Preschool ~ NAEYC Accredited

happy Phoenix preschool students
Summit Logo and BEST Preschool Logo 2015

Summit School of Ahwatukee, an NAEYC accredited preschool in Phoenix, has been named one of the best preschools  by Ahwatukee Foothills News voters 8 years in a row!

You Have To See It To Believe It!

Welcome to Summit School of Ahwatukee, an NAEYC accredited preschool in Phoenix, Arizona. We are committed to every student’s personal and academic growth from the moment they enter as preschoolers, until the day they graduate eighth grade as young adults.  The private preschool curriculum is research-based, developmentally appropriate, and taught by educated and experienced teachers. This is why Summit School of Ahwatukee is one of few Phoenix preschools nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Summit welcomes preschool students ages two and a half to five year olds preparing for kindergarten. Families join us from Ahwatukee, Chandler, Tempe, Gilbert and Phoenix. Children must be fully independent in the bathroom.

Read more below about the curriculum, class size, scholarship opportunities, and weekly classes in Spanish, music, art, and tumbling.

Toddler / Adult Class

Children ages 18 to 36 months and their adult companion are welcome to join the Summit School of Ahwatukee

Toddler Discoveries Class

This program is a developmentally appropriate, fun-filled experience which meets for two hours each week in the heart of Summit’s NAEYC preschool. New classes begin each fall, spring, and summer.

From a parent: As a former Kindergarten teacher and now a Full-Time faculty and Administrator in Higher Education, I was very “picky” in looking for a school to send my children to. From the moment I toured Summit School of Ahwatukee, I was highly impressed. The classrooms are rich with resources; the teachers are caring and committed to educating the students. Our oldest son attended preschool this year and we have been amazed by all of the wonderful things he has learned and experienced. Next year, he will be attending Kindergarten and we are so excited for his experience at Summit to continue, as well as our second son’s experience in preschool to begin. I highly recommend Summit to anyone looking for an all around high quality education plus so much more! ~Tracy, Parent of a preschooler

Class Size and Age of Students

Class Size

Summit offers four preschool classrooms with class sizes no larger than eighteen children. Children in each class are nurtured by two full-time, experienced teachers and an incredible amount of resources to help promote a loving, learning-enriched environment. (Our youngest learners must celebrate their 3rd birthday by early February.)

Age of Preschool Students

Multi-age classes, thirty months through age five, enhance learning for all students. Children may begin as young as two and a half years old. However, preschoolers must turn three before February 1st of the year they enroll. All preschoolers must be fully independent in the bathroom.


Learning is fun with our hands-on, experiential, play-based preschool curriculum, developed by “Teaching Strategies – Gold”. This developmental curriculum is endorsed by the Arizona Department of Education and the National Association for the Education of the Young Child (NAEYC).

“Teaching Strategies” fosters growth in all developmental areas including social/emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, math, science & technology, social studies, and language acquisition.  Additionally, classes in art, music, Spanish, library and tumbling are woven into the learning experience.

Children gain skills above and beyond those needed to thrive in kindergarten. They also develop a joy of learning and inquiry.

Each day, children participate in large group and small group settings, dramatic play, choice time, enjoy morning and afternoon snack, rest time and play on a beautiful and engaging playground designed just for preschoolers.

Communication with Parents

Summit teachers and parents form a close partnership and communicate often. Our preschool parents receive weekly written updates detailing classroom activities via our website.

To fully involve parents in their child’s growth, teachers continually record each child’s progress in the online Teaching Strategies database. Parents create passwords that allow them to access teacher observations and easily communicate between home and school.

Formal preschool reports are created twice a year. Student reports include ongoing observations and assessment information, photographs, and comments that form a rich narrative about your child’s progress. All assessments are correlated to the developmental benchmarks based on research related to how young children develop and learn. These reports also provide parents with games and activity ideas that are designed to supplement and reinforce each individual stage of preschool development.

