Meet Our Staff

Kim Karus


Kim Karus has been the director of First Step Preschool since Fall of 2014.

Kim has her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Youth Ministry and Social Science) from Nyack College, Nyack, NY.  She is also the director of children’s ministries at Hope Church.  When she is not working at First Step or the church, she is enjoying time with her husband Paul and daughters Kaylee and Mackenzie.  Kim is from Scranton, PA, but now resides in Wilton with her family.

In her free time, Kim volunteers with the church Middle School and High School Youth Groups.  She also enjoys long walks in nature, ice skating, skiing, concerts, going to the movies with her family and drinking coffee (loves Dunkin) with her friends.


Wendee Sommerville

Assistant Director

Wendee Sommerville is Assistant Director at First Step.  She joined the First Step family in 2011 as their Bookkeeper while her daughter attended the 4’s class, and now assists the Director in all facets of the school.

Wendee graduated from Gordon College in Wenham, MA with a Business Administration degree and prior to First Step, worked in the mortgage finance industry for over 20 years.

She lives in Wilton with her husband, Charlie, daughter Avery, and their dog, Riley.

Wendee has been a volunteer at VBS Kidz Camp active in Girl Scouts as their Treasurer as well as a volunteer for several years at Minks to Sinks.  She is originally from Wilton where her family was active at Hope Church and loves having her daughter grow up here as well.


Mary Hoermann

2’s Head Teacher

Mary Hoermann, is the head 2’s teacher at First Step.  She joined the first step family in 2014. Mary graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a B.S. in Business Administration and then did graduate course work in counseling.

Mary grew up in Norwalk, CT.  After college she lived in Westport for 10 years before moving to Wilton in 2005 when she married, husband Joe. They have a daughter Grace (2007) who attends Wilton public schools. She also has 3 step sons, Joe (1988) and George (1990) who live in Boston and Eddie (1996) who lives at home with them. They have a black lab, 2 Guinea pigs and a beta fish.

Mary loves being a mom and because of this, she slowly started getting involved with various activities in town. She was on the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) steering Committee at Hope Church for 2 years. Mary has also been a faithful volunteered for Kids Camp at Hope Church since 2011. She has also taught Sunday school since 2011, been a Girl Scout leader since 2011, was a Girls Scout Service Unit Organizer for 2 years and both President and Treasurer of the Wilton Mom’s Club as well as many other volunteer/service positions.

Mary’s relationship with First Step Preschool started in 2009 when her daughter Grace attended the 2’s class. She fell in love with the school and its small nurturing environment. Mary considers herself blessed to be a part of the staff at First Step.

Lesley Poulton

2’s Assistant

Miss Lesley has been Assistant Two’s Teacher at First Step since February 2015.

She lives in Ridgefield with her husband Chris and two children, Paige and Jack.  Lesley also has been Children and Youth Director of the Wilton class of Community Bible Study since 2011, and served her home church through co-directing its Vacation Bible School for 11 years.  One of her favorite things to do is perform annually with fellow marching band alumni at her university’s Homecoming football game.

Janet Swenson

3’s Head Teacher

Janet Swenson is the Lead Teacher in the 3’s class.

She has been with First Step since 2009, and previously she worked with different age groups.  Janet has a BA in Computer Science as well as her Child Development Associate Credential (CDA) a nationally recognized credential in the field of Early Childhood Education. She lives in Norwalk with husband Scott and their two children Rachael and Erik.  Janet attends Hope Church and has been very active in the children’s ministry program. She also enjoys spending time traveling with her family, reading, scrapbooking and various other crafts.


Kathy Totino

3’s Assistant

Kathy started at First step in 2009.

“I love to teach first and foremost because I honestly love children, especially our 3 year olds. I also love that I can be my playful and silly self while educating them in a way that they can enjoy learning. It gives me pleasure to see them grow and respond with eyes wide open and to see them ‘just get it’ when they learn something new is amazing!”

Kathy lives in Stamford with her husband Alex. She has 3 children, AJ, Kelly and Steven and also 1 granddaughter, Lilah. Born in 2016 and another one on the way in late November 2017, a boy! She also has 2 “furbabies”, Ryder and Sawyer, Mini Australian Shepherds.

Kathy has a passion for music and loves to sing. Disney World is her favorite place to visit.  She also loves all Disney movies! She enjoys taking care of their swan family, Sammy and Serena that live on their pond. In Kathy’s free time she loves taking pictures, cooking, baking, and spending time with her family. She also enjoys getting away to her 2nd home in Vt.

Heather Dobson

4’s Head Teacher

Heather Dobson joined First Step in September 2017.

She previously taught Kindergarten for seven years at the Stanwich School in Greenwich.  Heather has a B.S. degree from the University of Connecticut in Communication Sciences and earned her Master’s degree from Manhattanville College in Elementary and Special Education. She lives in Wilton with her husband and 3 children.  When not teaching, you can find Heather on the soccer, lacrosse and basketball sidelines cheering on her children and their teammates, volunteering at the schools, and exercising.

Clarissa Zapata

4’s Assistant

Clarissa Zapata is the Assistant Teacher in the 4’s class.

She graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL with a B.S. in Communication Studies.  During college, Clarissa studied Spanish and spent a year living in Sevilla, Spain.  She is excited to introduce Spanish to the 4’s curriculum.  Before joining First Step in 2017, Clarissa worked for many years in NYC at large advertising agencies, as well as for a publishing company which focused primarily on the home, health, and family.  Outside of work, Clarissa enjoys downhill skiing, running, and spending time with family and friends.  Clarissa lives in Westport with her husband Bob, her daughter Catalina, and her very energetic bird-dog, Toby.

Vita Silina


Vita Silina joined the staff at First Step in Fall of 2017 as a floater.

She is from Latvia and has been living in the United States since 2002.  Vita has her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Cēsīs College of Nursing.  Vita has a lot of experience, working with children.  She has been a nanny, she is the mother of three children and, she is also a Sunday School teacher, Kids Camp Leader and Midweek Program volunteer all at Hope Church.
Vita is married and has three children. Her and her family have been living in Wilton since 2004.

In her free time Vita enjoys hiking, gardening and cooking.  Vita feels that children are gifts from God and believes that every child needs a different approach in learning and exploring the world around them. She feels blessed and also excited to be a part of the First Step.