Our teachers are what really make Discovery Learning Center special. They are educated, experienced, nurturing, and dedicated early childhood professionals. DLC teachers come to work every day because educating young children is their passion and their career.
Our school requires teachers to be professional, interactive, get dirty, collaborate, nurture, sing, and to laugh. In return, DLC provides a work environment for our staff where their intelligence and creativity is valued. They are given the freedom to explore new topics and create projects and activities based on our student’s emerging interests. Our low ratio (typically 1:6) allows teachers to meet all of our student’s needs.
Linda Smyth – Founder/Co-Owner
With over 40 years of experience as the owner of DLC, Linda has her B.A. degree in Human Development, and a M.S. degree in Child Development. Linda also taught Child Development at the college level for over 24 years. Linda created DLC based on a dream. This dream included a special place for children to grow and develop according their individual timeline. A place where kids could just be kids, get dirty, get loud, explore, and create. A place where children are not simply being prepared for a rigid path, but where a unique path is being prepared for each child based on their talents and interests. This dream also included a place where preschool teachers were valued, respected, and cherished for the true heroes they are. DLC is constantly changing and evolving to meet the needs of our students as they grow, but Linda has always guarded her original dream and philosophy. Linda currently spends her free time helping raise her newest grandchild, Owen. She is also an active “gammy” to her older three grandchildren, Lexi, Emmett and Ellie – all DLC alumni! She is no longer physically at DLC on a daily basis, but stays connected through conversation and group texts with the staff. Thank you for giving the world DLC, Linda!
Jami Charlton – Program Director
Teacher Jami has been at DLC her whole life as she attended DLC as a child. Starting as a volunteer at the age of 17, Jami worked up to an aide/substitute teacher throughout her college years, and finally became a full-time teacher in 2006. She first earned her A.A degree in Early Childhood Education from Sierra College, a B.A. degree in Psychology from Notre Dame de Namur University, and an M.A degree in Child Development from CSUS. Over the last few decades teacher Jami has worked with every age group at DLC. In 2013 teacher she became DLC’s program director. Teacher Jami is very active in the program, always building relationships with the children, teachers and parents. Her number one priority as the director is to support the needs of her staff and the children. When everyone feels supported, DLC can continue to be a connected and nurturing environment where kids and teachers thrive!
Teacher Jami became a mom to Owen in 2022. Being a mom has challenged her, made her grow, and opened her eyes to the struggles parents face in a whole new way. She is honored to be on this new journey and to support other parents along the way!
Bonnie Ward – Dragonfly Group Teacher
Teacher Bonnie began teaching at DLC in 1987. Bonnie holds an A.A degree in Early Childhood Education. Before coming to DLC Bonnie had many years of teaching and director experience at a preschool in El Segundo, Ca. Teacher Bonnie leads the Dragonfly group (middle to older 4’s). Bonnie is a gifted teacher with an amazing knack to make children laugh and smile. She can draw out the shyest of children and quickly learns their likes and dislikes, making them feel right at home. And she is famous around here for her story times. Her voices and funny ad-libbing have every one cracking up! Bonnie has a passion for art and always finds a way to incorporate a variety of media, tools, and materials to enrich her student’s learning experience. Bonnie is an amazing mentor to all staff at DLC, sharing her wealth of knowledge and experience on a daily basis. She is the heart and soul of our program and we are so lucky to have her!
Kimberly Dillon – Ladybug Group Teacher
Teacher Kim began working at DLC in September of 2013. However, she has been teaching in the field for many decades now. Kim team teaches the Ladybug group (young to middle 3’s).
When Kim walked in our doors she said, “I feel like I’ve been searching for this school for forever.” This is because DLC is similar to teacher Kim’s preschool which she attended as a child in Santa Cruz, CA. Her preschool experience was so profound that it led her to pursue a career as an early childhood professional.
Kim values individuality, TRULY hands-on art & science projects, literacy development, and creative movement. She has attended various child development conferences on curriculum approaches, as well as different areas of development, and has a sound understanding of appropriate child development practices. Kim’s number one attribute his her kind and nurturing spirit, and children are drawn to it! When Kim is not at DLC she enjoys photography, gardening, and traveling, and spending time with her husband and son Anthony!
Monique Lobaugh- Squirrel Group Teacher
Teacher Moe came to DLC in February of 2018 with over 20 years’ experience in the child development field! We are so glad she finally found DLC. Moe works with the Squirrel group, our youngest preschool friends. If you have a two-year-old, then you know this can be a particularly challenging time in a child’s life. Moe has the most kind, gentle and patient approach to working with very young children. She sees each individual child and notices their strengths and challenges. Her voice is always soft and understanding. This is just how Moe is all the time…kind, thoughtful, and loving.