Parental Involvement

Families at Summit join together to create a close-knit community devoted to enhancing the lives of our students, through strong parental involvement in and out of the classrooms. Summit’s parent organization called BEST, (Building Educational Success Together), enriches the school’s educational experiences by bringing programming such as Arizona State University’s symphony, visiting authors, artists, storytellers, musical workshops, Childsplay, dance troops, and opera for children.

BEST strengthens our Community by hosting the father-daughter dance, mother-son dance, water day, spirit days, Global Awareness Day and much more. Our parents’ commitment to education and the school is remarkable, strengthening the very fabric of our school.

Playground / Park Dedicated to Preschool

Our dedicated preschool playground feels more like a beautiful park created just for younger children. It serves as an outdoor classroom, where one, two, and three-person bikes travel along a wide, long sidewalk path as children develop their gross motor skills and strengthen social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and communication. A large, grassy area allows children to run, play, and enjoy fresh air on an exhilarating tire jumper.

Children enjoy climbing and sliding on covered playground equipment safely located over rubber mulch. The large sand area is a treat for many children as they build, dig, and sculpt. The park features a large covered patio filled with building materials and multi-sensory activity tables that continually hold new surprises.

Preschool Hours

Preschool Hours

Classrooms open to greet children and parents at 8am.  After lunch, children enjoy a much-needed rest from 1 – 2pm. Our school day ends at 3:15. To help working families, parents may enroll in before and after school care, expanding the day from 7am to 6pm.

Preschool Classes

Three program options are available.

  • Five day class
  • Three day class, Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Three days first semester (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and five days second semester

Preschool Scholarships through Quality First

Preschool Scholarships for Summit School of Ahwatukee NAEYC accredited preschool!  

The Quality First Scholarships for the 2016-17 school year are now available.  Please don’t delay in applying, as they go quickly.

Summit School of Ahwatukee is proud to partner with Quality First, First Things First, and United Way. Through these programs we are able to offer  preschool scholarships to qualified families for the 2016-17 school year!

  • Preschool scholarships are for Summit’s academic school year, August 3, 2016 through May 17th, 2017.
  • The scholarships pay for a portion of the stated tuition. Qualifying families are responsible to pay the tuition not covered by the scholarship.
  • Scholarships help pay the cost of the school day: 8am to 3:15pm, Monday through Friday. Families are responsible for all additional charges incurred for optional before and after school care, or enrichment classes, if needed.
  • The amount of the scholarship for the 2016-17 school year is $6,083 for a five day preschool program.  2016-17 Preschool 5-day Tuition_ with a Quality First Scholarship_ Summit School of Ahwatukee
  • See the state mandated income guidelines below to see if your family qualifies.

Applying for a Quality First Scholarship:

Families must provide Summit School of Ahwatukee the 2016- 2017- Quality First Family-Scholarships Application-English

  • The application requires specific documentation, which must also be provided to Summit with the completed and signed application.
  • The application and documentation required by Quality First may be dropped off at Summit or emailed to the Summit School of Ahwatukee Admissions Office:
  • To qualify for a Quality First Preschool Scholarship, a family’s current gross income must not exceed the state mandated limits shown below, and on the Quality First application. Gross income is determined by the last four paystubs for all adults who are contributing to the well being of the child.

Families must also complete the Summit School of Ahwatukee admissions process

  1. Complete the Summit School of Ahwatukee pre-application found at:
  2. Provide Summit copies of:
    • The most recent year-end progress report from the previous preschool, if applicable.
    • Your child’s birth certificate.
    • $75 pre-application fee, paid via check, payable to Summit School of Ahwatukee.
    • Teacher recommendations upon request.
    • Future preschoolers also enjoy spending a morning in a preschool class from 8:15 – 11:15, prior to enrolling. Contact the admissions office to schedule your child’s visit.  480-403-9506
2015 Federal Poverty Levels (FPL)Supplied by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Family Size 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
200% of FPL $31,860 $40,180 $48,500 $56,820 $65,140 $73,460 $81,780

Art - Named Best in the United States

The Summit School of Ahwatukee art curriculum is based on the Vitruvius Program. Art, architecture and design program enables students to use their creative intelligence to express ideas and concepts in tangible forms. As students engage in work based on real and imagined projects, they deepen critical thinking, narrative problem solving, spatial reasoning, and visual perception.

