Our Staff

Sara Garner


Hi everybody! My name is Sara Garner, I am a native Ithacan and my family is still deeply rooted within Ithaca.  I went to Cayuga Heights Elementary, Boynton Middle, and Ithaca High School. I subsequently finished my schooling at Cornell where I studied Human Development and Early Childhood. Before becoming the Director of CNS, I was a teacher in both secondary special education and math for about 10 years, teaching in both NYC and then a quick stint in San Francisco. After having my first daughter, I became a stay at home mom (the hardest job ever). My oldest daughter, Ella, graduated from the Roost after 2 great years here in 2023 and my youngest daughter, Cora, is in the Nest this year!  In my free time I like to spend time with my husband and 2 daughters, wake up early, ride the Peloton or go for a swim (in the summer), cook vegan food, go for hikes, drink iced coffee, declutter my home and engage in meaningful conversations with others.  I am very excited and honored to be the Director this year- I couldn't think of a better community to be a part of!

Danielle Kelly

Lead Nest Teacher

As an active early childhood teacher, yogi, dancer, and musician, Miss Danny loves bringing her passions together to create opportunities for young learners to get moving! Having recently relocated to Ithaca from NYC, she brings her experience of working with hundreds of children in the five boroughs teaching everything from cooking, to hip hop, to yoga, and contemporary art for babies, toddlers, and young children. Miss Danny has been teaching for nearly 10 years and working with children aged 0-18, and is hoping to spread her love of the fine and visual arts to the growing little ones of Ithaca. Danny has her MS in Childhood Education as well as her BS in Speech Language Pathology. When she is not leading the toddler classroom at CNS, she can be found teaching yoga, teaching various enrichment classes at Jillian's Drawers, or enjoying Ithaca with her husband, her two girls, her dog, and her cat.

Emily Babin

Nest Teacher

Ms. Emily has continued to work in childcare throughout getting her bachelor’s degree in theatre, specifically working with children’s theatres! The lovely international community at CNS reminds her of her time in international schools when she was young. It feels just like home! When she’s not in the Nest, working with our youngest students, she’s working with students at Circus Culture! There you can usually find her in a handstand.


Nest Teacher

Tessa has been a part of the CNS community for over 6 years, as a caregiver, substitute, and recently as a student teacher. She received her degree in Early Childhood Education and is excited to begin teaching in a formal setting. Tessa has over 12 years of childcare experience and loves to guide children as they grow and develop into their unique selves. She moved to the Fingerlakes from New Jersey 7 years ago, met her husband, and has settled down in Freeville. Tessa has a deep love and appreciation of nature, enjoys baking for everyone, and expressing her creativity through arts and crafts.

Christina Williams

Lead Nook Teacher

Having studied textile design in the UK, Christina moved to Ithaca with her husband and two daughters in 2005. After her youngest daughter started Kindergarten, Christina began working at St. Paul’s Nursery School in downtown Ithaca. She spent ten happy years at the school and gained experience teaching across a broad developmental spectrum. Christina proudly became an American citizen in 2016!

Claire Schwartz Litwin

Co-Teacher Nook

Claire only started teaching at CNS in August 2023, but, she has been a CNS parent and volunteer for much longer — both of her kids went through all three years of CNS. Before teaching, Claire was a stay-at-home mom, and, before that, she was working on her PhD in political science (but do not expect your preschooler to come home with any political science expertise!) Claire is very excited to be back in the community she enjoyed so much as a mom — this time on the other side

Leigh Detmer

Co-Teacher Nook

Ms. Leigh has been a part of the CNS community since moving to Ithaca in 2020, as a parent, board member, and substitute teacher.  Her two children have both thrived at CNS and absolutely love it!  Originally from Colorado, Ms. Leigh taught kindergarten and first grade before staying home with her son and daughter.  She has her BA in Elementary Education and Psychology, and MA in Literacy.  She loves working with young students, especially during these early years when they become such independent, curious little learners; growing by leaps and bounds in every way.  Ms. Leigh and her family love exploring Ithaca and spending time both up in the Adirondacks where her husband often works and in CO visiting family!

Kya Schadewald

Teacher in Nook

Kya is new to the world of Early Childhood Education. After moving to Ithaca when she was a teenager, she started as a substitute at CNS and has moved to a full time teaching position after 2 years of falling in love with the school. She is working towards her degree to become an early childhood educator during her time with us. Outside of the preschool, she can be found enjoying all forms of creativity, including painting and drawing, gardening, and sewing. She is very excited to learn and grow with the children in the 3-4 year old classroom, teaching and learning together.

Holly Schindler

Lead Teacher in the Roost

Holly is a native of Ithaca. Her teaching adventures ranges from nurturing the love of learning in progressive private preschools to working in public Pre-K with the Ithaca City School District. Her teaching experience also includes owning, directing, and teaching at her own arts and nature based preschool in Caroline, NY. Holly's love for the arts and the natural world, silly sense of humor, and deep affection for children make her an asset to CNS. She has a degree in Early Childhood. Holly is trained in the Reggio Emilia approach to early education and interweaves the creative principles in her classroom. In her free time Holly enjoys dabbling in many forms of the creative arts, hanging out with her two energetic sons, and laughing with her husband.

Jenni Earl

Roost Teacher

Ms. Jenni has been an active member of the CNS community for the past six years as a parent, member of the executive board and our previous Site Director.  Before moving to Ithaca Jen was a funeral director and mortician in her native New Jersey. Her role included working with families in difficult circumstances, arranging all aspects of services, and supporting the business of the funeral home. We are thrilled for her to bring that experience to engage in the early life of our young learners and create a welcoming space for our preschool families. Jen and her husband Brian have three sons: Dylan, Owen and Cooper all CNS alumni at Cayuga Heights Elementary. When she is not at CNS you can find her at YMCA teaching preschool swim classes or at the Cornell gym cheering on her husband's team, The BIG RED Men's basketball.


Roost Teacher

K.C. is originally from Coronado, CA. She and her family moved to Ithaca four years ago for her husband's work at Cornell. K.C. is from a navy family and has lived in many different cities and states. She went back to teaching preschool after her youngest child went to kindergarten. K.C. has been teaching preschool for more than seven years now. She started teaching in San Diego, Virginia, then went back to San Diego, and now Ithaca. She has worked with children from 18 months to 5 year olds. When not teaching, K.C. spends time with her two children and husband.

Walter Weiner


Hello, I'm a dynamic professional with a passion for education, numbers, and the performing arts. My journey began at Hangar Theatre of Ithaca, propelling me into entertainment and to iconic Broadway productions like 'The Lion King' and 'Beauty and the Beast,' where I honed precision and timing. These skills extended to venues like Radio City Music Hall, as well as TV and film productions. I bring a wealth of experience to the preschool education realm, ensuring smooth operations for our nurturing environment. Rooted in Ithaca as a fourth-generation local, I'm married with two children who attended and loved their time at CNS. Beyond spreadsheets, I thrive outdoors, exploring Ithaca's scenic trails. Eager to contribute, I look forward to collaborating and helping to optimize processes in this unique preschool setting.

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