Allison Colker

Director of Early Childhood Education and Engagement

Allison Colker

Allison joined the Shaare Torah community in June of 2015. She has worked in the fields of early childhood education and Jewish education since 1992. Allison’s role at Shaare Torah is two-fold:  she directs our Early Childhood Center, private Kindergarten, and ECC Summer Program; and she leads our family engagement, special events, and Shabbat and holiday experiences for families with children 5 and under. Allison’s passion as an early childhood educator is to help young children develop a love of learning and learn how to learn. Understanding the process of learning and constructing knowledge provides a foundation for the children’s future academic careers and their entire lives. Allison herself is a lifelong learner and a co-learner with the children. She believes that the most important part of early childhood education is social-emotional learning, which fosters in the children independence, self regulation, social skills, problem solving, and conflict resolution. Allison partners with parents and teachers to raise good humans who are citizens of the world. She can always tell when she encounters an adult who did not go to a good preschool (ha ha!).

Allison is excited to lay the first foundation of Jewish identity and community by instilling a joy for Shabbat and Jewish holidays, a connection to Israel, and a set of Jewish values that are truly universal human values. In addition to her work directly with the children, Allison spends much of her time mentoring teachers and coaching parents. She is committed to developing a strong early childhood educator workforce within STECC/STK and in the broader community. Allison provides partnership, resources, and support for parents on a variety of topics, such as morning and nighttime routines, potty training, welcoming new babies, and moving to a new home.

Outside of Shaare Torah, Allison is an active participant in the Greater Washington Jewish Early Childhood Education Directors’ Council. Allison and her husband Ryan both grew up in active synagogue families, spending summers at Jewish sleepover camp, were actively involved in Jewish youth group and later in Jewish life on campus, and started teaching religious school as teenagers.

Beth Ann Katz Schools Administrator

School Administrator

Beth Ann Katz

Beth Ann Katz joined the STECC/STK faculty in June 2021. Beth Ann is our school administrator as well as the school administrator for the Religious School. She has worked in the world of Jewish preschool and religious education for the better part of the past 30 years. Creative Movement, Israeli Dance, Parent & Child, Toddlers, 2s, 3s, 4s… she’s taught them all. Beth Ann has been a teacher in our religious school for the past three years. She was the Education Office Program Coordinator for 6 years at a synagogue in Washington, DC. She has a master’s degree in education and human development. She lives in Gaithersburg with her adorable dog, Buddy, and she has two amazing grown daughters.

Pre-K & Kindergarten

Morah Nicole Martin

Morah Nicole Martin joined the STECC/STK faculty in August 2017.  Morah Nicole teaches rising kindergarteners in the STECC summer program and teaches Kindergarten at Shaare Torah Kindergarten (STK) during the school year. She previously taught Pre-K at STECC. Morah Nicole has a bachelors in Early Childhood Multicultural Education, that spans birth to 3rd grade, with a focus in prekindergarten through 2nd grade and a specialization in reading instruction. In addition, she worked in a 1st and 2nd grade public school classroom which means that not only does she have experience where many of our kindergarteners have come from (prekindergarten), but she also has intimate knowledge of where they will be going in the next two years. Because of this, she can take what they currently have, and prepare them not only for the standards of 1st grade, but to make sure they have the foundations that will become necessary for second grade and beyond.  Morah Nicole and her husband, Josh, have a daughter, Teddy, who is an STECC alumna and a rising 1st grader at The Banner School. Morah Nicole loves being a part of the STECC/STK community and her favorite things are having students for multiple years and having her former students’ younger siblings!


Morah Denise Silver

Morah Denise Silver joined the STECC faculty in August 2022, and teaches Pre-K during the school year. Morah Denise was born and raised in the DC area. After graduation with a B.A. degree from Syracuse University in New York, she worked in the field of marketing for 10 years. While living in the area, she met her husband, Larry and they have three daughters. She has worked for over 20 years in the field of early childhood education. Most of those years were at Temple Beth Ami Nursery School. Denise has taught Pre-K for 18 years. She is proficient in the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. She has the knowledge and experience to give each child the love and care they need to allow them to grow at their own pace. Morah Denise loves making sure that every child has a solid learning foundation and the love of learning. In her spare time, she loves to be creative with her Cricut machine and to read.


Morah Stacy Loewentritt

Morah Stacy Loewentritt joined the STECC faculty in 2018.  Morah Stacy will teach 3s/Pre-K during camp. She teaches Pre-K during the school year. Morah Stacy’s family has been members of Shaare Torah for the past six years. She lives right here in Gaithersburg and has a daughter, Ilyssa, going into sixth grade who also attends religious school here at Shaare Torah. Morah Stacy has been married to her husband Neil for almost 17 years. She is originally from New Jersey and moved to this area for college and has never moved back. Morah Stacy is so excited to be continue with some of her children from the current school year and to welcome new children to our school this summer!


