Kristin Habicht is the Early Childhood Education Program Chair. Prior to coming to ACC, Kristin taught first grade, preschool, and parenting classes, wrote a monthly parenting column for area newspapers, and was director of an early childhood program for over 10 years. She is passionate about providing high quality experiences for young children and their families in early childhood programs and teaching the newest generation of early childhood professionals about research-based practices. She has a BA in Early Childhood Education and a MA in Child Development as well as a Leadership Certificate from the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program. She enjoys gardening with her husband and antiquing with anyone who will join her. Kristin has two grown children who are married and she loves being a grandmother!
Kathy Sutherland is full-time faculty at Arapahoe Community College. Kathy holds an MA from the University of Denver in Early Childhood Education Administration and Leadership. She is a BUELL Leadership Alumni Fellow, 2nd cohort. Kathy is passionate about quality Early Care and Education for children and families and brings her classroom and director experience to our students at ACC. Prior to coming to ACC, Kathy worked over 10 years in private, faith based and public-fully inclusive early care and education. While at ACC, our ECE Department has developed and created partnerships to provide students hands-on experiences through coaching/mentoring while observing and completing practicum hours. These opportunities have enabled ECE students to transfer concepts taught in the classroom to their practice. Kathy and the ECE Department continue to look for innovative ways to collaborate and improve experiences for all our students. When not in the classroom with adults or children, Kathy loves to enjoy the beauty Colorado holds. She will be hiking, riding her bike, or walking while enjoying time with her family.
Niki Gill Adams
*Also an Advisory Board member
Niki Gill Adams is deeply passionate about our nation’s youngest citizens. She is also dedicated to ensuring the best outcomes for direct caregivers, children, and their families. Early childhood education has allowed Niki to realize her passion, be innovative, and utilize her leadership skills to enhance the lives of young children and those who care for them. She has witnessed a transformation in the field of early care and learning in her role as advocate, director, teacher of young children, college instructor, Quality Rating Specialist, child care licensing specialist and supervisor, and in her current role as Executive Director of Community Based Licensing. Niki actively partners with child care providers and the community to ensure that all children are thriving academically, socially, physically, and mentally.
In her role as part-time instructor, she enjoys connecting with students, joining them in their educational aspirations, and adapting course content to their needs. Niki’s goal is to meet programs’ highest needs and to mentor them in providing best practices for children.
Niki was selected to participate in an intensive community leadership program hosted by Urban Leadership Foundation Denver. The program provided invaluable experiences that enhanced her ability to be more deeply engage and collaborate with community leaders. Niki takes great pride in her community involvement activities and has served as a board member of Restoration Christian Academy, as well as serving as a leader in Restoration Christian Fellowship Children’s Ministry. She has served on many early childhood task forces, presented at statewide conferences and served as the keynote speaker at the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children early childhood conference, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Senior Girls Scholarship Program, and the Northeast Family Child Care Association Conference. Niki completed her undergraduate degree at The University of New Mexico in Communication and Journalism and Spanish. Later she completed her Masters Degree, in the Early Childhood Education Master’s program at the University of Colorado Denver.
Susan has been in the early childhood field for over 40 years. She’s worked as a classroom teacher, home visitor, an early childhood special educator, early interventionist, center director for Head Start and Cherry Creek Schools, executive director of an Early Intervention Agency and a program consultant. Susan is concentrating on sharing her education and experience through consulting, coaching, facilitation of professional development sessions and as an adjunct instructor at ACC. She is a passionate advocate for children, families, and early childhood professionals.
I have been in the early care and education field since 1997 where I started as a student teacher and worked my way through various positions. I am currently the executive director of a large preschool in Denver and have previously worked as an early childhood special education teacher, Child Find evaluator, child care teacher, and with Early Learning Ventures. I hold an education specialist degree in teacher leadership and a master’s degree in early childhood special education. I am passionate about training directors and love teaching ECE 240 and 241 at Arapahoe.
I’m Jo Koehn and I’m passionate about the field of Early Childhood Education! I consider it an honor to work with adults who care for young children in a variety of settings. I currently am an adjunct instructor at ACC, coach in ECE classrooms, and work with families as a parent home educator.
I previously worked on Early Childhood Initiatives at the Colorado Department of Education, with young children and families at Children’s Hospital, and as a nanny for several families. My academic credentials include a graduate level Early Childhood Special Education Teaching Certification, with an Infant Toddler Specialization from the University of Colorado/Denver and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Denver. I love learning so have taken many additional specialty courses that help keep me current. In my free time, I love to travel, craft, and spend precious time with my three children (two grown and one teen still at home).
Ellen Shamas-Brandt, Adjunct Instructor, has a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a Master of Education degree from Vanderbilt University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Leadership and Innovation from the University of Colorado Denver. Her doctoral dissertation addressed the topic of preschool science education. Ellen spent 20 years in the Douglas County and Littleton school districts teaching kindergarten, first/second multiage, second, and fourth grades. She has also taught early childhood music classes for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Ellen enjoys teaching private piano and voice lessons at her home studio, LightSunStudio, and Avanti Music Academy. She enjoys spending time with her family, playing the piano, singing, hiking, theater, reading, and traveling.
