The finest feature of our program at the Acton Barn is the quality of our teaching staff. They are caring, loving people who nurture and teach both the children and their parents. In a cooperative, the parents are afforded the unique opportunity to work with the teachers to educate their children. Our teachers are selected with this in mind. All of them are committed to the concept of cooperative education and enjoy their work with both children and parents alike.
Nancy Tang – Director / Lead Teacher
“Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this.”
I am honored to be director of the Acton Barn and to be a part of this amazing supportive community. The Barn has long stood for recognizing and nurturing individual children, families and teachers for who they are and allowing them to flourish in their own unique ways.
I have been enjoying bringing my creative engaging style of teaching to the Barn since 1997 when I joined the teaching team as a lead teacher. I believe in listening, truly listening to children then bringing experiences to address their developmental needs through hands on discovery and experimentation. When we let go of our own egos and ideas about how and why we believe things should be, we open ourselves up to following the discoveries of the young and to new and fresh approaches to thought. My lesson plans are open and flexible so that I may be spontaneous in my teaching while keeping in mind the theories of Howard Gardner who said, “The biggest mistake of past centuries in teaching has been to treat all students as if they were variants of the same individual.”
As director I am lucky to work with a talented, dedicated and diverse team of teachers and I celebrate the unique qualities each brings to our community. Together we meld our teaching styles to provide a smorgasbord of opportunities for the children and families that we serve.
I have been working in the field of education for over 30 years. In addition to my 20 years teaching at the Barn, my resume includes ten years of caring for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in my own family day care, over three years of teaching English as a second language to children and working as an administrator in a large afterschool program in Boston’s Chinatown. I hold a Masters Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College, a Bachelors Degree in English from the University of New Hampshire, and recently received a Leadership in Early Childhood Education certificate from Quinsigamond Community College and Worcester State University. I have also completed numerous courses in Early Childhood Education from Lesley and Wheelock Colleges.
I live in Westford, MA where I have served on the Norman E. Day School and Robinson School’s Advisory Councils as parent and community member at large. I volunteered as a coach for the creative thinking program Odyssey of the Mind and served as Secretary on the Acton Barn Cooperative Board of Directors when my children attended the school from 1993-1996. I am the mother of two grown children, grandmother to one and an avid competitive rower with Westford Community Rowing.
Julia Cates – Lead Teacher/ Assistant Director
Albert Einstein once said, “Play is the highest form of research,” and to quote Fred Rogers, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning, play is really the work of children.” I believe my job as an educator is to facilitate learning by providing each child with a secure, stimulating, and rich environment; offering creative, engaging hands on activities; and giving each child the freedom to explore and direct their own play.
I work on delivering these ideals to our school each day. I carefully think about the best way to engage children and how to present materials for children to comfortably access and explore. Recently I helped expand our play choices with the introduction of a blackboard to the Barn’s outdoor Art Center and a multi-function water table to our Messy Materials/Mud Kitchen area.
I joined the Barn community in 1996 when my children began attending school, and over the next seven years I held a variety of board positions including Parent Board Liaison, Fundraising Chair and Board Chairperson. In 2006 I joined the Acton Barn’s teaching team as a teaching assistant. I was inspired to return to school and I earned my teaching certificate and I recently became Director certified. I continue to take classes and attend workshops on childhood development. I enjoy incorporating what I learn into our school’s curriculum and best practices. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering from
Penn State University and I worked as an architectural lighting designer in both New York City and in Philadelphia before moving to the Boston area.
I like to be active in my community as well. I have worked on a variety of school and PTO committees, and with several local youth sports leagues. I helped fundraise for the Acton/Boxborough United Way, and I am currently helping to organize a fundraiser for the Acton Food Pantry.
Kathy Krystofik – Lead Teacher
“Do you know the secret of the true scholar? In everyman there is something wherein I may learn of him; and in that I am his pupil.”
I value the cooperative model of education, and I honor the role of parents as their child’s ﬁrst teachers. An important part of my work is learning together with parents about their child’s needs and development, and I strive to support parents’ continuing role as partners in education. I enjoy introducing children to science concepts. I have a keen interest in the natural world, particularly in our local ecosystems. My particular passion is our native birds. As an avid gardener, I enjoy teaching children about the rhythm of the seasons, and I often bring activities with soil and seeds into the classroom. Experiential learning means getting hands muddy, observing closely, and comparing observations with each other. I joined the Acton Barn community in 2001, when my daughter started as a member of the two day class. During my tenure as a parent, I served as a member and chair of the fundraising committee, helping organize the fall show and spring auction. I joined the Barn’s teaching team as a teaching assistant in 2004. I earned my lead teaching certiﬁcate by taking a variety of courses in early childhood development, curriculum studies, and topics in special education. I have a degree in History from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Certiﬁcate of Paralegal Studies from Elms College in Chicopee, MA. I live in Littleton, MA with my husband and daughter. I currently volunteer as a member of the board of the Friends of the Reuben Hoar Library in Littleton, and I recently volunteered on the rebuild of the Castle in the Trees Playground in Littleton.
Namita Dave – Assistant Teacher
My name is Namita Dave and I am an assistant teacher at the Acton Barn. I moved from India to the US in 1988 with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration. On volunteering at a child care center, I discovered a love of working with children. I worked at The Children's Discovery Center, Family Tree Child Care and the Children’s Center of Groton in the early 1990s. During this time, I also worked on and completed courses to be Director 1 certified.
