Our Staff

Allison Weil — Director

Laurie Avrunin — 3’s Teacher

Working at Temple Isaiah Preschool has been such a fun and rewarding experience! My number one goal is to make every child in my care feel happy, safe, comfortable, and loved. Before coming to Temple Isaiah, I taught elementary school for 10 years! Then I became a proud and loving mommy and was lucky to be home with my two amazing boys…my greatest gifts of all! Both boys attended Temple Isaiah Preschool and had an incredible experience with extremely loving and nurturing teachers. I began subbing in the classrooms and, soon after, teaching the Tips for Tots “grown-up and me” class. Since being at TIPS, I’ve worked with the 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s. Watching the children grow (especially in the 3’s) brings me so much joy! It’s amazing to see their physical, social, and emotional skills blossom from the beginning of the year to the end. They have the sweetest personalities, give the best hugs, and tell the funniest stories! They make me smile and laugh and we always have fun together!

When I’m not teaching, I love spending time with my husband, Brian, and my boys, Brayden and Logan, watching my boys play sports, going to Orioles games, and traveling to new places! It’s always an adventure whether at work or at home and these adventures turn into special, lifelong memories!

Wendy Balentine — 4’s Teacher

Hello families, I am Morah Wendy Balentine and have been a member of the TIPS faculty since 2017. Thank you for sending your wonderful children to us; it’s my privilege to engage with them, learning and playing together. Before joining the dedicated staff in our preschool, I worked at Chabad in their daycare/preschool, and before working at Chabad, I provided childcare in my home for ten years in my native New York state. I love being around children and have two of my own. In my free time, I enjoy making sunshine cards for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore and dog walking. My family and I are also members of Temple Isaiah.

Linda Blandford — 4’s Teacher

I have been teaching at Temple Isaiah Preschool since 2005! I have taught the 4’s class the whole time, except for the first year when I taught the 3’s. I have a B.S. in Early Childhood Education. My true passion has been working with young children, and watching them progress during the school year in all areas of development.  I find it to be incredibly rewarding.

The 4–5 age group is particularly fun to work with because they are developing a greater sense of self and can be sustained for a longer period of time. They approach the world with curiosity, and use their imaginations to help comprehend it.  It’s fun to watch the delight in their faces when they grasp an understanding of a particular concept.

When I’m not teaching, I enjoy spending time with  my awesome daughters, Julie and Ashley, their significant others, my longtime partner Steve, and my adorable “grand-dogters.”  I happen to love dogs too! Any chance I can go to my happy place, the beach, I am there!

Ashley Densel — 3’s Teacher

I’m so excited to have joined the TIPS staff in 2021 and to be able to work with the amazing 3-year-olds. My major is Family and Human Development, from Arizona State University. I love learning about different teaching methods and styles, and how they can be applied to each child. In my spare time I work/volunteer for The Princess Company, which allows me to dress up as various princesses and entertain children. I also enjoy playing with my guinea pigs and gaming.

Eileen Densel — 4’s Teacher

I have been a teacher at Temple Isaiah since 2017. The first year I worked with 3-year-olds, and have been with the 4-year-olds ever since. I absolutely love teaching and nurturing your children. I graduated from the University of Delaware in 1990 with a degree in English and journalism. I spent 25 years working for The Humane Society of the United States. During that time, I began taking Early Childhood Education classes, because it knew it was something I would want to pursue. I worked as a substitute teacher for the Howard County Public School system for six years before starting at Temple Isaiah. My husband and I were married in 1996 and have three children (who aren’t really children anymore!) — Zack, Ashley, and Samantha. I love watching children learn and grow, and am humbled to think that I am responsible for a small part of that. In my spare time, I love to walk my amazing dog, Brody, as well as read and bake.

Ruth Fisher — 3’s Teacher

Temple Isaiah has always been a very special place for me. After a career as an industrial engineer, then the wonderful opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom for my 2 sons, I started teaching Kindergarten religious school in 2004. Around that time, I was fortunate to meet Morah Renee Panoff, the founder of our preschool, who invited me to join her staff in 2005. I fell in love with teaching young children and found it incredibly fulfilling guiding their learning and watching them grow and discover the world around them. I also enjoy working with young parents as they navigate the many challenges and blessings that are such an integral part of raising children. I have two sons, Ben and Daniel. Ben is studying to be a doctor in the US Air Force and Daniel is studying to be a submariner in the US Navy. Both of my sons attended Temple Isaiah Religious school, became Bar Mitzvot, and were confirmed here. My husband, Dave, is a retired fighter pilot for the US Air Force and is currently an American Airlines pilot. All three of the men in my life are avid hockey fans!

Jennifer Hendrick — 3’s Teacher

I started teaching preschool in DC in 1995 while completing my Masters degree in early childhood education. I then moved to the public schools to teach kindergarten until I had my four boys (Devin, Ryan, Adam, and Sam). While raising them, I had a private tutoring business and taught preschool fitness classes called Jumpbunch in the public schools in Howard County.

I have been teaching preschool at TIPS since 2014. I began in the 2’s class and have since moved into the 3’s. I also taught a few TIPS for Tots classes as well during this time. I truly love working with young children and watching them grow and learn throughout the year. It has been a wonderful experience getting to know the children, watching them learn the classroom routines, and form friendships over the years that I have been at TIPS. It has been amazing working with this staff and I look forward to many more years to come.

I enjoy spending my free time with my long-time partner Evan and my four boys. We love taking trips together, taking our dog Murphy for walks and runs, and going to / watching football games.

