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 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

Alison Casey

Regional Director

Alison has over 14 years of experience in early education including as a preschool teacher, assistant director and Program Director. As our Regional Director she is responsible for the overall management and quality of all three Bright Beginnings. Prior to being promoted to this position, Alison was Program Director at our Mill Creek location.

She has a calm and engaging personality and is well positioned for success in this position because of her awesome organizational skills. She manages approximately 65 full and time staff. She is active in multiple early education masterminding and coaching groups and regularly attends national conferences bringing back best practices to our teachers and students.

Bright Beginnings Background:

Alison is a strong asset to Bright Beginnings management team with her pre school teaching background and creative classroom ideas that neatly combined environmental awareness, massive amounts of messy art materials and utilizing quality children’s literature. Her experience as a mentor for our new teachers and as a former parent at Bright Beginnings make her well rounded as a pre school manager.

What we love about Alison:
  • Her caring personality, warm demeanor and love for the children
  • Her creative problem solving skills Her work ethic and willingness to mentor new staff members
  • Her light hearted sense of humor
  • Her fashion and photography
Fun Facts about Alison:
  • She’s arty! Allison was accepted to FIT in New York for fashion design
  • Alison has a son, Keaton, who graduated from our Forest Lakes location
  • Alison loves sketching, hiking, reading, Netflix and music- she rocks out to 70’s music
  • She’s a millenial with a boomer work ethic
  • Her favorite foods are sushi, Mexican, mashed potatoes and anything Italian
  • She loves all things Disney World- really ask her for tips!

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! 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 in the infant and pre-k classrooms. Molly is currently our Jill of all Trades! She works on continuously updating our website, writes and publishes our blog, handles all marketing efforts and manages our social media communications! Molly frequently travels to national conferences to learn about best preschool and staff culture practices and is apart of several masterminding and coaching groups to keep Bright Beginnings up to date on all things quality!

What we love about Molly:
  • Her cooking and baking- she's a modern day Martha Stewart!
  • Her kindness and generosity
  • Her willingness to help her co-workers
  • Her optimistic attitude
  • Her passion for rescuing and fostering dogs
  • Fun Facts:
    • Molly loves to travel- you name the trip and she'll start packing her bags! Her favorite places she has been to are Cape Town, South Africa, Bali, Indonesia and Florence, Italy.
    • She loves salty snacks! Especially potato chips and popcorn!
    • When Molly lived in Cape Town she worked at SHAWCO, an educational non-profit serving children from the townships
    • Molly loves to stay active- she loves hiking, Corepower Hot Yoga (her favorite classes are with the weights!) and taking walks on the beach with her Cavalier King Charles, Edward
    • Molly loves to read chick-lit- her favorite authors are Emily Giffin and Taylor Jenkins Reid

Alannah Brennan

Program Specialist

Alannah grew up in Massachusetts, and went to University of Massachusetts Boston, achieving a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services. She is also Massachusetts teacher, lead teacher, and director state certified to run early childhood programs, with 10 years of experience in the field this year!

Early Childhood Background:
  • Began working in the field as a Teacher’s assistant in 2008 with toddlers
  • Taught toddlers and earned teacher certification in 2009
  • Became a lead teacher in 2010 and began teaching infants
  • Achieved Director I certification in 2013 while working for Little Sprouts, LLC in Dedham, MA
  • Worked as an Infant Mentor Teacher and trained all new staff, while leading the infant team for 5 years
  • Worked in an internship in 2016-2017, where she trained and supervised volunteers to work with homeless children
  • Graduated with a GPA 4.0 with a Bachelors of Human Services (with a life goal of licensing in mind!) in May of 2017
Bright Beginnings Background:
  • Started with Bright Beginnings in August of 2017 as Program Specialist
  • She’s so happy to be here and a part of the Bright Beginnings community!
What we love about Alannah:
  • She’s new to Virginia but here to stay!
  • She is engaged! She will be Mrs. Alannah Walker in June 2018
  • Her love of bagels and Bodo’s
  • Her silly sense of humor
  • Her positive energy
Fun Facts:
  • Alannah loves walking and training her Australian Shepherd, Ruby
  • Alannah likes to rock climb and is belay certified
  • Alannah is very musical and loves to sing and plays the clarinet
  • Alannah loves spending time with her family and friends, especially outside in the summertime

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!