Meet our Directors, Teachers & Board Members2018-10-03T13:17:59+00:00

MARISSA RITZ, LCSWCo-Founder & Executive Director
Marissa has been in the field of Social Work for over a decade and has spent much of her career working with individuals, couples, parents and children in an effort to strength family relationships. Marissa holds an Independent Clinical Social Work License and has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Vermont. In addition to her work with Seedlings to Sunflowers, Marissa acts as an Adjunct Professor at the University of New England and provides statewide training for the Sweetser Training Institute.
MEGHANN CARRASCOCo-Founder, Director of Operations & Head Chef
Meghann grew up in South Portland for most of her childhood and eventually moved to Raymond where her Mother bought an old farm house. While her Mother raised her with an incredible understanding of nutrition and health, this is where her love of gardening and food truly began. She grew up with a Sister diagnosed at the time with autism and a cognitive delay. Her sister’s unique needs and food sensitivities challenged her throughout her life to create food that was clean, allergen-free, but still delicious. She has lived a life in non-profits as her…

Marissa’s dream of building a childcare center grew out of her own experience with having children in daycare. Her observation of daycare centers was that there was unending possibility to strengthen families, build connections and encourage children at the youngest possible ages to become stewards of their communities. Marissa visualized an early education center as being a hub where children and families can join together with educators to encourage social, emotional and developmental growth of children. Marissa holds a commitment to bringing parents and caregivers on board to play an integral part of the learning process.

Marissa currently resides in Gorham Maine with her husband who is a Middle School Science Teacher and their two boys. She spends most of her free time exploring, singing, creating and laughing as much as possible.

…her Mother ran a non-profit for much of her teen years for adults with disabilities. She also worked in college for the Bangor YMCA working in the before/after care with children.

Meghann graduated in 2005 from the University of Maine with a degree in Sociology. She was a member of the Green Campus Coalition and has always strived towards a more sustainable life. A couple years later, Meghann acquired her culinary degree from the New England Culinary Institute. She then moved to Colorado and became the Director of Admissions at Cook Street School of Culinary Arts. In Colorado, she was involved with Slow Foods Denver and was heavily involved in their School Garden Project. She spent a lot of her free time building vegetable gardens at various schools in the greater Denver area.

Most recently, Meghann worked for six years here in Maine for a chiropractor where she really took her passion for nutrition to the next level. She is currently pursuing a Certificate in Nutrition from the International Foundation of Nutrition & Health. The chiropractor, she worked for eventually deferred to Meghann for patient supplement needs and nutrition evaluations.

When her first son was born and they started introducing food, Meghann started a blog called “Feeding Bebe” where she explored supporting his development through food with all of you! She has always involved him in food preparation. She has challenged herselt to create food that is both delicious and nutritious. She is now using what she’s learned while just introducing her 5-month-old to food for the first time. Meghann look forward to taking this passion of hers and working on food fears or aversions with your kiddos! She is also very excited to use their incredible green house to teach Seedlings to Sunflower’s children about the life cycle and teach them how to get in the dirt with all of the plants.

Meghan shares a home in Westbrook with her husband Donny, who is a Chef and their two boys. They love to be outdoors as much as possible with their kiddos.

BETH GALLANTSunflower Room (Pre-K)
Beth grew up in the greater Portland area and in 2006 received a Bachelors Degree in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME. After working for several years as a substitute teacher and a private childcare provider, she decided to pursue her love…
MARISSA SPIROSunflower Room (Pre-K)
Marissa has over a decade of teaching experience both stateside and abroad. She obtained her Masters in Social Work from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Marissa was a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Guatemala and taught health and life skills to youth ages 8-18. Her love of teaching and desire to contribute to the community has drawn her to Seedlings to Sunflowers.
SHANA SWENSONSunflower Room (Pre-k)
As Shana enters her tenth year of teaching, she is both thankful and humbled to be a part of such a welcoming and positive environment where the love of learning is being nurtured everyday!

Ever since she was a little girl, Shana knew she wanted to be a teacher. Playing “school” in her basement playroom was just the beginning of her teaching journey…

…of education and in 2011 received a Masters Degree in Teaching from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR.

