Our Staff






“As a third grade teacher in the Jackson-Madison system, I saw the struggles of children that lacked the ability to read at the ripe old age of nine. EVERYTHING at school was hard for them. Their frustration led to disinterest and behavior problems. They were “good kids” with “good hearts”, but destined to little hope for a bright future.

Conversations with experienced educators pointed to these children not having access to early childhood education. They entered kindergarten ill-prepared for the rigors of “school.” These same conversations included frustration that the children of these parents were not involved in their schooling.

I loved teaching, but I was conflicted about advancing these children through the system.

I spent the next six years in the restaurant business. I worked alongside parents with similar stories, either theirs or with children of their own. I saw the struggles of providing for a family on a minimum wage salary, with little hope for a better future.

I firmly believe EVERY child should have the opportunity to exercise their curiosity, develop their special gift or talent, and pursue the best education possible. Learning should start early and never stop!


Bachelor of Arts in Economics

University of North Carolina, May 1980

Masters in Instructions and Curriculum Leadership

Freed-Hardeman University, May 2004

Fun Fact: Miss Donna’s favorite reindeer is Prancer.





11855796_880064328730222_6063885668230025586_nMCKENZIE LYNN, Full-time, Assistant Director

“Children see the world with innocent wonder, which inspires me to nurture and protect that sense of awe. At Hands Up! I not only get the chance to do that in play and interaction with children, but I also get to help reinforce values that will help them later in life. I love working at Hands Up! with such a passionate staff, loving students, and eager parents.”




Bachelor of Arts in Child and Family Studies, Sociology Minor

Union University, May 2015

Fun Fact: Miss McKenzie loves Duke Basketball, Elvis Presley, and Princess Belle.








AMY HITE, Full-Time, Four-Year Old Lead Teacher

“Hands Up! is focused on the present and the future of the students’ and their families.  It’s a place where I not only teach ABC’s and 123’s, but also basic manners and how to make good choices in life.  What a wonderful approach to learning!  I feel very lucky to be a part of such a special place.”






Master of Arts in Teaching in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership

University of Memphis, May 2012

Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration

Stephens College, May 1993

 Fun Fact: Miss Amy has been to Australia and New Zealand.







LYN MCCARTY, Full-Time, Four-Year Old Lead Teacher

“I love the passion every person who is involved at Hands Up! has; teachers, volunteers, parents, etc.”







Bachelor of Science in Education (Speech and Hearing Disorders)

Master of Speech in Communicative disorders

University of Arkansas, 1993

Fun Fact: Miss Lyn has three Weiner dogs (dachshunds).





11855751_880064142063574_5222602072858757148_nLAURA JONES, Full-Time, Three-Year Old Lead Teacher

“I am so blessed to be part of the Hands Up! family.  It is truly a joy to come to school every day to teach the children and experience the excitement of learning through their eyes!   I love my students and their families!”






Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Interdisciplinary Studies

Middle Tennessee State University, 1996

Fun Fact: Miss Laura loves all things Disney and Disney world. Her favorite character is Jiminy Cricket.



1514629_880064398730215_7841590716099233891_nTRAVIA COTTON, Full-Time, Three Year Old Lead Teacher

“The reason why I chose to work at Hands Up! was because I wanted to work at a place where the individuals didn’t work just to get paid; they work to make a difference in a child’s life where it mattes the most. Hands Up! does not just watch children while the parents work. We educate and strive to benefit the child’s needs so they will be well prepared when they start school.”




Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education
Lane College 2016
Guilford Technical Community College, 2013
Fun Fact: Miss Travia loves to write poetry in her spare time.





BRANDI SYKES, Assistant Teacher

“I work at Hands Up because the experience I had as a parent through my daughter attending here was so rich and rewarding, that I just had to jump at the opportunity to be a part of it.”






Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance(TECTA) certificate

April 2015.