Amber Simmons – Preschool Director/Pre-K Teacher
This is Mrs. Simmons third year at Aspen Ridge as the Preschool Director and Lead Pre-k teacher. Mrs. Simmons completed her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Prior to completing her degree she spent seven years as a Special Education Para in the Thompson School District. Mrs. Simmons believes in creating a warm, welcoming, and safe environment where students feel free to show excitement and are willing to take risks. Mrs. Simmons stays busy with her two daughters and husband who also teaches in the St. Vrain School District. With her husband being the Head Baseball and Softball coach at Erie High School they spend a tremendous amount of time in the community.
Jené Bergan – Preschool 3’s Teacher
Ms. Bergan is extremely excited to embark on this new path at Aspen Ridge Preparatory School. Her goal is to enrich her students’ lives by encouraging them to be inquisitive, giving them the freedom to be creative, and by empowering them to be socially responsible and active participants of the world.
She received her BA in Sociology from the University of Colorado Boulder and shortly after completed the Friends’ Teacher Preparation Program, spending a year co-teaching at Friends’ School in Kindergarten and 2nd grade. She is currently pursuing my Masters in Human Development and Education at the University of Colorado Denver with an emphasis in Literacy.
Ms. Bergan is from the small mountain town of Lyons, Colorado, nestled right outside Boulder. She loves all that Lyons has to offer; mountains, sunshine, community, awesome music, mountain biking, and epic views. In my free time, she likes to explore new places with my husband and two pups, Harvey and Keeva. She loves hiking, taking road trips, paddle boarding, and camping. She thoroughly loves being active and spending my weekends hanging out with her family.
Jennifer Hays – Kindergarten Teacher
Mrs. Hays is from Ellis, Kansas. She graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelors’ Degree in Elementary Education and an area of concentration in Special Education. She went on to get her Masters’ Degree at Fort Hays State University with a Reading Specialist Degree.
Ms. Hays taught kindergarten for 6 years at St. Mary’s School in Ellis, Kansas. She has been teaching at Washington Grade School in Ellis for the last 10 years. While there, she taught kindergarten for three years and 1st Grade for 7 years. Ms. Hays was the Junior High Cheerleading Sponsor for 5 years. She was also nominated for Ellis Teacher of the Year twice.
Ms. Hays has wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl. She truly loves and respects each and every one of her students. Her goal each school year is to guide and nurture each student to reach his or her full potential. She always tells parents she treats her students the way she wants her own children to be treated!
Ms. Hays has two children – a daughter and a son – who are the light of her life! In her free time, she loves to read, go for walks, and hang-out with her children. It is also very important for Mrs. Hays to keep in touch with friends and family.
Cara Shepard – Kindergarten Teacher
Ms. Cara Shepard is from Chicago, Illinois. She attended Chicago State University where she received a BA in Early Childhood Education and later attended American College of Education where she received a MA in Educational Leadership. Ms. Shepard has been teaching for 11 years: preschool for six years and kindergarten for five years. She has always held a passion for teaching and helping young children reach their fullest potential.
Robin Sinichko – Kindergarten Teacher
Mrs. Sinichko grew up in Folsom, CA but spent her childhood summers in Colorado while attending horse camp in the Rockies. After graduating from Tulane University with a degree in Sociology and French, she joined Teach for America to earn her teaching credential and work in rural Mississippi, teaching both second and third grade. After completing her commitment with TFA, she made the move to Boulder and explored other career interests.
It didn’t take long for her to realize her passion for education. She headed back into the classroom to teach a combined kindergarten and first grade class at a private nature-based experiential learning school in Lafayette, CO. She believes learning should be meaningful and that supporting students’ social and emotional growth is as valuable as nurturing their intellectual education. She strives to create a classroom culture in which students are self-motivated, and develop strategies and mindsets that will help them thrive in life.
Alison Medina – Kindergarten Teacher (1/2 Day)
Mrs. Medina is originally from Philadelphia, PA, but spent a large part of her life living in San Diego, CA, where she earned her teaching credential, Masters of Education and her Gifted and Talented Certification. Prior to moving to Erie in 2012, she taught elementary school for 10 years in San Diego City Schools. Upon moving to Erie, Mrs. Medina followed her second passion and started her own photography business while her young children were still at home. As her children have grown and are both full time students at Aspen Ridge, Mrs. Medina is eager to be a part of her children’s school in the best way she knows how- as a teacher! During her free time Mrs. Medina enjoys spending time with her family, taking photos, making jewelry, camping, skiing, hiking and walking her dog. She is thrilled to make the transition from mom back to teacher, especially joining the team at Aspen Ridge!
