Meet the Preschool Educational Team


Administrative Preschool Team


Melanie Anderson, Director of Education

Melanie holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in English and Journalism from Tennessee Technological University.  She has worked in education since 1996, with more than 9 years of focus on Pre-K learning and growth.  Melanie and her husband have two grown sons, and she enjoys reading, golfing, and collecting antique glassware.


Renee Taylor, Curriculum Coordinator & Assistant to Preschool Director

Renee has eleven years of experience as a preschool teacher at Middle Tennessee Christian School and Smyrna Christian School.  She and her husband, Ron, have two daughters whom Renee homeschooled for nine years.  She enjoys boating, reading, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends.


Linda Cairatti, Education Resources Assistant

Linda holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois.  She has been with High Hopes as an Assistant Teacher, Floater, and now in her current role.  She is married with two grown daughters, and enjoys reading and gardening.


Jim Powell (Mr. P), Coordinator/Facilities
615-661-5437 ext. 313,

Mr. P graduated from the Ringling School of Art and he received his substitute teacher's certification from Utah State University.  He has 25 years experience as a sales and marketing executive, as well as 40 years as a teacher and coach.  He and his wife, Nancy, have one son.  Mr. P enjoys drawing, painting, creating, cooking, spending time with Nancy, and Vanderbilt athletics.

Ladybug Room


Mary Hyche, Lead Teacher

Mary holds a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin.  She has 13 years of experience working with preschool children, and has been with High Hopes for 10 years.  She and her husband, Keven, have one daughter named Mary Claire.  In her free time, Mary enjoys working out, baking, and spending quality time with her family and friends.


Amber Smith, Assistant Teacher

Amber is a graduate of Blackburn College with a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership. While working toward this degree, she also took courses in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She has a number of years' experience volunteering with organizations that serve children as well as being employed as a camp counselor with Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. She enjoys camping, reading, and spending time with her family.


Bumblebee Room


Shanna Branton, Lead Teacher

Shanna has been a part of High Hopes' education team for 6 years.  She graduated from Lipscomb University in 2007 with a Bachelor's degree in Family Relations.  Shanna and her husband, Chad, have been married since 2011 and she enjoys traveling, antique shopping, spending time with family and being outdoors.


Susan Henderson, Assistant Teacher

Susan received her degree in Art Therapy from Harding University. She has experience working with children with Autism as both a teacher and professional nanny. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching movies, and baking.

Inchworm Room


Melissa Lawson, Lead Teacher

Melissa majored in Social Work and minored in Psychology at Lipscomb University.  She also interned at the Brown Center for Autism for one year, where she developed a passion for working with children with special needs.  She previously worked as a special education assistant at Metro Nashville Public Schools and has been with High Hopes for one year.  Melissa and her husband, Brandon, married in September of 2012.  She enjoys jogging, Pinterest and crafting.


Rose Dallas, Assistant Teacher

Rose graduated from Lipscomb High School in 2006 and attended Sewanee:  The University of the South.  She volunteered domestically and overseas for ten years, and has two years of experience as a professional nanny.  She enjoys writing, camping, and watching/collecting movies.

Caterpillar Room


Sherri Schaff, Lead Teacher

A native of Louisiana, Sherri moved to Middle Tennessee with seven years' teaching experience with two and three year-olds and began looking for a place to share her experience and passion for teaching. She came to High Hopes on the recommendation of her oldest daughter who had worked as a substitute teacher and floater with us.She and her husband have four children. She enjoys crafting and spending time with her family.



Rachel Betty, Assistant Teacher

Rachel came to High Hopes with six years' experience working in child care and as a private nanny. She is currently pursuing a degree in Psychology.She enjoys seeing live music and reading.

Butterfly Room


Ella Junior, Lead Teacher

Ella attended high school at Goodpasture Christian School in Madison, TN.  She then graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in Social Welfare.  She has experience as a tutor and preschool teacher, and has also volunteered with children with special needs.  Ella loves hanging out at Barnes & Noble, watching movies and drinking coffee.


Victoria Holt, Assistant Teacher

Victoria has worked in child care or as a private nanny for five years and is currently pursuing a degree in Business Administration. Her hobbies include cooking, reading, and exercising.


Dragonfly Room


Meredith Smith, Lead Teacher

Meredith holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Union University and has worked with children for more than five years. She has also served as a family service worker for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. She and her husband have three children. She enjoys spending time with her family, going to ballgames, and exercising.


Kyle Batten, Assistant Teacher

Kyle recently graduated from Trevecca Nazarene University with a Bachelor of Science of Behavioral Sciences with plans of pursuing graduate studies to prepare for Applied Behavior Analysis. While in college he worked as a camp counselor and life guard as well as serving as a volunteer for several children's organizations. His hobbies include bicylcing and music.


Donielle Armes, Assistant Teacher

Donielle is a recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in Early Childhood and Special Education. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Psychology with an interest in Applied Behavior Analysis. She has served as a children's ministry volunteer and been employed as a private nanny. In her spare time she enjoys painting.

Firefly Room


Jonathan Lima, Lead Teacher

Jonathan is a graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Visual Disabilities Education. He will be returning to FSU in August to begin graduate studies. He has served as a youth pastor and a volunteer with several children's organizations including Project Transformation.His hobbies include art and music.


Alex Geraughty, Assistant Teacher

Alex is a graduate of Battle Ground Academy and began at High Hopes to work a "gap year" before continuing her education. She will be enrolling in online courses in the fall and continuing with us at High Hopes. In her spare time she enjoys hanging out with friends, reading, and being outside.

