Hillsboro preschool and kindergarten

Welcome to Early Learning Matters Preschool and Kindergarten!

Early Learning Matters (ELM) provides a unique environment where children grow the mind and become strong and independent thinkers. ELM’s early childhood programs include Preschool, Pre-Kindergarten, and Kindergarten programs, summer classes, and community, parent, and teacher education.

What We Do

The ELM program honors the development of the whole child; intellectually, physically, emotionally, and socially. Cognitive development, thinking skills, and personal leadership skills are at the core of ELM’s educational program. Strengths are discovered, nurtured, and developed through the use of high-quality hands-on tools, a carefully designed environment, STEM activities, pretend play, daily sensory experiences, a dedicated art studio, block studio, movement room, yoga, and Kindermusik. The low student to teacher ratio of 7:1 allows for teachers to develop relationships with each student and work towards individual goals.

Who We Are

The staff at ELM is committed to providing exceptional service to all of our clients (children and parents) with attention to detail, a passion for excellence, and continuing professional development. Understanding who we are requires understanding what we are not. ELM is not a daycare. It is not a franchise. We are an independent private school dedicated to helping children realize their unique potentials and gain a foundation of thinking skills and habits to live it out.

Quick Facts

  Location: Hillsboro, OR

 Founded: 2005

              Identity: Independent,     Secular, Preschool, Pre-K, Kindergarten

 Ages: 3-6

 Average Ratio: 7:1

 Children: 91

 Teachers: 6

 Classrooms: 3

Meet the Early Learning Matters Staff

Kandy Dicken

Kandy Dicken


Kandy founded Early Learning Matters in 2005. In addition to the responsibilities that come with owning a business, she serves as the Director of ELM’s programs.  Her past professional experience includes public school teaching in grades ranging from Kindergarten through 6th. Kandy received her Bachelors of Science Degree in Human Development from Warner Pacific College. She later received a Master’s in the Art of Teaching from Pacific University in Forest Grove. Kandy holds a current elementary teaching license from the state of Oregon for grades K-8. She is a certified facilitator for Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and the 7 Habits Signature Program for adults. Kandy’s passion is creating an environment where strengths are discovered and nurtured.

Kandy lives in Hillsboro with her husband and two nearly-grown ‘children’. One is a student at Liberty High School and another attends Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. She is involved in Leadership Hillsboro through the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce. Her hobbies include traveling, photography, hiking, volunteering with the Food Bank and Liberty Speech and Debate Team, and spending time with her family and dog and tortoise.

Lynsey Matykowski

Lynsey Matykowski

Lead Preschool Teacher/Assistant Director

Lynsey started her career at Early Learning Matters in 2006. She began as an Assistant Teacher and in 2009 was promoted to Lead Teacher in the preschool classroom. In 2014, Lynsey was promoted again to Assistant Director and in addition, continues to maintain her role in the classroom. Lynsey graduated from Oregon State University with a Liberal Arts Degree. She worked in special education for 12 years prior to joining the ELM team. Lynsey brings over 20 years of teaching experience to her classroom.

She lives in Beaverton with her two children. One is currently a high school student and another attends Oregon State. Lynsey grew up in the Portland area and maintains close ties with her family and church. She volunteers in the choir, sings in a band, and is a regular deacon. She is passionate about maintaining a safe and loving environment where children learn through exploration and discovery.


Breanna Nielsen

Co-Lead Pre-Kindergarten Teacher

Breanna joined Early Learning Matters in the fall of 2017. She serves as a Co-Lead Pre-Kindergarten Teacher in the Elderberry Room. Prior to joining ELM, Breanna worked as a barista for 7 years. She served as shift supervisor at Starbucks, responsible for training and hiring new employees, overseeing quality assurance and safety, holding staff meetings, etc. Following Starbucks, she helped to run a small coffee shop in downtown Hillsboro. Breanna learned that she loved teaching and working with children through volunteering in leadership positions at her daughter’s school. She led Junior Achievement at Faith Bible Elementary. Breanna is currently studying education at PCC and will be transferring to PSU for her bachelor’s degree in education.

Breanna has lived in California, Nevada, and Oregon. She enjoys comedies and cartoons and is a child at heart. Her hobbies include cooking and spending time with her daughter.

