Our Staff

Alicia Garcia

Position: Operation Clerk

  • Welcoming Visitors
  • Assist Executive Director
  • Assist Associate Director
  • Assist Fiscal Manager
  • Assist QI Navigator

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

It is important, because it gives children from 0-3 to learn and develop early skills that will follow them throughout their life. Also help build relationships with other children their own ages.

“Start each day with a grateful heart.”

Amberly Atencio

Position: EHS Health and Safety Manager

  • Plan, coordinate, and monitor all phases of health, safety, and nutrition components within EHS guidelines.
  • Complete health screenings within mandated deadlines.
  • Coordinate health services to include medical, dental, mental health, and nutritional services for children, pregnant moms, and nursing mothers.

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Early Childhood is the foundation for setting up a child to become a successful adult. I love working with children because it brings so much joy to me, as I get to watch them grow from infants to adulthood. All children need love, regardless of their upbringing. We are needed to teach children, but in all reality, we always learn from children.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” – Dr. Seuss

Amy Bolt

Position: EHS Coach/Disabilities Manager

  • I coach teachers to improve developmentally appropriate teaching classroom practices.
  • I support teachers on the Ages and Stages developmental screenings for children.
  • I support teachers with strategies for children that have disabilities.
  • I facilitate trainings for Early Head Start teachers.
  • I review lesson plans, child observations, and child assessment reports on the Teaching Strategies Assessment System for Early Head Start.

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

I chose to work in the Early Childhood field because I enjoy working with young children and teachers. My experience and education in the early childhood field, for over 25 years, has taught me this is the most important learning time in a child’s life. Therefore, providing young children with positive learning experiences during these years, increases their success in school and throughout life. The teachers who work with these children need continued education and support so they can provide the best learning environment for each child to succeed.

“Time spend playing with children is never wasted” – Dawn Iantero

Azeneth Heredia

Position: EHS Coach/Disabilities Manager

  • Provide professional parent instruction and delivery of information to participating families implementing the curriculum provided by the National Parents as Teachers Center.
  • Actively recruit volunteer families with children 0 to 5 years of age to participate in the program
  • Parent Educator Certification
  • Help organize family-centered events once a month
  • Coordinate services with other community programs with similar purposes and promote family and community engagement.

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

I have always considered myself an advocate for children and their families. In the seven years that I worked for Save the Children, I was able to witness the difference and impact that family and community involvement in early education makes. I strongly believe that patents are their children’s first and most influential teachers, and we are here to help coach and empower them. I also believe that as Parent Educators, we need to be intentional about our work and everything we do, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Cindy Harris

Position: EHS Assessment Coach

  • Conduct classroom observations using Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale
  • Conduct classroom observations using Teaching Pyramid Infant/Toddler Observation Scale
  • Plan and present trainings in I am Moving I am Learning, Environment Rating Scales, and Pyramid Approach
  • Coordinate Annual Kite Fly Event
  • Participate in ECCSLV Council Staff, Team, and Reflective Supervision Meetings

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

With my 29 years of experience in the early childhood field, as a Licensed Family Childcare Provider, Director Family Child Care for Army Child and Youth Services, Lead Teacher in large and small centers, Director of large and small centers, Professional Development Coordinator and Quality Improvement Coach for the Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley, I utilized my B.A. in Elementary Education and extensive training/credentials in Early Childhood to be an integral part of the early childhood field. I am passionate about this work because of the critical development of children in these earliest years of their lives.

“Two men looked out through prison bars, one saw the mud, the other saw stars.” – Dale Carnegie

Debra Benalli

Position: Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant, Behavioral Health

  • Focus on building the capacity of the adults in children’s lives in all settings
  • Begins with the premise that all relationships matter in a child’s life and work to promote the building of strong relationships and supportive environments.
  • Assess classrooms using the PRE-K CHILD for Social Emotional Capacity
  • Assess child behaviors using DECA and provide appropriate behavioral intervention such as PSFF parent education classes.
  • Child Care Center staff trainings and reflective process groups.

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Having worked in clinical mental health and substance abuse for over 30 years in a variety of settings and positions, I have truly come to believe that the greatest impact for behavioral/emotional change occurs in early childhood and that is why I choose to do the work that I do.

“Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity.” – Sitting Bull

Donielle Van Gieson

Position: Contracted Fiscal Officer, Key Business Solutions, Inc.

