Faculty & Staff
A Team That Understands The Needs Of Gifted Children
We recruit and hire teachers who are certified professionals and who have special training, experience, or advanced degrees in gifted education. Our faculty members are active in both regional and national organizations for gifted education.
In order to meet the needs of gifted students, the faculty and staff must understand the intellectual, social, and emotional needs of gifted children. Professional development and training are key elements in the successful fulfillment of the school's mission. Teachers understand the purpose and importance of using innovative, targeted approaches with learners. They are easily able to discuss and advocate for the varied learning needs of gifted students. These educators are firmly committed and dedicated to the school's philosophy and have a finely tuned understanding of the needs of gifted students.
"As educators, we believe that your children come to school with an ability to construct their own knowledge. We believe that they are filled with questions and theories about the way the world works and are motivated to test and build upon those theories. We are keenly aware of each child's potential and of his or her right to learn in an encouraging, safe environment, among the company of peers, and under the guidance of professional, caring adults. Our belief in empowering children shapes the guiding principle of our curriculum: knowledge is created through active inquiry."
- Ricks Faculty & Staff
15 Average years of teaching experience
65% hold or are pursuing master's or doctoral degrees
25%+ licensed as teachers of gifted education
Get to Know the Faculty
Get to Know the Faculty
Meet Our Staff & Administration
Craig Harrer, Director
Director of Ricks Center
B.S. Business Administration and Marketing, University of Northern Colorado
M.A. Curriculum and Instruction, University of Colorado at Denver
Admin license from the University of Denver, Ritchie Program for School Leaders
EdD, University of Denver (in progress )
Craig is a lifelong innovator, teacher, coach and champion for change in the field of education. He specializes in creative solutions that exist "outside the box." Craig's passion is the implementation of shared leadership structures that create socially just, equitable and sustainable school teams. He is a student focused and community driven leader. A Denver native, Craig's visionary approach helped develop and run the Denver Green School, an innovation school in Colorado for over 6 years. As a consultant he has collaborated with Denver Public Schools to create new school leadership competencies and implement growth and guidance systems. He is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at the University of Denver. Craig has served in many roles throughout the education sector, including working as a paraprofessional, technology and special education teacher, assistant principal, principal, lead partner and leadership consultant in his over 25 years of educational service.
Amy Biro, SEL and Restorative Process Coach
B.S. Political Science & Journalism, Ohio Wesleyan University; M.Ed. Teaching and Learning, DePaul University
Professional Teacher Certification –Elementary Education K-6, Social Studies 7-12, Special Education Generalist 5-21
Gifted and Talented Specialist 5-21,
2015 Social Emotional Scholarship award winner RAK
Leadership Academy Cohort 2016: University of Denver.
Conflict Center Restorative Justice Cohort 2019
Restorative Justice Education: Creating a Culture of Care Cohort 2021-present
This is Amy's 8th year at Ricks. She has been in education since 1996 when she started her career teaching 3rd grade in Chicago Public Schools. It is here where her love for learning and a passion for understanding the developmental and social emotional needs of children began. Amy believes in fostering the voices of children, academically and socially. The constructing of ideas and exploring the generalizations of young children drive her integrated learning approach. Weaving skill and creativity into self-expression, content area topics, and community building. Amy has taught from kindergarten to high school. She has had additional teaching opportunities in, New Haven, CT, and Veracruz, Mexico before returning to Denver in 2008 where she was born and raised and feeling at home! After school she spends time walking her two little dogs, singing in an adult rock choir, doing yoga, and laughing with her husband, family and friends.
Ana Candelaria, School Psychologist
PhD. Child, Family and School Psychology University of Denver
Ana has spent her entire career working with children, teens, and young adults in various educational roles. She started as a coach for sports camps, then became an early childhood educator, including four years at the Fisher Early Learning Center on the DU campus. After teaching at Fisher and finishing her school psychology training, she began her career as a school psychologist in Denver Public Schools and worked in elementary and middle schools throughout the Denver area for eight years. During her time in DPS, she became incredibly passionate about restorative justice approaches, cultural responsiveness, and helping schools to establish strong home-school connections. After several years in DPS, Ana returned to teaching; this time at the graduate level, training future school psychologists as a clinical assistant professor in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program in the Morgridge College of Education at DU for two years. Ana will be starting her fourth year at Ricks and is excited to continue her work at our wonderful school! Originally from California, Ana has made Colorado her home; in her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and daughter, reading, and watching sporting events.
