Our Crew: VBE Faculty & Staff
Meet the dedicated educators and staff excited to be a part of our Explorers’ educational journey.
Dr. Logan Gogarty is a strong entrepreneurial and educational leader. He has served as an operations manager at a high performing charter school in Denver, taught at a bilingual elementary school with Teach for America in San Antonio, and served as a principal at an alternative K-12 school. Mr. Gogarty has a BA in Spanish from CSU-P, a Masters in Education and Entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania, an Ed.S in Superintendency, and his Ph.D in Education Leadership.
Director of Operations
Originally from Illinois, Mrs. Elizabeth Plinske moved to Pueblo in July 2018. She has a BA in Sports Management and Communications from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the University of Illinois. Mrs. Plinske has held positions in college athletics administration with numerous NCAA Division I schools along with financial management and operational roles for several organizations. She is responsible for the budget, enrollment and daily operations for VBE. Mrs. Plinske is a mother of two and, with her family, loves to hike, bike and attend CSU-Pueblo sporting events.
Director of Instruction & Curriculum
As a learner, Jessica Ortiz has pursued studies in educational equity and cultural diversity, native american studies, and anthropology. As a professional, she facilitates data-driven and equity-focused teams, leads in the development of high-quality, learner-driven, & purposeful curriculum and instruction and supports the curriculum implementation process. She is the mother of three Colorado adventuring kiddos who spend most of their time hiking, mountain kayaking, and camping under the stars.
Mrs. Pam Pettijohn has been with District 70 for nearly 15 years since moving with her family from Wisconsin in 2008. Her BA is in Interior Design but the career change has been good as she loves meeting new parents and students every year and watching the kids grow and learn. It has also allowed her to be present for her now grown boys and their rodeo adventures. She enjoys taking care of her family, getting together with friends and listening to live music on occasion.
Health Tech/Office Aide – Elementary School
Mrs. Stephanie Coy was born and raised in the San Luis Valley. She is happily married to her husband, Steve, and together they have four children and two grandchildren. Mrs. Coy has several years experience working in the medical clerical field and enjoys such things as baking, sewing, camping, fishing and simply being with her family. She is anxious to continue to serve the needs of the Explorers!
Secretary – Middle School
Mrs. Nichelle Larsen was born in Southern California and moved to Pueblo at the age of six. She is happily married to her husband, Jeff, and together they have two wonderful children. Mrs. Larsen has over five years of experience as a school secretary, and enjoys such things as cooking, working on race cars, playing with her children, and camping. She is very excited to join the Villa Bella Crew and to meet all the wonderful students and their families.
Mrs. Courtney Lockett was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. She has been a Kindergarten teacher for 13 years and was awarded Colorado Teacher of the year in 2020. Mrs. Lockett graduated from Adams State College in 2010 with a BA in Elementary Education and completed her master’s degree in Learning and Technology from Western Governor’s University in 2019. Courtney’s goal is to instill a love of learning in her students that she hopes will last them a lifetime. When she is not teaching, she likes spending time coaching soccer, cheering on the Denver Broncos, and camping/traveling with her husband and two children.
Mrs. Shylo Faske was born and raised in Amarillo, Texas. She graduated from West Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies. She and her husband recently moved to Pueblo with their three children. Early childhood education has been her passion for nearly a decade. This will be her ninth year teaching and seventh year in Kindergarten. Being a teacher has been a dream come true because she gets to do what her heart loves the most! She loves watching young minds grow and treasures her part in preparing students for the future. When not teaching, Mrs. Faske enjoys being a mom, spending time with her family, and watching CSUP football.
Originally from Cheyenne Wyoming, Ms. Faith Meredith has an associate degree from Laramie County Community College and a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies and a minor in Elementary Education from CSU Pueblo. She is currently working on her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. While at CSU Pueblo, Ms. Meredith was captain of the women’s soccer team and worked as a paraprofessional at Villa Bella. When she does have free time, she enjoys being active and going on runs and hikes.
