Villa Bella Expeditionary School is a free, public charter elementary school in Pueblo District 70. We currently serve grades K-4th and will be fully operational in 2021-2022 as a K-5th grade school.
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.
Mr. 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 is nearing completion of 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
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!
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!
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.
Miss Shayla Mraovich was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. She graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in English. She is beyond excited for the hands-on learning environment that Villa Bella offers. Miss Mraovich cannot wait to see herself and her students grow in an environment that allows everyone to thrive. She enjoys camping, spending time with her family and friends, and watching her nephews, Cash and Hank. Miss Mraovich is beyond grateful for her new and exciting adventure with the VBE Crew.
Mr. Dylon Ortiz graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo with his Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in Elementary Education. As a Crew Leader, he wants to help students experience success. This includes educational growth but he also focuses on helping students become successful teammates, leaders, and community members. He works hard to develop students who are respectful, responsible, compassionate and have integrity. Mr. Ortiz is married to a fellow elementary education teacher. He loves to travel and enjoys fishing as well.
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.
Originally from Florida, Mrs. Casey Christenson has called Pueblo her home for the last 10 years. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Adams State University and has been teaching in Pueblo for the past six years. Her mission as an educator is to inspire and encourage students to reach their fullest potential, while instilling kindness, compassion, and leadership. When not in the classroom, Casey enjoys spending time with her husband (Jacob) and two young children (Jaycie and Colton). She also enjoys baking, gardening, hiking, and traveling back to the beaches of her hometown.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Title I Interventionist / ELL Teacher
Mrs. Sandy Provenza graduated from CSU-P with a BA in Psychology and Elementary Education. Her education led to fulfilling her passion of helping struggling readers. She is a local certified trainer in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) and Structured Literacy Instruction (SLI). As an over 20-year veteran teacher, she has enjoyed being an interventionist with Villa Bella. Her hobbies are scrapbooking, reading, and spending time with husband, two children and friends, especially skiing, camping, and boating. She dreams of living on the beach someday.
After spending two years with Villa Bella as an active Parent Support Organization member and parent volunteer, Mrs. Abby Villanueva has officially joined the Crew as a paraprofessional. In this position, Mrs. Villanueva assists students both in the classroom and in small group learning sessions. She also helps the support staff with the daily operations of the school. When not passionately supporting Villa Bella and its students, Mrs. Villanueva enjoys spending time with her family and friends, watching and being involved in her kids’ sports, reading and baking.
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.
Burnie Zercher is the Chairman of Industrial Constructors/Managers, Inc. He is actively involved in the community. He cares deeply about all children having access to high-quality early childhood education and is a founding board member and current chairman of Executives Partnering to Invest in Children-Pueblo.
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.
Dawn Daurio is Vice President of Drury Brothers Roofing, a family owned business. She has a B.S. in Computer Science and worked as a Software Developer until 2010 when she went back to the family business. Living in Pueblo most of her life, she has a passion for the Pueblo community and has volunteered extensively in the educational system. She enjoys quilting, refinishing furniture and working on wood projects.
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.