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Our Staff

Barbara Branch 


​B.A. in Political Science from Denver University. Ms. Barbara was teacher and Assistant Director of Umoja House in Oakland, CA and also a mentor and tutor with Oakland Public Schools. Ms. Barbara has been Director of First Baptist Church School since 1997. 


"I am committed to the nurturing and education of children. This is a lifelong passion."

Barbara Lanier

Office Administrator

Ms. Barbara has a B.A. in English and Theatre from Columbia College. She has previously managed two of Chicago's most prestigious theatres, the Blackstone and Shubert, managing and touring with numerous Broadway productions, among them Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

She loves organizing and managing theatre productions and working with children.

Rebekah Branch

Head Teacher/Assistant Director

Ms. Rebekah has been at First Baptist PK since 1998. She has her Associates degree in Early Childhood Education and is the Head Teacher for the Rainbow Room.

Chely Leven

Head Teacher/Assistant Director

Originally from Chile Ms. Chely has a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and is the Head Teacher of the Sunshine Room and also the Spanish teacher for the school. She has over nineteen years of experience in preschool and elementary school teaching. Ms. Chely has taught at First Baptist since 1995 and has been Assistant Director for eight years.


Paris Wilson

Head Teacher/123 Room

Ms. Paris has her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education from Triton College. She loves little ones and is also interested in beauty, fashion, and wellness.


"Children are a blessing. Teaching is so rewarding"

Debra Smith

Head Teacher, Kindergarten Room

Ms. Debra brings over 30 years of early childhood education experience to her work in the Jr. Kindergarten/Kindergarten Room. Teaching children is her lifelong passion. She loves creative projects with her students and brings something new to the her classroom every day.



Rita Barth

Head Teacher/Friendship Room

Ms. Rita has 18 years of experience working with children in Early Childhood Education in both public and private schools. She has her BA in Early Childhood Education and has recently completed her Masters in Early Childhood Education. 


Sharonda Clay

ASP2 Boys Teacher

Assistant Teacher/123 Room

Originally from Texas, Ms. Sharonda earned her BA in Fine Art from the Chicago Art Institute. Experienced in not for profit after school programs in Chicago she loves working with children of all ages. She brings her work towards her Masters in Youth Development to First Baptist PK. 


Nettiniya Carmichael

Assistant Teacher/Rainbow Room

Chicago native with a passion for children of all ages. Ms. "Netti" is proud to be a part "of such a great group of teachers." She enjoys every aspect of teaching and has come to realize that children teach up just as much as we teach them.

"I am dedicated to the social emotional development of each child. It is my goal to ensure that each child receives the best care and love that s/he deserves!"


Mary Caldwell

Assistant Teacher/Sunshine Room

Ms. Mary has been with First Baptist for 15 years, and is an assistant teacher in the Rainbow Room. She enjoys working with children and being part of the First Baptist staff.


Elise Branch

Assistant Teacher/123 Room

Ms. Elise loves children, reading, and making jewelry. She will return to college to complete her Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education. 


"I truly believe the care and education of children is the most important thing. It is of the utmost importance to make this world a better place for all of us."

Erica Branch

Assistant Teacher/Rainbow Room

Ms. Erica has her A.S. in Science from Northwestern College. She has previously worked as an assistant teacher at First Baptist Preschool and Kindergarten and now enjoys managing the school kitchen. She loves children, telling humorus stories, dancing, and spending time with friends and family.


Amber Walter

Assistant Teacher/Rainbow Room

Ms. Amber earned her BA in Psychology from Chicago State University and is currently working towards her MA in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in adolescent treatment at the Professional School of Psychology. She brings her educational background to the classroom in our Pre-K program emphasizing our young students' cognitive, social, emotional development.


Janet Burch

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Janet earned her AS in Accounting from Triton College. She has many years of experience as a surgical assistant in hospitals throughout Chicago. Ms. Janet has worked part-time as well as a classroom assistant at First Baptist PK since 1995.

Ricardo Zela

Van Driver, custodian, and maintenance. Mr. Ricardo's interests include reading, running, and foreign films.

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