In 2011, this exceptional program was named the Best Art and Architecture School Curriculum in the UNITED STATES, by the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) and winner of the National School award. Summit represented the United States in the UIA Golden Cubes International Competition in Tokyo.

Design and architecture projects bring an important dimension of thinking to the program. The students learn to find reasons for their work outside of artistic self-expression, becoming divergent thinkers, and gaining a foundation for understanding a changing world.

By studying works from history and the present, students understand how art and design have made significant contributions in the shaping of culture. Students see that their creative work is part of a continuum with other artists, architects, and designers. Critiques develop the ability to observe, discriminate, compare, and contrast creative works. Students learn how to use critical language to interpret work and explain their understanding of its purposes.

The Vitruvius Program curriculum was developed with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

An Example of a Preschool Art Project: Preschool art

Children loved hearing their art teacher, Ms. Selene read the story little blue and little yellow by Leo Lionni. The story showed children that blue and yellow mix to make green. These 3, 4 and 5 year olds then created! Using white oil pastels each child drew large and small circles. Next, they used sponges and wet their paper thoroughly. Using yellow and blue watercolor, they add dots of paint to watch the colors swirl, grow, and mix on their puddles of water. The result? Beautiful, unique paintings of many layers, and a color discovery.


In 2009 Phoenix Magazine recognized the Vitruvius Program as one of the top five education programs in Metro-Phoenix.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art invited the Vitruvius Program at Summit School to create two different exhibitions for their young@art Gallery.

The first exhibit, Bridges: Connecting Earth to Sky, displayed from October 2010 to January 2011, and included architecture and design work from each Summit student in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The second exhibit, Cycles From Fields to Cities, displayed from February through April 2013, also includes student works from Finland, France, Russia and Sweden, features designs from third and fifth grade Summit students. The architectural project was co-created by Summit art instructor Kathleen Kupper. This project asks children from many countries to think reflectively about the current state of their city’s design, and challenges them to share how they would reconstruct and reconfigure old and new elements. Artworks range from architectural models and drawings to animations.

Library - Knowledge Center

Summit’s library, called the Knowledge Center, provides an interactive place for children to enjoy the written and spoken word.  Using stories, rhymes, and activities, young children develop important literacy skills, enjoy positive learning experiences, and see the library as a place where learning is fun.  Library programming and quality literature help students to get a head start on early reading success.  Students who are exposed to print rich environments are more successful in school, and can go on to be successful lifelong learners if that early boost is built upon by school library programs.


The preschool music program is based on the National Association for Music Education’s Pre-Kindergarten Standards. The following is an excerpt from “The School Music Program: A New Vision”, which describes the standards. Summit’s music program is enhanced with a large array of instruments and a teacher dedicated exclusively to the music program.

Musical Experiences for Preschool Age Children

Young children need an environment that includes a variety of sound sources, selected recorded music and opportunities for free improvised singing and the building of a repertoire of songs. An exploratory approach, using a wide range of appropriate materials, provides a rich base from which conceptual understanding can evolve in later years. A variety of individual musical experiences is important for children at this age, with little emphasis on activities that require children to perform together as a unit. As a result of their experiences with music, four-year-olds should initiate both independent and collaborative play with musical materials, and they should demonstrate curiosity about music.

Singing and playing instruments

Children Use their voices expressively as they speak, chant, and sing a variety of simple songs in various keys, meters, alone and with a group, becoming increasingly accurate in rhythm and pitch. Students experiment with a variety of instruments and other sound sources, and play simple melodies and accompaniments on instruments.