Beth has taught elementary school in several states including 4th and 5th grade at Cedaroak Park Primary School in West Linn Oregon, Kindergarten-2nd grade at Lewis & Clark Elementary School in Missoula, Montana, and 4th and 5th grade for Learning Works afterschool at East End Community School in Portland, Maine. For the past few years she has been a private childcare provider for 4 wonderful children ages 21 months to 11 years. Beth is very excited and honored to be part of the Seedlings to Sunflowers community and looks forward to helping support lifelong learners and their families.

In her spare time, she enjoys being with her adorably French husband and their adorably lanky Jack Russell, Gary. She loves being outside and adores hiking, running and spending the summers swimming at her parent’s camp on Little Sebago Lake. She is also eagerly anticipating the arrival of their daughter who is due any day now!

Beth is beyond thrilled to be teaching at Seedlings to Sunflowers and is greatly looking forward to meeting her new students and their families.

In her free time, Marissa loves exploring the near by woods with her two boys ages 2 and 5. Thanks to them she has become an expert bug catcher and is mildly impressive with a butterfly net. Marissa looks forward to sharing her love of learning with her students.

Soon after graduating in 2009 from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree, majoring in Exceptional Student Education (Special Education), Shana began her teaching career with Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland. During her fourth year of teaching, she embarked on the journey of earning her Master of Arts in Teaching degree as well as National Board Certification (Exceptional Needs Specialist, Early Childhood through Young Adult).

It was during her sixth year of teaching that her husband, Ian, and I moved to Maine to be closer to his family. Shana then became a Response to Intervention (RtI) Teacher at Falmouth Elementary School, where for the past three years, she has led the 3-5 RtI team in providing both reading and math interventions to students.

In addition to her teaching experience, Shana is also a Mom to her 20 month old son, Ethan, who is also joining Seedlings to Sunflowers! Ethan is a very energetic and passionate individual. He often reminds her no matter how small or how young one is, there is an innate yearning to learn.

Shana strives to be an inspirational figure and create a positive learning environment that encourages participation and fosters a feeling of confidence in children, parents, teachers and community members. She believes that modeling and nurturing a love of learning will guide children to a place where their own love of learning will truly blossom! Thank you for welcoming Shana to work alongside you as we nurture our children and watch them grow from Seedlings to Sunflowers!

DELANEY WOODFORDLittle Runners Room (Pre-School)
Delaney is a University of Maine graduate with a Bachelors in Child Development and Family Relations. Her belief that every child has an inherent desire to learn, grow, and feel connected to others is what brought her to Seedlings to Sunflowers.
Meaghan Hall
Meaghan HallLittle Runners Room (Pre-School)
Originally from Old Town, Meaghan graduated from the University of Maine with a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology in 2016. While in school, she interned with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service where she worked on a research team studying the effects of climate change on our oceans through local seabirds. Meaghan also had to the opportunity to be involved with community outreach and environmental education. She has always had a passion for teaching children, especially about nature!

For the past couple of years she has worked with families and clients at the Mabel Wadsworth Center. With over 9 years of experience working with children as a private care provider, she has always used play as a way to learn. In addition, Delaney is a trained birth doula and is excited to use her training to connect new and growing families to the center in order to support them during and after pregnancy.

In her free time, she always looks forward to being with friends and family, trying to learn a new craft, or listening to good music.

Meaghan has 2 years volunteer experience working with school-aged children at after school and summer programs.

Meaghan moved to the Portland area two years ago where she has had the opportunity to be the lead teacher of her own classroom working with children aged 6 months to 2.5 years old.

In her free time, Meaghan tries to stay busy. Some of her hobbies include hiking, biking, longboarding, snowboarding, and cuddling her kitten, Murphy!

She is very excited to be joining the Seedlings to Sunflower family!

CHARLOTTE JACOBSSeedlings Room (1-2yrs)
Charlotte grew up in Scarborough, ME. She is currently attending Southern Maine Community College, majoring in Early Childhood Education. Charlotte has worked with a child care center for the past seven years, working with ages 6 weeks to 2 years. During this time, she was promoted to Assistant Director and did that as well…
SARAH BUTLERSeedlings Room (1-2yrs)
Sarah has been working in early childhood education in center-based care since 2004. She’s taken over 400 hours in early childhood education training over the course of her career in childcare and has been CPR/first aid certified since 2004. She is also excited to pursue her CDA.
Sarah has worked with and loves all age groups. She believes in a hands on, real life approach to teaching. Sarah thinks that children learn best through hands-on experience and active play….
KAT BINFORDBefore & After Care & Floating Teacher
Kat comes from a family of five girls, so family has always been a huge part of her life! She also have a one-year-old nephew, who she completely adores and spends time with every chance she gets.

