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Program Management

Who We Are


Jennifer Paholak, M.Ed.

Founder & Executive Director

The Executive Director and Founder of Foundations for Early Childhood Excellence is a passionate advocate for developmentally appropriate educational environments. With a Masters Degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education, former college professor and having first-hand experience in the classroom, Jennifer brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role. She is committed to creating environments where the children have access to the resources they need to reach their fullest potential and become life-long learners. Jennifer also understands the importance of supporting the teachers and staff in providing the best education possible. Our Executive Director is dedicated to making sure our program is a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment for the children and families we serve.


Tricia Pendleton, M.Ed.

Director of Operations

Our Director of Operations is a highly experienced professional in the field of Early Childhood Education. She holds a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education as well as a  Masters in Education and has over 15 years of experience in the field. Before her role as Director of Operations, she was a program director at our DeCamp St. location.  Additionally, Tricia has served as a preschool teacher for over 10 years, teaching a wide range of ages and abilities. She is dedicated to providing a safe and stimulating environment for children to learn, grow, and develop. With her extensive knowledge and experience, she is an invaluable asset to our organization.



Winnie O'Connell, AA

Program Director Grant Street

Our Program Director on Grant Street in Elkhart is an experienced professional with a degree in early childhood education and over 12 years of classroom teaching experience. She has been a mentor to many and is dedicated to providing the highest quality education to our students. She is passionate about promoting a safe and nurturing learning environment and strongly believes in educating the whole child. Our Director is committed to the growth and development of each and every student in our program. She is an excellent leader and guide for our teachers and staff, and works hard to ensure that our students receive the best education possible.



Tori McGrogan, MSW

Program Director DeCamp Ave.

At Foundations for Early Childhood Excellence, Tori strives to provide the best possible learning experiences for children and families through a combination of education and social-emotional development. She and her team are dedicated to helping young children reach their full potential in both the academic and social areas of their lives. Tori has a Masters Degree in Social Work and has been working with children and families for over 6 years. Her passion and dedication to this field is unparalleled and she believes that every child should have the opportunity to grow and learn in an environment that is safe and nurturing.



LaDonna Wright, B.A.

Program Director Indiana Ave.

LaDonna has worked in the ECE field for 25 years. LaDonna has worked as a classroom teacher, assistant director, program director and for the state of Indiana as an On My Way PreK Project Manager.  Of her time in the field, 16 years have been as program director. LaDonna holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Ladonna’s passion to ensure children receive the quality early education they deserve. Ladonna has done photography for 20 years. She has three children and two amazing dogs.


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Christina Tirado, AA

Program Director Cleveland Rd.

The Program Director at our Cleveland Road location is an experienced professional, with over 12 years of experience in the field. Christina holds a degree in Early Childhood Education and possesses the knowledge and skills to manage a high-quality educational program for young children.  With her classroom teaching and administrative experience, Christina creates a safe and nurturing learning environment for children to thrive in.  Christina and her team are excited to work with your family!


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