Tia Gamelin, Occupational Therapist
Tia has over 25 years of experience working as a pediatric occupational therapist in the United States and abroad. She has specialized skills and is trained in Sensory Integration and Praxis Testing (SIPT), Sensory Oral Sequential (SOS) Feeding Approach, she is a Level 3 Kinesiotaping practitioner, Therapeutic Listening Certified, Astronaut Training certified, Handwriting Without Tears, and is a certified PaddleFit Coach for stand up paddle boarding. Previously, Tia has worked in the pediatric inpatient and outpatient settings, early intervention, home health, public school system and private clinic. She has managed a pediatric splinting, serial casting and pediatric burn management clinic, has been the therapy program director for an outdoor therapy camp and has worked in both center-based schools and integrated schools in the United States and Germany. In her free time, Tia enjoys spending time in nature with her four children and her husband, Jay.
Sarah Horn, Assistant to the Director
B.A. Humanities, Trinity University
M.A.T. Elementary Education, Trinity University
Sarah Horn was born in Mannheim, Germany and raised from the age of three in Houston, TX. She attended Trinity University in San Antonio, TX and completed a B.A.in Humanities and M.A.T. in Elementary Education. Her first teaching job was at a Title 1 school in San Antonio teaching 3rd grade. She moved to Colorado in August 2003 and landed a job teaching 6th and 7th grade reading and writing at Adams City Middle School in Commerce City where she worked for five years. During this time, she began to explore yoga, qigong (Chinese Medicine), and meditation, and in 2011 she founded her own health and wellness practice. Since then, she has been happily teaching meditation and mindfulness to adults and children. Concurrent to running her wellness business, Sarah also provided administrative support to a vocational consultant from 2010 to 2020. Sarah enjoys spending time with her two young children, Sophia and Liam, her husband, Brian, and cat, Ellie. She also loves hiking, meditating, drinking good coffee with friends, and time in nature. She is thrilled to be at Ricks where she can combine her talents of working with children and admin work in one building!
Bernadette Howell, Associate Director of Operations
Bernadette Howell brings with her 20+ years of clerical/administrative experience and knowledge as well as nearly 10 years in a school setting. Her journey through life has taken her everywhere from a bookkeeper trainer to a CFO to working in schools. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with her, including her devotion to superior customer service and an appetite to always learn! Her most rewarding journey has been the one she started with her husband, Joe, 23 years ago. They have been blessed with two children. When she is at home, she enjoys cooking and hanging out with her four fur babies!
Amy Jacobs, Assistant Director of Enrollment Management
Assistant Director of Enrollment Management
B.A. Psychology, University of Colorado
M.S.W. Social Work, University of Denver
Amy was born and raised in Colorado. She has been in education for nearly 25 years. She joined the Ricks Center as the Assistant Director of Enrollment Management in the fall of 2013. Her experience includes outreach in both formal and informal educational settings. Amy started as a school social worker in the Cherry Creek School District. She then spent 13 years at the JCC as the Director of Camp and Youth Services. In addition to program supervision, she was responsible for outreach and for the recruitment of all program participants. She also served as the Visitor Services Manager at the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL) where she oversaw the educational outreach for all school and group visits. Outside of work, Amy enjoys spending time with her family and her giant schnoodle, ski, workout, cook, and watch anything sports related.
Peggy Jurgs, Reading Specialist
Prior to coming to Ricks, Peggy spent a long and successful career with Denver Public Schools. She spent the earlier part of her career as a first grade bilingual teacher where she delivered instructional content in Spanish while her students acquired English. Peggy then became an Instructional Coach enhancing teachers' knowledge and performance in the areas of English Language Acquisition and Elementary Literacy strategies in Reading and Writing. Peggy has a strong passion for reading and helping students become strategic readers through a balanced literacy approach. She is trained in Reading Recovery, F.A.S.T. and Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes; all are approaches to helping students refine their ability to decode the printed word. Peggy is also knowledgeable with Readers and Writers Workshop model, which places emphases on students' comprehension abilities. When not working with students, Peggy can be found walking the local golf courses, reading debut novels and spending time with her family.
