Our Team | Bright Beginnings Preschool

"I love Bright Beginnings because it feels like a second family. Here, all the staff help each other and have smiles on their faces everyday"-Ms. Shannon

Kathe Petchel

founder, daycare, child care, childcare, prek, toddler, infant, baby

Kathe Petchel

Founder and President, Educational Specialist

Kathe grew up in State College, Pa. and received a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Penn State in 1979. Kathe also completed Early Childhood related coursework at the master’s level from the University of Virginia and James Madison University.

Early Childhood Background:
  • NAEYC Accreditation Validator Training
  • Kathe taught pre-kindergarten in Annapolis, Maryland at the Naval Academy Prep School before moving to Charlottesville
  • Kathe was a Kindergarten and First Grade teacher at Greer Elementary School in Albemarle County for 4 years before founding Bright Beginnings
  • Kathe was appointed to Virginia’s Child Day Care Council by Governor George Allen from 1994-1998. Kathe was re-appointed by Governor George Gilliam from 1998-2001.
Bright Beginnings Background:
  • Kathe founded Bright Beginnings in 1984 as a small in-home half-day preschool. Kathe grew and developed Bright Beginnings into a full service, full time preschool and child care center.
  • The first Bright Beginnings was in Earlysville from 1984-2008.
  • Bright Beginnings also had a Charlottesville location at the Church of Incarnation from 1988-1999.
  • The Mill Creek location opened in 1995
  • The Forest Lakes location opened in 1997
  • The Crozet location opened in 1999
  • Over the years Kathe has taught toddlers through Pre-K.
  • Kathe developed the early childhood curriculum for Bright Beginnings and authored the Toddler Explorer curriculum.
What we love about Kathe:
  • Kathe’s high energy, creativity and fashion style
  • Her cooking and baking
  • Her sense of humor- she’s funny!
  • We love how she gives, cares and shares
  • The children love Ms. Kathe and always want to visit her in the office.
  • Fun Facts:
    • Kathe has lived in Charlottesville since 1980.
    • Kathe has two daughters, Meg, who graduated from law school and now lives in Los Angeles, California and Molly who graduated from Sweet Briar College and lives in Charlottesville and Los Angeles
    • Her husband, Bob, was a college assistant football coach for 25 years coaching at Dartmouth, Shippensburg College, Penn State and UVA, where he worked for 17 years
    • Kathe’s younger sister, Kelly Landes, a family and child therapist, lives across the street from Kathe and her family
    • Kathe has 2 dogs, Fat Boy and Grace.
    • Kathe loves yoga, pilates, cooking and baking, gardening, traveling and reading.
    • Kathe was Chi Omega at Penn State and is still good friends with her sorority sisters

P.J. Gilbert

pre-k, toddler, 2's, experienced, experience, licensed, charlottesville, day care, daycare

P.J. Gilbert

Executive Director

P.J. received her certification in Early Education from Piedmont Virginia Community College and has recently completed her CDA (Child Development Associate). After high school, P. J. worked for Greene County Primary School as a Teacher’s Assistant in 2nd grade for 2 years before opening a successful home child care center in Greene County for 7 years.

P.J. has had extensive training in administration and management including customer service, bookkeeping, early childhood best practices and HR policies.

Bright Beginnings Background:
  • P.J. has worked in all facets of Bright Beginnings since March 15, 1999 including Office Manager, Teacher and Teacher Assistant with all ages as well as Program Director at each Bright Beginnings location. PJ manages Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and payroll, HR including recruiting, hiring and training as well as a monitoring program quality at all three locations.
  • PJ was named by Charlottesville Family Magazine as Best Teacher, 2011. P.J. works directly with Founder and Program Consultant, Kathe Petchel as well as the administrative staff which includes site directors at Crozet, Forest Lakes and Mill Creek, along with the Admissions Director, Maintenance Personnel and Curriculum Director.
  • P.J. is incredibly organized and professional making working with her on a daily basis smooth and predictable. P.J. is empathetic and understanding with families and staff; individual circumstances are honored and supported. P.J. bridges home and school by creating and supporting fun school community activities to promote healthy families and healthy staff relationships.
What we love about P.J.:
  • She’s a great multi-tasker
  • She is loyal and reliable
  • She makes working lots of fun
  • She has enormous positive energy
  • Fun Facts:
    • She loves her sweet tea
    • PJ’s 2 adorable boys, Will and Nick attended Bright Beginnings and love to come back and visit former teachers.
    • PJ was Greene County’s Dogwood Festival Miss Congeniality, 1994.
    • PJ was Miss Greene County 1993.
    PJ is the busiest mom you will ever meet- her current volunteer work:
    • Treasurer for Pack 147 Cub Scout troop.
    • Vice President Green County Primary School PTO.
    • Organized and assists her husband with Lil’ Dragons traveling baseball team. *Assistant Coach Little League Baseball teams for 8U and 6U Greene County Youth Center.
    • Vice President PTO Nathanael Greene Elementary School
    • Pool Committee Chairperson Greene Hills Country Club
    • Selected by the Greene County Schools Superintendent to serve on the Teacher of the Year committee for 2013 and interview board to select the new Principal for Nathaniel Greene Elementary School.
    • PJ does not like to cook, clean or garden!
    • She loves to play with her children and enjoys regular time with her extended family, all of whom still live in Greene County.
    • She is a consultant for Thirty-One and sells cute and creative accessories and bags.

