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a preschool FOR CHICAGO'S NEXT GENERATION

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Our Team

Our staff is reflective, full of passion and downright creative. We are here to create daily meaningful experiences for your child.

We are always looking for exceptionally talented, qualified and enthusiastic educators to join our team! Please send a resume and cover letter to faculty@urbanchild.org if you are interested in applying. No phone calls, please.

Directors

  • Laura Bianchi Eikenmeyer, Ph.D. is fulfilling her dream of opening a preschool in Chicago with her husband, David. She earned her doctorate in Educational Psychology from Loyola University in Chicago. Laura contributes to the Academy as both an Owner and Curriculum Director, focusing on providing the best possible early education experience for each child based on contemporary research. As a Chicago Mom herself, Laura has personal insight into the preschool scene. She and David have survived the tedious and frustrating process of finding a high quality preschool for their own young urban child. This first-hand experience has shaped Urban Child Academy’s mission through every stage of its development and growth.
  • David Eikenmeyer, J.D., M.B.A., a native Californian who has adopted Chicago as his home, earned his law degree from the University of Notre Dame and his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Professionally, he has experience in litigation, intellectual property, manufacturing and information technology. At Urban Child Academy, he is responsible for developing a physical space worthy of the school's educational goals. He makes sure the school runs smoothly and remains true to its educational mission of creating a nurturing and fun environment for the children, their families and teachers.
  • Kelly Nance, M.A.T, ECE., earned her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from National Louis University. In addition, she holds her Bachelor of Business Administration and ESL Endorsement. Kelly loves teaching and learning with young children. She believes that early childhood is a magical moment full of discovery and endless possibility. Kelly has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Second Grade. Kelly started teaching in 2011. She is thrilled to be working with the wonderful families and educators at UCA. Kelly created Urban Child's Bookworms program. This program offers hands-on, developmentally appropriate reading and writing instruction for a wide variety of ages. Enthusiasm for literature and expression open a world of possibilities to our little ones!
  • Melissa Gilroy, M.S. E.C.E., is a graduate of Montclair State University. She was born and raised in New Jersey where she completed both her Bachelor’s (Psychology) and Master’s (Early Childhood/Elementary Education). Shortly thereafter, she moved to San Francisco where she worked as a substitute teacher and settled in as the lead Pre-K teacher at St. Phillips Preschool. Melissa moved to Chicago in 2009 and enjoys every aspect of the city. She joined the UCA team in July 2013 and loves being around the kiddos. Melissa was a lead teacher in the Eager Einstein classroom for two years and feels that this specific age group has an eagerness to learn like no other! She loves to watch each of them explore and grow! When Melissa is not at UCA she enjoys spending time with her husband and sons Brady and Andy. Melissa LOVES being a mother and director!
  • Travis Monroe Neese, B.A., is a 2014 graduate of Millikin University of Decatur, IL. Travis was born in Iowa but spent most of his youth in North Carolina. A major theatre artist, Travis earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services as well as two minors in Psychology and Sociology. After graduating, he moved to Iowa and worked as an Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist as a Home Visitor through Early Head Start. He eventually found his way to the Windy City and has loved it here ever since! He joined the Urban Child Academy team in the summer of 2017 and is thoroughly excited to bring his experience as well as passion for the arts in his teaching. In his free time, he enjoys acting, going for walks along the lake, playing with dogs, spending time with friends, and watching movies.
  • Becky McNichol, B.A., is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. Originally from Oregon, Miss Becky lived in Costa Rica for a year before moving to Chicago in 2004. She has been working with children in a variety of settings for almost 20 years; from teaching dance classes, to Montessori preschool programs, nannying and teaching/directing at Urban Child Academy! In 2010, Miss Becky started as an assistant teacher in the preschool classroom just 6 weeks after UCA opened their doors. She spent the next five and half years teaching and then becoming director of the Gold Coast campus. This opportunity to return to UCA makes her the most excited she has been since getting married! Though she will miss the beaches in Los Angeles, where she has lived since 2015, Becky is thrilled to be returning to Chicago and the UCA family!
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Leads

