2019 Board of Directors

President: Alicia Durbin

Alicia Durbin has been in the early childhood education field since 2003— teaching, mentoring and working at St. Mark’s Preschool and Kindergarten.  She began as an assistant teacher in an afternoon program, then taught 4 year olds for seven years, and was promoted to the director position at St. Mark’s in 2011.  She has a Master’s degree in Education.  She also has a 6 year old son and a 25 year old step-daughter.  She continues to learn both as an educator and parent on a daily basis from her own children, the school children, and the teachers and volunteers she works with.  Alicia is honored to be President for the SAZAEYC board, and she is proud to have worked alongside the other board members for the past few years.  Alicia has worked closely with the planning committee for the annual SAZAEYC Conference for many years and is inspired by this work.  Alicia truly believes in and supports the work of SAZAEYC and all of the educators involved with early childhood education.

Email: SAZAEYC President

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President Elect: Cynnamon Woodberry

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 worked with the SAZAEYC board as a member at large, then the secretary and now is excited for the challenge of President Elect.

Email: President Elect

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Executive Director : Kelly Ann Larkin

Kelly has spent over twenty five years working with young children, families and educators. Kelly holds a B.S. in Child Development and Family Relations from the University of Maine, Orono and a MA in Teacher and Teacher Education with Early Childhood Education emphasis from the University of Arizona. As director of Copper Creek ELC, she proudly led the school through NAEYC accreditation, receiving 100+ in all 10 required standards. Currently she works as a Coordinator for Las Familias and as Executive Director of SAZAEYC. Las Familias is one of the Community of Practices within the Great Expectations grant funded by First Things First.

In past roles, she served as the Co-Chair for the SAZAEYC Annual Conference, Member at Large and Vice President of Services for SAZAEYC; Co-Chair of Community Relations for the Copper Creek PTO and Co-Treasurer for Oro Valley Lacrosse League. She currently serves as a board member for Treasures for Teachers Tucson.

In her spare time, Kelly enjoys walking Lucy, the family dog, cooking, sewing and reading. She is the proud mother of Hannah, and Tim Jr., and has been married to her husband Tim for over 23 years.

Email: Executive Director: Kelly Ann Larkin  

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Co-VP of Membership: Lindsey Shotwell

Lindsey is an Alumni of The University of Arizona from the Early Childhood Education Program; she dual majored in Africana Studies from the University of Arizona. Lindsey is currently in her third year of teaching in the Marana Unified School District at the Play and Learn (PAL) Preschool Program which is a program for students with special needs. Lindsey is very excited about her role in the program as an Early Childhood Educator, as she feels she gets to help teach others about best teaching practices for young children as well as gaining so much in knowledge about advocating for students with special needs from her colleagues. She is excited to grow as an advocate for young children and to become a more active member in the Early Childhood Education Community. Lindsey is a lifelong learner and would love to gain perspective and insight not only from my students and colleagues, but from the larger professional community as well.

Email: Co-VP Membership: Lindsey Shotwell

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Co-VP of Membership: Paula Buelna-Garza

Paula was born in California and raised in Tucson Arizona. She currently working for a local nonprofit organization supporting early education teachers and staff. She is studying Early Education at Pima Community College. She volunteers for many different community organizations including the YMCA of Southern Arizona’s Youth Sports and Preschool Program. Her work with Cholla High School includes Parent Liaison, Co-Founder of the Cholla High School Parent TEAM where she is currently Vice President/ Treasurer. She is also a Cholla High School Athletic Facilitator, a TUSD/ Cholla High School SCPC Representative and a TUSD Cholla High School Bond Committee Representative. She is passionate about supporting and advocating for teachers, families and children.

Email: CO-VP Membership: Paula Buelna-Garza

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VP of Public Policy and Advocacy: Monica Brinkerhoff

Monica is a life-long learner and champion of collective leadership. She has been in many roles in the early childhood system: parent, early childhood teacher, child care center director, early childhood quality improvement and professional development coordinator, and adjunct
faculty. She works to build organizational and individual capacity through mentoring, coaching, advocacy, and engaging professional development. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Utah and a Master’s of Social Work from Arizona State University. Monica has the pleasure of working at Child-Parent Centers, Inc. as the Organization and Employee Development Director. She is co-author of “Five Elements of Collective Leadership for Early Childhood Professionals”, published by Redleaf Press.