Carey Lacey – 1st Grade Teacher
Ms. Lacey is originally from Tucson, Arizona. She has had a fascination with traveling the world and learning about new cultures, all of her life. She just moved back to the states from New Zealand, where she lived for ten months and loved it! Her love of travel and volunteering married when she lived in Nicaragua for two months and spent all of her free time helping out at the local elementary school, putting on athletic summer camps and aiding the local clinic when things got busy. Her wanderlust has taken her around the globe to other countries including Costa Rica, England, Italy, France, Japan, Mexico, Australia, and the United States territory of Guam. And finally, it has taken her out of the Arizona heat and into Colorado, where she is excited to experience all four seasons!
After living in Hamilton, New Zealand, she realized how much she loves outdoor activities and wanted to move to an area that supported her hobbies. She is looking forward to being able to run outdoors without worrying about heatstroke! Her hobbies include running, playing soccer, swimming, attending Zumba classes, reading great series, snowboarding, attempting new recipes in the kitchen, hanging out with friends and watching Disney movies.
She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in English as a Second Language. She has taught both 1st and 2nd grade. Students in her classroom should expect to be treated with care and respect and to have the same expectations for their interactions with each other. They will focus on their love of reading and learning new concepts that help grow their inner scientist, mathematician, and linguist. She is looking forward to the upcoming school year and the challenges and successes that will help grow all into a strong community of life-long learners.
Kaitlin Piening – 1st GradeTeacher
Ms. Piening recently moved to Colorado from Arizona where she attended the University of Arizona and taught second grade for 3 years. She is originally from the East Bay in Northern California and her parents still live there. Ms. Piening has been wanting to move to Colorado for a few years now to be closer to her brothers and baby nephew.
She is looking forward to seeing all that Colorado has to offer. She fell in love with Aspen Ridge when she came to visit last year and she is excited to get started in August.
Katie Zehnder – 1st Grade Teacher
Mrs. Zehnder was born and raised in the beautiful state of Colorado. She grew up around 30 miles north of Erie. In 2009, she moved to the mountain town of Gunnison to begin her undergraduate program. While she was there, she competed in track and field at the university. Mrs. Zehnder graduated from Western State Colorado University with her BA in Elementary Education and then later received her Master’s in Educator Effectiveness with an endorsement in Reading Specialist. Each year, she loves watching her first graders grow socially and academically as the year goes on.
Although she has lived in Colorado her whole life, Mrs. Zehnder has always been a HUGE Nebraska Cornhusker fan! Every Saturday in the fall is designated to watching the Husker games. Mrs. Zehnder also enjoys reading, hiking, playing sports, being at the lake, and spending time with friends and family, and traveling.
Genell Britton – 2nd grade
Ms. Britton, originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Wanting to escape the rain she immediately moved back to Colorado to receive her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Denver. During this program she had the opportunity to full-time student teach at the Ricks Center for Gifted Children in a 3rd/4th grade classroom. Ms. Britton is ecstatic to be joining the Aspen Ridge Team and is looking forward to creating a collaborative and welcoming classroom for her students. She emphasizes both academic and social/emotional growth in her class while using positive narration and backwards design.
On weekends you can find Ms. Britton hiking, snowshoeing, and getting outside in the surrounding mountains or at Chautauqua Park in Boulder. She is an avid reader, likes baking and trying her hand at new recipes. She loves spending time with her friends, family and her two (very) large dogs. She is looking forward to moving to Erie and getting to know the surrounding community!
Katelyn Clark-Martin – 2nd Grade Teacher
Ms. Clark-Martin recently graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in elementary education, minor in earth science, and a concentration in history. She completed her practicum teaching at Peak to Peak Charter School in Fall of 2016 and her student teaching at Aspen Ridge in Spring of 2017. She believes in education and has started her Master’s program this summer.