Renee Hulem — 4’s Teacher

I started working in early childhood education in 1990 when my youngest son was three years old., when we were living in Southern California. I started as an assistant and quickly became a 3’s teacher for ten years. Our family moved to Maryland in 2000, and I taught the 4’s and pre-K classes at a private preschool in the Derwood area for ten years. When my husband had a chance to work in Australia, I took a sabbatical and we went Down Under for a year. I worked at a childcare center while in Australia and exchanged our customs with the children there. Upon returning to the U.S., I returned to the preschool and taught for another two years. I co-founded and helped manage an after-school enrichment program and taught those classes for 18 months, but wanted to return to the classroom exclusively.

I have been with Temple Isaiah Preschool since 2015 and have enjoyed teaching and caring for the children. I can’t wait for another fun and exciting year.

Wendy Lake — 3’s Teacher

I have worked at Temple Isaiah since 2006 in the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s classes. I love working with every age and seeing how they grow and learn. I started working when my oldest started college and now he is a dad himself. I have been married to my husband Jeff for more than 35 wonderful years. We have three children, Justin who is a lawyer in Howard County is married to Rachele and they have two children. My daughter Danielle teaches Kindergarten in Montgomery County is married to Ethan, and they have two children. And my third daughter is a social worker and works in Alaska!! My favorite time of the day is listening to the kids in my class talk at the lunch table. They amaze me every day and keep a smile on my face. I am also an avid sports fan supporting my Washington Football Team and the Nationals and Caps.

Tammy Leffler —  2’s Teacher

I started as a preschool teacher in 2005 when my daughter was in the 3’s class. Temple Isaiah has always been a special place for me. We joined the synagogue in 2001 when we moved here from Savannah, Ga. I have since been teaching 2’s, 3’s and 4’s as both assistants and leads at Jewish preschools. I have an Art degree that has always come in handy in different aspects of my life. I believe young children should always have a sense of wonder. They should love to learn in creative ways. It is important for them to feel safe and loved in the classroom. I try to provide the creative environment where they feel open to learn. I like to include nature and be outside as much as possible. I have one rule in my classroom, to be kind.

I live in Ellicott City with my husband, Stuart and daughter Jessica. My daughter, Sarah is at the College of Charleston and my step-daughter, Madeline, in downtown Baltimore.

When I’m not teaching, I’m working in my art studio, LefflerArtStudio, on Etsy and Instagram. Or, you could find me hiking, walking, riding the Peloton, or watching Netflix.

Nomiki Mastrogianis — 2’s Teacher

I absolutely adore working with kids and admire their wonderful sense of imagination. I especially love their optimistic outlook on the world, it’s so magical! I studied secondary education during my years in community college, and earned a B.S. degree in Art and Design from Towson University.

My grandmother was an elementary school teacher, and my mother was a preschool teacher. Ever since I was a young girl I dreamed of being a teacher as well! I am so thankful to be a part of our loving community at Temple Isaiah.

In my free time I enjoy spending time with my cavapoo, Lillie, working as a graphic designer, and strolling through the aisles of Target!

Susan Sandler — 3’s Teacher

I have been an assistant teacher at Temple Isaiah Preschool since 2008. I started out as a volunteer in the 4’s class, when my son was attending. When he went to kindergarten, I was asked to stay on as an assistant teacher. I was fortunate to be able to work in the 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s class over the years. I truly enjoy being with the children and love when they learn and discover new things.

I am married, and my husband Paul and I have two children. Sarah is an RN at John Hopkins Hospital in the Neurology Unit, and Zach just graduated from Reservoir High School.

Michelle Shuman — 4’s Teacher

I may be new to the classroom environment, but I have worked as an educator in other capacities over the years and it always brings me great joy! I have volunteered in the RECC Program at the elementary level and over the last few years I have been a volunteer coach with the Special Olympics of Howard County’s Dance and Cheer Team. I am excited to be back working with young children because they are such curious learners and find so much magic us adults don’t always see! In college, I was lucky enough to be a “Cast Member” in Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort. It was so exciting to see children look at the world through this magical lens and I hope to support students to keep that sense of wonder as they learn and grow. Temple Isaiah also holds a special place in my heart because it is where I became a Bat Mitzvah and went through my Confirmation. I am so excited to be able to give back to a place and community that has given me so much!

Lisa Wolfe — 2’s Teacher

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the Boston area, until I moved to Northern Virginia. I attended Virginia Tech, graduating with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. I worked in hotels for several years until I got married to my husband Ted and we moved to Maryland. We have two children, Dawson and Mia. I had been working on a Master’s in Teaching when Dawson came along and decided to become a stay-at-home mom, which I was for 17 years. I volunteered for several years as the Co-Chair of the Clarksville Elementary School yearbook, which was great fun because I got to take photos of the children enjoying all sorts of activities. I have been working at Temple Isaiah Preschool as an Assistant Teacher since 2017. I just love to watch the children grow in leaps and bounds each year! They are so amazing to be with each day!

Stephanie Youngworth — 2’s Teacher

I love teaching preschool at Temple Isaiah and being around all of the wonderful children each day. It amazes me how eager the children are to learn and how much they teach me as well. I first studied Psychology at the University of Maryland then I went on to receive my MSW at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. For seven years, I worked as a clinical social worker at a private school for children with behavioral and emotional challenges. After my career as a therapist, I took some time off to be a stay-at-home mom for my two sons, Jacob and Joshua. Both my boys attended Temple Isaiah Preschool and had an incredible experience with extremely loving and nurturing teachers. I began subbing in the classrooms and, soon after, began teaching in 2013. Every year I look forward to watching how much the children in my class grow physically and emotionally, as well as socially.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband Philip and my boys, as well as walking my dog Boots, being with family and friends, exercising, and reading.