Meet the Team


Dr. Essence Allen-Presley

Dr. Allen-Presley has over 15 years of experience in the field of education. Dr. Essence Allen-Presley is the current owner of I.C.U. STEM Academy a STAR 4 childcare program in Delaware County. She is the founder and President of The Childcare Institute of America (TCIOA), which empowers parents to advocate for their children with special needs in educational systems. She is also the Founder and CEO of the FIRST Career Institute in Pennsylvania for Early Childhood Professionals called The Education Institute for Early Intervention that trains non-educators to work with children with special needs.

Dr. Allen-Presley’s currently works for Widener University as an Assistant Professor of Teaching and the Program Coordinator for Special Education and recently transition into the Director of the Child Development Center. Dr. Allen-Presley is a contractor and consultant with several companies including 1199c, Community College of Philadelphia, MECCA, and Penn Literacy Network. Her previous roles include Director of Direct Service and Special Projects at Elwyn Institute and School District of Philadelphia where she served in various teaching and administrative positions for 11 years.

Dr. Allen-Presley collaborates and trains childcare programs and various organizations throughout the region on multiple ways to enhance their services to children with special needs and behavior challenges in early learning programs. Dr. Allen-Presley published a book in 2015 titled, The Influence of Attachment Theory Professional Development on the Day-to-Day Interactions between Early Childhood Professionals and Infants in Childcare Facilities. The book examined whether providing professional development on attachment to early childcare professionals (ECP) influences the day-to-day interactions with the infants in their care. To date, professional development and formal education is lacking at the pre-kindergarten level of early childhood education and early intervention, which was her motivation for starting a Career Institute.

Dr. Allen-Presley continues to advocate at the local and state level to increase the training and education of early childcare professionals around special education. Dr. Allen-Presley has presented at various conferences, lectures, and seminars throughout the city of Philadelphia, state of Pennsylvania, and the country. She understands the need for QUALITY childcare programs and its impact on school readiness in the K-12 system. 

Dr. Allen-Presley earned her doctoral degree in Education Leadership from Saint Joseph University. She holds two master’s degrees, one in Urban and Regional Planning and in Special Education. She also holds a Special Education, K-12 Leadership, Special Education and Curriculum & Instruction Supervisory Certificates in the state of Pennsylvania. Dr. Allen-Presley was born in the Philadelphia area and graduated from Strawberry Mansion High School.

Ms. Trisha


Hi! My name is Ms. Trisha. I have been teaching at the CDC since 1997. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. While each classroom has a diverse population, I strive for unity through cooperative play, songs, academics, and shared experiences of reading books. In my spare time I enjoy baking, walking, reading and crossword puzzles.

Ms. Jara

Teacher Assistant

Hi everyone! My name is Jara Arroyo and I am currently working as a teacher assistant here at the Child Development Center. I have been teaching in the Kinderbears classroom for almost 2 years. I completed my undergraduate degree at Widener and I am now getting my Masters in Elementary Education here at Widener as well. I love working with kids and have wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade! I am looking forward to the start of another school year that will be filled with lots of learning and new adventures!

Ms. Isabella

Graduate Assistant

Hi! My name is Isabella Hamlin. I am a graduate student at Widener University, and this semester I have the privilege to work at the Widener Child Development Center. I just graduated in May 2021 and received a bachelors degree in early elementary and special education. I am working on my master’s degree in elementary education and plan to receive that in May 2022. During previous my undergrad I was able complete observations, teach lessons and even student teach at the CDC. I am excited to be back, and work along side some familiar faces. In my free time you can find me with friends or at the beach in the summer! I look forward to seeing children I taught some of my first lessons to grow and blossom here at the CDC.

Ms. Sharay

Teacher Assistant

Hello! I am Sharay Miller, I’m an assistant teacher here at the Widener Child Development Center. I was born and raised here in Chester, PA and I am enthused to work in my hometown. I graduated from Neumann University with a bachelors in Psychology. I’ve been working at the WCDC since August of 2018 and I truly enjoy working here. I value my role supporting the teacher and families as well. I look forward to every school year being a great year and watching the children grow!


Ms. Tara


Hi! My name is Tara Donovan, also known as Ms. Tara. I am the head teacher of the Shining Stars class. I am a graduate of Archbishop Prendergast High School. I attended West Chester University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. I now reside in Garnet Valley with my husband of 24 years, Mike, and my 2 children, Michael and Cameron. Michael is a senior at Widener majoring in Digital Media Informatics. Cameron is a sophomore at Widener majoring in Biology but will be transferring to Saint Joe’s University in the fall. I also have 3 fur babies, Kasper, Samson and our quarantine puppy, Scooby. I have taught at the CDC for 4 years and have enjoyed every minute of it. I love seeing things through the eyes of a child. They remind me of how exciting and amazing our world can be.

Ms. Haley

Teacher Assistant

Hello all! My name is Haley Ingram, I am an assistant teacher at the Widener Child Development Center. I had previously attended both Millersville University as well as Delaware County Community College. Currently I am finishing my degree here at Widener University. I have been here at the CDC since 2019. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, enjoying the outdoors and seeing what I am able to create in the kitchen. One thing I am passionate about is my love for music. I love listening to a variety of genres while attending concerts and shows when I am able too.

Elwyn Partnership

“Early intervention is the process of assessing and providing support and services for young children with developmental delays or disabilities, and their families, in order to promote development and well-being. Quality early intervention services can minimize the delays and challenges that some young learners experience; research show that the earlier a child receives services, the better the outcome. Early intervention services are evidence-based and proven by science to teach young children new behaviors or skills to improve communication and social skills. If you have a developmental concern about your child, please call us to schedule a multidisciplinary evaluation for your child and family. We are here to help.”

Visit to learn more about Elwyn’s mission.