Our waitlist is now open for students entering grades Kindergarten to 5th Grade.
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
Mrs. Jessica Ortiz has a BA from the University of Northern Colorado & is working towards a Master’s from CU, Boulder. Within VBE, Mrs. Ortiz facilitates data-driven and equity-focused teams, leads in the development of high-quality, learner-driven, & purposeful curriculum and instruction and supports the curriculum adoption implantation process. Mrs. Ortiz is the mother of three and enjoys traveling as well as hiking, kayaking, and camping with her family.
Mrs. Pam Pettijohn has been in a District 70 school office for the last 10 years. She has a BA in Interior Design but has really enjoyed working in schools getting to know the students, parents, and greater Pueblo community. She is married with two sons who love to rodeo. Originally from Wisconsin, they moved to Colorado when the boys were little and they love the winters in Pueblo. Mrs. Pettijohn enjoys taking care of her family, getting together with friends and an occasional concert. She looks forward to meeting new students, and parents every year.
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.
Ms. Karlee Gradisar was born and raised in Pueblo and loves working with children because, “they are unapologetically themselves and (she) hopes they never lose that.” She is inspired by people who are fearless. She said, “Being fearless doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid, but rather recognizing the fear and jumping anyway. I root for those that follow their heart and change their minds a million times until it finally feels right.
Mrs. Cara Noriega is a Pueblo Native with heart and enthusiasm for early childhood education. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies from CSU-Pueblo, and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Adams State University. She wants to instill an early passion for learning in her students and contribute to the betterment of our future by teaming up to build character and integrity in her little crew members. When she is not soaking up teacher bliss, she enjoys reading, doing yoga, traveling, or getting artsy with her two daughters and husband.
Born and raised in Pueblo Colorado, Ms. Celine Jones graduated from CSU Pueblo with a BS in Psychology, and a minor in Sociology. She is currently working towards a Masters in School Counseling. Ms. Jones enjoys building relationships with students while encouraging them to become the best versions of themselves. She aspires to help them in developing their skills of endurance and curiosity during their learning of the expeditionary curriculum. Her hobbies include going on walks with her dogs, kayaking, and spending time with her family and friends.
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. Halie loves to dance and is a high school 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 BA from CSU-P in 2006 and also received her Master’s in Education, Learning and Technology in 2018. This will be her 14th year teaching, spending her first 11 years in kindergarten before moving to 2nd grade. Mrs. Bradley has three kids, ages 14, 18, and 20, who keep her on her toes daily! She loves spontaneous drives to nowhere and paddleboarding at the reservoir!
Ms. Alvarez was born and raised in Midland, Texas. She attended Texas Tech University and graduated in 2017. Ms. Alvarez is in her fourth year of teaching at the elementary level. When not at school, Ms. Alvarez enjoys spending time with family and friends. She truly believes that every student learns in different ways, and at Villa Bella they have the ability to do so. She enjoys the love for learning that Villa Bella instills in herself and the students at the school. Ms. Alvarez considers her truly blessed to be a part of the VBE Crew!
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 7 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 14 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 Colorado State University Global. She has spent the last 13 years serving as a Police Officer. Within her career, she taught children and adults of all ages. Heather believes that every child deserves to be treated with dignity, and is excited to inspire and encourage students to reach their fullest potential. When she is not teaching, Heather enjoys spending time with her husband and children.
Ms. Felicia Sanchez-Garbiso is a Native of Pueblo with New Mexico roots. She holds an Associate’s degree from PCC and a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Colorado State-University Pueblo. She is a qualified educator who has taught children and adults of all ages. As a current Teach for America Corps member, she is pursuing her Master’s degree in Education. Felicia strives to strengthen the community through education, build diverse and inclusive environments and (best of all) play, grow and inspire her students! She is an essential oil enthusiast who enjoys bilingual storytelling and spending time outdoors with her family.
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.
Originally from northern California, Mrs. Price earned her Bachelor’s degree in K-8 Liberal Studies Elementary Education. She received her Master’s degree in Education K-6 from the University of Northern Colorado. This will be her 5th year teaching elementary education. As a lifelong learner herself, she is excited to work and learn alongside respectful, honest, responsible, compassionate, and creative Crewmates and Crew Leaders. Her hobbies include hiking, fishing, reading, van camping, traveling, exploring new places to eat, and playing video games.
