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.

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


Meet our Early Childhood Teachers


Meet our Primary School Teachers

Get to Know the Faculty


Meet our Middle School Teachers


Meet our Connections Teachers


Meet Our Staff & Administration

  • 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.

  • Craig Harrer

    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.

  • Kristen Heeres

    504 Coordinator 
    B.A. Emmanuel College Art Studio/Psychology 1994, Elementary Education Certification and Multicultural Education, University of Colorado, Boulder 2001,  Certification/Endorsement in Gifted and Talented Education and ELA-E/ESL Education 

    Kristen started her teaching career over 20 years ago in Boston, Massachusetts.  A mom at heart, with three beautifully unique and wonderful teenagers and a loving husband, each day in an adventure that is never taken for granted.  She has worked in many capacities in school districts from the classroom to art education and served as a STEAM facilitator and Gifted and Talented Itinerant for over four years.  Kristen brings to the position a combination of team leadership, strategic planning, strong 2e expertise and practices, and strong ELL development skills.  She is very passionate about planning and implementing the best programs/curriculum possible for all students and nurturing the social and emotional needs of all students and their parents as well.  

  • Sarah Horn

    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


    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!

  • Allison Ingalls

    School Counselor
    B.A., Psychology Ohio University
    M.A. Counseling PhD. Argosy University

    I like to partner with students, teachers, and families to best meet student's mental health needs. I believe in drawing on each student's strengths and getting to know them as individuals. In the past, I have served as a high school counselor, career counselor, and as a middle school counselor. I enjoy spending time with my family, friends, and dogs. I love Colorado and enjoy being outdoors. I am excited to join the educational team at Ricks and look forward to serving students.

  • Amy Jacobs

    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.

  • Rachel Joffe

    Marketing Coordinator 
    B.S. Business Administration- Marketing, University of North Carolina Wilmington 
    M.S. Sport Management- Sport Studies, University of Tennessee Knoxville 


    This is Rachel’s first year with Ricks Center. Combining her passions of creativity and continued education, Rachel is a natural storyteller and is eager to share the journey of Ricks, including its staff and its students, with the community. As a former educator and youth development leader, Rachel has experience working in public schools and nonprofits with diverse populations, promoting a curiosity for knowledge and an affinity for learning. In her free time, Rachel enjoys rock climbing, mountain biking, writing screenplays and reading good books.

  • 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

    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
    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.

  • Maggie Wright

    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.

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.