MEET OUR team


  • stephanie updike, interim director

    229-924-5419

    stephanie@fumcamericus.com


    Hi! My name is Stephanie Updike. I am the interim preschool director, as well as the children's director at Americus FUMC. I am originally from Cordele, GA. My husband, Johnny and I have been married for 24 years. We have two boys, John and Freddie, and a daughter named Adalyn. My hobbies are spending time with family and reading.

  • Tiffany Turner, Assistant Director

    229-924-3169

    tiffany@fumcamericus.com


    My name is Tiffany Turner. I am ecstatic to be interacting with each and every child as your assistant director. I am from our small town, Americus. I am 27 years old, and married with a sassy little one year old. I also have another little angel due in September. I look forward to each and every little blessing here at BB!

  • LAURIE BARKER, INFANT TEACHER

    My name is Laurie Barker, and I am from Montezuma, GA. I have been married for 26 years, and I have two sons, ages 24 and 15. My faith, family, and job are the three most important things in my life. I truly love and enjoy working with children; it has always been my passion and it is close to my heart.

  • SYLVIA NATHASINGH, INFANT TEACHER

    My name is Sylvia Nathasingh, and I am excited to be working with your precious little ones. I have five kids of my own...four girls and one boy. I am thankful that the Lord has blessed me with my own , and has given me an opportunity to work with yours. I promise to love and care for them! This will be a great year!

  • CHANTAL WRIGHT, INFANT TEACHER

    Hi! My name is Chantal Wright (some may know me better as Chan). I am 28 years old. I was born and raised right here in Americus, GA. I am very excited to be at Bright Beginnings, and I am absolutely honored to be a teacher in your child's classroom. I believe children are a blessing, and I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to work in this field. I am looking forward to the best year yet!

  • Devonda (DeeDee) Luehrman, infant co-teacher

    My name is Devoid (DeeDee) Luehrman. I am originally from Cincinnati, OH. Last year, my family relocated from Florence, AL to Americus, GA. I am 46 years old, and I have two daughters, Ella and Maggie. My favorite color is yellow, and I love camping and hiking.


    I have 12 years of experience in the childcare field. I have also been extensively involved in children's ministry, and I was the children's ministry director for three years in our church in Alabama.


    I am so excited to be party of the Bright Beginnings team. I can't wait to take care of your precious little ones this year!

  • CHALANCE DERISO, 1-YEAR TEACHER

    My name is Chalance Deriso. Everyone calls me Lance. I am 24 years young, and I am from Leslie GA. I have two beautiful children who are the reason I am so passionate about succeeding. Being a single mother was not part of my plans, but I choose to keep the faith and to continue to pursue my goals and dreams.


    I have always had a passion for kids. I believe becoming a teacher and having the skills to teach are gifts. Teaching is not just a job in my eyes. It is a calling. I grew up teaching my stuffed animals, dolls, imaginary friends, and younger relatives. There was no other option for me except to teach...nothing else captured me. As you get to know me, you will see that I am just a funny, optimistic, caring, loving, smart, beautiful inside and outside kind of person. I am an open  book, so if you want to know more about me, don't hesitate to ask.

  • KELSEY SKIPPER, 1-YEAR ASSISTANT TEACHER

    My name is Kelsey Skipper, and I am 24 years old. I can't wait to get to know your child this year!


    I am from Americus, GA, and I love to travel. My favorite color is pink, and I love fall. During my free time, I love to go kayaking with friends.


    I graduated from Americus Sumter County High School in 2015 where I was a co-captian of the marching band for 2 years. I have been babysitting for 10+ years, and I have worked in my church's nursery since I was 15.


    This will be my first year teaching at Bright Beginnings Preschool.

  • PAMELA DOWDELL, 1-YEAR LEAD TEACHER

    My name is Pamela Dowdell. I've lived in Americus my entire life. I have two children. I have over 30 years of experience working with children.


    I earned a diploma in early childhood education in June 2008. I worked at First United Methodist Church for over 25 years in the nursery and preschool. I left for a brief moment, but now I've returned.


    I'm looking forward to working with you and your child!

  • HEATHER WILLIFORD, 1-YEAR CO-TEACHER

    My name is Heather Williford. I recently moved back to my hometown of Americus after graduating from Southland Academy in 1993. I have worked for Thomasville FUMC for 10 years, Thomasville Christian School for 3 years, Thomasville YMCA, and First Baptist Church. I began working with children 30 years ago in my hometown.


    I am a proud mother of two girls and one son. I enjoy doing yard work, painting furniture, and spending all my spare time with family and fiends. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer and praying God's Word.

