Faculty and Staff

Each classroom at St. Columba's Nursery School is staffed with two to three teachers. These skilled and nurturing educators facilitate children's play, work with small groups, regularly observe children, and plan engaging lessons based on their knowledge of children's interests and needs.

Our Environmental Science teacher meets weekly with each class to teach our children about stewardship of the earth and guide them through fascinating experiments and lessons centered on taking care of our school pets and our gardens. Lessons include gardening, composting, and worm husbandry, to name a few.

Our Music & Movement teacher meets with each classroom once a week to sing, dance, play instruments, and act out stories.








































Kate Murphy, Head of School, has served in this position at St. Columba's Nursery School since 2020. She has extensive experience in the field of early childhood education. After graduating from the George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Science and Psychology, she began her career as the Site Manager of Jumpstart at Georgetown University, an AmeriCorps program which promotes preschoolers’ language, literacy, and social skill development. Kate then taught Pre-Kindergarten at a DC charter school for five years before becoming an Instructional Specialist with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). In this role, she was responsible for the coaching and professional development of early childhood educators to ensure all children received high-quality services.  She was then promoted to become the Manager of the ECE Learning Lab, a professional learning program within DCPS. Kate came to St. Columba's from The Community Preschool of the Palisades, where she served as their Executive Director.  In this role, she was responsible for managing all preschool operations and a team of educators in their implementation of play-based programming.  Kate also holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a Concentration in Early Childhood Education for Diverse Learners from George Mason University. 

Priscilla Alexander has been teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School since 2003! Ms. Alexander has earned her Child Development Associate and has participated in a range of continuing education credit hours in the field. She loves that every day is a learning experience and that looking through life and our surroundings from the lens of a child is pure magic. Children have taught her to be patient and that your tone and body language speak. volumes. Ms. Alexander is originally from Cape Town, South Africa and was born on May 20th. Her favorite children's book is "Can I Play Too?" by Mo Willems. Fun Fact: Did you know that Ms. Alexander is a twin?


Susan Anderson began teaching at St. Columba’s Nursery School in 2020. She has been teaching preschool for sixteen years. After college, she worked as a case manager with clients needing access to mental health services.  After having three children of her own and volunteering at their preschools she decided to make a career change. She loves the humor, curious nature, and wonder that young learners show her everyday! She loves the play-based and outdoor/nature enrichment philosophy of SCNS. The families are so supportive, appreciative, and generous as well. Ms. Anderson loves working with children because each day is different. They keep you on your toes and provide unfiltered joy and affection. Ms. Anderson loves books by Lois Ehlert. Leaf Man is one of her favorites. Her birthday is August 24. Fun fact: she has three dogs and since working at St. C’s loves chickens too!

Jason Gebhardt began teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School as a subsititute teacher in 2019 and was hired to teach full-time in 2021. Mr. G has a Master's in Social Work and was a social worker before becoming a stay at home parent for 16 years and then a teacher. He is also a St. C's alumni parent! Mr. G loves teaching young children because they teach him not to take everyday things for granted. Children see the world with a newness and everything poses a question.  It’s truly a gift to be with my students and co-teachers. He also loves St. Columba’s emphasis on learning through play and exploration (and the playground is awesome too)! He loves all "Frog and Toad" books. Mr. G is a native Washingtonian. His birthday is June 9th. Fun fact: HIs first job in high school was at a pet store and he has been keeping aquarium fish off and on since then, including the big fish tank at the Nursery School!

Shelby Hammond began working as the Engagement Director at St. Columba’s Nursery School in 2022. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Marketing. She loves working with the parents of SCNS to help foster community through our many volunteer opportunities. Shelby has three children, all who have attended or currently attend St. Columba's Nursery School.  She loves watching her children's personalities grow every day. Shelby grew up in the DC area and loves to show her children how amazing DC is. Fun Fact: Shelby loves to build and make things. If you’re ever in the mood to craft or build furniture, she’s your girl.

