cindy Lea Ligon has almost 40 years of experience in the early childhood field. Cindy has a BS in Child and Family Studies with an emphasis in Child Development from UT, Knoxville. She has been a toddler and preschool teacher; a cognitive behaviorist with children with social/emotional needs; a writer and editor of ECE training materials; the director at three diverse early childhood programs; and an avid trainer on the local, state and national level. She serves on the board for the Tennessee Association for Children’s Early Education (TACEE); is an active member the TN Reggio Study Group; and is passionate about respecting young children and their families and supporting the play, inquiry and joy essential for a rich childhood.
One of the original McKendree teachers, Betty Witt, was on hand in 1990 when we welcomed our first family into care. Betty spent most of her McKendree years as an infant and toddler teacher, and because of her exceptional work ethic and leadership, she was also the center’s Director Designee, assuming responsibility in the Director’s absence. In 2015, Betty was officially named as the Assistant Director and moved full-time into an administrative position. She manages accounts payable, staff scheduling, and a barrage of other managerial tasks that keep the center ticking.
Teaching Teams, Infants
Navigators Class (Infants)
With a passion for caring for others, Tina Yarbro joined our program in 1993 as a toddler teacher and has been a consistent and loving infant and toddler teacher ever since. Tina has completed the Tennessee Early Learning Training Alliance program along with several child development classes at NSCC. Because of her exemplary work and leadership skills, Tina was recognized as our Infant Mentor Teacher in 2015.
Shirrell Wright started as a substitute and floater with us in 1994 and soon found her calling as a permanent infant caregiver. She has earned a Tennessee Early Learning Training Alliance Certificate and has additionally taken early childhood classes at NSCC. She is also a doting mother and grandmother.
New to our program in 2017, Sara Alton cares for our youngest children in the Navigators Class in the afternoons. Sara recently moved to Nashville from Boston where she was a an Associate Teacher at Beacon Hill Nursery School. Sara holds a BS in Early Childhood Development from Colby-Sawyer College in NH and has had over seven years of rich experience working with young children and their families.
Movers and Shakers Class (Infants)
Originally from St. Louis, Zoe Davydov moved to Nashville and into a nanny position soon after completing her BA in History from Beloit College. Work as a nanny piqued Zoe’s interest in child-directed play and learning and led her to McKendree in 2015 where she is a caregiver in the infant program. Additionally, Zoe has participated as a trainer sharing her exemplary work with infants and toddlers with other early care teachers.
Following extensive experience as our full-time infant/toddler floater, Chantel Thompson joined the Movers & Shakers class as a co-teacher in 2017. A part of our team since 2015, Chantel moved from a Native American Reservation in Akwesasne, NY to Nashville after earning a BS in Early Childhood Studies at State University of New York. Additionally, she completed an internship in New Zealand at a Reggio-inspired preschool program.
Debbie McCormick rounds out the Movers & Shakers Class as the afternoon assistant teacher and also spends her mornings as a floater with both infant rooms. With over thirty years of experience as a teacher of young children (six of these years as an early learning teacher with infants and toddlers), Debbie brings of wealth of experience to our program. She holds an MA in Education along with a BS in Elementary and Special Education.
Teaching Teams, Toddler
Discoverers Class (Young Toddlers)
Recognized for her excellent understanding of Reggio-inspired work with toddlers, Heather Marshall was appointed as McKendree’s Mentor Toddler Teacher in 2015. A former early care teacher and child care center director, Heather joined our program in 1997 as a floater and eventually as a toddler teacher. Heather is an active member of the TN Reggio Study Group and is a trainer on the local, state and national level.
After working as a floater in both our infant and young toddler program, Lindsey Hyde joined the Discoverers Class as a co-teacher in 2017. Lindsey has a degree in Early Childhood Education from Trevecca Nazarene University and has a heart for mission work with children.
