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About Us

Our Staff


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Kelly Perez

Ms. Kelly Perez holds a BA in applied behavioral science from National-Louis University and holds two American Montessori Society teaching credentials, Infant-Toddler (birth through age three) and Early Childhood (ages two-and-a-half through six). Kelly was nominated for the 2017 Golden Apple Stanley C. Golder Leadership Award. Her professional affiliations include the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health. Since 1987, Kelly has supported all aspects in building and delivering high quality early childhood programs. She has brought her experience as a teacher, teacher educator and consultant, classroom and curriculum developer, parent coach, program administrator and director to Smart Love since 2010.

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Danielle Banks

Ms. Danielle Banks received her BA in liberal arts and sciences from Northern Illinois University in 2013. She has been an early childhood teacher since 2017.  Danielle believes Smart Love’s emphasis on nurturing children’s social and emotional development should be the focus for children in all early childhood education settings.  She is also excited to join the Smart Love teaching team and take part in our ongoing teacher mentorship and continuing education. 

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Sandie Gonzalez

Ms. Sandie Gonzalez has been an early childhood teacher since 2013. She received her BA in early childhood education from National Louis University and she is also a certified children’s yoga instructor. As an experienced educator, Sandie was drawn to Smart Love’ focus on social and emotional well-being as the foundation of successful early learning. Sandie is so happy to be a part of the Smart Love teaching team.

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Karen Hermach

Ms. Karen Hermach received her M.A. in early childhood education from Concordia University Chicago after she earned her BA in Business Administration from Aurora University. She has a passion for teaching young children and has been working with children since 2014. Throughout her graduate coursework, she was particularly interested in studying social, emotional and play based learning. With that focus, she is very excited to be a part of the Smart love team. 

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Carolyn Howarter

Ms. Carolyn Howarter is a graduate of the University of Illinois-Champagne Urbana, and has an M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Virginia.  Although she has taught college students, she has developed a passion for early childhood education with experience in both Montessori and as an au pair.  She also took further early childhood training at Roosevelt University.  She is particularly drawn to work that aligns with her values of creating more equitable educational experiences and she is excited to be a part of the Smart Love team.

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Kim Maites

Ms. Kim Maites received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign and has worked in the field of early childhood education over the past for five years. She and her husband have moved back to Chicago after raising a family in the suburbs.  After spending a lot of time assisting and volunteering at her own children’s schools, this seemed like the perfect next step.   Kim is super excited to be a part of the Smart Love community, she looks forward to inspiring fun and creativity which she feels is so important for young children.

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Ashley Marchan

Ms. Ashley Marchan received her bachelor’s degree in human development and learning from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  For three years while in college, Ashley was a Child Life volunteer working with children at UI Health ensuring children’s emotional well-being through play and supporting families.  She admires how Smart Love makes children feel safe, comfortable and fosters a sense of community.  She is very excited to be a part of the Smart Love team to support children in their development and to contribute to a positive classroom environment.

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Madelyn Perez

Ms. Madelyn Perez received her bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in early childhood education from Roosevelt University.  Madelyn interned and taught summer camp at Smart Love Preschool in 2017 and has been available as a substitute while pursuing her degree.  Madelyn’s passion for young children and Smart Love felt like a perfect match. She feels it’s a privilege to work with the children and their families and is so happy to be a part of the Smart Love teaching team.  

Our Teachers

Vice President Education Programs and Preschool Director

Natalie & Ben Heineman Smart Love Center

Our Home


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Mike Conway

Mr. Mike Conway earned his BA in political science and history from Illinois State University. He has over 20 years of experience working with a variety of businesses in client service and experience as an assistant teacher in kindergarten. 

Smart Love Preschool is located in the Natalie & Ben Heineman Smart Love Center at 2222 N. Kedzie Blvd. in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. The gracious prairie style home has been completely renovated and features a large outdoor area and a spacious light-filled interior for our highly regarded preschool and kindergarten (3-6 years), and playschool (2-3 years) that includes a year-round Garden and Nature curriculum.

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