President: 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 role of President.
Past 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.
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.
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.
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.
VP of 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 OF 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.
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.
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.
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
Secretary: Carolyn Lovell-Clark
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.
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.
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.
Student Representative: Carmen Catinella
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.
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.
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
Member at Large: Emelda Smith
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.
Member at Large: Louise “Lou
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.
Member at Large: Lela Messick
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.
Member at Large: Dena AuCoin
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.
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, and Louise Durant
Las Familias: Whole Teacher, Whole Child
Kelly Ann Larkin
Interested in Board Service?
Please reach out to Renee Hartje for more information. 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.