Vision, Mission, and ValuesOur Founding StoryOur StaffOur CurriculumContact Us

About CCS

Vision, Mission, and Values


Our vision is of an educational community that  honors and empowers people to engage their whole selves as active learners and citizens.


Our mission at the the Children’s Community School is to create a learning community that honors and empowers children to engage their whole selves in education. Utilizing progressive education, we build a  better society by fostering creativity, problem solving skills, communication skills, a sense of initiative, and a capacity to listen. We encourage students to engage their bodies, minds, and emotions, to make meaning, form relationships, and to develop an understanding of themselves as active members of community.


To accomplish our mission, members of  the CCS work with integrity and professionalism to  support families and lay foundations for people who will care for and innovate in our world. We believe that:

  • Practicing democratic values teaches children to participate in the life of the community.
  • Empathy leads to compassion, and these values create caring, helpful individuals who can be activists and stewards in our school communities and in the world.
  • Children not only need to learn about living, working, and playing together, they learn by living, working, and playing together.
  • Lifelong learners construct knowledge, seek out answers, take risks, and reflect on their own experiences. They are flexible thinkers who approach learning with action and commitment.
  • Active and receptive practices are of equal value in learning and in building relationships.
  • Exploration of the body, mind and emotions in the educational experience creates a more grounded individual, able to relate to others more compassionately.

To learn more about our approach to teaching and learning, see Learning at CCS.

Our Founding Story

Merryl and Traci Spring 2014

The Children’s Community School was dreamed up by Traci Childress and Merryl Gladstone in the fall of 2009 under the trees of Bartram’s Garden.  While their sons played, Traci and Merryl, CCS’s founders, talked about their visions for a school. Together they began to dream one up with all of the elements they envisioned, a progressive part time child lead program that integrated mindfulness.

Of course, a dream can not take root on its own; parents and leaders in the West Philadelphia community came together to support Traci and Merryl’s effort. Ed Fell introduced them to The Calvary Center for Culture and Community whose board, with Rich Kirk at its head, opened its doors and extended its nonprofit status to provide a home for CCS, both physically and as a fiscal agent. Paul Kuhn and Duke Campbell helped to ready and renovate the space with many parents, and in fall of 2010, CCS opened its doors.

Our founding story, a school born out of a dream, is a strong thread found in our philosophy and curriculum today.  This dream of a progressive community preschool in West Philadelphia was nurtured by community support and teacher investment and fully brought to life by the children who infuse the school with joy and enrich it with their dreams.  This cycle of dreaming, collaborating, exploring, reflecting and dreaming again is the learning cycle, for the whole community at CCS– adults and children.  We look forward to growing and dreaming with the Philadelphia community!

CCS Staff

Our staff is a group of dedicated, professional individuals with decades of combined experience caring for and teaching children and building communities. We work cooperatively to achieve our school’s mission, uphold our school’s values, and build the community, curriculum, and future of our school.



Merryl Gladstone, Director and Co-Founder—Merryl brings a commitment to nurturing all children as caring, active citizens and empowered meaning-makers in her work at CCS. Since co-founding CCS in 2010, her work with teachers, children, and families has been rooted in building trusting relationships and an effort to bring best practices in the field of early childhood education to life at school. Merryl brings an expertise in curriculum development and extensive teaching experience to her role as director. She earned her masters degree in education and literacy from Bank Street Graduate School of Education. Not only has Merryl taught in schools near and far, from Philadelphia to Mumbai, but she has also taught at all levels from PreK to high school. In all of these contexts, she has held the vision that how we learn impacts what we learn and that by cultivating students’ identity as thinkers, we empower them to make our society better. Merryl lives in West Philly with her husband Robbie and her two sons Silas and Ezra. Silas and Ezra, both alumni of CCS, now attend elementary schools in Philadelphia. As a family, they do a whole lot of hanging out on their block, and on the odd occasion when they can get the canoe onto the roof of their car, they love exploring the waterways in and around Philly.

