St. James Lutheran Preschool Art Area

About Us

St. James Lutheran Preschool was established in 1969 and serves the communities of St. James, Smithtown, Nesconset, Stony Brook and the surrounding areas. The preschool is a ministry of St. James Lutheran Church. We celebrate and teach all Christian holidays and invite families of all faiths to attend. Please call us to arrange a visit to get the "feel" of our school. Come see our bright, spacious classrooms, chat with our teachers and give your child the opportunity to experience play time.

Why Us

At St. James Lutheran Preschool, we are dedicated to making your child FEEL welcomed, FEEL loved, FEEL accepted, and FEEL cherished! When all those feelings occur with your child, amazing things happen like imagining, thinking, creating, solving, sharing, caring, and learning!  Each of our teachers has been blessed with a God-given talent of beautifully bringing out the best in each of our children. How our teachers obtain this level of learning within in each child on a day-to-day basis is best said by School Principal, Author and Speaker, Daniel Steele, 'The most important qualities of any educator are not adequately captured on a resume. It is hard to quantify passion, energy, dedication, patience, perseverance, and love… but in the classroom… those qualities make all the difference in the world.'  At St. James Lutheran Preschool, we know it's this difference that allows children to learn and to thrive in the classroom - we strive to make that difference every day. So, Why Us?  We are confident that your child will learn a great deal here! But, just as important, we are confident that your child will feel loved and cherished for exactly who they are during these precious and fleeting preschool years while at St. James Lutheran Preschool.

Misson Statement

"Since 1969, the mission of St. James Lutheran Preschool is to provide a loving and safe Christian environment where children develop their readiness for school and life through the guidance of a dedicated, passionate, and professional teaching staff."

Meredith Johansson

Meredith Johansson

Director

"I have the privilege and blessing of being the Director at St. James Lutheran Preschool since 2016 – bringing with me nine years of Director experience. I am a member of the church and a second grade Sunday School teacher. As a graduate of SUNY Maritime College, I spent several years traveling to many countries around the world aboard a ship. This work and travel experience combined with family and church life have provided me with confidence to carry out the role of Director in a fresh and relaxed manner, understanding from first-hand experience that children are alike all over the world – full of wonder, curiosity, and given the opportunity, always ready to explore!

Together with a team of amazing and creative teachers, I am committed to providing your child with a loving foundation so that the joy of learning is nurtured from within. Here at St. James Lutheran Preschool, we know that play is a child's most important work – we look forward to 'working and playing' with your child!

When I'm not greeting our families at the door or popping into the classroom as "Mystery Reader", I enjoy spending time in the great outdoors camping, scouting, and hiking with my husband, Eric, and our four young adult and teenage children and our foreign exchange students. I also love spending holidays and summer vacations in my hometown of Walton in the Catskills 'on the farm' with dogs, cats, horses and chickens!"

Our Staff

We are enormously proud of our dedicated and energetic staff. Our teachers' strong interest and passion for Early Childhood Education brings a natural professionalism to their classrooms. Combine these extensive working skills with their warm and enthusiastic personalities and our classroom environment becomes alive with happiness and joy! We look forward to meeting you and your family!

Pastor Neil & Carol Mittelstaedt

Pastor Neil & Carol Mittelstaedt

Ministry Team

"My wife, Carol, and I welcome you to St. James Lutheran Church and Preschool! My wife and I are a ministry team – I'm the Pastor and Carol is the Director of Young Family Ministry since 2010. It's a blessing to have such a strong and vibrant preschool right here in our midst!

Married for 34 years and parents of three-20 somethings, we understand parenting and the challenges families have in today's world – we are here right along side of you! As Pastor, I've got a special fondness and heart for kids and I love coming into the classroom to sing funny songs accompanied with my guitar, as well as tell them stories from the Bible. Encouraging faith in God, even at this young age, is so important. I received my Masters of Divinity degree in my hometown of Toronto in 1989.

