Victoria Damjanovic


Victoria Damjanovic completed her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education at the University of South Florida in May 2015. Prior to graduation she served as the Liaison between the Department of Education and the USF PCL for four years. During that time she met with teachers weekly for professional development in the areas of inquiry based teaching and learning, documentation, mentoring pre-service teachers, and integrating content into project based curriculum. She received her B.S. and M.S in Development and Family Studies and Behavior Analysis from the University of North Texas. She began her career as a teacher. She then began working with children diagnosed with developmental delays, specifically autism spectrum. This led to working with parents and teachers as a parent/teacher educator, then working in Head Start providing support to families and teachers within Easter Seals Tampa as a Developmental Specialist. Her research interests include inquiry based teaching and learning with pre-service and in-service teachers, professional learning communities, Project Approach as a framework for children’s inquiry, and documentation as a tool for teacher learning.

Georgia Mackenzie

Administrative Specialist

Georgia MacKenzie has been with the College of Education since 2000 and began in the Dean’s Office. She moved to the Development Office and assisted with raising funds for teacher scholarships. She then transfered to the USF Preschool for Creative learning where she works as the Administrative Specialist. She has a vast knowledge of university policy and procedure from her 15 years at USF. She is currently working toward her A.S. in Business.

Nicholl Cruz

Creative Experiences Specialist & Family Engagement Coordinator

Nicholl attended college in Michigan. She studied Art History and Photography before finding her calling in Early Childhood Education. She began working at the PCL in 2010, she brings with her an approach that focuses on the creative arts and sensory exploration. Nicholl works with children in the art studio, teaching art technique to support communication of ideas connected to the investigations children are engaged in. She also leads the light and shadow room, where children are given the opportunity to explore how light, shadow, and movement as an additional form of self-expression. In addition to these roles, Nicholl serves as the Family Engagement coordinator, planning and organizing events and developing opportunities to bridge the connection between home and school. 

Holly Class

Eloah Decat


Eloah is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She moved to the US in 2009 to learn English. After living here a year, she decided to attend USF. While working toward her B.S. she was an intern at the PCL. After interning at the PCL throughout her bachelor’s degree program she was offered a position as a teacher. While teaching, she earned her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education in the Spring of 2017. She believes children navigate their own learning experiences. Teachers are there to provide support as children take charge of their own learning. Each child is unique, and she values their individuality.

Kyung Lee


Kyung studied Early Childhood Education at FSU, where she earned her B.S. degree. While teaching in the Tampa area, she began working towards her M.Ed in Elementary Education with a focus on Teacher Leadership and will complete the program in fall 2017. Kyung joined the PCL in 2017. She believes children learn best through active participation in learning. She feels that her roles as an educator is to scaffold and guide children through the learning process to foster their natural curiosities and motivation to learn. Her research interests focus on play-based learning and connecting educators to share learning experiences.

Magnolia Class

Stefanie Lynch


Stefanie Lynch is the Lead Teacher for the Magnolia four-year-old classroom. She started her career in Early Childhood Education as a student at USF. Upon graduating with her B.S. she started working at the USF PCL. She has been at the PCL for 5 years. As she taught, she earned her M.Ed., and is currently pursing her Ph.D. in the Early Childhood Program. She utilizes an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning. She aspires to make the children in her classroom engaged, active, and innovative learners. She believes children should be given opportunities to represent and communicate their knowledge in a variety of ways. Her research explores incorporating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) into her classroom and co-teaching relationships within communities of practice.

Megan Anderson


Megan has been at the PCL for 6 years. She began her work here while working towards her B.S. degree. In the Spring of 2016 she completed her degree and began teaching at the PCL full-time. She plans begin her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education in the fall of 2017. Her research interests include emerging literacy in young children and the Project Approach. 

Maple Class

Emily Bounajma


Emily Taylor is a teacher in the Maple classroom. She began working at the USF PCL in the Fall of 2013, after graduating with a B.S. degree in Early Childhood Education from USF. She is currently pursuing a M.Ed. focused in Early Childhood Education. She takes an integrated curriculum approach to teaching and learning, while fostering experiences that follow the interest of the students. She values the voices of young children and respects multiple mediums of expression that children use to share their understandings of the world around them. She believes in forming strong home-school-community connections and working with families to meet the needs of students. As she continues to work with young children, she is interested in inquiry based approaches to teaching that will allow her to grow as a teacher. Specifically she is interested in empowering young children’s voices and incorporating anti-bias education.

Willow Class

Vanessa Barber


Vanessa Barber began at the PCL in 2010. She completed both her B.S. and M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction for Early Childhood Education at USF. Vanessa teaches the toddler class, focusing on pre-project skills such as, gross and fine motor skills, sensory exploration, as well as social emotional and problem solving skills. She believes that the greatest learning experiences occur when there is a positive meaningful relationship. In developing these relationships, she focuses on the creation of a safe environment where a love of learning is instilled through instruction based on the ways each child learns best. 

