Carnegie Mellon University

2022–2023 Family Spotlights

October | November | December | January | February | March | April | May

October 2022: Snapshot of Our Community

During September, the friends in all our classes got to know each other by sharing information about themselves and their families, which prompted us to discuss similarities and differences so that we can better appreciate the diversity among us.  The “All About Me” projects in the preschool and kindergarten give children and families an opportunity to get to know each other better.  You will be able to see these projects at the October Open House!

This year, we have 59 families with 61 children in Children’s School programs, including 23 only children.  21 of these families are new to the school.  Among our families, we have six in which one parent is a Children’s School alum. Fourteen of our families have a parent who is a current graduate student, researcher, staff member, or faculty member at Carnegie Mellon. 

In addition to nurturing their children, the adult family members in our school have a wide variety of professional and volunteer roles in the community, including in the arts, communication, education, engineering, finance, government, health care, housing, hospitality, law, manufacturing, marketing, media, retail, social services, technology, trades, transportation, etc.

Our families live in and around Pittsburgh, including Aliquippa, Braddock, Bradford Woods, Bridgeville, Dormont, Fox Chapel, Greentree, Homestead, Monroeville, Munhall, Oakland, Oakmont, Point Breeze, Regent Square, Sewickley, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, and Wilkinsburg.

About 30% of our children are dual language learners (18).  This year, we have families speaking at least 15 languages besides English: Arabic, Chichewa, Chinese, French, German, Gujarati, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Nepali, Persian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and Vietnamese.

As one way of helping families get to know each other across classes, we will introduce one or more each month in our newsletter’s Family Spotlight column.  Please contact Mrs. Yetter if you would like to be a featured family.  You can see prior family profiles on the school web site under “For Families”.  The Cho, Forbes, Insanally-Albanna, Lama, MacWhinney, McCray, and O’Leary families have introduced themselves in the last few years.

November 2022: Roots in Pittsburgh & Lebanon

sakr-min.pngHello, Children’s School Families! We are the Sakr family, Majd, Nisrine and Alex. We are very happy to call Pittsburgh our home. Majd moved to Pittsburgh from Beirut, Lebanon, when he was 19 years old to study at the University of Pittsburgh. Despite living in different cities in the US and abroad, Majd always returned to Pittsburgh. We met in Beirut. I was the financial manager of a catering company, enjoying the wonderful Mediterranean weather of Lebanon, the good food, and the breathtaking views of the mountains and the sea. When Majd accepted a teaching position at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ), we were both excited to be part of a community of international schools and universities that were building the capacity and shaping the future of a nation. I kept working remotely as a financial consultant for a company in Beirut. Majd was heading the computer science department and then the research office at CMUQ. Moving to the dichotomy of mellow but rapidly evolving Qatar was a culture shock but the hardest part was getting used to the very hot (100ºF in the summer) and humid climate of the desert nation. After 7 years in Qatar and a lot, rather too much, travel for work, exploration and visiting family in Beirut, we decided to move to Pittsburgh.

Prior to moving permanently to Pittsburgh, my first visit to the US was to be a member of a support crew for Majd and 3 other cyclists as part of the Race Across America, riding from San Diego to Annapolis in 8 days. Despite the challenge of having to drive a large RV and navigating unfamiliar cities and roads, I could have never thought of a better introduction to this beautiful and diverse country. We moved to Pittsburgh in 2013. Majd accepted a position as a teaching faculty with the school of computer science at CMU; by that time, I was remotely managing a winery that Majd and I had started in Mount Lebanon (the original Mount Lebanon, in Lebanon).

Alex was born in 2019 and our life was transformed in many wonderful ways! Alex turned 3 this past August. It has been only a couple of months since he joined his friends in the Red Room at the Children’s School, but we can already see the big impact of those few months. His passion for role play, especially assigning the roles and commanding the narrative is now nourished by the stories read at school. Every day, we re-enact the stories of the big bad wolf blowing down the block structures and the troll living under the bridge where we repeatedly build and rebuild the bridge. Alex loves listening to music and dancing, going a bit too fast on his scooter or bike, and asking his mom to tell him stories where he is ALWAYS the heroic protagonist.