Molly Petchel

cville, curriculum, art, history, art history, social media, preschool

Molly Petchel

Marketing, Social Media & Blog

Molly Petchel grew up in Bright Beginnings as her mom, Kathe, founded Bright Beginnings. Molly attended Bright Beginnings as a preschooler and graduated from St. Anne’s Belfield School in 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Art from Sweet Briar College in 2012. Molly has worked at Bright Beginnings since high school when she worked as an assistant teacher. Molly is currently our Jill of all Trades! She works as our website developer, Collaborates with Sareena Ryan on our marketing and is managing the social media communications!

What we love about Molly:
  • Her cooking and baking
  • Her kindness and generosity
  • Her willingness to help her co-workers
  • Her artistic flair and presentation
  • Her passion for traveling
  • Her love for rescuing and fostering dogs
  • Fun Facts:
    • Molly loves to travel- you name the trip and she'll start packing her bags!
    • She loves salty snacks! Especially Lays potato chips and popcorn!
    • Molly worked for Elle Decor magazine in Cape Town, South Africa working on design trends for their blog
    • Molly worked at SHAWCO, Cape Town, South Africa, an educational non-profit serving children from the townships
    • Molly studied abroad in both Florence, Italy and South Africa for her Art History degree
    • Molly played tennis and lacrosse at St. Anne’s Belfield
    • Molly loves to take trail walks with her dogs, Gracie and Fat Boy

Kelly Landes

Kelly Landes

Human Resource- Onboarding Specialist and Program Consultant

Kelly Landes, LCSW, brings many years of professional experience to Bright Beginnings as part of the Human Resources team, specifically leading onboarding for new staff. This includes conducting interviews of potential faculty members, assisting with teacher and staff placements, conducting initial onboarding training and orientation and regular mentoring sessions to ensure each new staff member feel support as they join Bright Beginnings. She also hosts monthly “Lunch and Learn” trainings for staff which includes facilitating a Book Club for staff encouraging our core value of continually learning. She is our resident ‘Fairy Godmother’ often surprising staff with treats, yummy soup and salad lunches or fresh Duck Donuts!

In addition to her work at Bright Beginnings, Kelly maintains a busy family and adolescent therapy practice.

Besides, her staff responsibilities, Kelly regularly visits each school spending time in the classrooms, on site training and assisting with customer service by modeling our best early childhood pre school and day care practices.

Adding Kelly to the team exemplifies Bright Beginnings commitment to building and maintaining the strongest and most capable team of teachers, assistants, directors and managers possible to serve you!

Kelly graduated from the University of Virginia in 1992 with a degree in Rhetoric and Communications and Sociology and from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1994 with a Master’s of Social Work (MSW). Kelly is an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and a certified Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI instrument is the most trusted and widely used personality instrument used in the world. At Bright Beginnings we utilize several general personality and work ethic assessments aiming to ensure a solid match between staff member and our preschool.

What we love about Kelly:
  • Her perky personality and super duper high energy!
  • Her sense of style- she's a fashionista.
  • Her empathy and 100% willingness to listen.
  • Her quick wit and the way she laughs at her own jokes!
Fun Facts:
  • She has two big kids: Ben currently attending UVA and Sydney, in Upper School at St. Anne’s Belfield School
  • Her husband, Dan Landes, MD is a local and fantastic otolaryngologist (ENT)
  • She’s a big running and yoga enthusiast
  • After college, Kelly taught the two year olds at Bright Beginnings Charlottesville for two years
  • She LOVES to play with our babies in the infant and waddler classrooms!
  • She’s a dog lover and is dog mama to Bear and Max
  • She’s our owner, Kathe Petchel’s sister!
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The best way to learn more about what Bright Beginnings can offer you and your child is to come visit! Please complete this form and we will be in touch! Thank you for your interest in our pre school.

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