Jarrod Green, Assistant Director—Jarrod has worked in early childhood education for over a decade. He has a passion for helping young children develop the social and emotional skills that are the foundation of lifelong learning and success. In addition to working as a preschool teacher for seven years, Jarrod has consulted privately with the families of young children, taught early childhood education classes at several community colleges, and led workshops at national early childhood conferences. He’s published several articles in national journals, and his book I‘m Okay: Building Resilience in Young Children is available on Amazon. He holds a master’s degree in early childhood education from San Francisco State University. You can find more about his early childhood pursuits at He lives with his wife Amelia and his son Henry in west Philly where they sing in a choir and host sing-alongs, cook fancy foods, play board games, and take walks in the woods with their dog Watson.

Stephanie Bonham, Business Manager—Stephanie has worked in early childhood education and finance since graduating from the University of Texas in 2008. Originally from Central Texas, Stephanie joined the CCS team after moving to Philadelphia in 2013. Her experience ranges from teaching infants and toddlers to bookkeeping for non-profits. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys gardening, music-making and photography.


Laura Graham—I have been working in the field of Early Childhood Education for almost 20 years.  I grew up in the Philadelphia area and received a B.A. from Connecticut College.  After a move to San Francisco, I worked in a school that drew inspiration from the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and had the opportunity to visit the schools of Reggio Emilia on a study tour in 2010.  I am continuously inspired by children’s innate curiosity and drive to learn about the world around them.  I enjoy creating a classroom environment rich in books, music, and responsive to the interests of the children. I’m excited to be returning to CCS.

Marion Ramirez—I am a Puerto Rican dance artist and educator. I have a deep commitment to guide children in their movement explorations, and through my teaching share my knowledge in body awareness/somatic practices and art making. I focus on honoring individual movement expression while celebrating the joy of connecting with the group and matching other’s rhythms. I continue to research developmental movement and ways of supporting children sensory and communication needs. I have had the opportunity to perform and work as a teaching artist for numerous organizations, schools and universities in Puerto Rico, South Korea, the UK, and currently in the US. I hold an MFA in Dance and Community Arts from Temple University. In Philadelphia I have also taught Spanish language through movement play for children at CCS, among other early education and elementry schools. I currently also teach contemporary dance at the Dance Department at Drexel University and am an active member of the Philadelphia dance improvisation community. I enjoy taking bike rides, hiking in the woods, and sharing time with my family and 6 year old son in West Philadelphia.

Naima Brown—I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I developed a fondness for stage acting, choral singing, snowstorms, and small, still bodies of water. I wandered to the east coast to attend Swarthmore College, attained a BA in Sociology and Black Studies, and fell in love with Philadelphia in the process. Determined to live in the city and without a career plan, I easily fell into doing something that had always brought me joy: working with small children. I worked as a one-to-one support for several children who had special needs, and later I was a first grade Teacher Assistant at a fine-arts school. A few years later I enrolled in Teachers College where I earned an MA in Early Childhood Education, and I spent a year after I graduated teaching for an Early Head Start program in east Harlem. I could feel that I had made the right career choice for myself, but I was not yet satisfied because I missed Philadelphia so. Connecting with CCS was all I needed to pack up and return to this community that I cherish, and I am elated to take part in this meaningful work that I love with this school and with all of you.


Katelyn Bobek—Katelyn brings a wide range of experience to her second year in the Oak classroom. She studied social science and art at New College of Florida, where she focused especially on making art a collaborative, participatory process—an approach she now brings to art and pretend play with young children. Her experiences working with children of all ages has given her a passion for empowering children to be active in their own learning. An ardent lover of play, Katelyn is eager to continue to continue to expand her skills in nurturing imagination while starting to build her knowledge of child development and learning theory.

Natali Cortes—I grew up in the Bay Area and came to the East Coast to attend Swarthmore College, where I studied Education. I have since worked as an educator in a variety of settings including a community garden, a creative literacy camp, and for the Free Library of Philadelphia. I’ve also worked as an advocate for housing and workers’ rights in NY, and my time there as a member of Regeneración Childcare Collective reinforced for me the importance of intergenerational care-taking and play for all ages. I believe child-raising is critical to our work building and visioning a just society.

