Our Leaders




Yuli Mihara

Yuli Mihara received her B.A. in Child Development and M.A in Child Development from California State University, Los Angeles. She has been directing and mentoring teachers, as well as teaching young children between the ages 2 to 5 for 11 plus years. Her professional interests focus on social, emotional and cognitive development, and she published a study called, “Pre-Service Teachers’ Self Reported DAP Beliefs in Relations to The Quality of their Early Childhood Classroom Practices” with CSULA. In addition, she was invited to speak at CSULA University’s symposium about her study and was selected to present her research at the Society for Research in Child Development in Seattle, Washington. 

Yuli is excited to be the Director of The Village Children’s Center. She believes that building a strong foundation in the first five years of a child’s life is crucial. At The Village Children’s Center her goals are to provide a safe, nurturing and engaging environment where children can explore and play. Additionally her hope is to build strong connections between home, school and church to help ease children’s transition into the next level of their academic success.  



Weekly Chapel Coordinator

Dena Babb

Dena has served as Director of Children's & Family ministries at Riviera UMC since January 2012. In her previous life (before kids!), she worked in the nonprofit sector for a variety of organizations with a focus on volunteer program management. Dena is passionate about creating ministry and fellowship opportunities to meet the needs and interests of the ever changing congregation and community. VBS week is her favorite week of the year, but exhausts her so much that a week of vacation "off the grid" always comes next! In addition to her work at RUMC, Dena is also a blogger sharing her family's journey through life with the added obstacles of childhood mental illness and autism spectrum disorder.  In her spare time, she is an active volunteer in her children's schools, lover of music that has a good story to tell, avid reader and fan of binge watching great television. Her absolute favorite thing to do is enjoy a gorgeous view or a little bit of adventure with family.

Dena will be facilitating weekly chapel meetings for The Village Children's Center.



Barb Orson

Barb is excited to be teaching at The Village Children’s Center at Riviera UMC. She received a BA in Social Work and a minor in Psychology from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. She primarily worked as a Social Worker for Children’s Mental Health and eventually fell in love with teaching preschool. Barb has 8 years of teaching experience in preschool(Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama) and is currently enrolled at UCLA to obtain the California Early Childhood Certificate. 

She is married to her husband who serves in the Air Force for 20 years now and together she has 3 young men (21, 21, 17 years of age).  For fun, she love singing, baking, rollerblading, reading, playing board games and hanging out with her kiddos when they come home from college.





Tawania Bennett

Tawania attended West Los Angeles College and received her Early Childhood Education Certificate from UCLA EXTENTION in Westwood California. She has been teaching for about 27 years. She has worked with newborns to 13 years of age, she has been a director for the YMCA for many years and also for a few preschools, and an infant center. Her professional interests are on social and emotional growth. 

Tawania is very excited to be a part of The Village Children's Center, her goals are to provide a fun safe environment where the children feel comfortable participating in playing, reading, curriculum and in many other areas.

Her favorite things to do are spending time with her two daughters, skating and enjoying the view of the beach that she is now next to daily because of our beautiful preschool!



Elizabeth Morrell

Elizabeth Morrell is always looking for opportunities to grow in the Early Childhood Education field. She is passionate in working with young children and loves coming to work. Her goals are to find new ideas to enhance children learned by planning fun and engaging lesson plans that will enrich children’s learning and creativity.

She particularly enjoys bringing humor into the classroom to create a light, fun, warm atmosphere. She believes laughter and humor are important when working with young children.  An environment filled with laughter strengthens the relationships of teachers with children and of children with each other.

When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, gardening, traveling, podcasts, and more importantly, spending time with loved ones.  She is excited to be a part of our wonderful community and looks forwards to meeting you all and to partnering with you to make this a fun, learning experience for you and your child.   


Our Teachers Understand

Attending preschool is only half the picture. Here at The Village Children’s Center, our staff strives to create daily curriculums that not only nurture, but challenge and exercise our young students’ developing minds. Adhering to the principles of the NAEYC, our goal is to provide our students with valuable resources and positive experiences that will lay the foundation for their continued growth and development.

Our Mission

The Village Children's Center provides an enriching, supportive, and professional children’s center for preschoolers, ages 2 to 5.  We are a developmental preschool where children learn through play and experience the love taught by Christ. Children will learn compassion for one another, as well as for the world around them. Through personal, local, and global projects our mission is to help parents raise children who use empathy and compassion towards all. 

Serving Our Community for Over 40 Years

Riviera United Methodist Church has been committed to supporting families as they grow for 43 years. Founded in 1974, Riviera United Methodist Preschool (R.U.M.P.) was a developmental preschool for 3 to 5 year-olds where children learned through play alongside their parents in a parent participation preschool model. As society and our economy has increased the need for dual-earner households, Riviera United Methodist Preschool is changing with the times. We are proud to begin a new chapter for our preschool by creating The Village Children's Center which provides more flexible hours to support our surrounding community.

The Village Children's Center remains committed to providing a play-based developmentally appropriate curriculum. Children’s positive sense of self is nurtured through a supportive and challenging environment. Our children are exposed to a wide variety of activities and experiences to foster social, cognitive, and physical skills:

  • Open-ended and focused arts and crafts
  • Building with a variety of materials
  • Self-regulation exercises including yoga and prayer
  • Independent and guided pretend play 
  • Problem solving in play and social interactions
  • Number concepts incorporated in daily routine 
  • Language development through exposure to abundant conversation and interactive story times (including A.S.L. exposure)
  • Pre-reading activities with a focus on nursery rhymes and letter play
  • Health and fitness provided through snack and intentional movement
  • Social play with peers throughout the day, observed and guided by teachers
  • Extended learning projects when curiosity needs further support
  • Personal, Local, and Global service opportunities
  • Character development through weekly chapel times

It takes a village to raise a child, and we honor that notion through creating a parenting partnership with our families. We encourage community through parent education opportunities, family connection events, and the open exchange of ideas with the director and teachers. 


Opportunities to Lead with Us

Email us at TheVillage@rivieraumc.com for employment opportunities.