Jessica Kennedy, Associate Director of Lower School
Early Childhood Program Director
B.A. Psychology, University of Denver
M.A. Early Childhood Special Education, University of Colorado at Denver
Jessica has worked in early childhood education for over 15 years. She has taught and worked with all age groups, from infants up to school-age children. This year will be her sixth school year at Ricks, and she previously was a Master Teacher at the Fisher Early Learning Center on the University of Denver campus. Jessica enjoys working with young children and their families as they begin their school journeys. She enjoys going on adventures with her family, reading, biking, and playing board games in her free time.
Suzanne Pollard, Pedagogical Coach in Gifted Learning
Pedagogical Coach in Gifted Learning
B.A. Art and Communication, University of Colorado
M.A. Human Development w/ Emphasis on Early Childhood Development, Pacific Oaks College
Gifted Education Endorsement
Suzanne has been teaching for over twenty-five years. Her experiences have focused primarily on teaching preschool, kindergarten, and first grade in various private and public schools in Denver, CO and Los Angeles, CA. Suzanne has specialized in early childhood gifted education. She studied abroad at the Loris Malaguzzi International Center, delving into the pedagogy of the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Suzanne is originally from Hawaii, has two grown children, and loves reading, exploring, crafting and walking her two dogs. This will be her fifteenth year with the Ricks Center.
Korben Schrock, IT
B.S. Elementary Education, Indiana/Purdue University of Ft. Wayne
Korben was born and raised in a small rural community in Indiana. He joined the Marine Corps Reserves right out of high school and received his B.S. in Elementary Education in 2004. He taught briefly in Indiana, but decided to shift careers shortly after. In 2010 his wife and he decided to move out to Denver so that he could learn how to build and repair guitars at Red Rocks Community College. He repaired and built guitars professionally for 9 years before deciding to change to a more Technology focused career. Korben loves to play guitar, hike, golf, and entertain their dog, Birdie the Border Collie in his free time!
Maggie Wright, Extended Day Coordinator and Summer Learning Director
B.A in special education, University of Northern Colorado
Maggie has spent her whole career working with youth. From Girl Scouts to Denver Public Schools, she has worked and built programs that engage students' inner passions. Maggie has been the Extended Day and Summer Programs Manager at Ricks since August 2017. She came to Ricks from Denver Public Schools' Department of Extended Learning, where she spent five years developing inclusive inquiry-based programming. As the Summer Programs Manager, Maggie and her team of graduate students from DU have created inquiry-based programming that challenges students to find and explore their passions in the world around them. She loves making jewelry, playing with her five cats, and watching the Colorado Avalanche with her family in her free time.
Heather Vaughn, Associate Director of Upper School
B.A. Elementary Education, University of Mississippi
M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction and Gifted Education, University of Mississippi
Ed.S. Educational Psychology, University of Georgia
Originally from the Memphis area, Ms. Vaughn is from a family of avid football and Elvis fans. With most of her career dedicated to curriculum development and teacher training, Ms. Vaughn has served as a district administrator, a district specialist, an educator in the classroom, and a college professor. She has been recognized by the National Association for Gifted Children and the Texas Association for Gifted and Talented for her contributions in creating and championing exemplary services for gifted students. Ms. Vaughn is zealous about education advocacy, cultivating community, and inspiring agency in all learners. Outside of Ricks, she enjoys getting lost outdoors, being immersed in the arts, taking frequent trips to the library, and watching football.
Emily Guthrie Strong, School Counselor
B.A. English, University of Kansas
M.Ed. Secondary English (6th – 12th), DePaul University
M.A. Counseling Psychology, University of Colorado
Ed.D. University of Northern Colorado (in progress)
Helping kids and teens grow into their authentic selves has been the focus of Emily’s career as a teacher and therapist. She believes it is critical to give students every resource and opportunity to expand their social-emotional skills, nurture meaningful relationships, have resilience in the face of adversity, and create fulfilling, balanced and wholehearted lives. Emily began her career as a high school English teacher before becoming a child, adolescent, and family therapist. She has worked in community mental health as well as private practice. A passionate, life-long learner, she is currently pursuing her doctorate. Her research interests include mental health in schools, social-emotional learning, equity and access, and the theory of belonging. Emily’s greatest joy is her family. She treasures spending time with her husband and two sons. In addition, she loves animals and shares her home with two dogs, Jimmy and Arlo, and a parakeet named George.