Email: VP Public Policy & Advocacy: Monica Brinkerhoff

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Sarah moved to Tucson from Ireland in 2012, and fell in love with the desert and early childhood education at the same time! Sarah is currently the lead teacher of the young three’s classroom at St. Mark’s Preschool and Kindergarten. Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology, which she uses to her advantage when working with children and their families. Sarah earned a Masters in Early Childhood Education in 2015 which renewed her passion for working with and advocating for young children. In her free time Sarah enjoys reading, yoga, Zumba, watching movies, and talking with friends and family here and abroad.

Email: VP Communications: Sarah Barber

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Co-VP of Nominations and Awards: Erin Aguilar

Erin Aguilar is the Inclusion Specialist and Educator for the Easter Seals Blake Foundation. She coordinates the Inspire Inclusion Community of Practice, part of the UWSA/FTF Great Expectations Professional Development Grant promoting and supporting inclusive practices in early childhood programs. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and is adjunct faculty at Pima Community College. Erin has worked as a Quality First Coach for ESBF and as a preschool teacher in California where she is from. She is passionate about advocating for children with special needs and supporting teachers in creating classrooms that provide the necessary access, participation and support for full inclusion. Erin and her husband have lived in Tucson for 12 years and have one son.

Email:CO-VP Nominations & Awards: Erin Aguilar

Co-VP of Nominations and Awards: Renee Hartje

Renee has over 20 years of experience in not for profit and Early Childhood. She has worked in closely related programs such as DES Home Recruitment, after school care, infant/toddler care, foster care, teen parent programs and various management positions. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology and currently is the Program Manager for Project “Me Too” at the Easter Seals Blake Foundation.

Email:CO-VP Nominations & Awards: Renee Hartje

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VP of Services: Sydney Lunsford

Sydney has been working in the early childhood education field in Tucson for 10+ years, most recently as the older 3’s teacher at St. Mark’s Preschool and Kindergarten. She enjoys being a part of the early childhood community and collaborating with other educators. She had her first child in April 2019 and decided to stay home with him for a little while and continue to serve on the SAZAEYC board as a parent voice and early childhood advocate.  Sydney graduated with a B.S. in Family Studies and Human Development from the University of Arizona. She grew up in Yuma, AZ. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, baking, sewing, reading, traveling, and exploring nature

Email: VP Services: Sydney Lunsford

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Secretary: Lexi Conger

Lexi 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.

Email: Secretary: Lexi Conger

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Treasurer: Donna Cohn

Donna served as the Treasurer for SAZAEYC from 2011-2013.  Donnahas been in Tucson since 1983.  She met her husband on a blind date, and they have been married for 27 years.  Donna graduated with a BS in Sociology/Social Work/ Religion/Philosophy from Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina; completed a Masters in Organizational Management in 1994 from University of Phoenix and a Masters in Early Childhood Education in 2010 from NAU. She has been in the field of Early Childhood since 1984, and is currently the Child Development Associate Program Coordinator at Pima Community College, having worked at PCC since 1995.  She believes that it is vital to provide an educational foundation that all children, parents and educators can be proud of today, tomorrow and in the future.

Email: Treasurer: Donna Cohn

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Student Representative: Ysidro Holmes

Ysidro has been working in the early childhood field for seven years. He is a student studying early childhood education and is the president of a student lead organization “Somos Enlace” whose mission is to connect students with resources and relationships to thrive as early childhood professionals. Ysidro is a teacher at Second Street Children’s School – A play based school in Tucson, AZ. As a lifelong learner Ysidro continues to participate in organized activism for children, Inclusivity, and higher education.