  • Hannah Solether, B.S, is a graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Hannah was born and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Speech-Language Pathology. She has worked in childcare centers since 2014 and has enjoyed every second of it. After living in the suburbs, Hannah moved to Chicago and joined the Urban Child Academy teaching team in the Summer of 2017. She has worked with children of all ages, but has grown to love working with children in their early years. Hannah loves watching children explore their surroundings, expand their imagination, and let their individual personalities shine. She has always loved art and letting children explore their creativity in the classroom. In her free time, Hannah loves volunteering, traveling and going to concerts.
  • Amber Simatic, B.S., M.A., is a graduate of Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. She earned her Bachelor of Science at PSU in Human Development and Family Studies and her Master of Arts from JHU in Museum Studies. She is originally from a small town in Pennsylvania but lived in Washington, D.C. for many years before moving to Chicago a year ago. While in D.C. she worked as an educator in early childhood education and museum settings. She enjoys working with children of all ages and creating fun and engaging learning opportunities for them. She also has fun bringing her love of science to the classroom. In her free time Amber likes to read, hike, travel, and visit museums.
  • Katie Quackenbush, B.A. El. Ed., is a 2011 graduate of Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois. An Illinois native, Katie grew up in the suburbs and moved to Chicago in 2014. Katie's interest in child development and love for spending time with children fueled her decision to become an educator. She joined the Urban Child Academy team in July 2017. Prior to coming to UCA, Katie was a director of a church-based preschool program, led reading interventions groups for 3rd - 5th grade students, provided in home developmental therapy through Early Intervention and one-on-one ABA therapy for children with special needs. A long time preschool veteran, she views each child as an unique individual with specific learning styles and is excited to bring her ability of creating individualized, play based lessons to help children with diverse learning needs to UCA. In her free time, Katie loves exploring the neighborhoods of Chicago, reading, gardening and simply being outside.
  • Alexandra Duryea, B.A. ECE, is a 2012 Indiana University graduate from Indianapolis, Indiana. Alexandra started her child development career at The WonderLab Museum of Science, Health, and Technology as a gallery assistant, where she implemented educational programs for young children and teens. These programs involved the elements of science, nature, and art, which are her true passions in life. From there, Alexandra pursued a year in AmeriCorps, working at the Women, Infant, and Children’s (WIC) office. Here she read and tutored children in various waiting rooms of the health clinics the WIC office was held in. She believes that a good education and fluency in reading at a young age can build the strongest foundation for a child’s schooling career. She joins the Urban Child Academy team in June 2019 and is excited to contribute her education, passion, and enthusiasm to helping children grow. In her free time, Alexandra enjoys riding her bike, going to musicals, and doing photography.
  • Bailey Richardson, B.F.A., is a 2015 graduate of Viterbo University of LaCrosse, WI. Bailey spent most of her life in Eagan, Minnesota before moving to Chicago. While in Minnesota, Bailey spent most of her time working on her two passions: child development and theatre. Wanting to explore those passions further, she decided moving to a bigger city was in order! After nannying for 8 years, choreographing for children, and volunteering in elementary schools, Bailey is excited to take her passion for teaching a step further by joining the team at Urban Child Academy! She is excited to combine her love of the arts with her love of teaching, and bring a lot of creativity into the classroom. In her free time she enjoys acting, singing, being with friends and family, and spending time by the lake.
  • Iris Gasca, B.A Elementary Education., is a graduate of Furman University of Greenville, South Carolina. At Furman, Iris graduated with an Elementary Education degree and a focus in both Special Education and Spanish. Following in her mother’s footsteps and motivated by her younger sister, Iris pursued a teaching career. Iris student taught in a 2nd grade, public school classroom in Greenville, South Carolina. Before entering her last year of college, Iris interned at UCA in the summer of 2018. She also taught at the Gold Coast campus at the start of 2020 and cannot wait to be back! In her free time Iris loves to read, watch movies, and go out in the city with her friends and family.
  • Michele Hulyk B.A., is a 2018 graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she earned her BA in Communication with a minor in Sociology. Before joining Urban Child Academy in the summer of 2019, Michele spent years working in various childcare settings such as homes, summer camps, and schools. Recently, she spent time nannying young children, which is what inspired her to become a preschool teacher. Michele loves watching children discover the world around them and develop their own interests and unique personalities. She can’t wait to bring her nurturing spirit and passion for working with children to UCA! In her free time, Michele loves cooking, going to concerts, traveling, and spending time in nature.
  • Anila Aleksi, BA, AAS, is a graduate of the University of Alexander Xhuvani in Elbasan, Albania, where she completed her Bachelor's Degree in Humanitarian Science. After moving to the states from Athens, Greece, in 2006, she then received her associates degree in Early Childhood Education from Harold Washington College. She is multilingual, speaking Albanian, Greek, Italian, and English. She loves working with little ones and has over 11 years of experience working in an Early Childhood setting. Anila lives in the neighborhood and has two kids in college. In her free time, she enjoys chatting with her family in Greece and listening to music.
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Specialists

  • Roberta Gasca, B.S, is a graduate of Instituto Politecnico Nacional of Mexico, City with a Bachelor Degree in Business. Roberta started working in Chicago Public Schools 16 years ago as a substitute teacher in a classroom with children who have special needs. Over the next 7 years, Miss Roberta continued to teach first grade, kindergarten and preschool while taking Masters level courses in Education at Northwestern University and Malcolm X College. Her experience at CPS was some of her favorite work of her life! Before joining UCA, Roberta led a classroom of 3 year-olds at Kids Life Center where most of her teaching was in Spanish and in Head Start Programs. Ms. Roberta has been working for UCA since fall of 2013 teaching Spanish to all grades at UCA and also working with preschool classrooms who she considers as her second family.
  • Erik Bianchi Eikenmeyer, C.K.C. (Certified Kid Consultant), is a well-rounded urban kid who was born in Chicago and loves his city. He enjoys playing soccer, drums, electric guitar, chess and video games. The city is Erik's playground where he enjoys trips to the museums, parks and beach. He is the creative force behind the SMART Boards™ in our classrooms. He is helping to create kid friendly activities on the Boards as well as sharing many items from his personal collections, including Thomas the Tank Engine and Legos. Sometimes he even offers an in-person visit from his hedgehog, Prickles.
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