Meet Our International Preschool Staff!

Elke Schweigert Miller Mercy Batres Nadine Bahr staff Luis Solorzano staff Jessy Morales Simone Heckerman Doreen Dessee Eric Amundson Mike Galvan

Multi-lingual and experienced in immersion teaching, the staff of Kigala Preschool are ready to introduce your child to the world of language.

Elke Schweigert MillerElke Schweigert Miller

Owner, Founder & Executive Director

Born and raised in Munich, Germany, Kigala’s visionary pioneer arrived in the United States, business educated and experienced, to further her studies in International Sales & Marketing at UCLA.

Eager to employ this expanded international business knowledge and expertise, Elke was promoted from Executive Assistant to Operations and Finance Director, assisting in the start-up and operation of government contracting engineering companies. With duties spanning from liaising between teams for international government projects (Germany, Austria, Thailand, USA), through to implementing procedure and quality assurance for government contracting, Elke’s efforts impacted company profit reports to reflect record growth in record time.

When Elke looked for an international and multi-lingual school environment with project based learning for her two daughter, she was surprised at the minimal choices available. While working in government contracting, Elke returned to college to expand her skill set in Early Childhood Education. She holds a California State Permit as Master Teacher and Site Supervisor. As an international business marketer and educator, Elke’s sights were clear and focused on international education, the importance of bilingual education based on emergent curriculum, starting from the preschool level.

Channeling this purpose and drive, Elke began first hand, in person research and observation of American and international immersion schools. This journey lead her to visualize, found and develop Kigala Preschool and Goethe International Charter School.

Starting as a German immersion playgroup for children ages 2-6, Elke founded and developed KindergartenLA, which grew and metamorphosed into KIGALA International Preschool: A KIds GArden of LAnguages (KIGALA is an abbreviation of A KIds GArden ofLAnguages).

The vision for an international, multi-lingual and emergent based school setting did not stop at the preschool level. With Kigala developing as a high quality student learning environment, Director Elke pinpoint her attention to international and multi-lingual education at the elementary level and provided successful leadership in charter development, approval of charter application and recently renewal for Goethe International Charter School, Los Angeles, today a K-5 elementary school with approx. 350 students.

In addition to the international approach in a project based learning environment, Elke strongly believes that children and adults of all ages need to be exposed to nature. Because of this, Elke added the “outdoor classroom training” to her early childhood education. She was able to locate a desirable facility, which has been transformed into a magical place with a rich outdoor classroom environment in an urban setting.

Elke is the founder and Executive Director at Kigala, remains Founder and Board President of Goethe, and is very active within the German-American Community. She founded the network groups in Los Angeles such as “German Community LA” (Deutsche Gemeinde LA) and supported event organization for the German-American Club of Santa Monica. As a businesswoman, Elke is a member of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and a member of numerous education organizations, including the National Association of Education of Young Children (NAEYC), North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA) and Task Force City of Santa Monica, Early Childhood Education.

In the spirit of learning and the always-inquiring mind, Director Elke believes the truth is seen through the lens of the student – a fact she experiences and is amazed by every day.

“Hello and welcome to Kigala Preschool. My name is Elke Miller, and since 1999, I have devoted my life to the development of Kigala International Preschool. The experience of raising two bilingual daughters, planted the unique seed that has now blossomed into Kigala: a Kids Garden of Language. As we continue to grow and bloom, come grow with us and bloom. We hope to see you soon!”

Mercy Batres

Mercy Batres

Teacher, Spanish Program & Site Director

From a young age, Teacher Mercy knew her passion and future was childcare, attaining her degree in Early Childhood Education from National University. Teacher Mercy has continued her training and certifications to include special needs with a variety of disabilities, including Mental Health Behavior and techniques for challenging behavior.

Teacher Mercy shares with Kigala, more than 25 years of experience working with preschool age children and their families, and has two grown up children of her own.

“I believe each child is a unique person, to be treated with dignity and respect, in safe surroundings. No matter the background, challenge or disability they may have, I love to give them my full attention and care, as one of mine own.”

