MEET OUR team


  • stephanie updike, director

    229-924-5419

    stephanie@fumcamericus.com


    Hi! My name is Stephanie Updike.  I am originally from Cordele, GA. My husband, Johnny and I have been married since 1995.  We have two boys, John and Freddie, and a daughter named Adalyn. My hobbies are spending time with family and reading.

    I was the past director at Bright Beginnings from 2003-2010. And came back to FUMC in 2017, as the Children's Director. And now, back as preschool director since July 2020. I feel so blessed to be back! 

  • Tiffany Turner, Assistant Director

    229-924-5419

    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 and I have 2 wonderful little girls. I look forward to meeting all the sweet little faces.

  • 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.

  • Devonda (DeeDee) Luehrman, 3-A 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!

  • 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!

  • VALERIE SKIPPER, 2-YEAR TEACHER

    My name is Valerie Skipper, and I am 27 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!

  • 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, Infant C 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.

  • katelyn sutton, Infant C Assistant 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 five-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, One A & Infant B teacher

    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

  • Amanda goodin, One B Assistant teacher

    My name is Amanda Goodin. I have lived in Americus, GA my whole life. My days are typically spent hanging out with my 2 year old niece and reading a book.


    I graduated from Schley County High School. I am currently working towards getting my Bachelor's degree in Sociology at GSW. I spent a year volunteering at a church nursery that consisted of children 6 months-3 years of age.


    "Do not fear. for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your god."  -Isaiah 4:10

  • amy lewis, Infant A teacher

    My name is Amy Lewis and I am from Andersonville, GA. I have 3 kids and I've been married since 1999. I love sewing, collecting Funko Pops, and playing video games.


    I am a graduate of Ogeechee Technical College, earning my Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education (2021). I've also earned a certificate in Early Childhood Care and Education Basics (2019), Child Development Specialist Certificate (2019), Diploma, in Early Childhood Care and Education (2020), and Early Childhood Program Administration Certificate (2020). I've taught 1 year olds, 3 year olds, and Pre-K children.


    "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  -Philippians 4:13

  • Bevie powell, 3-a  assistant teacher

    My name is Bevie Powell. I am one of the teachers in your child's class. I have always enjoyed children. People have always said "I have a way with children," and I feel like a magnet sometimes.


    I am adopted, and I grew up in Buena Vista. I have lots of family, but I spend most of my time with my granny. I also have a Siamese cat that I love so much.


    I am a member of the Wes House and a student at GSW. I am a Psychology major and a minor in Criminal Justice. I started working at Bright Beginnings my first semester of college and I have enjoyed every minute of it. 

  • ayani hughes, 3 b  teacher

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  • kacie kitchens, 2 b  assistant teacher


    Hi everyone, my name is Kacie Kitchen. 


    I am 19 years old and from Ocala, Florida.  I was born in Delphos Ohio, but only lived there until I was 6, it was then that I moved to Ocala Florida and have lived there going on 14 years. I am one of three children, Kelsey (23) being my older sister and Kyle (17) my younger brother.  

    I grew up in a Methodist household. When we lived in Ohio, we attended the church my mom grew up in and my grandfather preached at, which was the First United Methodist church of convoy and have attended First United Methodist Church of Ocala from 2009 till 2020, which is when I started attending First United Methodist Church of Americus after I began going to school here in August of 2020. Some of my interests include listening to music, singing, playing guitar, reading, and hanging out with friends and family. 

    Right now, I am attending GSW to obtain my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. As for high school, I attended Westport high school in Ocala Florida for all four years but also attended the college of central Florida in my junior and senior year. I was a dual enrollment student where I obtained 49 credit hours towards my degree before graduating high school.

    Work experience 

    Before this summer, I have only ever worked with kids. I have been babysitting since I was 13, where I have babysat children of various ages from 6 months to 12 years old, and have volunteered with the nursery, elementary, and middle school groups at my church. I have also helped my mom out a few summers when we ran our summer camp / daycare center from home. As for this past summer I have been working at an assisted living facility. 


    "Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." 

    • Jeremiah 29:11  

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