Kris Moore—I have always been passionate about working with young people, and started my early education career at University of Bridgeport where I earned my masters in elementary education. Since then I have taught in many schools—most recently the Little Green Schoolhouse in west Philadelphia. I am excited to join the staff at CCS, meet new students and families and reunite with prior LGSH kids! Having once been an outdoor educator I thoroughly enjoy being outside with my students and am so excited that the structure of my classroom this year facilitates that! Another focus of my teaching practice is encouraging the development of strong intra-personal and communication skills in my students. I enjoy creating a community of learners in which everyone is welcome and included with room to grow and explore. When I am not teaching I love to go for walks with my dog at Tinicum wildlife refuge, draw, and laugh with friends. Here’s to a great school year!


Natasha Smith—I came to Philadelphia in 2004 to attend the Tyler School of Art, where I obtained my BFA in Photography. During this time I worked summers at a Quaker Arts and Teen Adventure Camp. Many retail and nanny jobs later, I was drawn to CCS, particularly for its philosophy around early childhood education: nourishing the whole child and the whole teacher. I became a teacher for the school in 2012 and I brought with me a strong passion for outdoor education, getting messy, and empowering children to be independent thinkers. When I’m not in the classroom I enjoy being outside, making art, and planning new adventures.

Sarah Griffiths—I was born and raised in New York City. After graduating from The City College of New York with a BA in history, I began working for a non-profit organization that provided literacy tutoring to elementary school students in Brooklyn and the South Bronx. This work inspired me to study literacy and childhood education Bank Street College of Education. After graduating from Bank Street, I worked as a classroom teacher and literacy specialist in elementary schools in Manhattan and upstate New York. After having my own children, I taught a small cooperative preschool group of 2 and 3 year olds in my living room in Brooklyn. I moved to Philadelphia with my family in 2015. I am impressed by the CCS staff’s dedication to emergent curriculum and nurturing the whole child, and I feel so lucky to be joining them this year. When I am not at school I am spending time with my husband and three children.


Jordan Foley—Jordan is originally from Houston, Texas. She attained her BA in photography from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and moved to Philadelphia to continue to work as a photographer. Jordan began teaching art in the after school program at a Philadelphia area private school where she discovered her love for working with children. She continued to teach, wearing many hats in the early childhood department while completing her Masters Degree in Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum from Drexel University. After four wonderful years she decided to find a school that best fit her teaching philosophies. She immediately fell in love with CCS and the loving environment that is created for the students. She loves watching children grow through art, movement, and music, and she believes helping young students explore the world around them is the best job in the world. Jordan currently lives in South Philadelphia with her partner, Lucas, and their dog Tuesday. She loves riding bikes, practicing yoga, and spending time in her garden where she pretends to have a green thumb.

Laura Ogburn—Laura started working with children as a volunteer counselor at a municipal summer camp for children with a wide spectrum of special needs in her hometown near Boston. She was bit by the education bug, and spent her summers during college working at a nonprofit that provided globally-focused professional development for K-12 teachers. She studied music at Tufts University, then did college access work as an AmeriCorps volunteer in both Austin and Boston before going back to school for an Ed.M. in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before moving to Philadelphia in 2015, she was teaching in the 5- and 6-year-old classroom at a school in Atlanta for students with language-based learning disabilities. When she’s not in the classroom she enjoys reading, playing the banjo, exploring Philadelphia, and being outside, especially in Vermont.

Melissa Min (September–February)—Melissa has always loved working with, teaching, and learning from children. Upon graduating from Swarthmore College, where she studied Religion and Education, Melissa began her teaching career with Teach for America, teaching 5th and 6th graders in the South Bronx. Afterwards, she was the founding 7th Grade Math Teacher at KIPP Philadelphia Charter School, and taught 4th and 5th graders at Media Providence Friends School before staying at home with her two young sons. In January 2015 Melissa joined the staff at Mosaic Community Church as the Children’s Ministry Coordinator. She is excited and honored to be joining the CCS team in a teaching role after having been an active and involved parent for the past two years, starting the CCS Family Association and volunteering weekly in the Redbud Class. She’s particularly excited to be working alongside the Magnolia teachers, who played a major part in shaping her older son to be a compassionate, empathetic, articulate, body-confident, curious, and emotionally intelligent child who is ready to take on kindergarten this year! Melissa enjoys exploring Philadelphia with her two boys, watching them grow up with their unique and individual personalities, and learning to be fully present in the moment with them. She also loves to cook, work in her garden, dance, and be outdoors as much as possible. Melissa is a true Philly gal at heart, born and raised in West Philly and now living in the Spruce Hill/Cedar Park neighborhood.