Morah Laura Wagner

Morah Laura Wagner joined the STECC faculty in June of 2021. Morah Laura has worked as a substitute with every age group and helped to facilitate the extended day program. She obtained a BA in English Literature with minors in Gender and Women’s Studies and Judaic Studies from UMBC in 2022. Morah Laura completed 15 credits towards an MAT in Secondary English Education before deciding to pursue what she truly enjoys which is working with children. She is currently working to complete her 90-hours coursework, as well as the 45-hours course for Infant and Toddler Care. She hopes to begin a masters program for early childhood education in the near future. Morah Laura is so excited to spend more time with the children at STECC! 

Pre-K Resource Teacher

Morah Kaitlyn Mora

Morah Kaitlyn Mora joined the STECC faculty in November 2022 and serves as a Pre-K resource teacher.  Morah Kaitlyn is  bilingual and fluent in English and Spanish. She has worked with children ages 3-21 years old with various developmental differences. She has been working in ABA for almost four years. Prior to becoming a Registered Behavioral Technician, she was a student intern at elementary schools working individually as well in whole group settings with students focusing on reading comprehension as well as writing. She has also interned as a resource teacher for elementary-age students who required extra emotional behavioral support throughout their day. She has worked for Camp JCC in Rockville since 2018 as a Kochavim Counselor and head counselor for children and teens ages 12-21 years old with different abilities. Among being a head counselor, this year she was also head of a new pilot program for her older campers in Kochavim teaching and leading job skills training. She is very passionate about helping children build independence and to feel encouraged to learn. Morah Kaitlyn is so excited to spend more time with the children at STECC!

Pre-K and Floater Teacher

Morah Ally Lazerus

Morah Ally Lazerus joined the STECC faculty in June 2019.  Morah Ally primarily teaches Pre-K and Kindergarten, but also supports children in the Toddlers and 2s classrooms throughout this school year.  She moved down to Maryland from New Jersey after graduating from the University of Maryland with a BS degree in elementary education.  She has experience with a wide variety of age groups from her previous roles at other schools, synagogues, and summer camps.  While her favorite place to be is in a preschool classroom, Morah Ally also enjoyed her years working in school admissions, as well as in faculty/staff professional development and leadership training.  She currently lives in the neighborhood with her husband and two children.  Morah Ally is so excited for both of her children to start at STECC in summer 2023!


Morah Lucy Polsky

Morah Lucy Polsky joined the STECC faculty in August 2022 and teaches Pre-K.  Morah Lucy is a senior at Quince Orchard High School.  She started teaching extended day 2s/3s/4s/5s in the 2022-2023 school year.  Morah Lucy will be with the full-day Pre-K combined class in the afternoons 1-4pm and also extended day on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the 2023-2024 school year.  Morah Lucy has grown so much as an early childhood educator during her time at STECC!


Morah Dawn Gladstone

Morah Dawn Gladstone joined the STECC faculty in January 2022. She has been a resident of Montgomery County for over fifteen years. Morah Dawn started her career by volunteering and then substituting at her son’s preschool beginning in 2007. She attained her 90-hour preschool certification and has taught children 2-4 years of age. Her experience includes 10 years of experience in both play-based and Reggio Emilia philosophies. Morah Dawn has been married for 25 years and has a son who is attending Indiana University, Go Hoosiers! Cooper, the fourth member of their family is a Cavalier King Charles who wins over everyone he meets.


Morah Lihi Blue

Morah Lihi Blue will join the STECC faculty in August 2023 and will teach 3s.  Previously, Morah Lihi was an assistant teacher at Tikvat Israel ECC during the 2020-2022 school years, where she taught 3s.  She has taken the 90-hour course in early childhood education.  Morah Lihi was born and raised in Israel and moved to the United States back in 2016. She then eventually married her husband Matt. Lihi has two children, Eitan and Ori, both will join Shaare Torah ECC this fall. Lihi is so excited to join STECC this year!


Morah Sharon Goldrich

Morah Sharon Goldrich joined the STECC faculty in June 2021. Morah Sharon teaches 2s and serves as a mentor teacher.  Even after working with children for over 20 years, Morah Sharon continues to be amazed by their brilliance – their ideas, questions, and thoughts are eye-opening and inspiring to look at the world in a new perspective. Morah Sharon earned a BA in Jewish Social Studies from Hunter College and an MSED in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York. Since the beginning of her career in New York City (a native New Yorker), she has worked with children of all ages, as young as two years old and through high school (during a stint in Indiana), but early childhood is her passion and focus. She has worked as an instructional coach for DC Public Schools and a pedagogical coordinator in the Jewish community over the recent last few years and is now thrilled to be back in the classroom. Discovering and learning outdoors is a key component to Morah Sharon’s work with children and strongly believes in the adage, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Morah Sharon is also a trained yoga instructor and always incorporates yoga practice into the classroom. Personally, Morah Sharon loves spending time with her husband and two teenaged children, watching movies and making them take walks as a family. She is a sucker for fantasy and will watch or read anything with dragons or magic. Recently, Morah Sharon has taken an interest in the Danish concept of Hygge which is about creating a culture mindful togetherness, comfort and coziness.


