Gina (DeLucca) Rivera, Owner/Director
I attended the University of Connecticut to acquire a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. My intention was to teach high school English. I had danced for 25 years (tap, ballet, jazz and Hawaiian) and taught children in my later years at the studio. Also, in college I became a teacher in a daycare center. I found that I loved the younger age groups.
Upon graduation, I was offered a full time position with the Hartford Region YWCA. I continued to work for the YWCA child care programs, transferring to Waterbury in 1994. I headed the department bringing enrollment from 55 children to 85 children. When the YWCA closed down unexpectedly in 1996, I went on to teach a program for childcare professionals at a business school. I missed working with children and had my own daughter by this time. I decided to look for space to open my own daycare center.
I opened my development center in December, 1997. It has now been over 25 years and we are still going strong. We are licensed for 145 children. I have had 4 of my own children go through my programs. My staff therefore, mean the world to me as they have taken care of my children as well as everybody else’s. I believe in running childcare programs in which every child can be successful. I want to utilize my degree, my knowledge of children and child development and make a positive difference!
I feel that I have had the best of both worlds; that of being a Mom and being able to see my children throughout the day, as well as a professional career. I have owned and run Once Upon A Time Development Center now going on 25 years. I am on premises every day to oversee the daily running of the center. I am also very involved in the community. I belong to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Milford Rotary Club, I have served as a board member of the Beth-El Center as well belonged to the Milford Chamber of Commerce. I have been a Founders Club member of the United Way.
Brianna DeLucca, Assistant Director
Brianna has been working at the center for 10 years. She graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 2022 with a major in Child, Family and Community Services, and a minor in Psychology. She is certified in First Aid and CPR and Medication Administration. Miss Brianna has gained her experience leading the infant program as well as Preschool initially. Her love of the children and the center is evident in all that she does. As the owner’s daughter, she really grew up at the center, constantly interacting with children with a passion. Brianna understands that Early Childhood is an important time as it is the most rapid time for child development. While health and safety are her main goals for every room in the center, she is well versed on the development of children, their needs, and how to run stimulating programs with the individual child’s needs always being met.
Jennifer Thomas, Office Manager
Latoya Smith, Lead Teacher/Head Teacher, Pre-Kindergarten
Latoya has been in the childcare field for 30 years and is the center’s Head Teacher and maintains her Child Development Credential (CDA). “My goal as a teacher is to understand the specific needs and personalities of the children under my care, provide a safe and nurturing environment for all children, lay a good foundation for literacy in early learning, encourage the children to achieve their development milestones and to communicate effectively with parents for the enhancement of the child.” She started working at Once Upon A Time in 2012 as Lead Teacher for in the one year old classroom. September of 2014 she became the preschool teacher. Previously, she was employed by Kids At Play as an interim Director and a Lead Teacher for the one year old room in Plantation, Florida. Latoya has not only acquired her Child Development Associate Credential, but also her Director Credential and Head Teacher Certificate. Latoya is First Aid, CPR, and medications certified.
Teeka Robinson, Lead Teacher, Preschool
Teeka has been part of Once Upon A Time family since August 2018. She is a wonderful asset to the center. Her positivity is felt throughout her classroom by all who participate in the preschool program! She is dedicated to her students and classroom which is evident in all that she does. Teeka is First Aid, CPR and Medications certified.
Jennifer Nolan, Co-Lead Teacher, Twos
Venniesha Joseph, Co-Lead Teacher, Twos
Khayla Reid, Co-Lead Teacher, Toddlers II
Sydney Ellis, Co-Lead Teacher, Toddlers II
Jazmine Lopez, Co-Lead Teacher, Toddlers I
Mariana Flores, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Pre-Toddlers
Shauna Lake, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Pre-Toddlers
Annalyse DeLucca, Primary Caregiver, Infants I
Annalyse has been working at the center for a total of over 4 years, but as the owner’s daughter, has really been involved with the center her whole life! Annalyse took a break when she enlisted in the US Air Force. Now she is back and a mom too. She loves working with the babies. Projects and messy fun are her specialty along with singing and creating a stimulating and nurturing environment for these mobile little ones. She is certified in First Aid, CPR and Medications Administration.
Victoria Apadula, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Infants II
I’m Victoria Apadula! I was born in the North Fork on Long Island. I moved to Milford about 2 years ago and Once Upon a Time has been my home away from home since! I was about 8 years old when I realized I am interested in the development and care of infants. I decided pretty quickly that becoming an infant teacher would be my dream job, and after two years of working at OUAT… Gina gave me the lead infant teacher position! As you can imagine, I was beyond excited! I love listening to the radio, crafting and having dance parties with the babies!
Cassidy White, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Infants II
Cassidy has been working for the center for almost 4 years. She is currently going to school to become a kindergarten teacher. Cassidy loves the babies and is very calm and patient in her job performance. Cuddling and holding are her specialties and she loves her time with the little ones. Cassidy is also certified in First Aid, CPR and Medications Administration.
Bela Duque, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Infants III
Bela has been working at the center almost 10 years. Previously, she owned her own home daycare and has a total of 30 years experience in the child care field. “The reason I started in the field of child care is because I love children and always want what’s best for them. I knew any child in my care would get a loving, caring and safe environment”. She has taken classes and workshops in the field of Early Childhood Education, is First Aid and CPR certified and is certified to give medications.
Michelle Piccirillo, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Infants III
Michelle has been working at the center for almost 6 years. As a mom, Michelle knows the importance of early childhood programs. Michelle is diligent in keeping the babies on their schedules as well as having stimulating play time in between. She loves to hold and cuddle the babies as well as help them to reach their developmental goals. Michelle is First Aid, CPR, and Medications certified.