photo by Sarah Duggin

First row, L-R: Rachael LaPolla, Lisa Brooks, Jennifer Azzariti, Elyse Crown, Molly McSherry

Second row, L-R: Melanie Olsen, Jessica Kuhn, Jill Heim, Brooke Staton,

Jessica McMillan, Melanie Ruston

Administrative Team

Molly McSherry, Head of School

Molly has 30 years of experience as an educator in both teaching and administration, locally and internationally. She holds a B.A. in English and Education from The Catholic University of America and a M.A. in Early Childhood Education from the Institute of Education at University College London. Molly is a member of the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance and the National Association of the Education of Young Children. This is Molly’s second year with St. John’s.

Jessica Kuhn, Educational Program Administrator

Jessica graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor of arts degree in public relations, and a master’s degree in elementary education. Jessica has 14 years of combined experience as a teacher and administrator in various educational settings. This is Jessica’s fifth year at St. John’s.

Jennifer Azzariti, Pedagogical Director

For the past 29 years Jennifer has worked both locally and nationally with schools inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy, focusing particularly on the culture of the atelier. She has collaborated with St. John’s for almost 20 years and is the proud mom of two St. John’s alumni. When not at St. John’s, she is working with the Lourie Center Head Start and Early Head Start partnerships, and other schools in DC and beyond. Jennifer is the Founding Chair of the DC Reggio Emilia Alliance.


Theresa McCoy, Business Manager

Theresa is a Certified Public Accountant with over 16 years of experience with international non-profit and community management organizations. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance from the George Washington University. She was honored as a National Scholar of the Horatio Alger Association for Distinguished Americans. She has worked part-time at St. John’s for the past 15 years.

Aletha Peters, Business Administrator

Aletha is the part-time business administrator at St. John’s Preschool. She has a bachelor’s of art degree in business administration with a concentration in business management and a master’s of science in fashion design. She has over 10 years of professional experience in various areas of business operations. This is her third year at St. John’s.


Elyse Crown, Teacher

For the past six years, Elyse has taught in Reggio inspired schools in: Richmond, VA; New Haven, CT; Fairfax, VA; New Orleans, LA; and Seattle, WA. In addition to her work with children, she has served as a Pedagogical Specialist conducting presentations and trainings about the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Elyse holds an M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies: Early Childhood Development and Dance from the University of Alabama. After receiving her degrees, she served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Cosenza, Italy. This is Elyse’s first year at St. John’s.

Lisa Brooks, Teacher

Before joining St. John’s, Lisa was a pre-kindergarten partner teacher and special education student teacher at Van Ness Elementary School. Prior to that, she spent a decade working in criminal and juvenile justice system reform as a researcher, policy analyst, and consultant. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood special education from the George Washington University, a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from the University of Virginia. This is Lisa’s her fourth year at St. John’s.

Jill Heim, Teacher

Jill has a degree in child psychology from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Maryland. Before joining St John’s in 2001, Jill taught in full-time programs, worked as a center director, presented at conferences, and volunteered as a NAEYC accreditation specialist. This is Jill’s 19th year at St. John’s.

Rachael LaPolla, Teacher

Rachael has a master’s degree in early childhood education from Northwestern State University of Louisiana and a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Toy Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She was a toy and textile designer in New York and Atlanta prior to becoming an educator. Rachael taught at Reggio inspiried preschools for 5 years in New Orleans, LA. This is Rachael’s second year at St. John’s.


Jessica McMillan, Teacher

Jessica has an Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education from New Hampshire Technical Institute, Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood from SUNY Empire State College, and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from the University of Vermont. She has worked with children of all ages and in a variety of settings since 1999.


Melanie Olsen, Teacher

Melanie’s teaching career began upon moving to the DC area in 2014. At that time, she was working at public charter schools and attending Trinity Washington University, where she earned her Masters of Arts in Teaching with an emphasis on early childhood education. She holds a dual baccalaureate degree in environmental studies and comparative humanities from Bucknell University. She joined the St. John’s community in 2016.

Melanie Ruston, Teacher

Melanie is entering her fourth year teaching at St. John’s.  She graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Arts in Teaching, and continues to be a practicing artist.  Her previous teaching experiences have included educational positions in three prominent Baltimore art museums, and teaching art to K-5 in Baltimore County Public Schools.

 Brooke Staton, Teacher

Brooke has a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development from the University of Colorado. Before transitioning into early childhood education, she taught elementary school for 15 years. She spent 11 of those 15 years living and working overseas in Colombia, Indonesia and Austria. She holds a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Literature from the University of Colorado. Brooke is also fluent in Spanish. This is her second year at St. John’s.

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