Mrs. Abby Villanueva is originally from Oregon but has lived in Pueblo for the last nine years. She joined the Villa Bella staff in 2021 as a paraprofessional. Mrs. Villanueva fell in love with the Villa Bella students, staff, and community and decided to continue her education, completing her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at Western Governors University in 2022. She loves building relationships with the students and feels that it is the core of everything we do. She enjoys spending time with her family and watching her kids in all their sporting events.
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.
Mr. Daniel Opdahl has a BA from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, he graduated with degrees in computer science and physics. He is a current Teach for America Corps member, and is pursuing his license through the University of Colorado. He is excited about hands-on learning and strives to make the classroom a place that fosters student leadership and growth. While he’s not planning the next fun project for his classroom, Mr. Opdahl enjoys playing disc golf, watching baseball, and cooking new recipes.
From Lafayette, CO, Mr. Quinn McNierney has a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Northern Colorado. He has a teaching certificate from CSU-Pueblo Teaching in Residency program and is working on a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning (Educational Leadership) from Colorado State University Global. He is a father to two awesome kids and family is a staple of his life. Quinn also enjoys traveling (12 different countries and counting!), reading, and playing video games.
Title I Interventionist / ELL Teacher
Ms. Crystalyn Garcia is beginning her tenth year teaching–seven years have been as a classroom teacher and two 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 Practitioner through the Academic Language Therapy Association. Her expertise is in working with students with dyslexia and related learning disabilities. Her passion for equity for all learners drives her zest for literacy instruction. When she is not teaching, you can find her on all types of adventures with her husband and two kids.
Ms. Melanie Steves has an A.A.S Business degree from Pueblo Community College and a B.S. in Exercise Science, Health Promotion, & Recreation from CSU-Pueblo. She is currently finishing her Master’s in Education, Learning, and Technology. Ms. Steves brings her outdoorsmanship, athletic, and wellness experience into an Adventure PE curriculum that is challenging, creative, unique, has lifelong application, and is always full of fun! Every day is overflowing with wonder and adventure as she spends most of her time outdoors with friends and family.
Mr. Trigo is a district 70 student alumni. He graduated from Pueblo West High School in 2001. His background in instrumental music and the visual arts extends over 20 years. In 2012, he went back to school where he graduated Cum Laude from Colorado State University-Pueblo in 2015. He has been teaching art and music at the district level for the past 4 years. His hobbies include biking, snowboarding, climbing, pretty much anything outdoors, and of course, art and music. He enjoys spending time with his family and teaching students of all ages.
Wesley Geyer is originally from New Mexico. He completed a BA in Anthropological Linguistics at New Mexico State University in 2008 and is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Special Education at CSU-Pueblo. Mr. Geyer’s first year teaching was in an established Expeditionary Learning School in California. This will be his 5th year teaching, four of which have been in Special Education, working with many different groups and ability levels from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Mr. Geyer enjoys gardening, skiing, cooking, painting, and traveling in his free time.
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. She hopes to teach kindergarten but is very excited for any grade between K-3rd. She is overall very happy to be here. In her free time, she loves being surrounded by her loved ones, cooking, and watching basketball.
Originally from Cheyenne Wyoming, Miss Faith Meredith has an Associate’s Degree from Laramie County Community College where she also played on the soccer team. She is currently completing her senior year at CSU Pueblo, completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Health and is also working on her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She is also a member of the CSU Pueblo women’s soccer team. When she does have free time, she enjoys being active and going on runs and hikes.
Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Mr. Aaron Murray has lived in Pueblo, Colorado for 11 years now. Prior to joining the Villa Bella Crew, Mr. Murray served as a custodian and facility maintenance staff member for other District 70 Schools. Mr. Murray and his wife Malinda met in Pueblo, got married and now have a beautiful little daughter, Ellie. Mr. Murray enjoys family outings, camping, singing, martial arts, music and going on walks with his family. He is excited to be part of the Villa Bella Team and serve the great folks here!
Board of Directors
Committed to bringing innovative & rigorous educational opportunities to Pueblo, Colorado
Stacie Shirley is the newest attorney to join BuxmanKwitek, P.C. 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.