We are so excited to have such amazing group of individuals returning with us for another magical year at CGS! Even though some have been here for a while, we thought it would be nice for a re-get-to-know-you session with each of them as life is ever growing and changing! Please enjoy reading all about our 2023/2024 returning CGS staff members, their backgrounds, interests and what they have been up to as of late!
Liz Farkas - Early Start
This summer I took time with my husband to travel on the west coast from California to Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
Melissa Alonzi - Early Start
Hello! My name is Melissa and I am a passionate and dedicated preschool teacher. I have been working in the field of early childhood education for 20 years.
I believe that the preschool years are a critical time in a child’s development. I am committed to providing a nurturing and stimulating environment where each child can thrive and reach their full potential. I understand the importance of creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere that promotes curiosity, creativity and a love for learning.
I also value the partnership between parents and teachers, as I believe that a strong home-school connection is important for a child's overall development.
Beyond the classroom, I love spending time with my family and friends, gathering, entertaining, and creating memories. I love making Italian dishes and cooking from scratch. Fall is my favourite season, I love the crisp air and the smell of baking in the kitchen. Christmas is my favourite holiday, as I enjoy singing Christmas carols all year round. Decorating and the twinkle of the lights warms my heart.
Above all, I am dedicated to creating a safe and inclusive learning environment where each child feels valued, respected, and supported. I am excited to embark on this educational journey with your child and I look forward to working together to make their preschool experience a memorable and enriching one. Hooray to a fabulous year in Early Start!
Cheryl Fan - Early Start
Hello, my name is Cuiyin (Cheryl) Fan. I am proud to be a teacher of the Early Start Team in CGS. I am excited to be your child’s dedicated teacher in the new school year.
I grew up in China and then moved to Canada with my husband where we have built a life that I love with our beautiful daughter. I received a Bachelor's Degree in Education and I am certified to teach Early Childhood.
I am also a certified Montessori teacher and TESOL teacher (Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages). I teach Mandarin to the students who are interested in learning the language as an extra curriculum at CGS.
I have been working with children over 16 years and I have a true passion for working with our youngest learners! It is my honour to accept the challenge daily, helping each child progress in all areas of their development—academic, social, language, and motor. I strive to work together with my colleagues to best nurture this growth in a positive and fun environment.
When I am not working hard and playing with the children at school, you will find me with my husband and daughter walking through the woods, listening to music, taking pictures of the beautiful scenery, watching movies and enjoying nice restaurants. I also enjoy reading, cooking, fishing, relaxing at the beach, and spending time with friends and family.
I look forward to working together with you as partners in your child’s growth and development!
Erin Garavellos - Early Start
My name is Erin Garavellos. I grew up in Leaside and graduated from Toronto Metropolitan University. I have a Bachelor of Arts specializing in Early Childhood Education. I have been with Children’s Garden School for a few years and have had the absolute pleasure of working with the most incredible children.
I love knowing that my job is to help children achieve their full potential and strive for greatness. But, not only do I teach them, they teach me too!
I learn so much from each and every child that I have the pleasure of teaching. I believe having a space that is warm, inviting, and inclusive helps children to feel safe and cared for, so that they can be comfortable exploring, trying new things, and learning new skills.
I love having the opportunity to guide and teach little minds. There is no better feeling than knowing you have helped to brighten a child’s day and seeing their faces and expression’s while they experience and learn new things.
In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, trying new recipes and traveling. I love to play outdoor sports too! I look forward to meeting/working with everyone this new school year! This truly is a family environment that I am so proud to be a part of.
Simon Pang - JK
Hello, I am Simon. I’m so excited to be back teaching JK this year at CGS!! I’m ready to have a wonderful year with both the JKs and the whole school community, and I can’t wait to see how much everyone will grow throughout the year! I have my Masters of Teaching from OISE, and I have been teaching for 4 years (with 3 years being at CGS). Outside of the classroom, you can find me outside biking, playing sports, or disc golfing!
Paula Woods - SK
Many of you know me already. I’ve been a part of the CGS family for almost 30 years. I started when I was 3!
I am so excited to be returning to CGS for what I know will be another amazing year. I love teaching SK and feel incredibly fortunate to be working with the most enchanting little humans ever! I love their passion for learning, spontaneity, and the way their adorable faces illuminate the classroom with so much joy and excitement.
When I’m not teaching, I love to visit my family in the UK, travel to exciting destinations, read, or see a movie, or a play. I feel these experiences are very similar to teaching, given every day is a new, and magical adventure. There is always something, or someone that makes you feel happy, and more importantly a meaningful experience to fondly remember for years to come.
Here's to a year filled with engagement, laughter, and endless possibilities!
Michelle Luke - Grade 2/3
My name is Michelle Luke and I am lucky to be a member of the CGS team! I have been a teacher at CGS for over 20 years now. In this time, I have had experience teaching all grade levels from Junior Kindergarten to Grade Four, with most of my time spent in Grade 2/3. Even after all these years in the classroom, the beginning of a school year is always such an exciting time for me. I love getting to know my new students and learning about each child’s interests and passions.