Nadine BahrNadine Bahr

Teacher & Assistant Director, German Program

A native of Hamburg, Germany, Nadine arrived in the United States in 1999 to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education. Now holding an AA degree from IVC Irvine Valley College, Teacher Nadine is continually seeking to further her knowledge, and is currently focusing attention on her Outdoor Classroom Certification. Kigala is the only Certified Outdoor Classroom in Santa Monica.

“I enjoy my time at Kigala, working predominantly with the 4-5 year olds, and helping with kindergarten readiness skills. When not in the classroom, I enjoy spending time with my two cats, taking long walks on the beach and sewing.”

Luis SolorzanoLuis Solorzano

Office Administrator/Teacher

Born and bred a westside local with Hispanic roots, Teacher Luis appreciates the infinite benefits of growing up bilingual, while at the same time, immersing himself in the SoCal culture of surfing and chillin’. Teacher Luis brings to Kigala, the skill and experience of having worked closely with students, preparing and implementing district and school curriculums in the Los Angeles Unified School District. To further his credentials, Teacher Luis is currently pursuing an AA in Early Childhood Education at Santa Monica College, while completing his Bachelors of Arts in English from Cal State University Northridge.

“As office administrator, I have the pleasure of being the first person to greet our students, completely inspired by their energy and enthusiasm. While in the classroom, the children’s fearlessness to try new things, allows me to challenge them to become independent thinkers.”

Jessy Moralesjessy morales

Teacher, Spanish Program & Atelierista

Teacher Jessy comes with 20 years of experience working with children and families in both private and public education. Her qualifications include a BA in Liberal Arts, with the concentration in Child Studies, a Masters Degree in Psychology and Early Child Development Certification. Born in Los Angeles, Teacher Jessy spent part of her childhood growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she truly immersed in the language and culture she now shares with Kigala.

“Hola, my name is Yessenia Elena Morales, and I have three lovely daughters who are all bilingual. I am passionate about introducing children to the arts, and respect their sense of wonder. I hope to encourage curiosity and inspiration of beautiful things to these special children.”

 Simone HeckermanSimone Heckerman

Assistant Teacher, German Program

Born in Basel, Switzerland, Teacher Simone has gained many years of experience, teaching music in elementary schools, and is currently completing a Degree in Early Childhood Education. Providing a rich learning environment for your children, and supporting their joyful journey of discovery, is precious to Teacher Simone.

“Grüezi! I’ve been a Santa Monica local since 1997, with my husband and two daughters, both bilingual. Our youngest was one of the first students at Kigala in 2006! In my free time, I like to sing, read, hike and bake with my family.”

Doreen DesseeDoreen Dessee

Teacher, German Program

Germany born and raised, Teacher Doreen fostered her natural instinct with children and their care by obtaining her Early Childhood Education equivalent, and gaining practical teaching experience in Germany. Immigrating to the United States, Teacher Doreen brought her international talents to Kigala, helping form the “Spatzen” toddler class, while working towards expanding her certification to the United States at Santa Monica College. With the toddler class in place, Teacher Doreen took maternity leave, and has now returned to Kigala with a toddler of her own.

“When you come to Kigala you can find me in the “Spatzen” class in the Toddler Program. I love singing and dancing with my little spatzen.”

Leaps n Boundz, Eric Amundson & Mike Galvan

Mike Galvan

Eric Amundson

Movement Specialists

The Leaps n Boundz Preschool Enrichment Program, lead by Eric Amundson & Mike Galvan is offered year round on Kigala school grounds. This program introduces each student to a variety of sports, each taught in a playful and creative way. During the curriculum, children are given an introductory experience to a wide variety of athletics and movement including: volleyball, basketball, golf, gymnastics, football, scooter boards, hoppy balls, etc. Children will learn to work individually, in pairs, and in small groups. Activities are taught in a progressive and developmental manner with children of all abilities.

Eric shares, “Creating Leaps…n…Boundz has given me the opportunity to give back and pass along the wonderful, imaginative and active experiences I benefited from.”

Mike adds, “Working with children is one of the highlights of my week, knowing that I’m at the beginning of their athletic experience in life.”

To learn more about joining our team, please visit our Kigala Employment Page.