Fanta Kamara began teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School in 2020. Ms. Kamara has worked in Early Childhood Education for 18 years. She started her teaching career to be able to spend time with her daughter at her preschool without any intention of making it a lifelong career. After a year of teaching, she quickly realized that this was her calling so she went back to school to earn her degree in Early Childhood Education. Ms. Kamara has been working with children ever since and she loves every minute of it, particularly the excitement and joy that children bring to each activity, whether it’s building blocks or playing outside. She also loves the sense of community at St. C’s and the commitment to helping children thrive at all levels. Children have taught her resilience; even when they make mistakes or fall down, they are able to get back up. She has also learned acceptance from children; their ability to accept others for who they are is deeply inspiring to her.  Ms. Kamara loves all books by Todd Parr. Her birthday is December 26th and she is from Sierra Leone. Fun fact: She loves animated movies, especially Zootopia!

Taylor Lipnick began teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School in 2019.  Ms. Lipnick earned both her BA in Elementary Education and her MAT in Early Childhood Education from American University.  She loves children's sense of curiosity and wonder about the world around them. Ms. Lipnick also delights in what children have to say and enjoys helping them to form and foster friendships, build their play skills, and overall – how to be a kind and cool human being in the world. She also values our dedicated faculty and staff and finds the wisdom and expertise that comes with having coworkers who have been at the school for 10+ years invaluable.  She also loves the school community, our focus on outdoor learning, taking safe risks, and the expansive playgrounds. Children have taught Ms. Lipnick that their imagination is their most powerful tool when learning to be how to be kind and cool. Ms. Lipnick's favorite children's books include, "Log Hotel" by Annie Schreiber because her class is constantly looking for insects inside of log hotels on the playground, "The Day the Crayons Quit", "Strictly No Elephants", "Ruby Finds a Worry", and "The Gruffalo".  Fun fact: Ms. Lipnick is from D.C., yet has never been to the White House.  Also, Julia Berry, SCNS’ third head of school was her elementary school science teacher!



Laura Long began teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School for over 20 years! Ms. Long has a BA in Art History from The George Washington University. She also her earned her Child Development Associate and has taken various courses in ECE during her career. She loves children's sense of wonder and curiosity. She also enjoys getting to know her students, learning their interests, strengths, and their enthusiasm for learning and exploration. Ms. Long loves the warm sense of community at St. Columba’s and shares in the school’s commitment to play-based learning with an emphasis on children’s social emotional development. She also enjoys spending time outdoors and exploring nature and loves our playgrounds! One of the many gifts that working with children has given her is that they teach her how to be more in the moment. Her favorite children’s book is “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” by William Steig. Her birthday is August 3rd. Ms. Long was born in D.C., but lived in Bangkok, Thailand from 6 weeks old until she was 5 years old. Fun fact: Ms. Long is a twin!

Neisha McCauley has been teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School since 2020. She earned her BA in English from Alfred University and has been working in early childhood education for the past six years. Ms. McCauley loves being a part of children’s growth and development at such an early age. Children are fun, curious and so joyful and she wants to be a part of that magic. She also loves St. Columba’s mission and loves the appreciation, gratitude and acceptance we share towards everyone. Children have taught Ms. McCauley to dance like nobody is watching! Her birthday is April Fool's Day. She is originally from DC and considers DC to be her home, but currently resides in Alexandria, VA. Her favorite children's book at thie moment is "Nanette's Baguettes" by Mo Willems, but "The Cat in the Hat" is an all time favorite.  Fun fact: Ms. McCauley's favorite superhero is Spider-Man! She thinks that Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man is still top notch!


Aniza Nganje has been teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School since 2019. It is her passion and joy to work with young children. She loves that we are a small community and finds the people to be caring, joyful, and very helpful. Children have taught her to be more patient. Ms. Nganje learns from the children she teaches every day!  Her birthday is February 6th. She is originally from the Phillipines, but currently lives in Chevy Chase, MD. Her favorite children's book is "Little Gorilla" by Ruth Lercher Bornstein. Fun fact: Ms. Nganje loves to dance with her son, a St. C's alum!