  • Consultant to senior leadership team and Board of Directors on all financial matters, making recommendations and suggesting pro-active strategies to keep the Early Childhood Council of the SLV on track
  • Drive best financial practices
  • Participate in interanl planning regarding proposed program expansion, to ensure alignment of program, outreach and training plans with financials projections
  • Align procedures to meet critical regulatory and legal compliance

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Working in the Early Childhood not-for-profit sector is rewarding and intellectually challenging. Being an effective partner to the senior leadership team is guiding the organization to fulfill an ambitious mission is gratifying. Children are the future of our community, providing them with the tools they will need to be successful is imperative.

“Time is the most valuable commodity, make sure where you are investing is worth the cost.”

Erica Cervantez

Position: Mental Health Consultant/Team Lead, Early Childhood Mental Health

  • Provide social emotional strategies to early learning professionals and families
  • Provide reflective supervision to early learning professionals
  • As team lead, I assist with some administrative duties
  • Build  the social emotional capacity of all the people who are in a young child’s life

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

My hope is that I can give these young people all the skills they need and to have the confidence and knowledge to achieve all they want in life.

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” – Frida Kahlo

Erica Maldonado

Position: PFCE Manager

  • Early Head Start Enrollment Management
  • Program Recruitment
  • Family Engagement
  • Resource Referral

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Early Childhood is important because it’s the most important and crucial years for little ones. This is the age where the brain develops the most, and where we as caring and loving adults can mark and make a difference in a child’s life.

“The beginning is always today.” – Mary Woolstonecraft

“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Esther Gamboa Mendoza

Position: Lead Parent Educator, Parents as Teachers (PAT)

  • Deliver Home Visits to families
  • Support other Parent Educators
  • Help keep the program running and make sure everything gets done.

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Early childhood is important to ensure that all children get a quality and healthy start. My passion is working with children/families and help them in any way I can to see them reach their full potential and succeed in life.

“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.”

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you don’t stop.”

Jerica Gonzalez

Position: Child and Family Service Team Lead

  • Coordinate robust parent education program
  • Support Early Head Start PFCE Manager(s) and Health and Safety Manager in their service to families and programs
  • Collaborate with program and community partners

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Most of what children learn is during the early years and it is so amazing to watch. Working with families and children has become my passion. I value the relationships I have made and learn something new from those I work with every day.

“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.”

Mara Hsu

Position: Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator

  • Counsel and Coach professionals along individual career paths
  • Manage and streamline Early Childhood Council’s Child Development Associate Credential program and coach individual participants
  • Trainer for Pyramid Plus Approach and Expanding Quality in Infant Toddler Care
  • Manage Professional Development Scholarship Program

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

I grew into this field; as a volunteer for my boys’ preschool and evolved into my current position. Over the years, I have learned that all children deserve these 4 elements from adults: we need to be able to connect with them, serve and return during interactions, children need a sense of belonging, and have opportunities to grow. As I learn and grow, I want to help others learn and grow along this journey.

“Human relationships are primary in all of living. When the gusty winds blow and shake our lives, if we know that people care about us, we may bend with the wind…but we won’t break.” – Fred Rogers

Nicole Neufeld

Position: Associate Director

  • Administrative Team
  • Primary oversight of Early Head Start
  • Primary oversight of Parents as Teachers

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

My passion for ECE is fueled by an interest in child and family development and how these are impacted by the unique circumstances of our rural communities

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

Othon Mendez

Position: Parent Educator, PAT Program

  • Provide professional parent instruction and delivery of information or district families implementing the curriculum provided by the National Parents as Teachers Center.
  • Coordinate services with other community programs with similar purposes.
  • Support the philosophy and mission of Derby Public Schools
  • Comply with all district policies, rules and regulations.

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Positive and educational early childhood experiences are the foundation of successful students. Early childhood education is important because it is when children learn how to interact with others and form their character to become responsible persons. In case of being diagnosed with a delay, they can help with early interventions.

“Knowledge is power!” – Kofi Annan

Pauline Palacios

Position: Parent Educator, PAT Program

  • Home visits
  • Evidence basis activities for learning
  • Supporting families to understand milestone and working to help parents understand what areas of development are needed to build on
  • Advocate for families with resources to keep
  • We test with assessments for child growth

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

I enjoyed being with my children when they were little. When they went to school, I wanted to learn more about how I could help my children grow and build in all areas of development.

