Spotlight On Our Kindergarten Team


For many children, Kindergarten is the first time they experience learning in a formal setting. Although excellent teachers are crucial for every grade level, it is especially important that kindergarten teachers are empathetic, patient, and skilled educators.

Great kindergarten teachers play a pivotal role in shaping a child's educational foundation. Their nurturing guidance and expertise lay the groundwork for essential skills like literacy, numeracy, and social interaction. Beyond academics, these teachers foster curiosity, creativity, and a love for learning, setting the stage for a child's lifelong educational journey and success.

We are fortunate to have 8 outstanding lead and co-teachers on our Kindergarten team, as well as an incredible Kindergarten Math teacher, with a combined 106 years of experience! Let’s learn a little bit more about them.


Get to know Ms. Zilm!

  • She was born in Sheboygan, WI and moved to St. Louis, MO when she was 5 years old. She graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education from UMSL
  • She has been teaching Kindergarten for 15 years and has been passionate about teaching for as long as she can remember
  • She has two children and loves spending time playing OUTSIDE with her family. She has a love for sports and coaching (Kirkwood High School female athlete of the year award)

“‘They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.’

My favorite thing about Atlas is the positive atmosphere and welcoming environment. The moment you enter the building, everyone greets you with a genuine smile and says ‘good morning’ or asks if there is anything I need for the day. We take care of each other around here. My coworkers actually care about my well-being. Everyone is always helping one another and the teachers truly care about the students and will do whatever it takes to help the students succeed. It feels like home at Atlas and I couldn't ask for anything more.” - Emily Zilm


Get to know Mr. Darius!

  • Mr. Darius was born and raised in St. Louis
  • When he was little, he wanted to grow up to be an astronaut and a football player
  • Outside of work, he enjoys playing basketball, walking his dogs, playing tennis, and playing video games

“The kids at Atlas are so energetic and funny. And I love working with Ms. Zilm - best teacher ever!” - Darius Hunt


Get to know Ms. Valentine!

  • Ms. Valentine has been teaching for 29 years and has only ever taught kindergarten and preschool
  • Born and raised in St. Louis, MO, she holds a degree in Early Childhood Education from Harris Stowe State University 
  • She is the proud mother of a recent college freshman and enjoys traveling, reading, baking, and spending time with family and friends

"It’s great to see the increase in academic acumen from preschool to kindergarten. Students make a huge leap in autonomy and learning throughout the year. Many students progress from learning letters and sounds to actually reading whole words; that is very gratifying as a teacher." - Kelly Valentine


Get to know Ms. Redus!

  • Ms. Redus studied Early Childhood Education as well as Psychology and Sociology at Harris Stowe State University
  • She is a certified life coach, yoga instructor, holistic healing coach, and a self-published author and poet
  • 4 of her 5 children attend Atlas Elementary

“Anatole France said: ‘The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards; curiosity itself can be vivid and wholesome only in proportion as the mind is contented and happy.’ This quote captures the essence of what it means to be a teacher: to inspire, to guide, and to nurture the potential of each child. Teaching young minds is not only about imparting knowledge, but also about igniting their passion for learning and discovering the world around them.”  - Desiree Redus


Get to know Ms. Megan!

  • Ms. Megan is originally from Rochester, MN, but moved to Missouri to attend Drury University. She majored in Elementary Education and minored in Communications
  • She student-taught in MN during the pandemic, but moved to St. Louis, MO in 2020 where she taught First Grade and obtained her Early Childhood certification
  • She lives with her orange cat named Ozzy and has loves getting out and exploring St. Louis

“Kindergarteners are very imaginative and creative. I particularly love when they start mastering new concepts and experiencing ‘lightbulb moments’ - the amount and quality of learning in a Kindergarten classroom is amazing!” - Megan Paul


Get to know Ms. Kaley!

  • Originally from Fort Worth, TX, Ms. Kaley grew up in Broken Arrow, OK and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education from Oklahoma State University
  • She has taught in both Oklahoma and Missouri across many grade levels from kindergarten through eighth grade as well as Special Education
  • She and her husband have a dog named Patrick and love to spend time with each other

"I love how kindergartners are unabashedly themselves. I love teaching at Atlas because of the diversity of our students and our supportive staff." - Kaley Truman


Get to know Ms. Gammage!

  • Ms. Gammage is originally from St. Louis but 24 of her 41 total years of teaching were spent in Las Vegas. Before that, she taught in Houston
  • She owned and sponsored both competitive and recreational dance teams and has trained and met several celebrities in the dance circuit (including Beyoncé!)
  • She loves holidays and finds a way to creatively weave educational concepts into celebrations throughout the year

“I love seeing kindergarteners grow throughout the year. It’s like painting on a clean slate so you can see your work of art! I taught first grade previously so it’s also satisfying to teach students what they need to know to prepare them for their next steps at school.” - Barbara Gammage


Get to know Ms. Maria!

  • Ms. Maria has a Bachelor's Degree in Human Development and Family Science from the University of Missouri, Columbia
  • She has done extensive research in child development and best practices in childcare and education and was initially drawn to Atlas upon seeing all the practices she learned about actually being applied in a school setting 
  • She is an artist across many media including drawing, collage, music, and dance

“I like teaching at Atlas because here I have the opportunity to teach a classroom as a part of a team. I feel confident knowing I can always ask for support from either my lead teacher, the related arts and math teachers, or additional staff throughout the building.” - Maria Peetz


Get to know Ms. Dorie!

  • She loves teaching and learning! With several degrees including a Masters in Children Development and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction, it's clear school is definitely her thing.
  • She is passionate about instilling a love of learning math in young children. She's presented at local and national conferences in the hopes of encouraging others to gain confidence in teaching math to young learners.
  • She is the proud mom of two girls, one of whom is an Atlas Explorer!, and has created an artistic, musical home with her husband Bjorn, who plays cello for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

“I love being one of a child's first teachers! Being a kindergarten teacher comes with a very important role to inspire a passion for learning. Every day I think about this important work and I try my very best to make all Atlas children LOVE math.” - Dorie Ranheim


Do you have a future Kindergartener at home? Our application for the 2024-2025 school year is now open.

Apply Today!
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