Morah Valerie Merritt

Morah Valerie Merritt joined the STECC faculty in June 2023.  Morah Valerie was born in Reading, Pennsylvania. When she was 2 years old, her family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, outside of Kemp Mill.  After high school, she made aliyah.  She lived in Israel for 2 years.  Morah Valerie has been married for 27 years.  She and her husband have a 19-year-old son who just graduated high school.  Daniel was their foster son and they had the opportunity to adopt him when he was 3.  Morah Valerie worked at Temple Sinai in Washington, DC for 18 years.  She still teaches religious school there.  She won a teaching award from The Washington Jewish week.  Morah Valerie has a CDA degree in early childhood education and has continuing education courses.  In her spare time, she loves to read, crochet, and play with her dog, Zeke.


Morah Capri Mills

Morah Capri Mills will join the STECC faculty in August 2023 and will teach 2s.  Morah Capri has been a nanny for two years and worked with children between the ages of newborn to 2 years old. This past school year, she was a tutor working with grades 6-9. She has experience in special education and adjusting lessons and activities to fulfill specific learning plans, such as IEPs.  Currently, she is working with youth in grades 5-12.  Morah Capri attended college in Haverhill, MA where she received her BA in Youth Ministry. After graduation, she worked for over two years in the center of academic development. During her time in this role, she tutored and assisted the diverse student body of college students, assisting both international students and those who needed special assistance, adapting her support to meet requirements of those with individual education plans. Morah Capri is so excited to be at Shaare Torah this year. She truly loves working with children and learning alongside them, because we all learn from each other!

Rachel Shaffer headshot


Morah Rachel Shaffer

Morah Rachel Shaffer has been a sub in our school almost daily since January, 2023.  She is a favorite of all of our children and teachers.  Morah Rachel has worked in the field of early childhood education since 2007.  She previously taught the 2s and 3s at Beth Elohim Early Childhood Center in Brooklyn, NY.  Morah Rachel is so excited to officially join the STECC faculty in a permanent position.  


Morah Alicia Andrews

Morah Alicia Andrews joined the STECC faculty in August 2021 and teaches the Toddlers.  She has worked with infants and toddlers over the past sixteen years in three center-based programs, the most recent of which being inspired by the philosophies of Magda Gerber and the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. At the Child Study and Development Center, a laboratory school affiliated with the University of New Hampshire, she has had the dual responsibilities of teaching infants and toddlers while also mentoring pre-service teachers in their Child Development and Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Settings internship experiences. In this role, Morah Alicia has practiced responsive, respectful caregiving and enjoyed watching the children learn and grow, as they developed their own hypotheses about the world and made new discoveries as co-constructors of their own knowledge and learning.  Morah Alicia’s personal philosophies revolve around building strong connections and lasting relationships with children, families, and the teaching team. She values respectful caregiving and acknowledge each person as an individual, with unique strengths, needs, and preferences. She views children as capable and having the capability to construct their own knowledge, and thus follow their lead when planning curriculum, investigations, and provocations  Morah Alicia has lived her entire life in New Hampshire and will be relocating to Maryland with her husband, Courtney, and their two children, Charles (age 12) and Susan (age 9) over the summer to be closer to their extended family who live in Clarksville and Port Republic, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia.  Morah Alicia is excited to join the STECC community!


Morah Chanel Ortiz Medina

Morah Chanel Ortiz Medina joined the STECC faculty in 2020.  Morah Chanel teaches Toddlers and 2s. Previously, she was an assistant teacher at Franklin Montessori during the 2019-2020 school year, where she worked both in the toddler room and with older children. She has taken the 90-hour course in early childhood education, as well as all of the other required trainings. Morah Chanel moved to Gaithersburg three years ago from her native Dominican Republic. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. Morah Chanel is so excited to welcome new children to our school this year!


Morah Mireya Abdol Kader

Morah Mireya Abdol Kader joined the STECC faculty in March 2021.  She has a decade of experience in early childhood education.  Morah Mireya has taught the 3s and Toddlers.  She is so excited for her granddaughter to start school at STECC in the summer of 2023!

Mary Ortega headshot

Extended Day

Morah Mary Ortega

Morah Mary Ortega joined the STECC faculty in November 2023.  Morah Mary is an extended day 2s/3s/4s teacher.  Originally born and raised in Nicaragua, she embarked on her journey to the United States in 1995, driven by the pursuit of the American Dream.  Her deep passion for working with children has been the driving force behind her career choice.  Morah Mary is excited to be one of the newest members at STECC.

Extended Day

Morah Netta Tamir

Morah Netta Tamir joined the STECC faculty in November 2023.  Morah Netta is an extended day 2s/3s/4s teacher.  She graduated in June 2023 from Quince Orchard High School.  She has worked with children since 9th grade when she became a swim coach.  Morah Netta is planning on joining the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) next summer.