ECE Faculty and Advisory Board


Kristin HabichtKristin Habicht
Department Chair
Office: N1035

Kristin Habicht is the Early Childhood Education Department 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 has been at ACC for 6 years and last year was a Distinguished Faculty. 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 and a brand new baby granddaughter.

Kathy SutherlandKathleen Sutherland
Office: N1025


Olivia CoyneOlivia Coyne

My name is Olivia Coyne. I have had the pleasure of working in our invigorating and gratifying field of ECE since 2002. I have "worked my way up the ranks" starting as a substitute teacher, then teacher, and moving through lots of varied positions in ECE. My most current role is as the Director and Division Manager for Boulder County Head Start and adjunct faculty for both Arapahoe and Front Range Community Colleges. My areas of specialty in the field are Dual Language Learners and Dual Language Acquisition, Project-based Curriculum Development  and Early Childhood Guidance. Teaching teachers is my true passion as get excited to learn alongside my students. When I'm not working (which I admit is rare), I enjoy spending time with my daughter, Eve; running; playing ultimate Frisbee and serving on my local league's board as the women's development chair; and knitting.  

Susan HillSusan Hill

I have been teaching at ACC for 10 years. What I love about my work is getting to teach and learn each semester. One of my goals is to individualize each semester so my courses never quite look the same. In my early childhood profession, I have been a classroom teacher, center director, early childhood special education teacher and an independent consultant. I've worked with typically developing children, children who are at risk for school failure and with special needs children from birth through age 5. What I love about our profession is that is is dynamic yet always based on providing child centered learning in a collaborative, caring community. 

Nicole KrogerNicole Kroger

My name is Nicole Kroger. I have been a Teacher of the Deaf for 13 years; working with students in preschool through third grade. I began my teaching career in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. In 2009, my family and I moved to Colorado and I began working for Cherry Creek School District. I am thrilled to be working for ACC in Early Childhood Education. Teaching future educators allows me the opportunity to inspire, encourage and impact the lives of children. As the poet William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”


Lisa PolakLisa Polak

Lisa Polak joined the Chaparral High School teaching faculty in August 2014. Lisa is originally from  Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. She earned her B.A. in Career and Technical Education from the University of Kentucky. Lisa has passion and admiration for integrating knowledge and processes from empirical, interpretive, and critical sciences to help students identify,
 understand, and solve continuing human concerns that individuals and families  experience. Lisa strives to create a student-driven learning environment that allows students to take ownership of creating and  carrying out their passions.  She makes it her personal goal to ensure each one of her students masters the skills they need to successfully complete ECE courses with confidence and joy."

Ellen Shamas-WrightEllen Shamas-Brandt

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  Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Leadership and Innovation from the University of Colorado Denver. She has taught kindergarten, first/second multiage, second, and fourth grade classes in the Douglas County and Littleton school districts, and currently teaches full-day kindergarten at Mark Hopkins Elementary School in Littleton Public Schools.  She has also taught early childhood music classes for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  Ellen’s doctoral dissertation addressed the topic of early childhood science education, and she serves on the review panel for the Science and Children journal.   Ellen enjoys spending time with her family, playing the piano and violin, singing, hiking, theatre, reading, and traveling.

Theresa Weber, MA ECSE

Hello, my name is Theresa Weber. I am a Denver native love Colorado. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and Family Relations at the University of Idaho. I then went on to acquire my Masters’ degree in Early Childhood Special Education at the University of Colorado at Denver. In 1992 I started my own business teaching parenting classes within the community. I also teach social emotional strategies as well as classroom management to staff in Early Childhood Centers throughout the greater metro Denver area.  My passion for over 25 years has been teaching young children. 

Currently, I work with young children with disabilities in the Cherry Creek School District and have been teaching in the Community College system for over 10 years.  I love the work I do and plan to continue through the coming years.

Advisory Board

Kay SwansonKay Swanson
Committee Chair

I have been the Director at St. Luke’s Little School, a private faith-based program in Highlands Ranch for the past 20 years. I feel privileged to serve on the ACC Advisory Committee and work with many outstanding Early Childhood leaders. I also serve on the Douglas County Early Childhood Council, in charge of professional development and as a member at large for the Denver Metro Colorado Association for Educating Young Children. I have two wonderful sons and their families who live in Minneapolis, MN, and of course have 3 beautiful grandchildren. By serving on the ACC Committee it gives me a chance to help ensure a brighter future for all children in their early childhood years.

Lori Geismar Ryan, Ph.D.Lori Geismar Ryan, Ph.D.

Lori Geismar Ryan, Ph.D., Faculty, University of Colorado Denver. Lori is a Senior Instructor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver, with a focus on early education, educational leadership, and diversity and equity. Formerly as Director of Early Childhood Education and Family Engagement, she worked at Clayton School District’s Family Center, a public school early education program in Missouri. In that role she led applied research and innovative practice and the development of inclusive, project-based curriculum for young children and families. Lori’s teaching, research, coaching, and consulting focus on building the capacity of teachers and leaders. In addition to teaching in the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program, she works in partnership with schools to nurture the growth of teacher candidates. She received her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education, Research and Evaluation from the Departments of Education and Psychology at the University of Buffalo.

Julie SteffenJulie Steffen

Julie Steffen has a background as both an Occupational Therapist and an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her graduate degree from the University of Colorado-Denver. Julie spent much of her professional career working in an integrated preschool classroom with children with significant social and emotional challenges including Autism. For the last 7 years she has worked at Invest in Kids, a non-profit organization in Denver, Colorado whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of young vulnerable children.  Her role as the Incredible Years Program Director is to train and coach teachers using IY in their classrooms all over the state. In addition to coaching and training she works with communities to support implementation of IY. Julie lives in Littleton and has two children ages 7 and 11. 

Marnie Yanacheak

Marnie Yanacheak is the Director of Early Childhood Education and Child Find in Englewood Schools since 2012. Before joining Englewood Schools she was a Bilingual Early Childhood Special Educator in Littleton Public Schools for 7 years, as well as a Bilingual Special Educator and Kindergarten Teacher in Denver Public Schools for 6 years. Marnie received her Masters and Educational Specialist Degrees as well as several endorsements from the University of Colorado 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.