Creating music

Children improvise songs to accompany their play activities, improvise instrumental accompaniments to songs, recorded selections, stories, and poems. Additionally, they create short pieces of music, using voices, instruments, and other sound sources, and invent and use original graphic or symbolic systems to represent vocal and instrumental sounds and musical ideas.

Responding to music

Children identify the sources of a wide variety of sounds by responding through movement to music of various tempos, meters, dynamics, modes, genres, and styles to express what they hear and feel in works of music.

Understanding music

Children use their own vocabulary and standard music vocabulary to describe voices, instruments, music notation, and music of various genres, styles, and periods from diverse cultures. Students sing, play instruments, move, or verbalize to demonstrate awareness of the elements of music and changes in their usage and demonstrate an awareness of music as a part of daily life.

Ways To Enhance Your Child’s Music Education

  • Take them to the Musical Instrument Museum! Located in Phoenix, this fabulous museum takes visitors on a sonic, visual, and tactile adventure of instruments from all over the world.
  • Check out music recordings from your local library to listen to with your child. Listen to music of a wide variety of genres, styles, and cultures. Talk about the music with your child.
  • Teach your child a favorite song. Ask your child to teach you a song they have learned.
  • If you play an instrument, share the experience with your child. Perhaps, teach your child to play.
  • Encourage your child to learn to play an instrument or sing.
  • Encourage your child to create his or her own music.
  • Go to concerts with your child. The Phoenix Symphony offers very reasonably priced family packages.
  • Talk to your child about the importance of music in your life. Describe a great musical experience you’ve had. Ask your child to do the same.


In preschool, our curriculum is developmentally appropriate and relevant to the children’s class activities and daily life. We build on a framework of basic vocabulary to include songs, activities, and conversational phrases that can be integrated into the preschool day.

Spanish language experiences, as recommended by state (AZ) and national foreign language standards include:

Communication: Respond to simple commands, perform short plays, poems, and songs, and express and react to a variety of feelings.

Culture: Participate in age-appropriate cultural activities and recognize how the target language and its culture add to the richness of our own cultural diversity.

Connections: Discuss topics in other school subjects in the target language (e.g. math: “más-menos”, science: “los planetas”, etc.) and present reports in the target language orally and/or in writing on topics being studied in other classes.

Comparisons: Make basic comparisons between the celebrations of the target culture and their own culture (e.g. Halloween and “EL Día de los Muertos”) and compare and contrast a variety of art forms (e.g. music, dance, visual arts, and drama) with their own culture through oral and/or written descriptions and/or performances.

Tumble Town

Tumble Town Gymnastics classes are held every Wednesday morning for each preschool class. Tumble Town provides our students with an exciting and energetic, age-appropriate gymnastics and physical fitness class. Every week, students will be challenged with specifically-designed exercises that stimulate coordination, motor skill, movement, balance, strength and flexibility. Monthly skills and themes will provide touchstones for children to strengthen learning skills such as focus, listening, decision making and memorization. There is always something new and fun to learn at Tumble Town!

Toddler Discoveries Class

Summit School of Ahwatukee’s NAEYC accredited preschool offers you and your toddler an exceptional first step into a world of learning.  Click here to register for Toddler Discoveries.

Toddler Discoveries is a developmentally appropriate and fun-filled experience for adventurous young children, 18 to 36 months of age AND their adult companion.

Join an experienced preschool teacher, Lisa Stearns-Hayes for two hours of exploration, play, art, music, movement and discovery every week, in the heart of Summit School of Ahwatukee’s NAEYC accredited preschool!

Adults will also have an opportunity to discuss relevant “Toddler Topics” with the teacher.

New classes begin in fall, spring and summer.

Summer Camps

Summer camps are another way children enjoy the many wonderful theme-based activities offered at Summit. Each week, our staff plans engaging projects and games that enable learning through meaningful play. Our preschool students who are currently enrolled, or enrolled for the upcoming school year, are invited to join in the fun! Camp typically begins the first week after the school year continues through most of the summer.