But Alex’s greatest passion, for now, is getting in the driving seat of any lawn mower, tractor, or construction truck in sight. He also loves to race his father on the stationary bikes in our home gym. He likes to spend time at the Carnegie Library (mostly chatting with the wonderfully kind librarians), the Science Center, and Carnegie Museum of Natural History. As a family, we enjoy spending our weekends in our cabin adjacent to Moraine State Park. We love cooking, playing outdoors, taking our kayaks on the water to watch the sunset, and exploring the many parks and trails around Pittsburgh via hiking or cycling.

For our summer vacation, we still enjoy traveling and exploring other cultures, but we always make sure to stop in Lebanon so Alex can spend time with his many, many, aunts, uncles, cousins, and, of course, grandmas and grandpa.

We knew on our first visit to the Children’s School that it would be a great match for us and Alex. Our belief is confirmed daily as Alex walks to school with Majd, happily chatting and looking excited about the day to come. We look forward to seeing Alex grow, learn, explore, and be challenged at the nurturing, stimulating and loving environment of the Children’s School.


December 2022: The Russo CMU Tradition

russo-1-min.jpegHi everyone; we’re the Russo 4! The members of our family are Guy, Christen, Lorelai (4), and Una (1.5). Lorelai is enjoying her second year in the Children’s School as a Green Roomer. We live in the Observatory Hill neighborhood of the North Side, very close to Riverview Park, where we go just about every day. We also have a cat named Oscar, who is known by many of our neighbors because he follows us on walks.



Lorelai had the path to Carnegie Mellon paved for her by her dad, aunt, uncle, grandfather, and her grandmum Audrey, who was a familiar face in the Psychology Department for many years working with Dr. David Klahr and the Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research (PIER), both of which were closely connected with the Children’s School.

Lorelai loves imaginative play, dressing up in costumes, making art of all sorts, and singing. We create little parody jingles about every little thing all the time, and Lorelai has quite the knack for it. She has an awesome sense of humor, and she impresses and delights us constantly. 

Una is our notably smiley, round-cheeked baby who says “hi” to everyone she meets, “awww!” to every cat or dog she encounters, and reliably dances to every song or beat. She adores her sister, and her sister is incredibly caring of her. She’s destined for the Children’s School in a couple of years!

russo-3-min.jpegChristen is a freelance writer, a doula, and is always roping everyone into a craft or a dance party. Guy is a CMU graduate who studied music composition, paired with a private study of piano tuning under Peter Stumpf. He now works as a piano tuner by day, a singer on weekends, and a gigging folk musician when fatherhood allows. His favorite hobby is mountain biking (really, anything to do with nature or bikes), and he recently picked Lorelai up from school on his bike for the first time—quite the journey to & from the North Side.

We are so thrilled to be among such good, kind, inspiring people at the Children’s School!

January 2023: CMU Alums Return with Children

zlot1-min.jpegHi Children’s School Families! We are Sandra Mau and Robert Zlot, parents of Emmet (5, Kindergarten) and Rosetta (3, Red Room). Emmet has been with the Children’s School since the Preschool 3’s. For the past two years, Rosetta dropped Emmet at school daily and got to know his teachers, so she was very pleased in September to start in the 3’s Program with some familiar teachers, and to hang out with Emmet and his Kindergarten friends during greeting at the Margaret Morrison rotunda.

This is Rob and Sandra’s second stint in Pittsburgh. Despite both growing up in Toronto, Canada, we only first met in Pittsburgh 17 years ago as graduate students in the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics program in the School of Computer Science. After graduation, we moved to Brisbane, Australia for work, and ended up staying for 9 years. We enjoyed the relaxed culture, beautiful beaches, warm weather, and did a lot of travelling. Rob worked as a Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO, working with large robotic vehicles and inventing handheld 3D-laser mapping systems. Sandra worked as a Computer Vision Researcher at NICTA and spun out a tech startup specializing in computer vision for trademark protection. As Sandra’s company expanded to the US, we decided to move back to Pittsburgh to open an office here. Rob joined a self-driving car group to lead the Localization (vehicle positioning) team.

zlot2-min.jpegTwo years later, Emmet was born, and Rosetta joined us two years after that. Rosetta was born right before year-end, so she is the youngest student in the Red Room (and Children’s School) this year. These days, she loves Disney princesses, playing “Go Fish”, and looking up to her big brother. Rosetta also loves school and regularly reviews in detail all the 3’s friends she played with that day. Emmet loves vehicles, reading, writing, math, board games, online games like Wordle, and being silly with his little sister. They both enjoy playing outdoors and love the Children’s School. They have developed so much in their time there, and we’re very appreciative of this supportive community.