Mrs. Halie Wilson was born and raised in Pueblo. She graduated as a student-athlete from Colorado State University Pueblo with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in English Language Learning also from CSU Pueblo. Halie loves to dance and is a volunteer dance team coach at East High School. Her hobbies include camping, dancing, and spending time with her family and friends. She loves the hands-on learning within the expeditionary curriculum and enjoys watching her students grow as learners.
Mrs. Carrie Bradley was born and raised in Indiana. She vacationed in Colorado while in college and fell in love with the mountains, so she left everything behind, moved, and has now been here more than half her life. Mrs. Bradley graduated with her bachelor’s degree from CSU Pueblo in 2006 and her master’s degree in Learning and Technology in 2018. This will be her 16th year teaching, spending her first 11 years in kindergarten before moving to 2nd grade. Mrs. Bradley has two daughters, a son and two adorable grandbabies! When outside the classroom, she loves reading mystery novels, spontaneous drives with her husband, Tracy, and paddleboarding at the reservoir!
Mrs. Melissa Strohl was born and raised in Illinois and graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She moved to Colorado in 2022 to begin her teaching career. As a teacher, Mrs. Strohl is committed to creating a safe, nurturing, and respectful classroom community where students are able to learn and grow. She is excited to build relationships with her students and help them reach their full potential. In her free time, Mrs. Strohl enjoys spending time outdoors with her family and friends.
Ms. Sarah Weaver is a Pueblo native. She received her undergraduate degree in the field of Psychology from the University of Montana. She later acquired her teaching certification from Western State University and she is currently pursuing her graduate degree in Literacy Education. Ms. Weaver has been teaching elementary education for nine years and she is passionate about whole child development. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, daughter and two rescue dogs.
Originally from California, Mrs. Heather Smith has called Colorado her home for the last 15 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from University of Las Vegas Nevada, and her master’s degree in Teaching and Learning (Educational Leadership) from CSU Global. She spent 13 years serving as a Pueblo police officer before transitioning to elementary education. Within her career, she has taught children and adults of all ages. When she is not teaching, Heather enjoys spending time with her husband and children.
Ms. Felicia Sanchez-Garbiso is a Pueblo native with New Mexico roots. She holds an associate degree from Pueblo Community College, a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from CSU Pueblo and a master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction with a Critical Pedagogy focus from UC-Denver. She is a passionate educator with experience teaching children and adults of all ages. As an Americorps and Teach For America alumni, she strives to strengthen the community by cultivating educational equity with a diverse and inclusive classroom environment for all students. She loves spending time with her family outdoors, listening to stories and connecting with nature.
Ms. Payton Stack was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. She graduated from CSU Pueblo with a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies and a minor in Elementary Education. As a crew leader, she is excited to push students to reach their full potential in and out of the classroom. Ms. Stack strives to create a strong culture in her classroom by encouraging students to be kind, passionate, and respectful to all. In her free time, Payton enjoys spending time outside at the lake, camping, and hiking.
Shayla (Mraovich) Quarles
Mrs. Shayla Quarles was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. She graduated from CSU-P with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in English. Mrs. Q is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She looks forward to being a part of a school community that allows students to mold their education through their own hands. She is thrilled to be within a building that empowers both students and educators to reach new heights and to find confidence within themselves. When Mrs. Q is not in the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family, going on adventures with her dog June, and going camping. She is very excited to be back with the VBE Crew and to be home.
Ms. Melody Travierso is a Pueblo native and a proud graduate from Colorado State University Pueblo.
She has experience at both private and public schools in Pueblo and her favorite subject is English. Ms.
Travierso is also a registered yoga instructor and enjoys leading kids’ yoga and meditation. When she is
not teaching, Ms. Travierso loves spending time with her fiancé Jeff and their five children, traveling,
and going to concerts.
Mr. Kevin Ferguson is a 4th generational Pueblo native and is the educational product of several Southern Colorado public and private schools from kindergarten through graduate school. With an undergraduate degree in Political Science emphasizing International Relations and World Politics, and having a master’s degree of Education, Mr. Ferguson has spent the past 16 years in education teaching Pueblo’s youth- grades 6th through 12th- their proud history and their potential place in this world. When not teaching, Kevin enjoys reading, golfing, traveling and spending time with his wife and two sons.
