About Rachel Lessard - Our Director

Rachel Lessard, Director of Preschool of the Arts charleston

Sarah Refson 

Executive Director

Sarah Refson grew up in New York, received her Bachelor’s of Arts and teacher’s certificate from Baitchana Teaching school in Israel and her Master’s degree in early childhood education from MJI. She taught at Rambam Day School in New York for eight years and was director of Lower School for two years. She now lives in Charleston, SC and is Co-Director of the Center for Jewish Life with her husband Yossi and is ably assisted by her four children. She has been the Judaic Director for the Preschool of the Arts for the past four years. In her free time, she can be found binge watching old episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Rachel Lessard, Director of Preschool of the Arts charleston

Jenni Beal

Assistant Director | Adventurer Co-Teacher

Jenni is thrilled for another fun and exciting year as a part of the Preschool of the Arts education team serving as assistant director. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and childhood studies and is passionate about the psychological benefits of nature and the positive impact time in the outdoors can have on human growth and development. Inspired by the forest school movement and the Reggio Emilia approach to inquiry based learning, she went on to become a certified forest kindergarten teacher and master naturalist. Her teaching style encourages children to learn through unique experiences and engage them in quality activities which stimulate their innate curiosity about the world. In her spare time you can find her outside! She enjoys gardening, fishing, and finding seashells on the beach. She is thrilled to be at Preschool of the Arts where she can share her enthusiasm for nature with young learners (or tiny scientists) as they explore this big beautiful world we call home. Jenni can be reached at jenni@potachs.com.

Rachel Lessard, Director of Preschool of the Arts charleston

Allison Philips

Adventurer Co-Teacher

Originally from Florida, Allison has loved living and teaching early childhood in Charleston for the past three years. Allison found her way to a Reggio Emilia inspired teaching philosophy through a passion for experiential education and play-based learning. She believes strongly that children are naturally capable and competent learners, and her teaching style supports children’s innate sense of wonder through an engaging environment and hands-on learning. She has a B.S. in Family and Child Sciences from FSU with a minor in Recreation. When not at school, Allison loves baking, kayaking, reading, and dancing. She can often be found spending time at the beach and exploring the outdoors whenever possible. Allison can be reached at allison@potachs.com.

Rachel Lessard, Director of Preschool of the Arts charleston

Becky Dearing

Explorer Co-Teacher

Becky just relocated from Pittsburgh to Charleston this summer and is excited to join the Preschool of the Arts family. For the past 17 years she has joined young children in their learning journey as a preschool teacher, creative movement instructor, makerspace creator and Gymboree Play and Learn leader. She’s also led parent/tot play groups and worked with new parents teaching baby sign language and brain development. Becky is constantly inspired by the wonder and curiosity of children and looks forward to joining your child as a researcher in the classroom.  Becky has a BS in Journalism from Northwestern University, a MA in Communications from Leeds University (UK) and is currently deepening her Reggio Emilia knowledge pursuing a Master’s in Innovative Early Childhood Education. Outside of school Becky enjoys reading, playing tennis and shell-hunting with her husband and 7-year-old daughter. Becky can be reached at becky@potachs.com.

Rachel Lessard, Director of Preschool of the Arts charleston

Patty Peterson

Explorers Co-Teacher

Patty joins us with an enthusiastic desire to share her many years of experience working with preschool age children with a focus on play-based education that integrates child-initiated and teacher-supported learning. Growing up in Southern California, she attended Mira Costa College studying early childhood development and education. Patty’s hobbies include baking, reading, art and especially exploring Carolina beaches looking for shark teeth and other treasures. Patty can be reached at patty@potachs.com.

Rachel Lessard, Director of Preschool of the Arts charleston

Anna Baumgaertner

Music Teacher

Anna Baumgaertner has been playing the violin since she was four years old and teaching Strings for the past 22 years. Anna has a BA in Music Performance from DePaul University and a MA of ED from Nova Southwestern University. She was Performing Arts Chair at NSU University School, an independent prep school in Fort Lauderdale for the past 17 years where she taught early childhood music, and orchestra for grades 3-12. She currently lives in Mount Pleasant with her husband and three children. 

Rachel Lessard, Director of Preschool of the Arts charleston

Susie Tecklenburg

Administrative Director

Susie Tecklenburg is the administrative director at the Preschool of the Arts and lives in Charleston with her husband, Kyle, and two young daughters. She graduated from the College of Charleston with a Corporate Communication degree and has since been working toward perfecting the art of digital marketing and website design while tackling various administrative duties along the way. Susie started her professional career with the Palmetto Group in a sales and marketing role. She then moved on to Handsome Properties where her duties ranged from digital marketing, to event planning and management of the company’s CRM. Most recently Susie held a Universal Banking position with a local bank where she assisted with loan production and processing. In her free time, Susie enjoys singing along to her daughters’ favorite song, Wheels on the Bus, and being challenged to several toddler dance-offs per day.

A Message from Our Director

My experience has taught me that all children have an intrinsic desire to explore. Children are capable and competent learners. They thrive when given the tools and support to explore and discover as they learn.

I was thrilled to relocate to the Lowcountry this year and begin our Preschool of the Arts program based on the Reggio Emilia approach. We have built a school that provides a natural, organic, and art-filled environment where children learn through an enriching, multi-sensory approach.

When you visit us, you will hear open-ended discussions and see long-term projects at various stages of development. Projects, relevant to the child’s life experiences, are planned, yet responsive to individual needs and environmental happenings.

Our children’s ideas and questions are honored and valued as part of our learning process — a guided process of building meaningful understandings. We will share with you how we document children’s work in progress, which is an important tool for building these understandings.

It is both humbling and exciting to witness how children develop within the environment we provide at Preschool of the Arts. I welcome you to come visit us so you can see for yourself!

Executive Director

A Message from
Our Director

My experience has taught me that all children have an intrinsic desire to explore. Children are capable and competent learners. They thrive when given the tools and support to explore and discover as they learn.

I was thrilled to relocate to the lowcountry this year and begin our Preschool of the Arts program based on the Reggio Emilia Approach. We have built a school that provides a natural, organic, and art-filled environment where children learn through an enriching, multi-sensory approach.

When you visit us, you will hear open-ended discussions and see long-term projects at various stages of development. Projects are planned, yet responsive to individual needs and environmental happenings. Our projects are relevant to the child’s life experiences.

Our children’s ideas and questions are honored and valued as part of our learning process — a guided process of building meaningful understandings. We will show you how we document children’s work in progress, which is an important tool for building these understandings.

It is both humbling and exciting to witness how children develop within the environment we provide at Preschool of the Arts. I welcome you to come visit us so you can see for yourself!

Executive Director

Our children’s ideas and questions are
honored and valued as part of our learning
process — a guided process of building
meaningful understandings. We will show
you how we document children’s work in
progress, which is an important tool
for building these understandings.

Our children’s ideas and questions are honored and valued as part of our learning process — a guided process of building meaningful understandings. We will show you how we document children’s work in progress, which is an important tool for building these understandings.

477 Mathis Ferry Road • Mount Pleasant, SC 29464 • 843-884-2323