The Early Learning Center is a part of the Family Ministry team at Granger Community Church. Our staff consists of our administrative, teaching, and arts teams as well as our Advisory Council. We strive to provide a faith-based experience for our families that is:

Loving and Nurturing: Our staff family believes in loving children, families, and colleagues as Jesus loved us, providing the soil in which each learner can grow.

Engaging and Encouraging: Our team believes in the power of encouragement and active learning. We look forward to actively engaging and guiding each child through their own unique learning experiences. Our goal is to help children build skills for later success in school and in life.

Knowledgeable and Collaborative: Our lead teachers and administrators have at least a bachelor’s degree with previous experience in early childhood education. We bring out the best in each child and in each other as we collaborate on lessons, strategies, and creative teaching moments. We are a family ministry.

Purposeful and Joyful: Our team is intentional in our planning and interactions with each child, infusing contagious joy and natural wonder into each learning experience.

Easy Does It

Meet the Director:

Chris WhitmireChristine G. Whitmire, MSEd
Principal

Chris Whitmire has over 25 years experience in the field of education. She received her BST in Secondary Education, Chemistry and Physical Science at Michigan State University. She then finished her MSEd in Elementary Education, with an emphasis on Early Childhood at Indiana University–South Bend. Chris completed the Educational Leadership/Administrative Certification Program and is licensed as a building principal for the State of Indiana, prekindergarten–grade 12. She has worked for the past 14 years in Michiana developing and supervising successful education programs for young children and their families. Chris and her family have been part of Granger Community Church since the “theater days!”

Meet the Staff:

ChristanShelton_1920Christan Shelton
Office Coordinator

With a B.A. in Psychology and Communications from Indiana State University, Christan is a mother of two young boys. In her free time you’ll find her cooking and baking and spending time with her husband, Patrick and their sons, Patrick III and Carter.

Olivia Alexander
Teacher

Olivia recently graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in painting from Herron School of Art & Design at IUPUI. She has always had a passion for art and painting, and has fallen in love with sharing her passion with a new generation of budding artists. She loves the creativity, wonder and joyful spirit with which children at the Early Learning Center approach their art.

Kathy Allen
Teacher

Kathy has a B.S. in Family and Consumer Science from Purdue University, and has most recently worked with 2–5-year-olds as an Area Coordinator at Granger Community Church’s Elkhart Campus. Since the age of 22, her life experiences have drawn her deeper into her relationship with Jesus. She has been married for 37 years and has two adult daughters.

Jeanne Bauer
Teacher

Jeanne has spent time with and treated countless children in her career as a psychotherapist, in both clinical settings and private practice. Her educational background (B.A. in Psychology and American Literature from Miami University in Oxford, OH, as well as a M.A. in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NYC, NY) gives Jeanne a unique perspective on teaching young children. Her family includes her husband, Alan and their daughter Teresa.

Tim Burkey
Music Teacher

Tim is a real estate agent in Indiana and Michigan. He fell in love with music at a very young age, and on a trip to India with a team from Granger, discovered a passion for kids. Tim has studied with John Feierabend at Gordon College and is licensed in Feierabend’s First Steps in Music.

Peggy DeLanghePeggy DeLanghe
Teacher

Peggy has a Master’s degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Early Childhood. She has 14 years of experience working in Early Childhood Education.

Lori DonathLori Donath
Teacher

Lori attended Bethel College and graduated with an Early Childhood degree. She has worked as a nanny and as a counselor at a camp for underprivileged children. Lori has been working in early childhood settings for the past four years, and is currently working on her HighScope certification.

Casey FikeCasey Fike
Teacher

Casey graduated from Bethel College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science. She has been a volunteer in children’s ministry for over 10 years and has over 3 years experience as a nanny.

Sarah GivensSarah Givens
Teacher

Sarah has been working with children since high school, where she volunteered at church and worked at a Sylvan Learning Center. While earning a degree in Early Childhood Education at Bethel College, she also spent a semester working in the Dominican Republic at a preschool, as well as working with children in South Africa and Ireland. She recently worked at El Campito, a bilingual child development center in South Bend. She loves spending her free time with her family and traveling and seeing the world.

Sofia Guttierrez
Spanish Teacher

Jessica Humphries
Teacher

Jessica grew up working with kids in her mom’s in-home daycare. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Central Michigan University, and has two young children—her son, Cooper and daughter, Penelope. She loves to read and watch Notre Dame football in her free time.

Debbie LanningDebbie Lanning
Food Coordinator

I enjoy children and food! I came to the ELC after working 15 years with PHM Schools in Food Service.  On the weekends, I work in the North Hall Dining at Notre Dame.

Hannah Lentz
Practicum Student from IU South Bend

Hannah is currently a senior at IUSB, pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Early Childhood. Growing up in the small town of Lakeville made her appreciate a sense of community, and taught her the importance of relationships between family and friends. She truly believes early childhood education is an important aspect in a child’s life, and as she continues to grow in this field, her passion for teaching grows stronger every day. Her hobbies include reading, caring for children, shopping and spending quality time with family and friends.

Hannah LincolnHannah Lincoln
Teacher

With dual degrees in Journalism and Sports Management from the University of Missouri, Hannah has always known she has a passion for working with children. She volunteered for the children’s ward at St. Joseph Medical Center in high school, and in college volunteered with summer Bible camps and children’s church. When she’s not teaching children at the Early Learning Center, she’s a morning show producer at WSBT-TV in South Bend and loves shooting and editing videos and taking pictures.

Stacey MullinStacey Mullins
Teacher

Stacey graduated from Bethel College with a degree in Early Childhood Education. Working at the Early Learning Center is her dream job—she loves working with children and can’t wait to spend time with her class each day. She and her husband have a daughter and enjoy spending their free time flipping houses.

Barbara Penn
Teacher

With an Associate’s degree from Indiana University, Barbara has twelve years of experience running an after-school program for elementary students in Ohio. She also has a 30-year background in the banking industry. Her husband is now retired and she has two grown daughters, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She enjoys reading, walking, gardening and recently started kayaking.

Jenny RairdonJenny Rairdon
Teacher

Jenny has her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Early Childhood.  She has previously worked as a 1st Grade teacher and as a 4/5/6 Gifted & Talented teacher.  She has experience in elementary education, gifted and talented programs and early childhood.

Madalyn Reneberg
Teacher

Mikaela RitzlerMikaela Ritzler
Student Intern

Mikaela is a senior in high school, has interned at Growing Kids and currently volunteers at Granger Community Church on the weekends in the Garden Patch Room. She is starting education classes at Ivy Tech and wants to pursue becoming a Special Education teacher. She enjoys sports and loves to drive while listening to music.

Lynn SandbergLynn Sandberg
Teacher

Lynn has her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and has done extensive work with at risk children and parent education programs.

Sara SmigielskiSara Smigielski
Teacher

Sara has her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a Kindergarten Endorsement. She has previously worked as a Children’s Librarian, Day Care Center Director, taught Kindergarten, 3rd and 4th grades, Child Care Consultant, and Developmental Therapist. She currently volunteers as a Stephen Minister and GED instructor.

Jill ThompsonJill Thompson
Teacher

Jill has her Bachelor’s degree with an Early Childhood Education emphasis.  She has experience in preschool, kindergarten, and children under the age of three.

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