Attend one week of camp or enroll in all. Choose between full day: 8:30AM to 3:30 PM, or half-day programs: 8:30am – noon. Summer extended hours can expand the day from 7am to 5:30pm. Camp brochures with dates, cost and registration can be found at:

Get to Know - Preschool Faculty


Andrea Benkel

Director of Early Childhood Education

Andrea Benkel is a dynamic and passionate leader in the field of early childhood education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Ohio State University. In 2008 she earned a Master’s in Education from the University of Phoenix and was selected as the student speaker for the commencement ceremony. She holds a director’s Certificate from National Louis University and is currently enrolled in the Harris Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Training Institute to receive her certification.   Mrs. Benkel spent over twenty years teaching in preschool, kindergarten and Gymboree Play/Music/Art classes. She began sharing her expertise with Summit in 2004.

Under her leadership Summit has received its third national accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC, which is the gold standard for preschools. She also serves as the board President of the local affiliate, The Valley of the Sun Association for the Education of Young Children.

Mrs. Benkel leads the preschool programs through reflective practices which have enabled the school to earn Five Stars through the state’s Quality First program. She is currently a member of the Childsplay Teacher Advisory Panel and Free Spirit Publishing’s Advisory Board of Educators. Andrea is passionate about supporting and finding ways to be involved in the local and educational community.

Previously, Andrea Benkel was selected to serve as a mentor for preschool directors, through the Chase Emergent Leader’s program, a statewide early childhood education leadership institute. She has also been invited to present several times at conferences for the National Association for the Education of Young Children.  Ironically, Andrea has been married to her “preschool sweetheart” Jeff for thirty years.


Regina Abraham

Preschool Teacher, Three Day Class

Mrs. Abraham has over 20 years of experience teaching in early childhood classrooms. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in psychology from Grinnell College, and a Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Illinois. In addition to teaching preschool, she has also taught Hebrew for 12 years. In 2015 Mrs. Abraham was asked to be a presenter at the NAEYC national conference on the educational benefits of cooking in an early childhood classroom. She is thrilled to be joining the Summit teaching team in 2015.

Fredie Boudrie web photo

Fredie Boudrie

Preschool Teacher, Five Day Class

Fredie Boudrie obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Interpersonal Communication from The Ohio State University, and completed additional coursework in the field of Elementary Education. She began by student teaching in second grade, but learned that her true love is working with young children, which she has been doing since 1998. In addition to her BA degree, Ms. Boudrie has obtained an Academic Certificate in Child and Family Professional Development through the Early Childhood Education Program at Rio Salado College. She has been with Summit School of Ahwatukee since 2004.

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Tina Charney

Preschool Teacher, Five Day Class

Tina Charney has been teaching preschool and elementary children in Minnesota and Arizona since 1996. She has a BA in Latin American Studies from Columbia University in NYC, an Early Childhood teaching license from Crown College in Minnesota, and holds an Arizona Early Childhood teaching license. Her ongoing professional development includes training in early childhood development, developmental delays and special needs, Reggio Emilia and other teaching approaches, teaching English language-learners, and research-based techniques for teaching reading. Most importantly, she continues to learn from the unique, curious, and creative children she teaches. She joined the Summit teaching team in 2015.

After college and before children, Ms. Charney was a theatrical lighting designer and stage manager, working on Broadway and regionally, and touring in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.  In 2016, Ms. Charney published her first book, co-authored with her former teaching partner, Deb Ellsworth: Your Amazing Preschooler: How you can have the same capable, confident, and cooperative child at home that teachers have at school. This inspiring book offers unique insights from teachers into the preschooler’s mind and behavior, with tips and tools, ideas and techniques from the preschool classroom that parents can use at home.”


Meghan Coronado

Preschool Teacher, Five Day Class

Meghan Coronado’s education includes a Bachelor’s degree in both Special Education and Elementary Education from Arizona State University. Her love of teaching young learners led her to also earn an Early Childhood Endorsement. Her teaching experience spans both daycares and preschools in Arizona and Nebraska from infant to 5 years, and teaching Kindergarten. In 2012 Summit was lucky to have Mrs. Coronado join our preschool staff. Teaching is her passion and she can’t envision doing anything else!


