Our Teachers

Melissa Hresko

Headshot of Melissa.  Melissa is smiling and standing in front of some vegitation.  Pink flowers can be seen in the blurry background.

Director and Teacher

Melissa joined Russell in the summer of 2021 after discovering the school through a friend who teaches there (Naomi Shea). Melissa has worked in Early Education for over 11 years. Before joining Russell, Melissa oversaw the creation and implementation of curriculum for infants through Pre-K at a childcare center in Natick. Prior to serving as Curriculum Coordinator, she was Head Teacher of a mixed-ager Pre-K classroom for 5 years. Melissa has a true passion for creating unique and emergent curriculum with a focus on nature-based activities and hands-on exploration for children of all ages. Melissa is Director II certified from the Massachusetts EEC and holds a BS in Marketing/Advertising Communications from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI.

Melissa grew up on the New Jersey shore. After college, she worked at an advertising agency for almost 3 years before moving to Massachusetts in 2009. She found a position as an Organizational Marketing Assistant for a non-profit school for children with ASD and other developmental disabilities. She realized working with kids was where she belonged and changed her career path to continue her love of Early Education. 

Melissa lives in Watertown and loves traveling, going to the beach, and enjoying live music with friends in her spare time.

Stephanie Avelino

Lead Teacher

Stephanie first arrived at Russell Preschool on the parent side of the equation.  During the time her younger child (her son Matheus) was at Russell, Stephanie was  actively involved in the school.  She worked on the enrollment committee and served on the board as secretary and vice-president.  Stephanie has been a teacher at Russell since 2016.

Her own educational background includes time spent growing and learning in both Progressive and Quaker schools.  She earned a BA in English literature from Haverford College.  She credits these school experiences with encouraging her natural curiosity, developing her love of learning (especially of reading and writing), and fostering creative thinking and artistic self-expression.  Stephanie holds a lead teacher certification from the Massachusetts EEC.

Her work life has included a range of experiences. These include teaching in a special education setting, working as a server and manager in the restaurant world, and serving as a volunteer breastfeeding counselor and then as a Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

She now lives in West Newton with her husband of just about 25 years, their daughter Gabriella and their son Matheus.  Stephanie is an avid reader, an amateur knitter and a novice ukulele player.

Headshot of Stephanie Avelino.  Stephanie is smiling and standing in front of an old and large tree.  The large bark ridges fill the background.

Naomi Shea

Headshot of Naomi Shea.  Naomi is smiling and standing in front of a gray and brown wooden wall or fence.  The grain fills the background.


Naomi first fell in love with Russell Preschool when her son Sam attended in 2011-2013.  Naomi continued to stay connected to the Russell community by substitute teaching.  During her time as a substitute, she completed her Preschool Teaching Certification and joined Russell Preschool teaching staff full-time in January 2019.  She is dedicated to working with children and parents to ensure the best possible experience for every family.

Naomi moved from Minnesota to Boston for college and graduated from Curry College with a BA in communications.  She has always been interested in early childhood education and was a nanny for over five years after graduating from college before becoming a stay-at-home mom.  She also holds a lead teacher certification from the Massachusetts EEC.

Naomi has also worked as a farmer on an organic vegetable farm in Waltham and helped to start a school garden at her son’s elementary school.  She enjoys cooking and baking with fresh and local produce and enjoys sharing these skills with the Russell community.

Naomi lives in Watertown with her husband and son.  In her free time, she enjoys going for walks, reading, going to the beach, and traveling. 

Taryn Velazquez

Assistant Teacher

Taryn has lived in Watertown for 15 years with her husband and two children. Outside of her Russell days, she’s the Fundraising Coordinator for the Watertown Belmont Youth Football and Cheer organization. Her hobbies include going to the beach, playing with her children and attending sporting events.

Hand drawn acorn image in place of teacher photo.  No photo available.

Maya Khalil

Hand drawn acorn image in place of teacher photo.  No photo available.

Assistant Teacher

Maya has lived in Watertown for 18 years with her Family and her little brother attended Russell when he was young. Outside of her Russell days, Maya is a Farm Educator and Substitute Teacher at another nature preschool. Her hobbies include needle-felting, Contra Dancing and gardening. 

Camelia Raize

Substitute Teacher

Camelia is excited to be in the Russell Community as a teacher. She first walked into the doors of the preschool as a parent to a 4-year old. While at Russell, she was on the enrollment committee and gave tours of the school to prospective parents.

Camelia has always enjoyed working with children. She has over seven years experience teaching internationally and locally to preschoolers and adults. She is a firm believer that through play and exploration, young children build independence and confidence. She lives by her motto - joy in learning - and brings fun to the classroom every day.

Camelia holds a BA from the University of Calgary, an ESL Teaching Certificate from the University of Cambridge, and an assistant teacher certification from the Massachusetts EEC.

Outside the classroom, Camelia enjoys yoga, cooking, exploring and trying out new restaurants with her family.

Headshot of Camelia Raize.  Camelia is smiling and standing in front of slightly blurred green foliage in an indoor setting.