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!

Sue Miller,

Lead Teacher

I started my relationship with our school in 1995 as a parent attending SMPNS with our two sons. Over the years adding co-op sub, board member, aide, substitute teacher and teacher in 2000. I have a BA in Theater Arts and hold a current California State Child Development Permit at the Program Director level. I appreciate the gift of teaching in our play based, co-op program because it respects young children and how they learn. I appreciate building ongoing relationships with families. I use what I learned in school and at SMPNS (improvising, high emotions, drama, comedy, working with an audience, team work, understanding child development and more) every single day collaborating with adults and children at our wonderful preschool.

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.

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!

Shelli Weber,


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.


Classroom Assistant

Daisy De La Alas,

Teacher Aid