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 Staff:

Mandy Gibbons

Mandy joins the Early Learning Center with over sixteen years of experience as a preschool and kindergarten teacher at Bridges (also NAEYC accredited) and Covenant Christian School. With a B.S. in Hospitality Management, as well as a Masters in Education from Bethel College/IUSB, Mandy is passionate about shaping the development of young children in their early childhood years. Most recently, she worked as a preschool director, employing best practices to create an incredible learning environment that nurtures and supports young children. With a warm and magnetic personality, Mandy is excited to lead the Early Learning Center starting in the fall of 2018. She attends Granger Community Church with her husband Russ and her daughters Kaylah and Kenzie. Kaylah is already in college and Kenzie is headed there next, so Mandy and Russ are about to be empty-nesters!

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
Art Teacher

Olivia 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

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

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.

Lori DonathLori Donath

Lori attended Bethel College and graduated with an associate degree in Early Childhood. 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 working on her HighScope certification.

Casey FikeCasey Fike

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

Sarah has been working with children since high school, where she volunteered at church and worked at a Sylvan Learning Center. While earning a bachelor’s 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 loves spending her free time with her family and traveling and seeing the world.

Jessica Humphries

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

Debbie enjoys children and food! She came to the ELC after working 15 years with PHM Schools in Food Service.  Debbie has a husband, Tim, who also works at the church. She has two sons, Matt and Josh.

Hannah LincolnHannah Lincoln

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

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

With an associate 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

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

Madalyn graduated from Southwestern Michigan College with an associate degree in Early Childhood. She loves children and enjoys spending time with her family and coaching young people for the Berrien County Youth Fair.

Lynn SandbergLynn Sandberg

Lynn has her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and has done extensive work with at risk children and parent education programs. Lynn has four children and several grandchildren. She enjoys traveling and spending time with family.

Sara SmigielskiSara Smigielski

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

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.

Christian Weber
Practicum Student from IU South Bend

Christian graduated from Mishawaka High School and is now a senior at IUSB. He currently volunteers in the 3-year-old classroom at Granger Community Church and is also a small group leader for middle & high school students with Granger Student Ministries (GSM). In his free time, he loves to run and loves volunteering!