The Breakwater School Early Childhood Division provides a developmentally responsive program that serves young children through play based, emergent curriculum rooted in a celebration of the natural world. Inspired by the best practices of Reggio Emilia and Montessori education, and grounded in intentional, integrated and researched based teaching, this is the "Breakwater Way" for our youngest friends.  We are a community of children, parents, and teachers who are partners in a journey of learning. We value parents as a child’s first teachers, and we welcome their ongoing involvement in the classroom.






Toddler Program Snapshot

Age range: 18 - 36 months
Maximum class size: 9
Teacher/student ratio: 1:5

3 or 5 full days (8am-3pm)
5 half days (8am-12pm)
Aftercare options (3-5:30pm)

Preschool Program Snapshot

Age range: 3 - 5 years
Maximum class size: 16
Teacher/student ratio: 1:8

3 or 5 full days (8am-3pm)
5 half days (8am-12pm)
BeforeCare options (7:30-8am)
AfterCare options (3-5:30pm)

Kindergarten  Snapshot

Age range: 5 - 6 years
Maximum class size: 18
Teacher/student ratio: 1:13

5 full days (8:15am-3:10pm)
BeforeCare options (7:30-8am)
AfterCare options (3:10-6pm)


Throughout Breakwater we affirm the integrity of childhood by placing high value on play. In early childhood, it is the cornerstone of our approach to learning.

Research has shown that young children learn new skills and process experiences best during play, and that play based curriculum provides the most optimal outcomes for growth and development. Through play, children actively pose problems, explore solutions, and develop understandings of real world concepts. By comparing and contrasting information gained from new experiences to what they already know, children actively construct knowledge about the way the world works. Play provides meaningful opportunities to experience success on a child's own terms, supports a greater sense of autonomy, and builds lasting self-confidence. 

The role of the teacher in play based education is not passive. Through diligent observation, planning and the use of strategies to enhance children’s play experiences, teachers integrate specific learning goals and objectives for the group and for individuals, and capitalize on emerging interests to create learning opportunities. 

Sometimes we hear, “But all they do in early childhood is play!” and to that we respond - YES! and how good and valuable it is. For resources and research on play based education visit NAEYC, and come visit us!

The Natural World

At Breakwater, we go outside. A lot. And we bring the outside indoors. Our early childhood teachers facilitate connection with the natural world everyday, providing children rich opportunity to listen, look, question, feel, guess, discuss, and love the things they find all around them. Exploring nature through play, particularly outdoors, provides endless opportunity for growing and learning in a boundless environment- the child immersed in a multitude of sensory and awe inspiring experiences. 

Children need access to nature the same way they need good nutrition and adequate sleep. It is fundamental to their growth and wellbeing. Nature play at Breakwater follows this intrinsic pathway to developing imaginative and creative thinking abilities, empathy, independence, acceptance of diversity, self-regulation, mindfulness, physical stamina and locomotor practice, improved receptive and expressive language, healthy risk taking, and collaboration skills by providing both unstructured and intentional nature based learning experiences. Everyday.

Educational Continuity

While the toddler, preschool and kindergarten classrooms are staffed by different teachers, and each serve children of differing ages, the Breakwater School Early Childhood Division as a unified program. The teaching approach of every staff member is informed by our shared philosophy and Breakwater’s core beliefs. Teachers meet and work together as a team to best serve our community.  As children move from our toddler room to the preschool to kindergarten, they can expect to have similar relationships with teachers, experience common and familiar language, have the same rich exposure to materials for exploration and expression, and receive the same individualized attention to their needs.

This continuity of experience is perpetual throughout Breakwater’s toddler - 8th grade programming.

Our Early Childhood Teaching Team

Hover for names, positions and biographies.

Katie O'Toole - Toddler Program
Katie O'Toole has a Master’s in elementary education with a concentration in special education and a Master’s in early childhood leadership from Bank Street College of Education, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from College of the Holy Cross. Prior to Breakwater, Katie served as Director and Twos teacher at the Nest at Alphabet Academy, a Yale affiliated early learning center, and Associate Director and Twos teacher at Downtown Little School in Manhattan. 

Danielle Gorman - Toddler Program
Through her career teaching music Danielle discovered abiding joy and gratification in the time she spent with her youngest students. Experienced in toddler education, Danielle also holds certifications in Montessori practices, Musikgarten, and Orff-Schulwerk, and is a fully certified yoga instructor. Danielle guides our students through their daily discoveries in her classroom, provides music exploration opportunities for all of our toddler students, and is developing a mindfulness education curriculum.

Yazi Azel - Preschool Program
Early childhood education became a passion for Yazi while knee-deep in the mud of salt marshes in Ipswich, MA, digging for razor clams with a group of young children. Everyday adventures like this showed Yazi that education could be deeply meaningful in the outdoors. This lead Yazi to attain her Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education with a concentration in Science and Environmental Education from Antioch University New England. Combined with a Bachelors of Fine Arts with a concentration in Creative Arts Therapy from Endicott College, Yazi values using the arts, creativity, storytelling, and nature as central components of the child’s learning experience.