Middle School Crew Leader
Born in Springfield, MA but raised in Pueblo, Mrs. Remy Andrada received her Bachelor’s Degree in mathematics from CSU Pueblo. She started her teaching career in high school but has been teaching math in middle school for the past 12 years. Mrs. Andrada has a distinct dedication and passion for the youth of Pueblo that is evident the first time you meet her! She and her husband Paul, own a gym, FAST, where they coach all levels of athletes. When not teaching or coaching, Remy loves to run, spend time with her family, and watch her kids participate in their sporting events.
Middle School Crew Leader
Mrs. Alissa King grew up in St. Louis, MO but has lived in Pueblo for the past 20 years. She received a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO and acquired her teaching certification from University of Colorado Denver. For the past 10 years, Mrs. King has coached volleyball for all different ages. She really enjoys seeing the growth in her athletes on and off the court and is excited to see that same growth in her classroom. When she has some free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, working out, and spending time outside.
Middle School Crew Leader
Ms. Kendall Ward was born and raised in Houston, Texas and received her BA in History and Political Science from Texas State University. After moving to Pueblo two years ago as a Teach for America Corps member, she now considers the town her home and loves the community here. Ms. Ward is focused on fostering a fun, creative, engaging, and welcoming learning environment in which all students are able to be their best selves. In her free time, she likes reading, spending time outside with her dogs, traveling, and creating art.
Middle School Crew Leader
Mrs. Amber Henderson was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in Science from CSU-Pueblo. Mrs. Henderson has over 18 years of teaching experience with children and adults of all ages. In her free time, Mrs. Henderson enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, traveling and being creative with photography, scrapbooking and painting.
Title I Interventionist/ESS/ELL Teacher
Ms. Crystalyn Garcia has ten years of teaching experience–seven years as a classroom teacher and three as a reading specialist. She has a BA from the University of Denver and MA in Elementary Education from UNC. She is a Certified Academic Language Therapist through the Academic Language Therapy Association. Her expertise is in working with students with dyslexia and related learning disabilities. Her passion to create equity for all learners drives her zest for literacy instruction. When she is not teaching, she loves spending time with her two kids and husband.
Ms. Melanie Steves has her master’s degree in Learning and Technology, a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science, Health Promotion, and Recreation, and an associate’s degree in Business. Ms. Steves brings her outdoorsmanship, athletic, and wellness experience into an Adventure PE curriculum that is challenging, creative, unique, develops lifelong application, and is always full of fun! She enters each day with intention and wonder to enjoy as many adventurous moments as possible with family and friends.
Mrs. Audrianna Martinez is originally from southern Colorado. She moved to Pueblo over three years ago and has fallen in love with the community. Mrs. Martinez is currently attending CSU-Pueblo, finishing her degree in K-12 Art Education. Her goal is to help children develop and embrace their own creativity. In her free time, she enjoys coaching youth sports, reading, and spending time with her family.
Luz Arreola Castaneda
Originally from Mexico, Luz Arreola Castaneda moved to Pueblo in 2001. She graduated Pueblo County High School and is currently attending CSU Pueblo, working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies. Upon completion, she hopes to teach 3rd grade. She has worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Pueblo County for five years as the Assistant Director at the Cesar Chavez Boys and Girls Club. During her time there she took part in training and enjoyed working with school-age children. She enjoys reading, watching movies, and watching her son play competitive soccer.
Mrs. Megan Hart is a Pueblo native, proud wife, and mother of two sons. Mrs. Hart taught third grade for four years before taking a leave to raise her boys. While home with her sons, she opened a daycare where she could continue her passion for nurturing, and teaching children. Now, with both sons at VBE, Mrs. Hart is excited to return to the school environment, where she will be an aid to students academically and the staff with daily operations. She enjoys crafts, puzzles, sports, reading and most of all being in the mountains camping with family and friends.
Originally from Trinidad, Colorado, Miss Jessalyn Guzzo moved to Pueblo in 2020. She attended Otero Junior College where she played basketball and achieved her Associate of Arts degree. Ms. Guzzo is currently attending CSU Pueblo, working towards her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a K-3 licensure, and eventually hoping to achieve her Master’s degree in Education as well. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and friends, watching basketball, and making memories.