Kat is currently studying Social Behavioral Science with a minor in Early Childhood Development at the USM. She has worked in childcare for a little over two years and has absolutely loved every part of it!

…as running her classroom for the past two years there. Charlotte is CPR/First-Aid Certified and a Level 4 on Maine Roads to Quality. Her and her husband have two wonderful kiddos, an 8-year-old girl, a one-year-old boy and a dog!
I’m excited to be coming to Seedlings to Sunflowers because I love to watch children grow and learn using hands on experiences! I also love to give children, even during infancy the chance to learn through exciting sensory activities.
During my free time with my family we enjoy all the natural wonders of Maine! Hiking, swimming at Sebago, camping, gardening at home, and just relaxing with each other!”

Seedling to Sunflowers’ approach to teaching through nature-based learning is what drew her to make the move from her current center. She loves the idea of a center that is more than just a daycare but a community. She’s a firm believer in “It takes a village” and is honored to be a part of the Seedlings to Sunflowers’ village. It’s exciting to see a new and much needed change of direction in center-based care and Sarah is so honored and excited to be able to be a part of it!

As well as being a teacher, Sarah is a mother of 3. She is excited for her 2 younger kids, Camden and Shea to also get the opportunity to join the Seedlings to Sunflowers’ community. When not at work, Sarah loves to spend as much time as possible with her family. They love to travel, spend time at the beach and parks – pretty much anything outside! Sarah looks forward to getting to know you all and thanks you in advance for the chance to be a part of your little ones journeys through childhood.

Kat has a very bubbly and expressive personality and loves to talk to anyone and everyone, so make sure to say hi!

Kat is so grateful to be a part of Seedlings to Sunflowers, that has truly already turned into a family. And she is so excited to meet everyone and to watch Seedlings to Sunflowers flourish!

KHAILA DONOVANNursery Room (6 weeks-6 months)
Khaila has a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Education. Additionally, she has an an extensive background in early childhood care and education working at various schools. Khaila has a natural way with babies and can’t wait to nurture the littlest seedlings at Seedlings to Sunflowers!…
MADISON (MADI) HOULETTENursery Room (6 weeks-6 months)
Madi was born and raised in South Portland to a family of teachers. She has been in childcare for about a year and a half and has had lots of experience working in public schools. Madi is currently going into her 3rd year of college at USM for elementary education. She hopes to teach first or second grade and maybe one day travel to a developing country and spend some time teaching there!
Radhika Natarajan
Radhika NatarajanNursery (6 months-1 yr)
Radhika currently holds a Bachelors Degree in Science from the University of Madras, India. She is very passionate about teaching, especially to young children and has been doing it successfully for the past two years as a pre-school teacher.

Radhika moved to the United States after she got married to her husband 8 years ago. She is blessed with a beautiful six years old girl…

As a certifying Postpartum Doula and holistic mama, Khaila will also be able to support our families as more than a teacher. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, crafting, camping, and soaking up the sun with her two year old son.

Radhika has always loved traveling, meeting people, engaging in conversations and learning. She loves to draw and paint in her free time. Road trips are her and her family’s favorite thing to do together.

She is really excited and looking forward to being a part of the Seedlings to Sunflowers family. Engaging the children with hands on activities in the classroom is something that she is thrilled about as it helps them connect with real life things.

JULIETTE JONESSprouts Room (2-3yrs)
Juliette graduated from USM in 2016 with a BFA in Community Art Education, with a concentration in ceramics. While in school she interned at Oak St. Studios, a non-profit community arts center dedicated to innovative and progressive learning. She continued to work there after graduation as Head teacher for the Art Start class and summer Ceramics camp…
GABRIELLA (GABBY) FEVENSSprouts Room (2-3yrs)
Gabby is currently attending Eastern Gateway Community College and hopes to graduate in the next two years with her Associates in Early Childhood Education. She grew up working with kids every chance she had, whether it was in the nursery at her church or teaching horseback riding at a local barn.
Caroline Kleiman
Caroline KleimanFrench Teacher
Originally from Belgium, Caroline attended the Brussels Academy of Fines Arts for high school where she studied dance. Even though ballet was a true passion, she always had a dream of working in Africa and having a meaningful career. So she earned a bachelor’s degree in primary education and upon graduating, spent two years in Kigali, Rwanda, working as the head teacher of a 5th grade class. In her spare time, she taught French, her native language, in a local Rwandan school, and kept her passion for dance alive by teaching ballet.

