Classes & Teachers
Children are grouped in classes by age as of September 1st. This is the deadline used by the Georgia public school system, as well as most area private schools.
The Chickadees are between 24 and 29 months of age as of September 1. The student-teacher ratio is 6-to-1, with one parent-teacher. There are six children in each class. Attendance options include two days a week (TF) or three days a week (MWTh).
The Wrens are between 30 and 35 months old as of September 1. The student-teacher ratio is 7-to-1, with one parent-teacher. There are seven children in each class. Attendance options include two days a week (TF).
The Robins are at least three years old as of September 1. The student-teacher ratio is 8-to-1, with one parent-teacher. There are eight children in each class. The Robins meet three days a week (MWTh).
The Sparrows are at least three years old as of September 1. The student-teacher ratio is 8-to-1, with one parent-teacher. There are eight children in each class. Attendance options include two, three, or five days a week.
The Owls are at least three years old as of September 1. The student-teacher ratio is 8-to-1, with one parent-teacher. There are eight children in each class. The Owls meet three days a week (MWTh).
The Larks are at least four years old as of September 1. The student-teacher ratio is 14-to-1, with one teaching assistant or parent-teacher. Attendance options include three, four, or five days a week.
The teacher is the designer of the child’s environment and maintains the rhythm of the day. He or she constantly interacts with the children and is engaged in an ongoing cycle of observation, guidance, and assessment. The relationship that the teacher develops with each child is instrumental in providing the safe and secure environment on which OCP prides itself. The teacher also helps children work through disagreements as an unbiased mediator.
Another important relationship that the teacher nurtures is the relationship with the parent. Open communication with parents occurs on a regular basis, and the unique parent-teaching experience of the cooperative preschool allows for an even stronger relationship between parent, teacher, and child.
Relationships between caregivers/teachers and children and their families are the foundation of a child’s development of sense of self and security and his or her ability to relate to others and express feelings. Our low child-to-teacher ratio fosters this strong relationship between teacher, child, and family.
Every class at OCP is led by an experienced teacher with at least a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education or related area of study and extensive experience working with young children and parent education. Lead teachers are supported by a parent-teacher, and in the case of the oldest class—the Larks, an assistant teacher. Assistant teachers must have successfully completed an associate degree in early childhood education with three to five years experience or a four-year degree with one to two years experience.
All teachers undergo an extensive interview process to determine their professional and ethical understanding of teaching young children. They must also understand and respect the parent’s role in a cooperative and value parent education. All are required to have current CPR and first aid certification.
Nicki Lynn Keys - Chickadees (young twos)
Nicki has been a part of a co-op family for the past ten years, and has been working with children her entire life. She first began working in a cooperative setting in Inman Park under Betty’s guidance and directorship. She then spent several years at OCP as a Chickadee, Wren, and summer program teacher. During her years away from OCP, she worked as a Certified Child Life Specialist within Children’s Healthcare, helping children and families navigate illness and injury by providing age-appropriate education, coping opportunities, and social engagement. She is so excited to return to a community oriented classroom setting, where she can merge her newly honed skill set into OCP’s philosophy.
Nicki believes that children deserve the freedom to explore their natural curiosity through play. She welcomes messes when necessary and teaches from a place of love. She lives in Peoplestown, Atlanta with her old greyhound and a yard full of chickens. Nicki also runs a cleaning service, “Cabbagetown Cleaning Company,” and can be found in her free time digging in the garden, riding her bicycle, or scooting about on her Vespa.
CJ Evans - Wrens (young threes), Robins (threes)
CJ lives in Oakhurst with her husband, Mike, and their children Connor (4th grade) and Jake (2nd grade). She grew up in the Pacific Northwest and earned a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Western Washington University. Her last 15 years have been spent coaching, teaching and caring for children.
CJ coached softball for five years at the University of Virginia. She left coaching in 2005 and moved to a cooperative community in Greenbelt, Maryland, where her husband Mike was attending graduate school. While in Greenbelt, she co-founded a cooperative preschool, while also raising her two boys.
