Our Staff

IMG_6123-600x807Abby Pace

A college athlete at Indiana University, Abby brings that same energy and encouragement to her classroom. An IU graduate with a degree in Early Childhood Education, her teaching experiences is as varied as the locations. Abby has worked and observed children at the infant, toddler, preschool, and elementary levels in classrooms in Florida, Indiana, and Kentucky. Friends and family refer to her as “the pied piper of children,” as it seems that wherever Abby happens to be, children are drawn to her. An erstwhile cook and eager furniture refinisher, Abby’s curiosity and zeal for discovery make learning fun and exciting.

Shelby Blackburn

Shelby’s passion for working with young children started in her hometown, Princeton, Kentucky. As a high school-aged nanny to three young boys, she helped them learn and grow before she moved to Lexington. Shelby continued her work with a new family, who encouraged her to turn this passion into a career. She loves engaging children in new and exciting events full of self-discovery and growth. Shelby is excited to start her journey with the Reggio Emilia philosophies and to find ongoing inspiration from the young creative minds of Our Playhouse.

Shelby enjoys tending to her garden, hiking Lexington’s natural trails, kayaking on nearby waters, expressing herself artistically, and spending lots of time with her family, friends, and four legged babies.

Katie Mitchell

Katie is a native of coastal South Carolina who moved to Lexington in 2010. After earning her undergraduate degree in music education from Furman University, she completed graduate coursework in elementary music education at the University of Kentucky. Katie has taught instrumental, choral, and general music to students of all ages and in various settings.

Katie is a lifelong learner and is excited to learn alongside her students every day. She enjoys a lively home with her husband, son, and two dogs.

Kayla Dillon

A Lexington native, Kayla has worked with all ages of children over the years. Her passion for education and inspiring children led her to pursue her teaching degree at Eastern Kentucky University where she graduated with a duel degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education.

When not at Our PlayHouse, Kayla enjoys spending quality time with her family. Kayla loves to cook, explore outdoor activities in the community, and delve into arts and crafts.

IMG_6111-768x684Jarah Jones

Jarah couples her undergraduate degrees in Art Education and Studio Art with graduate research in childhood art education to bring out the power of play and the magic of creativity. For the past eighteen years, Jarah worked with preschool children across pedagogies, including, Waldorf, Montessori, Independent and Cooperative schools and community-based settings. She has traveled nationally and internationally to paint environmental murals with children. More recently, she has begun designing natural playscapes.

As a teacher she strives to protect and inspire children’s innate sense of wonder, joy and curiosity through play, child-led projects and emergent curriculum. Jarah is a strong believer in (messy!) process and project-based learning. Her most valuable education came from being a mother to her two young children. In her past time, you will find Jarah, her husband and kids hiking, exploring and playing in the Lexington community that they truly love.

IMG_6080-600x601Arielle Sheldon

An artist and certified educator, Arielle earned her degree in Art Education from the City College of New York. A recent arrival to Kentucky, Arielle joined the Our PlayHouse Preschool staff in the winter of 2015. Arielle has taught and volunteered in schools, museums, summer camps and community programs sharing her passion for art both in and out of formal academic environments.


IMG_6089-600x718Sara Stringer

Sara is a Western Kentucky University graduate with a degree in Elementary Education and her Kentucky Teaching Certification. She and her husband relocated to Lexington in 2014 where she has taught preschool for the past two years. Sara enjoys inquiry-based and cooperative learning, as children learn to solve problems using teamwork and hands-on investigations. She believes that through inquiry-based instruction, students gain the ability to make real world connections and to think more critically.

Outside of the classroom, Sara enjoys traveling with her husband, repurposing old furniture, crafting, and spending time with her dachshund, Bently.


Leslie-768x510Leslie Martin, Director

Leslie is a Lexington native who came to Our PlayHouse Preschool with strong belief in encouraging the independent imagination of childhood and the power of play. She loves the connections made between play, learning, art, and nature. Leslie graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in art education, then earned her Master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University in school counseling with a certification in play therapy. She has developed her own theory of play therapy using natural elements and has presented them at Kentucky and national conferences.

Leslie has experience teaching at every grade level, from preschool through high school, with the constant emphasis on self expression. During her time as a school counselor, she focused on removing the barriers to learning, supporting teachers, consultation, and collaboration with students and families. Leslie has been with Our PlayHouse Preschool since opening the Lexington school in 2015.

IMG_9719Danielle Sunde

Danielle lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and four boys. She is passionate about children being children. Danielle and her family enjoy food, books, and traveling as a family.