Paraprofessional Miss Sophia Coy was born and raised in Southern Colorado. Miss Coy attended Adams State University, receiving an Associates of Arts degree. She plans to continue her education, pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education with a K-3 licensure. Miss Coy has been substituting for 2 years and is excited to join the VBE Crew! In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, and going on walks with her puppy.
Originally from Denver City, Texas, VBE paraprofessional Miss. Morgan Dial graduated with her associate degree from Western Texas Jr. College and then transferred to CSU Pueblo to continue her academics as well as play for the women’s basketball team. Morgan played basketball for three years for the Thunderwolves and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2023. More than anything, Miss. Dial has deep a love for young children. She is so excited to be able to push her students to be their absolute best in the classroom, but more importantly in life.
Ms. Celine Jones is currently completing her master’s degree in School Counseling. She is grateful for her time spent with VBE students as a paraprofessional and Crew Leader as these opportunities have given her different perspectives to enrich her new position as School Counselor. Ms. Jones and her therapy dog Blake are passionate about supporting students socially, emotionally, and academically. During her free time, she enjoys going on walks with her dogs and spending time outdoors with her family and friends.
Mr. Jaqtravian Whitfield was born and raised in Southern Georgia and comes from a large family. He made his transition to Colorado almost 10 years ago, when given the opportunity to live with his aunt in Colorado Springs who was active military. While in the Springs, he attended Pikes Peak Community College. He later settled in Pueblo and was an employee for the City of Pueblo for five years before joining our CREW. Mr.J is enthusiastic to take care of our beautiful facilities, while also modeling what a positive example of a hardworking role model looks like for all students.
Board of Directors
Committed to bringing innovative & rigorous educational opportunities to Pueblo, Colorado
Stacie Shirley is the newest attorney to join Buxman & Shirley PC and a lifelong Pueblo resident, serving on many boards. She graduated from South High School and CSU-Pueblo, where she earned a BS in Political Science. She graduated magna cum laude from Creighton University School of Law in 2010.
Miles Gorham is a Commercial Loan Officer with Bank of the San Juans. He has a B.A. in Business Management from Western State Colorado University. A native of Cañon City, he has lived in Pueblo since he graduated from school in 2012. Miles currently serves on various committees with PEDCO, The Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce and GPSA. Being surrounded by family of educators he understands and values the impact education has on a community’s success.
Janelle Andrews is the President/CEO of the YMCA of Pueblo where she has worked for over 20 years. She is a Pueblo native and graduate of Colorado State University, Fort Collins. Janelle currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Hasan School of Business and is the Secretary for Rotary Club 43. She believes strongly in the success that can be gained when like-minded partners work together for the betterment of the community.
Matt Porter is an insurance broker with a B.S. in Mass Communications and Minor in Business Marketing from CSU-Pueblo. Originally from Denver, he has lived in Pueblo since coming to college and is an active member of the community. Matt believes in providing kids with an interactive, engaging learning environment that generates a positive culture to set them up for future success.
Lee Meisner, a Sterling native, earned a Bachelor’s and MBA from CSU-Pueblo. Lee works on a variety of projects and companies in the Pueblo area. His main focus as of late has been on improving the overall lifestyle for the people of Pueblo. He does not like golf, hiking, or fishing. In his free time, he enjoys going to work.
Steve Shirley worked in Information Technology for over 45 years, most recently at Parkview Medical Center where he was the Vice President of information Technology. Now retired, he continues to serve on various community boards of entities who truly make a difference for the Community of Pueblo. Shirley graduated from the University of Southern Colorado/CSU-Pueblo with degrees in Computer Science Technology, Mathematics, and an MBA. He is a lifelong Pueblo resident.
Margie Massey is the Faculty Senate President and a Professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University Pueblo where she has worked for 20 years. She graduated from University of Southern Colorado with BSBA in Accounting, University of Wyoming where she graduated with a Master of Science and Doctor of Education in Instructional Technology. She serves on several committees at the university and works closely with k-12 schools in Pueblo and surrounding areas. She believes in the value and impact education has on a student’s future.