Ms. Clark-Martin fell in love with the family style community at ARPS and knew that she wanted to teach here. She is absolutely elated to begin her first year of teaching at ARPS as a second grade teacher. Teaching is her passion. As a teacher, she hopes to create a welcoming and positive classroom environment where her students can thrive and become lifelong learners.
She truly believes in providing a collaborative atmosphere within her classroom. She hopes to provide the opportunity for each of her students to learn, grow, and be successful. She is looking forward to being a part of the Aspen Ridge family! She is a fifth-generation Colorado native and has lived in Brighton since she was in second grade.
When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, including her French bulldog, Luna.
Julia Reed – 2nd Grade Teacher
Mrs. Reed grew up in Marin County, California and moved to Colorado four years ago after graduating from college at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. She completed the Friends’ Teacher Preparation Program in Boulder and spent a year co-teaching at Bear Creek Elementary in 2nd grade. Ms. Reed is currently working on obtaining a Masters in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Early Literacy from CU Denver.
From a young age, Ms. Reed has been involved with children’s learning experiences. Whether it was helping her mother (a 1st grade teacher!) to set up her classroom during the summers or working as a teacher’s aide, she learned that she had an ability to connect with children and foster their development from a place of understanding, commitment, and compassion. Ms. Reed enjoys the sweet energy of young students, and how interested they are in exploring, imagining, and learning. She strives to lead students to discover their own capabilities, creatively inspire them to find excitement in learning, and support them in their individual needs with enthusiasm and kindness.
Misty Brussow- 3rd Grade Teacher
Mrs. Brussow is excited to begin her second year at Aspen Ridge Preparatory School!! She and her family are new to Erie, having moved to Colorado in July 2016. She loves to spend time with her family, connecting with our sweet town and community, as well as spending time in the mountains.
Mrs. Brussow earned degrees from Wichita State University, and Fort Hays State University. Most of her experience in education has been working with students in the primary grades. She hopes her students see that education is a lifelong experience, and that each experience within our life helps us to grow into the best version of ourselves.
Christiana Shams – 3rd Grade Teacher
Bio to follow.
Leann Tyson – 3rd Grade Teacher
Mrs. Tyson, originally from Oklahoma, graduated with a Bachelors’ Degree in Elementary Education from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City. While attending college, Ms. Tyson ran her own home daycare and preschool for six years while raising her two children. She then moved to Texas and worked as an Assistant Teacher in Special Education for two years. After moving to Colorado, Ms. Tyson worked in the Adams 50 school district as an Assistant Teacher in both preschool and Title 1, then joined the Aspen Ridge family in 2013. Ms. Tyson has had a lifelong dream of being a teacher, and she hopes to instill in her students the same love for learning and school by creating a classroom environment that is welcoming, safe, and fun for all students. Ms. Tyson loves being a part of the staff at Aspen Ridge!
Rebecca Wild – 3rd Grade Teacher
Mrs. Wild was born in Illinois, but grew up in a Navy Family. Her journey has seen many different lands. For the last 15 years she has worked with children as a nanny, camp counselor and director, and substitute teacher. Ms. Wild’s bachelor’s degree is in Social Work from Concordia College in New York. She moved to Colorado to leave the busy New York life and decided to get her teaching license. She enjoys spending time with her two rescue dogs and husband.
Tess Amer – 4th Grade Teacher
Ms. Amer is very excited to be a part of the Aspen Ridge community! She was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico but moved out to Colorado to go to college and spend time in the beautiful mountains. She studied at the University of Colorado-Boulder where she received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and well as a license in Elementary Education. She has worked with several different age levels but fifth grade is her favorite. In her free time, Ms. Amer can be found mountain biking, training for triathlons or hiking with friends.
Malyssa Hiskett – 4th Grade Teacher
Ms. Hiskett holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and Elementary Education from Denver’s Metro State University and is pursuing her Master’s degree with CU Boulder. She has experience substituting
Rachel Miller – 4th Grade Teacher
Mrs. Miller graduated from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas in 2004 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, and graduated from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas in 2010 with a Master’s Degree in School Leadership. Mrs. Miller taught for eleven years at a private school in Kansas, and has classroom teaching experience in third, fifth, and sixth through eighth grade.