February 2023: The Adams Family (snap, snap)

The Adams FamilyHello Children's School Family! We are Jon, Samantha, Cole, and Ellie, otherwise known as the Adams Family (snap, snap). Cole (7) graduated from the Children's School in 2021. His favorite Children's School memories are the Make Shop, the baby chicks, the egg drop day, and reuniting with his Children's School friends each year at the CMU Spring carnival. Ellie (4) is in the Green Room and loves music class and circle time. It is a joy to watch her flourish, chatting happily about what went on at school each day and all the friends in the Green Room. Outside of school, Ellie loves playing soccer and attending dance class. 

Samantha attended Carnegie Mellon University for her undergraduate degree in Psychology and actually worked in one of the research labs that conducts research at the Children's School. She vividly remembers observing the classrooms, walking children back to play research games, and the delightful conversations with the friends and educators! This work not only inspired her to pursue a PhD in Cognition and Learning so that she could continue to work with children but demonstrated how special of a place the Children's School truly is.  

Samantha and Jon both grew up in Pittsburgh, and after 8 years living in New York City, were happy to move back to Pittsburgh where they now live in Sewickley. The family's favorite Pittsburgh activities include hanging with their dog, Sally, cheering for the Pens, Steelers, and sometimes even the Pirates, visiting the Children's Museum, and scoping out new playgrounds to try.

Our family is so grateful to be a part of this wonderful Children's School community!

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March 2023: Family Roots in Showbiz


Hello Children’s School families! We are the Jordan Family - Eileen, Patrick, and Pepper. Pepper is an enthusiastic classmate of the friends in the Green Room Preschool 4’s! When we pick Pepper up from school every day, we ask her how her day was. The response is always, “AMAZING!”. While she’s often trailing something home from her adventures in the infamous Mud Kitchen, Pepper also has enthusiastically embraced everything the school has to offer. She enjoys circle time, music class, the Make Shop, and most of all, she loves expressing herself through storytelling by way of the many creative outlets offered by the Green Room teachers. As parents, we have been overjoyed to watch her thrive under the careful supervision and creativity of The Children’s School team. 

Patrick is a Pittsburgh born-and-raised actor, writer, director, and producer. He is the founder and the artistic director of “barebones productions” ( The critically acclaimed theater, now located in Braddock, PA, is celebrating a milestone 20 years this year! Patrick is also a recipient of Pittsburgh Post Gazette's Performer of the Year recognition. You may have seen him in film and television roles like The Dark Knight Rises, Mindhunter, She’s Out of My League, The Next Three Days, American Rust, and Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Eileen is a founding partner of Revive Marketing Group, a boutique marketing, public relations, and brand-strategy firm in Pittsburgh. In her formative years, she was a vocalist who studied with Carnegie Mellon’s own beloved Dr. Robert Page. 

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We met when we were 8 years old at a performing arts camp, and the rest, as they say in showbiz, is history.  We have a profound love of the arts and of Pittsburgh, and we have proudly served on non-profit boards in recent years. Most weekends, we support our favorite organizations and explore our city together as a family. In fact, Pepper can give complete and very detailed tours of the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History and can also direct you to some of the best local eateries in town! In addition to enjoying (and, we hope, contributing to!) the endless arts and entertainment options in our fair city, we’re especially looking forward to Pepper’s first dance recital this year!

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Our family is so grateful for the connection we feel to The Children’s School community and the amazing families and friends we’ve met here. We hope to see you around town!

