The Rural Family Connections Team

Maria Crosby – Executive Director

Maria has been part of the Rural Family Connections organization for over 28 years and was instrumental in establishing this organization as the umbrella for our 3 programs: Metcalfe Cooperative Nursery School, Metcalfe Home Daycare and the Live and Learn Resource Centre.

Starting with the Metcalfe Cooperative Nursery School in 1987, Maria did double duty as the Director and much-loved Teacher. During her tenure at the school she initiated the opening of the Metcalfe Home Daycare and in 2002 lead a dedicated team to establish the Live and Learn Resource Centre. In 2007, Rural Family Connections was established and Maria took on the role of Executive Director. In addition to her ECE Certification and Ontario Teaching Certificate, Maria has a BA in Child Studies. She is very committed to the field of Early Childhood Education and is active on the Home Child Care Managers Network, and the Nursery School Network.

I love being part of the process that helps the very young unsure 2 year old become a confident 4 year old full of curiosity!

Deborah Cross – Resource Worker, KinderCamp Teacher & NS Supply Teacher

Deborah has been a part of the Rural Family Connections family since about 2005, starting with us as a Metcalfe Home Daycare provider. As a provider she would bring her son and her daycare children to playgroups at the Live and Learn Resource Centre. Then, in 2007 Deb accepted a position as a Resource Worker, facilitating playgroups where she has become very popular with our playgroup children. On occasion, Deb can also be found, filling in as a supply teacher and KinderCamp Teacher at our nursery school. Deb has completed 1 year of her Early Childhood Education Certificate and has been a Girl Guide leader since 1985. In 2012, Deborah was presented with an Ontario Volunteer Award for 25 years service.

Leigh Ann Gillies – Office Manager

Leigh has worked for Rural Family Connections since 1998 beginning with us as a Metcalfe Home Daycare provider. As a childcare provider, Leigh took part in our playgroups and other programming at the Live and Learn Resource Centre. In 2004, Leigh took on the inaugural role of Office Manager for Rural Family Connections. In this important role, Leigh wears many hats including office management, administrative duties and as first point of contact for clients, childcare providers and young families looking for resources and childcare options.

Parents call, not knowing what questions to ask. So I find it really satisfying when I’m able to guide them through the options and give them the peace-of-mind that we can help them meet their child’s social and developmental needs in a safe setting where someone cares about their well-being.

Lorna Greer – M.C.N.S. Teacher

Lorna joined Rural Family Connections as a Resource Worker at our Live and Learn Resource Centre in April 2012. She is currently teaching at the Metcalfe Nursery School in the pre-school, toddler and KinderCamp programs. In addition, Lorna has been involved with children’s programs, coordinating a church child care/nursery program and teaching Sunday school. With her working and volunteer experiences, Lorna found Early Childhood Education (ECE) a natural progression. As a result, Lorna received her E.C.E. diploma from Loyalist college in the Spring of 2016.

I love watching the children learn through play, songs and games. This is some of the most fun learning that children may ever do. It’s wonderful to be part of that.

Jaime Hodges – Play Group Facilitator

Jaime is a graduate of Early Childhood Education program and has been a daycare provider 14 years. She has been part of the Rural Family Connections team since 2014. Jaime currently shares the role of playgroup facilitator at our Osgoode Village Location.


Elsa Justice – Play Group Facilitator

Elsa started with MCNS in the fall of 2009. She comes to us with 5 years of experience as a kindergarten teacher in Mexico. She currently shares the role of playgroup facilitator at our Osgoode Village Location.


Allison McLaren – M.C.N.S. Teacher, KinderCamp Director and Toy Library & Stats Coordinator

Allison has been part of Rural Family Connections since 1988, when she enrolled her son in the Metcalfe Cooperative Nursery School, and served on the executive for 2 years. Allison joined the staff as a Teacher in 1989 where she teaches both the Toddler and Pre-school programs. She is also the director and organizer of the summer Kinder and Discovery Camp programs. Allison has extensive experience as a teacher in the Early Learning field. As well as teaching in the M.C.N.S Toddler, PreSchool and KinderCamp Programs, Allison also teaches the Ready to Learn and Family Math programs, assists in the Metcalfe Home Day Care program and manages the collection and analysis of the monthly and yearly stats.

My greatest thrills always come with the ‘look Teacher, I did it!

Marlene Shepheard – Director

Marlene joined Rural Family Connections in 1987. While her daughter joined the preschool set, Marlene served on the nursery school executive while also working as a Metcalfe Home Daycare provider. During this time she also juggled office duties with our Home Daycare. In 1992 Marlene became an Early Childhood Educator at an Ottawa nursery school and then Executive Director of The Orleans Preschool for 5 years. Marlene returned to us in 2002 as a Director, wearing many hats. Marlene works as a Home Visitor with our Home Daycare, she facilitates workshops, programs and playgroups with our Resource Centre and occasionally teaches at our Nursery School. She is also a Child Development Advisor with the Supported School Readiness Program offered in partnership with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. Marlene is a Certified Infant Massage Instructor and she is registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators.

I love working with such a dedicated caring team at Rural Family Connections.

Nancy Dixon – Teacher

Nancy is an Ontario Certified Teacher, with a degree in Psychology and holds current membership in the Ontario College of Teachers. She has been part of the Rural Family Connections family since 1980 when she and her family joined our Metcalfe Cooperative Nursery School. Nancy has taught with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and former Prescott-Russell School Board in addition to her ongoing work as a supply teacher with our Metcalfe Cooperative Nursery School. As a Resource Worker with our Live and Learn Resource Centre, Nancy has lead “Lullabies to Literacy” and “Family Math” and has also taught with our Kindergarten Readiness programs “Ready to Learn” and “School’s Cool”. A much sought-after tutor, Nancy has been helping students from JK to Grade 10 for over 10 years. Nancy also works as an Education Programmer with Upper Canada Village.

I have always believed that my goal as a teacher is to inspire, encourage, lead, guide, support a child to fall in love with learning; for once a child has found that love all else is possible. Or in the words of William Butler Yeats, Irish poet, 1865-1939, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”. Signup