Mrs. Miller believes in providing a positive, caring, and safe classroom environment where all students will experience success. Mrs. Miller works diligently to motivate students to become life-long learners, and empowers students to share their successes with in the community.
Mrs. Miller enjoys spending time with family, especially her husband, four-year-old daughter, and one-year-old son. She also enjoys reading, sports, and outdoor activities.
Dawne Mangus – 5th Grade Teacher
Ms. Mangus was born and raised in Colorado. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English and Master’s Degree in Education from Colorado University at Boulder.
Her adventurous spirit led her to spend one year teaching 6th grade in Toksook Bay, Alaska. This area of open tundra, located right on the Bering Sea, was only accessible by plane. She learned about subsistence living in a native village of approximately 700 Yup’ik Eskimos.
Previous to that Ms. Mangus taught for nine years in Boulder Valley School District. She started as a paraprofessional in a K-5 computer lab and then taught both 4th and 5th grades in traditional classrooms.
As an avid photographer, you will always find her camera close by. She enjoys compiling her photos into websites, blogs, and movies. Being a Jeep owner, she loves four-wheeling in the desert around Moab, Utah. Whenever possible, you will find her traveling and spending time with her family.
Eric Rhoda – 5th Grade Teacher
Mr. Rhoda is so excited to be a part of the community at Aspen Ridge and the 2nd grade team in particular. He loves learning and looks forward to all that will be discovered and explored together in 2nd grade. Mr. Rhoda’s class will create a community that is fun, full of curiosity and wonder, and where everyone feels welcome and safe to dig into the challenging, exciting work of learning.
Mr. Rhoda was born and raised in Aurora, CO. He received his BA from Seattle Pacific University, after which he graduated school in Princeton, NJ receiving a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Christian Education. After serving as a pastor for 7 years in Texas he recently moved back to Colorado (Woo-hoo!).
Last year, he completed the Friends’ School Teacher Preparation Program, co-teaching in a 5th grade classroom. He’s currently working on another Master’s Degree in Human Development and Education with an emphasis in Early Literacy. When he’s not in school, he loves spending time with his wife and daughter – taking walks, playing legos, and hitting the park. He also enjoys golf, running, reading, and pretty much anything having to do with sports.
Abigail MacLean-Blevins – 6th Grade Teacher
Ms. MacLean-Blevins, who likes to go by Ms. M-B, is thrilled to be starting her next adventure with Aspen Ridge! She grew up in Maryland, and earned a BA in English and History from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She also attended St. Mary’s College for her Master of Arts in Teaching, with a focus in elementary education. She had the amazing opportunity to study at Oxford University in England and University of The Gambia in West Africa, and was able to teach in The Gambia as well. She has been teaching middle school in Maryland for several years, and has just moved to Colorado. Ms. M-B is very excited to start hiking in the mountains, and looks forward to bringing her giant puppy Zeus along. She looks forward to getting to know the fantastic community of Aspen Ridge, and is ready to jump into the school year!
Liz Walls – 7th Grade Teacher
Mrs. Walls is a Colorado native, born and raised in Pueblo, CO. She has a love of Mexican food and authentic green chili. She graduated from CU-Boulder with a degree in Chemistry and a certification in Secondary Education. She loves sports– a huge baseball (Go Rockies!) and football (Broncos RULE!) fan. She grew up as a swimmer so she loves the water. Recently, she has gotten into weight lifting and will be competing in her first Strongman Competition in August. She loves being creative and making things, spending her spare time sewing, crocheting or playing with her dog Lilly.
Tricia Lagae – 8th Grade Teacher
Ms. Lagae is a native Coloradoan, though she has spent much of her life elsewhere. While studying education at Washburn University in Kansas, she went on service trips to teach in Guatemala and Jamaica and decided that she wanted to teach abroad. She then spent 6 months working as a volunteer English teacher in Ecuador and then 5 years teaching 5th grade at an American school in Kuwait. After 15 years away from Colorado and 5.5 years of being out of the US, Ms. Lagae is very happy to be back in America and especially back in her home state.
When not teaching, she enjoys hiking (her goal is to go on a hike every weekend when the weather permits), eating delicious food (total foodie), traveling, and spending time with friends and family. Ms. Lagae is thrilled to now be a member of the Aspen Ridge Preparatory School community and finds immense purpose in seeing students succeed and have fun with mathematics.