Email: Student Representative: Ysidro Holmes

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Student Representative: TBA

Email: Student Representative: TBA

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Member at Large: Elsa Peterson

Elsa began her journey in early childhood education over 17 years ago when her own child was enrolled in Head Start in Nogales Arizona. This experience helped Elsa become a true believer in early childhood education and she quickly became involved as a volunteer as the President of the Parent Committee, and later would result in becoming a part of the Parent Policy Council where she was appointed
Vice Chairperson for one year. Over the last 13 years, Elsa worked as a preschool teacher, before moving on to her position at Tohono O’odham Community College. Elsa was able to work with and implement several different preschool curriculums. Elsa has attended NAEYC conferences where she participated in rallies supporting early childhood education. Elsa also serves on the Tohono O’odham’s Nation Regional Partnership Council serving a seat as educator. Elsa is currently the Community of Practice Coordinator at the Tohono O’odham Community College where she assists improving teaching strategies for early childhood educators who serve The Tohono O’odham Nation’s preschools, childcare centers, and Head Starts as part of the UWSA/FTF Great Expectations Professional Development Grant.

Email: Elsa Bonilla

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Member at Large: Blanca Bergeron

Blanca Bergeron has been working in the Early Childhood field for over 20 years and still going strong. She started her career as a parent volunteer and loved it. She has an AAS degree from Pima Community College in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from NAU.  Blanca loves her role as an Assistant Director because she can play with children, educate parents, provide resources to teachers and support administration. As life-long learners, Blanca hopes to continue to learn, support, guide and advocate for children, families and fellow colleagues while serving on the board.

Email: Blanca Bergeron

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Member at Large: Shyleigh Scott

Shyleigh is a native Tucsonan who teaches Kindergarten at St .Mark’s Preschool and Kindergarten.  She has a BA in Early Childhood Education from the University of Arizona. Shyleigh has been working with young children since 2001.  She is excited for the opportunity to support and advocate for children, families, and fellow educators as a member of the SAZAEYC board.

Email: Shyleigh Scott

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Member at Large: Andrea Acosta

Andrea Acosta has worked with children for about 17 years.  She has worked for Easterseals Blake Foundation for 14 years starting out as a floater and obtaining her AA in ECE 2010.  She became assistant director in 2012 and this Fall has returned to school to receive her BA in ECE. Andrea is married with 2 children, Alexandrea and Alejandro.

Email: Andrea Acosta

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Member at Large: Vanessa Rodriguez

Vanessa Rodriguez teaches preschool mixed age (3-5) at Valley View Early Learning Center for the Spanish Immersion program. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early childhood education and is currently working on her master’s degree through the University of Arizona in the LRC
program (Language, Reading and Culture). She has been part of the SAZAEYC community of practice, Las familias, for 4 years where she got inspired to join the official SAZAEYC board. She is excited to continue to learn and advocate for young children in the field and to collaborate with other early childhood professionals from the community. In her free time Vanessa enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, power yoga, nature walks and watching movies.Email:  Vanessa Rodriguez

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Member at Large: TBA


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Member at Large: Nicole Scott

Nicole Scott has been in the Early Childhood Education field for 14 years
starting out as an assistant teacher in a toddler classroom, and is now an Inclusion Coach.  Over her years in the Early Childhood Education field Nicole has gained extensive knowledge in the many different domains of child growth and development and continues to learn
something new every day from her four children, and the children and families she works with.  Nicole has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and is working towards her Arizona Teaching Certificate. Nicole is passionate about the Early Childhood field and is excited to share her knowledge with the ECE community.

Email: Nicole Scott

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Member at Large: Adrienne Barela

Adrienne is a wordsmith and marketing enthusiast whose passion to inspire the next generation of lifelong learners brought her to the University of Arizona. There, she is part of a team shaping and amplifying the University’s brand through meaningful communications.

Outside of the university, she stays busy with her two kids, ages 5 and 8, and helping her husband Shane with marketing for the Scented Leaf Tea House, which Shane owns and operates. Adrienne grew up in the Seattle area and earned her bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Arizona.

Email:  Adrienne Barela

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Interested in Board Service?

Download the attachment for more information, complete the nomination, and email to Renee Hartje.

*Note: All nominees must be or be able to be current members of NAEYC, click HERE to join!

The SAZAEYC board meets monthly on the first Wednesday of the month. The Executive Committee also meets monthly on the last Wednesday of the month.

Interested? Please download the form

and email to Renee Hartje.