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Our Staff


     GinaGina (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 is now my celebratory twentieth year and we are still going strong. We are licensed for 147 children. I have had 3 of my own children go through the programs, and now have my fourth child starting in my preschool program. My staff therefore, mean the world to me as they are taking 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 for 20 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.

Tanya Szarmach, Assistant Director

Tanya has been at Once Upon A Time since November 2001. She has worked with all age groups from infancy through preschool. She began at the center as an Assistant Teacher in 2001. She was then promoted to a Lead Teacher/Primary Caregiver of the infant room and in the past 8 years has worked as the Assistant Director of the center, overseeing the daily lesson plans of the staff as well as various other responsibilities including the general day to day running of Once Upon A Time and its staff and children. Tanya went to school to pursue her Child Development Associate Credential. She is First Aid & CPR, and Epi Pen certified as well as trained to administer medications.

Jennifer Thomas, Office Manager

Latoya Smith, Lead Teacher, Pre-Kindergarten

Latoya has been in the childcare field for 17 years and is the center’s Head Teacher and maintains her 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 a interim director and a lead teacher for the one year old room in Plantation, Florida. While working I acquired a Child Development Associate, Director Credential and Head Teacher Certificate.

Teeka Robinson, Lead Teacher, Preschool

Teeka has been part of Once Upon A Time family since August 2018.

 Jiareon Lowe, Lead Teacher, Twos

Jia has been working at Once Upon A Time for 8 years.

Maiya Cox, Lead Teacher, Toddlers II

Kathy Dickinson, Lead Teacher, Toddlers I

Kathy has been at Once Upon A Time for 18 years. She has attended several classes in Early Childhood Education as well as workshops in this field. Kathy is First Aid and CPR certified and is trained to administer medications. She has 3 children of her own and 4 grandchildren. “It’s a wonderful experience watching children grow and learn in my classroom. It is also nice to see children I’ve had in the past that are now in high school and they still remember me. This is why I love working with children and how rewarding it has been for me”.

Victoria Tagg Lavin, Primary Caregiver, Pre-Toddlers

Jennifer Barzee, Primary Caregiver, Pre-Toddlers

Jen has been working at Once Upon A Time for 16 years.

Joy Damaini, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Infants II

Joy has been with Once Upon A Time for 3 years and is a dedicated mother.

Brianna DeLucca, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Infants II

Brianna has been working at the center for 7 years.  She is currently attending Southern Connecticut State University for Early Childhood Education.  She is certified in  First Aid and CPR and can administer medication.  Miss Brianna loves doing projects with the babies and making them smile and laugh.  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 passion.

Bela Duque, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Infants III

Bela has been working at the center 8 years. Previously, she owned her own home daycare and has a total of 24 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.

Krystal Malpica, Primary Caregiver (Lead Teacher), Infants III

Krystal has been part of Once Upon A Time family since September 2018.

326 West Main St. Milford, CT 06460

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