April 2023: Alumni Families & Their Children

The Children’s School has been offering high quality early childhood education to our community for since 1968. Sometimes, we have the delightful circumstance of having former Children’s School students return to our school as parents. This year, we have several parents who once attended the Children’s School as preschoolers themselves! Below are a few of their stories.

apr-fs-borrebach-min.jpgMike Borrebach: I am the father of Isla, one of the Preschool 3’s Red Room friends. I am also a Children’s School alumni class of 1992. Many of my earliest memories are from the classrooms and playground at Margaret Morrison. I remember my teachers greeting & smiling at me when my Mom dropped me off, singing songs during circle time, and playing on the playground with my very first best friend, Mark (hope you’re doing well, Mark–it’s been a while!). I also went on to attend CMU for undergrad and met my wife Cameron here as well. When it came time to decide on a preschool for Isla, choosing the Children’s School was our immediate choice. We have both had such positive experiences here, and we truly believe Carnegie Mellon is a special place. Isla is loving school, and we all love the wonderful educators here. I’m so happy that Carnegie Mellon continues to be a part of my life and is now a part of Isla’s life as well!

apr-fs-800x800-min.jpgAli Gitomer Rizzo: As I reflect on my time at the Children’s School, I can't help but smile. I remember the playground on the other side of the building, with tricycles and climbers. I remember lots of sensory play with finger paint and shaving cream. One of my favorite days in younger 3’s (now the Red Room), was when the whole room was set up like a real grocery store. I remember cooking lunch in Kindergarten and doing a life-size painted selfportrait. Miss Hancock was my Kindergarten teacher! When considering preschools for Sage, I knew the Children’s School would give her an incredible foundation in early learning. When I asked my mom about the Children’s School, she said it provided a wonderful creative learning foundation for my sister and me. She would definitely send her granddaughter there, too! My husband, Ben, and I really didn't consider any other options since I had had such a good experience and was so well prepared for Ellis. We are very happy with our choice and love seeing how excited Sage is for school every day.

apr-fs-markel-min.jpgLeslie Markel: I chose the Children's School for Finn because of the great experience that I had there as a child. I have very fond memories of being in Mrs. Smalley's classroom, singing songs at circle time, learning some important manners, and speeding around the playground track on tricycles (in what is now the reflection garden). Even though a lot has changed over the years, the things that have always made the Children's School such a special place are still there today. I knew that Finn would be in good hands, and I've been so happy to see how much he's grown and flourished these last two years.

May 2023: Children’s School Journey

andrianos-1-min.jpgHello Children’s School families, we are the Andrianos Family: Theo, Emilee, Lillianna (5) and Olivia (3). As Lilly nears the end of her Kindergarten year, we are amazed at how she thrived over the past 3 years being around her school friends and the wonderful staff and educators.  Her fondness for hands-on activities, reading, and nature has grown exponentially, and she absolutely loved the performing arts unit.  She proudly demonstrated her tap-dancing skills and shared enthusiastic accounts of enacting “I’m the King of the Mountain”.  Lilly leads the Kindness Pledge with us at mealtime and explains to Olivia that she will get to do fun activities next year when she starts in the Red and Blue Rooms. 

Outside the classroom, Lilly enjoys swimming, Ninja Gym, and soccer.  As a family, we spend time hiking, playing in our yard, and chasing our “boysies” Cooper and Boone. We love to visit museums, play games, and have dance parties!  During Lilly’s first 2 years at the CMU Children’s School, we lived in Regent Square and were board members of the Run Around the Square, a 5k foot race in which Lilly placed 2nd last summer.  We loved walking the trails through Frick Park and throwing rocks in the creek!  Theo was raised in the Square and returned to the area after finishing his BS at Penn State.  He enjoys mountain biking and camping, which he has taught Lilly to do as well. He has worked for PNC as a project manager and scrum master for the past 10 years.  Emilee is originally from Ohio and played soccer for Marietta College.  She was inducted to her high school’s athletic Hall of Fame shortly after Lilly was born and completed her Doctorate in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health in 2012.  After a post-doc, she joined ProImmune, Inc., where she is currently a Senior Immunology Specialist working with pharmaceutical, biotech, and academic institutes developing novel therapeutics and vaccines.

We moved from our Regent Square home to Bradford Woods last summer and have enjoyed exploring the area and meeting new friends.  We will miss our daily drives with Lilly and hearing all about her day, but we look forward to continuing our CMU Children’s School journey with Olivia!

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