Tina Palanca began teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School in 2016. She has her M. Ed in Early Childhood Education and over 40 years of experience in education. She considers herself a lifelong learner! Ms. Palanca loves watching children's eyes sparkle when they discover new things. She also loves that we all get to practice kindness, discover new things, and stretch our minds, and strengthen our bodies at school each day. Children have taught her how to take the time to see, listen, and enjoy; how to be in the moment. Her favorite children's book is "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak. Ms. Palanca is originally from Quezon City, Phillipines. Her birthdate is October 25. Fun fact: She Is an international recording and performing artist!

Molly Powers began teaching at St. Columba's in 2014. She loves how young children are so curious and eager to learn. She believes that they are like sponges, and learn so much from one and other and from us. They also teach us so much in the process! She loves that St. Columba’s is an inclusive school and that we have the opportunity to learn from one another, honoring and celebrating our differences, as well as our similarities. Children have taught her how to slow down and enjoy life. A leaf blowing off of a tree can make a group of young children squeal with glee. It’s those small moments that remind her to appreciate all that life has to offer. Ms. Powers' is from Bethesda, MD and her birthday is May 12th.  Her favorite children's book is "Giraffes Can't Dance" by Giles Andrae. Fun fact: Ms. Powers loves to bake desserts!



Jocelyn Rock began teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School in 2016 and currently serves as our Part-Time Playground Coordinator and Half-Day Bear Cubs Teacher. She has her BA from Clark University.  Ms. Rock loves loves learning the personalities of the children in her care, as well as getting to know their families. She is driven by children's joy from those "aha" moments, big and small. Children have taught her to notice the details and to persevere. Her birthday is July 30th. Fun fact: Ms. Rock considers herself to be a global citizen and has lived in various parts of the world, as her father worked for the State Department.

Nancy Schwartz has served as the Inclusion Specialist at St. C’s since 2021. She holds a BA in Psychology from Tulane University and received her MA in Special Education from The George Washington University. Nancy’s first summer job was working as a camp counselor at an inclusive summer camp; she has been dedicated to working with children with special needs and their families ever since! Nancy has taught all ages of preschool and loves sharing the moments of connection, joy, and wonder that happen every day. She is passionate about working with children, families, and teachers to help children gain confidence and a sense of belonging in the classroom. Prior to joining St. Columba’s, Nancy served as the Director of Preschool Programs at The River School. Nancy has also been a Parenting Coach and led Process Art playgroups. Her favorite children’s books include The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, and Baby Rattlesnake. Nancy is married to a science teacher and has four children who range in age from 17-21. Fun fact: Nancy has a 2 year old golden retriever named Chabar who is in training to become St. Columba’s next dog-in-residence! 


Kathy Taylor began teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School in 2020. She has a BA in Family Studies and has been teaching preschool for many years. Ms. Taylor views herself as a lifelong learner. She enjoys building relationships with children and helping them learn and exercise their creativity. Children have taught Ms. Taylor to be patient and to have fun. She loves animals and spending time outdoors with the children.  Ms. Taylor's birthday is September 2nd. She is from Staunton, Virginia. Fun fact: Ms. Taylor loves sports, particularly basketball and the Washington Mystics and UMD's basketball team. She played basketball in high school and her team was State Champions!


Sharnicka Williams began teaching at St. Columba's Nursery School in 2020.  Ms. Williams has an Associate's Degree in General Studies and has also earned her Child Development Associate. She continues to work on advancing her education in early childhood. She loves that everyday is different. She appreciates that children come into the classroom with ideas and their own perspective. Nothing has to be perfect and making a mess is actually a lot of fun! Children have taught her how to be patient. Ms. WIlliams' favorite children’s book is “Meet Frankie Jordan” by Kim C. Lee. She is from Aliquippa, PA and her birthday is June 13th. Fun fact: Ms. Williams is a great baker. She also volunteers for non-profit organizations that promote reading for young girls.

Parents, would you like to know more about family involvement at St. Columba’s?


Rich Learning and Active Outdoor Play