Laura Watts-Patrick is an adjunct Early Childhood teacher at ACC. Laura is also the Director at St. Andrew Preschool in Highlands Ranch, CO. Laura is passionate about early childhood, both in the United States and abroad. She has served as a Director of many types of Early Childhood programs in New York City, Colorado and Santiago, Chile i.e. Head Start, Private, Corporate, faith based and an International School. In addition, she was the Professional Development Coordinator for Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council for five years and is an Expanding Quality in Infant and Toddler Instructor for the Douglas County Early Childhood Council. She has two Master’s degrees from Bank Street College of Education in New York City, NY: MS in Special Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood and an EDM in Administration with an emphasis in Early Childhood. Laura is passionate about travel and loves exploring new places with her husband, and two teenage children.
Laura Alsdorf currently teaches the Littleton Public Schools/ACC Early Childhood Education concurrent enrollment program. She works collaboratively with ACC encouraging qualified students to get a head start in their profession by earning college credit while in high school. Prior to the last 7 years in LPS, Laura worked at Highlands Ranch High School in Douglas County as Family & Consumer Sciences department chair and teacher where she implemented the innovative Teacher Cadet program. Her continued focus is encouraging and supporting students who love working with children to pursue a career in early childhood education. In addition to teaching, Laura serves at the state level as a Teacher Cadet teacher trainer and website coordinator. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Montana State University and a Masters of Technology in Education at Lesley University. When she is not working, she can be found walking her dog, Sir Barksalot, fly-fishing and enjoying time with family.
Heather Hanna, MPA
Heather Hanna is a driven leader focused on strengthening communities through education, health, and equity – and most passionate about helping young children and families. She currently serves as Director of Membership and Communication with the Early Childhood Council Leadership Alliance (ECCLA).
ECCLA is the membership association for Colorado's 34 Early Childhood Councils and provides technical assistance and capacity building, implements shared measurement for collective impact, advocates for policies affecting early childhood issues, leverages statewide partnerships, and serves as the collective voice for members. Heather joined ECCLA in April 2017. She supports Council members with technical assistance and capacity building, while developing communication strategies to elevate awareness of Councils and their work to support young children and families.
Heather has over nine years of experience in strengthening communities for children and families with a focus on early childhood development. Prior to joining ECCLA, she was Strategic Initiatives and Special Projects Manager with First 5 Ventura County, one of California’s 58 early childhood commissions, and led efforts in resource development, strategic partnerships, community engagement, communications, and advocacy. She holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Central Florida and has earned certificates in Nonprofit Management and Emergency Management.
Heather believes that the greatest impact can be made in the earliest years which contributes to reducing many social challenges we try to combat later. She is passionate about strengthening communities for children and families and works to achieve stronger communities through identifying opportunities for partnerships, facilitating collaboration, and working across sectors.
Originally from Florida, she is excited to make Colorado her home. In her free time, you can find her hiking with her husband across Colorado's beautiful outdoors.
Director of the Bachelor of Applied Science and Human Services at ACC
Courtney received her Master of Public Administration from Florida State University and has worked in K-12 and higher education for over ten years. She served as the Director of Career Services and as an adjunct instructor at Southwest Florida College and went on to be the Assistant Director of Florida Campus Compact supporting faculty and staff throughout the state in community engaged scholarship. Ms. Kuntz has contributed to K-12 education systems through work at the Colorado Department of Education and Douglas County School District. She currently serves on the Douglas County Conservation District Board of Supervisors. Courtney and her husband, Jake, are living in the busy world of early childhood with their two young sons, Jackson and Otto.
Lisa Matter began her work in early childhood at the age of 2, when her mom began a co-operative preschool in order to get them both out of the house. Both her parents were role models in education, with her mom reviving and then chairing the Parent Teacher Organization and her dad joining and then serving as the chair of the school board for 8 years. She regularly travels with her wife and children to visit her parents in Washington State.
The most important educational period of life, infancy and toddlerhood, has been a central passion and theme throughout Lisa’s career, beginning as a work study student in a toddler classroom while earning her BA in Psychology at Smith College. The majority of her time with children has been with the remarkable age group of one- and two-year olds in a variety of high quality child care settings. Since completing her MA in Early Childhood at the University of Colorado, Denver, she has become increasingly more involved with the Expanding Quality in Infant Toddler Care Initiative in Colorado. She began as an EQIT Instructor in 2010, the same year she became a parent.
After teaching infants and toddlers for 15 years she joined the EQ Statewide team as the Senior Infant Toddler Specialist at the Colorado Department of Education. She now teaches adults about infant and toddler development with a focus on building the reflective capacity of caregivers in order to ensure each and every child has access to the responsive adult relationships that signify quality care in the first three years. She is deeply committed to improving experiences for all infants and toddlers, and believes that our convictions need only be equaled by our compassion in order to see the changes that will ensure a meaningful life for babies and those who care for them. She delicately balances her time between work and her wife and children, and is looking forward to more camping trips in the pop-up camper this year.
