Our Staff

Mie Nakamura


I was born and raised in San Mateo.  I lived in Seattle and the City for awhile, however my husband, Rob and I eventually settled back here. 

I LOVE teaching preschool.  When I was 17, I volunteered at a co-op preschool for the summer and I knew then, that I had found my passion. Since that first summer I started as and aide, teacher, head teacher in preschools in San Mateo and Menlo Park.  

I came to SMPNS as a parent with my son Gus in 2010, and My daughter, June enrolled in 2013. I co-opped and joined the Board as the Records Chairperson and was talked into running for President of the Board!  I loved being involved and ended up serving on the Board for three years as President and Co-President.  During that time I also started working at SMPNS as a sub and eventually joined the staff part time in 2015.  I am so grateful for the opportunities I was offered at SMPNS.  My work on the Board has taught me about the business side of running a preschool and teaching in a co-op environment has rounded out my teaching career. 

Besides teaching at SMPNS, I run a play based enrichment program for PreK and Kindergarteners out of my house.  I love all things crafty and creative and if I could I would eat at a restaurant every day of my life!

Megan Jepsen

Head Teacher

I grew up in the small coastal town of San Gregorio, nestled half way between Half Moon Bay and Pescadero. Having grown up in a wild, rural coastal town, my twin brother, older sister and I have a deep appreciation for nature. My siblings and I attended a very small elementary school, here on the peninsula, where my mom was the school secretary/lunch lady/school nurse. An early and exceptionally positive relationship with a school aid and the presence of my mom, inspired me to pursue Early Childhood Education as a career. 

I graduated Canada College with an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education/Child Development in 2010. I began teaching preschool at a local biotech company at their on-site childcare facility. I worked there until 2014, when my husband, Kenny and I became parents to our daughter Paige. I am also a yogi and was drawn to complete my 50HR Yoga For Kids Teacher Training at Nandi Yoga in 2017. As an artist, teacher and evolving yogi, I creatively develop curriculum that is both developmentally appropriate and engaging. This is where I expose young children to yoga postures and mindfulness practices, like the power of calming breaths. 

I came to SMPNS in 2016, as a parent. I was on the board and helped facilitate the most recent play structure update. At the time, Dena Heinz was the Director who hired me as a substitute teacher and later as a teacher. While SMPNS was not the right school for our daughter, it was the right school for me as a teacher. SMPNS is a magical place that brings together the most incredible families and offers an authentic play based preschool environment.

Cali Palma


I grew up just over the bridge in the east bay. I'm one of four children in a very close knit family.  I got my degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, in Liberal Studies and a multiple subject teaching credential from San Diego State University. I taught 3rd grade, here, in the SMFC school district until I had the first of my two boys. 

This school with its wonderful philosophy, seasoned teachers, and warmth of community has drawn me back into teaching.  I'm very honored to spend part of my day with your children.  

Shelli Weber

Head Teacher

I grew up in Arizona and moved to California to play soccer at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont.  (I love sports!) I graduated with a B.A. in Sociology/Behavioral Science. After college I married my husband Brian, who is born and raised in San Mateo. I then continued taking courses in Early Childhood Education. I later got a job at a preschool where I worked for 8 years. I decided to quit my job there, so I wouldn't miss out on my oldest son Darren's activities and do my co-op hours with my daughter Camryn at San Mateo Parents Nursery School at the time, where I then started working. Darren just turned eight this summer and will be going into 3rd grade this fall and Cami will be six this fall and going into kindergarten.

Even though my children have graduated from SMPNS I have stayed. I LOVE this school, the children, the parents...it's community...it's extended family.

Chris Tarkowski


Raised on a farm in New Hampshire, as an only child, my connection to nature, animals, and wildlife began at an early age.  That passion followed me here to California where I got married and had a son who began preschool at SMPNS in 2011.  It was my passion for sharing information that led the then long time director, Tish Matulich, to take note of my patience and care for children, and asked me if I wanted to work for the school as an aide.  When she told me I was a natural, it lit the fire to pursue a career as a teacher.  I had my Bachelor’s degree in History from San Jose State University, and while working as an aide for SMPNS I began the Early Childhood Education Associate program at Cañada College and then went on to begin the K-5 credentialing program at Notre Dame de Namur College in Belmont.  When a position for teacher opened up under our current director whom I love and admire, Mie, I jumped at the chance to be able to work with her and the rest of this wonderful, special, family of teachers.  I feel lucky and grateful to be here in such a special place every single day.  

Dena Heinze


I'm teacher Dena, I've been with SMPNS since 2012 in various roles: a substitute teacher, co-president, and director- teacher. I am now a part-time teacher here, as well as a mother to my two young daughters Niki and Stefi, and wife to Chris. I earned my bachelors degree in child development from CSU Chico. I earned my teaching credential and masters in education from Notre Dame University. I am an advocate for balance equaling happiness and empowering children with self esteem and love.

I am a seasoned preschool and public school teacher. I'm ready to connect with children and their families every day. I adore children!