Carol, a gifted storyteller, leads the children's church openings each Sunday at the 10 am service. She also coordinates both the church's Children's Christmas Pageant and Easter play. She can also be found preparing couples for marriage and parents for their children's baptisms. Carol grew up in a village in England, the granddaughter of a Methodist lay preacher, and at 12 years young, she began teaching Sunday School and serving in her church. During her teen years, she spent summers on mission teams reaching out to holiday makers with songs, games and skits.

When we're not "in church", we enjoy spending time with each other biking, sailing on the LI Sound, hiking, and enjoying the friendship of our parishioners. We also love to visit our children who all live in Brooklyn.

Once again, welcome to St. James Lutheran Church – if you don't yet have a church home, we invite you to attend our family-friendly 10 am Sunday services and Sunday School (for children beginning at 3 years of age). And if you are ever in need of spiritual assistance, guidance or advice, please reach out to us anytime. God's Blessings to you and your family!"

Dawn Hatton

Dawn Hatton

Business Administrator

"Since 2004, I have had the privilege of overseeing the preschool's finances including tuition, payroll, and budgeting, working together with the Director. In addition to this rewarding job, I also work at the church office in a similar manner which provides me with a complete understanding of just how important the ministry of church and preschool work hand-in- hand. With the unconditional support of St. James Lutheran Church, our preschool has a firm foundation that allows for our teaching staff to provide a wholesome Christian education that prepare our children for the next step in their young impressionable lives. I can be found at my desk during the preschool day Monday – Thursdays or just across the street in the church office on Fridays to help with any questions you might have about enrollment, scheduling, tuition or scheduling a tour of our preschool. I look forward to helping you!

When I'm not assisting in the daily operation of the preschool, I enjoy spending time with my family. I also love taking long strolls, reading (by the fireplace is my favorite spot!), gardening and playing with our two cats."

Diane Harris

Diane Harris

Lead Teacher, 3s & 4s

"I found my way to St. James Lutheran Preschool from a recommendation of a very dear friend. As a graduate of Binghamton University with a Business Management degree, I worked for a defense contractor for several years after college. I had wanted to be a teacher since second grade and deciding to pursue this career, I enrolled and graduated from Queens College – I was finally making it happen! While a substitute teacher, I became pregnant with twin sons and two years later with a third son – this put my career on hold! I enjoyed raising my three sons with my husband and being active in their education as a PTA mom. While the boys were in elementary school, I finally began living my dream as a teacher here in this wonderful preschool. The joy and wonder in the faces of the 3 and 4 year olds that I have the pleasure of spending my mornings with cannot compare to anything! In addition to readying my students for their second year of preschool or for kindergarten, I strive to make sure each child feels loved and important and capable. That is why I start each morning with a hug….what a great job I have!

When I'm not singing the Peanut Butter and Jelly song with the children, I enjoy reading, gardening, watching the Mets, listening to Bruce Springsteen, and going into New York City!"

Lisa Halloran

Lisa Halloran

Lead Teacher, 4s

"I have had the pleasure of working at St. James Lutheran Preschool since 2005 – there isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank God for how privileged I am to work with our four year olds. Each day is a learning experience for both the child and for me. I am always learning from them! I earned both a BA in English and CDA in Early Childhood Development from Queens College. As part of the preschool teaching staff, I am so proud of how we collectively take the necessary and important time nurturing our students, listening to them, interacting with them, loving them! Children are the greatest gift God has given us – as educators, we must appreciate, respect, and, most of all, love them – always!

Together with my husband, we raised twin daughters, both alumni of the preschool and now both pursuing master degrees. When I'm not rhyming words to create a song for the children, I love cooking, gardening, reading, and spending time with my family!"

Mary Capone

Mary Capone

Lead Teacher, 3s

"As a native of Paterson, New Jersey, I attended and graduated from Montclair State College earning my Bachelor of Science. I married my husband in 1989 and together we have happily raised our four children here on beautiful Long Island.

I have been a part of the St. James Lutheran Preschool Family for many years in various roles. My story here began as a parent in 2007 when my husband and I enrolled our son because we immediately felt the warmth, love, and support from his teachers that we were 'looking' for – Mrs. Cook, Mrs. Beckwith and Mrs. Dalton! That following September, I began my career as a teacher's assistant in the three year old program and soon after earned my CDA in Early Childhood Education. I have been blessed to work with many families having worked in all our preschool programs from the 2s through the 4s.