“Every person’s a person, no matter how small.” – Dr. Seuss

Rachael Cheslock

Position: Behavioral Health Consultant, Early Head Start Health and Wellness Coordinator, Parents as Teachers (PAT) Family Educator

  • Build teachers competence in understanding and handling behavioral concerns of students.
  • Support directors in creating trauma informed, supportive environments.
  • Assist teachers, families and administrators in behavioral plans and strategies.
  • Support children’s social emotional growth by teaching skills, vocabulary, and emotional awareness.
  • Build teachers capacity through reflective processing.

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Birth to five is a crucial time for building loving and supportive relationships, learning basic friendship skills, and building the base for emotional understanding and emotional regulation. Research shows that acquiring these social/emotional skills by kindergarten is a better indicator of life success in school and work than knowledge of numbers or letters. I began taking Early Childhood classes when I became a mom. Learning about brain development, learning theories, and the power of social emotional education as I watched it all taking place with my own baby, I was awed by the magic. I immediately fell in love with this field and 16 plus years later, I’m still passionate about social emotional education!

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” – Maya Angelou

Ramona Silva

Position: Parent Family Community Service Manager

  • Recruitment for Early Head Start
  • Application process for Early Head Start
  • Enrollment for Early Head Start

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

I think Early Childhood is important because young children deserve to grow and learn in a nurturing and safe environment and I love being able to help provide that space for them.

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart. That is why I love you with my whole heart.”

Sherri Valdez

Position: Executive Director

  • Organizational Leadership and Envisioning
  • Guide Strategic Plans, Goals, Policies, Budgets and Programs
  • Strengthen Community / State / National Partnerships
  • Leverage Funding, Human Resources and Policy

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

I work in the field of early childhood because as a young mother I struggled to find quality pre-kindergarten services for my own children and made a commitment to influence change. After twenty years, I continue to work on this social-economic issue, because our youngest children and their families deserve better! Access to quality early childhood services has positive impacts on child and family outcomes, leading us to a strong and healthy community. The responsibility to create a robust early childhood system falls upon us all.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

Silvia Martinez

Position: Parent Educator, Parent as Teacher (PAT)

  • Work with families supporting their child development
  • Finding resources for family needs
  • Submitting the ASQ-3 SE and other screenings
  • I love helping children learn new skills
  • Taking materials to home visits

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Early Childhood is so important because a child’s development starts when they are young. Helping these kids will better set them up for success as they go on to pre-k and later onto high school and hopefully college. I chose this field because I love working with children and giving them a better opportunity for success.

“To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care.” – Mandy Hale

Tina Esquibel

Position: Early Childhood Specialist

  • Provide Training in Child Development and Social-Emotional Skills Building
  • Provide Coaching in Quality Environments and Teacher-Child Interactions
  • Provide Reflective Facilitation
  • Provide Supports in Building Capacity and Awareness for Self-Reflection

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

My Early Childhood Educational journey began over 25 years ago.  Working with young children has always been a passion of mine.  I love the curiosity, ideas, presence, humor, love, and honesty children bring to interactions, naturally, and I always learn much about myself when hanging out with children.  The Early Childhood Profession is important to me because I believe being part of the facilitation of learning for children is one of the MOST important and rewarding journeys, I’ve been fortunate to travel in this life, and I truly cherish every moment I spend with children.

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” – Mother Teresa

Veronica Cisneros

Position: Colorado Shines Coach and Quality Improvement Navigator & Social/Emotional Coach

  • Help early childhood programs and home childcare providers across the SLV improve the quality of the programs.
  • Assess environments using the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale and coach classroom teachers around the tool.
  • Assist directors in documentation for Colorado Shines Level 3-5 rating and help with ordering of materials off ecConnect and help with PDIS and QRIS accounts.

Social/Emotional Coaching

  • Assess ECE teachers on social emotional competencies, set goals and help educators working on teaching skills.
  • Implementation of Pyramid Model strategies.

Why did I choose to work in the Early Childhood field?

Early Childhood is the basis for setting up a child to become a productive and successful adult. I enjoy working with young children because it brings so much joy to me. Working with young children has always been my passion and to watch them grow and thrive is priceless.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.” – Dr.Suess