Stephanie Davis - Preschool Program
Stephanie was with Breakwater for nine years leading our toddler through 8th grade music program. She now brings her rich background of classroom teaching, music instruction, and a thorough understanding of Breakwater’s pedagogical approach to our preschool team. Stephanie’s warmth, incredible creativity, and skill inspires and delights children and parents alike. She is a unique, experienced teacher who sees the opportunity to open doors of wonder in small moments everywhere.

Molly Traynor - Kindergarten Lead
Molly “believe[s] passionately that students who are engaged in authentic, experiential activities will learn to love learning”. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education and Child Studies from Lesley University and is currently finishing her Master’s degree at Lesley for Integration of Creative Arts in Education. Molly is an experienced educator who has held the long term goal of becoming a kindergarten teacher. With skill and passion, she eagerly and creatively meets the developmental, academic and social needs of our kindergarten children. 

Wendy Getchell - Early Childhood Coordinator
Wendy taught our toddlers for six years bringing her experience and love of children to her role as Early Childhood Program Coordinator. Her sixteen years teaching and working with young children began at New Dance Studio in 2000 as an early childhood dance teacher. Wendy served as Managing Director at Terpsicore Dance Inc. from 2009-2014 and is founder and director of Kids Creative: Moving Arts for Kids, an after-school arts program that provides dance for young children. Wendy holds a B.A. from the University of Southern Maine, has completed courses for Infant/Toddler Credentials I and II, holds a certificate in Staff Leadership from CEI, and has Nature Play training from Maine Audobon. Wendy most recently volunteered on a NEASC Visiting Committee for the accreditation of schools.

Erica Paul - Toddler Program
Erica comes from a family of educators. She began her formal training at Sarah Lawrence College, and continued at UMaine at Farmington. Erica received a degree in Early Childhood and holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Special Education. Erica is a level six Maine Roads to Quality member, holds a 282 certification in Early Childhood Special Education and a 081 certification in Early Childhood for children between the ages of birth and five.

Callie Hastings - Toddler Program
Callie holds a BFA from Alfred University, a Post-Bachelors from the Teacher Preparation Program at Massachusetts College of Art & Design, Preschool Teacher Certification and Massachusetts Visual Art Educator PreK-8 Initial Licensure Certification. She joins Breakwater after working for the ARTS-CENTRIC learning COMMUNITY of the Arlington Children’s Center in Arlington, MA. Callie has always had a deep love for art and making, and finds the curiosity and vibrant creativity of children inspiring!

Kimberly Sanders - Preschool Program
Kim has a BA in Economics and received her Masters from Antioch New England University in Early Childhood and Elementary Education with a Science and Environmental concentration. Additionally, she is certified to teach both Early Childhood and Special Education for young children. Prior to Breakwater, she was the preschool and Family Programs Manager at Maine Audubon. Kim believes a foundation to skill development in problem-solving, independent thinking, collaboration, and communication is built when children play and learn together. When done in the natural environment, tapping into a child's innate curiosity, it promotes social and environmental responsibility.

Danielle Gismondi - Preschool Program
Danielle studied Early Childhood Education and Psychology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, where she obtained her M.Ed in Literacy. She has taught in both private and public schools and has taught Program Development for 3,4 & 5 Year Olds at the college level. Danielle brings with her a 10 year yoga teaching practice and training in mindfulness, self-regulation, and work with children with autism, down syndrome and developmental delays. Danielle believes, like Loris Malaguzzi, that there is "Nothing without joy."

Alicia Amy - Teaching Associate
Alicia has her BA from Penn State, and spent eight years teaching with Nature's Classroom. Additionally, she has taught on the deck of tall ships, in the woods and beaches of New England, and in small villages in Western Samoa. She came to Breakwater with a passion for the Reggio Emilia philosophy, and remains committed to our learning community, its focus on curiosity and the creativity it allows. Alicia began at Breakwater leading our preschool and kindergarten aftercare program and taught Spanish, then taught our grades 3/4.

Jeanne King - Early Childhood AfterCare Coordinator
Jeanne has been with Breakwater for twenty-one years! She has taught kindergarten and preschool and delights in nurturing the hearts, minds and growing bodies of young children. Jeanne leads the Early Childhood Enrichment program with attentive interest for each child’s thoughts, stories, upsets and triumphs. Jeanne offers continuity throughout the day to the toddlers and preschoolers through time regular time spent in each classroom, ensuring that when children arrive in aftercare they are already familiar and comfortable her. Jeanne holds a B.S. in elementary education with a concentration in literacy from St. Joseph’s College.