Annie Hughes is the Director of Unity Preschool. She has been a member of the Unity community for twelve years. She first began as a parent and board member and then joined the staff as a 2/3s teacher in 2008. Prior to teaching at Unity, she taught in Northbrook District 28 for ten years. Annie was raised in Winnetka and moved to Evanston with her husband Mike fourteen years ago to raise their three children –Danny, Tommy and Megan. Although she doesn’t spend as much time in the classroom as Director, Annie still loves the chance to get down on the ground to play with the children. In her spare time, Annie enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Favorite Children’s Book: Goodnight Gorilla
Favorite Children’s Author: Mo Willems
Jenna Downing is a teacher in the 4/5 classroom. Prior to joining Unity in 2013, she was a long-term substitute art teacher in Winnetka District 36, a long-term substitute teacher in Evanston District 65, and a lead teacher at the McGaw YMCA Children’s Center. Jenna holds a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from DePaul University. At Unity, Jenna particularly enjoys taking the 4/5 class on field trips around the community and working with students as they learn to write. She loves to witness the moment when they realize that they can do it! Jenna lives in Morton Grove with her husband, Brandon, and her children, Rowan and Stella. One of her most memorable personal adventures was backpacking in the Grand Canyon and sleeping in the lower rim.
Favorite Children’s Book: Anything by Mo Willems, LMNOPs, and the Scaredy Squirrel series.
Linda is happy to be joining the Unity staff this year as a teaching assistant. She previously assisted at Winnetka Covenant Preschool and The Barbereux School in Evanston. Prior to her work in early childhood, Linda taught art in elementary and middle schools in Chicago. She still teaches summer art classes for The Center for Gifted. Originally from the Ozarks in Missouri, Linda has lived in Evanston for 10 years with her husband, Julian, and their amazing daughter, Juliette, who is in 3rd grade at Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies. She also shares her home with Juliette’s Betta fish named Olaf. In her spare time, Linda enjoys immersing herself in Lake Michigan, going to art museums with her daughter, long walks, and eating out.
Favorite Children’s Book: The Colors of Us by Karen Katz and Children Just Like Me – CELEBRATIONS! DK Publishing series
Favorite Children’s Author and Illustrator: Jan Brett
Jenny Gemmell is returning to Unity as a 2/3s co-teacher after a number of years as a teaching assistant. Jenny taught elementary school in Des Plaines for 14 years before leaving to spend time with her own children. Jenny earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University Chicago. Jenny’s love for working with children led her to Unity in 2013 as a substitute and then the teacher of the 3/4 class in 2014. Jenny lives in Evanston with her husband, their two children, and their two very large dogs — all of whom keep her happy and busy!
Favorite Children’s Book: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Her mom read it to her when she was young and it has remained one of her favorites.
Marcy joins Unity this year as a teaching assistant. Marcy has worked at both Cherry Preschool and Winnetka Covenant Preschool prior to coming on board at Unity. Marcy and her husband, Adi, have two children. Annabella is entering her junior year at ETHS and Garrison is starting at ETHS as a freshman this school year. Marcy enjoys taking long walks with her dogs as well as cooking and reading.
Favorite Children’s Book: Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch or any Curious George books
Stacey Hardy is a teacher in the 2/3 classroom. She began at Unity in 2008 in the 3/4 classroom, took a leave of absence to raise her children, then returned in 2011 to the 2/3 classroom. Prior to teaching at Unity, Stacey spent five years teaching first grade in the Chicago Public Schools. Stacey has lived in the Chicago area for over 25 years, but originally hails from a small town in downstate Illinois. She married her high school sweetheart in 1990 and has two amazing boys, Caden and Tucker. Stacey earned her B.A. in Early Childhood Education with a special education endorsement from National Louis University. While her children were enrolled at Unity, Stacey volunteered on the Social and Silent Auction committees of the Board. Stacey’s favorite role at Unity is helping the children transition from diapers to the potty. She has been affectionately dubbed “The Potty Queen”.
Favorite Children’s Book: Where the Wild Things Are. She loves how the book says so much about parenting and how a little thing can become a life lesson.
Daryl-Lynn Johnson is a teacher in the 4/5 classroom. She started teaching at Unity in the fall of 2009 after working at the Jewish Community Center Preschool in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Daryl-Lynn especially enjoys taking the 4/5 students on adventures to the sculpture park, the library, the post office, “L” rides and Whole Foods to name a few. She also enjoys science Lunch Bunch, during which the children can find several exciting uses for vinegar, baking soda, and alka seltzer. Daryl-Lynn was raised in Connecticut, but has lived in the Bay Area, the mountains outside of San Diego, and Harrisburg before settling in Evanston with her husband and two children (both Unity alums!).
Favorite Children’s Book: Arrow to the Sun. Her parents read it to her and she read it to her children when they were babies. They loved looking at the vibrant illustrations.
Cady hails from St. Louis, Missouri. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre from Illinois State University, Cady set her sights on Chicago. She took a “day job” as a nanny for a family in Evanston while pursuing acting roles. This would change her life forever. Quickly she realized that she was more passionate about working with children than she had ever been about acting. Cady put herself back through school and earned a teaching certificate through Oakton Community College. Cady loves to read, laugh, and explore the outdoors. She also enjoys spending time serving the community and helping others. One of her favorite things to do with children is to help them discover and appreciate the wonders of the world around them.
Favorite Children’s Book: Rosie Revere, Engineer
Maleeha Mubashiruddin is a teacher in the 3/4s classroom. She began teaching at Unity in 2008, left in 2009 to be home with her children, Sulayman and Hana (who have both attended Unity), and returned in 2013. Maleeha is from Bethesda, Maryland, where she worked as a teacher and Center director for Montgomery Child Care Association. Maleeha earned a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing and organizational behavior from Boston University. To add to her varied teaching capacities, she has also worked as a French tutor, a volunteer ESL teacher, and has experience in foreign aid. For two years, she served on Unity’s board chairing the CommUNITY Breakfast, our annual spring breakfast event. Maleeha’s favorite Unity tradition is the friendship snack. Each child brings a different snack (cereal, pretzels, dried fruit, seeds, etc) and the snacks are combined. The children love to share with each other and it beautifully depicts how a little from everyone can be so much. It is now a yearly activity in the 3/4 classroom.
Favorite Children’s Book: There are too many amazing books for her to choose, but one of her favorites is Brown Rabbit in the City.