Our Founder: Alicia Ballaera 


Early childhood education is the focus of my life's work. It is an exciting and dynamic field that is endlessly rewarding. I have dedicated the last 20 years to early childhood education development and I am honored to be considered one of the experts in my field.

I believe educators share an essential obligation to provide children with the best possible start to their education to build a strong foundation for future learning. Every child is unique and must be approached with the understanding that early childhood experiences leave indelible fingerprints on developing minds and personalities. There are many conflicting philosophies and approaches to early childhood education including child centered, teacher directed, play based, Montessori, Reggio Emilio, academic and Waldorf, among others. I am convinced the best approach is one that caters to each child’s individual learning style.

Having a child with special needs motivated me to understand how everyone learns differently and school teaches one way. Why not have the child develop an understanding to how they learn and teach them to advocate for themselves? I became increasingly aware of the growing need to improve the quality of our preschool education and the importance of early intervention. I knew one day I could create a superior preschool with my expertise and passion and collaboratively join the two.

After I received my masters in early childhood special education, I had the opportunity to work closely with many educators at the Early Enrichment Center. I taught toddlers, Kindergarten, and enrichment such as music, science, Spanish and literacy arts. I was responsible for developing appropriate curriculums  and helping children improve their social, emotional and academic skills. Working with multiple programs enabled me to draw direct comparisons and identify the advantages and disadvantages of each program firsthand. This unique perspective helped me develop my own vision about what techniques were most effective with different age groups.

It has been a long time dream to open my own preschool and it has come to fruition nine years ago. The Upper Saddle River Children’s Academy is one that incorporates the best learning techniques from various philosophies into a program tailored to each child’s individual learning style.  I am so proud of our extraordinary preschool! With great care, we have plans that will nurture your child in an environment that fosters independence and self-esteem while allowing the learning process to grow naturally.

Meet the Team


Annette Clayton

Toddler Teacher 


Krista Petersen

Pre-Kindergarten Teacher


Sharon Fillare

Teacher's Assistant


Christina Tashjian

Teacher's Assistant


Janet Mangine

Teacher's Assistant


Rose Olejarz


Donna LaBruna

Toddler Teacher


Judit Santelli

Threes Teacher

Johanna Tellado

Pre-Kindergarten & Art Teacher


Christy Altamore



Kim Mason

Teacher's Assistant


Meghan Lull

Kindergarten Teacher


Lindsay Tetefsky

Threes Teacher


Emily Mason

Threes Teacher


Lulu Orrak

Yoga Instructor


Patricia Poggiogale

Teacher's Assistant


Linda Saaybe



Elizabeth Iannetta

Teacher's Assistant