Our Story

MIMMO Play Cafe is more than just playtime with purpose. We welcome you to the heart of our community founded on the fundamentals of rich learning in a unique place. Our team of talented educators are committed to creating intentional provocations for children to discover their interests and themselves in the best way we know which is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.

Built on a vision and belief that many parents realize the importance of these foundational years and want to invest in only the richest of experiences.  We focus on the whole child but believe that parents need that special place too.

We are all capable of great things, but together we can discover a strength and greatness we never knew we had. Join us at MIMMO Play Cafe to grow and connect with families that value community and a lifelong love of learning. 



Heather LaCasse

Heather LaCasse, founder and owner, has two successful children ages 16 and 19, and is a native of West Hartford. She has over 15 years experience in early childhood and nonprofit management. Her diversified professional background in administration, marketing/communications and passion for education, allows her to lead MIMMO to its full potential.

The vision for MIMMO came about in 2016 after her love for the Reggio Emilia approach and the idea of building a community that is inspired by a “beautiful life”. Heather was exposed heavily to the arts at an early age. Her father was a photojournalist for the New York Times and associated press; her grandparents were professional classical musicians and educators; and her mom was an early childhood educator and lover of film and literature.

I grew up in with an Italian family where the richest of memories came from everyone coming together and celebrating with the beauty of food, connections and celebration. I am committed to incorporating all of these elements within MIMMO Play Cafe and feel strongly that you will call MIMMO your “second home”, as well as a rich place where your child will flourish!
~ Heather LaCasse


Cheri Colson

Cheri Colson, Studio Coordinator, brings passion and commitment to Mimmo Play cafe. She became a teacher because of a deep appreciation and respect for the child. Cheri believes that every child has a natural curiosity for wonder and exploration and it is her drive to foster this in an innovative educational setting.

Cheri obtained her Bachelors degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Psychology. She has years of experience as an early childhood educator and administrator which makes working with both children and the family second nature.

The Reggio Emilia approach and Loris Malaguzzi’s teachings resonate with me. I have years of training and implementation of the approach and it inspires me every day. I believe in building a strong sense of community during the vital first years of a child’s life; one in which we all come together in a nurturing space. Creating a natural and inviting environment rich in opportunities for exploration is something that I am very committed to and I look forward to getting to know all of you.” ~ Cheri Colson

Leticia S. Jacquet

Leticia S. Jacquet is a licensed Physical Therapist (PT). She has 10 years experience in the field of Pediatric PT and 17 years working with children with special needs in the area of Sports and Recreation. Leticia completed her B.S. in Physical Education in May 2003, her M.S. in Physical Therapy at Hunter College CUNY in May 2007, and her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Stony Brook University in May of 2011.

Leticia has worked in a variety of settings including, schools Pre-K-12, early intervention, and outpatient clinics. Leticia S. Jacquet is a Certified Instructor of Infant Massage with IAIM. Her decision to become certified happened after her own personal experience attending an Infant Massage class with her daughter.

The experience was so empowering, and informative that I felt a need to share my experience.” ~ Leticia S. Jacquet

Sara Balkun

My name is Sara Balkun. I am a Reggio inspired educator, intuitive artist, and registered yoga teacher. For the past thirteen years I have had the opportunity to support young children, their families and teachers in a variety of settings. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience of learning inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. I have a passion for creating spaces and experiences that support children’s natural curiosity and interests, while encouraging mindful connections, authentic communication, and the exploration of the unique inner artist. It is my mission to share my love for education, nature and the arts as well as my understanding of breath, movement, and mindfulness. Through creative classes and trainings I hope to inspire positive change from the inside out.

Sam Letizio-Dos Santos

Sam Letizio-Dos Santos is a Reggio inspired nature based educator and photographer. She has a degree in child development and holds her directors credential. She is currently studying art therapy for children and furthering her training and degree in early childhood.

Teaching is my passion, and I have been an educator for the last 13 years. I love connecting learning to nature and the outdoors and helping children explore the world around them. I’m excited to join this amazing team of educators and share Reggio inspired learning with the community.
When I’m not teaching, I enjoy hiking, taking photos, and working in my local nature center.

Michelle Ignatowicz

Michelle Ignatowicz was born in Marlborough, Connecticut, in 1985. As a child, she was enamored with the family heirlooms and antiques at her grandmother’s home. These objects sparked a curiosity that has greatly impacted the aesthetic of her work.
After a break from art classes in high school to pursue music electives, Michelle rediscovered her affinity for art in an elective drawing class as an undergraduate sophomore. Midway through the semester, she realized that she had found her passion and switched her major, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Art Education in 2009. Michelle went on to teach elementary/middle school art.
After the birth of her first child in May 2015, she left her position to raise her son and pursue a Master’s Degree in School Counseling. In 2017, Michelle completed her graduate degree, hoping to incorporate her counseling skills into her teaching to support the individualized needs of her students. She currently volunteers at a nonprofit middle school in Hartford for boys from underserved communities.
Michelle works with a broad array of materials and processes, but her primary focus is drawing and mixed media collage. She is fascinated with the history of objects, nostalgic imagery, and their intended and unintended meanings. Michelle sources and/or draws images and then juxtaposes them to give her pieces a voice and often to convey social commentary. She enjoys working with negative space and creating playful images that appear to break out of their environments.
Michelle is passionate about continually learning and growing as an artist, both through teaching and through taking classes, where she can learn new techniques and approaches to incorporate into her work. Michelle plans to pursue more opportunities to show her work and to connect with the local art community.