Zahra Mirmalek—I was born in California, and when I was three years old my family moved to Tehran, Iran. From my early years I’ve been interested in what connects people from around the world regardless of their race, religion and nationality.  I earned my B.A. in Psychology while teaching English as a foreign language to children ages 3 to 15. For more than five years I sucessfully taught in variety of schools, including preschool, elementary school, and foreign language institutions. In my free time I enjoy photography, playing the piano, hiking and rock climbing. I’m very grateful to be joining the Children’s Community School, where I can bring my culture into the classroom and build meaningful and trusting relationships with children of different ages.

Tyler Colvard—Tyler has been working with children for 10 years, most recently as a teacher at the Little Green School House. They grew up in El Paso, Texas and graduated from Texas State University with a BA in German. After trying out law school, Tyler realized working with small children was their passion and began working in education. Their favorite part of teaching is engaging and channeling the exuberant energy and excitement the children bring to school into every learning experience. Tyler enjoys playing pretend and reading with children, and is inspired by each of their individual journeys in learning about the world. When Tyler is not teaching they enjoy reading, theater, yoga, and playing board games.

Natasha Smith and Natali Cortes—(see bios above)


marcyMarcy Morgan: Literacy (Magnolia class)—As a retired teacher who has lived in West Philly since 1970, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to teach two mornings a week at CCS, to get to know new families and young children, and this year to have my grandson with me in the Magnolia class. During my 45 years of teaching I taught nursery school, earned my masters degree in reading at Penn, and taught kindergarten and first grade in both public and private schools. I still love to work with young children as they begin the empowering process of learning to read and write. I am also active in our local community garden and teach classes in Re-evaluation Counseling, an organization that uses listening partnerships to assist people to transform our lives, build a diverse community, and create a more just and sustainable society.

Betty White: Literacy (Oak class)—I am very excited to be the Literacy Specialist teacher for the Oak class. I have been an educator for over 40 years. After retiring from the Philadelphia Public School District, I became a preschool teacher because of my love for children and the desire to help them develop into lifelong learners. I am a lifelong learner myself, and I am passionate about helping children learn to love books and literacy.

vince2Vincent McLoughlin: Art—For more then 25 years, Vincent has been bouncing back and forth between teaching and the building trades. He has been a kindergarten teacher, art teacher, physical education teacher, after school teacher, enrichment teacher, ‘PEACE CAMP’ teacher, teacher of disabled adults, and a chess coach. He’s also been an electrician, plumber, carpenter, and artist assistant. Most recently, he was an assistant for a certified Pennsylvania home inspector and licensed general contractor. Vincent earned his Masters of Fine Arts (University of Pennsylvania, Painting, 1991). He worked at the Village Community School in NYC for more then 3 years as a substitute teacher, assistant kindergarten teacher, PE teacher, and assistant to Nancy Beal, art teacher and author of The Art of Teaching Art to Children. He attended early childhood education seminars and workshops at Bank Street, Columbia Universities Teacher College. Vincent is very attached to his inner child, loves being with and working with children, and most of all navigating the learnable moments for each child. Vincent is a part-time dad and loves being with his kids and their friends, his family and friends, making things, wrecking things, fixing things, architecture, walking the dog, playing chess, and body surfing. Not necessarily in that order.

Marion Ramirez: Movement and Spanish—(see bio above)

The Children’s Community School is an equal opportunity child care provider and an equal opportunity employer. Our policies, procedures, and practices are designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious creed, disability, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, or gender.

The Children’s Community School is a 501(c)3 nonprofit status; all donations are tax deductible.