In 2017, Juliette I had the opportunity to travel and Wwoof (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) with friends. Soon after, she worked at Portland Pottery Cafe and dedicated most of her free time in the studio. Now, she is ready to get back into teaching. Juliette is excited to work in such a positive environment where there are so many great tools to teach and guide young minds.

Juliette just moved to Gorham last year, and can’t wait to be a part of this community working with children and their families. She enjoys spending her free time outside hiking, gardening in the backyard, or golfing with friends and family.

Gabby is really looking forward to working at Seedlings to Sunflowers because of the opportunity to gain experience working with all ages. She hope to create a safe classroom for kids to develop mentally and physically.

In her free time, Gabby likes being outdoors. She loves animals and spending time with her family and she look forward to meeting everyone!

Caroline later moved to Boston with her husband where she taught French to children from French-speaking families. They moved to California shortly after, and she decided to take a break from the world of education to raise her two children.

With a passion for education and health/wellness, Caroline is excited to work with Seedlings to Sunflowers’ kids!

Caitlin has a background in volunteer programing, online marketing and design. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Vermont where she expressed her passion for volunteer programming and service learning as the Director of Programs for Volunteers in Action,
Kayla is currently the Director of a local child care center and has been working in the early childhood education field for 10 years. Kayla has her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and is currently going through the process of getting her teaching certificate. Her passion…
Jenna has worked in commercial insurance for her entire career and is excited to lend that insight to Seedlings to Sunflowers. Jenna received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in French and concentration in Law and Society from Clark University…

overseeing 22 various volunteer programs and their leaders.

She has an extensive background in online marketing from account management, brand and media, consulting, website and graphic design, social media marketing, as well as photo shoot design and styling. Caitlin is currently the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of, where she oversees all facets of her business and online presence.

She is thrilled to be able to bring her marketing, media, design and volunteer programming expertise to the board of Seedlings to Sunflowers. Being a part of a non-profit dedicated to cultivating a lifelong commitment to positive educational experiences for children is an amazing honor. She is thrilled to serve alongside caring, creative, intelligent and passionate individuals whose mission is to help carry out the vision of this wonderful, innovative school.

Caitlin would be overjoyed to send her future children to Seedlings to Sunflowers – a place where she knows they would thrive and where her family would feel supported by their loving community.

…for quality education started during her college work study but really grew after she graduated and worked for a nonprofit with children with developmental delays. During her time there she had an incredible mentor who taught her the amazing ways that a classroom can include all of the tools that young children need to flourish and grow.

Before her current position she helped open a preschool that focused on learning with the mind and body. She played an active role in creating the curriculum, classroom scheduling and set up, daily structure, etc. She worked with that center for 6 years as both an educator and the Assistant Director. This position allowed her to gain knowledge as both an educator as well as an administrator in the field. As a resident of Gorham and an early childhood educator she is very excited to lend her knowledge to Seedlings to Sunflowers and help create an amazing learning based center for Gorham.

…in Worcester, MA. She is committed to seeing this school become a success and an integral part of the community it will serve. Jenna resides in Freeport, ME with her husband Jesse, their son Enzo and their silly dog Baila.

Jennifer is a registered nurse who graduated from the University of New England in 2009. She has dedicated her nursing career to working with children and adolescents in crisis. Her experience began in residential and correctional settings in Phoenix, Arizona. She is currently the…
Frayla Tarpinian is the Head of the Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse Unit for the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office. She is an aggressive advocate on behalf of victims of violence and passionate about criminal justice reform. After earning a B.A. from…

…nurse manager for child and adolescent services at Spring Harbor Hospital. Jennifer appreciates the importance of experiential learning, family and the impact positive role models can have on a child’s development. Jennifer resides in her hometown of Gorham with her husband and two young daughters and is hopeful to send her youngest daughter to Seedlings to Sunflowers!

…Brandeis University and her law degree from Boston University School of Law, she began her legal career clerking for the Maine Superior Court and went on to represent indigent clients, prior to becoming a prosecutor in 2013. Having participated in the system from all sides, Frayla has a unique perspective. She would like to see the criminal justice system become more equitable, reserving incarceration for perpetrators of violent criminal conduct and an increase in diversion and treatment for lower level offenders.