Smart Start ELC Staff


Nikki Hemberry

Smart Start Early Learning Center’s (ELC) founding director and Lead Early Childhood Specialist of 11 years, Nikki Hemberry, has 24 years’ experience in the early childhood classroom and has owned early learning centers in Fruitland, ID, Spokane, WA, and now Longview. In 2009, she finished her Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE) at Lower Columbia College. Annually, Nikki takes classes to add to her certification in ECE, and she worked as a mentor teacher at Lower Columbia College prior to opening Smart Start ELC. Nikki and her husband Scott (Senior Pastor here at Exodus Christian Fellowship) have lived in Longview for 11 years with their four daughters: Marissa, Regan, Alicia, and Jadyn. Outside of school, Nikki loves her gym time, outdoor activities, crafting, organizing, and above all the activities her four daughters bring into her life. God, family, strong foundations, and instilling high self-esteem as a result of her interactions with all whom she encounters are among the highest priorities for Nikki in her personal life. You will find that Nikki spends a lot of time inside all of the Smart Start ELC classrooms as it is her passion to plan, write, and organize curriculum based on her observations of the individual developmental levels, interests, and specific needs of each unique classroom setting. Outside of her classroom teaching responsibilities, you will find Nikki in the office as our center Director.


Lara Moore

A graduate of Western Oregon University with a Master’s degree in Language Arts and Secondary Education, Lara Moore is a licensed teacher (grades pre-kindergarten through 12) who spent seven years teaching English at an Oregon high school and nine years at Lower Columbia College teaching basic skills, English, and early childhood education. Lara is married to her husband John, and they have a daughter Emma. Lara enjoys hosting events for family and friends, quilting, reading, watching baseball, and volunteering. Lara has spent a career in education and is so pleased to continue that journey with Smart Start ELC. In her sixth year at Smart Start, Lara exercises her strong leadership, communication, organizational, and professional skills in our Smart Start ELC office as our Operations Administrator.


Jen DesArmo

Jennifer DesArmo is our kindergarten teacher at Smart Start ELC. Jen has a Bachelor's degree in Education and joined the early childhood education scene in 1992. She comes to our program after serving three years in a Pre-K classroom and as a mentor early childhood specialist at Lower Columbia College. Her additional experiences include: in-home childcare, assistant teacher at Head Start, teacher followed by a promotion to assistant director at KinderCare, and director of a large, private childcare center in Wisconsin. Jen and her husband of Castle Rock, WA have four children; Jen’s family tragically lost a daughter in an automobile accident at the age of 15. Being strong in their faith, they know that Harlie is with the Lord. As a family, they are dedicated to family, sporting events, their church, and finding ways to strengthen the community. We are BLESSED to have this strong, experienced, and dedicated teacher on our team.

Smart Start ELC Staff

Marissa Hamlik
Lead Early Childhood Specialist
Bachelor’s in Elementary Education
8 years Teaching Experience
Karen Saulsbury
Lead Early Childhood Specialist
AA in Early Childhood Education & 160 credits toward BA in ECED
11 years Teaching Experience
Tami Duschik
Assistant Early Childhood Specialist
Central Catholic High School
13 years Teaching Experience
Alicia Bate
Assistant Early Childhood Specialist
Associate’s Degree
3 years Teaching Experience
Kris Thompson
Substitute Teacher
Attended Bellevue Community College
11 years Teaching Experience