Leadership Team

Jennifer Adams, M.Ed., CAS School Psychology: Founding Director

We often say that The Little School is the insides of Jennifer’s brain dumped out into the world. Indeed, TLS owes its forward-thinking (and forever evolving) mission to this woman with a strong vision and profound belief in every child’s one-of-a-kind capabilities. Jennifer was born into a family of educators; her father was a superintendent in the public schools and her mother was the head of The Summit School, an independent school in Winston-Salem for Pre-K through ninth grade. These early years living and attending Summit heavily influenced her pedagogic approach for a unique child-centered education; one where creative thinking and problem solving reigned king. Indeed, her earliest jobs were spent as a camp counselor, a preschool teacher, and a middle school teacher for children with learning and emotional disabilities.

Jennifer earned her undergraduate degree from Colorado State University. Jennifer headed to the other side of the country to The University of Delaware where she completed her Masters in Education with a concentration in children with disabilities, as well as a Specialist Level degree in School Psychology. She returned to North Carolina and began working as a School Psychologist in the Alamance Burlington School System. She set out to find the perfect school for her children- one where EVERY child is invited to play. A school where children were encouraged to explore, to think for themselves, to get muddy, and to be uniquely themselves. It simply did not exist. Never content to sit still or settle, Jennifer decided to build that school in 2010, and we are grateful she did.

 Mary Swanson: Founder & Owner

After 26 years at AAA, Mary left her job in 2005 to become the very first teacher at The Little School. The rest, as they say, is history. Mary makes it happen. If it weren’t for Mary, we may all be sitting around the kitchen table dreaming about this magical school. From its inception, Mary has been cheering on the children at TLS, combing consignment sales for the best deals on dump trucks, crooning karaoke over muffins, and spreading the TLS joy. Simply put, she is the lighthouse of reason in a sea of dreamers.

Mary was born the oldest of four siblings, spending much of her life here in Durham, NC. She is the proud Aunt to nine and lives to dote on her ever-growing list of great-nieces and nephews. Dubbed “The Queen”,  wherever she goes, she leaves a lasting impression. You can find her most mornings at Coffee World, sharing doughnut holes and an iced latte with her dog Sweetie.

(she also has a mermaid sweater she has promised to give to her whoever writes the best bio).

Julie Aladesanmi: School Director 

Julie moved to Durham, NC from Savannah, GA in January 2018.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard University, a TCC in Early Childhood Program Administration from Savannah Technical College, and a CDA in Center-based  Infant/Toddler and a CDA in Center-based Preschool. She has worked in the child care field since 2006 and was a teacher for over nine years before transitioning to Director of a center, serving children ages 6 weeks to 3 years old, for over two years.  Julie became interested in The Little School due to our Reggio Emilia inspired methods of developing brain architecture in young children through relationships-based curriculum.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, anything creative, and spending time with her husband. She is also passionate about women and children’s issues in addition to environmental conservation initiatives. Julie is honored and excited to be a part of The Little School family

(super) Jessica Larson: Communication Director

Jessica’s most formative days were spent as a camper and teacher at Valley Mill, a nature-based summer camp outside of Washington DC. This all-girls camp encouraged girls to get muddy, shoot a bow and arrow, roll a kayak, and be as silly and loud and you dared to be. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Chicago and was fortunate enough to work in Chicago’s leading arts institutions such as The Rhona Hoffman Gallery, and The Illinois Arts Council. While working for a Children Theatre company, she began to explore Arts-in-Education with at-risk youth in Chicago’s inner city. This experience sparked within her a clear understanding that we cannot progress as an equitable society without prioritizing high-quality education for ALL of our children. Jessica originally joined TLS as a parent in 2008, and soon after was invited to be a classroom teacher. In her years at TLS, she has served as Team lead, Program assistant, School Director, and Communications Director.  At The Little School, she has been able to weave her love of nature, democracy in education and expression through art together in one unique setting.

Bonnie Cady: Business Manager

Born in Connecticut, Bonnie spent much of her childhood in the suburbs of NYC. One night over tacos with friends, Bonnie made the decision to move to Washington D.C. It was there that she earned her degree in Information Systems and Organizational Management, as well as where she met her husband, Scott. The two are parents to their son Joe,  and eventually settled here in North Carolina.  A self-described French Canadian-Lithiuanuan-Sagittarian-recovering Vegetarian, Bonnie has worked in nonprofits for over 20 years. Tasked with organizing this bunch, she has brought her quirkiness and love of QuickBooks to The Little School, where she has fit right into the menagerie!