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Welcome to pre-kindergarten!



The 2012-2013 school school year is the sixth year of the pre-kindergarten program at Shady Side Academy Junior School. In our early childhood programs, we seek to “develop the path for the child, not the child for the path.” Our PK is a dynamic program which is responsive to each individual child. Each day reflects a careful balance of child-initiated and teacher-initiated learning. Our program values spontaneous, open-ended, imaginative play combined with multi-sensory experiences and hands-on learning. Indoor experiences take place in classrooms with different learning areas for literacy, science, math, art, blocks, dramatic play, and sand and water tables. For outdoor play, the offerings include playground equipment, grassy fields, paved paths for riding, a covered porch, gardens, and sand and water play.


Teacher Biographies


 Melanie Dorn, Alexis Randall, Carolyn Mericle, and Lindsay Rusnak



Ms. Dorn

Hello! My name is Melanie Dorn. I have been teaching pre-kindergarten at Shady Side Academy since the beginning of the program in 2007. Like several of my colleagues, I am a Pittsburgh native. I attended the University of Pittsburgh, where I obtained my bachelor's degree in applied developmental psychology (formerly child development) in 2003, and my early childhood teaching certification as well as a Master of Education in early childhood in 2004. Prior to my arrival at Shady Side, I had been living in Quito, Ecuador, teaching kindergarten in an international school setting. 

One of the greatest rewards of working at Shady Side Academy has been the opportunity to develop the pre-kindergarten program alongside my outstanding co-teachers. Each year brings a new set of wonderful students and, along with it, the chance to tailor our instruction to each child's needs.  I love to watch as the learning unfolds throughout the day and over the course of the year!


Mrs. Mericle

Hello! My name is Carolyn Mericle.  A Pittsburgh native, I began my teaching career in the Washington, D.C., area. While studying early childhood and elementary education at George Washington University, I worked in a preschool with children ages 2-5, where I learned to value active learning and to attend to the unique needs of every child. After completing my student teaching in public schools in the D.C. area, I knew that an independent school was the right setting for me. I didn’t want to teach my students with a one-size-fits-all curriculum, I wanted to be able to individualize. After graduation, I taught first grade at the Lowell School for nine years. Then I ran Lowell's after school programs for grades K-6. When our family returned to Pittsburgh, I began pursuing a master's degree in reading education at the University of Pittsburgh and served as education director at River Valley School.

I consider myself very fortunate to be here at SSA Junior School. I taught in the kindergarten program for one year as the PK program was being developed. That year prepared me to dovetail the PK smoothly into the fabric of the Junior School and get our students ready for kindergarten. It has been the professional opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of the PK program "from the ground up".

My husband Lance, my daughter Kylie and I live in Swissvale. We love animals, reading, hiking, skiing, gardening and spending time with family.


Mrs. Randall

Hello! My name is Alexis Randall. I have been teaching PK at Shady Side Academy since 2008. I am originally from a small town in Indiana County. I attended the University of Pittsburgh, where I received my bachelor's degree in liberal studies with a concentration in elementary education and a children's literature certificate in 2005. In 2006 I received my elementary K-6 teaching certification from Pitt's School of Education. After completing my student teaching in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, in a 5th grade setting, I realized teaching younger children was for me. I have been teaching at private schools in the Pittsburgh area since 2006 in both preschool and kindergarten. I also have experience working as a summer camp counselor for children ages 4 to 8.

As my co-teachers will tell you, I have a passion for children's literature. I am thrilled to share my love of children's books with our students and to read many different stories to them. I value hands-on learning and individualized teaching that is developmentally appropriate. I also make every effort to establish strong relationships with all of my students and their families.

My husband, Bryan, and I welcomed our first child, Alexander, to our family in June 2011. We live in Bethel Park. As a family, we enjoy traveling, reading and spending time with our friends and family.


Ms. Rusnak

Hi there! My name is Lindsay Rusnak, and I am incredibly excited to join the PreK team and learning community at the Junior School. After a long absence, I am happy to be back in my hometown. I left Pittsburgh 12 years ago for Columbus, Ohio, where I earned my B.A. in Literature from Otterbein College in 2004. Soon after, I moved to Chicago, where I started my own tutoring and childcare agency, and earned a Master's of Education from DePaul University. Prior to coming back to Pittsburgh, I taught in both public and independent schools in Chicago, Columbus, and New Orleans in grades PreK - 6. I believe my experience gives me a well-rounded perspective on education and learning. This will help me to bring a diverse and unique flavor to the Junior School and the PreK program. 

Teaching and learning with children is my passion, and I could never imagine working in any other profession. I think that early childhood education is extremely important. There are so many interesting ways to facilitate learning with the kids we get to work and learn with. Young children are naturally inquisitive and curious; it is my goal to lead and enrich our kids to think critically through thoughtful discussions and questioning, hands-on learning, individualized attention, and the use of classroom technology. 

I live in Lawrenceville with my dog, Benny. I'm a big sports fan - I like to go to Pirates games, and I'm a huge NFL football fanatic. I also enjoy cooking, doing anything active outdoors, and traveling to see friends and family.


Contact Information

Melanie Dorn

Carolyn Mericle

Alexis Randall

Lindsay Rusnak




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