  • VALERIE SKIPPER, 2-YEAR TEACHER

    My name is Valerie Skipper, and I am 26 years old. i am so excited to teach your child this year!


    I'm from Americus, GA. My favorite color is blue, I love the smell of vanilla, and Christmas is my favorite time of year!


    I graduated from Americus-Sumter Co. High in 2012, and I've taken some education courses at Georgia Southwestern. I've been babysitting since I was 10 years old, and I'm on nursery staff at Central Baptist. This is my second year working at Bright Beginnings. I'm looking forward to starting a new year with you and your child!

  • Haley West, 2-year assistant teacher

    My name is Haley West, and I'm from Byron, Georgia. My family is very close and somewhat small. We are very passionate about quality time together. i love college football...especially Alabama. ROLL TIDE!


    I love working with children!. I am currently attending Georgia Southwestern State University. i am working on my early childhood degree. I attended Crawford County hight school in a small town called Roberta.


    I worked at Loving Care Learning Center as a lead teacher, and I enjoyed every second of it.

  • HOLLI BRUNSON, 2-year teacher

    Hi! My name is Holli Brunson, and I am so excited to have your child this year for 2K. I was born and raised here in Americus, GA. I have three amazing kids, Emily Rose, Wyatt, and Samuel. A motto I live by is "You're allowed to scream, You're allowed to cry, but you are NEVER allowed to give up."


    I graduated from Americus-Sumter High School in 2006. I went on to study at Darton College and South Georgia Technical College. I have studies in the medical field and early childhood education. I received my technical certificate in early childhood care and education.


    I have been blessed to be with Bright Beginnings since 2012. I began as a one-year-old teacher, but I found my "spot" with twos a year later.

  • Bethani Griggs, 2-year assistant teacher

    My name is Bethany Griggs. I am delighted to join your child in this journey of their life. I am 23 years old, and I was born and raised here in Americus, GA. I love to read and write stories that encourage others to inspire the world in their own way.


    I am currently enrolled at Georgia Southwestern, and I am working towards a bachelor's degree in English. In 2017, I received my technical certificate ate in child development and early childhood care/education.


    I started working at Bright Beginnings in January 2017. It is a huge blessing to be able to work with all ages at this preschool.

  • rica deriso, 3-year teacher

    I am Ms. Rica. My full name is Concepion Eurica Deriso. Since my middle name is Eurica, my parents decided to call me Rica. I have lived in Americus, GA my entire life. I have four beautiful children (3 daughters and 1 son). I never imagined I would be a teacher until I had children of my own.


    My favorite color is green, and my favorite food is baked mac & cheese. I enjoy shopping, reading, and watching my children play. My main hobby is being a har stylist. I have done hair and make up since the age of 14.


    I am so excited to be your child's teacher! It's going to be a great year full of new friends, new adventures, and new discoveries...not only in this classroom, but also here at Bright Beginnings. We care for you and your children. Your ideas, thoughts, and actions are valued. I look forward to spending the year with you and your child!

  • katelyn sutton, 3-year teacher

    My name is Katelyn Sutton, and I am so excited about teaching in your child's class this year. I was born in Americus, but moved to Chattanooga at the age of 10. My four-year-old son, Taybor, and I moved back to Americus in the summer of 2017.


    I am a volunteer firefighter of Sumter County. I made one of the best decisions of my life three years ago when I gave my life to Christ through Believer's Baptism!


    I graduated from Sequoyah High School in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee in 2014. I am CPR and first aid certified. I have 5 years of experience in childcare, and I have received many training certificates in early childcare and education.


    I began working in the three-year-old class at Bright Beginnings in August of 2017.

  • carmen henderson, floater

    My name is Carmen Henderson. I am from Blakely, GA. I graduated from Early County High School in 2019. During my 11th and 12th grade years, I worked with Pre-K. I currently attend Georgia Southwestern as a student in elementary education. I am a sophomore this year, and I love it. 


    I specialize in work with infants, and I enjoy creating crafts for the classroom, and for the parents to take home.


    "Don't struggle to be a better teacher than everybody else. Simply be a better teacher than you ever thought you could be" - Robert John Meehan

  • alissa akin, floater

    My name is Alissa Akin. I lived in Wilcox County for most of my life, but I recently moved to Hawkinsville. I am happily married, and I have three daughters, and three pet fish. In my spare time, I like to shop, cook, and spend time withy my family.


    I attended school in Wilcox County, and I graduated in 2000. After high school, I enrolled in East Central Technical College, where I received buy certification in microcomputers. A few years later, I attended Health Tech of Central Georgia, and I graduated as a certified nursing assistant.


    I worked in the healthcare field for 8 years. I recently began working in childcare. This will be my fourth year as a teacher.