Meet our awesome teachers

Children are always asked “What  do you want to be when you grow up?” Well, when I was asked as a child, I said I wanted to be a teacher. My journey began at West Los Angeles Community College. During my time there I took many child development classes and joined a club, the Child Development Club. I eventually became the President and Treasurer of the club. Being the club President allowed me to get hands-on experience and deepened my passion for working with children. Two years later I transferred to California State University Fullerton where I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.

I have been working with DIG since February 2022 where I first became a sub, then I became a part time teacher and eventually a full time teacher. I have learned so much being at DIG and continue to learn everyday.

In my free time I enjoy listening to music, cooking, dancing, and taking naps with my doggy. 

I have been teaching at DIG since 2016 (when it started), first as a toddler teacher, then as a preschool teacher when the toddler program became part of the preschool. My work is very rewarding to me, supporting children as they play, work through conflicts, and have big feelings.

I attended Baby and Me classes with Barbara Olinger with my first child in 2006, and, in 2013, began teaching at Barbara’s toddler drop-off Cottage Activity Time when my second child started at the YWCA Co-op (which became Dig). Barbara’s ideas about supporting children’s needs, creating connection, validating feelings, and setting limits, really resonated with me. These ideas gave me the foundation to feel more confident, relaxed, and happy in my parenting, and now, in my teaching. 

I have a BA in Philosophy from UCLA and received my core ECE units from SMC. 

My self-care is exer-walking while listening to podcasts on my old ipod nano and always having a book around. My wonderful family brings me great joy. 

I began teaching at DIG when we were the YWCA Family Cooperative preschool (YFCP) in 2012. My journey officially started when I joined Barbara’s Toddler and Me class at the YWCA when my youngest child was about 18 months old, in 2010! I immediately clicked with Barbara and her philosophy of non-judgmental and child-led parenting and early childhood education. Fast forward to the summer of 2012 and my child and I began our time together at YFCP.

My love of working with children started at a young age with babysitting for friends and neighbors. After a stint in corporate America, working customer service and team management, I headed to SMC where I began taking Early Childhood Education (ECE) classes. I now have over 40 ECE units and 20+ years of experience working as a preschool teacher. I thoroughly enjoy my time as a Lead Teacher and Enrollment Coordinator at DIG. Assisting children as they develop and navigate the world of social interaction brings me a sense of joy and purpose in my life. Sharing my passion for storytelling, reading books, and general silliness is something I treasure every day. 

In my spare time you can find me hanging with my family, outside enjoying nature, exercising, watching movies, and cuddling with my dog.  

As a first-generation Mexican American, I initially doubted my ability to complete any academic institution, let alone embark on a career. However, witnessing my sister’s graduation from UC Berkeley instilled in me the belief that anything could be achieved.

My educational journey commenced in 2017 at Santa Monica College, where I enrolled in Early Childhood Education courses. Fortuitously, I had the opportunity to undertake my practicum courses at DIG, where I was fortunate to work closely with my mentor and now esteemed colleague, Paola. During this period, I was introduced to and wholeheartedly embraced DIG’s philosophy.

After successfully attaining my Associate of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education, I secured a position as a substitute teacher. Subsequently, in 2019, I made the transition to Chico State University, where I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development. Upon my graduation, equipped with this advanced qualification, I eagerly returned to DIG, ready to jumpstart my professional teaching career, dedicated to nurturing the minds of the next generation.

Just a glimpse into my life: I’ve got 5 siblings, speak two languages, and on my days off, you’ll find me babysitting, playing video games, cranking up the music, taking nighttime strolls, and teaching my cat all sorts of cool tricks!

Hi, I’m Barbara! I have a Masters in Social Work and have worked with children and families in both educational and therapeutic settings for over 37 years. This has included being a Child and Family Therapist, the Supervising Clinician in an outpatient mental health clinic, and Director of Family Development at the YWCA Santa Monica / Westside. I am one of the co-founders of the “original” DIG, a cooperative daycare and preschool started in 1989. In my current private practice, I focus on parent support for parents of children ages 1-12 years old and teacher training. I offer on-going groups, individual/couples sessions, a monthly Dads Group, workshops on a variety of parenting topics, and phone consultations. I have two sons, 31 and 28 years old.

I am a consultant with DIG, providing monthly parent support groups for the Preschool program. I also meet with the DIG staff in an advisory capacity, helping understand developmentally driven behaviors and specific strategies to support the children.

During this whole parenting journey, it is crucial to be conscious of our own needs and to take care of ourselves. Sharing our fears and anxieties about parenting with others can help us realize we all feel vulnerable at times and this can provide a space for growth and connection.  Every parent needs support!

You can find my book on parenting “Growing From the Roots” on

Hi, my name is Gina Oster and my passion for working with children began many years ago. I started at a Boys and Girls Club in my hometown of Laguna Beach and continued at a faculty preschool while earning my double major (BA in Psychology and BA in Theater Arts) at UC Santa Cruz. When I pursued my MFA in Acting from UCLA, my work with children went on pause, but I always knew I would find my way back.

In 2011, I heard of a new preschool opening only blocks from my home with a philosophy based on concepts fundamental to Play Mountain (the school my children went to and where I volunteered), and true to my heart: a focus on social emotional growth and a non-judgemental approach to conflict-resolution. I interviewed days later, and the rest is history. As the school has grown, so have I–through continued education, working alongside our incredible teacher team and engaging with the children and their families daily. 

Anyone who knows me knows my love of all things theater. Since 2009, I have been a private acting coach and theater teacher to students aged 3.5+. My great joys in life are my children, my family, my dogs and cats, swimming, music, and my backyard.

When I first moved from Tehran, Iran to the United States as a young mother and immigrant, I knew that I wanted to start my own career. I explored different career options but it was not until I volunteered at my daughter’s preschool when I was immediately drawn to Early Childhood Education.

Upon discovering my new passion, I started taking Early Childhood Education classes. As soon as I started working in preschools, I very quickly fell in love with the playfulness and innocence of young children. I love using my gardening skills to teach and inspire the kids to get messy and get in touch with the environment and nature! I also use homemade puppets to tell stories and teach the kids about creativity. 

I take joy and pride in using my sense of humor and silliness while also supporting children by validating their feelings and emotions. I enjoy gardening, yoga, spending time with my family, and reading. I pride myself in being a lifelong learner by continuing my education and attending workshops to always be my best self. 

I grew up on the westside of  LA. I began studying Early Childhood Education at Santa Monica College when my second child was born. My BFA from Otis Art Institute compliments my ECE work, informing my curriculum and environment plans.

In July of 2011 I was hired by the YWCA SM/Westside  to open a cooperative preschool on their campus in Santa Monica. 

That school, The YWCA Family Cooperative Preschool, eventually became DIG Childhood Center. Collaborating with parents, teachers and consultants I led the development of the program to what it is today. DIG is truly a  play based, child directed program with lots of support for children, parents and staff.

In addition to being Teacher/Director at DIG I enjoy gardening, thrifting, cooking and time with my family.