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Zearing Child Enrichment Center Board & Staff


ZCEC Board of Directors

LouAnn Birkey
LouAnn Birkey
Heartland Bank & Trust
Member Since 2011

Julia Cain
Julia Cain
Flowers By Julia
Member since 1999

Brian Church
Brian Church
Princeton High School (Retired)
Member Since 1993

Susan Fandel
Susan Fandel
MTM Recognition
Member since 2007

Scott Hartman
Scott Hartman
Perry Memorial Hospital
Member since 2002

Melissa Jesse
Melissa Jesse
Perry Memorial Hospital
Member Since 2013

Mike Judge
Mike Judge
Precision Auto Wash
Member Since 1995

Tom Tester
Tom Tester
MTM Recognition
Member since 1996

Our Administrative Team


Lauren WidmerLauren Widmer, Director
laurenwidmer@mtco.com

Lauren Widmer graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2010. There, she earned a Bachelor's degree in Child Development upon completion of a thorough, hands-on, practicum experience working directly with young children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. After graduating, she has held positions such as a Child Care Teacher and a Quality Specialist where she provided support and helped to improve quality to many child care centers throughout the Peoria area. Lauren believes in a hands-on, play based approach to learning and development for children of all ages. She carries this belief in her home, as well as here at Zearing. Lauren enjoys assisting the staff by helping them grow through continued learning and implementing new ideas with them. By doing this, everyone gets to relish in seeing the children thrive in their classrooms. Lauren appreciates being part of a program that offers amazing family partnerships and activities for children, in addition to an incredible staff.

In her home life, Lauren is a wife to Ryan, and a mother to her three children, Westyn, Tanner, and Rylee, and their fur baby, Copper. The Widmer Family enjoys all things outdoors, including camping, canoeing, and traveling to Lake of the Ozarks with family.


Nicole SampsonNicole Sampson, Assistant Director
nicolesampson@mtco.com

Nicole Sampson has been employed at ZCEC since August 2000. She began her teaching career in the center's Infant room and then moved to the Toddler room until moving to her current position as Assistant Director.

She received an Associate in Arts Degree from Illinois Valley Community College in 1999. Nicole's goals are to meet each child's individual needs in support of their overall development; as well as to develop a close, loving and caring relationship with each child. She carries this same philosophy into her current position with the focus on the families and hopes to build a stronger relationship with each one.



Lisa VincentLisa Vincent, Business Manager
lisav@mtco.com

Lisa Vincent is a graduate of Nettleton Business College in Sioux Falls, SD and has been the Business Manager of Zearing Child Enrichment Center since 1997. Lisa is married to Gene, Pastor at Ohio First Lutheran, and they have two children; a daughter, Kiersten, a ZCEC alumni and former teacher, and a married son Derek, daughter in-law, Kim and two granddaughters; Sofia and Amelia. Lisa is a member of Beta Sigma Phi, is on the Board of Director's for Living Works and volunteers at the Prairie Arts Center. She enjoys traveling and flower gardening.





Our Teaching Team



Patty WoolleyPatty Woolley

Patty began teaching in early childhood in 1984. She has an Associate Degree in Early Childcare Education. Patty feels fortunate to have a rewarding profession that allows her to see so many smiles each day as children development into their own and make so many strides as they grow along the way... Patty finds much reward in teaching young children knowing as teachers you can make a positive difference in a child's life.



Sarah WilcoxenSarah Wilcoxen

Sarah joined the ZCEC team in 2012 and has an Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education from Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC). Sarah has been working with children since graduating from college; as a preschool, toddler/two teacher and currently a school age teacher. She enjoys coming to work every day and being involved and partnering with the center families; as they work together in support of their child's development as they make their way through ZCEC. Sarah lives in Walnut with her husband Kris.



Cheryl YoungCheryl Young

Cheryl Young resides in Granville with her family. Cheryl has an Associate's Degree, Cum Laude from IVCC. With over 20 years experience work with children; from The Kid's Place in LaSalle, the Princeton School District as a Special Education Aide, to the Learning Ladder, which subsequently merged with ZCEC, Cheryl brings experience and life-long love of learning in working with the children an everyone here at Zearing Child Enrichment Center.


Lauren EckbergLauren Eckberg

Lauren Eckberg has been with Zearing Child Enrichment Center since May 2013. Prior to her working at ZCEC she worked at Learning Ladder Early Childhood Center and has worked in the childhood field since August of 2008. Lauren has her Bachelors of Science in Psychology and continues with training that help her stay current in the Early Childhood Education.


Emily WebsterEmily Webster

Emily Webster is pursuing an Associate's Degree at IVCC for Early Childhood Education. She is currently working in our Two year old classroom. Working with children has always been a passion and a dream of Emily's and she loves being able to teach and inspire others every day.



Janelle BartonJanelle Barton

Janelle Barton is an assistant teacher in our preschool classroom and has been with Zearing Child Enrichment Center since 2001. She attended Sauk Valley Community College and had 21 years of child care experience prior to coming to ZCEC.


Mary BrownnMary Brown

Mary Brown began working at ZCEC in November 2011. Mary has studied Elementary Education from Western Kentucky University and is currently pursuing an Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education through Illinois Valley Community College. She previously worked in the preschool room at Learning Ladder and ZCEC, but was excited for the opportunity to work with the toddler/two age group. Mary believes the world is all new to a toddler and they are busy learning how to navigate through it. They are actively exploring and absorbing all of this new information. Mary enjoys watching their little minds grow and develop, both through planned and spontaneous activities. Mary lives in Princeton with her husband, Chad, and their two children, Corbin and Evelyn.


Savanna BellSavanna Bell

Savanna started working at ZCEC in April of 2017. She currently is enrolled in the Early Childhood Program at IVCC and will be graduating in December 2018. She lives in Sheffield with her parents. Other than her love for teaching, she also loves to create art. SavannaŐs philosophy is every child is like an unfinished painting, which means that there is always work to be done. She enjoys being able to help children learn and grow into capable, successful individuals.


Kelly DuffyKelly Duffy

Kelly is new to our infant room and ZCEC family. She graduated from Illinois State University in December 2016 with a bachelor's degree in human development and family relations. Kelly enjoys working with children and is anxious to use her education to help children grow and develop appropriately.


Emma ReidnerEmma Reidner

Emma started working at ZCEC in May 2017. She currently is attending Rockford University. She will be graduating in December 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education. Emma's interests are being outdoors and she brings that philosophy into the classroom. She loves encouraging the childrenŐs growth and development through hands on learning.


Justine Gonzalez


Bridget Elmore


Hannah Monahan


Melissa Archer




Our Support Team

Deborah RowlandDeborah Rowland, Cook Assistant/House Keeping

Deborah Rowland began working at ZCEC in 2009 as our kitchen assistant and part time cook. Deborah also does general housekeeping and enjoys getting to see and interact with the children throughout the day. In the past; Deborah has worked as a teacher's assistant, chiropractic assistant and has been actively involved in missions work through her church.


Bruce NowakowskiBruce Nowakowski, Cook

Bruce has worked as the Head Cook for ZCEC since 2015. He has over 20 years of experience working in the food industry. He loves when the children let him know how much they love his cooking. He lives in Princeton with his wife, Lori. Between them they have 5 children and 1 granddaughter. On his time off he loves spending time in nature and taking hikes with his family and their puppy Libby.