I have two children, 8 and 10 years of age, who keep me on my toes when I’m not in the classroom. We have a pet dog and an adorable little bunny (who sometimes acts like a dog). They certainly help to keep our home a busy and entertaining place! I am also a mom to many, many plants. I love learning about them and caring for them!
I look forward to playing an important role in my students’ lives this year, and I can already imagine how much they will teach ME over the next 10 months!
Carrie Laureola - Art Teacher
My name is Carrie and I am thrilled to be your child’s art teacher at CGS this year. I have been fortunate enough to have established a career teaching art in this community for over 10 years. My teaching journey began when I first opened the doors to Bamboobay Arts School in the heart of Leaside on Bayview Avenue. Five years into running my school, I was lucky enough to be introduced to principal Marie, where I found out about the opportunity to teach at CGS.
I fell in love with the teaching philosophy of the school and working here was such a natural progression for me to continue to spread the joy of art in our community. I am now entering my 6th year teaching at CGS and I couldn’t be happier to do what I love each day.
Being an art teacher is the best job because I get to be inspired everyday. I am instantly uplifted when my students proudly show me their work. It is a wonder to see what unfolds when a child is given the power to express themselves through art. My goal is to continue to encourage my students to be creative and find joy in the process. When I am not teaching in the classroom, I can be found hanging out with my husband, son and walking my little Shih-Tzu dog.
Tony Wright - Gym Teacher
Hello! My name is Tony and I’m the Phys Ed teacher and this will be my third year here at CGS! I have 20 years of experience as a child and youth worker across the city.
I play and coach basketball 7 days a week to both youth and adults. I have a huge sneaker collection that I’m very passionate about it. I’m excited to be your teacher! It’s going to be a fun year with lots of learning and new adventures in gym!
Naomi Peltz - Music/Drama Teacher
Hello! My name is Naomi Peltz and I have fifteen years of music, drama and ESL teaching experience. I love to travel and have had opportunities to teach in a few different countries, including Italy and China, which are some of the most memorable times of my life.
I love working with children of all ages and find it extremely fulfilling to watch young minds grow and develop through exposure to arts education.
I believe that the arts are essential for people of all ages and know first-hand how beneficial a healthy arts education is for building social skills and confidence. I specialize in using the arts to overcome stress and anxiety and am working towards getting my masters in Drama Therapy.
As I mentioned, I love travelling, so when I am not at school, I am often gearing up for my next adventure: I am currently preparing to hike Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania next July, alongside my husband and a few friends, and I am equal parts excited and terrified!
Otherwise, when I am home, I love cuddling with my cats, working on my wood-burning art and spending time with my friends, family and collection of garden gnomes. I am thrilled to be returning to teach at CGS for the 2023/2024 school year and am looking forward to engaging my students on their music, drama and mindfulness journey.
Zandée Toovey - Office Administration Manager
Hello! My name is Zandée Toovey (pronounced like: Zonday). I’ve been a part of the administration team at Children’s Garden School for 16 glorious years. I have always loved my job assisting teachers, parents, students, Marie and the CGS office to make everything run smoothly during the school year and to make everyone’s life just a little bit easier. A daily highlight for me is conducting morning announcements with our grade 2/3 students.
It'a always a great start to my day interacting with the students preparing them to give the morning announcements to the entire student body over the intercom.
Originally from the U.S., Toronto has been my home for over 25 years and Iam proud to be a Canadian Citizen. I majored in Musical Theatre in performance and made it my career for several years singing with dinner theaters, cruise ships, & summer stock productions. Over the past 16 years I had changed my career path happily working at CGS & now performing in various community theatres as a hobby. Beside the passion of theatre, I enjoy taking cooking classes at George Brown College, singing in a Toronto-based choir, biking, taking long walks in the city, travelling any chance I can get, cuddling with my two cats Fish & Frances and spending time with close family & friends. I look forward to another wonderful school year welcoming new and returning families to our CGS community. We truly are one big family at CGS.
Sarah McGowan - Director of Parent Engagement and Admissions
Hello, I'm Sarah McGowan! I am apart of the Children's Garden School office team. I am excited to be returning to CGS this Fall.
I have a BFA Honours in Performing Arts from Brock University along side a College Concentrative Diploma in Musical Theatre from Randolph College. I have been working in the world of admissions, parent engagement and Social PR for the last 8 years through youth theatre companies before joining the CGS team this past January.
When I am not keeping our CGS Parents and community informed or writing blogs and snapping the best candid photos of our students, you can find me snuggling up with my fur baby French Bulldog Toni Pepperoni, laughing and adventuring with husband, playing board games and trying all different restaurants with friends and family, and most recently, moving through a new chapter of life expecting my first little one of my own. This year has a lot to come and I am so excited to be sharing it with such an amazing team and community!