Every day throughout the year, we work cooperatively with the parents to help the children become the best they can be. I love looking at each day as a blank canvas – a new opportunity to build confidence and self-esteem in each of our children. They are little for only a short time – we must always remember that. One more hug is never too many!

When I'm not making playdough cookies with the children, I love gardening, walking, reading and traveling!"

Dorothy Beckwith

Dorothy Beckwith

Lead Teacher Tiny Tots
& Teacher Assistant, 4s

"Working with children has been a long-time passion and working at the preschool since 2003 after answering our church's in-house Teacher's Assistant ad has provided me with a fulfilling career! My days are filled with 'the little things that make a big difference – smiles, hugs, and laughter'. Leading the Tiny Tots Program and working with the 4s have reinforced my belief that with consistent careful and caring attention, children are able to express their individual abilities, talents, and needs. Through my past work experiences as a daycare provider in my home, PTA mom, and mother's helper to three teenage girls, I have learned first-hand the unique needs of each child's stage of growth and learning! Bringing this experience back into the classroom has been fruitful and rewarding for me – I am continually amazed at how quickly children absorb, process, and use information that is presented to them all throughout the year!

My love of arts and crafts has helped me to interact with the children at another level of learning – the hands-on participation teaches them how to follow directions while expressing their own individual creative abilities. I am truly grateful and rewarded when I know I have gained the trust, love and respect of each child – their smiles and hugs speak for themselves. And I am extremely proud and thankful to be a member of such dedicated team of professionals whose main objective is to provide a healthy and happy learning environment for our precious young children.

In Tiny Tots, one of my favorite things to do is trace their hands with crayon – these make cute reindeer and pirates and these become wonderful keepsakes during their first year of preschool! When I am not tracing tiny hands, I love boating, crafting, cooking and decorating!"

Joanna Fennell

Joanna Fennell

Lead Mommy & Me,
Teacher Assistant Tiny Tots,
& Lunch Bunch Teacher

"I love both my jobs here at St. James Lutheran Preschool – working with the sweetest Tiny Tots and the fun Lunch Bunch crew. What a pleasure it is to work with our littlest beings! Besides listing some of my favorite hobbies below, one of my all-time favorites is reading books to children and I get to do a lot of that in Tiny Tots and in Lunch Bunch! Most of us can remember being read to as a child and how special it made us feel – creating an environment that is warm, memorable, engaging, and inspiring for each child is my amazing "job" and I strive to do it right each day!

In Lunch Bunch, especially, I love feeding their imagination with books selected from our Preschool Library, the Smithtown Library, and my personal at-home library. With each bite, I promise the children that I will turn the page…. their lunches seem to magically disappear from their lunch boxes and into their bellies each time! Besides hearing great literature and seeing creative illustrations I love how Lunch Bunch encompasses so many other aspects of learning and growing for the children…from learning how to open containers, to corralling their food and drink on their own special napkin, to having and maintaining courteous table manners, to engaging in small group social conversations with me and their peers.

When I'm not laughing with the children while reading a funny book, I love spending time with my husband and three sons (all alumni of the preschool) and numerous pets, gardening and hiking."

Faith Cook

Faith Cook

Floating Teacher Assistant


"Having earned my CDA in early childhood development, I have been working at the preschool since 1995. For the past 10 years I have had the privilege of sitting in view of both of the classrooms preparing crafts and assisting the teachers when needed. This has given me the opportunity of watching the amazing growth each day of hundreds of children from 3 to 4 years old!

Ssshhh….don't tell the children, but I am also 'Lollipop' the lamb puppet. As the preschool's very popular mascot, Lollipop teaches the children about love, patience, empathy, and about God and Jesus. Lollipop is asked lots of interesting questions, but the most frequent one over the years is, 'Where do you live?' and Lollipop's answer is, 'On the farm, of course!'.

Each child has been unique in his/her own way – each filling a special place in my heart over the years. One of the best parts of working here is having an alumnus (high schooler, college student or parent) visit and recall fond preschool days! What a joy!