I have worked part time at the Barn from 2008 to 2012 and now work with the Explorers on Thursday afternoons with Nancy. It is amazing to witness the power of experiential learning.
I live in Acton with my husband and two sons. My younger son went to the Barn, where the warm engaging Barn environment, community of parents and the teachers all made me want to once again be a part of the wonder of helping children discover the world around them through play and imagination.
Becky Everhart – Assistant Teacher
My name is Becky Everhart and I have been working with children in some capacity since I was 13 years old. I love the wonder you see in children as they learn. I believe that young children learn best through active play and experience. I remember when I toured the Barn with my children walking out the door and saying that if I could design my own school, it would be the Barn. I loved the philosophy, the school environment and the way the teachers spoke to and interacted with the children. When my twins enrolled in the program in September 2016, I was even more impressed with the staff, they focused on teaching the whole child, not just the skills of math, reading, science and art. I was thrilled to be asked to join the team as an Assistant Teacher in 2017 and have continued to be impressed by the dedicated and talented group of teachers.
In my high school and college years I was always involved in working with children, from a summer program for at risk children to tutoring to babysitting. After graduating from Gettysburg College with a BA in Psychology I moved to Boston and began working for a for a company that provided backup childcare called ChildrenFirst. Working with different children every day gave me great insight on how to connect with children in even a short one-day visit. After ChildrenFirst was bought by Bright Horizons I was promoted from Lead Teacher to Director and worked as a director for Bright Horizons for 7 years, first in their back up centers and then in their full-time child care centers in the suburbs. While working I earned my Masters in Early Childhood Education from Lesley University and had an incredible experience student teaching in a combined first and second grade classroom in Cambridge.
After my twins were born I stayed home with them and became active in the Acton community. I volunteer as the Craft Hour Coordinator for the Acton Boxborough Family Network and have loved meeting so many local families while still getting to create fun and educational activities for children. I have also been active on the board of the Barn, as the extended day coordinator and as a member of the Membership Committee.
Linda Merchant – Assistant Teacher
My name is Linda Merchant and I have been an assistant teacher at The Barn since 2013. Prior to working at The Barn, I was an audiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for 20 years. I have a Master’s Degree in Audiology from The University of Virginia.
I have lived in Acton for 25 years and my two adult daughters went through the Acton Boxborough school system. I have always loved working with children and volunteered as much as I could when my children were young. It’s been a great joy that I found a second career at The Barn.
I have had opportunities to go back into Audiology and I was recently asked why I don’t. As I thought about my answer, it was clear to me that it’s because I love what I’m doing. Working and playing with the children, laughing with them and comforting them makes me a better person. I’m thrilled to be a part of this wonderful preschool.
Hilary Sheehy – Assistant Teacher
My name is Hilary Sheehy, and I am the assistant teacher for the Three Day Morning Class. I joined the teaching staff after being an active parent for two and a half years during my youngest son’s enrollment at the Barn. I support the Barn’s teaching paradigm of learning through play. The Barn’s classroom environment fosters active learning and supports healthy growth and development for preschool children. It is through play that children of all ages learn and engage in their world.
In 1997 I graduated from Tufts University with a BA in Child Development at the Elliot Pearson School and minored in Biology. At that time in my life I was pursuing a career in Veterinary Medicine and most of my experience was working with animals. While at Tufts I was fortunate enough to study under Dr. David Elkind, a child development expert and took many graduate level classes. After eight years working in animal hospitals, I returned to school at Springfield College in 2005. Here I began working towards a master’s degree in Elementary Education. I specifically enjoyed researching teaching practices that combined both of my passions, animals and children.
I have been a resident of Massachusetts since childhood, and grew up on the South Shore. I currently reside in the town of Acton and I have lived here for eight years. I have three boys who are currently in elementary school and have volunteered in their classrooms in various ways. I also coach town soccer. Being a mother of three boys has been by far one of my most fulfilling life achievements! When not teaching at the Barn, I enjoy spending time with my family, gardening and being outside, and birding in the local woods and conservation lands.
Kirsten Spargo – Assistant Teacher
I joined the Barn as a parent in 2013. I quickly became interested in learning as much as I could about our school. After attending board meetings and being part of the Fundraising Committee, the Parent Board Liaison team and the Membership Committee, it became apparent that the energy, enduring friendships and leadership within our community were very special.
Eventually it became time for my children to graduate from The Barn and I was contemplating a life beyond our school. When an opportunity arose to join the team, I jumped at the chance to be a Teaching Assistant.
Before becoming a Mom, I worked as an Occupational Therapist. After obtaining my Bachelor’s of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2001, I worked in the acute hospital setting for 3 years. I then moved to the US and maintained my professional credentials and worked in various adult rehabilitation settings. My background is invaluable in the classroom. I am always looking for new activities for the classroom to help with fine motor coordination, pre-writing and age appropriate writing. I am currently pursuing becoming a Learning without Tears, Level 1 Hand Writing Specialist.
The Barn fully embraces my creativity and love of art. I value engaging with the children through play involving building and engineering, painting, and drawing, sculpting, writing…When you come in, find my door mural and take a minute to count all the animals!