Kacee Miller, Communications Director and Professional Development Coordinator for the Arapahoe County Early Childhood Council has spent the past 10 years working in Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from Missouri State University and a Master’s Degree in International and Intercultural Communication from the University of Denver. Kacee is a credential ECE Coach and Trainer and is an advocate for young children and their families. She lives in Denver and enjoys spending time with her husband, son, daughter and three cats.
Megan Prior Rogers, M.A.
Megan Prior Rogers, M.A, is a Coaching Consultant with the Early Childhood Professional Development Team and a MTSS Consultant with the Office of Learning Supports. Prior to joining the team at CDE, Megan worked as an Early Language and Literacy Consultant as part of Ohio’s State Support Team by providing coaching and technical assistance to practicing teachers in Ohio. Additionally, she supported the implementation of state initiatives regarding Ohio’s Race to the Top grant and provided professional development to area teachers. Over the course of her career, Megan has served in a variety of settings including teaching, consulting, coaching, and as a director. She has also served on several committees to promote early childhood education including Preschool to Kindergarten transition initiatives, Ohio state-wide professional development committees, and K-3 standards writing committees. Megan earned her Master’s degree in Education from Kent State University where she focused her research on refugee education.
Lori Ryan, Ph.D.
Lori Ryan PhD. is Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education and Human Development with an emphasis on early education, educational leadership, and diversity and equity. Lori’s teaching, research, coaching, and consulting focus on building the capacity of teachers and leaders. In collaboration with others, Lori promotes within communities a strong image of children, teachers and families as co-constructors of their own learning stories within their unique cultural contexts. In addition to co-directing and teaching in the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program, Lori works in partnership with early learning schools and community college partners to nurture the growth of teacher candidates at the undergraduate level, helping to build a strong and competent early childhood workforce in Colorado.
I am a recent graduate of Arapahoe Community College, and like many students at ACC, I embarked on a career change in 2014. I have always enjoyed sharing knowledge with children while exploring alongside of them. I reveled in the time I had at home with my now teenage daughters, and felt that I could continue to share in those experiences as an educator of young children. I graduated from ACC in 2015 with my Director's Certificate while also teaching in a multi-age classroom at the Arapahoe Community College Child Development Center. In 2016, I decided to continue my education and was accepted into the University of Colorado-Denver to pursue my Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education while also attaining my license as an Early Childhood Special Educator. Currently, I am the Assistant Director at Treasureland Preschool in Denver where I also teach in a three-year-old classroom. I am proud to be serving on the ACC ECE Advisory Council this year as a returning alumni, and I look forward to working with others in our field to empower teachers and support children in quality early childhood environments.
I am honored to be working with such a wonderful group of professionals who are dedicated to supporting and promoting early childhood educators within Colorado. Currently, I am the director at All Souls Early Learning Center located in Englewood. My previous professional experience is diverse and spans over twenty-two years. Some of my preceding experience includes curriculum development for a Core Knowledge charter school in the Cherry Creek school district, assistant director experience where I initiated and coordinated all of the early intervention services for Head Start and Early Head Start children, as well as, twelve years of classroom teaching experience in a faith-based preschool programs. Outside of my professional role, my greatest joy is my three daughters, my two sons-in-law, and my two precious grandchildren. I am also a very proud fifth generation Colorado native.
Large Center Director Qualified- Colorado Department of Human Services
Early Childhood Professional Credential – Level 4
Approved Trainer – Colorado Department of Education
Early Learning Leadership Credential
CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System) Reliable Rater April 2011
Professional Associations and Memberships:
Member – Early Childhood Christian Director’s Association
Member- National Association for the Education of Young Children
Marnie Yanacheak has been the Principal of The Village for Early Childhood Education in Littleton Pubic Schools since 2016. She has been a dedicated early childhood educator for 18 years. Her work in education includes: Director of Early Childhood Education and Child Find for Englewood Schools, Bilingual Early Childhood Special Educator in Littleton Public Schools, Bilingual Special Educator for Preschool through fifth grades and ELA-S Kindergarten Teacher in Denver Public Schools. Marnie received her Masters and Educational Specialist Degrees, as well as several endorsements from the University of Colorado at Denver in the areas of Administrative and Leadership Policy Studies, Early Childhood Special Education, Severe Affective Needs, Mild/Moderate Special Needs, Linguistically Diverse Education, and English as a Second Language. Professionally she is dedicated to serving at-risk communities and ensuring equity for all students in the public education system. Personally Marnie and her daughter volunteer locally and internationally in support of quality education for at-risk populations. The highlight of every summer is Latin American Heritage Camp where Marnie has been a volunteer Presenter, Coordinator, and now Director emphasizing multilingualism, Spanish language learning, equity, empathy, and cultural experiences from Latin America for all children and families.