Duncan Dotterrer, Innovation and Instruction Specialist
Duncan is a talented educator with a passion for developing enriching experiences for his students. He has worked with gifted learners for over seven years. He holds two Master’s degrees in education, and is a certified linguistically diverse educator. Over the past four years, he has created and developed The STEAM Lab, a successful gifted education program at Stevens Elementary in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Through project based learning activities such as designing satellites and submarines to coding projects including FIRST Lego, and FTW Robotics mini drones, to transforming the classroom into an art gallery, a newspaper and an architecture studio, he has proven adept at helping gifted students with diverse backgrounds find their voice.
Duncan is a father of two, ages three and six. He enjoys learning about the world anew with his family, and spending time outdoors playing tennis, biking, playing the drums and swimming
Kristy Horsting, Instructional Gifted Coach
B.S. Elementary Education, Illinois State University 2010
M.S. Psychology in Education focused on Spirituality, Mind & Body, Columbia University 2021
Kristy came to Denver via the scenic route - she taught elementary school in her hometown of Chicago, moved to New York City for a M.S. in Psychology in Education while working as a staff developer at Teachers College, Columbia University, and spent the last two years as a literacy specialist in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Kristy loves reading over cups of tea, full body laughter, and savoring moments of awe. When she isn’t reading she is usually hiking or biking with her silly hound dogs.>
Meet Our Part-Time and Substitute Teachers
Ekta grew up in India in a joint family consisting of her parents and grandparents. She moved to Colorado in 2019 to pursue a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in children with special needs. Being a cosmopolitan woman, devoted to the celebration of diversity and multiculturalism, Ekta keenly looks forward being part of a cohort style of environment. This inspires her in doing research in the field of growing complexities in the education system and the increasing demands of social equity. She is interested in conducting research on evidence-based early intervention strategies considered effective for children with disabilities. Ekta has worked in many research-based projects focused on behavior and reading interventions and created lesson plans for K-12 grades. Her ambition is to contribute in an original manner to this field, which she feels will be facilitated through the teaching endeavor in this prestigious institution.
B.S. Communication and Elementary Education, University ofColorado at Boulder 2005
M.S. Information Learning Technologies K-12
Laura has 3 kids in grades Kindergarten, 1st and 5th. Her and her family are native to Colorado and love everything it has to offer. She enjoys hiking, skiing, traveling, tennis and spending time with friends and family. Professionally Laura taught in the Cherry Creek district for 10 years and is excited to join the Ricks community. She holds a Master's Degree in Information Learning Technologies with an emphasis in K-12 from CU Denver, a post Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from MSU-Denver and a Bachelor's degree in Communications from CU Boulder. Laura loves teaching and is looking forward to a wonderful year.
Cassie has been a gifted educator over three decades right here in Denver. She adores and admires all ages and levels of students: every child is magnificent!
Cassie is excited to be part of the Rick’s community. “Ricks Center is a jewel in our midst.” Substitute teaching at Rick’s is a glorious opportunity.
When Cassie isn’t teaching, she is meeting friends for doubles at Wash Park or tending to her garden. She and her husband, local architect Joe Levi, have three grown sons and a spoiled miniature golden-doodle daughter!
Penny was born in Philadelphia and is the middle child. At 15, she visited Colorado, fell in love with it, and decided she would live there one day and moved there to finish her B.S. in journalism. Her other degrees are a B.A. in English and a Masters degree in Education. She taught middle school English for 28 years, working with diverse learners and takes pride in her strong relationships with students, staff and families. Penny is passionate about the long term flourishing of her students and relentless in creating students who are engaged readers that can think for themselves. When she is not teaching, Penny enjoys boxing, her dogs and cooking.
The Considine Excellence in Teaching Award
Established in 2001 through a $1 million endowment gift, The Considine Excellence in Teaching Award is given to a teacher at Ricks who has shown exceptional performance, a commitment to Ricks Center, both in the past and future, who has demonstrated a "how to think, not what to think" philosophy with students by engaging students in intellectual pursuits and who has demonstrated a capacity to learn and implement new knowledge. Considine awards have been used to gather and implement units related to Egypt, South America, and Alaska, as well as to develop the atelier model in Early Childhood.