Explorers Class (Young Toddlers)
A valued part of our team since 2005, Charcia Renwick is a co-teacher in the Explorers Classroom. Charcia is pursuing her Associates degree in Early Childhood from NSCC and loves to engage in play and hands-on learning with one and two-year olds.
Galon Greer joined the McKendree team in 2016 as a substitute. Because of his wonderful rapport with the children, he joined the Young Toddler Team as a classroom teacher. He partners with Charcia in the Explorers Classroom. Galon holds a BS in Agriculture Education from UT Knoxville (and yes, he serves on our garden team!). Additionally, he has 18 years of experience with the Boy Scouts as an Eagle Scout, a troupe leader, and a camp counselor.
Investigators Class (Older Toddlers)
Lindsey Gallagher joined our program in 2014 and spent 2 1/2 years working as a co-teacher in our young toddler program. In 2017, Lindsey “moved up” to co-teacher in the Investigators class. She has a BS in Human Development and Family Studies from Penn State University.
Lauren Sacco began with us as a floater then found her permanent home co-teaching with Lindsey in the Investigators Class. Originally from Indiana, Lauren earned an Associate in Early Childhood Development and worked in early care programs in IN, OH, and MI before moving to Nashville and joining our team in 2017.
Teaching Teams, Preschool
Inventors Class (Preschool Multi-aged Class)
Hannah Ross joined our team in 2013 and spent almost four years as a teacher in the older toddler program. In 2017 she joined the Inventors Class where she co-teaches with Laura. Additionally, Hannah serves as a Preschool/ECERS Mentor teacher for our program. Hannah has a BS in Psychology from UT Knoxville and over seven years as an early care classroom teacher.
Laura Atherton stepped into our Inventors Class as a teacher in 2016. Laura has a BS in Child Development and Family Relations from TN Tech and has worked with young children as an early preschool teacher and as an active volunteer involved in children’s ministry works.
Researchers Class (Multi-aged Preschool)
Danielle Ficili joined our program in 2012 after completing an AS in Early Childhood Education from NSCC. Designated as one of our Early Childhood Mentor teachers, Danielle consistently demonstrates a solid understanding of constructivist theory and provides the children in her care (3, 4 and 5 years olds) rich experiences in inquiry-based play. Danielle is also a new mommy.
Constructivist Class (Pre-K)
Anthony Creasy joined our team as a preschool teacher in 2009. While working full-time, he earned an AAS in Early Childhood Education, followed soon thereafter with a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Communications and Child Development. Anthony brings exceptional skills as a provocative “research assistant” for his four and five-year old learners. When we opened a new pre-K classroom in 2015, Anthony was the perfect fit to help design and lead the class.
Program Support Team
Gina Givens has been a part of our program since 1990. For over twenty years she was a preschool classroom teacher, and now serves as our Center Floater. In addition to caring for older toddlers each late afternoon and managing the kitchen for snacks and lunch, Gina offers classroom coverage for teachers during their planning time, collaboration meetings, and as an occasional substitute. Gina loves getting to spend time with all the children and staff.
In addition to her work in the infant program, Sara Alton is our Atelierista (studio teacher) for the toddler and preschool classrooms. Her role is to provoke and observe children’s creative processes and learning through collaboration with teacher and children’s experiences in the Atelier.
Sarah Emighy is a substitute for our program. She worked with our young toddler team for two years as a co-teacher in the Explorers classroom before changing her role at the center. Sarah has a degree in Communications from MTSU.
Jes Cleland began her association with McKendree in 2010 when she worked as a toddler teacher in the Investigators Class. Jes has a BA in Communications and a rich background in the arts; she is a song writer, bass player, drama teacher, graphic artist, and music teacher. In 2013, Jes rolled many of these gifts together and created “Music U” a hands-on music enrichment class that she offers at McKendree.
A former Spanish teacher, Aisha Garcia joined as team as a substitute in the Navigators Class during a teacher’s maternity leave. Aisha has a BS in Spanish and is working toward a Master of Health Science degree at Meharry Medical College.