Our teachers are the best

Our staff members are carefully selected based on educational qualifications and experience in the field of early childhood education.  The majority of our teachers hold an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in early childhood Ed or a related degree, and a number of our teachers hold a master’s degree or higher.

All staff members must have current CPR and First Aid cards.  All staff members are fingerprinted, and background checks are conducted through the Arizona Department of Public Safety. 

Equally as important is a loving and genuine interest in young children. All of our staff have a passion for working with young children and work to develop strong positive relationships with the students in their care. 

Staff turnover is low due to the part-time hours, frequent breaks, and positive culture.

Continual staff development is mandatory and accomplished through university/college coursework, workshops, conferences, and in-service training.

All teachers must complete 18 hours of annual training in accident/emergency procedures, recognition of illness, nutrition, child abuse detection, reporting, and prevention, safety, program administration, infant and child growth and development, observation and assessment, developmentally appropriate practice, child guidance and discipline to meet Arizona Department of Health Services Childcare Licensing Requirements.  Most of these requirements are fulfilled on site by the Director or other qualified trainers in the field. 

Professional development opportunities are offered monthly during our early release days:

  • August 21
  • September 18
  • October 16
  • November 13
  • December 11 (Staff Christmas Party)
  • January 22
  • February 12
  • March 25
  • April 15
  • May 6 (Teacher Appreciation Lunch)
  • May 20

God’s Garden is the Christian Preschool serving families in Ahwatukee and the Foothills and is licensed and regulated by the State of Arizona.


Our incredible staff of teachers

Ms. Maxine

Teaches: 4’s M-F 

Position: Lead Teacher

Background:  Ms. Maxine has over 10 years of experience working with young children.

Interests/Hobbies: Maxine loves spending time with her family.  They like to hike, travel, and go bowling. Maxine once got to escort the Queen of England when she worked for the Channel Tunnel in England!

Years at God’s Garden: 5

Ms. Julia

Teaches: All Classrooms

Position: Substitute Teacher

Background: Ms. Julia was born in Vietnam and has lived in Arizona for 16 years.  She has over 7 years of experience working with young children.  She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling at Northern Arizona University (Phoenix).  

Interests/Hobbies: She enjoys reading, spending time with friends, and loves helping others.  

Years at God’s Garden: 7

Ms. Kim S.

Teaches: 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s Preschool – Full-Day Combo M-F

Position: Teacher’s Assistant

Background:  Ms. Kim has a Bachelor’s degree in Business and is a certified K-9 teacher.  She is also working on her Child Development Associate (CDA) in Early Childhood Education at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

Interests/Hobbies:  Kim enjoys spending time with her family and friends.  She likes kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, going to the movies, and traveling.  She even traveled the world on a ship!

Years at God’s Garden:  3

Ms. Claudie

Teaches: 3’s MWF 

Position: Lead Teacher

Background: Ms. Claudie has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Social Sciences.  Working on completing her Child Development Associate Credential.  

Interests/Hobbies: Ms. Claudie enjoys reading, traveling, and going to the movies.  

Years at God’s Garden:  17

Ms. Christine

Teaches: 3’s MWF

Position: Teacher’s Assistant

Background: Ms. Christine has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education

Interests/Hobbies: She enjoys running, working out, cooking/baking, walking my dog and spending time with my family and friends. 

Years at God’s Garden: 11

Ms. Brianna

Teaches: All Classrooms

Position: Substitute Teacher

Background:  This is Brianna’s second year at God’s Garden.  She has many years of experience teaching Dance to young children. 

Interests/Hobbies: She grew up in Gilbert and was a competitive dancer and horseback rider most of her childhood. Her love for both eventually led her to teaching dance and giving horseback riding lessons for kids of all ages.

Years at God’s Garden:  2

Ms. Kim

Teaches: Kindergarten

Position: Lead Teacher

Background:  Ms. Kim has many years of experience teaching, including several years in the 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s Preschool classrooms here at GG and many years of experience teaching Kindergarten, as well. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education (with a teaching certificate) and a Master’s degree in Human Relations.


Years at God’s Garden:  8

Ms. Leah

Teaches: 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s Preschool – Full-Day Combo M-F

Position: Lead Teacher

Background:  Ms. Leah has over 10 years of experience working with young children.  She has worked with children of all ages.  She has been at God’s Garden for one year and is excited to teach full day preschool this year. 

Interests/Hobbies: Ms. Leah loves to spend time with family and go hiking during her free time. 

Years at God’s Garden: 2

Ms. Denise

Position: Assistant Director (M-F)

Background: Ms. Denise has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.  She has over 25 years of experience working with children.  She has taught a variety of ages including pre-k, Kindergarten, and beyond and she worked as a Vice Principal for over 17 years.  She has 3 sons and 2 grandchildren.  

Interests/Hobbies: She enjoys shopping, reading, traveling, and spending time with family.

