Our teachers are the best

Our staff members are carefully selected based on educational qualifications and experience in the field of early childhood education. Equally as important is a loving and genuine interest in young children. 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.

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. 

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

Maxine Borst

Teaches: 4’s M-F 

Position: Teacher’s Assistant 

Background:  Ms. Maxine has over 7 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: 1

Marcela Erramuzpe

Teaches: 2’s MWF and 2’s T/TH

Position: Teacher’s Assistant

Background:  Ms. Marcela has a bachelor’s degree in Science: Bacteriology and Clinical Laboratory, but has many years of experience working with young children.

Interests/Hobbies: She was born in Columbia and has lived in Arizona for 19 years. She speaks Spanish and enjoys traveling. She loves teaching, spending time with family and friends, reading, sewing, cooking, exercising, listening to music, and watching sports.

Years at God’s Garden:  3

Sandy Hand

Teaches: 2’s T/TH

Position: Lead Teacher

Background:  Ms. Sandy has a master’s degree in Business Administration, Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, and 8 years experience working as Childcare Coordinator for Foothills Baptist Church. 

Interests/Hobbies: Ms. Sandy loves reading, sewing, spending time with her family

Years at God’s Garden:  4

Hannah Kern

Teaches: 2’s MWF and 2’s T/TH

Position: Lead Teacher and Teacher’s Assistant

Background: Ms. Hannah has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education.  She has several years of experience working with children ranging from ages birth-16.

Interests/Hobbies: Ms. Hannah is from Catalina Island, CA, a small island off the coast of California.  During the summer months Ms. Hannah has the opportunity to be a Boat Captain at a local summer camp.

Years at God’s Garden:  2

Claudie McKenzie

Teaches: 3’s TWTH 

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:  14

Abby Northup

Teaches: 2’s MWF 

Position: Lead Teacher

Background: Ms. Abby has several years of experience working with young children, including children with special needs.  

Interests/Hobbies: Ms. Abby enjoys reading, swimming, and singing. 

Years at God’s Garden:  1st year

Kim Sappenfield

Teaches: 3’s MWF 

Position: Teacher’s Assistant

Background: Kim has a bachelor’s degree in Business and a certified K-9 teacher.  Ms. Kim 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:  2

Lisa Schedler

Teaches: 4’s M-F 

Position: Lead Teacher 

Background:  Ms. Lisa has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and over 10 years of experience working with young children.  She has taught preschool, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade.   She loves utilizing her passion for early childhood education to create a classroom environment that motivates and educates young learners.

Interests/Hobbies: In her free time, Ms. Lisa loves gardening and attending Bible Studies with her husband at Cornerstone Church.  Her faith in Jesus is Fundamental in all that she does. 

Years at God’s Garden: 1

Kelly Schroeder

Teaches: 4’s MWF

Position: Lead Teacher

Background: Ms. Kelly has a bachelor’s degree in Special Education

Interests/Hobbies: Ms. Kelly is creative, flexible, and curious. She loves to bake yummy healthy treats for her family and she also enjoys being outside hiking and playing tennis. She likes to bake. She has a garden. She enjoys painting. She has a blue refrigerator and once she was in a local commercial!

Years at God’s Garden: 7

Christine Somyk

Teaches: 3’s TWTH 

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: 7

Sara Stecyk

Teaches: 3’s MWF

Position: Lead Teacher and Assistant Director T/TH

Background: Ms. Sara has a bachelor’s degree in Human Development with a minor in Early Childhood Education and a Teaching Certificate in Early Childhood Education.

Interests/Hobbies: Ms. Sara enjoys reading, spending time with family, watching sports, and going to the movies with her son. 

Years at God’s Garden: 13

Denise Tobin

Position: Assistant Director MWF

Background: Ms. Denise has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education

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

Years at God’s Garden: 5

Julia Ziesmer

Teaches: 4’s MWF

Position: Teacher’s Assistant

Background: Ms. Julia has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling. 

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

Years at God’s Garden: 3

Meet the Director – Michelle Rhodes


Michelle Rhodes has been the Director of God’s Garden Preschool for almost 5 years. 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 over 15 years of experience working in early childhood education. She has many years of experience teaching, training, and mentoring early childhood professionals. She also has many 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.

Michelle’s teaching style is grounded in Piaget’s theory of Constructivism; she believes that both children and adults “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.

Michelle 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 a Board of Directors. God’s Garden encourages people with marketing, advertising, fundraising or financial experience to serve on the board. This includes Horizon Presbyterian church members, God’s Garden parents, members of the community, the Pastor, and the Preschool Director.

The Board of Directors oversees the continuing operation of God’s Garden Preschool. 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.


Reverend Joe Surin, Transitional Pastor
Genevieve Kennedy, President, GG Parent
Rachel Holm, GG Parent
Mac Castle, Treasurer, Church Member
Brian Long, Church Member
Mariott Hileman, Community Member
Angela Ratynski, Church Member, Session Liaison
Margarita Burke, GG Parent
Dr. Michelle Rhodes, GG Director

We are pleased to serve you this year. We are looking for parents, church members, and/or community members to serve on the Board of Directors. If you are interested in serving on the Board, please contact the Director at If you want to share your ideas or feedback with the Board of Directors, contact us at