About Kirkwood United Methodist Preschool
KUM Preschool celebrates over 50 years of learning and growing. Our school opened in April, 1962 on a trial basis with 30 children enrolled and a staff of two teachers. The trial was a success and in the fall of 1962, KUM opened with an enrollment of 45 children and a staff of three teachers. KUM continues to offer a variety of classes with an enrollment of over 150 children. There are 20 staff members including specialists who teach movement, music, Spanish and atelier.
KUM believes in providing a strong foundation in social and emotional development through play-based learning. Developmentally appropriate curriculum is designed and facilitated by a dedicated staff of early childhood professionals so that children may achieve personal, social, and academic success while developing a love of learning in the process.
The classroom curriculum is designed to include a large block of time for child-directed play among the various centers in the room. During this time, teachers prepare the classroom with engaging materials and learning opportunities so that children may explore and act on their environment, observe and ask questions, and interact with others. Activities are also provided to practice emerging, age-appropriate skills during teacher directed, small group activities. Further options are also offered throughout the week to enrich the child’s school experience.
The Kindness Code
The Kindness Code is an approach to supporting children’s behavior with empathy, direct
teaching, guidance/re-direction, and positive language. The Kindness Code does not use
threats, anger, punishing, or shaming to ensure cooperation. By using and modeling
kindness through The Kindness Code, we increase the likelihood that our students will
have positive social/emotional growth and increased compliance.
Faculty & Staff
Jenny Goff, Director
Jenny became Director in 2015. She joined the KUM teaching staff in 2004. She has taught a variety of preschool classes at KUM, including Kindergarten Explorers, and the Thursday Enrichment Clubs. She previously taught in the Parkway School district from 1994-2000. Her education includes a B.S. in Elementary Education from Butler University and an M.A. in Early Childhood from Webster University. She enjoys gardening, hiking and traveling with her husband Jeff, daughters Caroline and Meredith, and dog Rosie.
Kristen Blaine, Assistant Director
Kristen joined our staff in 2016 as a Pre-K assistant. She is a longtime KUMC member and has served on several committees with the church, as well as helping to lead VBS. After graduating from William Jewell College with a B.S. in Business Administration, Kristen worked in positions within Human Resources including Compensation and Employee Relations. She and her husband Rob have 2 children, Audrey and Henry. Kristen is an alumni of KUM preschool and continued the legacy with her children. In her free time, she enjoys singing with Bel Canto, walking, reading, baking and spending time with family.
Maureen LaGrand- Lead Teacher, Pre-K
Maureen began teaching at KUM in 2015. She has a B.A. in Elementary Education and Early Education from Missouri State University and an M.A. in Early Childhood Education from Webster University. Maureen is a Kirkwood native who recently moved back to the area with her husband Brian and twin sons, Simon and Henry. She loves reading, gardening and spending time outdoors.
Merribeth Connelly- Lead Teacher, Pre-K
Merribeth joined our staff in 2017. She has taught and served as librarian for 20+ years in both public and private schools (10 of those in PreK). She holds a lifetime teaching certificate in both Texas and Missouri. She received her BA in elementary education from St. Mary’s University and her master of library science from Sam Houston State University. Merribeth and her husband Patrick recently relocated to St. Louis. They have 4 grown children: Jack, Alex, Hillary and Katie. She enjoys reading, cooking and being outdoors.
Lori Thompson- Lead Teacher, Pre-K
Lori Thompson has a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from he University of Dayton. She grew up in St. Louis but only recently moved back after living in Texas, Arkansas, and Illinois. She taught kindergarten for 3 years before having her kids, Kaylee and Ethan. After staying home for a few years, she went back to teaching in the preschool setting and taught all ages. She loves spending time with her kids, her husband Greg, and their two dogs. She also loves the outdoors, traveling and shopping.
Barbara Byrd- Lead Teacher, Pre-K
Barbara joined the teaching staff at KUM in 2018 after 8-plus years teaching 3 & 4’s and 4 & 5’s at Forsyth School. Barbara earned a B.A. in English from Washington University and a M.A.T in Early Childhood Education from Webster University. Barbara and her husband, David, have lived in Kirkwood for over 25 years, where they raised their children Andrew and Caroline. They have one dog and four chickens–all of whom are quite spoiled. She enjoys reading, cooking, baking (cookies are her specialty), sewing, quilting and gardening and in general spending time outdoors.
Julie Trask- Lead Teacher, Pre-K
Julie joined the KUM staff in 2018. She has a B.A. in Elementary and Special Education from the University of Missouri, St. Louis and a M.A. in Education from Maryville University. She previously taught at the elementary level. Julie and her husband live in Kirkwood with their four children and dog. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her family, walk her dog, travel, watch movies, and go to the lake.
Ellyn Armstrong, Lead Teacher, Young 3's
Ellyn joined KUM Preschool in 1993. Along with being a classroom teacher, she also leads Lunch Bunch at KUM. She has a B.S. in Education and has advanced training in Project Construct. Ellyn enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.
Kim Linhares- Lead Teacher, Regular 3’s and Young 3’s
Kim Linhares joined the teaching staff in 2018. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from St. Louis University. She has had experience teaching children ages kindergarten through fifth grades, but has found her passion for early childhood education when she trained and worked for Parents as Teachers. Kim loves being part of the KUM family as her own three children attended a parent co-op preschool when they lived in Columbia, Missouri. Since moving back to St. Louis five years ago, Kim has had the honor of teaching the littlest learners which she considers a privilege and a joy. In her free time, Kim enjoys spending time with outside with her husband, three children and dog, Elsa as she reads and learns how we can all take better care of the Earth.
