About RFC

Our Mission

Rural Family Connections (RFC) supports rural families as they guide and care for their children by providing accessible, quality early learning and childcare programs. Through this programming, we strive to enhance healthy development for a healthy start in life and success in school. Our vision is a vibrant rural community with accessible services that benefit all children, their parents and caregivers.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

The RFC Team

Marria Crosby – Executive Director

Maria has been part of the Rural Family Connections organization for over 30 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 & Learn EarlyON Child & Family 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.

Lee Stanistreet – Associate Executive Director

Lee has joined our team this year as the Executive Director for Rural Family Connections.

She comes with extensive experience in the field of Early Learning. Lee has been a manager since 2007 and has worked in all areas of childcare from infant, toddler, preschool, nursery school, before and after school, summer camp and EarlyON programs.  

She is an RECE and is currently finishing up her B.A.Sc. in Early Learning through Guelph University

Marlene Shepheard – Metcalfe Home Day Care, 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, and she facilitates workshops, programs and playgroups with our Resource Centre. 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.

Deborah Cross – Resource Worker, KinderCamp Teacher & M.C.N.S. 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 1.5 years 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.

Nancy Dixon – Metcalfe Cooperative Nursery School 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.

Erin Finlay – Metcalfe Home Daycare, Home Visitor

Erin graduated as an Early Childhood Educator from Loyalist College in 1997. after her final placement at a daycare in Calgary, Alberta. Erin’s love and passion for working with children and families started at a young age, before beginning college she was a live in nanny for a family with two young children.

Erin has always had a job that involved children with experience as working in the schools as an E.A. to most recently as an E.C.E. in the kindergarten classes, to driving a school bus, having her own home daycare when her three children were young, and working as a site supervisor for the Learning Centre, Before & After School program.

Erin is excited to join the Rural Family Connections team and looks forward to meeting all of the children & families and also to all the new experiences ahead.

Leigh Gillies – Rural Family Connections, Office Administrator

Leigh has been with Rural Family Connections for 20 years. 

Leigh first joined our team as a Metcalfe Home Day Care child care provider, and then started, part time, as administrative assistant for Metcalfe Home Day Care.  As the organization grew Leigh’s office administration tasks & role expanded!



Heather Goelz – Rural Family Connections, Office Administrator


Heather joined the Rural Family Connections office in January 2020.

Heather partners with Leigh to complete the Office Manager Team, answering the phone and taking care of administrative tasks.




Lorna Greer – Metcalfe Cooperative Nursery School, 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 childcare/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.

Elsa Justice

Live & Learn Early ON Child and Family Centre Playgroup Facilitator and Metcalfe Nursey School Teacher

Elsa started with MCNS in the fall of 2009.

Elsa came to RFC with 5 years of experience as a kindergarten teacher in Mexico.

Elsa is a teacher with the nursery school & leads the play groups at our Osgoode Village Location.

Liz LeCain – Live & Learn Early ON Family & Child Centre Playgroup Facilitator

Liz is originally from the Maritimes and now nestled in just outside Osgoode with her husband, 4 kids, dogs and chickens. She is a graduate from Bishop’s and Queen’s Universities and is an elementary school teacher in Ottawa, but currently enjoying some extra time off with her family. She enjoys exploring alongside kids as they engage in a variety of play-based and outdoor learning experiences. Liz looks forward to welcoming you with a smile at the Kars and North Gower playgroups!

“I should ask that a gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout a life”- Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder (1998)

Shelly Liston-McNaughton – Metcalfe Home Day Care, Home Visitor

Shelly joined Rural Family Connections as a Home Visitor in the fall of 2016. She brings a varied background of experience to the team including School Age Program Lead at the Learning Centre’s Before and After School Program in Winchester, and as a Child Protection Worker for The Children’s Aid Society of S.D. & G.

When her children were younger, Shelly was fortunate to be able to stay home with them and run a Home Daycare. Previous to these experiences, Shelly worked as an English Instructor for TR Leger School of Adult Alternative Education, and as a front-line worker in residential treatment homes and school programs.

Her passion for and belief that every child can flourish in a safe and nurturing learning environment is what led her to Rural Family Connections.

Julie MacArthur – Metcalfe Home Day Care, Home Visitor

Julie began working with Rural Family Connections in 2018 as a supply teacher in the nursery school and recently started a new position with MHDC in April 2019 as a home visitor.

Julie has completed her ECE with Honours and a Bachelor of Arts in Child Studies. She has been working with children for many years including teaching in local Nursery Schools and in kindergarten classrooms with OCDSB. Julie was the Director and Head Teacher of the Osgoode Cooperative Nursery School before starting her family. She had the privilege of staying home while raising her three children and assisting with the daily operations and bookkeeping of her husband’s electrical contracting business.

Julie’s enjoyment and fulfillment from working with and teaching children has been a constant theme in all aspects of her life.

Some of my most precious memories are from watching the wonder and joy on children’s faces when they learn something new.

Allison McLaren

Metcalfe Cooperative Nursery School Director / Teacher + Live & Learn EarlyON Child & Family Centre, Manager

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 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.

Nadine van Rijswijk – Metcalfe Cooperative Nursery School, Teacher

Nadine is completing E.C.E. courses through St. Laurence College. She enjoys working with children and loves to watch different personalities, cultures, and traditions thrive. As a teenager Nadine was a live-in nanny to a boy & girl, and in her early 20’s to a set of twin girls.  Before re-enrolling in school, Nadine was a bus driver for 4 years which that re-sparked her interest in working with children.

With her husband Randy, they have two wonderful daughters, Grace and Ellie. They enjoy spending family time outside with their dog Taliya.

Nadine has volunteered with Girls Guides since 2013 and really enjoys being part of the organization.  Nadine volunteers in almost anything and everything, from animals to mission meals to walking around and cleaning up garbage

Nadine’s zest for life comes from the love of her family, her love of nature and belief in the good of all people. 

Marion Scharf – Live & Learn Early ON Child and Family Centre Play Group Facilitator

 Marion Scharf is a mother of three.  She has been a member of the Live & Learn EarlyON Community for the last 12 years when she first started attending Lullababies with her eldest son.  Marion has run a home daycare for the last 8 years. She has helped teach gymnastics, dance and soccer.

Marion has been facilitating Playgroups in the Park as well as Playgroups at the EarlyON centre for the last 2 and a half years. 


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