Advisory Board

Ilene Berson

Ilene Berson, Ph.D., NCSP is a Professor of Early Childhood in the Department of Childhood Education and Literacy Studies at the University of South Florida. She also serves as the coordinator of the USF Early Childhood doctoral program with an emphasis on social justice and child advocacy. Dr. Berson has extensive experience working with children ages birth to eight, and she is a nationally certified and state licensed school psychologist. Her research focuses on prevention and intervention services for young children at imminent risk for behavioral and mental health challenges associated with child maltreatment and other traumatic events. She leads collaborative reform initiatives, forging linkages between early childhood, child welfare, and health care systems, as well as international studies on the engagement of young children with digital technologies. Dr. Berson has extensively published books, chapters, and journal articles and has presented her research worldwide. She has been the principal investigator on funded grants totaling over $2.5 million. Dr. Berson embodies the characteristics of an engaged scholar who works closely in reciprocal relationships with practitioners and policymakers to develop innovative solutions for emerging and long term issues to promote young children's well being.

Ruth Bahr

Ruth Huntley Bahr is Professor and Graduate Program Director of the Speech-Language Pathology Program at USF. She received her PhD from the University of Florida and came to USF in 1995. She is past editor of Language, Speech, and Hearing Sciences in Schools, a Board Recognized Specialist in Child Language and a Fellow in the International Society of Phonetic Sciences and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. As a PCL Advisory Board member since 2008, Dr. Bahr provides information about the early speech, language and literacy needs of preschool children. Most importantly, her two children are graduates of this preschool.

Jolyn Blank

Jolyn Blank is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of South Florida. Dr. Blank's research focuses on arts and inquiry in early schooling and on early childhood teaching practices. She investigates the ways integrated processes of investigating and representing meaning using multiple modes of symbolic thought support young children's cognitive development. At USF, Dr. Blank teaches classes at the undergraduate, graduate, and advanced graduate levels focusing on play-based learning, the project approach, the arts, and multi-modal literacies in early childhood education. Dr. Blank serves as curriculum advisor and professional development coordinator for the USF Preschool for Creative Learning in order to support the director, teachers, and staff in their efforts to provide the highest quality and most meaningful learning experiences for young children.

Judy Bryant

Judy Bryant is a Professor of Psychology. Her PhD is in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development, and her research focuses on language development in the preschool years. She is particularly interested in children's pragmatic development (how they learn to use language for social purposes). When she came to USF in 1981, she got involved with the university preschool in order to have a place where her students could observe preschoolers and collect data. At that time, the preschool was not the professional operation it is today. Both her sons are graduates of the preschool and attended the afterschool program when they were in their first few years of elementary school.

Sophia Han

Sophia H. Sophia Han is an associate professor and the undergraduate program coordinator for the early childhood education program at USF. She began to serve as the PCL board member since 2014. Her areas of research interests include early childhood teachers' role in supporting children's social competence development; innovative approaches in early childhood teacher education; and socio-culturally responsive pedagogy in early childhood education. She currently serves as a consulting editor for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and a reviewer for several other professional journals and organizations in the field. She was a preschool and kindergarten teacher, and is also a former parent of PCL from 2010 to 2013.

Stephen W. Sanders

Steve Sanders is a Professor and Assistant Chair in the College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of South Florida and is the current PCL board Chair. His professional focus has been on preparing the next generation of teachers to assist children in becoming physically active and healthy for a lifetime. Steve works as a university professor and early childhood consultant specializing in development of curriculum, assessment, and instructional strategies for promoting early childhood physical activity. He has taught and promoted the concept of being physically active for life throughout his career while working with all age levels from university students to infant/parent and toddler movement classes, to teaching preschool, elementary, and high school physical education while also coaching both high school and youth sport teams.  Dr. Sanders is the recipient of the Margie Hanson National Association for Sport and Physical Education Distinguished Service Award and is author of the Books “Designing Preschool Movement Programs” (1992), and “Active for Life: Developmentally Appropriate Movement Programs for Young Children” (2002), along with numerous scholarly papers and other publications. Additional recent books include “Physical Activity Right from the Start” (2011) a guide for what parents can do during the first five years to assist their children in the development of physical skills, and two edited books for teacher preparation “Contemporary Uses of Technology in k-12 Physical Education” (2012) and “Sociocultural Issues in Physical Education: Case Studies for Teachers” (2014). Steve is the author of the new Gryphon House book series Moving Matters including the books “Encouraging Physical Activity in Preschoolers,” “Encouraging Physical Activity in Toddlers,” and “Encouraging Physical Activity in Infants.”    

Shaina Gonzalez

PTO President

Shaina is a mother of 2 at the PCL, as well as the PTO president.  Shaina works closely with the Director and teachers at PCL to host engaging and educational events, as well as to raise funds in support of PCL initiatives.  Outside of the PCL world, Shaina works at the University of South Florida Office of Veteran Success where she helps student veterans succeed academically through course planning, academic coaching, and assisting with the Veterans' Success course.