We are excited to introduce the newly elected board members for SAZAEYC!
Cynnamon supports educators and families as a Make Way for Books Early Literacy Specialist, creating high-quality learning environments to foster children literacy and language skills. With a background in family and child studies, Cynnamon has supported educators in fostering best practice in their classrooms. She has worked with at-risk adolescents through youth diversion programs offered by Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. In her work with Child and Family Resource, Inc, she provided support for sexual health awareness and resilience through the GRRRLS Project and also supported the First Things First Great Expectations grant through the infant toddler community of practice, Project BEST. She has previously served on the SAZAEYC board as a member at large, then the secretary and President Elect.
VP Public Policy and Advocacy – Jennifer Argyros
Jennifer Argyros is the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension’s Program Director for the Family Resource Centers in Santa Cruz County. She manages three centers with 6 full time staff and 18 part time. She develops curriculum for the Center which include more than 20 lesson plans such as Partners in Parenting Education and Positive Discipline; Kindergarten Readiness and Keys for 3’s classes. She serves as the liaison between the Family Resource Center Staff, local school districts and the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences evaluation team. She has presented at The First Things First Early Childhood Summit conference on both early childhood educational best practices and professional development for staff and supervisors using Positive Discipline techniques. Jennifer has organized advocacy events in Santa Cruz County in cooperation with the Santa Cruz County Superintendents office, which include writing a proclamation to declare February as Early Childhood Awareness month, radio, speaking engagements and editorials. Jennifer has a passion for working with families with young children where she feels she can make the most impact. She has worked with families in Santa Cruz County for over 10 years. Jennifer has a Master’s degree in Family and Human Development from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. She is a native Tucsonan, lived and raised her two daughters in Santa Cruz County, but now resides back in Tucson.
VP Communications – Lexi Conger
Lexi Conger has been working in the early childhood community for over 6 years and teaches 3rd grade students at Cottonwood Elementary School. She previously worked and volunteered in a Pre-K classroom before her children were born. Lexi has two young children and enjoys exposing them to as many new adventures as she can. She is currently finishing her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and already has her Gifted Education and ESL endorsements as well. She enjoys being able to apply the knowledge of her degree to her classroom of students but also her own children as well. Lexi enjoys traveling both with her family and taking opportunities to attend new professional development conferences. Outside of the classroom Lexi loves to bake, do creative projects, and learn about U.S. history. Lexi is very excited to be a member to the Board of Directors for SAZAEYC because the community environment is amazing and has so many opportunities for peer collaboration and exposure to new ideas within the early childhood community.
Carolyn Lovell-Clark is the Executive Director at Catalina Methodist Day School and has been at Catalina for 14 years— 7 years as a three year old teacher and 7 years as the Director. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts from Phoenix University and an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education from Pima Community College. With 18 years of experience in early childhood education, Carolyn is committed to fostering a positive learning atmosphere in a collaborative team environment and independently manages diverse objectives. Previously, she held the position at the University Club of Washington in the human relations department.
Members at Large
Emelda Lisbo Smith is originally from the Republic of the Philippines. In May of last year, she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Applied Science with an Early Childhood Education emphasis, from the University of Arizona South. Emelda has worked at Catalina United Methodist Day School for ten years and counting. She has a fourteen-year old daughter. Her hobbies are cooking, gardening, hiking and spending quality time with her daughter. Emelda says, “Being an early childhood educator is a rewarding job. I feel like I make a difference in a young child’s life.” She is very honored and excited to be a part of SAZAEYC.
Louise “Lou” Durant
Louise Durant’s passion for teaching began at 13 years old when she became an assistant gymnastics coach. This rewarding early experience led her to seek out teaching and leadership positions in all subsequent areas of her life. After serving in the United States Air Force, she taught for many years in public and private schools from Preschool to 1st grade and is currently an Early Childhood Instructor with the Association for Supportive Childcare in Pima County. Louise was selected for the inaugural cohort of Hope Street Group in Arizona, was named Coconino County Teacher of the Year Ambassador for Excellence, and Veteran Teacher of the Year for the VFW District 2 in 2018. She was also named a 2019 Teacher Leader by the Exchange Leadership Initiative. Louise is always excited to seek out new challenges and possibilities that extend her as an educator and a community leader. She has a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and is a Credentialed Teacher in both California and Arizona.
Lela Messick’s career in early childhood education started in 1986 when she enrolled her son in a parent cooperative preschool. Lela found that she had an affinity for working with young children and a desire to give them all they need and deserve in the early years that will contribute to their living full and satisfying lives. She has worked in many positions from assistant teacher to center director and currently works in the Quality First system. She has a Master’s Degree in early childhood education. Lela has been a NAEYC Member for over 30 years. In that time she has seen so much growth in what the organization offers to members. In just the past 5 years, there have been many new ideas and strategies implemented by our own affiliate particularly aligned with the newly revised NAEYC position statements on equity and the work on Power to the Profession. Lela is proud to be a part of the Board and to serve our community of early childhood professionals.
Tim joined City Center for Collaborative Learning in July 2018 as the director of professional learning and community engagement. Tim previously served as the principal of Grijalva Elementary School in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), working closely with TUSD’s Early Childhood program to enhance the preK program as well and expand best practice in early childhood education in grades K-3. Before his tenure in TUSD, his education career was in the Chicago area, working as a classroom teacher, gifted education coordinator, and assistant principal. Grivois-Shah is a skilled facilitator of adult learning and has led professional development for his colleagues at both the site and district levels. He earned his masters and doctorate degrees in education at Loyola University Chicago and attended Saint Xavier University for his undergraduate studies.
Dena AuCoin has been in the field of education for 20 years, teaching various levels and abilities. She is currently in higher education helping to build the next generation of special education and early childhood practitioners. She serves as the Academic Chair for the Early Childhood Administration, Communication, and Liberal Studies program with Purdue University Global and oversees numerous innovations in curriculum at the university level. Dena has co-authored a chapter for a Montessori administration textbook on special education, which is currently in publication. She is involved in research in online higher education, early transition language and self-determination for students with disabilities, Montessori collaboration in special education, Autism social skills, and support for students with disabilities in the Montessori Classroom. Most recently, she has been working on research regarding Response to Intervention in early childhood.
Carmen Catinella is currently in her junior year at UA South. She has been juggling school and work as a teacher for many years and is excited to be near completion. Carmen is also a teacher at Second Street Children’s School, where she has been inspired to continue her education. During her pursuit for higher education, Carmen became dedicated to supporting early childhood education students and educators in discovering their pathways and craft. She is currently the Vice President of Somos Enlace at UA South and looks forward to being apart of the SAZAEYC Board and to expand support for higher education students in the community.
2020 SAZAEYC Board of Directors
Executive Director: Kelly Ann Larkin
President: Cynnamon Woodberry
Past President: Alicia Durbin
Co-VP of Membership: Lindsey Shotwell and Paula Buenla Garza
VP of Public Policy and Awareness: Jennifer Argyros
VP of Communications: Lexi Conger
Co-VPs of Nominations and Awards: Erin Aguilar and Renee Hartje
VP of Services: Sydney Lunsford
Secretary: Carolyn Lovell-Clark
Treasurer: Donna Cohn
Student Representatives: Ysidro Holmes and Carmen Catinella
Members-At-Large: Blanca Bergeron, Dena AuCoin, Elsa Peterson, Emelda Smith, Lela Messick, Louise Durant, Tim Grivois-Shah, and Vanessa Rodriguez
Las Familias: Whole Teacher, Whole Child
Kelly Ann Larkin