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La Canada Preschool

4460 Oakwood Avenue
La Canada, CA 91011


Find us on Instagram: lcpreschool

School Hours

Monday - Friday: 8am – 5pm
Weekends: Closed

History & Vision

History & Vision

Learning Through Play

La Canada Preschool opened in 1949 and is one of the oldest preschools in Los Angeles County. With only three owner/directors in this history, Debbie Ficarra bought the school in 2003 from Mary Ellen Gilstrap, who trusted she would preserve the vision of that quality and affordable preschool would prevail.

The school has a deep rooted philosophy in children learning through play, and with a setting that is non-institutionalized and small. It is known as an early childhood educational center where children are valued for their individuality and creative spirit, where a child’s experience is more important than the curriculum.

Setting Their Own Goals

Today that vision is alive and well, where wonder, curiosity, self discovery, problem solving, interactions, exploration and play are valued above all else. At La Canada Preschool we believe children learn best when they make their own choices and set their own goals.

As the old saying goes, “Experience is not only the best teacher, it is the only teacher.” Our flexibility and willingness to follow a child’s lead will allow remarkable things to happen, if we let them.

Meet Our Staff

Debbie Ficarra, Director

Debbie has been the owner and director of La Canada Preschool since 2003, only the third owner in 75 years of the schools existence, and is passionate about early childhood education. She has been teaching since 1987, has studied for two masters degrees at Pacific Oaks College, has six children and three grandchildren with her husband Hugo, who also works at the school as  her assistant. As the director she is in the classroom everyday, overseeing and facilitating to all. Her goal is for your child to love school and create a foundation for all their future learning.

Hugo Ficarra, Assistant Director

Hugo comes to us with a wealth of experience, having his own in home child care center for many years, as well as raising six children and three grandchildren. He is energetic, happy and always enthusiastic about the day. He maintains the facility as well, keeping it in tip top shape. Hugo studied early childhood education at UCLA after retiring, as he always wanted to be a teacher. And he makes the best playdough and snack everyday for our children. He is also known as “Papa” to his grandchildren.

Tony Ojinaga

Tony has been teaching with Debbie since 1997, as well as has his AA degree from Pasadena City College in Early Childhood Education. He is a gentle soul, with a kind presence. He brings us lots of science, art and keeps a watchful eye over all. Tony is here early in the morning and stays all day, a consistent and calming teacher. He has a daughter Yasmine and an affinity for reptiles. We love Mr. Tony!

Cindy Finch

Cindy is returning to us at La Canada Preschool, where she was a teacher from 2000-2005. After raising to beautiful children, Cindy wanted to reenter the world of education and we could nor be happier. Approachable, happy and energetic, Cindy has an attunement for each child she works with. Cindy and her husband Kevin live in Glendale, with their dog Jack. Cindy shaped our Pre-K/TK to be an arts focused classroom with an emphasis on social relationships and play.

Heather Hemingway

Heather is our incredible TK/PreK teacher who comes to us with a wealth of experience and knowledge. She’s been in the early childhood classroom many years, with an emphasis on art, Reggio inspired projects, nature-based curriculum and learning to read through Zoo Phonics. She is the mother of four and has an incredibly patient and flexible way with the children. She blends play and academics and will inspire you to keep your children learning through play as long as possible.



Jackie Kelley

As an early childhood educator for the past twenty years, Jackie brings to us as wealth of knowledge and education, having taught at University of Missouri and UCLA as a professor. Her overriding love for the classroom brings her to us and we are always thrilled to have Jackie on staff.


Gloria Ruiz

Miss Gloria comes to us with a BA in the social sciences and a wealth of knowledge from UCLA Extension and RIE. She is always in the yard and classroom helping children with play, art, and relationships. She is a calm and inventive teacher and we love when she arrives every day with a smile on her face.


Jenny Benson

Jenny is our teacher’s aide who is our newest although highly favored teaching among the staff. She is an awesome caregiver who helps children feel a sense of warm loving-kindness. She reads, holds, helps and offers support to our lead teachers and is another positive force in the yard. Jenny comes to use from UCLA where she studied for early childhood education.


Leah Felix

Leah comes to us as a new-mom and seasoned caregiver, having studied at Pasadena Community College and more. She is a new mom and can be found in the nap room or assisting the PreK teachers in the afternoon and has a happy spirit. We love the happy energy Leah brings, she is calm and positive and always encourages the children to play and learn.






























I want to take a minute and acknowledge the SmackSmog Team for helping me with the design of my website. I’ve done some video projects with SmackSmog and I was excited that they agreed to help me with my website development. A special word of thanks to Patti Ring for the development of my new logo and website. Steve O’Bryan was key in creating the Content Marketing and Online Strategies that occur throughout the site. SmackSmog specializes in helping artists and small to medium businesses have a strong presence on the internet. They’ve really come through for me and they’ll come through for you too.