Margaret Potter, Director
President, Arlington Early Childhood Association
B.A. in Psychology and Women’s Studies, Wellesley College
AHNS Board Member, 1996-present
AHNS School Coordinator 2000-2001
AHNS Assistant Director 2001-2005
AHNS Executive Director 2005-present

Began working at AHNS in 2000

I have been interested in children’s development for as long as I can remember. Child development holds so many fascinating questions: How do children gain a sense of self? How do they incorporate their early experiences and come to understand how the world works? How can we most effectively support young children and their families as they negotiate our increasingly fast-paced world? How can we best protect children’s play, and advocate respect for childhood and for young children’s well being? These and many other questions drew me to pursue a degree in developmental psychology and then to AHNS, where I feel fortunate to have a position that captures such a perfect blend of my interests.

In many ways, I grew up at AHNS, as my mother, Jean Potter, was the director for thirty-six years. We have always shared a deep interest and delight in young children, and in understanding their development. I have very fond childhood memories of attending AHNS as a preschooler, and of working here in a variety of roles throughout the years.

Prior to joining AHNS, I worked for five years in the pediatric department at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center), where I was a research assistant and project manager on several large research studies of infants and their development through the preschool years. I was fortunate to receive excellent training in observing and documenting children’s development. Working with infants in the NICU and with the multi-disciplinary teams of clinicians caring for them was a fascinating experience that deepened my interest in child development.

A move to New York City created the opportunity to work at Cornell Medical Center on the New York City Children's Health Project, working with homeless children and mothers, and documenting the impact of homelessness on children and families living in welfare hotels and shelters. In addition, I worked at the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies at Wellesley College where I worked on a research and outreach project conducting qualitative research with women in prison in Massachusetts. Working with women and children in such traumatic and demanding settings were powerful experiences that shaped my understanding of how stress, separation, and poverty impacts families.

I have been active on the Community Partnerships for Children Council, as member and chairperson, and have served on the board of directors of Arlington Family Connection and Warmlines Parent Resource Center. I currently serve on the board of the Arlington Health and Human Services Foundation, and am a commissioner on the Arlington Historic Districts Commission.

I’m passionate about my work at AHNS, where I have overall responsibility for the school, manage the administrative and teaching staff, and collaborate with the staff to ensure that that the mission, philosophy and goals of the programs we offer are carried out in the daily life of the school. I also truly enjoy working with families and assisting them with the challenges of raising young children and of understanding developmental changes and issues. I appreciate the opportunities I have at AHNS to observe children at play, listen to parents, and develop strategies for addressing challenging behavior, transitions, or special needs.

I live in Arlington with my husband and our four children, each of whom have attended AHNS. My children are a source of endless wonder and inspiration to me and my work at AHNS.

Jessie Bagley, R.N., Assistant Director
B.A. Psychology and Women's Studies, University of Vermont, 1998
Master of Public Health, Maternal and Child Health, Tulane University, 2001
Master of Science in Nursing, MGH Institute of Health Professions, 2005

Began working at AHNS in 2008

My love for children and families and my strong interest in maternal-child health and development deeply influenced and directed my education and, eventually, my career path.

I began my higher education at the University of Vermont, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Women's Studies with a special interest in Women’s Health. My undergraduate studies sparked a desire to gain a deeper understanding of maternal and child health. In 1999, I attended Tulane University where I received a Masters of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health. After graduating from Tulane, I was eager to apply what I learned to the field of public health.

I accepted a job as Program Coordinator of the Boston HAPPENS program at Children's Hospital. Boston HAPPENS provides services and support to HIV infected, homeless and at-risk adolescents and young adults ages 12-24. While working closely with the children in the program, I discovered that I had a strong interest in the medical component of the program and enjoyed serving as a support for children. After much thought, I decided to pursue a Masters of Science in Nursing specializing in Women's Health at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health professions. I worked as a Registered Nurse at MGH, where I provided nursing care for women and newborns during the postpartum period. I also provided teaching and support around breastfeeding and care of mothers and newborns. After working at MGH, I helped open Isis Parenting in Arlington, where I managed a large staff of instructors and staff, worked with families and their babies, and had overall responsibility for the operations of the Arlington center.

I discovered Arlington Heights Nursery School when I was choosing a school for my daughter. As I developed relationships with the staff and administrators at the AHNS, I realized that the school was not only a perfect environment for my daughter but also for me. I joined AHNS as an administrator in February of 2008.

I have several roles at AHNS. As a nurse with a strong background in child development and maternal-child health, I consult on health care issues, review and update our health care policies, disseminate important health information to families, and provide professional development training on health-related issues to the staff. I also work closely with families who have children with chronic health conditions and allergies to ensure they are healthy and safe at school. As an administrator in the office, I help with admissions and school tours, work closely with staff on a daily basis regarding health, safety and performance and help contribute to the smooth operations of the school.

I am the proud mom to Ani and Lyla. Ani attended AHNS through pre-k, and Lyla is currently enrolled in the toddler program. As an administrator and a parent, I look forward to building a relationship with your family!

