meet our staff

Debbie Descant
Part Time Teacher

Debbie has her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education as well as her Director's License. Debbie had taught in several programs before coming to Smart Start in 2002 as a Lead Teacher. She is a mother of three , grandmother of seven beautiful children and brings all of the demeanors that encompass the "perfect" grandmother. She fills our school with a calmness surrounded by those special abilities necessary to create learning opportunities in every corner of our room. Debbie's unique style creates excitement in children to learn, enjoy education and reach for the stars. The children are blessed to be engulfed by her warm heart and love for teaching.


Chantal Gilbert
Part Time Teacher

Chantal Gilbert was first introduced to Smart Start as the mother of three children who were enrolled in the program over the course of 6 years.  “I saw over and over again how they were being taught kindness and responsibility as well as the Pre-K curriculum, and I just knew I wanted to be part of that team!”

Chantal became a teacher in the Part-time program in the fall of 2012.  She has her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and French, and a Post-baccalaureate certificate plus a Master’s degree in  Special Education. Chantal has been an integral part of our team sharing not only her varied educational expertise but also her ability to teach with passion and devotion.


Gina Hodovanec
Part Time Assistant

Gina Hodovanec was part of the Smart Start family for several years prior to joining the staff in 2008.  When her daughter attended Smart Start, Gina became involved with the program through her work on the Parent Board and the Fall Festival.  The fit was too good to give up, so after her daughter graduated from preschool Gina stayed on and was hired as a Teaching Assistant.

With her background of a BS in Biology and Chemistry and her credentials as a Certified Medical Technologist, Gina brings a wealth of experience to the classroom, especially during our units on Health, Safety and Science.  She also does great “jazz hands!”

Cait Geaughan
Full Time Teacher

Cait is a teacher in our Full Day Program and joined our staff in 2010. During her journey to obtain her B.S. in Early Childhood Education, Cait fulfilled several educational requirements at Smart Start and then volunteered many personal hours reflecting her love of teaching young children. Cait is currently enrolled in the Master's program at AIC focusing her studies in Moderate Disabilities. Cait was the perfect choice to become a teacher in our expanding school.  Cait is a leader in the classroom with a creative curriculum, passion and love for creativity. She can be found engulfed up to her elbows in the messiest creative art you can imagine, enthusiastically encouraging children to use their imagination. She is always on the lookout for teachable moments to expand literacy, math and science!

Kimberlee Dettman
Full Time Teacher

Kim was welcomed into our Smart Start Family in 2013. Kim worked for six years in a private preschool as an assistant while earning her Associates degree in Early Education. During this time, she had the opportunity to take on many of the duties of a teacher and gained the skills necessary to seamlessly take on the demanding position of full time teacher. With all of her experience,  artistic creativity and musical background, Kim has been a perfect fit with our philosophy and mission and is constantly striving to excel.

Kim is a ray of sunshine to parents and children, who find her personality, sense of humor and  warmth comforting. Kim can be found challenging children academically and as young children navigating their way through life. Kim lives in Agawam with her husband and is very excited to be teaching in her hometown and having a second "home" at Smart Start.

Josie Holdsworth
Full Time Assistant

As a mom, Josie volunteered for two years at Smart Start. It was evident ,with her gentle and caring personality, she was meant to became part of our "family". Josie was hired as a Teaching Assistant in our Full Day Program when Smart Start expanded its program and moved to its current location. She brings 35 years of musical experience, including 10 years of working in children’s musical theatre. 

Josie also has a certificate in American Sign Language from Springfield College and a BS in Gerontology. Josie brings sunshine into our school each day with her warm smile and gentle nature. Josie uses her extraordinary organizational skills to keep us organized throughout the entire facility!





Linda Pacheco
Full Time Assistant

Linda has been at Smart Start since 2010 as a Teaching Assistant. Linda is a mom completing her Associates degree in Early Childhood Education at Holyoke Community College and is looking forward to earning her B.S. in the near future. She brings a smiling face each day as she keeps our "home" sparkling clean and enthusiastically helps the teachers as she works towards her dream of having her own classroom. Linda's love of creative art is seen everywhere in our classrooms. Each day we scan the rooms noticing something new that Linda has created!

Dawn Dube
Assistant Director

Dawn obtained her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education from Holyoke Community College in 1991.Upon graduation, she was employed as a toddler teacher at the Jewish Community Center in Longmeadow until she left to start her family. As a parent of two children at Smart Start her knowledge of early childhood education and her love for teaching was evident from the start! Dawn joined our staff in 2003 and through her dedication and unique abilities in teaching, family guidance, mentoring and leadership, she is playing a major role in our success as an Assistant Director.

Robin Jensen

Robin has been in the early childhood field for 23 years. She has a BS degree in Physical Education from Central CT. State University and has furthered her education at Westfield State University, The Elms and STCC. After teaching as a movement education specialist at Westfield's Early Childhood Program at Fort Meadow School, she discovered her love for teaching preschool age children. As her three children all entered into public school in Agawam, she was hired as a classroom teacher in a private early childhood program launching her career as a early childhood educator and director. Robin became the director of the program and then ventured out on her own to begin Smart Start Preschool, Inc. in 2000. Smart Start has evolved from a small one room program to offering both a popular part -time program and a full time structured preschool in order to better serve the needs of today's parents. After many years of leadership in a quality, well regarded program, her passion for children, families and community continues to drive her quest for excellence .


our mission

Our mission is to provide a quality early educational experience for children and parents..

Our mission is to provide a quality early educational experience for children and parents that reflect a caring atmosphere of mutual respect, individuality, and personal empowerment as a foundation for personal and educational success.

our philosophy

Your partner in education

Our program believes each child is unique and special. Every child will be treated with respect, and every effort will be provided for each child to develop to their full potential. We strive to fulfill the individual needs of each child, help each child attain a positive self-image, develop a sense of responsibility, and recognize the values of family, community, and education.

Smart Start provides a structured setting encouraging the development of decision-making and problem-solving skills, positive social interaction, and tolerance of others. We believe that strong, confident, and responsible, children are best equipped to succeed in their education, community, and families.