Years at God’s Garden: 7

Ms. Sonya

Teaches: All Classrooms

Position: Substitute Teacher

Background:  Sonya is a Tempe Native and graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Family and Human Development and Speech and Hearing Science.  She also works as the Horizon Kids’ Children’s Ministry Coordinator at Horizon Church.

Interests/Hobbies:  She grew up in a Christian household and came to know the Lord when she was 17 years old. She has a huge passion for children’s spiritual formation, missions, and Christian fellowship.

Years at God’s Garden: 2

Ms. Mariah

Teaches: All ages

Position: Substitute Teacher

Background: This is Ms. Mariah’s 3rd year at God’s Garden.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in History from Northern Arizona University.

Interests/Hobbies: Ms. Mariah loves animals and spending time with people and children.  She used to work at PetSmart and loves to pet sit!

Years at God’s Garden: 2

Ms. Terri

Teaches: all ages

Position: 4’s Pre-K Teacher Assistant and Stay and Play Teacher

Background: Ms. Terri has over 33 years of experience working with young children.  She is extremely happy and blessed to be the Stay and Play Teacher this school year.  Ms. Terri loves working with young children. Preschoolers are her favorite age to work with.

Interests/Hobbies:  In her spare time, Terri loves dancing Hula and shopping. She also loves traveling, spending time with her family, friends, her husband, and her furry baby, Brave.

Her favorite Scripture is Philippians 4:13: “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me.”

Ms. DeAna

Teaches: 2’s MWF

Position: Teacher’s Assistant

Background: Ms. DeAna is currently working on completing her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Grand Canyon University.  She is a Freshman.  She loves working with kids and especially loves working in the 2’s classroom. 

Interests/Hobbies: She loves to read, travel, and go hiking. She played club soccer for 10+ years.

Years at God’s Garden: 1

Ms. Amber

Teaches: 2’s MWF

Position: Lead Teacher and Stay and Play Teacher

Background:  Ms. Amber started out as an intern and impressed us so much  that we hired her on the spot!  She will graduate from Rio Salado in the Spring and will be transferring to NAU to complete a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Ed or Elementary Ed with an emphasis in Special Education.

Interests/Hobbies:  In her free time, Amber loves to spend time with her family. They travel to Illinois and Tennessee often. She enjoys camping in the mountains and boating on the lake. She also loves to watch and play sports (soccer, football, quad and dirt bike riding) with her family.

Years at God’s Garden: 1

Ms. Jessica

Teaches: 2’s MWF

Position: Teacher’s Assistant

Background: Ms. Jessica has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design.  She has many years of experience working with children, including children with special needs.  She has three children of her own, including two who currently attend God’s Garden.

Interests/Hobbies: Ms. Jessica makes space for big emotions!  

Years at God’s Garden: First Year

Meet the Director – Michelle Rhodes

This is Ms. Michelle’s 9th year at God’s Garden.  She has a passion for creating high quality early childhood programs for young children. Above all, she is an advocate for children and families. She strives to improve and make a difference in the lives of young children and their families by preparing professionals to create high quality learning experiences in the classroom. Her goal is to help support all children and families and to provide them with the tools to be successful in life!

Michelle has a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education and close to 20 years of experience working in early childhood education. She has many years of experience teaching and training early childhood professionals. She loves coaching and mentoring teachers and watching them grow!  You will find her leading professional development workshops on early release days or observing and working with teachers in the classroom; helping them learn new skills or fine tune what they already know.

Michelle has over 20 years of experience teaching and working with diverse young children and their families. She has not only worked directly with children in licensed preschool centers, but she has also worked with children and their families in various community settings, as well, including Leaps and Bounds, a family-interactive kindergarten readiness program for families with preschool aged children.  You will often find Ms. Michelle in the classroom teaching and playing with children.  She absolutely loves kids and it shows!

Grounded in Piaget’s theory of Constructivism, Michelle’s believes that children “learn by doing” and thus hands-on experiences are crucial to student learning and growth. Michelle believes in providing an emergent, play-based, child-centered curriculum for children to be successful in school and life.

Although Michelle was born in California, Arizona is home to her.  She has lived here for over 30 years.  She lives with her two daughters, Josephine and Lola, and enjoys the outdoors. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, running, hiking, roller blading, swimming, and camping.

Michelle enjoys connecting and networking with members of the community.  Feel free to reach out to her by email with questions or to connect at



Get to know our group


God’s Garden Preschool is governed by the Horizon Church Board of Directors, known as Session.  Session oversees the continuing operation of God’s Garden Preschool and Child Development Center and consists of Church Members, the Preschool Director, and Pastor. The Board plans, develops and establishes policy, and assess the performance of the school. The Board is also responsible for promoting Christian education in the community. The Board encourages personal faith in Christ and the building of Christian character.