Early Learning Center


Montessori Education

The L. Daniel Hutto Early Learning Center (ELC) is a Montessori preschool for children ages 3-5 who are deaf/hard of hearing or blind/visually impaired. The ELC is a place where your child can learn and grow in a cheerful, nurturing and stimulating environment that emphasizes learning through discovery. Our curriculum focuses on the whole child - building social, emotional, language, self-help, motor and cognitive skills daily through lessons and interactions with staff and peers. Children are led to ask questions, problem-solve, explore, investigate and discover. These processes all help to foster communication and build a love of learning. In finding their own solutions they expand their knowledge base and personalize their learning. Our Montessori preschool nurtures a joy for learning that will prepare children for learning for years to come.


ELC Office

PH: 904-827-2835

VP: 904-201-4529

Health Care Center

PH: 904-827-2410

VP: 904-201-3910


The Montessori approach cultivates a child’s natural desire to learn, think, and act independently. Children are able to work at their own pace and ability, and they learn to act with care and respect toward their fellow students. 

ELC teacher working on carpet with deaf boy.

Toddler Program

For families who are local to St. Augustine, FSDB offers a center-based Toddler Program on the school campus for parents of children 18 months to 3 years. Through the Toddler Program, little ones and their parents are provided opportunities to socialize, interact, and begin to experience the world of a school environment with full language accessibility (spoken and signed) from degree educators who serve as Deaf role models. Parents of children in the Toddler Program often choose to continue with FSDB on campus programing by applying for admission to the Early Learning Center.

ELC news


ELC Director

Gail Strassel

Gail Strassel is the Director of the L. Daniel Hutto Early Learning Center (ELC), a Montessori preschool at FSDB. She has worked with young children and their families for more than 30 years–as a classroom teacher, an itinerant teacher, and an early interventionist for families with infants and young children in Texas, North Carolina and South Florida. At FSDB, Strassel is the Coordinator of Early Intervention Services (DHH) for the Parent Infant Program.  She is also a SKI-HI Institute trainer, working with professionals in FL and nationally to work with families who have young children and infants who are deaf. She served as the legislative liaison for the Florida Educators of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students (FEDHH) Board from 2005–2016 and still actively participates as a member of this group of FL educators. In 2018, she was appointed to the Florida Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Advisory Board where she will work with stakeholders to help guide policy and practice related to early intervention for families with young children who are deaf.

Montessori Primary Certification, Center for Guided Montessori Studies
Certificate, Family-Centered Education, Gallaudet University
Master of Arts, Deaf Education, University of Northern California

Master of Arts, Elementary Education, University of Northern California
Bachelor of Arts, Special Education, University of Northern California

The education of even a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life. ~ Maria Montessori

ELC teachers & Specialists

Rebecca Champney


Brooke Stanfield


Karen Lebrecht

Program Facilitator

Cally Traetto

Reading Specialist

Christie Neville


Dawn Parke



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General Information

PH: 904-827-2200

VP: 904-245-1022

Outreach Department

PH: 904-827-2455

Parent Services

PH: 904-827-2212

VP: 904-201-4527


PH: 800-992-8747

Health Care Center

PH: 904-827-2410

VP: 904-201-3910


PH: 904-827-2331

PH: 904-827-2356

Campus Police

PH: 904-827-2315