Gayle Green

Preschool Teacher, Five Day Class

Gayle Green graduated from Arizona State University in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education. She has loved teaching preschool at Summit since 2007. She is a life-long learner, annually taking continuing education classes in Child Development, Early Literacy Acquisition, and Early Childhood Math. In 2014, she enhanced her education through an INTEL math training course to further her math knowledge and familiarize herself with the Common Core learning trajectories in preschool and in the early elementary grades. She is very excited about her new role as an Early Childhood Math Specialist at Summit!


Erin Howe

Preschool Teacher, Five Day Class

Erin Howe is an Arizona native and has been part of the Ahwatukee community since 2000. She is a graduate of Corona del Sol High School, and earned a B.A. in Early Childhood Education in 2007 from Arizona State University, graduating Suma Cum Laude. Teaching is her passion!

Ms. Howe began her work in Early Childhood Education in 2000. She also spent two years as the Nursery Attendant for her church during and after college. Summit School of Ahwatukee welcomed her as part of the preschool staff in 2012. Ms. Howe also shares her knowledge of American Sign Language through music and movement with the preschool students.


Laura Otradovec

Preschool Teacher, Five Day Class

Laura Otradovec received her degree in Early Childhood Education from College of DuPage, in Chicago, Illinois. Mrs. Otradovec has been an educator for over thirty years. She taught for fifteen years at a private preschool, followed by six years at a college Lab School, and has been with the Summit School of Ahwatukee preschool staff since 2002. She enjoys gaining new information from workshops and seminars where she incorporates into learning experiences for her students.


Vanessa Flores

Preschool, Teacher Support

Vanessa Flores is an Arizona native. She graduated from Marcos De Niza in 2009 and is currently finishing her Bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education. Ms. Flores has been working in before and after school programs, and the early childhood field since 2006, and has received certified training from Arizona center for after school excellence, First Things First, and Arizona state head start program.  She joined Summit preschool staff in 2016, and couldn’t imagine teaching anywhere else.


Lisa Stearns-Hayes

Preschool Teacher, Three Day Class
Toddler Discoveries Teacher

Lisa Stearns-Hayes is an Arizona native. She graduated in 1997 from Dobson High, and has earned a degree in Child Development from Mesa Community College. Ms. Hayes has continued her education through national and state conferences, early childhood workshops and classes at both Arizona State University, ASU and Northern Arizona University, NAU. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, with an emphasis in Speech-Language Sciences & Technology through NAU. She has been teaching preschool for fifteen years. Summit School of Ahwatukee has been her second home since its inception in 2001 and she can’t imagine moving anytime soon.

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Faith Angelakis

Literacy Specialist, Preschool through Third Grade

Faith Angelakis contributes significant experience and education to supporting students and teachers in Summit’s exceptional reading program. She works directly with students in grade level classrooms, teaching reading to small groups of students, where each student is instructed at his or her instructional reading level.

 Using her twenty one years of teaching experience, Ms. Angelakis works with teachers to help them continue to develop professionally, modeling lessons for teachers, or team-teaching units. She helps teachers plan literacy instruction for the year, and provides professional reading materials about the most recent teaching techniques. Through collaborative efforts with grade level teachers, she leads the school’s literacy team to continually update and enhance our literacy program.

 A graduate of Boston College with a BA in English and Philosophy, Ms. Angelakis continued her education, earning a Master’s Degree and a teaching certificate in Elementary Education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 Ms. Angelakis began her teaching career as a classroom teacher for second, third, and fourth grades in Connecticut, joining Summit in 2006. Ms. Angelakis has a Reading Specialist endorsement and a full Structured English Immersion endorsement. Additionally, she is CLIP (Collaborative Literacy Intervention Project) certified. Throughout her career, Ms. Angelakis has been dedicated to her continuing education and has attended and presented at many professional development workshops.