I am long-time resident of St. James and a member of the church. When I'm not preparing a new script for Lollipop, I enjoy family get-togethers with my husband and our two daughters (both preschool alumni) and their families, including two grandsons (both alumni) and one baby granddaughter."

Maria Honnold

Maria Honnold

Teacher Assistant, 3s & 4s

"St. James Lutheran Preschool has been my "chosen" place of work since 2000. With my Associate's Degree from Suffolk County Community College I enjoy both this career with our preschoolers and as a substitute in the After Care Programs in Smithtown.

I was married here in the church in 1990 and, together with my husband, we raised our now young adult son in the preschool, Sunday School and confirmation programs. I continue to teach Sunday School to Kindergartners.

In the classroom, I feel so rewarded (warm inside) when a child tells me 'I love you' because it is then that I know I am reassuring her comfort. And sometimes I act silly when a child is scared or upset – it so often helps to lighten his/her burdens. What a pleasure it is to watch each child grow both physically and emotionally through the year! When I'm not on the carpet assisting the children with a floor puzzle, I enjoy yoga, gardening, and downhill skiing."

Sue Guglielmo

Sue Guglielmo

Teacher Assistant, 3s

"I have been working at the preschool since 2002 and currently work with our three year olds. I attended Suffolk Community College and hold a Liberal Arts degree. I enjoy every aspect of my teacher's assistant job and what I have learned repeatedly over the years is how children have an amazing ability to teach us just as much as we teach them – I have experienced many 'A-ha' moments in the classroom!

St. James Lutheran Preschool is such a wonderful place to not only work, but for a child to begin his or her education – academically, physically, and emotionally. I feel so blessed to be a part of a great team of passionate educators who care about the whole child.

When I'm not making shapes at the playdough table with the children, I love hiking, boating, reading and spending time with my husband and two adult children – both alumni of the preschool."

Lori Rini

Lori Rini

Teacher Assistant, Tiny Tots

"With a BA in Communications from Molloy College and an MS in Communicative Disorders from Adelphi University, I have been working with and helping children since 1992. I joined the preschool staff for one year in 2005, and then left to raise our three young children (the youngest two alumni), happily returning in 2012 to assist in the growing Tiny Tots Program! I enjoy bringing the spirit of the child out in the classroom while maintaining a safe, creative, and always nurturing environment for him/her. Hugs – they are my favorite part of the day, and when I am not building with blocks, I love spending time with my husband and children."

Ronnie McCann

Ronnie McCann

Teacher Assistant, 4s

"As a teacher's assistant since 2014, I have cherished the time teaching, encouraging and interacting with the children every day. I am happiest when I am working with them on crafts and special seasonal and holiday projects – the looks of accomplishment on their faces warms my heart! Seeing and feeling the invaluable bonds which are created between us, the teachers, the children and their families makes us, truly, a community preschool!

Together, with my husband we are raising our two sons in St. James, both of which are alumni of the preschool where it provided a strong base foundation for their future learning and initiated the desire for knowledge that carries them through today. I always look forward to greeting the new group of students who join our family each year at St. James Lutheran Preschool.

When I am not playing the Book Buddy game with the children, I love exercising, traveling, and spending time outdoors with my family and friends."

Caitlin Howard

Caitlin Howard

Teacher Assistant, 3s & 4s

"As a Teacher's Assistant it is such a joy to know all of the children and families that come through our classroom doors. One of my favorite things about teaching is witnessing a child grasp a concept for the first time. Seeing the look of pride on their faces as they learn to master new concepts in an environment where they know they are loved is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

St. James has been my home for five years now with my husband, Ryan, the church's Director of Christian Education. I have lived in several parts of the US including Missouri, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and California until meeting my husband while we were both attending Concordia University in Chicago. On Sundays you can find me at church singing in the Praise Band and as High School Youth Group leader. During the week, I am blessed to facilitate a girl's high school women's Bible study. When I'm not helping the children build castles with magna-tiles, I love painting, crafting, and watching movies. I also love taking road trips with my husband to see God's beauty all over the US."