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 5 year old son and a 24 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.
Past President: JEnny Douglas
Jenny started working at a preschool when she was still in high school, setting her on the path to a career teaching and supporting young children, their families and educators ever since. Jenny is the director of Second Street Children’s School, a program she started teaching in, when it first opened 25 years ago. Jenny first joined SAzAEYC in 1991 and has been involved ever since. She has served on the board of SAzAEYC for three years and is currently the president. Jenny was the 2012 recipient of the SAzAEYC Francis Miller Community Action on Behalf of Young Children Award.
Jenny earned a BA in sociology and family studies from the University of Arizona. Jenny has also worked for the Blake Foundation as an early interventionist and support coordinator working with children and families in their homes. Jenny serves on the board for Second Street Children’s School and the board for The Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding.
Through her years of service, she has experienced firsthand the amazing results a small group of dedicated people can achieve when working together toward a common goal. Working in a field that is often under-recognized by our greater society, she feels it is vital that we support a professional organization such as NAEYC.
Jenny has three children and she is active in their schools, sports and other activities. She has been married to her husband for 18 years. Jenny and her family love to travel both near and far – one of their favorite Southern Arizona destinations is Bisbee.
EXECUTIVE Director : Kelly 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 22 years.
VP of Membership: Robin Stirling-Kottabi
Robin is the owner and Co-Director of The Sandbox2 and The Clubhouse, both NAEYC accredited programs and a Quality First 5 Star rated PreK program. Robin is a native Tucsonan , married to her husband Parviz for 37 years, mother to three adult children and grandmother of two toddlers. She has a BS in Education and a Masters in Early Childhood Education. Robin was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia and had her own preschool for three years in Iran. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, Farsi and English. She has been a businesswoman and early childhood advocate for the past 36 years and is active in the community. Robin is currently a Board member of Arizona Childcare Association, a member of Las Familias as well as her HOA treasurer. She believes that all early childhood programs should work together to improve the quality of service provided to Tucson families.
VP of Public Policy and Awareness: 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.
VP OF COMMUNICATIONS: Sarah Barber
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. She has also worked as an assistant and a volunteer in the same school previously. Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology, which she uses to her advantage when working with children and their families. Sarah recently earned a masters in Early Childhood Education 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.
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 over 8 years and currently teaches the older 3s Giraffe class at St. Mark’s Preschool and Kindergarten. She previously taught pre-k at the JCC and worked as a nanny. She enjoys being a part of the early childhood community and collaborating with other educators. She was able to attend her first NAEYC National Conference in Orlando in 2015 and came away encouraged by how many great ideas can be shared and built upon when we work together. Sydney graduated with a B.S. in Family Studies and Human Development from the University of Arizona. She is originally from Yuma, AZ and moved to Tucson in 2005. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and friends, baking, learning to sew, reading, traveling, and exploring nature.
Email: VP Services: Sydney Lunsford
Secretary: Cynnamon Woodberry
Cynnamon loves working with our youngest children. Her focus has been on infant and toddler development during her career and is a passionate advocate for early literacy and education. When she is outside of the classroom, Cynnamon enjoys reading, crafting, doodling, swimming and bullet journaling.
Treasurer: Donna Cohn
Donna served as the Treasurer for SAzAEYC from 2011-2013. Donna has been in Tucson since 1983. She met her husband on a blind date, and they have been married for 27 years. Ms. Cohn 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: Serina Holmes
Serina has been working in the early childhood field for six years. She is currently a student at Pima community college studying early childhood education and is working at Second Street Children’s School as a preschool teacher. In the past Serina has served on the SAZAEYC board as co-vp of public policy and advocacy. She has presented in two SAZAEYC conferences and co presented at the NAEYC conference in 2016. Serina is eager to work close with students in the teaching community. As a life long learner Serina continues to be apart of the community of practice “Las Familias” and participate in organized activism for children, higher education, and culture.
Student Representative: Emelda Lisbo Smith
I was born and grow up in Panay Island, Philippines. I came to Tucson fifteen years ago. I am married and had a beautiful daughter named Sevilla. In 2010, I receive my certificate in Early Childhood Education at Pima Community College. I did not stop from there. In 2013, I got my Associate degree in Early Childhood Education with honors, and continuing my studies at the University of Arizona south for my Bachelor degree in Early Childhood Education. Presently, I am working at United Methodist Day School in the Toddler’s room. This is my seventh year with
the Day School. I am very blessed to work with our Toddlers, and looking forward to more years with them. I enjoy working with children and how much they grow and learn. This semester I am doing an observation/practicum at Drachman Montessori School in first and second graders classroom (mix) with children who speak different languages such as Arabic, Mai-Mai, and Spanish. I speak fluently in Tagalog. I love gardening, cooking especially Filipino food. I go for a walk 3 times a week and every Saturday we go to Tumamoc hills. On the week-end, I take my daughter to “Girl Scouts”, and spending quality time together. My daughter means a lot to me,
she inspires me, give me strength, and show me that life is beautiful.
Member at Large: Lindsey Shotwell
Lindsey is an Alumni of The University of Arizona from the Early
Childhood Education Program; I also dual majored in Africana Studies from the University of Arizona. I am currently in my second year of teaching. I teach in the Marana Unified School
District at the Play and Learn (PAL) Preschool Program which is a program for students with special needs. Last year was my first year teaching and the first year that the PAL Preschool has
ever had an Early Childhood Educator on their team of teachers. I’m very excited to play the role I do in my program as I feel I get 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 my colleagues. I would be very excited to grow as an advocate for young children and to become a more active member in the Early Childhood Education Community. I am 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.
Member at Large: Blanca Bergeron
Blanca Bergeron: I have been working in the Early Childhood field for over 20 years and still going strong. I started my career as a parent volunteer and loved it. I have an AAS degree from Pima Community College in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from NAU. I love my role as an Assistant Director because I can play with children, educate parents, provide resources to teachers and support administration. As life-long learners, I hope to continue to learn, support, guide and advocate for children, families and fellow colleagues while serving on the board.
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.
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.
Member at Large: 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.
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. Adrienne joined the UA Marketing & Brand Management team in December, 2014. Prior to coming on board, she spent more than a dozen years working at advertising agencies in New York and Tucson, and as the sales and marketing manager for HJ3 Composite Technologies, a UA technology transfer company. Between account management, strategic development and content creation, Adrienne has learned to identify and connect emotionally with “that one thing” that drives audience decision making. Today, Adrienne is part of a team shaping and defining the UA brand. Higher education is evolving to meet the changing needs of tomorrow’s workforce and differentiation between universities is key as students decide where to spend their next years learning, experiencing life and developing their career paths; where faculty choose to teach and create new knowledge; and where donors invest their dollars in their desires to improve the world. On a daily basis, Adrienne writes copy for external UA marketing communications. She also helps other UA marketing professionals better articulate the brand in their individual college or
department’s communications through the development of brand guidelines and training opportunities. Outside of the university, she stays busy running, especially after a 3 1/2-year old and a 6 1/2-year- old, and baking. She also helps 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.
Interested in Board Service?
*Note: All nominees must be or be able to be members of NAEYC (visit www.naeyc.org for information on fees)
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.