Mary Cruz- Lead Teacher, Regular 3’s
Mary has been teaching at KUM since 2000. She previously taught the Movement Class, and was also a classroom assistant. She holds a B.S. in Early Childhood from Louisiana State University. She is married and has three children. She enjoys exercising and activities which promote a healthy lifestyle.
Peggy Jaschek- Lead Teacher, 3 and 4 Year Olds
Peggy has been teaching at KUM since 1996. She has a B.A. in Psychology from SLU and holds a lifetime teaching certificate in grades K-8. She also has 15 hours towards her Masters in Education. Peggy is married with three grown sons. She has lived in Kirkwood since 1986. She loves spending time visiting her boys or going to the country with their dog. She LOVES being a teacher at KUM.
Carrie Chen- Lead Teacher, Young 4’s
Carrie joined the teaching staff in 2017. She has a B.A. in Elementary Education from Indiana University, an M.A. from Lindenwood, and is certified in Early Childhood Education. She has previously taught in the elementary and preschool settings in the Parkway School District from 1998-2008, and comes to us after teaching for five years at Parkway United Preschool. Carrie lives in Kirkwood with her husband Alex, her three kids (William, Carter, and Charlotte), and her two dogs. She sings with Bel Canto at Kirkwood United Methodist, as well as enjoys traveling, cooking, gardening, and volunteering at her children’s schools.
Tricia Buckley- Lead Teacher, Young 4's
Tricia joined KUM as an assistant and Lunch Bunch teacher in 2001. She recently became a lead teacher in 2014. Tricia majored in Public Relations at Southeast Missouri State University and is currently taking classes to complete a degree in Early Education. Tricia was born and raised in St. Louis. She has been married to her husband since 1993. She has three children. Tricia loves to cook, craft, and spend time outside.
Julia Comfort, Music Teacher
Julia joined the KUM teaching staff in 2010. She is also the Director of Children’s Ministries at KUMC. Julia has a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from the University of Kansas. She loves listening to, and making music. She enjoys musical genres such as contemporary Christian, bluegrass, jazz and rock. She also plays the piano and guitar. Julia enjoys cooking and baking. She also loves watersports, especially water skiing.
Lee Walter- Atelier Teacher
Lee Walter began teaching at KUM in 2015. Mrs. Walter has a Masters degree in Public Administration and previously worked in evaluation and prevention research. She paints in watercolor and exhibits her work both locally and nationally. Working as the Atelier teacher, Mrs. Walter shares her knowledge and love of art to promote self-expression and age appropriate development among preschoolers. Mrs. Walter lives with her husband and two sons in Glendale.
Haydee Silva- Movement Teacher
Haydee has been at KUM since 2004. She was first a KUM Parent, then became an assistant in our Kindergarten Explorers program. She is currently our Movement Teacher here at KUM. Haydee also works for the Kirkwood School District as an Adventure Club Educator. Previously, Haydee was an ESL teacher while living in Mexico. She is married with two daughters.
Diana Ramos- Spanish Teacher
Diana has been the Spanish teacher at KUM since 2003. She is a native of Mexico where she got her CPA degree from the University Autonoma de Tamaulipas. She has learned many ways to teach Spanish to children through high-quality Spanish language programs which incorporate learning in an educational, musical and fun way. Diana is married with two children and lives in Manchester, MO.
Lauren Medler- Atelier Teacher
Lauren has a B.A. in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from University of Missouri, Columbia. She was a first grade teacher for 4 years and a second grade teacher for 1 year at Oak Brook Elementary in the Parkway School District before deciding to stay at home with her children. Lauren lives in Glendale with her husband Francis, her three kids (Claire, Jenna, Nicholas) and their dog (Charlie). She loves to run, be outdoors, travel, and most of all find some quality family time to go on adventures in the midst of their crazy schedules.
Kathy Maggio- Lunch Bunch Leader & Assistant
Kathy has been at KUM since 2000. She is the assistant in the Young 3’s class, as well as in Garden Club. She is instrumental in helping maintain the gardens and promoting outdoor fun for children. She also is a leader for Lunch Bunch. She is the mother of two girls and a Kirkwood native. She loves to garden and cook.
Alisa Reed- Assistant
Alisa joined our team in 2017. She recently relocated to St. Louis with her husband Regi and their two boys, Noah and Evan. She received her BS in elementary and special education from Eastern Kentucky University in 2011 and has been serving families and children for over 10 years. She was a full time preschool teacher before moving to Missouri. She enjoys spending time with her family, crafting, painting, and exploring new places.
Jane Armbruster- Assistant
Jane has been teaching at KUM since 1988. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and is certified in Project Construct and Handwriting Without Tears. Jane is married to husband Mick and has three children- Mark, Eric and Angela. She enjoys reading and spending time at their family lake house.
Jana Kay- Extended Day Assistant
Jana Kay joined the KUM team in 2019 as a classroom assistant. Jana recently worked with the Kirkwood School District as an Adventure Club teacher. She has 3 children and 4 amazing grandchildren. She retired to take care of her babies. She lives in Webster Groves with her husband. She enjoys spending her time traveling, reading and enjoying this season of her life!
K.U.M. welcomes families of all races, religions, and/or nationalities. We are currently accepting registration applications for new students. Registration applications are available online and at the preschool office. Click the link below for forms, dates and additional information.