Moe’s greatest strengths as the Squirrel group teacher is her ability to help kids who have “big” feelings, or who may be neurodivergent. She sees their individual needs/challenges and finds ways to help them be successful in the group setting. She makes all children feel loved along the way.
When not a DLC Moe loves spending time with her family. She and her husband are high school sweet hearts, and they have son named Antonio. Moe is also very close with her two sisters.
Dannia (Danny) Gonzalez – Butterfly/School-Age Group Teacher
Teacher Danny began working at DLC in March of 2020! Danny has shown so much passion, commitment and grit while learning how to teach and serve children during COVID and beyond. Danny originally became interested in working with young children while caring for her younger siblings. She used to dress as a clown to entertain kids at their birthday parties, and this actually turned into her first job! Danny still pulls out the face paint for the DLC kids and is truly an amazing artist! Teacher Danny puts so much thought and energy into all her planning and activities. She creates a special environment for her Butterfly group and school-age after school program, where every child feels loved and safe. Danny also brings her Mexican heritage into her classroom through music, language, stories, clothing, customs and so much more. Danny is so hard working, thoughtful and gifted…we are truly lucky to have her!
Danny became a mom to baby Belen in 2022! Being a new mom has only made her a stronger and more compassionate teacher! Danny is currently back in school, taking admin classes to support DLC on a new level!
Amber Rivers – Butterfly/School-Age Group Teacher
Amber began “officially” teaching at DLC in June of 2021. Prior to that she was one of our regular substitute teachers. As she visited our center as a sub we all knew she would be a great fit! A few of Amber’s best qualities include her integrity, consistency, patience and even tone with children (even in very challenging circumstances!) and her infectious smile! Amber currently co-teaches the Butterfly group (our 4’s & 5’s) as well as the school-age after school program. Her classroom set up always includes many messy hands-on activities and fun group games like hide and seek! Teacher Amber currently attends American River college where she is majoring in ECE. She plans to then transfer to CSUS to earn a BA in liberal studies. A few words from Amber about her personal life and why she became a teacher.
“I am the oldest of seven and I have a total of four sisters and two brothers and one more on the way! This is where I first began to get a lot of experience in caring for younger kids. I decided to become a teacher because I’ve always enjoyed being around children and young people in general! I love seeing all the kids with their hopes, dreams, and wonders. Overall, I really just love helping others and spending time with kids and I knew I would enjoy working in childcare tremendously. Kids bring so much joy into our lives! I also am aware that there are some children who may not have positive role models in there lives and I really want to be that for them. When I’m not at DLC I love spending time with family and friends but mostly spending time with my son Semaje and his brother Tigan and creating lots of fun memories! I love working at DLC because it’s such a fun and welcoming environment! DLC allows children to be free and unique in there own ways while just enjoying being a kid and having fun! It’s such a great place to work and I’m loving every second of it and super appreciative that my son gets to have so many amazing teachers and friends!”
Nerissa Crisostomo– Dragonfly Group Teacher
Nerissa graduated cum laude from Sacramento State in Spring 2020 and obtained her BA in Philosophy with a concentration in Law, Politics, and Ethics. While earning her degree, she studied care ethics and created space to implement equal access education laws; where she really learned that teaching is a form of activism in and of itself. While quarantined during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nerissa spent most of her time with her youngest brother, who has special needs, learning ways to help him better understand the world in his own way apart from traditional approaches. Ultimately, caring for Nerissa’s siblings is what lead her to further her interest in working in early childhood education. Nerissa is currently obtaining her AA degree in early childhood education and also holds a specialized certificate in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Nerissa is mixed indigenous and loves bringing her Hawaiian and Indigenous heritage to the classroom through music, language, stories, and so much more. Nerissa says “Finding DLC was a dream! I believe the best way for children to learn is to navigate and explore in their own way at their own pace, what better place to do that than at DLC! On my spare time I love to go hiking and exploring state/national parks with my Boyfriend, read as many books as possible, and play with my Kitten Willow!” Nerissa currently co-teaches the Dragonfly group with teacher Bonnie.
Maudrey (Maud) Villalva Hlatky– Ladybug Group Teacher
Teacher Maud joined DLC’s teaching team in August of 2022. Maud is in her second year of college, and is very busy taking all of her child development classes! After obtaining an AA degree, Maud plans to transfer to a university. During her first year at DLC, Maud has worked with both the Squirrel and Ladybug groups – our youngest and most challenging age group! Maud is a very quick learner, diligent and dedicated to making the preschool environment the most special and engaging she can for the kids. There is so much to learn as a brand new teacher, and Maud has done a phenomenal job! Her activities are beautiful, dynamic and messy! The kids love Maud and feel safe and respected in her presence! We are so glad Maud is a part of our team, and love watching her grow and thrive with us!n her free time Maud loves to travel and spend time with friends and family! Fun fact, Maud is also a DLC alumni!