Home » K’tanim Preschool » Preschool Staff
The heart and soul of our school is our wonderful teaching staff. All are amazingly thoughtful, highly educated & experienced early childhood educators who each bring immeasurable warmth, talent, and dedication to our programs.

Kate Luedtke, K’tanim Preschool Director


Kate Luedtke brings over 20 years experience in Early Childhood to her role as leader of our wonderful K’tanim family. At the Westport Community Nursery School, she developed and managed the Kindergarten program, after having served as the school’s Curriculum Coordinator, and the Head Teacher of a 3’s classroom, a 4’s class, and a mixed aged group of 3’s/4’s. She has also made a positive impact on the Stratford Public Schools working with their School Readiness program, and put her extensive experience to further use in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language).

In addition to having earned a Masters in Elementary Education and a BA in Psychology, her credentials also include a Child Development Associate (CDA) Degree in Early Childhood, a Connecticut Head Teacher’s Certificate and the Connecticut Director’s Credential at a Master’s Level. She is also a trained Music Together teacher.

Born and raised in Trumbull, Kate still lives there with her husband Brad and two sons Logan and Braeden.

Gennifer Lippman, Teacher

Ms. Lippman holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology and Advertising from the University of Vermont as well as a Master’s in Elementary Education from Sacred Heart, and taught 1st grade for five years prior to joining K’tanim. “I love seeing the raw excitement that a four year old shows about the simplest of things,” she says, “A room full of four year olds laughing and chatting can make most days brighter!” Genn is a very active Beth El congregant with husband Joshua and two sons Ross and Noah — both of whom are graduates of K’tanim Preschool and now attend Beth El Religious School.

Debra MacDonald, Teacher

Debra B MacDonald has been teaching young children in the Fairfield county, Tri state, and Greater Boston area for the last 28 yrs, including teaching as a head teacher with 3 and 4 year old students at NAEYC accredited schools.  Debra also teaches ballet at CT Dance School where her students are ages 3-7 and spent many years of theatre and dance with the Boston Ballet.. She also is a co- founder of Dance 4All Abilities, a program for ages 2-23, for students with disabilities and challenges. Debra holds degrees from Pine Manor College and Norwalk Community College. Debra has two grown children, her son is a senior at Warde High School and her daughter is a junior at Hofstra University.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small!”  – Dr. Seuss

Sue Shanahan, Teacher

A K’tanim teacher for 10 years, Ms. Sue loves working with 3 year olds, particularly in those “I did it!” moments when they can put on their jacket themselves, learn to spell their name, or put on their shoes themselves. But the best part? “Having conversations with 3 year olds, of course! You never know what they are going to say!” A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Sue also studied abroad in Grenoble, France — and loves everything French and France related! She is married with three teenage children, Margot, Clare, and Kevin.

Mara Schwartz, Teacher

Ms. Schwartz holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology from SUNY Albany, a Master’s in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Baruch College, and is in her 6th year in of the Teaching English as a Second Language program at Pace University. She taught elementary school at PS130 in NYC’s Chinatown, as well as at Coleytown Elementary in Westport, but has loved teaching the 3’s here at K’tanim since 2010. “It is amazing to see how they change throughout the year. They are so loving and kind to each other, creative in their play, and eager to learn about the world. I love how they make me laugh and give me great big hugs.” Mara lives in Fairfield with husband Jonathan, twin 17 year olds Alissa and Matthew, and dog Jasmine.

Karen Vital, Teacher

Karen Vital grew up in upstate NY and received her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education. She also holds her Head Teacher Certification from the CT Office of Early Childhood.  Karen has taught preschool for the Stamford Public Schools in their School Readiness Program, as well as Head Start Programs in both West Haven and Hartford. Her biggest joy in working in early childhood education is forming relationships with children and their families. Karen lives in West Haven with her 4 teenage children, a dog, and 2 cats. When she is not teaching or driving her kids around the state, she loves playing and watching sports, going to the beach, and reading.

For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact our director, Kate Luedtke, at kluedtke@bethelfairfield.org or (203) 374-5544. Registration for the coming school year is now in progress. We look forward to welcoming you to the K’tanim family!

For upcoming Preschool events, check out the Calendar, and filter for Preschool.