Since moving to Decatur in 2009, CJ has worked as a nanny and has also volunteered at Friends of Refugees Center in Clarkston, where she cared for children ages two years and younger. She owns a small business, Southern Charm Textiles, and enjoys coaching her sons’ Decatur baseball teams.
CJ thoroughly enjoys engaging with children and helping them follow their passion for learning. She feels she has found her home in the OCP community.
Michelle Bennett - Owls (threes)
Michelle Bennett has been involved with cooperative preschools for more than 13 years, as a parent and as a teacher. She served on the OCP Board for two years as the curriculum chair, taught the first Larks class, and has been a substitute for OCP. Michelle holds a Masters in Elementary Education and has worked in the inner city schools of Washington, DC, and cooperative preschools here in Atlanta. She believes that wonderful things happen for children when parents and teachers work together for their benefit. This will be her third year teaching the Owls class.
Michelle’s son is an alumni of OCP, beginning as a Wren and ending as a Lark. Michelle lives in Candler Park with her son and husband. She enjoys reading, hiking, movies, and Pinterest for great teaching blogs.
Susan Diamond Sparrows (threes)
Susan Diamond has been involved in cooperative preschool education for nine years. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Georgia State University, with a major in French. After completing college she was employed in the hospitality and restaurant industries which allowed her to pursue her interest in travel.
Twelve years ago Susan and her husband Michael became parents, traveling to China to adopt their daughter, Ivy. Ivy began attending a cooperative preschool when she was two and a half. Soon after Susan became employed there as a substitute teacher, after-care teacher, and teacher’s assistant. She became a teacher and taught a multi-age class of three- and four- year olds.
Susan believes that children at the preschool level learn through play, and from experiencing and exploring the world around them. She feels that having parents present to participate and contribute in the classroom fosters a strong sense of community. Her daughter is in the ninth grade at Drew Charter School and has an incredible enthusiasm for learning which Susan attributes to early school years at a cooperative preschool. This is Susan’s fifth year as the Sparrows’ teacher. She enjoys playing a positive role in the lives of her students here at Oakhurst Cooperative Preschool.
Margie Ashe - Larks (fours)
Margie Ashe is excited to be teaching the Larks again this year! Margie first joined OCP as a parent in 2006, served two years on the Board of Directors as the Curriculum chair, and then joined the staff in 2013. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and has enjoyed the opportunity to teach and learn from children of all ages. Margie has a deep respect for the wonder of childhood and appreciates the freedom she has at OCP to provide authentic, active learning experiences for her students.
Margie lives in Oakhurst with her husband, Alan, and their children Lillian (12), a seventh-grader at Renfroe and Jonathan (8), a third-grader at Oakhurst Elementary.
Melissa Ogliastri - Larks (fours)
A Massachusetts native, Melissa moved to Charleston, South Carolina to attend Charleston Southern University, where she graduated with a BS in Early Childhood Education. In 2009, Melissa relocated to Atlanta with her dog, cat, and turtle to be a nanny for her nephew and two other children. Coincidentally, the children were all OCP alums. During those years, she came to appreciate the school’s child-led, nature based curriculum. And seeing how they’ve continued to thrive socially and independently has been a very powerful confirmation.
Melissa is very happy to be the teacher’s assistant for the Larks’ class this year. She knows Margie is a skilled, experienced teacher. And between both of them, she is confident the children will have very meaningful experiences at OCP.
Oakhurst Cooperative Preschool creates a nurturing community that gives children and their families the opportunity to learn, communicate, play and grow together. In this positive, family-centered educational environment, we strive to develop each child’s curiosity, empathy, confidence, self-discipline, and enthusiasm for learning.
By encouraging children to be active and creative explorers of art, music, literature, nature, and the community, we provide a foundation for acquiring the skills children need to succeed both now and in the future. We model sustainable practices through our curriculum, daily operations, and community events.