Kim Helmer-Dias

Kim-Helmer Dias

Lead Pre-K and Kindergarten Teacher

Kim joined ELM in 2016.  She is the Lead Pre-K and Kindergarten teacher in the Sequoia Room.  Her passion for early childhood education began in 2007 while volunteering with Chimps Incorporated, a chimpanzee sanctuary in Bend, Oregon.  She gave presentations about chimpanzees to Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots programs and elementary schools.  Kim served as a volunteer and substitute at Early Learning Matters while her son attended for several years.  During that time, she attended multiple courses on the 7 Habits.  Applying this knowledge at ELM and home has enriched her life.  Kim’s past professional experience includes serving as a Certified Veterinary Technician.  She holds an Associates of Science degree and an Associates of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology from PCC.

Kim enjoys living in Hillsboro with her husband and two children.  Her hobbies include crafting, traveling, camping, going to the coast, and engaging in the fun activities around town.  Kim continues to visit Bend to volunteer at Chimps Inc. whenever she gets a chance.  She volunteers her time to raise money for a foster kid’s camp with her mother-in-law and Relay for Life with her cousin.  She feels fortunate to be a part of the ELM staff and looks forward to working with the young minds that exist within our community for years to come.


Damaris Bezares

Co-Lead Pre-Kindergarten Teacher

Damaris joined Early Learning Matters in 2017. She serves as a Co-Lead Pre-Kindergarten Teacher in the Elderberry Room. Prior to ELM, she served as a Pre-K Teacher in Middleton, WI for 8 years. Damaris has a B.S. in Office Administration from the University of Puerto Rico. In addition, she has taken many classes and trainings in Early Childhood Education. Damaris is fluent in Spanish and has specialized in working with dual-language students. She loves unraveling the uniqueness of each child and would not trade teaching for anything.

Damaris lives in Beaverton with her husband, two daughters, and Chispi (the family dog). She loves taking her family to the park, to the beach, swimming, and exploring new places. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Her hobbies include spending time with friends, cooking, baking, and travel.

Sara Young

Sara Young

Lead Pre-K and Kindergarten Teacher/Curriculum Specialist

Sara began teaching at ELM in 2013 and currently serves as a Co-Lead Teacher in Pre-K and Kindergarten and supports all of the staff as Curriculum Specialist.  She began her teaching career at Head Start, where she worked as a Lead Preschool Teacher for over 7 years.  She obtained an AS degree in Early Childhood Education in 2007. In 2011, she received a BA in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Special Education. Sara completed her student teaching in a 2nd grade classroom with a focus on Science and Social Studies.  She has had training on a wide variety of topics such as Cultural Awareness, Kindergarten Readiness, Observations and Assessments, and the 7- Habits.  She is currently continuing her education by attending Early Childhood Conferences and has recently begun to study sign language.

Sara lives in Beaverton with her husband and five children.  She enjoys taking her family to the park, on trips to the coast, swimming, and camping.  Sara grew up in Hawaii and spent her early teaching and college education years there.  She is an active member of the Boy Scouts of America with her school-age son.  Her hobbies include drawing, painting, wood working, and dancing.  Sara and her family volunteer at the children’s program within their church.


Nicole Schnell

Assistant Preschool Teacher

Prior to joining ELM, Nicole worked as a Managing Partner at Sunset Lanes and KingPins Portland, where she was responsible for staff development, customer relations, and employee communications. Nicole worked closely with Sunset Lane’s teenage staff to develop leadership skills, along with preparing and training them for promotions and other career opportunities. Nicole is known for her volunteer work, especially her dedication to the arts and the Special Olympics. Throughout the last 15 years Nicole has volunteered for SMART reader, The Boys and Girls Club, and has worked closely with the Special Olympics and their annual bowling tournament. After working in her children’s co-op preschools and teaching Art Literature at her local elementary school, Nicole knew early education is where she belongs.

You can often find Nicole in her backyard gardening, spending quality time with family, chasing one of her pups, or corralling her chickens. Did we mention that Nicole loves animals? Nicole also enjoys crafting and loves to spend her free time making gifts for her friends, along with selling them at local community markets.