Grasshopper Room


Kristen Hargis, Lead Teacher

Kristen holds a Bachelor's degree in Art Therapy from Lipscomb University and has been with High Hopes for one year.  She enjoys running, hiking, reading, art, and spending time with her family and friends.


Kelly Pruitt, Lead Teacher

Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Disorders from Middle Tennessee State University.  She has been a member of the High Hopes team on and off since 2005.  She and her husband, Ryan, have two sons:  Abbott and Criswell.  Kelly enjoys baking, sewing, photography, and volunteering in her free time.


Katie Herrera Teacher

Katie began at High Hopes in 2012 while attending Lipscomb University. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2014.



Lora Neal, Lead Teacher

Lora has a Bachelor's degree in Music Education from Trevecca Nazarene University.  She has professional experience as a nanny and spent four years teaching Choral Music at Metro Nashville Public Schools.  She also has more than five years of experience teaching private music lessons with an emphasis on special needs.  Lora enjoys hiking with her husband, Anthony, gardening, decorating, attending concerts, watching movies, helping with the worship team at her church, and babysitting.



Chey Beatty, Floater

Chey is a recent graduate of Independence High School and will begin her studies in radiology at Columbia State Community College in the fall. She loves working with children and plans to continue with High Hopes while she attends college.


Ava Bissell, Floater



Kenny Cooper, Floater

Kenny is a graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Geography. His love for working with children comes from his years volunteering for children's organizations and mission work. His previous experience includes Project Transformation where he served as a program intern and volunteer coordinator. Kenny loves traveling and music.


Beverly Effinger, Floater



Jennifer Patton, Floater


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  • Upcoming Events

    1. Talbots In-Store Fundraiser

      August 24 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
    2. Special Needs All Access Night at Discovery Center

      August 25 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
    3. Great Americana BBQ Festival

      August 26 @ 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
    4. Special Saturdays at Christ Presbyterian Church

      September 9 @ 9:00 am - 11:30 am
    5. High Hopes Family Picnic

      September 15 @ 4:30 pm - 7:00 pm
    6. Free Autism Workshop at Vanderbilt

      September 16 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
  • Testimonial

    "Teachers & therapists love the work they do"

    Meet our Elle.  Born in June 2010, Elle was six weeks early and spent almost two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit learning to eat properly and gain weight.  At six months, we began noticing Elle was not meeting typical goals, like rolling over.  At 14 months, Elle still wasn't pulling up or talking, so we contacted Tennessee's Early Intervention System (TEIS) who said Elle had a Global Development Delay and recommended High Hopes.

    Elle began physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy weekly at High Hopes' Therapy Clinic at 16 months of age.  Shortly after, Elle began attending High Hopes' Preschool and ...

    Learning to "eat like a boss!" ~ Anaya

    Anaya came home from Arkansas at 15 months old.  She had the most vibrant personality and we were smitten with her immediately!  At 15 months, she had never eaten food orally, nor even knew what that required.  She had a feeding tube as her main source of nutrition.

    We had a friend recommend High Hopes and we began seeing a feeding therapist there.  The feeding therapist was so sweet and patient with us as we learned how to teach this phenomenon we call "eating."  We worked together empowering Anaya to do it and she made incredible improvement!  After 6 months at High Hopes Anaya became completely independent of the tube.  Within one year of  Anaya being home, she had her t...

    Miracles Delivered through High Hopes ~ Caleb

    Caleb was born a perfectly healthy little boy July 11, 2012.  Two weeks later our world was turned upside down when he developed bacterial meningitis.  This  journey resulted in a month-long stay at Vanderbilt and life-long effects for Caleb of significant frontal lobe brain damage and risk of seizures.

    Caleb is our little fighter and has always had several guardian angels watching over him.  We came home from the hospital with no idea whether our son would walk, talk, eat well, or function as a typically-developing child.  We only knew we wanted to provide him with the best resources possible.  We sincerely believe it was one of those guardian angels who led us to be introdu...

    A Journey of Success ~ Caroline

    Our journey with High Hopes began in January 2006.  After relocating to Nashville, we were looking for a place for daycare and therapy for our then eight-month old daughter, Caroline, who was born with Down syndrome.  What we found in High Hopes was so much more.

    Because of its unique setting, High Hopes has provided Caroline with a nurturing and caring atmosphere where she not only has gone to school, but also has received the many therapies she needs to thrive.  It gave us the comfort of knowing she was being cared for by compassionate teachers and therapists in a safe environment.  It was important that what Caroline was learning and workin...

    From a tragic beginning to a hopeful future: Meet Grayson

    Grayson was born with an addiction to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.  His withdrawals were so severe, he was in the hospital for three and a half months and was considered one of the worst cases of withdrawals that the nurses at Vanderbilt had ever seen.   As a result of his birth circumstances, Grayson often experienced respiratory distress and was diagnosed as significantly developmentally delayed.

    At 7 months, Grayson began receiving Physical, Occupational, Speech and Feeding therapies at The Therapy Clinic at High Hopes.  His therapists encouraged and supported the family while working to overcome so many obstacles and celebrated alongside them when they were...

    Meet Hatcher

    Hatcher, Stories of HopeHigh Hopes changes lives. My son, Hatcher, came to High Hopes at age one with Down syndrome and leukemia, unable to walk or talk. As a divorced mom with the responsibility of two older children and a baby that required multiple treatments and medical appointments, I could not work outside our home and applied for food stamps just to feed my children.

    When we arrived at High Hopes, we found help,...

    Read More Testimonials »

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