Kathryn Clinch – Special Education
Ms. Clinch attended Minnesota State University, Mankato for her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education. Recently, graduated from Regis University with a Master’s degree in Special Education.
Outside of teaching, Ms. Clinch enjoys spending time with her mom, hiking, horseback riding, gardening and watching sports. She is very excited to be joining Mrs. Sasser and Mrs. Sagisi in our Special Education department in order to make sure all of our students receive a world class education.
Amy Sasser – Special Education
Mrs. Sasser has been at Aspen Ridge for two years and will be going into her 13th year of teaching. She has taught in grades PreK – Third. This will be her first year in special education. Mrs. Sasser loves teaching because she likes to meet the needs of all her students to make them successful. She likes to find the key that unlocks learning for each of her students and feels that children learn best through hands on activities, discovery and support. Mrs. Sasser feels that it is important to work as a team with parents and fellow colleagues.
Ms. Sasser loves watching sports especially SEC football and baseball. She enjoys hiking, reading, watching her boys play baseball and decorating. Ms. Sasser is married to Marvin Sasser and they have three children. Alea, who is a freshman at the University of Nebraska, Austin, a junior at Holy Family High School, and Aiden, a seventh grader at Westlake Middle School.
Help us to celebrate Mrs. Sasser’s new role at Aspen Ridge, where we KNOW she will be FABULOUS!!!
Brandin Torbeck – PE Teacher
Mr. Torbeck is a native to Colorado. He was born and raised in Longmont, where he lives with his wife and two sons. Mr. Torbeck’s education also comes from Colorado where he attended Front Range Community College, Metropolitan State University, Regis University, and the University of Northern Colorado. In attending these colleges he accumulated an Associates degree in Arts, a Bachelors degree in Liberal Arts, a teaching certificate in which he can teach grades Kindergarten through sixth grade, and an added endorsement in Physical Education in which he can teach grades Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Mr. Torbeck loves being involved in his community. He has coached many sports which include baseball, basketball, football and soccer. Mr. Torbeck’s hobbies include watching movies and going to sporting events with his friends and family. He also enjoys coaching, barbequing for his family and friends, and watching his sons grow up. Mr. Torbeck loves to inspire, teach and get to know all the new personalities.
Courtney Smith – Music Teacher
Ms. Smith grew up just outside of Boston, Massachusetts by the beach. Singing and music have been a substantial part of her life since she was very young. In high school, she was accepted into and performed with the Massachusetts All-State choir twice, and was lucky enough to be accepted into the All-Eastern Honor Chorus in 2003. She also plays the clarinet, guitar and piano. Miss Smith studied music at the University of Connecticut and taught elementary music for 3 years in CT. She also sang in and directed 3 different a cappella groups during this time. In recent years, she also became a licensed Special Education teacher. Ms. Smith recently completed her Masters Degree in Music Education at the University of Northern Colorado and enjoys singing with an a cappella group in Boulder. Ms. Smith has lived in Colorado for 3 years and loves hiking in the mountains with her dog, skiing with friends, traveling, singing and arranging music for a cappella.
Angela Castañeda – Spanish Teacher
Ms. Angela Castañeda is originally from Illinois and graduated from the University of Northern Colorado and Grand Canyon University. She also studied in Cuernavaca, Mexico and Santiago de Cali, Colombia. This is her 12th year teaching, with experience in Art, Spanish and English as a Second Language.
Ms. Castañeda has 3 children. She loves the arts, hiking, cooking, animals, movies and volunteering to teach English to refugees and immigrants. She is a weaver, a painter, and loves the Southwest and all things Native American. ¡Encantada!
David Pipinich – Art Teacher
Mr. Pipinich is so excited to be joining the teaching team here at Aspen Ridge. He has spent most of his life in Colorado. He grew up in Loveland and went to College at Colorado State University. He graduated in 2015 with degrees in both Art Education and Textile Art. He has exhibited some of his artwork in local art shows around Fort Collins. He has spent time teaching abroad in South Africa and substituting around the Fort Collins area. He is so excited to be starting his first year teaching here at Aspen Ridge and is looking forward to an amazing year. In his free time he likes to hike, train for marathons, bike, play soccer, and spend time creating art of all kinds.