Silvia James, Administrative Coordinator
A.A. in Early Childhood and Social Work, Fachschule fuer Erzieher

Began Working at AHNS in 2011

I grew up in Berlin, Germany where I studied early childhood education and worked in the field as an early childhood teacher with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

My love for working with children began when I volunteered at an after school program at the age of 15. A growing interest in child development then led to studies in the field.

My husband and I and our two children moved to the US and New England in 1985. I continued my career in ECE, working at the YMCA in Cambridge and the Brookline Infant and Toddler Center.

In 1989 I joined the early childhood program at Minuteman Regional High School in Lexington where I worked as an early childhood teacher. I moved into the director position in 2001. Working at Minuteman’s Child Development Center provided a unique opportunity to not only work with families and their children, but also to introduce, guide and mentor students who were interested in the field.

The diversity reflected among families, students, and staff that I have had the privilege to work with over the years, led me to develop a special interest in issues of cultural diversity in early childhood settings, as well as dual language learning and how to support it.

I believe in a child-centered, play-based emergent curriculum that builds upon the interests of children and events in the family and/or community.

I believe in a team approach and view the role of a teacher as a facilitator who sets up the environment and then guides and learns alongside children.

Throughout the years I have attended continuing education workshops and conferences. I have also taken classes at a number of area colleges as well as Lesley University.

I am a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and am active in the Boston affiliate, serving as co-chair on the annual Directors’ Conference committee.

Rebecca Woodard Betlyon, Preschool Program Coordinator
B.S. in Elementary Education, University of Massachusetts, 1991
Additional Early Childhood Education coursework, Worcester State College and Manchester Community College

Began working at AHNS in 2010.

I have been working in the field of early education and care for 17 years. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be a part of so many children and families’ lives. When early childhood professionals and parents partner to “bring up” children in an environment of trust, enrichment and love, the end result is thriving children and a strong community.

I am committed to being a lifelong learner. I believe it is most important for educators develop a repertoire of effective teaching approaches to address the authentic developmental needs of all children. I am professionally interested in furthering my knowledge base of early childhood sensory and brain development and learning style modalities. I enjoy working with other staff members and supporting their professional curricular, and programming needs. I like to share my love of children’s literature, music/song and nature with the children and staff I work with.

I am a mom to a beautiful daughter who graduated from AHNS and is excited to be attending school in Arlington.

Carolyn Riley, Infant-Toddler Program Coordinator

Began Working at AHNS in 2012

I have spent more than twenty years as a dedicated early childhood professional.
I graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s degree in Special Education.   Before joining the Arlington Heights Nursery School, I spent twenty years as a teacher and Infant Toddler Program Coordinator at the highly regarded John Hancock Child Care Center in Boston until it closed in 2010.   My search to find employment in another high quality school led me to Margaret Potter and the talented team here at AHNS.   I am passionate about my work with infants and toddlers and I feel it is a true privilege to be able to make a positive impact during such a magical stage in your child’s life! 

In my role as the Infant Toddler Program Coordinator I am responsible for the direct supervision and training of the infant toddler staff.  I will be working closely with each classroom as well as supporting each individual teacher’s professional growth.  I will act as a resource and support for the teachers in their daily work with you and your children and together we will work hard to create and maintain a high quality program.

In my free time, I can be found on Cape Cod browsing antique stores!  I spent all of my childhood summers in Dennis and it continues to be a very special place for me.  I also enjoy cooking and spend as much time as I can with my niece and nephews.

Varinthon Chiewcharnvalijkit (Ann), Business Manager
MBA, Les Roches School of Management (Switzerland)
Korean Language Certificate, Yonsei University (South Korea)
Bachelor of Science, Mahidol University (Thailand)

Began Working at AHNS in 2014

I joined the administrative team at AHNS in 2014 after three years of managing financial and administrative matters at Bostonís Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence. At AHNS I am responsible for oversight of financial and administrative functions, as well as ensuring an efficient operation of the school on a daily basis.
Originally from Thailand, I have moved several times in my life. In the 1990s I lived in Seattle for a year as a high school exchange student. Then, between 1997 and 1998, I moved to Seoul, South Korea, to take Korean language lessons. In 2004, I decided to move to Switzerland to attend graduate school, where I earned a Masters in Business Administration. Most recently, I relocated to the US in 2009 after spending almost 10 years in Singapore and Bangkok managing the office operations of several US, German, and Japanese industrial firms.
In the last three years, as a result of my work at the Boston non-profit, I have become very interested in applying my private sector experience to organizations that pursue more than just one bottom line. I am particularly interested in exploring new ways to improve the efficiency of our service to the AHNS community.
I live in Somerville with my partner and we love to travel. Our current project is to spend at least one night in each of the 50 US states. We have completed 45 states, at last count!

Jean Potter, Special Needs Consultant and Curriculum Specialist
B.A. Philosophy/Education Occidental College 1952
EdM. The Graduate School of Education, Harvard University 1982
AHNS Preschool Teacher 1969-1971
AHNS Director 1971-2005
AHNS Board of Directors 1996-Present
AHNS Special Needs Consultant and Curriculum Specialist 2005-present

Began Working at AHNS in 1969

My interest and delight in young children began with the birth of my only sibling when I was ten years old. I began working summers as an assistant teacher with young children in a school setting when I was fifteen, and, after college, worked as a kindergarten/primary teacher. In 1969, after enrolling my youngest child, Margaret, in AHNS, I joined the staff as a teacher, and, later, became director of the program until my retirement in 2005. I began teaching early childhood courses as an adjunct faculty member at Middlesex Community College (1984) and supervised student teachers from Middlesex and Lesley University until my retirement. I have greatly enjoyed sharing my love of young children and my ideas of what kind of school programs support the optimum growth and development of young children in these settings.

I am a long term resident of Arlington where my four children were raised. I am a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and am active in the Boston affiliate, serving on the committee to plan the annual Director’s Conference. I am very proud to have been a founding member of the Arlington Early Childhood Association, a group of directors of early childhood programs that has met monthly for the past 26 years. I have been active in the Arlington community with organizations such as the League of Women of Voters of Arlington (past President), Library, and Arlington Historical Society. Middlesex Canal Association, and the Community Partnerships Council since inception and as a former treasurer.

AHNS has long supported the presence of children with mild to moderate special needs in our program, dating from before there was state and federal legislation to support this concept. Our program has been greatly enriched by these children and the specialists who have provided services for them in our school through the years.

It has been a pleasure and a source of great pride to watch AHNS grow and expand under the guidance and leadership of my daughter, Margaret (the preschooler who I enrolled here in 1969!). I continue to enjoy being a part of AHNS through consulting on children with special needs, designing developmentally appropriate curriculum, and through working in the office three afternoons a week.

Alexis Berry, Assistant Preschool Program Coordinator
I know with certainty that education is the path that was meant for me, and I feel there are many factors and experiences that have let me to this point.

In high school, I attended the Waring School, a small private school north of Boston. The curriculum at Waring focuses on the humanities combined with study of the French language and culture.

People are often surprised to hear that my graduating class in high school only had twelve students! Although the environments were very different, my coursework in high school and college were very similar. At Johns Hopkins University, I pursued a Bachelorís degree in English, but took many classes in art history and French as well. In addition to my coursework, I began volunteering through an organization at Hopkins, working in several schools in inner city Baltimore.

I believe my experience volunteering in schools in Baltimore inspired me to consider teaching as a profession. I choose to pursue my Masterís degree at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University. I was drawn to Tufts for many reasons. I am very interested in current research in child development, including the study of brain development, early language processing, and the practical application of research to the classroom. When I was accepted into the Masterís program, I was also offered a job as a research assistant at the Center for Reading and Language Research. At the CRLR, I was involved in both assessment and teaching for a reading fluency program called RAVE-O, which was developed by a team of researchers that included my mentor, Dr. Maryanne Wolf, and other researchers at universities across the country.

After completing my Masterís, I taught in both a public and private setting at the kindergarten and pre-kindergarten level. I began teaching at AHNS in 2011. I was drawn to the schoolís philosophy and even in my first visit, the warmth of the staff and excitement of the children was evident as I toured the school. As a pre-kindergarten teacher and team coordinator at AHNS, I greatly enjoyed developing emergent curriculum, not only to pursue the studentsí interests but also support each childís individual strengths as well. Although it was difficult to step away from my role in the classroom, in my new position as Assistant Preschool/Pre-Kindergarten Coordinator, I am hoping to help classrooms by supporting teachers and students. My work is very rewarding, and I am lucky to be able to visit a classroom at almost any time- to read a book, share a puzzle, or just help a child with a tricky zipper. I am looking forward to an exciting year in my new role!

Nicholas Ortolani, Facilities Manager
(bio coming soon)

Lynn Taber, R.N.
Administrative Specialist and Nurse

Nursing Diploma, Cheshire Hospital School of Nursing
B.S. in Nursing, Northeastern University
Ed.M., Cambridge College

Began Working at AHNS in 2013

I am delighted to be working at AHNS. My children attended AHNS in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Margaret's mother, Jean Potter, was the director at that time. My children had many wonderful experiences at AHNS. Some of the friends that they made at AHNS continue to be in their lives now.

I have been a registered nurse for over thirty years. I became a nurse because I wanted to help people. I went to a hospital based nursing school in NH and worked at the hospital that I trained in for a few years before moving to Arlington. I worked in community health as a visiting nurse in the Boston area for the next twenty years. I was interested in working in school health because I really enjoyed working with children and their families. I was a school nurse in Lexington for twelve years. I retired (early) from full time school nursing to pursue a better balance between my professional responsibilities and the rest of my life.

I have found exactly what I was looking for at AHNS. I am able to use my nursing expertise with children, parents and staff as well as offer support in the office while working part-time. I enjoy yoga, meditation, Zumba, reading, and sharing meals with family and friends.

My children are adults now. They are excited that I work at AHNS, a place of fond memories. I am grateful to be part of the AHNS team as I help current and future students and their families create their own fond memories of AHNS.